The annual UIAA Youth Climbing week held in Ariège in the southwest of France is one of the most well known and established camps of its kind.

The most recent edition, held from 7-12 July, welcomed a total of 26 young climbers including 13 from France and 13 international visitors (from Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Romania and Spain)

The camp is organised by UIAA full member FFCAM with the support of the UIAA Youth Commission. Training comes from highly skilled and expert instructors with youngsters learning the intricacies of multi-pitch climbing, dry tooling and canyoning. At the end of the week, youngsters were able to recieve a UIAA evaluation and certificate.

The UIAA Youth Commission is currently in the process of introducing some significant changes to its youth programme with plans to launch dedicated UIAA camps (bringing in expertise from across the federation in the areas of safety, sustainability and training) as well as supporting the promotion of programmes organized by members globally. The idea being that young climbers from across the globe can always find details of climbing programmes taking place nearby or wherever they are travelling.

For the international participants, it was a week to remember demonstrated by the spontaneous testimonials they provided:

Àlex Pubill Rubio, Spain: This has been the best climbing experience I have ever had. Every day we learned new things and we got used to climbing in different kinds of terrain. It was just perfect because every day we had between two and three different options for climbing. The schedule was perfect in avoiding crowded places and to allow to focus on our interests. Having people coming from many different places around the world was incredible. It allowed us to share knowledge and experiences all together and to meet people with the same passion and same love for climbing and mountains’.

Ignas Mačiulis, Lithuania: ‘The youth climbing camp in Ariège has been a very valuable experience. This was actually the first time I got to climb on real rocks, since we don’t have any mountains in Lithuania. This camp offered a very good opportunity for this as it was really affordable and the instructors taught me many things I didn’t already know. I am very happy that we got to do not only single-pitch sports climbing, but also other activities such as multi-pitch climbing, an introduction to trad climbing, alpinism and canyoning. During the camp, I also discovered differences between the gym climbing I am used to and climbing on real rocks. Moreover, both the participants and instructors of the camp were really friendly people and I had some good, fun times being with them.’

Jūlija Popova, Linards Eglītis, Niklāvs Eglītis, Latvia: ‘This event give us an opportunity to try a lot of different various of climbing, such as rock climbing, multi-pitch climbing, trad climbing, canyoning and hiking. We gained a great experience in climbing different and varied routes, made new friends and also improved our language skills. We really enjoyed trying several types of mountaineering, but especially canyoning. This trip was full of emotions, surprises, challenges, experiences and new friends. Everyone is so different, so unique. We felt very comfortable, safe with the organisers. We would really like to go to such a camp again. Thank you for this amazing experience!’

Participants from Malta: ‘We were fortunate to join the five-day UIAA international youth climbing camp in Ariège, the “least populated and most unspoiled” region of France, right at the base of the Pyrenees. The organizers and instructors put a lot of effort into providing everyone with a memorable experience despite all the different age groups and skillsets. Whether someone is sport climbing 5b routes or can climb 7a multipitch, the mountains in the nearby area around the camp had something to offer for each of us. A great deal of thought has been put into the planning, and each day brings a different experience in stunning settings. Participants are given different options depending on their previous experience and skills. During the trip we were able to practice several multi-pitches in beautiful locations, trad climbing, sport climbing, alpine climbing across a ridge and canyoning. The unique location of Ariège mountains made all the activities possible to be conducted. Through all of these experiences, we were supported by several experienced voluntary climbing instructors, ensuring that we felt safe throughout, even when learning new techniques’

Ionut Daniel Papa, Romania: ‘During this camp we experienced many forms of climbing, on different types of rock and styles so that on this whole journey I experienced something new daily and it was nice to do so. I’ve made new friends with whom I wish to meet again, we had lots of educational workshops to learn or to recap knowledge and the whole experience had the feeling of a big family. Even though I was a foreigner,  I never had the feeling of being so. We learned, talked and enjoyed things as one. It was a great journey and I am grateful for participating in this camp. All the staff did amazing work, were caring to participants and fully dedicated to their tasks.’

Photos courtesy of UIAA Youth Commission member Christian Biard & camp participants