Holding on to Waste? A Very Rubbish Climbing Event

A bouldering competition in Rennes, France was recently organised around the theme of reusing and repurposing objects and materials. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to set and climb a route made up of bowling balls, potties and washing machines? Olivier Lhopiteau of CPB Rennes Escalade did just that.

Rocking between slippery painted tyres., 132 kb
Rocking between slippery painted tyres.
© Thibault Dfdt

Olivier's interest in environmental issues and recycling caused him to get creative and organise an event called the 'Recup' Contest' to challenge climbers not only to think about how to move between quirky holds, but also to reconsider objects destined for the tip.

Atypical moves between the washing machine and its drum., 129 kb
Atypical moves between the washing machine and its drum.
© Thibault Dfdt

We sent Olivier a few questions to find out more about how the event went down...

Answers translated from French.

How did you come to organise such a competition?

I have always been a keen recycler and belong to that category of people who have a hard time throwing stuff away! I like to 'hijack' objects to decorate and when I started making climbing holds (it started with bowling balls) I realised that a lot of objects and materials could be recycled and used for this purpose.

A long reach to crimp the picture frames. Don't spoil the painting!, 127 kb
A long reach to crimp the picture frames. Don't spoil the painting!
© Thibault Dfdt

I really like the new shapes of current climbing holds; they are very innovative. I wanted to show the climbers that beyond the environmental aspect of the event, it would be fun to experiment with new textures, shapes and sensations.

Pots and pans litter the wall.
© Thibault Dfdt

What was the purpose of the event?

There were several reasons for organising the competition. I wanted to bring climbers together at a unique event with a slightly crazy concept - without a serious ranking at the end - and to show that an object destined for the bin can be beautiful and interesting other than in its primary function (we lit up the holds with colourful lights and also painted them).

The washing machine awaits some attention., 172 kb
The washing machine awaits some attention.
© Thibault Dfdt

I also wanted to make people climb on holds that are somehow familiar (we can all recognise a shopping trolley!) while simultaneously tricking them with unexpected climbing textures (using slippery, smooth and soft holds, for example).

An office chair allows a sit-down rest in the middle of the problem., 135 kb
An office chair allows a sit-down rest in the middle of the problem.
© Thibault Dfdt

Are climbers more aware of environmental issues than the general public, in your opinion?

I'm not sure about this, given the behaviour of many climbers who participate both indoors and out. I think we have a tendency to idealise our practices whilst hiding from what is really happening. Today many climbers start out indoors and rarely touch real rock! In my opinion, there is a lot of work to be done in increasing this awareness and it does not necessarily need to start out in the wilderness. The message can be shared in cities via this type of event, for example.

Slippy pipes caused some to remove their shoes..., 130 kb
Slippy pipes caused some to remove their shoes...
© Thibault Dfdt

What objects did you use as holds? How did you make sure everything was safe?

We used all kinds of objects! Books, shoes, traffic cones, tables, supermarket shopping trolleys, potties, plant pots, bed frames, clothes hangers, washing machines, car and tractor tyres, golf balls and bowling balls amongst other items.

A competitor tackles the trolley.
© Thibault Dfdt

Each time we asked ourselves two questions: is it structurally sound? Does it hurt to hold? We then inspected the objects and their construction, thinking of them as climbing holds to evaluate their solidity: the thickness of the material, its framework and nature. Occasionally we had to reinforce them, as was the case with the washing machine and the potties.

Golf balls were a slippy option for both hands and feet., 183 kb
Golf balls were a slippy option for both hands and feet.
© Thibault Dfdt

Are you going to repeat the competition in future? Are you still using the holds on the wall?

We don't know yet, but the participants and those who could not be there would like to do it again! We are still keeping an eye on what people are throwing out in the street, so why not? What is certain is that we have many other ideas for proposing bizarre events, but with a background that questions climbers' values.

Inventive moves on unusual holds., 144 kb
Inventive moves on unusual holds.
© Thibault Dfdt

After the event, some climbers went home with holds and we continue to use them at the wall because they are very interesting and arouse curiosity. The wall is currently decorated with a framed painting, bowling balls and potties!

Crimping on the reinforced book holds., 148 kb
Crimping on the reinforced book holds.
© Thibault Dfdt

How did the participants react to the holds and problems in general?

The climbers were initially surprised by the visual aspect because they didn't realise that the holds were due to be thrown away and didn't recognise some of the objects immediately.

They really appreciated the chance to climb on objects that they would never have imagined on a climbing wall, as well as the problems that it posed to them: sometimes, it was better not to use chalk, or to go barefoot!

Traffic cones were bendy, frictionless obstacles., 152 kb
Traffic cones were bendy, frictionless obstacles.
© Thibault Dfdt

See more photos of the event here.

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