10 of the world’s best ice climbers took on the challenge of ascending sheer cliffs of chalk – one of the most difficult materials to climb – as the first ever Red Bull White Cliffs competition came to the Isle of Wight last weekend.
Overlooking the iconic Needles rocks on the Isle of Wight, the 115m overhanging cliff at Scratchell’s Bay pushed the climbers to their limits, really testing their skills ahead of the winter climbing season. The UK is the only place where chalk cliffs can be climbed and the unique competition format and environment challenged their stamina, endurance and skills in a complete new way.
Climber Gordon McArthur said of the location:
“It’s wild. Every aspect of this climb and this venue is completely different and unknown, which makes it very exciting. I’ve never climbed anything like this before, with crashing waves right behind you. We’re used to climbing on limestone, but on chalk you are more on the edge of whether your tools will hold.”
Typically a World Cup ice climbing course is held over 15-25m pitches, but the Red Bull White Cliffs format challenged the climbers to ascend the full 115m cliff face as fast as they could.
Russia’s Aleksei Tomilov took first place ascending the cliff face in just 16 minutes 46 seconds. Jeff Mercier of France was second with a time of 19 minutes and 8 seconds and USA’s Will Mayo took third place in 21 minutes and 40 seconds.
As the person responsible for attracting and growing major events on the Island, Katie Jones of Visit Isle of Wight said:
“We were delighted to have been a part of bringing this exciting, world-class event to the Isle of Wight.
“This spectacular competition highlights the Island’s position as one of the UK’s premier locations for outdoor adventure activities – and a place that is able to support and host unique and one-off global events.
“Our thanks to The Needles Park and The National Trust and all transport providers for making this happen, especially Wightlink who’s close proximity to The Needles made it even easier.”