Katherine @lovetoclimb facebook page

Bornholm Climbing Festival

16 Aug 2012

Sometimes climbing takes you to funny places.  When I was asked to coach at the Bornholm Climbing Festival, I made an immediate assumption it would be indoors somewhere.  Because Denmark has no rock.  Or does it?  The island of Bornholm sits way out off the south east tip of Sweden.  On a map it doesn't look like it should belong to Denmark but it does.  It does however have the same geology as Sweden.  And that means it has some rock.


Granite.  But this was no ordinary crag and no ordinary climbing festival.  When Stefan, the organiser, said bring a helmet, it's a working quarry, I was even more confused.  There has been rock climbing on the island for over 30 years but that has been confined to trad climbing on the coast.  Ok, that's normal here, but compared to other places, climbing is still young in Denmark.  And learning to trad climb is quite far down the list of priorities.  Travelling to Sweden and going bouldering would be a lot easier.  But then they found out a quarry was 'closed' and could be used for climbing. 

Bornholm climbing comp

The word closed must be taken with a pinch of salt as thousands of pounds worth of big blocks, still to be carried off to become kitchen worktops, line the floor of the quarry.  The climbers are also hoping more areas will be blown up soon to open up more routes.

So there is the background.  Here's the situation.  It was amazing to observe.  The Danes, despite long arduous journeys to get there, are making every effort to develop this area and nurse every crack and crystal because it's THEIR rock.  This is the second year they've held the festival.  The area is still very new.

When I first saw the quarry I was quite unsure.  But then I thought "most of our crags actually look quite average (compare to Ceuse/Yosemite) but we all know they are good when you actually start climbing".  And this was certainly the case here in Denmark.  The climbing was great.

Bornholm climbing comp 2

I was there to coach.  On the first day I coached some coaches.  On the second day there was a competition.  You can see the mens final in the picture above.  This was such a big deal in Denmark that Danish TV were filming live.  It was raining for some of the day so check out the umbrellas perched over the cameras on the right hand side of the wall.  And the huge camera boom on the top of the crag.

Bornholm warming up

On day 3 the sun came out and I started two days of coaching.  Here are people warming up.

Bornholm dynamite climbing

The dynamite streaks were amazing to climb on.  Above is a 7a, Paul is having a go.  Being so short, sharp and technical, these kinds of routes weren't easy.  But I was blown away (!) by how much fun something so utterly man made could be.

Bornholm corner climbing

Here is Ourit climbing a 6b/+ corner (unsure of the grade).  It doesn't look quarried here does it.

I had a great time over there.  It's the third time I've coached over in Denmark.  Thank you for inviting me again.  The people are always so welcoming.  It's great to visit a country where the people are so outward looking.  Because they are a small country they make unbelieveable efforts to speak English and are always looking outwards for new ideas.  A very positive mentality to be around.

It's certainly got me pysched to go back (there's bouldering being developed too - which people were raving about).  It also just so happens that Bornholm is one of the number 1 holiday destinations for Danes - there are cycling tracks all over the island.  It's a shame I didn't get to see much of the island.  I was really impressed by the rock quality and it makes me want to go to Sweden and Norway too... our October holiday still needs planning...

The Olympics, climbing and coaching

05 Aug 2012

Wow, there are no other words.  This Olympics is the most inspiring I’ve ever watched.  Is it because it’s here in the UK?  Or is it that we are winning?  For me I think it’s the latter.  If I was in my teens this Olympics would have had a massive impact on my future direction, I know it.  A career in sport would have been a realistic dream, not just something for people on TV.  This Olympics surely now must raise the profile of sport overall in this country.  Can you imagine what it must be like for young people able to see sports they could start with a tried and tested formula for winning?  Clearly in rowing and cycling we have that formula.

