Wow, just wow. What a year! Cannot deny it has kinda been all over the place. Got me feeling a bit like smashed avo on toast from an over priced Tashas. Our typical avo snacks isn’t the only thing that has been over priced. From fluctuating petrol prices and an indecisive power supply it hasn’t been the easiest year. But there has been a constant golden thread that has kept everything tied together, and that is the vibe the people have created at Friends and Allies.
The start of the year pretty much marked the beginning of our second year as a facility. Yes I know, at the start of this year we were only about to turn one. We hit the walls climbing after a long deserved break. Of course, we had a birthday party. Perhaps you have forgotten? But it was a true celebration of the little climbing community we have all created. Climbing and community is at the forefront of our minds and with that a new spray wall was set. Definitely learning from our first edition this wall was more inviting throughout and definitely flowier. The year is looking ripe for the taking.
It was also around this time that Chris Cosser and Mel van Rensberg raised over 100k for the Emgwena climbing club in Waterval Boven. They did it in kind of a thuggish way where people could bet or donate on how many laps the two of them could climb Snapdragon (29), a pretty iconic route, maybe even one of the best that Boven has to offer. They climbed the route a total of 57 times in 12 hours.
As I said, the year is looking ripe. FA as a gym has a goal of raising the level of climbing in South Africa. Maybe not quite to the level where you and your Tjom can climb Snappies 57 times in 12 hours. But let’s aim for a quarter of that;) We found at TIA 2021 that people climb their hardest and the most when there is a little friendly competition around. And so we introduced a new type of bouldering league. Queue the Friends and Allies Fables.
The FAF boulder league. Sjoe, there has been a lot of talk about FAF, many blogs, many Blocs and many hours competing in the league this year. In sum, it has truly been a transformative boulder league. Giving people a continuous flow of hard competitions throughout the year. Six to be exact. It was a league that got people psyched, climbing hard, roaring with excitement and screaming with optional shirts. The goal was to get people climbing hard, and climbing a lot. We wanted people to wake up in the middle of the night with the forearms cramping in a T rex like position as they let out a baby bird squeal as if it was falling from the nest for the first time. Did we achieve this goal? Only you squealing birds out there can confirm.
The FAF boulder league stretches the year all the way through to September. But let’s jump back to April where we headed to Mpumalanga for the Mayhem Mountain Festival. This festival has got some legs. And each year it has grown and matured beautifully. A festival of mainly balancing on your legs, walking a piece of one inch webbing high above the Boven valley floor. There was definitely some character building here. Not only in this wild medium of slacklining and climbing but it also rained…a lot. But it takes alot to dampen our spirits. This year was a special festival. It was the first year we charged for people to be there and use the gear, with more structure to the fest including yoga, running and a bunch of workshops. It was incredibly heartwarming to receive the support to pay for such a fezzie as all the money is going back in to support the longevity of the fest so that we can do it again, again and again!
There is no doubt that we are grooving in a pretty male dominated scene. And there is nothing better than watching the females operate this space and just lay it down. The We Move Up gatherings this year was not something that was planned at the start. But have really taken off. After the success of the first event, it was evident that there is something really special here and not too long after decided to do another one. So much so, next year we are planning on doing a few more.
Tjoms in Arms is kind of our big event of the year. A boulder comp based on bringing the community closer together. All our events share that same pillar but this is kind of the pinnacle. This year was just… damn, it was indescribable. It really was like nothing we have ever experienced. It was like all the good adjectives thrown into a snow globe and then shaken up. That is what TIA 2022 was. You better believe that this is going down again next year and we will be doing everything to make this unforgettable event even more unforgettable.
In and amongst all of this hoorah, we were also nominated as one of the top 100 most innovative companies of the year. Don’t mean to brag but that is really cool. A nice confidence boost to remind us that we actually are doing good.
Sjoe, these little year end summaries are really an emotional ride. There is no doubt that we have all felt that it has been a pretty tough year, but looking back how tough was it actually? We are all part of one of the tightest communities I know, a place where we do good and feel good. It is something special and we are forever grateful for all the homies that form this community.
Keep safe over the festive season and we look forward to sharing another year with you.
Wes and the FA team