Wednesday, 24 September 2014

A New Chapter

Wow!! Lots of stuff has been going on and happening over the last 6 months. Most notable is that I took the big leap of leaving full-time employment to climb full time. It was extremely scary but also extremely liberating to walk away from the security of a good job. In a bit of irony, I realized the morning of my last day of work that it was also the 15 year anniversary of when I broke my leg and ended my plans to go traveling. I feel like I'm finally picking up where I had left off.

Over the summer I have been doing some training for Ice Climbing World Cup. I'm currently trying to take a month off from the ice tools and training to just spend time rock climbing and have fun doing it. Something I have been losing sight of in the hectic life of full time work while trying to do high-end climbing. 

Over the summer we went to the Beaver Valley Climbers Festival and had a Team Canada "booth" set up to do some fundraising of the Ontario Access Coalition. It was a miniature version of what I have built in my back yard and with ice tools hung in place.

The big news for the up coming IWC season is that there will be a World Cup competition in North America! The competiotn at the Bozeman Ice Festival has officially made the final steps to becoming part of the IWC tour.

It should be an exiting addition to the circuit and hopefully this will generate more interest in competitive ice climbing in N.America. My wife Rebecca will be part of Team Canada and will be traveling with me to a few of the competitions to compete.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Ufa, Russia

The last competition of the 2014 season was in Ufa, Russia.  After the demonstration in Sochi I flew back to Moscow. There I met up with a few of my friends for two days of training before heading to Ufa. 

The visit to Moscow started out rather interestingly. My friend Lucie and I had flights that arrived around the same time so instead of taking the 1.5 hour trip by train to the subway plus walking another 15 minutes with our bags we decided to split the cost of a 45 min. taxi ride.  While waiting for Lucie, a guy approached me and asked if I need a taxi. After haggling over the price for way too long he finally offered the price that I was told by my friend to pay for a taxi. After Lucie arrived we found the driver who was waiting for us and we headed out of the airport. Instead of going to the curb where all the taxis were lined up he led us to the parking lot.  There he had his car, which wasn't a taxi at all. So fair enough, it was just a guy trying to make some money.  After getting into the car he spent what seemed like forever trying to look up the address I had for my friend Pavel in an old map book.  After he finally found it we left the airport. At the gate where you are supposed to pay, he crept up right behind the car ahead of us and when the gate went up for them he followed right behind with the gate coming down and hitting the back of the car as we sped away. The rest of the drive was like something you see out of a dashboard camera that you would see on the news about crazy Russian drivers, minus the car crashes. After a few wrong turns we finally got to somewhere that I recognized and was able to point out the rest of the way to Pavel's house. I was super happy to arrive okay because I was really starting to think we would end up dead in a ditch somewhere! In talking with some Russian friends I found out that what we experienced was actually pretty common.

On Tuesday the four of us (Gord (CAN), Andy (UK), Lucie (CZ) and myself) went to the Moscow structure to climb. On the subway we met a woman who was also headed there and shortly after that we ran into another Russian friend of ours who was meeting up with her to climb. The structure was added onto this summer so there was no problem for the six of us to all climb there at the same time.

After taking the Metro its about 15 minutes of walking to get to the structure.

The centre/brown section is the old section and the wings off the sides are new.

Moscow training structure.
In the evening the Russian Team doctor who we had met in Sochi took us out for a night tour of Moscow. It was kinda neat because I had never seen downtown Moscow at night.  He was also able to drive us around which was nice. I had done a lot of walking in the previous two weeks.

On Wednesday we went to a small bouldering gym which was less that a five minute walk away from Pavel's building. It was rather small, but was still a good training session.

On Thursday we flew to Ufa with the competition starting on Friday.  The weekend started out really rough for me. On Wed. my dad had passed away from his battle with cancer and then after arriving in Ufa I received an email from my mom informing me that my grandmother on her side had also just passed away on Thursday….

Friday was pretty tough, but I still managed to climb really well. The competition was a Bouldering format, which means we climb several short routes rather than one long route and we could use as many attempts as the 5 minutes per route time limit would allow.

There were five routes and we would have 5 minutes between each to rest and change ropes. In preliminaries I was able to climb 4 of the 5 routes on my first attempt.  I fell off near the top of the 4th route but didn't have enough time to try it again. I ended up in 13th place heading into the semifinals.

Second preliminary route.

Fourth preliminary route. With this move you swung to the other wall. 
Grabbing the opposite wall.

Fifth prelim route. It climbed up the wall to the left then down the wood panel before getting to the ice. It was novel to actually climb ice in a competition.

Semifinals had the same format, but the routes were a bit harder. I would have liked to have climbed better, but it was still a good learning experience for me. The first route had a very difficult move off the third hold that I was not able to figure out. For each attempt we had to start climbing on the starting hold, so rather than waste a lot of energy by climbing out to and trying to figure out a move I may or may no be able to do I took the rest of my allotted climbing time to rest for the next route.
Photo: Oleg Chegodaev

Winding up for the first move of the first route in Men's Semifinal. Photo: Oleg Chegodaev  

Releasing the following tool to complete the first move. Photo: Oleg Chegodaev

The second route had what looked like a few possible options to climb the bottom. I tried what I thought was the best way a couple times with no success. I tried it another way which didn't seem right at all and then went back to trying the move the way I had originally thought, but with using a figure-4, putting my leg over my arm to help reach higher. I was able to do the move and climbed the rest of the route without too much problem until the time ran out several moves short of the top.
Starting the second route in semis.

