Another Sad Day For Climbers Worldwide

Social media algorithms can really slap you in the face sometimes. This afternoon, I pulled up Instagram and the first picture on my feed was one from David Lama. Earlier this morning I had awoken to the news Lama had likely perished in an avalanche.

Climbing is synonymous with danger, risk and the potential for death but as a boulderer, I’m largely removed from this. Many of those I climb with, or follow the exploits of, needn’t consider their sport as a significant risk to their life. However we all still fall into the category of “climbers” and next to none of us will go through our career without losing someone to the sport we love.

While I don’t know of Hansjörg Auer or Jess Roskelley, there is a kinship that means their loss is still keenly felt and my deepest condolences go out to those who knew and loved these athletes. David Lama, though, I knew much more of.

I first came across him as a very young climbing prodigy in a climbing film. He was cross discipline, winning competitions and bouldering hard from very early on. His focus moved to alpinism and despite the occasional controversy, I always admired him and wished him all the success many thought he would have.

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😥 . . . . . Portraits by @_claytonboyd_

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It is apt, really, that social media has been the catalyst for this reflection. The ability to publicise one’s achievements has meant we can feel closer to people we have never met than ever before. A tragedy such as this reminds us of those close friends we have lost over the years and can make us question our own mortality.

Whenever there is a death in climbing, it will always bring some to question our motives and the potential cost that comes with our efforts. The game Auer, Roskelley and Lama were playing may be so different to the one I play but that does nothing to reduce the sadness that three more of our climbing fraternity have been taken by the very same mountains that give us all so much joy. May they be remembered fondly and with the respect they deserve forever more.

Again, my deepest condolences go out to the friends, families and climbing partners of these great men.

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David lebte für die Berge und seine Leidenschaft für das Klettern und Bergsteigen hat uns als Familie geprägt und begleitet. Er folgte stets seinem Weg und lebte seinen Traum. Das nun Geschehene werden wir als Teil davon akzeptieren.⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Wir bedanken uns für die zahlreichen positiven Worte und Gedanken von nah und fern, und bitten um Verständnis, dass es keine weitere Stellungnahme von uns geben wird. Vielmehr bitten wir David mit seiner Lebensfreude, seiner Tatkräftigkeit und mit Blick Richtung seiner geliebten Berge in Erinnerung zu behalten. ⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Die Familien von Hansjörg und Jess schließen wir in unsere Gedanken ein⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Claudia & Rinzi Lama⁣⠀ ____________________________________⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ David dedicated his life to the mountains and his passion for climbing and alpinism shaped and accompanied our family. He always followed his own path and lived his dream. We will accept what now happened as a part of that.⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ We appreciate the numerous positive words and thoughts from near and far. Please understand that there will be no further comments from our side. We ask you to remember David for his zest for life, his enthusiasm and with a view towards his beloved mountains. ⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Our thoughts are with Hansjörg’s and Jess‘ family⁣⠀ ⁣⠀ Claudia & Rinzi Lama

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Flying High

Now that our fantastic family trip is done and dusted, it’s time to turn my attention back to climbing; this is primarily a climbing blog anyway. More to the point, i have exciting climbing related news.

Exorcising Lake Demons

My last five posts related to our family holiday to the Lakes, which was awesome. One day was dedicated to climbing for me, with the tribe chilling around the base of the Bowderstone and while i did talk about it in Restoring Parityi wanted to quickly revisit this as that day has turned out to be quite a turning point for me this year.

The plan was always the Bowderstone; after all, this was somewhere that potentially could’ve transformed my climbing when i lived in the north west, if only i’d actually tried. However, the reputation of this mammoth boulder is well established and i was conscious that if i didn’t play this right, i could easily end up leaving with nothing.

Eagerly anticipating this once in a long time chance, i’d spent substantial time before we left watching videos of ascents on the stone and knew what i was heading for: Picnic Sarcastic 7a+. It was about the right grade for a session with a 7b sit start to go with it. I honestly didn’t think they’d both go but it seemed like the most tactical approach i could take.

As we were ahead of the new guide, i was conscious of struggling to find the right climbs too. Thankfully, i made a friend who pointed out much beta, as well as where lines started and finished. He even offered a crucial spot too as i soon found myself matched on the last hold, my mission accomplished. From here, it was almost as if the pressure was off and before i knew it, the sit had fallen quickly and i was looking for something else. Still wanting to be tactical, i opted for another 7a+ (or so i thought, it turned out to be 7a) Statstick and promptly flashed it. I finished off with a questionable tick of Power Pinch 7b to fire me into sheer bliss, even if the finish could’ve been cleaner.

It just goes to show the importance of tactics, even in a non-competitive activity. It really did make a crucial difference and this whole experience has even spurred me into writing an article for my sister-site Prowess Coaching, which will hopefully appear very soon.

Finding Form and New Lines Back Home

As i said in my recent posts, this was our only climbing of the trip so once we got back and i was supposed to be back on study days, i used the “holiday” excuse and headed out again. Well, i say that, i wanted to but Tuesday fell by the wayside, due to last minute changes of plan and visiting friends, so i ended up tidying my desk, the house and then having a late night swim.

