Tag Archives: indoor climbing

In It To Win It?

I awoke this morning, reeling from the most incredible day of sport i can remember, reading page after page about yesterday’s various results, accomplishments and achievments. England saving their blushes with a last ditch try against Scotland to finish with the highest scoring draw in international rugby, Wolves throwing back to their good old days to knock Man United out of the FA Cup, Valterri Bottas pipping teammate Lewis Hamilton in the first Grand Prix of the year. And of course, the Welsh rugby giants humbling the Irish to secure a historic Grand Slam.

And yet, in the farthest corner of Wales, a different competition was taking place – one which made the mathematical permutations of the six nations seem infinitely simple – that caps the end of the winter season for many of the local climbers: yesterday was the Indy Open.

It is the rugby that meant i had a rare day off; recalling the day i’d worked for Josh so i could watch what i’d hoped would be a match half as good as it turned out. That was the plan but as soon as i realised i was free for the Indy Open for the first time ever, i had to go. Every year, i’ve been working on the day of the competition and have never been driven by it enough to take it as holiday. Now, i had chance to experience this event first hand.

The problem for me was that i had other things on my mind. I’d said to a few people, such has been the relentless drive i’ve found to get to the Milestone Buttress to finish the sit start to Harvey Oswald, i’ve only been able to properly relax once it gets dark. So when i managed to escape early on Friday evening, with a few spare hours and dry rock, an ill-advised session on the fiercest of crimps commenced.

It was worth it to be fair, with Josh ticking his first 7a and me a few inches from success but as i arrived on Saturday morning, my fingertips sore before i’d even started on the brand new holds, i did question whether some patience and tactical nous would’ve been a good idea. Age, it seems, doesn’t always bring wisdom.

I managed two hours of climbing, from the four i’d allotted myself before i needed to run away for the match, but with 78 problems to complete, there were warm up lines i’d not done by the time i conceded defeat at midday.

In fairness, i’m absolutely shite at climbing competitions. It took me a while to come to terms with this, and another to realise i didn’t actually care. What it means now is that the pressure i put on myself is reduced, not expecting to actually beat many other people but certainly wanting to do myself proud.

This time i did neither, although such was the scene there yesterday, i cared little. I consoled myself by looking around and seeing at least ten strong local wads who would kick my arse even if i was on form and at my peak. I caught up with old friends i’d not seen all season, chatted with others i’d been climbing with all winter and generally enjoyed a fantastic day. This was my first Indy Open but i am certain it will not be my last.

Aggregate

The Indy Open generally marks the end of the Aggregate competition, and my name sits surprisingly high on the list of competitors. However, as i wonder where i sit in the upper echelons of the Indy elite (not high, those wads mentioned before haven’t been playing this year), i think back to the start of the competition and the goals i set myself all those months ago and how i tried to convince everyone i wasn’t competing as such this year.

Of course, that changes when you suddenly find yourself winning. Nevertheless, this wasn’t the intention, possibly in anticipation of both injuries and time constraints. The goal at the start of the season was to tick 85% of the problems.

Of course, this goal hinged on how many problems were set. The first round got me worried, with three climbs graded 8a or harder making me wonder if my idea was in fact ill conceived. After all, when you’re all competing against each other, it doesn’t matter if you don’t tick something as long as no-one else does either.

Come the end of the season and 354 problems had been set and numbered, meaning 85% is 301 problems. While the final scores have yet to be compiled, i did count up on my last visit and realised i have hit that total, and exceeeded it slightly. A good goal, it seems, and maybe next winter, it should be 90%. Goal setting is an interesting topic and in this context – where the goal is always to climb as much as i can – needs some thought. Still, it’s always nice to hit your targets.

The Indy for the Win Yet Again

The last word has to be to the staff at the Indy. I’ve written before about the aggregate, the staff and this fabulous wall that i am always proud to call my local haunt and yet again, they’ve delivered with aplomb. After a late and slightly rocky start, where i publicly questioned if there would be an aggregate – justifiable considering two of the three full time had recently been away – setting was regular, consistent and of the quality that we have all come to expect.

I’m not a fan of gimmick climbs and in general, these haven’t appeared this season; much to my delight. This is, after all, an aggregate primarily for outdoor climbers training while the days are short and the weather shite. The problems, as usual, match that nicely. I did notice a slight dearth in some grades (mainly 7c) but with me climbing at a different level to normal this year, i’m assuming that’s more me looking rather than them not existing.

