The shape of things to come

The Shape of Things to Come: a warning from History

Climbing looks like its getting more popular.  Its now being considered for inclusion in the Olympics: although running behind Squash.    But what would the future be like if climbing actually entered the 'mainstream'...

Here are my predictions

1.  Climbing hits the big time worldwide after becoming the most thrilling 'minority' event in an otherwise tawdry 2020 Olympics, characterised by drug-cheat scandals and uninspiring 'big player' gamesmanship.  In the post-Olympic analysis, the phrase 'well, the climbing was big success' is repeated over 400 times on camera, by 47 different Olympic officials.

2. Record numbers of advertising deals are struck during 2021 by a feverish advertising industry.  At one point it is estimated that everyone in the UK who has climbed 7c+ has been offered at least a Nike Goodie bag in return for saying the word 'Nike' while climbing.  One relatively unknown climber manages to secure a £10,000 a year contract despite only climbing 6b+ indoors.  He cancels the contract after 4 weeks when he feels 'too pressured to perform'.  No one ever speaks to him again.

3.  Coaching expands massively across the UKs climbing walls, following the FIFA model 'From Child to Competitor'.  Nearly anyone can find a job coaching, as demand vastly outstrips supply.   Pushy middle class parents drive up property prices near climbing walls particularly in Sheffield trying to queue-jump their offspring into the 'best' walls.

4.  As the climbing community is unable to cope with demand, coaches from more mainstream competitive sports are recruited.  A traditional climbing ethos of personal improvement and non-conformist uncompetitiveness gives way to a 'results based' model.  New climbers are now more likely to be motivated by fear of their parents' and coaches' disapproval than authentic desire to climb rock.

5.  Scarpa is bought by Reebok, and Walmart seals the deal on Cotswold, Mountain Warehouse, Ellis Brigham and Joe Browns, although this is later quashed by the Monopolies Commission.  Alpkit, after winning Online Retailer of the Year for the 19th year in a row, is bought by Tesco, following the mysterious deaths of its founder members who all suffocate when accidentally stitched into a taco-style bouldering mat.  Tesco, missing the point, open a series of Alpkit Stores and the brand is dead within a year.

6.  Retrobolting of Britain's trad-routes is finally completed by Spring 2032, as Elder Statesmen Sir Leo Holding MBE and Field Marshall Neil Gresham, V.C. DSO and Bar, symbolically insert the final bolt into Indian Face (regraded to 7A+).  With this event, trad climbing becomes officially illegal in the UK.

7.  The coaching bubble officially bursts as the economy flatlines - completely unpredictably - after a collapse in the sports- and leisure-wear market caused by reckless overlending by unregulated banks.  In the capital, homelessness trebles, as traumatised climbing coaches 'street-bivy'.  
8.  The 2032 Quito Olympics, in a echo of 2020, falls flat on its arse.  The olympic climbing event is tarnished by persistent rumours of cheating and lacklustre performances from the athletes.  On the winners podium there are gasps surprise as the Austrian Silver Medallist appears to have been shot.  It later emerges that sub-dermal helium balloons pop due to the altitude.  The Olympic committee take eight months to decide this constitutes cheating.

9.  The one redeeming highlight of the 2032 Olympics is the newly accepted Slacklining event.  Olympic officials use the phrase 'well, the slacklining was a big success' over a thousand times in post event interviews.  Ratchet-strap sales triple overnight.

Words of warning indeed.  Lets see how many come true!


  1. You forget the "Cool Running" type climbing film featuring the team from the Flat Land !

    1. That would be a silver lining: but who could replace John Candy?


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