Category Archives: General

For those posts which really are just updates!

Shared Parental Leave: Worthwhile?

So as i mentioned in my last post, i am back to work and am looking at a bit of retrospection on three months of time off on Shared Parental Leave. Was it worth it? Did it make a difference to our relationship? Would i do it again?

I’ll be looking at it in two minds: from a climbing point of view (being as this is indeed a climbing website) and from the view of parenting in general. Throughout i’ve been trying very hard to champion the idea that you can still get out and stay active and debunk the myth that children kill your interests so it’ll be interesting to see how well i’ve succeeded.

First, What Is Shared Parental Leave?

It’s not a daft question as Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is something that nowhere near enough people in the UK know about. Typically, the mother of a newborn will get a year off work, on varying levels of pay. Fathers meanwhile generally get a fortnight.

To even things up slightly, SPL allows parents to, in a nutshell, move the mothers leave onto the father. There are various caveats and conditions to this but in essence, since my daughter was born, i’ve found it easiest to explain it to people by saying i’ve stolen some maternity leave. It’s not 100% accurate but people understand.

In our particular case, we decided that Emily, my partner, would take the first six months off work and then i would take over and take three months before we looked for childcare. The final three months on offer were unpaid so originally we opted not to take them but then, once i was off, we decided to go for it and so Em took the last three months, meaning i got a bit in the middle.

There are many different ways you can arrange the time off to suit your circumstances and it is possible even for the self employed. This has been one of my missions over the course of Rosie’s first year: to raise awareness of this as an option. For more information, there is a dedicated government website on Shared Parental Leave that i emplore you to read.

The Plan At Six Months

As we reached the Great Work Switch mid-way through SPL, i started to get some ideas of what i wanted to do with my daughter on our time off and what i wanted to achieve. For me as a climber, and even more so as a boulderer, and with Rosie not crawling yet, i had the #babyatthecrag circling around my mind: baby play mat for her to lie on and play while i dabble on boulder problems nearby, stopping often to check on her.

The timing was good too, with the release of the highly anticipated North Wales Bouldering guidebook at roughly the same time that we swapped over. Ideal! So much more to go searching for! Still, with so many variables and not much certainty this was going to go well, i opted to stick with places i knew well that would fit what i was looking for.

Company would’ve been great but hard to come by a lot of the time so i figured i’d need to be self sufficient. Sessions would need to be short too, or at least planned to be. An hour or two might be all we could muster between us!

When we couldn’t climb, i was still keen to get out and make the most of being off work with my little one. I was very determined not to spend three months sat in the house, staring out the window, pining to be out and moping as a consequence. So for those wet days, scouting missions to new crags would be the next objective. For this, we could go almost anywhere, within reason.

Did It Work?

Yes, no and kinda.

I’d figured out i needed somewhere with a relatively short walk in, due to the excessive amount of kit i’d need to be carting in there, and somewhere with a decent flat area to leave Rosie while i was on the wall. With me happy to repeat old lines again, our first three targets were Caseg Ffraith, the Braichmelyn and the RAC boulders. All three would be dog friendly crags too.

They all worked a treat, with a steep learning curve. That first session at Caseg Ffraith and i’d opted to leave the baby bag in the car; a mistake i did not repeat! Even so, i had a good climb, got some awesome photos and Rosie had fun being out in the mountains. Tess had a whale of a time too, as she always does when we go bouldering together.

The Braichmelyn was similar although better planned and better executed. Conditions weren’t great for climbing but i couldn’t ask any more from the structure of the session and the whole day was exactly what i wanted.

The RAC was similarly a great little session and a long one at that! Still, Rosie did catch the sun a bit and i learned another important lesson about parenting!

The imposing figure of the RAC boulders – imposing to those that don't know the #climbs they hold. This is #northwales premier beginner venue, with a plethora of low grade lines ideal for those just finding their feet in this #sport – now with all documented on For those of us with more experience, these days, there are a handful of harder lines to be searched out or, thanks to my No Retro Ticks rule and the challenge of repeating everything in the area, a chance to get some mileage in. Despite not doing anything over 6b+ today, 29 problems actually worked as reasonable training on another glorious day in #snowdonia. #babyleave is rapidly becoming #bouldering leave… #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #Bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram @27cragsofficial

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But then the rain came and it honestly hasn’t really gone away enough since for me to have any success taking her out. Where alone you can risk it on those iffy days and bail if the weather turns, i couldn’t take that chance with a baby and all the associated crap in tow – it just isn’t possible to run away in a hurry and keep the offspring safe. I might be determined but i’m not that mad.

It started to get to me a little after a month of outdoor inactivity, culminating in a moan on the blog and a mid-point retrospection following a Facebook debate with an old friend.

I never really recovered, as neither did the weather. From then on, it became solo missions on the occasional baby free day or indoor sessions – for which i can’t thank the Indy wall enough. Without that, i probably would’ve been substantially more surly.

Then came a rash of non-climbing interruptions that were far more important. In short, we moved house and climbing took very much a back seat, albeit for a very good reason. Sadly, #babyatthecrag lasted about a month, although not for lack of trying. And in that time, we honestly made the best of a damp situation.

We snagged one final day out, in great company with Dan Webb and Pete Fagan, at Upper Tier Tremadog which gave the whole time off and out some closure. All told, considering the stories i’d been fed before we started, we’d done bloody well.

What About Time Off With Rosie In General?

I have said before and reiterate now, having this time off with my daughter has developed our relationship so much. I don’t know, obviously, but i imagine it would’ve taken years to get to this point without this dedicated time together.

It’s given me some perspective as to what Em had to do while she was off the first time around and given me empathy as to what she’s doing now. Now i walk through the door after a long day at work with a totally different mindset and i’m happy to grab Rosie straight away and catch up immediately, where before i often just wanted to sit down for a few minutes.

Mostly though, and this may sound bad but hopefully makes sense, i think i love her more now than i would do otherwise. I’ve seen her grow every day into a wonderful little human, as she develops more personality, more emotion and she learns about the world around her.

I’m so glad that, climbing aside, i’ve been able to show her more of the world than the four walls inside the house and i desperately emplore any new parents to do likewise. Please get out with your kids, take them and show them the world as it’s been a wonderful experience that i wouldn’t change for the world.

I’m glad to be back at work now and have some normality back in my life – i don’t think being a stay-at-home dad would suit me that well. But if you took me back to that point at the start of the summer again and asked if i would do the same, there is not a second i would change. Now we can take this experience and grow even more and i can’t wait for the rest of our lives.


Some Reflections on the Last Month or so

My last post prompted a very good and very old (yeah, Dan, you’re old!) friend to call me on some of the gripes i’ve been having lately and it got me thinking: have i been ungrateful while i’ve been off with Rosie?

His original reply:

To be fair pete, and I don’t want to sound like a dick. You’ve got a sweet deal. You’re lucky to spend so much time with your daughter and go climbing when weather allows is a bonus at this stage in the game. Stop moaning. It’ll stop raining soon.

