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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. 

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The Long Awaited New Testament

It’s here.

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I've been waiting a very long time for this. Not just me, many people both local and elsewhere around the world and you know what, it's been totally worth the wait. It does have some weight to it: nearly 700 pages means it nearly doubles the mass of my #climbing bag but what that means is there are SOOOOOO many new places to explore; places I never really knew existed, places I knew of but didn't know what was there, places I know well with extra new lines to throw myself at. Makes it even sweeter for me that I'm in it! Not a photo but my lines in Bryn Engan! #stoked Here's to a summer of #bouldering in #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #guidebook #book #climbing_pictures_of_instagram

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It has been a long time coming, for anyone wanting to boulder in North Wales; that’s quite a number of people given it is up there as a contender for the best bouldering in Britain! The last guide was originally published in 2004, in moody black and white and was actually bilingual, with everything being given descriptions in Welsh (Cymraeg) as well as English. It went out of print back in 2009 and has been a prized possession for anyone lucky enough to lay their hands on one – something not to be loaned or lost for sure! – until now.

For some context, the old guide was 303 pages and (as well as half of it being duplicated already) contained the usual general pages, commandments for bouldering outdoors, two pages on gear, another on landings, four pages on the definition of a boulder problem (worth a read) and another three on grading. At the back, once past the faraway crag of Cae Ddu, you’d find a FULL graded list of everything in the book, eight colour photos including one of the great John Gaskins and SIXTEEN pages on history of the local scene. Oh and a glossary.

All that is gone, save for four pages of introduction; such is the nature of the North Wales bouldering explosion since the last guide first hit the shelves some thirteen years ago. In fairness, it had to as the weighty tome that now covers my homeland extensively still comes in at 667 pages. It weighs 1150g, almost half the weight of my daughter when she was born…

The old classics are in there, obviously but with entire new crags that only the most dedicated of locals were aware of. Nevertheless, with almost every crag at the very least giving a photo topo for an old project for me, and after years of deliberation, i’ve opted to go for a No Retro Ticks approach to the guide.

I was chatting to an old friend Andy Marshall the other day and said about this so just to clarify: No Retro Ticks refers simply to literally ticking the guidebook, not claiming the ascent. What this means in real terms is that there is a lot of repeating of boulder problems around here for me all of a sudden!

That’s not to mean i’m going to leave a lot of the new stuff. On the contrary, unable to wait for the delivery at work, i snagged a copy from local shop V12 (often called VDiff) the day it arrived and was out the following day checking out somewhere i’d been before but not climbed.

I love doing established boulder problems, with beta and a grade and i love doing first ascents but what i really don’t like is doing something that i know has been done but i don’t know how or how hard. I find it really irritating and more than once i’ve done something slightly different from the original and don’t quite get the ascent. There have been a few places like that around here but all of a sudden, i have a book that now shows me where they lie.

The first crag on my radar? The first crag in the book! Little walk in, dog friendly and oft pondered, i headed into Fachwen to get some much needed mileage under my belt.

A great little session culminating in Shorter’s Roof 7a+ while listening to the Test cricket. More than getting back into the swing of things, it was liberating to actually climb something i’d looked at years ago but was put off by not knowing enough detail. That and it’s a great little roof.

The only other ticks in the book were up in the pass where i managed to sneak out for a couple of hours. The Llanberis Pass has always been the focal point of the North Wales bouldering scene and has suddenly expanded, somewhat unexpectedly. One would’ve thought it couldn’t get much else new but it really has.

The Obedience Boulders are one such area that weren’t really known before but now have photo topos and provide a quick session for those nearby. Most people will be lured to the nearby Corridors Of Power 7c+ but i would suggest Nicotine Wall and it’s surrounding problems would be worth stopping at on the way there.

Sadly, despite obsessively reading the book at every opportunity, that remains my only outdoor sessions to date; stymied by poor weather and a baby, not to mention moving house. What we have mentioned though are some excellent scouting missions.

The crag of Fontainefawr was another i’d heard plenty about but not visited so an evening walk turned quickly into bushwacking and searching in the woods to find the inspiring hanging roof. It did look mighty impressive but for me, didn’t quite hit the spot and would most definitely not be baby friendly.

The one that did push my buttons was Supercrack. Under the heading of the Black Rhino boulder – a less inspiring but equally tempting boulder – Supercrack has captivated my attention since i first laid eyes on it in person. Despite the rain, the bottom half remained chalked and i really cannot wait for a dry spell to get back there and get spat off the harder (and hopefully not the easier) lines.

It looked inspiring in a recent video that caught my attention too but that wasn’t why i was watching. Long time readers will remember the excitement i felt after completing my best first ascent, Prowess 7b. So imagine my excitement when i watched this video:

It is a great feeling to put up a new line, even better to see it in the guidebook but to know that people are out there climbing it is a real thrill. What’s even better is a conversation i had the other day with the boys at Dragon Holds.

After recognising the woods of Bryn Engan in a photo, and a comment saying they were searching for new boulders, i asked if it was where i thought. The reply: “You know where it is, near Pyb boulder and prowess”. Not only are people now trying my climb, they’re also using it as a landmark!

