Tag Archives: goals

Finding the Fight

It is no secret that i am out of shape and this weekend gone certainly confirmed it. Friday night at the Indy saw me just scrape what i would class as par but then a Saturday afternoon in the wall at work saw me dramatically under-performing. What was significant was why i was under-performing.

At the Indy, i did feel weak and wasn’t shy in exclaiming such. Tim heard it from his captive position behind the counter (sorry dude) and Em certainly got it once i got home: “I’m old, weak, fat and ugly”.

I repeated this, much as i have been for a few weeks now but perhaps i was saying it a bit too much; over-compensating? making excuses? Who exactly was i trying to convince?

At the Brenin, i struggled badly. Climbs that i should be able to walk up spat me off. Indeed, climbs that i set threw me. After failing on a trunk-route 7a, i opted to change tact and try a bit of campus movement. A yellow route would suffice, nice easy jugs, certainly doable.

The first move didn’t exactly turn into a campus move. I’d got a right foot on to get going, the starting jugs being a bit low, but as i tried the move, my foot stayed pinned to the hold. Odd, i should’ve cut loose. Oh well, carry on, campus the next few moves, up to the penultimate hold. Matched, as the last move is far, i pulled up and didn’t even throw a hand in it’s direction, i just came back down to the ground.

Now this is odd: it is not common for me not to commit to a move, certainly not indoors and CERTAINLY not on a route like this. I didn’t even try the move! I eyed it up, decided it was too far before i’d even tried, did a token gesture and came back down. This is not normal.

Was it a fear of failure? Don’t try, don’t fail, don’t look so stupid? And then it hit me, an epiphany that slapped me in the face harder than the ground when i jumped off: i’ve slipped down the DCBA Scale and i’ve managed to convince MYSELF that i’m not strong enough. I’ve actually managed to talk myself out of being able to do anything.

There are Four Facets of Rock Climbing Performance: Technique, Strength and Conditioning, Tactics and Mentality. These are the four areas that encompass all climbing performance and any area of weakness can be traced back to at least one of these Facets. What i’d suddenly realised was that where i thought the problem was (S&C) had actually shifted without my realising and now manifested itself in a problem with my Mentality. That didn’t mean i was suddenly stronger than before but it meant there were more problems too.

I kept on with the analysis and realised i’d talked myself into having problems with ALL of the Facets. I wasn’t really trying and when i was, i was trying the wrong things at the wrong time and lacked the necessary structure. Even my technique was failing as my mind continually worried i couldn’t hold on – ironically putting more pressure on the muscles that weren’t up to it in the first place! It was a vicious cycle. But suddenly, with this epiphany, the cycle had been broken. In that instant, the problem had shifted significantly.

I could still feel the pain and the ache in my body so i knew the S&C issues were still there but now i understood the problem, i could begin to address it. For a while i’d been suggesting my next move is mileage on the wall and now it is even more true. I can’t afford to wait for the start of the winter aggregate, training starts now. And it needs to be much more purposeful.

The one bright side to this is it could help my career and demonstrates wonderfully the need both for coaching in rock climbing and self-assessment and self-coaching. It has also given me a nice little case study to help cement the theories i’ve been working on over the last few months.

I am now fully immersed in my Masters degree; a Professional Masters in Elite Performance with the University of Central Lancashire. Basically i’m looking at coaching in rock climbing and as such, at the moment i’m reading loads about the Adventure Sports Coach. It seems this is a new role in the outdoor industry and is facing some opposition.

Certainly, the coaching qualifications with the Mountain Training Association faced some mild backlash as many of the old guard failed to see the need for formalised coaching in rock climbing. While this is one isolated incident, it demonstrated to me at least that there really is a need for a coach, and an educated and reflective one, in this sport; competitive or otherwise.

Something had twigged in my head. I hit the ground and swore very loudly, thankfully in an empty room. The realisation that my mentality or worse, my technique may not be at their best had got under my skin and pissed me off. I’ve always prided myself on these two aspects of my climbing and the idea that they weren’t working properly got me angry.

I caught a glimpse of my reflection and there i was: clenched jaw, furrowed brow, there was fire in my belly again. The hunched body language of earlier was gone, now i was up for a fight.

I walked back over to the yellow and tried again. First move, second move a big squeeze and i could feel my shoulders tensing as i felt better about myself. Carry on, move after move, giving my all. I’d done it, i’d changed that mindset and i’d completed it. All bar the last move. I was too tired.

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Regeneration

After our Font fun, it was back to work and nose to the grindstone. Almost literally, to be honest! Does anyone else find that the stress of coming back in to work and dealing with everything that happened while you were off almost negates the whole break in the first place? Nevertheless, it only lasted a week as the Thursday after we returned, Em headed to the Midlands for a gig and i was left with a few days to myself.

These days, that means one simple thing: climbing. From Thursday morning until she returned, there was only one period when i wasn’t either working, coaching or climbing and that was a rest period when i went to visit my parents!

My usual coaching session was shifted from Friday to Thursday, possibly due to it being Good Friday, and whenever it moves, the numbers are low. As such, i had a session working with my friend Rob on how to coach, rather than actually coaching myself – an unusual take on things and a good demonstration of my progression. I must admit, it’s quite nice to be doing well with it and being respected for it!

The downside: i brought Tess in for the last little while, the wall being very quiet, and somehow, unbeknownst to me, she managed to hurt her elbow and develop a limp. Not uncommon but certainly not ideal. She has now recovered but as with anyone, it was slow.

Friday, now free, was miraculously dry. Making the most of the lack of necessary doggy freedom and with time still being in short supply before the onset of darkness, the Cromlech boulders came calling and i decided to finally go and check out Sleep Deprivation 7b for the first time since i found out where it actually starts.