That, in turn, led to a rather lengthy public Facebook conversation between us about me, my attitude and the things i could be doing rather than staring at the rain fall outside and wishing my life away.

And it led to me reflecting on the time i’ve had so far. As with my ideas on New Years, it’s probably wise to look back periodically and if i do this now, it should allow me to make even more of the rest of the time we have before i go back to work. It might even come to affect our relationship after i have gone back!

Our Daily Routine

To start with, here’s some of our daily routines.

Em works one of two shifts on any given day: a morning shift until 2pm or an evening shift that normally starts early afternoon and finishes at 9pm. Personally, i prefer when she’s working mornings and we’ve developed a standard routine on these occasions.

With Rosie being tantamount to the perfect child, we normally get up around 9am, have a bottle and a cup of tea and then wash up from the night before, including her bottles. Then she has a nap while i write, or do house move admin or hopefully get everything ready for heading out later, making a plan based on the weather. Around 1pm, she normally wakes up and it’s lunchtime, with some shmush, finger food and another bottle. Then we’re out.

With me being so easy to please, usually just wanting tea and climbing, the default is always to try and get out to a crag but that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing we do and it certainly doesn’t mean if it’s not possible, we don’t do anything at all. I’ll talk more later about what we have actually achieved so far.

If Em is on a morning shift, normally i wait until she gets home and we normally then do something as a family. Yesterday, for example, was swimming which was awesome and something we all love to do. Walking around North Wales is also a popular option, especially as it keeps Tess, our resident canine, happy too. Sometimes, it ends up being something more necessary than fun-focused, like a trip to Tesco or the other popular one is to socialise with grandparents – we are lucky that both have accommodation of sorts around here and we see them often.

When Em is working and outdoor climbing not an option, there is still a bit of a hierarchy of activities i like to opt for. Both local walls are very accommodating and i have a great relationship with both so an indoor session often works well, and there is another climbing wall on site at work at Plas y Brenin; the latter having the advantage that we get to see Rosie’s mum briefly and our colleagues love seeing the baby.

The next option is normally to go boulder scouting. I’ve found that no level of knowledge of a crag pre-baby can actually tell you whether it’s a suitable venue to take a little one and it’s always best to check with fresh eyes now you know what you’re looking for. And of course, it’s just a walk in the hills really –  a win for everyone.

What about typical baby activities?

As for things like baby club or baby massage, that’s more my problem than anything else. I just don’t feel like i’d be that welcome and don’t actually know when and where most of these things take place.

Granted that’s mostly my responsibility to find out but i’m just not entirely convinced these things are as much for dads as they are for mums. That and why would i do that when i can take everyone climbing, keeping me and Tess that bit happier?

There is a bit of a network of local outdoorsy mums that i kinda know but haven’t really socialised with properly yet. In the interests of some peer social time for Rosie, it is something i know i should pursue but for now, what we’re doing is working and keeping us pretty happy.

Have i neglected the dog?

Erm, yeah probably. Fitting Tess and Rosie into life has proved the biggest challenge for me and sadly, the dog often loses out.

I am conscious of this, hence the hierarchy of activities; it keeps her happier and healthier. At the least, i try and get a walk around the village every day for Tess, so she doesn’t go stir crazy. And of course any baby free time is normally tailored to give my loyal pooch some activity too.

Rosie and Tess have certainly gelled perfectly and have a great relationship, even at this very young stage. Play time with the baby at home often engages the dog too which certainly helps. In a short while, i’m sure they’ll be exhausting each other while i’m washing up.

Has It Worked?

That depends on how you look at it but in the greater scheme of things, yes it has, spectacularly so.

Part of the problem is that i want to be out, every single day. If i can’t for around a week, i get itchy feet and start to think we’re not getting out enough.

Another part of the problem is that my memory is shite and i often plain forget that we got out climbing five times last week and it’s only this week we haven’t done as much. That’s what happened with my last post.

Here’s some figures to go with it: my 27crags ticklist shows 58 new boulder problems since i started Shared Parental Leave – and that doesn’t include a lot of climbs i’ve repeated, that’s just things that weren’t already on the list .

A quick count shows that Rosie herself has been to at least ten venues in North Wales since she was born, either while we were climbing or on a scouting mission. That doesn’t take into account the days i’ve been out without her in that time and that’s just North Wales, so you can add a week in Glendalough into that as well.

On the Facebook debate that prompted this post, Dan said,

For all the support I get from my partner, I can still only climb on average once at weekends, and two or three evenings a month. I tend to get rained off 25% of my days. I climbed a handful of times during my first year as a dad.

That is indeed a bit of perspective! especially as his partner is absolutely awesome. How i’ve done this, i’m not entirely sure but i certainly shouldn’t be taking it for granted.

The Big Important Point

The big huge, neon signed, slap people in the face point i’ve been trying to labour is that you too can get out. If i can do it, you can do it. I’m a barely organised, often unfed and unkept, mess of a human being. People have often said to me before, “i don’t know how you’re still alive” due to my chaotic nature and lack of basic ability to look after myself to others standards. [For the record, i look after my daughter infinitely better and she is perfectly happy and healthy.] If i can get myself sorted to get out climbing, anyone can.

I honesty think that a lot of people – and i don’t mean Dan or anyone else in particular – act the way they think they should when it comes to looking after babies. You’re faced with the fact it’s really hard right from the moment you announce you’re expecting and it really doesn’t fill you with confidence. My dad was the worst for it, telling me i’d never be able to leave the house with a baby; although that may have been a blessing in disguise, as i normally try and prove him wrong with anything he says. So thanks dad, you inadvertently helped.

Get organised, get out. Learn your babies routine and manipulate it to help you. Don’t fall into the habit of being A Parent above everything else – still be you and be a parent as well. Now i’ve looked back, i’ve suddenly realised what the levels of success you can have can be.

A Potentially Interesting/Dull Post About Rock Shoes

This could go one of two ways and i’m hoping it turns out to be interesting! I’ll certainly try my best. Because after many years of climbing exclusively in La Sportiva Solutions, i have recently made the radical decision to try something different…

It’s quite a radical action, for me at least. Even when i was talking to them at local shop V12, the staff member commented that i hadn’t changed shoes in years, such has been my reliance on this particular model. I have had others during that time, like the La Sportiva Futura – a shoe i initially hated but one that grew on me, most notably in Magic Wood back in 2015.

So i thought i’d give some musings on rock shoes and see how it came out. I’ve written an article previously about fitting of rock shoes so i’m not going to go into that here but will discuss some different models, which ones i’ve opted for and what i’ve found so far.

The New Shoes

This all comes from when Sportiva released the Otaki: a new stiff, broad uber-downturned “Performance climbing shoe”. It looked good and when i tried it, it felt even better. (Click that link and watch the video by the way, it’s hillarious at the end).

