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Interview with SCBC’s President Iain Stewart-Patterson

Iain Stewart-Patterson is the president of Sport Climbing B.C. (SCBC) and is based in Kamloops.

Stweart-Patterson started working in Adventure Education in 1979 and has been an instructor in the Adventure Studies Department at Thompson River University since 1992.

Iain Stewart-Patterson
Iain Stewart-Patterson

As a fully certified guide with the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides, he’s worked for Coast Range Heliskiing, Canadian Mountain Holidays, Mike Wiegele Heliskiing, Northern Escape Heliskiing and Yamnuska Adventures.

More recently, he’s been busy with the newly formed SCBC.

Gripped’s editor Brandon Pullan touched base with Iain after the recent SCBC Triple-Header competition.

Gripped: Where are you from?

I: Born in Montreal. Living in Kamloops for 23 years

G: How long have you been climbing?

I: 37 years

G: What is your role at TRU?

I: Senior Lecturer. I am a fully certified Mountain Guide and I coordinate the climbing program and avalanche course.  I have a PhD in which I investigated the decision process of expert ski guides.

G: How long have you been involved in competition climbing?

My kids started competing in 2002 and went to Nationals in 2003. I took the judging course in 2005. I joined the Youth National Team as the Assistant Manager for the 2010 World Youth Climbing Championship in Edinburgh Scotland and as the Manager for the 2011 WYCH in Imst Austria. In 2013, I built a training program for competition lead belaying and trained a team for the Youth World Championship. They caught over 800 lead falls during the competition.

Robert, Iain and Alison Stewart-Patterson
Robert, Iain and Alison Stewart-Patterson

G: What is your current role and how long have you been in that position?

I: I am the President and one of the founding members of Sport Climbing B.C. and the B.C. rep on the CEC board of directors. We started working on building SCBC during the summer of 2012. The board was voted in at the inaugural AGM in March 2013.

G: How was the last year for the SCBC?

I: It has been a couple of busy years getting SCBC up and running. We have a great schedule of bouldering, difficulty and speed competitions for this year. The number of competitors has gone way up.

SCBC Facebook Page

G: How many competitions have you had this season?

I: We have had four bouldering, one difficulty and one speed competition so far this year.

G: How many towns/cities in BC hold the comps?

I: The sanctioned competitions in 2014-15 will be in Saanich, North Vancouver, Vancouver, Coquitlam, Richmond, Maple Ridge, and Abbotsford. There have also been many unsanctioned comps (Duncan, Saanich, Victoria, Nanaimo, Greater Vancouver, Kamloops and Kelowna). There will be one in Kimberley later in the year.

G: What are some obstacles for youth climbers these days?

I: One of the most significant long-term developmental challenges for young athletes is avoiding the potential detrimental effects of being overly focused on a single sport at an early age. Participation in a variety of sports is beneficial, yet there is an increasing push in many sports to specialize at an earlier age. Parents, coaches and athletes may feel like the young athlete will be left behind if he/she does not fully commit to an intensive and focussed training and competition schedule. There is an increased potential for young athletes to get injured and burnout. This is part of the reason why the IFSC does not include athletes under the age of 14 in youth competitions and athletes under the age of 16 in open competitions. Climbing is not considered an early development sport, with the average age of World Cup competitors in their mid-twenties.

Michael Maser ponders his next move at the Triple-Header Photo: Christian J. Stewart
Michael Maser ponders his next move at the Triple-Header Photo: Christian J. Stewart

G: How does the SCBC fit in with the CEC and Tour de Bloc?

I: SCBC is the Provincial Sport Organization for BC and is responsible for sanctioning competitions in the province. SCBC fits under the umbrella of the CEC, which is the National Sport Organization and has responsibility for sanctioning national level competitions and selecting a National Team. This season there was a Tour de Bloc comp in BC, but it was not part of the SCBC provincial series. Host gyms are invited to submit an application to be part of the SCBC competition season.

Climbing Escalade Canada

G: How long have your kids been climbing/speed climbing?

I: Alison and her brother Robert have been climbing since they were two or three. As a family we climbed outside. Then they joined the team at our local gym when Alison was 8 and Robert was 6. The first time they entered a speed competition was at the North American Championship in Denver in 2006. Robert won Difficulty and came second in Speed in the Boys 11 and under category. The major change in Speed climbing happened when the standardized 15-metre wall was introduced at the 2009 World Youth Climbing Championship. This format came to Canada when the new wall was built at Boulders Climbing Gym in Saanich BC. The major turning point for Alison was when she was selected to compete in Speed at the World Games in Cali Columbia.

The transition for Robert came when he focussed solely on Speed for the 2013 World Youth Climbing Championship held in Saanich, BC. He then trained all winter at the Boulders Climbing Gym with Libor Hroza from the Czech Republic. They both competed on the World Cup Speed Circuit in 2014. Robert’s best World Cup result was 8th place in Mokpo Korea, where he also set a new Canadian Men’s speed record of 6.67 seconds. He followed this with a Gold medal in Speed at the Pan-American Youth Championship in Mexico City.

G: What’s it like organizing the competitions, but also cheering for your kids at the same time?

I: It was harder when they were younger and needed more support during the competitions. They are now very self-sufficient and I am at the point where I can do both: help with the running of the competition and cheer for them when it is their turn.

G: What are your sport development programs like?

I: Andrew Wilson, former Canadian National Team Head Coach has spearheaded the expansion of our athlete development program through the integration of the Long-term Athlete Development principles. He is working with coaches from across the country to bring climbing sport development up to the standards set by Sport Canada.

G: Is this the busiest time of year for you?

I: Yes we are at full speed. There is also a busy time prior to the beginning of the season as we prepare the schedule.

G: When is the next competition?

I: We have our Bouldering Provincials and a CEC National Series event on Jan. 31 to Feb. 1. This will be followed by three more difficulty and one more speed competition. The season will culminate with Difficulty/Speed Provincials at the end of April. We will also be hosting the CEC Difficulty/Speed National Championship in Victoria on May 16 to 18. There will be an IFSC Speed World Cup along side the Canadian National Championship.

The Recent SCBC Triple-Header

G: Is Alison and Robert competing outside of the SCBC this year and are you going with her?

I: Both Alison and Robert plan to compete at the Speed World Cup in Saanich in May. Alison would also like to compete at a couple more World Cups this season, but has not finalized her plans yet. Robert has just re-started his training program in preparation for the World Cup season. He will attend all five Speed World Cups (three in China, one in France and one in Canada).

Robert and Alison Stewart-Patterson  Photo Photo: Christian J. Stewart
Robert and Alison Stewart-Patterson Photo Photo: Christian J. Stewart

-Competition climbing in Canada is going through a number of changes and provincial organisations like the SCBC are important to its success. Thanks to Iain for taking the time for this interview during his busy schedule.