Please familiarize yourself with the USA Climbing Rulebook

In case anybody is interested, here are all the new and updated changes as of this year:

Everything is Color Coded

Bold Black is the actual rule that is being changed

Red is why the rule is being changed and what has changed.

Green are things we thing might be pertinent or impact you directly.

Significant Changes – Overview (2016)
Organization of Rulebook: In the interest of making the Rulebook more accessible to members and officials alike, new Sections have been created and many existing rules have been reorganized with the Rulebook. Section 3, “Membership, Participation and Eligibility” has been added, which includes rules primarily relating to these areas that were formerly in “General Rules.” Similarly, Section 4, “Youth Teams, National Teams and International Competitions,” was created to reorganize rules relating to those topics. Section 5, “General Rules,” formerly included some rules moved to those new Sections, and now more specifically focuses on rules that relate to the field of play.
We have received consistent feedback from both volunteers and staff that as the Rulebook has evolved over the past years, there were sections that were difficult to navigate because they included rules on various topics. We have reorganized content with the hope that by adding sections 3 and 4 specifically, and streamlining the content of Section 5 to now include rules that pertain primarily to field of play, this may make the Rulebook easier for everyone to navigate.
Rule 3.2.1: Revision of DAY-Member fee of $10.00. Revision of deadline by which DAY-Members may become USA Climbing Competitor members: “DAY-Members have until the close of registration for the respective Regional Championship to purchase a USA Climbing membership.”
Formerly the DAY-Member fee was $5.00 and this fee has now been raised to $10.00 on the direction of the Board of Directors. Additionally, while the former rule required competitors to purchase a full USAC membership within just two business days following a local, in order to receive credit for their participation, with the new Thriva system, this more limited requirement is no longer necessary and thus DAY-Members now have a greater time period by which to purchase a full USAC Competitor Membership.
Rule 3.4.4: Addition of rule outlining transgender participation: “A competitor may register for a membership as the gender with which the competitor identifies…”
The language of this rule was drafted by the Rules Committee in late 2015, after significant research of other national governing bodies and sports organizations’ practices, as well as the IOC guidelines on transgender athletes. It was then reviewed thoroughly by the Board of Directors and outside legal counsel and the final language was approved by the BOD for our inclusion in this new Rulebook.
3.4.4  Transgender Participation. A competitor may register for a membership as the gender with which the competitor identifies. If that gender is different from the gender reflected on the competitor’s birth certificate, or is a different gender from that previously used by the competitor as a USA Climbing member, the competitor must provide to USA Climbing an objective manifestation (documentation or other evidence) that shows the stated gender is sincerely held and reflects the person’s core identity. Documentation satisfying this standard generally may include, without limitation, government-issued documentation or documentation prepared by a health care provider or licensed counselor. The health care provider or licensed counselor must not be the athlete’s first or second degree relative.  This rule is subject to any superseding rule or policy of any applicable national or international governing body with respect to international competition.
Rules 3.8.5: Clarification of rule regarding Divisional and National registration timelines.
The substantive content of this rule has not changed but the rule was rewritten for clarity of language. The same timelines exist as before, for invitation acceptance (ie. registration), but rather than the rule referring to a “1st Round Invitation Acceptance Chart” and “24-hour ‘window,'” the phrasing has been changed to now read “Reissued 1st Round Registration Chart,” “an additional 24 hours to register,” and to specify that the $100.00 fee is a “late fee.” To reiterate, there are no changes to the process but only the language of the rule, which we hope will make the process more clear. The complete new rule reads:
3.8.5    There will be a 72-hour first (1st) round registration period. At the deadline of this registration period, USAC will post a Reissued 1st Round Registration Chart. The Reissued 1st Round Registration period will allow competitors that received a 1st Round invitation but did not register within the initial 72-hour period, an additional24 hours to register. Competitors that register during the Reissued 1st Round registration period will incur a late fee of $100.00. Failure to register during this time shall result in the 1st round invitee’s invitation being passed-down to the next qualified competitor. The loss of the invitation may not be appealed.