Problem was that when i went to order some from the supplier, through the small shop i run, there were none in stock and it didn’t look like any would be coming in any time soon. Even checking some local shops i had no joy.

Reluctant to pass up my staff discounts, i decided to branch out from La Sportiva shoes for the first time in many years. The designer from Sportiva moved to Scarpa a few years ago and since then, their shoes have inevitably become very similar. Considering we also deal with Scarpa, they were the obvious choice.

After trying a few on, it came down to a choice between two models: the Instinct VS and the Booster S. After a bit of deliberation, quelling the temptation to get both, i opted for a pair of the latter.

As i expected, they were super small, requiring some help from my other half to stretch them out before i could get them on but when i eventually got the chance to climb in them, they were superb and aided a tricky 7c ascent indoors at the Indy.

Nevertheless, i was still reaching for my old comfy Solutions for most sessions and not really usinng the Boosters. I slowly watched the rubber degrade on them and knew i needed to get the Boosters broken in but the allure of my old pair was hard to ignore.

Then, a few months later, after a bit of forward planning to do with my upcoming paternity leave, i managed to convince myself to stick a pair of Otakis on the latest shop order. The next thing i knew, i had two almost brand new pairs of rock shoes: one stiff, one soft, both a fantastic fit, two manufacturers and a chance to find out more about how the stiffness of your shoes can affect your climbing.

Testing begins: Indoor climbing

As i mentioned, i’d had the Boosters quite a while before the Otaki was added to my repertoire and the precision was fantastic. That said, i hadn’t realised until writing this post that i’ve had them since early March! Never mind.

The first real test was a Mill session where, unsually but not without precedent, i had one of each on, thanks to sore feet. The most notable difference was the precision and the response from each shoe. Soft gave me a great feel for what i was standing on, ideal for smaller holds as i could get a great reaction from them.

What was interesting with these two models was the heel hook move with the Booster, where it performed surprisingly well. The heel on them is less substantial but they molded well onto the hold and despite being a tall throw to a distant pinch, stayed on a few times.

On the bigger holds, the stiffer shoes certainly worked a little better, giving a solid platform for me foot. Granted, digging in deep on a steep wall to get more power from the hold was less likely but with bigger holds, this was less crucial.

Testing moves outside

Suddenly and unexpectedly, i found myself with a last second offer of an outdoor session this week. Suddenly down at Rhiw Goch again for the first time in a long time, i repeated Moria 7b (almost a retro flash) before getting back on with the battle on Nazgul’s Traverse 7c.

The shoes on my feet? The Otaki. I’m not sure why i opted for them straight out of the bag, probably as they are fractionally more comfortable but on Moria the solid heel and ability to power off the small holds came in really handy. However, on the higher holds, where i needed to claw my feet back on, this proved a touch harder.

On Nazgul’s the Otaki performed brilliantly, with much the same issues. The heel was so solid for the cruxy crossover, i almost inverted on the way down and landed with a thump on my backside. However, again, on the more subtle holds on the steep section at the start, i suspect the Booster would’ve been slightly better.

The Vedict (so far)

Even after a short amount of time, the differences are becoming evident. For holds where you want to propel yourself then the stiffer shoes give a stronger platform to launch from. For anything just off vertical, they would undoubtedly be the ones to opt for.

Once the angle gets steeper, and the need to claw your feet onto holds gets bigger, the soft shoes will come into their own, i feel. Meanwhile, when there is a need for precision on a hold, having more response from the shoes could be the difference between success and failure.

However – and this is a very important point – the climbs i’ve tried them on and required both attributes in equal measure. I’ll keep experimenting with them and doubtless soon will try and same climb in both shoes to see the difference but to be honest, i think there will rarely be the perfect shoe for any given climb.

So unless i’m able to keep swapping shoes in between moves, it seems it’s going to be a bit of a compromise. Guess i’ve just gotta get out climbing more and keep testing!

Daddy’s Downfall

After eleven weeks of fatherhood, the tiredness finally caught up with me.

I’d been told this plenty of course but having what many would call the perfect child – she sleeps from midnight until around 8am every night, for example – has meant that the effects of having a newborn in my life snuck up on me.

So many people try and tell you, especially in the lead up to the baby’s arrival “oh, your life is totally different, you’ll give up climbing, it’s all about sleepless nights and you’ll swap chalk bags for nappy bags” and to an extent, no matter how much you try and fight it, they are right. Your mindset will change, your priorities are different now, your life as it was is no more. But does that mean you need to give it all up? Well, that may just depend on the passion you held for your previous life.

For me, since long before even the prospect of having a child came about, i’ve been determined not to let parenthood stop me doing what i want to do; merely adjusting what i do and when to suit my new change in lifestyle. I’m a climber, that is part of who i am and i really don’t want to lose that.

One recent Friday, my weekly coaching session was followed by the usual quick bouldering blast and suddenly, despite my recent successes and outdoor sessions, i found myself struggling on 6s. Even when i did succeed on a 7a or thereabouts, i returned to the mat in a heap, absolutely wiped out. Parenting, it turns out, is actually exhausting.

I’ve done pretty well to date. I’ve managed weekly coaching sessions since she was born, my ticklist includes seven outdoor problems, two of which are first ascents, at an average grade of 6c+. Not too shabby really. One of them was a 7b in a session (detailed in my last post).

The flip side of the coin includes a slight shoulder injury, actually on both arms but more on my left. After a while, i realised that it was from holding the baby…

There are the demands of the family as a whole, as well. I’ve been very lucky to date that Em has been more than happy for me to go out climbing and often, the whole family attacks the crag and chums about at a local boulder. Nevertheless, after a day of tending to a small sqiurmy thing, my other half needs a break occasionally and the prospect of me going straight from work to climb and finally get home 14 hours after leaving just isn’t fair to her.

And let’s not forget one crucial element: i want to spend time with my daughter. While i can – and will, be sure of it – combine daddy-daughter-time with climbing time, if it comes to a choice between the two, she’s gonna win every time. Well, 9 times out of 10 at least. I guess that’s the balance i need to now find.

It is an odd feeling now that it is actually happening to me. The nice thing about being a parent is that generally, you have many months to prepare yourself before their arrival and set your mindset as to how you want to handle things. As a climber, this, for me, includes things like combining these two huge aspects of my life.

What i’m learning now is how difficult that can be. You have to take into account the constant needs of a baby on you – something i’ve neglected to do up to now. They do indeed need your constant attention, your partner needs your help all the time you can spare and it grinds you down, even if, like me, you don’t even realise it.

Girls ♡ #home #walk #mountains #landscape #northwales #slatequarry #dog

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None of this is a complaint in any way. I love having a daughter, Em is fantastic and i am, contrary to what i was told before Rosie’s birth, getting to go climbing every now and again. The reason for this post is more as advice for those in or about to be in a similar position.

