The Nor'easter bouldering competition kicked off today with qualifiers at Loon Mountain, New Hampshire. After an incredible series of snafus including lost rental car keys, a lost phone, and a broken camera, I made it to the comp just in time to catch the carnage.
New Hampshire local Vasya Vorotnikov started things off strong for the men, topping out five of the six problems. Right behind him with four top-outs was Ethan Pringle, in his first competition since injuring his shoulder during ABS Nationals in 2008.
But no one even came close to competing with Daniel Woods. If you're not familiar with him, Woods is to American bouldering what the Michael Jordan was to the NBA. He has been winning major events with such consistency as to seem unbeatable in the most literal sense of the word.
Friday was no exception. Woods blew through all six problems, flashing them one after another. He never seemed to be exerting himself, not even on the fifth problem, which shut down the rest of the men's field.
The women's field wasn't quite as easy to sort out. On paper, Francesca Metcalf came in first, topping out five problems and making it 11 moves into the remaining one before falling.
After watching the qualifer, though, I have to give it to Angie Payne. Payne climbed like a machine, flashing the first five problems easily. It looked like she had locked it up when, halfway through the last problem, she stalled out on a tricky sequence and fell. While she ended up in third, Payne looked more in control than anyone else, and could be the climber to beat in finals.
What disappointed me about qualifiers was the turnout. Over the past couple of years, attendance at most major bouldering competitions has soared. Over 5,000 people turned up to watch bouldering at the Teva Mountain Games in Vail, and the crowds at this year's ABS Nationals were supposedly the biggest they had ever been.
Not here. As you can see in the pictures, the crowd that showed up would have been dishearteningly small for a little league game. Adjusting for the chunk of the crowd that were media, routesetters, event staff, or friends and family of the pros, and it seems like few if any people showed up just to watch climbing. Another no-show was Chris Sharma, who was set to compete in the qualifiers but never materialized ("He probably blew it off," one staff member told me. "He does what he feels like").
The results from the qualifiers are available on the UBC's website. I'll be reporting Saturday on the finals (3 PM EST) and updating with more info on the other snazzy things happening at the Nor'easter.
Photos: Loon Base Camp climbing wall, Daniel Woods on Men's #3 by Adam Roy