3/4/14 - Sport climbing failed to make the cut for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, but ice climbing may still have a shot at the Games. Ice climbing was prominently on display at the Olympic Park in Sochi, Russia, in February, and Marc Beverly was Team USA of one on Olympic ice, helping to promote the sport in front of fans and International Olympic Committee officials.
Beverly spent two weeks in Russia as the official U.S. representative, climbing on the vertical speed wall and a wild dry-tooling route across a maze of hanging structures, as well as coaching and belaying newcomers to the sport. Canadians Nathan Kutcher, Gordon McArthur, and Jen Olson also represented North America in Sochi.
“We introduced more than 3,000 people with a first-hand experience of what either ice climbing or competition difficulty climbing is all about,” Beverly said. “We outfitted all spectators with ice climbing equipment and let them play on some of our terrain. They were able to see how difficult the competition is and relate to the athletes.”
Beverly, 43, lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he works as a guide, runs a technical rescue instruction company, and pursues a Ph.D. in exercise science. He represents the American Alpine Club on the UIAA’s Ice Climbing Commission. The UIAA is the sanctioning body for international ice and mixed competitions, and is pursuing ice climbing as a future Olympic Sport, possibly as early as the South Korean Winter Games in 2018.
“There is a lot of good energy for this sport to be included in the future Olympics,” Beverly said. He has been competing in World Cup ice competitions for five years, and this season, in addition to his Sochi duties, he did five comps in Europe and Asia. For first-timers, he says, these comps can be an eye-opener. “The World Cup breaks many egos,” Beverly said. “People who think they are strong climbers come to a realm where they cast their egos on the overhanging slate, only to be butchered and never to return. Overall, I have to say that the longer one sticks around and the more committed, the better they become. The style of competition mixed climbing lends itself to massive gains of insight and self-improvement.”
Russian climbers dominate mixed climbing competition, holding four of the top five spots in this year's World Cup ranking for lead climbing, and three of the top five spots among women. (There were five World Cup comps this season; a sixth was canceled because of avalanche danger.) The top 14 male speed climbers were Russian, and the top nine women.
Canadian Jen Olson finished the season ranked 11th overall, and Gord McArthur ended up in 13th in the rankings—the best results for North Americans since Will Gadd competed internationally. Nathan Kutcher competed in several World Cups, finishing as high as 13th place. American Aaron Montgomery also competed this winter, finishing 26th in one World Cup. See the full UIAA results here.
“North America is perhaps 15 years behind the curve. Anyone who goes to a World Cup will know immediately what I’m talking about,” Beverly said. But, he added, “Although some people will get stuck in their ethic and their ways, suffice it to say that the evolution of ice climbing is viral. I think that it will appeal to the younger climbers, as there is a way to meld the dirt-bag history into the matrix of dynamic movement and complex sequences, coupled with the pressure of competition. It’s a natural progression of the sport.”
Many more North Americans will be introduced to World Cup mixed climbing next winter if the Bozeman Ice Climbing Festival succeeds in luring a World Cup stop to Montana. In December 2013, Bozeman hosted the UIAA North American Championships on a World Cup–style artificial structure. “I think it’s a bold step forward for North America,” Beverly said. “Nobody has put the good energy behind this movement aside from the good men and women in Montana, and I’m inspired by the effort. I think this effort has a butterfly effect that spans further than people from the USA and Canada can realize.”
Sources: Marc Beverly, Iceclimbingworldcup.org