Tag Archives: indoor climbing

Some Reflections on the Last Month or so

My last post prompted a very good and very old (yeah, Dan, you’re old!) friend to call me on some of the gripes i’ve been having lately and it got me thinking: have i been ungrateful while i’ve been off with Rosie?

His original reply:

To be fair pete, and I don’t want to sound like a dick. You’ve got a sweet deal. You’re lucky to spend so much time with your daughter and go climbing when weather allows is a bonus at this stage in the game. Stop moaning. It’ll stop raining soon.

That, in turn, led to a rather lengthy public Facebook conversation between us about me, my attitude and the things i could be doing rather than staring at the rain fall outside and wishing my life away.

And it led to me reflecting on the time i’ve had so far. As with my ideas on New Years, it’s probably wise to look back periodically and if i do this now, it should allow me to make even more of the rest of the time we have before i go back to work. It might even come to affect our relationship after i have gone back!

Our Daily Routine

To start with, here’s some of our daily routines.

Em works one of two shifts on any given day: a morning shift until 2pm or an evening shift that normally starts early afternoon and finishes at 9pm. Personally, i prefer when she’s working mornings and we’ve developed a standard routine on these occasions.

With Rosie being tantamount to the perfect child, we normally get up around 9am, have a bottle and a cup of tea and then wash up from the night before, including her bottles. Then she has a nap while i write, or do house move admin or hopefully get everything ready for heading out later, making a plan based on the weather. Around 1pm, she normally wakes up and it’s lunchtime, with some shmush, finger food and another bottle. Then we’re out.

With me being so easy to please, usually just wanting tea and climbing, the default is always to try and get out to a crag but that doesn’t mean it’s the only thing we do and it certainly doesn’t mean if it’s not possible, we don’t do anything at all. I’ll talk more later about what we have actually achieved so far.

If Em is on a morning shift, normally i wait until she gets home and we normally then do something as a family. Yesterday, for example, was swimming which was awesome and something we all love to do. Walking around North Wales is also a popular option, especially as it keeps Tess, our resident canine, happy too. Sometimes, it ends up being something more necessary than fun-focused, like a trip to Tesco or the other popular one is to socialise with grandparents – we are lucky that both have accommodation of sorts around here and we see them often.

When Em is working and outdoor climbing not an option, there is still a bit of a hierarchy of activities i like to opt for. Both local walls are very accommodating and i have a great relationship with both so an indoor session often works well, and there is another climbing wall on site at work at Plas y Brenin; the latter having the advantage that we get to see Rosie’s mum briefly and our colleagues love seeing the baby.

The next option is normally to go boulder scouting. I’ve found that no level of knowledge of a crag pre-baby can actually tell you whether it’s a suitable venue to take a little one and it’s always best to check with fresh eyes now you know what you’re looking for. And of course, it’s just a walk in the hills really –  a win for everyone.

What about typical baby activities?

As for things like baby club or baby massage, that’s more my problem than anything else. I just don’t feel like i’d be that welcome and don’t actually know when and where most of these things take place.

Granted that’s mostly my responsibility to find out but i’m just not entirely convinced these things are as much for dads as they are for mums. That and why would i do that when i can take everyone climbing, keeping me and Tess that bit happier?

There is a bit of a network of local outdoorsy mums that i kinda know but haven’t really socialised with properly yet. In the interests of some peer social time for Rosie, it is something i know i should pursue but for now, what we’re doing is working and keeping us pretty happy.

Have i neglected the dog?

Erm, yeah probably. Fitting Tess and Rosie into life has proved the biggest challenge for me and sadly, the dog often loses out.

I am conscious of this, hence the hierarchy of activities; it keeps her happier and healthier. At the least, i try and get a walk around the village every day for Tess, so she doesn’t go stir crazy. And of course any baby free time is normally tailored to give my loyal pooch some activity too.

Rosie and Tess have certainly gelled perfectly and have a great relationship, even at this very young stage. Play time with the baby at home often engages the dog too which certainly helps. In a short while, i’m sure they’ll be exhausting each other while i’m washing up.

Has It Worked?

That depends on how you look at it but in the greater scheme of things, yes it has, spectacularly so.

Part of the problem is that i want to be out, every single day. If i can’t for around a week, i get itchy feet and start to think we’re not getting out enough.

Another part of the problem is that my memory is shite and i often plain forget that we got out climbing five times last week and it’s only this week we haven’t done as much. That’s what happened with my last post.

Here’s some figures to go with it: my 27crags ticklist shows 58 new boulder problems since i started Shared Parental Leave – and that doesn’t include a lot of climbs i’ve repeated, that’s just things that weren’t already on the list .

A quick count shows that Rosie herself has been to at least ten venues in North Wales since she was born, either while we were climbing or on a scouting mission. That doesn’t take into account the days i’ve been out without her in that time and that’s just North Wales, so you can add a week in Glendalough into that as well.

