By Nathan Salwowski
The 2017 Australian Boulder Titles – or ‘nashies’ as I shall forever lovingly refer to them – gave more than their share of gifts this year, not to mention a few surprises.
At Nomad Bouldering’s top-notch facility in Annandale between the 18th and 19th of November, it was a weekend of psych, good burgers, better beer, and monstrous athleticism.
Along with three of the Pulse Climbing family’s finest, I decided to have a crack at competing. As a rookie’s first serving of IFSC format competition whoop-ass, it couldn’t have been a more inspiring weekend.
Young crush-lord Ben Abel, having returned from a stint stealing the secrets of European burl from zee Germans and competing on the international scene, competed with Australia’s best in the Open A category. He qualified strongly, topping 3 of 5 problems, a feat made even more impressive due to his sporting a pulley injury to his middle finger and partially torn hamstring muscle. While he climbed valiantly in semi-finals (despite looking awful in his Team Nomad singlet), due to an unlucky foot-slip in his semi-finals round, he missed out on qualifying for finals by a mere one place. That said, considering his broken appendages, he performed incredibly well, and the Pulse fam – and most likely his actual fam – couldn’t be prouder.
Pulse Climbing’s second contribution to the Australian Youth Team, 17 year old Annabelle Cleary, also competed in the Open A event. This followed her very first foray into Open A Bouldering at the Tasmanian State Championship two weeks before, where she snagged an impressive 3rd place.
Unfortunately, the stars did not align for Annabelle at nashies, and despite giving it a fearless crack, she missed out on qualifying for semi-finals.
The Men’s Open A finals ended with a bang, with Blue Mountains local and keeper of Australia’s first grade 35 tick, Tom O’Halloran, taking 1st place from qualifiers to finals in awe-inspiring style. He was joined on the podium by Tom Farrell of NSW and Sam Bowman, of QLD.
The Women’s Open A final had an even more controversial finish. Singaporean climber and recent V13 ascensionist Liting Xu stole 1st place for the event, topping three of four problems in displays of impeccable technique and precision. However, the Open A Australian Women’s National Gold went to Queenslander Lucy Stirling, who topped two of the four.
As for us rookies, well Pulse’s Head Route Setter and everybody’s favourite Mr Scruff, Chris Zaia, accompanied me in the Open B category, where we faced off against a field of Australia’s burliest weekend warriors.
Chris’ efforts in our qualifiers were, to abuse a cliché, awesome. He topped four of the five boulders, including sticking the worst knee bar this side of Hoppy’s Cave, but unfortunately wasn’t quite able to top M4, which we lovelessly dubbed The Big Red Slabby Bulge Bastard. Thanks to my albatross-esque wing-span, however, I was able to bear-hug my way through the crux of the Red Bastard and made it to finals.
Despite climbing with a couple of injuries, everything about finals was phenomenal and I managed to come 4th in B.
The routes were as inspiring as they were perplexing; the competition was as strong as it was friendly; and the atmosphere was electric. Michael Draper from WA took a hard earned first place, which, like a proper family man hell-bent on warming your heart, he dedicated to his daughter.
In the women’s Open B event, friend to all Ashlee Taylor earned 1st place. Brian Tan and Lisa Duschlbauer scored 1st place in Masters Male and Masters Female, respectively.
Be it the routes set by the collective creative genius of the SCA and masterful Nomad team, headed by IFSC route-setter and beta savant Tonde Katiyo; the passion, with climbers from all categories letting their inner freaks off the leash and creating a collective psych that needed to be rinsed off; or the merchandise from Climbing Anchors and the Nomad shop and the impossibly crisp brews from keg maestros at Wayward Brewery, there really was something for everyone.
Many (snobs) have said Australian climbing, in both athletic achievement and public popularity, is decades behind much of the world. There may be some truth to this, but another truth is that it’s growing like a new-born. The community which came together to make nashies what it was, is a community built on the most solid foundation – a shared passion for something both as pure and as simple as rock climbing. And with climbers like Tom O’Halloran and Lucy Stirling, and everyone who made podium in these events and everyone else, too, it’s clear Australian climbing is on it’s way to making a mark on the international scene, with many eyes on Tokyo 2020.
For now, with the echoes of a thousand power screams yet to fade and a metric tonne of spilled chalk for Nomad’s staff to vacuum, we begin the wait for Nashies 2018.