Bouldering to new heights
IF YOU HAVE EVER seen the 1993 American action film, Cliffhanger which stars Sylvester Stallone as a professional mountain climber, you might remember the beginning of the movie where he tries to save a friend dangling over a deep chasm.
Now imagine yourself in that kind of situation, what would you do? Most would probably freak out or instantly get vertigo just imagining themselves hanging above a cliff or a summit.
For experienced mountain climbers though, the fear is all in the mind.
Two years ago, Samuel Chung, 15, discovered his love for bouldering, a form of rock climbing (another division of mountaineering) without the use of ropes. Typically the climber would have to assess the ‘problem’, which is bouldering-speak for climbing route, for the most efficient and safe way to ascend.
As it turns out, bouldering taught him to be more confident in himself, and all it takes for him to success is having the mindset to do so.
According to Samuel, his first experience bouldering was practicing at aSEND Adventure Outfitter, an indoor climbing gym in Jalan Song, Kuching, run by his mentor, Malcolm Jitam.
Admittedly, Samuel said that he got involved with bouldering about two years ago just for fun, when his friend invited him to join. Probably out of curiosity, he tagged along and before he knew it, he really enjoyed it.
“I really like the sport because unlike other sports which are so competitive, in rock climbing, you climb for your own satisfaction,” he said.
When asked what his favourite gear for rock climbing was Samuel stated that it would be shoes. Although no gears or harnesses are used during climbing, climbing shoes are often used by climbers to secure the footholds.
“Shoes actually really help you a lot during climbing because in certain climbs, there are certain foot holds where certain shoes will work best,” he said.
Explaining further, there are mainly two types of shoes used for rock climbing: flat shoes and downturned shoes. While the flat shoe is generally used for rock climbing and for comfort, the latter is used for a more advanced climbing where the curved or hooked shaped of the shoe enables climbers to ‘hook’ their toes into the foot holds on overhanging walls.
From June 13-15, Samuel took part in the Pumpfest 2014 competition, a national bouldering competition in Singapore in the Under-17 Boys category. He had entered the competition with his friend, Soh Lai Shin, and out of the two of them, he managed to succeed in the qualifier round and later enter the final round as one of the eight finalists, where he managed to snatch second place in the competition.
The Borneo Post SEEDS managed to steal some of his time to ask about his experience during the competition and his thoughts on the physically demanding sport.
Tell me about your experience during the Pumpfest 2014 competition in Singapore?
During the qualifier round, I did not come with much hope because the Singaporeans under 17 are known to be very strong and I did not plan on getting anything and so I just climbed and made a lot of mistakes but I managed to get in the last slot for the finals.
What was the hardest part about the competition and how did you overcome it?
I would say being in the isolation room. During that time, you are not allowed to see the routes when they are setting it up and so the participants were put in the isolation room. And there is a lot of pressure because there was a route set outside and looking at the other competitors, they look very strong, it was just very scary.
What did you do to overcome that feeling?
What I did was I started to do warm ups and then joined the other competitors and talk to some of them. If you talk to them, and you feel like you are friends, you will feel less pressure.
What were you feeling during the competition?
During the competition, the only thing I had on my mind was to do it and give it my best. So, I was not really scared if I failed, as long as I did my best.
What was your feeling before and after the competition?
Before the competition I was just nervous, after I was just happy with my performance. So, I was tired but also so happy.
When they announced my name, I got a mixed feeling because it was good that I won but I never expected to win, so hearing this was kind of makes me feel confused, I guess.
What sort of preparation did you do before the setting off for the competition?
Actually, Uncle Malcolm did tell me to train, but for me I don’t really like training, I prefer to just climb because the whole point is to climb. So, I did do some training, but I do not take it too seriously.
Besides rock climbing or bouldering, are you involved in other sports?
I play lots of sports but not competitively such as football and futsal, but I am not really good at either of them. I just play for fun.
What is the most important thing for you in rock climbing?
Safety is definitely important, you have to be careful. When climbing, you have to know the proper procedures and also the proper way to tie the knots.
What do you think is the most challenging about this sport?
It’s a very physical sport but it is also very enjoyable. You must have the mindset to do it and no doubt you can eventually do it.
What has been your most challenging climb?
That would be Johnny Be Good in Fairy Cave, Bau. I never planned on climbing it, but my friend managed to climb it and I felt I could it and so I just tried. I climbed it a week after I first started bouldering in which I successfully climb it on the third attempt.
What has been your biggest sports achievement?
‘Climbing Johnny be Good’ in Fairy Cave, Bau and coming in second place at Pumpfest, Singapore.
Where would you be in the next five years?
For the next five years, I imagined I would climb just for fun because I would be going to university but climbing would definitely be a hobby. I never picture myself as a professional climber but if it happens, I’ll go for it.
Currently, Samuel is participating in the more challenging NUS-Black Diamond Boulderactive Singapore competition from July 3-6. For live results, click here.
More about climbing
According to Malcolm, there are five important components in rock climbing, which are the community you are with while rock climbing, your tendency for problem solving under mental pressure, flexibility, strength and fitness.
“The most important thing in this sport is to have the mentality to do so,” he added.
Established back in December 2012, aSEND Adventure Outfitter has a weekly programme that includes fitness training and is gaining popularity amongst climbers from all age ranges.
If you fancy joining bouldering, feel free to check out aSEND Adventure Outfitter website at: http://www.bikcloud.com/asend/index.html for more info.