Friday 12 August 2016

Summer Update

Hey Everyone! Hope you are all enjoying your summers wherever you are! I haven't posted for a while because I have been pretty busy with a combination of working, training and playing over the past couple of months! I figured I was due for a quick blog post about my summer so far, starting off with my last competition of my youth career, as well as an update of what I have been up to since. I have also included a few photos! Hope you enjoy!!

Canadian Youth and Open Difficulty Nationals - May 2016

Nationals - Finals Route
photo: Shane Murdoch
Rope Nationals were special this year for a couple of reasons - one, they were held here in Canmore at my home gym, and two, this competition marked the end of my youth competition career! 
Since Provincials in Edmonton, I really felt like I hit my stride both physically and mentally in climbing. Heading into Nationals at Elevation Place, I felt confident in my abilities and ready to compete and climb my best! 
The competition was a total blast - the organizers and volunteers put in so many hours to put on the best Nationals I have participated in during my entire youth career. With a combination of awesome routesetting, a vibrant atmosphere full of locals and a very well-organized event, Nationals in Canmore will be hard to beat!
I felt as though I climbed quite consistently for the entire competition. I try not to set any goals in terms of results before competing and focus more on consistent rounds, efficient decision making and confident climbing. With these in mind, I managed to squeak into Open finals and snag a first place in the Junior girls category and a third place in Open women! 
The finals climb was unforgettable. Although it may not have been the prettiest of efforts,  I felt like I left everything on the wall and climbed my best! It is a special feeling to be able to look back on a climb and feel like you couldn't have done anything more; that in that moment that was your best effort!
With my last youth competition under my belt, my focus turned to the rest of my summer. After all these years of attending international competitions such as the Pan American Youth Championships and the World Youth Championships, it is not often that I get to spend a lot of time climbing outdoors, as I was focused on training purely for these events. This year, since the timing of the World Youth Championships in China conflicted with my university plans in the fall, I have been enjoying my summer in Canmore, playing outside!

My Summer Since Nationals

Since Nationals in Canmore, my summer has been quite simple. I am attending the University of Guelph this fall and studying Biomedical Sciences, so I have been working at the Elevation Place Climbing Gym to save money for school, and on my days off I have been taking in the outdoors with a combination of running, hiking, biking and outdoor climbing!
Coming into the summer, I hadn't really picked out any specific projects or set any goals for outdoor climbing. At the beginning of the season I mainly ticked off some more moderate climbs that either I had tried a while ago or that were brand new to me. At Lake Louise, I finished off Incomplete and Complete, 12d and 13a respectively; at Acephale I ticked Jingus Americanus 12d; and I also visited some areas I have never been to before like Baatan and Black Feather Canyon where I ticked a few more classic 5.12s. 
Once I felt like I was getting comfortable on rock again, I began to set my sights on some harder lines! Recently I have been climbing mainly at Acephale, The Lookout and Planet X, but have also put in a few days at Lake Louise! 
Jason Lives - 12d
Photo: Stacey Weldon
At Lake Louise I managed to tick the crimpy test-piece, Jason Lives (12d); at Planet X, I have climbed two endurance classics - Timber (13a) and Shooting Packer (13b); at the Lookout, I recently climbed Buffet Royale (13c), and just a couple of days ago I surprised myself with a pretty quick send of Endless Summer (13d), my first of the grade! 
So this summer has been quite the whirlwind for me already; I have been very busy with work, coaching kids of all ages in summer camps for this first part of the summer. Although this work has been very rewarding, I am looking forward to the middle of this month when my workload slows down and I will be able to enjoy my last two weeks in Canmore with my family, enjoying my beautiful surroundings and climbing outside as much as possible before I leave for Ontario!

Last but not least I would like to thank all my friends, family, coaches, Five Ten and the climbing community as a whole for the overwhelming support throughout my youth competition career! I am beyond excited for what the future holds!

