Emma Powell: My Youth Ice World Championship Experience

14 year-old Emma Powell is no stranger to crampons and ice axes. From a very young age she followed in the footsteps of her father Phil - a keen ice climber and dry-tooling fanatic - and has gradually made her way up the ranks in competitions, her highlight being a Bronze medal in the 2014 Youth Ice Climbing World Championships in Champagny en Vanoise, France and a 2nd place overall in the senior(!) women's British Tooling Series this season.

Emma has just returned from Saas Fee, Switzerland after competing once more in the UIAA World Youth Ice Climbing Championships and placing 6th. Emma tells of her experience below.

Before the competition it was exciting but also a nervous time for me, as soon one of the most important competitions was coming up. I felt strong because my Dad had managed to peak my training before the competition. My training consisted of strength and conditioning, endurance on the wall and mobility work. I had amazing support beforehand and lots of encouragement from my family and my sponsors.

Emma Powell at the UIAA World Youth Ice Champs, 64 kb
Emma Powell at the UIAA World Youth Ice Champs

We got to the competition on the day and were mesmerised by the sight of Saas Fee. The wall is built within a multi-storey car park. The wall itself looked insane and daunting - at an aggressive angle and with the ice up the middle, it would be a great experience just to test myself on it and it felt great to have earned a place standing below it. The competition started and routes were given to each age group, I was in the under 16's. We had two qualifying routes - one which used the ice and one which did not. The first route was up some ice that was very difficult to climb due to the clusters it was in. I was at first a bit slow then started to move. Most of the competitors had reached the top or above the crux area. I started moving left onto the boards. It was hard to shift my body weight over but with my fruit boots kept me safe from falling. I did the crux then moved to the ice. My climbing was paced but I had lost time.

Emma at the tricky start of her final route

The commentator, Urs Stocker, called out the final minute and I raced up fast and made it to the top. Part of the rush of the end was helped by my Dad's training of doing time on and off the wall, where I would rush on the last minute. The second route did not include the ice but was on the wall section to the right. At this point I was really nervous as after starting on a concrete pillar you moved toward a hanging ice block where lots of girls seemed to have got tangled up. It was my turn - I was moving onto the ice quickly and locked off deep and pushed past the move. The rest was fun but testing, I got to the stein pull move and struggled to put the axe in reaching up. I then managed a few more moves.

The results. I had qualified in first place, it was a delightful shock and time for isolation. Earlier in the day I had met the American team and they were all great fun and excited to be there. I sat with them until the route preview where I was introduced to my route - it looked impressive. It was longer than the others and it was mainly on the ice for about a third of the way up. You came across onto the board to the right then moved back after a couple of moves that looked tricky. Before I knew it it was time to go back into isolation. It was daunting when Karlee (part of the American team) went and I was sat by myself.

Emma on her way to 6th place, 74 kb
Emma on her way to 6th place

When it was time to go I was the only girl of my age category left. I had watched all of the girls go before me. I tied in looked up to do my final read of the route then I went. My pace on the ice was steady. I reached the board and it was hard moving my weight across onto a hold - I went front on but later on I found out that others did it by hooking the axe pick onto the side. I did a few other moves and reached to my left and back onto the ice. The ice was not too easy to move across on because there was a boundary line and I put my foot above it. The next step was to pull across - I started pulling and my tool blew. I was disappointed and was annoyed that the ice blew out. I was lowered off and my Dad gave me a hug. I accepted what happened and it was pointed out to me it was something I couldn't have changed and I had to move past this and take it as experience. It was the end of the day and I enjoyed every single part of it. I was also looking forward to a trip to Norway for ice climbing the following week!

Thanks Dad for coaching me and being my Dad. Also a great big hug to Andy Rutherford for the amazing photos.

Full results and information on the event can be found here.

Emma is sponsored by: La Sportiva, Lyon Outdoor, Petzl and Krukonogi

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