/ NEW ARTICLE: Adam Ondra Interviewed by Peter Beal
Adam gives us insights in to his tactics, the nuances of climbing at his level, and where he gets his confidence from.
Read more at http://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=4534
"he is simply the best all-around rock climber on the planet"
Really? Tell that to Ueli Steck...
It is however a little difficult to call him the best all-round rock climber when he doesn't climb trad routes or any alpine stuff. Complete all rounders are in my mind are Mcleod and Steck.
Yes I wouldn't call him "the best allrounder" - MacLeod would seem more fitting as far as smaller/non-alpine stuff goes. Really great interview though. He does seem like an intelligent guy.
Ueli is also an accomplished Sport climber, and Ondra doesn't do trad. BUt yes, great article and I'm incredibly jealous of his ability at his age.
The article does mention though the serious Czech sandstone stuff he has done a bit of as well as the hard alpine multipitch stuff (silbergier or whatever it's called). Just because it's not on wires (in both cases from the sounds of it) doesn't mean it's not dangerous, and combining those multipitches with the stuff in Madagascar and Hotel Supramonte (onsighting a 400m route with difficulties to 8b but also 7c obligatoire climbing) and that sort of stuff I'd give him the tick for hard and runout and at the very least quasi-alpine.....
Lets face it, the fact he has not done owt on grit simply means we can hang on to the pretense its actually hard at all for a little while longer...
It's great to see him reaching a level of maturity (and English) that he can start giving out some really useful advice. It was like dipping into some of DMacleod's writing.
A great interview. Thanks to Peter Beal and Adam Ondra. Very useful information- even for the punter!
Why ruin a great interview with daft speculation like that?
Given that he has limited it to "well protected", is it even a question that it would be true were he to put his mind to it? A well protected trad route and a normal or even runout sport route are effectively the same thing if you have the right mindset...
> A well protected trad route and a normal or even runout sport route are effectively the same thing if you have the right mindset...
Does Ondra have the right mindset? There begins the tedious and pointless debate. I'm sure Ondra could flash Mission Impossible on a top rope, but speculating whether he could lead it is just daft- Hence why I said it was daft. Ondra is superb at what he does, not what he doesn't do.
The interview was v.interesting though, so thanks.
Ah, I didn't really consider it debatable - I sort of figure that if you can do runout alpine 8b+, sparsely bolted Czech sandstone and onsight 8c+ whilst skipping clips and facing monster whippers that you have enough of a control over irrational fear that getting on something which is basically sport climbing (not my quote, an ascentionist of the route you mention) shouldn't prove too much of a mental barrier.
But you're right, it was a useful and interesting article. I just wonder at how whenever this sort. Of thread comes up people like Ondra are rated as lesser climbers than all-rounders who can't actually touch him on a singleof the disciplines he does do - it always seemsto me that learning how to place wires and getting on some safe trad is a lot easier than training to climb 3 grades harder physically. Pearsons girlfriend whose surname I can't spell gave a useful demo of how convertible hard sport is to trad last year didn't she, and I can't think of anyone who has shown the same sort of conversion in the opposite direction. But that is rampantly off topic so I'll get back to doing some work!
>and I can't think of anyone who has shown the same sort of conversion in the opposite direction
Caff? Pete Robins? Hell, Ron Fawcett and Jerry BITD.
No, not really, that's why I said it.
Caff and Pete: they've converted to a good sport level for sure but I assumed that some sort of notion of speed was implicit in my point - obviously I should have been more clear. It wasn't quite like whatshername who turned up and was looking pretty sharp by route two! I can't recall how many women have done E8, neither how many have done it ground up, but I bet she's proportionally accelerated to nearer the current state of play of womens trad than anyone has the other way (and to be fair there's a long way between 8c+ or 9a for Caff and Pete and world class at 9b, I would imagine!).
Jerry and Ron - again, speed a bit slower, I don't really know. Difficult today I suppose given the grey area between traditional trad and what we would now call sport that a lot of those freed aid routes and whatever fitted in... Complicates things. But I'd definitely be more persuadable on this one were it not, as yousay, in a different era.
