Category Archives: Local Excursions

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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In It To Win It?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aggregate

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

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

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

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

The Indy for the Win Yet Again

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

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

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

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

Entering the Age of Aching

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

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

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

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

Not Totally Down and Out Yet

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

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

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

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

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Drawing Inspiration

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raise Your Arms, Say Ow

The last couple of posts on here have been largely philosophical, looking at subjects such as criticism and reflection. However, what i haven’t posted for some time is actually what i’ve been up to!

There’s a reason for that: i haven’t actually been up to much; well not much noteworthy at least. The winter has slowly been plodding along – until you look back and then it’s suddenly flown by – and as we now find ourselves getting into March, i’ve suddenly realised New Years is right around the corner and the aggregate is due to end in a fortnight. In an instant, i’ve had this slap in the face that i need to start thinking about my climbing, and quick before the summer comes and goes before i know it.

The last three weeks have largely been a write off so let’s start with that. Em decided to utilise some of her maternity leave to take a week to visit old friends and family down in the Midlands. To me, that read, “I’m away for a week so you can spend your evenings and daytimes going out playing”. Which i did. A lot.

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#startemyoung

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After what i guessed at about five years absence, i got back in the pool with the Arfon swimming club but shit me, did i pick a bad week to start up again! During what felt like endless lengths of front crawl at full tilt, i calculated 2.2km with about 6 minutes rest in an hour. By the time i got out i was battered. Three climbing sessions were thrown into that quick week too, as well as a run on my rest day. Come Tuesday, i was back in the pool again, for a slightly more sedate drill session, only to hear a pop in my left shoulder and a chronic pain. I didn’t last the set.

Next morning and i was in agony, unable to lift my arm above shoulder height; a classic overuse injury. After a conflab with Tim at the Indy – a well of knowledge on all things strength and conditioning – we reasoned i’d inflamed a tendon in my left shoulder. There’s a big lesson in there that while i used to be conditioned to do day after day either climbing, swimming or something, that ability quickly wanes if not maintained. I’ll try and remember that next time she goes away…

Am i recovered yet?

That was three weeks ago and i have largely been trying to avoid using that shoulder for anything, from climbing to raising my hand in the air. The problem was: how do i know when i’m good to go again?

Thankfully, i’m already at the climbing wall every Friday for a coaching session anyway, and that includes free entry, so it didn’t cost me anything to test it out and see. Well, didn’t cost me any money at least, and i was acutely aware that if i got this wrong, i could be back to square one.

Equally thankfully, in a weird twist of fate, most of the wall was closed off last Friday in preparation for a competition, meaning there was little chance of me overdoing it too much by getting distracted with the aggregate comp.

I tried a few lines, slightly nervously and while it felt a bit tender and stiff, there was no pain. Given a fortnight of nothing, stiffness was to be expected and i was pretty pleased with that.

Moving Out

So while North Wales and much of the rest of the country were basking in a heat wave and ludicrously dry conditions, i was distracted with Masters work, children and of course, resting my shoulder. Eventually, though, a window was found, as was a healthy dose of psyche from resident puppy at PYB, Josh. He’d suggested a Brenin boulder session but i’d preferred to try some projects in the pass instead and once he got time off stores for good behaviour, we had enough time left to head a tiny bit more off the beaten track.

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While north wales has been basking in a spell of unbelievable good weather, I've been preoccupied with study, work and other non climbing related activities. Still, given I was forced to take three weeks off to recover from an overuse injury on my shoulder, staying busy has been the best antidote. Until tonight that is. Armed with a dose of psyche from @_josh_butler we hit the llanberis pass to check out NASA 7a. Either I'm rusty or its nails. It didn't go but crucially, we did and that was success enough for tonight. Here, josh battles with the moves we couldn't quite muster while Tess watches on. #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #northwales #escalada #escalade #grimpeur #rockclimbing #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion @plasybreninstaff #dog #dogsofinstagram #collie #colliesofinstagram

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Originally, i’d been keen for Mr, You’re On Fire, Mr 7b at Craig y Llywfan; a great little venue with a couple of classics and a name that is incredibly difficult to pronounce. (Google Translate does it’s usual bang up job of making Welsh words sound utterly shit.) The warm up was intended to be a 7a lower down called NASA that turned out to be absolute nails! In the twilight, we both walked away with a lonely 5c each. Still, it was good to get out.

