This past weekend, I competed in the Ouray Ice Festival mixed climbing competition. I love this event. The community, venue, and atmosphere are all top-notch. I enjoyed the competition very much, and was pretty psyched about how well I climbed. I ended up placing first in the women’s division, but I also felt a little weird about it. For one, there were only three women competing, so I only had to climb higher than two people to take the title. Mixed climbing in North America seems to seriously lack a female presence, and I hope that more women decide to participate in the years to come. It’s a unique and challenging way to climb and requires some very different skills from rock climbing. But it’s also quite scary and intimidating at first, kind of like learning how to lead climb while carrying swords and spikes. Maybe this is why more women don’t participate? I’m not saying that women are more scared than men (actually, I think I am. In general, that seems to be the case.), but it’s really not so bad once you get used to it. On that note, here’s a little video I shot with Boone Speed, Brian Dalrymple, and Mike Call last year about learning how to lead ice, which I still think is really terrifying:
The other two women in the competition, Jen Olsen and Dawn Glanc, are badass mountain guides who have 10x more experience than I do in the world of ice/mixed climbing. I felt strong that day though. I thought carefully about what I was doing, tried to be deliberate and solid, and I had luck on my side (which several competitors didn’t have that day). Anyway, I guess I was just surprised, and I felt a little unworthy to be accepting such an honor, even if I did climb the highest. I’ve learned from many years of experience, however, that climbing competitions are not really about climbing, nor do they always reveal the best climber. They’re supposed to be entertainment, and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. That’s a really challenging attitude to have. In order to climb well, I have to convince myself to not place so much emphasis on something that I’ve worked really hard toward. Fortunately, I’ve become accustomed to adopting this attitude, lying to myself in a way; but I think it has helped me be a pretty successful competitor. It enables me to relax and focus on only climbing, like I normally would.
Ouray Ice Festival ice sculpture
Sam on the comp route. He had bad luck and broke a hold up high