Yannick Glatthard of Switzerland is only 17-years-old but climbing like he’s aged 30 (Photo: Photo by Philippe Mooser for UIAA)
Veterans Maxim Tomilov (Russia) and Angelika Rainer (Italy) put on show of power and skill, while wowing the crowd, to win the Men and Women’s Lead competition in the Saas Fee stop of the 2015 UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour.
The day and the night, however, belonged to a group of young climbers like Yannick Glatthard of Switzerland, Petra Klingler, also from Switzerland and HanNaRai Song of Korea who showed that an explosion of raw and young talent is emerging on the tour.
The sight of Glatthard, only 17-years-old, almost gleefully and literally flying through the semi-finals at top speed, defeating challenges that bedeviled more experienced tour veterans was something to behold.
Just last week, Glatthard won the UIAA World Youth Ice Climbing Championships, and here he was competing and besting athletes much stronger and older than him.
And that too on a route that most agreed has been one of the most super technical to date, with holds that were dicey, tricky and meant to confound.
Glatthard went into the finals ranked second, showing the same speed and confidence but fell early.
Song and Klingler, both 22 years and who came second and third respectively among the women, showed that grace, power, confidence and youth can go together.
Yes, Rainer won but it was close. Super close.
Rainer won with 19.222 points, but barely beat Song (Korea) who had 18.221 points. Klingler was third with 18.220. That’s 1.002 points separating 1st and 3rd.
Their performances and those of many others moved commentators Mark Beverly (U.S.A) and Gord McArthur (Canada), both seasoned competitors themselves, to talk about a “changing of the guard.”
As McArthur put it, previous competitions could be predictable but with young climbers, from many different countries, emerging, the competitions are more unpredictable and exciting.
“The game has changed,” said McArthur.
Such change doesn’t happen easily but is the result of the work many federations including the French Alpine Club (FFCAM), the Swiss Alpine Club and the British Mountaineering Council have been putting into the development of young competitive ice climbers.
Other national federations in the U.S.A. and Canada have also started developing youth programs.
The most moving moment of the day was when Alexey Dengin, a Russian climber, realized, up there, that he would stand on the podium for the first time because only two climbers remained. He raised his hands in the air and yelled with joy as he was lowered to the ground. Dengin came second.
The heartbreak moment came when WoonSeon Shin realized that she had been disqualified for an illegal hold and would not participate in the finals. Coming at the heels of a disappointing fall in front of a home country audience in Cheongsong, Korea, this would have hurt.