Not content with even the offerings of the fringes of the guidebook, Josh has also been scoping out some new boulders too and yesterday provided a rare opportunity for the two of us to head up and check them out.

I’ve looked at them several years ago and deemed them lacking for the effort of getting there but then Josh had spotted another boulder nearby. I figured it was worth another look. Turns out that was the right call.

I was almost instantly enthused by two lines on that first bloc when we quickly spotted something else. After a mini fight with a mountainside of heather, felled trees and hidden holes, we found ourselves under what i can only describe as a menhir that Obelix would be proud of.

We didn’t even get to the farthest boulder before we’d found enough to warrant a return. When is unknown but it’ll be soon, i’m certain of that.

 

Ten Year Anniversary

I’m not normally one for celebrating anniversaries (cue rant about  the woefully inept base 10 counting system) but exceptions are often made and today feels like a particularly significant one: today is ten years to the day that i moved to North Wales.

It seems ironic, then, that my last post commented on the idea of grinding out results and being in it for the long haul. Given 27 crags – which plays host to my extensive and comprehensive ticklist of ascents – have recently begun a summary of the calendar year, i was initially thinking of this post being a quantitative breakdown of statistics from the last ten years, on grades, crags, countries etc. However, those stats only seem to work back to 2017. Instead, i’ll approach this in a more qualitative fashion.

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Almost

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If ten years seems like a long time when you’re looking forward, it is an eternity when you’re looking back. Most of my records, my instagram feed, indeed this blog! don’t actually go back that far. Instagram itself didn’t appear until a year later and i started the blog in 2010. The above is my very first Instagram post, at the Indy which has become my home away from home but wasn’t for a long time. When i moved here, it wasn’t a commercial wall in the typical sense and i certainly didn’t think myself strong enough to climb there; instead preferring what is now known as the old Beacon.

So much has changed in that respect. I’m now in the upper echelons of strong climbers at the strongest wall in the area (albeit near the bottom of that little group) and have progressed from V6 to V10. The Beacon has moved, the Indy become more inviting and even that old staple, the Brenin wall, is looking like it won’t remain the same for much longer.

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There's something very satisfying about stripping an entire climbing wall. Still, as we were starting, I thought I wanted to leave one route up until last, just to finish it off with a bang before the very last hols were removed. This has been one of my favourites since I set it: a fierce, dynamic 7a that doesn't actually need rock boots. It certainly didn't feel this smooth when I was climbing it though! Tiredness kicked in at the top and after watching it back I was tempted to do it again and sort the poor footwork out (matching that last hold has always been the crux) but two days of removing and cleaning holds has taken its toll. I've lived setting these problems, I just hope people have enjoyed climbing them too #video #climbing #beasty #7a #dyno #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #northwales #escalada #escalade #grimpeur #rockclimbing #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #indoorclimbing

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The shops have changed too. I applied and was offered a job working for Joe Browns and that, too, has undergone many changes; the ownership has changed, the staff have come and gone and even the buildings are not as they were. For a while, Joe’s ran the corner shop but now that is under private hands as the Outdoor Shop and Crib Goch sports has developed more of a standing on the high street.

Along the way, there have been countless local friends made; some long standing, some fleeting, many people that have touched my soul and to whom i am eternally grateful both for their love and support and often, for not throttling me for being a dick. Many, no doubt, have thought about it. No one has so far tried.

Said friendships are too numerous to mention so i hope any of those that read this will not be disappointed and will more think back on the fun we’ve had. I can’t even remember the amount of weddings or other major social events i’ve attended, through connections made to some fantastic human beings.

That’s not to mention my own developments! The last three years, since finding the love of my life, seem to be even more accelerated. Not only have i got engaged but we’ve even managed to introduce two more people into the world. Because going abroad for new friendships wasn’t enough.

I can’t count the number of foreign adventures i’ve had over the last ten years. (Well, i could but i’m not going to, or this post will start Yesterday is ten years to the day…) It does seem slightly ironic that i moved from a city with a major international airport to a small backwater corner of the UK in order to start running off all over Europe and the World but that would be to oversimplify. It is because of the friendships and connections i’ve made here that i’ve been able to travel; because of the thrill for climbing that was reinvigorated once i settled here.

