The UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup tour continued on to its third stage in the alpine village of Saas Fee, Switzerland, during the last weekend of January (24-25). Angelika Rainer of Italy took first place in the women’s lead competition. Rainer told PlanetMountain, “The routes in Saas Fee were really difficult, and in the end I lowered off completely exhausted, but really happy.” Shin WoonSeon of Korea took second place, earning her second silver medal during the tour, and Maria Tolokonina of Russia placed third.
There was some excitement in the men’s lead competition when the lights unexpectedly went out on Park HeeYong as he climbed. The judges agreed to give him a second attempt on the route after all the other athletes had completed their turns. According to the UIAA website, Park scaled the wall in record time- just barely braking seven minutes by .01 seconds- and then kept climbing to the top, reached the lip, stood on it, and then jumped off the wall. With his performance Park attained his first gold medal of the tour. Maxim Tomilov of Russia moved into second. Nickolay Kuzovlev, also from Russia, had a string of bad luck and failed to top out because he had to spend more than a minute detangling his shoelace from a quickdraw, but still managed a third place finish.
The tour then moved to the ski resort, Champagny-en-Vanoise in the Rhone Alps Region of south eastern France this past weekend (January 31-February 1). According to UIAA’s live blog Kuzovlev left spectators in awe when he finished the final route in five minutes and 51 seconds, forcing Park, with a time of six minutes and 20 seconds, into second place. Maxim Tomilov took third. In the overall men’s lead rankings Park and Maxim Tomilov are tied for first with 325 points. Maxim’s brother Alexey Tomilov follows behind with Kuzovlev, both with 257 points.
After performing so well at the last three venues, Shin WoonSeon unfortunately fell early in her climb and finished in eighth place in France, although she still leads third in the overall women’s competition with 300 points. Maria Tolokonina placed first, and she has also attained the most points (312) in the women’s overall lead competition. Maryam Filippova of Russia came in second in France and Rainer followed in third. Rainer holds on to second place in the women’s over all rankings with 310 points.
Although hugely outnumbered by European and Eastern European athletes, there are a few talented climbers at the World Cup who are proudly representing North America.
Gordon McArthur is a member of the Canadian National Ice Climbing Team and stands in 14th place in the overall men’s lead rankings.
American climber Marc Beverly is currently in 32nd place for the overall men’s speed climbing. Beverly has competed in the UIAA World Cup for the last five years. The only other American male athlete in the tour is Aaron Montgomery from Colorado who is currently in 56th place in the men’s lead competition.
Nathan Kutcher, also a member of the Canadian National Team and the winner of the 2012 Ouray Ice Festival Mixed Climbing Comp., is in 34th place in the men’s overall lead rankings.
Representing North American women in the World Cup are Jen Olson of Canada and American climber Kendra Stritch. Olson, an IFMGA certified mountain guide and member of the Canadian National Ice Climbing Team has attained 14th place in the overall women’s lead competition so far. Stritch, who was the first American woman to compete in the UIAA World Cup in 2012, is in 30th place of the overall women’s lead rankings, and in 11th place of the overall women’s speed duels.
All six athletes have been invited to Sochi, Russia to demonstrate ice climbing at the Winter Olympics.