Sochi Olympics, 2014

There has been a lot of unknowns and questions about Sochi and what ice climbing’s role is. Here’s a breakdown for all those hanging on a thread one way or another.

Sochi, Russia is located on the Black Sea and is an incredible venue for an Olympic Games. “Ice Climbing is featured as a cultural event at the Winter Olympics for the first time in Sochi, Russia. Athletes who are part of the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup will be present in Sochi at the invitation of the Russian Mountaineering Federation to showcase the sport to the world.” Here’s a good link from the UIAA (click here).


“Sasulkalina” – the ice climbing structure in Sochi (photo: Erin Weber)

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) initially wanted the climbing demonstration to be held at the ski area, between two ski lifts, in the mountains. There’s a free :40 min train ride from the Olympic Park. However, they changed their minds and decided that they wanted the ice climbing venue to be located in the Olympic Park. This was a massive shift from previous as the IOC wanted ice climbing to have more exposure. A lot more…like 90-95% more. That’s the goal, to get exposure.


This is the mid that developed external fixators. So, for all you PAs/NPs that want to “stump the chump”, this is a great piece of trivia. However, it is a testament to the fact that we are all on the face of the earth together and have something to gain from each other. It was cool to pick up some medical information on this trip, rather than doling it out. I think that there is a lot of medicine in this world that we in the USA are not privy to, but may glean from those around.





Key to this was Pavel Shabalin who is from Kirov, Russia. The man knows how to make ice. We have a man-made ice structure that is located on the Black Sea with temperatures that are above freezing. There are three walls and we are able to change which wall we are climbing on as the sun moves across the sky.This ice is some of the better ice I have climbed on compared to this year’s World Cup competitions. Also, the general public is allowed to take a stab at climbing the ice. In fact, what better way to spread awareness of competition ice climbing than to create a tactile physical sense of being able to relate to the athletes? On the first day, there were more than 400 participants who came to climb on the ice structure.

Ice Bloc: The difficulty section is for the athletes only. It is a lead traverse on free hanging “blocs” that look like ice cubes. Since there’s no formal competition, we are able to climb at-will and as much as we like. It’s a great venue in its entirety. Even other Olympic athletes are coming over to climb on the ice! Maybe they will put me out of a job!



The accommodations are near to the Olympic Park. Since we are not an official Olympic sport, we are not staying in the Olympic Village, but have it better, I think. Why? Because we get to stay with a local family at their home! We celebrated with them until the wee hours last night, for a birthday party and ate local foods (outstanding), and had some Armenian drink. One of the major reasons I travel is to learn more about other cultures and experience them. I couldn’t do that living in the Olympic Village.

I spent last night discussing what the future of competition ice climbing holds for the UIAA and the Olympics with Frits Vrijlandt. He was very optimistic about how ice climbing was appearing in the eyes of the IOC, and that the groundwork is being laid down for becoming a full Olympic sport in the future. Obviously, there is a long road to go, but at this point, he seems confident that competition ice climbing will become more mainstream in the future, and this includes a very real spot as an Olympic Sport in the future. It will be a long and arduous road, but once worth following.

Regarding all the threats of Terrorism and all the jokes about the accommodations (like toilets, etc.), I can’t say that I feel that there are any issues whatsoever. They’ve brought in cruise liners to provide for extra rooms that would not be used in the near future, thereby not wasting millions/billions on quickly built housing. The people here are hospitable and helpful, despite the fact that I can’t speak Russian. The views are awesome with the juxtaposition of the Black Sea against the fabled Caucasus Mountains, not previously accessible to Westerners for many years. We will make the free train ride to the Olympic venue in the mountains in the near future to check it all out and maybe go skiing.

It’s really cool to not only go to the Olympics, but also to be able to climb as much as I want. I get to improve on my speed climbing as I never have a chance to speed climb. It’s also good to get to climb with all the athletes out of true competition format, although it feels like competition as we a are on a stage.

Thus far, I’ve had many new opportunities present themselves, including going to Mongolia, so this might be a worthy endeavor in the future.


I wish all those who have supported me in one way or another, the best. Will try to keep up with the blog, but it’s tough when you’re busy.


All the Best,