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The Rab CWIF 2019 - Highlights The Rab CWIF 2019 - Highlights
2019-03-11 12:00:00

The 13th annual Climbing Works International Festival recently took place in the city of Sheffield, home to the UK’s largest population of climbers and the birthplace of Rab.

A highlight of the competition climbing calendar, the Rab CWIF once again attracted some of the most famous names in world climbing to compete. Canada’s Sean McColl, France’s Melissa Le Neve and Russia’s Rustam Gelmanov all returned to the competition joining members of the GB squad to test themselves against boulder problems set by an illustrious routesetting team. At its helm was IFSC (International Federation of Sport Climbing) routesetter Katja Vidmar, the first woman in history to be nominated in the role.

Kicking off the weekend were Saturday’s qualifications, giving amateurs the opportunity to compete shoulder to shoulder with their climbing heroes. This year the Rab CWIF was bigger than ever as the competition extended into The Climbing Works’ newest venue, Unit E, with a total of 30 blocs across two locations in the grade range of Font 5+ to Font 7Cc.

Marrying the two tenants of the Climbing Works’ philosophy of training hard and having fun was Saturday’s evening session, where teams of climbers donned their best fancy dress to tackle the “off-piste” circuit of boulder problems. Representing Rab within the CWIF’s new veteran (read climbing legend) category, was Sheffield climber and Rab ambassador Andy Cave, who put in a strong performance, at one point casually navigating a set of tubular foam obstacles in a Rab 8000 Expedition Suit.

Sunday’s semi-finals saw a strong line up of British talent alongside the international stars. Competitors faced a tough set of problems, resulting in only one male climber, Britain’s Nathan Phillips completing all four problems. Men’s 2 was the defining problem of this round, with success determined by whether or not competitors could stick the tricky dyno.


Each subsequent pitch, regardless of the grade, had some element of spice to it.

Whether it be route-finding, perilous choss, or terrifying runouts. The only 5.10 pitch on the route turned out to be one of the most terrifying leads of my life. Every move felt like climbing an overhanging sandcastle with extremely high consequences should you blow it. Legendary climber Arnaud Petit describes the experience nicely “The sandstone is sometimes more sand than stone… You are obliged to learn to use your whole body so as not to break a hold. It’s more than climbing on your feet.” The closer we got to the summit, fatigue set in, and the more automated our actions became. Climb, haul the bag, belay, off belay, swap the rack, repeat. Every so often we would be lured out of our habitual cycle by the call to prayer playing loudly from the mosque in the village far below.

As the evening rolled away, Heather and I found ourselves simul-climbing the final easy pitches to the summit of the formation. We took a moment of reflection from the sandy summit plateau and listened to Salat al-maghrib: the call to prayer just after sunset. Throughout my travels, I’ve spent hundreds of hours sitting in cheap economy seats on aeroplanes and dwelling in the loneliness of being impossibly far from home. I’ve got enough chossy adventure routes in Utah to last me many lifetimes. What’s the point of travelling thousands of miles to seek them elsewhere? Is it the adventure, the culture, and the opportunity to break away from my homogenized life of comfort and amenities? Maybe the reason is bigger than that.

The women's competition was decided by the final problem with Chloe Caulier and former CWIF champion Melissa Le Nevé entering the final round neck and neck. Despite her best efforts, Caulier could not quite match the top hold, handing the win to Le Nevé who claimed her second CWIF title. She told commentators:

"CWIF is an amazing experience as always, I love coming here, I love the style, the people, the British humour and the city is very nice."

Spectators of the live event packed out the venue, making for a lively atmosphere, whilst tens of thousands from around the world watched a live stream online.

There was plenty of Rab swag to bag over the weekend, including prizes for those who managed to collect a Swag Tag housed at the end of each Off Piste problem and a competition to design and win a Microlight jacket. A well stocked pop-up shop featured the Rock Range and visitors refuelled on delicious cakes supplied by our friends at Audrey's Bakes & Cakes with £200 worth of takings going to CAC Climbers Against Cancer.

It continues to be a privilege for Rab to support the event and partner with The Climbing Works in the city where our founder Rab Carrington made his first sleeping bag. Every year the CWIF showcases the very best of climbing, with our community out in force to try hard, get psyched and have fun!