Turns out it’s still not much easier, was soggy and full of touristy rubbish underneath and didn’t float my boat. That was after i’d repeated the usual problems on the roadside face, and shown Alice from work some good ticks for herself. I think she surprised herself with some of her ascents and while i sat under the roof wondering what to do with myself, she scampered over some nice easy routes with Harry, her boyfriend. Eventually, i realised that actually, i’ve never actually given Leo’s Dyno 7a+ a real effort so why not now!

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#whilethecatsaway… New year (see blog post linked in bio) and that means evenings outdoors again! Well, to be honest, normally it might not but being as my better half and my daughter are away for a few days and the rock was actually dry, coupled with my dog Tess being injured, there were no reasons not to head to the #cromlechboulders straight from work. With @alice__kerr in tow, here demonstrating her technical abilities on #pocketwall before I managed to find enough excuses not to try Sleep Deprivation 7b before repeatedly trying to find the right feet for Leo's Dyno 7a+. Didn't get it but got close and got out. #psyched! #worldclasswales #northwales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #grimpeur #escalade #8crags

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Leo’s Dyno is the eliminate version of the Edge Problem 7a; a trunk route that many a climber much stronger than i fail repeatedly on, but thanks to my small girly fingers, i am able to lap in trainers. The dyno was something i’d not particularly tried before but as darkness fell and my companions called it a day and left me to it, i felt myself drawing closer and closer. More daylight hours are needed to finish this off and soon, before i forget the correct footholds…

Saturday night was my rest night, seeing my parents and some visiting friends and generally allowing my skin and body to recover but Sunday morning arrived, with my trusty canine companion still being a limpy lump and the weather was almost perfect.

Being so far away, heading all the way from Caernarfon to the Ogwen valley was a risky business but that was the project i wanted to attack. In a recent post, i mentioned Gallt yr Ogof as a potential for some success and this was exactly the place that had piqued my interest. But that still left me with 25 miles to drive to get there.

It took me a few days to realise that this was what had put me in a foul mood to begin with but nevertheless, my day didn’t begin well. I called in at our house – still under a layer of plaster dust following some building work – to try in vain to find my bouldering guide, furthering pushing me into a deep grump. Then to top it all off, i drove over the pass on a Bank Holiday Sunday in typically slow traffic.

By the time i’d arrived in Capel, i was in a mood that could kill all on it’s own; the only bright side of my grump being an excuse to yell obscenities at unknowing innocent tourists. My favourite has to be “this isn’t a funeral, it’s a 60mph limit!!!”

I quickly pulled in to the Brenin and ran into stores to grab a replacement guide, but not before slipping under the canopy in front of a large group of clients and wrapping myself around the concrete stanchion in the corner.

All this began to clear as i pulled in to the campsite and unpacked my kit and by the time i made it to the crag, it had all been replaced by a sense of excitement. It had been a long time since i’d had conditions and opportunity this good and psyche levels were getting high.

With the limping dog in tow, i unpacked my pad under the warm up GyG Arete 6b+ and proceeded to struggle significantly more than that first time when i was stymied by a sheet of ice topping the entire boulder. Next, The Ramp 7a/+ fell much quicker, and was even repeated just to make sure i hadn’t dabbed the boulder behind

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When is it too cold to be good #bouldering conditions? When there's a sheet of ice over the entire top of the boulder… With an afternoon free after attending the inaugural adventure sports coaching conference at @plasybreninstaff I opted to head a few miles down the road in the #ogwenvalley to the #galltyrogof bloc. I'd always been put off by this before but now with fresh eyes and photo topos in the #northwalesboulderingguide the problems seemed immense and impressive. So I started to at least try and warm up, only to find the top out dodgy as sin! An entire sheet or verglas meant even if I had pulled over the top, it would've been rather treacherous to say the least. Nevertheless, another #beautifulday in #northwales! #worldclasswales #snowdonia #northwalesbouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram

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To it’s right, though, the one problem i had borne in mind turned out to be truly nails. Smackhead goes at 7b (i think, still don’t have my guidebook!) and is only a couple of hard moves, right at the start. I couldn’t pull off the floor; and even when i skipped the first move, the position was so stupidly hard to hold, i decided to wander around the corner and check out some of the other problems.

And here we find Regeneration 7b: the most apt title for not only the ascent but the timing too. The first period of climbing in the New Year – a typical time for nature to begin to regenerate. A marker for me to try to claw back some form and begin to improve again. A nod towards the lovely little reason that’s so hard to do.

Holding the first position was certainly the toughest part for me, the second move needing precision that took time to find but after that, it was dynamic moves on reasonable crimps and a precise foothold. It was like it was set just for me and those three moves seemedto regenerate my spirit just in time for the next challenging season ahead.

New Year: March 2018

Happy New Year! A couple of days late but we’ll get to that. This is a bit of an interesting one this year, with lots having happened and lots about to kick off. Time to take stock and figure out where we’re going from here.

Some Highlights

Well, we always knew this was going to be a funny old year and it has definitely been the year of #babyatthecrag. More than anything, i’ve wanted to promote and champion the idea that having a child doesn’t finish your passions and judging from several conversations about my various social media accounts, it would appear i’ve been at the very least a mild success.

This post is normally a tricky one to write – after all, thinking back over an entire year is not easy. Of course, this time last year i had not long become a father and as expected, that has drawn my focus away from climbing. Juggling the two has been a tremendous strain and to be honest, i think, looking back, i’ve done admirably. Many people give up their hobbies with the onset of a family so the fact i’m still going, at any level, speaks volumes. Showing this to people has been just a much a goal as actually getting out. I’ve even managed to have pieces published on the subject, including one at The Project Magazine and have another couple lined up too.