It might sound a little sad but it’s nice to think that while this new book is giving me so much inspiration and new climbs to throw myself at, that i’ve been a little part of that.

Life Is Rosie

Well, that’s it: it’s done, i can do no more. Literally, as if i were to climb any of the outstanding lines, they wouldn’t count. The Indy Winter Aggregate has finished.

So, despite the nicest weather we’ve had in North Wales this year on Wednesday, my evening was spent back at the Indy scrabbling for just one more point. After all, with scores tight at the top, it might make the crucial difference. As far as i was aware, there were only three outstanding lines left to try.

That was until i got there. Tim had set a couple of new lines the other day but had informed me they wouldn’t be numbered, being so close to the end. Turns out he was mistaken and i walked in to fifteen more climbs left to accomplish. On the bright side, that would definitely tip me over the 300 climbs mark for the season…

Irritatingly, despite only three graded 7a or harder, they were nearly all quite tough! Normally 6s fall very quickly for me, normally on the first effort, but every one, save the occasional 3 or 4, made me put some effort in and got me thinking. I think there were at least six climbs that didn’t get flashed.

Still, they all got done – including the 7b+ black route that captured most of my attention for the session – and thus concluded another fantastic winter climbing aggregate.

A couple of years ago, i posted a big thank you for the end of the aggregate and it’s been interesting to find it and read it again. The same is as true now as it was then; the only difference that perhaps i’ve started to take it for granted a little more.

Every year there are ups and downs with the aggregate and this year has been no exception. That said, the ups have far outweighed the downs: faces have mostly been stripped and set as a whole, eliminating a route being taken down prematurely or getting in the way of the new set, the weekly setting has returned and the grade range has been excellent as always. Most importantly of all, the routes have been 98% awesome.

It is tough to set good lines, especially consistently week after week, but the Indy do this very well indeed. Other walls – the Boardroom, so i hear – do a big reset of the whole wall but the graduated approach always gives you something fresh to tick off and something hard to project. This year, they nailed it.

The downs have mainly been to do with grading, where it has been a bit erratic this season. While it’s not the end of the world, it can get a little frustrating to sail up a 7b within a couple of attempts and then fail abjectly on a 7a+. Nevertheless, they are one of the few remaining walls that grade their climbs with actual outdoor grades, not colour grade boundaries and if the price to pay for that is some iffy numbers occasionally, i’ll take that every time.

My only other complaint would be the regularity with which the scores have been updated but again, it’s not a serious problem and considering i sat in top spot for five months as a consequence, it kinda worked out in my favour! Yes, this is normally a monthly update and it would be nice but knowing the lads as i do and knowing how this season has gone for them, it is understandable, in exactly the same way as routes not being immediately numbered all the time. Given the circumstances and what they’re actually trying to achieve, they’ve yet again done a stonking job.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the atmosphere, vibe of the place; yet again, it’s a real local hub. Part of the reason for my pseudo-supremacy is the lack of regulars out playing this year but there is new blood – there to make me feel old – coming in all the time and really grasping the ethos of the wall. No elitism, no snobbery, just climbers, there to climb and socialise and happy to help each other out.

All in all, win lose or draw, it’s been another great series. The Massive Monday Series has added an extra element of competition and was another storming success and from a personal perspective, it’s done for me exactly what i needed it to: it’s got me strong again. Not back to the levels of this time last year, ticking off the hardest lines of my life but back to some sort of form; something i can now go and build on. And that is exactly what i wanted.

With outdoor sessions now firmly on my mind, I did manage to make the most of the good weather during the day – nipping out into the forest to snag two more first ascents in Bryn Engan. Life is Rosie 6a and Slabadabadoo 6c won’t be turning any heads any time soon but are worthwhile lines to add to a growing circuit. And besides, i’ve now got a climb named after my daughter, which makes it all okay.

The days are getting noticably longer and the weather beginning to show signs of turning. The end of the month brings with it the changing of the clocks and the turning of the Climbing Year. What happens now remains to be seen but at least i feel primed to give it my best shot. With my new family for company this year.

Solstice: Goal Setting Time Again

A whole month since my last post just goes to highlight quite how little has been going on for me lately, although there have been a few notable climbing-related activities – most notably on the coaching front.

After a break from coaching over the summer (due to distractions like baby-related fussing and DIY) i’ve got back into it recently, slowly remembering what to do and culminating last weekend on attending the BMC Coaching Symposium in Manchester. It was a fantastic experience, from Kris Peters talking about strength and conditioning training to Udo Neumann and his movement workshops, with plenty more as well. It has relit the fire that had burned very brightly to begin with to progress as a coach rather than a climber and has led to some deeper thinking and understanding of climbing since then. I will look to write up some of these ideas and publish them soon.

