|Saas Fee's mixed overhangs
A new structure and surroundings
The fourth stage of the Ice World Cup was held on a radically different structure, both because of its construction and for its location. An overhanging granite wall was located indoors, within a 10-storey garage in Saas Fee, Switzerland, not far from the more famous Zermatt.
These two towns are completely pedestrianised, and visitors must park their cars before continuing either on foot or in one of the numerous electric 4x4 taxis. It's a strange concept initially, but one gets used to it quickly enough.
Being indoors meant that it was sheltered from the bad weather, but no daylight meant that it was a bit dark inside. After three days of artificial light, we were glad to see the sun and the world outside. But we'd come here for the competition, so there was no escape.
Two mixed lines on rock and ice had to be climbed on the first day. These really tested the athletes, for they clearly showed who had previous drytooling experience and who hadn't. As usual, the best 16 qualified for the Semi-finals.
The speed climbing competition was held that same evening. As in the other stages of the Ice World Cup, the uninhibited French climbers, led by the legendary Christoph Profit, competed in great style and almost nude. More information and photos can be seen on the IWC's official site, www.ice-time.com.
The Swiss Lorenzo Lanfranchi climbed the 20m wall in just 12.1 sec, ahead of the Englishman Tim Emmet and Italian Erik Svab.
Many climbers were bleary-eyed from partying the night before, but a strong coffee worked wonders. They competed on a pumpy 20m route: with its difficult footless start, rock section and overhanging finish on ice, it really separated the field. The best cruised where others flailed, and Mauro Bole even had the strength and showmanship to wave cheerily to the enthusiastic crowd before topping out.
Even more complicated than the Semi-final, the Final had in store precarious hooking on micro-edges, followed by an athletic overhanging traverse and a long, long lock-off, best done using a figure-of-four. A final overhanging ice section capped it all, leading to the finishing chain.
Much to the horror of the route setters though, this mixed combination didn't prove to be hard enough: François Lombard, winner of the first stage in Piltztal, climbed convincingly to clip the chain, while all the others had yet to climb. Surely enough, Will Gadd topped out smoothly thus, on the basis of the Semi-final result, pushing Lombard into second place. Mauro Bole and Daniel Dulac were next in line and both had topped out on the qualifying routes. It was going to be tense.
Mauro Bole seemed relaxed for once; he should be, for this year his performance on mixed routes has been nigh-on unmatched. He dispensed with the figure-of-four and cruised to the top and first place. Provisionally.
Last out of the blocks was the French boulder champion Daniel Dulac, and he too showed great preparation and determination. His top, combined with past results, secured him victory, therefore pushing Bole into second place.
Just ten women competed in the Semi-final and Final and, as usual, Kim Csizmazia showed that she was in a league of her own. The German Ines Papert placed second ahead of the Hungarian Ildi Kiss, third. Worth mentioning is the fact that Kim later tried the mens routes she would probably have placed seventh!
Saas Fee was a good competition, but having four finalists reach the top obviously meant that the routes need to be harder still, as was the case in the Cortina Boulder. Congratulations to the organisers who managed to create an interesting competition in an unusual setting and who generated a large and enthusiastic crowd. It was great to be able to see mixed climbing up close.
The next IWC stages
The deciding, final two stages of the IWC 2000 will be held in Kirov, Russia 3 - 5 March and Are, Sweden, 10 - 12 March.
Stay tuned for more
|Comment by Erik Svab
Portfolio by Roberto Fioravanti