Rule 3.11.2a): Addition of deadline by which Non-U.S. Citizen competitors must provide proof of membership in their “home” country’s federation.
There was formerly no timeline identified by which Non-U.S. Citizen competitors would have to provide proof, but they must now do so by the “deadline for Regionals registration by emailing a copy to”
Rules 4.1 and 4.2: Revision of rules relating to Youth Team definition and composition.

In recent years, with the success of, and increasing participation in, Youth Championship events, there has been increased attention to and competitiveness for Youth Team Championships. On the direction of USA Climbing Operations and in consultation with the Coaches Committee, the rules outlining Youth Climbing Team definition, composition and member eligibility, have been clarified and amended. Our goals in revising these rules are to keep up-to-date with the evolving aspects of competition climbing, the participation of teams, the competitive nature of our Youth Team Championships, and to maintain or improve standards of fairness. We also strive to do so in ways that hopefully create better clarity and consistency in the language of the rules themselves. Some verbiage has been revised for clarity, and other additions have been made that clarify former rules that either may not have been clear and/or the Rules Committee deemed could be improved, with greater specificity.
There was discussion on various topics about team composition, practices, and schedules, at the Coaches meeting at Youth Sport Nationals in July, which many of you likely attended. While the Rules have been updated with the requirement to submit a roster of eligible competitors, there has been no change in the Rulebook that would require submission of number of practices or schedules, or oversight of Youth Teams’ composition and eligibility in advance of Championship events. It is not the intention of the Rules Committee to significantly redefine what Youth Climbing Teams are, nor to approach the writing and revision of the Rulebook with an intention of “level the playing field,” between different sizes or types of teams. We understand and appreciate that there is a diversity of teams both in the general sense, and with respect to competition. The way that teams are organized and the structure of Youth Team Championships will be something that the USA Climbing Board of Directors and Coaches Committee will likely continue to review and the Rules Committee will continue to do our best working to update and revise Rules based on the direction and input we receive, in the context of our understanding of youth climbing teams and the general mandate of fairness in the playing field.
Our primary goal is simply to clarify USA Climbing Rules such that they are more specific with respect to the eligibility of competitors for Youth Team Championship points, and that coaches and teams have clearer standards to follow. The rules pertaining to Youth Climbing Teams are now segmented into Youth Team definition (4.1), and Youth Team affiliation (4.2) to more clearly discern between teams generally, and those individuals eligible to accrue points towards Youth Team Championships. Rule 4.1 outlines the simple definition of, and basic requirements for, a Youth Climbing Team, and nothing has changed in this regard. As outlined in the prior rule 5.33.1, a Youth Climbing Team consists of members who compete and train together, includes a certified USA Climbing Coach, and three (3) individuals who are members of USA Climbing. These requirements have simply been reworded into rule 4.1.
4.1     Youth Climbing Team – Definition
4.1.1    A Youth Climbing Team consists of members who compete and train together under the guidance and direction of a coach or coaches. At Championship events eligible team members may have their results counted towards Team Championships.
4.1.2    Basic requirements for a USA Climbing Youth Climbing Team include:
a) A team must have a minimum of three (3) athletes who are members of USA Climbing and a USA Climbing certified coach.
b) Team members must be in good standing with their coach, team policies, and the rules and regulations of USA Climbing.
c) All team members shall designate their team affiliation during their USA Climbing membership registration.
Rule 4.2 outlines more notable changes regarding eligibility of Youth Team members, in order that they may count towards Youth Team Championship results.
This includes minor revision of the rules regarding participation in practices. The former rule stated that “The coach must organize/facilitate a minimum of four (4) practices a month in which each member must attend and participate in the majority of the practices.” After review the Rules Committee determined that it is unreasonable to expect that each individual member is able to attend the majority of practices. For example, if multiple practices are scheduled per week, and at different times of day for a specific team, such that different members may attend at different times, then it is unreasonable to expect that any individual member would actually attend the majority of scheduled practices.
