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A climbing competition (or comp) is usually held indoors on purpose built climbing walls. There are three main types of climbing competition: lead, speed, and bouldering. In lead climbing, the competitors start at the bottom of a route and must climb it within a certain time frame in a single attempt, making sure to clip the rope into pre-placed quickdraws along the route. Bouldering competitions consist of climbing short problems without rope, with the emphasis on number of problems completed and the attempts necessary to do so. Speed climbing can either be an individual or team event, with the person or team that can climb a standardized route the fastest winning.

The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) organizes some of the most important international sport climbing competitions, including the Climbing World Championships and the Climbing World Cup. Sport climbing was featured at the Summer Olympics for the first time in 2020.


Lead climbing

Main article: Lead climbing

In lead climbing, competitors climb a long, difficult route designed and set by the route setter and attempt to reach the top. The climber's performance is determined by the highest hold reached and whether or not that hold was "controlled", meaning the climber achieved a stable position on that hold, or "used", meaning the climber used the hold to make a controlled climbing movement in the interest of progressing along the route. In the case of a tie between athletes, the climber's score from the previous round and/or the time taken to ascend the route is used to break the tie.

At championship-level events, lead climbers must climb the route on sight. This means that they are allowed only one attempt, and they are not allowed to see other climbers on the route, or receive any form of advice (beta) from others after the competition has started. Otherwise, later climbers would be able to learn from previous competitors' mistakes, giving them a considerable advantage. Climbers are usually given a limited amount of time to visually inspect the route from ground level before being sequestered.

Speed climbing

Main article: Speed climbing

Speed climbing with two lanes
Speed climbing with two lanes
Kids speed climbers in Mashhad
Kids speed climbers in Mashhad

Speed is the only factor that counts in a speed climbing event. It is top rope climbing in which competitors climb a slightly overhanging (at 5°) IFSC-certified vertical piste with belaying from the top. Since 2007 the IFSC has created a standard wall layout for the world record. The climbing time is determined by mechanical-electric timing (the competitor strikes a switch at the top of the route); manually timing was allowed as a backup solution until 2018.[1] As of 5 June 2021, Indonesian climber Veddriq Leonardo, holds the men's 15-meter speed world record; 5.208 seconds, set at IFSC World Cup Salt Lake City, USA on 28 May 2021, breaking the record from the fellow Indonesian climber, Kiromal Katibin; 5.258 seconds, at the same day.[2] Yulia Kaplina from Russia, holds the women's 15-meter speed world record at 6.964 seconds, which was set at IFSC European Championships in Moscow, Russia on 21 November 2020.[2]

The team speed discipline was introduced as a medal showcase for the 2011 World Championship. It is a relay competition with teams of three. The teams are made up of 3 athletes of the same sex. Before the 2012 set of rules was introduced, the teams had to be mixed sexes. The race is held on the world record wall split into four lanes, two for each team. The first athlete races to hit the button at the top of the wall, at which point the second athlete climbs the second leg to release the third and final athlete whose final button marks the total time.[citation needed]

Speed climbing has been a part of the Combined format in the 2020 Summer Olympics, and will be a standalone event in the 2024 Summer Olympics.[3]


Main article: Bouldering

A bouldering competition consists of climbing on short walls without belay ropes. It differs from lead climbing competitions in that the climber can attempt a route more than once, but like lead climbing they cannot see other climbers on the boulder or receive from others any form of advice after the competition has started. In IFSC and Olympic competitions climbers are given a time of 4 minutes to give as many attempts as they want.[4]

Each competitor's score is determined by the overall number of routes finished and the number of attempts needed. Ranking is further subdivided by either a lead-style scoring system or with the use of a "bonus" hold. In a lead-style scoring system the climber is awarded a certain number of points for each hold they reach, with the highest points awarded for a finished route. From 2018, the IFSC and Olympic competitions use a bonus hold called "zone"; the number of attempts to reach the zone (if reached) further stratifies the competitors.

Main competitions

Some of the most widely known international competitions are administered by the International Federation of Sport Climbing, including:

Other widely known international competitions are:

In the United States, the American Bouldering Series organizes regional, divisional and national events.

Olympic games

In August 2016 it was announced that climbing would be included in the 2020 Olympics.[6] Athletes were be competing in a combined format; their lead, speed, and bouldering results were combined to determine the winners. The winners of the combined format were Alberto Ginés López for men and Janja Garnbret for women.

For 2024 the format will be changed and divide the three disciplines into two events - one with combined bouldering and lead climbing, and one with speed climbing as a standalone event. The point awarding system will also be changed, with points being awarded based on individual performances instead of position based system used in the sports' debut at the event.

Youth climbing

The main international youth climbing competitions are organized by the International Federation of Sport Climbing, including:

In the United States, youth climbing is organized by USA Climbing (USAC).

See also


  1. ^ IFSC Rules modification 2018 V1.5, April 2018
  2. ^ a b "SPEED WORLD RECORD OVERVIEW". Retrieved 26 November 2019.
  3. ^ "Sport climbing". Paris 2024. Retrieved 2022-10-28.
  4. ^ "Rules". Retrieved 2019-12-14.
  5. ^ Dunne, Toby (17 August 2021). "A brief history of competition climbing". British Mountaineering Council. Retrieved 20 December 2022.
  6. ^ "Climbing going for gold".