Can i go climbing? Yes, it’s possible, nay easy, to get out and do so regularly. Can you do it in the same way you did before? Not a chance, you’d be a fool to try.

Am i going to get up 7c+ any time soon? Not unless i’m really lucky and get the right one on the right day at exactly the right time. But that doesn’t mean i can’t keep getting out.

This period just after the baby’s arrival is a massive shock to your system and you’ll need to be ready. Understand that it’s about small adjustments, not wholesale changes. Bouldering is hugely beneficial in this respect but even then, you will be more tired when you rock up at the crag than you would’ve been under the same circumstances 9 months ago.

But don’t let that stop you, please. And i mean please sincerely. If you still have a passion for climbing, or indeed anything, having a baby doesn’t stop you in your tracks. Trust me, i’m living proof.

So what does change? I don’t know if i’ve mentioned it already but you will, no matter how good your offspring and other half are, be more tired than before. Parenting simply is not easy. It’s totally worth it. It’s almost in the same way as a hard climb that takes time and work. It’ll exhaust you but the rewards are greater for it.

Even if you take the baby with you, unless you’re just going to ignore them and negate the point of having them there, they will interrupt your session. You simply cannot dedicate your time and energy to climbing as intensely as before. This is fine, as long as you take it into account.

Your time will be restricted. It just will. There is no question here, babies are time intensive, it’s as simple as that. So be tactically astute with the time you’ve got. You can’t magic more time from nowhere but if you use it wisely, you can get the best from it. This is the big key. Be organised or be frustrated.

Your energy levels are going to be lower than they were so the idea of pushing your limits starts to change. Grade chasers beware: even for dads, the chances are your top grade will be lower than it was. So embrace it, set new goals, lower your standards slightly and take things from there.

The effect of a newborn on fathers is often underrated (in my experience). Em is off work, at home with Rosie, i’m at work, back to the usual routine i had prenatal. I honestly didn’t notice the baby having any effect on me physically – Em takes care of things and i help when and where i can. I’m not actually involved, my nipples are not in action, why should i be tired?

Well, dads, you will be. Know it and you can work with it. Neglect it and suffer. Know it is possible to carry on your life from before. And for all of you, it’s important for you to do just that. Manage it and you have my utmost respect.

A #throwback to days gone by today: to days pre-baby when my time was only my own and I was free to go and do things like this, #rockattrocity at #parisellascave, whenever it suited me. Those days are gone. Now, I have dependants, I have a family, I have loved ones in my life who have their own demands on my time. The big question is: would I give up this life for the one I had then? Not for all the ascents in the world. Not to climb burden of dreams. I love my daughter and my better half so much, they do and always will mean more to me than anything. Does this mean I'm giving up #climbing then? No chance! What it does mean is a slight adjustment as to how I go about things now. My love for my family doesn't mean any less love for #bouldering It's the subject of my latest blog post (link in bio) and something oft neglected; the effect of a newborn on dads. That balance is coming and when it does, I'm certain things will be better than they have ever been. #northwales #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #activedad

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Progress? What Progress?

Nearly three months since my last post – the longest gap in a few years – should’ve been enough to have something to report on! I had thought nothing much worth writing about had happened but then i started writing and it just got longer and longer… So it’s time for a recap and hopefully a resurgence of psyche. Looking back, some of this is pretty incredible (for me) with some life changing events thrown in for good measure.

We’ll start off with the solitary outdoor bouldering session since, possibly, Torridon back in September last year: a day out at Beddgelert forest at the end of November. An old friend, Ben, who has accompanied me on various trips to Font, got in touch keen to get outside for a boulder. Not wanting to disappoint, i accepted, saying we would decide on the venue at the last minute to pick decent conditions. It was a good shout, opting for Boss Cuvier; a crag i’d yet to explore more than a cursory glance on a wet afternoon.

I’d been deliberately neglecting outdoor climbing all winter, partly due to poor conditions and partly to spend time indoors getting my strength back but i’m very glad Ben talked me into it. It was a great little day with crisp air and gorgeous skies offering us a beautiful sunset as we climbed until dusk. Nothing of any note actually fell for us but the act of getting outside again for the first time in a long time, coupled with spending time with an old friend, were marvelous feelings.

While Gelert forest was catching up with old friends, heading to the Boardroom in Queensferry around Christmas marked new relationships with new people. Em’s brother and i have climbed together a couple of times over the past year but with aforementioned poor conditions, we’d arranged to go indoors while we were both off work.

With James working through their aggregate competition and myself a grade or two stronger, he’d already thought he could ask me on some of his projects although as the session wore on, that became less and less likely. James is indeed a strong boulderer and nailed a couple of problems he’d been trying for a while, one with my help and one without. However, during the warm up, my foot slipped from a hold it really shouldn’t and my knee careered into a ledge-like hold below it, causing me to limp around for the next couple of days. Meanwhile, James was suffering with a migraine and slowly deteriorated to the point where he simply couldn’t climb any more. We must’ve been quite the sight as we left and could imagine some young and impressionable youngster arriving to see James with his head in his hands and me with a major limp, wondering what they’ve signed up for!

Between us, though, we got some impressive ticks. We both climbed hard and admittedly had a great little session, the cost of which may or may not have added to it! More to the point though, spending a day with my girlfriend’s brother is always time well spent, especially as he really is a stand up guy and a joy to climb with.

While these have been a couple of exceptional outings, most of my winter has seen me trying to make the most of my six-month pass at the local Indy climbing wall. I’d signed up for the aggregate competition, as is customary these days and they’d decided to run a Massive Monday Series, as mentioned in my last post.

Last time, we’d just finished the Dyno Comp and two more have gone past since then:

  • Grooves vs. Aretes. This one was my own little suggestion, when they were looking for ideas and with three problems left untouched, i found myself looking at the maths and realising that flashing the last three problems would put me first or possibly second. As an almost direct consequence, i choked, dropped two points on a straightforward 6c and despite flashing a 7a+ failed to finish the remaining problem and finished a lowly fourth. It proved my poorest score and i should’ve done better.
  • Pump Up The Volumes. A comp more in keeping with modern competition climbing, involving involved climbing and some technical moves where outdoor experience counted tenfold. I did reasonably, despite feeling completely wiped of energy, ticking most climbs. Crucially though, one of my main competitors declined to hand in his sheet after what he felt was a poor performance, and that, coupled with double points for the last night, meant i took third and jumped up the leaderboard.

The final scores? After five flash contests, due predominantly to perseverance meant i finished the series in second place! An impressive return considering some of North Wales strongest climbers getting in the mix there.

More importantly, again, it was a stellar series that will hopefully run again in the same vein next year. The points system was, granted, a little complicated but for an inaugural winter series, it was certainly a huge success in my opinion. With time, it should develop into a staple of the North Wales winter climbing scene. I certainly hope so.

