Tag Archives: boulderer

The Times They Are A Changing

The psyche ship seems to have sailed – for this week at least. My plan for today was to nip out in the morning and grab a quick session before heading over to dad’s to do some necessary Land Rover work. The question was where to go.

Dad’s caravan (where he spends probably half the year) is over by Penygroes to the West of ‘beris so going over to try something like Badgers would induce a lot of unnecessary driving; likewise with anything in the Ogwen. My left hand is still a bit sore so a quick nip up the pass to get back on Love Pie is just asking for trouble. A look at the List and the obvious contenders are the Gelert forest or Clogwyn y Bustach. But as i stood by the back door, i realised i just don’t have the psyche for it today.

I don’t know why – only on Saturday i was infuriated when someone blocked my car in at work and the remaining light dwindled enough while i tried to escape that the session had gone by the time i finally left. Even yesterday at the Indy i was really looking forward to getting out and when i went to bed i was thinking about where i’d head and what i’d get done.

This morning, everything seems different. Whether it’s the overcast skies, the prospect of going alone again or the burden of needing to get the Landy sorted, i don’t know.

A couple of years ago, when i was rekindling an old love of hillwalking, it dawned on me that going to the top of a mountain in bad weather offers little reward. The question i started to ask myself was: what i am going to achieve? If the answer was little to nothing, i wouldn’t go.

That’s not to say i’d do nothing, just that i’d do something else and it’s exactly this feeling i had this morning. Yes, i might get a tick in a guidebook and be able to rub a line from a whiteboard but is that why i’m doing this? I can’t imagine i’d actually enjoy the session – sat alone on a hillside, forcing myself to try moves time and again. And don’t forget, i’ve been in this situation plenty over the years and it’s a mental fight to keep getting up and getting on the wall.

All that said, it’s still a tough call to make. Today is my last day off for seven and the last before Fredrik arrives with his brother Tobias and, as alluded to above, evening sessions are about to be lost. With North Walean weather being what it is, it is all very possible this is my last chance of outdoor bouldering for quite a while. As odd as it may sound, it takes a lot of conviction not to go.

It has been a long summer, with a tick list of climbs close to my limit that will probably never be matched and most importantly, it’s been tremendous fun. I’ve loved the unprecedented success and the associated glory of such (even if it was only in my head) but crucially, i’ve loved the climbing itself.

I’m going to look at today as a mere blip and you never know, evening sessions at roadside crags may still continue for another few days. Three rest days was a bit too much but my battered body had little choice, showing signs of being close to serious injury that simply couldn’t be ignored any more.

This is probably the truest sign of a change of season for the boulderer: evenings at the mercy of torch batteries, weekend warrior mentality tying in with good conditions, week-times spent training for that next elusive tick. It’s the time of year to change tact.

So let the demons claim today and i’ll succumb to lethargy. Tomorrow is another day and only then shall we see what it brings

Milestones: And Everything Else

This is the conclusion of a series of posts all about the turning points in my climbing career. From single moves to huge time spans, these are the events that shaped me into the climber and person i am today. 

There have been ten separate posts picking just some of the highlights of my climbing career and talking about how they’ve shaped me over the years. The posts have been well received so if you’ve enjoyed them but missed one or two, they can be found in the link here

And everything else

There are so many more. Every experience, from a whole year right the way down to a single move has the potential to reshape your life from that moment on. I had more potential sections but had to draw a line somewhere or risk writing my entire life in a single article.

Moments of inspiration can come from nowhere, like a magazine article about a foreign land that drives you to go or from something much more obvious. For me, i could’ve easily talked about the films Hard Grit, Stick It and Progression but again, there simply isn’t space. Many other experiences nearly made the cut.

I’ll leave you with the knowledge that this exercise is not without merit. In going through these events with you, i’ve not only brought back many fond memories (even if it was that i made it out of Austria and home somehow) but also rekindled some old techniques i’d neglected lately. Last night’s bouldering session would’ve benefited greatly from a dose of Focused energy. It’s all the more likely, now, that the next one will.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading through these. Please feel free to leave a comment to let me know or perhaps share some of your own. And here’s to the next chapter.


