Sport climbing competitions are usually held indoors on purpose built climbing walls, featuring three main disciplines: lead, bouldering and speed, all requiring different skills from the athletes.  The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) organizes a series of international climbing competitions throughout the year, including the Climbing World Championships, and the sport will be in the Olympic Games for the first time in 2020.

Lead climbing is probably the most well-known as competitions have been organized for more than 30 years.  Climbers in lead competition face a 15 – 20 meter high artificial wall, and climb with a rope for safety.  The goal is to climb as far as possible on a previously set route within a time limit.  The winner is the climber that climbs the farthest.  In order to be successful in lead climbing, athletes need a lot of power endurance.

Bouldering is a form of rock climbing performed on small rock formations or artificial rock walls, known as ‘boulders’, without using ropes or harnesses.  Mats or mattresses (‘crash pads’) are placed on the ground to help prevent injury from falls.  It began as a training method for roped climbs and mountaineering, then evolved into a separate discipline of sport climbing in the 1990’s.

Bouldering competitions feature extremely difficult sequences and complex moves (or ‘problems’) within a short climbing route, time limits, and close proximity to spectators.  Competitors are typically allowed several attempts, but they cannot watch other climbers on the boulder or receive advice or coaching after competition has started.  Score is determined by the overall number of routes made by the competitor and the number of attempts.  If a climber doesn’t reach the finishing hold at the top of the climb, points may be awarded for having reached a particular hold during a climb, the ‘bonus hold’ or ‘Zone’.

During speed competition, the winner is determined over many rounds where both speed and endurance are required, but time is everything.

In the combined format competition (aka the ‘Olympic Combined Format’ as it will be format for 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo), athletes climb each sport climbing discipline (lead, bouldering and speed).  A score is given by multiplying the competitor’s ranking (place) in each discipline.  All disciplines are weighted the same.


If you missed the 2018 IFSC Climbing World Championships live stream broadcast, there’s still time to watch video recordings of world elite climbers compete in lead, bouldering, speed, combined format, and paraclimbing.   

Just click/tap the play button located in the center of any media player posted below.


International Federation of Sport Climbing 


Free to watch climbers challenge the extreme via On2In2™ video collection, CLIMBINGFREE To WATCH:  CLIMBING, an On2In2™ video collection of extraordinary climbs and personal stories of adventure in the mountains and on the rocks.







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Posted by Zola Zeester

Zola is a vagabond playmaker, the On2In2™ recreation guru and primary source of inspiration for this article. Currently resides at Zeester Media HQ.

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