Wine Country Bouldering Brawl

There aren’t very many bouldering competitions offering prize money and onsight finals on the West Coast. When we heard about the Wine Country Bouldering Brawl that our friend Alex Biale was organizing the crew was very excited to go!

From the WCBB facebook page:

The idea to host a bouldering competition at Napa’s premier climbing gym was born out of excitement one late night as a few young climbers from the valley (no… the other valley) sat down and talked over a couple glasses of red wine… not surprisingly, the local craft beverage helped influence their decision to organize the comp for free, and name it the Wine Country Boulder Brawl. The name stuck, and the price was fixed along with their motivation to create an event that would help foster a quickly growing local climbing community. This is their way of saying “thank you” to everyone, and… “let’s party”.

I headed up to Napa with Max, his sister Anastasiya who had just come off a hot 7th place finish at Junior National Championships, James, Bruno and the elusive Vian. Our friend and local Bay Area strong woman Renee and other strong Bay Area climbers like Brian Hedrick and Josh Levin met us up there.

Rockzilla Climbing Gym.

It was close to 100 degrees outside and inside the gym was even warmer, especially with all the warm bodies packed in for the competition. I don’t think I’ve ever climbed in warmer conditions or seen that many sweating climbers in one place before. It was like climbing in a Bikram yoga studio.

Both Max and I noticed that, despite the hot conditions, neither of us seemed to be popping off slopers or greasing off any holds, strangely enough. The setting was really fun and the crowd was really positive. All the spectators would clap and the competitors would cheer whenever anyone sent a climb, whether it was V0 or V11.

For finals they took the top 4 competitors for an elimination style onsight finals.

The women’s climbs were really, really good. The first women’s climb was a run-and-jump to  two jugs double-clutch style then V5/6 sloper climbing to a HUGE lateral dyno to the finishing jugs. As soon as I saw the climb I got slightly intimidated. Dynamic moves, while not necessarily my weakness, are not my strength and also not to my advantage…I’m 5’2″. I usually don’t mind run-and-jump starts because they are fun and typically aren’t set to be the crux of the climb but I had a bad experience last year at the Dark Horse Series. I went full throttle for a run-and-jump dyno and  missed the starting foot and slammed my face into the wall. I had to finish the competition with a bloody mouth and with no send on that climb. Ever since I’ve been scared to go 100% for run-and-jumps, something I need to get over since it probably won’t be the last time I have to do that in a competition. Needless to say that due to my hesitation on women’s #1 at the WCBB it took me several attempts to stick the first move which frustrated me. Then I swung off the final huge lateral dyno because I only grabbed one of the finishing holds. I managed to send it after missing the first move a couple more times and by deciding that I would not let myself get frustrated by the huge dynamic moves. Psyched that I managed to pull it off. The moves were really big for me. Vian and Michelle were able to just step up to the starting foot and hop to the starting holds while I had to run and JUMP to them.

The second problem was a mantle in a dihedral to V5 climbing to a big move at the top to a jug. When I first tried the mantle I was worried I might not be able to do it. I could barely reach the other starting holds with my finger tips and the only foot was way out right. I sent but I had to core up really hard for that move and try hard not to fall on the big move at the end because I did not want to do it again.

The third problem was totally my style, crimps on an overhang to techy moves on slopers on a face and a big dyno to the finish hold. I almost fell on a cross over move off one of the slopers but I held it together. The last move was off one of those Etch bubble slopers. I got there and looked up to the finish hold and it looked SO FAR AWAY!!! I didn’t know if I could make the big jump off the terrible sloper and I hesitated  while changing positions several times. I thought about dyno-ing half-assed to the top, I could always try again. Then I tapped into my real comp-mode. I’ve been training for comps. Why should I be allowing myself to fall and waste my flash attempts? I shouldn’t be so relaxed. I decided to go big for it. Right as I was about to go I realized I could palm around the corner of the arete and use the wall to stand up a bit more before jumping so I did. Then I leapt as hard as I could for that jug and stuck it! I was so psyched that I went hard for it and flashed! Alex was yelling “FLASH, FLASH THIS, FLASH IT!” the whole time which helped get me psyched too.

Moral of the story…Try HARDER and don’t get discouraged by “reachy” moves. The last time I tried hard at a big climbing competition was at the Noreaster and it was because I was really psyched (and also trying to impress Max). I ended up in 5th place among a strong field and even managed to flash a climb that stronger girls didn’t flash.

I didn’t get to watch the men climb but from what it sounded like the men’s climbs ended up being a bit on the harder side. None of the men topped any of the climbs. It was a strong field and Max managed to come out on top! Anastasiya managed to snag a 2nd place finish in Women’s Advanced despite having an injured tendon. We left the competition and 4 out of the 6 people in our car had made the podium. GO TEAM!



1. Max Zolotukhin

2. Julian Bautista

3. Michael Bautista



1. Natasha Barnes

2. Michelle McCabe

3. Vian Charbonneau


We will definitely return next year!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s