Tag Archives: mountains

The Long Awaited New Testament

It’s here.

It has been a long time coming, for anyone wanting to boulder in North Wales; that’s quite a number of people given it is up there as a contender for the best bouldering in Britain! The last guide was originally published in 2004, in moody black and white and was actually bilingual, with everything being given descriptions in Welsh (Cymraeg) as well as English. It went out of print back in 2009 and has been a prized possession for anyone lucky enough to lay their hands on one – something not to be loaned or lost for sure! – until now.

For some context, the old guide was 303 pages and (as well as half of it being duplicated already) contained the usual general pages, commandments for bouldering outdoors, two pages on gear, another on landings, four pages on the definition of a boulder problem (worth a read) and another three on grading. At the back, once past the faraway crag of Cae Ddu, you’d find a FULL graded list of everything in the book, eight colour photos including one of the great John Gaskins and SIXTEEN pages on history of the local scene. Oh and a glossary.

All that is gone, save for four pages of introduction; such is the nature of the North Wales bouldering explosion since the last guide first hit the shelves some thirteen years ago. In fairness, it had to as the weighty tome that now covers my homeland extensively still comes in at 667 pages. It weighs 1150g, almost half the weight of my daughter when she was born…

The old classics are in there, obviously but with entire new crags that only the most dedicated of locals were aware of. Nevertheless, with almost every crag at the very least giving a photo topo for an old project for me, and after years of deliberation, i’ve opted to go for a No Retro Ticks approach to the guide.

I was chatting to an old friend Andy Marshall the other day and said about this so just to clarify: No Retro Ticks refers simply to literally ticking the guidebook, not claiming the ascent. What this means in real terms is that there is a lot of repeating of boulder problems around here for me all of a sudden!

That’s not to mean i’m going to leave a lot of the new stuff. On the contrary, unable to wait for the delivery at work, i snagged a copy from local shop V12 (often called VDiff) the day it arrived and was out the following day checking out somewhere i’d been before but not climbed.

I love doing established boulder problems, with beta and a grade and i love doing first ascents but what i really don’t like is doing something that i know has been done but i don’t know how or how hard. I find it really irritating and more than once i’ve done something slightly different from the original and don’t quite get the ascent. There have been a few places like that around here but all of a sudden, i have a book that now shows me where they lie.

The first crag on my radar? The first crag in the book! Little walk in, dog friendly and oft pondered, i headed into Fachwen to get some much needed mileage under my belt.

A great little session culminating in Shorter’s Roof 7a+ while listening to the Test cricket. More than getting back into the swing of things, it was liberating to actually climb something i’d looked at years ago but was put off by not knowing enough detail. That and it’s a great little roof.

The only other ticks in the book were up in the pass where i managed to sneak out for a couple of hours. The Llanberis Pass has always been the focal point of the North Wales bouldering scene and has suddenly expanded, somewhat unexpectedly. One would’ve thought it couldn’t get much else new but it really has.

The Obedience Boulders are one such area that weren’t really known before but now have photo topos and provide a quick session for those nearby. Most people will be lured to the nearby Corridors Of Power 7c+ but i would suggest Nicotine Wall and it’s surrounding problems would be worth stopping at on the way there.

Sadly, despite obsessively reading the book at every opportunity, that remains my only outdoor sessions to date; stymied by poor weather and a baby, not to mention moving house. What we have mentioned though are some excellent scouting missions.

The crag of Fontainefawr was another i’d heard plenty about but not visited so an evening walk turned quickly into bushwacking and searching in the woods to find the inspiring hanging roof. It did look mighty impressive but for me, didn’t quite hit the spot and would most definitely not be baby friendly.

The one that did push my buttons was Supercrack. Under the heading of the Black Rhino boulder – a less inspiring but equally tempting boulder – Supercrack has captivated my attention since i first laid eyes on it in person. Despite the rain, the bottom half remained chalked and i really cannot wait for a dry spell to get back there and get spat off the harder (and hopefully not the easier) lines.

It looked inspiring in a recent video that caught my attention too but that wasn’t why i was watching. Long time readers will remember the excitement i felt after completing my best first ascent, Prowess 7b. So imagine my excitement when i watched this video:

It is a great feeling to put up a new line, even better to see it in the guidebook but to know that people are out there climbing it is a real thrill. What’s even better is a conversation i had the other day with the boys at Dragon Holds.