It’s not the only ironic aspect to the last ten years: i joined a swimming club and competed around the country in indoor pools – a fact little known about me. Before i moved, there was a long course pool within 20 miles of my house. Now, the nearest is nearly 90 miles. Nevertheless, i was introduced through that network of friends again and absolutely loved it. I still miss it.

I joined a mountain rescue team, played football weekly for a while, dabbled briefly with squash and various other activities that have fallen out of the long term memory and only occasionally come up due to Facebook’s memories feature. I even managed to remodel an entire house.

Housemates came and went in much the same way as other friendships and every time, my old house on Goodman Street underwent some new transformation. Em asked me just a couple of days ago what my favourite house has been and the answer was instant: Goodman Street. I learnt so much, worked so hard for such a long time and despite my best efforts outdoors, have never been as physically filthy as i did there.

And of course, that was where Tess came at the end of October 2012. I still don’t quite know what possessed me to get a dog and i can thank Ian for the rest of my days for nudging me into it. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like without her in it; she’s been my travelling companion and best friend. I still say she doesn’t belong to me, she is her own dog, she just likes me best and i know she didn’t have much say in the matter but i hope she’s enjoyed being around me as much as i have.

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#daftdog #icky #cwtch

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I tied down a reasonably long term job, moved into another that is still going and managed to get myself into a postgraduate degree. None of this would’ve been possible without that networking and those people again. I’m now a small business owner, based primarily on my experiences over the last ten years.

The draw to the area remains the same. Recounting the tale of the move, i tell people i had a choice: big buildings or big mountains. It was obvious and it still is; the appeal then is still the appeal now. I’m still out climbing, juggling it with my many other commitments that we all obtain as we get older. Give me half a chance though and that’s where you’ll find me.

I said i’d stay until i took the place for granted. Ten years later and i’ve still got a long way to go.

 

I am very sorry if i’ve forgotten anyone in particular who deserves special mention or if i have forgotten anything specific that deserves to go in – keeping the post to a manageable and readable length was difficult. Captioning ten years of life (and nearly nine years of blog posts!) into one article certainly was not easy. I wish to end by thanking each and every person that has made my life here – even just one single day – better a heartfelt thank you. 

Christmas, Competitions and Happiness Points

If there’s one thing guaranteed to change the way you think about Christmas, it’s having children. That first year, when they’re not yet cresting the age of 1, isn’t too bad as they generally have no idea what’s going on. My eldest was 10 months old last year but this year, she’s more switched on and a bit more aware. Not aware enough to get excited but knowledgeable to understand the hullabaloo.

Everything is different. For example, in days before kids (DBK) i would actively want to go to work, as my holidays were generally saved for climbing trips and Christmas made that largely impossible, with non-climbing related commitments. Now, as i work the gap between Christmas and New Year alone to allow others to spend time away, i find myself missing my kids and longing to be back home.

It’s not just wanting to be home: the way i think about things has altered too. I spent yesterday lamenting the way we treat our young children at Christmas, especially when it comes to presents: here, take this and open it. Seen it? Got all excited? Great, now let me take it away from you and give you the next thing. No wonder our kids struggle with attention span!

From a really young age, we’re effectively teaching them to crave something new and exciting all the time, not to sit and savour things properly. The interesting thing is that perhaps this is a neat little parallel with indoor climbing walls…

Regularly set routes is a pre-requisite of the modern climbing wall; something new to go at, something new to try and some new achievement to give us that immediate sense of satisfaction. We want new challenges but also new gratification to boost our own ego. Without a glut of new climbs, how can we continually convince ourselves of our own abilities?

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There's something very satisfying about stripping an entire climbing wall. Still, as we were starting, I thought I wanted to leave one route up until last, just to finish it off with a bang before the very last hols were removed. This has been one of my favourites since I set it: a fierce, dynamic 7a that doesn't actually need rock boots. It certainly didn't feel this smooth when I was climbing it though! Tiredness kicked in at the top and after watching it back I was tempted to do it again and sort the poor footwork out (matching that last hold has always been the crux) but two days of removing and cleaning holds has taken its toll. I've lived setting these problems, I just hope people have enjoyed climbing them too #video #climbing #beasty #7a #dyno #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #northwales #escalada #escalade #grimpeur #rockclimbing #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #indoorclimbing

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It is totally at odds with climbing outside on real rock; a medium that, for the most part, refuses to change, millenia upon millenia. New outdoor sends and climbs – and even areas – appear all the time, granted, but for the most part the first editions of old guidebooks predominantly contain the same lines on the same crags as their current versions. You want to keep ticking stuff off? Better get your project on lad!