The rule has therefore been clarified to read:
4.2       Youth Climbing Team – Team Affiliation
4.2.1    Eligibility requirements for Youth Climbing Team members results to be counted towards Team Championships:
a)The Youth Climbing Team coach must organize/facilitate, and eligible members must attend and participate in, one practice per week, on average from November1st to the Bouldering Youth National Championship, in the Bouldering season, and from April 1st to the Youth Sport & Speed National Championship, in the Sport & Speed season.
This requirement of a minimum of once per week, on average, and only during a limited period, is more likely consistent with current common practice minimums for Youth Teams, and more reasonable than what may have been perceived as an ambiguous and impractical former rule, requiring participation at “a majority of the practices.” This should allow for the possibility that there may be new team members joining a team during the initial weeks of each season, and who, in that context, may not be attending practices once per week during those initial weeks, but who are members of the team meeting the eligibility requirement of an average of once per week practice participation, from November 1st to Bouldering Youth National Championship, and April 1st to Youth Sport & Speed National Championship.
This change more clearly outlines the simple intention of the rule that we assume Coaches and Youth Team members already follow; this being that any team member competing and counting towards the Youth Team Championship results, should be a member that is training together, with the team, on a regular basis. This was stated, though perhaps not as clearly or specifically, in the former rule.
Aside from the requirements of participation, there are two other elements added to the rule regarding eligibility for Youth Team members to count towards Youth Team Championship. The first is that the Coach must submit a roster of eligible Youth Team members planning to compete in Youth Team Championship, and the second that eligible Youth Team members must wear a Team jersey at the Championship events. As noted above, it is not the intention of the Rules Committee to make significant changes to common practice, but to revise formerly ambiguous rules and better articulate USA Climbing standards.
Youth Teams and the Coaches managing them are entrusted to only include members on their team rosters that do meet the eligibility requirements above, and the requirement of a roster is a simple addition that will allow USA Climbing to have specific record in advance, of Youth Team members that the Coach and Team have assessed are eligible to compete to count towards Youth Team results in Championship events. Only in the event that there is a formal appeal to USA Climbing about Youth Team membership, would any USA Climbing Committee(s), such as the Coaches Committee or Appeals Committee, review.
The rule outlining roster submission is as follows:
b) The coach must submit an official roster including the full names of competitors planning to compete in Championship events as eligible Youth Climbing Team members. In order to have a roster of competitors whose results may count towards Team Championships, a coach must submit his/her team roster, in excel format including First Name, Last Name, and Team Affiliation, to by 11:59pm MTN on: 
                        i.          November 1st for the Bouldering season;
                        ii.         April 1st for the Sport & Speed season.
The second addition is the requirement for team jerseys to be worn at Championship competitions, by eligible Youth Team members. This aspect of 4.2.1 is simply intended to formalize current common practice, brings us in alignment with the norms at higher levels of competition, in other federations and in other sports, also supporting the already strong team identification that competitors have. The language of the rule is worded specifically to allow for flexibility in terms of the type of jersey.
c) At all Championship competitions, eligible Youth Climbing Team members must wear a team jersey. The jersey must include a prominently visible Team name and/or logo, and Team members must wear jerseys of the same basic type when competing. Teams may have more than one jersey design and variable colors or types (t-shirt or tank tops, for example) are acceptable but the same color and type for each gender is preferred.
Consistent with the existing and clarified intention of the rules that Youth Team members train together, as outlined above, the former rules 5.34.2 and 5.34.3 that allowed an exception for competitors residing outside their home region but enrolled full-time in college, to maintain their team affiliation (and, specifically, their eligibility to count towards Youth Team Championship results), has been removed. While many years ago the original intention of this exception was to encourage continued participation on the part of age-eligible youth competitors, this conflicts with the fundamental definition of a Youth Team consisting “of members who compete and train together under the guidance and direction of a coach or coaches.” Additionally, in the years since this exception was added to the Rulebook, the USA Climbing Collegiate series has grown significantly and college or university youth competitors have much greater opportunities to compete with a Collegiate Team.
