At the end of every competition, coaching academy or RealRock, we send out a survey to get your thoughts and let you ask questions. Competition Coordinator Scott Forsyth and RDO Robert MacKenzie are here to answer your questions about this years YCS...

The feedback surveys help guide us for the future. They give us a better understanding of what you, our members thought of the events, where you found problems, what suggestions you have to make it better but also so that we can identify where there may be misconceptions about the events. We take the guidance from the feedback seriously and have implemented changes that have been suggested but individual questions may go unanswered. So, here are some of the common queries from this year’s YCS feedback survey and our responses to them.

Before we begin though, if you asked a question and want a direct response, and we don’t cover it here, please feel free to contact one of our team. Contact details: Here


All our competitions are dependent on volunteers. The Competition Coordinators, Judges, Belayers and Photographers all do an amazing job because they wish to support the events and the young athletes who take part. These events could not run without them, so from all of us at ClimbScotland, and I hope all competitors and parents, we thank you for your support.

How do we recruit volunteers and why does Scott shout for them in the morning at every comp?

We provide links on our social media and in emails sent out to all competitors asking for volunteers to sign up when the competitions are advertised. We have recently trialed a discount offer on the registrations for parents who are willing to volunteer. We also offer on the day training for any new volunteers. Recruiting on the day by the Chief Judge only happens when we don’t have enough volunteers through the booking system and particularly for the Boulder competitions, the event cannot begin until enough judges are in place to cover each problem.

Can we get starting orders before the competition?

The background administration (example: the printing of score cards) is done by our CCO volunteers, who all have full-time job committments and limited windows in which to do it all. Unfortunately preparing start orders and emailing them out in advance, would only add to their workload. If you would be willing to volunteer as a Competition Coordinator and take on this responsibility please get in contact.

Why can we not split big categories?

Splitting the large groups does make the day run so much faster. Again, this is only possible if we have enough volunteers as we have to split categories and so need twice the number of belayers and judges. If more volunteers signed up we would absolutely do this. In contrast, combining the small categories together makes for more of a social interaction between the competitors which is not a bad thing. It relieves some of the nerves and makes the experience much less scary and does not unduly add to the timings.

Why do we not stagger the starts if there are lots of competitors?

Staggering start times has been considered, and the BMC used it in England and Wales for this years YCS bouldering events. Staggering the start means the time we require volunteer judges (and belayers) increases from roughly 3 hours (on a combined scramble format) to up to 5 hours (when each category start time is staggered). As most volunteers are parents they will need to supervise their children after they have climbed. If we stagger start times we risk losing volunteers at the changeover. This proved to be a problem at the Grand Final. Due to a lack of volunteers signing up in the run up to the competition, we aren’t able to plan staggered starts.

Why do we not allow the use of videos?

We 100% agree that having videos of all the climbs means appeals can be dealt with much more smoothly. However we are not in a position to be able to offer this. In order to use video footage we would need to be able to video every route and every boulder problem, and officially would need 2 cameras per set-up. In a standard YCS round we would need 20 cameras and tripods, and an extra 20 volunteers to run them. If we paid to have this operated it would cost £thousands. So, we aren’t in a position where we can do this. And as a result of this, we don't use parents’ or coaches' video footage because it would be unfair on those who aren’t able to record their children climbing.

We must provide warm up areas!

We have previously organised a mass warm up session in the time leading up to the first climb. We have always been aware that it does not have any affect later in the day and was more of an 'event' to bring the children together. However for a variety of reasons the numbers taking part dwindled and it was clear this was no longer worthwhile. ClimbScotland therefore, made the decision to pass the onus back to the competitor to ensure they were adequately warmed up and ready to compete at the designated time for every route and problem throughout the day.

At the various venues we use, some have lots of wall space available to leave areas for warming up, but some don’t. It is unfortunate that smaller venues, like the Sport & Exercise Climbing Wall at the University of Edinburgh, may not be able to allow access to the wall to warm-up as every spare wall area is set with competition routes and problems. There have been issues in the past where competitors have inadvertently been warming up on competition holds; which is not ideal and is difficult to police!

