Where Has Climbing Taken You?
Where can climbing take you? To new friends, new adventures and some of the most beautiful places in the world! We interviewed three climbers about their climbing adventures and how getting into climbing has made a positive impact on their lives.
Chris Lloyd: New friends and new adventures!
How did you start your climbing journey?
Chris: I started it here at Vertical Limit. I’ve thought about rock-climbing since I was a kid but not really been in the situation to do it. I had a go on the bouldering wall and it ‘sunk its teeth in’. I can’t stay away from it now!
What kind of climbing do you like?
Chris: So far, I prefer the ropes. Bouldering is good, and I think there’s more of a social side to bouldering, but I prefer the longer routes. Longer routes are my favourite type of climbing, at the moment.
Last weekend, Chris and girlfriend Hannah joined the friends they had met at Vertical Limit for their first outdoor climbing trip in the Peak District. Chris tried new styles of route at the weekend such as crack-climbing and overcame some challenges on the way.
How did you find climbing outside?
Chris: It was great. Half of the enjoyment of the weekend was climbing, half of it was meeting a great bunch of people who were really nice and easy to chat to. There were some very knowledgeable people there who were helpful to learn from. I think it has increased my confidence in climbing.
What was your favourite route from the weekend?
Chris: The most interesting was the crack climb I tried on the second day (at Millstone). Crack climbing is totally different [to what I usually climb] so the challenge was trying to learn the technique, which I overcame somewhat in climbing some of the route, but not so much that I completed the route. I'm still very happy with how I did though. I did start to learn the skills for crack climbing and can bring them back into indoor climbing.
Where would you like to climb in the future?
Chris: As soon as I started doing bouldering and got into, I started looking for climbing films, saw Dawn Wall and Free Solo, and thought that looks like a goal to have! Initially, my short-term goal is to do some multi-pitch climbing and, ultimately, I’d love to do some big-wall climbing.
Ali Palmer: A life-long passion and lots of epic adventures!
How did you get into climbing?
Ali: I’ve been climbing now for about fourteen years. I started when I was twenty and at university. I had been hanging around the climbing club social sessions for a while and really enjoyed the chat and the stories they told. Then one day someone asked me to go climbing. I said yes!
The club was active and went outdoors frequently. I learned the ‘ropes’, so to say, and have continued to climb.
Where has climbing taken you?
Ali: Over the years I’ve climbed all over the UK and a few places abroad. I find the places you end up are beautiful. Sitting on a ledge, no one around apart for you and your friend. It’s one of life’s little pleasures.
My favourite place to climb is Fontainebleau (Font). It is a forest full of boulders. I love bouldering, and Font is the best place to do it. No matter what grade you are climbing, there are millions of problems. They have marked up certain routes for you to follow in the forest. You can pick how hard you’re feeling and just climb. It is a very social place too, lots of picnic spots. I can’t wait to go back!
What’s the best climbing adventure you’ve had so far?
Ali: Over the years I have had quite a few adventures. Many laughs and a fair amount of panic/fear/type 2 fun. It has all been worth it.
I think (or at least the first) my top climbing adventure was with a guy called Windle (Dave Comer). We’ve been climbing together for years.
We decided to have an autumn holiday somewhere warm and ended up at Riglos in Spain. It’s an amazing place with 300m towers and pillars. It’s on a rock type called conglomerate. This is a mix of small rocks (that look like potatoes) and a cement - in this case, sandstone.
We had decided to do a climb on the main face of the big wall - a 300m wall towering above us. The wall had many routes up the face and we chose a suitable one for us (6a+). The guide book had stated it was well protected for the region - perfect, we thought, and we got up early and headed for the climb.
As per usual, Windle did all the harder pitches (I’m happy just climbing them). These pitches were amazingly well protected, luckily for us they were at the bottom with only one tricky pitch at the top.
We started to climb the formation, but it was harder than it appeared to be. After two pitches of struggling, Windle said we could go down, suggesting a bail! But we ploughed on and upwards.
After a while, it was my turn to lead again. It seemed well protected for the region and I started climbing with hope. It turned out that it was well protected on the hard pitches, not on the ones just half a grade lower. I was climbing up an overhang holding onto tiny little holds, not knowing what was above me and was starting to lose all optimism, thinking Windle was right, and we should have bailed. I got the crucial hold and pulled up to the belay ledge. We were only half way up at this point! I caught my breath, and Windle climbed up to join me. We had a chat and decided we’re not going down. We finally made it to the top with no more dramas, walked off and met the others for a celebratory beer! What an adventure!
What has climbing given you, besides epic adventures?
Ali: Climbing has been such an enhancement to my life. It has given me brilliant friends, who share in the joy of climbing and life. It has improved my fitness undoubtedly, especially as I don’t do much else during the week. The main thing I think it has been such a contributor to is my confidence and awareness to others around you. I wouldn’t take any of it away.
Dave King: Travelling and reaching epic heights!
How did you start your climbing journey?
Dave: I started climbing at Vertical Limit. When I moved to Worcester I didn’t know anybody there, so I was looking for something to do that was fun and new and would put me in a position to meet people easily. So I started bouldering at Vertical Limit because it’s so easy to talk to people there.
Dave has climbed all over the world. He’s been climbing in France, Spain, Norway, Morocco, the US, Laos and Canada, as well as all over the UK. He’s seen some of the most beautiful places, and climbed in extreme conditions, from ice-climbing in Norway and Canada, to desert climbing in Morocco.
What was the best climb you did on your travels?
Dave: Hard to pick just one… It would probably be royal arches in Yosemite, a 1600 ft route which took us a whole day to climb and get down. It was pretty relaxed climbing but really interesting and an adventure. The entire route was quite low grade apart from one short strip of it which was like a blank slab. To make the route easier, the climbers who did the first ascent had set up a fixed ascention point, which was a rope you can tie-in on. So you attach yourself to the rope, swing across the blank section and grab onto to the crack on the other side.
I also went ice-climbing in Norway (near Oslo) with two friends. It was absolutely terrifying because it was just so far out from what I was used to and the learning curve was quite steep. It was really enjoyable and I did have a good time but it was scary at times. It was pretty scenic with riverside waterfalls that had frozen up.
Dave also had the opportunity to meet new people while travelling and climbing in America. One person in particular sticks in his mind: Trad Man…
Dave: When I was travelling in America, I was meeting up with people on internet forums to go climbing. In Las Vegas I managed to meet up with one guy whose forum name was Trad Man. I don’t think at any point I asked for his real name or actually used his real name, so I only knew him as Trad Man!
I climbed with him for four or five days when I was in Vegas, doing lots of long multi-pitch routes in red rocks, which was really cool. One of the days I was in Vegas, I also helped him fix his van, which was a converted ambulance.
Have your amazing climbing adventures benefited you in other areas of your life?
Dave: I’d say so… especially with the climbing I was doing in America, meeting lots of new people and immediately trusting my life to them. It makes you a lot more confident, at the very least in going out and meeting new people and pushing yourself to have the confidence to contact everyone as well. So it’s been really good in that respect, especially as that’s something I don’t always find so easy. The experience has been good for general climbing stuff as well, like being to deal with issues that come up. Maybe something that could be done easily when you’re in the Wye Valley with someone you know well, but when you’re 200m up with someone you only met a couple of days ago, dealing with issues can be more challenging.
Dave is going back to Yosemite in two months to take on the famous El Cap!