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"We always think the questions that surround us are the most important" It's quite common to meet your #heroes in the #climbing world but it's pretty rare to meet someone who instantly becomes one. This is Udo Neumann: he's coached the German national team and is one of the front runners in current #coaching theory. Here he's giving the keynote speech at the @teambmc Coaching Symposium at the Depot in Manchester yesterday. His thinking on movement in coaching is amazing, his methods incredible and he has the personality to boot. Such an amazing guy, I hope, as with all the others presenting on this awesome weekend, that our paths cross again very soon #bouldering #climbing_is_my_passion

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Other than that, my focus has been on getting back to vaguely the levels of strength i held back in March on that cold day at Sheep Pen and my career-high tick of 7c+. As such, any advances on outside climbing (despite the potentially dry conditions) have been ignored in favour of indoor cranking and a focus on training. A six-month pass at the Indy has helped drag me down more often and the advent of the aggregate has given me some much needed structure.

Where the List had acted as an inspiration, once my strength had dropped a little, i found that even the easiest lines on there had become too dificult and actually, it was becoming more detrimental than helpful. The best way to get back on track: get strong again.

The main issue, that i am sure most climbers can empathise with, is a niggling feeling in my right arm, from my elbow to to midriff. At the moment, i’m persevering carefully and praying it isn’t anything too serious.

Of course, this all leads nicely to today’s significant date: it’s the mid-season solstice!

Some Highlights

First though, it would be unfair to mention some of the highlights from the last six months. After all, there have been some huge ones!

On the climbing front, the Great Swedish Bouldering Tour will certainly sit as one of the greatest trips of all time. While there wasn’t too much in the way of actual climbing, the number of crags and variety of climbing was unprecedented and will live long in the memory  – there is too much to think of quickly here.

Meanwhile, while the week in Scotland again yielded a meagre amount of time on rock proper, a taste of Torridon was enough to remind me that while you don’t have to get on a boat or a plane to get to Scotland, it does not reduce it’s appeal at all – we need to go back. Emily will not complain.

And of course, the biggest news of all: the onset of fatherhood come late February. I’m not sure what to say about it, other than i cannot wait. This is something i’ve wanted for many years and i’m thrilled that not only is it now actually going to happen, i’ve found the perfect person for it to happen with. Even if becoming a father meant an end to my climbing career, it would be worth it but i don’t think anyone would put money on that outcome happening. Far more likely is for me to have a willing and budding apprentice… Only time will tell what will happen but whatever that is, it’s going to be amazing.

Clocks Fall Back

This weekend, the clocks have gone back an hour, meaning several things: firstly, any ideas of daylight after-work sessions are now firmly out for the next few months and of course meaning we are now exactly half-way through the yearly cycle.

That means it’s time to review the last goals, find out how well (or poorly) i’ve done and set some more for the next season. Of course, with this being only the solstice and not the New Year, there are still some outstanding, which is ideal, giving me some continuity. So let’s start by looking at the goals set for Summer 2016

Last Season’s Goals:
  • Three 8a climbs
  • At least 7c abroad
  • More first ascents and a comprehensive topo
  • SPA Assessment
And how did it go?

Erm, yeah, not great, reading that little list! but not that bad either.

Three problems at 8a was always going to be an impossible ask but i knew that when i wrote it; it was more a case of trying to spur myself on. To be honest though, psyche levels fell dramatically mid-season and unless i’d maintained the improvment i’d seen over the previous 18 months, it was never going to happen.

Psyche levels wax and wane regularly with climbing and continually being completely keen to get out all the time is not sustainable. The trick with these things is to accept that sometimes, you just need a break from it all and running with that. Getting the news that i’m having a baby probably affected me too (not that i’d change that for the world but you know what i mean).

Likewise, even booking onto an SPA Assessment proved a step too far, although i think i underestimated quite how difficult a step this would be for me. The true fact is that once i’ve ticked that box, my rack and my ropes will doubtless be going deep into the back of the loft – such is my dislike of trad climbing. Don’t get me wrong, i see the appeal but for me, it is something i no longer wish to pursue and thankfully, these days i don’t have to. This one is going to be a much tougher task that i’d thought.

But it’s not all doom and gloom. 7c abroad did indeed go this season, with success on Carnage assis 7c of all things. It was slightly tactical but almost didn’t pay off and did cost me far more of my week than i had intended. Nevetheless, by picking the extended version of a line i know so intimately, i gave myself a real fighting chance and did indeed manage to tick off this particular milestone.

Meanwhile, a late-season surge on the boulders in Bryn Engan meant that more first ascents did arrive… sort of. To be honest, the problems on the Bryn Engan boulder were all probably climbed many moons ago but not recorded, meaning i’m not actually thinking they’re first ascents proper. Instead, i’m claiming first recorded ascent of five lines; the pick of the bunch being Awaiting Arthur’s Arrival 7a+ – a sligtly convoluted link up line but a good one nonetheless.

The comprehensive topo hasn’t happened though. Decent photographs are certainly needed, with time to actually create and edit something that will stand up to the rigours of the navigation of boulderers. Still, i’ve seen and heard of Prowess and the lines of the Mymbyr Boulder going in the new guide. To be honest, that’s far more of a coup than my own little scribblings!

So, about fifty per cent of the objectives done probably gives a fair assessment of my levels of success. Given the dip in psyche and ability during the latter half of the season, i’m not going to complain!

