Thursday, 23 January 2014


I'm pretty excited about the competition in Romania. I would have liked to have done better, but I'm content with how things worked out.
Climbing the prelims route. Photo:Alexandru Sava

Prelims Photo: Florian Raducanu
Prelims Photo: Stelian Pavalache

The Romania IWC is spread over three days with the semifinals on the second day.  The women's preliminary are the second day as well and run in the morning before the men's semifinal. For the semi finals the order in which we climb is based on the scoring from the preliminary round with the lowest score going first and the highest score going last. I had the second lowest  out of the 18 men and was expecting to climb second, but some how they messed up the start order and I was up first. Climbing first is a little tough because you don't get much time to prepare before you climb. After the route preview we returned to isolation just long enough to put on our boots before being called out to climb.

The semifinals route was much more difficult than the preliminary route. I preliminary there was only one person who didn't top out that moved on to semis. In semifinals there was only one person who topped out. The lower starting section of the semis route had very technical moves. In order to do the moves you had to hook the hold correctly while maintaining the correct body position. Without the right body position your pick will just skate off the hold. I was able hit most of the lower section okay except for one hold. I ended up wasting a lot of time and energy figuring out the correct way to take it. After reaching the top of the first panel the wall got steeper and the moves got bigger but less technical. At the end of the second panel was an ice barrel. Just after reaching the ice my following tool popped of the hold. This caused my feet to come off the wall. I was able to hang on for a little bit longer, but when I went for the next hole in the ice and missed, I was too tired to make a recovery as my body fell back down. My hand opened up and I fell off. Overall I ended up 16th for the competition, which is my best finish yet.
Semifinals Photo: Alexandru Sava

Saturday was the speed climbing competition and I climbed in that as well. The weather had been extemely warm and the ice wall was not in great shape. The women climbed first and after they were done the wall was showing lots of wear. After the men did the preliminary round there were large pieces of ice missing from the wall. The ice was more like snow and heavier climbers had a lot of problems with their picks shearing thru the ice. I made it to the top of the wall both times I climbed, but didn't do so fast enogh to move onto the next round. In the end, the mens speed comp was called off because the wall had lost too much ice for the comp to continue.

At the end of the third day is the closing ceremony. After the awards the Romanians go all out and have a fireworks display that rivals most I've seen in N.America.

I'm back in Ontario now for a couple weeks. This weekend I'm teaching a beginners mixed climbing class with the Toronto Section of the Alpine Club of Canada which should be fun. The weekend after I get to do a little bit of climbing in Ontario before flying back to Europe to compete in Italy (Feb.6-8), after Italy I'll be in Russia for the second half of the Olympics where ice climbing is a cultural event and then to the final IWC competition in Ufa (Feb.28-Mar.2).

Thursday, 16 January 2014


Today was the prelim. round for the Romania stop of the Ice World Cup. For the first time ever I topped out the route and did so just fast enough to slide into semis! My teammate Gord McArthur made semis as well. This will be the first time ever in IWC that two Canadian men have climbed in semifinals at the same event.

All photos: Jen Olson

Clipping the anchor at the end of the prelim. route.

Semis are tomorrow. I think this is the schedule still,   , but there was a rumor that it may be changed to do the speed climbing sooner as it has been very warm here and the ice is melting very quickly.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Korea Comp

After arriving to Cheongsong, licensing and registration are the first order of business. All competitors are required to have a UIAA license for competition, once you have the license its good for the year. Each competition has its own registration that must be completed before competing. After registration there is the opening ceremony.

 The opening ceremony had several different acts. It started with a Korean Yodeler, very different. The Highlight act of the ceremony was the Korean drummers. The drumming is used in this short video.

Flags from all the countries competing.

Competition day starts early and ends late. Its a 45min bus ride on a twisting road to get to the structure. Upon arriving we go into the isolation area and wait to be called out for route preview. We are allowed to look at the route for the length of time we have to climb the route, usually 7 min for preliminaries. After preview we go back to isolation and wait for our turn to climb.

Last year the routes in Korea started on ice. This year that wasn't possible as it had been too warm and they were unable to make the ice form on the wall. What was the same as last year, and for most venues, there are two men's routes. The men are divided into groups and 1&2/or A&B and they climb the route that they are assigned. I was assigned route 1 which was on the left hand side of the wall, the same as I climbed last year.

I felt that last year one of my big problems was that I rushed and fell off early in some of the comps. One of my goals was to not climb rushed. Starting with leaving isolation I made it a point to not worry about the time. Last year when I would leave isolation I always had a felling that I had to move fast. Get to the route fast, tie in fast, and climb fast. While moving efficiently is important, just going fast leads to mistakes.

This year as well as having cameras on the ground and on the wall they had radio controlled drones flying around.

