Inauguration of Asian Rock Climbing Festival

Featured, Rock Climbing

The UIAA recently supported the first edition of the Asian Traditional Rock Climbing Festival. Held near Almaty, the event was organised by UIAA member association the Mountaineering and Sport Climbing Federation of the Republic of Kazakhstan (MSCFRK), partnered by the Union of Asian Alpine Associations (UAAA), the continental body for Asia and recognised by the UIAA. The driving force behind the event’s creation was Kazbek Valiyev, vice President of the MSCFRK.

Support for the event, primarily on a communication and an expertise level (provided by specific UIAA Commissions), is set to mark a renewed commitment by the UIAA to promote rock climbing festivals worldwide. Previously the UIAA granted an annual Rock Climbing Festival Award, which ran from 2015 to 2019. The Award worked on a continental rotation and from a shortlist of festivals, the one which meant specific criteria related to promoting rock climbing to a wide demographic, preservation of the environment and contributing to economic development, was named as the winner.

The inaugural Asian Traditional Rock Climbing Festival took place from 25-30 August on the impressive granite rock faces of the Alatau mountain range (at an elevation of 2350-2600m), some 25km from the city of Almaty. Climbers attacked up to nine different routes, most typically with around 15 multi-pitches and from heights ranging from 60-230m. Routes were assigned on a lottery basis. Ten teams of climbers competed and represented the host nation, Iran, Korea and Japan. Scoring was based on the average performance over completion of at least five of the eight routes. Ahead of the competition climbers could study the routes but were not permitted to climb them.

The festival commenced with a grand inauguration ceremony presided over by Dr Injong Lee, President of UAAA and UIAA Honorary Member, in the presence of notable figures such as Valiyev Kazbek, Chief Judge and Vice President of MSCFRK; Hank Hwang, President of CTMA; Christine Pae, UAAA General Secretary; and Amit Chowdhury, Vice President of UIAA.

Following four days of climbing, the organizers, the UIAA and the UAAA established a number of recommendations for future editions of the festival and indeed for other similar festivals. These included:

  • Measures to address the home team advantage, such as the implementation of a handicap system or ensuring adequate practice time for all participants, should be explored.
  • The number of routes and days may require adjustments to offer equitable opportunities to all participants. The cancellation of the second day due to unforeseen circumstances disadvantaged some teams, impacting their ability to improve their scores.
  • Accommodation arrangements for climbers, located in dormitories in close proximity to the climbing area, were excellent, including board and lodging facilities.
  • The enthusiasm and encouragement received from the social media posts and the feedback from participating climbers leads signifies that at an event with worldwide participation would be extremely successful.
  • The event itself is visually very appealing and exciting. Eventually using technology, live streaming and commentary it has the potential of drawing huge viewership, at the venue and online.

Further details on the UIAA’s global promotion of rock climbing festivals will be communicated in due course.

Images from the event can be found here.