Tag Archives: birthday trip

2020 Summer Update: Part Two

The last post about my degree was a little longer and more in depth than i had intended. I was going to tie it in with something else that’s been going on but it got away with me and i thought it best to leave it on its own. Who’d have thought finishing a postgraduate degree would be such a thing?

Anyway, for Part Two, i’m going to discuss something more usual: climbing. Obviously going climbing was tricky over the past few months and only really possible with the right ethical standpoint. That said, as lockdown has slowly eased, people have slowly been getting back out to the crags – even in Wales – to the point where from Monday coming, it’s all fair game again. Within reason, you know.

For me personally, the biggest disappointment has been that the hiatus has crossed over my birthday: a time when for the past ten years, i’ve managed to find a different country. Ten years, ten countries. Until now.

The Birthday Tradition Finally Ends?

First and foremost, please do not misunderstand me: there are myriad of more important things in the world right now than the fact i can’t take my annual holiday. It does not matter how important this trip is to me, or how long the tradition has been going, measured against even a single death and any personal gratification is nothing. And we have not seen just a single death. I have stayed home because it is the right thing to do, in every possible way.

But doing the right thing doesn’t mean you have to like it and it doesn’t mean you can’t be sad that this is the way it has to be. And that is what i am: sad, melancholy and disappointed.

I specifically asked for there to be no hoopla for my birthday this year, knowing it would just remind me what i’m missing out on. I also knew that no matter how much work needed doing on my thesis, i was taking the 23rd June off. Ten years is a long time and this was a real shock to the system. I was 24 the last time i had a “normal” birthday, at home with the same old routine, so i was determined to try and make it at least slightly special.

The bright side is, as i said to a friend on text in the evening, if i dind’t live in North Wales, it would most definitely be right up there on my list of places to be. The climbing is superb, the area is stunning and there is a sure fire reason i live here. The only reason i don’t want to be here for my birthday is that i’m here most of the rest of the year and i want a bit of a change. Otherwise, there are not many better places to be anywhere.

But here i was and the one thing that is missing every other year is family. Last year i was in Finland with my father-in-law, the year before in Germany with Em. In fact, since Rosie was born, i’ve only spent any birthday with one of our girls on one occasion. And even then she was four months old. It’s been something like fifteen years since i’ve seen my parents. So it seemed like a good way to spend the day. Everything being an opportunity and all that.

Family breakfast of pancakes and playing and an afternoon seeing my folks, watching the stone walls outside to see them dry was the order of the day. The plan was always to try and get a climb in somehow, preferably outside, so a few options had been planned to see how things went. I make it sound like climbing was all i had in mind but actually that time with family made the day really. The climbing topped it off nicely.

Around half four, i figured it wasn’t getting any drier and i better head out and hope for the best. Some deluded part of my brain totally misjudged the aspect of my target crag, thinking the Boss Cuvier area of Gelert Forest was open enough to have dried, depsite it still raining at noon. Thankfully, i had a backup plan at a roadside venue (and Tess loved the walk in and out).

Twenty minutes of setting up and walking in, fifteen minutes back and i should’ve felt slightly defeated but even before i set off, i knew it might not (massive understatement in hindsight) be dry and almost went straight to the Pop Bloc first time around. I’d been years ago, on the way to see my folks one evening, and have noticed a resurgence in recent months. Keen for another look, i took the short trip up to Rhyd Ddu, took the road over to Nantlle and found myself with bone dry rock in a sunny setting, as good as any other year thus far.

The climbing went pretty well too, albeit lines that were retro flashes rather than flashes. Not that i remembered them in the slightest. I noticed Alex Megos posted a caption on Instagram claiming a “retro onsight” which seems the most stupid thing ever but i genuinely couldn’t remember anything about these climbs. I didn’t even realise i’d done one of them until i went to tick it on 27crags.

Last time, i vaguely recalled – after finishing the climbs, memories slowly eeked out of the depths of my memory – the last session and looking at the other lines, thinking them too brutal and difficult for me. It’s called the Pop Bloc for a reason: the effect it can have on one’s tendons/pulleys. This time, though, i’m fitter, stronger and frankly, didn’t want to go home so i started to work on the next appealing line:ย Pop Artย 7b+.