If there is the chance that warm up areas may be limited or non-existent it’s the responsibility of the competitor to practice warm up techniques that don’t involve a climbing surface. There are many warm up exercises that do not require using the wall and to help we will add this item to our Youth Academies for this year.

Can we offer RealRocks as an incentive for volunteers?

This is a great idea. Anything that gets more young climbers outside onto real rock is great in my book. At this time it’s too late to able to add this in for the SYBC but we will look into it for the future.


What venues can we use?

Venues are agreed as partnerships between Mountaineering Scotland and the climbing walls. Most of the climbing walls are commercial businesses and while the competitions are great publicity for them and they all wish to support them in order to support youth development in Scotland, they aren’t financially viable for many; walls can loose income on both setting and competition days.

Equally, Mountaineering Scotland needs to ensure our competitions break even as there is no subsidy available and our only income is from entry fees. The partnerships we have with the venues are therefore a compromise in order to prevent the competition entry fees going up by a huge amount but off-setting the loss of income by the walls. We also try to spread the competitions across as many walls in Scotland as possible, to reduce the impact and vary the experience for the competitors.

This year we chose to use TCA for the YCS Team Selection and not Eden Rock: 1. because, like Eden Rock, TCA is also a brilliant venue, 2. because Eden are hosting the SYBC in May, and 3. with the new two day Team Selection format, GCC were really keen to support the route climbing day and it made sense to have the whole event in the one city.

Why did we use the Sport & Exercise Climbing Wall at the University of Edinburgh when we have so many competitors and it’s so small?

It’s always nice to experience alternative venues and the Sport & Exercise Climbing Wall is a brilliant wall to set on. 'The Rock', the bouldering room, is a great height and has a good variety of angles and holds to set some interestings blocs. Equally 'The Tower', the roped room, has some great features and quirks which allow the setters to create some memorable comp routes. The staff there are also extremely accommodating for the competitions and are always very supportive of what we do. It also eliminates the ‘home advantage’ as no one can access the wall beforehand so everyone is competing on the same level.

Why did we move from Ratho?

Ratho is a world standard venue and although it has not been used for YCS rounds for many years it has regularly featured as the only venue able to host the numbers of competitors in the YCS Grand Final. With the YCS changes this year we are able to use a range of different new walls and the National Governing Bodies (MScot, BMC, MI) were able to agree to circulate the Grand Final in future years between England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Hence, this year we aimed to use Ratho for a South Regional Round, but we had to change to Sport & Exercise Climbing Wall at the University of Edinburgh for reasons out-with our control.

Can we not close the walls to the public?

The venues we use are not ClimbScotland private walls. When we bring a competition to a venue this impacts on their ability to run classes and limits access to the public which has a knock on effect on income. Venues differ on how happy they are to take this hit. A venue is likely to lose £2000 by closing the climbing wall completely for our competition but only lose £1000 if they remain partially open. So for the reasons stated above, we have to find a compromise solution to ensure the event can take place. This decision is not always in ClimbScotlands control.

  • Whilst we try hard to gain sponsorship for the competitions to help costs, and we usually find support for the prizes, we have been unable to secure financial support. If any parents out there know of any potential financial supporters or have expertise in fundraising please contact us.

Why is spectator space so limited?

Restrictions on spectators is considered by the Chief Judge but influenced by the management and staff at the wall. The Chief Judge liaises with the wall regarding where spectators can safely be allowed. Due to the size of the rooms, layout of the climbs or if the wall is still open to the public the decision to limit spectator access has to be made. The decision to restrict access at TCA was due to paying public being allowed access to the wall. For safety reasons therefore we had to make the decision to keep non-climbers off the mats.

However from a volunteer judge’s point of view, parents being kept away from the judging and belaying areas means they feel less hassled and hopefully helps them make sound decisions (the Parents Information states clearly that at no point should a parent try to discuss a decision with a category judge. If parents have a query or disagree with a judge’s decision this should be brought to the chief judge only).