On the Facebook debate that prompted this post, Dan said,

For all the support I get from my partner, I can still only climb on average once at weekends, and two or three evenings a month. I tend to get rained off 25% of my days. I climbed a handful of times during my first year as a dad.

That is indeed a bit of perspective! especially as his partner is absolutely awesome. How i’ve done this, i’m not entirely sure but i certainly shouldn’t be taking it for granted.

The Big Important Point

The big huge, neon signed, slap people in the face point i’ve been trying to labour is that you too can get out. If i can do it, you can do it. I’m a barely organised, often unfed and unkept, mess of a human being. People have often said to me before, “i don’t know how you’re still alive” due to my chaotic nature and lack of basic ability to look after myself to others standards. [For the record, i look after my daughter infinitely better and she is perfectly happy and healthy.] If i can get myself sorted to get out climbing, anyone can.

I honesty think that a lot of people – and i don’t mean Dan or anyone else in particular – act the way they think they should when it comes to looking after babies. You’re faced with the fact it’s really hard right from the moment you announce you’re expecting and it really doesn’t fill you with confidence. My dad was the worst for it, telling me i’d never be able to leave the house with a baby; although that may have been a blessing in disguise, as i normally try and prove him wrong with anything he says. So thanks dad, you inadvertently helped.

Get organised, get out. Learn your babies routine and manipulate it to help you. Don’t fall into the habit of being A Parent above everything else – still be you and be a parent as well. Now i’ve looked back, i’ve suddenly realised what the levels of success you can have can be.

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Roo Stops Play

Okay, the name of this post is a little misleading given the amount we’ve been managing to get out recently! It came to me as we were forced into a hasty retreat on our first unaccompanied day out once someone decided enough was enough and the title seemed pretty apt as we’ve been at various crags this weekend listening to Test Match Special and following the cricket… Nevertheless, there’s no doubting the start of our little adventure together has been a resounding success.

My last post talked of a solo session for myself (admittedly with Tess in tow) up in the Llanberis pass and some scouting missions but no actual bouldering sessions for me and Rosie. Well, after much anticipation, Thursday gone, we finally got out.

I think in hindsight, the excitement of finally taking my young daughter bouldering with me got the better of me and as Em went off to work, i frantically ran around trying to get all the required accessories together and piled into the car. A Land Rover 90 is not big enough and on the way back, the piles of stuff in the back nearly covered poor Tess, who at one point was almost scrabbling to get into the front cab with us.

We were afforded the luxury of taking plenty as the crag in question was Caseg Fraith – an old favourite of mine and perfectly suited to a baby session. We were even able to pull up right near the crag, unload and then move the car around to the farmhouse, giving us a minimal load to drag in. In a move that would later make me slap myself hard in the head with the palm of my hand, i figured the car was so close, i could leave the changing bag in the car…

The session started really well, with me ticking off the easier lines on the left of the crag up to and including Caseg Fraith Arete 6b while Rosie enjoyed playing with the toys on her play mat and occasionally watching me climb. The occasional fussy moment was easily dealt with and soon enough, i was shuffling the pads under the roof of Skunk X 7a+.

That seemed to be the trigger – or at least the time – for Rosie to begin to fall out of love with our adventurous afternoon. Rapidly, contentedness made way for fussing and some early crying and just after i’d ticked Skunk X, we both realised time was up. She was hungry now.

The problem, as mentioned above, was the changing bag being in the car. By the time i’d saddled up with the inordinate amount of crap, she could probably be heard the length and breadth of the Ogwen valley.

With the session having equal success and failure, i decided to call it a good one. I’d defied most of my own advice i’d recently penned in an article about bouldering with babies and thought i should probably learn from my mistakes but remain undeterred. And that is exactly what i did.

The Saturday following our mixed day out, we tried again. The target this time: the Braichmelyn, or Super Boulder, near Bethesda. Another short walk in with enough space for Tess to run and play, i was definitely making the most of the No Retro Ticks rule!

One subtle but important change for this session was the play mat for the baby. As Caseg Fraith, i’d taken the small play mat from the living room whereas this time, i took a much larger one procured from my cousin Lindsay. It worked a treat and Rosie was an absolute dream – playing with toys peacefully while i duly ticked off more climbs. I stopped to feed her briefly and she dropped off for a nap but none of this prevented sends of The Ramp 6a!, Central Wall 6c+ and the sit start at 7a, Braichmelyn Arete 5b and again, the 7a sit start and a fresh tick of Kryptonite 4c!.

In fact, it wasn’t even Rosie who forced the exit from this crag – more my own abject efforts at ticking the two 7a lines Klimov and The Crack. Given the miniscule crimps in use, i’m blaming the conditions and not my own failings. That’s what good climbers do isn’t it?

