|Interview with Will Gadd, winner of the Ice Boulder Cortina, third leg of the Ice World Cup 2000
Apart from having made a name for yourself climbing hard routes on ice, you were also Canadian National Champion for sports climbing for a number of years. Does having this competition experience help you for these events?
Well, I think the thing that helps me most for these competitions is paragliding competitions.
Why is that?
Because the rules in paragliding competitions are very open to interpretation and so the competitions are sometimes difficult to understand. You see, in my opnion the rules for these IWC competitions are completely nuts. They are the craziest competitions I have ever competed in.
It is clear that the World Cup has been hotly debated ever since it came into existence last year. Can you comment on this?
In my opinion this is not a true World Cup. The name World Cup means that there is a certain level of organisation and professionalism there is very little of that involved in these events. I would like to say at this point that I believe the people are trying to do a good job in every competition and I completely respect them, but the main problem is not the people but the rules.
Can you be more specific?
For a start, one rule states that if you touch outside a line, you have to stop. But touching outside the line with your elbow when your raising your axe should be allowed. If, as is the case, you have many good climbers disqualified for touching the line, what do you win if you win this? I want every competitior here to do his best, not get stopped because his boot lace touches outside the line. For example, Bubu is a very good climber, but he placed his axe on the line in Pilztal and was disqualified. I don't think this is fair to Bubu or the other competitors as it lessens the whole competition.
Is it premature to start a World Cup?
No its not! That's the crazy thing. Good ice climbing competitions have existed for 4 years, in France, Russia, Canada and US. Just think of Courchevel, X Games, Festiglace.
So what is it that makes a good competition?
When you have a good set of rules that represent the sport well and allow the competitors to do their best. I've competed in a lot of different sports and there have always been rules that the competitors understand and work well with. I feel that the people working in these competitions are doing their best, but they need to be well-trained and more of them. As it is at the moment, good judging is very difficult indeed.
Is ice climbing particularly difficult to make rules for?
No. Competitions have gone really well for 4 years now. There is a set of rules, in fact several sets of rules, that work. Maybe they needed modifying a bit, but in my opinion these competitions have taken the rules and made them ridiculous.
If this is how strongly you feel, what is your motivation for competing in this World Cup?
I won't give them the satisfaction of me quitting.
So why did you come in the first place?
Because I expected a really good competition. I expected six X-Games, Courchevels etc in a row. I thought this would be the best series of competitions I've ever been to. And instead I feel like I'm in a Franz Kafka novel!
At the moment you are pushing standards both on ice and in competitions. Do you think ice climbing will follow the trend of sports climbing and split into two distinct activities?
It depends very much on the competition. Many of the best sports climbers are also the best climbers. Francois Lombard, Yuji Hirayama, Daniel Dulac and many others do really well on rock as well as winning comps. The same could be true in ice competitions if a different format were used.
Changing the subject slightly. There have been lots of really hard onsights recently, including M10. From an athletic point of view, are these at the threshold level, as 100m in under 10 seconds was?
Not at all. In terms of training required, a good M9 in sport climbing terms is about 7c. M9+ is about 7c+/8a. The only route I've done that was M10 felt about 8b. People are onsighting that grade on rock. It's possible on ice, but you know
There is a trend to make hard mixe routes safer. Is danger a motivational factor for you?
No. I've climbed a lot of really dangerous routes in the past, but now I've lost interest in them. I climb between 100-200 routes a year if I climb dangerous routes, I'm not going to live very long!
A final question. What do you think of this ice boulder formula?
In general I love it: Cortina has some of the coolest ice I have ever climbed, and this thanks to the route setters.But in a way it is frustrating, because it could be so much better if sensible rules were applied.