Last week a new event took place in British Columbia which saw a gathering of some of the world's top competition climbers alongside young athletes keen to learn from the best - the IFSC World Climbing Camp. Adam Ondra, Sean McColl, Maja Vidmar and Mina Markovic were just some of the big names attending. We got in touch with event organiser and Chair of The Boulders Climbing Gym - the location for the camp - Kimanda Jarzebiak to find out more about this exciting new initiative.
What drove you to conceive the idea of a World Climbing Camp? What were the aims of the event?
We have been hosting more local "camps" for the past few years, and we wanted to grow the concept. This idea came up during a lunch with IFSC President Marco Scolaris in Italy in July, and I worked with Jerome Meyer, Roman Kranj, and Sean McColl to refine the concept over the rest of the summer. We wanted to give athletes in North America an opportunity to learn more about world cups so we can grow the sport. We also wanted our guest athletes to have a chance to explore other aspects of climbing competitions (coaching, setting), and have time to spend with each other outside of a competition setting.
Plus, we wanted our team of volunteers (judges, setters, belayers, coordinators) to have a bit more experience and learning opportunities before we host more international competitions.
How did you choose the climbers who attended?
The camp was open to 100 registrants, 13 and older. We almost sold out - 98 participants - which was great. As for guest athletes, we were looking for top lead and speed athletes - athletes who have been repeat world youth champions or world champions, and are on the circuit. We needed them to be available for 3 days before the camp, to speak ok English and to be open to new experiences. Some of the athletes we invited couldn't make it, and unfortunately one cancelled at the last minute, and we were lucky to have Helene Janicot step in.
What did each day consist of?
Guest athletes, setters and coaches arrived on Tuesday evening. We had a welcome dinner, and a brief meeting to get organized. On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday morning, our guest athletes worked with our setting team to get the gym ready for the event. This was quite successful, as many guest athletes hadn't set before, and our setters - including IFSC chief route setter Adam Pustelnik - hadn't had the opportunity to work with athletes outside of the competition circuit. There was a great exchange of perspectives.
We also took the guest athletes on a tour of the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence. The Boulders has a new partnership with them, allowing athletes who train with us access to athletic therapy, testing, and other services commonly available to elite athletes in other sports.
Registrants arrived on Friday afternoon. They were divided into teams (each one led by a guest athlete), and got to know each other. On Friday evening and Saturday morning, they got to choose between workshops given by guest athletes and staff. Then we had mock competitions (qualifying rounds) in lead and speed. (Everyone keeps asking why we didn't include bouldering. Despite our gym being called "the Boulders" we don't yet have world class bouldering terrain... yet!).
Sunday was the final round of the competition (everyone advanced to finals!), and then we had team awards and a wrap-up, including a group shot of everyone wearing CAC. Team Adam Ondra placed third, Team Maja Vidmar was second, and Team Mina Markovic was first. It was a "mock" comp, with competitors earning points for their team based on their placement in their category.
Was the event successful in achieving what you hoped for?
We all left very excited - it was a great weekend full of learning. I know the guest athletes, coaches and setters enjoyed it, as we are all talking about how to tweak it for the next event. We're just in the process of gathering feedback from the "campers", but judging by the smiles, I would say it was successful for them too. I think it is a great event when everyone wants to improve it for next time, as opposed to questioning whether there should be a next time.
What are the plans for the future? Will the camp move around the world?
Those are very good questions - and they are being discussed right now! Definitely, the Boulders is open to hosting again next year. But we also are curious to see if we can re-create the event in other locations. We are lucky at the Boulders to have staff, volunteers and sponsors who share a sense of adventure and common vision. Events like this couldn't happen without this great community. And to have the IFSC fully on board, with Marco Scolaris coming out, Kailas and EP donating goods, Jerome Meyer, Adam Pustelnik, Roman Krajnik and Sean McColl giving feedback, wisdom and time... it just feels like a lot of good people came together to grow the sport!
For more images from the event see Christian J. Stewart's gallery here.