Monday, 31 December 2012

Wide Boyz, Ueli Steck and Dry Tooling Madness

While most places would have been winding down towards Christmas, Westway had been whipping itself into a frenzy of activity.  Instead of retiring to fire places with mince pies we had one of the busiest months all year.  We had inspirational speakers, celebrity visits and dry tooling competition madness.

One month ago at the end of November a couple of us were fortunate enough to get tickets to a special screening of Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker’s film Wide Boyz.  The film is an account of their attempt to free climb Century Crack in Utah.  Century crack is a 120 feet long, off width, through a super steep roof, that supposedly goes at 5.14b.

The showing of the film was in the basement of the Patagonia store in Convent garden, a smart room festooned with trendy garments.  It was a great event with the Patagonia store putting on some fine grub, beers and the all-important goodie bags.  Before the showing Tom and Pete were at hand to give a short introduction to the film explaining some of the strange and brutal training they had to endure before attempting to climb Century Crack.

The basement of the Patagonia store turned into a cinama

The film itself was fantastic.  Low on climbing clichés and high on plucky British craziness the film had me gripped the whole way through.  Even to a person who knows nothing of the strange world of off width climbing the film immerses you in a world of gnarly-faced big-gunned crack jammers.  The film is a great underdog tale with the two Brits setting themselves up against a climb like they had never climbed before or like any climb they had access to for training on. There is blood, sweat, controversy and drama.  A great film to watch to get the psyche needed for that winter training.

Free stuff being enjoyed before the screening 

Cornish Larger 

Back at the Westway we had our own crazy Brit giving a talk about his climbing adventures.  Andre Hedger had been part of the Westway massive that recently went out to climb on El Cap.  Andre had gone there with the intention of climbing The Nose in a day.  On his return I asked him to write up a lecture to tell the story of his attempt but what he delivered was a whole lot more than just a simple account of his climb. The lecture he wrote, named Silence on El Cap told the story of a deaf climber’s journey from a young cragger to bold big wall ascensionist. 

Andre senior and junior at the Hand of Fatima
This was the first time Andre had given such a talk but once into the flow of things you would have thought he was a seasoned veteran of the lecture circuit.  His tale went from a young cragger with dreams of becoming a rock star to a trip to the Hand of Fatima in Mali big wall climbing with Leo Holding.  The story continued with death defying trips to the Czech Republic and then concluded with the nail biting tale of his attempt to climb one of the most famous climbs going, the Nose, with a stranger known to us only as Super Tramp. In the future if you see Andre giving a lecture anywhere get in quick, you wont be disappointed.

The excitement continued in the wall with a visit from a very famous face.  Ueli Steck dropped into the Westway prior to his lecture in the Royal Geographical society.  

The Swiss Machine climbing one of Liam's 7c's on
the comp wall

The BMC and Mountain Hardware had run a competition for two lucky people to win a coaching session with the Swiss Machine himself.  Ueli who had flown in from Switzerland that day got to work straight away showing how much of a beast he was.  Demonstrating flawless technique he made short work of our hardest climbs on the comp wall.  He was such a nice guy to have around the wall and mixed in well with the usual customers milling around at that time.  He posed for a few photos, complimented the route setting, did a quick interview and was off to the Royal Geographical society for his lecture.

I was lucky enough to get a couple of tickets to this and I can tell you it was one sweaty hand moment after another.  It doesn’t matter how many times I see him solo the north face of the Eiger,  it never sinks in. With each replay I spot another near death slip of a crampon or tenuous axe placement.  It simply blows me away every time.  The lecture was full of details of his intense preparation for for his infamous ascent including running, pumping weights and soloing 8a’s. 

