American Alpine Club's 2nd Annual International Climbers Meet a huge success!
Many climbing federations throughout the globe host climbing exchanges and now, through the efforts and support of The American Alpine Club (AAC), the US now boasts its own: The International Climbers Meet (ICM). For the second year in a row, climbing clubs from around the globe sent climbers to the ICM, and the AAC supplied the food, transportation and host climbers. Everyone spends five days camping and climbing at the world famous Indian Creek Canyon; home to some of the most amazing crack climbs anywhere.
This year’s ICM included climbers from more than 10 countries, including Black Diamond athletes Katsutaka Yokoyama (aka, Jumbo) from Japan and Yangshou super-local Liuyong Bang (aka, Abond) from China. Although a smaller group than last year—24 vs. 50—the 2009 international posse proved to be the strongest contingency to date.
The event kicked off in Salt Lake City with a 20% off shopping spree at the Black Diamond store (10% of sales went to The Friends of Indian Creek), factory tours of Black Diamond headquarters and a good ol’ BBQ. (Thanks to BD’s Colleen Nipkow for helping out with all of this!) After that, a slumber party at the nearby Momentum Climbing Gym ensued, and some of the first (and worst!) gobies were caused by the gym’s stellar cracks. (Thanks to gym manager and longtime SLC sender Jeff Pedersen for providing the accommodations and free passes to the gym!)
The following morning, chaperoned and chauffeured by Kate Rutherford (another Black Diamond athlete) and Jules Cho (a local SLC climber and intern with Totally Worth It Productions), the crew made their way in vans to Moab where they stocked up on water, baby wipes and 3.2 beer.
We arrived in the Creek just in time to set up camp, witness a quintessential desert sunset and chow down on hamburgers and grilled corn on the cob courtesy of the camp chefs Amy Pickering (better known as the significant other of Black Diamond Sales Rep and ‘Gunks icon Russ Clune), Jules Cho and, of course, back for the second year in a row as the Matriarch Volunteer, my mom, Janet Wombacher.
The first climbing day usually involves the host climbers putting up topropes, providing crack climbing technique tips, and encouraging and consoling the visiting climbers as they desperately scratch up 5.10s, trying to learn how to hand jam. But NOT this year. The first climbing day, I personally hosted Team Poland, which was five strong. Piotr scoffed at the idea that I should put up a toprope for him. He grabbed a random assortment of my cams and headed up a 5.10+ at Cat Wall. He decked—twice—and then whipped—three times—on which the third time pulled a cam. His belayer appeared completely unconcerned. After lowering her comrade from the anchors, she pulled the rope and led it herself. Jim Donini, former AAC president and the mastermind of the ICM’s inception, complained, “I’m not getting to lead enough this year!”
The host climbers were as keen as the visitors, keeping everyone stoked and showing them the five-star classics. Pro photog Mikey Schaeffer put down his camera to put up ropes on gnarly offwidths for those that were keen to try, but too intimidated to lead. Keeping it real, Kate Rutherford put a toprope up on the classic 5.11 offwidth Big Baby, proving that chicks can send more than tight hands. The ineffable Kitty Calhoun also graced us for the second year in a row as host climber—even the Italians, who didn’t speak a lick of English, laughed at her Southern drawl and infectious laugh. Other second year host climbers to return were SLC’s Louis Arevelo, Roger Schimmel, Andreas Marin and SWAG Bill. New to the crew, but just as vital, was Angela Hawse, who gets a special mention for taking all the trash out in her van!
Evening activities always revolved around the campfire. This year, in addition to the nightly “Most Micro Trash Collected”, “Worst Gobie” and “Biggest Whipper” award, was The Best Joke Competition. Canada took the prize most nights, but very honorable were the jokes told, and laughed at, by China, Denmark and Poland. It’s fairly impressive when you can successfully deliver a joke in your second (sometimes third) language. A unique addition to the late night mix was superb performances by the former professional opera singer turned camp cook, Amy Pickering. One such night, err morning, included the haunting Brahms Lullaby, sung from the top of the cliff above camp.
Conservation and preservation were important messages that were shared with the international climbers and in addition to the climbing and camping, the entire group also spent a day giving back to Indian Creek Canyon by planting native scrubs to re-vegetate the area around Newspaper Rock, a very popular panel of Pueblo and Ute Indian petroglyphs.
The ultimate success of this year’s event was a product of all involved. There were no freeloaders and no outsiders. We were all equals, all from the same gang; the host climbers, kitchen crew, and the multinational congregation. Each and everyone present contributed to the spirit of the event.
Thanks to all (especially the companies that helped us out with gear and services: Southwest Adventure Guides, GSI, Sterling Ropes, Whole Foods and Black Diamond). We all look forward to another great International Climbers Meet next year!
— Brittany Griffith
[Thanks to Andrew Burr, Amy Pickering and Sonnie Trotter for the photos used in this post]