Planet X on a rare sunny day

Alex Megos flashing Endless Summer (13d) after my sending effort

Wednesday 27 April 2016

Season Update: My Transition from Stone to Plastic

Hey Guys! Now that I recently participated in the last local lead competition of the season and Provincials and Nationals are coming up over the next month, I've decided to write a little bit about (firstly) my transition from climbing long, endurance routes in Spain to the more power based routes characteristic of competition climbing. Secondly, a little update about my season so far!

THE TRANSITION - Frustrating but so worth it

Coming back from Spain around Christmas time, after sending my hardest routes outside, I expected my transition back to plastic to be a lot easier than it was! After taking over a week break to give my body time to lose the jet lag and recover from four months of consecutive climbing, I headed back into the gym setting for a light session on some ropes. It was crazy to see how much power I had lost after climbing those 40m endurance fests for so many months! I had lost a lot of my bouldering muscle as my body had adapted to the need for being lighter and more tolerant of the pump! After clearing the cobwebs for a few days it was apparent that power needed to be regained! Lucky for me I have the ultimate power builder in the shed in my backyard, a 45 degree systems wall equipped with everything from 2x4 pinches to 1/4 pad crimps. So for a full month I devoted my time to rebuilding that power I had lost. It was very frustrating at first. The first session back on the "woody" I couldn't even climb up the warm-up pinch rungs running up the middle of the wall! But with some perseverance and a whole lot of Eminem I was delighted to see my power come back quickly, and compounded by the knowledge and climbing literacy I gained while climbing so many different routes abroad, I got stronger than I felt for Youth Bouldering Nationals back in August! So my advice to anyone transitioning from rock back to plastic is persevere! You may expect a lot from yourself at first but take joy in the small things, and record your progress to show yourself how far you can come with some dedicated training! You'll be thankful of the knowledge you have gained on rock once you start to compete again or get back on that project that has always eluded you!


After the last local comp that just happened last weekend out in Saskatoon, the local part of the lead competition has officially drawn to a close and everyone is gearing up for Provincials at the U of A in Edmonton the weekend of May 8th and Nationals here in Canmore the weekend of the 28th! As usual, the local comps have been a blast, with the Alberta and Saskatchewan climbing communities coming together to produce some wonderful routes at all the events! What I love about local competitions is that they are the perfect settings to reflect on your strengths and weaknesses as well as try new competition strategies in a lower risk competition environment! All the comps this year have been better than ever, with sanctioned locals hosted at the CCC Stronghold and Hanger locations in Calgary, Rock Jungle Fitness in Edmonton and Grip It in Saskatoon! At each competition I continue to learn about my climbing and reflect on how to improve as an athlete both physically and mentally! I am beyond excited to test my skills at Provincials and finally, with the nation's best at Nationals in my home gym, Elevation Place, here in Canmore! 

Thanks again to all the volunteers and organizers who have put so much effort into making the comps this season such a success! Also, shoutout to my sponsors Five Ten and my parents ;) for the continuous support through this season! So psyched for what is to come!


Sara :D
Second Qualifier, CCC Hanger
Photo: Philip Quade
Thanks Five Ten!!
Photo: Monika Helbig

Siurana, Spain
Photo: Andrew Funk

Monday 7 December 2015

The Trip of a Lifetime

Hello Everyone! I have taken so long to write a blog post during my trip because I thought it would be interesting to show my personal progression and growth through my experiences in each of the destinations I have visited thus far. It is a bit of a rant although I have tried to summarize my thoughts about each destination and the adventures and learning I have garnered from each place! Feel free to skip to any one place, as I have separated my destinations under headlines. Happy reading! :-D

Graduating high school this past June was the end of an era. During high school, my climbing career was focused pretty much entirely on indoor, competition climbing with the exception of spring break trips down to Las Vegas to climb at Red Rocks and the occasional Saturday session up at one of our local crags in the warmer months. Now that I had a few less commitments, was tired of studying, and had been saving up some money by working part time at my local gym during the summer, delaying university plans for a year began to sound pretty inviting. For about two years prior to graduating, my sister and fellow comp climber Andrew Funk had been talking about taking a gap year to travel and climb in Europe after high school. For such a long time this idea was more of a dream than a realistic trip, but when the World Youth Championships were to be held in Arco, Italy for our graduating year, this dream trip started to become a reality. Before we knew it, our 70 liter backpacks were packed full of climbing hear and travel essentials and we were off to Europe on our trip of a lifetime.