By the end of the session, by which point the shot hole had cut a nice round hole in my ring finger, i’d managed all the moves in two halves, not quite linking it together thus avoiding the slightly nerving top out with no one around but a sleeping dog. Nevertheless, it felt a very successful session, a very enjoyable evening and on the whole, a great day.

I’m still sad i couldn’t get away, no matter how substantial the reasons. 2020 will have an asterisk over it for so many of us for so many reasons and i’ll always be a little sad about mine. But the reasons were sound and you know what, it turned out to be a pretty damned good day after all.

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#itsadogslife a quick snap from my birthday playing yesterday evening. 2010: Val Daone, Italy 2011: Squamish, Canada 2012: Fontainebleau, France 2013: Zillertal, Austria 2014: Albarracin, Spain 2015: Magic Wood, Switzerland 2016: Stockholm, Sweden 2017: Glendalough, Ireland 2018: Garmisch, Germany 2019: Helsinki, Finland 2020: … I love where I live but at the end of the day, I live here and the 23rd June is a day, for me, to explore somewhere different. But not this year, for obvious reasons that are far more important than my summer trip. Nevertheless, and despite a lovely day yesterday, still a little melancholy. We'll see what happens next year . . . #worldclasswales #NorthWales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #rockclimbing #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #Climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #climbinglife

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No Ranting As I Talk About the End Of Our Trip To Ireland

No ranting this time, i promise. Actually, following the same pattern as the trip itself, there’s nothing really to rant about, as our trip seemed to get that little bit better every day as the week wore on.

Despite my misgivings about Irish bouldering, i really did enjoy it and going back for those three days did make every one that fraction better than it’s predecessor. And i do really want to go back.

To be frank, that might not have been the case were it not for our penultimate day. With Rosie now struggling to sleep as long and being increasingly sicky, it had crossed my mind to cut it short, especially considering the weather forecast but the end of the trip was getting closer so i didn’t really mention it. I’m very glad i didn’t.

We had a look on some of the maps and realised that we were at the eastern base of the Wicklow mountains proper and that really, we should head West a bit to check out what was over there. It certainly looked more promising and turns out, it really was.

We did a big loop around the park in the end, heading over the mountain road from Glendalough over to Hollywood, checking out some of the awesome views back down to where we’d come. After dropping down again, we drove through some sleepy villages with not a lot there to Blessington to stop and grab a cup of tea and a cake.

It took a little wandering before we found somewhere (sigh) but the bookshop-come-cafe we did find, The Blessington Book Store, was really nice and obviously servicing the local kids with their school books for the next year. It was really nice to see this, with parents and kids heading to the shop and placing their order. Certainly much nicer than them sitting at home and ordering on Amazon! And the cafe certainly deserved supporting, it was a lovely little place.

Photo credit: Emily Slater

A lakeside walk took us along the shores of the Poulaphouca Reservoir (i think) on a glorious day that put smiles on everyone’s faces. This was a well kept and fantastic, pushchair friendly walk along the edge of the water and through the woods that summed up the trip wonderfully: slow to start but just kept getting better as it went along. When we eventually left, the drive over Sally Gap and a stop at the Lough Tay Viewing Point emphasised this even more.

Our last day, we rose early, packed at quickly as i possibly could while Em looked after Rosie, said our goodbye’s to the wonderful host Jim and hit the road – leaving ten minutes before the weather closed in! One thing we must say is the weather was certainly very kind to us that week; with poor forecasts and good weather every day.

A planned walk on the way back to Dublin was cancelled as we’d be swimming through mist and turned into a ten minute stop to let the dog out. Now partially drenched, i jumped back in and we headed to the capital for a wander round before our late night ferry home.

The day in Dublin captured our whole trip exactly. We thought we’d read up enough on where to go and what to do. We really hadn’t and as we made our way into the city, it soon became apparent that while Dublin has plenty of places to park, none of them are suitable with tall vehicles. With the roof box on, it was futile.

