Posted on 1 Comment

Ouray to Saas Fee

You win some you loose some. For me it felt like loosing a little bit and failing incredibly.

“But for a Dutch climber you did really well” “You looked pretty strong there” “You’ll do better next time” “The others are so strong too” “But if you don’t reach the finals, please don’t be too disappointed” “Did you see how she did that move there after you fell out?” “I’m so going to watch the women’s finals, they look so strong” “cheer up, you did a good job”

No, I’m not happy, I’m not satisfied, I didn’t do a good job and stop trying to cheer me up with all your nonsense.

I barely reached the semi finals and with more then 5 minutes left on the clock I slipped out of the ice barrel not even half-way up the route. I was not even pumped. Fuck.

Last year I had de possibility to dedicate most of my year to climbing and I could work part-time as freelancer for several companies. Saving every single penny this whole year to only spent it all on climbing. Plane tickets for the Alpine Mentor Programme, subscription to the gym, super healthy food, every penny I counted.
The goal was to finally perform on the Worldcup Iceclimbing and climb hard mixed and ice this Winter season.

In Ouray I was happy to have climbed quite some hard things in the ice-park and in The Hall of Justice. Several M/D10’s onsight, D11+ os, M9’s onsight and that all without getting severely pumped!
I knew I was in shape and I knew I could do much more then the easy graded routes in the Hall of Justice.

Ouray, probably the only town in the world with ice farmers

The whole week in Ouray I kept on waking up, nervous for the upcoming competition. On the final day that Saturday I actually felt pretty ok. Although I had the worst warm-up ever (long story with occupied ropes and not enough space for all competitors) but with the -27C I was feeling pretty fine.
Up at the log I got nervous, after I felt fine in the first bit. I couldn’t get my axe out of the wood and couldn’t figure the next move properly. Getting confused even more with the dangling chain around my shoulder I made a mistake: I thought it would be better not to kick my feet in the log as it was so hard to get my axes out, I reached for the next hold after the first “fixed iceaxe” my feet popped off and out… Fairly disappointed there.
Not just because I figured it wouldnt be enough for the first place, but more because I really wanted to climb that route.
Vince Anderson and the whole team had put SO much effort in making that route there! And yes, as Steve said afterwards, I would have been happy only if I’d beaten Jeff there.
He was right.
I’m a climber, preferably an outdoor climber. And outdoor stuff like rock and ice doesn’t care if you’re a man or a woman. I mean: the ice is not going to form any easier when it sees that you’re a woman trying to climb up…

Me in the comp route

So second place it was. Ines got disqualified after the grabbed a part of the iceaxe that was marked red, red meant a ‘no-go’ boundary. We both got the same height but she reached that point just a little faster, gaining the first place in the women’s.

The next day I surprisingly ended on third place on the Hari Berger Speedclimbing competition!
I’m a super slow climber, so a weird result, but satisfied with that. Although, I don’t take the seedclimbing too serious.

Steven and Logan in their Speed Battle

After a good session with our team, discussing training goals and future destinations it was time to fly back, to Geneva.

Airport blues

That’s where I met Dennis. He had a cold, was a bit stressed and all the excitement that I felt before slightly disappeared. He seemed busy with other things…
And it didn’t get any better when I figured both our Diesel heaters were broken. Sleeping in a campervan without proper heating in -17 C is not funny.
Following my training plan I should go hardcore on a morning drytool session.

That morning session faded away when the gas/acceleration cable was too frozen. Causing the engine to make way too many rpm. It took us half a day to fix it, having just a couple hours left for a short session at the Therme. I flashed the long 7b+ graded traverse after Dennis onsighted it. We did some other easier things and had fun with Roeland and William who we accidentally met there.
They invited us in Chamonix (took us a while to get there with the frozen cable)

Frozen cable…

Always interesting to talk with Roeland about all he does. He really inspires me!
I figured William is quite an inspiring guy too :)
Roeland was so kind to have us in his livingroom that night. Better then a freezing cold campervan :)
The next morning the cable was totally frozen again. We were even worried doubting if we could reach Saas Fee in time.
The ANWB (Dutch version of what in German is called ADAC) should help out but so far (three days later) we still don’t have a new cable, so we’re stuck in Saas Fee…

Chamonix… (no photoshop!)