And of course, i’ve been taking my kids to the wall too now, or Hannah at least while she’s still small enough not to cause the chaos that Rosie would. It’s impressive how accomodating they’ve been to that too.

So a heartfelt well done and thank you, not only for six months of relentless route setting and putting up with me badgering you and chatting shit but also for a great comp day yesterday. I hope your party was cool and your hangover short lived.

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Ten Year Anniversary

I’m not normally one for celebrating anniversaries (cue rant about  the woefully inept base 10 counting system) but exceptions are often made and today feels like a particularly significant one: today is ten years to the day that i moved to North Wales.

It seems ironic, then, that my last post commented on the idea of grinding out results and being in it for the long haul. Given 27 crags – which plays host to my extensive and comprehensive ticklist of ascents – have recently begun a summary of the calendar year, i was initially thinking of this post being a quantitative breakdown of statistics from the last ten years, on grades, crags, countries etc. However, those stats only seem to work back to 2017. Instead, i’ll approach this in a more qualitative fashion.

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Almost

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If ten years seems like a long time when you’re looking forward, it is an eternity when you’re looking back. Most of my records, my instagram feed, indeed this blog! don’t actually go back that far. Instagram itself didn’t appear until a year later and i started the blog in 2010. The above is my very first Instagram post, at the Indy which has become my home away from home but wasn’t for a long time. When i moved here, it wasn’t a commercial wall in the typical sense and i certainly didn’t think myself strong enough to climb there; instead preferring what is now known as the old Beacon.

So much has changed in that respect. I’m now in the upper echelons of strong climbers at the strongest wall in the area (albeit near the bottom of that little group) and have progressed from V6 to V10. The Beacon has moved, the Indy become more inviting and even that old staple, the Brenin wall, is looking like it won’t remain the same for much longer.

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There's something very satisfying about stripping an entire climbing wall. Still, as we were starting, I thought I wanted to leave one route up until last, just to finish it off with a bang before the very last hols were removed. This has been one of my favourites since I set it: a fierce, dynamic 7a that doesn't actually need rock boots. It certainly didn't feel this smooth when I was climbing it though! Tiredness kicked in at the top and after watching it back I was tempted to do it again and sort the poor footwork out (matching that last hold has always been the crux) but two days of removing and cleaning holds has taken its toll. I've lived setting these problems, I just hope people have enjoyed climbing them too #video #climbing #beasty #7a #dyno #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #northwales #escalada #escalade #grimpeur #rockclimbing #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #indoorclimbing

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The shops have changed too. I applied and was offered a job working for Joe Browns and that, too, has undergone many changes; the ownership has changed, the staff have come and gone and even the buildings are not as they were. For a while, Joe’s ran the corner shop but now that is under private hands as the Outdoor Shop and Crib Goch sports has developed more of a standing on the high street.

Along the way, there have been countless local friends made; some long standing, some fleeting, many people that have touched my soul and to whom i am eternally grateful both for their love and support and often, for not throttling me for being a dick. Many, no doubt, have thought about it. No one has so far tried.

Said friendships are too numerous to mention so i hope any of those that read this will not be disappointed and will more think back on the fun we’ve had. I can’t even remember the amount of weddings or other major social events i’ve attended, through connections made to some fantastic human beings.

That’s not to mention my own developments! The last three years, since finding the love of my life, seem to be even more accelerated. Not only have i got engaged but we’ve even managed to introduce two more people into the world. Because going abroad for new friendships wasn’t enough.

I can’t count the number of foreign adventures i’ve had over the last ten years. (Well, i could but i’m not going to, or this post will start Yesterday is ten years to the day…) It does seem slightly ironic that i moved from a city with a major international airport to a small backwater corner of the UK in order to start running off all over Europe and the World but that would be to oversimplify. It is because of the friendships and connections i’ve made here that i’ve been able to travel; because of the thrill for climbing that was reinvigorated once i settled here.

It’s not the only ironic aspect to the last ten years: i joined a swimming club and competed around the country in indoor pools – a fact little known about me. Before i moved, there was a long course pool within 20 miles of my house. Now, the nearest is nearly 90 miles. Nevertheless, i was introduced through that network of friends again and absolutely loved it. I still miss it.

