Every year, Chamonix hosts the Climbing World Cup during as some of the best climbers in the world descend on the resort for three days of fantastic climbing action.
Organised by the FFME (French Federation for Climbing and Mountaineering) and the Chamonix Club des Sports, the event is held at Place du Mont Blanc, where a “Climbing Village” of around 20 exhibitors springs up at the base of the two specially built climbing walls and a big screen. Standing at approximately 15m high and 6m wide, one wall is built for speed climbing and the other is built for lead climbing, each giving two climbing 'lanes' 3m wide.
Over the three days, heats and finals are held to find the best male and female climbers in both the speed and lead disciplines. As the name suggests, the speed champion is the person who makes it to the top of the vertical climbing wall in the quickest time, but be warned, blink and you may miss them. Those that make the winners podium can complete the climb in under six seconds.
For the lead climbing, you get a little more time to fully appreciate the strength and skill of the athletes as they make their way up a wall that looks almost impossible to scale. Built out at an angle of around 30 degrees with the tiniest of handholds and a killer overhang to negotiate, the winner is the one who makes it the furthest up the wall in the quickest time. There are moments when they appear to be clinging on with nothing more than their fingernails and looking up from the crowd, you can feel the burn in their muscles.
Competitors come from all around the globe for the event although there is always a heavy presence from China in the speed climbing and the Austrians and Eastern Europeans seem to have a stronghold on the technical discipline. There are also competitions for junior climbers during the championships although a number of the competitors in the main adult events are still well within their teens.
It’s estimated that around 10,000 people turn up to watch the final event every year and the lively commentary throughout encourages the crowds to cheer and support the competitors as they Spiderman their way to the top. All the big climbing brands are represented in the Sports Expo stands, offering info and advice on all things climbing and mountaineering. There are also food stands and a giant screen showing close ups of the action and climbing films in between the competitions.
Take a look at the website for this years programme.