A large part of this ability to carry on has been my fantastic partner, Emily. She has encouraged and supported me throughout this past year and deserves great thanks for that and no better has that been highlighted than by continuing the Birthday Tradition last June in Ireland. While not a resounding climbing success, it was indeed a climbing trip and a great family adventure.

Moving house in the autumn put paid to any trips then but again, thanks to Em’s encouragement and support, last week saw one of my lifelong dreams come true: to take my family to Fontainebleau.

What i have found is that it is nigh on impossible to perform to a high standard in these conditions. Climbing is never a priority with young children in tow and on both occasions, i failed to climb even a single 7a – a grade that has become my bread and butter now. An inability to complete just one shows just how hard it can be.

Still, i have been getting out and have indeed been climbing, predominantly indoors and have managed to compete at this winter’s Indy Aggregate Competition. Last count saw me at the unexpected standing of third in my category, or sixth overall. While the final results haven’t been published at time of writing, i don’t expect this to be any different and, save for February where i dropped nine points, i don’t think i could’ve done much better. I’ll take that for sure.

A large proportion of my Indy time has been thanks to my coaching and this is itself has been going incredibly well. My private coaching sessions have continued steadily, leading me to wonder about pursuing this with other clients, while my regular Friday night sessions with the Anglesey Adventure Club have managed to get me the respect and admiration of my peers. A few weeks ago i was shadowed by another volunteer, such is the desire of others to learn about what i do. I’ve certainly found that an honour and hope to inspire coaches and climbers alike.

This has, in turn, led me to think more about coaching proper. I’ve developed more theories (to be published on here in due course), restructured the blog to accommodate new ideas and, astoundingly, am hopefully soon to be embarking on a Professional Masters in Elite Performance with the University of Central Lancashire, focusing on coaching in rock climbing. Now there’s something i didn’t foresee last spring!

Last Season’s Goals:
  • Find out how to climb with Rosie around
  • Go climbing and make the most of the chances
  • Reset the list and get rid of the dross
  • 7c outside – most likely Nazgul’s Traverse
  • SPA Assessment
  • Another 7c+
  • Top ten yearly average around 7b/+
  • Continue the birthday tradition
  • Get to Font
  • Start to develop the coaching into something more
  • Don’t jeopardise your relationship for climbing…
Solstice Goals:
  • Top 5 Aggregate finish
  • 6 outdoor sessions with at least a new 7a completed
  • A weekend climbing out of Wales
  • Continue to develop coaching and formalise what i offer
  • Plan trips to Font and Germany
And how did it go?

Again, we always knew this was going to be tough and that these goals may or may not be sensible. With a baby now in the picture, it was impossible to know which way it could go. The list above is of all the goals, short and long term, from last March and October so let’s start with the easy ones.

The first four points were addressed in the Autumn but have left them there to add two points: one The List is done but needs a new home in the new house. The kitchen is no longer suitable but we really aren’t settled yet and this needs addressing. Two, figuring out how to climb with Rosie around me is all well and good but as any parent will tell you, the little blighters keep changing so you have to constantly change how you do that. Think that just shows my naivety there; it’s an ongoing challenge.

Completing my SPA was discussed previously and is on hold for longer days and better weather. 7c+ is permanently on hold until, well, quite frankly until i come to my senses and realise it won’t happen for a few years. Not until i get my act together. We’ll look at this another time.

Continuing the birthday tradition and getting to Font both happened and i’m so pleased about both. I need to figure out how to climb harder when i’m away but at least we’re getting away so that’s the first major hurdle done. Keep it going.

6 outdoor sessions since October simply wasn’t feasible as i don’t think there have been six dry days since October… As such, 7c outside was also never going to happen. Likewise for 7b Top Ten Yearly Average. There was nothing i could do about this, it hasn’t been my fault and there’s been nothing i could do about it. Keep it going for next year.

Frankly i’m amazed i ticked off the Aggregate goal, although this year has made me realise it is entirely dependant on who else shows up. So i think i’ll change this for next winter and say “don’t drop any problems you think you might get” or something like that. After all competing against myself means more than competing against factors i can’t control.

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When is it too cold to be good #bouldering conditions? When there's a sheet of ice over the entire top of the boulder… With an afternoon free after attending the inaugural adventure sports coaching conference at @plasybreninstaff I opted to head a few miles down the road in the #ogwenvalley to the #galltyrogof bloc. I'd always been put off by this before but now with fresh eyes and photo topos in the #northwalesboulderingguide the problems seemed immense and impressive. So I started to at least try and warm up, only to find the top out dodgy as sin! An entire sheet or verglas meant even if I had pulled over the top, it would've been rather treacherous to say the least. Nevertheless, another #beautifulday in #northwales! #worldclasswales #snowdonia #northwalesbouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram

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A weekend away is something i’d forgotten and as life ticks along slowly, i think it’s more and more important. I’ll be discussing this with Em very soon. Time to yourself is important in any relationship and even more so with children. I just want to make sure it’s done the right way.

Finally the coaching and i don’t think anyone could argue with the progress i’ve made there. This masters degree could be huge for me and while i’ve fallen foul to my own hype in the past, i feel strong and determined about this and i cannot wait to get started – so much so i’ve begun already. Even if i don’t end up on the course, it’s already making me a better coach.

2018 Spring/Summer Goals

Climb? Study? Coach? Parent? All of the above? Of course but to go into more detail is much more difficult. I really have no idea what i want any more as my inability to climb at my limit for the first time in many years and begun to make me question my motivation.

