Sad Alien Climbing Extended Review

I was intrigued by this bold new contender to the climbing training equipment crowd when given the opportunity to put a BETA test unit through its paces and incorporate it into my regular training regime.

First impressions were good; the build quality is a cut above others with professional CNC production methods ensuring every unit is perfect and identical. The chunky plywood unit is the ideal size for installing above doors as would be the case for the majority of board owners without the luxury of a training room. The pre-drilled mounting holes could have been chamfered to add a neat little finishing touch, and give the satisfaction of the screws sitting flush once in, the mass production units may well have this feature. Once installed the unit was solid.

The innovative modules for the unit, crafted from yellow poplar, are incredibly comfortable and versatile; the ease at which modules can be swapped out or rotated in 45deg increments is inspired. The precise cut of each module attachment point gave a very snug fit but I never found myself fighting to get one in or out. Often a good wiggle followed by a good slap to seat it fully was all I needed. After a good few months of use I would assume that modules slide in and out effortlessly whilst remaining bomber. With 5 slots in width to play with it suits every climber size, for other boards you’re limited by hold position and must change your workout accordingly. The production models come with 1×3 slots, 1×5 slots and 2×5 slots giving plenty of room to experiment with, the model I had was 1×5 and allowed for plenty of creativity, the 2×5 offers greater potential for offset hangs and reps to better train one-sided weaknesses. The Alien unit gives you freedom to train all hold types exactly at the width you need. From the short play I had on the Red Spider BETA station’s peg modules I assumed that I would be able to attempt some pegboard style campus, moves but they were too snug and to release one whilst locked off on another was too much of a fight to make it a practical peg board replacement. I have been assured that this has been improved in the production modules.

I love the ability to rotate the modules; this is where the unit truly sets itself apart from the market. Competitor boards only allow for training the same few muscle groups in a particular way. Suddenly having the freedom to turn flat 1-pad crimps into opposing gastons changes everything – you work so much harder to maintain good form, the form needed to climb hard. It gives a more complete upper body workout simply by rotating modules. I found that hanging/repping from the top of the unit itself with all modules removed was also comfortable and would negate the need to replicate a similar extra-deep module – cheeky money saver allowing you to purchase the more ‘advanced’ modules.

The rounded slopers unassumingly sculpted into the bottom side of the juggiest-jug module are a new offering in the training board market instead of the usual flat-angled sloper and present an excellent challenge for those all too common rounded holds outside, ideal for the 2019 Easter trip to Font!

The deep 4 finger pocket with 15deg sloper on the flipside are ideal for the latter stage of a warm up – I did find that my pinky finger had a bunching of skin at the joint in contact with the hold but I put that down to the callouses grown from endlessly tailing ropes whilst instructing. I preferred the sloper side of this hold over the flat as I found a more comfortable position for reps.

Around a year later I’ve now got a full production 1×5 Base Station with Jug ‘n’ Sloper and Slot 20 modules installed in the house. It’s above a door so very easy to get into a routine of a few quick reps as I pass from kitchen to living room.

The modules slide even better with the production variant, no need to slap and wiggle them – pop it in and it’s solid! The ability to rotate the modules is still unmatched by anything on the market and makes exercises such as typewriters or frenchies one hell of a lot more challenging by demanding more from the triceps and lats. They’ve even recently been working with external coaches and climbers including Steve McClure to produce some innovative module shapes.

In all an impressive piece of kit that will instantly lead the industry as a training tool accessible to both new climbers keen to push their grades and learn about training, and elite climbers wanting the best tool to complement their training regime. Price-wise it can be seen as a little steep but it’s well worth the quality of training one can get from this kit, I would recommend buying a base station and then picking your own modules to get the most out of it.

Creator Rob has been touring up and down the UK, including demo-ing at the IFSC event at RATHO! Be sure to check out their instagram @sadalienclimbing for updates on where he’ll be so you can go and have a good play on it and pick his brain. Rob is the perfect champion for the kit’s results because he’s just become ripped over the last year mainly from endless demonstrations!

Tap Brian Challenge!

www.sadalienclimbing.com
Launch kit from £135
Modules from £48

Project: Training Wall MkII

In August 2018 we made the (currently questionable) decision to move to Leicester for a new set of jobs. Part of our agreement was that we should rent a 2 bed house, and that the larger room be turned into a training room in lieu of access to a wealth of London climbing gyms.