2016 Winter Goals

At the “turn of the year” i’d even set some Winter goals: train weaknesses, harness strengths and create a training plan. Hmm.

These are all worthy goals but i suspect possibly don’t quite go far enough. True they are excellent focal points but more is needed if i’m to get back to ticking the goals i’ve missed to date.

8a is still atainable, if i can find the right one. An SPA is again achieveable, despite it being winter. A topo will take a few days at a computer. Still, more things are needed and life has certainly changed substantially since that post in the latter days of March.

2016 Autumn/Winter Goals – short term

Get strong. Get back in training. Get the psyche back! That has to be the key and is already on the cards as i continue to tick off the problems at the Indy on my little sheet. My focus at the moment has to get to a point where the List is inspirational and not demoralising and if i can’t do that, it needs redrawing – it is currently detrimental.

Getting back into coaching is a must too. Granted, three sessions a week may have represented an incessent and unsustainable surge of enthusiasm – and possibly a hint that i was more single than i’d realised – but getting back in the wall with that different head on is now just as important to me as a climber.

  • Get strong and create that training plan.
  • Coach regularly
  • Keep on top of the aggregate
  • 7c outside – most likely Nazgul’s Traverse

2016 Autumn/Winter goals – season long

That SPA Assessment needs to happen; i’m gonna have to suck it up at some point, although don’t be surprised to see this one on my to-do list at the end of next March too.

Meanwhile, the aggregate remains a strong priority for me. I have mentioned in a previous post that my final standing of fourth last year may have been akin to Leicester winning the Premier league so a reasonable aim may be to finish top-5 this time around. This should do it, as long as i’m not too upset if it doesn’t happen.

As mentioned above, leaving 8a on there isn’t beyond the realms of possibility but reigning it in from three to one is probably wise given the dip i’ve had. I’ll come back just as strong, if i truly want to, but there’s no point getting carried away and if i do tick off one, i’m not going to suddenly stop because i’ve achieved that goal.

Finally, my coaching needs to develop a little more into a structured activity if i’m to continue heading in the direction i want it to. I’ve been reading lots about coaching in other sports and this is not bad thing. Next is to consolidate my thinking, come up with some tangible points and create a coaching philosophy. Do this, and i’ll be setting myself up nicely for the future.

  • SPA Assessment
  • Top Five in the Indy Aggregate
  • At least one 8a climb
  • Create a coaching philosophy

Awaiting Athur’s Arrival wasn’t just a route name plucked out of the back of my mind because it sounds good. At the back end of the coming season, my first offspring will be here and everything WILL change. While this isn’t necessarily the end, or indeed a bad thing at all, it does mean this is possibly my last chance to climb and train as i’ve known it in the past. It’s important to make the most of it – and enjoy it too!

Perhaps there’s a lesson in there for all of us? Whatever you’re up to this Winter, have a great time and the Very Best of Psyche To You!

Merry Solstice!

Tumultuity: Part Two

We finished the last post about to depart on a week long trip to Scotland, although the circumstances before departure were less than pleasant.

A Good Man Gone

The week before we left, on the Tuesday, i came to work expecting my colleague to already be in waiting for me. He wasn’t there, hadn’t come in by 9am and as time ticked on, stories began to appear in my head as to what had happened. I jokingly said that maybe he was dead, only to find out early in the afternoon that, very sadly, he had actually passed away that very morning.

It was very sad indeed, being a tragic accident where he had fallen down the stairs and succumbed to his injuries three days later. I’m not going to go into a large obituary or eulogy but he does deserve a mention. He wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and had a tendency to be a little curt and rude with people but he was my friend, a good, honest and true man who you know would be there for you if you needed him. Life here hasn’t been the same since and he will be missed. Rest in peace, Pete Wright.

Bonnie Bonnie Banks

The following Saturday morning, on Em’s birthday no less, we set off from home bound for Edinburgh. Adopting my tradition of getting away for your birthday, we’d both long since wanted to visit this fantastic city and, after a mildly long drive (it’s not Stockholm, after all…) we had a great couple of nights in the Scottish capital, finding two fantastic eateries and enjoying wandering the historic city. It was definitely nice to do something a little different to our usual wilderness excursions.

The next leg took us much further north, up to Torridon, where i had heard the bouldering was some of the best in Britain. Not wanting to pass that up lightly, the opportunity to have a blast on the blocs there whetted the appetite nicely.

Whatever the bouldering was going to be like, it was impossible to argue with the scenery! Huge mountains surrounded us on all sides with the nearby Loch leading out to sea not far from our free campsite. It definitely helped that we were blessed with some stunning weather to boot.

Sadly, though, the weather is never a sure thing in Scotland and we only managed a mere single day on the boulders. The fact we split it into two sessions did mean we made the most of it, though a second day (as had been planned) would’ve been much better, had we not been driven from the campsite, let alone the crag, by more midge than I ever could’ve anticipated.

