UIAA in the USA and ICAR

climbing Cali
Climbing in Cali

So, the time has come. Taking the next step is always daunting. Last year I decided to become a part of the solution and invested myself into the Union International Association ‘d Alpinism (UIAA). Becoming part of the Ice Climbing Commission as a Full Member wasn’t enough. I was asked to run for the Executive Board of the UIAA, as my efforts to be a cofactor in the viral spread of mixed climbing took hold in the USA and around the world.

The first ever UIAA General Assembly meeting to be held in the USA in the past 66 years, was in Flagstaff, AZ in Oct 2014. I was astounded by the show of hands from all around the world to support the sustaining of climbing and mountaineering on a world level. With Bill Putnam as the acting host, and long-standing honorary member, mountaineer, and USA’s 30-year representative to the UIAA, many of the world’s Federations (UK, Canada, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, Russia, India, Nepal, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, and France, just to name a few), shared ideas on 7 major focuses of the UIAA.

IFMGA Pin xchange
IFMGA Pin xchange

Having been on boards in the past, I realized that this community was something more. They want to share their mountains and adventures, their dreams of a better world, and the promise to keep the faith.

I had the opportunity to meet and climb with Phil Powers, Executive Director of the AAC and part owner of Jackson Hole Mountain guides, and discuss many topics. As well, the current IFMGA president was in attendance and honored my by accepting the ONLY silver IFMGA pin (made by Steve and Nancy Attaway), and he pinned me with his pin in kind.

This comes in the wake of spending some quality time rock climbing in the Lake Tahoe area and attending the International Commission of Alpine Rescue conference. That was my first ICAR conference, and I was honored to represent the USA Mountain Rescue Association as the Avalanche Alternate Delegate, along-side Dale Atkins. Needless to say, it’s been a BIG Autumn. Oh ya, throw in that Trevor Mayshack and I taught a EMT CME course for Yosemite Search and Rescue in September.

After a long motorcycle trip home, I’m still reeling from the unanimous decision by the General Assembly to vote with confidence, my position on the Executive Board. I hope to continue what those who have come before me have done, and those who presently reside as are doing. I hope that being the only EB Member from the Western Hemisphere, and the only IFMGA guide on the EB, will help build on the past successes of the UIAA.

In the meantime, it’s back to guiding and instruction for BMG and SR. Let’s get ready for ice season and avi courses !!!

 

Honored,

Marc

Profiling against climbers is a CRIME!

It doesn’t matter if you are black, white, yellow, or brown. Profiling is ILLEGAL in the USA. Over the past two months I’ve had a neighbor move in who swore that I was climbing in my rock climbing gym at all hours (even past midnight), simply to be intrusive and annoying to her. No that I have a lot of time to think about deviceful ways to be a jerk, I am writing this post as I feel that my experience is the tip of the iceberg for climbers in general.

After I got divorced, I moved to an apartment complex. I cleared with the staff that it would be ok for me to hang boards from the garage wall and use it as a climbing gym. I’ve lived here for 1.5 years and have not had a single complaint. Then the new neighbors moved in. Ever since, the girl, has been calling the apartment manager and even the ABQ police Dept to file complaints of “noise.” Although she could not isolate which apartment the noise was coming from, she said that it “sounded like someone climbing and using a safety rope.” I don’t use a safety rope in my garage, but moreover, I haven’t climbed in my garage since before I left for World Cups and Sochi in early January. In fact, I haven’t climbed since after I returned from Europe since I sustained a shoulder injury that I’ve been seeing the orthopedic surgeon for. This is the first time since 3 Jan, 2014, that I have climbed on my wall. The wall is pretty tame, and all I’ve been doing is working and snuggling my Bombay until my shoulder was cleared.