Jessica Ennis

Jess Ennis, wow!  You did it in such breathtaking style

Rebecca Adlington

Rebecca Adlington - you're my hero too.  There was too much pressure on your shoulders for the whole of the swimming team.  You are an amazing athlete

And that brings me round to climbing.  Do we have any kind of formula in the UK?  I think not.  Yes we are getting great results – but still, in my opinion, this comes down to incredible individual talent and motivation:  Look at Jerry Moffat and Simon Nadin’s impressive wins in the late 80s, Malcolm Smith finishing 2nd overall in 2002 bouldering World Cups and now Shauna Coxey’s potential 2nd or 3rd in the current round of World Cups.  Things are definitely improving, especially the depth in the junior team, however we do not by any means dominate.  And we do not have any kind of formula.  So what would help us find our formula?  MONEY.

In climbing this issue of funding has been a continued complaint throughout the years.  And right now it seems no different.  But I’ve always been fascinated by the things people bring up for how this extra funding should be spent.  People for years have moaned about facilities.  Ok, in leading events, yes our decent facilities are few and far between (and in leading we do have plenty of excuses), but in bouldering, how can we complain?  Our weather is terrible (so no excuses to train), we have a bouldering wall poking its head out of every town in the country and we have loads of outdoor bouldering.  The other biggie is actually getting to events.  “I can’t afford to go” is often heard.  But from what I can gather, people always do go.  One way or another, our competitors do find the money and for anyone truly capable of getting a decent position they go.

Of course our competitors are by no means full time climbers (and there is no doubt that would help) and many of the foreign peers will be.  But still, regardless, at the stage where climbing is at currently, I think many of our competitors could get higher places, even given current time to train constraints.  Katherine Grainger, who won her first rowing gold after 3 consecutive silvers, is doing a PhD.  So even within the formula for rowing, there is enough time to play with where people can manage training with other commitments.

So here’s my observation, a feeling I’ve always had, but now I can see it for myself.  The Olympic coverage on TV doesn’t lie.  Who do our winning athletes thank?  It’s always the same in ever post win interview:  family and coaches.

And that’s it.  COACHING.  That surely is what our money should be spent on.  That is how we will find our formula.  From my experiences on the British Team, that was what I always wanted more than anything else and to be honest never got.  Sporadic advice, yes, but no one actively spotting my weaknesses, let alone an in depth training plan.  Yes, things have improved now, but it's nowhere near enough.  Then I coached the Junior Team for a year about 5 or 6 years ago and saw things from another angle.  I, like all British Team coaches gave my time for free.  I had 7-8 people in my area to coach and of course found it virtually impossible to give the attention people needed.  Still I gave up about 10 weekends of the year and tried my best to field emails and questions.

Are we serious about making podiums?  Yes?  Well spend money on coaching.  The best athletes in the world will have paid one to one coaches.  How else could Jessica Ennis have achieved her most incredible and awe-inspiring result?  Ok, we’re not an Olympic sport... yet, so more funding is not around the corner in the immediate future.  But this culture of expecting everything for free in climbing needs to change.  We love our sport, I do, I can’t love anything more.  And that line between work and hobby is often blurred.  But many coaches have worked hard to be where they are now and all the best coaches I know have all worked for free at some point (or are still doing so).  Things are changing for the better, the development of climbing coaching qualifications is under way.  We are investing in our future bank of coaches, but we also need to invest in our elite coaches, especially those that coach the British Team.  Investing in coaching is what will make the difference in our sport.  It will motivate coaches to work harder, better and together.  Fingers crossed climbing does get in the Olympics and let's look forward to the the funding that will transform our sport.  There is no reason then, why climbing in this country can’t be another rowing or cycling.  Let’s just get on and do it.

On Wednesday I'm off to Bornholm Climbing Festival in Denmark.  I've been invited to coach not only people coming to the festival, but also coaches who work in Denmark.  What a great idea.  I'm sure there are some excellent coaches we could invite from overseas to inject us with ideas and inspiration.  Come on, let's do it!!

New training article

03 Aug 2012

Hello!  Here is training article number 2.  So whether you are actually managing to get climbing this summer between showers, or taking a rest (or temporarily given up because of the weather!), or back in the wall training, here is something to help you start thinking about planning for this winter's training.

This article introduces the concepts of 'energy systems'.  We hear the words endurance and power endurance (or any other alternatives) banded around.  We know we should train them, but what do they mean?  And where does strength and power fit in? 

PS if none of it makes sense PLEASE contact me.  My aim is to make sure these articles are completely relevant to you...