It is Saturday evening and a band is playing in the courtyard outside the Sticklebarn. Groups of people are squeezed into “Base Camp”, lined up along picnic benches, with dogs curled up at their feet, pints of beer in hand and smiles on their faces. The odd bouldering mat makes for an improvised seat and as the cool of the night descends to the valley floor, more and more folk gather around the fire. Laughter and conversation carry their way up Stickle Ghyll and hang in the air around the now-empty crags.
The Arc’teryx Climbing Academy returned to the Lake District at the end of April 2023. Now in its third year, the Climbing Academy is the younger sibling to the Arc’teryx Alpine Academy, held in Chamonix every summer. The format proved so successful that Arc’teryx now replicates it in many parts of the world. The UK version takes all the ingredients of its alpine equivalent and transfers them to the unique landscape of Langdale. At its core, the climbing academy is a weekend of coaching clinics; mostly tailored toward newcomers to climbing and those looking to expand their skill set. Over the course of three days, participants could make their first forays into bouldering outside or learn tips and techniques for multi-pitch climbing; all under the watchful guidance of world-class climbers and mountain guides.
Why hanging out is more than just hanging out
The Academy philosophy is about more than just coaching sessions, however. It is about creating and sustaining an inclusive, supportive community – right there, but also in the longer term. The Academy represents the good that can happen when you bring like-minded people together. In between formal clinics, there was plenty of time for people to gather, share stories, make friends, hatch plans for the future and just relax. Professionals rubbed shoulders with newbies and mountaineers shared tables with hardened boulderers.
I don’t suppose you can…
The GORE-TEX brand joined the Arc’teryx Base Camp and we partnered with Scottish Mountain Gear (SMG) once more to offer free repairs of well-loved GORE-TEX clothing during the weekend. From broken zips to crampon scars the SMG team saved treasured pieces of clothing from the sad fate of languishing at the bottom of the gear drawer. Most conversations start in the same way. “This is probably too difficult, but I don’t suppose there’s a chance that you can save this?” Almost always, the answer was “yes” and a few hours later, the good-as-new garment returned to a beaming owner.
Outdoor blogger, Molly Veitch joined us for the weekend. She brought in a pair of trousers for repair and went for a loud and proud red patch. “I love the visible repair and that the trousers have a fresh lease of life”.
If that wasn’t keeping the SMG team busy enough, Academy attendees were able to commission a custom upcycled product from the team. Using off-cuts and panels from GORE-TEX apparel that reached the end of its usable life; in its original form at least. Jackets became tote bags, climbing chalk bags and coin purses. Each item was unique, and all retained a little nod towards its previous life; whether that was a zip pocket or a poppered pouch. Lauren and Severine worked their magic, employing the kind of dexterity and skill that mirrored that being displayed on the crags above Base Camp. “I just love creating something out of nothing”, explained Lauren. “These items that would otherwise be landfill are something useful again.” They are more than useful too; they are beautiful in their own right and carry with them a unique story.
Responsible performance in the hills and on the crags
As well as making the most of our repair service, Molly put the Arc’teryx Coelle Lightweight jacket to the test on a hike along the Langdale Valley. The jacket utilizes the GORE-TEX ePE membrane; a PFC-free, durably waterproof windproof and highly breathable fabric, which also utilizes recycled materials in its construction. “It’s the only time I’ve been for a walk and was willing for it to rain!” she proclaimed. “It’s so important that more environmentally sustainable options are available. Anyone who enjoys the outdoors also cares about protecting it.”
Athena Mellor also joined us. The author, outdoors content creator and part of the Ramble Family YouTube channel got the opportunity to put her waterproof to the test as the weather turned on Sunday. “I’ve been wearing GORE-TEX for years and swear by it in the hills.” Athena had booked on to a couple of climbing clinics with the goal of kickstarting some more time on the rock after taking a break since having her daughter Aífe. “Despite the weather, I was able to get out and enjoy my day without having to worry about staying dry, warm and comfortable.”
A strengthened community
While sewing machines rattled and climbing racks jangled, Grangers were on hand to explain how to wash and care for GORE-TEX garments. Chef and mountain leader Kieran Creevy showed how to create a meal on the mountain a step above the average freeze-dried fare. There were art classes and yoga, and of course, there was that all-important hanging out and chatting.
They say knowledge is power. And that is absolutely true; but all too often that saying is used as a justification for keeping knowledge to oneself. It suggests there is a universal truth waiting to be discovered, rather than the infinitely more complicated (and more interesting) reality. The real power behind knowledge is through collective insight; sharing lessons and revelations and learning new ones. Knowledge doesn’t stand still. It represents experience, our personal successes and failures and most importantly; the opportunity to learn those of others.
Knowledge overcomes intimidation. When paired with support and practice, it allows us to step beyond our comfort zones with confidence. In the case of climbing, it allows us to enjoy the mountains, crags and boulders safely and responsibly.
Knowledge must be the ultimate tool kit. And everyone who left the Arc’teryx Climbing Academy did so with an extended range of tools at their disposal. Some even had the perfect recycled tote to carry it home in…