Tag Archives: germany

Solstice: October 2018

For those who don’t know, my new year runs from when the clocks go forward, giving a much better point of the year for resolutions and goal setting. There is also a Solstice when the clocks go back. For more information, click here.

I was slightly concerned I would struggle to find time to write this post this year but ironically, one of the reasons for that has freed me up just enough: on Sunday 21st October, our second daughter finally arrived.

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At the start of last year, people would tell me my life was about to change completely; that any hopes of carrying on my old dreams and ambitions would be dashed now there was a little girl about to take centre stage. Paradoxically, they were so right and so wrong at the same time. We couldn't ask for a better child than Rosie and having her join us has made it a totally different adventure in of itself. And now, we've done it again. I couldn't be happier than having little Hannah to join our fun. To come along on our family adventure. Just as before, nothing stops, and now there are three of us to show this little one just how incredible life can be. The adventure hasn't stopped, it's just getting started. Welcome aboard, Hannah Ellen Edwards.

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She is tiny and wonderful and our eldest, Rosie, is very taken with her. The downside is it’s meant Rosie is getting a lot of daddy-daughter time that looks very likely to continue for quite some time. I’m not complaining at having time with Rosie, but it is exhausting spending all my time with Rosie. Toddlers are hard work sometimes!

I am very fortunate to have both a partner and a daughter who have been incredibly supportive and accommodating to my climbing to date; our trips to Glendalough and Fontainebleau aren’t the type of thing you’d normally do with a young child in tow!

Nevertheless, this first week has seen showering and sleeping hard to fit in at times so I’m under no illusions this season will be the one I crack a new grade. Throw in all the other commitments I’ve currently got and I’m climbing terms alone, this will likely be the hardest season I’ve ever had.

2018 Spring/Summer Review

As usual, we now turn to the most challenging part of this post: remembering. At the best of times lately, my mind has been all over the place and having a newborn thrown headlong into the mix hasn’t helped with that! On a course on Friday, i introduced myself with “my second daughter was born last Sunday morning and i’ve since forgotten my name…”

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

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The big, stand out, headline event since last March (second child notwithstanding) has been the Masters degree that started in June and quickly gained momentum. Granted, when i first began, i was totally clueless and it took a little while to realise if i didn’t know something, it was up to me to find it out. Similarly, digging out the right resources and finding the right places to find the right info was a steep learning curve. Four months in and my second assignment will hopefully result in a top-class document.

What’s more, the degree has opened my eyes vis a vis my coaching. More models have been developed and put into practice, working quite nicely. My usual Friday night coaching group shuts down over the summer holidays but since we’ve come back the ideas i’ve developed seem to be effective and helpful.

Of course all of this coaching relied on achiveing some sort of qualification and for years now, i’ve been targeting my SPA. After missing out narrowly on passing the assessment, i opted to try and go around the problem, at least temporarily, and go for my CWA instead.

The CWA – or Climbing Wall Award, now called the Climbing Wall Instructor (CWI) – was primarily an attempt to offer some standardised accreditation for those working in the indoor environment. As such, those on the course are often people working in a climbing wall on taster sessions and birthday parties. I did that work a very long time ago and am now in a very different place so applied for, and got, exemption from the training. Cue one slightly nerving assessment after some last-minute cramming into what exactly i was going to be tested on.

It worked and i passed. What was instantly a huge relief to have this monkey finally off my back suddenly turned into the realisation i have now opened myself up to a shed load more work. Time to go be a coach… almost. There are plenty of hurdles still to overcome.

This site’s sister website, Prowess Climbing Coaching, was adjusted to match this one and a lot of the old articles relating to coaching were moved across. I looked into the particulars of setting up a new business and (please do correct me if i’m wrong) as a sole trader, there is no need for me to do anything other than start trading! PCC is now open for business, save for a couple of hurdles that will be tackled once i have my first client. Please have a look at the website and share with anyone who might be interested.

