CWIF 2024 Round Up

© Tim Hughes/@timjhughes

Last weekend saw the return of the annual Climbing Works International Festival, with top competitors from across the globe making their way to Sheffield to test themselves on world-class boulders.

Whilst the CWIF always attracts top talent, this year there was the added incentive of the CWIF representing an opportunity for the climbers to sample the setting of Garrett Gregor, who has been selected as Head Setter for the upcoming Paris Olympics.

As such, a number of Olympic hopefuls due to take place in the upcoming Olympic Qualifier Series turned out, including international athletes Jenya Kazbekova, Alex Megos, Yoshiyuki Ogata, Yannick Flohé, Sean McColl and Nimrod Marcus, as well as GB athletes, Molly Thompson-Smith, Max Milne, Jack MacDougall, and Jim Pope.

These ten plus another thirty athletes made up the semi-finals, which started off slowly, with the first forty minutes of competition yielding no tops, and - on some boulders - no zones. 

Sean McColl broke the deadlock with a top of M3, and as the top half of the field came into play the boulders began to fall. Jenya Kazbekova and Max Milne were the picks of the bunch, with Jenya having a perfect round, flashing all of the boulders, whilst Max was just a single attempt away from matching the achievement, flashing three of the four men's boulders, but needing two attempts to work out the final boulder.

Holly Toothill was close on Jenya's heels, matching Max's almost perfect round of four tops in five attempts, whilst also being the only other athlete on the women's side of the semis to top all four boulders. Molly Thompson-Smith flashed three of the four boulders to qualify for the final in third place, with Lucy Garlick, Emma Edwards, and Fae MacDougall rounding out the final six. 

As for the men's side of the competition, Max and Daiki were the only climbers to top all four boulders, with the remaining four finalists each topping three of the four. Daiki's impressive round came after having flashed all thirty boulders in round one of qualifying, whilst Alex Megos took third place qualifying spot with three tops and four zones in eight attempts. Plywood Masters Champ Aiden Dunne, World Cup Winner Yannick Flohe, and last year's third place finisher Jack MacDougall made up the men's finalists.

In the final, Jenjya Kazbekova pounced upon the opportunity to continue her consistent rise up the CWIF final positions. In 2022 she finished in third place, in 2023 she finished in second place, in 2024 the top spot seemed almost inevitable, as she carried her semi-final perfection into the final, flashing each of the finals boulders as well, meaning she only pulled on eight times across the semis and the final!

Jenya Kazbekova flashes W1  © Tim Hughes/@timjhughes
Jenya Kazbekova flashes W1
© Tim Hughes/@timjhughes

Holly Toothill came painfully close to matching Jenya's perfect round, with what appeared to be a moment of indecision leading to missed footswap on the final boulder. Holly rectified the mistake on her next attempt, meaning that she had managed to climb the eight boulders in semis and finals in just ten attempts - a feat that would so often be worthy of the top-spot, but on this occasion, earned her second place. It was an impressive competition for her throughout, and an improvement on her fourth place position finishes in 2022 and 2023.

Rounding out the podium was seventeen year-old Lucy Garlick, whose three tops in six attempts narrowly placed her ahead of Emma Edwards and Molly Thompson-Smith. Fae MacDougall was unable to get zones on the first two boulders, but finished strong with flashes of boulders three and four. 

Women's Final Results  © The Climbing Works
Women's Final Results
© The Climbing Works

Whereas the women's final was ultimately decided by number of attempts across all four boulders, as opposed to number of tops and zones, the men's final had a clear winner - on paper, at least - with Yannick Flohé the only competitor to climb three of the four boulders. His smooth and confident flash of M1 was a sight to behold after having watched every previous competitor struggle on it, and the control he showed on the crimpy M3 was similarly impressive - a worthy champion. 

Yannick Flohé cruising through the crimps on M3  © Tim Hughes/@timjhughes
Yannick Flohé cruising through the crimps on M3
© Tim Hughes/@timjhughes

That being said, the highlight of the men's final - and, arguably, of the final altogether - came from the only boulder of the final that didn't see a top, M2. Set by Max Ayrton, the slab boulder essentially required the climbers to press their way through a cartwheel. It was a move that Garrett Gregor said he didn't think had been seen before in competition, although he did also say 'don't quote me on this' - sorry Garrett.

Having worked out the intended beta during observation, the finalists all started by approaching the boulder in the same way.

Jack MacDougall getting established on M2  © Tim Hughes/@timjhughes
Jack MacDougall getting established on M2
© Tim Hughes/@timjhughes

Jack MacDougall came close to completing the move, losing his balance at the very end of the cartwheel, Yannick Flohé was able to complete the rotation, but slipped before reaching the zone, and Daiki Sano completed the rotation fully, only to lose balance as he stood up.

The zone still hadn't been reached when Max pulled on for his flash go. A quick rotation later, Max had secured the zone, seemingly with ease. Surely that was the crux of the boulder?

Jenya flashing W2 as Max finishes off the cartwheel  © Tim Hughes/@timjhughes
Jenya flashing W2 as Max finishes off the cartwheel
© Tim Hughes/@timjhughes

Apparently not. A tough gaston move spat Max off the boulder. He jumped on again, rotated, and tried to find his way through the next move. Again, he came off. With twenty-nine seconds left on the clock, he pulled on again. At twelve seconds left he'd completed the cartwheel. As the final seconds ticked away, Max worked out the tough move through the zone, and twenty-one seconds after time had run out, Max topped the boulder.

Did it count? No. Did Max's foot slip as he matched? Maybe. Was it the most crowd-pleasing moment of the competition? Absolutely - although Daiki Sano's 'power up' screams in between attempts on M4 were a close second.

Men's Final Results  © The Climbing Works
Men's Final Results
© The Climbing Works

All in all, a comp with some stand-out performances, inventive and original setting, and outstanding individual moments. If you missed it this time around, then check out the livestreams below, and get CWIF 2025 in the calendar.

Semi-Final Livestream:

Final Livestream:

The CWIF couldn't happen without support from these great brands:

Level 1 Sponsors: Rab, Scarpa, Secur-it, Rockcity and Beta Setting
Level 2 Sponsors: Staxxx, Expression Holds, EP Holds, X-Cult, Axis, Lapis, Squadra Holds, Bleastone, Sheffield Festival of the Outdoors Outdoor City, UKClimbing, Vezi, Flux Holds

The Climbing Works will proudly be raising funds for Climbers Against Cancer as well as Mountain Rescue Edale.

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A huge thank you to the CWIF organisers for supporting Climbers Against Cancer again this year. Thanks to the generosity of the global climbing community we were able to donate almost £15,000 to efforts to prevent Breast Cancer and Prostate Cancer and support those living with and beyond this disease that affects so many.

A massive shout out to Steve McClure, Alex Megos and Sean McColl who presented the cheques and to The BMC with whom we've launched a collaborative BMC / CAC T-shirt range.

Click here to play your part - "In life, we are all climbers".

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