Walls have received bad press of late. They have been widely regarded as expensive, ineffective, and politically contentious things that seek only to divide people. This of course is a massive generalisation: the new climbing wall that the mountaineering club have been blessed has none of the traits mentioned above. I sat down with club secretary Claire Wever to discuss this slightly less divisive wall.
The club had previously had a wall before, but it was recently deemed “structurally unsound.” The club were having to commute to Dundee to function properly — a punishment that no one should go through. While there were several delays in its construction, a new wall was finally installed this September. It was funded by the Athletic Union, who also bought a new set or harnesses and shoes; they also take care of it too. After such a wait for something new to climb on, there seems to be very positive feedback from the club about the quality of the wall. Technically it has many more different kinds of routes compared to the old one. There is an overhang, slabs, roof, even lead climbing is possible. In terms of numbers, there are more than double the previous ropes that can be used simultaneously compared to the old wall. Hence, up to 40-50 people have been turning up to the six weekly sessions and membership figures have doubled in a year.
While the wall may be the face of the mountaineering club, it does not define it. They tend to spend many of their weekends travelling all over the UK, whether that be hiking, scrambling, or doing traditional climbing. There are members of all levels, free to do whatever climbs they fancy. Philosophically, Ms Wever stipulated that training for climbing takes place anytime you mount the wall. Every route, challenge and experience is an opportunity to develop technique, route planning, and strength. More experienced members of the club are more than happy to help newer climbers get better so that when they go off to Skye and Kirriemuir, they get fully stuck in. The Club also has an annual spring break trip abroad to do some continental mountaineering. Last year they went to Kalymnos in Greece, while this year they will be going to El Chorro near Malaga.
Clearly then, the club is on the rise. The new wall has given them a new lease of life, allowing them to attract more members and raising the profile of the club. It is full of friendly, relaxed, helpful and passionate people, who honestly made me want to join them on a camping trip to Glen Coe. Their variety of activities gives them scope for anyone who loves the hills, whether that be scrambling, speed climbing, or just going for a wee gander. Not only is the club going in an ever upward projection (as you would expect with climbers), but so is the sport. In three years’ time, climbing will make its Olympic debut at Tokyo in the form of speed climbing. This is a niche sub-section of the sport that sees climbers race each other to see who can get to the top of a wall the fastest. While the speed aspect does not accurately represent much of climbing’s technical and methodical approach, it is certainly impressive. Yet with bouldering and lead climbing also set to make an appearance at future Olympics, there should be a greater representation of the sport as a whole soon. While Claire could not guarantee me the reception speed climbing would get in Tokyo, she assure me of a critical fact: Breakaway did not pay for the wall.