Posted on December 08 2014
Christmas is not always synonymous with happy climbers. December weather can make it a trying time; the Gritstone is green, the limestone is seeping and large puddles transform our favourite bouldering destinations into ‘shallow water soloing’ venues.
The silver lining to this actual, rather than metaphorical grey cloud is the outside chance it’ll get cold enough for the rain to fall as snow. We sit watching the weather on the T.V. praying for Northerlies, weather warnings, and investigative pieces about the cost of the winter fuel allowance. Just when it looks like 1cm of fresh snow is going to throw national transport into disarray and cost the economy billions in lost revenue we have one final challenge to overcome; Christmas.
There are many things that climbers struggle with at this time of year. Specifically, being organised enough to buy the appropriate presents for the appropriate people before a certain date; apparently buying everything for everyone in a supermarket petrol station on Christmas Eve is unacceptable? Paying for said presents (“£30 for a bottle of scotch! I could live for a month in India/Spain/Font/Cham on that!”) And spending at least one day indoors with your family and without talking about or going climbing.
Added to all of this is the inevitability of opening another Ray Mears book, or the fear of receiving anything with ‘Bear Grylls’ stamped on it (firstly he WALKED up ONE mountain ages ago, and secondly, just because I like going outside doesn’t mean I need to know how to use a camel carcass as a sleeping bag). Now all this sounds very ungrateful and you’re probably thinking you won’t buy the ‘special’ climber in your life anything at all, because we are all ungrateful, selfish scrooges, but just think about it for a second. Imagine how much leverage you would have if you caught us by surprise us at Christmas. You might hear us proclaim “of course I’ll come to your friend’s wedding in Norfolk/Holland/London/anywhere flat!” or “Now you mention it there are lots of things we need from IKEA and when you couple that with their contemporary Nordic design and reasonable prices, I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather spend this cool, crisp, sunny Saturday” if you get your Christmas shopping just right.
So if you’re struggling to find something that Bear hasn’t stamped his name all over for the climber in your life this Christmas here are a few suggestions that almost all would appreciate:
1. Cam Lube
If you want to buy a climber something, but have no idea what to get, you can’t go far wrong with cam lube. Firstly pretty much every climber will have cams. Secondly they almost certainly won’t have spent £5 on something to help maintain them. Aside from getting them a useful present they don’t have, you’ll have bought them something with the word ‘lube’ in. What’s not to like!
2. Finger tape/Chalk
Like toilet paper, you always need it and always resent paying for it when you run out. Guarantee a climber close to you a resent free January with one or both of these gifts.
3. Guide book
Looking for a romantic getaway with your climber? Paris is 1.5 hours away from France’s premier bouldering venue, Fontainebleau and the forest is full of nice little Gites to stay in. There are two guides covering the area, one focusing on easier climbs the other on harder. If in doubt, go for the easier, everyone needs to warm up.
Put simply, you can never have enough of these. Even if your climber is predominantly a boulderer, carabineers are always useful even if it’s just for clipping the dog to its lead. There’s a bewildering choice, so if all else fails just buy a colour that matches their hat.
Climbing is a strange activity. If you go down to the woods you’re as likely to see someone brushing a rock as climbing on it. Give your climber one less excuse for not being able to do their project this winter and buy them a brush.
6. Nut tool
Maybe it’s just me, but I always find myself without one of these just as I discover I need one. It’s often the case that the leader will set off with the nut key having forgotten to leave it for you. Not a massive problem on a small grit outcrop but a potentially expensive mistake on a sea cliff if your leader knows how to place a nut.
5. Gift card
If all else fails or you decide to put as much effort into their gift as they did into yours last year, you can always go for a gift card.
Due to their seemingly intrinsic thrifty nature buying a novel gift for a climber can be quite straight forward. Don’t be worried about buying something that would probably horrify a sane person, a brush or some white dust would be seen as very thoughtful gifts by any climbing recipient. Basically remember that anything you buy will be an improvement on the Duct Tape which is currently performing the role.