So this could well be a period of transition or a stagnant period, where all i’m trying to do is maintain my current standards until such time as i’m able to start pushing myself again. Or it could be that as a consequence of coaching more, i find myself improving again. Or it could be the start of a slow and steady decline. Who knows, place your bets now.

For the next few months, i think the climbing focus must be on maintaining. Anything other than that is a bonus. The area to push my standards is most probably with my coaching. And of course, it will be crucial not to allow this to get in the way of being the best father and partner i can be.

Most importantly of all, now is the time to begin to be more intelligent with my time. Every minute counts now and that lunch break you never used to take is now precious time i can’t afford to waste. It’s time to start using that brain to coach myself and make the most of what i have. If i’d never say to a client they need to put more time in to climbing in order to improve, i need to start saying the same to myself.

  • 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

2018 Year-long goals

This is even harder than my short term goals! After all, the rate things are changing around here, who could possibly guess what situation i’ll be in this time next year!

  • 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

Will it all happen? Will it all fall apart? I choose my words carefully when i say: fuck knows. What i do know is that there’s a lot at stake this year; my family, my career, my chance at redemption for past failures, my entire lifestyle. All i can do is line everything up and give it my best shot. But then, i guess that’s just life. Let’s see what happens next.

Happy New Year!

 

Solstice: October 2017

The first thing you need to do with these New Years or Solstice posts is find the last one and have a very good read. Penultimate paragraph: “if something crazy does happen”. Like moving house…? It appears i managed to foresee something coming at least!

The last six months have been super fun and to be honest, i’ll most likely be doing another reflective post in a couple more weeks when i go back to work. For both of these periods, i don’t think there’s any way we could think of my use of time as anything other than an outstanding success.

Going right back to the end of March could be tricky as to be honest, i don’t really remember that well! I do know that i missed out on my annual Spring trip to Font because having a baby is monumentally more important to life than going back to France for the umpteenth time. One would suspect this would be the pattern to follow for a long time to come but that wouldn’t count on one Miss Emily Slater.

To be honest, i think those first few months were us just being new parents and finding out feet with our new little one. Evidently, it didn’t take us that long. Rosie was four-months old when my birthday rolling around again, and we packed the baby and the dog, pads and pushchair and headed off to Ireland for a week. The tradition survived another year. (What’s more, Em is already helping me plan next June!)

We returned home after the week and i described it as “unadventurous and unproblematic – with a four-month old baby, it was perfect”. What’s more is that it gave me my first new country since 2011 (i think) and Rosie a phenomenal start to what i hope will be a lifetime of adventures.

Closer to home was the release of what is now known as the New Testament. Yes, the North Wales Bouldering Guidebook finally hit the shelves, with particular timeliness for us as it was almost exactly as my time off work began. The No Retro Ticks rule saw a surge of outdoor activity, albeit with little not done before. However, there were some lines that remained unclimbed from the old guide, proving that the system can sometimes have it’s benefits.

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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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When the guide came out, and i first laid my hands on one, there was one page i was desperate to see. I checked the index, flicked through and there, on page 282 it is: Prowess 7b and my name in square brackets underneath. That double page is mostly credited to me and i will always be immensely proud to be featured in my local guidebook. Of all my achievements, i am incredibly proud of this one.

Shared Parental Leave kicked in early-mid August and Em went back to work while i took my place at home with Little Miss; well, maybe not entirely at home. Within the first couple of weeks, we were out, getting into #activeparenting and while the middle month was a washout, i still feel the two of us really made the most of our time together. It’s taken a lot of effort and determination but it’s come back a thousand-fold and the experiences have changed our relationship forever.

We’re also now a little over a month into this year’s Indy Aggregate and to try and encourage me there more, i’m a month into a three month pass too. What’s all the better is how happy they are there for me to take Rosie, so baby-accompanied sessions have been on and so far, the aggregate score sits pretty high.

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You have to love a local #climbing wall that will let you do this. The #indy are absolutely awesome and me and Rosie spent a good four hours plus there this afternoon; me #bouldering away, my #daughter either chilling in her car seat or enjoying some space on the mat. Credit to the other customers too, who weren't phased by the site of a #baby on the pads. That said, there weren't many of them as we deliberately went during a quiet afternoon. I've got to give them huge credit. The Indy are always welcoming and friendly, set good problems and provide tea at a good price. There's not much more you could ask really. #worldclasswales #northwales #northwalesbouldering #rockclimbing #climbing_is_my_passion #activeparenting #startemyoung #sharedparentalleave #daddydaughtertime

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What’s equally important for me is that i was able to show that it is possible to get out climbing with a baby along for the fun. My Instagram feed has been awash with pictures of me and Rosie getting out to the crag or the wall, we’ve been out walking if not just climbing and i’ve penned a few articles that will hopefully find somewhere for publication soon. Hopefully, i’ve inspired at least some people to get out with their youngsters and not hide behind them as a reason to stop doing what they love. [For other inspiration, check out the aptly named INSPIRE group on Facebook.]

More recent times (as in the last few weeks) have been the most trying, with the house move reaching it’s conclusion. Days are often spent taking and waiting for phone calls but it’s all necessary and will be better in the long run. Sometimes life gets in the way.

Last Season’s Goals

  • SPA Assessment
  • Another 7c+
  • Top ten yearly average around 7b/+
  • Continue the birthday tradition
  • Get to Font
  • Start to develop the coaching into something more
  • Don’t jeopardise your relationship for climbing…

Okay so first things first, and i’m sorry for this but this fucking SPA. The bain of my climbing career for many a year now and certainly a necessity to actually continue my career as a climbing coach (in any particular guise).