Climbing the route I felt pretty good. At the preview the route looked very difficult and I was worried that it might be really hard. Once I started climbing the holds were a lot better than they looked from the ground. As I climbed I tried to think about how to best do each move before doing it. I think I did okay for the most part. There was one move that I really stalled route on. the hold was facing sideways and it was a long way to the next one. I wanted to lung for it, but I figured there was just one small area that was good which you couldn't see, meaning I had to reach way up and be in control when I hooked the next hold. After watching others climb the route I saw a better way that I could have done the move and possibly made it easier.

Into the last minute of climbing the prelim route. I made the next clip and got three more holds. Photo: Eimir McSwiggan

It felt like the time passed very quickly. I heard the one minute warning and kicked it into high gear as I was still pretty low on the wall. I was able to climb quite a ways before the clock ran out, but in the end I was a couple moves short of making semi finals. Over all I'm fairly happy with how I climbed. This was the first time in IWC for me that I haven't fallen off before the time ran out. Now I need to work on reading the route better from the ground so I can move more efficiently while climbing. In hindsight there where clues that were visible from the ground about the route that I had missed. Unfortunately it takes practice to read the routes from the ground and that is something that I can't work on at home.

 I also did speed climbing on Sunday. Because it had been so warm the ice was not very good so they didn't let us practice very much. We were supposed to have two practice runs. On my first run both tools ripped out of the ice right after leaving the ground and I fell off. They didn't let me get back on. The second practice run went okay and I got to the top. In the prelim round I fell of the the 1st route about 3-4 meters up. Because they were combining both scores and I didn't get a score for the 1st they didn't let me even try to climb the second route which was disappointing s I did speed because I was hoping to be able to climb some which didn't really happen. For some comps they only take the faster of the two times and throw out the slower time so you can still climb even if you fall off the first time.

Inside the press booth. It was amazing to see all the people and equipment it takes to run and live stream the competition.

For the finals, the UIAA was looking for someone to help do announcing for the live feed. They needed someone who understood IWC and had experience with it as well as being able to speak English. It just so happened that I fit so I got to sit in the press booth and watch the finals while helping with the commentary. This was the first time that IWC has had commentary/announcing for the live stream so it was neat to be part of that. I don't know if I'll be doing any more in the future but there is a good possibility.

On the bus ride back to Seoul the last activity that they had planned for us was lunch at a traditional Korean restaurant. It was perhaps the most interesting cultural experience I had on this trip. Many of the athletes seemed a bit turned off by the food. While I wouldn't want to do it everyday it was fun ind interesting for me. There were a few Koreans who were helping out with the competition who were able to guide us thru what the different things were and how to go about eating them.

You leave your shoes at the door.
Traditional seating on the floor.
A large variety of Korean foods.

After being dropped off at the bus statuon in downtown Seoul I lead a group of friends to the south part of town to meet up with another friend to do some training at the gym she goes to before heading to the airport. The gym is run by the Korean lead route setter. He helped the Lead route setter for the UIAA with the route setting for Cheongsong and did all the setting for all the Korean comps leading up to the World Cup.

Riding the subway.
The gym is bouldering style and mainly for rock climbing, but they have a bunch of drytool holds on the wall as well. 
Drytooling at the gym.

Korean market on the way to the bus station.

I am now in Romania. I flew in last night via Qatar. I didn't get to see much but it was really interesting to see the Persian Gulf, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq from the air.  Today I pick up some friends at the airport and we drive to Busteni for the next comp.

Saturday, 11 January 2014

IWC Korea Day 1

 Today was the start of the lead comp. I didn't place as well as I would have liked, but I'm pretty happy with how I climbed. For the 1st time in IWC I didn't fall off but rather ran out of time short of the top. I missed semis by a couple of moves. As long as I can keep progressing from here its not a terrible starting point for the season.

Photo by: Eimir McSwiggan

Speed climbing is in the morning. Prelims start around the same time as today but will move a lot faster. Should be done in about an hour. I should be climbing near the middle/end.

Friday, 10 January 2014

The first competition is tomorrow (Sat.) I'm in group A and climb #21 of 28 in my group, I'm Bib #1

Comp will be live streamed.

Qualifications are between 7&11 PM EST, I'll probably be climbing between 10-11pm EST.

Korea continuted

Day 2 (Wed.) of Korea I had plans to meet up with my teammate Gord McArthur to do some training. The gym we went to was is a small bouldering gym run by Korea's world champion Heeyong Park. Gord had made friends with Heeyong and had an open invitation to come to the gym and train. In the past showing up early to a venue to adjust to to time change and get rested was both good and bad. Good because you aren't completely jet lagged when you get to the comp but bad because you are often spending many days not climbing and losing fitness.  Thanks to the time that Marc Beverly and Gord have put in we are finally getting local connections to train with other athletes when in their countries.

