Ice climbing draws attention in Sochi

Ice climbing had a unique and prominent presence at the Olympic Park during the recently concluded Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Part of the Ice Climbing Festival, it included a Speed wall and a Lead structure, built with the generous support of sponsor Sberbank, which saw thousands of visitors witness ice climbing and dry tooling for the first time.

More than 300 visitors lined up daily to climb the wall.

It was also an opportunity for a group of international and Russian climbers who participate in the annual UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup to showcase the sport, which they and the UIAA – International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation hope, one day will be included in the Winter Olympics.

The format was a dual lead route with two athletes climbing similar routes at the same time. The same was the case for the Speed wall. Two people competing against each, the first one to reach the top wins.

“Words can’t even describe how awesome it is to demonstrate a sport that we love in front of the Olympic world,” said Gord MacArthur, a Canadian climber participated at the festival. “Every day we climbed hard, we tried hard and we supported each other, athletes from the entire world.”

Ice Climbers in Sochi

Climbers at the Ice Climbing Festival in Sochi gather by the Olympic rings (Photo: Lukasz Warzecha for UIAA)

“We were doing what we do best, in front of the world,” said MacArthur. “Not only that, but we were doing it with the same passion you see on the sharp end of a competition, in the heat of the moment.  This experience will forever be remembered as the time that ice climbing truly became a common ground, no matter the language barrier or boundary between nationalities.”

The climbers who participated included Russian climbers such as Maxim, Tomilov, Alexey Tomilov, Ivan Spitsin and an international contingent which featured Nathan Kutcher (Canada), Jennifer Olson (U.K), Marc Beverly (U.S.A.), Markus Urbanowski (Germany), Olov Isaksson (Sweden), Zohren Abdollahkhani (Iran), Petra Klingler (Switzerland), Kevin Huser (Switzerland) and Ankhbold Dangaasuren (Mongolia). Also present at the venue was UIAA Ice Climbing Commission president Urs Stoecker.
All of them spent long hours on the wall being ambassadors of the sport they love while patiently answering questions from novices and media alike.

Frits Vrijlandt in Sochi

UIAA President Frits Vrijlandt on the wall in Sochi (Photo: Lukasz Warzecha for UIAA)

UIAA president Frits Virjlandt who took a crack at climbing the ice wall said it was a thrill to see ice climbing being demonstrated at Olympic Park and watch the crowds of visitors who enjoyed the spectacle.
“We have our own Olympic ambition,” said Frits Vrijlandt, adding any exposure of ice climbing to the world raises the profile of the sport. “What happened in Sochi can only be good for us.”
Media outlets from around the world were also on hand to cover the festival, with reporters giving the wall a try, including NBC reporter Blake Essig  who challenged Russian speedster Ivan Spitsin to a friendly Cold War style duel on the ice tower.

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 Other media coverage included this report by Canada’s CTV Network featuring MacArthur.
 Stoecker and Huser were featured in this Swiss report:
Vrijlandt was quoted on Dutch TV here: