What to Expect: Bouldering Season
September marks the beginning of the USA Climbing Youth Bouldering Season. "What exactly is bouldering season?" This is a question we heard recently from a new parent. Here's the lowdown on what you need to know.
New to competitive climbing? First, read "How Do Rock Climbing Competitions Work?" Also, see the USA Climbing Parent Handbook for general info (just note that the section on USAC memberships is not updated as of 8/14/18).
- September-November: Local Competitions
- December: Regional Championships (Prereq: Participation in 2 Locals AND Top-20 placement in one Local*)
- January: Divisional Championships (Prereq: Top-10 placement at Regionals)
- February: National Championships (Prereq: Top-6 placement at Divisionals)
REQUIRED TO COMPETE:
You need a USAC Membership. There are two kinds. Choose wisely based on your plans for the season:
1) USAC Introductory Membership (formerly Day Membership): If you only want to participate in a few local events this school year, you can purchase the Introductory Membership for $20 per year. This membership is good for both local bouldering and sport competitions during the USAC year. (Bouldering is Fall-Winter, Sport & Speed is the following Spring-Summer.) However, if you decide later that you want to compete at Regionals, you cannot apply your Introductory Membership fee toward the Competitor membership. So, choose wisely!
2) USAC Competitor Membership: All participants in a USAC-sanctioned Championship level competition must have a $95 Competitor Membership. This is good for all your locals and Regionals, Divisionals, and Nationals. It is good for one year beginning on September 1, so it also covers both Bouldering and the Sport and Speed seasons.
PLAN YOUR CALENDAR:
Local Competition Schedule: This is the regular season prior to and leading up to the post-season. *NEW FOR THIS SEASON: You must compete in at least two local events, AND you must place in the top 20 in at least one local competition to qualify for Regionals. (See the rulebook, here.) The local competitions in your region will be posted on the USAC website. Some regions like 202 also have a Facebook page that lists the latest news and schedule updates. Registration for these events are usually done through the local gyms, and fees can range around $40-$60 per competition.
Format of Competitions: Local bouldering competitions may be redpoint, onsight, or the new modified redpoint (multi-zone scoring) format. See the USAC Rulebook for more specifics. Regional, Divisional, and National competitions for bouldering are onsight format.
Regional Championships: In December, all Regional Championship events take place on the same day throughout the United States. An athlete is allowed to compete as long as they have met the required minimum of two local comps and one top-20 placement during the regular season. This is a great introduction to the higher levels of USAC competition. It should be noted that Regionals is sometimes the most hectic and crowded event of the season. These competitions are usually done in an onsight format and long Isolation times are possible.
Divisional Championships: In January, all Divisional Championship events take place on the same day throughout the United States. Check the USAC Website for the date/location and to register (Fee is ~$125). The top six athletes in each category will receive an invitation to Nationals.
National Championships: In February, the National Championship event for youth bouldering will take place. 480+ of the top youth climbers in the United States come to compete. Check the USAC Website for the date/location and to register (Fee is ~$225). The top four athletes in each category will be invited to the National Team. For those in Category Youth B and above, this means you are invited to compete for the USA at the IFSC Youth World Championship in August.
We hope this article helps and inspires you to give bouldering season a try!
Check out a bit of USAC's Youth Bouldering Nationals. This is the Male Youth D category (10 and under).