About to get in the car so will fall silent soon, but I guess I basically think that an 8c onsighting Spanish monster or Ondra or similar has the physical and mental abilities that would allow them to convert to onsight E8/9 than someone onsighting E8 would have of getting out there and knocking out Fr8c onsights or 9b redpoints. And it's that which makes me wonder about these unfavourable comparisons of Ondra et al with people who are all rounders but are operating comparatively several leagues below him in the physical disciplines (bouldering and sport).
Anyway, I won't drag the thread off topic any further and I'll start driving up North now...
The difference is often one of preparedness to accept climbing where a fall would likely result in serious injury. Many capable sport climbers are very happy to solo or to climb occasional trad to a high level, whereas others just don't seem to be cut out for it, and it isn't something that's easy to predict. Obviously Ondra is physically capable of climbing high E grades in his sleep, but there's a critical difference between risking very long falls above missed bolts and running it out above a groundfall. Citing examples of sport climbers who have been able to make the transition still doesn't say much about those who haven't or who have yet to try.
The other way around (trad to sport) is rare nowadays since almost all trad climbers also sport climb sometimes, or train at walls at least. Simon Nadin was probably the best ever example, as he seemed to be onsighting 8a+ very quickly and at a time when that was genuinely cutting edge.
If you're referring to Steve McClure's attempt then you neglect to mention the fact that it was piss wet. That is all.
JCM - Caff etc have been sport climbing for donkey's years - they haven't just converted to it - they got good at both together - they've just focussed a bit more on it lately. In fact one of the main reasons that the likes of Caff, Bransby etc are so good at trad onsighting is precisely because they are some of the few people in the UK who can onsight Fr8a+. Then remember that Ondra is consistently onsighting Fr8c+...
Jurgen A - it depends what you're talking about doesn't it...
Trad headpointing is WAY more about sport climbing ability than most people in the UK like to admit. You don't need much gear placing ability, because you can get someone to show you where things go and pre practice placing it. You don't need that ability to "set off into the unknown", because you can wire the thing as much as you like. All you need is the confidence that you've got the thing dialled enough and that it's easy enough that you're not going to fall off. Don't get me wrong - this isn't trivial, but it's not THAT much of a big deal if the route is sufficiently far below your redpointing grade (think about soloing VS's when you're leading E3...) You only have to look at the succession of famous headpointers in the UK over the past decade or so, a lot of whom converted to this from being half decent sport climbers relatively easily. And bear in mind that a lot of the most famous ones never managed to redpoint harder than Fr8b+. There will of course be exceptions who aren't able to make the transition, but in terms of headpointing I think they are fairly rare - and primarily through lack of interest rather than anything else. In short, I have little doubt that Ondra could fairly easily headpoint most if not all of the trad routes in the UK.
Trad onsighting is a completely different kettle of fish. Sport climbing ability helps loads - it's much easier to not get scared when you're not getting pumped. But as you and John Arran rightly say, some people have the mindset for it. Others don't. And it's very difficult to tell which is which, until they try. Obviously experience is a massive factor - gear placing ability is something which only comes slowly and with lots of practice. But only a pretty small number of people are genuinely good at committing themselves in really gnarly dangerous situations - and the only way to find out if you are one is to try. So no, for now, Ondra probably could not set off onsight on most of the E7's at Gogarth - he would almost certainly be psyched out and wouldn't have a clue how to get any gear in. What he probably could do within a few days of learning how to place gear, is onsight lots of hard cracks, or other hard safe-ish routes with good gear - Pembroke etc. Whether with practise he could become a good all round trad onsighter is as you say a silly argument - no one knows until they try.
What I would say is that I hope he doesn't try. At least not very hard or in a great hurry. The fact is that he is 18 and is already the best sport climber in the world. He clearly has a great opportunity to take climbing and completely turn it on it's head in the next decade - I still think climbing has a very long way to go, and I'm genuinely interested to see how far he and others can take it. Gaining the experience to get good at trad onsighting takes ages - and it's something he can do when he's 50 if he's interested - you don't need ridiculous levels of strength and fitness for it. Time spent doing that would be time not spent focusing on getting fitter and stronger, and so would be detrimental to taking sport climbing and bouldering to new levels. Also, unless you stick to certain types of routes, genuinely pushing trad onsighting to the limits is a very dangerous business. Not the kind of not too dangerous really danger that you often get with headpointing. But properly likely to die type danger. Leo Houlding is arguably the person from the UK who has taken this the furthest - and after a while of pushing at this door, it pretty much inevitably slams shut on you (in Leo's case on his ankle). For the very few people who are genuinely interested in this game then fair play and good luck. But I think it would be little short of a tragedy if Ondra went down this route and got taken out of hard climbing in the way that Leo very nearly was.