I’ve been back in the pool a bit more recently, especially when Em was away and i’m finding not only is it great cross training, because it’s so intense for an hour, it works out quite nicely with the family. What i didn’t anticipate this Tuesday – as much as the sessions are normally quite tough – was the brutal hour of medley i had in store. That meant that when i went to go out on Wednesday morning, the ache was a bit worse than i would’ve wanted.

It turned out not to matter. Indecision reigned supreme but there’s always logic if you look hard enough and given the recent dry spell, and the cool conditions, i figured i’d check out Super Hans 7b in the Aberglaslyn while it was likely in good nick.

It seems my Lakeland form is continuing and Super Hans fell quickly. After my sluggish start and slow walk in, i didn’t have that long but it was plenty enough to tick off this project from last year. Chuffed, i started looking for what to try next…

Dogface 7c looks much more likely than i’d thought before but i wasn’t in the mood to start working that, especially considering what i’d spotted to the left: to the left of the sloper of Super Hans is an enormous sidepull and left of this is L’Edge. It seemed logical to link them.

To my surprise, it worked! Feet are scant and i ended up doing a ludicrously awesome Egyptian in the middle of the climb before a very tentative snatched match of the sloper. I filmed the first ascent in poor quality and tried three more times to repeat it. I couldn’t get it a second time but i did get enough to splice together a rather nice little video of Doggle 7b (first ascent).

New Years Resolutions?

That first ascent of Doggle was my fourth 7b of the season to sit alongside two 7b+. Combined with a stack of 7a+ this has pushed my yearly average up to 7b by the middle of April. That was actually my goal for the season…

I’m not criticising my goal setting, as again there was no way to anticipate such success in such a short amount of time. The problem i have now is that to push this average up to 7b+ is no easy task. In 2016, the year i ticked Jerry’s Problem 7c+, my hardest ascent to date, my average for the year was 7b+. So this is gonna be tough.

In the Lakes last week, knowing this goal might go sooner than the end of the season, i scribbled some maths to work out how to push it to the next level. Simple answer is it’s tough. Realistically, it would involve climbing two 7c at least and that is no mean feat. Four 7b+ could work, and would be more logical but tracking them down won’t be easy and 7c is far more likely, as weird as that sounds.

Travelling may be key here and as long as i’m climbing at or above that average, it’ll carry on going up. It is also important not to get too engrossed in this either, maintaining a process-focus rather than an outcome-focus (for more information on this, read this but be warned: it seems very biased towards one system and both have their merits).

In the interests of that, and safe in the knowledge that come end of season this will be a success, i’m going to make the unprecedented step of adjusting my season goal. Staying process-focused is important but all those years without these seasonal goals and a little bit of outcome-focus only got me so far.  7b+ is likely unachievable but if the Bowderstone taught me anything it’s that you’ll never achieve any goal if you don’t try. Let’s see how we get on!

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A pad for me to carry, a pad for @emks93… And I'm still very grateful that she carries anything at all. I get a lot of support for my fun and games from my better half and it does not go unnoticed. I'm having my best climbing season in years right now and she deserves a lot of the credit; not only lugging some of my crap around and bringing the family to enjoy the time with me but allowing me the time to go and do my thing alone, congratulating me after a hard ascent and consoling me when things don't go to plan. I can't thank her enough. #lakesbouldering #lakedistrict #lakestrip #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion

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“Ducks are in the water, round and round and round”

Firstly, sorry for the formatting issues in the last post. I’d been using the WordPress app on my phone for these holiday posts and something must’ve gone a bit wrong. Oh well, it was the text that was most important and now, back in North Wales, it’s time to round up the trip, fill in the last few events and have a quick look at how it went in general.

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These guys 😍

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Finding the Gruffalo

At the end of my last post, we’d discovered a neat Gruffalo Trail in Winlatter Forest and followed it through with ear-splitting exclamations from our eldest as she saw each character appear on the track ahead. However we didn’t actually see a Gruffalo statue.

Not ones to leave disappointed, we packed up on the Sunday and went straight back to try and find it. We’d missed the shop and cafe on the Friday too so breakfast was eaten out before we traipsed up the trail again. We ran it in reverse this time and after asking a staff member, crested over a hill and realised why we’d missed it the first time round. If we’d only turned around when we stopped briefly, we’d have seen it clear as day. Oh well, Tess deserved a walk before the long drive back and it offered some closure.

The rest of the day was spent bouncing from place to place, stopping at Booths (yes, again) before taking the A-roads south. Soon enough we found ourselves approaching Carnforth and i swung a sneaky right into Silverdale.

A bit of local knowledge goes a long way sometimes and this was a stomping ground of mine way back when. Mixed with some ducious navigation and arm waving as i suddenly recalled a crag we were driving past, we found ourselves on the edge of Morecambe bay on the most glorious day. The girls even enjoyed lunch on the bonnet of the Land Rover.

The Week in Review

It was a fitting end to a great week that got better and better. I maintain that i can’t be blamed for the weather conditions we encountered but it did make camping just that bit too hard. Don’t get me wrong, if we’d had no choice we’d have stuck it out and would’ve reaped the reward when the weather turned nicer again later in the week. Nevertheless, it just goes to show how you really shouldn’t underestimate how hard camping with kids actually is.