The goals stated, “If I’ve not at least had an SPA Assessment by the end of the summer, there needs to be a good explanation” and the good news is i have had an SPA Assessment – i just didn’t pass… The other good news is that it was only the personal climbing that let me down and as such, it’s only that small part that needs repeating.

The bad news is the warmer weather has come and gone and it’ll be Spring before i can even start to address this. Still, there has been progress, albeit not complete.

Another 7c+? No chance, that was never gonna happen and to be honest, from what i’ve heard, getting anywhere near that has been an achievement in itself! In reality, it soon became trying to maintain strength levels as of Rosie’s birth, not improve them and in that respect, i’ve not actually done that badly. But the idea of climbing another 7c+ right now seems so unlikely, it doesn’t warrant further conversation.

Top ten yearly average of 7b is possible, even now, although as i’m now restricted to days off and i’ll soon be back at work, getting the remaining four needed to tip the balance above 7a+ again looks unlikely. Close, but unlikely. It might have happened, with the New Testament and plenty more projects to go at but i’m blaming the shitty weather on this one – i’m certainly not the only one to be complaining about the insatiable drizzle we’ve suffered from lately.

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Andy's Arete in #glendalough is one of the best climbs I've tried anywhere, not to mention in #Wicklow. It is immense, and a testament to the #quality of #irishbouldering. It is not 6c. The problems with grading here were huge in all of the climbs I came across and it was something I have gone into depth about (slightly more than I intended) in my latest blog post, link in bio. It shouldn't matter but sadly it does, it puts people off and makes a mockery of the system. And considering how amazing the rock and the #climbing are, it is nothing short of a travesty that needs to be addressed if they ever want to attract people to this wonderful country. #Ireland #wicklowbouldering #glendaloughbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing-pictures-of-instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #meclimbing

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Continue the birthday tradition: check! and getting to Font has been delayed after selling a buying a house. There will certainly be no complaints here, it’s just one of those things and i was always going to move one day, and that was always going to affect everything. That’s just part of growing up.

As for the coaching, it is certainly moving in the right direction and may be approaching a critical point where it needs to become something official. I now have a growing portfolio of impressed clients of various levels, a series of articles and writings to accompany my work and a growing sense that what i’m doing is working. For now, it’s a case of keep ticking along and see how it goes but come Spring, it’s going to be crucial to get the SPA finished so i can formalise myself into something more professional.

Now the big question: have i jeopardised my relationship during the last six months for climbing? Truthfully, i don’t know for certain but i’m pretty certain the answer is no. In fact, being totally honest, my relationship has almost quashed my climbing at times but that would be to ignore the monumental factors such as having a baby and moving house, and thus would be unfair.

The fact is it’s a balancing act and never an easy one for any couple but whatever you’re using it for, personal space is important for any relationship and finding that balance is crucial to it’s success. So far, i think we’re doing pretty well, all things considered. Em’s certainly stoked for us to get away next year! But then i knew she was a keeper almost from the first moment i met her.

2017 Autumn/Winter goals

I’m not going to break these down into short- and long-term, i’m just going to quickly set some things to keep me ticking along.

The aggregate remains my most likely source of action and while the strong climbers are back for this edition this winter and there are a lot of upcoming good climbers nipping at my heels already, i still think top-10 is a minimum. I’ll go out on a limb and say the goal should be top 5, as well as a score to beat every other category other than my own.

Meanwhile, some outdoor sessions would be nice and given there is a HUGE new guidebook to go at, climbing, say, half a dozen new lines of 7a or above should be perfectly feasible. Either that or insanely hard, who knows, but it should give me something to aim for.

Climbing somewhere that isn’t in North Wales would be really nice too, especially as i know Em is keen to get away a bit more and it would be great for Rosie to see new places. One weekend, again, shouldn’t be too much to ask.

Coaching? Well, just carry on really! More time coaching, more articles, more testimonies and hopefully more professionalism. It’s crossed my mind lately that quickly getting through a CWA wouldn’t be that bad an idea, if i could do it, and would mean i’d actually be a qualified coach. The SPA could follow afterwards.

And finally, start to plan the next two expeditions: Font in the Spring and hopefully Germany in the summer. Both seem fairly realistic and cost-effective for what we’re looking to achieve but will need some forethought and planning. The sooner this is done, the more likely they are to happen.

  • Top 5 Aggregate finish
  • 6 outdoor sessions with at least a new 7a completed
  • A weekend climbing out of Wales
  • Continue to develop coaching and formalise what i offer
  • Plan trips to Font and Germany

There, those are the next goals. Given how up in the air life is right now and how much i’m struggling to get my brain to work in a straight line, i think they’re attainable. This winter is going to be focused on maintaining my current abilities, rather than developing them. Only time will tell how successful we’ll be but i tell you what: so far, so good.

Merry Solstice!

Daddy’s Downfall

After eleven weeks of fatherhood, the tiredness finally caught up with me.

I’d been told this plenty of course but having what many would call the perfect child – she sleeps from midnight until around 8am every night, for example – has meant that the effects of having a newborn in my life snuck up on me.

So many people try and tell you, especially in the lead up to the baby’s arrival “oh, your life is totally different, you’ll give up climbing, it’s all about sleepless nights and you’ll swap chalk bags for nappy bags” and to an extent, no matter how much you try and fight it, they are right. Your mindset will change, your priorities are different now, your life as it was is no more. But does that mean you need to give it all up? Well, that may just depend on the passion you held for your previous life.