A huge debt of thanks should go out to so many people – anyone involved in any of the previous posts. They are FAR too numerous to mention but needless to say, if you’ve had any effect on any of the topics discussed, i owe you one. Cheers for everything. 


No Badgers, But We Have Got Gimps and Easy Bus Stops

Well it was a day of mixed fortunes yesterday. In short, in the morning, i awoke thinking i’d now managed four 7c climbs. By the evening, it turns out it’s only two.

As with everything in life, there’s good news and bad news so let’s start with the good. Possibly the best bit was to be back out with an old friend i haven’t seen for a long time, Tim Peck. A former colleague at Joe’s, Tim is a great guy, another dedicated boulderer but someone i haven’t seen much since the end of the Indy Aggregate last winter. After a look at The List, we opted for the Caseg Boulders for a blast on The Gimp V8 and Don’t Think, Feel at a grade i’ve forgotten.

Still in pain from the day before, i was a bit sceptical but didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to catch up and climb with Tim so figured i’d go and see what happened. Turns out it was a good shout! My token-gesture warm up complete, i watched Tim and his friend (whose name shamefully escapes me) dabble with The Gimp.


Eventually, step up, chalk up and bam! A session flash. (A session flash? Yes, i know – it’s normally the type of term i would raise my nose and sneer at but it’s a phrase i thought of just after and i wanted to throw it out there, see if it stuck). It even felt fairly easy, although that may have been because my skin was pretty fresh. The shouting from below to direct my foot to a hidden foothold certainly helped.

We moved round to the other side of the boulder to Don’t Think, Feel. While i got shut down, Tim made good progress in doing all the moves. His friend on the other hand, found new sneaky beta involving a nifty knee bar and i was able to repay the favour of shouting encouragement in order for him to get another good tick.

However, while climbs were falling, we were chatting and i asked for some good 7b+ suggestions for North Wales. One that came up is Bus Stop, a climb that was a classic 7c. Confused, i questioned it and was informed it had been downgraded when a hold broke making the start substantially easier. I couldn’t really argue either – i’d done it after the hold broke.


Much like the previous day, the downgrading of Bus Stop overshadowed my good tick – but at least i had got a V9 and a V8 in two days.

Or so i thought. I got home, turned on the laptop and had a notification on Facebook. I wish i hadn’t looked but the fact would still be there – Badgers In The Mist IS a sitting start and we’d missed the first move. What’s more, by sitting starting, the whole problem is completely different, hugging the arete rather than staying on the face.

I deleted it from my ticklist and sat there forlorn. It’s the nature of the beast, sadly – the specificity of bouldering being hard to negotiate sometimes. Still, if it’s not done, it’s back on the list and i almost have more determination to go and finish it properly now. After all, it’s pissed me off.

Badgers Love Pie

Today has been a day of failure marring success. Myself and James headed out to Rhiw Goch again, for a glorious day to allow him to finish off Moria 7b and for us both to try Badgers In The Mist 7c.

A fairly early start gave us both plenty of time although after i rose, i felt a tweak in my back. When i called into Joe Brown’s to pick up a new brush, it was getting worse and by the time we were at the crag, my lower back was in agony.

Nevertheless, we were there, two old regular customers who happened to be in the shop (and thought i still worked there no less) in tow – it would be rude not to have a play. That and i thought dangling by my fingertips would help stretch out the obvious muscle issue.


So James continued his extensive warm up and i had a play on Gap of Rohan 6c, finding the top out particularly strenuous. Eventually we moved the pads and he sent Moria very quickly – as we both knew he would. Nothing left than to get on it.

Pads back, and within long, he’d sent Badgers as well. The green eyed monster playing it’s part, i watched him top out, seething slightly that it had gone so quickly. It’s that old paradox where you want your mates to get projects… but not until you’ve got them yourself! Still, i was pleased he was having a successful session.

Now my turn and after squirming on the pad with the pain in my back preventing me from getting comfy at all, i stepped up and gave it a good blast. With a power scream to be ashamed of, i latched the lip jug and fought though the painful topout. Despite the almost debilitating issues, my fourth 7c was in the bag.