After recognising the woods of Bryn Engan in a photo, and a comment saying they were searching for new boulders, i asked if it was where i thought. The reply: “You know where it is, near Pyb boulder and prowess”. Not only are people now trying my climb, they’re also using it as a landmark!

It might sound a little sad but it’s nice to think that while this new book is giving me so much inspiration and new climbs to throw myself at, that i’ve been a little part of that.

A Slight Rant About Some Aspects of Irish Tourism and Bouldering

Birthday climbing didn’t actually happen but that didn’t matter; climbing was a secondary purpose of the trip this year, behind sharing my daughter’s inaugural foreign foray and spending time with my significant better half. Instead, the day was spent chilling, watching bottles sterilise in a pan of boiling water and then going for a nice little walk around the nearby Vartry Reservoir.

I say around, we didn’t actually make it all the way around, it’s absolutely massive and not the most romantic of walks. This is a fantastic metaphor for Ireland (or at least the Wicklow National Park): they have some fantastic scenery and some wonderful places but really don’t know how to market it. North Wales is similar, in that we really don’t make the most of the assets we have here to their full potential, but there is politics in play and it’s not quite as simple. Perhaps that is the case in Ireland too, and that there is some deep seated reason that the local communities do not want to attract large quantities of tourists but without knowing that, all i can say is they really don’t make the most of the wonders they really have.

Here is the perfect example. I have just know googled “Vartry Reservoir” to find a link to post on aforementioned name and found, to my great shock, this video:

Now until right now, i had no idea about this at all. We didn’t see this and would’ve quite like to! Instead we were treated to a mediocre gravel path, half maintained but not to any exceptional standard with signs only for restrictions on fishing and an interesting A4 print out about a white cross built into a wall. If that spillway was in the Lakes, it would’ve been given brown signposts for miles around.

What they do advertise often doesn’t live up to it’s billing. After our walk, we headed into Roundwood for a traditional birthday dinner out and opted for “the highest pub in Ireland”; Kavanagh’s Vartry House at the top of the village. This is a pub (that looks nothing like the website by the way) that had a sign outside claiming to be the highest pub in Ireland but a quick Google search brings up no less than three other pubs. Now, i really couldn’t care less if i’m drinking at a higher altitude than the others, (for those that are, check out this lengthy thread on a message board, that i could not be bothered to reach the end of) but inside was a less than charismatic inn, seating plenty of stereotypical Irishmen watching the horse racing with their betting slips in their hands. Our dinner was pleasant, nothing to write about really but the place really was incredibly unspectacular. Perhaps the people of County Wicklow just don’t have the same ideas of what constitutes quality to visitors?

Not wanting to berate the good Irish people too much, i must say that they are just that: good, friendly and accommodating. The barman was incredibly friendly and pleasant with us, as was Jim at the Roundwood Campsite and indeed everyone else we met for the duration of the trip. Jim in particular would greet us with a cheery smile, a happy wave and often as not, a nice chat whenever we approached or passed him and did make the week just that little bit nicer.

An exception to the lack of tourism is indeed the village, lakes and valley of Glendalough and indeed, the day after my birthday was indeed a climbing day. Parked up at the shores of the lower lake, it was now Saturday and obviously that bit busier; although the number of confused looks and questions about the pads wasn’t as many as is common.

Up at the crag and Em stayed put at the ruins with Roo and i headed off, intending to scout out some projects before touching base again. I got a bit distracted on the Big Jim boulder to be honest, and wasn’t in somebody’s good books by the time i returned. A little oblivious to what i’d done wrong – in my own inimitable way – i headed over to the Big Jane boulder instead…

These two blocs are touted as some of the best in Glendalough and so surely some of the best in Ireland. Big Jim houses the easier or the routes, Jane the tougher and i was keen to have a look and see what was there. Turns out, it looked really good.

The big one for me was Andy’s Arete 6c from stand with a 7a+ sit start version that i found two climbers working: Ryan and Rocio. Several other lines did inspire on this bloc, thankfully shown to me by Ryan and he pointed out the excellent looking Rhythm and Stealth 7a and The Groove ss 7c which both looked immense, albeit with slightly worse landings. The Arete certainly remained the one to grab my attention.

