I would be remiss if I didn’t start this blog with: “And what a year it has been…” Despite everyone saying it multiple times this year, it doesn’t make it any less true.
Gearing up for change
Even without COVID, 2020 was always going to be a year of transition for Phnom Climb. Mary and Christoph’s (our founders/owners) departure from Cambodia (to move back to Switzerland) was fast approaching, and the gym’s future was somewhat up in the air. Whatever was decided in terms of ownership and management, transition was looming.
The year started out normal – strong actually. The team had reached a milestone of 100 members in February, and 2020 was projected to be the best financial year of the gym thus far. We also hosted the first-ever Sva Prey Bouldering Competition! This brought together competitors from Thailand, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, not to mention an awesome route-setting team from Malaysia!
March was definitely the turning point!
In the span of 3 weeks, 4 major things happened:
Now, the questions were: What do we do to ensure the gym survives this closure, and what would the team do in the meantime?
Happy, happy summer!
Summer was another drastic 180! In the past, summers were always slower months for the gym given that school programs had ended and many expat families and adults would leave for summer vacation. COVID obviously changed all this, and our summer months were packed with kids coming to climb every day! Our coaches regularly had to double up on shifts!
And now for 2021…
Three closures in one year would make anyone nervous, and I was often asked by our community members: “Are things back to normal?” My response was always to awkwardly laugh-shrug and say: “I don’t know what normal is…I started this job and COVID immediately hit. THIS is my normal!”
But if anything is clear, this was a year of change and milestones - good and bad, often so intertwined you couldn’t tell the difference.
2021 is uncertain - there is no point of reference, no baseline, no crystal ball. We can only continue to work our a$$es off and be cautiously optimistic (aka. realistically hopeful). Moving forward is the only way to go, and we’ll have to wait and see what new milestones lay ahead (alongside a few obstacles...just to keep things interesting)!
Celebrating PCCG's 5-year anniversary in October!
Remember that you can always take breaks on the wall! When you are in a comfortable position (say a good hand hold or balanced body position), let go of one arm and as Tay Swift says, "shake if off!" Then, switch arms and do the same with the other. This is a great way to relief some pressure while you're still on the wall.
Pour un Sourire d’Enfant is a large organisation with educational programs from kindergarten to vocational training in and around Cambodia. All programs are set up to support the schooling of around 7000 students every year, and amongst them, the extracurricular activities program offers different sports and cultural activities to maintain the focus and motivation in school. All connected through the same ideas: teach values while having fun and learning by playing. So when Phnom Climb Community Gym offered us the opportunity to bring a group of students regularly, we couldn’t be happier. We just needed to explain the activity to the children. Easier said than done.
The first reaction of the children at school when told there was a climbing activity was disbelief, followed by curiosity and an endless torrent of questions: what are we climbing? How is that a sport? Is there a competition? Most of the students at PSE were brought up with the bare minimum in the outskirts of Phnom Penh or the province. Climbing when they were small wasn’t really about fun, but rather a way to get a juicy snack from the neighbouring trees.
The challenge is even bigger considering that climbing is such a new sport in Cambodia that it doesn’t really have a proper name. It is normally translated as “going up a mountain” and climbing in a gym is simply “going up a wall”. This cultural gap made the children imagine that climbing was a foreign thing, like running for fun, eating bread and wearing shoes indoors. In order to explain it, they had to see it by themselves.
But as soon as they accessed the gym, their confusion turned into amazement when they first arrived and saw the shining holds and colourful walls, and eventually into admiration when they saw that the place was run entirely by Cambodian youngsters from Siem Reap that grew up climbing mango and cashew trees just like them. This wasn’t a foreign activity, this was for everyone.
