You have to admit that now you are a very experienced ice climbing competitor. What has changed comparing the past and the present? Where are these changes leading to?
First of all, it turned out that there was a demand for such kind of climbing. After a very promising beginning, the number of competitions being part of the World Cup increased. The first World Championship took place in Pitztal, in 2002. I won there the difficulty, and I was second at speed. The organizers decided that the World Championship competitions would be organized every year, and not every two years like in sport climbing. The point was to get the status of an Olympic discipline as soon as possible. During all that time I managed to be among the best; I won the events in Pitztal and in Kirow in 2003. This year I won the speed competition in the World Championship in Saas Fee. My most dangerous rival was, and is, Harry Berger from Austria. He is very experienced, mostly because he climbs a lot in the rocks and in the mountains. I must admit that the general level of ice climbing abilities has increased a lot. People climb mixed routes and train hard. For instance, I have noticed a rule that all the best ten climbers are also free climbers at an 8b+/8c level. No more will you find guides or weekend climbers at competitions, and it was normal in the past. In brief, our discipline started to be considered as a professional sport.
Let's talk about training - what are the differences in the training of a mixed climber and a rock climber?
First of all, you train by climbing. Climbing in the rocks or ice you learn different formations and you have to solve different problems every time. Besides, I believe that climbing on artificial walls is the best. You can create specific boulder problems and routes; you can screw on poor holds and train climbing with tools and wearing normal shoes.
You mean climbing shoes?
No, no, I mean usual sport shoes. It's simply harder when you wear them. Of course, you can use climbing shoes, but it's much easier then.
Tell us something more about the technique - has it evolved as well?
Yes, a lot has changed here. It all started when they decided to stop using leashes. It happened six years ago. Since then we've been climbing without them. But the most important innovation was introducing heel spurs. Thanks to this, once you find a good place for hooking a tool, you are able to take a shake out in almost every part of the route. I discovered it in Quebec in 2002, when for the first time I hung myself upside down on the spurs hooked on the tool. You can also notice a lot of changes in the organizing structure. Important companies and the media started to be interested in the competitions. Besides, ice climbing requires different equipment and producers had to start selling products that were in demand. That was how curved, ultralight tools or shoes attached to crampons started to appear on the market. In consequence, technique has changed as well, and now you can hang on the spurs, hooking them on the rock and tools.