To change or not to change – That is the question

Do boulderers in the World Cup Finals change their strategy to solve the boulder problem after a failure? This question has been investigated by S. Künzell, J. Thomiczek, M. Winkler and C. Augste in an interesting study presented during the 4th Congress of IRCRA (International Rock Climbing Research Association) in Chamonix.

After a failure in the first attempt, the boulderer has to decide whether to change the climbing tactic. Or retry the boulder in the same manner than before. In this investigation, the authors analyzed this decision with respect to its success in the finals of six boulder world cups of 2017.

Overall, in 1005 attempts of 288 climbing periods of 6 male and 6 female athletes, the average number of attempts was 3,5 per climbing period. In 231 climbing periods, the boulderer failed on the first attempt. On the second attempt, the athletes changed their strategy in 62 climbing periods. And stayed with their strategy in 169 climbing periods.

The conditional rate of success in all changed attempts was 30%. And 6% after a stay. Notably, regarding the 4th and later attempts, conditional rate of success in all changed attempts was still 17%. While it dropped to 2,1% after a stay. The clear advice derived from this investigation is to quit after the third attempt if there is not a new idea how to solve the boulder problem.

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About the 4th Congress

The 4th International Rock Climbing Research Association Congress held in Chamonix, France from 9th to 14th July 2018. The conference highlighted the latest results from world leading researchers in the field of rock climbing. And the IRCRA 4th Congress was the last congress of the association before the Olympics in Tokyo 2020. This congress was an opportunity to share the state of art regarding the research in climbing with an inter-disciplinary approach (humanities, social sciences, life sciences, engineering, etc.).

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