This Rule change does not in any way imply that a youth competitor who has moved away to college and is no longer training with their former team cannot return to compete at their home Youth Regional, Divisional, or National Championships. But in that case, as s/he would not be regularly training with the team, s/he would not be an “eligible” team member to include on one’s team roster, and his/her results would not count towards team points. On the other hand, a youth competitor that may be in college locally and is still training with the team at least once per week during the defined time period, thus meeting the minimum requirement, then s/he would still be eligible and could be included on the roster.
Lastly in rule 4.2.1, is a section that was already stated in the existing rule, outlining that a competitor may change team affiliation during the season:
d) In the event a competitor wishes to change team affiliation or joins a team during the Bouldering or Sport & Speed season, USA Climbing must be notified in order to review, approve, and make the appropriate adjustment(s). Any and all team designations or affiliations must be submitted and approved 30 days prior to the close of registration for an affected member’s Regional Championship. USA Climbing will not accept changes to a team or team affiliation after this point.        
Rule 5.3.2: Addition of the sentence: “Competitors may not compete in a Regional Championship outside of their home region.”
There was formerly an exception for competitors (youth competitors enrolled in a college or university, and by extension, collegiate athletes) to compete in a Regional Championship outside of their home region. This rule was revised to clarify that a competitor may not compete in a Regional Championship outside of their home region. Competitors may change their home region (or team affiliation) with appropriate documentation and within the deadline for submission to USA Climbing, as noted in rule 3.3.1 and outlined in rule 4.2.1c).
Rule 5.4.4n): Revision of scoring chart for redpoint competitions eliminating reference to climbing grades and outlining 1 – 40 with 100 point increments for the value of each route/problem.
The former scoring chart outlined that routes/problems would be scored and labeled based on a reference to the Yosemite Decimal System for routes (ex. 5.9, 5.10, etc.) and V-grades for bouldering (ex. V3). The new Thriva online system is set up and the Rulebook now reflects that problems must be scored and labeled (and recorded in the scoring system) with the 100 point increments. Routesetters have also had a separate communication regarding this rule and care needs to be taken that this is followed for all redpoint competitions. Please contact USA Climbing offices directly with any questions about the online system.
Rule 5.4.1: Revision of rule pertaining to transition periods: “Each route/problem shall be allocated a predetermined time in which a competitor may attempt the route. If a lead route, a one-minute tie-in period may be added in addition to the allocated route time. Additionally, a maximum one-minute transition period may be added to allow the competitor to make his/her way to the next route/problem. Transition times are at the discretion of the Chief Judge.”
The word “maximum” was added, simply to clarify that the transition period may be one-minute, as written in the former rule, or less, at the discretion of the Chief Judge. For example, a Chief Judge may add a 30-second or 45-second transition period, whereas formerly it could be interpreted that a transition period must be one minute.
Rule 5.7.5: Revision of the rule pertaining to the definition of a handhold, such that the climbing wall itself may be defined as hold, but is not necessarily defined as such: “For the purposes of competition climbing, a “hold” may be defined as any object or area of the climbing wall that may be used for climbing.”
This is a minor rule change for language, such that from a judging standpoint, the rule may be better interpreted and applied. The former rule stated that “a “hold” shall be defined as…” but the word shall has been replaced with may. There had been instances in past competitions, notably Youth Bouldering Nationals, where competitors had been called off and an attempt counted against them because they touched the surface of a climbing wall with their hand(s), incidentally, prior to or during their start. As the rule formerly defined that the climbing wall itself was always defined as a hold (by use of the word “shall”), judges had called competitors off because rule 5.7.9 dictates that competitors are not permitted to touch any holds other than the starting handholds prior to an attempt. The Rules Committee had never intended with these rules that competitors would be called off for incidental contact with the climbing wall prior to an attempt. In order to clarify this, we have made this minor verbiage change that we expect should clarify that when a competitor makes incidental contact with the climbing wall itself, either prior to or during their establishment of the start, that this should not be counted as an attempt.
