Seven times British champion Gaz Parry was with us last week to set some sweet new routes here at the Boulders. We grabbed him to ask about the IFSC’s sport climbing Olympic bid, Blocfest, pro climbers and Chuck Norris…
You’ve been setting a lot of routes in Boulders these past few days, what have you got in store for us ?
“A lot! There’ll be 28 new routes minimum, from 6a to 7a+, on both top rope and lead lines.
What is your inspiration to set cool routes in climbing centres?
“Most people think that when you set you have all these ideas and stuff, but you don’t! Once you’ve been setting for a while it becomes easy, like when you learn to drive and you’ve got to go through a process, but once you’ve driven for a few years, it becomes easy because you’re drawing on experience without really having to think about it. You just throw things together and it’s actually the climbing hold that gives you the inspiration, as opposed to ‘Right, I need to do this type of move’. If you try and replicate something that you’ve climbed outdoors, it tends not to work, because it’s so different.”
What has been keeping you busy so far this year?
“I’m based in the UK now (Gaz previously lived in Spain for five years), my girlfriend has gone to university and just finished her first year, so we’ve settled back here on a semi-permanent basis. This year, so far in Sheffield side of the country, the weather has been ok, so I’ve been out quite a lot on the limestone, I’ve been on the Welsh slate and have also been to a lot of new bouldering venues, which has been fun. As I’ve been out of the country for a few years, a lot has changed.
Most recently, a couple of big things have changed in my world. The first one is I’ve taken on a position as the director of the senior GB climbing team. My main role is managing the bouldering team, which will be a lot of fun. I’ve been working and climbing with the team forever. There’s a huge amount of youth talent coming through, especially with leading. We’ve got some really good youth team members now, as well as some strong potential bouldering team members. Guys like Hamish Potokar from Bristol and Buster Martin based in London are the young guns people have started to hear about now.
With the rise of bouldering only centres across the UK, this will only rise exponentially and with the current performance of the team in the World Cup, we’ve had a lot of exposure. The ladies are doing phenomenally well – three girls are consistently getting through into semi-finals, which is amazing and Shauna (Coxsey) is podiuming on a regular basis. The men have been doing well also – every single male from the GB team finishing in the top 30 recently, which is fantastic considering how difficult it is to get into the World Cup’s now, for the men.
The other big change is that I’ve just taken on is the UK sales role for Mad Rock climbing shoes and for Nihil clothing, so it’s all new and all fun! It’s the first time I’ve worn Mad Rock myself and I’m impressed, as they’ve got two new high-end boots. There’s the Shark, which has been developed by some of the European athletes, including Jan Hojer, Juliane Wurm and Guillaume Mondet, all of whom are regular World Cup finalists. Jan and Julie both won the same World Cup event, so we had two podiums wearing Mad Rock shoes, which is impressive. They’ve also helped work on the new shoe which is coming out in 2014, which is called the Mugen 5, which look really good.”
What are your opinions on the IFSC’s Olympic bid and that Sport Climbing didn’t make it through?
“It’s sort of expected, I think. I mean sport climbing is a young sport to be honest and it’s only the last few years that the IFSC (International Federation of Sport Climbing) have managed to get a bit of a grip on things. We’ve got the regular webcast, which is picking up immensely. The webcast from Sheffield, when they last held the World Cup had 30,000 people viewing it online and now probably the numbers will be in excess of that. There will be a lot of people who will watch now in the UK, especially the finals now that Shauna is in it, the numbers are massive and it’s growing.
As far as the Olympic bid goes, maybe for everyone involved, maybe they’re a little bit disappointed, but it won’t affect climbing in the slightest. People who were happy about the fact that climbing didn’t get through, shouldn’t be because it’s quiet out on the crag and most people are climbing indoors – and may long that continue to grow. Bottom line is that is what it’s about. I don’t think the Olympic bid will change, or impact a lot in the outdoor climbing arena, because you only have to look at how messed up climbing is in certain aspects, with the popularity and expense of having to climb Everest being a classic example, that it’s just a total joke. The type of people who are saying that it’s a good thing that climbing didn’t get into the Olympics are essentially mountaineers that are to blame for the Everest situation at the end of the day, who are all cashing in on that. Some of those people who are happy that climbing didn’t make it through have a lot of blame, so it goes both ways really – they’re just as bad!
Climbing is such a good, varied and diverse sport and by it not getting into the Olympics will have no affect on climbing. It will only have a positive effect, because of the increased publicity. Molly Thompson Smith was on BBC TV recently and two others being interviewed on BBC radio – that’s three climbers being interviewed on the BBC, which is massive, really. However, some of the other sports are only about competition, so for them not to go forward to the final three sports selected, has a massive impact, because they are just putting everything into getting in.
