10 Climbing Stories We Liked in 2020 Article

© mark s

Although it feels like we did nothing but report on the impact of COVID-19 on climbing and the outdoor industry this year, there were plenty of inspirational stories, silver linings and surprises that made us smile in an otherwise very bleak year.

Forget the hard 'sends' and the COVID-19 news reports for a moment and remember some of the weird and wonderful things that happened in the climbing world and the people making it a better place in 2020...

David Bryant fashioned a traverse wall for his kids on his garden shed and incorporated some numerical challenges to make learning from home a bit more palatable for his young daughters at the start of Lockdown 1.0.

A UKC Gallery submission won Photo of Week with a very accurate yet charming depiction of crag life as a parent. In the photo, Mark Sharratt - father, photographer and climber - snatches a climb while his two daughters Ophelia (Fe), aged 9 and Florence (Flo), aged 18 months enter the frame and steal the limelight. Younger sister Flo is marching out of shot while Fe attempts to restrain her, stumbling. The family photobomb captured the trials and tribulations of balancing a day out climbing with kids, something that many more of us had to get to grips with during the pandemic.

A test flight in the Lake District demonstrated the potential for the use of jet suits for paramedics in a mountain rescue setting, with an almost unbelieveable video of a rescuer soaring into the air going viral online. It's a new approach that could in theory supplement ground-based mountain rescue teams, air ambulance and rescue helicopters.

Alongside the global pandemic, people of colour were fighting for their human rights. The Black Lives Matter movement brought issues of race to the forefront in a year which highlighted inequalities like no other, and the climbing community faced difficult questions about racist route names, inclusivity and representation. In Black People Don't Climb, Do They?, Raheim Robinson shared his experience of discovering climbing and finding himself through the sport, despite the difficulties he's faced as a Black man in a predominantly white activity, and urged the climbing community to 'keep this conversation going, please.'

One of our most popular articles of 2020 was an interview with Gordon Robb, AKA fatoldclimber. In our carefully curated online world, Gordon was the anti-sponsored hero we needed in 2020. His story of discovering climbing, losing weight, putting it back on and struggling - like many people - to keep up his motivation to stay fit and healthy during lockdown while being honest about his journey was truly inspirational. Gordon also learned to love outdoor climbing as a result of the lockdowns.

A 4-year-old, 55kg St Bernard dog named Daisy found herself in a role reversal of sorts after she collapsed on the descent of Scafell Pike and required a 16-strong team of rescuers from Wasdale MRT to stretcher her down the hillside. The story caught the attention of the mainstream media - including the BBC, CNN and Sky News - and a video of the rescue amassed over 107,000 views.

Steve McClure graced our TV screens twice this summer: once on ITV News, where he showed-off his bolted climb up the side of his house, and then again on Gogglebox, where he was subject to the wrath of TV's harshest couch-critics. Indeed, they were suitably unimpressed: 'Climbing your own house is pathetic!'; 'Good job he doesn't live in a f*cking bungalow he'd be totally f*cked then wouldn't he!'; 'Oh get down. He's two foot off the floor. Pathetic!'

Frenchman Sébastien Cuomo put his time in lockdown to good use by building a secion of the Mont Blanc Massif out of LEGO. For 20km x 16km of glaciers, granite, meadows, forests and urban landscapes were topographed layer by layer to create a 160 x 128 'stud' model built more-or-less to scale. The project was hugely popular on social media and Sébastien received over 3000 likes, comments and shares.

Toy manufacturers Mattel launched a new range of Barbie, Hot Wheels and Uno toys and games with an Olympic theme, featuring the five new sports added to the Olympic programme in Tokyo: sport climbing, baseball/softball, surfing, karate and skateboarding. A select number of young female climbers from across the globe were sent the dolls by Mattel, who hoped that they would 'inspire a new generation of athletes and fans around the world.' Sport Climber Barbie told UKC: 'Life on plastic, it's fantastic.'

I said no COVID-19, I know. But frontline worker Jerome Mowat's piece On the Front Line gave an insight into the harsh reality of the situation. Jerome abandoned his climbing trip in Europe and returned to the UK to serve in his role as a paramedic in the - currently even more overwhelmed - London Ambulance Service. Jerome also featured in the Kendal Mountain Festival award-winning film Lock Down, Rock Up.

A bonus number 11: everyone going a bit crazy at home in their climbing-deprived state, but banding together in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways online. You made it through 2020! Hang in there, and thanks for supporting UKC in this difficult year. We wish you all the best for 2021!

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19 Jan

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