Being part Greek decent, travelling to this country had always been high on my bucket list! After we had finished competing in Arco, our families hopped on flights to Athens! My family spent just over a week unwinding from the competition by visiting relatives and learning about the rich culture that Greece has to offer. After a wonderful and memorable time eating, relaxing and exploring with family, it was time to bid our farewells and begin the climbing part of our trip in Kalymnos, Greece.
This Greek island is truly a travelling climber´s paradise, with cheap accommodation, delicious fresh food, beaches, and vacation climbing for days! I think this was the perfect spot to start out our tip, building up endurance on seemingly endless tufa climbs and gaining mileage on this style of rock that was so foreign to us! Having had fairly limited outdoor climbing experience and even more limited time on hard grades outside, this was my fist exposure to the world of the mini project. These days were so enjoyable as you would walk up to a new crag, find a long, aesthetic warm up climb and then suss out the harder climbs for the day! The formula always seemed to be the same for my time in Greece: warm up, check out the moves on a classic low to mid 13, go for a redpoint burn and celebrate the sends on a swim in the ocean and a 2 euro gyros pita at our favourite cafe (and the occasional slab of baklava... a traditional Greek dessert ;) ) This start to the trip was perfect to build up my confidence on rock and make me realize that I could climb harder than I thought outdoors! Soon, I had ticked numerous lower 5.13s, including some classics such as Dani Boy (8a/13b), a pocketed power endurance climb, and Helios (8a/13b), a short, powerful climb uncharacteristic of Kalymnos but a great line nonetheless. Despite visiting numerous famous sectors such as the Grande Grotta and Odyssey, my favourite climb of the Kalymnos portion of our trip would have to be ¨Super Carpe Diem¨ (7b+/12c), situated on the Panorama wall, an endless band of overhanging tufa ridden rock, looker´s right of the Grande Grotta. This aesthetic line was 40m of adventure - complete with spooky runouts, and a tufa bridge just over half way up that I wedged my whole body into in order to control my breathing after hyperventilating on a particularly runout section. Despite not being the hardest climb, it was a classic Kalymnos epic leaving you out of breath and pumped out of your mind and with battle scars to remember it by from jamming shoulders, backs and butts into the spaces between tufas! Leaving Kalymnos, I felt much more confident and fit and was ready to find some more mini or not so mini projects as we moved on to Spain!

After Greece it was off to Spain to explore the slightly less featured rock of Rodellar! What was really cool about this destination was that I had already been there before, four years prior for just over a week. It was really cool to see the improvement from those years ago when I ¨pinkpointed¨ my first 7a+/12a to proceed to warm up on it on this trip and send more than a full grade higher with the beautiful Lola Extension (8a+/13c). To me, Rodellar offered the most beautiful climbs I have yet to get my hands on during my trip thus far. Many of the harder climbs relied on power endurance, the ability to do 15-20 hard moves in a row between mediocre rests. After about two weeks of climbing hard, Andrew, Becca and I set our sights on an often overlooked 8b/13d at the Pince Sans Rire sector - El Chorreas la Belle Inconnue. Despite not having rained for quite some time before we first tried this route, a pinch in the middle of the intense crux section was dripping wet. Unfortunately, after working out all the moves and beginning to give this rig redpoint burns, Rodellar got drenched in over 90ml of rain in a single day. Let´s just say that that pinch went from a little seepy to full on waterfall status, along with many of the other holds involved in the tufa system. So with only three climbing days left we abandoned our project in search of dryer terrain. At first this seemed to be a bit of a hopeless endeavor as we waded across raging rivers that were once trickling streams to the back of the canyon where we discovered Lola Extension. We had climbed the first pitch of Lola multiple times while warming up to try Les Chacals, and iconic 8b/13d on the same wall, but never had the chance to try the extension to this line. With three days left we were back in the throes of the mini project! After going up the climb once each we proceeded to have a send train to finish off our time in Rodellar - Andrew sending the first day, Becca the second, and I the third, all with our own beta through the crux! This was a great way to end our time in Rodellar and travel south in search of dry rock! Off to Siurana!

