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“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



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.

IFSC Climbing World Cup Villars 2016
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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.

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.


In August I will be at FIFAD
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In August I will be at FIFAD

In August of this year I will be at FIFAD as a volontaire. FIFAD stands for Festival International du Film Alpin Des Diablerets. It’s the international Alpine Film Festival of the Diablerets. I want to participate at this event for three main reasons.

The first of these is that I have a passion for the documentary film genre and adventure films. I really enjoyed going to Montagne en Scène a few weeks ago and I expect to enjoy having the freedom to watch certain of the films at this event.

The second reason I want to go as a helper is that every time I have applied to help at an event I have got something out of it. I have built my confidence. I have met interesting people and I have found new and interesting ideas. In this case I hope to view a number of the films.

The third reason is that I will have an opportunity to spend a week in the mountains once again. I have frequently been to Diablerets for hikes and just once to enjoy a via ferrata. This time I will get to stay for a few extra days and learn to appreciate the town differently. I will have my 360 camera and via ferrata gear with me. Time to ride a tyrolean in 360 right? I hope it won’t rain too heavily. People told me they got wet last time they went under the waterfall.

When I watch an interesting film or hear someone talk about an interesting topic I will try to take notes and write related blog posts. It’s good to share the knowledge and passion with you.

The Moléson VF with the Narrative Clip 2
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The Moléson VF with the Narrative Clip 2

The Narrative Clip 2 is a specialist camera that can be programmed to take photos at regular intervals whilst you enjoy activities. This is sometimes referred to as life logging. The idea is that you wear the camera either on clothing or place it somewhere where it can capture the passage of time.

For this event the camera was worn around my neck and took pictures throughout the activity. As you can see from the last image I had the Ricoh Theta S on a monopod and the Sony Xperia Z5 compact for other pictures. You do not see that I had a fourth camera with a 30 times optical zoom.

The camera took over four hundred images during this event and I chose just a few. I avoid sharing images of people unless I have their informed consent. I share the images that best represent the pleasant moments.

If I took the time I could rotate this camera to be horizontal and I could capture daily timelapses. Every time I go for a bike ride or a hike it would capture regular images. The camera has enough battery power and you can keep the camera in your pocket until you want to start logging the event. When the event is finished you can place the camera back in to your pocket and head home for example.

An improvement which I have recently noticed is that when you put the camera to charge it can automatically upload the day’s images to the narrativeapp website and you can then select what you want to share.

As cameras get smaller and more portable and as they become more specialised so we have an opportunity to get different types of images. One is for time lapses, the other has a powerful zoom, the third allows us to capture spherical images and the fourth is practical for sharing to social media.


Via Ferrata with Climbing Shoes
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Via Ferrata with Climbing Shoes

Today I tried a Via Ferrata with Climbing shoes. With a group we went to the Moléson which you see in the picture below. This mountain stands in the middle and has fantastic views on to Neuchatel, the Lac Leman, Bulle and more. The drawback is that this mountain is often in cloud due to its location and height.

If you’re still reading despite the mention of clouds then you will see that this is an enjoyable place to visit. It is located in Gruyère, known for its cheeses and the Giger Museum. I don’t think I have visited either of the two latter options. Climbing is more fun.

Today was different. I took the blue easy route and I wore climbing shoes rather than normal shoes because I wanted to see whether the experience was pleasant. At first it was worthless to have these shoes on because of the mud and humidity. They did become more fun as we climbed. The person in front of me was a novice at Via Ferrata so she was fighting for the courage to move onwards and upwards. This gave me plenty of time to get as much contact with the rock as possible. I focused on using the natural rock as foot holds as much as possible and I even tried to use the rock as hand holds. My reservation about safety meant that I did not want to fall with via ferrata gear.

The rock on this via ferrata is perfectly adapted to rock climbing shoes when it is drier. The rock is friable and this provides justification for climbing shoes. Rather than two or three foot holds that you can use with hiking boots (which I usually use) I used slivers and cracks of rocks. I tried not to “felix the cat” too often. That is a term a climbing instructor used South of the Alps when I took climbing lessons and as I like the term I share it.

I have been practicing via ferrata for five years now and I have explored almost all via ferrata within a two hour drive multiple times. As a result I know that I can do them and I know what to expect. This means that I can be generous and climb last. I can help novices and beginners experience the sport for the first time and through experiments such as climbing shoes on a via ferrata I keep myself entertained. Leukerbad and other such via ferrata would be interesting with climbing shoes because of the rock type. They are not essential and I did this out of good humour. I was perfectly happy using hiking boots for the first five years.

And now for desert, a view from the top.

[vrview img=”https://www.main-vision.com/richard/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/molesontop.jpg” pimg=”https://www.main-vision.com/richard/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/molesontop.jpg” width=”500″ height=”400″ ]

360 photos of Via Ferrata
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360 photos of Via Ferrata

Yesterday I was up above Leysin climbing the Tour D’Aï via Ferrata. It was an opportunity for me to take 360 photos of Via Ferrata. The beauty of panoramic pictures is that they provide you 360° of vision both vertically and horizontally. It means that you can get a sense of size and scale. You can look at the person exploring the via ferrata and how precarious their situation is as easily as you can admire the beauty of the landscape.

