Dry-Tooling Continental Cup Round-up

© Pavel Nesvadba

The British Ice Climbing Team have returned home after the first two rounds of the UIAA Continental Cup. They kicked off the season with an all-time best, leading the team rankings after round one and athletes seeing PB results in both senior and youth categories. After round two, the UK currently sits in second place on the overall team leaderboard. The season spans right through to February, with another four rounds, so the top of the podium is set firmly in the team's sights...

Willis Morris in Brno  © Robert Hendriksen
Willis Morris in Brno
© Robert Hendriksen

This sudden surge in results for the UK might come as a shock to those who haven't followed the comp circuit over recent seasons, however, for those that have been witness to the transformation of the Dry-Tooling scene in Scotland, it has not come as a surprise.

Since the founding of the Scottish Dry-Tooling Club in 2021 by GB team members Willis Morris and Caitlin Connor, the scene has exploded. A now thriving community of club members of all ages and abilities have built a system for the sport to grow.

Grass-root introductory classes have built a membership base of hundreds of climbers and at the tip of the pyramid is a youth coaching program that focuses on competition climbing and is fueling an elite team of athletes that is growing and improving each year.

Nov 25th, Round 1

Zilina - Slovakia

The UK fielded twelve athletes for the opening event of the 2023/24 UIAA World Tour. Seven GB team athletes, alongside five Scottish Dry-Tooling Club members, made their international comp debut.

In the women's qualifiers, the results were split by a stopper crux, surprisingly not one that revolved around strength or power, but instead a sequence that involved demanding flexibility and balance to overcome. Kasha Ogilvie (16) gave an exceptional performance with a masterclass of climbing technique, cruising the crux moves that seasoned athletes had to battle with. Unfortunately, a lower than hoped for result on Q2 meant that she narrowly missed out on finals this week, but with multiple national podiums in sport climbing already, we don't think it will be long until we see Kasha claiming medals in the ice world.

Kasha Ogilvie in Zilina  © Robert Hendriksen
Kasha Ogilvie in Zilina
© Robert Hendriksen

Caitlin Connor showed why she's the current British Ice Champion, qualifying highest out of the GB climbers and making it through to finals in good fashion. Setting off in the final, she was calm and collected and everyone settled in for a spectacle. To the crowd's surprise, Caitlin's attempt on the route came to an early close. An unfortunate slip low down in the route left Caitlin finishing in 8th place - still a result she can hold her head high with.

In the men's category, Lewis Miller saw huge improvements since last season alongside youth superstar Rory Watson (17) who appears to be in great condition just now. Rory fell victim to an early fall on Q1 but held his own to pull back his score on Q2, finishing 23rd. Sam Pigden displayed that his summer training working on pace has paid off and came just a few holds off two tops in the qualifiers. However, with the top 8 being tightly bunched on score, this wasn't quite enough to see him through to finals, finishing joint 14th.

British team captain Willis Morris qualified in joint 2nd, just one hold from double tops in qualifiers, an exceptional result for an athlete who has overcome recent injuries. After surgery last season he wrote 'I don't know when the comeback will be, but there will be one, and it will be with everything I've got'. It wasn't until he pulled onto the finals route that people saw the reality of his comeback, as he went on to top the final route, marking a historic moment for British Ice Climbing by bringing home the first men's senior medal.

The team watches finals in Zilina  © Robert Hendriksen
The team watches finals in Zilina
© Robert Hendriksen

An exciting time in the British Ice Climbing scene for sure.

Dec 2nd, Round 2

Brno - Czechia

The team were in for a long day with five qualifier routes set to split the field ahead of finals. Joining the current twelve British athletes that competed in Slovakia, an additional nine athletes traveled from Scotland for round two in Brno, including several more youth climbers.

Brno structure from the sky  © Martin Klusák
Brno structure from the sky
© Martin Klusák

Cold temperatures and constant downpours of snow made conditions difficult for all the competitors but there was no dampening of the Brits spirits. With the largest team seen at any continental cup for many years, the venue was a sea of red GB team jackets, and the constant shouting of encouragement could be heard throughout the whole event. The camaraderie of the team was truly something to behold, and to see the level of support for one another both on and off of the wall was a testament to the team spirit that has been built.

