As the most recent UIAA Ice Climbing season confirmed, Canadian Noah Beek is one of the emerging talents in the world of ice climbing. The 20-year old competed in all rounds of the 2017 season – including the UIAA Ice Climbing World Youth Championships. Beek finished the World Tour ninth overall in the lead discipline, best placing with a fourth position in Beijing, before claiming a silver medal in the Youth Worlds. Impressive figures for a climber relatively new to the competition environment.
Beek is encouraged by how this most recent season played out. “At the beginning of the year I set a goal to make the semi-finals in every World Cup, so to say the least I am more than happy with how I did this season. Before going into competition it was hard to know whether I had improved from last year. Then making finals in the first two World Cup competitions was definitely a surprise and a real confidence boost.”
The UIAA ice climbing season is challenging. The World Tour itself comprised five events on three continents over a six-week period. This was followed by the biennial World Championships, the pinnacle event of the season. At the adult Worlds in Champagny-en-Vanoise, Beek finished in a credible 13th place before his silver medal performance in the Youth Worlds at the same venue, a season highlight. “There were so many amazing moments for me this year but winning silver at the World Youth Championships was the one that stood out the most,” explains the resident of Cranbrook, British Colombia. “It meant a lot to me to stand on the podium and share the moment with my good friend, Yannick Glatthard.” The dynamic Swiss climber is another one of the exciting young talents emerging in competitive ice climbing.
Fatigue, travel, recuperation are all challenges for the ice climbers during the season and Beek identifies another significant obstacle. “With this sport you have to adjust your technique as the routes vary with every competition. I found this difficult and challenging at times.” And with routes only announced to lead climbers shortly before each climb, dexterous thinking and strategy are foremost. It is here that the correct mental approach is also important. “There is a lot of pressure in competing which can cause you to second guess yourself. I had to have faith in my training that I knew what to do in any given situation. This year, I focused on believing in myself and just letting go.”
Video: Noah Beek demonstrates some of the core ice climbing techniques
Recovering, and learning, from adversity is often as important as what an athlete can draw from a success. Ice climbing can equally be cruel. One slip, one technical error or loss of concentration and a competition is over. Take Cheongsong in Beek’s case. “The most challenging moment of this past season was during the semi-finals in South Korea when I fell before making the first clip. It was difficult to accept that in that instant I knew my competition was finished. It was a tough learning experience for me.” Beek has also drawn advice from another Cranbrook resident. Gord McArthur is one of the most experienced athletes on the World Tour. “Gord is a good friend and coach and it was he who first introduce me to ice climbing. We live in a small city so it was easy for our paths to have crossed in the climbing community. I was very fortunate for Gord to have taken me under his wing and mentor me the way he has.”
The most recent UIAA ice climbing season proved hugely successful. A more sophisticated video production plan including livestreaming from all events and extensive highlight packages opened the sport to a wider audience, with over three million views of content. This progress has also been appreciated by the athletes. “It was amazing to have such an awesome livestream this year. Knowing that there were people back home watching and cheering me on was really nice. It also gave people a better understanding and appreciation of the sport. The live stream that UIAA put so much into this year has garnered a whole new fan base for this sport.”
Ice climbing is a unique sport in that during the season, athletes from different countries travel together and in some cases share accommodation. There’s a tangible sense of community and camaraderie. It is one of the sport’s big draws, as Beek explains: “Through my involvement in competitive ice climbing, I have met people from many different countries and made some truly amazing friendships. It did not take long to feel welcomed into this family of people who have a common love for this sport. Even though we are competing, we are all encouraging and supportive of each other. We only want to see our fellow competitor do their best.”
Ensuring competitors are provided with first-class climbing facilities but can also immerse themselves in the culture of each location is a priority for both the UIAA and the individual event organisers. “The success of an event cannot be based solely on the competition itself but also on the cultural experience it offers,” adds Beek. “That is why I enjoyed the competition in Beijing the most. Experiencing a different country and culture was a highlight and unforgettable.”
Beek is now taking a well deserved break from ice climbing but come June will commence strength training and from July will refamilirise himself with his ice tools. The target will be to regularly challenge the podium positions in the 2018 season.
The UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup is partnered by The North Face Korea.