Meanwhile, the winter aggregate continues and i still occasionally astound myself by looking at the leaderboard. The next time it is released will be the last and i can only hope that i find myself in the same position i have held over the entire competition: namely sat right at the top.

I think it’s a bit Leicester City, as i’ve mentioned previously, but you can only turn up and climb, you can’t control anyone else and with the end so tantalisingly close, i’m desperately hoping that come the end, i can actually win the competition. Whether i’ve actually been top all season is unclear, as the scores have actually only been updated twice as opposed to monthly like usual, but nevertheless, i’m still up there. There’s not long to go now and while, in terms of training, it’s not had the required effect of getting me back to strength levels of this time last year, it’s been yet another fabulous comp that for once, i’m craving the end of.

To finish off this ever increasing post that started with me saying i had nothing to talk about, i’d like to quickly allude as to why this training hasn’t actually worked that well this winter.

Back in July last year, Emily and i discovered that she was pregnant. It was a bit of a shock but a very welcome one as we both spent the next seven months getting ready for the arrival of our first child. It’s meant less time spending evenings hanging from fingerboards and more time at home, with Em on the Mothercare website.

With a baby on the way, it became quite important to have a proper, finished and functional kitchen in the house. This building work had been earmarked for around this time for two years but it suddenly became more urgent. It was completed the week after Em’s baby shower…

And then, on the 10th February 2017, our beautiful baby girl was born. Rosemary Kirsten Edwards, our little Rosie, was finally here and i have never been more proud, of us or of Em. We’re both very proud parents, both very happy and both coping with the latest addition to our little family very well.

I’ve just said to Em that i may not be at the level i had reached this time last year but to be honest, if i was i think i would’ve failed them both. There’s no way you can support a pregnant lady, a newborn baby, get the environment ready for them and maintain those levels of fitness, especially with a full time job and my priorities have definitely changed dramatically now. Em and Rosie are now firmly the most important things in my life, along with Tess who has coped wonderfully and has definitely not been forgotten.

The challenge now is to balance life between all these aspects of my life. I certainly don’t want to give up bouldering – it is simply another love of my life, to go with these girls here. It’s just dropped down the pecking order in the last year or so…

The future

For many people all around the world, myself included, this has been a very dark week. The clouds had been rolling in overhead and many of us, in the UK, went to bed on Tuesday night hoping for sunshine in the morning. We woke to be faced with a deluge of despair.

My skin had become a little thicker given the events of the summer. I had awoken on my first full morning at the age of 32 to what felt a very different world; one where the ideologies of free travel, freedom to expand one’s mind from different cultures and different peoples was slowly becoming squeezed away. This week, that took on another global form.

Fear of what is foreign seems to be trumping a desire to understand. Back in 2010, i went to Italy, largely chosen because i had a dislike for Italians. Before me lay two options: stand on the border, hold on to my preconceptions and sneer at those i did not know or go, meet them, find nice Italians, broaden my mind. I chose the latter. I can not imagine doing anything but.

Now, today, words – not bad words but words with an inherently unpleasant feeling – such as hate and fear are bandied around with reckless abandon. One can feel oneself shrink back a little, dropping the head slightly, hunching the shoulders at the thought of interacting with people. Political views are the new weather-speak only far more ardently, vociferously and with much harsher consequences. Labour MP Jo Cox would certainly not have felt the same effects if she had announced to a large group of anyone that she really liked it when it drizzled for weeks at a time. Yet political views drawn from scant and biased information are now beholden by all.

In many ways, this is excellent – for people to be considering the world around us, becoming engrossed in political debate is certainly a great ambition for society. To be close-minded in that discussion to the point of murder is more dangerous than i care to think.

I, as many others, awoke on Wednesday worried and concerned. What did this latest twist mean in the repetition of historical events long passed? Was everything actually going to be alright? I flitted through the first four stages of grief, back and forth, worrying for my future, Em’s future, the future of my unborn child. Brexit had helped to prepare me for this mentally (I was much worse back in June, where the bargaining and denial hung in the mind for many weeks and still continue today as clear objectives remain to be clarified) but i was still confronted by worry for that of my loved ones.

I came to work where everyone seemed quiet and distant. The morning passed like any other, with little in the way of confrontation of the subject by persons around me. Then at lunchtime, i decided to take Tess for a brief walk through the woods, much as i did daily for many a year.

The grey skies matched my mood as i collected the dog, walked through the car park and crossed the bridge into the woods. I walked head staring at my feet; my body language an obvious clue as to my feelings.

Then, suddenly, i looked up to see Tess leap and bound along the path. I took in the view, the familiar path, the familiar trees, the same view that has confronted me on that walk so many times.

And it dawned on me: the world is still the same today as it was yesterday. Yes, people who yesterday couldn’t make important, far reaching decisions are preparing to take office but the world itself is still as it was. The woods are still there, the crags and boulders have not suddenly disappeared, the mountains, lakes and valleys that stood proud and tall continue to do so in their usual majesty. We are still creatures of the same planet.

Granted, i know what the cynics will say: we have to do something to keep the planet in tact! And yes, i couldn’t agree more, the world needs to be preserved and is in a delicate balance, at a time where there can be no delay. But does that mean we should fill ourselves with despair? Is that what i need to teach to my impending offspring?

No, i thought, that’s not right. I don’t want my son to spend his life wary of the woes of the world. I want them to take after the dog, leaping and bounding at the joys that world has to offer. I want them to have that inherent love of the natural world that means they feel compelled to try and do what is right.

I want them to have a rounded experience of people of an infinite number of walks of life and a love and trust of people they haven’t even met yet. And i’m not going to do that by telling them these things. They have to learn it on their own.

This isn’t just relevant for my children not yet born: this goes for everyone we meet. Differences are fine; more than that, they are to be embraced! The key is to learn and to teach. To discuss and argue, fairly and with an open mind. With everyone, from everywhere, as many different people as you can. Whether you agree with them is irrelevant, for to dismiss and lambast those you don’t agree with as bigots and fools is to become a bigot and a fool.

Read different sources, seek out the attitudes opposed to your own so you can better understand those who hold them as true. And then go, speak to those people, persuade or dissuade them but understand their motives. Read the Guardian and the Daily Mail and then make up your mind. Never think there is a right answer to anything; merely the best decision you can make with what you have to hand at the time.

I am not defending extreme right wing politicians. I am not standing up for racists, xenophobes or any of the other people with derogatory labels thrust upon them. I am saying that you need to know them to understand them. And once you can understand them, you can go a long way to broadening their mind. But this will only happen once you broaden your own.

The world today is still a phenomenal place. It is filled with more remarkable people than you can possibly imagine. Remember that, treasure that, embrace that and change it with those thoughts in mind. Those are the ideals i will be teaching my children. I hope you teach yours too.

Tumultuity: Part One

It’s been a weird few months in my climbing life, but that’s nothing that i’m not accustomed to. There have actually been plenty of noteworthy occasions, although little to justify a post in of itself. Then suddenly, you look back at it all and realise everything that’s been going on and go, “Shit! Have i done that much?!”

