Inspiration, Tips and Advice /


By Cotswold Outdoor
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Whether you are resting after a hard fought summer, ruthlessly training at the local wall or waiting for the winter to bite into the mountains, the chances are you already have your next project or trip in mind.

Even the most modest climber will be all too aware of the forward thinking, obsessive nature of the sport and aside from winding up every family member, partner and friend with tales of your vertical daring-do’s, you have now started to bore them with a painstakingly researched breakdown of every piece of kit you want to replace, why you need it and how it will make you a better climber.

But don’t worry, at Cotswold Outdoor we love climbing, so we are always more than happy to talk about climbing kit, and agree that yes; it is very interesting indeed. That’s why we have compiled a gift guide to get you thinking about what sort of kit you really need and how it can help you edge up another grade in time for your next big moment of glory.


With their distinctive hook shape, an aggressive rock shoe could be just the thing to take your footwork to a new level of pin point precision. You can often gage the quality of a climber by the accuracy and sound of their feet making graceful contact with the wall, and a new pair of powerful and highly technical shoes can help you step out with silent certainty. Some modern rock shoes are attempting to move away from the ‘no-pain-no-gain’ school of toe-torture, and Scapa‘s Vapour V construction does lean a little towards this approach. Nevertheless, if you want comfort then go sit by the fire in an old pair of slippers because the Lorica fabric upper, opposing heel cup and Bi-Tension rand has only one thing in mind; power. After all, if it was easy, then it wouldn’t be fun.

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Anybody who has hung from a suspended belay, or spent too much time scratching their head, swinging beneath the crux of their latest project will appreciate a comfortable, well-designed harness. A good harness should become an extension of your body; with minimal shifting and enough padding for comfort, without it restricting your movement. It should also have an intuitively designed racking system, for those moments when you don’t have the luxury of thinking.

The men’s Black Diamond Ozone and the women’s DMM Puma are two great models that really epitomise the modern harness; providing a year round solution to the many disciplines, complexities and varieties of climbing. So as you venture from sun-baked, minimalist sports routes to sleet blasted gullies in the Scottish highlands, you can do so with the same trustworthy and familiar companion.

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Sport climbing has opened up new areas and introduced countless people to climbing. It’s quite simple, relatively cheap and the technical knowledge needed naturally develops from climbing indoors. But if you want to expand your skill set and try something new, have you considered getting involved in the old school art of trad climbing?

The mystery, purity and complexity of traditional climbing is surpassed only by the freedom of successfully topping out using little more than a fistful of pokey gear, a robust technical knowledge and a flare for reading the contours of the rock. So if you glance over with a prang of jealousy at those weathered vans, with their racks of gnarled gear swinging calmly in the back, then start the obsession of a lifetime and get your own collection underway with this DMM starter set.

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A good climbing partnership allows climber and belayer to move together with confidence. As one climbs the other assists and the roles exchange and rotate until an unspoken understanding emerges, where each literally trusts the other with their life. A bad climbing partnership however is a horror show of miss-communication and miss-trust, which leaves the climber worrying more about the ineptitude of the belayer than their climb.

Let it be said right now; there is no such thing as a fool-proof belay device. There is however, such a thing as a simple to use, reassuringly tactile, self-breaking belay device. The Grigri 2 Belay is just that; designed for indoor and sport use, its self-breaking design is perfect for anybody who wants to spend a winter training indoors, but could be getting belays off people who you may not know too well. It’s a simple tool that always seems to come in handy.

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The forces that such small pieces of gear are now capable of undergoing are mind-bending, and few would disagree that the development of lighter, stronger and safer protection has revolutionised climbing. As materials and manufacturing techniques continue to develop, equipment will no doubt get lighter and the resistance to the forces encountered is going to continue to get greater.

But when thinking of forces and climbing, one force that may not obviously spring to mind is the force of magnetism. The Magnetron Gridlock Karabiner from Black Diamond uses two magnetic arms that automatically clasp shut, eliminating the danger of an un-fastened gate. Or maybe one of the world’s lightest karabiner is your more your thing. At an insignificant 43g, the Neon from Wild Country is light enough to satisfy even the most weight obsessed gear freaks.

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Do you spend the summer months waiting for the first cold blasts of winter air to creep in over the hills? Eagerly reproofing your wet weather gear and eyeing up videos of Tim Emmett hacking his way up Helmcken Falls? If you’re more spin drift than sun tan then you may be thinking about talking on a mixed route with a shiny new axe in each hand.

The Grivel Lite Machine Axe, like most mountaineering axes comes with both an adze and a hammer and has a T-rated shaft with a torsional resistance of 400kg. The shaft curves off modestly, making it an adaptable tool, and the sliders support your hand, giving it the extra leverage for when the hot-ache is really starting to kick in.

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Another piece for the winter warrior is the Black Diamond Cyborg Clip Crampon Spare a thought for those brave and ill-fated mountaineers of old with their hobnailed shoes as these lightweight, rust-proof crampons bind firmly onto your strong, waterproof and warm mountaineering boots.

Adjustable front points give all the sensitivity and precision you need when tip-toeing your way up a mixed route and the anti balling plates reject snow clumps, meaning that you don’t get an icy build-up underfoot that sends you skittering head first down the névé.

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Bouldering indoors has to be one of the most accessible forms of climbing available and indoor bouldering centres are springing up all over the country, with loud music, cafés and competitions a regular theme. For people who are curious about starting climbing, these centres are a great way to get introduced. But as the ability levels begin to climb, many wish to broaden their horizon and leave behind the clouds of chalk dust and head into the great outdoors.

The thing about bouldering outdoors however, apart from the lack of loud music, entrance fees and ice cold frappuccinos is how alarmingly hard and sharp every object seems to be; and the thought of falling onto that protruding rock or whacking your bum-bone on that tree stump has you pining for the bottomless cushions and the day-glow holds at the centre.

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For many climbers, supreme finger strength is the holiest of holies. It’s often the cause of lamenting a failed attempt and the feeling of not having the strength in the hands can somehow be more frustrating than getting your feet wrong or even losing your nerve. So if you look at every crimp on a stone wall or bookshelf as an impromptu training session only to be beaten back by creaking knuckles, then maybe you need to consider a different approach.

Stop ripping door frames off every entrance in your house and start to take your fingers up a dress size with the Metolius Project Finger Board . With a combination of pocket sizes and slopers you can work a huge range of hand muscles and get the stamina and strength developed in tandem. Don’t tell your friends, and then watch their faces drop as you flash routes like a body building gibbon.

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Climbers generally spend the winter either half way up a mountain in a frozen gully, or indoors, training for the return of long, dry days. If you are more inclined to spend the cold, dark months in the warm gym, then something like the Tendon Smart Rope is perfect for working projects, whippers and full on, gravity defying sessions.

Its standard 10mm diameter will run through all forms of belay device and its 50m length is long enough to loop over leads without having to endlessly stack after each climb. Its standard abrasion and weather treatment will make it work hard whilst the reasonable price will stop you being overly precious. Great as an entry level rope as well as being perfect for somebody who needs a simple rope for serious winter training.

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