They are the scourge of the area and the main reason the country will never feature higher on the international climbing scene. It certainly rivaled the summer in Sweden and sadly cut the climbing experience short –  a travesty considering how much quality rock is there. This, dear reader, is one of those crags that is a must to return to. Once it’s cold enough to kill off the flying beasties…

A full report on the bouldering in Torridon can be read here.

With the wet weather slowly on it’s way, we opted to move on and it turned out to be a good decision. The rain began the night we left, meaning we were forced to pack up a wet tent and spent a reasonable amount of effort trying to find some solid lodgings for the Thursday night, further south near Glen Coe.

We managed to find somewhere for the Thursday but with Friday fully booked: the Glencoe Independent Hostel; a nice small hostel where all of the inhabitants seemed reluctant to talk to anyone else. It was all a little surreal really. After a week of cooking, scrabbling around on the floor, we reveled in a proper kitchen and cooked, well, exactly the same as we’d been having. At least we got to stand up to cook it…

Friday came and the weather was not only refusing to relent, it was worsening. Further south we ventured, in search of respite and with the target being the southern munro, Ben Lomond.

As we drove along the shoreline of this famous lake, i pulled out the laptop and played Benny Goodman’s 1938 version of Loch Lomond. It may sound silly but as the weather once again turned dour, anything to keep up spirits was welcome!

By the time we set off from the car, the drizzle was setting in, and it wasn’t long before we were engulfed in cloud, slowly getting wetter and wetter. We must have made it about half way before a wet crotch made me lose the will to continue and to my relief, i wasn’t alone. Dripping wet, we turned around and headed back down.

Back at the car, it got worse, with many other bedraggled walkers coming past and finding Tess very amusing as she jumped to try and catch the deluge falling from the drain. The forecast wasn’t looking to improve much and so, reluctantly, we opted to sack off the ominous task of finding somewhere to stay and pitch a wet tent and instead, packed and headed home.

It was a bit of a disappointing end to an otherwise good trip but it was the right decision. The fact we awoke to glorious sunshine the following day proved that point nicely! We both agreed it won’t go down as a classic trip but it was certainly a good one and nice to get away somewhere new. More to the point, it’s always good to have more places in mind for the next trip…

Welsh Fun

Since then it’s been business as usual: talk about baby things, try desperately to stay on top of the mess at home, think about trying to get out and climb again and lose the summer podge that seems to have developed around my midriff.

To date, the only excursion of any note is some work on an old cleaned boulder just by work: the Bryn Engan boulder.

It’s an old one, climbed many moons ago and thus almost certainly not first ascents. However, i’m claiming them as First Recorded Ascents. Either which way, with nothing properly established there, i’m naming and grading them.

The Bryn Engan Boulder
The Bryn Engan Boulder

It took a solitary session to get the first few lines (the straight ups) on the Saturday that Pete actually took his fateful fall. This was on the way to the CA leaving party, meaning two of the lines are now Fond Farewell 5 and The Wright Stuff 6c, with the two aretes being Right and Left Arete at 3 and 6a respectively; the quality of them not really warranting any real thought on suitable names, despite my naming practices to date. This left the last link up line.

This one took a good three sessions in total. First was there with new CA, Jack. In truth, the conditions really weren’t ideal with the unusual mix of midge and drizzle, with the temperature quite warm. Nevertheless, the face is slightly overhanging so climbing remained possible and we persevered, anxiously trying the moves and fathoming the sequence. Heels and toes were heartily employed but to little avail as we both ended up stuck, horizontally across the face.

My next session was solo and in very similar conditions, although the rain was fractionally less. Suddenly, when trying the moves from half-way across the traverse, a new, simpler sequence presented itself, neglecting hooking of any kind. By bypassing this, it made it substantially easier (doable in fact) and before i knew it, i was clinging onto the holds at the bottom of Fond Farewell wishing i’d placed the pads better…

Nevertheless i topped out and immediately phoned Jack at work to share the new sequence and success. With the imminent(ish) arrival of what we reckon is my son, the hardest line and best on the boulder is now Awaiting Arthur’s Arrival 7a+.

The next step?

The prospect of increasing my top-ten yearly average for 2016 from it’s current level of 7b+ is rapidly dwindling. While Awaiting Arthur’s Arrival was a real coup, it was by no means a tough test and is not a sign of improvement per ce.

However, the good old Indy Aggregate starts again in the next few weeks and while my final position last year of 4th was far more likely to be a little bit like Leicester winning the Premier League, i am determined to get back in there and start training again. Meanwhile, there remains my membership at the Mill that has largely gone unused and of course my ability to set new problems in the climbing wall at work.

Meanwhile, the North Wales Bouldering Guide is nearing completion and should, in theory, be ready for the start of my new year. I’ve seen a handful of sections now and am thrilled that my little name appears in there! Prowess among most of my other lines, made it in! Result!

Of course, as soon as the new guide arrives, it will offer a host of new problems and a world of new psyche. My main hope now is that i’m fit and strong enough to make the most of it.

There’s still a month left before my mid-season solstice (when the clocks go back) and then it’s training time. The lantern is out and ready to be charged up – i need to find the charger first though – and then it’ll be time to do a bit of a review. Given the way the year has gone, it should be pretty positive!