They were working the start from sitting and despite being shut down by grades somewhat – something i will discuss more in another post – i figured it was still well within my grade and opted to join them. Between us, we figured out the beta, thanks to Rocio and her cheeky heel hook to start and the line so very nearly fell in a single session before a slightly abrupt departure.

A photo posted on 27crags.com by Barry O’Dwyer of the excellent Andy’s Arete

It was an excellent line although i fear without Ryan’s help, i’d have struggled to find it properly. The guidebook, Bouldering in Ireland by David Flanagan covers the entire country of Ireland, with a large swathe dedicated to the Wicklow mountains. Yet while at home it inspires hugely, it is massively lacking as even a half decent guidebook.

There are practically no maps, photo topos for boulders are scant and the descriptions for the problems that aren’t photographed are often useless. Take this line for the 8a on the Big Jim boulder: “Powerful? Yes. Pointless? Yes.”

Now this unnamed problem is even photographed but fails to provide enough detail to even know where to start. It was only when i bumped into some other local climbers who gave me a bit of a hint but considering they were working the lower grade problems around the corner, i couldn’t expect detailed beta.

While i appreciate opinion is a guidebook, it needs to be first and foremost just that: a guide. It is (supposed to be) a book that shows you where the lines go, where they start and sometimes finish and at the very least, how to get there. Glendalough wasn’t a problem but try and find anywhere less obvious – like every single other crag in the area – and the guide lacks even the slightest bit of quality.

David Flanagan has also written other books, notably a book called Bouldering Essentials; an excellent read aimed at those getting into bouldering, with some detail for those operating in the slightly higher grades. It tails off once you look for advice on climbing “hard” and in many ways his Irish guidebook works in many the same way.

In much the same way as i described earlier with Irish attitudes towards tourism, rightly or wrongly i might add, the solitary guidebook for the area seems to contain the same shortcomings. As someone on his very first trip to the country, i can say i’m indebted to those friendly locals i met as without them, i would suggest that even at this wonderfully accessible location, i would’ve really struggled to find anything. Given my level of experience, I’m classing this as a bit of a fail from them.

Another Year

So after the last post about rock shoes, now to matters more pressing: this year’s birthday trip.

Last year’s Great Sweden Bouldering Tour was a rip roaring success, as has been talked about on here plenty. What is news though, is that the follow up article has finally been published! With 7000 views and counting, it’s certainly been popular and can be seen on ukclimbing.com. Please do click it and have a read.

Now on it’s eighth year, and despite the arrival of a certain little Miss Edwards, we’re on for another installment, the family joining me again to see another anniversary on foreign shores. The destination of choice this year: Ireland.

There had been talk while we were away last year of trying for Norway this year but obviously logistically, that’s easier said than done. It’s actually compounded – in much the same way as with Tess back in 2013 in Belgium – by the fact we’ve not actually been camping with Rosie yet. Nevertheless, we’re not exactly the type to let that stop us and the trip is on.

So, as i sit here listening to “traditional Irish music” on YouTube, getting into the spirit of things ready for my inaugural trip to the Emerald Isle, it’s time to get the psyche ready and build some enthusiasm for what is doubtless going to be a stand up expedition, albeit in a very different vein to trips gone by.

Ireland has always been one of those places on my hit listbut has always been left for a year when i’m short on other options. As it’s turned out, it has worked perfectly as Em is equally high.

 

To narrow our destination down from 84,421km2 we’re heading about an hour south of Dublin – no doubt after a quick look around – to the Wicklow mountains and what i hear is the best bouldering in the country in Glendalough. The guidebook released within the last few years for Irish bouldering certainly makes it sound very appealing and the grade spread hopefully means we can both get a few routes in.

Campsite is booked, all is ready now, save for a couple of days of packing for which i’ve helpfully booked a couple of spare days off before we leave. So far, things are moving fairly smoothly and i’ve gotta be honest, despite this creeping up on me and not being the most adventurous trip i’ve ever embarked upon, i’m probably as excited about this as any other trip in recent years. To be sure.

Note: i was searching through Instagram to try and find a photo to filch for this post about bouldering in Glendalough and you know, it was remarkably tough! For some reason, there really doesn’t seem to be anything on here, certainly not anything tagged accordingly. I’m sure there are photos on there but without suitable tags – like #glendaloughbouldering for example – they are tough to dig out. #wicklowbouldering gave me a solitary picture and it was a guy hanging on a rope… It looks like this could be a little bit of a step into a much quieter place than expected. 

