The Modified Redpoint Competition Format: Pros and Cons
During the USAC bouldering season, a typical redpoint local competition has something like 60+ bouldering problems and can feel like a chaotic free-for-all with long lines and an overwhelming amount of choice for the youth competitor. The modified redpoint format is a great alternative for local bouldering events.
In the modified redpoint format, each age category is assigned 8-12 climbs and utilizes the fantastic USAC multi-zone scoring format. (It is possible under USAC rules to have Tops-Only scoring for a modified redpoint, but we haven’t seen it personally, so we won’t comment on that.)
Instead of a time limit per climb like an onsight competition, there’s a large window - 3 hours for example - for you to work on all of your category’s climbs at your leisure. The catch? The event organizers may decide that you only get a limited number of attempts per climb, such as 6 per problem.
Let’s consider the pros and cons of this format, first for the competitors, and then for the host facility.
Pros for the Competitors
At regular redpoint comps, you only get points if you top a climb. At modified redpoints, utilizing zone scoring, you can score points for progressing on the climb, even if you do not top the problem.
Having 8-12 pre-determined climbs is less stressful than having to choose strategically from 60 or so different climbs based on how they look or how other kids are doing on them.
Modified redpoint helps you get used to multi-zone scoring, which is what is used at USAC championship level events (regionals and above).
A modified redpoint competition is generally more enjoyable for the competitor and the family members watching because it is simpler to navigate than a classic redpoint competition.
Because you spend less time searching for climbs and strategizing your selections, you have more opportunities to rest and talk beta with friends in your specific category.
I have a lot more fun at modified redpoints.
FYA Phoebe Y.
Cons for the Competitors
With fewer predetermined climbs, some kids can get bored or frustrated if they’re getting shut down or falling early on climbs and then run out of attempts.
You cannot choose a climb set for another category, even if it suits your strengths better (or looks more fun) than the problems set in your category. For example, you cannot choose the MYA power climb if you are a MYB… even if you love dynos. Bummer.
Tips for the Youth Climber
Like a regular redpoint competition, you’re allowed to watch other kids climb, so observe others doing the climb before you give it a try. Learn from their mistakes and successes, and use (or avoid) their beta.
Yes, it’s redpoint, but don’t be lulled into complacency about attempts: every single one matters. At our most recent local modified redpoint, the difference between our first and second place FYB competitors came down to 0.1 points or one attempt. So, take your time, read each climb, talk it out with your friends, and watch beta.
One common misconception with zone scoring is that every attempt results in a penalty. This isn’t true. Attempts after you’ve already reached your highpoint don’t count unless you surpass your last highpoint and control the next zone, in which case the deductions are far outweighed by the points gained. So keep trying.
Pros and Cons for the Host Gym
Pros: If you combined the genders and then did 8 climbs per category, you’d be setting 40 climbs (5 categories x 8 climbs) instead of 60+ climbs for a regular redpoint. You can focus on quality climbs and do cruxes higher up on a problem without feeling like you’re trolling kids since the zone scoring rewards for partial completion and helps to create separation.
Cons: With a regular redpoint, you can have everyone score themselves with peer witness sign-off. With modified redpoint you need a lot of judges to make sure that the attempts are marked correctly and those judges need to understand USAC’s latest rules around what constitutes control of a zone hold.
If you’re a gym and you’ve never tried the modified redpoint format, I hope you’ll give it a try. It’s less work in some ways, more work in others, but generally more enjoyable for the climbers and spectators.
Cover photo of FYB Jessica D. and photo of Grace N. by John Phamvan. Photo of Phoebe Y. by Jason Chang.
USAC athletes Phoebe Y., Ethan A., and Kian S. also contributed their feedback and opinions to this article through helpful text messages or Instagram comments. I’m grateful for their input.
And lastly, thank you to Rock City Climbing Gym in Anaheim, CA, for hosting an exemplary modified redpoint competition last week.