James decreed the session as a good team send and he’s totally right and i’m glad to have had him with me. A 7b and a 7c in a session is nothing to sniff at and despite my blatant jealousy, i am genuinely pleased for him.

Not to be outdone though, on my way home, i opted to stop in the pass. The mission: two V9 in a day. The problem: Love Pie.

I was so bloody close last time, i would’ve sworn blind that i couldn’t be closer. As dark closed in on session two, i realised i was wrong. NOW i can’t be closer. There were two attempts that spring to mind: one where i missed the last hold and another where i tapped the floor with my foot subconsciously. The latter caused me to scream louder than the trad climbers on the other side of the valley.

To give some background, Love Pie is the one-move-wonder exit to Humble Pie Disorder 8a. The harder variant begins under the imposing roof at Pieshop and then rises up the wall to the side. The traverse looks plenty doable but for now, Love Pie is the first step.

Two sessions in and it’s agonisingly close. So much so that despite a hugely successful day, i returned home with a sense of sadness – and a plethora of pain in my lower back that warranted a nice warm bath.

Still, tomorrow is another day and will hopefully bring another problem wiped from The List. Or maybe even two…

Mixed Fortunes

When it’s not your week, it’s not your week and this week has been absolutely abject.

As was mentioned in a previous post, A Break From the Norm, i needed a weekend away from North Wales to recharge the batteries and revitalise my love of the place. In truth, it worked a treat and coincided nicely with a nasty cold i had contracted, rendering me almost useless.

I came back Monday night and pretty much headed straight to bed before going back to work on Tuesday. That evening, i was determined that i’d shaken off the worst of it and was keen to get back on it and, now that the Indy Aggregate had begun again, i was heading down to tick some problems.

It would be difficult to argue with 46 problems in a session, including a healthy number of 7s if i had felt anything close to healthy. Looking back, the coughing and spluttering rendered the session unwise. Fully fit it might have worked but considering i was struggling to breathe, it did take it’s toll.

What’s more, i managed to pump myself out to such an extent that it took until Saturday for the pain in my left forearm to subside. Wednesday i had a session in the wall at work, mainly coaching but that soon gave way to having a play on my outstanding project and discovering a hold had changed. It has now been substituted with another of a different colour, although this has now made the barely-possible dyno at the end even harder. I doubt i’ll be able to convince anyone else to try it again.

This session, of course, didn’t help my recovery in the slightest and Thursday, clenching my left fist caused large pain in my forearm. Nevertheless, desperate to get back to the form i’ve been in all summer, i opted to head out to the remaining unclimbed project, called Hiding in Plain Sight (with a sit down start to be named Planing in Hindsight).

Once again, this turned out to be an error and despite not starting until nearly 6, i was done before nightfall at 7:30, my forearm still giving me grief and my energy levels still very low. Whether i wanted to or not, i had to rest.

An evening with Ruth and Ffion on Friday came as a welcome distraction and meant i was pretty much back to normal after just over a week. The clincher was Saturday night, following Wales agonising defeat to the Aussies in the rugby, i headed back to the Indy to try and get a few more off the sheet.

Of the 70 problems to have gone up, i’ve now done 58, with two that could be flashable left to do and a couple of others just waiting to be finished. And then tonight, i’ve been back in the Pass.

On a first aid course this weekend, i’ve enjoyed finishing an hour-and-a-half early today and went to check out Love Pie 7c on the Pieshop boulder. A one-move wonder, i was achingly close in just a short single session and now have the beta wired for the next one. Sadly, it’s all on that left forearm again…

So things have started to look up, with a bonus this week: two days ago, i posted an article called The Teaching Conundrum, on the merits of teaching youngsters do jump from the top or climb down. I posted it on my Facebook profile and was astounded as the view count went through the roof. By midnight, the page alone had seen nearly 150 views – 30 more than any page on any day on my entire site.

While there were some comments disagreeing afterwards (and justly so) it did get a lot of traffic onto my site and did get people thinking. And i guess those are the two things the site is for! I hope you enjoy it or that. And thanks for reading.

Milestones: The Ill-Fated Summer of 2013

This is part nine of a series of posts all about the turning points in my climbing career (and it’s a good one!). From single moves to huge time spans, these are the events that shaped me into the climber and person i am today. 