I joined a mountain rescue team, played football weekly for a while, dabbled briefly with squash and various other activities that have fallen out of the long term memory and only occasionally come up due to Facebook’s memories feature. I even managed to remodel an entire house.

Housemates came and went in much the same way as other friendships and every time, my old house on Goodman Street underwent some new transformation. Em asked me just a couple of days ago what my favourite house has been and the answer was instant: Goodman Street. I learnt so much, worked so hard for such a long time and despite my best efforts outdoors, have never been as physically filthy as i did there.

And of course, that was where Tess came at the end of October 2012. I still don’t quite know what possessed me to get a dog and i can thank Ian for the rest of my days for nudging me into it. I couldn’t imagine what my life would be like without her in it; she’s been my travelling companion and best friend. I still say she doesn’t belong to me, she is her own dog, she just likes me best and i know she didn’t have much say in the matter but i hope she’s enjoyed being around me as much as i have.

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#daftdog #icky #cwtch

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I tied down a reasonably long term job, moved into another that is still going and managed to get myself into a postgraduate degree. None of this would’ve been possible without that networking and those people again. I’m now a small business owner, based primarily on my experiences over the last ten years.

The draw to the area remains the same. Recounting the tale of the move, i tell people i had a choice: big buildings or big mountains. It was obvious and it still is; the appeal then is still the appeal now. I’m still out climbing, juggling it with my many other commitments that we all obtain as we get older. Give me half a chance though and that’s where you’ll find me.

I said i’d stay until i took the place for granted. Ten years later and i’ve still got a long way to go.

 

I am very sorry if i’ve forgotten anyone in particular who deserves special mention or if i have forgotten anything specific that deserves to go in – keeping the post to a manageable and readable length was difficult. Captioning ten years of life (and nearly nine years of blog posts!) into one article certainly was not easy. I wish to end by thanking each and every person that has made my life here – even just one single day – better a heartfelt thank you. 

Christmas, Competitions and Happiness Points

If there’s one thing guaranteed to change the way you think about Christmas, it’s having children. That first year, when they’re not yet cresting the age of 1, isn’t too bad as they generally have no idea what’s going on. My eldest was 10 months old last year but this year, she’s more switched on and a bit more aware. Not aware enough to get excited but knowledgeable to understand the hullabaloo.

Everything is different. For example, in days before kids (DBK) i would actively want to go to work, as my holidays were generally saved for climbing trips and Christmas made that largely impossible, with non-climbing related commitments. Now, as i work the gap between Christmas and New Year alone to allow others to spend time away, i find myself missing my kids and longing to be back home.

It’s not just wanting to be home: the way i think about things has altered too. I spent yesterday lamenting the way we treat our young children at Christmas, especially when it comes to presents: here, take this and open it. Seen it? Got all excited? Great, now let me take it away from you and give you the next thing. No wonder our kids struggle with attention span!

From a really young age, we’re effectively teaching them to crave something new and exciting all the time, not to sit and savour things properly. The interesting thing is that perhaps this is a neat little parallel with indoor climbing walls…

Regularly set routes is a pre-requisite of the modern climbing wall; something new to go at, something new to try and some new achievement to give us that immediate sense of satisfaction. We want new challenges but also new gratification to boost our own ego. Without a glut of new climbs, how can we continually convince ourselves of our own abilities?

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There's something very satisfying about stripping an entire climbing wall. Still, as we were starting, I thought I wanted to leave one route up until last, just to finish it off with a bang before the very last hols were removed. This has been one of my favourites since I set it: a fierce, dynamic 7a that doesn't actually need rock boots. It certainly didn't feel this smooth when I was climbing it though! Tiredness kicked in at the top and after watching it back I was tempted to do it again and sort the poor footwork out (matching that last hold has always been the crux) but two days of removing and cleaning holds has taken its toll. I've lived setting these problems, I just hope people have enjoyed climbing them too #video #climbing #beasty #7a #dyno #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #northwales #escalada #escalade #grimpeur #rockclimbing #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #indoorclimbing

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It is totally at odds with climbing outside on real rock; a medium that, for the most part, refuses to change, millenia upon millenia. New outdoor sends and climbs – and even areas – appear all the time, granted, but for the most part the first editions of old guidebooks predominantly contain the same lines on the same crags as their current versions. You want to keep ticking stuff off? Better get your project on lad!

