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Ouray 2008: A Video Story
Click play to watch Jeff Mercier working the upper section of the finals route and snatching the top.
Like any well-designed competition, the top preliminary-round finishers were slated to go last in the finals. While waiting in anticipation for the favorites—Ines Papert, on her return to the competition scene, and Evgeny Kryvosheytsev, who owned last year's finals route, quickly dispatching the difficulties then bat-hanging from his tools—the crowd watched a confident competitor #15 methodically work upward.
Mercier transitions from the "tuna rolls" to the "diving board" on his way to first place. [Photo] Erik Lambert
"Who is this guy?"
Interest quickly built for the underdog when he hooked the highpoint and gazed with incomprehension at the enormous last move above. So improbable was the lunge that Mercier yelled to the judges, wondering if they expected him to go up.
"Go go go! Go for the top!"
Tools matched on the final hold, Mercier pulled up for the 4-foot flight, caught the top, made the final clip and pleasantly surprised himself and the crowd. He was the only competitor of the seventeen finalists to finish the route.
Mercier's best prior ice competition finish was 12th in the Ice World Cup, notable but not enough to put him in the finals for that comp. Not many in the US know much about the Chamonix-based climber, but competitor Turgeon noted that Mercier has long been "a really smooth and strong mixed climber. He's climbed lots of hard stuff in the Mt. Blanc massif, and there's hearsay that he's onsighted M12."
Papert and Kryvosheytsev who followed had heartbreaking disappointments at the top, Papert barely missing the final reach off a figure-four and Kryvosheytsev accidentally slipping off a hold.
Petzl's Dress to Impress party (or was it Cross-dress to Impress?) that began a few hours later erased any lingering disappointment, and made me wonder: "Why don't we do this every weekend?"