One from yesterday at the #superboulder of me on the sit start to Central Wall 7a as Rosie watches, taken on a timer. Where our session a couple of days before was good, this one was much better as my #daughter had loads of fun playing on her play mat with her toys, giving me plenty of time to continually fall off the fierce crimps of the #braichmelyn. I'm blaming the conditions for my average list of accents… The only downside was an injury sustained by Tess somehow who came home with a major limp, probably while chasing a ball. She's much better today though, thankfully. #bethesda #worldclasswales #snowdonia #northwales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram

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Monday i needed to call into work to say goodbye to a colleague going off to greater things and the plan was to go in early and head to the Plas y Brenin boulder, given there are now several good new link ups to go at that didn’t appear in the old guide. However, we were once again thwarted by the friendliness of the Brenin…

You can’t go anywhere in that place in a hurry; certainly not without a stern look adorning your face and a furrowed brow. It can regularly take half an hour to get a cup of tea, getting distracted chatting to pretty much anyone else you happen across along the way. Throw an adorable baby into the mix and you’ll never get anything done. That’s what happened last time i went in: climbing took second place to sitting in the bar.

It almost happened again but with dark clouds gathering overhead, an indoor session seemed more sensible anyway. With an empty climbing wall on site, we headed down to get some mileage in.

True to form, Rosie was great and with Cat from the bar mixing playing on the wall with playing with the baby, i managed a third good session in five days. Clare, the departing colleague, even managed to take a few minutes out to come and say hello – to be honest, that made the session all the more worth it. Clare, it’s been a pleasure and i know you’ll be sorely missed around the centre.

A Potentially Interesting/Dull Post About Rock Shoes

This could go one of two ways and i’m hoping it turns out to be interesting! I’ll certainly try my best. Because after many years of climbing exclusively in La Sportiva Solutions, i have recently made the radical decision to try something different…

It’s quite a radical action, for me at least. Even when i was talking to them at local shop V12, the staff member commented that i hadn’t changed shoes in years, such has been my reliance on this particular model. I have had others during that time, like the La Sportiva Futura – a shoe i initially hated but one that grew on me, most notably in Magic Wood back in 2015.

So i thought i’d give some musings on rock shoes and see how it came out. I’ve written an article previously about fitting of rock shoes so i’m not going to go into that here but will discuss some different models, which ones i’ve opted for and what i’ve found so far.

The New Shoes

This all comes from when Sportiva released the Otaki: a new stiff, broad uber-downturned “Performance climbing shoe”. It looked good and when i tried it, it felt even better. (Click that link and watch the video by the way, it’s hillarious at the end).

Problem was that when i went to order some from the supplier, through the small shop i run, there were none in stock and it didn’t look like any would be coming in any time soon. Even checking some local shops i had no joy.

Reluctant to pass up my staff discounts, i decided to branch out from La Sportiva shoes for the first time in many years. The designer from Sportiva moved to Scarpa a few years ago and since then, their shoes have inevitably become very similar. Considering we also deal with Scarpa, they were the obvious choice.

After trying a few on, it came down to a choice between two models: the Instinct VS and the Booster S. After a bit of deliberation, quelling the temptation to get both, i opted for a pair of the latter.

As i expected, they were super small, requiring some help from my other half to stretch them out before i could get them on but when i eventually got the chance to climb in them, they were superb and aided a tricky 7c ascent indoors at the Indy.

Nevertheless, i was still reaching for my old comfy Solutions for most sessions and not really usinng the Boosters. I slowly watched the rubber degrade on them and knew i needed to get the Boosters broken in but the allure of my old pair was hard to ignore.

Then, a few months later, after a bit of forward planning to do with my upcoming paternity leave, i managed to convince myself to stick a pair of Otakis on the latest shop order. The next thing i knew, i had two almost brand new pairs of rock shoes: one stiff, one soft, both a fantastic fit, two manufacturers and a chance to find out more about how the stiffness of your shoes can affect your climbing.

Testing begins: Indoor climbing

As i mentioned, i’d had the Boosters quite a while before the Otaki was added to my repertoire and the precision was fantastic. That said, i hadn’t realised until writing this post that i’ve had them since early March! Never mind.

The first real test was a Mill session where, unsually but not without precedent, i had one of each on, thanks to sore feet. The most notable difference was the precision and the response from each shoe. Soft gave me a great feel for what i was standing on, ideal for smaller holds as i could get a great reaction from them.

What was interesting with these two models was the heel hook move with the Booster, where it performed surprisingly well. The heel on them is less substantial but they molded well onto the hold and despite being a tall throw to a distant pinch, stayed on a few times.

On the bigger holds, the stiffer shoes certainly worked a little better, giving a solid platform for me foot. Granted, digging in deep on a steep wall to get more power from the hold was less likely but with bigger holds, this was less crucial.