I’ll be posting a new one every few days so keep an eye on the blog for the latest or, if not, they will appear in one beast of an article at the end of the series. Feel free to comment and let me know of some of your own highlights, i’d greatly enjoy hearing some of your own. 

The ill-fated summer of 2013


Things go wrong when travelling; that’s part of the fun, in a weird slightly sadistic way. And i’ve had plenty of things go wrong on me over the years. What i haven’t had is for everything to go wrong on the same trip. Well, hadn’t until 2013.

With a poor recruitment drive, i was left to find budding boulderers from further afield and a fortnight wasn’t appealing to poor Fredrik – my unwitting friend who had agreed to come to Austria for my summer trip. The concept seemed sound though: drive to Southern Germany for a week in the Frankenjura with the dog before meeting him in Munchen and heading down to Zillertal. Granted, it would be a long way and a lot of time alone but i wasn’t that worried; Frankenjura’s reputation is excellent so surely there must be climbers there, and there was a reputed climbers campsite where i was sure to meet someone.


What i hadn’t anticipated was that the campsite wouldn’t take dogs. With my German lacking at best, i managed to find another site and a quiet corner… right next to the road. Still, next to a little river would be great for the dog.

And for a local school group it turns out, who pitched camp on day two and didn’t leave for the rest of the week, causing me great fun trying to keep Tess from growling and barking at anyone who walked past.

A truly scenic area, well worth experiencing. I only hope the bouldering access issues are resolved soon
A truly scenic area, well worth experiencing. I only hope the bouldering access issues are resolved soon

By this point, this was the least of my worries. On my first morning, on route to find some boulders, the clutch went on the car. Alone, now stranded, without recovery, this was more than a little problem. Thanks to a bit of off-road experience and the film Little Miss Sunshine, i managed to somehow drive to not one but two garages where, being German, my car was back on the road within a few hours.

That didn’t help me climb much though. The temperature was in the high 30s and the lack of guidebook left me wandering the forest aimlessly. By the end of the week, filled with nerves and anxiety, i had got practically nothing done, eaten about two meals and was much more tired than when i’d started.

In Austria at Sundergrund on the day i turned 29
In Austria at Sundergrund on the day i turned 29

Picking up Fredrik lifted my spirits enormously – just to have a friend with me made me feel much more secure, especially as, by this point, my phone had almost entirely given up the ghost. Our first day in Austria (co-incidentally my birthday) was the one and only day that went well.

For the rest of the week, we were scrabbling and searching for dry rock and hiding under a tarp to cook away from the rain. When we did climb, i managed to graze my ankle which then got infected, making wearing any proper footwear uncomfortable at least.

The view of the village of Ginzling from the crag - typically Alpine
The view of the village of Ginzling from the crag – typically Alpine

And the problems kept on coming – actual ones not boulder problems. On one evening, after filling a couple of bottles with petrol, i inadvertently cross threaded the fuel pump and when priming the stove, watched a ball of flames engulf my face. I was unscathed (relatively low heat and lightning quick reactions both helped) but the stove wasn’t and was now completely useless. Thankfully i had a spare.


Then big disaster: the clutch went again. While the garage in Germany were incredibly helpful, the one is Autria was quite the opposite and that was it. The only options now involved returning without the car (and most of it’s contents!). An international recovery policy had been taken out the week before and now it was going to be put to good use. And to top it all off, while trying to deal with all of this, on the last night, the tent broke.

Last morning and we awoke hunkered down in the basement of the campsite. It had been an uncomfortable night’s sleep, worrying someone would appear and try to evict us. All of my possessions were put into two piles: one of essentials i was to take with me, the other of things i’d leave behind for the recovery truck, potentially never to be seen again. Soon, Fredrik was forced to leave for a train to catch his flight, leaving me alone again, awaiting a recovery and only contactable by text through my tablet.