Long story short, I was told that I was going to be evicted if I didn’t take the wall down within 7 days. I told the apartment manager, who was willing to listen to me for long enough for me to make my case, that the noise was not coming from the plywood, and that that I was not climbing, but I would be more than happy to actually entertain the cause-effect relationship. If they did not concede, I was going to file a harassment suit against the girl/tenant making the claims as it would force me to do something that I not only didn’t want to do (take my wall down), but also would not resolve the problem, since I wasn’t the focus of the problem, but there was no evidence that I was indeed the cause.

Here’s some video to show what happened next:

Anyway, I was vindicated by climbing, but the people just kept bringing it on, even AFTER there was no more to pursue.

What I’m saying here is this: The girl saw my wall initially, and then started hearing noises, even when I was out of state, or even out of the country, and nobody was home. I was actually worried the first time because I thought that someone might be breaking into my appartment. The fact that there is no cause and effect relationship, and that these individuals made a massive jump that since I had a climbing wall, the noise must be coming from me climbing on the wall, is indeed PROFILING. Racial, prejudicial, or whatever, it’s ILLEGAL. Harassment, bullying, or otherwise, call it what the attorneys will, it ain’t cool. Just because I’m a climber, and I walk to the grocery store to get my groceries with a backpack rather than fill plastic bags and drive my car, and living a bit of a “different” lifestyle, doesn’t give anyone the right to target rock climbers like thugs. If I treated patient’s in my clinic like that, I’d not have a practice. No would I have a guide service if the same were true about how I treated guests. Just because you’re a blonde girl doesn’t mean you can’t climb hard (my most talented guest was a blonde haired girl who crushed it…all day long), or aren’t smart, or capable.

Climbers are losing ground everywhere. I fled hunting and fishing as a young man as the regulations became so strict, it was impossible to do more than dream of doing anything else.

I stood my ground today and didn’t bend. I didn’t do it for myself. Rather, I did it to make a statement. That climbers are not ok to target. I threatened a lawsuit for harassment against me and that caught everyone’s attention. I was willing to go all the way on this as I have no intention of not standing up for what’s right, not anymore. Had I not had the gumption to defend myself, I would be tearing down my wall, looking to move, and facing being evicted. Now, the management team at the apartments trusts me, and hopefully casts a good light on climbers in general. As for the kooks next door – they are leaving in 1-2 months and will likely wreak more havoc at their next destination.

I hope this inspires others to defend climbing when the offensive strikes come…in whatever form. I’ve vented and am burned out. Back to climbing!

Best,
Marc

Ice Mixed Climbing Grades

 

 

ICE MIXED GRADES

Grades have since become a contentious issue. Here’s my take:

Since Jeff Lowe set the first proper mixed rock and ice climb in Vail, Colorado, “Octopussy”, and was given the grade of M8 (mixed 8), people climbed “like” routes and the grades were similar. Then Will Gadd and Ben Firth, et al., established the Cineplex at Panther Falls, Canada, showcasing “Musashi”, and graded it M12. Many other climbs were put up in between and after these classics were established. Soon, many climbs were put up in the more severe and overhanging fashion. The two grades, and the variance of rock type and general ice conditions, gave rise to an intrepid variability in grades.

Enter Europe. All the while, the same grades were being put up in France, Switzerland, Italy, and beyond. What nobody saw coming was Usine, a massive cave near Grenoble, France that lent itself to no standard rock climbing whatsoever. So, some industrious men made it a canvas for the next phase, Dry Tool Style (DTS), climbing primarily manufactured routes on extremely overhanging terrain, and without the use of what is known as a Figure 4, but that’s another topic concerning style. The holds were painted so that climber to tell where they were going draws pre-hung and permanent, and a grading system that is not relevant to the rest of the world. Moreover, there’s no ice.

