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Petzl

This section contains edited highlights of my favourite Petzl events and also my equipment choices for rock and ice climbing.

 
 The infamous RocTrip caravan in Turkey. 

The infamous RocTrip caravan in Turkey. 

My Petzl experiences....

Roc Trip – Turkey 2014

It had always been an ambition of mine to attend a Petzl RocTrip and the opportunity finally came in 2014 when Steve McClure, Leah Crane and I joined the rest of the team in Turkey. In keeping with their philosophy of focusing on under-developed climbing areas, the tour started in Romania and Bulgaria but the plan for the final stage was to develop a new ‘super crag’ called Citidbi, which lay near to the popular crags of Geyikbayiri. This imposing gorge had been bolted prior to our arrival and it was pretty inspiring seeing some of the world’s best climbers ransacking the first ascents of huge stamina-fests in the upper F8s. Every night we were treated to delicious, home-cooked traditional cuisine in the communal dining tent, which would be followed by a slideshow or DJ set. The tour finished at a DWS crag in Olympos, although the crescendo was an epic party with Dave Graham and Petzl’s events manager, Laurent Lafouche manning the decks until dawn. It was a truly memorable event and the thing that stood out most was how friendly and down-to-earth all the athletes are. The Roctrips are genuinely about fun and experience rather than performance and Petzl’s philosophy is that climbing unites us and that all climbers are equal.

 The mighty Citidbi in Antalya, Turkey. A crag which the Petzl team developed on the RocTrip in 2016.

The mighty Citidbi in Antalya, Turkey. A crag which the Petzl team developed on the RocTrip in 2016.

 

Slideshow with Nina Caprez at the Petzl Roc sessions at Kendal Mountain Festival, 2016.

 KMF is always the highlight of the social calendar for climbers in the UK and I’ve participated in this diverse event many times over the years. The 2016 show was particularly memorable as I spoke alongside fellow Petzl athlete, Nina Caprez, who recounted tales of her incredible ascent of the multi-pitch 8c, Orbayu in the Picos De Europa. It was a good job I went first as Nina's was a difficult act to follow. 

GriGri Launch poster.jpg

GriGri Plus launch at Chris Sharma’s Gym, Barcelona 2017

This fun and informative event was unlike any other that I’ve attended. Sure it was great to set problems for a competition at Chris’s famous wall with the rest of the Petzl international athlete team, but the most interesting part for me was running belaying workshops using a winch system and an 80kg manakin. This proved to be a real eye-opener, and caused even the most experienced to re-assess their belay technique. Ceremonies were concluded with some live jamming from my pal Said Beljaj, who plays a new and unidentifiable instrument every time I see him, and Petzl’s own Laurent Lafouche, who took the roof off with his DJ set in customary style. 

 
 The team with the caravan at the Foundry in Sheffield. Clockwise from top left: Said Belhaj, Philippe RIbiere, Jorg Verhoeven, Katha Saurwein, Gerome Pouvreau, Alizee Dufraisse, Steve McClure, Florence Pinet, NG.

The team with the caravan at the Foundry in Sheffield. Clockwise from top left: Said Belhaj, Philippe RIbiere, Jorg Verhoeven, Katha Saurwein, Gerome Pouvreau, Alizee Dufraisse, Steve McClure, Florence Pinet, NG.

Petzl UK Tour November 2017

 

In November 2017, a team of Petzl athletes came over to the UK in the Petzl caravan for ten days to sample the climbing and attend a series of events at climbing walls, which culminated in a grande finale at Kendal Mountain Festival. The team consisted of Said Belhaj, Philippe RIbiere, Jorg Verhoeven, Katha Saurwein, Gerome Pouvreau, Alizee Dufraisse and Florence Pinet. We started at the Castle Climbing Centre in London, where we ran a diverse event, which consisted of belay clinics, using a winch and a 70kg crash-test dummy, followed by a friendly competition and 'lights out' head-torch testing session. From there we journeyed north to the Peak District for a fantastic day's bouldering at Stanage plantation in perfect high-pressure weather. We even bumped into Johnny Dawes, which was something of a highlight for the those in the team who know their British climbing history! This was followed by another major event at the Foundry which finished with a UV party with DJ sets from Bob Hickish and Petzl's renegade deck-master and team manager, Laurent Lafouche. 

