With only 1 week to go until the ClimbBristol festival I found myself fretting as I stared through my window watching lightning strike and the rain continually pour down.
Climbing festivals and rain go about as well together as orange juice and Nutella and seriously take my word for it before you think about trying such a disgusting combination! Thankfully it was clear from the weather forecast a few days before that we were going to be blessed with some sensational weather and that it certainly was.
The Festival aimed to promote the value of Avon Gorge as a nationally important climbing site and to celebrate a certain representative body for climbers Grand 70th Anniversary and the day could not be described as anything else but a complete success on both counts.
The festival started in style with a grand opening by the Lady Mayoress and Lord Mayor of Bristol who are by no means new to climbing with the Lord Mayor himself being a member of the BMC for the last 10 years. Both the Lady and Lord Mayor showed an array of spectators and cameras that climbing is open to all with an ascent on Floating Water (VS)
With the formalities out the way Avon Gorge saw around 250+ climbers and spectators rub shoulders with some of Avon’s early pioneers such as Pat Littlejohn, Stephen Venables, Barrie Page, Oliver Hill to name just a few. It was also great to see teams climbing routes such as Nightmare (S), Gronk (VS), Puke (HVS) and Depravity (E1), with the one of the first ascensionists – Mike Thompson – watching on from the comfort of the marquee. There were also speed climbing competitions, outdoor taster sessions, bouldering, slacklining, stalls and a great display of some of Avon’s historic climbing gear including pegs that have been replaced by the ClimbBristol team of volunteers.
In the 8 years I have lived and climbed in Bristol I have never seen so many local teams, and climbers from Birmingham, Cornwall, London and Swindon, spanning the whole length of the gorge from Unknown Wall to Suspension Bridge Buttress. Teams battled with the heat to bag routes including Sinister (HS), Malbogies (HVS), Us (E2) and Arms Race (E4).
Recently I was reading in a national climbing magazine where Alex Honnold – best known for his free solo ascents of some pretty big walls – described Avon Gorge as ”the most disgusting thing ever” and so it was great to see so many people enjoy the climbing and have people experience Avon’s climbing for the first time. Lauren, who was one such first timer from Swindon, commented on “the quality of the rock with the routes being good but hard for the uninitiated”. Maybe I am biased but there is so much history attached to the climbing in Avon, that combined with its unique nature and sheer variety makes it my favourite urban crag. One of the pioneers, Frank Cannings, summed up the Avon Gorge perfectly describing it as having the full set of climbs – full trad, pegged trad, trad with bolt protection and sports climbing. For an urban crag that is 5 minutes from the city centre you can’t really ask for much more and the ongoing work from the ClimbBristol project is certainly making it a safer and more accessible place to climb.
The festival wouldn’t of been possible without our partners and special thanks needs to be mentioned to Avon and Somerset Search and Rescue, Redpoint, Bloc, UCR, Taunton Leisure, Dicks Climbing, DMM and of course all the Steering Committee’s efforts in pulling off what will be a day to remember for years to come.
Here’s a link to a film made by the BMC of the ClimbBristol festival:
Climb Bristol and the BMC are immensely grateful to our Partners, whose support will help make this a Festival to remember:
The BMC Access & Conservation Trust
Avon & Somerset Search & Rescue Team
Bloc climbing Centre
Bristol City Council
Steve Winslow at Cloudworks Media