The curtain falls on the Ice World Cup in Kirov, Russia this weekend, when the final round takes place on the underside of a massive ski jump! Team member Anna Wells gives us a rundown on the GB Ice Climbing Team’s season so far.
Eight members of the GB Ice Climbing Team have recently returned from competing across Europe in the Ice Climbing World Cups. Emma Powell competed at the youth competition in Saas Fee (Switzerland), whilst Harry Holmes, Scott Grosdenoff, Will Woodhead, Matt Pigden, Dave Bowes, Anna Wells and Katy Forester all took part in the three senior rounds. These were in Saas Fee (Switzerland), Rabenstein (Italy) and Champagny-en-Vanoise (France).
The Youth World Championship was the first event, and took place in mid-January. The rather surreal setting for this competition was a circular eleven-story carpark, with a structure in the centre which Emma describes as “insane and daunting”. 14-year-old Emma travelled out with her dad (and coach!) to represent Britain in the Under 16s category, in an otherwise entirely Russian field. Emma proved what she was capable of and qualified for the finals in first place in her field of eight competitors. Emma was very unlucky in the finals, where she ripped off a section of ice, dropping down to finish in 6th. However, she has demonstrated her huge potential and it will be exciting to see what her future holds.
The following weekend saw the senior competition take place on the same structure. This event attracted the largest turnout with 59 male and 30 female competitors, from countries all around the world. Anna Wells was the only British competitor to make the semi-finals, putting in a fighting performance to finish 11th overall. The highest placed male was Harry Holmes who finished a respectable 35th.
The next round took place a week later in a tiny Italian village called Rabenstein. Under sunny blue skies, the seven team members again fought it out on the qualifying climbs, which provided an interesting mixture of both ice climbing and dry tooling. In the women’s event, Anna again qualified for semi-finals, and Katy was agonisingly close, missing out by just one hold. In the men’s event, Harry managed to qualify for his first ever semi-final, and is so far the only GB male to make a semi-final this season. Both put in strong efforts, with Harry finishing 18th and Anna finishing 19th. Many of the team have also been taking part in the speed climbing series. In this event, Dave placed best out of the GB guys, coming 25th.
The Rabenstein event also served as the "World Championship". As part of this, each country received a team ranking based on their highest scoring male and female competitor. The United Kingdom was ranked 10th out of 16 teams, demonstrating that we have a notable presence on the world stage in these early years of the British Team.
All of the team stayed out in Europe between events in Italy and France, which allowed time for resting, training, and exploring the local climbing. Katy, Scott, Matt and Dave took the opportunity to climb a five-pitch waterfall ice climb at Celliac, which was Dave’s rather exciting introduction to natural ice climbing. Meanwhile, Will, Harry and Anna spent two days dry tooling at L’Usine.
The final European round was based in the mountain resort of Champagny-en-Vanoise during the first weekend of February. The climbing structure was located further up the mountain in a snowy hamlet complete with Husky dogs. The women’s qualifier was an easy ice route, whilst the men’s was on steep wooden panels. With everyone timing out at different points it became a matter of speed, and unfortunately none of the team made the semi-finals. The highest placed male was again Harry in 32nd place, while Matt and Scott were close behind finishing 38th and 39th respectively. Will was climbing well before he unfortunately “stepped out”, kicking into ice that was out-of-bounds.
For some of the team this was their first taste of international competition and has been a very beneficial learning experience for us all. Watching the top athletes has been an excellent motivation for everyone to get training!
The journey is not yet over, because five of the team will be heading out to Kirov in Russia as you read this. So watch this space to see how Matt, Scott, Dave, Harry and Anna get on at the final stage of the World Cup this weekend.
Full results are online at www.iceclimbingworldcup.org
Full GB results for the whole season will be posted here on Monday.
Video from the UIAA World Youth Ice Climbing Championships - Champagny, France
Video from the UIAA Ice World Cup - Champagny, France
Video from the UIAA Ice World Championships - Rabenstein, Italy