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Two things are happening here: first, I'm #training to utilise my #core more and keep my feet on. As you can see, more work needs to happen and when they do cut loose, I need to be more accurate getting them back on. But this is easier to see with the second thing: in #experimenting with #slowmotion #analysis to better understand my flaws, they become much more obvious. Yes you can see that poor foot placement in real time but it's so much easier to see when slowed down. It really is a fantastic tool and something I'll be using a lot more in the near future. Oh there's a third lesson: put your camera in a sensible place! I guess that's the pay off with the #phonewedgedinshoe method of filming yourself… #coaching #coach #learning #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion

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All of this has kind of overshadowed any personal climbing to the extent i don’t actually remember much! Which is a bit ridiculous now i’ve looked it up.

The season started, aptly, with an ascent of Regeneration 7b after dismissing Andy’s assessment of Gallt yr Ogof and going for another look. The boulder is awesome, suits me perfectly and that day really set up the rest of the year.

I finally got into the Aberglaslyn to Supercrack 7a and sent Dog Crack 7b with remarkable ease. The spring dry spell made it an ideal venue – i was hoping that would happen one day!

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Apologies for the poor quality video, I blame the midges – they were, after all, what drove us away! Not before @lil_lewis_climber nailed #Supercrack 7a with the most committing heel hook I've seen in years and inexplicably, I also ticked off the link in from the right, Dog Crack 7b. Shocked as that wasn't the line I wanted to try at all but I couldn't be bothered to keep shuffling the pads under Super Has 7b. Was far too hot for the crux sloper anyway. Then, quickly, on the way home, we stopped at the cromlech boulders and I got Leo's Dyno 7a+ on the second go! Not a bad evening, all told. #worldclasswales #northwales #snowdonia #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #boulderingisbetter #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #sport #rockclimbing #escalade #escalada #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram

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The same could be said of my time under the James Pond roof. Ten years i’d been thinking of heading under there, only for every attempt to be put off by the pond the name implies. This year, the spring kicked in, everything dried up and i made several special efforts to get down there.

It paid off. James Pond 7a was finally sent on the first go no less. I must admit to a bit of sadness that after all this time, it only took one attempt but Bog Pond 7a+ followed in the same session. What’s more, the slightly easier variant of the sit start went too. The original 7b+ sit start would follow a month later.

Around the time i sent the hardest line this year, i also had a visit from one of my best friends, Simon. As the years tick on, the longer the gaps between seeing friends can go but for the best friends, it matters not. It was only a week but i am so glad we managed to sneak in a few sessions at old favourites, and to chew the fat and catch up. It’s never enough but every session is a treat.

In that interim was our trip to Germany. In climbing terms, it was pretty good but that wasn’t what i was thinking of on the drive south. Even the Birthday Tradition continuing into it’s ninth year was overshadowed this time around. With no children and even no Tess in tow, Em and myself found ourselves on a German mountainside where i proposed. We are now officially engaged.

2018 Spring/Summer Goals

  • Go to Germany
  • Start the Masters degree and REALLY work at it
  • Be more productive with my time
  • Actually train, don’t just boulder. 1 in 5 sessions
  • At least one weekend away climbing without the family

Well, that turned out to be a good little list! We went to Germany, carried on the Birthday Tradition for another year and threw in an engagement for fun.

As said, the Masters is driving along like a bullet train and so far, all is going very well. What’s more, i haven’t been this enthused about something for years. I am totally and utterly loving it. Big tick in that box.

As predicted, an Autumn trip was out of the question and this was reflected in the goal of having a weekend to myself. Despite desperate attempts to go to the Lake District, the weather Gods stepped in and sent Lewis and myself east instead.

It was a good little weekend, despite dodging rain and indecision and saw us hit no less than five crags in two days. My idea for a video of Seven 7s will have to wait for another time; this one was just about being happy and being away and in that, was another huge success.

“Be more productive…” was too vague a goal and failed to be anything to work to. Meanwhile, the idea of 1 in 5 training is admirable but not suited to the outdoor season in the summer and one i will move to this coming season instead.