Perhaps not quite as drastic as that, as my Instagram profile will attest but even so, considering my online silence of late, there’s certainly been much more going on than meets the eye.

Big News

It’s always best to start where you last left off, ignoring the recent journalistic post on climbing becoming an Olympic sport, and that takes us all the way back to early July, with Tess still enjoying the France’s Northern coastline. Needless to say, she got back fine and all quickly things returned back to normal.

Well, not really. We hadn’t been back very long before Em decided to try and find out what had been causing the lethargy and illness she’d been suffering with recently. And so it came to pass that i came home from work one day and was told, “I’m pregnant”.

From there it’s been a period of adjustment, excitement, secrecy and announcement. The initial overwhelming nature of such news has worn off and we are both very excited about what now lies in wait for us come February and beyond.

From my (slightly selfish) point of view, things look very good indeed: Em has assured me that this won’t stop me from climbing and i’ve gone from trawling the internet for the best bouldering spots in Europe to best ways to go bouldering with a baby and it’s things like this that show me i’ve found someone truly wonderful. It’s going to be a huge change to both our lives and one we can’t wait to start with.

Summer of Discontent

Maybe it was the huge news or perhaps some seasonal heat sapping out the psyche but since then, i’ve not really been able to get going again. My grade has dropped from working and ticking 7c+ back in March to the mid- or even low-sevens now and this has had knock on effects.

I’m not on form so struggling to find psyche, which pushes down the grade. This means that most of the list is currently infeasible; something which is in itself demoralising. This drops the psyche still further and means even less of the list is attainable and so the spiral continues. It’s a bit of a catch-22: i’m lacking psyche to get on projects and lacking attainable projects to build psyche.

There have been a few isolated days over the summer and a recent week away but never enough to build the momentum needed to come back to full strength. That’s not to say they haven’t been worthwhile though!

With everyone else occupied on Saturday night, it was a case of finally. I finally got my first session on #welshrock since getting back from my trip and I finally got to #climb with Alex from work! We headed to #rhiwgoch with this in my mind: #nazgulstraverse 7c. Considering how out of shape I am, it was a bit optimistic: heading from this first move, bound for the exit moves to the left of shot. Turns out i got to the same spot as last time, failing at the same place. It's here i need to give a shout out to @fredrikfa88. While i was in Gävle. He watched me climb and asked why I was moving as I was. It suddenly dawned on me i was no longer thinking when I fail; merely trying the same thing over and over until it relented. I need to be more clever about what I'm doing and i stood on the floor, going through the moves and had a epiphany: in pointing my toe at the crucial moment! Suddenly i realised what I needed to do to get this. Now I just need to figure out how to do it. Photo credit to Alex Battery #worldclasswales #northwales #snowdonia #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing_photos_of_instagram #meclimbing

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First Welsh session since our return was one i’d actually forgotten about with Alex Battery from work – a man i’d long since said about climbing with but until now actually hadn’t. The venue: Rhiw Goch for an optimistic punt on Nazgul’s Traverse 7c. In truth, it went much better than i’d expected and i began to put some much needed thought back into my climbing. Nevertheless, it wasn’t really followed up with anything until a couple of days in mid-August.

Every year, Plas y Brenin is blessed (maybe an overstatement…) with a new intake of eight Centre Assistants and it’s only a matter of time normally before i drag some of them out for a bit of a boulder. In this case, it was them dragging me out, with Jack, Isaac and Alex offering me an evening at my old favourite, Caseg Fraith.

It was a decent session, much better for the lads than for me as i failed to repeat Boneyard V8 and thought much better than trying to even look at the outstanding project line there – an ambitious 8a. Still, again, always good to climb with new people!

And it was the day after as well. I’d been keen to spend some more time with Em’s family; not least her brother, James so when he got in touch to go for a boulder, it seemed ideal.

Not wanting to plump for the obvious, i mistakenly neglected a trip to Sheep Pen to take us instead to Elephantitus cave. In hindsight, with James never actually having been to Sheep Pen, and the distinct lack of problems to go at, it was possibly poor judgement and one that led to neither of us tasting any success. Nevertheless, James did remarkably well and will almost certainly tick it next time.

And so, other than a brief time killing session on a boulder in Bryn Engan one evening after work, takes us right up to last week’s trip to Scotland.

It was a funny few weeks, only half intended to be a bit of a break and not replaced by any other exercise. It’s cost me a lot of fitness, form and strength and the story isn’t done yet…

Part Two coming soon

Climbing On The Up

It’s been a big week for the sport i love. It has now officially been announced that climbing will, in four years time, be included in the Olympic programme. With a combination of Sport Climbing, Speed Climbing and Bouldering, the sport will soon take it’s place among the elite competitions in the world.

The news has had a mixed reception, though, with many climbers not reacting with the enthusiasm that many other sports ordinarily would. Other changes around the sport have also had a mixed reaction. So what’s actually happened? And why the long faces?

The Olympics and it’s traditions

Let’s start by taking a look at the Olympics. The first international Olympic Games of the modern era was held in Athens in 1896 with only nine sports taking part.  Four years later in Paris, this had grown to nineteen and the games have continued to evolve ever since. In Rio di Janeiro in 2016, the number will return to 28, following a drop to 26 in London in 2012.

The number of sports often fluctuates with each games, every four years. In 2002, The International Olympic Committee put a cap on the number of sports at 28, although that may be due to change, with the five new sports, including climbing, not set to replace any of the existing 28 sports currently about to take place in Brazil this summer.

However, the IOC is set to review the existing sports where “Discussions on the event programme in the existing 28 Olympic sports for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are ongoing, and will be finalised by the IOC Executive Board in mid-2017” according to the IOC website.  Likewise, there is no guarantee that any of the new sports will maintain their Olympic status past Tokyo.

What is certain is that sport climbing, along with surfing, skateboarding, karate and baseball combined with softball with have their chance to demonstrate their appeal to the wider world. With the IOC continually reviewing the programme of included sports, every new sport is gathering excitement at this opportunity.

Climbing’s Previous Inclusions

While competition climbing has never been included in the Olympic agenda previously, there is a precedent of receiving Olympic medals for notable ascents.

In the 1924 Winter Olympics, thirteen members of the Everest expedition from two years previous were awarded medals for mountaineering, despite not reaching the summit, with a further eight mountaineers of the same expedition similarly honoured latterly.

During the London Olympics in 2012, British mountaineer Kenton Cool made good a promise by the original expedition and took one such medal to the summit of Everest. The promise had been made by the expedition’s leader, Lt Col Edwards Strutt to place one of the medals atop the mountain and came among a wave of Olympic interest around the UK as the country hosted the games for the first time in 64 years.