I’ll be honest here and say times were tense, especially in the evenings. Bad weather is always a blight on a camping trip, always a risk you run and can never be predicted. Truth be told we were lucky it didn’t rain on us more as i imagine that would’ve pushed us just that touch too far and sent us home.

From my point of view, the week heralded only one climbing day, albeit an astounding one. That was down to me and i think it was the right thing to do. Having a family forces a lot more compromise and that is exactly what we had and i think it was a fair balance. It was great to climb but to force another day in there would’ve been unfair; the week worked out nicely as it was.

Children have also seen my shoes wear down much quicker, given the amount of walking we end up doing. We did have several good days – walking into Keswick as a bit of a road walk, up Cat Bells, around Derwentwater and around Winlatter Forest – which offer some quality family time. Rosie usually gets to walk large stretches, Hannah rests nicely while we’re out in Happy Mode and of course, it keeps Tess happy and trim. In the the coming years i can envisage us taking bikes too but for now, i’m more than happy trudging for the day.

One major downside is the effect spending a week in the fantastic Lake District has had on my outlook for Snowdonia. They do so much right that we really don’t here; their towns are bustling and thriving while ours are bleak and empty; they have networks of perfectly reasonable paths absolutely everywhere, off the roads while we spend more and more improving the single track in the village while ignoring the bigger picture. I love North Wales dearly, it’s where i’ve chosen to raise my family after all but i really wish the powers that be would open their eyes and look to other areas of the country to learn their lessons.

The mood certainly relaxed too as the week wore on and highlighted to me quite how hard life is at the moment. It was tough with one young child, two is more than double the effort. When camping, that is accentuated and i think it took us a while to relax into the situation. This isn’t me complaining or criticising, it is me pointing things out both for us on the next trip or for others foolish enough to follow our insane example.

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Just the way it should be.

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All told, it was a fantastic family week away and that was entirely the point of the trip. It wasn’t a climbing trip, it was a chance for us to bond and i think our relationship has grown because of it. That said, i’m not itching to do it again that soon. Instead, i might head back up on my own to tick off a few more routes…

“Hungry on a bench”

As someone who has spent the last twelve years working in the retail/outdoor industry and as a consequence has forsaken the typical Monday to Friday routine, it often takes me aback when I’m suddenly confronted by it. Friday night on our site and suddenly the place was busier than a city bar at closing time. On a Friday night…As we returned from our days adventures, a camper van appeared in front of us. As night fell, another couple moved into the pod next door and that’s not to mention the rather large school group that arrived in the field right next to the toilets. I often find groups like that annoying, for no other reason that they forget they’re not the only ones here and this lot are no exception: staff on one side of the only path to the loos, sinks and showers, kids on the other, giving you no choice but to walk straight through the middle of their site. I guess they’ve got safety in numbers.All these people will be doing much the same as us: enjoying some time in the lake District, probably walking the hills and as such, I always feel it unfair to complain about somewhere we want to go being busy. I once read an article detailing why a large number of tourist hot spots weren’t as good as they were supposed to be and do you know the most popular reason? Because they’re busy. It astounds me that people complain that the obvious places they want to visit, because they’ve heard how they’re such good places to visit, attract other people that also want to visit.Our walk yesterday was much the same; a popular and accessible walk up Cat Bells with a throng of other people. No complaints from me, we’ve heard it’s a good walk and so have plenty of others. Sadly we didn’t make the summit proper but we did get up high and the views over Derwent Water were unreal. In fact in every direction, we had a fantastic view, Rosie especially enjoying it from her lofty position in the rucksack on my back…That was fine, for the jaunt up and back down Cat Bells and the bag was easy while she walked a bit along the shores of the lake. But once we decided to get a wriggle on, she seemed to suddenly grow and gain extra weight that wasn’t there at the start. By the time we got back to the car, I was surprised she wasn’t too big to be able to pull out of the bag.Em too was carrying a child, externally this time (a third child, are you kidding me?! Camping with two has been plenty hard enough) with Hannah tied neatly into the sling around her front. Hannah didn’t grow at the same exponential rate as her older sister but the sling did stretch and slew as the day wore on so that by the end of the walk, Em had resorted to practically carrying a nearly-six-month-old in her arms. By the time we were back at the truck, we were both as battered as each other.It had been worth it for yet another wonderful family day and for me personally, looking out over the crags of borrowdale that played host to many of my early ascents (and failures) was quite a nice feeling.And onto the evening. We actually got back at a reasonable time and were able to cook and eat with only a minimal amount of “hungry” chanting; pasta and sauce to compliment some delicious pork and beef meatballs. I know I keep mentioning it but I am really going to miss booths. The rest of the evening would’ve passed even more smoothly, had we not made the mistake of turning the pod into a steamroom.It was by far the nicest evening so far and eased the stress. This morning was much calmer too, as we had a relaxed start before heading into Keswick. We didn’t actually spend that much – a new mug our only souvenir – and a typically family day, pushing Rosie on the settings, an ideal tonic to a frantic week of adventure.That was only half the day though and we finished off our lakeland week going to Winlatter forest. We stumbled across an awe inspiring vista taking a wrong turn to Cat Bells and both enjoy a forest walk so thought we’d check it out. Little did we know it’s a major biking and walking centre and found a lovely pushchair friendly walk focused on the Gruffalo. What a fanatic end to a fantastic week.