The climbing wall, thus, may be defined as a hold, but is not always defined as a hold, which is consistent with the general activity of climbing and practices in outdoor climbing. Whether a part of the climbing wall is usable as a hold entirely depends on the specific climbing wall and route/problem and thus must entail some assessment by the Chief Routesetter and Chief Judge. We would expect that if there are any questions about whether the climbing wall surface should be defined as a hold in a particular route/problem, the Chief Judge should discuss with the Chief Routesetter.
Example: On a flat slab or vertical wall, a competitor might put one hand on a modular marked starting handhold and then bring his/her second hand up to match, to establish the starting position, but incidentally touch the climbing wall when visually previewing the problem or while moving his/her body near the wall to determine how to best start. In this case the climbing wall surface would not be definitively usable and as such, notdefined as a hold. Thus the competitor may be permitted to make incidental contact with the climbing wall surface, but not be called off and have an attempt counted against them.
Rule 5.7.7a): Addition of the sentence: “Any object(s) (ex. modular hold, screw-on hold, or volume) or climbing wall surface within the taped box (including the tape) shall be considered the handhold.”
Taped boxes have been used in the past at Bouldering National Championships and other competitions as they provide clear and easily visual demarcation of the start and finish handhold(s). This rule clarifies that when taped boxes are used for marking the start and finish, for consistency, anything within the taped box itself, including the tape, shall now be considered the handhold. With this rule change, routesetters will need to take care that if using taped boxes, they are aware that the competitor may now start, with hands controlled on any objects within the taped box, and more notably, may finish with the hands controlling anywhere within the box. Routesetters have had a separate communication regarding this rule providing some context and direction and another will follow later this year to Championship Chief Routesetters. It is important to note that per rule 5.7.7b) taped flashes (or other tags or demarcation) may also be used and this may be a simple solution for Event Organizers or Chief Routesetters if they have any concern about using taped boxes and this implication about the scoring of control of starts or finishes.
Rule 5.7.10a): Revision of the rule pertaining to starting positions: “…In bouldering, if there is one (1) marked handhold, the competitor must begin with both hands controlling that handhold. In sport climbing, if there is one (1) marked handhold, the competitor must begin with at least one hand controlling that handhold… In bouldering and sport climbing, if there are two (2) separately marked handholds, the competitor must begin with each hand controlling each marked handhold simultaneously.”
The rule formerly had allowed competitors to start with only one hand controlling a single marked starting handhold, in both bouldering and sport climbing. This is a minor rule change that specifies that in bouldering specifically, competitors now must start withboth hands controlling a single marked starting handhold, or as was the case in the former rule, if there are two marked starting handholds, s/he must start with one hand controlling each. This change has been made for greater consistency in consideration of the fact that competitors must finish with both hands controlling the finish handhold(s).
Rule 5.7.11: Clarification of how attempts are defined: “Each competitor’s attempt shall be deemed to have started when any part of the competitor’s body has touched the climbing wall and every part of the competitor’s body has left the ground in an effort to establish the starting position on the climbing wall.”

Similar to rule 5.7.5 above, this rule has been clarified in order to minimize any unintended interpretation or application of the rule. The phrase “in an effort to establish the starting position on the climbing wall” is meant to clarify that when a competitor may be moving his/her body, “shuffling” or “hopping,” their feet around the base of the wall on the mats, in order to determine how best to start the route/problem, this should notbe counted as an attempt, though the competitors body may leave the ground for a moment, during the competitor’s positioning. Only when it is obvious that the competitor is making a clear effort not simply to position his/her body in the best way in order to start, but, is actually in the act of trying to establish the starting position, should an attempt be counted.
