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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
See more photos of the event here.
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