 Heading up to Stanage Plantation with team Petzl in November 2017

Heading up to Stanage Plantation with team Petzl in November 2017

What they said about British climbing....

"The spirit is good here. It’s another game, which a lot of people in France don’t know about." Gerome Pouvreau

“Just taking the journey from Sheffield out into the Peak - it’s so exotic!” Said Belhaj

"The British style is just so different – even the trad is different and nothing like the style you get in the States". Jorge Verhoeven

I really like the spirit of no bolts – it’s pretty unique for Europe. There is a lot of legend and history too and I think it’s really important to know about this when you’re visiting a new area." Florence Pinet

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After the Sheffield event, we snatched a day at Malham, where the team tore their way through some of the classics on the Catwalk, before heading up to Kendal for the final stage of the tour. The next morning, we set-up the Petzl caravan outside the Brewery Arts Centre in the thick of the action at Kendal Mountain Festival and then headed over to Lakeland Climbing Centre to set an 8c+ competition route for the final wall event. The festival finished with the customary epic party, with DJ sets from Sam Whittaker and Gus Hudgins and a live jamming session from Petzl's Said Belhaj and Larouche. It was a short trip and the weather proved to be a challenge, but all the team left in high spirits and were keen to return and further their experiences of British climbing. Watch this space! 

Photo: UV party at the Foundry, Sheffield.

 

My equipment choices for ice and mixed climbing

 Climbing pitch 3 of Juvsoyla WI 6, in Rjukan, Norway, with Nomics. Photo: Gerard Smith

Climbing pitch 3 of Juvsoyla WI 6, in Rjukan, Norway, with Nomics. Photo: Gerard Smith

Nomic - for ice, with occasional mixed. 

The Nomic was the first leash-less tool to excel at both ice and mixed and it remains unsurpassed in this respect. Any change to the geometry would almost certainly be a step backward. The Nomic has evolved gradually over the years and in 2018 it was given a hydro-formed shaft, which offers greater rigidity for less weight. They were also made compatible with clipper lanyards (such as the Petzl V-link) and whilst I don't use these on ice, they are handy for mixed, where the chances of dropping a tool are higher. The hollowed-out handle and is extremely easy to grip with gloves of all weights and it's very easy to adjust the grip-size to your choice of gloves on the day. The Nomics also come with an impressive selection of picks for pure ice, pure mixed and combinations of the two. For me, they are still the ultimate all-rounder, because they swing so well on ice, yet are still really easy to hang from on steep mixed.

 Using the Ergonomics and V-Link on Heirloom VI 6, Lake District, UK. Photo: Andy Clarke

Using the Ergonomics and V-Link on Heirloom VI 6, Lake District, UK. Photo: Andy Clarke

Ergonomics - for mixed, with occasional ice. 

I'm really impressed with the new Petzl Ergonomics for British-style trad mixed. Of note, Petzl have done a load of research into grip biomechanics and the updated, wider handle facilitates a more relaxed, open-handed gripping style. A highly functional feature is that the head-weights double as wedge-shaped hooking tools, which slot perfectly into mid-sized cracks. Used in combination with a 'V-link' lanyard, you can release your hands to shake-out and place gear, without fear of dislodging or dropping a tool and a wide selection of picks are available, so you can pinpoint your chosen climbing style precisely, whether ice, mixed or a combination of the two. The difficult part is choosing between these futuristic and seemingly perfect tools and the Nomics, which are equally as good!

 The Lynx crampons on Nepalese ice in the Rowaling valley in 2014. Photo: Gresham collection

The Lynx crampons on Nepalese ice in the Rowaling valley in 2014. Photo: Gresham collection

Lynx crampons - ultimate all-rounder   

These crampons are brilliant in the way they adapt to both to rock and ice. The front-points slot perfectly over tiny edges and also seem to be at the optimum angle and shape for kicking into fragile ice without shattering it. The length of the crampon can be adjusted in seconds and the front points are also very easy to change from dual to mono. Overall, the beauty of the Lynxs lies in their lightness and simplicity. 