Having built a small board back at my parent’s house a few years ago (inflicting untold stress on them by drilling ruddy great holes in the the walls) I was obviously the pro, and relished the challenge to mangineer a new training board.

The requirements were as follows:

  • Free standing – tick
  • Under £200 – tick (already owned holds and beastmakers)
  • Big enough to actually be usable – tick

I had the idea and raided Wickes for 18mm ply and 4m beams, and got to work. Times like those are when I’m so glad to own an estate
I planned for this to be a very simple build with minimal cutting, I’ve not got any power tools other than an impact driver so sawing is a hassle. A simple build is actually what I got!

A large square composed of 8 610x1220mm ply panels screwed onto a lattice of 45x70x2400mm and 45x145x2400 C16 timber beams set at 20 degrees (for now) and suitably supported. I then extended the right side perpendicular to the board to facilitate hanging both BeastMaker 1000 and 2000 fingerboards complete with pulley set up. KTX Silver M5.0 50mm and 120mm screws were used – good enough for most climbing centres, good enough for me!

The Core Screw-On board footholds are excellent and force the accurate footwork required for hard climbing, it certainly takes a bit of getting used to; an aggressive pair of Scarpa Instinct slippers help.

Being a furnished house we had a spare double mattress once we’d disassembled the bed to make space, perfect pad for the training board.

The hold selection is a random assortment from Surrey Summit so if any lovely hold manufacturer wants to lavish us with gifts please feel free – we’ll advertise the hell out of you!
We just need some free weights and we’ll be fully set to get stronger and starting achieving our goals.

Callum T Climbing Services now Live!

In a keen effort to enhance my skill set, and anchor myself further within the climbing industry I have established Callum T Climbing Services!

Insured, equipped and VAT registered, I want to push professionalism in the climbing industry!

I will now be offering route setting, intermediate-level coaching and expert equipment purchasing advice to centres, organisations and individuals that require such. In 2019 I hope to also offer PPE inspections.

If you would like to know more please get in touch through the ‘Climbing Services’ tab above.

Be sure to follow my instagram callum.sketch to keep up with my escapades, and get an idea of my setting/climbing style!

Why I’ll (Probably) Never Own a Home

There’s a never ending, and very public, battle between multi-home owners, first time buyers, the government and the retired generation. Why can’t everyone own their own home?

A grumble at the multi-home owners:

Apart from accruing greater and greater wealth, what possible reason would you need 2 or more houses for?
My university landlord owned something like 20 houses within Portsmouth, the majority of them funded directly from the taxpayer through student maintenance loans. Presuming each house has an average of 4 bedrooms with each tenant paying £350 a month. That’s £28,000 a month. The guy drove an old Skoda Octavia. Goodness knows where all that money was going; I sure couldn’t spend money that quickly.

If the end-goal is to simply hoard money, deprive potential home owners of their own bricks and mortar, and bumping up house prices in general instead of putting it to good use in philanthropy or entrepreneurship then why are you doing it? Once you’ve covered everything what is there to splash out on? You could be buried with it I suppose.

For the Government:

Build more bloody houses; don’t quibble about where they’re going to go, or whose budget they’re being paid with. Just get houses built wherever there is suitable space. Brownfield sites, turn villages into towns, make blocks of flats that people actually want to live in. Increase density if you can’t build outwards. All these tiny villages need to get with the times and accept that they need to expand….for the greater good.

An observation:

I’m in my mid-twenties, meagre savings, renting in a cramped house share in Surrey, and have literally just started earning over the £20k mark. To celebrate my new position I rewarded myself with a car upgrade through a small 3 year loan – I’ve done the maths and yes I can afford it. It struck me that with that purchase I’ve sealed my fate on (probably) never owning a house. I doubt I’ll get enough of a payrise in the next decade to cover living costs, rent, repayments, general savings AND saving for a house deposit.

But why should I buy a house anyway? Working in the outdoor pursuits industry I need the flexibility to go wherever an enticing new job requires, it demands freedom to just uproot and go elsewhere. I also have peace of mind knowing that if anything goes wrong in this house it is my landlord’s problem; if I owned the house I’d have to replace the boiler, fix the washing machine, renovate the house every decade, so much expense on top of the mortgage and other outgoings!