You can see this with the old hands at the climbing wall. The old boys, often with beards adorning their aging faces, will tick off all the “easy” stuff when a new set goes up but will then bed in for the long haul to sit under the same problems, slowly working them out and building the right strength, before success eventually comes. It’s like the antithesis of modern instant gratification.

I would say this is the joy of something like an aggregate competition but i’d be wrong: the mentality defines how you approach something like an aggregate. If you crave instant success all the time, you’ll finish off your available lines and then mill around, waiting for the next set of new problems. If you’re open to the idea of projecting, the aggregate forces you to try all of the easier stuff but hopefully allows you time to project and improve.

For me, lately, it is this combination that has spurred me back to nearly-full strength. I came into this year’s competition off the back of a newborn daughter, our second, and not in anywhere near form. I was weak, my technique poor and my mentality not conducive to grinding out results. Regular readers will remember this admission with my Solstice post in late October where i put a goal of 85% success during this winter’s competition.

Several months later and not only am i back up to scratch, i’m thriving in the comp and currently sit a whopping 53 points above second place in my category. Even across everyone, i’m still 24 points in the lead.

This needs to be tempered with the knowledge that many of those climbers will not yet have ticked their sheet and those margins will shrink. However, i keep reminding myself that this year, it does not matter about anyone else, i’m just aiming for that percentage.

Either which way, the aggregate has brought it back to me that i need to put effort in to reap the greater rewards. Flashing a 7a is  nice but working a 7c is amazing and that’s where i need to be looking now.

I have recently described a similar phenomenon as like spending happiness points. In a conversation about money and how we use that money, Em and myself were talking about how we should buy less small sundry expenses – DVDs, bits of unneeded clothing, etc – in order to be able to afford a bigger annual trip somewhere super cool. While the Lakes is cool, for us, a trip to Norway will be infinitely cooler and much more memorable.

This is where the Happiness Points come in. Every time you buy yourself a new film or a nice coffee, you’re spending a Happiness Point and it feels nice. However, if you save them up and spend them in one big go, the return is much greater. The problem is that if you’re not spending your Happiness Points in the mean time, you’re not going to be as happy in the meantime; think living for the weekend.

Now that’s not to say we should be blowing it all in tiny increments to maintain a level of happiness forevermore, it’s to say there is a balance to be found between them. The ideal is to find a way to spend Happiness Points without spending actual money but as we all know, in modern society, this is increasingly hard.

And this brings us back to our metaphors from earlier: the Christmas Present Attention Deficit and the Aggregate. There is a balance to be struck somewhere along the line between instant gratification and putting effort in to reap a reward. With both, we only have a certain number of Happiness Points; spend them wisely.

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March 2017. I can't even comprehend what has happened to me since then! So many massive moments – had more children, moved house, started a masters degree, got engaged! – and yet in all that time, I have been using the very same pair of #climbingshoes Considering a pair of rock boots would last me a season, I'm staggered. And yet with the rubber almost worn through and the knuckle on my toe peeking out, the everlasting boostic has nearly reached the end of its life. Weirdly, it's not actually the holes and wear that have sealed their fate, more the rotation standing on a hold this Friday. Still, every session feels like it may be their last. I've had replacements since September but can't bring myself to part with these comfy machines! They've managed four countries on their own. I don't really have a point, this isn't a metaphor for anything, I was actually hoping to be a little more artistic with my photos. Alas, I'm more about the words so I'll finish with a huge thanks to @scarpa_uk and a heartfelt well done for supplying me with one of the longest serving pairs of stickies I think I have ever known. #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #northwales #escalada #escalade #grimpeur #rockclimbing #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #indoorclimbing

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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!

 

About to Pop

The storm that grabbed the headlines at the back end of last week certainly affected us here in North Wales. Friday night saw a landslide in the Ogwen valley just below Bochlwyd Buttress, what must’ve been shortly before i drove past en route to the Indy. Standing water aplenty and flooding, it was a grim night and the chaos got worse when a tree came down in Nant Peris, closing the pass. For anyone that knows the area, you’ll understand quite how difficult that makes it to get anywhere around here!

With the Brittania bridge likely closed, i inadvertently joined the traffic in Bangor and soon decided by the time i got to the Indy, it would time to go home so sacked it off instead.

