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Ice Climbing Event History
Ice Climbing is a fairly new competition sport. Even though the first known ice climbing competition was organised in Courmayeur, Italy on the Brenva glacier in the year 1912, ice climbing as a sport is considered fairly new in terms of worldwide competition and participation.
Ice Climbing competitions started in Russia (at that time the Soviet Union) and have been held each winter since 1970. There were three disciplines: difficulty, speed and speed climbing of a longer route (100+m) by roped groups where the lead climber changed every 40m. At the end of a season the winner of each of the disciplines was announced. National ice-climbing speed competitions in Russia have been held since around 1987. During the winter 1996/1997 the Russian team participated at a Courchevel competition in France and adopted the French rules for difficulty for their events.
These competitions at Courchevel in France were also well known. The magnificent 40m high tower in Courchevel was synonymous for difficulty ice climbing events in Europe from 1995 until 2000 when a huge piece of ice fell down just a few hours before the event started. The main rule was to climb as high as possible using as few hits as possible, with time limited between eight and 14 minutes.
There were and still are several competitions in North America. The most famous were the Winter X games ice climbing events (speed and difficulty), but after 1999 ice climbing was excluded. Another top event was the IWC competition in Quebec, Canada that hosted all of the best competitors in the world. There are some other ice climbing events that include competitions, but with their own regulations. One of the most well-known is the Ouray ice gathering in Colorado, US, a five-day event with many other attractions for climbers of all ages. The Canmore Ice Climbing Festival in Canmore, Alberta, Canada combines great competitions with skill clinics and other attractions such as climbing demonstrations and slide shows.
Slovenia is also well-known for the Bohinj speed race (50m). From 1994 till 1999 duel speed competitions were held on a natural rock in Bohinj. In recent years there have been problems with ice as a result of climate change. Since 2000 Solcava has hosted difficulty and speed competitions, while for the season 2002/2003 the "Slovenian Cup" took place in 3 different locations. The Slovenian Cup has now taken place every year in speed and difficulty.
The International World Cup started with a competition in Cortina in 2000. Before that, the European competition schedule (not yet IWC) included events in Courchevel, Cortina, Pitztal and Kirov. The first common rules appeared in 1998 and the first IWC (International World Cup) took place in 2000 organised by a private German company, which remained responsible until 2002 when the International Ice climbing Commission of the UIAA took over. In 2009, there are competitions in four locations across Europe.
Future of Ice Climbing Competitions
The UIAA aims to support national series in countries with ice climbing competitors. The goal is to work towards the creation of a continental series and increasing worldwide participation. Second, the UIAA wants to see Ice Climbing become an Olympic discipline.
Ice Climbing World Cups have advanced ice-climbing styles, equipment development, training and the establishment of Ice Climbing as a serious sport.
Ice Climbing competitions are the reserve of a small group of climbing specialists. But the main advantage ice climbing has over other "non mass" sports is its appeal to spectators, and therefore the media, due to the natural element of ice, which keeps its character even on artificial surfaces.
Non-climbers can easily understand the goals of the sport when they see athletes performing acrobatic moves in the "Lead" or "Speed" disciplines on a vertical ice-wall. The UIAA believes the sport's broad appeal will help establish it, and make it more international.
Ice Climbing Commission
UIAA’s Ice Climbing Commission is responsible for framing the rules and regulations for Ice Climbing competitions. It also ensures quality of the competitions as per UIAA terms and standards. Learn more