Climbers’ Forum Augsburg 2017

Back from Augsburg, gear dried and tidied away-ish, tower back in Wales.

The question, So how was Augsburg? always leaves me a bit stumped, as it is such an overwhelming event in terms of interaction with people, impressions and inputs and can therefore not be answered in a sentence or two. It takes a while to process and I suppose the answer would be enriching.

On the bright side? Set-up day on Monday was to sunshine and blue sky. For the record I have added above what will probably be one of the few pics you will see of the tower dry this year. In view of the weather forecast I deliberately went for a sunburn, just because I could. The rest of the week was a mix of driving rain and snow. Which is a bit of a spanner in the works if you are trying to run an event with takes place at least in part outdoors. Umm.

Thanks to Vito for the rain impressions below… other photos provided by Knut and Puk, thanks to them also.

Interesting fact: after last year’s event, during which we had one day of dodgy weather, Chris said that there might well be a year in which we had weather for all three days. Nice one, Chris, for an accurate prediction of 2017.

We also faced a number of challenges with speakers dropping out at short notice and a number of other improvised fixes…

Yet the fact remains that the program was fantastic, with a number of remarkable presentations. I was especially touched by Peter Vergote and Jo van Bouwel’s Passion Before Fashion presentation, which discussed the mindset with which one approaches a climb. The presentation started off with a sketch of two climbers with a very different approach to working a tree trying to set up together – featuring treeGONG! Made my day. It ended up with a a capella rendition of H2O’s What happened? The presentation was witty, funny, through-provoking and totally authentic. And best of all, it was so engaging that it successfully cleared the slight residual fuzziness caused by the Climbers’ Forum party the evening before.

Then there was a major session regarding the use of non-certified PPE. This of course was a pretty hot-topic, in view of the current ban in a number of European countries of a number of devices used for SRT work positioning. There were representative there of German market surveillance, a notified body and health and safety. It was a full-on two and a half hour session with high attendance, I was really impressed by the way people stuck with it. Gerhard Quanz who works in market surveillance described the legal framework in very clear and concise terms, which I thought was very helpful, hearing it from the horse’s mouth, so to say. He emphasised how it is not so much a matter of what you want, certain things are simply a legal requirement when it comes to class 3 PPE. Carsten Beinhoff and Wolfgang Schäper, representing professional health and safety organisations backed this up with a number of concrete examples, both good and bad. This caused quite an animated discussion as the question then arose as to what leeway there is when self-configuring systems and assemblies. This discussion needs to continue, but it was certainly a starting point that offered a lot of food for thought.

One of the demos on the tower discussed moving loads from A to B, running through a number of possibilities to rig not just vertically but also horizontally, from very simple, lobbing a throw line over the limb to then pull in a rigging line with which to manoeuvre the limb, to zip lines, speedlines, highlines or load transfer systems. Initially I thought we might also do some load measurements at the anchor points, but actually this more than filled the 45 minutes! Some impressions below…

These were but three of the talks and demos of three days jam-packed. Add to all this the trade show, the Climbers’ Forum party, the many meetings and discussions with friends from all over the world… and you end up with something pretty unique. In case you are quietly kicking yourself for not having made the trip, there is always the possibility of attending next year, which by the way is going to be the 20th anniversary of the Climbers’ Forum, so be prepared for something rather special! The dates are 24 to 26 April 2018.

Start planning now!