 A very interesting part of the lecture was an insight into the development of the equipment that he uses for his ultra fast style of climbing.  He is obsessed with saving weight and drives the designers at Mountain Hardware to the brink of madness trying to develop kit that he is happy with.  They have removed pockets from jackets and zips from sleeping bags while scrutinising every gram.  His whole kit was on display just outside the lecture theatre for you to prod and poke.
After his account of the Eiger, Ueli went on to describe his most recent projects in the Himalayas including a speed ascent of Everest.  All the videos that he showed in the lecture are available to watch on You Tube. Leaving the lecture that evening I felt psyched to take on the world but equally as guilty for skipping my run that morning.

The finally of the month was our super exciting annual drytooling comp.  This year’s comp was a team event with competitors coming from La Sortiva, Alpkit and Westway. Each team had two climbers that had to climb three routes of escalating difficulty.  The routes incorporated fiendish three-dimensional climbing through suspended logs and beer barrels.  The competition was accompanied by an alpine BBQ, free beer and music from super star DJ Sam.  DMM and Petzl were present to with kit demos organised by Urban rock

Competitors eye up the routes before the start

The crowd cheer Andre up the first route

The event kicked of steadily with all the climbers easily sending the first route within the five minute time limit.  The problems started in the second round with Jonny White, who is a beast of a climber took a massive whip while trying to turn the lip of the roof.  This did not bode well for the rest of the competitors who kept warm inside in isolation.  The next shock was from Steve Golley who dropped an axe early in the climb.

Jonny cutting loose and sticking it

Then things got serious with Aid Baxter, Ramon Marin, Andre Hedger and Neil Gresham pulling some obscene upside down toe hook action to get over the lip and send the route.  This was super exciting for the spectators on the ground that were enjoying the free food and beer as the athletes struggled through the horrendous moves above.

Andre turning the lip as the traffic passes by unaware 

The comp moved onto the final and most crazy of the routes.  It started hard with a dramatic footless clamber up a hanging log, to tenuous placements over a beer keg to more gymnastics on another log to a fig four move from a beer keg to the head wall and on to a massive lock off to the finishing hold.  This route despatched with everyone around the second log.  Drama came from Andre who decided to miss the clip before the second log and then take a massive lob narrowly missing the starting log on his way back down to earth.

Niel trying to get back to the wall from a swinging log on the final route

The final attempt came from the comp leader Neil Gresham who battled his way up to the final keg and then fell leaving his axes behind.  He had done enough and had won the competition.  The overall team event had been won by Alpkit with Ramon and Andre both putting in powerful performances.

The competitors and their prizes, congratulations to Neil who won the event
and to Alpkit who won the team event.

This is the second year the Westway has run this competition and both years have been great fun.  We have been using the Alpkit FigFour tools but starting next year we will use real ice tools.  It should make for an even bigger and more exciting spectacle.

Onto 2013 then and with the New Year more exciting happenings at the Westway.  Starting on
Tuesday the 15th will be the Super League.

This four round competition will happen every month until March on our Oven boulder wall.  It will feature two different difficulty categories for juniors, and adults and consist of some of the best-set boulder problems in London for you all to test that winter training on.  Last year’s event was hotly contended and was great fun with everyone cheering each other on to try harder.  This year’s comp has some awesome t-shirts to accompany it that you will no doubt see our instructors modelling around the wall.

Starting next year there will also be a new bouldering league to accompany each set of the Fridge bouldering wall.  The Fridge championship will feature 20 purpose set comp problems every month until the end of the year.  You can enter each round for free with a cash prize awarded to the highest score that night.  The league will roll on every month until a grand prize being awarded in December to the champ. We will announce the date of the first round next week.

The dates each boulder wall is going to be reset will also be released next week.  We will now be setting each boulder wall three weeks apart meaning a more constant flow of fresh problems throughout the year.  This will mean you can better plan your training at the Westway.

Liam testing his testing 8c
Another competition being introduced next year will be the $100 route.  As per normal we will be setting an ultra hard route up the comp wall for our squad kids and stronger customers to train on.  Normally around 8c this route is trained on allot but rarely sent.  We will be offering a $100 (£62) prize to the climber that comes to the wall and sends this route. We will set a new mega hard route every three months for the strong climbers to come and have a go. 

