Sam Elias of Boulder, Colorado claimed victory in the men’s mixed climbing event at the first Winter Teva Mountain Games on Friday night at Vail’s Golden Peak base area. “I just tried to climb well,” Elias said. “You just hope for a little bit of luck and just do your best.”
Stanislav Vrba was second for the men. Dawn Glanc claimed the women’s title, with Emily Harrington taking second.
Heavy snow fell throughout the mixed climbing finals, contested under the lights on a 50-foot wall in front of a crowd of about 200 people. Beginning with the men’s quarterfinals, competitors climbed mirror-image routes on wooden wall mounted with foam and plastic holds. A pair of athletes raced each other and the clock, then swapped sides of the wall and climbed again for the best cumulative time. Practice began at 9:30 a.m. Friday morning; by the finals, the men were completing M8 route (equivalent to a 5.11 in rock climbing) in roughly three minutes.
Many competitors struggled with the foam holds. “It’s really similar how you kick into it, but in terms of getting your tools and crampons out of it, it’s really different. That was the most strenuous part of today—getting the tools out,” Elias said. But he made it look easy, sweeping Marcus Garcia in the quarterfinals and Bryan Gilmore in the semis. Vrba topped Andres Marin in the semi-finals to earn his shot in finals.
Elias took a commanding lead in the first climb against Vrba, reaching the top in a time of 2:22 to Vrba’s 3:02. The second climb was neck and neck, but Elias was first to the top again to claim the title. On both ascents, he cheered Vrba after clipping in at the top. “A lot of these guys are super close friends of mine,” Elias said. “[Vrba and I] had a moment after the Ouray ice festival. We both did poorly and were unlucky, and were at the bar afterwards commiserating. I’m thinking to myself if he had beaten me I would be as happy as I am now.”
The struggle with the foam holds played a crucial role in the women’s final. Harrington fell off the wall first on both runs following a foam mishap, putting the pressure on Glanc to turn in a clean climb for the prize. Glanc fell on her first run, then again on her second—this time getting knocked in the head with an ice tool. But because she had climbed higher on both attempts, Glanc won the title, walking away with the prize money and a bump on her head.
About the foam, Glanc said: “We decided just to go as hard as we could, and go right down to the wood [with our tools]. Actually, it didn’t help me up there.” All of the athletes described the inaugural winter games as a positive experience. “I hope it keeps going and I hope it inspires more women!” Glance said.
The Nordic freestyle 5K and 10K also took place Friday. See results here.