The woods around Fontainebleau have a reputation as one of the best places in the world to boulder. Thousands of sandstone boulders, with tens of thousands of boulder problems, scattered about a pretty forest that covers some 300 square kilometres. Fontainebleau also has a reputation as being a great place to take kids. That’s a … Read more Bouldering in Fontainebleau with a Toddler
“All the Grindelwald via ferrata are closed.” The woman at the tourist information office said these words in a firm, brisk tone that indicated that she didn’t realise that I would find them disappointing. I knew that there was a risk that the long, cold winter might mean that some mountain routes would still be … Read more A Little Bit of the Eiger – the Rotstock Via Ferrata
My hands dry out really easily after climbing and in cold weather (two things that often go together in the UK). This means that I’m always interested in hand care products for climbers. When I came across adverts for KletterRetter hand cream, I decided to give it a go.
KletterRetter is German made and has been selling there since 2013. It relatively recently started being sold in the UK. The name apparently roughly translates into English as “climbing saver.” Read more →
It was a fantastic coincidence. I was due to go on a weekend climbing trip to North Wales and on the Monday before my trip the new North Wales Bouldering guidebook was published. I’d been waiting a long time for this book.
The first edition had been out of print for years and it seemed that only the quick and lucky (and possibly wealthy) could buy a 2nd hand copy. From reading the periodic UKClimbing threads asking when the next edition would be published, I had the tantalising impression that the reason the second edition was still not available was because the author, Simon Panton, just kept finding more and more bouldering delights in North Wales that he could not leave out. Read more →
The Stonghold Climbing Centre has a cool name and describes itself as London’s largest indoor bouldering space. But is it any good?
London’s newest climbing wall is hidden away down a quiet street a few minutes walk from Tottenham Hale station. The Stronghold Climbing Centre is housed in an old warehouse that had previously been home to a charity recycling and reusing domestic furniture and appliances. These workshops have been replaced with a big, open and light climbing space and a range of good facilities. Read more →
Giddy Joint, Tendon and Muscle Balm aims to help sooth the pain and tenderness you can get from climbing hard. It’s made with natural ingredients and has a kick of menthol. I’ve been trying it out to see if it keeps my hands in good shape.
The idea is that applying Giddy Joint, Tendon and Muscle Balm relieves pain, stiffness or tenderness in muscles, joints and tendons affected by overuse and/or injury. A combination of natural (and nearly all organic) ingredients is meant to sink into the skin to help sooth and heal. Read more →
Whether it’s due to excess brains or empty space, I have a larger than average head. This makes it hard to find headwear that fits. Anything marked “one size fits all” does not include me in the definition of “all”. This might be only an annoyance if I were not a rock climber. I need a helmet to protect my head from falling rocks, dropped bits of gear, smacking my head into a cliff when falling off and banging my head against overhangs (which is a habit of mine). If a helmet is to protect my head properly, then it has to fit properly. Unfortunately, there is only a small selection of helmets that will fit my big head.
My head is a bit over 62cm in circumference but most climbing helmets on the market only go up to a circumference of 61cm. I don’t think I’m the only climber whose head is bigger than 61cm in circumference and so I have written the following helmet guide for climbers with generous heads. Read more →
Giddy produces brilliant balms that manage to pull off the trick of moisturising hands while not weakening calluses.
My son loves opening the mail. It’s probably because there is something intrinsically fun in ripping open envelopes and pulling apart parcels to discover what’s inside. Sometimes he discovers something fun, although mostly he finds a bill for me or yet another request to switch broadband provider. Recently he enjoyed opening a parcel from North Carolina to find shiny tins of balm from Giddy. Each time we opened up a tin my son would say “that’s lovely!” at the fresh and zinging smell of the balm. Read more →
The Straibo Hoody from Arc’teryx has the style to work well as a casual hoody and the technical features to perform brilliantly as a hoody for bouldering.
When I bought the Straibo Hoody early in 2015, Arc’teryx was selling it as part of their Whiteline collection for skiing and snowboarding. Their sales pitch was that the Straibo Hoody combined “contemporary looks with performance fabrics and design” to provide a jacket that “travels from a day on the mountain to a relaxed evening in town.” In other words, Arc’teryx had crossed an urban-style hoody with a technical, mid-layer fleece to produce something that was practical without looking geeky. Since then Arc’teryx seem to have stepped back a bit from promoting the practical, mountain applications of the Straibo Hoody and are now selling it as part of their 24 lifestyle (i.e. urban) range of clothing. All of this makes me think that Arc’teryx’s marketing department hasn’t realised what the Straibo Hoody really is. It might be good snowboarding wear and it certainly looks pretty good as casual wear around town, but what the Straibo Hoody really excels at is being a bouldering hoody. Read more →
The Tec Step Bionic Turn 2 is Mammut’s top-end via ferrata set. It’s robust, handles well and has some brilliant features, but a swivel joint that doesn’t swivel enough and a couple of simple design issues mean that it isn’t perfect.
