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International competitive rock climber, Dr Chase Gatland of Mona Vale Dental in NSW, believes he still has much to learn about the sport.
“When bouldering in competitive rock climbing, the competition is usually spread across five boulder problems. You earn points for getting to the top but everyone falls. You might complete a couple of courses but everyone comes off the wall—it’s just a matter of when. If you do manage to complete all five courses, you can be pretty confident that you’ve won.
“Competitive rock climbing is a niche sport with three separate aspects. Bouldering is short powerful climbing to a maximum of about six metres. There are no ropes; if you fall, you land on mats. There’s sport climbing, which uses a rope to about 30 metres in height. And the newest addition is speed climbing. All the competitions take place indoors on specifically designed walls. I’ve competed in all three but I prefer bouldering.
“I also like to climb in the outdoors but not competitively. Free climbing has received a lot of attention recently but that’s a fringe element. Like most climbers, I prefer to stay on the rope and stay safe. When I’m training for a competition, I aim to build finger strength and attempt to climb at the correct level of intensity for the right duration.
“The most underappreciated element of competitive climbing is the huge technical element. You need to be problem-solving as you climb. A climber can be very strong, but if they haven’t got years of technique, it doesn’t transfer very well.
“Over the years, I’ve competed internationally in a few World Cups, including Korea, Japan and Scotland. It’s a very tough competition and it’s fair to say I was comfortably at the back of the pack. I loved the experience, however, as it’s a great gauge of how you measure up in comparison to world standards.
“A successful competitive climber demands a well-rounded approach to the sport, equal parts physical, technical and mental. I’ve been climbing for years and I enjoy the process, the competition and the challenge—but I know I need to train harder.
“In all honesty, I’m a bit of a fanatic when it comes to climbing. I love the endlessly complex problem-solving. It’s a sport with so many layers of technique that you can always keep improving. Just when you think you’ve figured it all out, multiple other levels suddenly need to be unpacked. It’s challenging in terms of focus, composure and calmness. It’s a physical pursuit but it also requires a huge mental effort. I still feel like I have much to learn.”