Unleash The Beast: Competitor Perspectives


Last weekend was the Canyons Unleash the Beast Competition in Frisco, Texas. The walls at Canyons Climbing Gym were littered with brand new holds, boasting  so much texture that my skin was coming off with every sloper I slapped. The problems were set to impress with plenty of dynamic throws, cutting feet, a campus start, and even an upside-down knee bar. I was super psyched after previewing. But, like many of you have probably experienced, everything looks easier from the ground. The problems were definitely stout, and everywhere you looked climbers were helping out their competitors to unlock beta–a testament to the friendliness of local comps. The atmosphere was busy and exciting, everyone looking to try out the masterfully-set climbs.


The one hitch in the comp was small area used for setting. Understandably wanting to show off their new bouldering walls, all problems were set on a relatively space, choosing not to utilize their rope climbing walls. The bouldering walls were packed with climbers, which could pose a problem if you planned on hopping on a route that traversed the wall. This occasionally led to a stand-off where one the climbers either had to wait out the other or drop off and start over later. The crowds are undeniably the most frustrating experience of comp climbing. Even though the competitions is red point (meaning you have an unlimited number of attempts to send the climb), you almost end up needing to onsight every climb because of wait times between attempts.


By the end of the comp I was getting really frustrated with my performance. Even though I had sent a couple climbs that I was proud of, I still thought that I could have sent a couple more, if I had more access to work on the problem. I definitely let this frustration get to me, and I think it negatively impacted my problem-reading and focus while on the climbs. This mental toughness is an area of climbing that I rarely ‘train’ and am especially weak in. I think it’s an often over-looked aspect of climbing for most of us. It may not be as important for a projecting day at the gym but it can truly be your undoing when competing or even going on an outdoor trip where time at a boulder can be limited.


Overall, I think the problems were high quality and I enjoyed working out the beta. I was also incredibly impressed by the youth competitors climbing at the gym. Those kids are simply amazing, and I think anyone who watched them climb would agree that the next generation is going to really push the limits of climbing.


This comp forced me to realize that my biggest weakness was not my inability to dyno but my inability to stay calm and focused in a stressful environment like a busy competition. But, that being said, the free beer from local craft brewery Deep Ellum and Freebirds burritos definitely helped take the edge off 🙂


After the climbing I hit up a couple of local legends to ask their opinions of the competition and seek out some advice on how they manage their mental game while competing.


amykiernan Amy Kiernan

How long have you been climbing for?

I’ve been climbing since 2003

What was your experience at this comp?

I felt like this was a great comp, there were a ton of people psyched to climb on some really awesome boulders, and I liked seeing so many people competing in a comp for the first time. It definitely was packed, and while it was cool to see everyone as eager as I was to climb, that made it harder to climb everything I wanted to. But now I just have an excuse to go back and try everything I didn’t have time for!

What’s your advice for a newbie competing at a comp like this?

My advice to new competitors is to first and foremost have fun. Take a step back and watch other people climb, you’ll get a lot of beta that way and you’ll also get psyched from watching your peers crush. The format of this comp, redpoint, is more about collaborating with other climbers to figure out routes than it is about your own ego. To my point earlier, if you’re not having fun, then you’re not doing it right!


Cole Hanna

How long have you been climbing for?

I’ve been climbing for roughly three years now.

What was your experience at this comp?

I had a great time at the comp, but I don’t plan very well, as far as any strategy.


345345Kyle Francis

How long have you been climbing or competing for?

I started competing when I was 9 or ten, so roughly ten years.

What was your experience at this comp?

I thought this comp was awesome, the wall was cool, the routes were good, my only bugaboo with it was how the routes crisscrossed, so getting on the wall took a long time.

Whats your advice for keeping your mental game in a competition?

As far as mental game goes,  have the attitude of no expectations, but still go in crushing and joking. So for instance, when I look at a route with friends who are just flat out stronger than me, I always will say “ok go from the bucket, to the other bucket, to the under cling bucket” so on and so forth, because clearly I’m kidding, so that accounts for the fun part, and it also kind of makes me believe the holds are good, which gives me confidence on the wall.

It all just comes down to being honest with yourself….And when you’re out of it, I usually take a break and just try to remind myself that that this is a hardship I chose, and if I wanted it to be easy, then it wouldn’t be as fun.


234364Andre Hoyos

How long have you been climbing? Setting?

I’ve been climbing for eight years and setting for one year.

How do you approach comp setting differently from your regular day to day setting at the gym? 

When setting in the gym, I isolate strength, power, endurance, and technique into different routes. A competition route, to me, is the accumulation of all of that. You need to be able to handle whatever we throw at you.

Having climbed outdoors across the country as well as competing, I pull inspiration from routes and problems that are difficult, aesthetically-pleasing, and just plain fun to climb. When setting for a comp I take into consideration the competitors and their skill levels. I hope to push them to their fullest potential with the crowd of spectators and climbers psyching each other up.

What advice do you have for competitors when trying to read competition routes?

When reading a route most competitors do a pretty darn good job before attempting their flash. Looking for “hidden” foot holds or using acro-beta (extremely dynamic and crowd pleasing movement) is always something to look for at the competitive level. When reading routes, I’d say following the intended sequence is number one; however, that doesn’t always happen and I’m okay with that.




Hope you appreciate their advice as much as I did and perhaps it will help you think about your own mental toughness in competitions.


Never give up!


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