Speed Climber Kendra Stritch makes history by becoming first American UIAA World Cup winner

Kendra Stritch made history by becoming the first American to win a stage of the UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour (Photo: UIAA)

Unseasonably warm weather meant there was no ice on the Speed wall at the UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour stop in Bozeman.

But that didn’t stop the crowds that gathered at the Emerson Cultural Centre in downtown Bozeman, from cheering on a thrilling evening Speed final won for the Men by Nikolai Kuzovlov of Russia and Kendra Stritch of the U.S.A. for the Women.
Stritch’s victory made history because she is 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.

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.

It was also celebrated because the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup was being held in North America for the first time in Bozeman.

Kuzovlov’s victory came after an evening of victories that resulted in a series of crushing runs under six seconds with the final two runs being a 5.17 second and 5.43 run  for a combined score of 10.6 seconds. He beat fellow Russian Egor Trapeznikov in the finals.

What a contrast the competition was from last year with minus 25 degrees Celsius temperatures replaced by balmy weather that resulted in spectators watching the Lead Qualifications during the day in shorts, t-shirts and flip flops.

Before the Speed finals, which lasted well into the night, event organizer Joe Josephson, the man who brought the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup to Bozeman welcomed climbers from around the world. 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 Cup.”

The competition continues on Saturday, 13 December 2014 with the Lead (Difficulty) competition and the finals.  Please click here for the schedule.

For schedule, live results and live streaming please visit www.iceclimbingworldcup.org or follow live updates during the competition on twitter @uiaaiceclimbing