Loving the descriptive graffiti
Loving the descriptive graffiti

Eventually i was collected and left at Innsbruck airport with a hire car. Several hundred miles and three ferry crossings later (thanks to P&Os dog policy and Avis insistence the car be left in France) and i was in a car with my dad, driving back to Birmingham. It was another fortnight before i saw my Freelander again, thankfully it’s contents unchanged. Several times on that trip i genuinely didn’t know how i was going to get myself out of the mess.

But i did, somehow by the grace of god – in this case god being named mum and dad. I don’t think i’ve ever felt as lost and helpless as i did on this trip but i tell you what, the confidence boost on any excursion since is phenomenal.


Keeping on going

I had a look at my ticklist on 27crags yesterday and was surprised how much I’ve actually done since getting back from Swizzy; it seems to have galvanised me nicely. The one problem i have had is finding people to climb with!

I was texting Ryan yesterday and he said he wanted to go to Sheep Pen but didn’t like climbing alone – i wish i had that luxury. The thing is, especially with bouldering, you just have to be a bit more picky about where you go and what you try. The Witch will have to wait, as i’m not dragging three pads up that bloody hill! However, after my recent reccie, Fish Skin Wall 7a+ is an ideal target.



To be honest, i’d been trying to get other people to go out somewhere else instead. With no willing takers, this would have to do and as mentioned before, it’s on the board so needs a good crack. Ruth opted to come with me, not to climb but just to be sociable, so we drove over with a couple of pads and made the short walk in.

It didn’t take long; less than half an hour as it happens and that without a warm up. That also included trying some poor beta, some that was certainly not taken from the videos i’d been watching. Feeling slightly buoyant but at the same time a little lost as to what to do with myself, we decided to head back, calling it a short session. That said, short though it was, it was plenty of time for Tess to find something dead to roll in and the rest of the evening was spent cleaning her off in the lake.

Next day, same invites and same problem: no takers. As mentioned on here before, when you can’t find anyone to come along, go somewhere you want to be alone. While i wasn’t exactly optimistic about getting anything done of the Mymbyr Boulder, i knew it needed time and effort before i would. Praying for another breeze, i neglected the trolley and just carried two pads up there, one on my back, the other on my head.

I should’ve had more faith! The prow feature on the right seemed the next one to tackle, especially as i’d decided to use a low block for starting footholds. After a bit of fiddling and faffing, i found there really wasn’t much of a problem with the landing and as much as i wanted a big dynamic move to a sloper on the right, the climb was much nicer slapping up the arete to the left. Climb done surprisingly quickly, i called it Ground Clearance 6c+ after the block underneath you and the amount of felled trees i had to move when i first cleaned it up. I also added a link up into Christmas Comes Early at 6c.

Onto the ultimate challenge: Dichotomy of Good and Evil. Such a good looking line, such good moves, simple yet brilliant but on the most evil of crimps. Five holds all about a quarter of a pad, with poor footholds at best. I saw this one as a long haul; one that would delay the announcement of the location of the Mymbyr Boulder for quite some time.

I’ve made a habit of being wrong in the last few years. Mostly it’s incredibly annoying but once in a while it has it’s advantages. Sudden unexpected success has led to mild confusion on it’s grade though.

Intermezzo 7c is a very similar problem, although starting on a massive jug with two hands and a heel hook. Four tiny crimps (although possibly bigger than Dichotomy) before latching a finishing jug. The feet on Intermezzo are substantially better but the wall also substantially steeper. Nevertheless, it relented almost as quickly. Would that make them the same grade?

Meanwhile, there are plenty of other problems with similar moves that shut me down at a lower grade so it’s poor reasoning. You never know if it was a strong day, where hard things relent easily, especially with a problem that suits my style well, or a poor day when i couldn’t get up stairs. In the end i gave it the provisional grade of 7b and am desperate for someone to go about repeat it. If you’re reading this and climb around that grade, please do get in touch, i’m itching to find out.


The actual evening was tougher than it sounds. The breeze i was hoping for didn’t exist and the midge got so bad, i was leaving my chalk bag 20 yards from the bottom of the climb and moving away in between efforts. Conditions weren’t great and there was a lot of chalking and brushing going on, hastily with the other hand slapping myself around the head in that fashion people do with flying beasties. Thankfully, the small crimps bit into my fingers perfectly and the skin on the last quarter of my pads is so thick it doesn’t perspire that much. It adds to the grade conundrum though.

