The Final Countdown: UIAA Ice Climbing World Championships

The 2023-24 UIAA Ice Climbing World Tour, partnered by Outdoor Research, has saved its best for last.

From 16-18 February, Canada hosts its first UIAA-sanctioned event in over 20 years with the arrival of the biennial UIAA Ice Climbing World Championships in Edmonton. The downtown event, to be staged near the Edmonton Oilers hockey arena, is expected to welcome thousands of spectators. The atmosphere will be electric for a thrilling weekend of ice climbing.

Anticipation is high for a return to a North American urban environment following the huge success of the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup in Denver in 2019. The organisers, YEG Ice Fest by the Alpine Club of Canada Edmonton Section and supported by Explore Edmonton, have worked tirelessly to set up an amazing competition structure.

“The weekend in Edmonton promises to offer an enthralling conclusion to a successful UIAA Ice Climbing season. Both the organisers and the UIAA have worked hard to ensure that the showcase event of the calendar provides a spectacular platform for the sport. I can’t wait to watch the athletes compete for world titles in front of thousands of spectators and on an impressive, purpose-built structure. As a Canadian it is great to have the World Tour make its first visit to the country in over twenty years.”
Peter Muir, UIAA President

“Our team has been hard at work for the last few months in anticipation of the UIAA Ice Climbing World Championships! We’re excited to showcase the physical prowess of these international athletes as they climb our newly designed 19m x 27m climbing structure in the heart of downtown. We’re looking forward to showing Edmontonians what world-class competition ice climbing is all about. Over the two-day championships, we expect thousands of spectators to take in our event.”
Stacey Yuen, YEG Ice Fest & Local Organising Committee

Not only will the weekend crown the new world champions, points will also determine the winners of the overall World Cup rankings following rounds in South Korea and Switzerland.

Photo of structure in Edmonton courtesy of Rob Adie

Almost 100 athletes have registered from the following countries: Canada (10), Czech Republic (1), Finland (2), France (4), Great Britain (6), Hong Kong, China (2), Iran (4), Ireland (1), Japan (5), Liechtenstein (5), Mongolia (9), Netherlands (2), Poland (4), Slovakia (5), South Korea (5), Spain (4), Switzerland (5), United States (17)

A full list of registered athletes can be found here. The full event programme can be found here.

Mountain Voices Podcast: What is Competition Ice Climbing?

Ahead of the weekend in Edmonton, the UIAA has launched its new podcast, Mountain Voices. Across each episode, experts from the climbing and mountaineering world discuss issues that impact climbers and mountaineers. Episode #1, available on all major podcast platforms, addresses competition ice climbing and features the contributions of Rob Adie, UIAA Sports Event Coordinator, as well as athletes Gordon McArthur and Eimir McSwiggan.

Edmonton Preview: Lead/Difficulty

The Lead Semi-Finals and Final take place on Sunday 18 February. Neither the reigning women’s champion, Petra Klingler, nor the men’s, Louna Ladevant, will compete. The favourite for the women’s title will be former world champion Woonseon Shin. The South Korean athlete is in imperious form having won both World Cup events and also triumphed in her one Continental Open appearance. However, competing on a new structure will add another layer of complexity. Shin’s nearest rivals in the World Tour standings, Marion Salmon-Thomas and Sina Goetz, will strive to take their first world titles. Marianne van der Steen of the Netherlands is the form athlete from the Continental circuit where Aneta Louzecka, Czech Republic, the Beck sisters from Liechtenstein, Japan’s Haruko Takeuchi, Olga Kosek of Poland and Catalina Shirley of the United States bring impressive form.

Women’s World Tour standings:
1. Woonseon Shin (KOR) 200 pts, 2. Marion Salmon-Thomas (FRA) 120, 3. Sina Goetz (SUI) 117

There is no clear favourite for the men’s event. France’s Virgile Devin triumphed last time out in Saas-Fee and together with compatriot Nathan Clair is part of a strong team. Spanish athletes Javier Cano Blazquez and Jorge Veiga Rodriguez have been impressive on the Continental circuit but yet to medal on the world stage. Lee Younggeon, South Korea, has enjoyed a consistent season as the only athlete to medal at both World Cup events. The United States team includes rising star  Keenan Griscom while the host nation welcome back veteran McArthur to elite competition. Switzerland’s Benjamin Bosshard is another with a strong potential.

Men’s World Tour standings:
1. Lee Younggeon (KOR) 145 pts, 2. Younghye Kwon (KOR) 100, 3. Virgile Devin (FRA) 100

Livestream links

09:30 -12:30 local time

14:00 – 17:00 local time

19:00 – 21:00 local time

Edmonton Preview: Speed

The speed competition all takes place on Saturday 17 February.

In the men’s event, Iran’s Mohsen Beheshti Rad will seek to defend the world title he claimed in Switzerland in 2022. In doing so, the 39-year old will need to win his first event of the season after an eighth place and a silver medal in his two World Cups. Competition will be fierce. The winners of the two World Cup events both come from Mongolia – Kherlen Nyamdoo and Mandakhbayar Chuluunbaatar spearhead the challenge from an emerging force in the sport.  Also likely to be in contention are Myungwook Yang of South Korea, Mohammadreza Safdarian of Iran, while Canada will have high hopes in David Bouffard, winner of two medals on the Continental circuit this season. However in a discipline contested at high speed on a vertical wall of ice, there is no room for error so there is every chance of an upset.

Men’s World Tour standings:
1. Mandakhbayar Chuluunbaatar (MGL) 180 points, 2. Mohsen Beheshti Rad (IRN) 120, 3. Mohammadreza Safdarian (IRN) 116

In the women’s event all five of the leading athletes in the World Tour are competing.  Louzecka, with a gold and silver to her name, is the form athlete. Kosek, Tsz Shan Kung from the China Hong Kong Mountaineering and Climbing Union and Shirley, silver medallist in the Cheongsong World Cup, will all be athletes to watch. A compelling challenge will also come from Lea and Lorena Beck, respectively fourth and first in Saas-Fee last time out.

Women’s World Tour standings:
1. Aneta Louzecka (CZE) 180 points, 2. Olga Kosek (POL), 120, 3. Lorena Beck (LIE), 100

Livestream links

20:00 – 21:00 local time

A full review of the weekend in Edmonton will be released on Monday 19 February. Following the UIAA events, the structure will remain open as part of an ice climbing festival – YEG Ice Fest – where the general public can test their skills and learn more about the sport. Further details here.

Photos from the event will be available on the UIAA Flickr Channel.

Live results will be available here

Follow the UIAA social media channels for exclusive content and live updates

Main photo: Action from the last major UIAA Ice Climbing event in an North American urban environment, held in Denver in 2019. Credit: UIAA/Levi Harrell



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