On January the 8th and 9th, the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup season will get underway, with Lead and Speed competitions in Cheongsong, Korea – the first time the circuit makes a stop in Asia.
"This is a welcome event for all Korean climbers. As the first UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup in an Asian country, it will greatly motivate climbers in Korea, as well as those in Japan and China," said Lee Injeong, Korean Alpine Federation President. "We are very happy to join the effort to be part of the Winter Olympics which is UIAA's ultimate goal."
Koreans are no strangers to ice climbing. In the final event of the 2010 World Cup season, athletes Shin Woon Seon and Hee Yong Park won the final Lead competitions in the women's and men's events respectively. And Lead competitions take place all over Korea throughout the winter season, says Andrej Pecjak, UIAA Ice Climbing Commission member. "Ice Climbing is like a national sport in Korea."
The UIAA recognises ice climbing as a competitive sport and is responsible for the organisation and promotion of the Ice Climbing World Cup and International Championships.
There are two ice climbing disciplines; Speed and Lead.
In Speed, athletes race up an ice face for the best time. In Lead competitions the climbers' ability to master a difficult route in a given time is tested.
Austria's Markus Bendler is still the man to beat in Lead, having won the overall title in 2009 and 2010. Russia's Pavel Gulyaev is the defending champion in the Speed discipline while his compatriots, Anna Gallyamova and Nadezda Shubina, took the women's Lead and Speed 2010 crowns respectively.
The next World Cup event will be in Saas Fee, Switzerland on January 21 and 22, which will also include Speed and Lead competitions.
Due to the tragic death at the beginning of January of a member of the organising committee of the Val Daone competition, the organisers of the Italian event decided to cancel the event, which was scheduled for January 15 and 16.
In its commitment to developing the sport, the UIAA plans to expand the circuit with the intention of showcasing Ice Climbing competitions in Sochi, Russia at the same time as the 2014 Winter Olympics. Discussions with the Sochi Olympic Organising Committee have indicated that Ice Climbing competitions could be welcome as part of the "Live Events" being planned for the general public.