The Last Stretch to the Top – the Successes of Bulgarian Sport Climbing in 2022

Within arm’s reach is the distance that divides the top competitors in the bouldering and sport climbing finals. One stretch to be first and to go up the world ranking.

You slip, climb, fall and persevere – and that’s it, the secret of all victories. This is also the secret of the children from the Bulgarian national sports climbing team. Alex, Niki, Boyan and Slav grew up before my eyes. I was in the hall when they first tied themselves to the seat harness and I was there when they climbed their first rock routes. Hardly a day goes by when they aren’t climbing, trying out new moves and trying to overcome gravity.

Alex Totkova

The Bulgarian sport climbing team has reached new heights in 2022.

This year, Alex Totkova, became the world champion in climbing in the “difficulty” discipline at the Junior and Girls Sport Climbing World Championships in Dallas (USA). She is also the first Bulgarian woman to cross the extremely difficult route “Victims del futur” with difficulty category 9a in Margalef, Spain. For the enlightened, after this category there are only 4 more categories before the table ends. For the people who don’t know, it is a rock so mercilessly overhanging and so desperately smooth that most people can’t even imagine themselves climbing it.

Boyan Kirov

Boyan Kirov became the European junior champion at the championships in Graz, Austria, and Nikolay Rusev won a silver medal in the same competition.

Niki Rusev

Niki Rusev became the first Bulgarian to win a gold medal in the junior bouldering discipline at the World Climbing Championships in Voronezh, Russia, 2021. Bouldering competitions are held on short routes built on specially designed walls up to 4.5 meters high. The goal is for competitors to reach the final grip in the shortest possible time and with the fewest attempts possible. Each boulder has a clearly marked “Start Grip” and “Top” which counts when both hands are stable on the designated finish hold. According to the International Sport Climbing Federation regulations, the maximum number of holds per boulder should be 12, and the average number of holds per boulder in each round should be between four and eight.

This autumn Niki easily made a second ascent of the “Fake Hero” a 9a route on the Great Hole, Vratsa. The author of the line is his trainer Ivaylo Radkov – Fazata, who made its first crossing.

Slav Kirov

Slav Kirov won silver at the European Championships in Augsburg, Germany. Last year, he placed third in the difficulty event at the European Junior Sport Climbing Championships in Žilina, Slovakia.

Reaching the Top

Time is precious, and the time you climb is much more valuable than the time you don’t climb, a friend used to say. To climb damn well, however, requires strength, dynamism, flexibility, balance, courage, motivation and tenacity. It’s about the delicate balance between climbing and training. And the final victory stretch included support from the whole team, the coaches, The Bulgarian Federation of Climbing and Alpinism. And Walltopia.

At a solemn ceremony on October 13, 2022, the Bulgarian Ministry of Youth and Sports presented awards to the champions and medalists of the World and European championships. Their coaches Ivaylo Radkov, Stanimir Zhelyazkov, Georgi Penev and Vasil Kirov also received well-deserved awards.

By Elitsa Pavlova, a qualified climbing and alpinism instructor at the National Sports Academy “Vassil Levski” and a member of the Mountaineering Committee at the Bulgarian Climbing and Alpinism Federation, currently instructor at Walltopia Climbing Center

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