Athletes whose ages are 12 or under(youth C & D categories) will be competing while on top rope for their difficulty portion of the season. Top rope climbing means that the rope will already be anchored to the top of the climb, allowing the athlete to feel safer and to focus more on their climbing. Top rope climbing is typically seen as the stepping stone to lead climbing.
Athletes whose ages are 13 or older (youth A, B & junior categories) will be competing while in lead for their difficulty portion of the season. Lead climbing means that the rope will not be attached to an anchor at the top of the wall. The lead climber will clip their rope to safety points (quick-draws) as they progress up the climb. Lead climbing adds a dimension of a controlled (and safe) fall hazard and requires additional training that the program will offer to all incoming athletes.
Difficulty is a test of endurance. While being belayed (lead belayed in youth B and up, top rope belayed in youth C and D), climbers are given a sport route to climb and the idea is simply to get as high as they can on the climb. The highest climbers get higher placement.