For me, since long before even the prospect of having a child came about, i’ve been determined not to let parenthood stop me doing what i want to do; merely adjusting what i do and when to suit my new change in lifestyle. I’m a climber, that is part of who i am and i really don’t want to lose that.

One recent Friday, my weekly coaching session was followed by the usual quick bouldering blast and suddenly, despite my recent successes and outdoor sessions, i found myself struggling on 6s. Even when i did succeed on a 7a or thereabouts, i returned to the mat in a heap, absolutely wiped out. Parenting, it turns out, is actually exhausting.

I’ve done pretty well to date. I’ve managed weekly coaching sessions since she was born, my ticklist includes seven outdoor problems, two of which are first ascents, at an average grade of 6c+. Not too shabby really. One of them was a 7b in a session (detailed in my last post).

The flip side of the coin includes a slight shoulder injury, actually on both arms but more on my left. After a while, i realised that it was from holding the baby…

There are the demands of the family as a whole, as well. I’ve been very lucky to date that Em has been more than happy for me to go out climbing and often, the whole family attacks the crag and chums about at a local boulder. Nevertheless, after a day of tending to a small sqiurmy thing, my other half needs a break occasionally and the prospect of me going straight from work to climb and finally get home 14 hours after leaving just isn’t fair to her.

And let’s not forget one crucial element: i want to spend time with my daughter. While i can – and will, be sure of it – combine daddy-daughter-time with climbing time, if it comes to a choice between the two, she’s gonna win every time. Well, 9 times out of 10 at least. I guess that’s the balance i need to now find.

It is an odd feeling now that it is actually happening to me. The nice thing about being a parent is that generally, you have many months to prepare yourself before their arrival and set your mindset as to how you want to handle things. As a climber, this, for me, includes things like combining these two huge aspects of my life.

What i’m learning now is how difficult that can be. You have to take into account the constant needs of a baby on you – something i’ve neglected to do up to now. They do indeed need your constant attention, your partner needs your help all the time you can spare and it grinds you down, even if, like me, you don’t even realise it.

None of this is a complaint in any way. I love having a daughter, Em is fantastic and i am, contrary to what i was told before Rosie’s birth, getting to go climbing every now and again. The reason for this post is more as advice for those in or about to be in a similar position.

Can i go climbing? Yes, it’s possible, nay easy, to get out and do so regularly. Can you do it in the same way you did before? Not a chance, you’d be a fool to try.

Am i going to get up 7c+ any time soon? Not unless i’m really lucky and get the right one on the right day at exactly the right time. But that doesn’t mean i can’t keep getting out.

This period just after the baby’s arrival is a massive shock to your system and you’ll need to be ready. Understand that it’s about small adjustments, not wholesale changes. Bouldering is hugely beneficial in this respect but even then, you will be more tired when you rock up at the crag than you would’ve been under the same circumstances 9 months ago.

But don’t let that stop you, please. And i mean please sincerely. If you still have a passion for climbing, or indeed anything, having a baby doesn’t stop you in your tracks. Trust me, i’m living proof.

So what does change? I don’t know if i’ve mentioned it already but you will, no matter how good your offspring and other half are, be more tired than before. Parenting simply is not easy. It’s totally worth it. It’s almost in the same way as a hard climb that takes time and work. It’ll exhaust you but the rewards are greater for it.

Even if you take the baby with you, unless you’re just going to ignore them and negate the point of having them there, they will interrupt your session. You simply cannot dedicate your time and energy to climbing as intensely as before. This is fine, as long as you take it into account.

Your time will be restricted. It just will. There is no question here, babies are time intensive, it’s as simple as that. So be tactically astute with the time you’ve got. You can’t magic more time from nowhere but if you use it wisely, you can get the best from it. This is the big key. Be organised or be frustrated.

Your energy levels are going to be lower than they were so the idea of pushing your limits starts to change. Grade chasers beware: even for dads, the chances are your top grade will be lower than it was. So embrace it, set new goals, lower your standards slightly and take things from there.

The effect of a newborn on fathers is often underrated (in my experience). Em is off work, at home with Rosie, i’m at work, back to the usual routine i had prenatal. I honestly didn’t notice the baby having any effect on me physically – Em takes care of things and i help when and where i can. I’m not actually involved, my nipples are not in action, why should i be tired?

Well, dads, you will be. Know it and you can work with it. Neglect it and suffer. Know it is possible to carry on your life from before. And for all of you, it’s important for you to do just that. Manage it and you have my utmost respect.

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A #throwback to days gone by today: to days pre-baby when my time was only my own and I was free to go and do things like this, #rockattrocity at #parisellascave, whenever it suited me. Those days are gone. Now, I have dependants, I have a family, I have loved ones in my life who have their own demands on my time. The big question is: would I give up this life for the one I had then? Not for all the ascents in the world. Not to climb burden of dreams. I love my daughter and my better half so much, they do and always will mean more to me than anything. Does this mean I'm giving up #climbing then? No chance! What it does mean is a slight adjustment as to how I go about things now. My love for my family doesn't mean any less love for #bouldering It's the subject of my latest blog post (link in bio) and something oft neglected; the effect of a newborn on dads. That balance is coming and when it does, I'm certain things will be better than they have ever been. #northwales #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #activedad

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New Year: March 2017

It’s the last weekend in March again and in time honoured tradition that stretches back to this time last year, it’s a goal-setting, New Years Post.

Some Highlights

If we go right back twelve months, it’s been an up-and-down year. On the one hand, 7c+ fell, there was another fantsastic Font trip and the trip of a lifetime to Sweden to keep the birthday tradition alive. Meanwhile, there’s been a major drop in standards through a major drop in psyche and big gaps in between sessions.

