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.

Finding the Vibrant Swiss Pokemon Go community.

Pokemon Go has been available in Switzerland officially since yesterday but people have been playing the game for longer than this. Some have achieved level 20 and above. There is a vibrant Swiss Pokemon Go community in the French speaking part of Switzerland.

Pokemon Go Switzerland is one place where French speaking players can unite. One thousand nine hundred people have already liked the page so if you are looking for other players this is a good place to start.

There is the Pokemon Go Lausanne group. This group has 430+ members at the time of writing. Friday they had their first event and at least elevent people were present. Another event is coming up on the 24th of July 2016.

2850 people have liked the Pokemon Go Genève page.

Ingress players from Lausanne, Geneva and other french speaking towns have had a Google Hangout dedicated to Pokemon Go for several months. At this moment there are 83 members. 50 members of the Yellow Instinct faction are also highly active on Telegram. Hundreds of messages are exchanged.

These communities form online to facilitate meeting other players offline in the physical world. By playing the game there is a good chance that you will come across other players, as would frequently happen with Ingress. Having online communities allows people to plan events and meetings, shares hints and tips and more. Factions can plan a campaign, come to my village and lets capture it from this faction or that faction. Come to that train station or event and you will find these pokemons. The game is creating new social groups and the age range according to one thread I saw today is between 15 years old and 45. I am certain that all age groups are playing. That is the range people disclosed in that specific thread.

I expect the community to grow and for events to be organised on a regular basis. If you do play the game then there are hundreds of people to meet and play alongside in the Léman region of Switzerland.

Appreciating the IFSC Climbing World Cup in Villars

Climbing is a sport that I have enjoyed for most of my life. As a child I would climb on to roofs, on climbing frames and up trees. Occasionally I would climb on rocks but as I had no safety equipment I was limited. Five or six years ago I went climbing with some people via Glocals in Italy and we climbed 5a routes. I enjoyed the sport but I found that there was a lot of waiting. It is for this reason that I spent five years doing via ferrata.

Climbers at the ISFC Climbing World Cup in Villars
Climbers at the ISFC Climbing World Cup in Villars

Recently I have found a group of people with whom I can go climbing every week. As a result of this I have learned to lead climb. Lead climbing is different from top rope climbing because if you fall you fall. When you are top roped you will fall a few centimetres.

I went up to Villars on Friday and I really enjoyed the IFSC Climbing World Cup. I enjoyed watching high level climbers compete to be qualified for stage after stage of the event. It was an opportunity to capture moments such as the one above. Four people climbing up the same wall in an attempt to qualify. The routes were apparently 8a-8b so two grades higher than I can climb. I still don’t have the finger strength. With training that may eventually come.

A group of climbers climbing
A group of climbers climbing

What makes watching high level climbers so much fun is that they are methodical. They work efficiently from one hold to the next. They clip when they feel comfortable to clip and then they move onwards. It is as fun to watch the belayers as the climbers. That can be shown in another post.

Look at the finger holds. The more you climb the stronger your fingers become and the more freedom you eventually get. By freedom I mean that you have more routes that you can enjoy. I want to have more strength to enjoy more overhanging routes.

Straight arms
Straight arms

When watching these climbers you notice that the arms are almost always straight to avoid wasting energy. Hanging from an arm is easier than keeping it bent. Look at how the hand needs to grab the hand hold rather than just hang from it. It is a shame that we are not allowed to share video of these climbers. It would have been interesting to study their technique.


Cycling Trip to Lausanne and Back

When I set off on my cycling trip to Lausanne and back I thought that the strong wind would force me to turn around and that I would abort the attempt by the time I got to Rolle or Morges. As I continued cycling I fought the wind and I made slow progress. When I was in the dips or along certain walls I had a break from the wind. I continued on with the effort.
A nice portion of this route is on cycle paths so you are protected from traffic. Sometimes the cycle path is on the side of the road and at other points it is on a pavement at the side of the road. Near St Prex the route bifurcates from the road and goes through a 30km zone. You rejoin the road a few minutes later. Around Ouchy the roads were relatively quiet.

