Bozeman cheers as UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour presented by the North Face debuts in North America

20 Dec, 2014


Nikolay Kuzovlov on his way down after a blistering demonstration of UIAA Speed climbing (Photo: Max Lowe for UIAA)


Bozeman is a mountain town where residents love to ice climb in nearby Hyalite Canyon, and they showed up in droves to watch the first UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour presented by The North Face in North America.

Close to a thousand people, some waving Montana cow bells, jammed the grounds of the Emerson Cultural Centre in downtown Bozeman 12-13 December to witness world class UIAA climbers like Maxim Tomilov, Park Hee Yong, Angelika Rainer, WoonSeon Shin, Lidumila Badalyan and Petra Klinger for the first time.

Under gently falling wet snow on the night of the Lead finals, after an unseasonably warm Friday, the crowd cheered as Liudmila Badalyan and Maxim Tomilov were crowed Women and Men’s Lead champions of the first stage of the world tour.

The night before U.S. climber Kendra Stritch made history when she became the first North American to win a stage of the UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour. And she did it in grand style in front of an appreciative crowd by beating out Nadezhda Gallyamova (Russia) with a 7.8 second run and a 8.2 second run for a combined score of 16.4 seconds.

A victorious Kendra Stritch celebrates her Speed victory (Photo: UIAA)

Previously in 2000, Kim Csizmazia a dual American-Canadian citizen and American Will Gadd won the overall World Cup title but that was before the competition was a UIAA sanctioned event. Although that competition had similar rules and multiple venues, it was run by a private company Hohenwerkstatt.

The Men’s Speed final was won decisively by Nikolay Kuzovlov.

"I consider all of you family and we are honoured that you are here,” said Joe Josephson, the man who brought the UIAA to North America. "The town has adopted all these competitors and we can’t wait to see them back.”

Helping him was famed American climber Conrad Anker who was the Competition Director and wore multiple hats, coordinating a dedicated and enthusiastic team of volunteers to make the event a huge success.

One of the big challenges facing organizers was the absence of ice on the Speed wall because of unseasonably warm weather that resulted in spectators watching the Lead Qualifications in shorts, t-shirts and flip flops.

It was a dramatic contrast from the competition last year, when minus 25 degrees Celsius temperatures marked the event.

Still organizers were able to build a Speed wall, which saw fierce competition and drew gasps from the audience as Kuzovlov speed up the wall.

The final day of competition began under bright sunshine. By mid-afternoon, however, the weather turned first to rain and then to wet, slushy snow making conditions difficult for the climbers.

As the weather took a turn for the worse, a cause for celebration among locals who have been dreaming of snow and cold, and wanting it, things didn’t go well for the athletes.

During the semi-finals only Angelika Rainer, Liudmila Badalyan and Petra Klinger were able to top the route with time to spare on the routes, which were designed by Russian climber Pavel Dobrinsky.

In the finals, first HanNaRai Song, then WoonSeon Shin and Petra Klinger fell at critical points, with plenty of time to spare. They were climbing strong and were in a position to top.

That left the two lead climbers, Liudmila Badalyan and Angelika Rainer, to deliver a top for a crowd hungry to see someone conquer the Montana Cow Bell and place the two picks on the final hold.

When Badalyan fell, all eyes turned on Rainer, who competed in last year’s championships in Bozeman and won, before Bozeman became a UIAA World Cup venue, and is popular here.

Rainer was the last climber, and when she reached for the Cow Bell she too fell.

That’s when Badalyan, who had the most number of clips, was declared the new Lead champion of Bozeman.

Dobrinksy had a special challenge for climbers in the Men’s semi-finals when he placed a hold under the swinging Montana Cow Bell, a challenge that drew gasps from audience.

Fresh from his stunning dash to win the Speed championships last night, Nikolay Kuzovlov was the first to solve the under the barrel hold problem.

Others who solved it included fellow Russian toppers Maxim Tomilov, brother Alexey and Ukrainian star Valentyn Sypavin.

During the finals, which didn’t see a top for the first time in a while, Dobrinsky had even more difficult challenges for the climbers.

Still the crowd cheered as Maxim Tomilov and Park Hee Yong managed to reach the swinging box.

When Kuzovlov, fresh from his victory at the Speed final on Friday, fell, after he moved too fast and quick, Maxim Tomilov was declared winner with Park Hee Yong in second place.

The biggest cheer of the night, however, went to Tarasov, at 48 years, the oldest climber in the competition who came in third.

Before the Speed finals on Friday, event organizer Joe Josephson welcomed climbers from around the world at an opening ceremony.  He asked the crowd to give athletes who had come from far and wide a grand Bozeman welcome.

Also greeting the UIAA athletes were a band of native American singers called the Bear Canyon Singers whose leader said: "It is an honour to sing for the champions who are gathered here.”

The Bozeman Ice Festival, which the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup raises funds for the Friends of Hyalite. The group helps keep open a route into nearby Hyalite Canyon, considered one of the premier ice climbing destinations in the U.S.A.

There are over 200 ice climbing routes in the canyon, and during the festival, hundreds of visitors from across North America and the world attend to take part in ice climbing clinics.

Without a plowed road in the winter, climbing, skiing and outdoor enthusiasts have to walk or ski about 20 kilometres in from the road head.

Josephson said he was thrilled with the first day of competition and how it all worked out despite the lack of ice due to the warm weather.

"I can’t believe all these months of planning and it came off,” said Josephson. "The amount of people working behind the scenes is phenomenal and it’s amazing how much the community has come to embrace the UIAA Ice Climbing World.”

The next phase of the UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour presented by The North Face takes place in Cheongsong, Korea (10-11 January 2015).