Rule 5.7.27 and 5.15.1f): Addition of rule defining a “tick” and implications for ticking the wall: “…a line of chalk or similar demarcation that is placed to gain a visual advantage regarding the location of a hold or ideal position. In an onsight competition, if a competitor ticks the wall or holds, s/he shall sacrifice the current attempt on that route/problem and shall not be permitted another…”
These rules have been established to define what a “tick” mark is and the rules pertaining to a competitor creating a tick mark. In onsight competitions only, if a competitor makes a tick they sacrifice not only his/her current attempt (if they are on the wall when they make the attempt), but s/he is also not permitted another attempt. The reason for this is that a tick may affect the playing field not only for that competitor but for all competitors who climb after, and thus must be removed. This may entail routesetters, event organizing staff, judges or volunteers having to make best efforts to clearly eliminate the tick and the logistical implications of this may be significant. Note: This rule is specific to competitors creating tick marks. Routesetters may still make tick marks on the holds or any part of the wall, and these ticks are then part of the playing field for all competitors and remain throughout the entirety of the competition round for those route/problem(s). Thus routesetters should make the tick mark(s) definitively clear and such that they are unlikely to be rubbed off during the competition.
Rules 5.14.8a) and 5.14.9b): Revision of rules pertaining to recuperation period: “The duration of the recuperation period is at the discretion of the Chief Judge.”
Minor rule change clarifying that the recuperation period following a technical incident is at the discretion of the Chief Judge.
Rule 5.20.1: Revision of number of athletes that ties are broken among at the respective Regional: “top ten (10),” Divisional, “top six (6),” Youth National, “top four (4), and Open National, “top six (6),” competitions.
The rule had formerly outlined that ties be broken for the top 10 competitors at Youth Regionals and Divisionals but as it is only the top 6 that advance to Nationals from Divisionals, and thus those spots (+ and additional spots based on “extra quota” competitors) are the only positions that ties need to be broken among, the rule has been revised to denote that ties are broken for top (6) at Divisionals.
Rule 5.20.1a): Clarified rule pertaining to number of route/problem(s) and climbing time(s) for super final round(s): “Must consist of a minimum of one (1) but no more than three (3) routes/problems with five (5) to ten (10) minutes of climbing time per route in sport climbing and four (4) to five (5) minutes of climbing time per problem in bouldering.”
Minor rule change which outlines the time periods for route/problem(s) in super final rounds.
Rule 7.6.1: Procedures for speed qualification: “Continuous Format” and “Pairings Format.”
This rule outlining speed formats had already been added to the 2015-2016 Rulebook in the Appendix and has now been formally added as 7.6.1.
Rule 7.8.1: Revision of rule regarding ties in Speed: “At the conclusion of the final round of competition, any ties shall be broken by placement in the previous round(s). If the tie(s) cannot be broken in this manner, then a super final round will be held…”
The rule formerly had stated that ties must be broken for speed in each round of competition, such that if there were a tie in the qualification round of Divisionals or qualification or semifinal rounds of Nationals, that there would be a re-run of those tied competitors to break that tie, prior to the final round. This now has changed such that ties will only be broken by super final, at the conclusion of the final round.
Rule 8.3.1: Revision of climbing period for bouldering from three (3) to six (6) minutes to four (4) to five (5) minutes: “The fixed length of the climbing period shall be from four (4) to five (5) minutes per route/problem for each round.”
Minor rule change narrowing the allowable time period in bouldering to be 4 to 5 minutes as that has been common practice at competitions.
Rule 14.1: Addition of National Cup Series overview to this Appendix.
USA Climbing has announced a National Cup Series for adult competitors and more information will be outlined on the USAC website in the coming weeks and months. This rule simply acknowledges an overview of the National Cup Series, and that as a new series, it may have rules that diverge from those in the Rulebook, but any rules will be outlined clearly on the website and for competitors at the individual competitions.