A good example is within my own family. A sister, her partner and their toddler all live under the warm, welcoming roof of my parent’s house so that they can save up for a mortgage. It’s a busy house and as much as my dear parents want to assist their children they will need to draw a line eventually and regain the space as theirs, there’s very little to physically show for their saving efforts; a bank account with a slowly rising number that has actually plummeted in global value with the drop in value of the pound (looking at you Brexit and Trump). Everyone’s hair is greying a little faster too!

Who should own houses?

Fund/Asset managers, pension funds and the like. They’re always after stable and rising returns so why not invest in thousands of homes with government-backed funding and relax in the flood of rental income.

There is too great a focus on buying your own home. Financial stability, enjoyment of life and saving for a rainy day/big event should take priority instead of scrimping for years on end to afford a 5-20% stake in a building and an area in which you won’t want to live in 15 years’ time. If you can’t afford a house then just relax and enjoy life a bit more with the extra cash you’re not tucking away.

If you are fixed on buying a house then take your job and move up north where just about everything is cheaper, nicer, friendlier and airier. Embrace the Northern Powerhouse BS that is doing the rounds instead of clogging up the South with more of the same.

The ‘I can’t do it’ Generation

Now then. I know I’m not really old enough to start moaning about today’s generation of young people, but an argument and culture shift needs to happen before society grinds to a halt because one too many youngsters cry “I can’t do it!”.

Everyone has an element in life where they groan/shout/cry this phrase; for me it’s maths – scraped a C at GCSE level and swiftly dropped it quicker than I could shout “I don’t give a s*** about finding x!”. I know I’m not alone in my dislike for the mathematical arts.

Working as a Climbing Instructor I am confronted daily with this particular whine and it genuinely irritates me. A young person of any age may start climbing the easiest of routes in the centre, get a meter off the floor, look at me and proclaim that they simply cannot do it, and they now want to come down.
The first thing I respond with is “Nope”, followed by “Keep going”.
The look on the majority of young people’s faces are priceless; it’s the “What do you mean no?!” look, we all know that look.

I say no every single time a young person, or adult, tells me that they want to come down the first time not because I’m a mean instructor, but because I genuinely know that they can keep going. I will talk to them, demonstrate the exact climbing technique whilst on the floor that the climber needs to utilise in order to reach that next hold and just generally encourage them to get on with it. It’s always a source of entertainment when I, or a colleague is demonstrating techniques on the floor to a climber, better dance moves have yet to be seen in the likes of Popworld!

The holding power of a young person is incredible: Again, all this demonstrating and encouraging and they will hold the same static position for upwards of 10 minutes. I keep saying that they can better use all that energy they’re wasting by just getting on with it, and still they remain glued to the wall. A few moves are made with zero progress: a hand is moved up, a foot is moved down, a hold is tickled but not held, legs are straightened, legs are bent, they move left or right and back again.

Most climbers will at least try what I have asked of them, and most of those who do indeed get further even if it is just by a single hold, once they have done this single move some continue up the wall, others come down with a little smile of achievement. But others simply will not try and here is where my gripe lies.

I can demo, discuss, demand and encourage until I’m blue in the face but that small, but growing, percentage of climbers will not even try to venture higher. The never ending argument is “But how do you know you can’t do it if you haven’t tried?”, “I just can’t, let me down!”. What causes it? Fear? Laziness? A sense of entitlement? How they’re raised?

I know they’re easy targets but I think a combination of parenting style and the education system have the most to do with it. It could just be a Surrey thing. A young person can’t do something, the parent comforts them, or the teacher hasn’t the power or patience to challenge them and that’s that. When they’re suddenly confronted with an adult that says “No” it doesn’t quite compute and the concept of genuinely trying is rather foreign.

The best motivator is pitting the young person against a friend, or better yet themselves. Saying “You got further last time, go on!” is more powerful than comparing them to their friends, it can sometimes have the opposite effect. If they ignite the desire to one-up themselves then it results in a strong sense of achievement and they receive greater kudos when back on the ground “That was fantastic, look how high you got. You reached clip 6 this time, your last go you got to clip 3!”
The smile they beam is signal enough that they’re happy with their achievement, they tried. That’s all I needed them to do.

Getting a stubborn young person to try is a difficult, often tedious and repetitive task. Once they actually understand that I won’t crumble to their demands some excellent progress can be made. But until then it’s an uphill slog of dancing around on the floor, encouraging and saying “No”.