Why I Volunteer

Why I Volunteer

by Sue Carkner

There are many benefits to volunteering for parents. For me, as the mom of pre-teens and a teenager, the biggest benefit is the chance to be part of their world. I know what happened at a comp, I know who was judging and organizing and routesetting, and I know the other climbers. When my daughter starts talking to me about climbing, I know what (or who) she’s talking about and I can contribute to the conversation. Not only that, I now have my own friends in the climbing community. Going to a competition is no longer a long, lonely day of standing around a gym hoping for a glimpse of my child on the wall…now I go to the competitions to catch up with my own friends. (I still get to see my child on the wall – the organizers make sure every volunteer gets a break to watch their own child climb). And, perhaps it sounds cheesy, but I like the feeling of contributing to a sport that means so much to my daughter.

Volunteering also helped me develop my own skills. After taking turns at various positions, I realized that I really love judging at the competitions. I still do other jobs from time to time – for example, I often spend at least a few minutes at the registration desk. At a recent comp I learned how to enter the scores into the computer. It’s fun to try out different jobs and develop different skills. But judging is still the volunteer job I love best, and it gives me a little boost of confidence to feel that I’m good at this. I have helped to train many prospective judges, and I’ve come to realize that not everyone likes judging. That’s okay – there are lots of different jobs available, and everyone can try out different volunteer positions to find one that they enjoy, not just at the competitions but also behind the scenes with the OCF.

Climbing is a growing sport, not just in Canada, but around the world. With climbing short-listed as a potential Olympic sport in 2020, we can expect more youth to enter climbing and competitions to become larger for the foreseeable future. It takes volunteers to make the sport run smoothly, and I strongly urge parents of young climbers to help improve your child’s competitive experience by getting involved! You won’t regret it, I promise. And hey, I wouldn’t lie to you – I’m a judge.

What The OCF Board Has Been Working On Lately

Here are the projects that board members have been working on over the past several months:

  • Getting the organization set up to conform to provincial law. The OCF intends to act as the Provincial Sport Organization (PSO) for competitive climbing in Onatrio, in cooperation with a National Sport Organization (NSO) that does that same across the country. There are rules and regulations that govern how the NSO and PSOs must operate, and when these organizations fulfill all those requirements there is potential for government funding to assist athletes and support events. So much of what the organization has been doing lately is getting our house in order for that. This includes the recent minor amendments to our Constitution, as well as drafting several policies (including Harassment, Discipline, Anti-Doping policies) required by regulations. This is dry, technical stuff that may seem to have little to do with organizing comps, but it’s essential to set up the organization to succeed long term.
  • Coordinating with the CEC. The CEC is the organization that currently exercises the authority over competition climbing in Canada that the IFSC gave to the Alpine Club of Canada. The CEC is not currently set up to qualify as a National Sport Organization, but the OCF has been working with the CEC to try to move it in that direction. One area of effort was an attempt to get agreement on a joint membership policy that would allow Ontario competitive climbers to buy one membership from the OCF, and automatically become CEC members at the same time. This effort has not yet succeeded, in part because of a requirement from the CEC that the OCF have liability insurance in place to cover all its members.
  • Training. To run an effective competition schedule, we need to have qualified people in place to run competitions. This includes judges, routesetters and many volunteers in other roles.
  • The OCF has held several judging clinics (usually in conjunction with competitions) to train more judges. Growing the pool of qualified judges means less scrambling each time a gym hosts a comp, and also allows us to grow beyond the point where the only qualified judges are parents of the competitors.
  • The OCF has also organized a Routesetting For Youth clinic (to be held at True North Climbing October 25th, led by setters from Boulderz and True North). The goal of this event is to share knowledge & experience about setting for young/small climbers, to make sure that everyone has a great experience at each comp. Setters from 7 Ontario gyms are expected to attend.
  • We also intend to organize training session(s) on Lead Belaying for Youth in Competition. The goal is to ensure appropriate skills among those who volunteer as belayers at Difficulty comps, in order to increase everyone’s confidence in the safety of the competitors. Lead belaying at a comp brings additional challenges and stress, and we want to make sure all volunteers are prepared for that.
  • Planning the competition season. This is more complex than it may seem, including deciding on the number and format of competitions (and there are many different perspectives on the best way to do this), and coordinating with climbing gyms to host each event, without conflicting with other scheduled events, such as CEC-organized regional and National competitions.
  • Supporting gyms that host competitions. This includes registration support, training (as described above), helping to round up volunteers (judges and others), providing ribbons to award to the top finishers in each of the 10 Youth categories, and helping to gather donated prizes from vendors and other partners.
  • Fundraising and Sponsorship gathering. The OCF needs money (not a huge amount) to operate, including insurance coverage, bank fees, and the cost of ribbons and prizes for the competition series we organize. Some of those funds come from memberships sold, and we also ask industry partners and other companies to help us out by donating prizes or contributing funds to sustain our operations.