Starting in January we will be opening the climbing centre at 08:00 on weekends for all the early birds to get their training in.  To accompany this a new Bouldercise session will be running starting at 08:30 for all those wanting to shed a few pounds after the festivities.  Coincidently Bouldercise featured in Yesterdays Times newspaper.  The papers style supplement ran an article on the latest fitness crazes and Bouldercise, which is unique to Westway was one of the activities described.  

Look out for all the new developments around the wall over the next year.  We have our fingers crossed for some new and exciting projects that will greatly improve the centre.  In the mean time you will have to make do with us giving the walls a lick of paint.  Have a happy new year and see you all at the Super League.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Silence on El Cap

OMG Christmas already?

Like it or not Christmas is nearly upon us.  It may seem like only yesterday that you banged down that last mince pie and vowed to work it off in the gym, all the while swearing to your self ‘this is the year I will master the one arm pull up’.  But the panicked look in the faces of those frantic shoppers doesn’t lie, Christmas cometh.  In the Westway this means we have been busy planning our Christmas party.  For those of you who don’t know this isn’t a the usual Christmas shindig, with what in 2012 will most likely involve drunken office workers doing the 'gangnam style'.  

No, the Westway Christmas party involves top climbers throwing dry tooling shapes on our outdoor lead wall, in the world’s only FigFour dry tooling lead comp.  The main event is a team competition with climbers competing from Alpkit, Lyon Equipment, La Sportiva and of course Westway.  Each team will be pitting their best climbers up against some of the most exciting dry tooling routes ever set in a competition.  There will be product demos from all the manufactures and a FigFour mega speed bouldering competition.  Along side all of this there will be an alpine BBQ, DJ, mulled Cider, a local brewery and you’re all invited. 

Andre taking time out on a route to snack on
an Up Raw

In the mean time there are some interesting talks happening at the Westway to keep you motivated.  The first is from Sol Fernandez who is the inventor and owner of a new sports snack called Up Raw.  Sol has based the design of his new sports bar on his unique ethos towards nutrition and healthy living.  Sol’s talk will be giving plenty of information on the right foods to eat to maintain a healthy life style and give you energy to train hard.  Sol is a devoted climber and personal trainer as well as a member of the fire service.  His talk should give us plenty to think about before we attempt to get our five a day by eating five Terry’s chocolate oranges.  That’s probably just me though.

 The second talk will be the story of our very own Andre Hedger’s recent attempt to climb the Nose of El Capitan in a day.  Andre’s tale starts during a trip to Mali where the seeds of the idea that he may be able to climb this 1000 meter climb in a day are planted.  For those who don’t know Andre he is one of the most self driven and audacious climbers you will ever meet.  His abundance of energy and positive outlook is incredibly infectious.  His talk will leave you motivated and inspired to get out there achieve those climbs that you have only dare read about in magazines.  Andre will be giving his talk in the function room just past the café on the 3rd of December, doors open at 19:30.

Last week the Westway hosted the first round of this years London Universities Bouldering Event or as UCL who organise the event like to refer to it, LUBE.  

A rang of emotions on the faces of spectators.  Happiness,
fear, curiosity and confusion.

Student pulling hard to send a comp

The event consists of a bouldering competition spread over 4 rounds with 29 universities competing in teams.  At the Westway we set 25 competition problems from V0 to V9 that would put even the most powerful student climbers to the test.  The comp was very well organised with some very talented climbers showing there stuff.  At the end of the day Cambridge topped the table with the most points.  The next round is taking place in Mile end climbing wall on the 1st of December.  The competitions problems are still up on the Oven bouldering wall so go give them a go during your next session.