So last night’s Mill session was my first in nearly a week and truth be told, i couldn’t get going. I am finding it hard to dig up that usual enthusiasm lately, especially as the Indy seems to have at least delayed the start of the annual Aggregate competition or at worst, decided to take a year off.

If they have opted for a break, i can certainly empathise. Two-and-a-half years ago, i hit my peak (to date at least) by climbing Jerry’s Problem 7c+ at Sheep Pen and my grade has slowly dropped ever since. My focus has simply shifted and my dedication waned.

It is nigh on impossible to keep up that motivation year after year. I’ve had lulls in the past and always come back stronger. Perhaps it is the same for the Indy, who have got plenty going on. One of their full time members of staff is off for a prolonged climbing tour around the States, they’ve only just finished remodelling a large section of the wall. It is totally understandable.

And it is much the same for me. There is plenty going on for me at the moment.

In Other News

I am now officially a small business owner! After finally completing a group-management style Instructor Award with Mountain Training UK, i can now officially start up my own coaching business proper.

It took quite a lot of thought to come up with a name but eventually i took inspiration from my landmark first ascent, Prowess and called the business Prowess Climbing Coaching. Certificates and insurance and in the pipeline and then i’ll be on the lookout for clients.

It is a dream job for me; a combination of the best of my skills and abilities (including tea drinking) and a natural extension of my Masters. I have had a lot of positive feedback in the few years i’ve been coaching and thoroughly enjoy it like no other job i’ve ever had.

Progress will likely be slow going to begin with, so i ask any reader: if you know anyone who would be interested in rock climbing coaching, please pass them my details. All sessions are currently bespoke to the requirements of the client and while i’m based in North Wales, i am happy to travel (subject to conditions, obviously).

About to Pop

If all that wasn’t enough, our second child is expected any day now. Literally every phone call and every text message when we’re apart widens my eyes that this might be it. Mornings and evenings are spent wondering whether this will be the day and the last thought that goes through my head before i sleep every night is whether i’ll be woken before morning.

People have asked me whether i’m excited and i reply: i switch between utterly terrified and mildly nervous. It’s a weird paradox too, between wanting to have the baby soon and wanting to eek out the last little bit of “normal” time we have before true chaos ensues. I’m pretty sure that goes for both of us.

For me, the worry comes when thinking about Rosie. Our first daughter has, so far, been tantamount to the perfect child – or as close as i could reasonably hope to get – and remains utterly wonderful. She’s happy, bubbly, playful and friendly, sleeps and eats well, everything you could hope for as a parent. The idea of throwing a newborn into that mix is more nerving than attempting a trad climb; and it’s not as if i can take off the harness and walk away this time.

Last time i could hide behind the countless people telling us we had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. Now, i have no such refuge; i know exactly how harrowing childbirth is (again, for both of us) and know exactly what it’s like once mother and baby are home.

I make this sound a lot worse than it is. Having Rosie is undoubtedly one of the best things that has ever happened to me, infinitely more important than any rock climb. Having a second was something we both always wanted and i know, in my head and in my heart, that in a few years time, once the initial insanity of babies has settled, we will have a gorgeous little family. After all, give it a while and Rosie will need a spotter…

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I came across this picture from many moons back, taken by good friend Mike Pinches on our way to #fontainebleau on the French motorways. It seemed the perfect #metaphor for our lives at the moment: the #anticipation of something utterly #beautiful and amazing, with such beauty in of itself, about to spark into such #life and #promise. You #marvel in the moment, #eager to see what is about to become but nervous it might not turn out as expected or hoped. Our second child is due any day now and much like a sunrise on a beautiful day, anything could happen. This #sunrise began a spectacular trip that would change my life forever. The sunrise we're about to #experience will be much the same.

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Back in the Swing Of Things

And with that little revelation, normal service is resumed. I hadn’t climbed since that poor session at Plas y Brenin a fortnight ago until last night when i headed back to the Indy.

I certainly wasn’t any stronger, although possibly more rested. To be honest, on my way i wasn’t any more psyched, particularly, merely armed with the knowledge that confidence breeds competence. My technique wasn’t any better and to be honest, my tactics remained largely unadjusted. The only difference was that epiphany.