A Single Session Send

After going on in my last post about success not being measured by sending problems, i only went and had a super sesh in the pass on Sunday!

Lizard King is a north walean classic 7c, much sought after and on many a climbers to-do list. I’d first had a look in July 2011 – and to be honest, i had didn’trealise it was that long ago until i literally just looked it up to type that! That would certainly explain why i’d not really given it much thought at the time; my hardest tick back then was a solitary 7b in Parisella’s Cave.

It does look a bit intimidating too, or would have then of course. After my scouting mission, it had seemed much more likely but as mentioned, the landing was worrying me slightly. So i’d opted to chuck the low version on the List at V8. After a day out at the beach with my family and the inlaws, it was the perfect venue for a quick blast.

To be true, i wasn’t that keen as i drove up there; sluggish and not entirely stoked for it. Then, as i was at the Cromlech boulders, i watched two pads walk their way along the bottom of the Pont y Cromlech slabs and reasoned they had to be  heading for the same spot. After all, there’s not much else there.

Turned out that they were actually heading for Emyr’s Arete 7a+, the climb i’d done when there all those years ago. They’d had a mammoth day, at the Milestone boulders, the RAC boulders, the Roadkill Block in the Gwynant valley and now here. Not bad for two climbers with only three legs between them!

They were the nicest guys – slightly unhinged in that brilliant way you often find with climbers. They were so enthusiastic and down to earth, it made me pretty glad to have made the short walk up.

They ticked off Emyr’s pretty quick only to look up at a hopeful me pointing at Lizard King Low. If truth be told, i’d only taken one pad with with me and the prospect of two more for a tenuous low traverse made me feel a little better. Moreover, these boys were barrels of fun.

Sadly, i hadn’t warmed up anywhere near enough and the tendons in my fingers were only just beginning to calm down their powerful screams as my companions decided to call it a (hugely successful) day, leaving me with some hard moves and a slightly grassy landing. Fair play to them though for joining me in the first place; they’d already bagged two V5, a V6 and two V7 at this stage! Now i’d persuaded them onto a V8 too. The call of an Indian takeaway was always going to be stronger than mine.

Not quite knowing what to do but only just being warm now, i figured i’d just work the moves and as the first was the toughest, i’d get that nailed. A tactical shoe change and a subtly different left foot hold and suddenly i was latching the first move.

Then, wanting to get it dialled in, i gave it another blast and suddenly found myself hanging the finger jug rail. Now i was no longer over the pad and pondered very quickly what to do. At one point i swung a foot out to try and drag the pad under me but thankfully missed as i’m sure that would’ve classified as a dab. It was decision time: step up or step off. I continued upwards.

Now anyone that knows this climb will be wondering what the hell i’m fussing about; it’s not high and not hard. But that landing had been (mistakenly playing on my mind. Plus, my confidence hasn’t been sky high lately. That and i’m a massive wuss.

I scrabbled over the horn feature like a first timer topping out. Seriously, even though no one else was there, it was embarrassing. Nevertheless, i didn’t touch the ground, didn’t go off route and had actually done it: V8 in a session!

In fact, i’d done more than that. I’d nailed a reasonably hard problem very quickly, true, but my mood had erupted after a somewhat sluggish start. I’d also found some much needed confidence and as daft as it sounds, just walking down to the car i felt so much more comfortable on my feet on rock. On the way up, i skirted carefully round the little rocky section of path. Now i danced my way purposefully through it. All of a sudden, i felt on top of the world. The only thing that could bring me down now was some sort of abominable and debilitating headache or something…

Sorry for the lack of pictures: my phone broke at the back end of last week so Instagram posts were out. I’ve also lost some of the old pictures from the scouting mission and being as i was expecting to be alone, hadn’t bothered with a camera proper. Fixed now, should have some snaps to brighten the next post. 

Several Sessions To Send

In hard bouldering, you don’t measure success by ascents. Well, you do and you don’t. Obviously you’re never gonna think someone is a really good climber because they’ve done a load of individual moves in the middle of various climbs. Nevertheless, when you look a little closer at individual sessions, if you measured a their success by whether you climbed something or not, you’d rarely be happy!