You can see this with the old hands at the climbing wall. The old boys, often with beards adorning their aging faces, will tick off all the “easy” stuff when a new set goes up but will then bed in for the long haul to sit under the same problems, slowly working them out and building the right strength, before success eventually comes. It’s like the antithesis of modern instant gratification.

I would say this is the joy of something like an aggregate competition but i’d be wrong: the mentality defines how you approach something like an aggregate. If you crave instant success all the time, you’ll finish off your available lines and then mill around, waiting for the next set of new problems. If you’re open to the idea of projecting, the aggregate forces you to try all of the easier stuff but hopefully allows you time to project and improve.

For me, lately, it is this combination that has spurred me back to nearly-full strength. I came into this year’s competition off the back of a newborn daughter, our second, and not in anywhere near form. I was weak, my technique poor and my mentality not conducive to grinding out results. Regular readers will remember this admission with my Solstice post in late October where i put a goal of 85% success during this winter’s competition.

Several months later and not only am i back up to scratch, i’m thriving in the comp and currently sit a whopping 53 points above second place in my category. Even across everyone, i’m still 24 points in the lead.

This needs to be tempered with the knowledge that many of those climbers will not yet have ticked their sheet and those margins will shrink. However, i keep reminding myself that this year, it does not matter about anyone else, i’m just aiming for that percentage.

Either which way, the aggregate has brought it back to me that i need to put effort in to reap the greater rewards. Flashing a 7a is  nice but working a 7c is amazing and that’s where i need to be looking now.

I have recently described a similar phenomenon as like spending happiness points. In a conversation about money and how we use that money, Em and myself were talking about how we should buy less small sundry expenses – DVDs, bits of unneeded clothing, etc – in order to be able to afford a bigger annual trip somewhere super cool. While the Lakes is cool, for us, a trip to Norway will be infinitely cooler and much more memorable.

This is where the Happiness Points come in. Every time you buy yourself a new film or a nice coffee, you’re spending a Happiness Point and it feels nice. However, if you save them up and spend them in one big go, the return is much greater. The problem is that if you’re not spending your Happiness Points in the mean time, you’re not going to be as happy in the meantime; think living for the weekend.

Now that’s not to say we should be blowing it all in tiny increments to maintain a level of happiness forevermore, it’s to say there is a balance to be found between them. The ideal is to find a way to spend Happiness Points without spending actual money but as we all know, in modern society, this is increasingly hard.

And this brings us back to our metaphors from earlier: the Christmas Present Attention Deficit and the Aggregate. There is a balance to be struck somewhere along the line between instant gratification and putting effort in to reap a reward. With both, we only have a certain number of Happiness Points; spend them wisely.

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March 2017. I can't even comprehend what has happened to me since then! So many massive moments – had more children, moved house, started a masters degree, got engaged! – and yet in all that time, I have been using the very same pair of #climbingshoes Considering a pair of rock boots would last me a season, I'm staggered. And yet with the rubber almost worn through and the knuckle on my toe peeking out, the everlasting boostic has nearly reached the end of its life. Weirdly, it's not actually the holes and wear that have sealed their fate, more the rotation standing on a hold this Friday. Still, every session feels like it may be their last. I've had replacements since September but can't bring myself to part with these comfy machines! They've managed four countries on their own. I don't really have a point, this isn't a metaphor for anything, I was actually hoping to be a little more artistic with my photos. Alas, I'm more about the words so I'll finish with a huge thanks to @scarpa_uk and a heartfelt well done for supplying me with one of the longest serving pairs of stickies I think I have ever known. #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #northwales #escalada #escalade #grimpeur #rockclimbing #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #indoorclimbing

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Some Outdoor Sends

Once i got back from the Peak, it all went a bit quiet. Not that you can tell from my Instagram feed…

But then, slowly, the sessions started coming back. My Friday night coaching session with the Anglesey Adventure Club, started up again after a summer off, i continued route setting at work and was looking pretty reasonable to be honest.