Tumultuity: Part One

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

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

Big News

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

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

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

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

Summer of Discontent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part Two coming soon

Lulls and The Battle Against Sweat

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

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

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

The Negative

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

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

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

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

The Positive

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year!

I cannot find exactly where i first said about it but somewhere on here, i mentioned about the 1st January being poor as a climbers New Year. It’s right in the middle of the mid-winter season and your goals and objectives should be squarely in place and on the go by then. Maybe a quick review but resolutions for the year ahead? No, not now, just keep training.

The time to set your next goals and objectives is now: the weekend the clocks change. Twice annually, it’s the right time to assess where you’re at and plan for what’s coming. So in that spirit, here goes:

2015 Assessment

Since this time last year, so much has changed it’s hard to imagine! Having just returned from a frankly poor trip to Font, the first ascents continued to come with Fluffion 6a+, OGYDd 6c+ and culminating in my crowning achievement: Prowess 7b. Around that time i’d also managed to step my game up a bit with an ascent of Bus Stop 7b+ in the Llanberis Pass. This was also quickly followed by Ultimate Retro Party 7b to keep the trend coming.

Then followed the best trip to date: Magic Wood 2015. Perfect conditions, vibrant scene and some hard ticks! Intermezzo 7c, Dinos Don’t Dyno 7b and Bosna Genial 7a flash to name a couple of highlights marked my most successful trip since Font 2014 and my Carnage tick. I came back buoyed and psyched.

And that kicked off a summer of relentless success: Fish Skin Wall 7a+, The Pinch 7a+, Original Traverse 7b on the Brenin Boulder, The Gimp 7b even a flash of Wavelength (stand start) 7b+ as now graded in the new guide. The introduction of The List this time last year inspired me to get out at every opportunity and gave me the focus and autonomy to be able to narrow it down to the best possible option, with the last hard tick of the year being Love Pie 7c.

A dry spell followed Fredrik’s visit at the end of October (while it rained relentlessly) and so i got training in the wall, competing in the Indy Aggregate once again but not wholeheartedly as i was also training in the Mill and at Work. Oddly, the host of potential venues meant i actually did a lot less than i otherwise would but that didn’t seem to matter once i finally got out again.

February came and with it dry rock and fresh enthusiasm. Save for the occasional day (to tick Popcorn Party 7a mainly after many years) i hadn’t really been out since October so when i finally could, the List took a big hit. Johnny’s Problem 7b in the Pass, the Witches Knickers 7b and Toe Dragon into Kingdom of Rain 7b all fell within the month but the best was yet to come. Nearly two years after my first 7c, and five mixed sessions, i cracked the next grade: Jerry’s Problem V10 at Sheep Pen.

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Giving it beans yesterday on #jerrysproblem at #sheeppen. Session 3 on this one and I stuck the first two hard moves fairly quickly, much to the surprise of the excellent crew surrounding me. Sadly it didn't go and despite dry #rock this morning, and a repeat to try and keep the momentum going, it again eluded me. With rain falling this afternoon and another day off not until a week Thursday, it's not looking likely to be going any time soon. Still, it's not going anywhere and the weather is starting to turn… Photo credit to @michelle.l.wardle and top marks for capturing a great move with a great shot #northwales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing_photos_of_instagram

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Until i just wrote that, i didn’t realise how long i’d been on 7c as a top achievement and now, it seems silly as i’ve already been working on my first 8a! Which brings us to the next section.

2016 Spring/Summer Goals – short term

Put simply, it’s carry on as before and try to keep ticking them off The List… although thinking about it, adding the goal of “try and stop going on about the List” may not be a bad one too!

I’d quite like to concentrate on the four that remain from the inaugural version: Shocker 7b in Beddgelert Forest, Going Down On An Elephant 7b at Elephantitus Cave, Animal Magnetism V8 high above Caseg Fraith and Roof of a Baby Buddha 7c+. The latter has been the last to receive some serious attention and it’s gone well! Just need to bear them in mind during a dry spell.

In summary:

  • Keep ticking off the List
  • …but stop talking about the List as much
  • concentrate on the oldest four.

2016 Spring/Summer Goals – season long

Obviously knowing this was coming, i’ve been pondering this and a few weeks ago, i was hoping for my first 7c+ and maybe 8a. With recent developments, this has now changed and now sits at three 8a climbs this season/year.

I’d also quite like to get a 7c abroad. With plenty of opportunities to do this lined up for this year, it should be a distinct possibility, even though it can often take multiple sessions. It’ll take some attention to pick the right one(s) but it’s certainly attainable. If it goes quick enough, maybe 7c+ is also achievable but only time will tell on this.

Finally, i’d like to keep going on the first ascents in Bryn Engan and create a proper topo for everything in the forest. The new guide is looking closer all the time and i’m really hoping that my lines will make the cut. Getting a sufficient circuit may be the key and there’s plenty of projects currently waiting to be cleaned and climbed.