Get in deep enough and a good session can even be managing to hold the holds or to almost do one of the hard moves. That’s exactly how it went for me on Monday in Maes Newyddion. The plan was to head over with the family and have a play on Roof of a Baby Buddha 7c+ to see how poorly i would do. Meanwhile, before we left i’d been scrolling through instagram and found a video of the line to the left, Grey House 8a that looked interesting so i thought i’d check that out too.

Grey House. Borderline but most beasties seem to give it 8a. Pocket drag is 👌

A post shared by Chris Doyle (@doylo99) on

Success on this was set on being able to simply do all the individual moves on Buddha Roof, but if i were only able to hang each position, that would suffice as average. Any less than that and i’d be heading home with my head held low.

As we arrived, it turned out we weren’t alone and that old friends Tim Peck and Will Oates were already there, playing on not only Buddha Roof but also Grey House while their companion, who i had not met before named Tom, was in the middle of working on a line i didn’t know about, Teenage Buddha 7a+.

The stand start almost fell on the first effort, as a bit of a warm up around the 6c mark before taking a further three attempts to finish off. It was repeated a few times before i joined Tom on Teenage Buddha. It relinquished quite quickly, if i’m honest, and in much the same as my recent Parisella’s Cave session, i was astounded to be leaving with a new tick!

With the exit moves of Buddha Roof now completed, i tried the starting moves and found that they were equally straightforward, with only the crux moves in the middle left to finish off. Plus the link up, of course.

But i moved left to join Tim on Grey House instead. He was trying the tricksome second move – a dyno from a mediocre left drag crimp and a right pocket to the slopey top – and couldn’t quite get it dialled in every time, for reasons even he didn’t really comprehend. Intrigued, i joined him and to my astonishment, found it going pretty well! After a couple of tries, i was moving in the right direction and after watching the aforementioned video and getting extra beta, i was slapping the top hold!

Eventually, everyone departed the crag and left me alone with Tess to continue jumping into the air. Periodically, i’d jump off the floor to find the right position but of course, this didn’t simulate the swing i would experience. Nevertheless, once i’d ripped my finger open and decided to call it a day, i was pretty happy with my efforts: session success indeed.

The following day was less climbing orientated and by the time i finally headed out of the door with Tess in tow, the ground was wet and the sun shortly to set. So instead of taking pads, i just took a guidebook and went exploring a project in the back of my mind for a while: Lizard King in the pass.

There are two versions listed in the old guide: a V10 straight up through some slanting shelves and small crimps up to a letterbox hold and a lower V8 version from the crimps onto a finger-jug rail to finish in the same place.

I haven’t been sure whether to add these to The List so went on a scouting mission. Lizard King High as i’ve heard it known does seem the better line but with a wild swing at the top and while falling straight down would be without serious consequence, to come off during the swing would invite a long tumble down the hill. So for now, i’ll just try the low version. That, for me, would certainly constitute a good session.

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.

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!

Lulls and The Battle Against Sweat

I’d been meaning on writing a moaning piece; a wingeing, complaining feel-sorry-for-me diatribe on roasting heat, failing standards and an inability to do what i wanted.

Then i finished work on Tuesday night and left for home. Not thirty seconds out of the drive, i took in the view – one i see daily but rarely stop to appreciate. I saw the green of the grass, the still water of the lake, the crags on the hill above me, even the rust on the barbed wire of the fence that often fails to pen the sheep successfully and thought next week, this will be Sweden. Then just as suddenly, and? What’s wrong with this?

Now Thursday, and i’m a bit lost as to what to write about!

The Negative

I can’t deny that my standards have dropped significantly recently – not three months ago, i ticked my first V10 and now struggle on 7b+ – and, with climbing being my underlying reason for being, have been a little down of late. The problem with all your eggs in one basket is when that basket gets a whole, you’ve lost all your eggs.

Part of the issue is evidently in my head. I’m lacking psyche and commitment; something i alluded to in my last post. This hasn’t changed since then, although i am now a lot more aware of it.

And while i’m not normally one for blaming conditions for poor performance, it has been so ludicrously hot lately that even sitting around at work means bathing in clothes soaked with your own sweat! When even walking in to the crag is a feat of human endeavour, it’s not really a surprise i’m not climbing at my peak lately!

