MR for boulderers

The psyche has now gone; relegated through injury to a non-priority, hidden behind a list of other activities and ambitions for the time being. It sucks. I was doing so well and then one moment of stupidity on the gritstone, where i knew exactly what i was doing and did it anyway, and now i’m on the resting list, hoping to be healed enough in time for my summer trip. Even the notion of being better in time to get some training in beforehand is fading quick – now it’s just hoping i’ll be able to climb there at all.

Instead, my focus has temporarily shifted. Those who know me personally will know this isn’t difficult: i’m normally so ridiculously busy with so many other things that just doing something else is like flicking a switch. I’m now back in the pool (great cross training by the way, if you push yourself) at least twice a week, preferably more, which should keep my general fitness up and my shoulders strong at least. It’s amazing how much a few lengths of butterfly can help with your climbing!

I’ve now got a bit more time to spend with my girlfriend, which is always good as i’m probably guilty of not giving her the attention she deserves sometimes; often going through my head just as i’ve paid for another session at the Indy… A few more evenings in, watching films and eating good food will probably help with the rest and recuperation too. It’s also highlighted how much i need to get round to building the small training frame in my back garden to let these two important aspects of my life fit together – an hour on the fingerboards and rings will be much easier than three or four at the climbing wall…

Meanwhile, i’ve been increasing my involvement with the mountain rescue team. Strange as it sounds for an almost-exclusive boulderer to be a member of one of the most mountainous rescue teams in the country, this is indeed the case, although my work on steep ground does need some attention, and now is the ideal time climbing wise to get some mileage on the big mountain crags. An after work session on a big Diff climb in the Ogwen the other night barely tickled my finger injury, with the vast majority of the holds being thank god jugs and if the worst does come to the worst, i’ll just use the other fingers instead.

And that got me wondering: these two aspects of my life are, to the vast majority of people, clearly linked but how much cross-over is there? How important is Mountain Rescue to the average boulderer?

The simple answer is it’s not. I’ve been on the team since March 2013 and in that time, the only connection between us and boulderers was a false alarm (with good intent) for a guy new routing on the coast who i knew from bouldering at Plas y Brenin. That’s it. Most of our callouts are trips and slips or lost walkers with no injuries and you just don’t tend to get boulderers phoning up saying they can’t find the way back to the car…

Does that mean that we’ll never get called out to the boulders for a beanie-wearing casualty? Not at all, the similarity is there in that most of our injured people tend to have leg injuries (a lot of them would walk off with a dodgy arm) and they’re very common among boulderers, finger tweaks notwithstanding. Twisted ankles are an occupational hazard to anyone who does this regularly. When i think of most of the boulders in the Ogwen Valley it occurs that, with a broken leg for example, only one of them has the capability to be accessed by an ambulance and a gurney. Do something nasty at Sheep Pen and you’ll be praying the RAF aren’t busy – getting stretchered out of there would certainly not be fun!

It’s not without precedent, either, although not round here. Back in 2007, at Bas Curvier, Terry, a friend, manage to do just that falling off Helicopter, snapping his tibia and fibula to about 20 degrees. For a relatively simple walkout, it took the Pompiers et al around four hours to evacuate him back to the road – a mammoth 200 yards max. Could that happen to us? It might even happen tonight.

Actually, come to think of it, it’s even happened round here; the only reason MR weren’t involved was because it was at the Cromlech roadside and the fire engine could park next to the boulder to get someone out of the crack he’d managed to get wedged in. They did turn up but more to have a look, much like the National Park Warden and the host of other people that arrived, all trying to keep their smirks and giggles to themselves.

So i guess the point is that Mountain Rescue are crucial to the safety and wellbeing of your serious boulderer. The likelihood of them meeting for real on the hill may be low but when they’re needed, god you’re gonna need them. Maybe one day i’ll be there, on one side of the fence or the other, wearing stickies or mountain boots. I dare say it’ll happen eventually. I just hope i’m not the one with the broken leg! If it’s you though, just remember: chances are we won’t mind when we get there. After all, that’s what we’re here for.


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