I brought the concept back from Europe and hooked up with Jason Nelson in Ouray. He took me to see a climb that he put up on the outside of a cave that nobody would climb because it was a “dry cave”, devoid of ice. His route followed natural and already existing holds for ice tools. I asked him about the rest of the cave and he said it likely wouldn’t “go”. I suggested that we mimic the French and MAKE IT GO. I started bolting from ground, up, “Zero2Hero”, right up the middle of the cave. Jason finished the top of the route, we cleaned it and we climbed it, and it is now the standard line at the Hall of Justice, although most people only climb to the lip of the cave and claim the ascent. The rating was dubious, but we said M12-/M11+ (ice does com in above the cave), and D10 to the lip. More routes have gone in since.

Now, everyone who climbs this medium knows that grades are subjective, and at this point, there is no agreement or consensus, not only considering the different rock types, but also the conditions that they were climbed in.  Holds break, bad holds become better, freeze-thaw inside the stone exfoliates the rock face. Suffice it to say that routes change.

What is more notable is that since Usine, ratings have taken another form. I would say that if people want a rating for places with heavy dry tooling concentration to ice ratio, there might be a before Usine (BU) and an after Usine (AU) rating. An M10 standard like “Goldline” in Ouray’s Poser’s Lounge is simply 2 grades easier than an M10 at Usine. People can then be happy that they climbed “Goldline” and claim an M10 ascent, but it should use the BU note (BUM10).

Perhaps a better solution is to simply not have a global rating at all. Erin Weber suggested that perhaps each crag should be standardized to only itself. The grade of the crag is based around a centralized “classic” for the crag, there’s always one.  Then all other climbs are rated with a +1, +2 or -1, -2 system.  For example, “Zero2Hero” would be the Hall of Justice’s  “standard”. “Pull the Trigger, Tigger”, would simply be a “-1” meaning it’s a grade easier than “Zero2Hero”. Magneto Effect gets a “0”, Wonder Woman gets a “-2” and so on.  I think it’s a great idea. There’s less people touting a grade that’s pretty much irrelevant anywhere else. If someone puts up an M13, it is likely be downgraded, and people might get their feathers ruffled since things like ego, sponsorship, and reputation are on the line.

I was training with Markus Bendler at his home in Austria a couple of years ago. He showed me a video of a route he put up. The crux was a dead horizontal, full-extension, blind throw, out an overhang to a lip the size and width and depth of a dime. Then, he controlled the egress. He said his success on this route was about 10%.  He graded the climb M12.  There are only a handful of climbers in the world that would be able to do this move, let alone the route, and nobody is likely to on-sight this climb, ever. I thought to myself, “M12, eh? Sounds like a Todd Skinner sandbag for sure. I can’t wait to get on his M9 route.” Well, I did, and it was for sure, harder then “Goldline”.

So, don’t believe the hype. It’s better to get your mind wrapped around setting your goals to climb something fun rather than for the grade. Next time I see someone put M14, or M18, or M-whatever, I’ll be skeptical of the grade and how it relates to the normal distribution curve of all mixed or dry tool style climbs. I see the mixed grades going the way of the am radio, it still exists and it has its place, but we’re listening to Internet radio now. The evolution of ice climbing continues The more I climb mixed lines around the world, the more I know it’s just all about giving my best effort and battling doubts and fears while on a route, not a grade.

In the end, it’s perhaps as I’ve heard before, a route can be easy, hard, or not yet possible.

Chasing the Sun

Having climbed ice since the 90’s, I barely touch the medium these days as it’s now simply a small part of the mixed regime. As with all disciplines of climbing, there is evolution. When leash-less tools began the mixed climbing rage, I made the decision to get involved.

Jeff Lowe needed help setting a competition route in Jan 2001. I was a neophyte route setter and a wanna-be hard mixed climber, but I was all he had since I was living in Ouray and was the only person he could find the day before the competition who had a drill. I met many of my heroes like Hary Berger, Sue Knott, Karen McNeil, Will Gadd, and Guy L’Celle and became inspired. They all were strong climbers and all super nice people. I belayed in future competitions and I realized that I could do what they were doing, climbing crazy and seemingly impossible lines in overhanging terrain.