To say it was an adjustment coming from Rodellar to Siurana would be an understatement! In both Kalymnos and Rodellar we would be consistently looking for warm ups in the mid to higher 5.12 grades while in Siurana we often struggled to climb the grade. The subtlety and technical face climbing characteristic of Siurana kicked our butts yet I don´t think I have ever learned more about my climbing in the span of a month than I have by sampling the beautiful, technical limestone this area has to offer. My definition of an acceptable footholds has gone from jib to nonexistent smear and what I though originally would be an acceptable foothold is now my definition of a decent handhold! The subtlety of movement and small tweaks in hip placement I have learned to embrace here has changed my outlook on technical climbing. I have also fortified my realization of the importance of breath - staying calm and focused while run out on tiny crimps and questionable feet. The lessons I have learned here in Siurana are invaluable and will be very applicable when I return to Canada for lead season this year. Not only do I fell miles more confident on vertical and slab climbing after spending a month here, but I have taken away vital practice onsighting these mentally taxing climbs, something that I believe will change my approach to onsight climbing in competition entirely. Today, on our last climbing day here in Siurana, I managed to send L'escarmala (7c+/13a). Although this has not been my hardest send of this trip by any means it was really cool to see my practice on the crimpy style characteristic of Siurana come to fruition! Time to have a celebratory hot chocolate, rest my butchered skin, pack my ridiculously full backpack and embark on another travel day to our next destination - south to Chulilla!


Thank you for taking the time to hear about my adventures! In a few days we are wrapping up here in Siurana and our party is splitting ways. Becca is travelling back to Canada to take in the end of bouldering season while Andrew and I making our way south to the sport climbing paradise of Chulilla! 

Will post again about our Chulilla adventures!


Monday 3 March 2014

Why Do You Climb?

Climbing is an intense sport, both physically and mentally. Even though we all have low energy training days, unproductive sessions on projects or subpar performances and competitions, we still climb... but why? This is the question I asked myself. Why do I love to climb? I really thought about this and I came up with a few main reasons why this sport is my life.

The Community- Unlike many sports I have done over the years, climbing has a strong, like-minded community that accepts people of all levels. We push each other to reach our own goals and encourage our team mates and friends to do the same. This idea has been most prevalent for me through competition. I have been a part of the competition climbing community for about four years now with experience at the local, national and international levels. No matter what comp I go to, the community is always the same; accepting and encouraging. It is hard to find another sport where you share your strategies for success with the competitors that your going up against. For me, competitions feel like a massive session, sharing beta and sequence possibilities. 

The Mental Game- Climbing brings obvious physical challenge - mastering the hardest moves on the smallest holds on the craziest angles, but the mental aspect of this sport is more than half the battle. I have struggled with this aspect of climbing for many years; now that I have a handle on it I see my physical progression reaching new heights. As many have said - what the mind believes, the body follows. As I said before - what I love about climbing is how we share our ideas and strategies with others so here are a couple things that have helped my mental game and subsequently my climbing over the past few years.

- Recognizing the Importance of the Process - For the longest time, I had one thing on my mind when it came to competition - making the National Team. This idea became all consuming at every competition I did. I wasn't enjoying the amazing routes, the people or the experience - my mind was focused on the result. It was not until last year- when I reached my goal that I realized my mental game had greatly changed. At nationals I was living in the moment. I not only took the competition round by round but route by route, clip by clip and hold by hold. When I made the National team I realized this process wasn't over - the process throughout climbing is continuous. It involves learning, failure, success, good days and bad days - its all part of the process of becoming a better climber, competitor and person.