Restoring parity

When we arrived here on this rustic little campsite, I noticed three quaint little sheds, or camping pods as they’re called, and I wandered over to have a look. A shed is a good description to be honest: a single empty room in a wood built building with a footprint probably slightly smaller than our family tent. I pulled a face off a mild sneer and repeated my old thought that they’re fine for people who don’t want to camp properly. Last night, as I slightly frantically moved all of our belongings into one of them, I suddenly found the appeal.

If you’re think we’ve gone soft then you probably don’t have two small children. If you do, you’ll totally understand. It cost us one night that we probably weren’t gonna last anyway and an extra twenty quid. After a single night, it was worth every penny.

The fact is, this week, our daytimes have been fantastic but our evenings have been pretty miserable. To combat the draught from that first night, I’d put rocks and turf around the bottom of the tent, to little avail. Now there is no need and while last night was still pretty cold, we can put that down to a combination of having the window open slightly after turning the heating down too much. We are, after all, still learning.

Either which way, it was infinitely nicer and meant we could reflect on the amazing day of climbing I’d had during the day. Back when I lived up here, some fifteen years ago, the bowderstone represented everything I wanted to achieve (in bouldering at least) but was never going to given the ridiculous mentality I had adopted from trad climbing: I climbed V5, I didn’t climb V6 so I had up right to get on them and given the climbs on the bowderstone start at V7, this was not a venue for me.

So much has changed in that time and now I lack the fear to try the harder climbs. Instead, I’m more tactically aware and had spent the week leading up to this researching the best climbs that would let me exorcise those demons. Try too easy and it wouldn’t satisfy my intentions, too hard and risk getting nothing.

I couldn’t anticipate how well this day could’ve gone. After a horrid warm up at V4, I got on Picnic Sarcastic 7a+ as that was the climb I’d been looking at all week. I’d be lying if I said it was a solo effort, as I bumped into a local climber who offered me some invaluable beta; cutting out an awesome cut loose but saving me a heap of energy. As he also offered a crucial spot for the committing last move, I did it and felt a wave of relief after years of regret.

I wasn’t done. The sit start to Picnic at 7b fell much quicker, before I promptly walked over and flashed Statstick 7a. A questionable send of Power Pinch 7b finished the day amid a feeling of euphoria. If you’re gonna have your first success on the bowderstone, this isn’t a bad way to do it!

After a quick look at the delicacies on offer in Booths, we headed back and quickly decided to move house. It meant the lovely looking meatballs we’d bought were put aside in favour of fish and chips in a hurry as we settled into our new abode.

Today is looking like a hill walk in sunshine and more low temperatures. The snow seems to have retreated so I’m expecting a day as good as the last two. Now if we can bring the nights up to that standard, this will be an awesome week away.

On the up

If I gave the impression on my last post that we were struggling and having a tough time of it on our first full family trip, the last 24 hours have seen a significant upturn.

Yesterday, in almost every way, was much better: a lovely day walking into keswick and a much better night. Granted, we still have issues – a burnt dinner, disciplining a toddler and a fussy baby – but we’re infinitely happier as we awake on our second morning.

The first order of business yesterday was to try and get this mess in order. Camping often takes organisation and with two young children, that’s multiplied a hundred fold. That kinda afforded us the opportunity to reset and soon, kids were in the buggy and we were walking the small roads into town. The weather held off and soon we were in a fantastic cafe en route with sausage sandwiches, cream tea and big smiles.

We didn’t stay in keswick long, only to pick up some essentials from Booths supermarket (if you can ever class anything for sale in booths as essential) before reversing our route back. It may not sound like the most exciting day but it was ideal, especially considering our fragile state from the night before.

The evening, too, was much better. Rosie went down with a reasonable amount of fuss and Em “didn’t hear a peep from her all night” and Hannah only woke three times. After realising a fierce cold draught under the fly sheet of the tent, I blocked it off with bricks, rocks and turf. I don’t know how much it helped but we were all much warmer; so I’ll take the credit.

The sunshine this morning further added to the goodwill in the tent; that is until we stepped outside to a biting wind and what I’m assuming are pretty low temperatures again. The hills are still covered in snow, so we shouldn’t really be surprised that it’s still cold but the sanctuary of the heated tent always helps.

Soon we’ll head off to the Bowderstone for what will likely be the only climbing of the week. When I lived here about fifteen years ago, the Bowderstone held an almost mythical appeal, with all the lines on this hardcore bloc too tough for me back then. Ticking off something on there has been a long ambition so hopefully today is the day. Either which way, things are looking up and the family effort is rewarding us nicely.

“there’s yoghurt on the sleeping bag…”

“What am I doing here? Am I insane? Is this insane? We should go home, this is really not a good idea.”

These are some of the things that have gone through my head in the last twelve hours or so. I’m currently in a double sleeping bag, Em asleep beside me and Hannah curled up in front of her after a tumultuous night.

