“We climbers are real perfectionists. It’s all about performance, it’s about getting the last little bit out of what you can do, and that philosophy runs with your equipment.”
Neil Gresham, Osprey Athlete and one of the world’s best known all round climbers, visited Osprey Europe at their HQ, Talon House.
He got to grips with the innovation behind Osprey Packs and then joined the team for a post-work climb!
What is your new role with Osprey and what are you most looking forward to in this new partnership?
I'm working with Osprey Europe as a tech-rep and supported athlete, which means I'll be running product training workshops at some of their key retail outlets in the UK and also working closely with their product development team. For me personally, I'm not interested in using the kit I'm given unless I'm involved in the design process. Similarly, Osprey are not the sort of company to develop products without listening to athletes and end-users, so it's been a good match so far.
What climbs/ adventures have you been up to lately?
I've mainly been focused on sport climbing recently, which I guess is the least adventurous of the different types of climbing that I do. That said, I've been putting up new routes on some of the major limestone cliffs in the UK, such as Malham and Kilnsey, so there's been an exploratory element to the process. I've always had a fascination with finding my absolute top end in climbing and sport climbing provides the obvious platform for this. My new route at Malham from last year, Sabotage, was the hardest of my career and my first 8c+, but I've learnt some new tricks recently and still feel like I've got further to go.
What features do you use most on your packs?
I expect loads from a climbing pack and there are a few key features that hold equal priority for me. Firstly it needs to be strong enough to take a battering in winter and I also need stability and carrying comfort, both in winter and also for summer mountain crag climbing - I'm based in the Lake District and most of the approaches are fairly long. It's also got to have good facilities for stashing axes, poles, crampons and ropes externally, not to mention my portable fingerboard when I go sport climbing! Strangely, packs are often fairly low on the priority list for some climbers, yet they're a crucial piece of kit which can often influence how well the day goes.
If you were only able to pick one pack to take with you on your next climb- what would it be and why?
I'm somewhat obsessed with Osprey Variant 37 and have used this pack extensively for my major trips and climbs over the last five years. In fact it was the Variant that made me want to join the Osprey team officially. I don't think you could design a product like this unless your sole focus was packs. If Porsche or Ferrari made rucksacks they'd probably turn out like this, or maybe not quite as good! You just need to see it and use it to know what I'm talking about.
What adventures/ climbs have you got coming up?
Well predictably, the Malham season has just started and I was straight off the blocks onto my new project, which is a line that I bolted at the end of last year. Clearly it would be breaking the code to say too much about this but I'm hoping to have a reasonable campaign on this over the next few months and then switch to some Lakes trad during the summer months.
Neil has performed at a high level in every discipline from Deep Water Soloing to Sport, Ice and Traditional climbing for over two decades. In the UK he made the third ascent of Indian Face (E9 6c) in 1995 and the second ascent of Equilibrium (E10 7a) in 2001, both which were widely regarded as the hardest of their genre in the world at the time.