Rock climbing foot holds

Rock climbing is a full body workout and in practice you can do whatever works best for you. Knowing how to use your arms and legs is important but so is knowing how to place your feet. We know that sometimes to go up we must look down to where there is an opportunity to push up from. What we are less likely to do is use the heel rather than the front of the foot for a foot hold.

When I was climbing this weekend I found that if I used the front of the climbing shoe I would slip. The person belaying me was giving instructions so I followed them. When I turned around and looked down though I saw that the person was giving instructions to someone else. I made the mistake of assuming that I was the one receiving directions. I benefited anyway. I tried different footholds and it worked. I felt safe and comfortable using my heel rather than the front of the foot. It was stable.

I mention this because in Villars sur Ollon at the IFSC Climbing World Cup you can often see climbers extend their leg horizontally and use the wall as a pressure point despite there being no foot holds.

In the second video produced by another person we see how hips can be used to counter balance movements and make reaching for hand holds easier. This is a technique I will need to practice in the climbing gym on the overhanging 6a routes. I know that I can do them but my fear of falling and my lack of trust that I have the strength limit me. If I practice this technique then I will climb to a higher standard.

Youtube videos are an excellent way of practicing skills and getting to the next level. There is always something new to learn, something that will make climbing less strenuous. This is a positive aspect of having a low barrier to entry for video content.

Critical Mass in Geneva

For those who like to cycle in a group of people there is a critical mass event organised for the 29th of August from 1830 onwards in Geneva. The meeting point is the île Rousseau. From there they will cycle around the city of Geneva. At the moment of writing this post the weather is meant to be good with sun and 29°c.

When I cycled with a group of people in London I had fun. I found that the city of London was much smaller than I had thought. If you don’t know a city it is an opportunity to discover new cycling routes and if you do know the city it is an opportunity to meet new people.

The group cycles at a speed that is comfortable for everyone. Those who are confident have time to stop and take pictures or place ingress and Pokemon Go and those who are not as fast are not abandoned.

Although not a critical mass bike ride when I met with a group to cycle in Geneva we travelled about 40km. The advantage that I have when I cycle in and around Geneva is that the landscape is flat compared to where I cycle in the countryside.

Geneva has bike and bus lanes in the centre and when you get out of the centre you have cycle paths that are separate from road traffic and pedestrian traffic. When youn get to the Geneva countryside the roads are relatively quiet so you do not have to worry about cycling in traffic.

There is a critical mass cycling app to make finding the group easier if you meet the group after it has started cycling.

“Superhuman” Climbers

A few days ago the Rio Paralympics “We’re The Superhumans” video popped in to my newsfeed on Facebook and I eventually watched it. The moment that most impressed me is the olympic athlete climbing 2 minutes 20 in. He is dynamic in his climbing technique despite not having any hands. As a climber those two or three shots impressed me and it encouraged me to look for more such climbing videos. They are interesting. It is nice to see climbers take their passion to the next level.

I often think that climbing is a mental game. Most of us have to overcome our fear of heights and we need to learn to read the climbing wall, hand holds and foot holds to climb up as elegantly as possible and without getting tired. Overcoming that fear of heights takes exposure. The more you climb the more you get to grips with the feeling of being high off the ground. You also learn to trust yourself and your equipment. That trust allows you to see opportunities and use them. David Bowes was injured in a road traffic accident while commuting one day. In the clip below he says that despite not always enjoying the moments when he is climbing he always feels better when he gets home and that this is why he climbs.

In the third video we see that climbing is not limited to people who want to become world class athletes. We see that climbing is for people who simply want to work on their self confidence. They overcome their disabilities, feel pride and build their confidence. Every one of us gains by climbing.

We see that some people climb with prosthetics and that others are climbing using just their arms. In other cases people are using artificial limbs to get up the wall. We see that some people with one arm lever their body in to a stable position that lasts just long enough to let go of one hand hold and grab on to the next one. It is enjoyable to see how much ingenuity goes in to climbing.

As we see in the final video some groups want to provide people with the opportunity to climb at least once and to reach the top of the wall. Whether they become passionate about the sport or not is not what matters. What matters is that they get a sense of accomplishment, of setting and reaching that goal. These videos are empowering as we see that anyone with


A satirical look at music festivals as a form of psychological torture

When we’re 14-28 years old the idea of going to a music festival to see the artists we spend our free time listening to is fantastic. Imagine all that drinking, that mud, that food, those opportunities to seduce and best of all that ambiance. The prospect of going to a music festival is so appealing that we fantacize about going to work as bénévole to have the full experience. I have been through that experience several times as a result of which I chose to have a week off from socialising to recover. Now that I have provided you with context I want to take a satirical look at music festivals as a form of psychological torture for those of us who have grown too “old” to know which artists are playing.