2018 Year-long goals

  • SPA completed (yet again)
  • Try and match Top Ten Yearly Average of 7a+
  • Make big strides into Masters Degree
  • Don’t drop any potential climbs during the Aggregate

That SPA is circumvented, for now, but needs to be kept in the back of my mind. Outside climbing is now a chilly challenge and putting the effort in for that one over the winter is setting myself up for a fail so it’ll wait for the Spring now.

Not dropping any potential climbs during the Aggregate most likely referred to last winter – truth be told, i don’t remember and can’t be bothered to look it up – but my final position was a lofty 3rd! However, it is worth noting that the margin to 4th was 94 points so it’s not such a great achievement. Throw in all the other categories and i dropped to 6th.

This season will be when i adjust the Long Term Athlete Development Model for myself. One of the latter stages is Train to Win, which obviously requires an element of competition and in the Aggregate in its usual guise, that’s fine. This time around though, i’m not bothered about comparing my scores to anyone else and thus am swapping that stage for Train to Complete. For me, now, the competition is against the climbs and i’m hoping to drag my sorry self up as many as i can.

2018 Autumn/Winter Goals

The business end of the lengthy bi-annual post.

  • Climb. A bit. If Possible
  • Coach. A lot. And earn some money from it
  • Learn. A hell of a lot. And keep the pace with the Masters
  • Train. 1 in 5 sessions
  • Complete 85% of the aggregate
  • A trip away without the family in the Spring

While time off with Rosie i could be pretty confident i could fight my way through and keep climbing with her around. Now, she’s at that stage in between being safe to leave to herself and being able to understand boundaries. Then of course, there’s Hannah as well. Simply put, if i have the kids as well, climbing isn’t possible. Not this season anyway.

Available time is a major issue too and other parts of my life MUST take priority, ESPECIALLY this season. That means my focus has to be elsewhere for a while. It’s a shame but to be honest, not the worst timing given my lofty enthusiasm of the last few years is waning ever so slightly.

Critically, the word now is maintain. Come spring, we’ll re-assess and go again. By that point, we should be ready to step it back up again.

Merry Solstice!

 

Leaving Germany As the Germans Come Home

Our departure from Germany coincided almost exactly with the German’s premature exit from the World Cup. While they are not exactly known as the type of nation who would begin looting and rioting after such a disastrous campaign in their national sport, and we certainly saw nothing to think that may be the case while we were there, it did feel a good time to be leaving.

From where we left off in the last post, we got back to the campsite from our shopping spree, undecided on what to do for our afternoon. With our departure from Garmisch set for the following day, there was some debate on what we’d squeeze in before biting off a chunk of the long drive north. Em was keen to explore one of the gorges in the area but after a lot of talking, she kindly offered to skip it in favour of a few hours of climbing at a crag called Vils; just off the road on the way home. Apparently i owe her one day visiting a German gorge but i’m sure i’ll work on paying her back some point soon.

So our last afternoon was spent on the site, relaxing and packing to make the most out of our Tuesday. It was odd to be in such a stunning place and not trying to get out or get anything of note done but in truth, having a laid back approach to the afternoon was thoroughly enjoyable and made the following morning substantially nicer.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Vils from the guidebook – featuring as a lone crag in the Alpen en Bloc guides but being a section in my newly acquired Allgau book, and located in Austria, giving Em a new country to tick off. The walk in was certainly pleasant enough but it was pretty obvious this was more of a local’s crag, overgrown and mossy. Still, the main lines were clean enough and finding the lines was not particularly difficult.

Neither was the climbing if i’m honest and after a couple of token-gesture warm ups, i managed to flash Soul Rebel sds 7a – my third flash of that grade in recent weeks. Chuffed but suddenly lacking inspiration, Em suggested the 7a+ traverse to finish on the same line and after a little work and some thought as to the moves through the middle, the traverse quickly fell too.

