Lyon Equipment hold regular gear workshops at Plas y Brenin, the National Mountain Centre in North Wales. Providing detailed indoor and outdoor training on a wide range of technical products, these two-day courses ensure climbing retail staff have the essential gear knowledge required to confidently advise and sell. I attended one last month, and found that as well as a brilliant insight into the latest outdoor products and the history and technology behind them, Lyon gear workshops are also great fun!
"...You'll learn everything from history and construction methods to the latest innovations - about rock shoes, harnesses, hardware, mountain boots, headtorches, ropes, via ferrata equipment, crampons, axes..."
Why should you go on a Lyon Equipment gear workshop?
Firstly, as Lyon's slogan 'the best outdoor brands in one box' suggests, the company are the UK distributors for a wide range of top outdoor manufacturers including Petzl, La Sportiva, Jetboil and Beal. If you work in a climbing shop that stocks any Lyon Equipment brands, one of these workshops will prove invaluable. As well as learning about the many products Lyon look after, you'll also stack up plenty of general product and technical knowledge. You'll learn everything from history and construction methods to the latest innovations - about rock shoes, harnesses, hardware, mountain boots, headtorches, ropes, via ferrata equipment, crampons, axes and so on.
The workshops are also good value. The packed two-day itinerary includes lectures, group discussions and practical sessions on the Plas y Brenin climbing wall and abseil tower (bouldering, ascending, abseiling, traversing using via ferrata equipment...), both with sponsored climbers and Lyon Equipment experts. You'll also be set against other retail staff on a night walk video challenge in the Snowdonia countryside, to test your new-found knowledge about Petzl headtorches, Exped mats and Jetboils! There's also a marked written test to find out if you've been paying attention and the chance to climb with the sponsored climbers and the Lyon team outdoors at the end of Day 2.
"...on these gear workshops you get to see what happens when you drop bricks on helmets, see how much pressure it takes to pull a harness apart, test ascenders and ropes to breaking point and other interesting feats that you wouldn't like to try on your own treasured equipment..."
Lyon Equipment are able to step above and beyond with their retailer workshops because, as well as distributors, they are also a training and assessment organisation, offering courses in all aspects of work at height, including health and safety, rope access, work positioning, work restraint, fall arrest, rescue and evacuation procedures; as well as selection, care, maintenance and inspection of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). So on these gear workshops you get to see what happens when you drop bricks on helmets, see how much pressure it takes to pull a harness apart, test ascenders and ropes to breaking point and other interesting feats that you wouldn't like to try on your own treasured equipment.
I think it's great that Lyon are a practical hands-on company. They've always worked closely with their suppliers in terms of product development and quality assurance. The history of Lyon Equipment dates back to 1965, when brothers Ben and Graham Lyon started making caving ladders. While caving in France in 1975, the brothers attended a Petzl workshop and subsequently became the first overseas Petzl distributor. A company that is genuinely dedicated to outdoor innovation and has a lot of knowledge about it has grown from these roots. Book yourself a place at the next Workshop!
Comments from the retail staff on the course, who included Alex and Pete from Joe Brown in Llanberis, staff from the Outdoor Shop in Milton Keynes, and Cotswolds, were very favourable:
“I think if anything, Lyon Equipment undersold this course. The invitation was quite understated: I didn't realise it would be such a practical and info-packed couple of days, with so many climbing activities and chances to try out (and break!) the kit.”
Other positive conversations amongst the retail staff around the dining table involved the honesty and friendliness of the Lyon Equipment reps, and how easy to get hold of and deal with the Lyon Equipment office team are if you have any problems or need advice.
While some of the retail staff attending the course were from climbing-specific outdoor shops and had a great deal of knowledge about climbing, others were from general outdoor shops and had limited climbing experience. The course managed to find a happy medium that was informative and fun for both parties. I watched some terrified but determined climbing newbies testing via ferrata equipment on a climbing wall traverse, and listened to climbing experts enthusing about getting the opportunity to climb with Steve McClure and Neil Gresham.
