Top photo credit: Nate Mitka
Athletes from around the world traveled to Denver to climb in the heart of downtown. It was the first time the U.S. hosted the UIAA Ice Climbing World Championship.
Miles from the mountains, climbers swung ice tools amidst towering buildings, desperate not to fall from tiny holds. The UIAA Ice Climbing World Championship wrapped up this weekend, and the athletes put on a show.
Yannick Glatthard of Switzerland won the championship for lead climbing, Nikolai Kuzovlev of Russia won speed climbing, and Russia’s Maria Tolokonina won both speed and lead climbing.
The Championship marks the first U.S. championship in the 17-year history of the UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour. The ice climbing competition was organized in collaboration with the UIAA and the American Alpine Club.
US Hosts First UIAA Ice Climbing World Championship
More than 25,000 fans attended the event, held in downtown Denver’s Civic City Park. So not only was it America’s first, but this championship also marked the largest World Tour event in history.
Skyscrapers and the state capitol, just blocks from the competition, posed a sharp contrast to the mountainous competitions of years past.
Lead and speed climbing qualifications, semifinals, and finals provided entertainment for the whole weekend. Meanwhile, the winter Barbegazi Festival complemented the competition with fat-biking, axe throwing, and a snowball target range open to the public.
Ice Climbing Downtown: UIAA World Championship
Contrary to freezing images often conjured in conjunction with ice climbing, competitions typically involve plywood features and suspended blocks.
The finals route consisted of a 10-foot section of ice, followed by tiny artificial holds on plywood. Climbers kicked hard into the wood for purchase.
After the vertical section, the climbers flipped upside down and traversed a series of suspended wooden blocks. And this is where things got really interesting.
With figure-four leg locks and outstretched arms, the climbers navigated from clip to clip toward the top of the route.
The finals culminated in a dyno to the top. Judges scored athletes based on how many holds they reached, in addition to draws clipped. Of those athletes that reached the top, the fastest earned top honors.
Glatthard put on a show during his finals run — including two all-parts-off dynos executed with alarming accuracy.