Why are there dangerous clips?

We do not use dangerous clips in any of our competitions. Clips may feel stiffer and first clips may vary in height at different walls, but ClimbScotland are unable to change these. However in all these cases the clips are not dangerous and comply with EN wall construction standards.

A ‘preclip’ is at the discretion of the chief judge and chief setter. Route setters will not set a difficult, awkward or dangerous move before the first or sometimes the second clip due the ground fall potential. If a start is deemed to be overly ‘Falloffable’ then the chief judge and chief setter will decide on having a preclip. A competitor may, at any time before their climb, ask for a preclip which will then be given.

Route Setting

I would like to start by saying that we have amazing setting teams across Scotland. The amount of effort and long days they put in to make the routes and these competitions as good as they are often goes unnoticed and unthanked. They all work extremely hard to set climbs that are specific to the heights and abilities of those climbing them. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them all.

Why are the first climbs so hard?

I know it sounds harsh, but the reality is that for a competition to work we need competitors to fall off. Even the first climbs must have a challenging element too them. If we were to set easier non-technical climbs and everyone tops it then the climb is pointless for the competition and we therefore have one less climb in order to split competitors on.

We try and set climbs technical throughout to avoid single move cruxes in the hope that competitors will fall off at different places.

The routes are all set for tall people!

Routes are not set to afford advantage to the height of the competitors. Our route setting teams are made of professional and experienced setters from around Scotland, their experience (not only in a competition background but also as setters in commercial walls) allows them to set routes tailored specifically for a category. Their local knowledge of the possible competitors combined with the knowledge of our RDO's and Head Setters, means that once we know who is competing in an event, the setting teams are aware of who they are setting for and how to tailor the climb. When testing these climbs the setter and head setter will discuss who will be climbing it and make sure that the route is appropriate.

It’s often the case that a move can be done in a few different ways, (i.e. A tall person way and a short person way), but there is always a way. It is therefore up to the competitor to not blindly follow what everyone else has done but find the best way for them. This may mean using sneaky compression moves, or smearing, or bridging with both hands and feet, rather than simply trying to reach between the colourd holds. This problem solving is part of the competition and we usually cover 'Route-reading' in our Academies.

Why do we leave holds from other routes on the walls?

When we ask a wall to host a competition we do ask that all routes on the competition route panel are stripped so we have a clean line to set on. However every route that gets stripped must then be reset after the competition. This is a huge headache for the facilities as they then have to put in more man-hours to reset the routes and their customers get annoyed at the lack of routes available for that period of time. The walls approach to this vary but many prefer to choose to only strip 1 or 2 routes to try and minimise the disruptin and addiitonal costs incured.

Why is the Zone hold there on boulder problems?

The position of the zone holds is chosen where the setters think is most appropriate. It is usually after a difficult move or sequence where there is the possibility of falling, and before any further difficult sequence. Sometimes this means the zone can be low down but sometimes this means it is the second last hold.

What do you mean ‘Out of Bounds’?

Firstly, unless specifically ruled out all features on the wall are considered usable. But, exceptions (route rules) for a particular problem/route are issued by the judge prior to the first competitor beginning their attempt. The instruction on any particular rule is explained by the judge to each group and it is up to the competitors to listen and comply. Different rules between categories climbing the same route are not uncommon. The briefing is important for that reason.

If there are holds round an arete but the arête itself is marked as 'out', it is becasue using the arête would help on other moves on the route. A competitor is then expected to reach for the hold around the arete and not ‘pull’ on the arête while searching. If a competitor is deemed to have pulled on the arête when it’s not necessary they may be asked to come down.

If you wish to find out more about setting, how our teams work and what they have to do read by Kevin Howett (Sports Development Officer).

During the competition

That clip got in my way and that hold spun!

Things like spinning holds or clips getting in the way can be deemed as 'technical errors' - see the rules. If a competitor feels like something impedes them on their attempt then they should make this known to the category judge at the time. If they choose to carry on with their attempt they have chosen to continue and cannot then claim a technical error afterwards.

