It’s been over a week now since the first competition of the season. Plenty of time to reflect on how it went and where to improve.
I first competed at the Ice Factor about 7 years ago shortly after returning from a month long trip to Nepal, feeling very weak I managed to get myself into the final alongside Tony Stone and Dave Macleod. I didn’t stand a chance and came in third.
This year I was really looking forward to competing having based my whole season on doing the Ice World Cup circuit. So coming to the Ice Factor I felt ready to give it a really good shot, but the main aim was to focus on staying relaxed and having fun, something that sometimes feels hard to do when competing with the worlds best.
Having had a leisurely drive up from Manchester the day before we arrived in good time to catch up with the organiser of the event, the one and only Kev Shields who was still setting the finals route. To say he was a little stressed would be a massive understatement.
The village of Kinlochleven at the head of Loch Leven on the West coast of Scotland is a dramatic place to hold a competition, surrounded on all sides by impressive mountains and the sea.
I was so looking forward to catching up with folk. The entries had been capped at 60 and every place had been filled weeks before, so entering the building to massive crowds was amazing. Sign on was completed and the rules read out. 15 qualifying problems to be completed in approx 6 hours which is always hard given the mass of people trying to complete them.
I decided to take it easy and let the first wave of psyche take over and settled down for a coffee and a chat with folk I’d not seen for ages. Eventually deciding I better do something I committed a total school boy error and rushed into the first problem without reading the rules and instantly picked up penalty points for using the wrong foot holds. These comps are always hard fought things and dropping even a couple of points can see you miss the final so dropping 3 points straight away put the pressure on to flash everything else.
A few weeks previously I’d organised a meet down at the Works tooling crag to try and get folk keen to come and join me on the world cup circuit. A lot of very promising strong folk turned up of which most showed an interest in competing. All those that showed an interest had now turned up to the ice factor so this was an amazing opportunity to see folk under the pressure of competition.
The 6 hours flew by and with a little bit of panic climbing at the end saw 5 of us all on the same score having only made 1 mistake. Kev the kind soul that he is, gave me the option to compete in the vets category for the final, and for the first time ever I took the opportunity. This then gave me the chance to come out before all the big guns and hopefully put the pressure on them rather than milling around in isolation getting nervous.
Having heard the cheers and groans for the other 2 vets, Ed and Andy in front of me it’s was hard to gauge how well they’d done. Eventually I was called out. A couple of years ago I would have shivered at the thought of climbing in front of even a small crowd but now coming out is such a buzz. Kev had done a good job of setting the route which had a mixture of tenuous moves and big reaches. I was determined to try and climb the route in the most relaxed way I could but as with all these comps it usually comes down to how fast you can climb. Given 4 mins to top out is pretty short given it would probably take 2 hours to climb the same distance outside. The route went well with only a minor struggle trying to get the rope through the chain at the top. Having come out first now gave me the chance to watch everyone else climb, of which everyone climbed the route totally different.
Greg eventually came out on top with Stevie Johnson and Ewan Rodgers 2nd and 3rd. I won 1st vet and I think 2nd overall.
After a quick chance to grab a beer Simon Yeardsley stepped up to the mark and gave a very inspiring lecture about new routing in far flung places around Scotland, and managed not to give to many secrets of potential new lines away either!
Totally wasted I headed off to bed determined to make the most of a very quick session at Dunkeld the next day.
I’ve always wanted to do the classic Fast and Furious a route Scott Muir had done almost 10 years ago now as a training route for greater things abroad. I’d had a couple of small sessions on it 5 years ago when I used to live in Aviemore but was never strong enough.
So with vey tired arms I was glad to tick it off before the long journey south. All in all, a great weekend. Thanks to Kev and the rest of the team at the Ice Factor for putting on an amazing event.
Bring on the World Cups.