Other medals have been awarded linking the sport and the organisation, although comprehensive records are scant. Most notable may be Swiss couple Gunter and Hettie Dyhrenfurth, who were awarded medals at the 1936 Olympics. Meanwhile, Reinhold Messner was recognised for his achievements in Calgary by the IOC.

These medals do not feature in the official medal tables, though, and Tokyo 2020 will be the first time climbing in a competitive scene will take place while associated with the five famous rings.

What Else Has Changed

In the UK at least, changes had already begun to be made before this announcement. The governing body overseeing rock climbing, hillwalking and other mountain activities, the British Mountaineering Council, recently announced a radical name change to Climb Britain. While these are not officially directly related, many believe the timing of the change was more than coincidental, being only ten days from the Olympic announcement.

The official line from supporters such as Sir Chris Bonington was that the organisation needed to “move with the times” while the BMC itself, on it’s website, states: “The switch to Climb Britain will create exciting opportunities to extend our reach and influence in future years”

The reaction from the climbing community was not particularly welcoming. Many took to social media to object to the change, leading to BMC CEO Dave Turnbull to offer a statement on “the level of interest there would be in our Climb Britain announcement“. Meanwhile, many commentators made the link and further assumption that the changing face of the nearly 72-year old organisation would reflect a similar change in focus.

This has been ardently denied. On a page of “facts” on the BMC website, the response to the question “Is this to get Olympic funding?” the response was thus:

No. This decision is not connected to the Olympic bid – although it has come around at a similar time. The consultation was funded by Sport England who fund grass roots, mass participation and non-elite level sport. UK Sport covers the top end of Britain’s sporting pathway: supporting athletes and sports to compete and win medals at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Nevertheless, for a lot of British climbers, shown through the forums, this is still not an acceptable change for one of the governing bodies.

The Bid for Inclusion

Climbing’s inclusion isn’t from a lack of effort. One such campaign group to be championing the sport has been Climb 2020 who have made it their quest to “raise greater awareness of the sport and unite climbing communities across the UK in support of this Olympic proposal”.

Backing includes many athletes from the GB competition circuit and prominent members of the BMC, although this isn’t much of a surprise, with people such as Rob Adie, the BMC Walls and Competitions officer, who is quoted as saying,

“I thing it’s going to be fantastic project and not only good for climbing communities but a great way of reaching out to people who don’t know much about the sport”

Constrastingly to the Climb Britain debate, UKClimbers seen largely taken with the decision to include climbing as an Olympic sport, mainly not agreeing with the format. There seem to be two areas of discontent.

The first being the inclusion of Speed Climbing, although this may be largely due to the lack of participation in this discipline in the UK. In the US, it seems it is more of an accepted form of climbing competition, bridging the gap between climbing competition and more mainstream sports.

It is also seen by many as more appealing to the general public – something which is obviously crucial to the success of including any new sport in the programme. With speed climbing being described as “a crazy fast time, with a very frantic announcer” by websites such as Action in Solitude and you can see why the IFSC would be encouraged to add speed climbing to the more traditional facets.

The other major complaint is the awarding of medals. Currently, the format proposes medals going to the best competitor over the three disciplines, rather than medals for bouldering, sport and speed climbing individually. For some like Shauna Coxsey, the only British winner of the Bouldering World Cup to date, this becomes a distinct disadvantage, as she eludes to in an interview with the Guardian newspaper. 

“I’m a boulderer so I would have to adapt to compete in the two other disciplines” she is quoted as saying, although points out, “this could be a positive thing”.

Nevertheless, with most climbers these days specialising in one discipline over others, this seems a decision made by those not heavily involved in the sport.

The Rise of Climbing

What is undeniable, whatever the outcome of climbing’s Olympic inclusion, is the rise in profile for the sport. The BBC, an organisation normally overwhelmed with constant news from more mainstream sports, has already started showing more of an interest. After Shauna Coxsey’s recent results, she made headline news. As further recognition, she found herself honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

It is hard to deny that climbing has been on the rise in the UK for quite some years lately; with the IFSC competition circuit gathering momentum, more Brits being involved and coverage available for all to watch. The sport has even begun to infiltrate mainstream life, appearing in advertisements for all sorts from batteries to panty liners.

The growth in indoor climbing has had a further upturn in the last few years, with many more opening up all the time. In 2005, Birmingham, one of the largest cities in the UK, was serviced by a single wall, the Rockface, which closed rapidly and unexpectedly. Now, a little over ten years later, there are at least three, with more within easy commuting distance into nearby Wolverhampton and yet more potentially to be added in the near future.

Not For Everyone

While the new method of experiencing the sport through indoor walls first may not sit well with a lot of the old fraternity, it is becoming an increasingly popular route. There is no doubt that this latest development to a sport that dates back well over 100 years will add more to this discipline.

But of course, the two paths for the modern climber aren’t easy to combine together. One such example is Alex Honnold, who pointed out his lack of desire to become a member of the competition circuit in an interview with Reuters.

He points out,

“It’s like asking an ultra marathoner if he’d like to win a 100-meter sprint. Sure, it sounds cool to win the Olympics, but I’ve already gone down a different path”

Meanwhile, some climbers are able to walk both paths, from back with Jerry Moffat in the 1980s to even Daniel Woods, who stated on his Instagram account:

I started out as a competition climber where numbers and podium finishes were the only thing that mattered. Eventually, I found a love for the outdoors and the competition came from within rather than with others

Whatever your opinion, one thing is for sure: those not taken with competitive climbing will find plenty of solitude out in the crags and mountains…


Further Reading

IOC approves five new sports…

Climbing Going For Gold – BMC

Sport Climbing Olympics Bound! – IFSC

Should I Stay Or Should I Go, The Clash

I awoke on the 24th June in the city of Gavle, at the Northern end of the East coast of Sweden to a sense of doom. My country had just taken the first steps toward distancing itself from the country and culture i have been experiencing for the past two weeks, as well as a futher five countries we are about to travel through on a journey back to a home i am no longer certain i wish to return to. It will turn it’s back on the many cultures and people i have been to see and encounter over the years, from the middle of Spain to the North of Italy and try to make it on her own.

Every culture is different and it is this difference that we should embrace, should learn from and indulge in. The Friday in question was a wonderful example and the closest thing Swedes have to a national day: Midsommer. After a short session climbing at the local crage Troje, myself and Emily had the great fortune to witness and partticipate in a traditional and normal Swedish Midsommer, with pickled herring, Swedish meatballs and various other delicacies.

We played traditional Swedish games, laughed among natives cursing at a mis-placed shot, had a quiz with a very Swedish theme. Our hosts pulled out all the stops to show us the way of their world so we could see and experience it for ourselves. And now my people are saying that we aren’t interested any more. That our way is good enough for us. That you can keep your “foreign” ways and we’ll keep to our obstinate little island all to ourselves. Or that is certainly how it feels.

