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Will Gadd, Out of Retirement, Wins Big Again

The Canmore climber Will Gadd took first place in the men's division and Stephanie Maureau of France won in women's at the Bozeman Ice Breaker Competition this past weekend. Gadd, 45, had retired from competitive climbing to focus on first ascents of big ice routes such as his recent Spray On.

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The Canmore climber Will Gadd took first place in the men’s division and Stephanie Maureau of France won in women’s at the Bozeman Ice Breaker Competition this past weekend. Gadd, 45, had retired from competitive climbing to focus on first ascents of big ice routes such as his recent Spray On.

Will Gadd dispatched the lead route handily, with a few heart-stopping moments as he hung in midair from the hanging booms.

“The stoke from the crowd was just insane, I couldn’t fall off with that noise!” he tells us when contacted. “There are always a couple of sketchy sections on routes—you have to slow down, make sure of your picks, and just not rush into stupid decisions. The route was a bit harder than I thought it would be up high, so I slowed down and focused on keeping the picks still and enough juice in the forearms.”

Coming in second in men’s was Whit Magro from Bozeman, while third place went to Jason Nelson of Salt Lake City. Sarah Hueniken of Canmore took second in women’s and has the dual distinction of recently becoming the first North American woman to climb M11. Minnesota climber Kendra Stritch placed third in women’s.

“I’m not a big fan of the pressure and the way competitions sometimes pan out, but someone said that it would be more fun to be in it, then watching it, and in the end, they were right!” Sarah Hueniken tells Rock and Ice. “I just have never put a great deal of focus towards competition climbing because it scares me! I admire those that compete, because they are really putting themselves out there.”


Pamela Ranger Roberts, wife of the renowned climber Jack Roberts, who was killed ice climbing at Colorado’s Bridalveil Falls last January, was an honored attendee. Roberts was posthumously awarded the Guy Lacelle Hyalite Service Award for his lifetime of climbing and service achievements. You can read the Rock and Ice tribute to Roberts here.

The Ice Breaker Competition took place on Saturday, December 8, and was part of the 16th Annual Arc’teryx Bozeman Ice Festival in Bozeman, Montana. The comp was held on a new artificial climbing wall outside of Bozeman’s Emerson Park. Conrad Anker and Adam Knoff set the routes, and Anker emceed the event. According to Gadd, Anker and others hope Bozeman could be the site for the 2013 World Cup—this year’s festival was hopefully a dry run.

The highlight of the Ice Breaker Competition was the M12 Invitational Lead division. Climbers were put through their paces on roughly 50 feet of climbing, including an overhanging boulder cave at the beginning and a horizontal finish with hanging booms.

The comp also featured a speed climbing division open to anyone who can regularly climb M8. The speed climbing wall was 32 feet tall and overhung 10 feet.

Gadd’s training regime before the comp consisted largely of climbing outside, he tells us: “I didn’t train on a plastic or artificial wall at all. Just climbed hard mixed routes outside. Interestingly, that’s the same thing the second and third place guys also did, as well as the second-place woman, and the first-place woman.

“I guarantee that a lot of the other competitors are MUCH stronger than Whit, Jason or me,” he continues. “I’ve trained with some and know they are stronger. But strength is just one part of the equation—you’ve got to be able to CLIMB. I see far too much training going on for many climbers. It’s more about the climbing than the biceps.”

You can check out a video of Will Gadd climbing in Marble Canyon here:

Photos courtesy of Jason Thompson Photography.