The expert wall building team in action
 Out side of the wall, and I mean just out side the door we have built our latest climbing wall.  A small traverse wall has been built between Urban Rock and the gym for us all to warm up on. We all know how cold it can get during mid winter and even with a warm cup of tea by your side warming up to climb can be a tricky thing.  Now you will be able to stretch and traverse in the warm before plunging into the wall to crank.  For those of you with a monthly pass you can use the gym and get some traverses in at the same time.  In the wake of this new wall the rest of the sports center has been warned that if they don’t keep a close eye on there areas we will build climbing walls there.  So keep on the look out for other walls around the center.  That or we will be bolting the bottom of the A40.  We could possibly market the idea to Boris Johnson as a new eco transport solution.  Lead climbing your way to work.

Warming up is a subject that feeds allot of discussion in climbing centers.  Some people will do a couple of press ups and then jump straight onto some easy climbs, while others spend an hour preforming an entire Yoga routine before even touching a hold.  I have been in some gyms where warm up routines have gotten competitive.  One person will be stretching a ham string when suddenly the person on the mat next door will stretch their leg over the back of their head.  The original stretcher will then retaliate by standing on their head all the while the rest of us have sacked it in and gone climbing.  You have to be careful that competitive stretching doesn’t get in the way of your climbing.  At the Westway we are lucky to have a resident physiotherapist who is always ready to give advise on the best way to warm up.  Cristiano Costa has been treating people’s injuries at the Westway and has also agreed to contribute his expertise to the blog. He has started by writing a little information for the blog on the different types of stretching that climbers should be aware of.

Get your stretch on as part of your climbing warm up and warm down

Clinical Climbing by Cristiano Costa

I will be writing a series of articles that will be based on my professional knowledge from theoretical and clinical experience, acquired over the past eight years as a musculoskeletal physiotherapist.

I thought it would be interesting to start by talking about stretches and try to demystify such a topic.  ‘What is the best kind of stretching?’ is a question that I am constantly being asked when I am down for a session in at the Westway.

Therefore I will start by writing a few lines about the different types of stretches, which will be followed by its benefits and the reasons why we should do it.
I truly hope you enjoy it and that it will shed some light on this rather controversial subject.

Types of Stretches

There are four different types of stretching: ballistic, dynamic, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, and static stretching.

Ballistic stretching is a rapid bouncing stretch in which a body part is moving with momentum that stretches the muscles to a maximum. Muscles respond to this type of stretching by contracting to protect itself from over extending.

Dynamic stretching is a walking or movement stretch. By performing slow controlled movements through full range of motion, aimed at reduce risk of injury.

Proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, or PNF, stretching is a type of stretch for a particular muscle/muscle group, so resistance should be applied, then the muscle should be relaxed.
Static stretching is a type of stretch whereby a person stretches the muscle until a gentle tension is felt and then holds the stretch for a period of time without any movement or bouncing.

Stretching should not be painful and always carried out under control.  It is critical for a person to perform stretches properly to protect their muscles from injury.  Dynamic and ballistic stretching should be performed before a workout in order to increase blood flow, strength and power and to reduce tightness.  However ballistic stretching should only be preformed by experienced climbers who know the limits of there own individual flexibility. 

PNF stretching should be performed during rest days to specific muscle groups or/and before a work out as part of a warm up regimen.  PNF stretching techniques are more commonly associated with clinical applications but are very effective in helping athletes improve performance.  The stretching techniques in PNF are considered far safer than those in ballistic stretching and over short periods of time can result dramatic gains in range of motion.

Static stretching should be performed at the end of a workout in order to increase the extendibility of muscle tissue and remove the lactic acid build up. Stretching properly and in the correct time frame of one's workout is vital for gaining all the benefits from these stretches.Ÿ

Cristiano Costa has been a devoted climber for 22 years and is a practicing physiotherapist. He has worked in both the NHS and private sector with years of experience treating sports injuries.  He is available to treat patients at the Westway so if you have a niggling injury get it seen to the next time you’re in for a climb.

