Lockdown Stories: Ethan Walker – Mammut Climbing

Lockdown certainly has been an interesting time for the climbing community and outdoor groups alike. However one common theme that we have seen is more and more people using innovation and initiative to keep their hobbies and interests alive!

In this first installation of Open Air’s Lockdown stories, we speak to Ethan Walker, a professional climber on the Mammut UK climbing team. We sat down to speak with Ethan about how he has been keeping busy throughout lockdown and how, despite not being able to climb as he usually would, he invested his time into bringing the climbing walls to him!

“I’ve been climbing since I was about 4 years old, my dad introduced me to climbing and I always loved just being outdoors. I’ve been a professional climber for around 7 or 8 years now and I’ve always loved going camping or going on random adventures wherever I can. I guess it wasn’t until my mid to late teens that I really got into climbing and realised actually this is something I’d love to do as a career. 

I went on quite a few climbing trips in my mid to late teens and was then invited to join the Mammut Climbing Team here in the UK back in 2011/2012 when they were forming a small athlete team to work alongside the European Pro team. Ever since then I’ve been a part of Mammut!

I try to be as good as I can across all of the climbing disciplines, obviously you’ve mostly got bouldering, sport climbing and traditional climbing but I’ve always wanted to be a climber that doesn’t specialise in one, but is able to do them all pretty well. I’ve gone through phases of course, and still have a lot of fun goals to achieve in sport climbing. The UK is really good for having a huge diverse range of rock types and places to go, you can go sea cliff climbing, bouldering in the Lake District or you can sport climb in gyms – there’s always lots to do as opposed to only being stuck to one type of climbing.”

As part of national lockdown, like all other sport and leisure activities, indoor climbing walls were also shut and also outdoor climbing was deemed as non-essential and not recommended so most climbers have not been able to get on the wall for almost a year now.

But that didn’t stop Ethan from bringing his passion into his home…

“About a year ago we obviously first went into this whole lockdown thing and it was a bit tough, we had a lot of trips planned. I had a big trip to Spain planned with some big aims and goals that I had trained for that obviously got binned pretty much the week we were due to go, so that was disappointing, but there’s nothing to be done about it.

I’m fortunate that I live in the Peak District so I’m surrounded by all sorts of rock and the outdoors, so at first I thought I’d be okay, but unfortunately climbing then was considered something people shouldn’t be doing. I hadn’t really got much at home, just a fingerboard at home and all the climbing gyms were shut.

So I spoke to my girlfriend who has quite a large garage so we quickly thought of ways we could use this space so we designed our own wall for the garage using a big board. There’s a lot of building work going on in the climbing community of all shapes and sizes and spaces. We were lucky that we had a huge space, so spent a few weeks putting that together and used it for the rest of the year until we were briefly allowed back out again before the new lockdown.

It’s been amazing really, a lot of my training involves circuit training where you’re going around doing figures of 8 route circuits. So we set our board at 36 degrees so it’s not super steep but you can still do really hard boulder problems. But we also wanted to do fitness training on it as well. Because it’s 12 feet wide and 12 feet in height, it means we can set a figure of 8 circuits or a circle that can be anything up to 40 moves in length so that’s quite a reasonable size route even if you’re outdoors. That was able to keep us really fit, and we definitely felt the benefit when we were able to get back outside briefly in the summer, it made me feel stronger and evaluate how I train.”

We sure are jealous of Ethan’s wall! But as well as being a climber for Mammut, Ethan also works with the brand across their social media channels, we followed up with Ethan to see what other exciting plans both him and Mammut have for the coming year and how you can get involved too!

“A big focus for us is the environment, we want to really go big on that towards the end of the year, we have a programme called We Care that is all about how we’re trying to reduce our carbon footprint. They really want to make sure people are aware that they are not perfect, but are always taking steps to minimise waste and recycle. I know the UK would love to jump on that too!”

In terms of my personal goals, I guess because it’s looking less likely that we’ll be going abroad that will have to be put on hold, but I’m excited to get back out there and travel around the UK again, I’d like to go and explore places we didn’t get to go last year, revisit some places and like I say, there’s so many cool spots to climb in the UK, so just to have a summer trip really.

My number 1 priority though is just to not get myself injured! I always seem to come back with niggles from the garage, but I think that just comes with getting old I guess! But I still have a lot of goals, climbs and routes that I want to do here in the UK so I’m excited to get onto those and see what we can do there!”

Whilst lockdown may have left us all feeling farther apart than ever, Ethan’s story shows that it is clear that incredible adventures and stories are still happening every day! Got a story that you’d like to share with us? Tag us on social media using @OpenAirUK or use the hashtag #ForTheOutdoors for your chance to feature!

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