Rebecca Lewis Wins 2018 UIAA North American Championships
Overcoming a strong North American field, Ontario local Rebecca Lewis placed first in the women’s lead, and fourth in women’s speed climbing securing the win for the 2018 UIAA North American Championships. The completion took place during the weekend of March 17 -18, 2018 in Fenton, Michigan.
I caught up with Rebecca after the competition and asked her a few questions.
From left to right: Angela Limbach-Second Place (USA), Rebecca Lewis-First Place (CAN) and Georgia Witchel-Third Place (USA) (Photo: © 2018 Carter Stritch/USA Ice Climbing)
You’ve been away from Ontario and travelling all winter. What have you been up to?
Rebecca: It’s been a busy winter! The North American Championships was my last competition of the season. I also participated in the Elite Mixed Comp at the Ouray Ice Climbing Festival in Colorado and the Ice Climbing World Cup events in China, Korea and Russia. It was great to end my comp season on such a high note!
Yes, first place in lead is pretty impressive. As is a fourth-place finish in the speed climbing event.
Rebecca: It was definitely the best that I’ve climbed all season. I spent some time in Russia training before the World Cup competition, and things really started to click for me.
Rebecca Lewis Wins 2018 UIAA North American Championships (Photo: © 2018 Carter Stritch/USA Ice Climbing)
How did you feel about the competition?
Rebecca: At first I thought it was just going to be a little fun comp. Similar to the Great Lakes Mixed Competition my husband, Nathan Kutcher, and myself ran at Peabody Ice Climbing the year before. But USA Ice Climbing ran the event this year as an official UIAA competition. I started to get nervous when I heard a bunch of the youth competitors were coming out from Colorado. The competition became serious very quickly!
It sounds like you were somewhat worried about the youth team.
Rebecca: I was! Competition climbing is a different beast. Sure, these kids can crank outdoors, but they can pull hard at a competition like this. Most North American professionals are generally not very interested in participating in the Ice Climbing World Cup circuit, but these kids train specifically for these types of events.
Rebecca Lewis Wins 2018 UIAA North American Championships (Video: © 2018 Carter Stritch/USA Ice Climbing)
Sounds like your comp days might be numbered!
Rebecca: I still have a couple of years left, but I think you’re right!
You placed fourth in speed climbing. Tell me how that played out.
Rebecca: I’m actually pretty excited about this. I wasn’t very interested when USA Ice Climbing announced there would also be a speed competition, but I ended up performing better than I expected. I came very close to finishing third, but a nagging shoulder injury slowed me down after six rounds. I’m still very happy with my performance.
The men's winners from left to right: Liam Foster-Second Place (USA), Kevin Lindlau-First Place (USA) and David Bouffard-Third Place (CAN) (Photo: © 2018 Carter Stritch/USA Ice Climbing)
So let's talk about the rest of the competition. What are your overall impressions?
Rebecca: It was a great comp for me as a seasoned competitor, but I think it was also a lot of fun for the people who had never competed. It was a wonderful introduction to competition climbing – kicking into plywood is fun! I’m very happy that USA Ice Climbing took on the responsibility of organizing this comp.
The 2018 UIAA North American Championships Structure At Peabody Ice Climbing.
So, were people happy with the routes?
Rebecca: I think they really were. Nathan Kutcher, my husband and another Ontario local, gets all the credit there. He managed to set five qualifiers, two semi-finals routes and two finals routes in three days with help from Neil Gowen, a Kincardine, Ontario, climber. He used a mix of Korean and Russian holds typically used in the World Cup. Many of the routes, including the finals, are still up at Peabody Ice Climbing if people want to try them.
Nathan also built the two speed walls and added walls to the main structure the week leading up to the competition. He deserves a lot of the credit for such a successful event.
Were there many other Canadians competitors?
Rebecca: My Team Canada Ice Climbing teammate, David Bouffard from Quebec came out and placed third in the men’s lead and speed climbing categories. Kevin Chan and Luis Pavon from Peterborough also came out, but it was an unfortunately small showing of Canadians at the event. Hopefully next year more people will show up.
David Bouffard climbing the men's semi finals route at the 2018 UIAA North American Championships (Photo: © 2018 Carter Stritch/USA Ice Climbing)
So there will be a next year?
Rebecca: Nathan and I have been talking about clinics and more competitions, including the return of the Great Lakes Mixed Comp, but things are only in the conceptual phase right now. It’s been a pretty exhausting competition season and we both need a break. We’ll get back to planning before the end of summer.
Gus Alexandropoulos is a freelance writer who has been involved in the outdoor industry for over 25 years. During his career he has been the editor at Canada’s national climbing magazine, as well as the gear editor for a national cycling magazine, triathlon magazine and running magazine. His work has been published in Canada’s national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, and he has been a guest on television and radio broadcasts. His passion for climbing began in Ontario in the mid 80s and he continues to travel extensively in search of crisp conditions and steep rock.