David Haywood, CAWA’s sercretary, interviewed by Christine Layton on Saturday Breakfast show.

Aired on Saturday 4th April 2020 at 6.30 am

Christine Layton: Don’t leave the house except for essential activities. That’s what the government has told us. Exercise is considered an essential activity, but there are some things that just don’t cross the line. Ahh, fishing and boating are a no, subject to a few exceptions, and surfing is scraping through at the moment, but what about rock climbing? David Haywood from the Climbing Association of WA is on the line. Good morning David.

David Haywood: Good morning, Christine.

Christine: Now, I’m assuming all the indoor climbing centres have closed, so what’s happening in the great outdoors for the rock climbing community?

David: Well, unfortunately not a lot at the moment really. There are a few areas around Perth where outdoor climbing typically occurs but nothing like the volume or access those indoor gyms provided and, you know, indoor gym climbers might not have those skills or the equipment required to climb outdoors and so, you know, the few of the climbing areas closed locally and without access to the regional areas, where the mountains and the rock faces are, there is not a lot happening really.

Christine: Hmm, What’s been the impact on the indoor climbing gyms and the community who use the facilities?

David: Yeah, I mean the climbing community has been growing really rapidly in Perth lately. Lots of new gyms popping up and lots of new interest, the inclusion of rock climbing as an Olympic sport has really put attention to the space, but you know, obviously that’s halted very quickly and there’s a big impact to those new gyms and to the people inside the gyms, you know, the climbing gyms are like sporting clubs, they’re quite tight communities of family and friends. We train together, we support each other, we look out for each other in quite a mentally and emotionally challenging environment; you’re literally holding your other climber’s life in your hands when you hold that rope and so consequently, climbers form quite strong bonds, they make connections and friendships across gyms, across states. We travel and adventure together and losing access those spaces and those communities it’s quite hard to understand at first, and quite hard to picture, but obviously the impact it’s becoming more and more obvious as the lockdown continues, [CL: hmmm], and obviously, we feel for that, you know, there are gym owners and their staff there; they’re a key part of that community, and they’re part of that extended family, and we feel for them and we miss them.

Climbing is like a high-stakes yoga on the wall.

Christine: It’s 6:40 on ABC Radio Perth with Christine Leighton. I’m speaking to David Haywood who is from the Climbers’ Association of WA. We talking about rock climbing. So we’ve been told to stay home except for essential activities. Do you feel climbing counts as essential exercise? What’s your take on it, David?

David: For me absolutely. Climbing is amazing for your physical, mental and emotional well-being, it’s like high-stakes yoga on a wall, it’s quite unique [CL: laughs], it’s quite amazing. It’s really hard to replicate that, you know, the movement and endurance, especially of rope climbing, you’re working against gravity. It’s whole body movement, not just your arms and legs, it’s sustained over long periods of time. And it’s even harder to sort of replicate that mental and emotional challenge from such a committing activity.

Christine: ‘High-stakes yoga on the wall’ I think that’s possibly one of the best quotes I’ve heard on Saturday Breakfast for a while. We did ask the Sporting and Recreation Minister McMurray what the specific rules and guidelines were around this. And a spokesperson told us that this is the quote ‘Exercise such as outdoor rock climbing is permitted providing social distancing and social gathering rules are adhered to’, and then ‘National Parks remain open at this time however visitors must heed the new intra-regional travel restrictions. Some facilities and attractions have been closed’.

“Exercise such as outdoor rock climbing is permitted providing social distancing and social gathering rules are adhered to.”

Sporting and Recreation Minister McMurray's spokesperson

“National Parks remain open at this time however visitors must heed the new intra-regional travel restrictions. Some facilities and attractions have been closed.”

So what are those, where are the spots that people would usually go to that they can’t? I’ve seen this morning, and look I’m not a rock climber, so I don’t know, but Avon Valley National Park is closed for the weekend so is Serpentine National Park, so where would people have usually gone that they can’t?

David: There is a number of, it’s, look in the Perth Metro area there is a number of disused quarries and other, sort of man-made, features they have been closed and obviously they draw groups of people and with large numbers of people who can’t climb indoors looking for a space, you know, … [CL: traffic has increased] … yeah, that’s right. And so it’s understandable that they are restricted, but the broad range of options align with regional areas, and as I said before, we can’t drive out to those areas, so it’s quite difficult. And any of the spaces around Perth that do support outdoor climbing, traffic has very much increased, and so it’s quite difficult to actually be socially responsible and rock climb outdoors.

CAWA's official position absolutely is if you can refrain from climbing Outdoors you should be. It is hard to socially distance while you rock climb.

Christine: Okay, so with that in mind, what are you telling rock climbers this weekend?