Ondo and its rock ready for new routes

Over the next couple of weeks Liam Halsey will be busy getting ready for a special climbing trip.  He and other prominent climbers from the UK have been invited to Nigeria for this years Mare festival.  The festival is organized by the Nigerian government to help boost climbing tourism in the country.  The Mare festival takes place in Ondo State in Nigeria’s southwest. 

Wooden holds bolted to rock and then climbed bare foot

 Liam will be looking to spend some time opening new routes in the country and the Westway will be providing the hardware to help him do just that.  We will hopefully have some news on his progress just before Christmas.   

I hope this edition of the blog has left you psyched to get out there and climb.  Just to let you know that the 8c on the comp wall still hasn't had a first ascent.  I don’t understand what’s taking you all so long.  Get in there and send it people.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Alpine Adenture

Have you been to the alps this summer, or are you planning some winter alpine adventure this coming season?  In this issue of the blog we have a fantastic report from Kamil Jutkiewicz on his recent trip to climb Mont Blanc.  But first some news from the wall. 

Over the last couple of weeks at the Westway we have busy getting ready for the launch of some special sessions.  The first is our new Wednesday morning ladies climbing session.  This is due to start this week with our lady climbers being welcomed with some free tea, coffee and of course biscuits.  Naturally we had to test out these facilities last week to check that they worked.  A few extra routes went down due to free flowing cups of tea that morning.   I will be making sure I am having a climb this coming Wednesday morning and snatching a sneaky Hobnob or two.

The next session we are launching soon is the Westway’s new climbing exercise class, Bouldercise.  This is a bouldering based fitness session that will be running on Thursday evenings at 19:00.  This class will last for 90 minutes and will use our bouldering wall and training area to give you a major workout that will be sure to improve your grade.

Last week we welcomed home Kamil Jutkiewicz, who has recently returned from one of his characteristic mountaineering trips.  Kamil used to work at the Westway as a duty manager and was always going off on trips to climb in the Alps.  This autumn Kamil was joined by his two friends Jan and Iwona on a trip to Chamonix to climb the highest summit in Western Europe, Mont Blanc.  Their plan was to climb the Mont Blanc traverse.  This route starts in the Valley Blanche and leads to the Mont Blanc du Tacul then on to the Mont Moudit to finish on the Mont Blanc summit.
Kamil was kind enough to write us a report of this amazing trip.
A week of Mountains

Kamil Jutkiewicz

‘On day one we arrived in Chamonix in the early afternoon.  We headed to the camp site and quickly set up our tents which would be our base over the next week.  Once set, up we made a b-line for the guide office to get the weather forecast and the report on the conditions up high in the mountains.  It is the standard tradition that in the event of a bad conditions report that you immediately visit all the climbing shops of Chamonix.  The weather when we arrived was clear and sunny but any mountaineer will tell you this, is no guarantee of good conditions up high over the coming week.’ 

‘Once in the guide office the news wasn’t good.  Over the coming 7 days the weather was changeable, with strong winds and rain expected.  In the Valley Blanche the wind was blowing up to 100kph.  Furthermore due to the avalanche earlier in the year that claimed the lives of 8 climbers on Mount Moudit, the route had seen very little traffic.  This could lead to problems with navigation due to a lack of a well-trodden track.  After much discussion it was decided that we would ascend Mont Blanc via the Gouter route, which was previously set as our decent route.  The wind on the Gouter route was blowing at around 80kph which we could deal with and since there was much more traffic on the route, navigation would be simpler.  It was not the route we wanted to do but it did mean we wouldn’t be stuck in the valley, gear shopping.  With the plan set the three of us began the process of acclimatising and went for a short walk into the mountains to the Chalet Flora. '

The garden of the Chalet Flora

'From here we drank in the amazing view down into the valley.  We all thought of the adventures that were in store for us over the next seven days as we gazed on the Aiguille du Dru, Aiguille du Grepon, Aiguille du Midi and Mont Blanc.’