A great chance for everyone to test out the equipment they sell in the shop, during the weekend I heard several retail staff say: “I know what that is, we sell it in the shop but I've never had a chance to use it.” It was also a great opportunity to present questions about gear to the Lyon Equipment experts, and get informed answers on what to tell customers.
The cost of the course is £100 + VAT including accommodation, or £75 without accommodation, which is a bargain considering the amount of training and practical sessions you get from Lyon experts, the sampler bag of Lyon brand outdoor equipment you receive, and the fact that you get to learn from and climb with pros like Steve McClure and Neil Gresham! (Future course costs to be confirmed). At the end of the course, you also receive a Training Manual filled with useful information, graphs, comparison charts and diagrams on outdoor equipment: an invaluable resource for outdoor retailers.
"...I watched some terrified but determined climbing newbies testing via ferrata equipment on a climbing wall traverse, and listened to climbing experts enthusing about getting the opportunity to climb with Steve McClure and Neil Gresham..."
The packed itinerary was as follows:
- A lecture on helmets and harnesses, specifically on the different Petzl models, and including information on how they are made and how to fit them from a Lyon Equipment expert.
- A La Sportiva rock shoe fitting and practical session on the Plas y Brenin climbing wall, with sponsored climber Neil Gresham.
- A lecture on La Sportiva rock shoes from Neil Gresham and a Lyon Equipment expert.
- A lecture on La Sportiva mountain boots, including information on what they're made from and how they are constructed.
- A practical session to learn about Petzl via ferrata equipment, and test it on a traverse around the climbing wall.
- Rope ascending, belaying and abseiling using various Petzl equipment on the abseil tower with Steve McClure and Lyon Equipment experts.
- A DIY tea break outdoors with Jetboils.
- A group discussion about Petzl Charlet winter gear, including axes and crampon fitting.
- A night walk, including practical sessions with Petzl headtorches, Jetboils, Exped mats and a group challenge.
- An evening lecture with Steve McClure and Neil Gresham.
- Presentations from the retail staff on their night walk challenges.
- A discussion about Ortlieb Drybags, Julbo Sunglasses and Exped Mats, with Lyon Equipment experts.
- A discussion about Petzl hands free lighting.
- A lecture from a Lyon Equipment expert on Beal ropes, how they are made and what they are used for.
- A lecture from Steve McClure and Neil Gresham on climbing ropes in general and Beal ropes specifically.
- A test!
- A practical session on Personal Protective Equipment with Chris Blakeley from Petzl, including the chance to see how much force it takes to pull a harness apart and what damage dropping a 10kg stone on Petzl helmets does.
- Outdoor climbing with the pro climbers and the Lyon team.
- Retailers also receive several products made by Lyon equipment brands to keep eg. headtorch, drybag.
Lyon Equipment brands include:
- Petzl: world leaders in the design and production of climbing hardware.
- Ortlieb: waterproof, durable, high quality outdoor equipment.
- Beal: have been making ropes for over 20 years and these are considered the best handling ropes available.
- La Sportiva: technical outdoor footwear for high altitude, rock climbing, trekking or hill walking.
- Exped: high quality, specialised gear for the active, outdoor enthusiast, including camping mats.
- Julbo Eyewear: for anyone in the outdoors from sea to summit.
- Jetboil: outdoor cooking systems.
For more information:
Thanks very much to the sales, marketing and technical team at Lyon Equipment:
Martin Kirton, Pete Robertson, Neal Heanes, John Samways, Simon Tulley and Paul Cornthwaite, as well as Neil Gresham and Steve McClure and Petzl technical expert Chris Blakeley.
For more detailed information about the course content, please see Mick Ryan's article on last year's Lyon Workshop: Gear Knowledge For Climbing Shop Staff
Climbing retail staff and management: please contact Lyon Equipment for more information about Lyon Workshops and to be put on the mailing list regarding future courses: (01539 625493), firstname.lastname@example.org.