The 2018 Psicobloc Masters Series was a study in contrasts. While the invited climbers dominated the men’s field, two women advanced through the open Qualifiers to the Finals. The large crowd cheered local youth climber Sami Singleton through to a spot on the women’s podium, and strong group of international climbers added some mystery to the otherwise familiar men’s field.
Psicobloc, or deep water soloing (DWS), involves climbing unroped over deep water. The Psicobloc Masters Series is an outdoor competition held on a 55-foot artificial climbing wall cantilevered out over a 17-foot deep swimming pool at the Utah Olympic Park. Two identical routes are set on the wall, and competitors climb simultaneously.
A cross between a tennis tournament and track meet, Psicobloc pits competitors in head-to-head races up the route. The first climber to top out wins the match. If neither tops out, the winner is determined by their high point. Perhaps the most exciting part of the competition applies whether climbers top out or not: everyone jumps—or falls—into the pool below. There is no other way down.
There were three rounds at the 2018 Psicobloc competition. On Friday, an open round provided an opportunity for eight climbers, four men and four women, to join the invited competitors. In Saturday’s seeding round, climbers made multiple ascents of the wall to determine pairings for Finals.
On the women’s side, half of the semi-finals field started in the open Qualifiers. Upstart Sami Singleton, a 16-year-old climber from Salt Lake City, narrowly defeated Nina Williams in their second-round match. Hannah Tolson, reigning USAC Collegiate ropes champion, out-dueled Sami Singleton in their semi-finals match.
The other semi-finals match paired two invited climbers, perennial contender Delaney Miller and Zoe Steinberg. Climbing with her trademark poise, Miller topped the route after Steinberg slipped off the large round volume near the three-quarter point of the route.
In the final women's match, Tolson took an early lead and then maintained her advantage. Both Miller and Tolson looked confident and strong on their final climbs, but Tolson had more fuel left in her tank. Tolson, looking flabbergasted but joyful, sat atop the wall waving to the crowd as Miller topped out the wall.
The men’s field included several familiar faces, including previous winner Jimmy Webb and previous semifinalists Carlo Traversi and Matty Hong. Less known to the American audience, South Americans Facundo Langbehn, Felipe Carmago, and Lucas Gaona plus South African Arjan de Kock brought some international intrigue to the field. Advancing through the open Qualifiers, Joey Catama advanced to the quarter-final match of Men’s Finals.
The men’s semi-finals matches featured several Psicobloc Masters veterans. Carlo Traversi jumped out to an early lead over Jimmy Webb, but Webb overtook Traversi mid-climb and held on for a decisive win. Matty Hong staged a late comeback to earn his spot in the men’s final match. South African Arjan de Kock lead out of the blocks and through the middle of the wall, with Hong accelerating to a late lead near the top of the wall.
Hong and Webb are well known for pushing the boundaries of climbing, Hong as a sport climber and Webb as a boulderer, and both are regular contenders at Psicobloc. The two were neck-and-neck through the opening third of the wall, before Webb pulled ahead on the dyno. Webb seemed to gain strength from round to round as he chased the $5,000 purse, and finished the comp as the now five-time champion.
- Jimmy Webb
- Matty Hong
- Carlo Traversi
- Hannah Tolson
- Delaney Miller
- Sami Singleton