Oh, one more thing. As my coaching develops, i’d like to take this to the next level and the next hurdle will be to obtain my SPA proper. Assessments for the Foundation and Development coach can’t happen until i have a “group management” style award and that’s the most sensible and obvious one to do.

  • Three 8a climbs
  • At least 7c abroad
  • More first ascents and a comprehensive topo
  • SPA assessment

2016 Autumn/Winter Goals

Now that i’ve got into training a bit more and have some substantial facilities, it’s time i actually made proper use of them. Following an end-of-season review of course, the goal would be to train my weaknesses properly, develop my strengths a bit more (something i feel people should probably do a bit more – they’re the bits you’re good at, harness that!) and put some structure in place to be able to do this. It’s something i’ve never done and something that would benefit not only me personally but would be crucial to my development as a coach.

  • Train weaknesses
  • Develop strengths
  • Create a proper training plan and stick to it!

All of these should be perfectly sensible objectives and will push me on the way to being actually quite good. I have ideas in mind for longer term but to put them in place now would be folly – this is enough to be going at for now and thinking too far into the future risks losing sight of the short term goals.

So i’ll leave you with a Best of Psyche! greeting and wishing you all…

Happy New Year!!!

The Dry Side of a Damp Coin

After a couple of posts from friends, i may have talked down the week ever so slightly. So, in the interests of optimism, here is the same review but with an upbeat approach. Every word of both posts is completely true.

 

Every other year, i get the honour and privilege of travelling to Scandinavia, to explore more of what i believe is one of the greatest areas of the world. I’d love it to be more (i’ve even considered moving there a few times) but it’s a biannual visit because in the opposing years, my good Swedish friend, Fredrik comes to visit. After a hiatus last year for his wedding (marrying another good friend, Karin at a ceremony i was honoured to attend and even gave a speech) last week was once again Fredrik’s turn.

Months of planning couldn’t really help us with the Welsh weather, as we were forced to play it by ear. Still, optimism reigned supreme as i collected both Fredrik and his brother Tobias from Bangor station late on Tuesday night – the back of the car bursting with food…

With Tobias making his maiden voyage to these shores, i was keen to offer some hearty local dishes and throughout the week, i think i succeeded quite well: pan haggerty, more bangers and mash than we could finish, bacon butties with brown sauce, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, it was a hedonistic and gluttonous feast from day one.

And day one proper was quickly upon is. A relaxed start (with Welsh Rarebit) meant we had time to ease into the day, and the easy decision to start up at Sheep Pen. Fredrik had missed this North Walean Wonder last time round and with Tobias climbing around the 6c sort of area, it was a good choice.

I was vindicated in my decision pretty quickly: The Pinch 7a+ went quickly while my back was turned, i got a new highpoint on the tough first move of Jerry’s Problem 7c+ and Tobias sent his very first 6c+ in Toe Dragon. Traditions being the theme of the week, this ascent prompted another that my compadres had been doing for some years: a new top grade warrants a bottle of champagne. We even got a quick visit from Emily – a welcome surprise.

Day two and another relaxed start preceded a trip to Rhiw Goch. I was keen to get on Badger’s In The Mist 7c after an incomplete ascent the week before. While i didn’t get on that well, and Fredrik didn’t really get the psyche for Moria 7b (despite it’s three stars) we did get a good session on dry rock, with Tobias stealing all the headlines with quick sends of Gap of Rohan 6c and Ride the Wild Smurf stand 7a. (Thankfully, we hadn’t bought the champagne by this point, so one bottle would suffice.)

The weather had sat on the cusp of good and bad all week, raining overnight but stopping late morning, allowing us to go in search of dry rock in the mountains every day. Friday was just such a day and the strong wind was enough to counteract the overcast skies. With projects from two years ago in mind, we made the trudge up the hillside above Ynys Etws towards the Wavelength circuit.

It was another day of ticks, although mostly for Fredrik this time as he quickly flew up Utopia Left Hand 6c before a quick look at Love Pie 7c after my tick on Monday and then up the hillside to exorcise the demons surrounding King of Drunks 7a and the tricky Groove 6b that he had left previously.

Windswept and windburned, we returned home, with three days of trudging the hills and crushing problems taking it’s toll. Not to be discouraged, we checked the forecast and Saturday looked good: sunshine, not a hint of rain but a steady breeze. The plan: the so-far unvisited crag of Crafnant. While it was a way away, it would catch the breeze and would offer the chance for more V-points than we could possibly achieve.

Sadly the risk didn’t pay off, with the skies as grey as Sean Connery’s hair and the air as still as fruit juice without bubbles. Even moving around proved trecherous but not to be discouraged, we made an early decision and went back to the Cromlech boulders for a headtorch session.

It went well, with Tobias getting another V5 (a dyno Loose Canon) as well as a handful of various other bits before Fredrik’s valiant effort on Bus Stop 7b+ and my own efforts on Diesel Power 8a and Jerry’s Roof 7c, despite tendon problems in my left hand.

With their flight not until 6pm, the last day was up to the lads to decide and i was pretty chuffed when they decided to go and try and repeat some of my own problems around Bryn Engan.