But I suspect he's very unlikely to get very interested in the trad climbing scene in the UK. He might get interested in doing a few of the classics, but I can't see him being too fussed about it. In the longer term it wouldn't surprise me if he follows a similar path to that which Alex Huber took - at some point he may well get psyched on big walls, and Yosemite in particular. So perhaps when he's 30 and a bit worn out from redpointing 10a's, he'll take a trip to the Valley and onsight every free route on El Cap. THAT's the kind of trad climbing I'd think Ondra might eventually get interested in. And like everything else he does I wouldn't be at all surprised if he was very, very good at it.
Well done, the best UKC post since it was a decent climbing related forum about 10 years ago. It's an opinion like yours that started me climbing in the first place.
>In fact one of the main reasons that the likes of Caff, Bransby etc are so good at trad onsighting is precisely because they are some of the few people in the UK who can onsight Fr8a+.
Hmm - you might know better than me; I'm sure they did a certain amoutn of sport before but there's been a definite shift of emphasis recently. And I really don't buy that being one of the main reasons. How many of Caff's 50 E7 onsights did he do before he could onsight F8a+?! What was Pete R's hardest sport onsight before he did Raped by Affection?
I'm never very convinced by this argument that onsighting is so much more dangerous than headpointing, either. I'd say it depends how far you push it in each discipline. If you only headpoint stuff you can do every time on a rope then it's a lot safer than if you go for it with only a 90% chance figuring adrenalin will get you up, and equally if you stick to onsighting well-protected routes and/or at a grade you can do more or less every time that's a lot safer than pushing the boat out.
Was Dave M really safer doing Echo Wall than onsighting Chiaroscuro, for example?
I don't think anyone thinks Ondra's likely to get too interested in trad onsighting in Britain. It would be a shame if he got injured, of course, but otherwise I'm pretty sure that whatever he does will be fascinating.
Has Leo really taken dangerous trad onsighting the furthest in the UK?! I'd say John Redhead deserved a shout.
I'm not at all sure trad onsighting's 'something you can do when you're 50' either. It certainly doesn't tend to be - for whatever reason 50-year-olds don't tend to be as bold as 20-year-olds.
I don't know - he did A Muerte at Siurana but I don't know if that's 9a or not - I've sometimes seen it given a split grade.
In reply to Jurgen A:
If the best counter example you can come up with is someone failing to do what noone else has done either whilst attempting it in the wet, I think that's all that needs to be said really.
I forget the details of exactly when Pete and Caff did what, although both certainly have sport climbed plenty for ages. But for example, Leo and Bransby were both onsighting 8a+ as teenagers and this certainly made a very big difference to what they were capable of trad onsighting. Or Ian Vickers etc... But yeah, it obviously makes the biggest difference on the steeper stuff where stamina and strength play a big part - on dangerous slabs clearly not so much. As I said, there are lots of other things to take into account when you're talking about onsighting though. So sure - onsighting Raped isn't gonna have too much to do with sport onsighting ability (unless it's onsighting slate sport routes of course, which would certainly help lots...)
Yeah - you can certainly MAKE headpointing far more dangerous by choosing to go for a route you haven't got completely dialled. The best style headpoints where someone just goes for it having onsighted it on a top rope, are sometimes nearly as big a deal as someone flashing a route with loads of beta. My point was more that IF you choose to spend ages dialling something then it often isn't that big a deal. In that situation, you simply don't set off until you're very confident of not blowing it, and then I do think that a large element of the danger has been removed.
Sure at the top end headpointing gets pretty gnarly. But more often than not it's because the people involved are pushing towards their sport redpointing limit. For example - Echo Wall is 8c/8c+. And Dave's top redpoint is 8c+/9a. In other words he's going for a dangerous headpoint which is close to his top redpoint ability. Similar to Seb going for it on Parthian. Clearly doing this is both dangerous and impressive. But for people going for routes which are easier than they can physically onsight (as Ondra would be on all trad routes in the UK), then there is a much bigger margin, and if they've spent enough time dialling them I do think it's not anywhere near as dangerous.
