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Close up of a climber's chalked hands on rock

Why pros and beginners flock to the Arc’teryx Climbing Academy

September 27, 2022

Found in Activities, Community news

Happy Sendtember! In a month that’s prime for climbing, we wanted to highlight an MEC staffer who recently had the chance to attend the fifteenth annual Arc’teryx Climbing Academy in Squamish, BC.

What makes this festival such a stellar one? The chance to climb, meet other climbers, check out new gear and practice skills in a dedicated weekend. After all, when you ask the best of the best climbers, even they’ll admit that there’s something they have yet to learn. MEC and Arc’teryx go way back – we were one of the first places to sell their early climbing gear – so it was the perfect event to send a lucky staffer to attend (yep, definitely a huge staffer perk).

Read on to meet MEC Montreal staffer Jules and find out about what it was like at his first Arc’teryx Academy.

First up: tell us about your climbing.

I’ve been climbing for almost three years now, mostly indoor bouldering because I don’t have a car to go outside consistently as much as I want. I also do a bit of sport climbing, which I like a lot, but I prefer the more power-based climbing that bouldering provides.

Climber wearing crack climbing gloves, adjusting how they fit

Above: Jules getting ready to jam at one of the Academy clinics.

What did you learn from clinics at the Academy?

One of the clinics I did was about crack climbing, and I now have a lot of exercises to do to keep getting better in this area. I learned how to jam my hands in different angles, how to decide if you go with your left or right hand, if you go thumb down or up and how to see the best part of the crack to jam in. Lots of mini tricks that’ll help me to become way more effective and precise.

“Part of my Academy experience was to have fun climbing – to do some top roping, focusing on the people I was with, the views and the quality of the rock.”

Anything you’ll incorporate into your climbing right away?

One takeaway was more on the psychology side of climbing. Moving forward, when a training session goes bad and I just feel incredibly weak, I think I’ll pause the training for another day and try to have fun instead. Usually, the fun in climbing for me is to climb hard things and be exhausted at the end. But seeing so many people at the Academy who love climbing as much as me climbing 5.10s or V3s made me want to try to take it easy sometimes. I’ll never be a World Cup climber – I started too late in my life – so why not try to be a little more patient and enjoy it even more?

Outdoor tent with strings of lights and a crowd

Above: Climbing and clinics were just one part of the fest. Film screenings, gear booths and live music rounded out a jam-packed schedule.

“My favourite film at the event was Free as Can Be, the story of how Jordan Cannon (an upcoming trad climber) helped big-wall legend Marc Hudon free climb Freerider at 63 years old, while Marc acts as a mentor for Jordan at the same time.”

What caught your eye in terms of gear at the event?

The most impressive was the ultralight climbing ledge by Grade VII, it’s absolutely nuts! They also do some great haul packs. If you plan to do some big walling, seriously look at what they have to offer. I also tested Camp ultralight ice axes – pretty impressive.

Plus, I discovered Midnight Lightning, a company that tries to be the most eco-responsible possible. They have climbing chalk sourced with sea water and distributed in a plant-based packaging. Their Chalktopus was the cutest thing I saw at the entire festival.

Finally, Arc’teryx showed us their new idea of repairing jackets with new colourful panels instead of sending a new one to customers. It’s better for the environment and it makes your old jacket filled with memories even more unique.

Jacket with labels showing all the potential parts that could be replaced

Above: Arc’teryx ReBird booth, showing ways to turn well-loved gear into even more well-loved gear. Photo: Mirae Campbell.

Did you ever think climbing would become what it is now?

When I started climbing a few years ago, I was impressed by how many people were in the gym. I’d never really heard about this sport, and I was surrounded by at least a hundred people on a Tuesday afternoon. During the pandemic, it got even bigger. Now if you want to climb in Montreal on a weekday evening, the gyms are almost always at maximum capacity. I think it’ll just keep getting more popular.

Jules climbing up route in Squamish

Above: Jules taking a break from Quebec climbing to get to know some Squamish rock.

What advice would you give to new climbers?

A lot of climbers start in the gym, and no one cares if you’re a beginner. Don’t hesitate to climb your V1 or V2 in front of V8–V9 climbers. When I started, I was really intimidated by the better climbers, but now that I’m at the level of the people that scared me, I can assure you that you won’t bother anyone while trying your V2. In fact, it’s exciting to see someone new trying hard to accomplish his goal. Have fun.

And if you shift from indoor climbing to outside, lower your expectations. It can be very frustrating to climb only V2 outside while you can climb V6 inside. It’s normal – just have fun with your friends.

“I think indoor bouldering will grow faster than any other type of climbing. You need a pair of shoes, chalk, and you’re good to go.”

Favourite climbing shoe?

I climb 80% of the time in Scarpa Dragos, because I mostly boulder indoors and they’re the best shoes for that in my opinion. I also think the best shoe out there right now is the La Sportiva Solution Comp. You can do anything with them and nothing compares to them in overhangs (my favourite). You can push hard on the smallest footholds and it feels so easy. (Note: here’s a similar La Sportiva model available on mec.ca)

Most legendary route in the world, in your eyes?

Action Directe, the first 9a climbed in 1991 by Wolfgang Gullich. Just the fact that he invented the campus board to climb this thing shows how advanced he was in comparison to the other climbers of his generation. Also, the crux of this route is absolutely ridiculous, and I think it’s one of the most legendary routes in the world for a reason.

Jules looking out into cloud-covered valley with mountains in the distance

Any goals you have in mind?

I dream of completing Action Directe for sport climbing and Off the Wagon for bouldering. I also dream of being able to compete in the Canadian championships and just to climb around to world to see what nature has to offer.

Thanks, Jules! We’re pumped you were able to experience the Arc’teryx Climbing Academy.

Like the sounds of being an MEC staffer? Field experiences and doing the things you love outside are just a few of the perks. If you’re passionate about the outdoors – we’re hiring.

Top photo: Mirae Campbell


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