Meanwhile Rosie spent the night in her new little sleeping bag, looking the definition of cute at the bottom of the tent. She slept fine on all accounts. The same cannot be said for the rest of us.

Part of that was certainly the cold. Apparently the temperature hit 0C last night and it didn’t take long for the warm air created by our fan heater to find a new home. Rosie didn’t seem to mind but Hannah was restless (for whatever reason) and I was chilly – incredibly rare for me.

As much as I maintain my opinion that children shouldn’t stop you from doing the things you love – especially something inclusive like travelling and camping – I can’t help but lie here, very still for fear of touching a cold bit of the sleeping bag, and think this an error.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone is perfectly safe, no one is in any danger of freezing or starving or any other ing. Nevertheless, there’s a line between enjoyable and idiotic and as the rain falls steadily on the roof of our tent, Tess continues to be restless in the porch and Rosie repeats the word hungry, all while Em continues her morning slumber, I can’t help feel we’re teetering along it.

So what to do? The girls don’t seem to mind, Rosie bouncing around and Hannah in happy mode and smiling proudly. Tess meanwhile is an old hand at this and as I said before, there’s no concern for anyone’s welfare.

Plus the fact if we did falter at the first hurdle, I doubt we’d actually be able to pack up that quickly, certainly not in the rain. Chances are we’re here for at least another night but maybe that’s a good thing; forcing us to persevere when the obvious thing to do is run home quickly.

Chances are we’ll stay the distance, especially if we can iron out some of the problems – like a pillow that doesn’t hurt and a tent that isn’t in the extreme levels of chaos. Breakfast and, crucially, a first cup of tea since we left the house will improve the mood.

One hour later…

A run to the loo showed we were right to be cold: our tent sits just below the snow line that has engulfed the hills around here. I stared blankly at them for a second, wondering two things: why it couldn’t come just that little bit lower and insulate our tent and why this keeps happening to us whenever we go away at Easter?! After all it was this time last year that I saw, for the very first time, snow in fontainebleau on our family spring trip. There’s no way we could’ve seen this coming when we booked the time off, I think it’s Rosie. Next year I think I’ll take her to the Sudan and make a fortune selling the story to the papers…

Things are looking up, but despite there being yogurt on the sleeping bag and both children complaining of hunger (they’re not actually hungry, they’ve already eaten lots but for big one, it doesn’t include “biscuit” or “chocolate” which is what Rosie really wants. It’s almost like she’ll eat all of other food until the only things left are the ones she actually wants, giving us no choice).

Em has just come back into the tent from outside, exclaiming it’s like a sauna in here, fan heater having been on for a while now. Even Hannah has calmed down, sat on my lap. It seems that all the things that initially got to us first thing are slowly drifting away.

It just goes to show the importance of patience when doing, quite frankly, anything with children. Knee jerk reactions are rarely right and these experiences never come easy; or shouldn’t at least. We’re improving every minute, even if there is still yoghurt on the sleeping bag.

Happy New Year: March 2019

For those who don’t know, my new year runs from when the clocks go forward, giving a much better point of the year for resolutions and goal setting. There is also a Solstice when the clocks go back. For more information, click here.

The news was sprung on me this week that daylight savings time, and with it my New New Years and basis of my entire yearly structure, could be scrapped in the next few years.  However, it is still alive and well, in the short term so despite John Oliver’s disdain at this annual adjustment, i will continue to base my year around this controversial and divisive event.

To be honest, the past season has flown by so quickly i don’t know what i’ve done! In a typical yet weird paradox, last October both seems like an age and a moment ago. Hannah is rapidly reaching six months old, Rosie is deep into her terrible twos, Christmas came and went with the associated seasonal stresses and all of a sudden, i’m frantically trying to think what i could have done in the past six months!

The truth is i’ve done plenty so let’s start there with the usual AW18 review.

Season Review

Firstly, let’s point out that i am busy. Very busy these days. I have two jobs (storeman and climbing coach), two young children and a masters degree on the go, all at the same time. Not content with this, my stores job is seeing me increasingly involved with the new climbing wall; this is part of the reason i can’t remember much from the last season. Remembering my name is sometimes a challenge at the moment, as i’m constantly switching from one intense situation to another. And you know what: i’m thriving.

The old adage of always ask help from someone busy seems to be especially true with me at the moment. The occasional sleepless night where i can’t shut down aside, it seems keeping my brain running at high revs is working well at keeping me involved, engaged and successful.

It’s in part thanks to this that i’ve much more enthusiastic to get outdoors this season, although only in a small part. Much of the credit for this psyche must go to my young colleague, Josh Buttler.

At one point my Instagram feed was beginning to look like a Josh Fan Page – read the comment from @emks93 on the above post – but i tell you what, i’ve had a lot of joy outside with him so far! The Brenin boulder, Milestone, Sheep Pen and even some new boulders have seen the two of us visit in recent times, with little to suggest this is going to change any time soon. It’s not even April yet and i’ve already climbed two 7b+ and that’s mostly thanks to him.

Of course, this wasn’t intended over the winter, or expected either. Winter, for me, is normally a case of going indoors and training and there has been an element of that, primarily intertwined with coaching. In truth, this season was more about getting back to full strength and so far, i’m feeling pretty good about that.