Round and round the city we drove, becoming increasingly frustrated and snarky with each other, starting to think we’d never find what we were looking for. Eventually, we plumped for somewhere we’d discounted right at the start, got the baby out of the car and went to look for the outdoor shop i’d been craving all week, a place called Basecamp.

It turned out to be pretty average, for what i was looking for anyway. It would’ve been quite good had we been hiking and backpacking but for a rock climber, it left a bit to be desired. I’m conscious that the last time i railed on something i didn’t like at the time, i offended the author and wrote a retraction but i think i’m justified in saying this really wasn’t a climbing shop when they only had three climbing shoes on display… Sadly the guys working there weren’t that chatty either. Nevertheless, i bought an icebreaker top and we headed back to the car.

With time to kill and dinner to find, we headed out of the city centre. A google search for “best burger in Dublin” coupled with some kind local info from Ryan meant we headed South East of the city towards a place called Merion Square and what a lovely little park! Easy parking, a lovely little walk and a fed and happy baby, we had a great little wander, taking in the statue to Oscar Wilde and enjoying one of Dublin’s quieter hotspots.

With Rosie fed, it was our turn and with me keen for a burger, we found a place called Jo Burger. It felt like we were suddenly in the Shoreditch of Dublin – a totally different vibe to earlier in the day. The burger was awesome, thoroughly recommended in a child friendly place that seemed to have people of all ages and walks of life – even if we did manage to find the only pub in Ireland that didn’t serve Guinness…

Our finale had started slow, with a few niggles but had just got better and better, just like the whole week. All in all, it was an awesome week and while sailing across the Irish Sea on the way home, we were able to look back at it and smile at Rosie’s first foreign foray. Unspectacular and largely uneventful, it was perfect for us to get used to being away with our little one and despite the lack of distinct memories, will forever be remembered, not only as the latest birthday trip but the first for our new addition to the family.

Another Year

So after the last post about rock shoes, now to matters more pressing: this year’s birthday trip.

Last year’s Great Sweden Bouldering Tour was a rip roaring success, as has been talked about on here plenty. What is news though, is that the follow up article has finally been published! With 7000 views and counting, it’s certainly been popular and can be seen on ukclimbing.com. Please do click it and have a read.

Now on it’s eighth year, and despite the arrival of a certain little Miss Edwards, we’re on for another installment, the family joining me again to see another anniversary on foreign shores. The destination of choice this year: Ireland.

There had been talk while we were away last year of trying for Norway this year but obviously logistically, that’s easier said than done. It’s actually compounded – in much the same way as with Tess back in 2013 in Belgium – by the fact we’ve not actually been camping with Rosie yet. Nevertheless, we’re not exactly the type to let that stop us and the trip is on.

So, as i sit here listening to “traditional Irish music” on YouTube, getting into the spirit of things ready for my inaugural trip to the Emerald Isle, it’s time to get the psyche ready and build some enthusiasm for what is doubtless going to be a stand up expedition, albeit in a very different vein to trips gone by.

Ireland has always been one of those places on my hit listbut has always been left for a year when i’m short on other options. As it’s turned out, it has worked perfectly as Em is equally high.

 

To narrow our destination down from 84,421km2 we’re heading about an hour south of Dublin – no doubt after a quick look around – to the Wicklow mountains and what i hear is the best bouldering in the country in Glendalough. The guidebook released within the last few years for Irish bouldering certainly makes it sound very appealing and the grade spread hopefully means we can both get a few routes in.

Campsite is booked, all is ready now, save for a couple of days of packing for which i’ve helpfully booked a couple of spare days off before we leave. So far, things are moving fairly smoothly and i’ve gotta be honest, despite this creeping up on me and not being the most adventurous trip i’ve ever embarked upon, i’m probably as excited about this as any other trip in recent years. To be sure.

Note: i was searching through Instagram to try and find a photo to filch for this post about bouldering in Glendalough and you know, it was remarkably tough! For some reason, there really doesn’t seem to be anything on here, certainly not anything tagged accordingly. I’m sure there are photos on there but without suitable tags – like #glendaloughbouldering for example – they are tough to dig out. #wicklowbouldering gave me a solitary picture and it was a guy hanging on a rope… It looks like this could be a little bit of a step into a much quieter place than expected.ย