In qualifiers, the British team went from strength to strength. With five routes in Brno, the key is consistency and every team member showed how well rounded their training has been with excellent performances on each route being displayed.

Nessa McShannon shook off last week's nerves with a bang, pulling out some outstanding results on the technical routes along with Kasha Ogilvie who once again showed she meant business with multiple tops in qualifiers. To think that these two young athletes are only just starting out their careers in the senior category and are already breaking into the top ten is mind-blowing. They both narrowly missed out on finals, Kasha 9th and Nessa 10th.

The men were no different, with tops being recorded across all the GB scorecards. Rory once again comfortably made it into the top 20 of the pack of over 70 male athletes. Sam Pigden improved on his great score from last week, coming just shy of a finals spot with 11th place.

Author Sam Pigden tops out a qualifying route in Brno  © Pavel Nesvadba
Author Sam Pigden tops out a qualifying route in Brno
© Pavel Nesvadba

Lewis Miller saw his first top of the season, a moment that won't be forgotten anytime soon. Continuing on from his podium position the week before, Willis Morris managed to pull off an unprecedented clean sweep, being the only athlete to top all five routes, and as such qualified for finals in first place.

Caitlin Connor once again proved how consistently she climbs, cruising through to take a well earned place in the finals. After slipping low in the Zilina final she was clearly determined to prove what she can do. She used the full time allotted, timing out and finished with an impressive score which put her into seventh place.

Caitlin Connor takes on the finals route in Brno  © Pavel Nesvadba
Caitlin Connor takes on the finals route in Brno
© Pavel Nesvadba

With the finals holding many athletes frequently seen on the world cup podium, Caitlin's seventh doesn't quite do justice to the brilliant performance that she gave. The start of the world cup season in January will show just how far Caitlin has come this year, where we expect her habit of making finals will be continued and her PB's smashed. As ever, she supported the youths throughout the competition proving to be a great role model for our female youths that we're sure will be joining her in finals soon enough.

Caitlin Connor talks the route over in observation  © Martin Tesař
Caitlin Connor talks the route over in observation
© Martin Tesař

The men's final saw four of the top eight fall low down on the route before the Swiss machine, Benjamin Bossard, showed why he is world class by topping the route.

Part of what makes competition ice climbing so exciting is how unpredictable it can be, you may scrape into finals only to make the last route look easy. Unfortunately, the other way is also a possibility and can mean the favorite can be spat off low down with no warning. Willis set off on the final route and set a pace that would surely set him top of the podium, passing the hold that had been the downfall of the others, but a tricky section which had already claimed last season's winner, Virgile Devin, also spat Willis off just one move higher. With fourth place, this result edges Willis into the lead in the overall season's rankings.

Willis Morris in the finals in Brno  © Pavel Nesvadba
Willis Morris in the finals in Brno
© Pavel Nesvadba

Perhaps not the result he was hoping for on the day, but off the back of a year of recovery and dedication to raising the British team, he truly deserves his current pole position at the top of the season ranking. He may not have taken a gold every round, but we reckon the yellow jersey is the prize he has his eyes on…

Youth Comps

The youths, not fully satisfied with making waves in the senior categories, went on to round up several medals for GB in the youth categories:

Gold for Kasha Ogilvie in U18

Bronze for Nina Henderson in U20

Gold for Nessa McShannon in U20

Silver for Rory Watson in U20

Bronze for Clarke Noone in U18

This was Nina and Clarke's debut competition and they impressed everyone on the team. The hard work they have displayed over the past months is truly starting to pay off, and we're all immensely proud of them and excited to hear back regarding their hopeful selection for the World Youth Championships in January.

A strong UK presence from GB athletes and SDTC members in Brno  © Scottish Dry-Tooling Club
A strong UK presence from GB athletes and SDTC members in Brno
© Scottish Dry-Tooling Club

You can follow the season and tune in to see how the team gets on in the third round of the cup in the Netherlands on the 16th of December.

The GB Ice Climbing Team is supported by: The North Face/Szent Climbing/Hirzl Gloves

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