Masters work meanwhile is accelerating along at an enormous rate too, which is very satisfying. Results are so far looking promising too and while i’m cautious not to get too carried away (given my academic track record) i am optimistic i can actually succeed this time. And i’m loving the ride.

Of course, this isn’t close to being the most important aspect of my life and some hiccups aside, i’d say my relationship with Rosie is strong, Hannah is rapidly challenging her for the “apple of my eye” moniker and my wonderful, supportive much better half is doing well and hasn’t submitted to any lingering desires to kill me. Yet.

Jokes aside, for anyone in this situation, maintaining happiness at home while still getting out and achieving one’s own selfish gains is a very tricky balancing act and fingers crossed, we’re doing well so far. The next few years were always going to be more than a little challenging and i’ll be keeping a weather eye on my targets but if the last season is anything to go by, we’re looking more than excellent.

A quick note on format

Previous posts on New Years were getting long, even for me. Annual goals, seasonal goals, it all just got a bit complicated. So this year, i’m going to simplify the page to include only the Previous Season Goals and the Next Season Goals.

Previous Season Goals

  • Climb. A bit. If Possible
  • Coach. A lot. And earn some money from it
  • Learn. A hell of a lot. And keep the pace with the Masters
  • Train. 1 in 5 sessions
  • Complete 85% of the aggregate
  • A trip away without the family in the Spring

How Did It Go?

Climb a bit? Well i think we’ve covered that… Yes, it was wise to be cautious about this back at the end of October and there is no way i could’ve anticipated how well this was going to go but there’s no doubting this is a giant tick in the box. A sensible goal and a resounding done.

Coaching? Erm, less so, certainly regarding the fiscal aspect. I’ve yet to break even on my business so far this year – please do recommend me to anyone who may be interested! – so this can be nothing but a similarly resounding fail.

HOWEVER, this quickly became a conscious failure. Even taking into account my insatiable appetite for work over the last six months, there was no way i could pack everything in and something was going to have to give. It’s turned out to be coaching and that’s fine to be honest. The climbing is going well, the masters is going well, the family are happy and i’m still coaching weekly the the Anglesey Adventure Club so this can wait. The structure is in place to pick this up again whenever the needs arises.

I have learnt though, more than i could’ve imagined. It’s useful too and while i don’t want to keep repeating myself, i’m “ahead of the curve” with my studies. Another sensible goal with another big tick.

Training as a goal is a difficult one to gauge. If his refers to fingerboarding, campusing, that sort of thing, no i haven’t. At all. What i have done is to actually go climbing and given my slightly fragile state post children, this has made all the difference. I’m climbing well, getting stronger and only now aching for half a day after a heavy session, not for three days. That’s a win.

I often say the best training for climbing is climbing and in that respect, this season has again gone well. The indy aggregate has helped and 85% proved more than adequate. For next winter, this may need to be increased to 90% or perhaps a caveat of “at least one 7c” might be sensible but that should be decided at the end of the summer.

Finally, a trip away alone is not on the cards until the summer, when i intend to take the option (Em and myself both have a one week option per year to go away sans family) for the Birthday Tradition. Instead, this week, we will hopefully head North to the Lake District for a family week away. Rosie had her first climbing session last weekend and this will be Hannah on her first camping trip. To say i’m excited doesn’t entirely describe it properly.

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Climbers above; really little needs in this case, on their very first climbing session! Age 2… #startemyoung To be honest, it was more a little scramble-bouldering and some hauling by her mum but still, amazing effort from all involved. As she weighs about the same as a belay device, I wanted something with REDUCED friction so we used a @dmm_wales Anka (an old school figure of eight device) and it worked a treat. For those of you with small children, I think it was better than any typical belay plates and is thoroughly recommended. #northwales #escalada #escalade #grimpeur #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #indoorclimbing @parentsthatrock #kidsclimbing #kids #adventure #activeparenting

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Next Season Goals

It seems i’m selecting the right things to target, even if i am absolutely smashing them. As said above, i’m conscious this may not happen and my current situation is indeed volatile; i keep thinking Stingray: anything can happen in the next half hour…

  • Unassailable 7b annual average grade
  • Re-establish The List
  • Work towards Goal: 8a
  • Train in the Mill/swim for the club again
  • Remember family and masters matter more than personal achievements
  • Write these goals down somewhere obvious

With two 7b+ and three 7a+ already, at time of writing, the idea of  7b average by October isn’t exactly beyond the realms of sensible. That said, it’s also not easy, as that’s at least six 7b or harder and i’ll soon run out of easy options. Perhaps this should be 7b+ but given everything else, this seems sensible. And i can always try and nudge it up next season for the end of the year.

Re-establishing The List is a sensible way of making this happen and one that has fallen by the way side. To be true, i’ve already wiped it clean and re-written it but actually using it and replacing lines that have been finished could be crucial to success.

