Nikolai Kuzovlov surveys the Bozeman crowd on the way down (Photo: Max Lowe for UIAA)
Bozeman is a mountain town that loves ice climbing and residents showed what that means when they came out in droves to witness the first UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour competition in North America.
Close to a thousand people 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 Saturday night, the crowd cheered as Liudmila Badalyan and Maxim Tomilov were crowed Women and Men’s Lead champions of the first stage of the 2015 UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour.
“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.”
The day at the Emerson Cultural Centre began cold but with bright sunshine.
By mid-afternoon, however, the weather turned first to rain and then to wet, slushy snow making conditions difficult for the climbers.
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.
The finals were a whole different matter.
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.
One after another, 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, Nikolai Kuzovlov was the first to solve the under the barrel hold problem.
Others who solved it included 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.
It looked like the final climber Nikolai Kuzovlov, fresh from his victory at the Speed final on Friday, would give Tomilov competition, but he moved fast and maybe too quickly – resulting in an early fall.
The winner was Maxim Tomilov, in second place was Park Hee Yong but the biggest cheer of the night went to Sergey Tarasov, at 48 years, the oldest climber in the competition who came in third.
The next phase of the UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour takes place in Cheongsong, Korea (10-11 January 2015).