It’s been almost a year and a half since the PSE students started climbing and it’s become such a varied group. Most of the students change monthly but there is always the hard core: there’s Vannara, an 11 year old from Sihanoukville that started out of curiosity and is now one of the strongest climbers of the group. She’s used that same curiosity to start other sports back in school and is an accomplished student; there’s Kimrong, a 15 year old from Siem Reap that has a hard time fitting in school and back home and is the most helpful belayer of the group; there’s Mit, a short 11 year old from Sihanoukville who’s built a strong confidence based on his climbing ability despite his size; and then there’s Mon, a problematic 16 year old from Phnom Penh that struggles in school and yet turns into the most disciplined and focused person the moment he stares into the bouldering walls. They’ve all learned to work hard, dedicating themselves every time they put on the climbing shoes and, as Mon puts it: “even if you’re surrounded by people, you’re competing against yourself.”
Do you also believe that climbing can change a life? Talk to us if you are interested in directly supporting a climber! Write us an email or contact us.
Since 2016 Phnom Climb Community Gym has been working together with Chibodia e.V. The older children of the Children’s Home are allowed to go there every afternoon to practice climbing. They were taught how to climb better and learned a lot of skills. The climbing is a really good practice for their development.
It is not only about their physical development. Yes, they are getting stronger and are in good condition. But they also learn things about working together, helping each other and looking out for each other. They have to work together, be considerate, and pay attention to each other, especially when they are safeguarding/belaying each other. During climbing they also learn about how they can solve problems, first to think and then to do something and to be flexible if something does not work out like they thought before. They also learn not to give up when it doesn’t work immediately, but rather try again and again until it works out. So they are learning a lot about themselves and are getting more life skills, which will be useful in their future.
Our children got more self-confidence and knowledge about their strengths, skills and opportunities.
One of our oldest boys also got a job at the Climbing Hall. He studies at school and he works there part-time. So he gets more positive experiences, develops his personality and can learn about the working-life. With the money he gets, he supports his family and also he is saving the money to buy a moto in the future. So he is learning how to deal with bigger amounts of money and how to save money for the future. These experiences can help him later, when he has finished High School and starts to study at the university. Then he will already know how to connect learning and working during a day.
And also a young woman, who lived as a child in Chibodia, works at the Phnom Climb Community Gym. She studies at the university in Phnom Penh and also works there. So she can pay for her own expenses.
During different climbing competitions, they showed their skills and abilities. This also shows the good teaching-quality of the climbing-teachers at Phnom Climb.
Phnom Climb launched its first climbing competition this month. There was everything: Exciting climbs, great contestants, good food and fun prizes!
Tarzan, the guy who swings from tree to tree in the jungle. He is starring in a brand new movie showing in the theaters. To celebrate the opening of the Tarzan Movie in Cambodia, Phnom Climb organized a climbing competition together with Westec Media. It was the first event of this kind at Phnom Climb.
Climbing competitions have been carried out in the following categories:
We are proud of all participants and especially of the winners who have been working hard for their merits!
Another highlight of the event was the fantastic supply of food and drinks from Lot369 (coffee geeks and healthy drinks), Crumbs (addictive cookies) and Trattoria Bello (home made pasta!!)
Also a shout out to all the Phnom Climb volunteer who did a fantastic job. This event would not have happen without you! #Climberslove
Check out the pictures and find more pictures on the Westec Blog
Many of you have already seen our lead and top rope climbing walls. They have been up for a while now. But we were not yet able to open them to the public yet, because they have not yet been tested.
Testing for what? For your safety! A climbing wall is high and climbers are secured with ropes. When a climber falls, a multitude of his bodyweight is forced onto the rope and the safety points. For this we have to ensure that the safety points, where the ropes are attached to, can withstand sufficient weight. The industry standard defines that every safety point (anchor or top rope bar) has to be tested with a static load of 800 kg (1750 lbs).
With AE Consuts, we had a reliable and experienced engineering partner on our side. They helped us with the planning and the welding and the testing of the welds so that we eventually arrived at the point where we were ready for the load tests.
The Phnom Climb team has been working hard to test every safety point. We are excited that every test has passed successfully! This means we will be ready to open our lead and top rope walls any time soon!
This is an interview conducted by the Bouldering Babes from New York, US, with the Phnom Climb Co-Owner Mary.