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Well that was unexpected! Finishing my uni work yesterday freed up my afternoon and after a morning meeting, and dry rock, I found myself in the pit (not the pit of despair, the Pit at the Milestone Boulders). After years of putting this off through fear of the imposing bloc behind – if you've ever been concerned, every effort saw me fall straight down – and despite my spotter bailing on me just as I arrived, I got on Harvey Oswald. Apparently there are two starts: one from the good high hold at 7a and another from head high gastons at 7a+, plus the sit which is much harder. I effectively coached myself up there; pulling on the holds to start, then jump up, then wave at the hold, and so on. Quickly enough, I slapped and stuck the finish! Phil and Chris from @boulderhut arrived in time to film me complete the "locals" start, shown here. And I've got a project to go back for! Great day. #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #northwales #escalada #escalade #grimpeur #rockclimbing #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion

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At the bottom of The List currently is Sway On 8a and this is pegged for next Spring. Keeping this in mind is important and now that i’ve identified a pattern that i get weaker over the summer, maintaining and indeed strengthening this year will determine whether this becomes a feasible goal or not for next season. Utilising the Mill and getting back in the pool will again be important and fits in nicely with family life too.

Finally, I’ve realised that while New Years is superb for goal setting, said goals can easily be forgotten. This season, the plan is to print them and put them pride of place by my desk, to keep me on track. Writing this has reminded me just how well i’ve done this winter. Now i must keep this momentum going. Goal: 8a awaits.

Happy New Year!

In It To Win It?

I awoke this morning, reeling from the most incredible day of sport i can remember, reading page after page about yesterday’s various results, accomplishments and achievments. England saving their blushes with a last ditch try against Scotland to finish with the highest scoring draw in international rugby, Wolves throwing back to their good old days to knock Man United out of the FA Cup, Valterri Bottas pipping teammate Lewis Hamilton in the first Grand Prix of the year. And of course, the Welsh rugby giants humbling the Irish to secure a historic Grand Slam.

And yet, in the farthest corner of Wales, a different competition was taking place – one which made the mathematical permutations of the six nations seem infinitely simple – that caps the end of the winter season for many of the local climbers: yesterday was the Indy Open.

It is the rugby that meant i had a rare day off; recalling the day i’d worked for Josh so i could watch what i’d hoped would be a match half as good as it turned out. That was the plan but as soon as i realised i was free for the Indy Open for the first time ever, i had to go. Every year, i’ve been working on the day of the competition and have never been driven by it enough to take it as holiday. Now, i had chance to experience this event first hand.

The problem for me was that i had other things on my mind. I’d said to a few people, such has been the relentless drive i’ve found to get to the Milestone Buttress to finish the sit start to Harvey Oswald, i’ve only been able to properly relax once it gets dark. So when i managed to escape early on Friday evening, with a few spare hours and dry rock, an ill-advised session on the fiercest of crimps commenced.

It was worth it to be fair, with Josh ticking his first 7a and me a few inches from success but as i arrived on Saturday morning, my fingertips sore before i’d even started on the brand new holds, i did question whether some patience and tactical nous would’ve been a good idea. Age, it seems, doesn’t always bring wisdom.

I managed two hours of climbing, from the four i’d allotted myself before i needed to run away for the match, but with 78 problems to complete, there were warm up lines i’d not done by the time i conceded defeat at midday.

In fairness, i’m absolutely shite at climbing competitions. It took me a while to come to terms with this, and another to realise i didn’t actually care. What it means now is that the pressure i put on myself is reduced, not expecting to actually beat many other people but certainly wanting to do myself proud.

This time i did neither, although such was the scene there yesterday, i cared little. I consoled myself by looking around and seeing at least ten strong local wads who would kick my arse even if i was on form and at my peak. I caught up with old friends i’d not seen all season, chatted with others i’d been climbing with all winter and generally enjoyed a fantastic day. This was my first Indy Open but i am certain it will not be my last.

Aggregate

The Indy Open generally marks the end of the Aggregate competition, and my name sits surprisingly high on the list of competitors. However, as i wonder where i sit in the upper echelons of the Indy elite (not high, those wads mentioned before haven’t been playing this year), i think back to the start of the competition and the goals i set myself all those months ago and how i tried to convince everyone i wasn’t competing as such this year.

Of course, that changes when you suddenly find yourself winning. Nevertheless, this wasn’t the intention, possibly in anticipation of both injuries and time constraints. The goal at the start of the season was to tick 85% of the problems.

Of course, this goal hinged on how many problems were set. The first round got me worried, with three climbs graded 8a or harder making me wonder if my idea was in fact ill conceived. After all, when you’re all competing against each other, it doesn’t matter if you don’t tick something as long as no-one else does either.

Come the end of the season and 354 problems had been set and numbered, meaning 85% is 301 problems. While the final scores have yet to be compiled, i did count up on my last visit and realised i have hit that total, and exceeeded it slightly. A good goal, it seems, and maybe next winter, it should be 90%. Goal setting is an interesting topic and in this context – where the goal is always to climb as much as i can – needs some thought. Still, it’s always nice to hit your targets.

The Indy for the Win Yet Again

The last word has to be to the staff at the Indy. I’ve written before about the aggregate, the staff and this fabulous wall that i am always proud to call my local haunt and yet again, they’ve delivered with aplomb. After a late and slightly rocky start, where i publicly questioned if there would be an aggregate – justifiable considering two of the three full time had recently been away – setting was regular, consistent and of the quality that we have all come to expect.