It is remarkable what a difference a subtle change in attitude can do. I finished my session with a 7b retro flash, of a problem i had almost managed last time, tickling the top before plummeting in what i now think may have been more ammunition for my self-perpetuating downward spiral. This time, it fell first time during the warm up. Next, another 7b that suited me perfectly, on Jenga blocks; it fell quickly and in good style.

A break, that lasted a little longer than i intended preceded that send and after, i was looking for another to try. A friend offered up the project he was trying for me to have a go and, unexpectedly, i flashed it. I hate doing that and wouldn’t do it deliberately, sometimes that’s the way it goes. It did turn out to be useful for him, as my beta on the lower section avoided him using a knee that was causing him pain.

I tried a couple of other problems without ever getting going, flashed a 7a+ with a bit of a fight and found myself sat under a 7b+ that really tickled my fancy. Andy had mentioned some hidden beta in it but i couldn’t really see what he meant so opted to jump on and see how it went.

By the end of the session, when all energy had sapped from my body and it was obvious i wouldn’t complete it, i had managed it in two halves, one move away from linking it together. Aside from that, though, was the style of the crux move.

Without getting into the annoying move-by-move of the climb, the crux involved a tricky cross through that was hard to hold and a big move up with the right hand to salvation. It was more like two separate boulder problems stacked atop each other, the upper problem starting just before the crux. This was where Andy’s beta came in but i didn’t use it. Instead, i performed a move reminiscent of Johnny Dawes that flowed so beautifully, it stole the show of the whole session.

Hands primed on the holds, left foot pressing hard on it’s own, i rested my right foot on a crimp too high to provide power… yet. Left hip went up and i snatched the next hold with my left hand but as my body then untwisted, i simultaneously pulled and pushed with my right foot that now suddenly engaged. In one seamlessly smooth motion, i completed both crux moves in one, cruising through to the easier moves above.

I don’t know how it looked – an onlooker, a regular working the problem with me, seemed impressed – but it felt like pure bliss. It’s hard to describe and i really wish i’d caught it on camera as moves like that rarely happen, especially on harder climbs. It is something you’d see from Udo Neumann (above) or, as mentioned, Johnny Dawes and it is incredibly hard to perform or coach. The only reason it happened for me was purely subconscious.

I was back, primed and fighting fit. 7a+ flash, 7b retro flash, another 7b in a session, 7b flash and a 7b+ in two halves would’ve been a very pleasing session when i was fully fit! So imagine this after the abject failure of two weeks prior.

It just goes to show quite how important having the right mindset is on performance. Get it wrong and don’t get off the floor. I can feel my confidence and my belief come back almost immediately, and i’m back in the golden spot on the DCBA scale that has proven so important for me in the past.

The DCBA Scale the optimal mindset in order to maximise their own performance

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.

Introducing Goal: 8a

They say train your weaknesses. But what if your weakness is training?

It’s been something i’ve always struggled with and the idea of “training your core” fills me with gloom and dread. I just can’t be bothered! The whole reason i got into climbing was to get out in the hills and the idea of staring at a wall dangling statically from my fingertips could not be further from that.

The problem comes when you want more. There came a point where just climbing wasn’t enough, i wanted to be operating right at the end of my ability level and there is only one way to make that happen: you have to train.

For me lately, there has been another driver, and one that comes up twice in year at New Years and during the Solstice: my Yearly Top Ten Average grade, calculated on 27crags. It may sound daft but for me, that single grade is a huge motivator. The problem i have at the moment is that it sits right below 7b. And i’m not in 7b shape: so i have to train.

But as i’ve mentioned, setting a training regime is really not my forte and while i could easily learn how to do it, sticking to it is entirely another matter. Will power is not something i possess in even small quantities and i am often found lacking any mental discipline for things like this.

So i asked myself: when i have managed to successfully train in the past? I’ve climbed 7c+ and i didn’t do that by simply going to the crag over and over, i have managed it before. What kept me focused for that?

The most obvious occasion that saw me even remotely training was preparing for Carnage. For any long-term readers (all three of you…) you’ll doubtless be aware of the effort i put in to tick this particular climb in Fontainebleau several years ago but for the uninitiated, and cutting a very long story short, it involved deadhangs on replica holds, a replica climb on a systems board and six months of preparation ready for my Spring attempt. And it worked.