The most evident form of torture is traffic. This comes in the form of passengers in trains, buses and to some degree cars. In trains and buses you will have the pleasure of standing in work clothes next to youths in t-shirts, drinking beers and possibly listening to music and generously allowing other people to listen. Imagine how pleasant this experience is when you’ve just finished a ten hour work day and you want to listen to an audiobook. “If I wanted this experience I’d have stayed in London” is something you might hear the locals say.

Of course this is not limited to public transport. Private transport too is affected. In this case you’re on the motorway and you want to go home but you get stuck in a column of cars so long that it stretches from Gland to Rolle and beyond. This is amusing. As I joked about with a passenger yesterday as I drove back from a day of climbing and filming that traffic jam is usually around Villeneuve or between Lausanne and Morges. At least for once it had the decency to migrate. What a pleasure to be stuck looking at cars in a different place. From here we can see the Rolle vineyards and out towards the Léman and the Alps.

If you want to get off in Gland or Nyon you’d better be patient as there is an excellent chance that you will be stuck for half an hour getting off the motorway. It is for this very reason that when I offered to drive a person I said that I would drive to Coppet to pick her up rather than Nyon. I wrote “In the morning I can pick you up from Nyon but in the evening I will drop you off in Coppet. This turned out fantastically for three people at the end of the day.

Two people were heading back to Geneva and catching the train from Coppet meant that they were on the TPG network. The third person lived in Coppet so my avoiding a music festival provided her with a climbing wall to home village solution.

You see this. A music festival inconvenienced me and yet I still make an effort to simplify the lives of others. That is a demonstration that despite the intense dislike I have for a music festival I still know to be kind and courteous to those who do not inconvenience me.

Noise pollution

Traffic, in isolation is often a nuisance but worse than traffic is noise pollution. The countryside is quiet. The noise of the nearby river is so normal that you do not notice it until you listen to a recording of normal every day sounds. Add to this the summer sound of crickets and birds and you’ve described the noises. In the distance you can hear the train de St Cergue as it makes it way up and down the Jura.

During the music festival you get to hear sound checks from 11am onwards. You hear the sound of the kick drum, voice microphones and other instruments. This goes on until two or three more bands on the Grande Scène have finished their sound check. As a young adult this is nice, this is part of the euphoria of “having a music festival in your back yard” as Americans would say. This is not a nuisance. The torture comes after ten at night.

In Switzerland you are not allowed to shower, take a bath or make noise after 2200 hours under risk of a fine if you do not get along with your neighbours. This makes living in Switzerland civil. Working professionals know that after 2200 they can go to bed and nothing should wake them up.

During the music festival common decency goes out of the window. From Tuesday to Sunday morning if your bedroom is facing towards the music festival you will hear booming and howling until 3am every day. That is the noise that is transmitted through double glazing, thick walls and a layer of insulation. If you open the window you can sometimes make out who is singing. I remember hearing Faithless or other bands when they played years ago when I was still familiar with the artists.

If you’re not working or you have flexible hours then you can shift your sleep pattern to match the music festival. You can wake halfway through the morning and so the impact is neutralised.

Yesterday I did not have that luxury. I am passionate about rock climbing and the great outdoors. For who share this passion usually like to wake early and get to the mountains before the sun is too warm. The music festival kept me awake until 3am and and by 6am I had to wake up to pick people up and drive to the mountains. I had between two to three hours of sleep and waking up was not easy. We arrived at the meeting point early so I had a short siesta in the back of the car to refresh myself at least slightly. I did feel better as a result of this siesta and was able to climb and to film others climbing. I had a good time but I was sleep deprived. If I had not committed to driving another person in the morning then I would have aborted the climbing day and I would have slept. I would have lost a day of doing two things I love thanks to the selfishness of festival goers and the sound gremlins (my name for music festival sound engineers) who flood the countryside with noise.

When I got home and sat at the laptop I could no longer hold my head up. I struggled to prepare dinner and when I ate I was fighting to stay awake. Eventually I gave up and went to bed with the laptop and youtube videos providing background noise to cover the music festival’s inconsistent noise. After the fire works were fired I slept until this morning. I woke but was unable to stay awake several times this morning. Eventually at 9 I woke up and had a deep desire to write this blog post about music festivals as a form of torture.