Then, after the weather took a turn for the better, i managed to sneak in a couple of outdoor sessions too.

At the start of October (far too long ago to remember details to be honest) i managed to get out with Tess in tow on a solo Monday session up in the Pass. I’d been thinking about The Crook Roof for some time, keen to repeat and have a better look at the Crook Roof LH 7b, sad at the fact they couldn’t think of a better name…

To begin with, though, i got distracted. The ground under Jerry’s Roof is undoubtedly eroding and more to the point, seems to be progressively sliding down onto the road. Time and again i drive past and see a large collection of stones, all kicked down, and it’s only going to get worse.

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The famous and amazing #jerrysroof; home to uber-classics such as Bus Stop 7b+ Mr Fantastic 8a and of course the namesake problem at 7c. It is a must visit for anyone in #northwales operating in the High 7s and 8s but as such, sees plenty of traffic. If you look closely on the road, you'll see a large pile of stones knocked down, some by sheep but many by thousands of #climbers feet, clambering over the wall, eager to sink their teeth into some quality #bouldering. And that is going to take it's toll. I spent the first ten minutes of my session today putting many of those stones back and I urge anyone going to do the same. The ground is getting lower and the road more full and if everyone going moved one handful of rocks, it would help greatly. Climbing up the wall further to the side would be even better; after all, if you're coming HERE to climb, I'm sure you can manage a slightly harder step off the road. This is everyone's problem, we all need to do it together. #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #conservation #allinthistogether

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It’s as much my problem as anyone else: while i don’t often climb there, i am local and have climbed on this iconic bloc. I figured i might as well do something to help.

While i finished my smoke, i stood in the road, chucking the stones back above the wall. Granted, i had to repeatedly jump up and down the wall to avoid being run over but it didn’t take long and made a big difference. I’d ask anyone else going there to do likewise; one handful from everyone and it’ll make a huge difference very quickly.

Eventually though, this grew tiresome and i went off to warm up properly. As much as warming up on a 7a doesn’t normally phase me, there was a nearby boulder that looked interesting and i figured it was worth checking out first.

The Dash bloc is indeed cool, with good landings and next to no-one to bother you, other than Alice, who had happened across me while waiting to head off on trad. (Always a lovely person to spend time with, she deserves a huge congrats today as she passed her MIA! Nice one!)

She didn’t stay for long, enough to see me tick off The Dash 6a, The Dash sds 6b+, The Dash Right Hand sds 6c and Dash Arete 5a. Seriously, if you’ve never stopped to marvel at the imagination of climbers when naming routes, you really should…

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Some snaps from my #session yesterday afternoon in the #llanberisspass. I had been keen to go check out the Crook Roof, now 7a but given V5 when I climbed it, but I quickly got distracted by this awesome warm up bloc! #thedash 6a trends up the centre of the #boulder with several variations and the hardest one at 7a moves from the sit start out to the arete with some beautiful moves. It took its toll though and got its pound off flesh in exchange for the send. Well maybe not a pound but certainly enough to stop play for the day. Still, awesome to be out, trying something new and with my loyal crag buddy along too! #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #northwales #escalada #escalade #grimpeur #rockclimbing #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion

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After she’d gone and i’d fished out the camera – i’m still self conscious of taking photos/videos of myself when others are watching me – i quickly finished off The Dash Traverse 7a and found it so good, after i stopped the camera, i stepped on and did it again.

Foolish move. The moves are good but the rock is sharp and it put a genuine hole in the index finger on my left hand. I can verify it was a hole: it was bleeding. Yet again, the Crook Roof would have to wait.

The sporadic nature of my climbing sessions continued until Wednesday gone. I’d been supposed to be climbing at the Indy on Tuesday evening but had actually lucked out when the session was cancelled. As pissed as a i was that the battery on the truck was dead and that i was stranded with the shed keys in dad’s pocket 30 minutes away, Wednesday was truly glorious and inside was insane. When my brain became fried early afternoon, i sacked off study and headed out to clear my mind.

