Wednesday, 21 January 2015

France to Saas Fee

I've spent the last week since Korea in Europe. The first few days in Europe I was climbing in France at a cave called L'Usine. It has one of the biggest collection of difficult dry tooling routes in the world. The cave is massive! I was here two years ago but didn't get to spent much time. On this trip I got to finish off the route "SAT" which could be one of the most difficult D8's anywhere. Originally rated D10, it was downgraded as harder routes were climbed and people became more fit. I was happy to climb it my first try this time. I'm happy to have also climbed two D10's and a D11 (L'Usine the namesake of the cliff) first try.

Over the weekend we went to Saas Fee Switzerland for the Youth World Championship. I didn't climb, but watched two young Canadians compete against others their age. After the youth competition we went back to France for two days. The plan was to climb at Usine again but I came down with the flu and was way to sick to go climbing. I have been trying to recover as quickly as possible because we are now back in Saas Fee for the World Cup which starts Friday.

In Saas Fee

The view out of my hotel window.
Castles along the highway on the way to Saas Fee.

Somewhere along the south shore of Lake Geneva.

Evian-les-Bains, France

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Signing up for disappointment.

The competition in Cheongson Korea is over. Two years ago this venue was my first Ice Climbing World Cup competition. This was after winning at Ouray the year before and I had big expectations for the world cup, having never done it before. I fell off halfway up the wall and came in 29th. Needless to say I was extremely disappointed. My friend Marc told me something I take with me now to every competition, "You signed up for disappointment."  For me its more of a life lesson, things don't go your way and you can either quit or pick yourself up and move on. Lately I have been pretty satisfied with my failures, up until this last competition.

In the past I had always taken the bus from Seoul to Cheongsong, but this year I rode with friends and got to Cheongsong a bit early and got to look around a little before all the competition stuff started.

Once again the men were split into two groups with each group climbing on either the left or right side of the wall for the preliminary round.  We were given 5 minutes to climb the route. Last year was the first time that I didn't fall off the route and finished by timing out. This year I timed out again, but climbed three holds from the top, which was more than enough to get into semifinals. 

Things were looking good for the semi final. I went into that round ranked fifth in my group. I climbed 11th out of 19, which put me in the middle of the semifinal pack overall. I was hoping to finish semis somewhere in the middle and maybe be close to finals. Things didn't work out that way. At the top of the beginning section of ice I hooked a hole that seemed okay and probably would have been, had my foot not ripped thru the ice as I was reaching for the first drytool hold. When my foot slipped the pick of my ice axe took more weight and it ripped thru the crappy ice. Ending my climb in the semifinal before it really even began. There were a lot of big upsets in Cheongsong this year. Some competitors that normally make finals didn't even make semis and some that have won World Cup didn't make finals. The penalty for mistakes was quite high and a minor slip or bad judgement often meant you were flying thru the air, your attempt finished.

Moving on to the next one…… I'm in Europe now and the next competition is in Saas Fee, Switzerland.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Back in Korea!

I'm back in Korea for the second competition in the 2015 Ice Climbing World Cup tour. The travel to Korea always flips me upside down. They are 14 hours ahead of my home timezone. The travel time is quite long and it makes for a long day. I woke up at 3:30 AM at home and didn't reach Seoul until around 4pm local time. Then it was another few hours before we could get to bed.

Ample leg room for an 11 hour flight.

Baggage claim in Seoul.

We arrived two days before we need to be here, We have spent the time getting accustomed to the time change. We spent a little bit of time training and a lot of time trying to get caught up on sleep, which could have went better.
Everyone else seemed repulsed by whatever this was, I didn't think it was so bad.
Korean BBQ

Today we drive to Cheongsong. Tomorrow morning we will be competing.

So many bags!

I am still way short of my fundraising goals for this year. I'm excited to finally have our third batch of Team Canada hats finished. as well as the simple acrylic hats we have been getting made up, I got some hats from Rab stitched up as well. They have a built in fleece headband for extra warmth. Those and other Team Canada items are available for a donation here:

Monday, 29 December 2014

Bozeman IWC

The Ice Climbing World Cup at the Bozeman Ice Festival was pretty exciting. I made semi finals again no problem by climbing both preliminary routes to the top. There were two routes, Routes A an B and everyone got to try climbing both. Both routes were very straight forward on good holds with reasonably sized moves. Getting to the top was more a matter of hanging on and climbing efficiently. Route A was on a shorter wall and had slightly more technical and powerful moves. Route B was taller and climbed out onto the boom and the "Montana Cowbell", a box hanging from the boom. Prelims were open format, meaning there was a forerunner who climbed the route for demonstration, and competitors were free to watch others as they climbed. This format is a lot of fun because you don't need to sit in isolation for hours and hours, and you can watch your friends climb.
We have the technology! Neil with the Dremel for sharpening our picks.
Topping out the A route in the preliminary.

Route B

Semi finals were on the second day. The format was with isolation so we couldn't see ho others climbed the route and we were only allowed seven minutes to preview the route. After the preview, I was a bit nervous. From the ground it looked very difficult. The holds looked very technical, and the moves looked huge!! The semi finals route went a little better than I thought it would, but not as well as I would have liked or could have done.

Starting up the Semi Final route

Because the wall was so short, the holds were made to be very difficult to use. My ice tool slid off the first hold as I took it, but I caught myself and it held better the second time. After the first couple short moves it was mostly big moves on highly technical holds, requiring a lot of precision coupled with strength.

Getting ready for the first difficult move.
Aiming for one of three shallow divots in a small metal plate embedded in the plastic hold.
I fell off almost halfway up the route. There was a long move off a very bad hold and while I read the move the correct way at first I didn't get the push I needed to get the far away hold. I changed tactics and tried the move in a more dynamic manor and my pick skated off the hold I was leaving just before the leading pick caught the hold I was going for.
Another big move off a terrible hold.

Leaving a "good" hold for another skatey metal plate hold.

Getting near my high point. The next move was to the grey hold on the left side.

I finished 2nd in the North American Championship and 11th overall for the IWC competition. This has been my best finish yet and I feel like I'm still making progress.   I'm excited for the folloowing five competitions. The next is in two weeks at Cheongsong Korea.

Top N.Americans L to R: Ryan Vachon 3rd, Gordon McArthur 1st, Nathan Kutcher 2nd

I'm super proud of my Team Ontario who represented all of Eastern Canada. They have worked really hard and made big improvements since I started working with them. All are all hoping to do at least one more IWC competition somewhere else around the world this winter.
Neil Gowan, Nathan, Rebecca Lewis, Stephanie Mahallati

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Its been a busy past few weeks. After getting back from out west we made a quick trip to St. Alban, Quebec. Last year I climbed the three hardest routes on the first afternoon we were there and I thought it would be great to add another harder route to the area. After contacting a few people I had permission to equip a new line at the cliff. On the Saturday morning of our visit I bolted my new route and then climbed it later in the afternoon. I named it "First Blood" and its a little harder than the other routes at the cliff.

Rebecca climbing at St.Alban.
First Blood


 We have been in Bozeman for the last week. I was hoping to finish off a couple routes at the Bingo Cave, but the warm temperatures made it very difficult. The rock for almost all the routes needs to be frozen together making them unclimbable. Fortunately I was able to climb one of the routes I wanted to do. Northwest Passage is one of the more difficult routes in Hyalite Canyon and I'm excited to have been able to do it my first try.

Tomorrow (Fri 12th) the Bozeman World Cup competition starts. It will be live steamed at