[vrview img=”https://www.main-vision.com/richard/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/R0011307_20160701130638.jpg” pimg=”https://www.main-vision.com/richard/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/R0011307_20160701130638.jpg” width=”500″ height=”400″ ]

Another great aspect to 360° photos is that you can show specific bits of via ferrata and show where the challenging bits are. “Here is where the via ferrata is overhanging” so that you can assess whether you have the strength and courage to try that section or “Here is how high up you are” and so you get a sense of whether you would be paralysed with fear or enjoy yourself.

[vrview img=”https://www.main-vision.com/richard/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/R0011321_20160701133926.jpg” pimg=”https://www.main-vision.com/richard/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/R0011321_20160701133926.jpg” width=”500″ height=”400″ ]

Most via ferrata are like the one that you see in these images. You have what I call staples, pedals and occasionally direct contact with the rocks. In other places you have spikes or you have to pull yourself up along the cable. With these images you see how well equipped the via ferrata is and you are not going in to the unknown. This is good when taking less experienced people.

A side effect of 360 pictures is that you capture a self portrait of yourself in situ over and over again. It is by nature of the medium rather than desire.

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Slow Motion Climbing

It is interesting to watch Slow motion climbing because you get to see precisely what people are doing. You get to see how each muscle group is moving and you see how much the body swings as someone jumps from one hold to another. It allows you to appreciate the subtlety of the moves.

People like to say that rock climbing is about technique rather than strength but it is evident from these slow motion sequences that muscle groups are working hard. You see the arm muscles, the arm muscles and the back muscles move. You also see how the legs act as counterweights. The video above would be better if it was one or two minutes.

The same can be said about the video below. What makes slow motion interesting is to catch details that you would not otherwise notice. Ideally slow motion edits should show the action in real time and then show the same action in slow motion. The beauty of slow motion is that you can see how technically perfect a move was. In some cases a person starts from vertical and goes for another hold. In this action they go from vertical to horizontal, swinging on their fingertips. Slow motion brings the effort to life.

There are other moments where a massive effort, when seen in real time, is clear to see When you watch that same motion in slow motion it looks relaxed and serene. That is the beauty of this medium.

Slow motion should highlight the beauty of a well executed move to help emphasise that it was technically good. Slow motion should be used sparingly.


Rock Climbing Snail
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Rock Climbing Snail

For several weeks now it has rained almost every day and almost every weekend. As a result of this rain acitivities have been cancelled. On Sunday we were meant to go outdoor climbing and when we got to the wall we found a rock climbing snail where, in dry weather we could have enjoyed some good climbs. The climbing site in St Triphon has about 150 climbing routes of differing climbing difficulties.

Rock climbing snail

When the conditions are so wet outdoor climbing is not possible. It rained as we drove to the climbing site, it started to get brighter and then it started to rain hard again. As we drove away from the climbing wall where snails were climbing instead of humans we saw that the weather improved as we got to Lausanne.

A welcoming wall.

A welcoming Wall

Rocspot in Echandens was in the sun yesterday. It was quiet enough to make choosing which route to climb possible. The core of our group climbs every thursday night, as a result of which we are developing the right muscles to make climbing easier. Other group members climbed less frequently so we could prepare the top rope for them to attempt routes. The practice is good as we share skills and experiences with more people.

During this climbing day I was able to challenge myself to 5c, 5c+ and 6a routes. I found that there were moments when I struggled to make progress but overall I felt good. It was interesting to watch the less experienced climbers try routes and manage them. As they climb less frequently they allowed us to see where we would have struggled in the past.

A noticeable difference

Aside from rock climbing and bouldering there is a wall with various hand holds. A few weeks ago when I tried to pull myself up using finger strength I was barely able to hang on for more than a few seconds before letting go. Now I can climb up almost to the top. This is the clearest demonstration that I have made progress. It also shows why certain muscle groups ached so much after every session. The fatigue was worth it for this result.

Now that the weekend is over the sun is shining again and I do look forward to climbing and practicing more skills.

A Chinese Via Ferrata of sorts

School children in the Chinese Sichuan province need to climb up a via ferrata of sorts to get to school. As I watch this footage it makes me think of the Ladders of Death Via Ferrata between France and Switzerland where smugglers would transport contraband between these countries.

When I watch this footage I believe that it would be relatively easy for the Chinese government to get some European Via ferrata equipment specialists to create a via ferrata and safety gear adapted for young children. In Europe Via ferrata are equipped with “pig’s tail” metal loops through which safety ropes can be threaded. These make it possible to do via ferrata with younger children.

The drawback to via ferrata equipment is that it has certain weight requirements. They are designed for people who weigh between 50-110 kg so if you are too light the “parachute” will not be activated and this can lead to injury.

I like this video from an ethnographic and historical context because it shows us a glimpse of what the infancy of via ferrata was like. It shows us the improvised ladders, agile people climbing on exposed rock and more. We see that the youngest person is kept relatively safe by his father and a rope in case of a slip or fall.

In the news item they speak about developing tourism. The parents live in this remote village of 72 people because the farmland is arable. With the development of tourism the path to school could be improved and made safer. If they develop via ferrata tourism as we see in Europe, the Americas, Asia and New Zealand they could have an additional form of income. I know that I could be tempted to try this as a via ferrata if and when they re-equip it. It’s a nice way to see the landscape and a good reason to visit new places.