USAC Multi Zone Scoring: A Common Misconception on Penalties for Attempts

USAC Multi Zone Scoring: A Common Misconception on Penalties for Attempts

I hear this one a lot from both parents and youth athletes. “Don’t do too many attempts. You get penalized for each fall.” While it’s true that you get penalized for each fall in the USAC Multi Zone Scoring format, it’s actually better for you to try as many times as you can on each climb. Let me explain why.

Let’s say you control the 10-point zone on your first attempt and then proceed to punt ungracefully off the wall before getting to the 15. Some think, well, I got 10 points in 1 attempt. I don’t want deductions on that ten so I’m just going to quit while I’m ahead. But that’s incorrect because you could do 5 more, 10 more, or 100 more attempts, and if you don’t control that 15, you’ll take ZERO deductions on your 10 points in 1 attempt. Why? Because you’re scored on your highest zone controlled on the earliest attempt in which you controlled it.

So when do those deductions kick in? In the scenario laid out above: when you control anything higher than that 10-point zone. So let’s say your boulder problem looked like this:

Attempt # / Zone Controlled

1 / 10

2 / 10

3 / 10

4 / 10

5 / 25

Super clutch. You came through as time was running out and topped that iffy slab. Great job. If you had quit after the first attempt you would have gotten 10 points. If you had quite after the fourth attempt, you still would have gotten 10 points because you’re scored for that zone at the earliest attempt. But because you stayed with it, you scored 25 and then your deductions kick in: .1 for each attempt after the flash attempt so you finish with a 24.6. Way worth the extra attempts because you actually had nothing to lose but 15-minus-x points to gain (where x = total deductions). Since the zones are in 5-point increments, you’re very unlikely to incur enough deductions to actually negate your 5-point gain from controlling the next zone*.

So the moral of the story?

Don’t worry about those attempts**. It’s totally worth it to burn a few in the process of attaining the next zone.


With thanks to John Phamvan for suggesting this post. Cover photo by Jason Chang: FYJR Azure O. gets to the top of her iffy slab.

*If you manage to earn enough deductions to negate your next zone, I need to hear about it. And see the video. Chuffing of that magnitude needs proof.        

**In the case of a tie, the climber with fewer attempts will prevail. So in the big picture, what’s even better than throwing yourself at the climb a dozen times is to take time, read it well, plan your beta, and flash that sucker. But we can’t all be Ashima so it’s helpful to have a back up plan. 










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