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Back from #germany now and we actually managed a short period in #austria too, at a small crag in #alpenenbloc called #vils. Granted it wasn't exactly the type of place you could wax poetic about but it was another new #crag which is always good. I didn't manage much but found the three #climbs I often tell students to look for: one you get relatively easily, one you have to work for and one just outside your limit. This is the crux on the first of those: another 7a flash; the third in recent weeks at that grade. All three were surprisingly good! #alps #alpine #alpinebouldering #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #rockclimbing #grimpeur #klettern #escalade #escalada #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion Photo credit to @emks93

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So now, my Top Ten Yearly Average reads four 7a climbs, three at 7a+ and three at 7b, averaging out at 7a+ quite nicely. It could’ve included another 7a+ too but in good form, i found a challenge problem that i was forced to leave behind. Hanuman just proved a touch too far. It has meant i now have to up my game, as ticking off more 7a won’t cut it and even four more 7a+ won’t affect the average grade. No, i now need to be ticking off 7b or higher but that is certainly no bad thing.

After the experience of Vils, we got back in the car, destined for, well, we didn’t know where. The car had been repacked and the plan was certainly to sleep in there somewhere nice and quiet for the night but as we approached Mannheim, and studied the map, we realised that the best route was to get off the famed autobahns and get on the a-roads. As we trundled cross country, i suggested finding a campsite instead and after a tiny bit of googling, we found a site on the edge of a town called Annweiler and right underneath a castle at Berg Trifels.

Our last night was pleasant, albeit ludicrously hot yet again (what did we expect once we were around a world-famous wine producing area?) and with time on our side, we walked from the site straight up the hill to check out the castle.

It was a slog but hidden in a beautiful forest, was quite cool and emerged to offer us a spectacular view and a quaint and oddly busy castle. I didn’t deliver a gorge but we did find a German castle.

There is no way you’d randomly search for the Berg Trifels, or come across this sleepy little venue but it was a nice little find and a testimony to this sort of travel. It’s something i’ve done since we travelled Europe in my childhood: taking the smaller routes and stopping when we find something cool. Granted the Berg Trifels may not make the UNESCO list (it might, i’ve no idea, haven’t checked) but coming across it certainly felt like a little win and gave our trip something different.

I’ve always loved this and love finding the smaller places – it is something that climbing trips offer. We would almost definitely not have gone to Odenwald if not for a guidebook i’d bought many years previously and yet it was a fantastic place and will certainly get a repeat visit. Sometimes the gems of the world are, perhaps, best when just stumbled across.

A Birthday to Remember

So we now find ourselves south; higher,  wetter and older than we were before. Well, i am anyway.

We currently nestle in the Alpine town of Garmisch-Partenkirchen at the base of the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak, hunkered down in the tent listening to the rain fall on the fabric above. There is not an established boulder problem that i know of for at least an hour from here.

What there is is terrific scenery, some amazing walking and a lake so clear and blue it’s like it was drawn by Disney. The town itself is remarkable too, with an awesome arrray of murals decorating the buildings that again have come straight out of the Stereotypes of Germany Handbook. It’s very quaint, it’s very Alpine and it’s thoroughly enjoyable.

We arrived on Friday, after what turned out to be a ludicrously long drive from Bensheim, suddenly in awe of the spectacular mountain vista in front of us. I’ve seen the Alps many times now but never have they snuck up and slapped me in the face like they did coming from Germany. Don’t ask me why but for some reason, one minute it was flat farmland, the next there’s an imposing lump of rock towering in the sky above.

Even once in Garmisch and on the campsite, the view of the fierce mountain ridge above us was enough to keep us occupied while we pitched the tent, cooked and ate German sausage with pasta and stuff.

Saturday was my birthday and quite a memorable one. Anyone who knows me, or indeed has seen me in passing any May for the last nine years, will know of the Birthday Tradition: spend my birthday in a different country every year. It is to Em’s enormous credit that i am able to count Germany as number nine – yeah, nine years, nine countries! – and as such, i thought i’d make it count.

