ETCC 2016 review

Right, after the treemagineers’ blog having taken a break, I felt it is now time for a bit of a look back at ETCC in Prague.

ETCC is one of those events in the year that is so intense that it takes me a while to sort through the myriad impressions I leave it with. So many aspects… some irritating, some annoying or tedious, but mainly moments that are extremely funny, motivating, inspiring and moving. Being part of the ETCC  Operations Committee is all of the above – and more.

Prague Expo building next to the park
Prague Expo building next to the park

I love doing stuff in the Czech Republic.

People there seem to me to be switched on and problem solvers (although I am not very keen on this kind of stereotyping, this is something I can’t help but comment on). The whole site set up in Stromovka Park was spot on: camping, indoor space for gear check, receptions and party as well as the comp and trade show site were all within five minutes walking distance. This was a major plus for the whole event, as it brought together the various aspects of the comp, making it feel more compact and coherent.

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What was weird this year was we were really struggling with volunteers. There were simply too few.

This fact makes set-up feel very wobbly and less than pleasant as you are constantly having to juggle the names you have (and that are on site), rather than being able to allocate volunteers to tasks and getting stuck in. Still, it came together in the end, but this is the sort of stress one could do without. Of course, some jobs may seem more glamorous that others, but if no one were to run a stop watch, there would not be much of a competition. Me? I do not really care what I do, put me on a menial job, these need to get done as well (I was going to write, task me with emptying the Port-a-Loos, but decided not to as I have a serious aversion to these, especially when they have been standing around in the sun for a couple of days and are ripe for harvest *gag* This is the kind of job I feel happy to leave to the pros).

Set-up lunch break
Set-up lunch break

One of my highlights this year was having former competitors, such as Anja Erni or Laurent Pierron who were competing last year return as volunteers. Likewise former volunteers, such as Jan Hoorne taking part as competitors. This kind of permeability is exactly what I envisage for ETCC, there is no them and us, but rather it is a true together, a shared event that belongs in equal parts to all that turn up and contribute something.

Set-up resulted in an interesting set-up for the comp, I was especially pleased with Aerial Rescue, which I will describe in a separate blog post. Speedclimb and Work Climb were also interesting: The trees were not huge, but the teams on the events made the most of them, creating challenging climbs, worthy of this level of competition.

Work Climb
Work Climb

The set-up days are my favorite days of such an event, working with the volunteers, making sure everybody feels welcome, appreciated and are functioning well in their team. We finished off Thursday evening with a session for the gear inspection techs, that Puk and I ran together. This is an item on the agenda we have been holding as a public session for the past few years, the idea being to explain to the persons present the thought process behind decisions relating to allowing equipment, which items we allow and where we draw a line, in the hope that this will contribute to a better understanding at chapter level, but also for the individual climber, judge or tech. What was fun in Prague was that, unlike other times when this was an indoor session based around a on-screen presentation, we did this one outdoors in a hand-on fashion, which seemed to work well. The evening ended with an opening reception sponsored for DMM for all involved in set-up which was a nice note to end the day on.

Friday was uneventful: set-up was finalized, walk through with competitors and gear inspection (a long one this time, lots of gear! And an overflowing quarantine Bag o’ Doom) went smoothly. In the evening Teufelberger sponsored a nibbles and drinks reception which had to battle it out with the Belgium vs. Wales football game that was on at the same time… put it this way, the Belgian and Welsh attendance of the reception was low.

Aerial Rescue
Aerial Rescue

The prelims on Saturday day started smoothly, with a field made up of lots of strong climbers, amongst which I was very happy to see many female competitors. As is often the case during the preliminary events, you never really know how the individual climbers are doing, until all scores come together, however I spent quite a bit of time watching Aerial Rescue and saw a number of very strong climbs there. It transpired that the Throwline tree was a throwline guzzling fiend, which slowed things down considerably. Also around lunch time we had some very heavy wind gusts come through with heavy rain and lighting, which led to us having to clear the site, however we were able to continue after an interruption of about one hour. In the afternoon a climber snapped a rib during his work climb, after which he continued and finished the climb – but was very poorly once he was on the ground. Consequently he was taken off to hospital for a check up (to return later and finish off his comp 😳 When we discussed this later his comment was, But I didn’t do the footlock, he said. No shit?! I replied).

To continue the theme of snapping things, shortly thereafter the limb walk got snapped out. Aaaaargh!  Our Arb CIS concluded that this was  probably due to the last climber having installed his lanyard far out and exerting a lot of upward pressure. As you can imagine, this presented a bit of a conundrum: half the field had gone through work climb on this limb, so now what? We ended up rigging the limb back onto the tree with lots of ratchet straps and Duck tape, it ended up looking a bit zombie-like, like something out of Shaun of the Dead – well may you laugh, but it did the trick.

For preliminary results check out the ETCC web page.

Sunday’s Masters’ Challenge went smoothly, I was sorry to miss the first couple of climbs as I was busy doing gear check for the other Masters’ competitors, what I saw was very impressive and of high quality. Again, for results, see above.

After tidying up the site and a short de-brief we hit the road direction of home. I left exhausted, but also exhilarated and enriched, with feeling of having contributed something meaningful towards the climbers’ community, and also having made new friends and had a good laugh or two!