Having such a definitive end goal gave me that undeniable focus. I had holds to copy, i had moves to practice, i had something tangible to work towards. And because of that, i’d find myself in the wall on a sunny day, training. But in the end it was worth it.

So there it was; the makings of a vague plan. Find a climb to work towards, and then work towards it. Simple really. But what climb…?

Again, my very top grade is 7c+ and i’ve wanted for a very long time to reach that next, momentous grade of 8a. There’s something very satisfying about the next number grade and it does have that tiny bit more cache. So why not?

I took a pen and a piece of paper and wrote in big letters at the top Goal: 8a. Then, i wrote down all the steps i could think of to get me from where i am now to achieving that goal. Turns out there weren’t that many either.

The first couple of steps are now complete, with huge thanks going to Tim Peck for helping me narrow down a long list of 11 to a shortlist of 2. Steps have been taken to move along on step 3 as well, although that ill discipline is rearing it’s head again. Still, this feels like progress. Now to see if i’m right.

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!

 

Mint Conditions? Or Utterly Baltic?

I had some really good sentences to start this post with but they’ve disappeared from my head. I’m gonna blame the cold, which seems to be infiltrating everything lately, including my sanity, although oddly hasn’t actually stopped me getting out climbing on actual rock! Well, kinda.

This all stems from the fact that, wanting to make the most of her maternity time, Em decided to go visit family and friends for a week, leaving Tess and myself behind to fend for ourselves. I think it was at the point she first mentioned it that i wondered what the weather would be like…

It turned out to, somewhat miraculously, be dry and sunny! The rock was dry and all of a sudden, that Saturday afternoon while at work, i could ponder the best choice of venue and where i really wanted to head.

I was looking for something specific: it was dry but hadn’t been for that long, so somewhere that caught some wind would be ideal to allow it to dry off. Forest crags: out. But, by that token, there was still a winter wind whistling through the valleys so somewhere perched on a high plateau was definitely out.

After a massive amount of deliberation, eventually i opted to head to the Milestone Buttress boulders; an oft forgotten venue with some outstanding climbing.  I’d looked at and dismissed the Pit before, due to landings and encroaching boulders behind the climber but figured it needed another look.

As i drove in, down the Nant Ffrancon valley, it suddenly dawned on me that our chosen venue would be shrouded in shadow. Fuck. Oh well, needs must, how cold can it be? Turns out it was almost bob on freezing.

Pablo – my Spanish sport climbing friend, for reference – and i struggled on, as i ticked Jez’s Arete 6c, jibbering like a fool on the top out and only completing as reversing the climb or jumping off looked worse than the committing moves to finish. Ping 7a also succumbed – a lovely little climb that is thoroughly recommended – and was then repeated a few times (missing the first two hard moves) with winter weight gloves. It was soon evident it was hometime.

The Monday proved much warmer and much sunnier, but the morning was preoccupied visiting my parents. However, that turned out to be much quicker than expected and despite my protestations of a lack of time, the day was just too good to pass up.

Now i’ve recently begun an article about mental preparation leading up to a session and perhaps that had a bearing, being as it was only when i drove down the steep Gwynant valley that i actually decided where i was going. That or i may have just been ridiculously out of practice but the session did not go that well.

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How much does this say about so many places in the #outdoors: a padlocked gate and a broken #stile. This is at the entrance to the #clogwynybustach boulders and was a massive pain trying to get the dog (who managed to squeeze through the gap) and the pads across. Even with access seemingly allowed, it can far too often be very difficult to where you want to go. The sad thing is I don't actually know what to do when I find something like this. #northwales is amazing for the work that's done on maintaining paths in the popular places but there is so much more potential here, so many more little things that could be done and some big and blindingly obvious ways to get people into the area safely. All we can do is keep getting out and keep sharing our adventures. #getout #getactive #woodland #woods #coeden #blackandwhiteisworththefight

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Clogwyn y Bustach, alone but for Tess, Fagin 7a as a warm up before working on Rudder’s Wall 7a+ – an unticked climb for me. It took a couple of efforts to remember and work the first few moves but quickly i found myself at the exit jugs… and totally bottled it. I went to rock over, glanced down, suddenly changed my mind and reversed the move to come back down. “That was weird” i thought and shuffled the pads. Visual inspection of the top didn’t help and i found myself looking for excuses but i knew i had to do this.

