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.
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