This has also led to a drop in strength and if i’m honest, the idea of mid-summer training in the wall is almost soul destroying. I don’t remember the last time it rained, i should be outside! Making the most of it! Which then leads to feelings of guilt. And this has led me on to a mild epiphany.

The Positive

Truth be told, i took a few weeks off climbing. At first, this was due to a weird niggle in my right arm but then developed into not particularly wanting to go out! And do you know what? The world didn’t end, i didn’t spontaneously combust, nothing happened! In fact, i just found myself enjoying being alive in weather that wasn’t soaking me from above on a daily basis.

I spent more time with Emily, just living (and moving her into the house, progressively) and walking the dog, teaching her to swim. I’ve detached myself so much from climbing these past few weeks, i voluntarily gave up a spare evening alone to faff around the house and take Tess down to the lagoons for some swimming. And it felt great!

Not that i’ve stopped entirely, with two notable sessions. An old friend, Glyn, got in touch to see if i was keen for a blast on Corridors of Power 7c+/8a. With it now being on the list, i thought i’d give it a blast, scout it out, see what it’s like. It was also nice to support a friend on a project.

It went well, although i’m still not strong or confident. Maybe that’s the key for now – find out the beta on climbs while i’m struggling? Or perhaps sticking to focusing on a few is a better idea? Not sure. I do know we had a great evening before being chased away by midge – another issue with summer bouldering in North Wales.

The other excellent session was with Emily. We’d talked about doing more with ourselves and it occurred that a prolonged dry spell like this opens up the mountain crag, Cwm Dyli. It’s not so much the rock that needs to dry out, it’s the approach and as we romped across the hillside, I reveled in the fact the ground was bone dry.

I didn’t actually get much done, and nothing new – the intended V8 being a lot harder to fathom than i’d expected. Far more importantly though was the success Em enjoyed! She flashed her first V1 with relative ease, after some demo and beta from me and then, just as importantly, tried something harder and experimented with different positions and grips. What’s crucial is after failing, she got back up and tried it again.

If you asked her, Emily would say she’s not much of a climber but she does get out there and try things, and is willing to give it a blast every now and again. We’ve only climbed a couple of times together a couple of times but i have been taken by how technically good she is – honestly. I’ve seen much more dedicated climbers struggle to grasp concepts she just does naturally. On our little session, I was very impressed and proud of her and thrilled she’s coming out and joining me at the crag. Even more importantly, she wants to join in and that makes all the difference.

Most importantly of all, i’ve learned over the last few weeks that when the weather is nice, it’s good to be alive. It doesn’t matter that i’m not climbing hard things, it’s just pleasant being here. This is why we live here after all! So that when the weather is nice like this, we’re already here. Going back to our opening sentence, why would you want to be anywhere else?

Upcoming

Not that any of this recent zest for life in North Wales has quelled any of my longstanding wanderlust. My ferry is now booked for Monday morning, 00:50 and from there the adventure begins. It’s a tale of foreign friends and familiar faces, of miles of driving and bouldering all over Southern Sweden.

I’m past the point of nervousness now and am itching to get going. Granted, i have a long and lonesome first stage – driving to Kobnhavn alone to meet Simon – but from there, i shouldn’t be alone much.

There’s a host of venues i’m hoping to hit, for at least a day or two: Kjugekull, Vastervik, Gavle, Stockholm, Hono, it’s gonna be a proper little road trip! But with standards being what they are, and my annual goal of a foreign 7c being done and dusted, i’m going to put a cap on projects for this one at 7b+ to try and stop me wasting time on things i’m unlikely to succeed on. If i can get a brace of 7b, it’ll push my annual average up as it is, and a few 7b+ will push that still further.

But that isn’t the goal for this one. It’s a fact finding tour, a chance to experience some new and cool places, to see some old friends and to generally chill out, recover a bit and have a good time. That starts Sunday night. In the meantime, just rest it out i guess. Oh and pack at some point…

Pre Tournament Friendly

Well that was unexpected! I spent most of yesterday pondering what to do with myself; play football, go climbing, or bum around and wait for a barbeque on behalf of the Fast Trackers at work, i couldn’t make up my mind. My mind flitted back and forth for hours, much to Em’s dismay as i refused to commit to a decision.

At about five o’clock, i bumped into Alex Cutbush from work and immediately asked what he was doing this evening. When i said to come for a climb, he was keen and my mind was finally made up. Soon after, we were in the Landy heading to Rhiw Goch.