I love my country. I feel the Great of Britain is mighty but 24 hours after reading the news i was still scared; scared of what the future has in store. Political and economic uncertainty are assured and it played on my mind long after this, not aided by a long drive on Saturday from Gavle to Goteborg, where we now find ourselves. Emily has a small stomach upset and i’ve asked Fredrik (who used to live here) about the local healthcare system. I fear soon, if the system continues in this method, that will not be an option.

The vote was almost exactly split, meaning for every vote to leave, there was one to remain, with a few exceptions totalling around 4% or around 1.2 million people. That’s slightly more than the population of Birmingham. But of course that is not how it comes across. “The people have spoken!” is the cry being touted. Yet my voice was not heard, the losing side and the statistics being ignored. I now find myself having to apologise for my people, while Euopeans look at us bewildered. I find myself being ashamed to be British – not easy away from her sheltered shores.

The weather seems to have matched my mood, although i am fully aware this is pure coincidence. Nevertheless, thunder storms to the West as we drove here and a turbulent wind twirling the world around in circles as we sit on a campsite in Goteborg. We have two nights here before heading South again and into Denmark again.

As time ticks on, the worries ease and the possibility that maybe it is not all bad. But i do fear the experiences such as these may have a time limit – two years from what i read. Two short years to make the most of this while we can. And perhaps that will not be the end, perhaps an accord can be reached where we can maintain the ability to learn from our neighbours and maintain peace throughout the continent. I can only hope.

This week, we will travel past Brussels. It’s tempting to stop on the way past and point out that yes, the people of Britain have spoken but by no means have they agreed. Please do not cast us aside to drift off into the sea. For we are all still people, people who make mistakes or misguided decisions. Half of our populous understand the value of the union. Please do not leave us at the mercy of those who do not.

Lulls and The Battle Against Sweat

I’d been meaning on writing a moaning piece; a wingeing, complaining feel-sorry-for-me diatribe on roasting heat, failing standards and an inability to do what i wanted.

Then i finished work on Tuesday night and left for home. Not thirty seconds out of the drive, i took in the view – one i see daily but rarely stop to appreciate. I saw the green of the grass, the still water of the lake, the crags on the hill above me, even the rust on the barbed wire of the fence that often fails to pen the sheep successfully and thought next week, this will be Sweden. Then just as suddenly, and? What’s wrong with this?

Now Thursday, and i’m a bit lost as to what to write about!

The Negative

I can’t deny that my standards have dropped significantly recently – not three months ago, i ticked my first V10 and now struggle on 7b+ – and, with climbing being my underlying reason for being, have been a little down of late. The problem with all your eggs in one basket is when that basket gets a whole, you’ve lost all your eggs.

Part of the issue is evidently in my head. I’m lacking psyche and commitment; something i alluded to in my last post. This hasn’t changed since then, although i am now a lot more aware of it.

And while i’m not normally one for blaming conditions for poor performance, it has been so ludicrously hot lately that even sitting around at work means bathing in clothes soaked with your own sweat! When even walking in to the crag is a feat of human endeavour, it’s not really a surprise i’m not climbing at my peak lately!

This has also led to a drop in strength and if i’m honest, the idea of mid-summer training in the wall is almost soul destroying. I don’t remember the last time it rained, i should be outside! Making the most of it! Which then leads to feelings of guilt. And this has led me on to a mild epiphany.

The Positive

Truth be told, i took a few weeks off climbing. At first, this was due to a weird niggle in my right arm but then developed into not particularly wanting to go out! And do you know what? The world didn’t end, i didn’t spontaneously combust, nothing happened! In fact, i just found myself enjoying being alive in weather that wasn’t soaking me from above on a daily basis.

I spent more time with Emily, just living (and moving her into the house, progressively) and walking the dog, teaching her to swim. I’ve detached myself so much from climbing these past few weeks, i voluntarily gave up a spare evening alone to faff around the house and take Tess down to the lagoons for some swimming. And it felt great!

Not that i’ve stopped entirely, with two notable sessions. An old friend, Glyn, got in touch to see if i was keen for a blast on Corridors of Power 7c+/8a. With it now being on the list, i thought i’d give it a blast, scout it out, see what it’s like. It was also nice to support a friend on a project.

It went well, although i’m still not strong or confident. Maybe that’s the key for now – find out the beta on climbs while i’m struggling? Or perhaps sticking to focusing on a few is a better idea? Not sure. I do know we had a great evening before being chased away by midge – another issue with summer bouldering in North Wales.

The other excellent session was with Emily. We’d talked about doing more with ourselves and it occurred that a prolonged dry spell like this opens up the mountain crag, Cwm Dyli. It’s not so much the rock that needs to dry out, it’s the approach and as we romped across the hillside, I reveled in the fact the ground was bone dry.

I didn’t actually get much done, and nothing new – the intended V8 being a lot harder to fathom than i’d expected. Far more importantly though was the success Em enjoyed! She flashed her first V1 with relative ease, after some demo and beta from me and then, just as importantly, tried something harder and experimented with different positions and grips. What’s crucial is after failing, she got back up and tried it again.

If you asked her, Emily would say she’s not much of a climber but she does get out there and try things, and is willing to give it a blast every now and again. We’ve only climbed a couple of times together a couple of times but i have been taken by how technically good she is – honestly. I’ve seen much more dedicated climbers struggle to grasp concepts she just does naturally. On our little session, I was very impressed and proud of her and thrilled she’s coming out and joining me at the crag. Even more importantly, she wants to join in and that makes all the difference.

Most importantly of all, i’ve learned over the last few weeks that when the weather is nice, it’s good to be alive. It doesn’t matter that i’m not climbing hard things, it’s just pleasant being here. This is why we live here after all! So that when the weather is nice like this, we’re already here. Going back to our opening sentence, why would you want to be anywhere else?


Not that any of this recent zest for life in North Wales has quelled any of my longstanding wanderlust. My ferry is now booked for Monday morning, 00:50 and from there the adventure begins. It’s a tale of foreign friends and familiar faces, of miles of driving and bouldering all over Southern Sweden.

I’m past the point of nervousness now and am itching to get going. Granted, i have a long and lonesome first stage – driving to Kobnhavn alone to meet Simon – but from there, i shouldn’t be alone much.

There’s a host of venues i’m hoping to hit, for at least a day or two: Kjugekull, Vastervik, Gavle, Stockholm, Hono, it’s gonna be a proper little road trip! But with standards being what they are, and my annual goal of a foreign 7c being done and dusted, i’m going to put a cap on projects for this one at 7b+ to try and stop me wasting time on things i’m unlikely to succeed on. If i can get a brace of 7b, it’ll push my annual average up as it is, and a few 7b+ will push that still further.

But that isn’t the goal for this one. It’s a fact finding tour, a chance to experience some new and cool places, to see some old friends and to generally chill out, recover a bit and have a good time. That starts Sunday night. In the meantime, just rest it out i guess. Oh and pack at some point…