Yeah - other people have onsighted harder routes in the UK than Leo - I was kind of thinking of people who'd pushed the boat out until they broke themselves. Then again noone else has followed him up Master's Wall (although perhaps Caff's epic has put everyone off!). But the likes of Caff, Bransby, Vickers etc do tend to climb pretty safely and in complete control for the most part. Leo or say Ben Tetler, really did at times just flat out go for things which is pretty rare and is what I meant by pushing it. And it's what usually has a time limit before things go wrong. (I learnt to climb with a guy who was incredible at this - he was onsighting dangerous E6's and E7's when he could barely redpoint Fr7b. It is amazing to watch from a psychological perspective. But again he had a few VERY close shaves, and as often happens with people pushing it in this way, he pretty much gave up climbing in his early 20s.)
And yeah - it's almost always under 25's doing the boldest stuff. A certain element of bravado, feeling invincible having never been injured, no responsibilities, teenagers trying to make a name for themselves, sometimes just flat out suicidal tendencies etc etc. I was more thinking that you can go around safely enjoying the vast majority of the trad climbing in the world when you're 50 rather than anything else.
I've had this debate a couple of times on here already. I quickly lose all respect for anyone that suggests that someone who has climbed multiple F9bs could 'easily' come and do F8c/+ on trad or whatever, without knowing anything about either the routes or the climber in question. See this thread from the comment below and onwards. It's a daft debate:
"we get strong foreign wads coming over and tearing through the trad grades, but that we've been waiting for decades for someone to come and give our sport test pieces a go."
Just saw this quote from James McHaffie at http://rockclimbinguk.co.uk/james-mchaffie-on-climbing-training-for-9a/
"Iíve got a proper sweet tooth which doesnít matter too much when youíre ledge shuffling on E7s but I have had to have a break from them for steep hard sport climbs!"
ledge shuffling? I assume he would know what he's talking about.
That's why I said "decently protected." Chop routes are a different story. While there is a full spectrum of possibilities on trad, assuming that major injury or death is not the menu, yes Ondra has shown already that he can handle very serious climbing situations.
If you don't know how to place a nut, It doesn't matter how hard you climb, Requiem is going to be tricky...
That's the extreme extension of the argument, but you get the drift: Just because those climbing F8c on trad 'only' climb F9a on sport doesn't mean those climbing F9b on sport can climb F9a on trad. The people who 'only' climb F9a on sport are focused on trad, that's why they're comparatively worse at sport climbing. As soon as you hang around trying to get used to trad you lose sport fitness and hence why there won't be any Europeans 'tearing up the trad scene'. I have no doubt they could match current trad levels and perhaps one or two of them could improve upon our efforts (there are more of them after all), but this myth that super-human sport climbers could come over and onsight E10s is total BS. (apart from perhaps muy calliente ;))
Oh come on, its not that complicated.
Which sort of makes the point doesn't it? And how many Brits have onsighted Strawberries so far?
I'm going to guess, having done a fair amount of it myself, that learning how to place a nut pales in comparison to learning how to climb 9a, let alone 9b. The vast majority of the very few 8c trad climbs are relatively strenuous and decently protected crack routes. The switch to trad will therefore be relatively straightforward in many cases.
I appreciate what you are saying nevertheless. Climbing serious trad routes is a worthy endeavor with its own values and meanings, many of which reside outside physical difficulty.
The Muy Calliente jibe was eluding to the fact that it aint E10, which is why every man and his dog has done it.
But how many Brits have onsighted Strawberries Franco?
And E8 ground up, second try, as a second ever trad route by Ms Ciavaldini suggests that learning to transfer to trad isn't that complex an issue.
But you are right, it is a very silly argument because even if some of the world best climbers haven't come to the UK to try trad climbing, they have gone to the US to climb on El Cap and the like.