I called in to work, printed my project to make annotation easier and bumped into local climber and wall-designer Michelle. We both pondered which venue – we had two options each at first – would yield good conditions before i cruelly decided to hijack her decision to head to Clogwyn y Bustach. She obviously didn’t mind as she appeared later on.

Before she’d arrived, i flashed Problem 22 6b+ and realised it’s actually a lovely little warm up line and worked on repeating Sick Happy now given 7a/+. Much as the first time around, i bottled the top out and even the arrival of three more souls to ease any fears of lying crippled alone, and without the excuse of a wet topout, i still couldn’t bring myself to finish it properly.

Instead i joined Michelle on Rudder’s Wall 7a+/b, indeed a line i’d had in mind for ages but couldn’t figure out the beta. It was awesome to have Michelle to work on it with, and to steal the beta from, even if she wanted me to get it first to show her the topout. Turns out it’s not me that struggles getting onto the top of that bloc…

We climbed almost until dark, bidding a hasty retreat in the twilight. No blood loss this time around and a great little evening!

Back in the Swing Of Things

And with that little revelation, normal service is resumed. I hadn’t climbed since that poor session at Plas y Brenin a fortnight ago until last night when i headed back to the Indy.

I certainly wasn’t any stronger, although possibly more rested. To be honest, on my way i wasn’t any more psyched, particularly, merely armed with the knowledge that confidence breeds competence. My technique wasn’t any better and to be honest, my tactics remained largely unadjusted. The only difference was that epiphany.

It is remarkable what a difference a subtle change in attitude can do. I finished my session with a 7b retro flash, of a problem i had almost managed last time, tickling the top before plummeting in what i now think may have been more ammunition for my self-perpetuating downward spiral. This time, it fell first time during the warm up. Next, another 7b that suited me perfectly, on Jenga blocks; it fell quickly and in good style.

A break, that lasted a little longer than i intended preceded that send and after, i was looking for another to try. A friend offered up the project he was trying for me to have a go and, unexpectedly, i flashed it. I hate doing that and wouldn’t do it deliberately, sometimes that’s the way it goes. It did turn out to be useful for him, as my beta on the lower section avoided him using a knee that was causing him pain.

I tried a couple of other problems without ever getting going, flashed a 7a+ with a bit of a fight and found myself sat under a 7b+ that really tickled my fancy. Andy had mentioned some hidden beta in it but i couldn’t really see what he meant so opted to jump on and see how it went.

By the end of the session, when all energy had sapped from my body and it was obvious i wouldn’t complete it, i had managed it in two halves, one move away from linking it together. Aside from that, though, was the style of the crux move.

Without getting into the annoying move-by-move of the climb, the crux involved a tricky cross through that was hard to hold and a big move up with the right hand to salvation. It was more like two separate boulder problems stacked atop each other, the upper problem starting just before the crux. This was where Andy’s beta came in but i didn’t use it. Instead, i performed a move reminiscent of Johnny Dawes that flowed so beautifully, it stole the show of the whole session.

Hands primed on the holds, left foot pressing hard on it’s own, i rested my right foot on a crimp too high to provide power… yet. Left hip went up and i snatched the next hold with my left hand but as my body then untwisted, i simultaneously pulled and pushed with my right foot that now suddenly engaged. In one seamlessly smooth motion, i completed both crux moves in one, cruising through to the easier moves above.

I don’t know how it looked – an onlooker, a regular working the problem with me, seemed impressed – but it felt like pure bliss. It’s hard to describe and i really wish i’d caught it on camera as moves like that rarely happen, especially on harder climbs. It is something you’d see from Udo Neumann (above) or, as mentioned, Johnny Dawes and it is incredibly hard to perform or coach. The only reason it happened for me was purely subconscious.

I was back, primed and fighting fit. 7a+ flash, 7b retro flash, another 7b in a session, 7b flash and a 7b+ in two halves would’ve been a very pleasing session when i was fully fit! So imagine this after the abject failure of two weeks prior.

It just goes to show quite how important having the right mindset is on performance. Get it wrong and don’t get off the floor. I can feel my confidence and my belief come back almost immediately, and i’m back in the golden spot on the DCBA scale that has proven so important for me in the past.