Testing moves outside

Suddenly and unexpectedly, i found myself with a last second offer of an outdoor session this week. Suddenly down at Rhiw Goch again for the first time in a long time, i repeated Moria 7b (almost a retro flash) before getting back on with the battle on Nazgul’s Traverse 7c.

The shoes on my feet? The Otaki. I’m not sure why i opted for them straight out of the bag, probably as they are fractionally more comfortable but on Moria the solid heel and ability to power off the small holds came in really handy. However, on the higher holds, where i needed to claw my feet back on, this proved a touch harder.

On Nazgul’s the Otaki performed brilliantly, with much the same issues. The heel was so solid for the cruxy crossover, i almost inverted on the way down and landed with a thump on my backside. However, again, on the more subtle holds on the steep section at the start, i suspect the Booster would’ve been slightly better.

The Vedict (so far)

Even after a short amount of time, the differences are becoming evident. For holds where you want to propel yourself then the stiffer shoes give a stronger platform to launch from. For anything just off vertical, they would undoubtedly be the ones to opt for.

Once the angle gets steeper, and the need to claw your feet onto holds gets bigger, the soft shoes will come into their own, i feel. Meanwhile, when there is a need for precision on a hold, having more response from the shoes could be the difference between success and failure.

However – and this is a very important point – the climbs i’ve tried them on and required both attributes in equal measure. I’ll keep experimenting with them and doubtless soon will try and same climb in both shoes to see the difference but to be honest, i think there will rarely be the perfect shoe for any given climb.

So unless i’m able to keep swapping shoes in between moves, it seems it’s going to be a bit of a compromise. Guess i’ve just gotta get out climbing more and keep testing!

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.

Hard to believe this little lady is 1 week old today. I am so in love ♡

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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.

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!

 

Final Score

I’m going to avoid the line, “i never win anything!”- it’s a tired old cliche and quite honestly, it’s almost never true. At least if it is, it’s most likely through a lack of effort!

One thing that you cannot claim with anyone reaching the end of an aggregate competition is a lack of effort! Make it to the end of six months of the same competition and you must have been doing something somewhere down the line.

With a total of around 350 problems set since the start of October, i managed a total of 318 and to be honest, there weren’t that many more i could’ve nailed without projecting for session after session. I date my sheet for every ascent and know that this year, there were at least three sessions where nothing fell. Without substantial effort, i’d hesitate that 320 might have been my max total.

It was enough to get me second place, beaten only by the local beast Wolf – fair play to you sir. That being said, as we chatted between ourselves the other day, we both said there are plenty of strong boys around North Wales who haven’t been playing this year; naming a handful that would’ve beaten us both with relative ease. Some just couldn’t commit the time, some not really that bothered, some struggling with injury but all better and stronger than us. But you can only compete against who is there and i’ll take second; a new high position.

I must admit, given my current circumstances, if i had gained that extra place, it would’ve said more about the current state of affairs on the Indy Aggregate than of my own abilities. This time last year, i hit new heights in climbing Jerry’s Problem – my first V10/7c+. This year, i am nowhere near those standards, as demonstrated yesterday during a day out at Parisella’s Cave.

Notoriously hard, the Cave of Justice takes no prisoners and gives little away for nothing. Brutally overhanging and polished to a high sheen, you earn your ticks there. It’s not somewhere that often grabs me as a destination (apart from anything else, Tess needs to be tied up due to the proximity of the road) but occasionally i’ll take a trip there and when James text me keen to climb on a day with an horrendous forecast, this was about our only decent option.

My high point (grade wise) in the cave remains my first V9, Rock Attrocity. After many sessions, i was there with a friend, Andy Marshall, and an inspired effort from him meant i kept my feet on and nailed it. On watching me sail through a line i’d been trying intensely for weeks, he showed me the Wobbly Block start which adds a grade but only two more moves that aren’t that hard. He showed me some sneaky beta – that i’ve now annoyingly forgotten – and i gave it a blast. A dab on the first move and fluffing the last match meant i couldn’t add the harder version to my ticklist but it felt good and i vowed to come back. The week later i got injured and then never went back.

An old shot from 2014 – around the time Rock Atrocity fell for me

Now it became the focus of my attention again. Driving over, i ran through the moves in my head, optimistic that it might actually go, buoyed by my recent successes in the aggregate.

It didn’t. Almost every move felt brutal, almost to the point of impossible and i found myself working moves long ago ingrained in my mind. Even the end sequence – usually not too taxing when attempted in isolation – felt desperate and wasn’t linked. In essence, it chewed me up and spat me out, cackling at me for good measure.