There will undoubtedly always be things to get done at Rhiw Goch – the grades range from Gap of Rohan 6c right up to Poppy’s Move 8a+ with a good spread in between. There’s then plenty of scope nearby for other new lines on nearby blocks. It’s also conveniently close to work and a great option for an after work blast.

So it was a good option, with two good problems from The List: Nazgul’s Traverse and Badgers In The Mist both 7c. I’ve spoken a lot recently about Badgers so i won’t go into it any more than to say it was there waiting for me to go back. So, after a repeat of Gap… and Ride the Wild Smurf stand at 7a from a fractionally lower start than normal, we got on to the projects. For Alex, this was Moria 7b which would’ve been his first.

And he was close too. I had a few efforts in the interests or warming up and actually found myself cruising up with relative ease – yet another thing to raise the optimism levels for next week! Most importantly the style was really good; smooth, careful, no cutting loose, it went really well. But of course, this was Alex’s project and on something like his second go, he almost nailed it.

Another one for last night and almost more impressive than my own tick at #rhiwgoch – this is @alexcutbush working #moria 7b. He was really close on the one attempt, and a sterling #effort it was too, considering his top grade so far is 7a+ And that's the thing with #climbing: it's entirely personal. Me getting a fifth 7c wouldn't be anywhere near as impressive in my eyes as Alex breaking a new grade, and that would be the same at any level. It's all relative, something I hammer home when coaching and something every climber, no matter what grade they #climb should always remember. #inspiration #worldclasswales #snowdonia #northwales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #meclimbing @plasybreninstaff

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

It’s a weird problem, Moria, in that it’s definitely flashable but at the same time, very easily dropped. It really was a great effort by Alex and he was so close, i felt sure, if he could nail that first move again, he’d have gone and ticked off a new grade – always something that requires respect.

Sadly, it didn’t go for him and we quickly thrust the pads under Badgers… for my first effort at the sit start proper. I’ve half-tried it before and found it utterly desperate and this time was no different – i couldn’t get off the floor! After getting frustrated and pissed off, i sulked slightly and shuffled the pads under Nazgul’s…

This one is even worse and i couldn’t figure out a sequence at all. I got completely shut down and didn’t stay on it long. After offering to move the pads back for Alex (to which he politely declined) i figured i’d have another blast on the other 7c.

I had a quick look at some video beta from the first ascent and found the foot sequence was slightly different to what i’d been doing and there was a mild twist of the hips. It was only the first two moves that were blocking me so i figured i’d try this new beta. First effort, i nailed the first move.

All of a sudden, a problem that looked like it would take me months suddenly opened up and looked like it might go. A quick shuffle of the pads, some tactical positioning of my spotter and soon the second move fell too, although my feet slipped off. So close, i was shocked.

I opted for a quick fag-break rest but when it went out, i took that as a sign and got on it again. Slap, boom, first move stuck and then a throw out left and i was still on. Alex directed (verbally) my heel onto the good hold and i slowly reached through to the lip-jug, matched and was on the exit jugs, my heel above my head to the right, my head leaning backwards to see the trees and the sky inverted in the distance. I topped it out and looked down, utterly shocked. Here was a problem that looked well out of my short term ability and one that had caused me so much consternation recently that had suddenly yielded.

So good prep indeed! A bit achy but still in one piece, i was thrilled at my choice, and equally thrilled for my friend that new ground for him may soon be broken – more so than i’d realised! for this evening, while i was in the middle of the opening paragraphs of this very post, i discovered he’d gone and done his first V8: Ultimate Retro Party at the Cromlech Boulders.

I am genuinely super chuffed for him – he’s a great guy and deserves the plaudits. I’m sure this won’t be the first and that Moria will fall for him very soon as well. Hopefully we’ll get out and get more done over the summer!

Distractions

Well that was a quiet start to the New Year! And an unexpected one if i’m honest! Writing that last post, and with various trips penned and in the pipeline for year ahead, i thought i’d be chomping at the bit to get out and get climbing but, what with injuries and other distractions, i seemed to lose psyche for a week or two there.

Sometimes psyche and enthusiasm do take a bit of a hit – you simply can’t maintain a constant level of desperation to get out forever (or i can’t anyway). So i’ve not really done much in the last few weeks, as shown on my instagram feed and a series of old photos replacing anything new and exciting.