Ontario Climbing was represented at the Nor’Easter 2011

By Florent Balsez

Ayo Sopeju from Joe Rockhead’s, and myself from True North, were joined by Fred Charron, Head Route Setter at Allez Up (Montreal) and Simon Forget for the North Face Pro Tour 2011 in Burlington, Vermont September 23-24, 2011.

An exceptional welcome from the American Team combined with great weather and a beautiful view on Lake Champlain set the stage for the qualifications. The problems were an interesting mix of power and endurance, set on the famously high (too high?) Vertical Solutions’ structure.

Day 1 – Qualifications.

I had never seen Ayo so strong before (or should I say “heard”, since he was climbing before me). He was literally crushing all the problems and the announcer kept talking about this Canadian who surprised everybody.

I climbed 2nd, right after Ayo, and surprisingly figured out that the 3 first problems were not that hard. The 4th problem was challenging and it pumped my arms considerably. In the last problem, I do not know how I reached the top.  After trying the first big move 10 times, I found a beta with a magic left heal, when everybody did it with a huge dyno. The hardest movement was the last one: to match both hands on a very bad sloper with some random feet to hold the position and validate the problem.

At the end of the first day of Qualifiers, Ayo finished 7th  with 4 problems on sight and 6 tops, I was 12th  with 2 on sight and 4 tops, Simon Forget 20th and Fred Charron 21st. They took 20 climbers for Semi-Finals but Simon was not feeling like climbing on Friday night (perhaps because of the “recovery beers” ingested at the hotel room?) so he gave his spot in Semis to the super motivated Fred!

Day 2 – (Semi) Finals.

The Second day, we had to be in Isolation at 9 a.m. We started to warm up in this small tent that held the two warm up walls. But soon the rain obliged the organization to cancel the Semi-finals. Fred had to warm up twice, only to finally come back to Isolation a few minutes before the scheduled climbing!  At the end: Good news – we were all qualified for the Finals at 3pm!

Fred went first in Finals.  He did amazingly well and gave 100% of himself. My turn came and I started problem #1 with the feeling that I was doing routes.  I had undoubtedly used all my reserve and was now climbing on endurance mode.  I did not send any problem but the crowd was cheering me so well that I thought for one instant that I was Chris Sharma…

Then came Ayo’s turn to enter the Finals. He showed one more time that he his THE guy in shape in Toronto by climbing high in all the problems, except the tricky first one where he got stuck in a weird sequence.

Finally Ayo placed 12th, Fred 18th and I finished  19th.

Ayo Sopeju, our local hero, crushing in Finals Problem #2

To summarize, it was a great event, I would say even better than the previous comp in New York, with better problems in Qualifiers. This was also the opportunity for the 4 of us to compare ourselves with the best climbers and realize that the climbers in Canada can climb with the best of them!

Thanks to Fred, Ayo, Simon and all the American climbers for their warm welcome.

See you next year with hopefully more climbers from Ontario!

See the full results here

To see a video of the event: Here

How To Qualify For The Tour De Bloc Finals

By Florent Balsez

The new Tour de Bloc Season 9 is coming and as you are training hard to get your name down in history for Canada’s greatest climbing comp, here are 9 modest tips that may help you to achieve the ultimate goal: Qualifying for the Finals.


There are a lot of different theories about training and resting before a comp and I will focus on that in a future article. But to make it short, I do not need to explain why resting at least 2 days before the Day is preferable for your skin, forearms, and even your motivation. Personally, I like to take 3 days off and run 2 days before the Comp. The morning of the comp, it is good to wake up earlier to have your body awake and ready to climb. The day before, drink at least 4 liters of water to regenerate your cells. Do not stretch too hard, especially in the last hours before starting to climb.


Be patient and look at other people around you and see how they crush (or not) the problem you want to attempt, try not to be the first one, especially when they are the hardest problems you will be trying.

Also, keep in mind that the routesetters set the problems to be doable. That includes being able to do them without being 6 feet tall or having an orangutan’s reach. Therefore, if you have to dislocate your shoulder in order to send a problem it is most likely that you have the wrong beta.

You must know that only 6 problems will be taken into account for the Finals. That means, focus only on the ones you have the best chance to complete.


Time matters: For 2 reasons. First, you want to make sure that you will do your 6 problems within the given time (generally 3 -4 hours), and secondly because the sooner you are done the more recovery time you will benefit from for the finals.

Because time matters, try to avoid crowds. Take a look at the overall comp, and see which problems are not covered with people.


Do not pay attention to people around you when you climb. Sometimes, you will kill yourself trying some crazy beta just to impress the people watching and forget your initial objective: to qualify. Style does not matter in a comp. What counts are the results.

One other thing: make sure everybody is aware BEFORE climbing, especially when it is a dynamic and potentially dangerous movement. But once you start climbing, forget about everything else and focus on getting to the top.


Yes, rock climbing can be a team sport! And it is often more efficient to climb in small groups of 2-4 climbers than by yourself. This way you can rely on them to give you a spot, feedback on your performance, you can also cheer each other on and sign your scorecards to gain some precious time.