There are mitigating circumstances to this, in my defence as the conditions couldn’t be much worse for the cave. Rock Attrocity is an artificial line, with drilled pockets and a glued-on flake and even that was seeping in places. The polished holds held a fine drizzle  that skipped the famous sticky-damp and went straight to plain wet and outside the cave’s vast entrance, for the most part, water fell from the sky making everything just that little bit harder.

It wasn’t a complete waste, as Pillar Finish V6 nearly fell and i found some sneaky beta to tick off Parisella’s Roof V6/7. There are many lines in the cave i’ve not really tried much before, with Pillar Finish being one i’d simply missed and Parisella’s Roof having a heinous and committing finger lock half way through. Instead, i crimped the edge of it and found it fine. The aggregate had managed to get me up to some standard at least!

And of course there have been mitigating circumstances for the aggregate too. I have commented recently that getting together with Emily directly related to the downfall in my ability to climb boulders but i have also pointed out that before she came into my life, that i had nothing better to do than climb and train. Would i trade my life with her to be back to those levels? Not in a million years.

And of course it can’t be ignored that when the competition started in early October, Em was five months pregnant and needed my help and support. When it drew to an end, my beautiful and wonderful daughter was already five weeks old.

When talking about climbing, it’s common for me to say, “Life gets in the way” and this has never been more true now. With that comes a reassessment of what truly matters in life and finally having the family i’ve craved for over a decade will always far outweigh any desire to climb hard. The fact i’ve managed to juggle both to achieve what i have certainly makes me take a step back and smile to myself slightly.

Second place, whatever the circumstances, is still a great achievement! 40 people are on the list in my category alone and my score beats any in any other category as well. But of course, i never win anything. Oh, damn it….

Life Is Rosie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Progress? What Progress?

Nearly three months since my last post – the longest gap in a few years – should’ve been enough to have something to report on! I had thought nothing much worth writing about had happened but then i started writing and it just got longer and longer… So it’s time for a recap and hopefully a resurgence of psyche. Looking back, some of this is pretty incredible (for me) with some life changing events thrown in for good measure.

We’ll start off with the solitary outdoor bouldering session since, possibly, Torridon back in September last year: a day out at Beddgelert forest at the end of November. An old friend, Ben, who has accompanied me on various trips to Font, got in touch keen to get outside for a boulder. Not wanting to disappoint, i accepted, saying we would decide on the venue at the last minute to pick decent conditions. It was a good shout, opting for Boss Cuvier; a crag i’d yet to explore more than a cursory glance on a wet afternoon.

I’d been deliberately neglecting outdoor climbing all winter, partly due to poor conditions and partly to spend time indoors getting my strength back but i’m very glad Ben talked me into it. It was a great little day with crisp air and gorgeous skies offering us a beautiful sunset as we climbed until dusk. Nothing of any note actually fell for us but the act of getting outside again for the first time in a long time, coupled with spending time with an old friend, were marvelous feelings.

While Gelert forest was catching up with old friends, heading to the Boardroom in Queensferry around Christmas marked new relationships with new people. Em’s brother and i have climbed together a couple of times over the past year but with aforementioned poor conditions, we’d arranged to go indoors while we were both off work.

With James working through their aggregate competition and myself a grade or two stronger, he’d already thought he could ask me on some of his projects although as the session wore on, that became less and less likely. James is indeed a strong boulderer and nailed a couple of problems he’d been trying for a while, one with my help and one without. However, during the warm up, my foot slipped from a hold it really shouldn’t and my knee careered into a ledge-like hold below it, causing me to limp around for the next couple of days. Meanwhile, James was suffering with a migraine and slowly deteriorated to the point where he simply couldn’t climb any more. We must’ve been quite the sight as we left and could imagine some young and impressionable youngster arriving to see James with his head in his hands and me with a major limp, wondering what they’ve signed up for!

Between us, though, we got some impressive ticks. We both climbed hard and admittedly had a great little session, the cost of which may or may not have added to it! More to the point though, spending a day with my girlfriend’s brother is always time well spent, especially as he really is a stand up guy and a joy to climb with.

While these have been a couple of exceptional outings, most of my winter has seen me trying to make the most of my six-month pass at the local Indy climbing wall. I’d signed up for the aggregate competition, as is customary these days and they’d decided to run a Massive Monday Series, as mentioned in my last post.

Last time, we’d just finished the Dyno Comp and two more have gone past since then:

  • Grooves vs. Aretes. This one was my own little suggestion, when they were looking for ideas and with three problems left untouched, i found myself looking at the maths and realising that flashing the last three problems would put me first or possibly second. As an almost direct consequence, i choked, dropped two points on a straightforward 6c and despite flashing a 7a+ failed to finish the remaining problem and finished a lowly fourth. It proved my poorest score and i should’ve done better.
  • Pump Up The Volumes. A comp more in keeping with modern competition climbing, involving involved climbing and some technical moves where outdoor experience counted tenfold. I did reasonably, despite feeling completely wiped of energy, ticking most climbs. Crucially though, one of my main competitors declined to hand in his sheet after what he felt was a poor performance, and that, coupled with double points for the last night, meant i took third and jumped up the leaderboard.

