Athletes from all over the world will gather in Durango, Colorado from December 15 to 17 to duke it out at the first UIAA Ice Climbing World
Cup event of the season. The competition, held for the first time in Durango, is the only UIAA sanctioned World Cup Ice Climbing event that will
be held on U.S. soil.
Marcus Garcia, the competition director, sees the event as an opportunity to increase awareness and visibility of ice and mixed climbing in the U.S. He
has big aspirations for the sport’s future, but acknowledges that first, “People need to understand what this sport is.”
Durango's competition, held at the SKA Brewery, will take place outside on a freestanding, artificial climbing wall. Various holds and other zany apparatuses—like
massive chunks of ice or wood suspended from chains—are set on the wall to create the routes, which in other ways, are similar to sport climbing
competitions. In the lead division, winners are determined based on high points achieved with a time limit and, in the event of ties, speed.
Whereas past years have seen Bozeman, Montana play host to the event, Garcia, a fixture in the Durango climbing scene and head coach of the U.S.A. youth
mixed climbing team, volunteered to bring the event to his hometown when it’s future in Bozeman was thrown into question. Though he knew that bringing
the event to Durango would be a major production, he saw it as an important step in “pursuing the Olympic dream” for the sport.
UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup events have separate male and female divisions, each with two competition categories, lead and speed. The lead route setter
for the Durango stop will be the Russian climber Pavel Dobrinsky. In addition to the main event from December 15 to 17, there is also a youth competition
from December 14 to 15 for climbers aged 16 to 22. Garcia considers this youth competition just as important as the World Cup itself.
“For The International Olympic Committee to see this sport as an Olympic sport, there needs to be a high youth presence as well as a series of competitions
across the US,” Garcia says. “My vision is to first have a permanent structure that will allow athletes a place to come and train with quality coaching.
[And then] to have a comp series that will allow different regions of the US to [hold competition[s].”
This season’s world cup tour is comprised of five competitions. Following the season kickoff in Durango, the second event will take place from January
7 to 9 in Beijing, China, followed by competitions in Cheongsong, South Korea; Saas Fee, Switzerland; and Rabenstein, Italy.
With less than two weeks left until the Ice Climbing World Cup in Durango, it is fundraising crunchtime for Garcia and the other event organizers. The
event will cost $55,000 in total, but the organizers are still about $20,000 short. While they have raised enough money to cover prizes for competitors
and the building of the competition walls, they still need funds to cover the UIAA’s involvement. To support their efforts, visit their fundraising
campaign’s webpage at www.gofundme.com/UIAAiceclimbingworldcupdurango.
For more event information, visit usamixedclimbing.com.
Highlights from the 2016 UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup in Bozeman, Montana: