SEATTLE — If you want to succeed at boulder climbing, you have to be good at solving a puzzle. Figuring out how to get from the bottom to the top is much like solving a Rubik's Cube.
That's what we learned when we visited Seattle Bouldering Project and got a lesson from Garrett Gregor, who is the “director of setting” at the indoor climbing facility.
Gregor is also in charge of setting up some of the bouldering routes for the Tokyo Olympics.
There are three different disciplines of sport climbing at the Olympics: lead climbing, speed climbing and bouldering.
Unlike speed climbing, which is one route that never changes, and lead climbing, where climbers get just one attempt to scale a 15-meter wall, bouldering consists of shorter walls with different routes that competitors won't be able to see before the event.
Gregor said the first thing we need to do is figure out which route we want to take. The different circuits are labeled by color. We started with yellow, which is the easiest.
"And then from there, it's how does my body fit in that space? Am I gonna go with my right hand or my left hand?"
At the Olympics, athletes are given four minutes to climb as many routes as possible. In order to make our movement more efficient, Gregor told us we have to relax -- which is not an easy thing to do when you are hanging in mid-air.
"The looser you can stay, the easier it is to sort of flow between the moves," explained Gregor.
With bouldering, there are no ropes or harnesses. If you fall, you land on a cushioned mat. But how you fall is key to avoiding injury. Land feet first, then roll onto your back.
Gregor has been climbing for 20 years and has coached two of the Olympians who are competing in Tokyo: Brooke Raboutou and Colin Duffy.
"To see where the industry has gone, and the opportunities available for people and to see it just be in the Olympics and be recognized as the sport that it is -- is just incredible," said Gregor.