I don’t want music festivals to stop and I don’t want people to be prevented from having fun. I want sound engineers to do their job. I want sound engineers to design music festival sound so that people at the festival can hear it but so that surrounding villages and working professionals can still sleep properly and work. Sleep deprivation is a torture method and music festivals, for all of their social ideals should respect that not everyone wants to go to a music festival. Music festivals should respect the locals.

I avoid using the name of the festival that inspired this post to avoid giving them free advertising. 😉


Climbing Photography – for when other routes are too wet.

I have been climbing outdoors for five to six years and during this time I have enjoyed both climbing photography and taking video. The two biggest challenges I face are how to keep myself in place and how to be confident that I will stay where I am. This requires trusting the climbing harness, the little cow (petite vache) and other safety equipment.

Climbing Photography
Climbing Photography

Yesterday with the group I climb with every thursday we went outside towards the St Loup climbing route. As it had rained recently many of the climbing routes were wet and slippery. When I put my foot down I felt that it was not going to hold if I continued to climb and so I said to a fellow climber whom I know from my diving days that if this was a dive I would call it. I would abort it.

I took advantage of this situation to climb where a top rope had been placed and then secured myself about three quarters of the way up the route on a ledge. From this vantage point both my hands were free so if I had taken my main video camera or DSLR photo camera I could have had some nice footage of group members climbing up this route. As the sun was setting the shutter speed was slow. I did manage to get a few good images nonetheless. With the flash the images look as if they’re from a caving trip rather than climbing.

If the weather is good on Sunday I should be able to practice more of these skills in an old quarry where climbing routes are set up. It’s easy to get images from the ground but to get images from the climber’s eye level or above is more of a challenge. I will have fun practicing this skill.

Paléo Trafic – enjoying the view from La Barillette.

Most people think of the concerts, the food, the alcohol and the social aspects of Paléo Festival. If you are one of the collaborateurs (sounds Cold Warish doesn’t it?) then Paléo is about sleep deprivation, roasting in a tent, sleeping under trees, eating with others and occasionally doing the task that you are collaborating on. I decided to look at Paléo Trafic this time.

I have spent at least ten hours standing at la Barillette over the last two days filming the Paléo Festival terrain. In that time I have looked at the landscape, photographed the landscape and talked with people up there. During this time the camera has captured the crowds of people walking from the train stop to Paléo, the cars driving from Nyon and tractors harvesting crops in the background. In effect I have captured life in summer.

I have been lucky over the last two days because the weather and visibility has been excellent. We can see really see everything at the moment. You can see the valleys on the French side, you can see the Cervin, the Dents du Midi, the Mont Blanc, Lausanne and more. If you spend as much time as me enjoying this landscape then you can see places you have been to in person from afar.

If you want to get to La Barillette and enjoy the views in person then follow this link

Rock Climbing and live distribution

Live distribution of sports such as Rugby, Football, Tennis, Skiing and other sports is easy to justify because of the audience size. Rock climbing and live distribution of this sport however is harder to justify because it is a niche sport. Sponsors exist and interest in the sport is growing. We see that there are a number of climbing events, via ferrata groups are popular, the number of local climbing gyms is increasing but for a mass audience to watch these events is still unlikely.

I noticed recently that recorded as live climbing events are available on youtube and that we can watch two to three hour broadcasts of these events. If you are learning to climb and if you want to perfect your climbing technique then these broadcasts are excellent because you can watch exactly what the climbers are doing. You can see where they put their feet, which hand they use for a certain hold, how they balance their body on the wall and how they clip in the rope. In effect these videos are climbing lessons for the youtube generation. You can imitate climbers with the same physique as you. You can really watch the climber try hand holds and foot holds. “Does it feel comfortable? No, then I try this, ah yes, this is comfortable.” Watching this process teaches the average climber to be methodical about finding foot and hand holds. In climbing you need to look up and down. You also need to look for small movement opportunities. Moving a foot up five to ten centimetres can make a hand hold easy to access.

One of the IFSC Climbing World Cup climbers in Villars
One of the IFSC Climbing World Cup climbers in Villars

People have been rock climbing for generations but it is making its way in to the mainstream. Recently Rock climbing was accepted as an Olympic discipline and we will see this sport at the 2020 olympic games. As this is a sport that requires strength, agility, stamina and intelligence it is a natural, although modern, olympic sport.

Moléson Via Ferrata by night

The Moléson Via Ferrata by night event is organised for the 13th of August 2016. This is an event that I have been tempted to do for several years. The principal is simple. You wear the usual via ferrata equipment with the exception of a torch. You have to contact the Moléson tourism board either by phone or e-mail and provide them with your information. You will then get a free ride to the start of the via ferrata. They insist on experienced climbers so I assume that they climb the red via ferrata.

