Jimmy Webb four-peats at Psicobloc, but isn’t interested in other competitions
August 9, 2018
Jimmy Webb says he is not much of a competition climber, though he makes his living climbing.
It's true, the Tennessee native does not compete often – he's much better known for his outdoor bouldering ascents. But he has found his niche at the Psicobloc Masters competition at the Utah Olympic Park. This year, the 30-year old took first place in the men's competition for the fourth time in the event's six-year history.
His explanation? He's simply fast and tall.
"It's kind of built for my size," he said.
He stands at a hair over six feet, and on Saturday, he climbed the 50-foot overhanging route in 40 seconds during his final against Boulder, Colorado native Matty Hong.
"It was cool to be in the finals with (Webb) and try to dethrone him, but he's a monster," Hong said after the finals.
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"I think he's just built like a machine."
Hong said Webb's style as a boulderer — one who climbs short but intense routes, usually without a rope — was perfectly suited to Psicobloc's format, while Hong's expertise in sport climbing, a discipline that uses pre-placed protective bolts and a rope, did not.
"I'm good at these long endurance routes," Webb said. "But I normally climb a bit slower, and in control, and strategize how I'm going to climb the route," he said.
Hong said over the years Psicobloc has come to resemble traditional sport climbing less as the routes have decreased, if only slightly, in difficulty, placing more emphasis on who can complete the route faster. That means there isn't time to apply chalk or examine the route on the wall — both fundamental practices in sport climbing. There is no time to strategize on the wall and, like most races, no room for error.
"It demands quickness, and when you're going that fast, it demands perfection," Webb said. "So you can't really slip up."
Those who erred fell into the UOP's pool and lost the round.
To make sure they were prepared for the climb, competitors stood on deck working through the route's sequence, called "beta" in climbing parlance, by mimicking the movements it required.
"Most of us have our sequences locked in before we get on the wall," Hong said. "It's still pretty new — we haven't done it that many times, so we are hesitating a little bit in certain places, but by the time the last few races come around, you pretty much know what to do and we know that we need to execute that."
Over the course of the 16-person-per-gender, single-elimination tournament, climbers scale the route as many as nine times.
"You start to learn it perfectly," Webb said. "Every move, every hold, every foot position, it just starts to beat in your head."
Which, he said, is what happens on outdoor projects — routes climbers are creating and climbing — though not nearly on the same timescale.
For instance, one of Webb's current projects, a 10-move extension of an existing route outside of Fontainebleau, France, called "The Island", is at the outer edge of climbing's difficulty ratings and has been on his mind for years.
"I've been thinking it about it a lot recently," Webb said of the bouldering mecca outside of Paris. "I just booked tickets back there for the winter, so my mindset is definitely transitioning toward that and the long term goal that I will hopefully, one day, complete it."
After winning Psicobloc, Webb said he would remember the competition's route for years, but he wouldn't obsess over it like he does his projects – the object of the $5,000 cash prize he was awarded. He plans to funnel the money back into traveling and climbing, and was planning to head to Canada for a work trip the day after the competition.
He said he would not consider competing in speed climbing, a variation of sport climbing that focuses on speedy ascents that will be featured at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, even though he might have potential in the sport.
"This is my speed comp," he said. "My competition is usually on the rock with myself. But this competition is so fun and so different. So I always come back."
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