The Tour de Bloc format, with a minimum of 3 hours for the Qualifs and 4-5 problems in Finals, is more an endurance competition, even if each problem is no longer than 12 movements (in theory).  Sometimes, the barrier between success and failure holds in the one-try-too-many in the previous problem. Same problem while you climb: if you realize that you have completely failed to read the sequence and that you are struggling to send it anyway, sometimes, it is more worthy just to give up and save your energy for the next try, with the good beta, even if you could have done it the wrong way, the energy spent could cost your ticket for the Finals.


Cliff Bars and other sweet stuff are okay for delivering energy in a short time but they will have the opposite effect if you eat too much of them or if you are taking them right before the Qualifs. After hitting your max of energy, you will suddenly feel as tired as if you did not sleep the night before…


Or if you are not the best for that, hire your girlfriend (or mommy) to help you with all the material aspects of the competition like the transportation, accommodation, food before and during the comp, registration, carriage of your gears, etc. Sometimes, you have so much to think about that you miss the purpose of the comp (it happened to me!) By the way, you are exempt from doing the dishes the night before the comp…


Finally, and the most important advice I could give is to have fun, because rock climbing is the best and most fun sport on the planet! And if you do not qualify this time, do not worry as you can still crush on the Dance Floor at the Post Comp Party. But here again, I may have some tips… (Next time)…

New Bouldering Program at the Niagara Glen

The Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) is pleased to announce a new Bouldering Program in support of the conservation of the Niagara Glen Nature Area.

Historically, bouldering was a means of training for longer climbing routes and mountaineering. Over the past 30 years, bouldering has evolved into a popular sport with appeal as a health-conscious physical form of human-powered recreation.

Bouldering’s social aspects of community and camaraderie has created an expanding number of enthusiasts. The Niagara Glen has become noted world-wide for its bouldering opportunities, and the need for programming was recognized to assure the protection of the physical, cultural and ecological integrity of parks.

Bouldering Permits will be available for purchase ($20 fee and signed waiver required) at the Niagara Glen Nature Centre (previously known as The Feather in the Glen), located at 3050 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls, Ontario.  Permits can also be purchased at the Butterfly Conservatory, located at 2565 Niagara Parkway, Niagara Falls, Ontario.

Please visit – http://www.niagaraparksnature.com/things-to-do/bouldering.html for a downloadable waiver form and The Niagara Parks Commission Bouldering Rules.

The Scene Film Tour coming to Toronto on October 25!

From the director of PURE and CORE, Chuck Fryberger, get ready to infiltrate four of the biggest scenes in the world of climbing.

The Ontario Access Coalition is happy to bring The Scene to Ontario! Tuesday, October 25, 7pm. Showing at “The National Film Board” 150 John Street, Toronto (walking distance from MEC Toronto:http://g.co/maps/345ru ). Tickets available at the door only – $10 for OAC members, $12 for non-members – with DVDs and Blu-Ray to buy after the show.

Filmed in stunning 4K Ultra High Definition, get ready for a fast-paced ride through the centers of the climbing universe. Check out the preview here:http://www.TheSceneFilm.com .

More information visit – http://www.ontarioaccesscoalition.com/2011/10/09/the-scene-film-tour/

OCF Formation

Ontario Climbing Federation
(August 2011)

OCF is a registered Ontario Not for Profit Corporation, and we are on our way to being a provincial sports organization.

We look forward to working with the climbing community in the coming 2011-2012 climbing season!
For more information or donations please email info@climbontario.ca

Ontario Climbing Federation
(February 10, 2011)

Competition Climbing Canada (CEC) indicated in late summer 2010 that the Executive board was in the process of writing a new Constitution. Their plans were a result of their intent to form a National Sport Organization (NSO). Part of the reason to form a NSO came out of the desire to access government funding for our athletes.

The CEC executive reached out to Provincial representatives to start forming Provincial Sport Organizations (PSOs). As a result, volunteers were solicited in Ontario through open postings on www.u20climbing.com, verbal requests to all youth climbers/parents at local competitions and emails sent out to Ontario CEC members/climbing partners. A group of volunteers met in November 2010 and the Ontario Climbing Federation was formed.
Our mandate:

  • to organize competition climbing for youth and adults in Ontario
  • to sanction climbing competitions in Ontario and control the competition calendar
  • to be the Ontario member of the National Sport Organization which governs competitive climbing in Canada
  • to liaise with Ontario climbers and Competition Climbing Canada
  • to provide training for coaches, judges and route setters
  • to provide support for gyms hosting climbing competitions
  • to provide funds for Ontario climbers to attend National and International climbing competitions
  • to promote the sport of climbing

Next Steps:

  • establish a Constitution
  • become incorporated as a nonprofit organization in Ontario
  • assist True North Climbing in hosting the first Youth Provincial Climbing Championships in Ontario (April 2011)
  • fundraise for money to buy awards for the Provincial Championships (Cups, medals and ribbons)
  • to formalize our policies and procedures before the beginning of the next climbing season (August 2011)

For more information or donations please email info@climbontario.ca

Web site comments or problems can be directed to webmaster@climbontario.ca