To add further to the confusion, last night one of the new Centre Assistants at work, Louise, joined me for an after work session at Sheep Pen. We both had a bit of a poor one, where she failed on a V0+ (although did succeed on a V1) and i spent yet more time falling off the crux of The Pinch V7. Given my recent ticklist, of established problems as well as first ascents, this should be certainly possible.

Yet, another session gone and the problem remains on the board. This time i was close, incredibly so, but crucially not close enough. It’s meant i am now desperate to return, yet again, and tick off one more.

Swiss Conclusions

Magic Wood, like Zillertal, and as the name would suggest, is situated in a crozzly wood. While the trails are much better than my first visit in 2012, they are still rough, rugged and a bit trying. Through between 15-20kg on your back and trudge through this talus daily and it takes it’s toll. By the last day, the ligaments (i think) in my right knee are starting to complain and hyper extending the knee is causing major problems.

I think this is worth stressing for somewhere like here: a rest day is not simply a rest for your fingers or your skin, it’s a rest for your whole body. We didn’t really take a rest day, i had a day doing next to nothing but still walked in with my kit and in hindsight, this really took it’s toll. Everything about Magic Wood can be quite punishing (except Tomasz that is) and it’s worth bearing this in mind when you’re there for a while. I don’t normally take rest days on week long trips but next time, it’s going to be scheduled, definitely. [Incidentally, today i’m heading down to the local walk-in minor injuries hospital to get the knee checked out]

Nevertheless, by this time it was Friday and our last climbing day – not one we were going to take sitting down! Knee notwithstanding, we were both feeling pretty good and pretty strong so it was one last push for a tick or two. Typically, we started slowly, although in this case we had little choice; our schedule dictated by a 1:30 appointment with Tess at the vet. Formalities done with (by an excellent and friendly vet) and before we could hit the problems proper, there was a photo that i was super keen for. From the road, on the opposite side of the river, there’s a superb view of one of the boulders. The plan was to have me climbing a problem and Simon across the way catching snaps. While it wasn’t exactly what i had in mind, it did give a different and unusual perspective and once again, i’m indebted to Simon for the effort of doubling his walk in.


We’d agreed to meet Jaako and Raul, our two Finnish friends, and with AJ along as well, we already had a good amount of pads and spotters for the hard rising traverse of Schneebrett 7c but when we arrived, there were already some Brits from Yorkshire and another Finnish couple, giving us more pads than we could use. Even when the Brits left, they left us with their pads and four Germans arrived to give us an even softer landing. AJ succeeded, the rest persevered valiantly and i complained about my knee, now hurting quite substantially.


Eventually we succumbed to it’s difficulties and moved on, returning to Dropzone 7a but instead to try the traverse in, Hohenzone 7c. It exchanges the first tricksome moves of Dropzone with a techy and thuggy initial section, with a slightly dodgy landing in the middle thrown in. AJ and Simon battled away, Simon struggling with the initial dynamic thrutch. Meanwhile, i got onto a large adjacent block and clutched the camera.

The video of AJ came out beautifully, and is shown below, spliced together with my ascent of Dinos Don’t Dyno. It’s called Contrast at Magic Wood for various reasons: the two climbs, while similar in grade, at wildly different, one long and smooth and elegant, the other one massive move, flying through the air. Everything about these problems is different and hopefully the accompanying music supports this.

[Aside: editing the video has given me the impetus to crack on with a local showcase film on North Wales bouldering, I’ll come back to this in the next few posts]

By this point, i hadn’t actually climbed anything – a poor show for a last day, even if nursing a mild injury. Nearby, Bosna Genial 7a was mentioned at the very beginning of the guidebook section as a stand out line and i was keen to give it a bash. Two small crimps and, as it turns out, two toe hooks around a prow lead into a jug and a series of good slopers to top out. I looked at this from the floor, someone else having ticked to slopers and didn’t think the first move that far, or the starting holds too small. Pads down, sit on the floor, pull up and boom! First move campused and the rest fairly easy. A 7a flash to top off the best trip i’ve ever had.