At the recent Canadian Open Boulder Nationals, local climbing champ Alannah Yip faced eight problems.
In climbing lingo, the word “problem” refers to the path a climber takes to complete a climb. Each “problem” is a specific challenge set out by competition organizers, and each is designed to be complex.
For both the semi-finals and the finals of the nationals, held at the The Hive North Shore climbing gym in North Vancouver late February, Yip bested four problems to take the title.
It was only the second time Yip competed at this competition; the last time was in 2011 when she finished fourth. Winning it this time “felt really good,” she says.
Sean McColl, another local climber and nine-time Canadian national champion, won the men’s division. It was McColl, six years her senior, who inspired Yip to try climbing when she was nine years old.
Family friends, the McColls had two kids climbing at the time and Yip, who looked up to the older siblings, decided to give it a try.
“It was really fun,” she says of why she got hooked. “It’s exhilarating to climb, it’s a challenge.”
Now 22, Yip is also the current provincial champion and a six-time member of the Canadian National Youth Team. The Lynn Valley native is also a mechanical engineering student at UBC.
Next week, she is leaving for Switzerland and the first of eight world cup events in different countries, leading up to the world championships. It’s the first time Yip is participating in the entire world cup bouldering circuit. Completing the series is a long-held goal for Yip, who says this is a good time in her life to give it a try. She’s going to use it to gauge where she’s at in the sport and where she wants to go with it.
Bouldering, which Yip is focusing on for the world cup series, is a type of climbing that involves shorter routes and no ropes or harnesses. Yip has also competed in lead climbing, which is a type of wall climbing that follows longer routes and competitors do use belays and harnesses. Yip says she doesn’t have a preference between the two, and also enjoys both indoor and outdoor climbing.
“I try to climb outside as much as I can. There’s a lot of great climbing in Squamish, which is really handy,” she says, noting she has also travelled to other countries to climb, including a trip to South Africa last summer. “It’s a great way to spend time outside and see the world.”
Yip trains four to five times a week for two to four hours at a time. She also now coaches at The Edge Climbing Centre in North Vancouver.
Although she has had some minor injuries over the years, including landing on a mat in an awkward position on her head and neck last year after jumping straight out from a boulder and missing the next hold, Yip says climbing is a safe sport because many precautions are taken, including using mats, ropes, and harnesses. “It’s something anyone can do. It takes a lot of work to develop good technique but you can have fun at any level,” she notes. “It is a lot of upper body (strength), but I think people underestimate how much lower body it really is, especially with bouldering there’s a lot of dynamic motion that you really need to initiate with your lower body. You need a lot of explosive power in your lower body as well.”
Although her strengths in the sport are fairly even across the board, Yip says she particularly likes doing drop knees, which involve twisting to lock close to the wall as a way of stabilizing before doing another move.
“It’s a mental challenge as well as a physical challenge,” she says of the sport, adding that solving “problems” comes from “a lot of experience reading these routes, trying to figure out which is the best place to place your hand, your foot, what’s the best body position.”