Tag Archives: Indy Aggregate

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.

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Solstice: October 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Last Season’s Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2017 Autumn/Winter goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Solstice!

A Month Later

After my analysis of “active parenting” in my last post, it’s been a month now and to be totally honest, the climbing has dried up; unlike the weather.

The terrible weather mentioned a couple of posts ago has conspired to keep us from going out and totally stymeed the early momentum from my first time off with Rosie. Instead, we’ve… well, truth be told, i honestly can’t remember what we’ve been doing!

Even my Instagram feed – usually a useful record of our latest activities – is filled with throwback photos to try and get some psyche back. In fact, there are only two outdoor climbing posts since the last update post: a very quick and short blast at the Cromlech boulders and a recent glorious day at Clogwyn y Tarw.

The latter was indeed a great little session, with the aim being a climb i’d not really looked at called The Rocker 7b. The big one for me at Clogwyn y Tarw remains The Punk 7c from sit but with my current form, i’d noticed the lower grade and thought it would be a wiser objective. Sadly – as often happens with choosing goals from a guidebook – once i’d seen it for real, it didn’t actually appeal that much, and needed more protection (another pad or a spotter) than i had with me.

Instead, i opted to tick off a couple of other problems whose descriptions in the old guidebook have been greatly improved by photo topos: Soul Boy 6c and Here Comes Cadi 7a. Neither were flashed, as i bottled the top out and am soooo rusty on rock right now, but both were and are outstanding lines with great moves.

The only other outdoor activity of a climbing-related nature was a lovely walk into the newly developed Tal y Fan. This new crag lies miles out to the east of the park, overlooking the Conwy valley with a stunning vista down the the Irish Sea, and was almost undiscovered until the enterprising local activist Owen Hayward developed it in recent years.

With a friend of mine, Alex, living over that way and asking if i was keen to have a day out with our respective young kids, it seemed a logical place to go and explore; especially as the weather was actually quite nice.

In hindsight, taking pads and shoes in wouldn’t have been the worst idea but we would’ve had to be a LOT more organised. Saying that, a scouting mission was indeed useful and the crag dries super quickly. The aspect alone is worth the walk in.

While that short summary concludes all of our outdoor excursions in the last month (MONTH!) we have been able to make use of the local indoor facilities – although even then, i’ve been more coaching than actually climbing!

The most notable session must be over near Queensferry at the excellent Boardroom.  With Em’s brother living over that way, we drove over to meet up and have a bit of a family climbing session. It was, indeed, absolutely awesome, in a great wall that we don’t often use as it’s a little too far away, with James and Em both getting a climb in and with three of us, Rosie had a great time too.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the annual Indy Aggregate competition kicked off again a touch earlier than expected – numbering existing climbs, rather than stripping everything and resetting. Even with this, i still opted to play it safe and try and repeat anything that i could, to make sure i’d actually done everything i was saying i had. A couple of the harder climbs would be the exceptions.

Next thing i knew, i’d managed 50 climbs in one evening. By the end of it, i was making Chris Sharma-esq noises on a 4 and couldn’t do the first move on a 6a. Last time there, i had only five problems outstanding in the current set.

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

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It has also proven an excellent venue for #daddydaughtertime. Admittedly i do try hard to pick times and days when it will not be busy but there aren’t many walls that will just allow me to take an 8-month-old baby and have her on the pad with me. More than that even, as Rosie often gets some fuss treatment from the lads down there and last time we were there, Dave was encouraging her to start crawling…

I’ve often waxed poetic about the Indy Climbing Wall and it speaks volumes that i’m more than happy to do it again and again. It’s more than just good business, there is a friendliness and genuine encouragement around the place, a nice vibe that makes me want to keep going back. The fact i’m welcome to take Rosie – or in fact anyone able to take any well behaved children like that! – is a testament to the nature of the place. With our outdoor options curtailed somewhat, it’s been fantastic to have such a facility so nearby.

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.

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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

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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.

Solstice: Goal Setting Time Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some Highlights

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

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

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

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

Clocks Fall Back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016 Winter Goals

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

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

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

2016 Autumn/Winter Goals – short term

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

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

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

2016 Autumn/Winter goals – season long

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Solstice!

Tumultuity: Part Two

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

A Good Man Gone

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

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

Bonnie Bonnie Banks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welsh Fun

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

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

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

The Bryn Engan Boulder
The Bryn Engan Boulder

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

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

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

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

The next step?

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

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year!

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

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

2015 Assessment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2016 Spring/Summer Goals – short term

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

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

In summary:

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

2016 Spring/Summer Goals – season long

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

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

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

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

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

2016 Autumn/Winter Goals

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

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

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

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

Happy New Year!!!