Two things persuaded me to buy the Tec Step Bionic Turn 2. The first were the strong safety claims made about it by Mammut. The second was the swivel joint designed to eliminate that annoying problem of your lanyards getting twisted during a climb.
Mammut states that that the Tec Step Bionic Turn 2 “incorporates the most recent findings from safety research” and that:
the lanyards are of “an extremely strong and robust construction”;
that the shock absorber that has been optimised to “brake falls even more gently and thus better protect the body”;
that the maximum impact force of a fall has been reduced; and
that it will still safely hold a fall “in the case of a 180 degree misuse” i.e. a fall when only one carabiner is attached to the cable.
The crossFIXE range of products is meant to sooth, moisturise and provide maintenance for your skin before and after training. It’s made using all natural, food-grade ingredients by the same people who make the ClimbOn range of skincare products for rock climbers. I was curious to see if the crossFIXE range was as good as ClimbOn and whether it does anything different or better that would encourage me to use it instead of ClimbOn. Read more →
Arc’teryx’s smart-casual Diplomat Jacket is stylish, nicely finished and surprisingly warm, but its elegant and clean cut may not fit some people.
It’s often easy to spot rock climbers and hikers in London because there’s something they’re wearing that gives them away. Maybe it’s the Suunto altimeter watch worn with a suit, the alpine-style rucksack over the shoulder when walking to work or the top end GoreTex jacket worn in an April shower. I’m regularly outed as a rock climber in this sort of way. Maybe outdoors people like us use our outdoor gear in the city because we want to wear what’s practical and comfortable. Maybe it’s because outdoor gear is so expensive and we want to get full use of it. There could be a bit of brand loyalty to our favourite outdoor manufacturer in there too. Maybe, unconsciously, even a bit of us showing which modern tribe we belong too. Whatever the reason, outdoor gear manufacturers have tried to tap into this by making clothing and bags for the city. The idea is that the knowledge used to make something like a good mountain jacket can be applied to making a better urban jacket. This is the approach Arc’teryx has taken with their 24 lifestyle range. This includes some really interesting products, one of which is the Diplomat Jacket. Read more →
My hands dry out and can crack like the bed of a river in a drought when the weather is cold or wet and when I’ve had my hands in climbing chalk. This means I’ve taken an interest in the balms and moisturisers designed to keep a rock climber’s hands in good condition and reviewed a few of them before. Recently I’ve been trying out the Climb On Adventure Bar and Climb On Crème Lite, made by SKINourishment of Texas using natural and food grade ingredients. Read more →
Rock climbing isn’t kind to hands. Thankfully, there are quite a few balms available that aim to revitalise, repair and moisturise the cracked, parched and cut mess a climber’s hands can become if they are not shown some loving care. I reviewed some of these balms a while ago and gave the highest score to Climb On balm. Now I’ve come across another balm that is right up there with it.
Beta Balm is made by Simplici from Chattanooga in Tennessee. Simplici describes Beta Balm as “a powerful herbal moisturizer formulated to naturally rejuvenate dry, cracked, sore and irritated skin.” Read more →
There are some items of outdoor gear that you don’t often see reviewed in the outdoor magazines and websites. Jackets, tents, rucksacks, baselayers, softshells, fleeces and boots all get regularly tested and reviewed in detail, but outdoor underwear doesn’t get reviewed much and, if it does, the reviews tend to be a bit cursory. Maybe it’s because it’s a little hard to review briefs, boxer shorts and so on without descriptions getting too graphic or crude and using photos that give the review an adult rating. That’s a bit of a shame because good underwear can make days in the mountains more comfortable. So, to redress the balance and point out the virtues of good mountain undies, this is my review of the Rab’s MeCo 120 Boxer. Just to be clear before we start, there are no photos of me testing this underwear (there’s no telling where they may end up if I post them online), but there might be some graphic details. Read more →
A rock climber’s hands can get some rough treatment. Pushed and twisted into cracks, grazed on course rock, cut and ripped on edges, worn down until the finger tips split and dried out by chalk and the elements. The results of this harsh treatment can be irritating and painful as well as impairing climbing performance. To help climbers keep their hands in working condition manufacturers from major companies to people working out of their kitchen have produced balms for climbers’ hands that aim to moisturise, revitalise and help skin heal. Read more →