Past the start and onto more straight forward climbing. We swung our picks into the block of wood here.

On the third route I was able to climb the bottom section first try. I was able to climb almost to the top, but ran out of time because I had to think about how to do a few moves while climbing and also need to rest my arms a little to keep from falling off.
Climbing the third semis route.

The forth route I had a lot of trouble with. The way that I thought I should do the first move was not the way to do it, but I kept getting really close and wasted a lot of time and energy continuing to try it the same way. Without much time left and no energy I tried it a different way and made some progress,  but not enough to score any points.
Working on the 1st move of the 4th semis route.

The 5th route I figured out how to do correctly, but couldn't because I was having a problem with my boot and couldn't push with my foot hard enough to reach the next hold. The metal bar which is supposed to stiffen the sole kept popping out of place and while I was able to pop it back in, it was too bent to offer much foot support.

I ultimately ended up coming in 17th for the semifinal. While I was able to do pretty well on two of the routes, I needed to climb higher on one more route to get enough points to finish better. For the season I finished in 27th place, which is up 37 places from my ranking last year. The way the overal scoring works is they take the points from 5 competitions and add them together to get the final ranking. Because I didn't place high enough in Korea I didn't get any points for that comp and because I skipped two more comps and Italy was cancelled I wasn't able to accumulate points there either so I finished with a total from only two clomps. Hopefully I'll be able to find the money to compete again next year. I think I can still do a a lot better.

Thank you to the Toronto Section of the ACC and Rankin Construction for sponsoring me. Thank you to my family and friends for supporting me with donations and/or helping me along the way. Thank you most to my wife Rebecca who stays home and funds the large remaining portion of expenses not covered by sponsorship and donations while she lets me run around the world.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Olympic Ice Climbing Demonstration

I was one of three Canadians invited to participate in the Ice Climbing Demonstration that was held in Olympic Park over the last two weeks.  The idea behind the demonstration is to make competitive ice climbing a winter Olympic event. Overall the event went very well and competitive ice climbing was introduced to thousands of people. Many of them were also able to try ice climbing for themselves. I was invited for the second week of the Olympics ad spent 10 days climbing and helping intorduce visitors to the sport.

Sochi airport.

The climate is very mild, but we were still able to have a wall with real ice.

Walking thru the park on our way to the climbing site.
The ice tower is on the right, and a difficulty wall was built on the left.
Olympic spectators trying out ice climbing for themselves.
Climbing on the difficulty wall.
After the initial panels the wall consisted of wooden boxes hung from the canopy.
I claimed this box for Canada.
In the evening we could climb under the lights and the ice tower had a video light show projected on it.

Besides climbing, one of the things I was able to do while I was there was attend the Women's Gold Medal Hockey Game. I was extremely fortunate to have someone give me tickets because I was Canadian. I never watch hockey, but it was still really amazing ti be there and to cheer for Canada.

Click here for a news story about the event that ran across Canada last week. 

Wednesday, 12 February 2014


Thanks to the  helpful people at the bar we found WiFi at I was able borrow a phone and call the airline to change my flight to Russia to depart form Prague instead of Munich. This gave me an extra day and a half because I wouldn't need to take a bus back to Munich and stay overnight before catching my flight.

On Saturday afternoon after climbing in Poland we drove to the Slovakian side of the Tatras. We were planning to hike up into the mountains that evening and then stay over in the hotel that is just down the valley from where we would be climbing on Sunday. Unfortunately there weren't any rooms available so we hiked up Sunday morning for the day. The hike took just over two hours on the way up.

The trail starts in town.

Getting near the tree line.
There is a small cliff with a number of dry tooling routes. Unfortunately it had been very warm and all of the ice had fallen of the top of the cliff, but we could still climb the lower drytooling portions of the routes.  The rock was granite, and the style of climbing was a bit scrappy with some loose rock and hard to find and use holds.

Almost to the cliff. The hotel we were hoping to stay at is in the upper right.
The climbing was kinda slow because of the scrappy nature and coupled with the fact that we got a late start we only had time to climb two routes. The second route turned out to be a lot of fun.

Photo: Libor Hroza
Photo: Libor Hroza

Photo: Libor Hroza

Photo: Libor Hroza

Photo: Libor Hroza

Photo: Libor Hroza

Photo: Libor Hroza
Photo: Libor Hroza

On Monday we had planned to go back up to the same area and climb a big ice flow just for fun. But over night we got a decent amount of wet snow which would have been an even greater amount higher up leading to concerns of avalanche hazard so we decided to start driving back to Prague and check out a different ice area along the way.
One of the old castles along the drive back to Prague.
The cliff is about 35m tall. Water lines have been run to the top of the cliff to make the ice. Its a popular after work place and they have lights set up so people can climb after dark. Its all easy climbing but it was nice to stretch out and fun to climb some ice.