Guest Blog: Rock Climbing is on the Up
Sam Schofield has been climbing in Britain for over 10 years and has written an article on how better facilities are creating a snowball effect on the popularity and quality of climbing.
Rock climbing is taking off in a big way in the UK. The sport is growing at an exponential rate, to the advantage of everyone that participates. From the professionals all the way down to the first timers, the popularity of rock climbing is making waves that are of benefit to everyone. Dedicated bouldering gyms, for example, can be found in dozens of cities around the country – whereas 10 years ago we were only just seeing the first of these boulder-centric centres open their doors. Almost every city has a climbing centre of some sort these days.
For the beginner, this proliferation of facilities gives them the chance to explore and experience the sport for the first time. Whereas before they may not have even heard of bouldering due to the lack of proximity, these days they’re no doubt within an hour’s drive of an indoor wall. These centres cater for all abilities and getting started is usually a quick and easy process. A short induction and then the doors to the big wide world of rock climbing are flung open and you’re invited inside to explore what’s available.
There are, of course, multiple benefits for those with a little more experience also. Intermediate climbers are able to hone their skills on, more often than not, world-class training facilities. To take one aspect as an example: a traveling hoard of professional route setters roam the country screwing holds onto a wall in such a way as to create balletic and gymnastic movements that feed the soul. Quality route setting is pretty much a must-have for any centre now, simply due to the sheer number of them opening these days. Competition is king when it comes to improving facilities, provision and professionalism. This, in turn, is pushing the basic standard of climbing skills to new heights.
When you travel to the lofty land of hard climbing, even going so-far as those professional few who grace competitions and travel the world making a name for themselves; the popularity is having an advantageous knock-on effect. As more people take up the sport, more shoes, trousers, t-shirts, shorts, chalk bags and bouldering mats are being sold. This, of course, gives climbing companies greater financial clout that should, in theory, filter through to the athletes who represent their brands. There is still disparity in the UK sponsorship scene compared with, say, America, where I hear athletes are funded to travel the world at whim and live comfortably wherever they choose to sling their hook, but it can only be a matter of time before we see our climbers making a decent living out of rock climbing as well. Big-name brands are starting to pay attention and when that happens, financial support follows.
A very apt and early indicator of where things are going is sport climbing’s potential inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games. After watching the brilliance of the London 2012 Games, there is no greater example of investment and sponsorship being of huge benefit to different sporting disciplines than those already included in the world’s greatest competition. Governments and corporations throw their vast wallets open with equal vigor when it comes to the Games. Hopefully, one day, rock climbing will feel the fibre of their fabric as well (to paraphrase Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels).
What are your thoughts? Do you think the growing popularity of rock climbing a good thing? Or do you believe the crags are overcrowded already and the indoor walls full to bursting?
Take on the Challenge of a 5a climbing route, 6a climbing route and your entry level bouldering route - V0. Not sure what routes you should be aiming for? Check out this guide to climbing route classifications.
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