We’ve been together for a little over two years now, have a daughter approaching 18 months and a bump that is due to pop in October. We’re pretty settled but still only really fall into the boyfriend/girlfriend category.

So, after a slightly disastrous attempt to head up on the cable car, where i was struck by the sheer exposure and we headed straight back down again, we went for a valley walk, found a clearing and i “popped the question”. We are now, officially, engaged.

That evening we headed into town, not quite the romantic evening you would expect after a successful proposal but instead a burger at an awesome pub in Garmisch called Shaka. Yes, we accidentally ate each other’s food but both agreed it was delicious anyway. Another sure sign it was meant to be.

With nothing better to do, we stayed for the evening, watching Sweden almost pip the Germans to a win at the world cup, surrounded by vocal and ardent German supporters (unsurprisingly). Two years ago, we were in France and watched them play Iceland in similar circumstances. It really is fascinating to watch the locals support their own team.

Sunday was equally beautiful and so we headed for a touristy trek around Lake Eibsee that was, in all honesty and despite the throngs of middle aged German tourists, also thoroughly enjoyable. The Lake is stunning, the views straight up to the Zugspitze and surrounding mountains amazing, and the walk itself just about the right length to be a decent work out but not exhausting. It really was another lovely day.

The one thing we hadn’t accounted for was the German attitude to Sundays, which turns out to be decidedly more French than English; that is to say everywhere was closed, including the supermarkets. And we had no food. Oh well, good excuse for another evening out and the Italian restaurant Celentano – Cucina Italiana was excellent and very reasonably priced. The calzone was delicious, you should go there if you’re in town.

Alas, the rain was always forecast to hit us at some point and this morning we woke to the pitter patter of water falling onto canvas. We’d been keen to head into town anyway, to collect some souvenirs and other gifts as well as to check out the local climbing shop for local beta and possibly a guidebook not available back home.

The guy in Bersportgeschaft Alpinsport was wonderfully helpful and confirmed my suspicions of German attitudes to bouldering guidebooks: they do not like them. His quote was beautiful:

We do not want the guys from Munich to come down here and shit in the woods.

Possibly over simplified, i know what he means, and it’s not as if there aren’t an abundance of other amazing options around here. Still, it is a bit shit for many of us, who would love to spend more time in the area but lack the focal point to bring us in and in fairness, he was certainly empathetic. He offered the local climbing gym and a bit of local info and, much as in the Rockstore in Frankenjura, i got the feeling he was actually on my side. Nevertheless, no guidebook, no established bouldering. Not yet at least.

If you are German and are reading this, please think carefully about this situation. Yes, guidebooks do bring people into an already saturated area but with them, they bring their earnings from elsewhere. That is how tourism works. This is abundantly clear given the amount of tourists already here but with a guidebook, you can help to herd said tourists and educate them that there are local toilets and no need to “shit in the woods”.

Secondly, as i say, a guidebook can help to control people in the area. Many boulderers will come regardless and without any information, run the risk of wandering aimlessly and ending up where you don’t want them.

I sense i’m preaching to the converted here but i also sense it’s only a matter of time. The Alpen en Bloc guides grow substantially with every reprint and sooner or later, someone will put up a stack of lines and begin to document it – that’s what happens. There isn’t really a big boulder field and perhaps that is why it hasn’t happened yet but for anyone willing to search and shuffle their pad from bloc to bloc and keen for some first ascents would benefit from a trip to the area.

German Granite

Apparently, there is such a thing as a “Baby Moon” – a getaway before the arrival of a new baby – and without having any real knowledge of the term, or indeed seeing any need for it to have its own phrase, this is what I now find myself on. With Rosie in Worcester and Tess in Wales, I woke this morning, just me and Em… and an inordinate amount of sweat.

We’re in Odenwald: a seemingly little known area to the east of Mannheim with enough bouldering to have its own guidebook; a book I picked up in 2013 on my last prolonged trip to this country and the Frankenjura. A little delayed, with yesterday’s travels taking 8 hours from Calais and thus losing a day to explore, it seems I failed to heed the lessons (at least some of them) from five years ago: namely that Germany in June is hot. Fucking hot.

