Category Archives: Lake District

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.

Motivations

A glorious day was Wednesday last week, not a cloud in the sky, the rock dry as anything and what did i do? I drove fourteen miles and paid £5 to go swimming in an indoor pool.

Every instinct told me i had other, better options. Tess couldn’t come with me, surely going outside would be better. The pass is closer to my house than the nearest swimming pool, it would be quicker. It’s not going to stay dry like this much longer, make the most! Even training in the mill or the Indy would be better strength gain. And still, despite all of these thoughts swimming around my head, swimming was all i could think of. I had to go.

It seems an unknown fact that i used to swim competitively; albeit not at a great standard. I swam on the Masters circuit – not typically a home for the youth of today and while i won a large stack of medals in every colour, that was often as i was the only swimmer in my age group…

Still, for a couple of years, i swam, got strong and found myself in the upper echelons of my local club, often swimming in the fast lane and competing around the country. In 2012, i competed in around half a dozen towns and cities in the UK.

Then, for various reasons including time commitments and apathy, it tailed off and i stopped swimming as much and got back on the wall. The competitions waned and i stopped training, to the point that by the time Rosie arrived, i’d pretty much stopped altogether. Lately, that desire to feel the water encompass my body has been coming back.

And so it transpired that on the perfect day for outdoor bouldering and with a suitable project in mind, not to mention the work that needed doing that i was aptly avoiding, i sacked it all off and found myself with more headwear than clothing on poolside, thrilled at what i was about to do and pondering coaching and participation motivation.

I’d already come up with the idea that i could call my swim “cross training” but even as i thought it, i knew it was an excuse. Still, it’s not wrong and swimming – i mean goggles, swim hat, head down and put some effort in here, not a breast-stroke pootle keeping your hair dry – compliments climbing superbly. Back in the day,  a few swimming sessions would allow my fingers to recover, for example, but wouldn’t let my shoulders become weaker. In fact, it made them stronger and developed antagonists really well.

Do what you want

Not that cross training made any difference on Wednesday: the simple fact was that i wanted to go swimming and with that, it was instantly the most productive thing i could’ve done. Motivation is a major driver for participation.

The fact is there is no point trying to force yourself to do something that you’re not entirely invested in. You’ve got to want to do it.

Granted, sometimes, when it comes to training, you have to really want to but even then, if you don’t want to bother, you’re never going to give it your all. In this case, i was going to gain more going for a swim that i was psyched for than a climb that i couldn’t really be bothered with.

Motivations for participation (sorry for the buzz-phrase) are heavily investigated in academic circles and a major question for many outdoor pursuits centres. After all, it’s important to understand why people actually want to go climbing, for example, so they can tailor their offer to maximise the amount of people they appeal to. However, on a personal level, the message is simple: do what you actually want to do. Most of the time at least.

Time away

All this being said, i’m not about to ditch my rock boots in favour of goggles any time soon; far from it! In fact, i’ve been keeping a wary eye on this weekend for what will hopefully a hugely enthusiastic trip away from home.

The destination in mind is most definitely the Lake District and i am absolutely stoked for it. I’ve been printing off topos, watching videos online and even making lists of kit needed for the weekend. It will be my first trip without Em since Spring 2016 and while i will undoubtedly miss her terribly, and i’ve loved having her company on our adventures, i am really looking forward to some time away to crank hard on some unfamiliar boulders.

It will surely be my last excursion for quite some time, too, with our second child expected at the end of next month.

Not that the planning has been plane sailing. Recruitment has once again proven tricksome, not helped by a poor forecast. It’s also led to a dilemna: there is more rain forecast in the Lakes than in the Peak or Yorkshire. But there is more chance of finding something to climb on the steep grab and pull of Cumbria.

So, do we head where the weather is likely worse with possibly better options in the West, or try and play it safe but risk having nothing at all to go at in the East? I leave in the morning and still haven’t comletely made up my mind.

The current plan is the Lake District, both as crags like the Bowderstone both retain dry lines after rain and the psyche level is higher. Still that may change by the end of the M56. Tomorrow, we find out.

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All thoughts at the moment have turned to next weekend and an upcoming trip to the #lakedistrict. So I've searched through my archives and this is about the only picture I can find that is even remotely related to the #bouldering to be found there at I have! This is a shot of the #langdaleboulders from 2012 and possibly the last time I touched rock in this #beautiful corner of #England. There is a host of amazing #rockclimbing to be found there at over hitherto neglected in favour of the same old places so this time, I am definitely keen for new venues. Currently the forecast isn't looking that promising but such is the desire to get to crags like the bowderstone that we may just go anyway and hope for the best. #lakesbouldering @greg_lakesbloc #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #scenary #mountains #outdoors

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