Part 2 of Rhys Dobb's personal journey

Posted by Lucy Creamer on 18/03/2008
The comp ice wall in Italy '08

After Rhys's exploits in his first ever competition, the scottish mixed masters, you can read about his experience of climbing in an international event amongst the world's best ice competitors.

If you didn't catch part 1 of Rhys's story, read it here:


Part 2

...with a team of six of the UK’s most talented climbers including Red Bull freestyle athletes, I felt a pressure to perform and not to let anyone down. My ego was hard to control, I tried to remain modest, as in the grand scale of things I knew I was nothing. It’s human nature to want to be in the lime light but I had to constantly punish myself to remain in control and focus on what mattered.
The day grew ever closer to departure and the training became more intense. We were set to go, the final week saw everything come together. We had overcome obstacles thrown at us left, right and centre. It was the final few days to departure when the news struck. Three of the major athletes had pulled out. I looked to them for encouragement and guidance. I was alone now. Being in a country where I knew nothing about their language, nothing about their culture and nothing about the climbing. It was one of the most nerving wracking yet exciting things I have ever been through, slowly I began to find my feet.

The competition day arrived. Those same terrifying emotions I had felt n the Scottish masters flooded back. I felt sick with the prospect of climbing in front of 2000 sets of eyes, yet elated because I had come so far in my short climbing career. Isolation began a 09.00. The sense of being lost returned to me as I watched the cool faces of the world’s best competition ice climbers chatting, warming up and most of all remaining in control of their personal mental situation. We had two routes to climb, 6 minutes on each route with a one minute rest in between. With the routes over 25 meters high I was in for what would prove to be the hardest 12 minutes of my life. The loud speakers echoed through the valley in italian, sound rang through my ears like church bells. Amongst it all, my name, it was time.

I left isolation and paused, I tried to compose myself and look in control. A brave face couldn’t hide the fear and knots in my stomach from the on-looking crowds. The sound of cracking ice vibrated through my boots as I made my way to the bottom of the first climb. I looked at the route from below, there was not a section of vertical ice on the whole thing. It was 45 degrees overhanging from the start, and it didn’t get easier. I placed my axe at the start of the route, the most delicate placement seemed like the biggest thud, my body felt everything, and the smallest twitch seemed like the greatest spasm. 30 seconds in my body was suffering, my arms were pumped, the moves were big, too big for me. I fell, and fell again. I felt angry with myself, an idiot in front of all these people. I smashed my axe against my helmet and told myself to get a grip. I was unaware that in doing this I was slowly killing myself and any chances of nailing the route. I had to relax. I walked to the wall started again. I had come so far to be there I was determined to have 6 minutes, my sixminutes.

This was the first of two climbs with only a minute to rest, my arms were screaming, crying almost. I could feel the acid destroying everything I had tried to preserve for the next climb. I had warmed up sufficiently, the next climb proved harder but more comfortable. I felt fluid, the moves presented themselves kindly almost handed on a plate, I had to work to get the last five inches to place my axe, it hurt and my axe popped off the hold. The amount of tension required by the human body to climb these kinds of routes is immense. You can’t afford to move the axe as soon as it is placed. You do – you loose. Progress was steady, my arms were numb, I couldn’t feel them, and with this I could not move, this was now becoming a fight for survival. I had to hold on, I dug deep and remained static. My entire body weight held me close to the wall. This was a mind game now, I was not going to loose. As my arms cried so did I, the pump was too much to ignore I shrieked as loud as I could and finally- the time was up.



The competition for me was over, I was trashed. I smiled with joy not so much because my 12 minutes were over but because in my opinion I had just competed in the greatest competition any climber could compete in. I had overcome injury and set backs along the way, had travelled to Italy and given everything I had. The result for me was not only coming 49th in the world but learning more about myself along the way than I would have if I hadn’t gone. Everyone needs a goal or aspiration in life, for me I will focus on the Scottish masters. My friends who acted as mentors need no mention for I believe they know who they are. I stand true to a quote one of my mentors sent me on competition day. Before I left isolation this message came through on my phone; it was also the answer to my friend’s previous question:


“You can if you believe”
Heavy Whalley



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