Read the full article here
Every so often, we’ll interview extraordinary girls doing extraordinary things: this isGirl Crush. This week, we’re thrilled to feature Cambodia-based climbing entrepreneur Mary Lüthy, whose passion project is Phnom Climb, Phnom Penh’s first rock climbing gym.
Mary is super stoked about rock climbing because it builds community, a safe and supportive environment, trust, self-esteem, confidence and perseverance amongst locals and expats climber
BB: How did your love affair with climbing begin? Was it love at first sight?.
ML: In my first year of teaching in NYC, my friend invited me to travel with her to Chiang Mai, Thailand over my summer break. She had some work meeting, so I looked for things to do and found that I could get out of town and go rock climbing with a guide. Besides the fact that my guide was super hot, I fell in love with climbing right away. It felt so natural getting to the top and I loved the views! Whenever I get to the top of a climb, I always take a few seconds to take in the view. One of my favorite places to climb is The Gunks during autumn.
BB: How has rock climbing changed and shaped your life?
ML: I’ve always been quite skinny and felt awkward for my small wrists and long arms. It wasn’t until I climbed that I felt strong and appreciated my body. I love the excitement of finishing a hard climb after working at it and I feel so accomplished! It’s made me more of a risk taker and to take life more lightly.
Read the entire article on the Bouldering Babes Blog
Khmer Times Weekly published this great article about Climbing in Cambodia and Phnom Climb Community Gym by the on the 4th of February 2016.
“If you have the opportunity to go outdoors, you should take it,” Christoph Lüthy tells me when we meet at his Phnom Climb Community Gym on Street 460 in Russian Market. My climbing experience is virtually nil but something about the 2.5 metre-high bouldering wall being scaled by intrepid spider-like forms, the buzz of intent, amicable conversation on the ground, and Lüthy’s impassioned rhetoric move me. Before I know it, I’m signing up for Phnom Climb’s first outdoor trip."
Continue reading here
Hello Phnom Climb Friends. We have FIVE major news items to share with you.
After some unexpected issues, we’ve reinforced the steel structure which means we are now ROCK SOLID. BIG SHOUT OUT to our structural engineer friend Bryce and his team from Advance Engineering Consultants for their expertise and support.
2. OUR BOULDERING WALL IS READY.
In our original plan, we wanted to build the lead climbing and bouldering walls first and then build the top rope walls. Based on the effort required to design, calculate and build up the lead walls, we decided to build our top rope walls first alongside the bouldering space. The lead climbing walls would be added at a later stage.
In order to open the gates as soon as possible, we’ve now attached the wooden panels to the finalized steel scaffolding so, the exciting news is, the panels have entirely been put up and our bouldering wall is READY TO USE!
BIG THANKS to our awesome Phnom Climb volunteers!
3. OUR SHIP HAS COME IN!
It’s true! We’ve received an entire pallet full of climbing shoes, gears, ropes, climbing holds, hangeres, anchors and more! Over 500 kg of climbing awesomeness!Thinking about it… the bouldering wall is ready and the climbing holds are here.
Lets bring it together! Our friends Mathieu and Arnold spent days putting up the first climbs on the bouldering wall! And guess what? It looks amazing!
Why are we not yet open? Because we don’t want you to get hurt. Safety is of utmost importance to us. But quality crash mats are not available here so we’re having them custom-made. This process is more complicated than we anticipated and we’ve had to invest a lot of time investigating the right combination of the available materials, but... the mats are on the way! Also, our space is still wide open. Therefore, we have to install brick walls and shutter gates in the front of our warehouse. Once these things are done we’ll be ready for a soft launch.
A soft launch to a rock solid place!
We’ll keep you informed as to when you can come and try our bouldering space.
Which leads us to our final piece of exciting news...
Yes, we’re launching a crowd-fundraiser campaign on indiegogo!
In order for this campaign to succeed we’re going to need your help.Once we publish the campaign we need you to share it with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, Mail or other Social Media Channels so we get as much attention as possible.
And join us at the Toul Tom Poung Street Fair on Street 123 on Wednesday 16th of September from 6:00pm - 9:00pm. (More Infos here)