Panorama of the Mont Blanc massive

‘On the second day we continued to try and acclimatise to altitude.  The summit of Mont Blanc is at an altitude of just over 4800 meters. Attempting to climb to this altitude without first acclimatising can lead to some terrible effects of altitude sickness.  Nausea, headaches and disorientation can leave you vulnerable to costly mistakes when high in the mountains. '
Sunrise over the Argentiere Glacier

'Prior to our ascent of Mont Blanc we selected a number of lower targets to allow our bodies to adjust to effects of altitude.  Our first of these targets was the Refuge Lognan. This involved hiking up to  the Argentiere Glacier and then climbing down to the refuge where we spent the night before returning to the valley the next day.’

‘On day three we woke to the sound every climber hates.  The sound that is unmistakably water colliding with the taught fabric of a tent.  Emerging from my nylon house it was clear to see that it had rained all night.  Was this it, had the good weather broken and left us with this downpour for the rest of the week?  A quick check of the weather forecast revealed that it would continue to rain all day.  However there was a glimmer of hope with the bad weather looking like it would only be a short spell that would clear up by the next day.   We spent the day walking in and out of gear shops asking each other why west London didn’t have more cool stores like these. In between we could lounge in coffee bars constantly checking the weather report hoping that the bad weather would pass as promised.’
‘Day four began with glorious weather.  Our prayers had been answered and we could continue to climb and acclimatise.  We couldn’t pick just any route though.  What had fallen as rain in the valley had fallen as thick snow high on the mountains.  This fresh dusting would be unconsolidated and would be perilous to climb on.  We devised a plan that would offer some safe climbing but would take us on a rewarding journey.  From Chamonix we took the cable car to the Planpraz .  From there we traversed via the Grand Balcon Sud to Lake Blanc (2353m altitude).  From the lake we descended to Argentiere where we took a bus back to our campsite in Chamonix.’ 
Lac Blanc

‘Day five, this was it, we were finally going to start climbing Mont Blanc.  The plan for the day was to go from Chamonix to Les Houches where we would head onto the Refuge Tete Rousse (3167m altitude).' 

The Refute Tete Rousse among the rocks

'At the Refuge Tete Rousse we would stop and spend the night which would help us better acclimatise.  On the way to the refuge the weather suddenly broke and the final stages of the climb were made in high winds and snow fall.  Reaching the hut was a great relief and we rewarded ourselves with a hot tea.'

The 73 year old Lithuanian Climber

'In these huts you meet mountaineers from all over the world and a great part of being there is hearing their stories.  In the hut this day was a 73 year old Lithuanian climber who came to Chamonix together with his son and friend to climb Mont Blanc.  It was really impressive to meet this old man who as it turned out climbed harder and faster than many of the younger men around that day.’

‘On day six the objective was to reach the Gouter Hut (3817m altitude) where we would rest before the final push to the summit.  On the way to the Gouter Hut the route crosses the Grand Couloir.  This is the most stressful and dangerous part of the route with the risk of rock and ice fall being ever present.'

The scary Grand Couloir

'To minimise the risk we decided we would set off extra early.  The cold temperatures at this time would mean that the loose rock and ice above would be frozen in place.  That was the theory anyway, but it didn’t do much to calm our nerves as we made the journey across the Grand Couloir as quickly as we could.  On the other side of the Couloir we began to climb the pillar on top of which stands the Gouter Hut.'

At the top of the piller, the new Gouter Refuge

'The acsent of this piller was by far the most gruelling part of the whole ascent.  It was only on all fours that progress could be made as we crossed steep ground over thick snow and loose rock.  You had to be constantly vigilant to ensure you remained on route throughout the hard slog.  The moment you step on the platform of the hut is one of the most rewarding feelings in life.' 

Life behind the Gouter Hut

'For me stepping onto the summit of Mont Blanc didn’t give me the same feeling of elation and relief as entering the Gouter Hut.  The weather at the hut was fantasticly clear and we could bask in the rewards of our hard work.  With the hut sheltering us from the wind we could take in the amazing view while enjoying a hot tea.’ 

