Dawn Glanc of Ouray took first place among women competitors in the mixed climbing event, while Bryan Gilmore and Andres Marin of Ridgway and Ouray (by way of Colombia), respectively, took third and fourth place among about 20 male competitors from across the West. Ouray native Logan Tyler also competed in the event.
Mixed climbing is what these climbers do best; the natural conditions both in the Ouray Ice Park and in the backcountry of the San Juans demand that they master both rock and ice during any given play date all winter long. At the Winter Teva Mountain Games, however, conditions were anything but natural.
The mirror-image 52-foot routes featured plenty of traditional plastic rock wall gym holds plus some strange bolted-on foam blocks meant to (sort-of) simulate the feeling of ice climbing.
“We could swing into the foam and kick our feet into it,” Glanc said. However, pulling the ice tools out of the stuff was not so easy, and proved the downfall, literally, for many competitors.
“Using tools on fake holds was not an issue,” said Gilmore, who trains a lot on a climbing wall in his own garage in Ridgway, “but the foam was a foreign substance. It was strange for everybody.”
Technically, the twin Teva climbs were not that difficult – only about M8 (compared to the M10 rating claimed by the 2012 Ouray Ice Festival’s vertical to overhanging to upside-down-land mixed climbing comp route). “It was slightly overhanging, but nothing super-crazy,” Glanc said of the Vail walls. “They couldn’t make it any steeper than that because of architectural limitations of the towers.”
What made the Vail competition challenging were its elements of endurance and speed. Two climbers at a time raced each other to see who could climb the farthest, the fastest.
As Rock and Ice Magazine described the event on its website, “the 20 competitors raced like greyhounds side by side up the routes. When they topped out, they got to rest a few minutes, then switched walls and went again.”
Whoever had lowest combined time went on to the next round. It all made for an exciting spectator event, especially as night fell and a heavy snowstorm settled in.
The single-elimination format saw the field of 20 male climbers quickly dwindle down to 10, then five, athletes. Each time a climber advanced, he or she had a chance to climb the wall yet again. By the end of the evening, the winner, elite climber Sam Elias of Boulder (who came within a whisker of winning the 2009 Ouray Ice Festival competition), had done a total of 12 laps, getting counterintuitively faster and faster as the night wore on so that by the end, he was cruising at a pumped-up speed of less than three minutes per lap.
Ouray County climbing buddies Gilmore and Marin found themselves competing against each other in the semi-finals but were beat by competitors in the final round. They had climbed well enough to win third and fourth place, overall. At the 2012 Ouray Ice Festival, by comparison, Marin came in second, and Gilmore came in fourth.
Gilmore, at 39, was the oldest competitor at both events.
In the women’s field, meanwhile, Glanc and Emily Harrington (the Boulder climber who took first place among women competitors at the 2012 Ouray Ice Festival) were pitted against each other in the final two rounds, after a third female competitor fell early on. Both Glanc and Harrington fell during each of their two final rounds, but Glanc fell from higher up the wall than Harrington to become the winner.
It’s a format that’s common on the World Cup circuit in Europe. “They want to bring the World Cup to the US and this is a way to start getting our foot in the door,” Glanc explained.
In spite of her first-place finish, Glanc recognizes she has a long way to go to master the new form. “Climbing in Ouray gives me endurance and strength, but it didn’t prepare me for the speed element,” Glanc said. “That was hard to train for.”
Next year (yes, she’s already planning on it) Glanc, 36, hopes to see more women competitors giving her a run for her money at the Teva Games. It’s a common theme, and one which she struck at the Ouray Ice Festival this year as well, where she and Emily Harrington were also two of only three female competitors. In Ouray, Harrington came in first place and Glanc took second. In Vail, they swapped places on the podium, proving they are equally well matched in the male-dominated sport.
“I want to encourage more women to get out there and get on this stuff,” said Glanc in a telephone interview this week. She was in transit to an ice climbing trip in, of all places, Iceland. “We just need the women to come out and climb.”
Results from the mixed climbing comp at the Winter Teva Mountain Games held in Vail last Friday, Feb. 10:
1. Sam Elias, Boulder, Colo.
2. Stanislav Vrba, Frisco, Colo.
3. Andres Marin, Ouray, Colo.
4. Bryan Gilmore, Ridgway, Colo.
5. Marcus Garcia, Durango, Colo.
1. Dawn Glanc, Ouray, Colo.
2. Emily Harrington, Boulder, Colo.
3. Sarah Shaw, Highland, Colo.