There are a couple of exceptional sessions though; mainly on Diesel Power 8a at the Cromlech Boulders, once in daylight on the way home and the other Tuesday gone. Neither were particularly anything to write home about – hence the lack of writing – merely to point out how hard this project is going to be.

It’s a unique problem really: the crimp handholds being reasonable, especially for the grade of climb! The crux seems to be entirely in the feet and keeping them on the smoothly polished holds using intense body tension that i seem to be lacking. Far too often, when trying to move anything at all, or even sometimes when simply trying to hold the position i find myself in, my feet will inexplicably part company with the rock, bringing me down to the pad with a thud.

Meanwhile, under the near-horizontal roof sits another bloc – one trodden by many thousands of feet to walk around and stand atop this roadside boulder; tourists wanting to summit something and get a feeling for the outdoors. The problem is that this rock underneath you is quite close behind and until you are reaching the exit moves, there is zero chance of cutting loose. It crossed my mind that if that boulder didn’t lie so close beneath you, this classic would probably be a full grade easier.

So you set up on any of the hard moves and pull on only to find your feet sliding off and you returning back to sit on the pad (assuming your pad hasn’t moved down the slope but thankfully, this seems fairly rare). It is undoubtedly one of the most frustrating and annoying problems i’ve ever encountered and one that will take some intense training, i fear.

Not to mention multiple sessions but the important bit of that is they need to be productive sessions and these last two really didn’t fit into that category. The daytime session taught me nothing i didn’t already know other than i’m still quite a way off from this project and that i was not in condition to be getting on something at the limit of my abilities. Such is the nature of roadside boulders though – they’re very tempting when you’ve not got much time… or inclination for that matter.

Such was the situation Pablo found himself in this week when he finished work late and headed into the Pass for a quick blast. Completely dark with cloud cover clouding any moon or star light, i noticed his lamp under Jerry’s Roof from quite a way away, slowing to see who was keen on my way past. When i noticed my good friend, i had to stop.

I watched as he tried Bus Stop 7b+ several times, this time making the first moves with relative ease before struggling after the crux, he moved onto Bus Stop RH 7c and i joined him before we both headed up to Diesel Power. To be fair though, while i struggled to make any gains, seeing how much Pablo struggled with any move at all did make me realise i’m a lot closer than recent sessions had led me to believe.

Considering my recent unintentional abstinence from climbing, partially to rest the two hip injuries i’d sustained in recent weeks, perhaps i’m being a bit hard on myself. With a Font trip looming, it had occurred that i might be out of shape when i get to the forest too and so, the smallest amount of rain convincing me that i was justified not going outside, i took a trip to the Indy on Sunday gone, with the express intention of seeing how well i’d do in a session.

Turns out it was quite well, and better than i was expecting! A flash on a 7b (albeit one that suited but it certainly didn’t feel hard!) and very close on a 7c filled me with enthusiasm. I had another session the following evening when i found myself there for some coaching that felt like i had no energy at all, granted but even then, said 7c still fell. Perhaps my hard ticklist for the forest may not be that ambitious after all?

So now, local projects have taken a back seat. A major back seat – imagine sticking them upstairs at the back of a double decker bus. Focus is now entirely making sure i’m in the best possible shape for the end of next week when i make the familiar drive through two of Europe’s busiest cities overnight. I’m so excited, especially to be climbing there with one of the few friends who would make the invite-to-my-wedding list [an imaginary list to distinguish my closest friends] who is also ticking around the same grade as myself.

It’s impossible to know how a trip is going to turn out but you always get a bit of an inkling and this one feels pretty good. The politics and troubles setting up have been and gone and now the path looks clear and my mind is just waiting to be there now. This, along with the other trips of the year, seem to have encompassed every ounce of thought in my head lately – to the extent that, to my eternal shame, i forgot my parent’s wedding anniversary this week. I feel terrible about it and hope that they can forgive me, being the ones that instilled the wanderlust that drives me so much of the year. Maybe one year, i’ll get to take them too; not so much for climbing but just to experience an area of the world so beautiful and magical. I hope so, as they took me to experience so many places in my life, it would be an honour to repay such kindness one day.

They have a lot to answer for in this aspect of my life, my parents. And i will forever be grateful for that.