The amazing view down into Chamonix from the Gouter Hut

‘On summit day most people will wake at 02:00 and after a quick breakfast will head up the mountain.  To avoid the crowds we woke at 01:00 and after quick breakfast of a power bar and cup of tea we headed for the summit.  The weather was bad.  Strong winds wiped up sharp bits of ice and blew them into our faces.  The three of us were bent over double to make progress through such a head wind.  We had 1000 meters of altitude to gain before the summit which the guide book suggested would take us between 5 and 6 hours.  The more we stomped on the higher we got, and the higher we got the stronger and colder the wind blew.'

Sheltering in the Vallot Hut

'Finally at 05:00 we arrived at the Refuge Bivouac Vallot at 4362 meters altitude.  This hut is mealy a tin shed, but out there on the cold route to shelter behind it was a salvation.  In really bad conditions these huts can be real life savers.  A stricken climber caught out in a storm would swap five Chelsea mansions for one of these tiny shacks.  We decided to hold up in the shelter, brew tea and wait for sunrise.  After a few hours, when the sun finally came up, the air temperature began to warm slightly but the strong winds continued to batter the route.’   

‘We finally made the difficult decision to leave the relative warmth of the hut and head on up the route.  I say relative because, although warmer than outside, the temperature in the hut was only 0 degrees. From the Vallot Hut the summit is less than 500 meters altitude gain and should only have taken 2 hours.  However with the strong winds whipping snow into our faces going was tough.  We knuckled down and put one foot in front of another and after 3 hours we stood on the highest point in Western Europe, the summit of Mont Banc.' 

Happy people on the Summit of Mont Blanc

On the way down just below the Vallot hut

'We quickly shot a few photos and ate some power bars and started our way down.  Any mountaineer will tell you that the summit is only the halfway point of a route.  The aim was to make it back down to Chamonix the same day.  The trip down the first 500 meters to the Vallot hut was done at half the time and after a quick drink of water we headed down to the Gouter Hut.  Once in the Gouter Hut we stopped to brew tea and have a snack.  Then it was back on the route with the hope of catching the train back to Chamonix.’ 

‘This was where things started to go wrong.  Being residents of London and being accustomed to all sorts of transport running into the early hours of the morning, we had forgot that, in the Alps everything stops at 16:00.  Of course we had missed the last train and we had to make the long slog back down into the valley.  We arrived in Les Houches at around midnight and still had to find some way of getting to our campsite in Chamonix.  There were no night buses and in the small mountain villages there were no taxis.  The only option was to try and hitchhike.  As you can imagine being three strangers walking along at night with ice axes made this a difficult task.  Soon we heard music and found our way to a restaurant that was being closed up by the owner.  After a bit of broken conversation he kindly offered us a lift back to Chamonix.  We arrived back to our campsite at 01:00am and after 25 hours of action we could finally get into our sleeping bags, knowing that in a few more hours we had to be boarding a plane in Geneva.’
‘In the morning after a frantic packing of bags and a coach transfer we were in Geneva airport.  To celebrate our achievement we headed to the duty free and brought ourselves a particular brown liquid, sold in a square bottle and made in Tennessee.  Thanks to the square bottle the flight to London was unbelievably fast.  It was an amazing trip and another great adventure.  What was most important was that we came back in one peace and still friends.  We are all looking forward to going back to Chamonix again, even if it is just to drink tea and look at the mountains.  Yer right.’
Kamil currently works as a freelance photographer.  If you do need some photo work done drop him a line.

I hope Kamil’s tale has given you some inspiration to get out there and have your own mountain epic.  Soon at the Westway will be offering workshops that will equip you with some of the fundamental skills to keep you safe in the mountains.  Until then it’s back to training for you, go on, 10 more reps!!!