And so it happened. I morphed into an ice junkie gone wild. The competition circuit became a new familiar scene, but I took it to the next level to test my metel and decided that competing Nationally wasn’t enough. I entered into the UIAA Ice World Cup circuit where there is anywhere between 4-6 competitions per year, one in each sponsoring country comprises the venues. I go nearly every year on an around-the-world tour of these competitions competing in lead and sometimes speed.

I travel from New Mexico to South Korea, Romania, Switzerland, Italy, France, and Russia, chasing the sun on the flights against the jet stream to go to these competitions. Am I crazy? Perhaps, but there is way more to it than just the competition.

Fair to say that I got an education over the past 5 years on what hard climbing is like, not just from the competitions, but from all the cool mixed rock and ice crags I got to climb at while on the competition circuit.  I also realized that North America had fallen far behind the European and Asian levels in terms of mixed climbing. We definitely have our strong rock climbers, but there are no ice climbers that can presently compete as a possible podium contender at the World Cup, myself included. Although a bold statement, this is unfortunate, since Bozeman will be the host to next year’s first-ever USA World Cup.

I’ve seen several 5.14 rock climbers come and go on the mixed climbing scene. Just because you’re strong doesn’t mean that you will do well in this sport, there’s way more involved in this very powerful and technical form of climbing. Perhaps I’m wrong and someone will step forward and be the next Markus Bendler (Austria) or one of the Tomilov Brothers (Russia), but I won’t hold my breath. Yes, that’s a challenge. I’m a bit late coming into the game and have too many other priorities to give what it takes, although I secretly try.

The quaint Southern Tyrol Alps village of Rabenstein is hidden deep within Northern Italy and was home to the third Ice World Cup of 2013, a first time occurrence. What’s not new is Angelika Rainier bested all other competitors in front of her hometown crown. This was also the official last World Cup that Markus Bendler will participate in as he leaves competition climbing for another life as he opens a new retail mountain shop in Austria. The late Hari Berger, one of the most acclaimed hard ice climbers in recent history, mentored Markus. Now, after more than a decade and over 30 World Cup titles, Markus steps into the history books as the Michael Jordan of mixed ice climbing. Only since 2012 have the Russians and a sole Korean, Park Hee Young, been able to compete with Bendler.

No matter, the spirit of the competition is alive, and flags and anthems represent the athletes on the podium. But at the end of the day, there is a camaraderie among all the athletes that transcends multiple language barriers and skill levels. The best athletes want the other competitors to rise to their best, so climbing secrets and technical advances in modifications of equipment are exchanged. Big leaps in athlete’s performance are rare, but it can and does occur.

Now, in 2014, the UIAA has made a long and arduous effort to showcase ice climbing as a Demonstration Sport in Sochi, Russia. This event, and those who represent their country as an athlete ice climber, will hope to usher in ice climbing as a full Olympic Sport in the coming years.

Those who have been on the UIAA World Cup Ice Climbing Competition circuit area  “winter family” of sorts. We all travel from country to country every week to compete. There can be only one World Cup per Country per year. This lends itself for being a world-ice-climbing connoisseur and provides for insight not otherwise gained form residing and climbing on a single continent, alone.

Competing against others pushes me, hard. I become a better climber and have a great excuse to not turn into a couch potato. Being from New Mexico, Ouray, CO is my mainstay of real ice to climb. I spend most of my time training in my home gym, a 2-car garage with a woody at my apartment, when friends aren’t camping out on the mats on their visit. Erin Weber uses a laser pointer to “bossy light” me around the wall on focused techniques and movement, training only for World Cup-specific climbing on World Cup-specific holds. There are lots of nuances and I’m still learning and trying to keep up with the younger competitors form the other side of the world.

I’ve been fortunate enough to sustain the long trips, the financial hardship, and steep learning curve, to continue to play in this arena. My hope is that this year there will be a birth of an ice climbing Olympic sport. Why? Good question, and I’ve got my opinions.

