Bolton School Sixth Form Boys

Pupils Help Judge at National Bouldering Competition

Four boys in the Sixth Form volunteered to help judge national bouldering event RocFest 2015 over the weekend. Adam Palmer, Ethan Watson and Ben Welch are all keen climbers themselves and were invited to adjudicate, and Aston Haslam also stepped in to help when Ethan was unable to attend for part of the competition.

RocFest is an annual event held at RockOver Climbing in Manchester, the north west's premier world-class bouldering location. This was the first year it has been run as a full two-day event, and the first time paraclimbing has been included in the competition. Around 400 climbers from across the UK competed across the two days. This included male and female competitions for five different categories of para athletes: Autistic spectrum condition, hearing impairment, learning difficulties, mental health conditions, using upper and lower limbs, and visual impairment.

Due to the extra categories this year, and particular the addition of paraclimbing, RockOver needed more judges. RockOver therefore approached the Chapel Mountaineering Club to find volunteers to help with judging. Boys’ Division Head of Economics Mr David Kettle is a member of this club, and when they were not able to supply enough people, he suggested that Bolton School’s most experienced Sixth Form climbers might be able to lend a hand.

The boys, along with Mr Kettle and the other volunteers, attended a training event on the Wednesday before the competition to give them the skills necessary to judge the competition.

Early on the Saturday morning as RocFest 2015 began, the boys arrived at RockOver ready to help out. They judged two sessions that day, which involved five hours in total of watching climbers, deciding whether they had made a clean ascent, and then signing their score cards.

The boys judged the full range of ages and abilities, from junior to adult and including the para competition. This included judging fellow Bolton School pupil Zoe Grainger, who took part in the Junior competition. They were even able to judge climbs by Shauna Coxsey, who is the top climber in the UK and number two in the world!

Mr Kettle said, “The lads were certainly amazed and inspired by the incredible abilities demonstrated by the various categories of paraclimbers – including one particularly amazing girl who climbed very steep problems with one arm!”

With their judging commitments over for the day, the boys were able to compete in the ‘Fun Open Male’ session on the Saturday, where they acquitted themselves very well! All three were in the top fifteen: Adam was one of six with a score of 210, the highest achieved in this category; Ethan was only just behind him with a score of 207; and Ben found himself with a respectable 201. After their climb, they were able to listen to an inspiring talk from Shauna Coxsey about her climbing career so far.

On the Sunday, the boys once again arrived early to help judge the finals. Although they had been told that they would be filling in support roles, it transpired that they got to judge on the main competition wall in both the junior and adult semi-finals!

Ben and Adam judged the first two climbs in the adult semi-finals with Ethan in a support role. Mr Kettle judged the final problem in the adult male semi-final. He said, “This certainly felt stressful even to me as the climbers were highly motivated and the crowd rather excitable. Once the semi-finals were finished, the lads were able to get a front row seat for the finals, which I think they found pretty exciting – I certainly did.”

They were able to watch as Shauna Coxsey, whose climbs they had judged the day before, took first place in the adult female category.

Adam, Ethan and Ben spent two very enjoyable nine-hour days at RocFest. The event was attended by the entire UK senior bouldering team, some as competitors and others volunteering as judges or mentoring the younger finalists. There was also a good turn out from the UK junior bouldering team. This was therefore a fantastic opportunity for them: not only were they able to watch some of the best climbers in the world take part, but they also had the chance to take an active role in judging the competition.

The event organiser and owner of RockOver, Tom Stewart, was very appreciative of the boys’ efforts over the two days. He said, “This year we had over 900 people come to our centre over the ROCFest15 weekend and Ethan, Aston, Ben and Adam were central in ensuring the quality of the competition was maintained. For two days they never buckled and worked tirelessly judging and assisting judges to judge children, adults and paraclimbers, from beginners to the world’s best. Every time I interrupted their rest time to ask again for them to work delivering another aspect of the event, there was no complaint, just enthusiasm.

“This event takes twelve months to plan and puts the reputation and brand of Rock Over Climbing on the world stage, but it can not be achieved with the help of amazing and loyal volunteers such as Ethan, Aston, Ben and Adam. It is a gruelling weekend and despite being so young they were very mature, quick learners, demonstrated they had the stamina to last the weekend, and presented our Brand perfectly. I would suggest that they are a credit to themselves and Bolton School.”

RockOver generously gave all of the boys a year’s free membership at the climbing wall to thank them for their voluntary work over the weekend.

Ethan, Ben and Adam at RocFest

Ethan, Ben and Adam at RocFest

The paraclimbers were particularly impressive

The paraclimbers were particularly impressive

Ben and Adam judge some of the junior semi-finalists

Ben and Adam judge some of the junior semi-finalists