Through all of this, it’s hard to look past the fact i’ve had a baby. On the 10th February, myself and my amazing, wonderful partner – who had accompanied me on the return leg of the Sweden trip no less – had our equally wonderful baby girl, Rosie. While that’s pretty late in the year to exaplain a drop in standards and psyche, any parent will tell you how trying pregnancy can be on your social life and spare time and there’s no way i’d trade Em and Rosie for any climb.

It has meant that expectations have needed to be tempered. It turns out Em was pregnant as far back as mid-May so even in Goteborg and Gavle, she was carrying our child. No wonder she wasn’t feeling well! And of course, once your ability wanes, it affects your psyche too. A list that was formerly inspiring became quickly deflating.

This hasn’t stopped me from hitting some high points and most notable of all have been my results in the indoor competition scene this winter. Whichever way you look at it, second in the Indy Aggregate is nothing to be sniffed at and second in their Massive Monday Series too is no weak achievement.

Those two trips really were two of the best as well. Font in April yielded the sit start to Carnage 7c and Divine Decadence 7b+ both of which old projects that i’m super stoked to get finished, especially on another great week with Simon. I love travelling with him and moving through Sweden with one of my best friends before meeting another of my best friends, Fredrik, then being united with my girlfriend was surely one of the best adventures i’ve ever had. Both will live long in the memory.

So before i’m too hard on myself, let’s have a look at how we’ve actually fared.

Last Season’s Goals:
  • SPA Assessment
  • Top Five in the Indy Aggregate
  • At least one 8a climb
  • Create a coaching philosophy
And how did it go?

We’ve already touched on a lot of these and the second goal was absolutely smashed – more through luck than judgment but nevertheless. That one is a huge big tick well done.

That pesky SPA Assessment continues to linger on but steps have been taken towards it and with the prospect of some paid coaching work, is now much more pressing. While i try and figure out the new direction my life is about to take, this is about to become much more urgent. I just need to continue onwards.

That 8a actually looks further away now than at the start of the season but again, we’ve mitigated that slightly in the opening paragraphs. As we’ve seen in recent years most notably with the economies of the world’s leading nations, growth and progress will not continue exponentially forever, there will always be a crash eventually and in a weird parallel metaphor, i think that’s what i’ve experienced. While i’m not worried, now it’s time to rebuild and come back even stronger. The goals below will hopefully reflect this.

As for the coaching philosophy, that has not quite materialised; largely as i’ve completely forgotten about it! I have, however, become heavily engaged in weekly coaching with a great group of kids and consolidated my teaching methods nicely. Perhaps that should’ve read “Coach regularly” as i feel in a much better place now to write such a philosophy.

So one outstanding win, one abject fail and two somewhere in between. To be honest, that’s a pretty good result, considering and shows some real intelligence when it comes to actually setting these goals. I’d forgotten until now the goals i’d actually set (maybe something to address there) and was fully expecting to flop. That is definitely not the case.

Complete them all with ease and they’re too easy. Fail absolutely and the whole thing becomes equally pointless. The point of this is to push the limits and in that, last season’s objectives seem pretty good.

2017 Spring/Summer Goals – short term

While i’d love to say get out there and start using this newly regained strength, the fact is my life is different and i need to adjust to it first. My first priority from now forever more is going to be to Rosie. Climbing is going to have to come further down the list.

That doesn’t mean i don’t want to still get out and achieve, just that i need to find out how to do that.

Meanwhile, the List needs revision; although not actually as much as i’d initially thought. Nevertheless, removing some of the lines that don’t actually suit me or inspire will help bring it back on task and adding some slightly easier stuff will give me something more realistic to go at. Most importantly of all, finding baby-friendly venues is going to be key; especially as she’s so small!

Then it’s just a case of ticking stuff off. I’m still keen to get hard ticks in but setting the bar too high will lead to failure of the not-so-good kind. 7c seems a realistic short term goal.

  • Find out how to climb with Rosie around
  • Go climbing and make the most of the chances
  • Reset the list and get rid of the dross
  • 7c outside – most likely Nazgul’s Traverse

2017 Spring/Summer goals – season long

If I’ve not at least had an SPA Assessment by the end of the summer, there needs to be a good explanation. This could be my future and continually putting it off simply isn’t good enough any more.

Meanwhile, it would be really nice to get another 7c+ done this season. My solitary climb at that grade to date is oft noted as hard for the grade so perhaps being a bit more savvy about what to go at may be key but certainly getting something new done will be a good achievement. More would obviously be better.

This will undoubtedly be best achieved by going climbing. Once i’ve sussed out the baby friendly crags, The List will be re-written and the ticks should hopefully begin to fall. Aiming for a top ten yearly average of around the 7b/+ mark would be a fair goal and would hopefully tempt me back outside. The new guide will help if it’s out before the season ends!

Meanwhile, the Birthday Tradition has become very dear to me. Seven years old now, i would be thrilled to be able to carry this on and to take my family would top it off beautifully. With Ireland on the cards and Rosie’s passport in the works, it seems a likely success but important enough to warrant inclusion.

I’d always said i’d never marry anyone who’d never been to Font (or watched the Italian Job) and while we called in on the way home from Sweden after a bit of a dog related epic, taking my daughter would make my year. It also serves nicely as an introduction to camping on the continent with the family: somewhere i know well, incredibly family friendly, it doesn’t really need much explanation. A trip is penned for September, it’s just a case of making it happen.