With conditions lacking, we brushed with vigour to try and get the holds just dry enough and while Prowess proper didn’t go, the 6b+ stand start was a consolation and Fredrik got to try enough to admit he liked the moves – a win in my eyes. Tobias meanwhile was feeling the effects of a heavy week and had called it a day –  a good sign that his time hadn’t been wasted.

That being said, as we called time on the week and wandered around Betws before the drive to Manchester, i realised that even though things hadn’t quite gone as well as they could, it was always nice to see my friend again, and a pleasure to meet his brother. Granted the conditions hadn’t come close to the fantastic days i’d somehow managed to find over the summer; we had got out every day, getting good, worthwhile ticks in the process. Even if that wasn’t the case either, social time in good time is never wasted and now i can look forward to my next Scandinavian trip next summer to the island of Aland.

Dampened Expectations

When you go on a bad trip, it’s a travesty. When you play host to people and it’s a bad trip, it feels even worse.

We’ve all been there: hounded by bad weather or a lack of suitable options, or any of a multitude of factors that can mean your rare week off can not quite match your expectations. I’ve had my fair share – frozen to death in Magic Wood, boiled and lost in Frankenjura, rained on for a week in Daone, overwhelmed in Font and of course, the Ill Fated summer of 2013 with Fredrik.

Well the man in question came for his biannual visit last week, this time with his brother in tow. After months of planning and discussion, he finally arrived at Bangor station late into the night and was collected in the Green Machine ready for a week of sending.

While the weather was typically session killing, every morning of the week, we awoke to a wet outside that was painstakingly drying out. Yes, it meant we could still get out but it severely limited our options.

Not for day one, though, as Sheep Pen was on the cards one way or another – only a week of driving hell would prevent a day to one of North Wales greatest bouldering crags. In truth, it was a great session too, with sends galore including The Pinch 7a+ for Fredrik and Toe Dragon 6c+ for Tobias; the first of that grade for him and a prompt for a bottle of champagne for dinner. I even made some progress on Jerry’s Problem 7c+, although not much, and we had a visit from Emily.

Alas, though, as the days are now quite short, the success was all too brief; the downside of coming over so late in the year. The up side to that was it gave us plenty of down time, so back home and into the kitchen to cook up some hearty British meals.

I had planned to make sure we were well fed throughout the week and didn’t disappoint. The menu for the week included pan haggerty, bangers and mash, Welsh rarebit, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie and of course, bacon butties. And that doesn’t include the large bag of pies and pastries for lunches.

On to the second day and on to Rhiw Goch, with a personal aim this time: a correct ascent of Badgers In The Mist 7c. With my success on the direct variation, i was hoping that the ground work had been laid. I was wrong. It turns out that direct is as different a problem as you could get and my abject effort means i’m resigned to starting again on a problem i’d already had on my ticklist a week before. The frustration from that was carried through to the next day. Where the sun had basked us and dried the boulders of the previous days, Friday was no such luck. Wild and windy meant that when we headed out to the open boulders in search of dry rock, we were blasted from all sides. By the time we got home, with ascents of Utopia Left Hand 6c and King of Drunks 7a in the bag, we were windburned and wiped out.

With a promising forecast for Saturday, we were hoping that it would be the crowning day of a mediocre week. Supposedly dry, sunny and with a light breeze, the plan was Crafnant: a new crag for me meaning plenty to tick off. The downside? Quite a drive and a twenty minute walk in up a steep hill. It was also an unknown quantity, a risk, and it was probably this that led to our downfall.

Around two o’clock, we arrived only to find the air heavy with humidity, the sun hiding away behind a blanket of cloud and every single rock covered in what felt like fairy liquid. Even moving around felt nigh on impossible and the vast majority of problems unclimbable.

We looked and after some indecision, we reluctantly retreated. It was a tough choice as it meant we were restricting ourselves to a headtorch session somewhere but even in hindsight, i’d say it was the right one. Where we went wrong was gambling it would be in nick in the first place.

The evening session on the Cromlech wasn’t that bad though, with Tobias (undoubtedly the most succesful of our troupe throughout the week) getting yet more bits done before Fredrik had a semi-triumphant blast on Bus Stop 7b+. My poor showing on Diesel Power 8a highlighted my level of exhaustion after a summer of sends.

The Swedes’ flight wasn’t until the evening and with the best weather of the week so far, it seemed churlish not to get out. One last effort meant time to pick a project and Fredrik was keen to try Prowess – my three-star 7b line in a north facing forest that won’t catch the sun until March… In short, one of the few places i was pretty certain wouldn’t be in nick.

But projects are projects and i was very keen for my friend to try my super line. Armed with brushes and chalk, we trudged in and got to cleaning but sadly to no avail. Tobias tweaked his shoulder on Bull’s Eye 7a and Fredrik failed to nail the first crux, albeit getting the standing start 6b+ as a consolation.

At Crafnant, Fredrik squeezed in another new line and named it Dampened Expectations. It’s an apt description of the week, for while we all hoped it would be the trip of a lifetime, i don’t think it’s one that will sit in the upper echelons of experiences. The one consolation: it was fun to see my friend for the week.