The importance of networking with athletes around the globe is extremely important for us as N.Americans on multiple levels. We train largely by ourselves and would otherwise be working in a vacuum, getting in contact with other high end athletes helps us learn new things and expand our knowledge  of training and competing. 

Meeting up with Gord proved to be a little more difficult than I expected. He was staying in a different motel, close to Park's gym which was supposed to be about a 15 min walk.  The directions contained no street names, just references to buildings and businesses along the way. With no internet connection while away from my hotel I was on my own until I got to Gord's place. Over and hour later and circling the main city block 1.5 times I finally found where I was supposed to be. Fortunately we weren't on a tight schedule. Traveling in a foreign country where I'm illiterate is slowly teaching me to be a patient traveler.

We did a four hour session with several others form the Korean team. It was rather humbling watching Park climb. He is quite a bit shorter than me, but had no problem doing the big moves that I had to try really hard to make. We mostly worked on endurance training, but I also got to do some technique training in relation to practicing moves I sometimes struggle with. Having others there to critique and coach me was a big help.

Day 3 was a rest day. It was also the day were supposed to check in with the Korean Alpine Federation. Last year the meeting place was the Seoul Youth Hostle, which is very near the city centre. This year it was hotel just outside of the airport. This was convenient for athletes who showed up just before the comp., but so good for those of us who arrived ahead of time to adjust to the time change. Getting back to the airport was pretty straight forward but time consuming. I also found out that my hotel was between bus stops so it didn't matter what stop I would have taken on the way in.

Airport skating rink.

Back at the airport the KAF had people waiting to meet the athletes and direct them where to go to get to the hotel. Because the hotel is near the airport there is a serous lack of anything to do. The Incheon  airport is supposed to be one of the best in the world with all sorts of things to see and do, unfortunately most of that is on the other side of security.  After wandering around the airport I took the train to the first town outside of the airport. Its still on the same island as the airport, but there were more restaurants and stuff to look at making a good way to spend a couple hours.

Cook your own, Korean BBQ

Finding somewhere to eat dinner was my main interest. I like to try to go to traditional type restaurants rather than western style that have been copied or imported. The first place I went into was maybe a little too traditional. They had photos of the meals they made and the lady pointed a two that didn't look all that appealing and crossed her fingers in an X at the others. Then she pointed at the kitchen and the woman back there threw a little squirming minnow or eel on a plate and they both pointed at it and the menu board. Shortly after they both decided I probably shouldn't eat there and sent me on my way. Fortunately there was  Korean BBQ place just around the corner that was pretty good.

Today we rode 5 hours on a bus to Cheongsong where we check into the hotel, do our registration, and then go to the opening ceremony and athletes meeting. Tomorrow morning we will start the competitions. I plan on doing both lead/difficulty and speed climbing. The comp will be live streamed thru the UIAA website.

I am bib/jersey #1. The starting order will be randomized but has not been posted yet.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Over the last few weeks I've been busy with work, training and finishing up travel plans.  One of the things I'm happy to have finished is adding some logos to my jersey. Last year the way things worked out I wasn't able to get the logos printed in time before I started traveling. Thank you to Rankin Const., the Toronto section ACC, and all of the individuals who help fund my traveling so I can go to all of these competitions. Thank you most of all to my wife Rebecca who helps me with everything. I couldn't do this all on my own. 

Last year I really felt like I missed out on doing new routes with all my traveling. Thankfully winter came at a reasonable time this year and I have been able to get out before I started traveling.

photo: Maarten van Haeren

So far this winter I have managed to 4 new routes all of which are on the same wall just down stream from the Grotto Cave. They are very different from the cave routes because the after the steep starts the wall is gently overhanging instead of horizontal. I still haven't come up with names for them. They are all very technical and in the M8-M9+ range.

photo: Maarten van Haeren
Yesterday morning I woke up at 3AM to the sound of freezing rain pelting my roof. After laying in bed for 15 minutes not falling back to sleep I got out of bed and beat the 3:30 alarm. We were expecting freezing rain which would make for an interesting drive to the airport. Hauling my bags out to the car I was pleasantly surprised when I didn't fall flat on my back on icy pavement but stepped onto wet pavement instead.

The drive to the airport wasn't as bad as I anticipated. While the roads were slippery, there weren't any major back ups or slowdowns.  15+ hours of flying split between two flights and I was in Korea. Getting out of the airport went smoothly and I caught the correct bus to get to my hotel. Unfortunately I didn't get the correct stop. I thought I needed to get off at the last stop, but it was probably one of the earlier stops. With a little help from someone passing by on the street I was able to figure out where I actually needed to be and a quick subway ride had me back to where I needed to be.  After about 26 hours of traveling I finally got to my hotel.