My winter hardware choices, cntd.... 

 Using the Laser Speed ice screw in Rjukan, Norway. Photo: Gerard Smith

Using the Laser Speed ice screw in Rjukan, Norway. Photo: Gerard Smith

Laser Speed ice screws

Ice screws probably make more difference to the experience of ice climbing than any other piece of equipment. From the moment I first tested the new, Petzl Laser Speed ice screws on a trip to Arctic Norway I knew they were the best I have ever used. They only require a quarter of a turn to engage, even when the ice is brittle and your arms are pumped and they wind-in effortlessly, with minimal shattering of the ice. The crank handle is the perfect length, providing ample leverage without causing an obstruction against ice features. The light, aluminium version is incredible for chickens like me who place a dozen on a pitch! These ice screws provide you with the confidence to go for steeper pitches and genuinely make ice climbing feel easier and less stressful.

 

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 Equalised belay using Ange quickdraws and Laser Speed ice screws in Rowaling, Nepal. Photo: Gresham collection

Equalised belay using Ange quickdraws and Laser Speed ice screws in Rowaling, Nepal. Photo: Gresham collection

Ange quickdraw 

The obvious contradiction with winter quickdraws is that they need to be ultra- light, yet usable with gloved hands. My preferred set-up is to use small Ange biners on the top, protection-clipping end of the draw and large Anges on the road-clipping end. The single-pin gates aren’t to everyone’s taste bit I really like them and also find that they are less prone to freezing up than other wire-gate biners. The same is true of the slings, which are the perfect stiffness and don’t seem to hold moisture.  

 Sirocco helmet in the Lake District, UK. Photo: Andy Clarke

Sirocco helmet in the Lake District, UK. Photo: Andy Clarke

Sirocco helmet  

These incredible helmets have set new standards in combining lightness and performance. You barely notice you’re wearing them, which is surely more than you can expect for from a helmet that offers sufficient protection for ice climbing. Great fit and ventilation and a fantastic magnetized buckle.

 

 

 Night session in Rjukan with my trusty Petzl Tikka head-torch.  Photo: Gerard Smith

Night session in Rjukan with my trusty Petzl Tikka head-torch.

Photo: Gerard Smith

Nao and Tikka  headtorches

If I’m planning to go ice climbing at night, such as when I did the ‘Welsh Ice Triple’, or on long routes when I know I'll be finishing by torchlight, then I use the Nao, with it’s ultra-powerful beam and reactive lighting technology (which adapts the light to your requirements). If I’m hoping to get off the hill by nightfall then I’ll always carry a lightweight, emergency torch like a Tikka, just in case things take longer than planned, although it never ceases to amaze me how long these ‘miracle’ torches stay bright for. The main thing about Petzl torches is that I trust them implicitly having never been let down by one.

 Climbing at the elusive Eidfjord in Norway, using the Aquila harness.   Photo: Gerard Smith

Climbing at the elusive Eidfjord in Norway, using the Aquila harness. 

Photo: Gerard Smith

Aquila harness

What are the basic requirements of a winter harness? For a start it needs to fit well over a variety different clothing systems, it must be freeze resistant and you should be able to put it on over boots and crampons. I think it's fair to say that many harnesses meet these demands, however, the Petzl Aquila takes things way further, primarily in the way the gear carrying systems have been designed. When used with the integrated Caritool, there is great scope for customising your racking system and sorting your ice screws into groups of different lengths and so on. The whole thing has been really well thought out by a company who work closely with their athletes in order to make products that are highly function-driven. 

 

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Watch this space for more winter hardware product reviews.

Happy climbing!

