Saas-Fee, UIAA

Review: 2024 UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup in Saas-Fee

Saas-Fee has welcomed UIAA-sanctioned ice climbing competitions since the turn of the century. Athletes have become accustomed to the superb organisation of the events, highly technical routes and outstanding atmosphere. This weekend proved no exception as the Swiss Alps hosted the second UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup of the 2023-24 season, partnered by Outdoor Research.

Speed: Dramatic Finishes

The scene was set on Friday evening with the enthralling speed competition. Athlete versus a 15m sheet of vertical ice. And the clock. In the men’s event, the predicted battle between Team Mongolia and Team Iran came to fruition. In clocking a time of 7.20, Mohsen Beheshti Rad of Iran set the fastest time. Unfortunately for the reigning world champion that came in qualification. In the final his ascent of 8.11 was only bettered by Mandakhbayar Chuluunbaatar. Having seen his teammate Kherlen Nyamdoo claim gold in the opening round in Cheongsong, 23-year old Chuluunbaatar set a blistering 7.88 in the final to seal gold. It proved to be a solid evening for Iran with Mohammadreza Safdarian earning bronze with a time of 8.77

After two rounds, the World Tour leader boards are (photo above):
(1) Chuluunbaatar MGL 180 points, (2) Rad IRN 120, (3) Safdarian IRN 116

The women’s event proved even more dramatic. Having won the opening World Cup of the season and then travelled to the North American Continental Cup in Ouray to take silver, the Czech Republic’s Aneta Louzecka heads the World Tour leaderboard. Her time in the final of 13.78, the fastest to that point, look set to seal another gold. Only Liechtenstein’s 18-year old sensation Lorena Beck (below), double speed and lead world youth champion, could better her time. Despite a little slip towards the top of the ice wall, Beck’s time of 13.77 was enough for a dramatic gold medal. Poland’s Olga Kosek, who was narrowly denied a medal in Cheongsong, claimed bronze with a time of 14.31.

After two rounds, the World Tour leader boards are:
(1) Louzecka CZE 180 points, (2) Kosek POL 120, (3) Lorena Beck LIE 100

Lead: Peerless Shin takes another gold

The men’s lead competition arguably witnessed the biggest surprises. Having returned to competition in style at a Continental Cup last weekend, world champion Louna Ladevant was expected to lead the charge of Team France. However to the gasps of the Saas-Fee crowd, he missed a dyno relatively early into his final climb and would finish in eighth place. Three other French climbers made the final – Virgile Devin (main photo), Tristan Ladevant and Nathan Clair. It was the former who prevailed. The 23-year has enjoyed gold medal success at continental level and having come closest to the top of a highly technical Saas-Fee route, his wait for World Cup gold was over. Tristan Ladveant finished second with Lee Younggeon, second in Cheongsong, taking bronze to head the World Tour standings.

After two rounds, the World Tour leader boards are:
(1) Lee KOR 145 points, (2) Kwon KOR 100, (3) Devin FRA 100

In the women’s event, Woonseon Shin (above) became the only athlete to take gold medals from both World Cup rounds. Furthermore, the veteran South Korean athlete claimed first place at last weekend’s UIAA Ice Climbing Continental Cup in France. Completing the set, Shin was the only climber to top the Saas-Fee route. It puts her in a strong position to take the World Tour title in the deciding round of the series, to be held in Edmonton, Canada from 16-18 February. As last climber of the weekend, Switzerland’s Sina Goetz, first in the semi-finals, enjoyed the partisan support of the home crowd as she attempted to match Shin’s achievement. She would fall with the TOP marker in sight and the clock agonisingly ticking down. Bronze went to France’s Marion Salmon-Thomas.

After two rounds, the World Tour leader boards are:
(1) Shin KOR 200 points, (2) Salmon-Thomas FRA 120, (3) Goetz SUI 117

The event was organised in partnership with the Swiss Alpine Club and the host team, led by Kurt Arnold and Dario Andenmatten. It marked the 24th time that Saas-Fee has hosted a UIAA competition. Amongst the delegates in attendance were Seulki Kim from Youngone Corporation/Outdoor Research and IFMGA President Urs Wellauer. Medalists also received timepieces from Swiss watchmaker Maurice Lacroix. The watches presented came from a range made from ocean-bound upcycled plastic. Further details here.

The next UIAA Ice Climbing competition is a Continental Open in Oulu, Finland on 3 February. The World Cup season closes on 16-18 February with a tantalising double-header, a World Cup and World Championships in Edmonton, Canada.

Photos: UIAA/Kaspar Kellerhals

Results from Saas-Fee




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