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.

1 comment:

  1. This was a good suggestion that you put up here...dude…..hope that it benefits all the ones who land up here. 

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