It is not the most common of sports amongst students: ice climbing. But masters student Gei-information Science Aniek Lith (23) isn’t afraid of a challenge. She participated in the Eurocup in Finland two weeks ago and reached the fifth position.
Photo: Marianne van der Steen
Although there is no shortage of ice in Finland, the competitors do not climb an actual wall of ice, but an artificial climbing wall. A real ice wall would crumble and chip if so many climbers scale it in a short period. Furthermore, the circumstances would not be precisely the same for all the competitors.
The climbers are equipped with crampons, which allow them to stay hitched to the wooden wall. They hook their picks on metal or granite grips. A competition consists of two qualification rounds, the eight best climbers then proceed to the finals. Whoever climbs highest in 6.5 minutes wins. Aniek reaching the fifth place is quite an achievement, since she has far less climbing experience than many other competitors, given the lack of mountains in the Netherlands. ‘I have been climbing since I was eleven, and have practised different disciplines since then. From speed climbing rocks to endurance climbing in snow and ice.’
Photo: Marko Kerola
She prefers to train every day, but this is not easily done in combination with her studies and courses. ‘Regretfully, Wageningen doesn’t have a climbing hall, which means I have to travel to Arnhem, Utrecht or Nijmegen for training. However, I am currently staying in Norway for my thesis research. This allows me to manage my time more flexibly. A huge advantage is being able to climb real mountains here. In the run-up to the competition, I even built a mini-climbing wall in the attic to get some extra training.’
Why does she love climbing so much? ‘Climbing gives me a sense of freedom. It’s super motivating that there is always room for improvement. And I think I learn a lot from climbing: tenacity, gauging risks, problem-solving skills… and, it is an excellent way to put things into perspective. During climbing, the only thing that matters is the five meters of mountainside surrounding you.’
Check out images of the competition here.