I attended one of the BMC’s series of Climbing Movement Masterclasses at White Spider in Surrey in April. The classes are exceptionally good value. For £26 for BMC members you get coaching from a top climber for a couple of hours and go away with a little goody bag and a sheet of personalised recommendations to improve your climbing. It’s hard to imagine any other sport where you can get individualised coaching from a top athlete at that price.
My class was with Naomi Buys who is in the British Bouldering Team and is a Wild Country sponsered climber. I was going partially to improve my own climbing but also to pick up tips and tricks for my own work as a climbing instructor as to how to coach people to get better. There were 6 people in the class so there was plenty of space and time for Naomi to watch us all.
We started off with a little warm up and then a little traversing while Naomi watched our climbing then we got straight into it with an overhanging route on the bouldering wall which we all attempted after Naomi had demonstrated the correct twisting technique where you ‘flag’ out with one foot for balance and keep yourself sideways on to the wall.
Then for contrast she put us on a tricky slab balance problem where you had to step up on to a small foothold with no hands and then rock over again with no hands on to a high foothold and stand up to get the top hold. I managed the first half and then came off but no one managed it properly which saved my ego.
Then we had a go at a dyno move - jumping for a hold that’s out of reach. Naomi showed us how to build up a jump in stages if you are not confident about it the first time. She explained a little about how to develop contact strength in order to be able to hang on to the hold once you’ve got it and not just fly off.
Quite a lot of this stuff I was familiar with although it was good to run through it with someone more qualified than me. The stuff that was really pretty new to me was ‘compression climbing’ which is a technique you use particularly for climbing aretes (edges) and roofs - you are not free to let go with one hand in order to move as this will result in you peeling off, so therefore the feet are used in a much more active way - typically a toe hook is used to replace a hand in order to allow the hand to move freely. We tried this on a route on a roof and on an arete. The arete wasnt too hard but the roof climb was pretty tough. However after a few goes I cracked it using toe hooking, which felt good, as i’ve never really used this compression climbing before.
Before we finished we also had a go putting some of the stuff we’d practised on the bouldering wall into use on routes by doing one overhanging wall and doing another wall one-handed. Naomi also showed us some exercises to improve our core strength, which is all-important for climbing.
All together it was a great experience and well worth the money. We were even free to stay and climb if we wanted to as the £26 included entry to White Spider as well. Thanks to Craggers for paying for this class and hopefully I will be able to put some of Naomi’s tips into use on future Craggers trips.