I’m not a fan of gimmick climbs and in general, these haven’t appeared this season; much to my delight. This is, after all, an aggregate primarily for outdoor climbers training while the days are short and the weather shite. The problems, as usual, match that nicely. I did notice a slight dearth in some grades (mainly 7c) but with me climbing at a different level to normal this year, i’m assuming that’s more me looking rather than them not existing.

And of course, i’ve been taking my kids to the wall too now, or Hannah at least while she’s still small enough not to cause the chaos that Rosie would. It’s impressive how accomodating they’ve been to that too.

So a heartfelt well done and thank you, not only for six months of relentless route setting and putting up with me badgering you and chatting shit but also for a great comp day yesterday. I hope your party was cool and your hangover short lived.

Entering the Age of Aching

I often joke about getting old. I’m 34 and while, if i was a professional footballer, that would be time to start thinking about moving to a lower league club, slowing it down a bit and having one eye on retirement, the fact is i’m not a proffesional footballer. I’m a slightly-above-average participant in a specialist discipline of a niche adventure sport. Even calling myself an athlete is a bit of a stretch.

Nevertheless, youthful exuberance is starting to wane. Where i used to do six sessions a week, now six hours a week is pushing my luck a little bit and after every session, i do feel a bit creaky and achy. I’ve even started showering much more regularly; not because i’m more conscious of my appearance but simply because it helps my muscles relax and recover.

Aging has doubtless been written about ever since people started getting old enough to realise they’ve gotten old. It happens to everyone but for some reason, it seems to feel different when you suddenly realise it’s happening to you.

For me, it’s been a case of tempering expectations and realising new limitations. The overuse injury of several weeks ago was a timely reminder. Having children has had a similar effect too and with New Years a couple of weeks away, coming to grips with my age is especially pertinent.

Not Totally Down and Out Yet

As ascents become harder to come by – either thanks to my failing body or the lack of available time to play – they seem to gather a touch of extra satisfaction. Well, maybe not satisfaction as much, more shock i guess. Either which way, when i do get out and send something, or even have a good indoor session, i end up pulling the same face many of us pulled when faced with a bus claiming £350 million for the NHS. Only without the angry afterthoughts.

Instead, i found myself stood atop the Pit at the Milestone Buttress, utterly shocked at myself. “Hang on, that was 7a+!” was my first thought, closely followed by the popular “i did actually do it, didn’t i?” Yes i had.

What’s more is that despite my earlier reservations about the imposing bloc behind you when you try Harvey Oswald that not only had i overcome my fear but i’d even managed the top out without much concern at all. I’d planned to bail, i’d gone up anyway, which logically was actually the safer option. Nevertheless, logic doesn’t normally come into it with me and scary situations, so i was pretty chuffed to have it finished.

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Well that was unexpected! Finishing my uni work yesterday freed up my afternoon and after a morning meeting, and dry rock, I found myself in the pit (not the pit of despair, the Pit at the Milestone Boulders). After years of putting this off through fear of the imposing bloc behind – if you've ever been concerned, every effort saw me fall straight down – and despite my spotter bailing on me just as I arrived, I got on Harvey Oswald. Apparently there are two starts: one from the good high hold at 7a and another from head high gastons at 7a+, plus the sit which is much harder. I effectively coached myself up there; pulling on the holds to start, then jump up, then wave at the hold, and so on. Quickly enough, I slapped and stuck the finish! Phil and Chris from @boulderhut arrived in time to film me complete the "locals" start, shown here. And I've got a project to go back for! Great day. #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #northwales #escalada #escalade #grimpeur #rockclimbing #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion

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Drawing Inspiration

This idea of aging, (echoed by a recent post by Mina Leslie-Wujastyk which is definitely worth a read, very funny) is reflected in a recent article regarding Inspirational Figures, although that wasn’t what got me writing initially.

We have recently had International Women’s Day and anyone that knows me well won’t be surprised how it got me into a big feminist/women’s rights/equal rights debate in various quarters. This year did change my outlook slightly though, as i realised IWD to be a day to highlight issues related to women, in exactly the same way as International Men’s Day does in November. After all, we all have our struggles, regardless of anything.

However, as much as IWD highlighted some amazing achievements by women in the last year, the next day they were gone. This just doesn’t seem right and i feel people that inspire should be celebrated all the time. So take a look at my article about Inspirational Figures – Females.

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It's #internationalwomensday today and while anyone who knows me knows I'm definitely no fan, the simple fact is I have a lot of girls in my life; females whose lives I help to shape. Irrespective of gender, the stories I've read today have indeed been inspirational. We're teaching our girls to be smart, independent and active, especially outdoors – and that goes for Tess as well. I'll encourage them to treat people as people, not to label them, and to give everyone a level of respect (until they open their mouth at least). And if days like today help to provide motivation for our girls to get out there and achieve something, I'll put aside my gripes and help them as much as I can. #girls #baby #getactive #startemyoung #getout Second photo by @emks93

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The topic of aging appears with the first man mentioned in the Inspirational Firgures – Males article, written to offer balance. Tommy Caldwell was the same age i am now when he climbed the Dawn Wall, and if that doesn’t spur me on, i don’t know what will.

Please do take a look at both articles, via the links in green above.

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