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Well I didn't see this coming! After a small administrative problem at the port yesterday, involving the dog's passport (she's absolutely fine), we weren't allowed to take her back across the channel for another 8 days… With huge help from my folks, yet again, we're now sailing home tomorrow night, but with nothing better to do until then, the #greatswedishboulderingtour has ended up being concluded in #fontainebleau… On the bright side a) I got to show @emks93 the #forest for the first time! b) she got her first #font problem done! c) I got another day of #bouldering in, at one of my favourite venues anywhere #rocherauxsabots d) we're in fontainebleau… Lacking a guidebook, we struggled to get anything done really but I did have a good blast at this: #smash 7b. More importantly, Emily is quite taken with here so we'll soon be back. Silver linings to a complicated end to a stunning trip! #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion

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Away from the personal focus, my coaching seems to be developing nicely and keeping this going and growing could even lead to something really big. With options awaiting us regarding work and childcare, coaching could be a nice little addition so developing this is a must over the next six months ready for the winter season.

But most importantly of all is Em. It is critical to keep her in mind through all of this and not put other priorities ahead of her. Going climbing is hugely important to me but nowhere near as much as she is. Remembering that and not risking the relationship for any climb matters more than anything. Thankfully, she’s wonderful, understanding and keen to get out too. Between us, i think we’ll be okay.

  • SPA Assessment
  • Another 7c+
  • Top ten yearly average around 7b/+
  • Continue the birthday tradition
  • Get to Font
  • Start to develop the coaching into something more
  • Don’t jeopardise your relationship for climbing…

All of this needs to be put into context but i honestly think that this has been taken into account when setting these goals. They’re all realistic and if something crazy does happen (like simply not getting onto an SPA course or Rosie not allowing me out to play) then that will be understood in October.

Now all is left is to get out and get it done! Things only happen if you make them happen, even more so with a child in tow. The plan is set, next comes the action.

Happy New 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!

Staying Put and Getting Battered

I could’ve waited for that! Four days and four “injuries” or sorts: let’s talk them through.

I got to Gavle pretty easy and found Fredrik and Karin’s new and lovely house – my new home for the next week, pretty much. The idea of not having to move every day or two for a little while was such a nice feeling. Waking on Monday morning and having some time to myself was also a welcome change! I’m not normally one for solitude but every now and again, it’s a nice change of pace.

So i rose slowly and got to writing; catching up with the latest fun and games and restructuring the entire Desintaions section – more than a little work! But before i could finish, a message popped up on my screen: “I’ll be home in thirty minutes, let go climbing!” It appears even being injured isn’t enough to slow down the insatiable Swede!

The week before, while Simon and myself were down South somewhere, I received a message from Fredrik, trying his 7c+ project, informing me he’d had a pulley pop in his finger. He’s since shown me the video and it’s a good noise! What that means in the short term is no climbing for my friend, sadly.

But he’s still keen to champion his local area and he took me to Oppala that Monday, to check out some local bouldering action. In typical Swedish fashion, there being so much rock for such a small population, we had the crag to ourselves. Other than the mosquitos…

There were, quite frankly, fucking loads of them, with swearing there for emphasis. It was horrendous and i employed an old technique of chalk up and set up away from the bottom of the boulder so a cloud of mossies don’t try and attack you while you sit for the start of the climb!

I got on three problems and promptly snapped off three different holds… Nothing major and i’m assured that the boulder we were on doesn’t get a lot of traffic and that the others in the area are much more solid. They were good lines too: Areten 6a+, Fula Gubben 7a and Onda Gubben 7a+, with the latter taking more than a few gos. What was crucial to this success was Fredrik offering some informal coaching for me; something which helped immensely! Turns out you don’t need to do a course to help your friends out after all and i was, and am, really grateful for his help.

The knock for this day? Topping out Fula Gubben my heel slipped off on the top out and my shin took a nasty bash. Add another fun scar to my already horrendous legs!

Tuesday was always going to be the highlight of the trip, as the day my love, Emily, was flying out to meet me. With several options including writing and sitting in the house in anticipation, i opted to head South and check out a crag nearby to Arlanda airport. Despite scouting out Kallbergahygget, i took recommendation from Fredrik and heading to Focksta – and what a recommendation! The most idyllic little spot you could imagine, six problems fell with the highlight being Deer Hunter 7a.

Tuesday’s “injury” was more subtle, when the finger tip on my right ring finger went through. Small yes, but sore and more would obviously be to come if my skin was that thin. Still, the rough edges did give fractionally more friction against the immaculate granite!

Then, true to form, i left it too late to get to the airport and had to blast it. I made it with five minutes to spare, it turns out, and got to watch Em walk out of the arrivals gate and into my arms at last. It was the most fantastic feeling.

Since then, we’ve been together, wandered around Gavle yesterday before heading out again last night, this time to Eskon. Another local crag really, a touch spread out and in need of some traffic to improve moving around. There are some superb lines though, including the excellent 7a whose name escapes me at the moment.

But the spot on my finger from the previous day suddenly, expectedly, got a lot worse and by the time i left was not only leaking profusely but was joined by another on my thumb. More worryingly, as i hit a lip with my right hand, a sharp shooting pain ran up my right tricep. I’m really hoping it’s nothing serious and doesn’t come back.

And now, sat here with much less time than i need really, it’s my birthday! Behind me is the love of my life and my faithful dog, in a house in the middle of Sweden.

This is seven years into the Spend My Birthday In A Different Country Every Year Tradition and i’m revelling in the fact it’s still going! Italy, Canada, France, Austria, Spain, Switzerland and now Sweden in a way that i could never have dreamed. Every year gets tougher but better and better. Almost can’t wait to see where i go next year!

But let’s get this one out of the way first. Off to Stockholm for a Non Climbing Day. Probably for the best – not looking forward to seeing what i manage to hurt today!

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…