So, as I mentioned on here a few weeks ago, I have spent the last few weeks in Moscow working to set the problems for the final leg of the 2008 Bouldering World Cup. The set-up was a bit different to normal for this competition, because the event was held in a huge tradeshow in a vast exposition centre near Red Square. However, because the competition venue is in constant use, the bouldering walls for the competition had to be erected in an alternative venue for the routesetting, and then they were moved into the trade show venue for the weekend of the event. So I had to start the setting work 2 weeks before the comp to allow time for the wall builders to take the walls down and rebuild them again!
So, 2 weeks in Moscow is a very long time - even though we had 3 days in the middle of the trip for sight-seeing! The most upsetting thing about Russia is the lack of climbable rock - anywhere! Stuck in Moscow during a spell of cold dry weather with no rock to climb is pretty much torture! Anyway, after a week of setting with my team of Russians, Ukrainians and Japanese routesetters in the Childrens Palace of Sport (sounds grand but isn't), we joined the other 15million inhabitants of Moscow for some sight-seeing before the comp got underway.
As always, the show was all about strong Austrian climbers - Kilan Fischuber didn't win, but his second place meant he was crowded World Cup Champion for the third time, and also Anna Storr sealed her World Cup victory (although she didn't make the finals in Moscow!). The climbing talent on show was amazing, and the comp was won by Katherina Saurwein (also Austrian) in the womens event, and by a young Russian guy called Rustam Gelmanov (a climber who is a massive talent and my hot tip for future competition dominance!) The speed competition the on the last day was insane - between the Russians and the Venezualans the competition was red-hot, but eventually Eastern bloc dominance overcame south American flair and the Russian guys and girls won the day.
So, to sum up, Russia is not for the faint-hearted, but here's what I have learned. The people can seem abrupt and officious at times, and yet I also met some of the kindest and friendliest people I have ever come across too. Chilli vodka may seem like a good idea, but the reality is often very different. Russian after-competition parties can often get out of hand, but it is rude not to take part in the party games. It's cold.
The pictures show the view from my hotel room, the Palace of Sport, Killian Fischuber in the finals (spot any Bishton influence in this problem?!?!), the crowd watching the final and St Basils Cathedral in Red Square.