The DCBA Scale the optimal mindset in order to maximise their own performance

Catching Up

Need to step it up a notch? Fine! No sooner had i published my last post that i headed back out to the Cromlech boulders and within three attempts, had finished off James Pond sds 7b+ (the proper version).

Then it all went quiet; not that I’m complaining! Shortly after my success and right in the middle of the hot spell, we had a visit from my fantastic Aunty Helen and my cousin Leejah. The last and only time I’d met Leejah to date was way back in 2011 when I visited Canada and it was amazing to see them both again. Helen has been a few times since and every time, I will quite happily drop everything for them.

Back on that trip, I spent two weeks staying with one of my best friends, Simon, who now lives in southern Sweden. He recently married and in a move of pure genius, the newlyweds devised a plan to reduce the environmental impact of any get together and instead embark on a tour to visit their friends – located all over the world – of which we were their latest stop. Sadly taking a second week off work wasn’t possible and while we did manage to get two sessions in, it would never be enough.

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I've been itching to check out the #slowmotion #video on my new #sony #xperia phone but to be honest, the quality is really poor compared to at normal speed. It also speeds up the footage that isn't slowed and Instagram then cropped it further. Things to work on methinks. However, two things: first from the #coaching of #rockclimbing point of view, this is super useful and gives a very different take on things. Probably not as good as #coachseye but certainly another option. Second, it gave me a chance to capture @simoncfr ticking off The Slopes at the #cromlechboulders in the #llanberisspass on his current visit. So great to catch up with an old friend! #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing_pictures_of_instagram

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Still, a first session back at the cromlech again, with time for walking in and bouldering restricted somewhat, turned out to be a lovely evening, with Simon getting shut down once more on The Edge Problem 7a and ticking a few nice dynamic problems before toiling on James Pond 7a. The daft thing is i’ve seen him climb much harder elsewhere but these two are both very particular climbs.

The second session saw us back at Caseg Ffraith, this time with little Rosie in tow. The crag has history with us and many years ago, when he lived in the area, we were here one evening when the weather turned on us in spectacular fashion. We hurriedly buried all our kit under the roof as the raindrops slapped the floor. We stood, trapped by the immense deluge, and listened to the thunder echo across the valley, from one mountain to the other. It was incredible to witness and to be honest, we could’ve quite happily waited it out and enjoyed the spectacle if it wasn’t that the rain began to creep down the roof and the curtain falling in front of us slowly edged further and further into the cave…

As we inched our kit further and further into the cave, slowly accepting the fact we were destined for a soaking, we looked up to see two people beckoning us into the hut a mere thirty yards away. This may sound dramatic but to explain how heavy this rain was, that thirty yards drenched us from head to foot. And we were running.

This time we had no such issues and enjoyed a pleasant evening in mild heat and intermittent sunshine. Rosie was a dream and Simon worked Boneyard 7b+ just as he had done all those years before.

A great friend and my daughter, taking by his fantastic wife and with the glorious Tryfan watching over them in the background. Photo credit: Kim Nicholas. Insane expression credit: Simon Rose

Success again wasn’t forthcoming but that didn’t matter – not for me at least. The last time i even saw Simon was at Arlanda airport in Sweden in June 2016 so for me, the trip had been as much about catching up and drinking beer as about any climbing, not to mention revelling in the chance to chat climate change and other politics with Kim. For him, i’m sure he would’ve liked to climb more (so would i, to be honest) but i hope it was nice for him to be back in North Wales again.

There was talk of a plotted return next year. I can’t wait.

Now that our visits are done and life returns to normal, I can turn my attention to the latest plan. I’ve always been poor at training; I know my weaknesses but have typically lacked the discipline to do anything about them. The only times I’ve managed to train have been with a particular project in mind. So the obvious step is to put a project in mind.

But that will have to wait for the next post…

 

Presently Looking to the Future

I wasn’t expecting to post any time soon but when there’s a session like my last one, i’d be foolish not to document it. I keep prattling on about the heatwave of late and i truly got the chance to reap the benefits, at the Cromlech boulders no less. After nearly a ten year wait, the landing under James Pond at the famous roadside boulders was finally dry.

