Drooling Over Tooling - Report

The Scottish Tooling Series indoor climbing competition is underway and pulling in the competitors writes Fiona Russell.


Posted: 23 November 2012
by Fiona Russell

Louise Humphries in dry-tooling indoor action at the latest round of the Scottish Tooling Series. Pic credit: Paul Diffley, Hot Aches

If it's winter, it's ice axe season, right? Even if you're climbing indoors in the case of the Scottish Tooling Series, which pits tooled-up climbers againt a series of specially set competition routes - warning: don't try this at your local climbing wall without asking very, very nicely first...

Fiona Russell reports from the second round of the series in Glasgow.

The 2012 Scottish Tooling Series looks set to be the best yet as the second round came close to being a sell out. On Saturday (Nov 17), 55 climbers competed at Glasgow Climbing Centre.

Now in its sixth year, the four-part contest has grown year-on-year and organisers are delighted that the competition is continuing to attract a good mix of different ages and abilities.

On Saturday climbing was very competitive but still friendly as children, men and women attempted the routes set by expert climbing leader Pete Hill.

Following the usual format of the STS, the qualifiers see climbers paired off to complete a range of 15 different routes in as good a style as possible. The challenge variety was excellent with a mix of pumpy roofs, sketchy face routes, technical rock-over slabs, powerful boulder problems and even an “in the dark with a headtorch” tricky traverse.

One climber was overheard saying: “The routes are really awesome. So imaginative. I just hope I get time to try them all.”

On the day, the numbers of competitors were so high that there were queues at many of the routes and a race to beat the clock to complete all the challenges.

What is dry tooling?

Not everyone will be familiar with the somewhat bonkers looking sport of tooling. With arms extended by ice axes and feet clad in grippy shoes, akin to ballet-style pumps, climbers attempt to ascend routes on indoor climbing walls.

In fact, dry tooling is a discipline of climbing rock that is more often utilised outdoors on rock – and was developed because there are times when climbers need to move from ice, where axes and crampons are most useful, to sections of rock face.

On the rock they must be proficient at finding the right nooks, crannies and holds to make secure moves while still using the axes and crampons. And like so many winter sports, the discipline has been turned into a competition mostly in an indoors arena.

The scores on the doors at Glasgow

After hours of hard-fought climbs, the various classes including Junior boys and girls, male and female Adults and male and female Vets progressed to a final play off.

The finals were held on the steep and powerful main leading wall. The route started with a short traverse, then a pumpy log move before launching up an overhanging headwall past a variety of thin hooks, steinpulls and balancy sequences. 

The Junior Boys event was won after a powerful performance by Tim Millar, of Glasgow, improving on his second place from Round 1 in Kinlochleven.

Emma Powell took the Junior Girls title, despite still recovering from defending her title at the Battle of Britain bouldering competition the previous week. 

Amy Goodill and Louise Humphries put in very strong performances – although both taking spectacular falls from the headwall – coming 2nd and 3rd respectively in the Adult Female finals.

But an impressive display from Fiona Murray saw her reaching a few metres higher to win her second 2012 STS round in excellent style.

In the Adult Male finals, Pete Holder pinged off a small hold part-way up the headwall and so took 3rd place, while Scott Grosdanoff topped out to huge applause to take second place, which was an excellent improvement on his 4th place at Kinlochleven.  

It was left to the powerful Steve Johnstone to beast his way up the route, topping out (as Scott had done) in impressive style and to yet more applause. 

There was a moment’s pause while the judges confirmed Steve the winner as he’d scored more points than Scott in the qualifiers.  

To complete the prizes, Susan Jensen took the Female Vet prize, and Simon Yearsley the Male Vet prize.

Second in the Male Vets was first-time tooling competitor Gordon Lacey, of Glasgow. He said: “This is my first go at this series and I am loving it. Having the chance to use ice axes indoors is brilliant – and I’m enjoying the challenge of trying the routes and seeing how I can do against other climbers.

“The atmosphere is also very friendly and I don’t feel out of place, even though I have never competed before.”

The series continues over the next two weekends, with the Aberdeen round on Saturday November 24 at 9:30am. The 2012 series concludes with the final event at Glenmore Lodge on Saturday December 1. In addition, climber and Alpinist Will Sim will present his excellent lecture, High and Dry.

Simon Yearsley, who runs Big Tree Campervans in Perthshire, says: “Since its inception in 2008, one of the hallmarks of the STS has become the overall style and feel of the events. Yes, it’s about competing and trying to win, and it’s about getting fit and strong for the coming winter season, but the series has always fostered a real feeling of friendly competition and an excellent community spirit. 

“The cheers and supportive screams that encouraged the finals at Glasgow on Saturday were summed up by one watching competitor as ‘good crowds, good craic, good crankin!’. It’s a great event.”

STS Glasgow results board

Junior Boys
1st – Tim Millar
2nd -Andrew Halliday

Junior Girls
1st -Emma Powell
2nd -Sophie Fichett

Female Vets
1st -Susan Jenson
2nd -Judith Foster

Male Vets
1st -Simon Yearsley
2nd -Gordon Lacey

Adult Female
1st – Fiona Murray
2nd – Amy Goodill
3rd – Louise Humphries

Adult Male
1st – Stevie Johnstone 
2nd – Scott Grosdanoff
3rd – Peter Holder


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Scottish Tooling Series, ice climbing, dry tooling
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