The final scores? After five flash contests, due predominantly to perseverance meant i finished the series in second place! An impressive return considering some of North Wales strongest climbers getting in the mix there.

More importantly, again, it was a stellar series that will hopefully run again in the same vein next year. The points system was, granted, a little complicated but for an inaugural winter series, it was certainly a huge success in my opinion. With time, it should develop into a staple of the North Wales winter climbing scene. I certainly hope so.

Meanwhile, the winter aggregate continues and i still occasionally astound myself by looking at the leaderboard. The next time it is released will be the last and i can only hope that i find myself in the same position i have held over the entire competition: namely sat right at the top.

I think it’s a bit Leicester City, as i’ve mentioned previously, but you can only turn up and climb, you can’t control anyone else and with the end so tantalisingly close, i’m desperately hoping that come the end, i can actually win the competition. Whether i’ve actually been top all season is unclear, as the scores have actually only been updated twice as opposed to monthly like usual, but nevertheless, i’m still up there. There’s not long to go now and while, in terms of training, it’s not had the required effect of getting me back to strength levels of this time last year, it’s been yet another fabulous comp that for once, i’m craving the end of.

To finish off this ever increasing post that started with me saying i had nothing to talk about, i’d like to quickly allude as to why this training hasn’t actually worked that well this winter.

Back in July last year, Emily and i discovered that she was pregnant. It was a bit of a shock but a very welcome one as we both spent the next seven months getting ready for the arrival of our first child. It’s meant less time spending evenings hanging from fingerboards and more time at home, with Em on the Mothercare website.

With a baby on the way, it became quite important to have a proper, finished and functional kitchen in the house. This building work had been earmarked for around this time for two years but it suddenly became more urgent. It was completed the week after Em’s baby shower…

And then, on the 10th February 2017, our beautiful baby girl was born. Rosemary Kirsten Edwards, our little Rosie, was finally here and i have never been more proud, of us or of Em. We’re both very proud parents, both very happy and both coping with the latest addition to our little family very well.

I’ve just said to Em that i may not be at the level i had reached this time last year but to be honest, if i was i think i would’ve failed them both. There’s no way you can support a pregnant lady, a newborn baby, get the environment ready for them and maintain those levels of fitness, especially with a full time job and my priorities have definitely changed dramatically now. Em and Rosie are now firmly the most important things in my life, along with Tess who has coped wonderfully and has definitely not been forgotten.

The challenge now is to balance life between all these aspects of my life. I certainly don’t want to give up bouldering – it is simply another love of my life, to go with these girls here. It’s just dropped down the pecking order in the last year or so…

Uch

Well that could’ve gone better! Lack of energy, head not in the game, i even managed to draw blood. Needless to say, that was not the best night i have ever had.

By way of explanation, the Indy Climbing Wall, as part of the six-month winter aggregate, this season is having a “Massive Monday” Series. On the first Monday of every month, there is a small competition with a theme.

The first one was Crimps vs. Slopers with a travesty of near-Brexit levels as Slopers took the crown by the narrowest of margins. 25 problems, with points dictated by the number of attempts, with more leniency than a simple flash contest. I came in a lofty fourth.

Next up, due to the large old resin wall was a Back To The Features evening, with fierce and brutal taped sections for hands and feet and a variance of hold types and sizes to test you mettle. Just my sort of thing, i made ground on my previous position, attaining third. It did come at a cost though, as you can read here… (I’m Pedro di Brenina by the way).

With the scores for these positions combined for the overall leaderboard, i found myself going into last night’s Dyno contest joint second overall, thanks largely to absences of fellow climbers. Despite a journey to the wall that began around 1pm in Birmingham, i felt buoyed by my chances and enthusiastic about what lay ahead. If only i’d known.

I'm not normally one to show indoor climbing photos, let alone videos but there are exceptions to every rule and this is without doubt the most brick hard #climb I've ever seen anyone give the grade of 7a+ I've got to the point in the #indyclimbingwall #aggregate #competition where doing a new move for the first time is a success for my session. I've got eleven problems to do out of 112 until new problems are set and about half of them could go, with a lot of projecting. This is one of them, unlocked by the heel hook sequence at the bottom, with the last two moves done in isolation. Another session will hopefully yield another tick! #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #indoorclimbing #training

A post shared by Chez de la Bloc (@edwards.pete) on

As i started with, it did not go well. This one was a straightforward flash contest – with points dropped for every failed attempt – and i proceeded to start by dropping points on the very first few problems. Dyno-ing is tough, and my warm up left a lot to be desired. Like actually getting warm.