BTW, why have you changed your name? Have you been inspired by some Euro-wad in Innsbruck? :-)
Jurgen A - Your basic point is correct in that climbing 9b is certainly no absolute guarantee of being a good trad climber. But I think you place trad on way too much of an impregnable pedestal; underestimate sport climbing in precisely the way you accuse others of underestimating trad; and massively, massively underestimate the difference in level between climbing the odd 9a after a stack of work, and the kind of level Ondra is climbing at. The former was the top level 20 years ago. Things have moved into a different stratosphere. The difference between 9a and 9b is enormous. James Pearson illustrates it pretty well - he was one of the very best UK trad climbers 3 years ago, could already boulder very hard and sport climb up to 8b+. It's taken 3 years as a full time climber, training and climbing loads to get to the point where he's onsighting 8b and has done one 9a after 6 days of work. ie: the level Ondra was climbing at when he was 12. (And that's no criticism of James in the slightest - I think it's a brilliant effort.) The idea that UK trad climbers, or anyone else for that matter can easily sport climb at the highest level if they try is just hilarious. Also, the idea that sport climbing fitness and taking the time to get good at trad climbing are mutually exclusive is nonsense. Ondra just spent 6 months bouldering. He regained full sport fitness very quickly indeed. But it is certainly time where they wouldn't be actually improving at sport climbing.
Presumably in the above you were referring to the Belgians onsighting spree, the Americans on grit and Sonnie Trotter on Rhapsody. None of them are really that close to the top levels in sport climbing, and are quite like some of the very best UK trad climbers in many ways - hence the similar level.
But take a handful of the top sport climbers and at least some of them will almost certainly be good trad climbers - at least at certain types of routes. (Look how long it took Ethan Pringle to convert and run up Cobra Crack, or Alex Huber in Yosemite.) Of course that doesn't mean that they would be onsighting everything. A lot of the E9's and above would be bonkers to go for the onsight on whoever you are - they're not going to be onsighting Indian Face any time soon - when that happens it's more likely to be a skinny, slightly mad local teenager sketching their way to either fame or an infamous end. But there's plenty of hard trad routes which you don't need to be too mad for - onsights of things like The Big Issue, Muy Caliente, Divided Years etc etc would I suspect be well within reach of quite a few of the top guys if they spent a month or so over here getting used to things. And IF someone of Ondra's ability turned out to be good at it, then I don't even think onsighting something like Rhapsody would be out of the question.
But you can keep your theory for now, because I suspect that most of the relevant people aren't particularly interested - and until people actually do things it's all just silly speculation as you say. If some of them ever turned up on form though and were psyched for it, I think you might be a little surprised at what got done.
Now it becomes clear. A thread where people state that the premise is not worth arguing over as it can never be proven, yet continue to argue.
I knew Franco had to be involved somewhere ;0)
It's quite simple really.
Ondra is technically a far better climber than all of those mentioned above.
But Ondra doesn't onsight hard trad routes, nor does he headpoint hard trad routes. So for now many of the others are far better all-rounders.
I think something like The Usual Suspects (Sron Ulladale) would be a great challenge for someone like Ondra to onsight. I'm sure he'd love it.
Excellent, well reasoned points. This sentence, describing one of the best UK climbers, puts everything into perspective:
Oright then, seeing as I have nowt else to do...
There are two issues here: 1) could climbers brought up as trad climbers easily convert to being top level sport climbers- the answer to that is obviously no; and 2) could climbers brought up on clipping bolts easily convert to 'tearing up' british trad.
The second question seems almost as obvious as the first to me. We've seen experienced trad climbers, who are stronger than the UK's top trad climbers come over and do pretty well. We've also seen our own top sport climber (who was brought up on trad) match current levels and hint at being able to better them.
Outside of the 'pembroke phenomenon' we've seen little evidence that strong boulderers from elsewhere, or top-level sport climbers could easily convert to new levels of trad climbing.
There are different ways to look at it; first off, let's get the conversion tables out: The hardest Ondra has onsighted is F8c+. Let's assume that he can't climb at this level whilst placing nuts- say F8b+ (which is pretty generous I feel. What grade is that going to get? It would be mighty impressive, but I'm not sure it would class as 'tearing it up'- like onsighting an E11 or something.
As far as I'm aware, his hardest onsights were also long, sustained, fairly easy to read routes, that relied on limestone pockets and crimps- Not 20 metre brutal/blind cracks- like the majority of very well-protected British H9s. So there's a difference in style there to think about too. I don't know how much Grit/volcanic stuff europeans get out on either- I suspect not a lot- apart from granite.