In some aspects, the sport of climbing is highly professional, but it is also highly amateurish, in a lot of ways, when it comes to sponsorship and support. People like Shauna get a lot of support, but not as much as they should be getting – we have a lot of good climbers who are essentially pro, but they have to route set and do things to earn a living that they really shouldn’t have to be doing, which is embarrassing. Obviously there are some sponsors who do their best to support the athlete, but there are others who take the mickey, by giving them a couple of pair of boots. My personal opinion with being involved with Mad Rock is that I will only be willing to take on a sponsored athlete when I can afford to give them a decent amount of money.”
Tell us about Blocfest.
“We’ve basically done one season of climbing events; we wanted to do something with the concept of if you do something, you should do it well and that was the basic concept behind Blocfest. We wanted to have a complete grade range of blocs where people of all ages and abilities could get involved in. Enough where total beginners can get up some boulders and also enough hard blocs to split the top end and we then do a showcase final. The final always has individual set problems, which includes colour-coded pink for the girls and flouro yellow for the men, so they really stand out visually. We also have a good style final, which runs along in a similar style and format to the World Cup. So it’s a showcase to show what the comps are really like with lighting and we use DJ’s to provide music, which works really well.
The attendance was fantastic – the lowest attendance was 160 and the highest was over 300. The feedback we had was that it was unreal and really well run, so the next Blocfest will start in the autumn/ winter of this year. We haven’t decided how many, or where yet, but we hope to expand the competition to countrywide in the future. To have a Scottish, a northern and an Irish set of series’ would be amazing, but it takes a lot of time and investment, so a sponsor would have to come on board for that to be able to happen.”
If you could only climb in one other country than the UK, where would it be?
“Austria; because of the scene there. The Austrian climbing team and a lot of other good climbers base themselves in Innsbruck. At the last World Cup, the podium had three climbers from Innsbruck – two Austrian team climbers and a Dutch climber. It would be amazing to spend time there to be with those people and feed off the whole Innsbruck thing! Plus, there’s a load of good climbing in Austria and it’s central to the whole of Europe.”
Various sources online describe you as “A living legend”, “one of the most famous climbers in the world”, a “superstar” and “one of the most talented and prolific climbers of our generation” – What’s the secret to your climbing success over such a long period of time?
“I’m basically still keen to climb at a high level. Some people get to a point in climbing and then may move on to something else. People get families and kids and then move onto other things that are easier for them to do and not necessarily go climbing anymore. Whereas for me, I still want to go climbing at the highest level that I can and I’m still motivated by people that are doing that. Steve McClure is 43 and is still busting out 9a+, which is really inspiring to me.”
Is there any one piece of advice that you would give to any climber of any ability?
“Don’t let go!”
Some questions from our Facebook fans…
How did you get into climbing?
“I used to do a lot of ridge walking and scrambling in Wales with my Dad as a child. Some guys that I went to school with, his Dad took us out when I was 12-years-old, to do some actual climbing wearing harnesses made of car seat belts! It was one of those things really, where it (climbing and being outdoors) was bred into me, it was normal in the environment and place that I grew up in.”
What is Gaz’s favourite crag snack?
“Biscuits of any variety. Biscuits rule.”
Questions from our Instagram followers…
Which is faster – a stingray or a dolphin?
“A sting ray. Just because it’s got ‘ray’ in its name and rays probably travel faster than light.”
Is a bow tie too formal for a job interview?
“Yes. A tie is too formal for anything in my opinion. If you have to wear a tie, it’s not worth doing.”
Here are some ‘either/or’ type of question s for you, some from the staff here at Boulders and some people on the walls:
- Tea or coffee? “Coffee.”
- Salt & vinegar or cheese & onion? “Cheese & onion.”
- North or south? “South, because I’ve got a house in Spain! If you go up north to wear I live now, it’s grim and horrible! Nah, I’m not a north or a ‘south-ist’ to be honest!”
- Headstands or handstands? “Handstands coz they’re harder!”
- Horse or pony? “That’s an interesting one because I have four ponies and a horse. I’ll say pony, because my horse is a pain in the backside!”
- Cat or dog? “That’s hard as I’ve got two dogs and seven cats! My house in Spain that we don’t live in, is basically there for our seven cats!”
- Grit or granite? “Swiss granite!”
Finally… of course, if you were to fight Chuck Norris, you would win, but how would you defeat him?
(laughs) “I would con him into coming into a place where there were loads of tigers and then I’d climb up a tree faster than him to get away from them and he’d get eaten alive!”
For further information on Gaz Parry, visit his website: gazparryclimbing.com.