Back on, back to the jugs, try and do the (remarkably easy) rock over at the top, bottle it again. “Fuck! what’s going on?!” i couldn’t fathom what was wrong with me!

Eventually, after repeated efforts, i committed to it, got my feet set and hands on good holds and climbed onto the top of the boulder, hyperventilating massively. “Have my trad climbing fears infiltrated my bouldering?!” i thought, worrying my climbing career might actually be regressing. No, come on, this isn’t hard, you’ve done this a hundred thousand times before, suck it up, do it. I got back on the route and finished it again.

There must have been at least five repeats before i began to feel even slightly comfortable again. It’s not a hard top out, not that high, maybe it was being alone? Well, i’m often alone and have had entire weeks in foreign countries alone before! Maybe only having a solitary pad? Again, i can’t rely on being able to carry multiple pads in, especially when the landing was sound. Still, after a few successes, it started to feel normal again. Hopefully, i was just out of practice.

I’m sure i’ve heard somewhere that you can equate three bad experiences to one good one (backed up by an interesting article here from the New York Times) and it certainly makes sense. What it means is that every time you bottle it, or every time you back off, you need to have three good experiences so as not to reinforce that negative experience. The downside in real terms to that is that it takes a lot of time to build those positive thoughts (think Oddball in Kelly’s Heroes) and by the time i start to try Rudder’s Wall i was spent.

It was a sobering session and not exactly one that filled me with joy but i guess an important lesson: time indoors cannot totally replicate time outdoors and if you want to climb hard boulder problems outside, you need to go try boulder problems outside.

So Friday afternoon, following two days at the fascinating Adventure Sports Coaching Conference at Plas y Brenin, which i will talk more about another day, Friday afternoon came and under blue skies, i headed out again. With good conditions and little wind, and as i was coaching in the evening, i opted for an old forgotten venue: Gallt yr Ogof. I’d always been put off before but recently seen some videos of ascents and wanted to go have a look with fresh eyes. Having a topo now helped too.

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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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The path was wet on the walk in, the turds and ruts on the path totally frozen but i persevered anyway, figuring a walk would do Tess some good anyway and was pleasantly shocked to find the routes themselves bone dry! Granted it was cold but it was dry and it’d be fine.

The Ramp 7a/+ Smackhead 7b+ Diamond Eyes 7c Regeneration 7b and even Sway On 8a all looked much better than i’d remembered and very inspiring! They’ll all be on the list for the future but given the situation and temperature, the first priority was GyG Arete 6b+.

It’s a bunched start but my bendy-ness helped and quickly i was off the floor, reaching over the top for a neat little flash when my hands began to slip on the holds. Almost totally numb now, i had to see if i was still clinging on as my hands peddled off the holds and after a few seconds standing there feeling very confused, i jumped off. Looking at my hands i saw they were now actually wet and another inspection showed a complete sheet of ice across the whole of the top of the boulder.

I pondered for a few minutes, repeated the moves a few more times and tried to figure out what to do. Even if i managed the top out, i’d now be alone on a very slippy bloc that while wasn’t that high to climb onto, would still be quite painful to land off after a slip. Working low moves risked missing out on a potential flash (unlikely but possible). Reluctantly, i opted to sack it and go indoors.

Oddly though that didn’t actually feel like a negative experience and while i walked out with my tail between my legs and hands pressed hard into my armpits to thaw, the fact i’d gone and tried made it feel much better. It is worth thinking closely about what constitutes failure.

Later that evening my coaching session was sandwiched by a few burns on the last remaining projects at the indy before the latest reset. Andy Marshall was there and as i stood eating my hard-earned Chinese take away, with Tim explaining we were level pegging on our scores, Andy arrived and with huge glee announced he’d ticked off another problem and i should be demoted a place. It appears we have some healthy competition this year! So it was a sweet feeling to tick off another problem myself by the end of the evening.

Since then i’ve returned to indoor sessions and other than a hugely successful session Wednesday gone – including three 7a, four 7a+, a 7b and a 7b/+ which thrilled and confused me in equal measure – it’s been pretty much back to normal. Snow adorns the hills today but the big lesson i’ve learned: if you want to be able to get out, you gotta start getting out! With one eye on a family font trip in Spring, i think i’ll be checking the forecast.