The Youth Climbing Series or YCS is the main youth climbing competition series of the year. It is organised collaboratively by the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) for the England and Wales areas, by Mountaineering Scotland (MCoS) for Scotland and by Mountaineering Ireland for Ireland. It is also used by all 3 organisations as a qualifying event for their respective national development squads.
The structure and rules for the YCS have changed for 2019 so, even if you’re used to the YCS it’s worth reading this article however this is only a summary, the full 14 page set of rules can be read here.
Check here for the full list of the dates and venues or use the links below for the dates and venues for each region.
Who can enter?
It is open to any child in categories E, D, C, B or A which covers kids from age 8 to age 17 … roughly (it is actually based on birth year … have a look here to understand more).
Although it will often be the first ‘major’ comp many kids go to, it is not what is termed an ‘entry level comp’. This means that while the first route or boulder will certainly be easier than the others, there’s still an expectation that the children will have a degree of skill otherwise there is a chance they’ll not top anything. That said, many competitors will have been climbing for less than a year and many will still do very well in spite of little experience.
There are seven regions across England and Wales plus two in Scotland and one across the whole of Ireland and you must enter the region in which you live. If there is any doubt which region is appropriate, check with your Area Youth Coordinator (your local climbing wall will be able to help you):
- London and South East South
- London and South East North
- North West and Lakes
- North East and Yorkshire
- Midlands and Peak
- South West
- Scotland North
- Scotland South
How is it structured?
The format of it is that there are 4 rounds spaced out by about 3-4 weeks covering January to March with a two-day final in April. Rounds 1 and 3 are bouldering only, rounds 2 and 4 are roped.
The final will be held across 2 days with one being purely bouldering and the other being purely roped routes. I’ll put details of the Grand Final into another article in the next couple of days.
The total score will be the total of the climbers 3 best scores so, to be eligible for the Grand Final, the competitor must have competed in at least 3 rounds.
The new rules are that there will be 10 routes each with a judge and there will be 3 hours to complete them all. It is important to note that the judges are all volunteers and so, in order to make sure that there are enough judges, parents will have to step up. Without enough volunteers the events will be slower at least or, in the worst case, may not be able to proceed.
The format will be what is referred to as ‘scramble’ format which means that they can attempt the problems in any order they choose. They will approach the judge for the problem they want to attempt and will hand them their scorecard. When it is their turn (when their scorecard reaches the top of the pile) the judge will watch as they attempt the problem and will mark according to what they achieve. They can then choose to attempt it again immediately (in which case the judge will put their scorecard to the bottom of the queue) or they can take their scorecard and try a different problem.
They will have a maximum of five attempts on each problem but can choose how they sequence them themselves. Some will prefer to try the same problem repeatedly while others will rotate round.
The problems will range in difficulty from three that are termed ‘soft’ which almost all the competitors should be able to achieve, the next three will be medium the other four will hard meaning only the best are likely to complete them (and even then it’s not always certain).
The rules and scoring system for boulders are:
- The competitor MUST start the problem with all 4 points of contact on the indicated holds. Failing to use the 4 starting holds will be considered a ‘void attempt’, the climber will be called down but the attempt will still be counted.
- If the competitor reaches the indicated ‘Zone’ hold (usually a hold about half-way up) and uses it in control, this will be marked on their scorecard in the box for the relevant attempt.
- If the competitor reaches the indicated top hold and holds or touches it with both hands in control, this will be marked on their scorecard in the box for the relevant attempt.
It sounds complicated and, to begin with, it will seem so, but it actually gives a lot of information in quite an easy format.
Here’s what a scorecard with the first three problems completed would probably look like. The | indicates an attempt, the + indicates that the zone hold was reached and the Ŧ indicates that the problem was completed successfully.
At the end of the 3 hours, the competitors will be ranked with each category based on:
- The highest number of ‘tops’;
- The number of ‘zones’;
- The number of attempts taken to top the problem;
- The number of attempts taken to reach the zone.
Each roped round will consist of 5 roped problems and they will only have 1 attempt on each. Again, the routes will be set such that the first 2 are ‘soft’, the next 2 are medium and the fifth will be possible for only the top climbers.
A big change from previous years is that there will be no demonstration of how to climb the route and so the first person to climb the route will do so ‘blind’ (without any previous beta). This will make it more important for the competitors to watch how others climb the routes.
Children in the younger categories (D and E) will compete on top-rope whereas those in categories C, B and A will be lead climbing.
Each climber will have a maximum of 6 minutes on each route but they can, as for the boulders, choose the order they want to attempt the routes.
The scoring and some of the rules have also changed from previous years:
- The first hold on a route will be numbered 1, the second 2 and so on. This means that, different to previous years, the top will a) not be 100 points and b) is likely to be different for each of the routes.
- ‘Controlling’ a hold (holding it rather than just touching it) will score the points shown on the judges route map. ‘Using’ that hold will add a + to that score.
- For top-roping, the ‘top’ is achieved, as for bouldering, by matching (holding with both hands) the final hold. For those on lead, clipping the rope to the final anchor will achieve the full points. For both types of roped climb this will be indicated on the scorecard as TOP.
- (Lead only) All the quick-draws must be clipped and must be clipped in sequence.
- (Lead only) If the climber moves beyond the point where they can safely clip a quick-draw the judge will call them down and they will only score for the hold they used before they moved into the unsafe position.
- (Lead only) If the climber ‘z-clips’, they are allowed to un-clip and re-clip all offending quick-draws even if that means down-climbing a little.
- The climber can ask for a time-check at any time on the route.
- The climb will be stopped if the time is exceeded, if the climber falls, if the climber uses any hold or part of the wall which has been excluded (these will be explained on the day but include holds which are part of another route, taped off out-of-bounds areas, bolt holes, hangers or quick-draws, advertising or informational placards or the side or top edges of the wall) or infringes any other rule as determined by the judge.
- If any part of the climber touches the ground after they have started the route, that will be considered as the end of that climb and will be scored according to the highest hold they reached (which might be only 1 or 2!).
At the end of each route, the competitors will be ranked within each category based on the highest hold they achieved and will be given a score equivalent to that place (1 for first, 2 for second, etc). Where a number of competitors achieved the same height, their score will be the average of the places occupied by those tying (if 3 competitors tie for second place, they will all score (2+3+4)/3 = 3).
At the end of the round, the score for each climber will be calculated by multiplying all their scores from the 5 routes and taking the fifth root. This will then show their overall round ranking which will then be used to determine their points for the round.
Again, where 2 or more competitors share a position, they will share the points across the tied group (3 competitors tying for 15th would each get (22+20+18)/3 = 20pts).
Timings for the day
The rules list a very specific sequence for the rounds but, having spoken to a couple of venues, they have been given permission to ‘tweak’ the timings to work better for flow and to avoid clashes.
For instance, one venue has determined that they will start at 10:00 rather than 11:00 for the bouldering and may sequence the categories differently to avoid clashes that might occur if two categories were using some problems at the same time (the soft routes of A will, most likely, overlap as the medium routes for B and the hard routes for C, etc.).
There will also be a need for all competitors to sign-in at each round and the guidance from the BMC is that this will probably be 1.5 hours ahead of that categories climbing time.
The BMC/your Area Youth Coordinator will issue specific guidance for each venue/round by email in advance of the round but, if you will be travelling some distance and want to make arrangements, you may want to contact the venue and just ask.
Lastly, do make sure that you send your child with a completed Parental Consent for each round otherwise they will not be allowed to climb.