The Strip Mine
The Clock Tower
Video of Week
New Years Comp, 2015*
and Graphic by Aaron Wilcher
yet another push to boost climbing’s appeal in the public eye, the
Just Amazing Bouldering Spectacle (JABS) began the New Year by announcing
a partnership with Gilligan Murdoch’s ESPN 6. The company will host
a five-event comp series to be aired with the thirty-first Quintuple-X
Games to take place this fall.
The event promises to surpass the levels
of danger seen in recent years. In an effort to reverse the climbing
gear and gym industry's harsh decline in sustainable sales and membership
numbers--the result of saturated investment in the fifteen years prior--in
2010, the JABS decided to increase the top out height regulations
to twenty-five feet. The next year, the number increased to thirty
feet, and now there are no height regulations at all.
The regulation removal gave rise to
the so-called, "Breakneck Bouldering Reality Show," hosted
last year by Jerry Springer II. The show was pulled by ESPN 5 after
an incident where the old-schooler Adam Stick flew off the handle
and hit Springer over the head with a folding chair during a taping
of the "You're Daddy Spots Worse Than Your Momma" show last
July. Neither Springer nor Stick was available for comment.
Many in the entertainment and manufacturing
sectors of the climbing industry are ecstatic about the changes to
take place on the comp circuit. "It should be really exciting,
featuring new levels of risk never seen before by the standards of
indoor or outdoor climbing," said Candi Lauper, the event's organizer
and marketing director of JABS. "The only way that climbing can
be interesting, even in the smallest way, is if a fall equals serious
injury," she said.
Pleasure, having achieved the plastic-equivalent status of a Lynda
Mesa of yesteryear (now with twenty-nine straight victories in the
World Championship of Polyethylene), agreed. "Even though grading
scales had to be upped in the last ten years, I'm not really sure
anyone, male or female, can ever surpass my new solo route, Ridiculously
Insane So Don’t Even Try It, which goes at 5.18 a, V19+, E14,
A9, Very Very Very Scary, topping out at 340 feet in the elevator
shaft of the Sears Tower. The only way to make extreme climbing work
is if the falls are really bad, the landings so horrible that you're
bound to be killed or seriously maimed."
In addition to increasing top-out heights,
other factors have been changed adding to the danger involved. Concurrent
with the removal of top-out regulations, several bouldering competition
promotion companies added hazards to the fall. Pull Down, Fall Off
Productions (PDFOP) set the standards for the industry when three
years ago it added broken glass on a bed of nails to the landings
of its comp problems. Never short of bling bling, Chocolate Bobby,
PDFOP's founder, noted the effects of his company's innovations. "We
basically put the crash pad industry out of business," he said.
The JABS has had some serious competition
with its rivals and enters its partnership with Murdoch's ESPN determined
to set a new standard in spectacle, excitement, and risk. Though bound
by a hush-hush agreement, the JABS's lead route setter, Reel N. Howl,
was able to release his design on one of the XXXXX Games' Semi Final
problems for this frb.com exclusive. Here is his drawing.
by Reel N. Howl
developments, however, are not without their detractors. Krystal Baller
and Nappy Kat, spokespersons for the human right's organization, the
Center for Sanity and Good Judgment, a strong opponent of bull fighting,
voiced strong concern for the climbers' safety and made charges with
regard to the sea creatures slated for use. “This is outrageous,” said
Kat. “It turns seasoned athletes into no more than a tail and ears.
What’s next, Gilligan Murdoch in a tight-fitting sequin outfit prancing
around carrying the dismembered leg of Adam Stick with mustard on it?”
the use of sharks is an abominable animal rights abuse,” added Baller"
Still, the voices of reason are unlikely to have much effect in the
face of the market's hope of triumph with ultra extreme bouldering.
So far, despite the last decade's profit losses, the radicalized comps
and renewed television coverage have spawned an upturn in gear sales,
gym memberships, and tour packages in the last two years.
Ironically, this market upturn is part
and parcel of another trend at the opposite end of the ability scale.
The new extreme end of the bouldering scene has been matched by another
mission to broaden the business models of climbing's entertainment,
tourism, and manufacturing sectors.
"The new model is accessibility,"
said Frank Tycoon, CFO of Denver's newest climbing facility, "Jug'n
and Cruis'n" a new 195,000 square foot gym, whose majority of routes
fall in the 5.4 to 5.6 range. "The vicious V17 minority is great
for advertising, but how many people do you really think aspire to do
50 foot highballs over a shark tank? No, our ideal customer is the McDonalds
armchair daddy who's going to brag to his buddies over a beer in our
café about how he toproped a lowangle 5.4," said Tycoon.
Whatever the outcome for these businesses,
the new JABS series promises to be a bloodthirsty smorgasbord. Enthusiasts
will get out their remotes in droves. Competitors will busy themselves
polishing up their wire mesh capri pants. It will assuredly raise the
bar of high performance comps, if any of the competitors live past the
Stay tuned and Happy New Year.
story is based on a conversation with the alpinist Fabrizio Zangrilli.