Friday, 18 December 2009

Reviews: Progression, Welsh Connections, Winter Climbing Plus

I’ve been meaning to post up reviews of quite a few important new items I’ve been enjoying/using over the autumn. So below are some short reviews of the Progression and Welsh Connections DVDs and Winter Climbing Plus. We’ve just added Winter Climbing Plus and Neil Gresham and Libby Peter’s Get out on rock DVD to the shop. We figured it makes sense that we sell all the best resources for improving at climbing out there. Get out on Rock has all the skills and techniques knowledge you need to go from beginner level and gain entry to leading on trad and climbing safely and confidently on trad cliffs.


Starting off with the biggest climbing film release of the year, I was very impressed with Progression. In fact I think it’s high in my top five climbing ‘content’ films I’ve seen. When I say content, thats all I can think of to describe the Big Up climbing film style. There is no story, and no thread worth mentioning that draws the different climbs and climbers together, except they are all giving it everything. Lots of people call the Big Up films ‘climbing porn’. It seems unfair to call this one pure climbing porn. There are a handful of momentary interesting snippets where we see a little deeper than tanned muscle pulling down. Watching Patxi Usobiaga slip and lose out despite the gruelling training he shows us affirmed in me why competition climbing has never interested me. Yet his dedication and athleticism is brilliant to watch. We even get shown a tiny bit of Chris Sharma showing a human side of frustration and pressure. Although it would have been more convincing if we’d have seen more. The sport climbing action, especially of Adam Ondra and Sharma in Spain is brilliantly filmed and inspiring to watch. This will always be the highpoint of the Big Up series. Seeing more of Adam Ondra and a little less of Sharma would have been even better. Go on Big Up, be bold next time round and show us a little more fresh content in with the mix! The DVD extra of Ondra was superb despite it’s simplicity. A real education in fast agressive climbing. The worst aspect of the film is it’s predictability, the same folk on the same crags. There is more going on in climbing than this. However, it’s a commercial product so I guess it’s hard to break too far from a safe mould. Bishop highballing just doesn’t seem that interesting, but that’s maybe personal. Despite losing out on depth it could have easily explored, and a touch of predictability, it’s still a must see and there are very few climbing films that rival it except previous Big Up works. Highly recommended. It’s in the shop here.

Welsh Connections

Dave Brown and Lywen Griffiths have obviously worked hard to bring us a snapshot of the spectrum of Welsh climbing and it’s cutting edge right now. Like about a third or so of this type of climbing DVD, that brings us a selection of climbs from one country or area over a year or so, it would probably have been much better if they’d made it over two or three years instead of one. However, thankfully Welsh Connections is worth getting for it’s highpoints. It has a couple of really special moments in it. The bouldering sections were most disappointing with not much memorable action, not helped by some irksome music. I most wanted to see Pete Robins on Liquid Ambar (sandbag 8c). This was interesting but the filming angles weren’t fantastic. The trad, as you might expect was far and away the highlight. McHaffie was great to watch, gripping with runners falling out and loose rock at Gogarth. Shame there wasn’t more of him and to see more of the person as well. The best moment of the film goes to the Emmett who absolutely lives up to his own ‘go for it’ ideal. Tim’s adrenaline junkie, ever laughing gun blazing persona is certainly larger than life. But as Muhammad Ali said “It’s not bragging if you can back it up” and he certainly had our DVD watching team out of their seats and oooing and ahhhing at the gripper lead he goes for in Hunstman’s Leap. Worth the watch just for that. Outside of the local climbing population, it might have been more consistently good if this film had been given time to grow into something with more hard hitting chapters. A good effort and a good watch nonetheless.

We just got our second batch of stock of it for the shop here.

Winter Climbing Plus

I was in Ian Parnell’s car on the way to Torridon at the end of last winter when he was telling me about how much work he’s put into his and Neil Gresham’s new book on winter climbing skills, tactics and technique. I’ve just got my copies in for the shop here and I’m very impressed with the book. As is normal for the Rockfax publications it’s a very colourful book with absolutely loads of pictures that make it a very inspiring book to flick through as the winter season gets going. It will really fire you up as well as inform you. Speaking of the information, it’s ‘dead-on’: succinct, down to earth, highly practical but fairly comprehensive at the same time in dealing most aspects of the entire winter climbing challenge. I’d say there must be very very few winter warriors walking the earth who don’t have something to learn from the combined experience of these two authors.


  1. Dave
    For Big Up 'climbing porn' with something extra, have you seen 'Tis The Season? ( Possibly the best bouldering film so far?


  2. Hey Dave,

    you haven't commented the Team America action in Progression. I'm actually pretty curious to read what you think of it...
    Btw: Do you think they intentionally tried to let competition climbing look as unaspiring and full of crazy folks as they did?


  3. I wouldn't call Big Up porn, exactly, as it has a plot with a beginning, middle, and end. Compared to most climbing/bouldering films it's like reading James Joyce. I generally prefer the climbing films from your side of the pond for just this reason but I though Progression was both well done and inspiring.

    Per the comments, I thought the training sequences with Patxi were fantastic. Could have watched a whole film about that. Made me wish we still had onsight comps in the US.

    I didn't think the Team America segment was as strong as it could have been. That trip was mega impressive, but I think the account on Jorgeson's web page summed it up better.

  4. I finally got an Echo Wall review up on my blog. Check it out:

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