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Finally, after probably about ten years of waiting, James Pond was possible after the longest dry spell I remember meant you didn't need wellies to get to the start… What a session that turned out to be: a 7a flash, a 7b/+ tick and a host of other excellent #bouldering that I'd honestly never done before. I've been waiting a long time for this and save for attack of the midge, might have had just enough left in me for #jamespond sit start too. What's more, you really can't argue with the setting (proximity to the road notwithstanding) – not many places you get to climb under the shadow of #dinascromlech And #dinasmot! #cromlech #cromlechboulders #worldclasswales #snowdonianationalpark #snowdon #northwales #northwalesbouldering #rockclimbing #escalade #escalada #grimpeur #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_lovers #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #meclimbing

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Granted, it’s not really been ten years and i’m sure it’s been dry in that period; it just didn’t happen to fall right for me or i didn’t end up there. Either way though, it is NOT common, being the lowest part of ground following the run off from the Glyderau high above. Now, finally, with a dog free evening and not a huge amount of free time, was my chance.

I took it with open arms and a grateful smile. A repeat of Moose’s Problem 5c/6a and the sit start at 6b+ were a great place to start, being so fun the first time around. After that, The Slopes 6b proved to be significantly better than i’d first thought, before heading into the cave proper.

After all this time, i was a little sad to flash James Pond 7a, although after my send of Cross Fader the other day, it did help to flash another at the same grade. At least it wasn’t soft! Bog Traverse 6b+ also put up little resistance and was excellent, before a first attempt at linking them with Bog Pond 7a+. Shocked by the success, it did mean i could get my teeth into the James Pond sit start either at 7b/+ or a little lower giving 7b+ proper. The former was done on the third attempt, the latter left for another day once the midge descended…

I’m not sure if it was this session, the recent spate of outdoor ticks or seeing my Top Ten Yearly Average creep up yet again, but something has lit a fire under my backside. I’ve never been one for training very well, lacking the mental discipline. Now, it has dawned on me that the only time i’ve been able to knuckle down and train is for a specific problem. So i’ve come up with a plan.

Goal: 8a. With a small ream of A3 paper and a pen – only one colour for a change – i’ve written not only the new list (photo on instagram imminent) but also five steps to achieving the next magic grade. My logbook shows two 7c+ after Love Pie was upgraded in the New Testament and that extra little bit of number has spurred me on. To climb 8a given my track record, experience and past would be good. to do it with two young children would be mighty impressive.

I’ve listed eleven of them to start with; next step is to scout them out and slowly whittle the selection down to one. Watch this space.

In the meantime, despite a dry evening, i’m heading for the Indy. It’s the first time i’ve been since they dismantled and rebuilt the famous central boulder and to be honest, i’m itching to see what it’s like now.

Any time i pass up an outdoor session in favour of an indoor one, i question what the fuck i’m doing but i think sometimes it is a sensible thing to do. This morning it rained solidly for five or siix hours, and it would be worthwhile to go and get 8a advise from some strong boys who’ve actually gone and done it.

Moreover, the Indy isn’t just a local climbing wall, it’s a local hub for boulderers, wads and general climby types and to be honest, i have missed it. Justified or otherwise, sometimes it’s important to forget what you should be doing and just do what you want to. The list of projects will still be there.

With Germany in jeopardy – the trip, i’m sure the country is fine – in could be timely to be thinking of things a little closer to home. I wouldn’t like to say that i’ve never been so close to the departure date while still not being 100% sure we’re even going but i certainly haven’t been in this situation often and definitely am not enjoying it. The Land Rover, which was to be transporting us, is still suffering mechanical problems and is out as an option and Em’s Berlingo isn’t filling me with masses of hope.

Only time will tell if all goes ahead and on schedule. Not a lot of time either: at time of writing, we leave home in about two days.

We have been discussing backup plans and a city break is on the cards, although i mentioned to Em that i’d be loathe to chose somewhere i’d later want to go for a June climbing trip. Nevertheless, the Iceland football team has really inspired me and i’m now itching to go. Perhaps a last minute change is possible but i’d rather collect up some strong lads and head over with a bit of a crew. June would be ideal and from what i’ve read, might be a good time to try.

With the present looking uncertain, perhaps focusing on the future could brighten my spirits. Who knows. I just hope when i look back on this year, wherever we head that there will be just reason for it to be remembered in many years to come.

Link to awesome Iceland bouldering article: here.