My rock climbing equipment choices

 

 At the GriGri Plus launch at Chris Sharma's gym in Barcelona in 2017. Photo: Anna Pinnova

At the GriGri Plus launch at Chris Sharma's gym in Barcelona in 2017. Photo: Anna Pinnova

GriGri Plus

How could you improve a product as seemingly perfect as a GriGri? Answer, give it an anti-panic function, a dual-friction mode and optimize it so it works with all the key rope diameters. Whilst the original GriGris 1 and 2 still have a place, to me, the Plus seems like the most versatile member of the family and the new features are of significant benefit to me when I’m coaching. It was a privilege to participate in the launch of this fantastic product in 2017 at Chris Sharma’s gym in Barcelona along with the rest of the international athlete team. 

 Bouldering at Glendalough in Ireland in 2016 with the Cirro pad.

Bouldering at Glendalough in Ireland in 2016 with the Cirro pad.

Cirro crash-pad

I tested these pads for the first time at the Blocstoc festival in Ireland in Autumn 2016 and was amazed at the level of protection they offer. At Glendalough, we were encountered a few high-ball boulders, some with atrociously rough, uneven landings, yet I felt able to commit almost as if I was climbing indoors. You get what you pay for when it comes to crash-pads and Petzl are the only manufacturer who apply formal safety testing procedures to their crash-pads. if you want the most durable and shock-absorbent foam then these are the pads to go for. They’re a little heavy and bulky to carry but the closure system is quick and easy and the carrying harness is really substantial.

 The crux clip on Sabotage 8c+, Malham, UK, using Spirit quickdraws. Photo: Ian Parnell 

The crux clip on Sabotage 8c+, Malham, UK, using Spirit quickdraws. Photo: Ian Parnell 

Spirit Quickdraws

Petzl were the company who pioneered the first karabiners with a hook-less, nose profile to assist snag-free unclipping. With its iconic ‘key-lock’ gate, the original Spirits set new standards all those years ago and the updated version still maintains them. These karabiners are supremely easy to clip and the chunky, tapered slings are perfect for grabbing when working a project. The ultimate redpointing draws, which I used on my hardest new sport routes, such as Freakshow 8c at Kilnsey and Sabotage 8c+ at Malham. 

 Wearing the Sitta harness on Sabotage 8c+, Malham Cove. Photo: Ian Parnell

Wearing the Sitta harness on Sabotage 8c+, Malham Cove. Photo: Ian Parnell

Sitta harness

I've always had a thing about wearing the lightest possible harness for sport climbing. It's doubtful that a few grams here-or-there, really make much difference, but the point is that a stripped down, racing car harness makes you 'feel' the part. The Sitta is so ludicrously light, minimal and supple, that you are totally unaware of it when climbing, yet the strange thing is that it is also incredibly comfortable to fall and hang in. I spent a whole day hanging in my Sitta, whilst bolting a route across a huge overhang and I was blown away by the level of support it gave. This is all achieved by way of the high-tech, 'Wire-Frame', Dyneema-reinforced construction, which sets new standards for strength and durability for lightweight harnesses. It was also a really good call to put four gear loops on this harness, as it's such an obvious contender for hard trad. 

 The Volta 9.0mm Guide holds takes the strain from the crux of Sabotage 8c+. Photo Ian Parnell

The Volta 9.0mm Guide holds takes the strain from the crux of Sabotage 8c+. Photo Ian Parnell

Volta 9.0mm Guide rope

In the past it has always seemed like climbers have been forced to choose between durability and good handling characteristics when selecting a rope. Enter the Volta, the first single rope I've ever used, which seems to optimise these two contrasting performance variables. Petzl have got the weave absolutely spot-on, as these ropes feed, clip and knot really easily, yet they're capable of standing up to repeated punishment. If I'm going on a trip then I use the Volta 9.2mm as my go-to, 'all-round' rope, for working routes and for onsights, and I use the 9.0mm guide for hard redpoints when it's all about minimising weight and drag. Having used these ropes extensively, I just get this feeling that the level of quality is higher than on others I've used in the past. Ropes are surely the most important items of climbing equipment and they should always be selected without making compromises.

 Photo: Philippe Ribiere @philipperibiere c/o Petzl

Photo: Philippe Ribiere @philipperibiere c/o Petzl

 

I'll post more product reviews here soon.

Happy climbing!