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Ice World Cup Cortina - Dolomiti
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.
    In general there are far too many discrepancies. For example, the comp is supposed to be limited to 50 competitors, but in the Cortina Open there were 74, which means instead of climbing four boulders you only get to climb two.
    And then there is a rule that states that if you let go of the ice tool, it must fall from your hand. For many of the ice tools here, this does not happen. And it's not questioned!
    And what's more, every tool is supposed to be CE approved. As a result, the Russians can't use their tools, but Charlet Moser’s new Quark isn't CE approved either, but is used by some competitors. There are some big discrepancies. I wouldn't care if this was a small, local competition. But it is supposed to be the World Cup and so it's extremely frustrating.

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.
    I also feel that by staying and raising my voice the IWC may change the rules to better represent ice climbing. To date the IWC has been totally unresponsive to anything competitors have suggested that contradicts what they believe. The result is competitions without some of the best ice/mixed climbers in the world, such as Raphael Slawinski, Jack Roberts, Guy Lacelle and many others.

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 use d.

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…
    But I've come to Europe to do beautiful routes, like Robert Jasper's Flying Circus. I don't care if it's M10, M20 or M4: it's a beautiful route. I've come here to have fun, and I'm having a really good time everywhere I go.

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!
    When I put up new routes now, I want to make them so that people can enjoy themselves. That doesn't mean though that they are all bolts. Maybe they have to place some cams or nuts, but the gear is good. I love it when I go back and see many climbers on my routes – that's the best!

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.
    There are many discrepancies and I am openly vocal about them, but the fact is I'm still here competing, unlike many others who decided the comps were nonsense. I hope to improve the events, and everything I say should be interpreted with that in mind. Especially because I totally respect the effort that everyone is putting into these events.

Will Gadd has his own site with route information about Canada, comments and much more.

Will Gadd (english)
Daniel Dulac
François Lombard
Maurizio Gallo
Max Berger (english)

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