Why were there so many climbs at the Team Selection bouldering event?

The number of problems chosen for the selection event was done so as to mirror the BMC YCS Finals format. We do recognise this was a lot of climbing for day 1. We did however, decide NOT to hold a boulder final, which meant the competition was not as punishing as it could have been.

When can I brush holds?

The constant brushing of holds has a significant impact on the running off the day. There is absolutely no need for a competitor to brush holds every time they approach the wall. We also don't have access to extending brushes therefore we cannot brush holds beyond head height. Periodic brushing of holds is at the discretion of the Chief Judge, based on the particular, route/ boulder. If we were to add in brushing periods to the day this would have to be considered as part of of the competitors climbing time, which would put more pressure on the competitors.


Why can we have multiple judges?

Communication between the chief route setter and chief judge takes place in the run up to the event. The chief judge must make a decision on the groupings based on volunteer numbers and decide where groups are combined or split. The minimum plan is to have 1 judge and 1 belayer. On the day, even if further volunteers come forward, it is not always possible to simply split the group in half, planning doesn’t work that way. Route maps are produced by the route setters, they mark the holds the way they expect it to be climbed. To replicate that on 2 route maps prepared at different times would end in disaster!

It has been said that “Route setters are great at setting routes but... counting?”. After a full day jugging up ropes, hauling buckets of holds and testing climbs, tired brains struggle to count backwards in 2's. This is why judges should check the route maps before starting.

I spy favouritism!

As far as we are aware, there have been no incidents of cheating through favouritism. Any potential allegation of improper scoring or behaviour by a judge must be raised with the Chief Judge immediately. This will not be accepted at our events.

Future training

Isolations? Scramble format? I don’t know what to do!

The use of isolation and scramble formats are new this year and were brought in to replicate the BMC YCS grand finals. We recognise that many struggled with this, not knowing how it all worked and how to prepare for it. We will therefore have workshops on Scramble Formats and Isolations in our Youth Academies this year.


I have an alternative format!

Great! The YCS is an ever evolving thing and we are always interested in looking into potentially better formats. If you have any suggestions on new formats please contact us and we will investigate its potential. But please bear in mind that the YCS is part of a UK and Ireland event, so we need to ensure some compatability with the other nations.

The North and South should compete together!

A couple of years ago, when we had to change from Scotland submitting 2 Teams to the Grand Final to 1 Team and therefore having to hold a 'Scottish Final', we did consider the option of combining north and south regional round competitions. There was an argument that unless we did this, there would be some climbers who may rank 4th or 5th in the qualifiers of one region that don’t then qualify for the Scottish Squad, when in reality they may be better climbers than those who qualified 1st, 2nd or 3rd in the other region; therefore unfairly missing a place on the team that goes to the Grand Final. t However this argument doesn’t hold true in reality due to the grades of the competition, the standard and numbers of competitors now being compatible across the whole YCS. If a competitor ranks 4th in their region in the qualifiers then most likely they would rank 4th in the Scottish Selections too, and therefore still not make the Grand Finals Scottish Team.

There were various reasons why we did not adopt an all-Scotland single region YCS, mainly due to lack of venue facilities and inclusiveness. Hence we have the format where the two regional rounds identify the Scottish Youth Development Squad and the Scottish Team is created from that Development Squad and identifies the best youth climbers in the country to represent us at the Grand Final. As mentioned above, in most cases we believe the current system does this well. The Scottish Squad identifies regional young climbers who would benefit from coaching support through our Youth Academies and Youth Support Scheme (discounted entry to some Walls). We offer equal support to North and South in the form of ‘places’ on the Squad, this is to help address the imbalance in coaching and facilities between the regions.

The best question

Can parents get a free buffet during the comp?

All parents are more than welcome to bring along home baking and snacks to offer to starving parents as a free buffet.

Then again, all volunteers get free tea or coffee.... just saying.

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