Athletes 'Get Sendy' at Aviary's first-ever climbing competition

Last Thursday, scores of people packed into the Aviary climbing gym on the second floor of the Nest to watch the finals of its first-ever climbing competition, "Get Sendy," and four of UBC’s finest were crowned champions in their respective categories.

The competition, which began on October 22, was open to climbers of all ability levels. To participate, climbers paid $5 for a scorecard — they were to try and climb as many of the routes in the gym as they could.

Points for each successful climb were awarded based on how many other people successfully climbed each route. The fewer people who were able to climb a route, the more points it was worth.

Based on their preliminary scores, competitors were split into two divisions: open and recreational. The top three men and women in each category then advanced through to the final round.

Recreational competitors faced a route that began easy and became progressively harder, featuring a string of holds requiring strenuous pinch and crimp grips and an upper crux requiring a series of more gymnastic movements.

Views of the climbing wall.
Views of the climbing wall. Zubair Hirji

The open route began with a series of crimpy sidepulls before moving through a strenuous move up and left into less powerful but more technical climbing, requiring a precise series of moves on thin holds. In addition, open climbers were lead climbing, meaning they had to pause periodically as they ascended to clip their rope into bolts in the wall.

Women’s rec

Kaeli Flannagan climbed first, getting off to a strong start through the lower section of the route, but slowing progressively through the middle before falling just a few moves from the top.

Up next was Rachel Tseng. Despite a smooth start to the route, Tseng couldn’t quite figure out the magic series of moves in the upper crux, which proved to be tough for shorter climbers. She peeled off just below where Flannagan fell.

Rounding out the women’s rec division was Crystal Song. Getting off to a powerful start, Song appeared to have a good chance at being the first competitor to send the route. After some thoughtful deliberation, she was able to work through the crux sections that had eluded Flannagan and Song, but fell just short of the top. Despite not topping out, Song still scored top spot in the women’s rec category, followed by Flannagan and Tseng.

Men’s rec

The first of the men to climb was Willem Stewart, who used a heel to hook a hold entering the middle section of the route and went on to efficiently dispatch the crux. He was the first of all the recreational competitors to top out.

Following Stewart was Oliver Mann. Proceeding steadily up the route, Mann managed to battle his way to the top of the upper crux, but couldn’t quite stick the last move, peeling off just below the top.

A UBC climber pauses to think out a route.
A UBC climber pauses to think out a route. Zubair Hirji

Last to climb in the men’s rec division was Kai Czarnowski. Czarnowski used the same cheeky heel hook as Stewart to gain access to the middle of the route. Despite appearing to struggle slightly more on the upper crux, he was the second to top out on the route, tying with Stewart.

In a climb-off to break the tie, Stewart couldn’t stick the first series of moves on the open route, while Czarnowski was able to make it through the first crux. Czarnowski claimed first place, with Stewart and Mann taking second and third respectively.

Women’s open

With a tie in the preliminary round, four women made the women’s open final.

Climbing first in the women’s open division was Sabrina Kentel. While she smoothly dispatched the initial series of sidepulls, Kentel couldn’t hold on while making a dynamic move out left above the fourth clip and came off.

Following Kentel was Veronika Schmitt. Schmitt methodically worked her way through the first set of crimps, but wasn’t able to figure out a sequence to pull through the first crux, falling below Kentel’s high point.

Next to climb was Jasmine Vianne Tordenro, who looked smooth through the first crux, but couldn’t quite nail the delicate footwork the upper half of the route demanded. She peeled off at the sixth clip.

The final women’s open contender was Anna Mittelholtz, who came into the finals as the only women’s open competitor to have climbed every route in prelims. Despite a nearly disastrous slip in the first moves of the route that elicited a gasp from the crowd, Mittelholtz was able to regain her composure enough to equal Tordenro’s high point, forcing the second tie-breaker of the night.

“I was super nervous,” said Mittelholtz. “I’m not used to climbing in front of people.”

“I thought it was fun, it was well-set, I need to go back and climb the whole thing,” she joked.

On her second attempt of the route, Tordenro was able to best her previous high point, but got out of sequence at the beginning of the upper crimps, peeling off just below the eighth clip. Having had more time to shake off her initial slip, Mittelholtz looked in much smoother form on her second climb, figuring out the right moves to make the eighth clip, but falling just above it.

She claimed the top spot of the night, followed by Tordenro, Kentel and Schmitt.

Men’s open

Leading off the men’s open division was Juan Fercovic, who moved smoothly and strongly through every crux on the route to become the first and only climber of the night to top out on the route.

“It was a very nice route, very sustained,” he said. “Not really hard, but it had two sections that were insecure.”

Following Fercovic was Jonathan Zajonc, who made quick progress through the initial sections of the route, but couldn’t figure out the sequence to move up and left from there, falling at the fourth clip.

Rounding out the men’s open division was Lucas Falch. After moving quickly through the first half of the route, Falch took a long rest at the sixth clip to shake out, but it wasn’t enough to ward off the pump, which caught him just below the top.

Fercovic would take first in the division, followed by Falch and Zajonc.