David: Look, CAWA’s official position absolutely is if you can refrain from climbing Outdoors you should be. It is hard to socially distance while you rock climb. It’s quite complicated, I mean, I’m lucky I’m a family of four, we all climb, so I’m never short of a climbing partner even during quarantine and a lockdown but it’s not so easy for others and, you know, your climbing buddy is very important. He needs to check your safety equipment and support you, support your landing if you fall, so you know, if you do have a suitable climbing buddy, you need to be maybe hand sanitizing if you’re touching rock that someone else’s touched, …

Christine: yeah, and it can live on different surfaces. you’ve got their carabiner and that’s all I know, but you’ve got other bits and pieces right, so I mean it must be hard to stay safe.

David: That’s right, I mean there’s some options that maybe mitigate the need for a buddy, you can traverse, which is climbing sideways instead of upwards, you know, you do that low down on rock faces, maybe bouldering, where short climbs, where you don’t need a rope and instead you fall onto a padded matt [CL: mhmm]. But you know, look we definitely suggest only attempting climbing where you have a high degree of control over the space and where you wouldn’t fall in a compromising manner, and obviously you do not want to injure yourself at this point in time you know. Lots of load on the health system, the logistics of living in lockdown, you know, would be very difficult.

Christine: Yeah, that is a very good point. Now it’s a pretty tricky activity to adapt at home, although, if you got a family of four, I can only assume that your children climb on everything, that’s partly your fault David. Any innovative homemade climbing walls or things or what have you seen people come up with whilst in isolation?

David: Yeah, look, the creativity is amazing. We have seen a kitchen climbing, doorway climbing, urban climbing, tree climbing, people climbing everything they can and it’s really good actually to see the community and the gym sort of reaching out and supporting each other and stay motivated and positive at that lockdown, so it’s really good to see. There are options to keep yourself fit and strong while you’re at home. Devices like hangboards for finger strength, and pullup bars for your arms and shoulders, and climbers are even building larger setups we call woodies. It’s where you get some panels of ply, screw some holds on and do yourself a mini climbing wall.

Christine: Yes, yes, I’ve seen some of those in backyards in Perth. are you gonna be heading out for climb this Easter weekend David? What are your plans?

David: Look, at the moment we’re maybe tending to find, maybe go for a walk in a bush and if we see some opportunity to scramble up some rocks that look like they’re unpopulated and unused, we might give it a go, but yeah we live quite close to the hills, so it facilitates a bit of bushwalking, it’s a good way for us to get out to nature.

Christine: Thank you for coming on this morning to clarify. It’s been really nice to speak to you, I hope you have a good weekend.

David: Thanks, Christine.

... it’s really good to see the community and the gym sort of reaching out and supporting each other and stay motivated and positive at that lockdown ...

Christine: That’s David Haywood, he is from the Climbers’ Association of WA. So just to be clear, the Minister has said that you can go outdoor rock climbing but some of the places that you’d usually go to have been closed and of course you need to be safe when you do it. It’s from to the call from Scotty Boladeras, who’s a quite the local climber I’m told, good morning Scott.

Scotty Boladeras: Good morning, Christine, how are you?

Christine: I’m good, now, you’ve been climbing for over a decade, is that right?

Scotty: Yes, that is correct.

Christine: Ok, and it’s taken you around the world I’m told by my producer.

Scotty: Yeah, I’ve been to a few different countries, namely Spain and the US, are some favourite spots of mine.

Christine: Yap, and I suppose what are you seeing amongst the climbing community right now it’s such a big part of your life. Are people still going out to climb, and how’s everyone feeling?

Scotty: Yeah, as David was saying, it’s really tough on people that are really passionate about the sport and love getting out to the gyms and outdoors and a lot of people not doing anything at the moment except training at home. They’re finding it really difficult, especially not being able to go to a place like Margaret River or up to Kalbarri on the Easter long weekend.

Christine: hmm, where would you usually go?

Scotty: For a long weekend, with 4 days, it’s enough time to get to Kalbarri or Albany. Or somewhere closer like Margaret River.

Christine: Where do you go rock climbing in Albany, where’s your spot?

Scotty: Down the West Cape Howe is a really beautiful spot.

Christine: That’s incredible, and you know, we are all making sacrifices at a time, like this, and you know as far as we can see from the early numbers it’s paying off, and so it’s worth it. How do you keep fit at home, do you have a home setup yourself?

Scotty: I don’t have a woody like Dave was talking about, but I do have some finger-strength equipment and bars to hang on. I’ve got a 2-year-old, and he is quite good for a bit of weight [CL: laughts]

Christine: Very good, I’m sure he is keeping you very busy. Well, thanks for coming on this morning Scott. I hope you have a good weekend.

Jiri Stastny

Author Jiri Stastny

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