I love this sport. It’s fun, and it pushes my to be better. I have to rise to the occasion, the climb, and the ever-changing environment. This type of climbing is only one aspect, but I believe it has a place at the Olympics. Look at what constitutes an Olympic sport and ice climbing encompasses all of those traits. Ice climbing is an excellent spectator sport. In fact, spectators could be in a heated environment enjoying a beverage while the competitors are in full blizzard conditions.  The difficulty event is dynamic and athletic, even though it is strenuous.  The speed climbing event is a race, and most people like a good race.

 

Ice Climbing and the Hope of Sochi Olympic Flame

Where/When: Sochi, Russia, 23-24 Feb 2014

Ice climbing will be making a debut at the Winter Olympics. It’s the hope of the UIAA that an Olympic Movement and demonstration at the Olympic Village will help spark the Olympic Flame to become a full-medal sport in 2018.

North America (and the Western Hemisphere) will be represented by a small handful of World Cup Ice climbing athletes:

USA: Marc Beverly, Erin Weber.

Canada: Gordon McArthur, and Jen Olson.

The listed athletes are the highest ranked in UIAA world cup standings, or have the most competition experience of all the climbers who applied to represent their respective countries. Clearly, there are many good athletes, but what separates this list from the rest is the overwhelming support of World Cup competition ice climbing in the past, and drive to support the future of this sport through its evolution.

__________________________________________________

UIAA 2014 World Cup Circuit:

 

  • Cheongsong, South Korea                 January 11-12, 2014
  • Busteni, Romania                                  January 16-18, 2014
  • Saas Fee, Switzerland                          January 24-25, 2014
  • Champagny en Vanoise, France     Jan.31- Feb.1, 2014
  • Rabenstein, Italy                                  February 7-9, 2014
  • Sochi, Russia                                           February 13-23, 2014
  • Ufa, Russia                                               February 28, 2014

__________________________________________________

Honestly, this could help all climbers in global recognition of the sport and the spirit of climbing, even though climbing takes many forms (alpine, bouldering, sport, traditional, ice, mixed rock and ice, etc…).

I have recently become the latest, and only Western, representative on the UIAA Ice Climbing Commission. I have a dream that the USA will be able to sponsor our youth and promote mixed rock and ice climbing on a grand scale.

Check out my Sponsor page, and help support the construction of an mixed climbing-specific wall that I hope everyone will be able to use, as there is presently no training center for mixed climbers in the USA.

I share the passion for ice climbing with all the other competition athletes. We all strive to be our best. Help the movement with good energy, financial support, or whatever you can, to evoke a propagation of mixed rock and ice climbing in the present and ultimately, to the future, where the Olympic dream is possible.

 

Turning of the Page

Welcome to the newly renovated BMG web site ! 

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As you can see, we are in the process of transferring and updating a massive amount of information to our new site, so please be patient with us during this transition time.

Obviously, since the first snow in September, people already have the AVI bug and have been inquiring about our avalanche courses. But at the same time, the sun still warms our Southwestern crags as the foliage begins to change color, offering outstanding opportunities to get in some excellent guided climbing or gain insight and experience from one of our courses.

One of the major changes is that Strike Rescue Courses have been formally absorbed by BMG. This is a part of our corporate structure that will be fully consolidated by 2014.

Another change is that our store will not only be our registration site, but will also be the site where our guests can order some of best equipment available at a discount. That’s right, we want you to succeed and  one of the best ways to do that is get the right gear for the job. We’re making it easy. If there’s something you don’t see, simply let us know and we will try to accommodate you. We don’t compete with the big warehouses or do bidding, we just carry what we think is the best.

A new look doesn’t mean that we’ve forgotten our roots. We hope you will enjoy the new site, find it easier to navigate, and be useful in your daily life for weather, ski reports, equipment updates, and follow our crew on their own ventures that will hopefully inspire you to be the best you can be.

 

Best,

Marc Beverly