I stopped in Ouchy to recover
I stopped in Ouchy to recover before cycling back.

The air temperature when I set off was about 20°c with wind. As I cycled I never felt too warm. It was a great temperature in which to cycle over a long distance. For the first hour I was drinking Jura water before switching to electrolytes for the route back. I usually carry enough water or snacks for part of the journey and when I feel the need for a rest I stop and pick up more supplies. It keeps the weight down.

I was lucky when I cycled back towards Gland because the wind continued blowing in the same direction. The wind that I had spent the outward journey fighting was now in my back. As a result despite muscle fatigue the cycle back was comfortable enough and I still managed to get a good time. The challenge when cycling from the foot of the Jura is that you eventually need to spend energy to get from the lake uphill. It might be psychological but the place from which I like to climb from the lakeside is through Gland. There are a number of routes with reduced traffic or you can take the main road.
In this case I took the main road and when I was passing the train station I felt the rear wheel wobble so I stopped to check the wheel but it seemed fine. I then cycled a little further and then heard the rear tire flopping. A thorn had made its way in to the tire and punctured it.

I had noticed that there was a cycle shop on the lake road so instead of going to the two sports shop near the bouldering gym I went to this one. The owner was just about to leave when he saw me pushing my bike. He was very helpful. He helped me replace the tire and pump it up again so that I could continue my journey.

I had always worried about getting a puncture and I was lucky that it happened in such a convenient place. I had to walk back about two kilometres but in the end the inconvenience of the puncture was quickly resolved and I could head home. It provided me with time to recover before heading up the hill once again. I am amused that it was a thorn. I cycle around rocks, glass and other hazards on the road and nature got me with a simple thorn. To be fair I had cycled about nine hundred kilometres before getting a puncture.

Some of the landscape you see
Some of the landscape you see


In the back of my mind I was always ready to cycle to Lausanne and then catch the train back but my endurance lasted both ways so I skipped the train. My next challenge will be to cycle around the Lac de Neuchâtel which is meant to be about 96 kilometres depending on the route you choose.

IFSC Climbing World Cup Villars 2016

I will be present at the IFSC Climbing World Cup Villars tomorrow. For me climbing has always been an active rather than a passive sport. It has been a sport where the landscape is nice and the crowds are small. Tomorrow will be the first time that I go and watch as other people climb.

It’s not that I don’t watch people climb. Between climbing gyms, bouldering gyms, via ferrata and Rock climbing it is a sport that I have explored in depth. What I haven’t explored in depth is climbing with an audience, climbing as an event, climbing as a competition.


Friday 15th July
9.00 – 16.00 Men & Women’s lead qualifications
17.00 – 19.00 Men & Women’s speed qualifications
21.00 Speed Finals Women & Men (LIVE)
22.00 Award Ceremony (LIVE)

Saturday 16th July
10.00 – 12.30 Lead Semi-Finals Men & Women (LIVE)
20.00 Men lead Finals (LIVE)
21.00 Women lead Finals (LIVE)
22.00 Award Ceremony (LIVE)

Instinct tells me that lead climbing should be the more interesting discipline as it relates directly to the climbing I do. Speed climbing could be fun and interesting to watch but it has less practical applications in ordinary climbing life. If I want to be lazy then I could go up on Saturday and stop asking questions.

On Saturday from 1300 to 1600 there is the concours populaire, That’s when amateurs can try their hand at speed climbing.

Program of the event
Program of the event

Villars Sur Ollon is a place that I have visited a number of times but for once we should be welcomed by summer rather than winter temperatures. It will also be for climbing rather than skiing, hiking or après ski. I will take pictures and let you know what the experience is like. It’s nice after organising satellite distribution for sporting events finally to go on location. We’ll see how energetic the crowd is.