December 3, 2010
The first day of the comp is what climbers call the "On-Sight," which presents some problems when you are blind. In this case, I think They should call it the "non-sight." As with standard climbing comps, the competitors enter an isolation zone. One hour before their climb, the climbers are given a 3-D route description--this is a sheet of paper with the hold locations marked by raised relief--so they can "see" the climb. Then the climbers have 10 minutes to lead the route (starting from the ground, they clip the rope into carabiners as they get higher). The person who gets the highest wins. If there is a tie on height, then the fastest time wins.
The second day of the comp measures physical climbing ability. Climbers are given 15 minutes to "work" a route on a top-rope; practicing the moves and getting verbal help from a coach. When it is their turn to compete, they have 10 minutes and can again get instructions from their coach. The rankings of the comp are based on both days.
As I mentioned, Koba is leading this effort. He started climbing at age 16 and was very active leading outdoor trips. When he was 28, Koba was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, which is a progressive disease that impairs vision and results in blindness. That hasn't slowed him down though. He has started a non-profit called Monkey Magic (friends used to tease that he climbed as fast as a monkey) that helps people with disabilities access the outdoors through sports like climbing.
I'm disappointed that I couldn't make it to Japan for this event. But the 2nd International Blind Competition is scheduled for July in Italy and I hope to make that one. And I can't help but wonder how guys like Chris Sharma and Daniel Woods would do playing by our rules. Maybe I should invite them to compete next year, with blindfolds of course.