Last year, dark horse, Nathan Kutcher won the Ouray’s Ice Climbing Competition and participated in Ice Climbing World Cup, competing for Canada and ultimately coming in 64th place. He spent this summer training and is climbing harder than ever. In a fast trip to St. Alban this November, he onsighted three M10 in a couple hours. We caught up with him to discuss this madness.
Climberism: The season is just starting and you’re already crushing. What’s the secret?
Kutcher: I still rock climb, but this summer I didn’t do it a whole lot; mixed climbing is my thing. I built an overhanging wall a while ago that was supposed to be temporary, but I left it up all summer. Training on it got a little boring, so I added to it. About a month ago, I built a 20-foot long beam going across the setup I had previously, and I added a couple free-hanging, wooden boxes.
[Photo] Rebecca Lewis
Tell me about your recent trip to St. Alban.
It was my wife’s birthday weekend and we normally like to go away climbing somewhere, but in November there tends to be crappy weather everywhere so we went to St. Alban in Quebec for some drytooling. It takes us eight hours to get there, so we started driving at 3:30 in the morning and we didn’t even get there until noon. I wanted to do these three M10s Extasie, Petit Victor, and Histoire de Coeur, and I thought it would be cool to do it in a single day. I’ve onsighted a couple other M10s in the past, so I thought it could be possible.
How did it go?
I was surprised how it went. I am climbing a lot better than I have been before because I’ve been training so much. I started with Extasie (M10) because I thought it was the hardest. But before I started up the second, Petit Victor, I was a little concerned because it looked a little bit harder: the holds weren’t quite as obvious and the bolts were spaced apart a little more. But, when I started climbing, I found the holds and kept cranking.
On the third, Histoire de Coeur, which is the easiest, I was getting tired and I don’t know if a hold broke, but one of my tools slipped off at one point and I somehow caught myself with just one arm. It would have been a bad fall too because I was just reaching the next clip. But, it all worked out (laughs).
[Photo] Rebecca Lewis
Any other goals for this season?
I’m pretty excited to get to Bozeman for their ice fest this year. There are some routes that are pretty hyped up. There’s a cave that has some hard stuff I would like to get on.
Will you be competing this season?
I’m competing in the North American Championship in Bozeman in December, the World Cup and then in February I’m going to the Olympics; ice climbing is supposed to be a non-competitive cultural event and I’m going to be a part of it. I’ve been climbing for 20 years and competing is fun and different.
What will you be doing at the Olympics?
Pretty much demonstrating. It’s not allowed to be a competition. We will be teaching people, and showing people how to climb and do some demonstrations on harder stuff. It was supposed to be up by a ski area, but some organizer made it get moved down to the Olympic Village which is right by the ocean. It’s quite a bit warmer there, which might be a problem for the ice. They have a cooled wall. It’s like what they use for ice rinks, but on a vertical surface.
[Photo] Rebecca Lewis
With the recent success at St. Alban are you more confident in the upcoming competitions?
Comp climbing is very different from outdoor. We’ll see how I do. It does give me a motivation boost since I can see how my training is paying off.
Are you setting higher goals for yourself outside of comps?
To the general public comp climbing is a higher goal. Winning Ouray opened my eyes to this. I could onsight M14 and nobody other than a few climbers would care. If I win or do we’ll at comps I get positive public attention for climbing. We have so many access issues here and I feel gaining public support is part of the answer to changing that.
How are you trying to create public support?
One of the bigger problems is that non-climbers see climbing as a liability and it’s is easier to close cliffs to climbing than to manage it. If there is more public support of climbing I think it will be more difficult for land managers to have that attitude, so when I’m in mainstream media for comps I try to make non-climbers see something positive. Who knows, maybe the people I inspire will someday become land managers or at least have a positive view of climbing.