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La Sportiva Boulder Battle Wrap-up

Written by Ben Abel, climbing champion

Here is my story as a setter and part organiser of the La Sportiva Boulder Battle at Pulse Climbing in Gosford on the 17th of March.

Before I even begin I want to say a huge thank you to Pulse Climbing for holding this event, there’s a lot of work behind the scenes to make any event a success and to be a part of it was a great opportunity.

I felt like I had a chance to make this competition something special. I wanted people to come away from it and be like “Wow! They were some totally weird but cool boulders!” Essentially, I wanted the competitors to experience problems that are not normally set in your everyday gym.

Of course there are a few boulders in gyms now that have just totally weird beta of co-ordination and problem solving skills, but for this comp I wanted to try my best to give the competitors moves that make them rethink their beta and to ask themselves “is that really the way”?

The Setting took over 4 days, Tuesday through to Friday and the setting crew consisted of myself, Chris Zaia and Michael Tonon.

Our week consisted of: Setting 8 Open A Finals problems, 12 Qualifier problems for Open A as well as a whole gym reset for the Open B and Youth, around 70-80 problems. The final problems for Open A had to be set, tested, tweaked, one of which took us about 4 hours. Once we had the Finals problems sorted, we had to mark where it went on the wall, take it down and squirrel the holds away so we could get started on the reset of the gym for the other categories.

The Finals boulders for Open A were very important to me, for a few reasons.

In Open A, the climbers are so strong and competition so fierce, it usually comes down to a single mistake to separate the field.

Setting for this is like walking a tightrope, you don’t want the boulders so hard that they won’t get a single top, conversely, they can’t be so easy that it goes to count back from the qualifying round (which sucks, no one likes that). So there is a very fine line on how the boulders need to be, which puts a lot of stress on all the setters in any competition.

Also, Finals boulders have to look good, not only for the climber but to the audience. If the audience is on the edge of their seat with sweaty palms just from watching, that means it was a good show!

My last reason is that the boulders have to be Amazing!!!

By Thursday we had 5 of the finals boulders set, 10 qualification boulders set and 3/4 of the gym done for the boulderjam categories. The 5th final boulder that we set was with some new holds from Illusion supplied by Friction Addiction. This boulder only took Michael, Chris and I about 4 hours to set…

That sounds crazy right? 3 men, 4 hours, 1 problem!?

We tried so hard to set a sequence that the competitors couldn’t break, forcing them to do what we want for maximum difficulty as well as the desired aesthetic. In the end we had to leave it how it was, it was still a really cool boulder but we were literally losing too much skin and time. Thankfully, in the finals it got a perfect split, a few people fell off before the bonus a few flashed to the bonus, a few fell off the top and one person topped. That one boulder got the split within the finalists which was great!

It was Friday afternoon and we were exhausted. After 4 straight 15 hour days  we were done. Lucky for us we had some back up come through with two extra setters (Will Watkins from Unleashed Climbing Holds and Dave Kim) who helped fill in the easy climbs for the general public, both guys gave up their free time to help us out, as well as Will supplying us with a few extra holds! Still needing a fresh climber who could test the final and qualification climbs wasn’t easy but thankfully Tamman Sahu-Khan came through for us like a champ.

Within all the setting we also had to make sure that everything ran smoothly on the day. I always compete in comps and there are always so many volunteers which you don’t normally pay attention to. Wow just wow, I have never been so grateful for volunteers than now. They are like the elves that make all the magic happen but never get enough credit. So thank you to everyone who volunteered on the day! Your help was amazing.


On the day we didn’t really have to do that much, it was all up to the competitors. First up for the qualifiers for Open A, they had 2 hours to complete 6 problems. And the top 6 go through to the finals in the afternoon. Next up was the Youth and Open B with 2 hours to complete their top 8 climbs.

The Finals

Once we had finalists safely tucked away in the Isolation Zone, we went about stripping every hold from the front half of the gym and setting the Finals problems, we managed to do all of this in just over an hour, in the meantime presentations for the youth and Open B were being held outside.

After a long 2 hours of watching, stressing and waiting the finals were done. I was speechless. Every boulder worked perfectly. Watching everyone speak about the problems and how the comp was… happy is an understatement, and by looking at everyone else’s faces I think they were happy too.

The Results

Women’s – Emma Horan in 1st place, Amy Dunlop 2nd place and Pulse’s very own Xanthea Vazey took out 3rd place!

Men’s – Elijah Mercado took out 1st place, Thomas Farrell in 2nd and Samuel Healy in 3rd.

It was great day with nearly 200 people turning up. We hope you enjoyed it as much as we did. Thank you again for everyone that was involved. Hopefully next time it will be even bigger!

Time to pack my bags now as I am off again to compete in the Boulder World Cup circuit. Thank you for everyone that has supported me in the past few years. Hope you enjoyed this blog.

Below is a link for a video that Niki made from competition. Definitely worth the watch if you want to see how it looked like and some insight on the boulders. Thank you Niki!