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!

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

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!

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”.