I flushed out a few of the easier ones to get me going but very quickly found more problems to fail on. Points were dropped on things i really shouldn’t and i watched as people found sneaky ways through problems i’d struggled on earlier.

My head was gone by this point and my body was sore. With only the hardest lines left to do, i knew my chance had gone to achieve an even vaguely respectable score and/or position. My only hope now was that everyone else had done equally poorly.

The guy in joint second certainly wasn’t and it suddenly dawned on me that this is exactly his sort of climbing. Nevertheless, despite wanting to sack it and leave, i figured you never know what’s actually happening and might as well just on as much as possible.

I opted for a series of huge leaps on the front face. First move negotiated (after customarily dropping two points unnecessarily) and the crux second. Hands set, look at where you’re going, feet placed, leap and… BANG! My elbow connected with the wall, cutting a chunk out and now slowly leaking. This really wasn’t my night.

The injury was superficial but looked even  more impressive due to the psoriasis on my joints. To prevent getting blood on clothing, matting or anywhere else, a protective tape thing was concocted but proved to look as stupid as it was useless. This really wasn’t my night.

I persevered but quickly got to the point where i knew i lacked enough energy to complete any of the remaining lines. Admitting defeat has never been easier, that’s for sure.

In theory, in climbing competitions, what you’re aiming for is a bell curve of difficulty over time. Start easy, work up to the hard ones in the middle then save some easier ones for the end. It never works and no competition more so than last night.

Still, if it wasn’t for the bad nights, the good ones wouldn’t be so good. Chalk it up to experience and move on, that’s all you can do. That and nurse the wounds of last night – my elbow is still sore.

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!

Climbing On The Up

It’s been a big week for the sport i love. It has now officially been announced that climbing will, in four years time, be included in the Olympic programme. With a combination of Sport Climbing, Speed Climbing and Bouldering, the sport will soon take it’s place among the elite competitions in the world.

The news has had a mixed reception, though, with many climbers not reacting with the enthusiasm that many other sports ordinarily would. Other changes around the sport have also had a mixed reaction. So what’s actually happened? And why the long faces?

The Olympics and it’s traditions

Let’s start by taking a look at the Olympics. The first international Olympic Games of the modern era was held in Athens in 1896 with only nine sports taking part.  Four years later in Paris, this had grown to nineteen and the games have continued to evolve ever since. In Rio di Janeiro in 2016, the number will return to 28, following a drop to 26 in London in 2012.

The number of sports often fluctuates with each games, every four years. In 2002, The International Olympic Committee put a cap on the number of sports at 28, although that may be due to change, with the five new sports, including climbing, not set to replace any of the existing 28 sports currently about to take place in Brazil this summer.

However, the IOC is set to review the existing sports where “Discussions on the event programme in the existing 28 Olympic sports for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 are ongoing, and will be finalised by the IOC Executive Board in mid-2017” according to the IOC website.  Likewise, there is no guarantee that any of the new sports will maintain their Olympic status past Tokyo.

What is certain is that sport climbing, along with surfing, skateboarding, karate and baseball combined with softball with have their chance to demonstrate their appeal to the wider world. With the IOC continually reviewing the programme of included sports, every new sport is gathering excitement at this opportunity.

Climbing’s Previous Inclusions

While competition climbing has never been included in the Olympic agenda previously, there is a precedent of receiving Olympic medals for notable ascents.

In the 1924 Winter Olympics, thirteen members of the Everest expedition from two years previous were awarded medals for mountaineering, despite not reaching the summit, with a further eight mountaineers of the same expedition similarly honoured latterly.

During the London Olympics in 2012, British mountaineer Kenton Cool made good a promise by the original expedition and took one such medal to the summit of Everest. The promise had been made by the expedition’s leader, Lt Col Edwards Strutt to place one of the medals atop the mountain and came among a wave of Olympic interest around the UK as the country hosted the games for the first time in 64 years.

Other medals have been awarded linking the sport and the organisation, although comprehensive records are scant. Most notable may be Swiss couple Gunter and Hettie Dyhrenfurth, who were awarded medals at the 1936 Olympics. Meanwhile, Reinhold Messner was recognised for his achievements in Calgary by the IOC.

These medals do not feature in the official medal tables, though, and Tokyo 2020 will be the first time climbing in a competitive scene will take place while associated with the five famous rings.

What Else Has Changed

In the UK at least, changes had already begun to be made before this announcement. The governing body overseeing rock climbing, hillwalking and other mountain activities, the British Mountaineering Council, recently announced a radical name change to Climb Britain. While these are not officially directly related, many believe the timing of the change was more than coincidental, being only ten days from the Olympic announcement.

