Axes and crampons are primed. Athletes are training to be at their best. Organizers have been working relentlessly. The world-level events in the 2023-24 UIAA Ice Climbing calendar, partnered by Outdoor Research, commence on 12 January. Excitement is palpable.
Over 140 athletes from 25 member associations are set to contest the coveted UIAA Ice Climbing World Championship and World Cup lead and speed titles. Venues on three different continents will offer unique ice towers, exciting routes and supreme technical challenges.
The opening UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup of the season takes place in Cheongsong, South Korea from 12-14 January. Cheongsong has been a longstanding host of UIAA Ice Climbing World Cups. Located in the east of the country in the North Gyeongsang Province, Cheongsong is renowned for both its apple production and its natural rock faces. Competition ice climbing has been organised by the Korean Alpine Club (KAF) for well over a decade with the first UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup dating back to 2011. The host nation has provided a number of memorable competitions as well as performances from local favourites like Woonseon Shin, Hannarai Song and Heeyong Park.
Two weeks after the event in Cheongsong, the World Tour heads to Europe for the second round at another of its favoured haunts. Saas-Fee, Switzerland (25-27 January) has been an ever-present host of UIAA-sanctioned competitions since 2002 with its distinct ice dome offering a unique structure for competition. Built within the resort entry point, the venue in the Swiss Alps regularly attracts large crowds particularly for Saturday evening’s lead competition. As in Cheongsong, the quality of the local climbing team, supported by the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC), is strong with in recent seasons Petra Klingler, Yannick Glatthard and Sina Goetz all taking gold medals. The third and final World Cup of the season will be contained within the World Championships weekend (see below).
The biennial UIAA Ice Climbing World Championships are the pinnacle event of the season. This year’s event in Edmonton, Canada (16-18 February) has extra lustre for a number of reasons. Firstly, competitive UIAA Ice Climbing returns to Canada after a 22-year absence. The last event to be held in the country was in Quebec in 2002 when German athlete Ines Papert made headlines by winning both the lead and speed World Cup competition. The World Tour has visited North America four times since with World Cups in Montana (Bozeman, 2014 and 2016) and then in Colorado (Durango, 2016 and then the memorable city event in Denver, 2019).
Secondly, as well as crowning the world champions, the event will seal the winners of the World Cup season (the best performing male and female athletes in the speed and lead disciplines taking into account results from all three World Cup events).
Thirdly, the event, organized by the Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) and OEG Sports & Entertainment (OEGSE) will also feature the YEG Ice Fest. As part of this initiative, the general public will be able to test themselves on the brand-new ice wall. The climbing structure will be four times bigger and double the height of the previous structure at 18 metres tall, promising an even more exhilarating experience. The venue is located adjacent to Rogers Place, home of Edmonton Oilers. For anyone interested in attending the event, information on ticket sales can be found here.
The reigning world champions are Louna Ladevant (men’s lead), Petra Klingler (women’s lead), Mohsen Beheshti Rad (men’s speed) and Natalia Savitskaya (women’s speed). They were crowned during the 2022 event in Saas-Fee.
WORLD YOUTH CHAMPIONSHIPS
The annual UIAA Ice Climbing World Youth Championships return to Champagny-en-Vanoise, in the French Alps. Organised by FFCAM, this venue regularly hosts world-level UIAA events and is renowned for the quality of its structure and ice. The event will take place on 18-20 January, in between the first two World Cup events. Youth categories have been revised for the coming season with athletes now competing in U16, U18 and U20 categories. Representation will come from a vast number of UIAA member associations with a number of countries recently bolstering their pathway programmes for young athletes.
Young climbers are also having the opportunity to test themselves in more competition environments with events being organised at most of this season’s Continental Opens. A total of seven Continental Opens are being hosted in the 23-24 season in Slovakia, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, France, the United States, Finland and England.
“We have a great calendar lined up for the 2023-24 UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour with some exciting new events and concepts. I am especially looking forward to having the World Championships in my homeland of Canada. As well as our regular events in Korea and Switzerland, France will host both the World Youth Championships and a Continental Cup for senior athletes. We also have a five event Continental Youth Series for you this year, which will be amazing for the development of the youth categories in the sport.”
Peter Muir, UIAA President
“We can’t wait to see all athletes out on the walls, performing to their best and showcasing what an incredible sport and community we have. A special message of good luck to all our youth climbers, with World Championships and a full Continental series of events this season.”
Eimir McSwiggan, athlete (Ireland) and Chair of UIAA Athlete Group
“Coverage for fans both at the venues and especially online will be a lot more comprehensive with more content being made available, whether live or in short-form. All the decisive moments, the winning climbs, the best bits of skill, dramatic falls and epic duels will all be acutely captured and explained. We encourage all UIAA member associations as well as media to use the wealth of free content being made available.”
Rob Adie, UIAA Sports Events Coordinator
NEW SERIES: ON THIN ICE
The UIAA is delighted to announce the launch of a new accompaniment to the UIAA Ice Climbing season. On Thin Ice is set to unveil the drama and untold stories behind the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup. In the spirit of the acclaimed “Drive to Survive” series, this emotional documentary will take viewers beyond the competition itself and provide an unfiltered look at the athletes, their passions, the intense battles, and the parties that define the sport.
From the real ice and alpinism in remote landscapes around the world to the intensity of the competition arena, the documentary promises an immersive experience that transcends the sport and will capture the imagination of all sports fans.
As the producers state: “We’ll meet the athletes and delve into their personal struggles, triumphs, and the unbreakable camaraderie that binds them together on the World Tour. We’ll live every moment of the competitions with them.”
Through intimate interviews and unfettered access, On Thin Ice promises to be an emotional rollercoaster that leaves audiences on the edge of their seats. The trailer is here and the pilot episode is scheduled to go live on Sunday 1 January – so make sure you subscribe and set a reminder for the release.
FOLLOW THE COMPETITION
All semi-finals and finals of World Cups and World Championships will be livestreamed on the UIAA YouTube channel. Details of livestream timings and links are made available the week before the competition. Subscribe to the UIAA YouTube Channel for reminders and updates. Member federations and media are encouraged to use embed codes of the stream to embed and share on their own platforms.
For the first time commentary will be provided by Matt Groom, lead commentator on the IFSC events. He will be supported by expert co-commentators including a number of past and present athletes.
Preview and review press releases are distributed for all world-level events. To subscribe to press releases please click here.
Live results are available for all events here. Visit the UIAA Ice Climbing website for individual event programmes and registrations.
UIAA ICE CLIMBING WORLD TOUR PARTNER