On a stop in Luxembourg yesterday, the famous watch thermometer came out and was rested on a bench. Last time I was here I recorded 40C heat and have questioned whether that could actually be true since but again yesterday, watch resting in the sun on a bench, it tipped over 40. Five minutes laid on the bonnet and it was reading upward of 50C.

Obviously the air temperature isn’t that high – even if we weren’t dead, the laptop wouldn’t be working – but it does give an idea. Odenwald was never the destination for the entire trip, this is a stop-over and a scouting mission to see if the climbing here is worth a cooler visit but nevertheless, the idea of climbing in this weather is ludicrous. I will, no doubt, but any goals with any grades are largely out of a window that even at 70mph yesterday, blew warm air at us.

The area certainly seems lovely. We’re staying on a campsite that I’m struggling to describe: urban, lacking even a reception – there’s a number on the wall to call when you arrive – and covered in caravans possibly older than my better half. Still, it has showers (a godsend) toilets and a flat grass pitch and the proprietor seems friendly and accommodating. It isn’t “glamping” but it is a pitch with nice people; just what camping used to be.

So today has been a climbing day; down to the one pad as there is no need to make my pregnant partner carry unnecessary weight on what turned out to be an awful lot of walking uphill! The majority of the guidebook is dedicated to a crag called Felsenmeer so that seemed a sensible place to head and it turned out to be a very good shout. Granite (I think) boulders of great quality and plenty of them in a fascinating and serene setting hosted what turned out to be an awesome session, including at least ten ascents.

We found the parking easily and got out to find ourselves at a bit of a nature walk, the information point’s window greeting us with some stuffed animals. With nothing else to guide me – beta on Odenwald bouldering is scant at best online – I’d opted to try one of the nearest sectors to our parking: Sector F and head for the Kanterblock.

We wandered in the right direction, found a couple of climbs to start with and got a nice video of Dyno-Varianten 6b+ before failing on Rechte Kante 6c and barely getting off the floor on the project line next to it. Despite a longer search for the Kanterblock while Em napped on the pad, it was not to be and we headed up the hill further to the sanctuary of the Kiosk and further adventures.

As we approached, the rain began to fall and a glassy sheen appearing on the blocs indicated day over; or so I thought. We sat, chatted and chilled as the rain stopped and we realised that it wasn’t actually that bad, the canopy of trees had sheltered the rock from the rainfall.

I’m very glad we waited, too, as even just a good look around went to show quite how much there is to do here. There are classics in abundance, including Dyno Direkt 6a+ on the Rampe boulder and Diskus 6a+ to name but two that I completed on a great bouldering day. I even got my coveted 7 tick with Leistenterror 7a on the second attempt.

Most importantly I found out exactly what I wanted: this is one good crag. Granted a dedicated trip from 14 hours away may not be worth the effort but for anyone heading from the low countries to the Alps, Odenwald makes a fantastic stop off on the way. Watch out for the destinations page, coming soon.

Tomorrow we pack up and head south, destined for Garmisch-Partenkirchen. From what I can gather, it’s a bit of a climber’s town, akin to Hathersage or Arco but only time will tell. Nearby bouldering is scant, again from what I can tell, but with Lake Eibsee, the Partnach gorge and the famous Zugspitze, we’ve got plenty on the agenda, and we’re still in the Alps. The latest copies of the Alpen en Bloc guides sit above the front seats of the car so we’ll have to wait and see.

For now though, with temperatures much more amenable in the mid-teens, it’s time to reflect on a thoroughly enjoyable day. Baby moon or climbing trip, it doesn’t really matter, as I sit peacefully, typing under a gazebo, watching the trees sway gently under the glow of the half-moon resting nicely in the sky.

 

Apologies for the lack of photos – i’m using my phone to publish this so data allowance is a consideration. They will be forthcoming soon. 

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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