This Winter we had one of the most intense competition seasons (apart from when Dennis won the Worldcup in Saas Fee three years ago).
So many ups and downs.
From a broken collarbone to a thrice broken car to a D13+ flash to no ice at all to being part of a soon to be iceclimbing movie.
Such an intense season comes with quite some stress.
And pressure on my mind does not make me climb well.
This year, despite all issues and all training, working, money making we also continued our quest. Make iceclimbing a respected sports, grow the audience, grow the enthusiasm, grow the community… Just make it real.
The UIAA slogan “We are Iceclimbing” is what we try to pay forward every day.
Our quest brought us a real drytooling wall at Olympos Sportscentre in the city Utrecht.
And with a real wall we needed a real competition.
The very first ever National Championships in Iceclimbing was suddenly a fact.
Normally we organise the Dutch Drytool Event. Routesetting, promotion, rules. Everything you need to do for a proper event.
And now suddenly we said no, if theres going to be a National Championship we want to compete too.
We refused to do the routesetting for each others route, we refused to be part of the whole organization for a change.
Of course there were qualifications beforehand. There we did take part in the organization there. We did the routesetting, gave a demo of the routes, explained to the competitors what was expected and how to actually climb such a route. From how to sharpen ice tools to the importance of clipping quick-draws.
We both were qualified through doing well on the Worldcup. A little strange to us, but as fair as it could get.
The NKBV (Dutch Climbing and Mountaineering Federation) together with Olympos Sportscentre now organized the event.
We gave advice beforehand, like where to get real ice barrels and how to make them, what grading the routes could be, safety issues, and many things about the judging and rules.
But then, from there it was in their hands. We even asked please, not to inform us on any development from now on (a month ago).
Basically it felt like we gave our baby away.
It was not in our hands anymore.
And that… made us very uncomfortable.
All ‘what-if’ scenario’s crossed our mind. What if they make an impossible route, what if everyone tops the route, what if there’s no audience, what if there are not enough competitors, what if it’s going to rain all day (it’s a very exposed outdoor wall), what if I get injured now, what if…
From last wednesday on we were not allowed to visit the wall anymore so the routesetters had their time to set the routes and make it a real on-sight competition (on-sight means no competitor has tried the route beforehand, and none of the competitors sees anyone climbing the route. Meaning you really have to invent your own way up the wall, not really knowing what the holds exactly will be like until you hold them with your axes)
Back to training on Monte Cervino and doing pull-ups at home.
A day before the comp another competitor got on national television climbing the women’s route. He could easily see all the holds of the men’s route in the best position possible: top down on the wall… But on television the view was all blurry, no advantage for us there.
We were furious! How could they! He now has such an advantage above all other 9 male competitors…!
The UIAA rules state that no competitor is allowed to see the route beforehand, is not allowed to watch from any other position then from the ground in an restricted time period. This just was a disqualification from our Worldcup perspective.
As young as the sports is, as little experience there is, the competitor didn’t get disqualified, he climbed his championship route.
The happening got us even more nervous, apparently they don’t know the rules (the rules can be downloaded for free from the UIAA website here)
And then there’s still this route itself…what’s it going to be like…? Impossible… Too possible…?
Saturday. Comp day.
It was an evening event, climbing in the dark. Making it look pretty spectacular. Also, having us wait at home all day.
We’re both not very good in doing ‘nothing’. And nervous as we were we just couldn’t sit still and relax. I kept on visiting the toilet.
Around 16:30 our friend Rick, the first-aid professional for the event picked us up. Together with Rick and Bas we drove to Utrecht.
First thing we did when we arrived: visit the toilet.
We greeted the organizers and went into the designated zone, isolation zone (place where all competitors sit together before they do their climb so you can’t see the route).
Not much later we both…visited the toilet.
The judge explained us the rules. To make it clear for ourselves we asked ‘obvious’ questions, just to be sure we were on the same line as the judges. So no second attempt when you fall, drop your axes means end of your attempt, fixed time, no axes stacking, no legs on axes and so on.
We had 8 minutes to climb the route and four minutes beforehand to preview the route.
The NKBV decided to have us qualified first, meaning we had to climb last.
Marianne had number one on her shirt. It didn’t help her much, it just only made the pressure higher.
Basically the only thing we could do was win. Or loose. There was no inbetween.
And that for our own audience. Our own people.
And a lot of people expected us to win, even more pressure there…
After warming up a bit, realizing the wood they hung up was rock solid, we went to the toilet again.
“[…] nog een keer” (and again) we heard. “Noooo!” we both screamed. Apparently the climber was allowed to climb again after he fell.
I went to the toilet again.
Time was ticking utterly slow.
Fedor, old national team member was just before us, the third last to climb.
It was a pity to climb as last, we missed the whole comp, had no idea what the others did.