The next day, competition day one started at 06:20 in the morning with breakfast
The isolation closed at 07:45 and I was one of the first to climb.
Dennis was so sweet to stay in the isolation with me, comforting me and getting the attention on other things then nervousness.
I used an alternative method to warm up. Less climbing, bit of cardio and stuff.
Worked pretty well I found, saving my energy for the real job: climbing the route.
The climbing went o.k. I was just so slow and insecure, timing out again. I was hoping to get higher then this…
Lucky enough to reach the semi’s with that result.
Meanwhile coach Tim van der Linden, pro Photographer Menno Boermans and NKBV Photographer Reinier Rijke watched the climb.
So nice to have a Dutch support team.

Screenshots from the qualifications

Dennis did fairly better in the next discipline that was planned for that day..
He ended up in 9th in the qualifications for the speed climbing.
Easily good enough for the finals later that day.
Later on he did even better and reached the semi’s in the lead as well :)

Dennis climbing the qualifications

I was then up for the speed round. As I’m a very slow climber I’m just naturally not good in that discipline. Basically have the wrong genes I guess.
Though, did a goo job with climbing in just 13 seconds to the top of the wall. Good for a 12th place. Not the best, but my fastest climb ever. Urs, one of the speakers really entertained the public during the climb, telling that I’m there just for fun. And actually, now that I didn’t take it all that serious it actually became fun to climb :)

Picture: Menno Boermans

Later that night something happened. Fairly extraordinary special and unique.
Dennis and the Russians were competing in the finals of the speed comp.
He looked fine even with his flu and bad sleep.
The test run went fine and the ice got worse in every climb.
Already in our women’s run the ice wasn’t too good, but now the fragile ice-fifi’s seemed to rip through every time again.
His first run went fine, not the fastest yet though, but he could definitely still perfect it all.
He looked at the wall, 18 competitors in between him and the next run. Carefully looking on where to place his tools as effective as possible.
Theoretically he’d only need 6 moves to reach the timer on top of the wall.
The other climbers were sometimes faster, slower, some fell and ripped out even more ice.
Second try, out of three.
Dennis ran up, only made slight mistakes and reached the top in a flow. Then the time: 7.05 seconds.
The best time so far!
Still two runs to go for most climbers.We, still weren’t sure and thought he ‘might just reach the podium, or not’. We expected the Russians to get better then that.
But one after the other kept falling and failing to set a better time. Dennis had one more try but unfortunately made a small mistake, but still the fastest run counts.
So many climbers still to go!
The last climber up… A strong climber, a fast one… The last one to possibly crush Dennis time. He didn’t crush it. He…
Oh my, he hardly believed it himself. He just WON the Worldcup Speedclimbing 2013 Saas Fee!
The first Dutch to win an iceclimbing worldcup, the first non-Russian for years and years. Dennis just broke the Russian Speedclimbing empire, Dennis, after seven years of worldcup climbing just did it.
I’m proud and honestly think he really deserved this. He’d been so close every time again, and now he finally proved he’s the best, the fastest. That’s just AWESOME!

Dennis just after he realised he won the speed comp

There wasn’t much time for celebrations. The next morning, today I had to wake up early, again. Women’s semi finals.
My warm-up similar to yesterday’s but my sleep time that night was less… Dennis is still having a bad cold, we kept on waking up making the night seem to last forever.