The official line from supporters such as Sir Chris Bonington was that the organisation needed to “move with the times” while the BMC itself, on it’s website, states: “The switch to Climb Britain will create exciting opportunities to extend our reach and influence in future years”

The reaction from the climbing community was not particularly welcoming. Many took to social media to object to the change, leading to BMC CEO Dave Turnbull to offer a statement on “the level of interest there would be in our Climb Britain announcement“. Meanwhile, many commentators made the link and further assumption that the changing face of the nearly 72-year old organisation would reflect a similar change in focus.

This has been ardently denied. On a page of “facts” on the BMC website, the response to the question “Is this to get Olympic funding?” the response was thus:

No. This decision is not connected to the Olympic bid – although it has come around at a similar time. The consultation was funded by Sport England who fund grass roots, mass participation and non-elite level sport. UK Sport covers the top end of Britain’s sporting pathway: supporting athletes and sports to compete and win medals at the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Nevertheless, for a lot of British climbers, shown through the ukclimbing.com forums, this is still not an acceptable change for one of the governing bodies.

The Bid for Inclusion

Climbing’s inclusion isn’t from a lack of effort. One such campaign group to be championing the sport has been Climb 2020 who have made it their quest to “raise greater awareness of the sport and unite climbing communities across the UK in support of this Olympic proposal”.

Backing includes many athletes from the GB competition circuit and prominent members of the BMC, although this isn’t much of a surprise, with people such as Rob Adie, the BMC Walls and Competitions officer, who is quoted as saying,

“I thing it’s going to be fantastic project and not only good for climbing communities but a great way of reaching out to people who don’t know much about the sport”

Constrastingly to the Climb Britain debate, UKClimbers seen largely taken with the decision to include climbing as an Olympic sport, mainly not agreeing with the format. There seem to be two areas of discontent.

The first being the inclusion of Speed Climbing, although this may be largely due to the lack of participation in this discipline in the UK. In the US, it seems it is more of an accepted form of climbing competition, bridging the gap between climbing competition and more mainstream sports.

It is also seen by many as more appealing to the general public – something which is obviously crucial to the success of including any new sport in the programme. With speed climbing being described as “a crazy fast time, with a very frantic announcer” by websites such as Action in Solitude and you can see why the IFSC would be encouraged to add speed climbing to the more traditional facets.

The other major complaint is the awarding of medals. Currently, the format proposes medals going to the best competitor over the three disciplines, rather than medals for bouldering, sport and speed climbing individually. For some like Shauna Coxsey, the only British winner of the Bouldering World Cup to date, this becomes a distinct disadvantage, as she eludes to in an interview with the Guardian newspaper. 

“I’m a boulderer so I would have to adapt to compete in the two other disciplines” she is quoted as saying, although points out, “this could be a positive thing”.

Nevertheless, with most climbers these days specialising in one discipline over others, this seems a decision made by those not heavily involved in the sport.

The Rise of Climbing

What is undeniable, whatever the outcome of climbing’s Olympic inclusion, is the rise in profile for the sport. The BBC, an organisation normally overwhelmed with constant news from more mainstream sports, has already started showing more of an interest. After Shauna Coxsey’s recent results, she made headline news. As further recognition, she found herself honoured in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

It is hard to deny that climbing has been on the rise in the UK for quite some years lately; with the IFSC competition circuit gathering momentum, more Brits being involved and coverage available for all to watch. The sport has even begun to infiltrate mainstream life, appearing in advertisements for all sorts from batteries to panty liners.

The growth in indoor climbing has had a further upturn in the last few years, with many more opening up all the time. In 2005, Birmingham, one of the largest cities in the UK, was serviced by a single wall, the Rockface, which closed rapidly and unexpectedly. Now, a little over ten years later, there are at least three, with more within easy commuting distance into nearby Wolverhampton and yet more potentially to be added in the near future.

Not For Everyone

While the new method of experiencing the sport through indoor walls first may not sit well with a lot of the old fraternity, it is becoming an increasingly popular route. There is no doubt that this latest development to a sport that dates back well over 100 years will add more to this discipline.

But of course, the two paths for the modern climber aren’t easy to combine together. One such example is Alex Honnold, who pointed out his lack of desire to become a member of the competition circuit in an interview with Reuters.

He points out,

“It’s like asking an ultra marathoner if he’d like to win a 100-meter sprint. Sure, it sounds cool to win the Olympics, but I’ve already gone down a different path”

Meanwhile, some climbers are able to walk both paths, from back with Jerry Moffat in the 1980s to even Daniel Woods, who stated on his Instagram account:

I started out as a competition climber where numbers and podium finishes were the only thing that mattered. Eventually, I found a love for the outdoors and the competition came from within rather than with others

Whatever your opinion, one thing is for sure: those not taken with competitive climbing will find plenty of solitude out in the crags and mountains…

 

Further Reading

IOC approves five new sports…

Climbing Going For Gold – BMC

Sport Climbing Olympics Bound! – IFSC