Then there is the issue of gear. If you've been brought up placing nuts and friends, then you think nothing of falling onto a couple of bomber pieces, but after chatting to a lot of sport climbers-turned alpinists in austria, there is a fair bit of angst at even the most tame falls onto the best gear. The idea that running it out 7 metres above a bolt is just the same as running it out on something like Rhapsody, with wires you fiddled in with little if no experience of placing gear whilst pumped, is daft. Whatever you say, it takes a while to learn to really trust gear, which is what you need to be able to do, if you want to onsight anywhere near your limit.
Having said this. If he spent 6 months cruising a few E7s/E8s, I'm sure ondra could 'tear it up', but he's not going to just pop over from ceuse and onsight Rhapsody.
Was that a reply to all or just to me? I was remarking at the ability of Ondra at 12.
I wouldn't dream of entering into this sport/trad debate with you again Franco, my opinion differs to yours (and is similar to Nemo's) and I'm happy for us to disagree :-)
I think my and Nemo's opinion is pretty similar. I read my earlier post back and realise it sounded like I was saying that if UK trad climbers started sport climbing, they could match Ondra's level- what I meant was that if you focus on one facet of climbing 'from birth' then you will be better at it. It's almost impossible to reach Ondra's level without having been brought up on sport climbing from a very early age, but I think it's also almost impossible to reach such heights in trad climbing with a given fitness, if you haven't been brought up on trad.
Let's not lose grasp of the original point I said wasn't worth discussing that strong sport climbers could 'tear up' british trad. Nemo agrees with me I think, that a serious amount of conversion to trad would first be necessary. Perhaps we disagree on quite how far Ondra's strength would take him. I reckon trad F8c onsights is pretty far fetched for someone who's onsight limit is F8c+ on bolts.
Oddly I've seen the opposite a fair amount - people almost blindly trusting trad gear quickly, as if they were bolts. I remember watching a French lad repeatedly whip onto a rock 2 or 3 off this: http://farm7.static.flickr.com/6203/6077597049_7dac09a434_b.jpg (it's Butterarms at Paradiset, Nor 8+ so around 8a-ish I think) on his first week trad climbing!
An interesting argument, but as a different take:
The hypothetical perfect all-rounder excels at everything, right? Onsights E8, head points E11, onsights 8c+, works 9b, flashes V13-odd and works V16. No one yet does this, but that would be operating at the highest level in every discipline.
I tend to think that "not having done something yet" (at least, not by the "rules" because it seems that runout bolted climbing is always thought of as different from runout trad climbing even if the trad gear is bomber - I dont really agree, but its an argument for another thread i guess) doesn't necessarily preclude you from still being the closest to that perfect level yet, and taking that on board and also the conversion speed that Nemo I think mentioned of Pearson going from trad to sport, I think if the worlds top climbers decided to go for it and aim to become the perfect all-rounder Ondra would be way up there in the betting because the skills he has to learn are mental skills rather than the hard graft almost everyone else would have to put in to get to the required level....
Ondra's a great climber and I'd love half his ability...but am I the only person who doesn't actually enjoy watching him climb? Compared with say Sharma he just looks gangly and moves in a speedy jerky way, no fluidity, no elegance.
Yeah, I know, go flame me, but remember I'm a sport climber too, I'm not arguing about whether he's the best all rounder, I'm not questioning his ability, simply that as a sport climber, I don't really like watching him much.
On the contrary, I think he is brilliant to watch - he flows like no-one else I've ever seen on the rock! :-)
> On the contrary, I think he is brilliant to watch - he flows like no-one else I've ever seen on the rock!
I'm not sure flow is the right word, but I also think he is brilliant to watch. What impresses is his decisiveness, speed and pure effort. It doesn't look effortless because it isn't. I would like to think that the way I try to climb on bolts myself has been changed by that video of him onsighting that 8c+ at Oliana. And that video of him flashing an 8B+ boulder problem is the only bouldering video I've ever watched repeatedly -I normally find them really boring.
I think there's a high probability that Ondra could achieve those targets in trad climbing though as others have said it might depend on whether the routes in question are 'sport-style' i.e. steep and well protected. It's fair to say that the best headpointers, for example, are those that can handle the dangerous stuff. Steve MacLure was able to give Rhapsody a good shot but I doubt he'd call himself a headpointer.
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