In the isolation there is no cellphone reception, you’re not allowed to have any contact with others then the judges and fellow competitors in the isolation. Everyone being there with the same goal: to reach the finals.
The route seemed do-able when we had the route preview. One pathetic girl kept on asking route details when back in the isolation zone. Working on my nerves there. I decided music and big headphones would do the job there :)
Every climber has ten minutes for the route. Making it seem to last forever before it was my time I climb. I was warm, ready and had nothing else to do but wait.
I got so nervous…
I started to feel sick, was over the point of having to pee of nervousness, I was heading to the point of being sick of nervousness.
I tried to get my mind off the competition climbing, thinking really hard of positive experiences in outdoor routes. Eliminating any thought of failure, any thought of having to perform, any thought of consequences of my climbing for myself.
I changed my music, watched pictures, thought of other things then climbing, tried to get into Yoga mode and chill, breathe. And then suddenly I just had to throw up. Slowly I reached the toilet. Great, nice preparation I thought. Later sitting next to the venue, almost my time to climb, it came up again….
When my turn came I had a fairly solid start, remembering my mistakes from the Qualifiers I moved fast and solid, not letting myself get time to rest. Ten minutes, I could easily climb hard for ten minutes.
Some of the moves felt tricky but ok, even with my heart banging in my stomach.

In the first moves after the ice-start.
Picture: Menno Boermans

I stalled out on a move to a barrel of ice. Pre-drilled holes, lock off and move was the plan. The hole I went for actually wasn’t that good, and I found with a figure of four would I’d waste my time. I went in the hole again, a bit deeper and suddenly my axe completely slipped out! Having locked off completely I had no back-up with my other axe on the previous hold. Fuuuck, I screamed, off I was… Game over. With more then five minutes of climbing time left I failed, utterly failed to reach the finals. Confused, defeated I just wanted to leave.
All this fuckin work, I know I’m way better then last year but with a 15th place in the end ranking I had no way to prove my progression on paper.
I just so much want to be a climber, but it seems I’m not…

Dennis did fairly better later on the day. The comp started earlier then planned as there was a time conflict, there was not enough time in between the men’s semi’s and the woman’s finals.
His flu didn’t really help him. Totally out of breath he fell out. Reaching a good high point and becoming 13th. No finals, but he was satisfied with his result after all. Many others got disqualified after getting their axes in over the red lines in the wood. And oh yes, Nomics rule when you have to swing :) Some climbers had so much trouble getting their axes in the wood because of the awkward axe design. But all climbers with Nomics seemed just fine.

Right now the men are climbing the finals. With the absence of Markus Bendler, who decided it was time to quit. Probably tired of the immense amount of Russians competing.
Felicitas Feller didn’t compete either, she’s really ill now after she came back from the Worldcup in Korea…

The Russians on the Worldcup is getting quite an issue. Sometimes it seems more like an Russian championship instead of a worldcup. Making it less attractive for other countries to join the comps…
I’ll come back on that later.

Hee Yong Park, second place in between 7 Russians…

Now time for the price giving, with the Dutch national anthem, Wilhemus van Nassouwe…

Dennis and the Russians :)
Note the Nomic iceaxe on the medal

Tomorrow we’ll have to wait for the cable and then we drive passed my dream route, passed all the ice up to the next worldcup in Rabenstein.
I wish I could skip that one and just climb for myself, outdoors, without all the stress and nerves, just me, the ice, the rock, that doesn’t care who you are and will be the same for all.
Dream on…

The “Dutch Championships” icewall made by Thomas Knoope

Meanwhile in the Netherlands we have a ‘natural’ icewall. The organisers (not the Dutch Mountain Federation NKBV itself) decided to call it an “NK” (Dutch Championship). From the ‘Knoope Open Ice’ into Dutch Championships, thats quite a significant change.
I think they should consider a new name if they’d like to take the sport serious.
I mean, look at the wall, it’s not even remotely representative to the actual international level of iceclimbing competitions and next to that, the best Dutch athletes are on the Worldcup or somewhere in the Alps right now, so a the new ‘Dutch Champions’ won’t actually be the best Dutch iceclimbers…
It’s not that I’m against the idea of having an event on an ice wall in the Netherlands, it’s just that I don’t find the name and attention fitting the event.
We have a Worldcup winner here, and a tiny Dutch icewall gets more media attention?!

Dennis is famous in Saas Fee :)
Leave a Reply