Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Mountaineering, alpine and trad climbing need to become part of the World Cup competition circuit. It’s only common sense.
As it stands, World Cups only test a small slice of the climbing pie, an unfortunate situation, not to mention elitist–why should the best compete on the biggest stage? In an effort to illuminate a path forward for growing the base of competition climbing, I’m putting my ideas out there.
Change the competition format, and we level the playing field.
So, where is trad climbing in World Cups? Nowhere, is the answer. But there’s an easy fix. For bouldering and lead comps, make all athletes carry a full rack, waterbottle, phone and rain shell on their gear loops. Outlaw chalk. Use holds from the late 1990s and make all competitor’s shoes two sizes too big. Crack some plastic holds. Make it sketchy. Forget to sink all the screws in the volumes. Remember when Jernej Kruder broke that hold in Toulouse and it was the talk of the town?…that’s just a taste of the drama we could have. All competitors must be hungover and dehydrated as well, and they must carry at least two melted chocolate bars in each pocket. Lastly, in the middle of the route, have two variations to the top, one of which is the actual top while the other leads to an unprotected runout and a potential fall over a non-padded area stacked with cinderblocks and rusty nails. Bonus points for checking Mountain Project and peeing while on route.
Now, onto alpine climbing. You might think the Ice Climbing World Cups test alpine skill. Nope. The best way to simulate alpine conditions is to have the aforementioned Bouldering and Lead comps, apply those rules in full, but allow the audience to throw volumes down onto the athletes, to replicate falling rock. Sprinklers dishing out a steady stream of freezing water will be mandatory, as will climbing at night. The comp starts at 12:30 in the morning. Competitors must have eaten two gels in the past eight hours and they must be convinced that if they don’t top out, they will never see their family again. If an athlete in the Alpine World Cup needs to retreat, they have one option: they have to rappel over the cinderblock zone with a core-shot six-mil cord on a fractured volume.
Mountaineering is not represented either. But again, easy fix. Climbers will have to half-gag themselves with a rag, to mimic lack of oxygen. Seven layers of clothing will be mandatory, as will be oversized gloves so as to ensure you can’t actually climb anything. Taking place on a nearby park, the crux of the route will be figuring out what old fixed line to use, because if you use the wrong one, a pitbull is unleashed on you. To replicate intestinal issues, climbers will have to eat street food from dodgy carts for the prior month, as well as drinking water from only gas-station bathrooms.
Consider all of these ideas copyrighted.
Francis Sanzaro can be found HERE. He is the Editor-in-Chief of Gym Climber and Ascent and has been climbing for almost 30 years.