The event is not only entertaining for those who are climbing. It should be entertaining for those who watch from the ground. Usually when you watch people climb a route you need to look carefully to differentiate them from the surrounding rock. At this event climbers will be lit up, against a dark mountain so the route will be clearly visible. It will highlight the main route as well as the segment or two that are a little more challenging.

If I was to be free to do this via ferrata by night I would expect the experience to be similar to scuba diving in the lake and caving. I would expect that when I look out at the landscape I would see the cities and towns from the region. Remember that the Moléson slogan is currently “On y voit ma maison”. “We can see my house”. One of the great advantages of trying a via ferrata by night is that you have no notion of how high up you are. You could as easily be 1km up as twenty metres off the ground.

There are three reasons for which I have been unable to do it so far. The first time I couldn’t participate in this event is that I was working on that day and it would involve four hours of driving. The second time I signed up but the event was cancelled due to the weather being unkind. The third time I could not do this VF was due to Leukerbad. I had already committed to the climb and booked a hotel. In theory this year I am free to climb.

If you are thinking of trying it leave a comment.

A Nonverbal Autism Video Interview

I saw Horyou share a link to Speechless with Carly Fleischmann. This is a Nonverbal Autism Video Interview carried out via typed words on a tablet.  The text is read out electronically. The interview is warm and convivial.

It stands out because it does not use a fast talking or energetic host. The interviewer does not talk, in the conventional sense. They could easily have inter-titles rather than synthesised voice. It is because they show the challenge of this interview that it is interesting. It shows that charismatic fast talkers are not the only people with an opportunity to interview artists. It shows that given the right circumstances anyone can interview artists and that desire and interest are required but that solutions can be found for other challenges. It opens up the world to a diversity of people. Imagine video interviews in sign language for example. There is no reason for a specialist channel not to take on this challenge, to fill this niche.

Three things make this possible: Video production costs have gone down so it is easy to find the budget to record such an interview, technology makes communication for nonverbal people much simpler and finally Youtube makes content distribution to an audience easy. This video has three and a half million views.

I will find more videos like this. I believe that they play an important role in modern society where we believe that everyone should be treated equally, to have equal opportunities. It is too easy to idealise the charismatic radio presenter who has a way with words and forget that charisma can be found in people’s intellect. You see it through the laughter in the interview, you see it in the way the interviewee is so relaxed. It’s a shame that there is just one interview. Imagine it as a weekly show.

VR Shinecon Virtual Reality Glasses

The VR Shinecon Virtual Reality glasses provide a low cost opportunity for people to experience Virtual Reality content and immersive videos with their existing phone rather than investing hundreds in a new phone and VR headset. it can fit phones from 4 to 6 inches easily.

The front panel opens to accommodate a diversity of phones and sizes. You can open the front panel, place your phone and centre it, and then close it. Before you close the front panel make sure to launch the VR app or content that you want to experience. Jaunt VR is one app that is easy and intuitive to use.

Once the front panel is closed and you put on the VR headset you can adjust focus  to suit your eyesight. This control is on the right and left side of the goggles.The inter-ocular distance can be adjuste to suit the spacing between your eyes via the wheel at the top of the headset. The straps are velcro so adjusting the headset to your head size is also intuitive.

The phone compartment has two openings on either side. This opening allows for headphones to be plugged in to the VR headset as well as a USB cable to charge the phone if you are using this device for an extended period of time. With the Samsung Gear headset the USB port is taken up by the external controls. This means that although you can use your phone with the headset on you lose the ability to recharge the phone.

Good for demos

If you are demonstrating VR content to clients then you have two options. The first option is to have more mobile phones than VR headsets. This allows for one or two backup phones to charge whilst the others are being used to view VR content. The other option is to recharge the phone while people are enjoying the VR experience or even to try the VR experience with their own phone. Imagine the effect that this would have on potential VR enthusiasts. When they see that there is almost no barrier to entry it will encourage them to join in the experience.


The positive aspects of this headset are that it can accept most phones, you can adjust focus and interocular distance intuitively and strap adjustments are easy. It works well with youtube and the JauntVR app.

The negative aspects of this headset are that light leaks in so the immersive experience is diminished there is a slight learning curve as you learn to adjust the headset to your requirements. You can only control apps that allow you to look at something specific to start playing content.

I would recommend this headset for people getting in to VR who want to enjoy immersive content without spending too much money on features that they do not yet require.