Sunday, December 27, 2015

#BIF19 Bozeman 2015

Bozeman, Montana #BIF19
10. - 12. December 2015 the Bozeman Ice Festival hosted the 2015 North American Championships and the start of the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup.

I left Stavanger early in the morning on the 5th of December and flew via Amsterdam and L.A. to Salt Lake City, UT.  Because of work, a puppy, and other commitments, I was unable to spend Christmas in the states this year, so I flew into Utah to spend some time with my family before heading to Montana.  The first days were spent in Salt Lake with my mom, with an obligatory stop by the world´s best gear shop, IME, for a quick chat.  I then went to visit with my dad in Park City.  The house was nicely decorated for the holidays, but also felt like a recovery home since both Sarah and her boyfriend Torin were both recovering from surgery and sickness.
My dad and his wife Nancy wanted to come support me in Bozeman so we packed up the truck and made the 6 hour drive to Montana.  By the way, I do not recommend driving the past between West Yellowstone and Big Sky in a snow storm.  After the bad weather in the mountains, it was a bit of a surprise to see how warm it was in Bozeman.  Luckily the temps dropped before the competition.
It was great to see some familiar faces from last season, and to meet others whom I had only spoken with online.  I am constantly amazed by how welcoming and psyched the ice climbing community is! The weekend was kicked off by none other than Jeff Lowe who walked (!!) out on stage.  We had a screening of his movie Metanoia which was both inspiring and heart-wrenching.  It is so sad to see what he is going through, yet incredible to see how hard he continues to fight.

Anyway, tangents aside, let´s get to the climbing!

They had an open format for the qualification round with two routes that everybody climbed, which I thought was awesome! Not only were we able to climb two routes, but we were also able to watch and cheer each other on.

I was the first person to climb in group one (lucky me!) and felt pretty solid going up the first moves.  Moving into the overhang my feet felt very unstable and kept cutting.  Luckily the holds were good and I clipped several draws.  Coming into the sidepull and upper headwall I was totally pumped!  I tried to keep moving, clipped another draw and went into a figure-4.  That was it, I could see my fingers peel off my tool as I desperately tried matching with my other tool.  I whipped off upside-down and was nearly to tired to pull myself right-side up before touching the ground.  So much for route 1.

Route 2.
Ok so you can say what you will about fairness and what have you, but when it comes down to it the judges really try to do their best to keep things even.  As I mentioned before, there were two routes and two groups.  What I didn´t mention was that the women were climbing the exact same routes, and that they started climbing right after the men were finished.  There was a bit of confusion concerning the second round so Gordon McArthur (climbing right after me) and I were geared up and ready to climb as soon as the women were finished. 

When it was my turn to climb, I tied in, got the nod from the belayer and officials, took one last look at the climb, and set off up the route.  I was in the zone, focusing on kicking my frontpoints as hard as I could into the plywood, and cruising up the first section.  Before I knew what was going on I was called (repeatedly) off the wall.  I was confused.  My knot was tied properly, I matched the first hold. What was going on?

-What are you doing?! Why are you climbing?! You aren´t supposed to be climbing!
-Um, I was told to climb.
-By who?! Who told you to start climbing?!
-You did! I asked you specifically, and you said that we were starting right away after the women.
-...Oh yes, I guess I did.  I did not mean that.  Men start at 12:30. You can try again then.  Sorry.

Needless to say, I was a bit shaken up.  I thought I had done everything correct, and I still got called off the wall.  People came up to me and asked what was going on.  They hadn´t heard the conversation and couldn´t figure out why I came down so early.  All of the questions and comments were a bit distracting so I went to try to chill out a bit.  I still had to climb again in less than 20 minutes so I needed to get back into the zone.

12:30 and it was time to climb.  I double and triple checked that I was good to go this time, then started up.  The nerves had hit me a bit harder than I had realized and my tool popped off a hold I had cruised past earlier.  I knew that I was allowed another attempt since I hadn´t clipped any draws, but my time was still ticking away and I was officially stressed.  Pushing up through the first overhang I could feel my energy running low again.  The stein that I was reaching for seemed farther away than I expected now that I was tired and I was running low on energy.  I went into a figure-4 and went to clip for the points.  Fumbling with the rope, the draw swung out of my hands and I had to match to shake out.  I tried as hard as I could to stay on, to clip, to get those extra points, but for the third time that day I was off the route.  Disappointed,  I was lowered to the ground.

Speed Climbing... is fun!
When it was about time for the speed climbing competition to start, I was feeling a bit uneasy.  I wasn´t really there to speed climb, I had only ever tried it once in Rjukan, and the ice honestly didn´t look that good.  Finally I was convinced to just give it a shot anyway, and I borrowed a set of speed tools from Stephanie.  After the two warm-up laps I remembered why I had signed up for speed.  You get to climb more, and basically climbing is awesome regardless of style.  So off I go again, climbing as fast as I can during my next to laps.  Qualifiers are over.  Pleased with myself, and feeling psyched about climbing, I take off my fruitboots and head over to my dad and Nancy.  They congratulate me and offer up a chair and a warm blanket.  I sit down, ready to watch the rest of the comp.  To my utter amazement, my name is called for the next round.  I qualified for semi-finals, coming in 8th place overall after the first round! 
Putting my cold fruitboots on suddenly didn´t seem all that bad since it meant I got to climb even more that night.  READY, ATTENTION, BEEEP! I climbed as fast as I could.  My monopoints were ripping through the ice, and I caught several close calls.  But, I never weighted the rope, and I hit the clock at the top.  My times weren´t fast enough to make finals, but they put me in one of the top spots for North American Champion.  Despite everybody saying that I was fast enough to podium, I knew that I had placed 4th or 5th.  Even Chris Gibisch, the guy who actually came in 3rd, thought I had beaten him so he left before awards!  The real kicker of it all? The guy who came in second place in North America is Russian!

I guess I could feel jaded about getting pulled off the route, or missing out on the podium because strange rules, but honestly that is just the way things go sometimes. I climbed much better in Bozeman than I did last season, and I was able to figure out some things to work on in the month before heading to Korea. I took a closer look at the results and realized that climbing smarter goes a long way!  I had a quick go at the finals routes before heading back to Utah and actually pretty solid on them.  Aaron and Yannick were very patient and supportive belayers.

I got a quick visit with my grandma in Salt Lake, and had a great send-off dinner in Park City.  Utah decided it was finally time to snow, and it started dumping the night before my flight.  Luckily I made it back to Stavanger just in time to grab a quick nap with the puppy, and see the new Star Wars!

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