Monday, 8 October 2012

Bachar Ladders, portaledges and cash that was crimped for

Bachar Ladder

There is never a slow week at the Westway.  Given even the faintest slice of free time and we will put some strange scheme into action and this week was no exception.  Between the meetings and belay watch we managed to set up a massive Bachar ladder. 

For those of you who don’t know where this crazy training device comes from here are the facts.  Using inverted rope ladders as a training tool for climbing was first associated with the American climber John Bachar.  During the 70’s and 80’s John Bachar was a prolific climber known for his daring free solos and first ascents of ground breaking lines.  He was one of the free climbing boundary pushers applying the new style of climbing to routes of incredible technical difficulty. In the mid 70’s John Bachar, Ron Kauk and John Long made the first free ascent of Astroman.  At the time this was the most continually difficult climb to have ever been free climbed.

When back at Camp 4 John was commonly found training on one of his devices that he had crafted around his pitch.  Amongst the contraptions there was always an inverted rope ladder that he would perform different campusing exercises on.  As other climbers recognised the benefits of training on this apparatus it became known as a Bachar ladder.

The Bachar ladder should be climbed while campusing.  The ideal technique is to campus from rung to rung in a controlled consistent manner.  Upon reaching the top you should lower yourself down one rung at time avoiding dropping suddenly onto one arm.  The goal is to be able to increase the speed at which you can perform the exercise as opposed to how many reps you can do.  We plan on putting the Bachar ladder up every Wednesday afternoon so keep your eyes open for it around line 1.

Student Wednesday

This Wednesday has seen an unprecedented number of Students attend the wall, many for their first taste of climbing.  Mountaineering clubs from UCL, Imperial College, and Kings College turned up creating a queue that stretched some 25 meters out of the door.  Despite the wait spirits were high as everyone managed to get inside and get cranking on the plastic.  Those in the know put the new guys through their paces, gearing them up to register the following week.

Yosemite news

Last week Antoine and Alvar finally set of on their mission to climb the Nose of El Cap.  We have been watching them hone their rope skills on the outside walls of the Westway for months now. There they toiled away the hours practising hauling and jugging past gear.  In the wall they would climb laps to gain that high level of fitness required for a big wall ascent. The two of them even managed to test out their portaledge with a full dress rehearsal.

Antoine and Alvar took the portaledge with them cragging in the West country and after a days climbing set it up without much trouble, fixed their lines and descended to the pub for some refreshments.  After the night’s festivities instead of making the easy trip back to a tent, the two of them were faced with their first experience of jugging up a 60 meter line, in the dark, with only one head torch.  The two managed to make it through this post beer jugathon epic and even admitted that the portaledge was probably more comfortable than a tent on the ground.

Their other training involved a recent trip deep water soloing in Croatia.  However we are still unable to see how this translates to the skills needed for the granite of the Yosemite Valley. The guys did get some good tans though.

For those of you looking for news on the exploits of the rest of Team Westway in the valley I am afraid details have become sparse.  The one thing we have learned is that Andre and his partner managed to make a one day ascent of the Nose.  He will be back with us soon and we will get all the pictures and details to you then.

Crimp for Cash £££

The Oven was reset this Friday with Slim, Adam and Tricky putting up the usual array of brilliant problems. With the reset of the oven comes the Crimp for Cash competition.  For those of you who don’t yet know, the Crimp for Cash competition involves only one single problem.  If you manage to climb this problem your name is put in a hat for a chance to win £20 that evening.

The Crimp for Cash problem this week was a particularly fiendish one that was unexpectedly dropped by some strong climbers.  After a lot of crimping and pulling we eventually ended up with about 20 names in the hat and Dan A’s name was pulled out as the winner.  

Dan actually flashed the problem without much bother.  We may have to put a harder one up for him next time.

Over the next couple of days the fridge is being reset which means a lot of new problems for you guys to solve.  So if you've not been away climbing this weekend and have instead been driven mad by the audience of Strictly come Dancing clapping like trained seals then get down to the wall and crank out those frustrations.