Songs For… Climbing | We Asked The UK’s Best Climbers What Music Is On Their Playlist
With the help of some big name climbers, we’ve fixed your local wall’s biggest problem: its sucky music.
Imagine this: you’ve just spent the best part of an hour turning your fingers into bloody nubs after failing to send an absolute pig of a problem at your local wall, with every missed hold only adding another can of Lynx to the desperation fire raging inside you. Then imagine this: it comes together. You leap. You swing. You reach. You. Nail. It. And best of all, your climbing partner Dan was filming the lot. “An epic moment in my ascent to full-blown Honnoldism has been documented,” you think, proudly. “Better feed this to my precious Insta-nest of hungry little followers, stat!”
“Why must I hear Mr. Brightside every time I crush my toes into my climbing shoes?”
And then, imagine this: you hear it. You play the video back, and BANG (or rather, WHAM), there it is. You turn up the volume, just to force the red-hot iron poker of realisation a little deeper into your gut. Out of your sending tunnel-vision and back in the clear light of day, you hear what you hadn’t heard before: the greatest achievement in your climbing adventure so far… has been inadvertently sound-tracked to ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’. Suddenly, your twenty-nine seconds of glory look, sound and feel a lot more like a segment from a ‘Welcome to Centre Parcs!’ promotional video.
No. Wait. In fact, don’t imagine it. Unimagine it and watch it. Watch exactly that whole thing, right here.
It happened. It happened to me, and it could happen to you, too.
Look. Climbing to music is, inarguably, good. Really good. Need to psyche yourself up to send a real gnarly bicep buster? On goes the hard and aggro rap. Need to engage your brain and find some focus for a super technical bouldering problem? Hellooo, ambient trip hop. And c’mon, let’s not pretend: an epic soundtrack is very, very important for making that Instagram vid of you leaping up a V4 ten percent sicker, too.
“No song has lyrics that better sum up the experience of travelling to Scotland in the winter to climb than Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones”
So it begs the question: why must the soundwaves of almost every indoor wall I’ve visited be kinda, like, crappo? How does non-descript landfill indie always seem to find its way onto the speakers at the exact moment I’m desperate for some aural sending support? Why must I hear Mr. Brightside every time I crush my toes into my climbing shoes? And who the hell put Wham on?
Reader, it needs to change. So I’ve taken action. Climbing walls of the UK, I implore you to make note of the following feature. I’ve jumped down the earholes of ten of the UK’s biggest and best climbing names to dig out a collection of 29 indisputably awesome and proven effective songs, that you could – and absolutely should – whack over the speakers immediately so I, and the great climbing public, never have to endure a post-send Wham Slam ever again…
LEO HOULDING, pro climber and first Brit to free climb El Capitan in Yosemite
“When I’m training, I tend to listen to a lot of techno mixes. More often than not, that means putting on one of Stockholm DJ Adam Beyer’s Drumcode podcasts. Aside from that, I’d suggest Beautiful Lies by B-Complex – it’s a dose of classic drum’n’bass that featured in The Asgard Project film I made a few years ago with Al Lee. And then there’s the Ghosts N Stuff by deadmau5 (but go for the instrumental version), and Sister by Me & My Toothbrush.”
MICK FOWLER, award-winning and pioneering climber and author
“For me, no song has lyrics that better sum up the experience of travelling to Scotland in the winter to climb than Satisfaction by The Rolling Stones. Then, on a more positive note, I find Bowie’s The Jean Genie to be a great one for encouraging you to get up and out there – it’s basically a nice active song that tells me to jump around a lot, which I like. Oh, and talking of Bowie, I’ll say Space Oddity too, for no other reason than I like it.”
HAZEL FINDLAY, big wall climber and the first British female to free El Capitan
“Whether it’s to push myself through a hard training session, to get focussed for a competition, or chill out and reduce frustration after an unsuccessful attempt at a climb I desperately want to finish, I’m always surprised by how much of an impact music has on my performance. For example, Get Better by Nothing But Thieves seems to help me ignore the pain of tired muscles and sore skin and makes me fight hard in training. Then there’s Brother Ali’s Take Me Home, which is a great one for feeling confident – I remember having this playing through headphones when I sent my first 8B boulder. On the flipside, being too psyched up can be detrimental to really delicate and focussed climbs, and when that’s the case I go to Glory Box by Portishead.”
JIM POPE, GB Climbing Team member and World Cup competitor
“Living in Sheffield for the last few years, I’ve started listening to a lot more techno – there seems to be strong links between the climbing scene there and that type of music. The slow builds, the heavy bass and repetitiveness are all things that help me get focussed and psyched, and Transient by Mr G does it so well. Then, when I’m feeling destroyed but still have a few sets to go, I go for hip-hop and rap like With That by Young Thug – the harsh snares, deep 808s and aggressive lyrics make me try even harder. But climbing doesn’t always have to be about going hard. When I’m climbing with friends, it’s nice to have something chilled in the background, such as Nervous Tics by Maribou State. It’s relaxed without being demotivating.”
“There’s one song that I always play before a training session or competition to psyche myself up – Hippie Sabotage’s Your Soul. It always takes me to the right frame of mind for going hard. Then, when I need to find that extra ten percent, Tokyo by Krater makes an appearance. Finally, post-sesh, get Verb T’s TheMorning Process on the go. It brings down the heartrate but keeps me feeling positive, even if a climb didn’t go quite to plan or I didn’t perform as expected.”
JEN WOOD, British Speed Climbing champion and GB Climbing Team member
“If you want upbeat and relaxing, but also a reminder of just how much you really flipping want to win, then go for The Winner Takes It All by ABBA. On the flipside, when I just need to channel some pure aggression and regain some fight, I’ll throw ‘Till I Collapse by Eminem down my headphones.”
“You can always rely on Wu-Tang Clan to bring the climbing energy and the hype, and no song more so than For Heaven’s Sake. Suitably pumped up, next I’m going to Kano for 3 Wheel-Ups – it always makes me dig deep and pull out those last scraps of energy from my reserves. Finally, a banger from a legend in the UK music scene: Shenanigans by D Double E. “Them man come like Ian Beale, us man move like Grant and Phil.” Say no more.
“I listen to a lot of break beats and techno when I need to get pumped for a climb, and deep house for something a little more chilled. It’s real hard to pinpoint exact tracks, but Get Up by Stanton Warriors is one of the few stand-outs. I don’t normally climb dangerous routes to music, but I was listening to this when I tried to flash Muy Caliente – the only E10 to have ever been attempted in that style. I was so stressed before starting it, that I needed a way of turning off and just going with the flow. And it helped. Another track? I’d say, The Man With The Red Face by Laurent Garnier. It’s classic Garnier tech-jazz-whatjamacallit!”
MICHAELA TRACY, international climber and former Bouldering World Cup finalist
“Am I even allowed to recommend a song like Hit Em Up by 2Pac? I’ve got a real weakness for diss tracks – they really make me laugh. Even if I’ve had a long day, I’ll be bouncing around the gym if this is on. Then, if it’s a grey day and I want to completely forget where I am for a while, I’ll get State of Me by DJ Metatron on. I find it really hypnotising, maybe because it reminds me motoring around the UK for climbing trips in the summer. Finally, let’s go with Now You Can Pray by Imperial Black Unit. I love this kind of driving techno for when I need to get motivated for tough workouts. I first heard it on a mix I used to listen to during almost all my competition rounds, and it never failed to psyche me up and make me push really hard.”
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