Changing Times

When Shauna Coxsey pulled on for her fourth attempt at the last problem in the finals of the Mumbai Bouldering World Cup one minute remained on the clock. In previous years, as long as a competitor had started their last attempt when the countdown timer read zero, they could continue for as long as they were able to hold on. Now a new rule change meant a strict time limit of attempts – once four minutes were up, it was game over.

The change in the timing rules animated the competition climbing community. Many lamented what they felt was an unnecessary change to tradition forced by climbing’s inclusion in the Olympics and the need to tighten up schedules to suit TV requirements. At that moment, all that Shauna was thinking about was how to get her right foot, stretched up at shoulder height, to stick on to one of the five grey and back blobs that the route setters had fiendishly arranged on the overhanging wall.

Her first three attempts had met the same fate as the other five finalists so far – back on the crash mats below. If she could reach the bonus hold halfway up the problem she’d win the gold medal. If she could then top out the problem, she’d send the Mumbai crowd wild. But the clock was ticking down unrelentingly.

Leaping upwards and outwards Shauna grasped the bonus hold with first one and then two hands as her feet swung in the air behind her. The clock now read ten seconds to go and still she had four hand and foot moves left. As the crowd got on their feet the timer seemed to be racing towards zero. As the clock read 0.01 Shauna reached towards the last hold. The finishing buzzer sounded, the crowd roared, and she swung from the final hold.

Shauna’s 11th career win meant she’d successfully defended her overall World Cup title but also the manner of her victory had been a triumph for the new timing rules. Despite competition traditionalists’ complaints, the ‘closed clock’ rule provided the ‘X factor’ that every sport craves – tension and drama to the last second of the event.

Change is one of the very few things the modern world can guarantee – our environment, our political and civic institutions, and the technology with which we live are constantly evolving. But few of us welcome change. It tends to be seen as a threat – a disruption to the familiar and the comfortable. But it’s worth considering that each of those changes is an opportunity for something new, different, and potentially better than that which went before.

Climb magazine now faces a big change. This September / October issue that you are reading now will be our final paper edition. Greenshires Publishing, our owners, have been involved with the publication of the best British climbing magazines for over 40 years, from Crags in the late 70s, High and On the Edge in the 80s and 90s through to Climb Magazine today. As one of the editors of those publications – alongside David Pickford, Gill Kent and Neil Pearsons, and Geoff Birtles – I have had the privilege to work with some of the most talented people in the climbing community. Whilst there is inevitably a sadness that I won’t be able to turn the pages of a freshly printed copy of our latest edition, I feel very proud of how Climb has contributed to that long tradition of high quality, insightful magazines at the heart of British climbing culture.

The good news is that the edition you now hold won’t be the last issue of Climb. Our November / December edition will come out on October 1st as a digital magazine, and will be completely free of charge. Yes, you read that right: you won’t have to pay for the magazine. The same high quality writing and photography will be available with just two clicks on your desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile device. The first click will download the Climb Magazine app, and the second will download the latest issue.

The Climb editorial team and publishers have thought long and hard about this fundamental change to the business model of the magazine. For it to work, we need as many people to read the new, digital Climb – which in turn will attract more advertising revenue to pay for the finest content. It’s a risk, but as climbers we aren’t afraid of risk. As on the biggest leads, you have to embrace the challenge to achieve success. Or as Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s co-founder puts it, “In a world that’s changing really fast, the only strategy guaranteed to fail is not taking any risks.”

We’d like to thank all our readers who’ve stood firm with us over the years, and we’d like to invite you on this next phase of our adventure. Spread the word to anyone you think would be interested in the new, free, digital edition of Climb. We look forward to seeing you all back on the sharp end in October.

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