Vertical ascending at improbable speeds; nerve-jangling drops; supreme demonstrations of technique. Ice axes are sharpened, athletes primed after a rigorous ‘offseason’, ice towers gleaming and the world of ice climbing ready to reunite. The sport, which holds a burning Olympic ambition, has never been bigger.
The 2017 UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour, supported by The North Face Korea, commenced on 16-17 December in the town of Durango, Colorado before visiting four countries in Asia and Europe. Athletes comprising current champions, former winners, intrepid first timers and competition veterans, and from over thirty different countries are set to etch their axes in ice and their names into the competition leaderboards.
One of the highlights of the new season is a groundbreaking visit to China with Beijing playing host to the second of five World Cup events from 7-9 January. “With the support of the Chinese Mountaineering Association, we are delighted that China will feature on the UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour,” explains UIAA President Frits Vrijlandt. As host country of the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, the presence of an event in China is a significant one.
Following on from the event in Beijing, the 2017 UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour visits well-established ice climbing arenas like Cheongsong (South Korea), Saas Fee (Switzerland) and Rabenstein (Italy).
2017 is also a significant year in that it witnesses the biennial UIAA Ice Climbing World Championships. The renowned ice climbing paradise of Champagny-en-Vanoise will host the event. “The valley of Champagny-le-haut is situated at the foot of the glaciers of the Vanoise. At the beginning of December, all of the villages in the valley freeze in the cold,” explains resort Competition Director Nils Guillotin. “Temperatures won’t reach 0° before March again. The valley transforms into a Nordic site. It is in this setting that the tower becomes full of ice. The structure, measuring over twenty meters, is unique in Europe. Due to the particular climate, it is possible to create ice walls for all levels. The ice climbing quality on this structure is internationally recognized.”
For youth athletes, ice climbing training camps were organized by the Russian Mountaineering Federation (RMF) during the months of December and January.
Lead and Speed, two contrasting disciplines
Ice climbing combines the allure of the winter sport environment with fast-paced action, intelligence and determination. In the lead discipline, ice climbers require great technique, tactical mastery and nerves of steel in executing complex moves in seemingly improbable positions. The speed discipline is almost a vertical take on the 100m sprint in the sport of athletics. It’s about raw power, core strength and channeled aggression.
How to follow
The official hashtags are #iceclimbing and #uiaaiceclimbing. Live streaming will be available via YouTube, on the UIAA website. Live competition updates will be available on the UIAA Facebook and Twitter.
The UIAA was founded in 1932. It has 92 member associations in 69 countries. They represent about 3 million climbers and mountaineers. The organization’s mission is to promote the growth and protection of climbing and mountaineering worldwide, advance safe and ethical mountain practices and promote responsible access, culture and environmental protection.
The organization operates through the work of its commissions. They make recommendations, set policy and advocate on behalf of the climbing and mountaineering community. The UIAA is recognized by the International Olympic Committee.