- Control What You Can Control - Another factor that helped my mindset over the years was differentiating between factors I could control and factors that I were uncontrollable. Controllable factors and elements such as how much sleep you get, your nutrition and your training which encompasses your preparedness (both physically and mentally). Uncontrollable factors are things such as the style of route at a comp, your competitors, weather conditions or unexpected delays or starts. Focus on the controllable factors and do your best to block out uncontrollable factors because there is nothing you can do to change them so its not worth your time to dwell on them.

An Update On the Competition Season So Far- 
Bouldering season has come and gone and I am starting to get into the bulk of the lead season. So far we have had 5 lead comps including the awesome Banff-Canmore double header this past weekend! The routes were really well set and both the comps were a lot of fun! The next comp on the agenda is Provincials at the CCC Stronghold in Calgary in two weeks and then the week after that its off to Vegas for two weeks of sport climbing at Red Rocks! If anyone has some notable climbs that you recommend or questions about this blog post please message me or comment! Oh ya, and feedback is always welcome so if you have any pointers or ideas about what I should write about next feel free to fire away!

Thanks again to my awesome sponsor Five Ten, your support is much appreciated!!!!!

Till next time -

Sara :)

Vertically Inclined Comp in Edmonton a few weekends ago.

Red Rocks last year- so stoked to go back!!


Monday 26 August 2013

My Worlds Experience 2013

I remember my first Youth National Climbing Championships at Delire Climbing Gym in Quebec City. It was in my last year of top-rope and I was looking at the giant prow where the lead athletes were climbing. I remember staring in awe at the overhung wall as an overwhelming feeling of apprehension washed over me, realizing that I would be leading the next year.

Somehow I made the transition. After a rough start at a few local comps, I finally started to get used to leading. My first year of lead climbing came and went, then the second... both years I was so close to getting on the National Team and each year I pushed harder and trained harder to reach my goal. This year my hard work and training finally paid off; I was going to my first World Youth Climbing Championships (WYCC).

August 15th was the official kick start (opening ceremonies) of the 2013 WYCC. Our team got the chance to meet and mingle with other climbers from all around the world.

The next day was our first qualifier. Both qualifiers were flash format so we got to preview our routes ourselves, watch a video of a forerunner and watch competitors before us. I was climbing 8th in the running order of Youth A Girls and was super stoked about my route. It was long and powerful; I was sure it was going to give me a hell of a pump. It started off on some slightly overhanging terrain, then a few bolts of vertical. It then pulled a lip and kicked back into about a 25 degree overhang. After my warm up I got the chance to watch a few people before me, trying to take in their mistakes and learning from what they did well.

First qualifier climb
photo credit: Shane Murdoch
When it was my time to climb, I felt ready to go. The crowd was loud but I pushed the distraction away and focused on my climb; this was the moment I had been waiting for. As my feet left the ground, everything around me seemed to melt away; the only thing in my focus was the next hold. I climbed about halfway and fell at a cruxy section with a slopey cross move with low feet.

My second qualifier took place the next day; this time I was climbing 30th. We were on the far left side of the wall. Our route was mainly vertical but kicked back as it followed a lip near the top. This climb was much shorter and I was expecting some very balancy and bouldery movements. Although technical climbing is not my strength I took it in stride and decided to focus on my breathing and my foot placement. Every foot placement was calculated because I knew the jibs were small and that precision was going to be a crucial element for success. I fell a bit above halfway in an awkward transition move onto the lip.

Overall I felt like I climbed really well! I looked back and watched both of my videos for qualifiers; I had a good pace and I looked confident with no hesitation. Even though I barely missed semis (I ended up in 30th) I think it was a great start to my Worlds experiences!

Another very exciting bit of news; I got sponsored!!!! Earlier this summer I applied for the Five Ten Core Awards and was lucky enough to be one of the four recipients! I'm so psyched to be part of the Five Ten Youth Team, and stoked to represent such an awesome brand!

I'm currently in Tofino, unwinding from Worlds, hanging out at the beach and surfing! Soon I will be off to Skaha for some outdoor climbing for the last week before school starts!

More posts to come once our next season starts!

Sara :)