Today I’m still curious to see images and video footage of the other climbers. Also to see how and where we altogether can improve the sports.
Marianne’s turn. Shoes tight, gloves tight, jacket off, axes sharp as razorblades. Ready. Just after she left I had to pee again.
I tied in and started. The first holds were flat, where sharp axes were quite a necessity. And then the wood, after just a few moves.
I swung in hard, not deep enough. Swung again. Not good enough. It took me a couple of swings before I trusted my axe enough, just 1,5cm in the wood, just enough for my bodyweight.
From the wood the route swirled on to the left and right again, crossing the men’s route. Undercling, hey, a Korean hold. I had no idea where the hole was in the Korean hold so I skipped it, going for the small pocket.
From the Russian hold at the top of the original wall I calmed a bit. I knew I had enough time to make it now. Just not make mistakes…
I waved at the audience, knowing I could do it. Just not make mistakes…
The roof. Undercling, figure of four to the next undercut hold. The moves weren’t long but the shaking and moving structure made me insecure. Just not make mistakes… I moved static, slowly, back into the security of figure-of-four moves whilst beforehand I’d made the plan to just monkey-swing the roof…
The final hold was on a wood barrel. Blue marked but invisible from where I hung.
A small hole in the barrel was tempting, but I was pretty sure it wouldn’t hold my weight. I turned the barrel with my axe and with just 30 seconds on the clock I could move my axe to the blue zone. A clip of the rope in the final quickdraw, one more axe in the zone… Fifteen seconds left on the clock…! I did it!
I made the top of the route. It was not an impossible route after all. Relieved routesetter Elwin van der Gragt made it an possible route.
All the stress, nervousness, excitement, pressure suddenly dropped. I felt free. Happy.
Dennis was the very last climber of the comp.
The audience cheered loud when he turned on to the wall.
Eight minutes and so many chances on making just little mistakes.
I’d never seen him so nervous on a comp before.
On his first moves he kicked hard in the wood, made big moves with his body, almost swinging on the rhythm of the music.
The wood in the men’s route turned out to be rock solid too.
On the worldcup they use real ice barrels with holes to hook in. Swinging is allowed, but that feels so different from wood!
Dennis had to work so hard to get his special carbon competition axes into the wood.
Halfway up the wall he took a hold sideways again. Sideways with his axe on the little knobble. Tricky, just moving slightly too far off the wall would make the axe skid off the hold…
It looked like he was sure this was the way, but suddenly changed his mind.
Later he told me he knew making the move like he was going to was not possible for the other competitors, he said he knew he was wrong taking this hold sideways. Still he managed to make the move. Static.
The big granite hold where most men came off or came off just before didn’t seem an issue for Dennis. He locked off and easily took a rest on the real stone hold.
Dennis is a master in not using figure-of-fours, he’s just made for the new ‘DTS’ style (where climbers try not to use the figure of four movement at all, no matter the grade or steepness of the wall).
But here he decided to go for security too. He did figure of fours.
Halfway in the roof he settled, rested. He looked tired, although I’m not sure if the audience saw that.
I screamed every half minute. “Three minutes” “One minute” “Fifty seconds”!
He went to the final barrel, did take the little hold after swinging in the wood didn’t work. Just reached the final blue zone with the other axe and struggled to clip…slipped with his hands off his tools!
Too tired to hold on any longer but by far the winner of the comp!
There we stood, we both did what everybody expected. We won the very very first ever Dutch national iceclimbing Championships!
Frits Vrijlandt (head of the UIAA, international Mountaineering Federation) and Robin Baks (head of the NKBV) handed us the awards. I felt so proud there on the stage :)
The men had a good battle for what we understood (we didn’t see anyone climb, so we have no idea on how they actually did in their attempts…) Ferdinand Schulte got a second place. Awkwardly enough there was a Belgian on the Dutch Championships, we won’t really understand why. This Belgian climber Jurgen Lis got a ‘kind of’ third place, but as he’s not Dutch the real third place was for Tom Philips. After Tom old national team member Fedor Broekhoven got his fourth place.
In the womens field Aniek Lith (who won the Dutch Drytool Event this year and also climbed the Worldcup in Saas Fee last year) became second, Line van den Berg third. Noel Diepens (who joined the Worldcup iceclimbing at Saas Fee last year) disappointed herself by reaching a fourth place together with Iverna and Corien. The two super enthusiastic Annetje and Sabine ended on a seventh and eighth place.
Today my mind feels free. Relieved.
Ready for the new season.
Alpine, skiing, rockclimbing and hopefully a better Worldcup season next year.
No broken collarbones, no forced tasks that lead us away from our training, a little more money, and still a million dreams to come true.
To all our friends and especially Friends of Verticallife: Thank you SO much for your support this Winter season!
Now let’s Spring :)
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