Tuesday, September 16, 2008

World Championships of Buildering

There's a Buildering World Championships? Who knew? In fact, the first "world championship" of bouldering on buildings, bridge abutments, and underpasses was held in Cologne, Germany, in 2006, and the second is slated for October in the industrial Ruhrpott area, in and around Essen in western Germany. There's even a defending world champion of buildering: Christian "Benky" Benk. Who knew? I'd never  heard of this buildering competition, but I wasn't surprised to learn that Udo Neumann, the German photographer and filmmaker, was one of the men behind it. Neumann, co-author of the seminal Performance Rock Climbing with Dale Goddard way back in 1994, has always been keen on experimentation. I remember sitting in a van at Smith Rock and listening to Udo and Dale rave about the genius of Linus Pauling and how bananas were the secret to climbing power. But I digress...

The first World Championships of Buildering looked like a somewhat ragtag affair (see the video below), but from Udo's scouting photos the problems this year look intriguing and really fun (and likely illegal). The climbers will rove among various monuments, bridges, and buildings, using buses and trains to reach remote problems. "Granite, sandstone, concrete, bronze—you’ll get it all under your fingers," Udo writes at his website. "Who among you has climbed on bronze before? Can you imagine?"

Quirky, sure, but I could easily see this catching on. Imagine a buildering festival in Manhattan or downtown Tokyo, with problems carefully chosen (and vetted with the authorities) for crowd appeal. It would be an eye-opener and a genuine celebration of the fun in climbing, unlike the grim affairs that "real" competitions often seem to be. Call it the anti-World Cup. Brrring! Is that Red Bull on the line?

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