Team Canada athletes Karlee Hall of Jaffray and Noah Beek of Cranbrook, along with their Cranbrook coach and World Cup Tour climber Gordon McArthur, competed at the UIAA’s World Cup Ice Climbing competition, held Jan. 17-24 in Sass-Fee, Switzerland.
The athletes competed at the ominous ‘Thunderdome’, which is touted by World Cup Tour climbers as the hardest competition venue on the World Cup circuit.
“It was pretty incredible,” said Hall. “When you first walk in and you see this structure, it’s massive and a little bit intimidating.”
Beek said he was a little awestruck when he first saw the climbing structure.
“I have to climb that?” he said. “It was more overhanging and just the routes are harder and the holds that they use at Saas Fee are very hard to use. You have to be very meticulous with them, very careful with them.”
It was their first event on a world stage after attending the North American championship in Durango, Colorado this past December.
“I was pretty nervous, because I knew the competition would be a lot stiffer,” said Hall. “I wanted to try to prepare myself to do well.”
For Beek, there was a much larger field of competition at Saas Fee than in Durango.
“It was pretty intimidating,” said Beek, “knowing that they’ve a lot more experience than me, probably had a stronger head game than I do, played quite a bit of a factor…”
Hall placed 4th in the 17 to 19 year old age group in the Youth World Cup Championship and came in 20th overall in the main World Cup Women’s’ Lead climbing competition. Beek placed 15th in the Youth World Cup and 25th overall in the World Cup Men’s Lead competition.
“Overall I’m happy with how I did,” said Beek. “It was my first really big competition so I couldn’t really shoot for the stars, but I’m sure everybody’s first competition goes differently than they expect.
“Overall, there’s things that I need to improve on, but there’s things that I’m happy with.”
Both climbers are proud of their first performance and the chance to represent Canada.
Both climbers were also helped by the presence of their coach, Gord MacArthur, who was already there to compete in one of his UIAA-sanctioned World Cup tour events.
“He came as our coach and he coached us through the whole competition and helped us with whatever we needed,” Hall said. “He knows how competitions work and he knows how to approach them. Noah and I don’t have any idea what we’re doing so it was nice to have him there.”
Added Beek: “He showed us the ropes and just took care of us.”
World Cup Tour climbers are a close knit community and they are all very supportive of one another. Many veteran climbers remarked how excited they are by the dynamic that all the new young climbers are bringing to the World Cup competitions.
Beek and Hall are hoping to continue their training in the sport as they transition to rock climbing in the season. However, once next fall rolls around and a new UIAA World Cup season gets underway, Hall wants to do as many events as she can.
For his part, Beek has his sights set on competing in North America’s largest ice festival—the Ouray Ice Festival—in Colorado next January.