Meet Our Founder

04/07/2019

At The Climbing Experience we really want to build a community in which we can all share the climbing experiences we have. That’s why we’ve started a weekly blog; so that you can get to know the centre, the people involved in its day to day running and, when we’re open, the members of our community as well. For our first post we decided to give you a bit of an insight into one of our co-founders, Robert Woods:

I was born in Tunbridge Wells, and grew up in Matfield; living and going to school in the area until I went to university in Newcastle (the geordie one) studying English. However, I returned to Kent and to live with my wife and son, who is now 14 and who has inherited the climbing bug.

I used to do a lot of skiing when I was in my teens and tried to go as much as possible. When I left my first job after university I wasn’t sure what I was doing in life but I knew that I loved being in the mountains; so I packed my guitar and duvet into the car and headed off to Val d’Isere for the winter, returning the next year to do a season in Courchevel. I worked for a company specialising in weekend ski breaks and I had the opportunity to meet some really interesting people. Some years later, I decided to take the next step and take a ski touring course in Monte Rosa, organised by a company called Mountain Tracks. It was here that I met Davide, an Italian mountain guide and now friend, with whom I started climbing.

Before I knew it, they threw me into the world of alpine climbing.

I turned up to my first alpine climb hiking up some fixed ropes to a hut at about 3000mt. We got up at 4 the next morning and started to climb the Punta Gnifetti. About half way up the weather began to turn, the guy I was going up with started to suffer from altitude sickness, everything started to become a little scary, but we collectively decided to push through to the summit. Finally, we made it to the Margherita hut on the top of the Punta Gnifetti and slept there for the night. By the next morning it was clear my climbing companion had developed severe altitude sickness, and a mountain rescue team was called and he was helicoptered off to safety. It was a pretty dramatic introduction to my mountaineering career but funnily enough it didn’t put me off; seeing the sun rise from the top of the mountain was all I needed to spur me on to carry on climbing.

The view from the Nadelhorn with the Weisshorn in the background

From there I began to learn rope technique and I’ve been heading to the alps to go mountaineering and climbing almost every year and challenging myself more and more. Around 2011, I found out that I had rheumatoid arthritis which stopped me climbing and mountaineering for about 5 years, but I’ve been slowly working my way back and my next challenge is to climb the Weisshorn (which has become an obsession of mine) climbing more locally to increase my skill level again. My favourite climbing experience so far would have to be the Zinalrothorn. Each pitch is stunning, and it’s a really long climb, so it felt really satisfying once it was done.

I’d never climbed inside until my son when to a birthday party about 3 years ago, told me it was brilliant so we all went together, and in the car on the way home I just thought building a place like this would give me the opportunity to combine doing the things I love with the change in career that I’d been looking for anyway. After a lot of hard work and waiting, we’re now about a month out from opening and I can’t wait to share The Climbing Experience with you all.

Next week we’re planning to write a piece telling you all about our trip to the World Indoor Climbing Summit in Bulgaria, and what we learned while we were there.

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