As I board my plane home in Lyon, I think back on the past three weeks and I can’t believe it has all come to an end! There have been moments amongst the most exciting in my life, contrasted with long boring hours sitting in airports, there have been moments of total excitement and elation and other times where I have felt overwhelmingly disappointed. It’s been a total rollercoaster but I have learned a huge amount about these world cup competitions and what it takes to get up there amongst the best; I am totally up for the challenge. I was lucky to meet so many inspiring and kind people on this trip!
1. Saas Fee
A night in the airport, two short flights, a trip across Switzerland and a bus up the valley – before I knew it I arrived at our little apartment in Saas Grund which would be home for the next 3 nights. A quick cup of tea and we all headed up to Saas Fee for registration and the welcome dinner. I had been here twice in summer but never in winter, and I had never witnessed the eleven story carpark where the competition takes place. It was epic! We ran down the levels, spiralling round and around, seeing the structure from every angle. How cool to be climbing on that tomorrow!! Some familiar faces from Romania last year, and many introductions to new friends that the rest of team GB made in Korea. Before I know it, I am back at the apartment, buzzing and excited and I can’t believe I have to be in isolation at 7am tomorrow morning! Alarm goes off, coffee made, Nutella and baguette eaten, and soon katy is showing me the way around isolation, because she was here last year.
I was out number 22, which gave me lots of time to warm up. After some carefully timed chocolate and red-bull, I am suddenly tying into the rope. The moves feel easy, it’s just what I have practiced with Harry on his board – stein pulls and laybacks – lots of them! I pull out some rope to make a clip, but it’s not enough. When I’m sport climbing I bite the rope to pull more, but now I have an axe in my mouth! I panic, I try to hook the rope round my other axe like I have seen the other girls do, but I tug the rope and twist my axe and fall off! I need to practice that… I’m falling and my arms still feel fresh and I feel so disappointed! But then I see that everyone is smiling at me – I did well! Apparently many of the girls were stopped by a stein-pull low down. So I am through to the semi-finals, in 14th.
Back in isolation the next morning at 7am, I feel a little out of place and do not know many of the competitors. We view the route, and I think it looks great – again quite technical. My turn to climb and I move slowly and steadily. I manage a long move, dropping into a fig-4 on an ice block, I am pleased to stick it, but now my arms are completely destroyed. I manage to match before my grip gives up and I find myself hanging on the rope. But I am happy, so very very happy, because to fall off once you have reached your limit is infinitely more satisfying than to slip, or make a mistake, or time out. It was definitely the best I had to give on the day, and what can be more satisfying than that? Obviously, I just need to get stronger and fitter now! I finished in 11th, I was very happy with this result. The rest of the weekend was relaxed and enjoyable, and incredibly inspiring to watch the finals. There is so much to aim for!