Tag Archives: North Wales

Regeneration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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New Year: March 2018

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

Some Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Spring/Summer Goals

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

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

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

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

  • Go to Germany
  • Start the Masters degree and REALLY work at it
  • Be more productive with my time
  • Actually train, don’t just boulder. 1 in 5 sessions
  • At least one weekend away climbing without the family

2018 Year-long goals

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

  • SPA completed (yet again)
  • Try and match Top Ten Yearly Average of 7a+
  • Make big strides into Masters Degree
  • Don’t drop any potential climbs during the Aggregate

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

Happy New Year!

 

Spring Forward

As the days begin to lengthen, the weather slowly improves – after the shortest and fiercest of winters, where EVERYTHING froze for a week and then suddenly thawed – and i gradually drift down the rankings of this year’s Indy Aggregate competition, my thoughts have drifted from indoors to outdoors and the crags and climbs on the radar for the coming season.

It’s a little early, granted, as my New Year doesn’t actually start until the 25th March and my bi-annual goal setting, but it has certainly been prompted by recent events; namely actually getting out on rock!

So below are some crags that have come to mind recently, either new or hitherto neglected, and the reasons of their appeal. with a caution never to completely neglect somewhere.

The Pit at the Milestone Buttress

More specific than a particular crag, this is a particular boulder at a particular crag. The boulders at the Milestone Buttress are often overlooked – epitomised by their absence in the Boulder Britain guidebook, which did include the locals venue of The Tubes instead – yet have some outstanding and classic lines. It has been many years since i ticked off Marilyn Monroe 7a and Bombshell 6c+ but an inspection of the Pit area around that time, with encroaching boulders right behind you and a not-ideal landing, put me off enough to consider myself done at this site.

After some inspiring videos, including the always excellent Girl Crush series, i opted to go and take a fresh look this January and was suddenly quite surprised. What i remembered as absolute death previously suddenly seemed, if not reasonable then acceptable and a glance at the grades made me reconsider my original assessment. Sure, plenty of pads and preferably a spotter will undoubtedly be required but for lines ranging from 6c+ to 7c+ it is certainly worth a go! What’s more are the nineteen stars to accompany those climbs.

It would appear i may be looking to the Wales of the past in 2018 as i begin working in the Pit. If that doesn’t work, the massive circuit of satellite problems in the new guide will get a look in.

Gallt yr Ogof

This is another crag that i had visited a couple of times and neglected based on it’s landings and overgrading  – primarily on the advice of a friend – and another that i had found inspiration for from videos online.

I’m not sure what made me ignore this on one day in January this year, a combination of time constraints and conditions meaning there weren’t any better options. Couple a vague video i had watched on Facebook (and now cannot find for the life of me) of successes and it made sense to have another look.

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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Boy was i glad i did and while the day itself didn’t yield any actual successes in terms of ascents, it did get me past the idea of never going back and did yield a good story about being chased away by a large sheet of ice. The fact that i now have a guidebook with photo topos to show exactly where the lines are is significantly better than ever before and doubtless has made a massive difference.

From 7a to 8a, Gallt yr Ogof is, in the short term at least, worthy of a bit of Spring attention. Watch this space.

Supercrack

It was mid-August last year that myself, my wonderful other half, our (then very) little daughter and the mad hound went to scout out Supercrack on a very wet and soggy day but it feels like an age ago. Ever since then it has been on my agenda, high up and waiting for a dry enough spell to get back there. There just hasn’t been one!

I am desperately hoping that come Spring, we will get a few days of sunshine and mild breeze that will dry it off for me and that, considering i’ve yet to actually pull onto the rock here, that it lives up to the high hopes i have. A collection of grades including warm ups in the 6s through to a 7a, two 7b and a 7c .

Rhiw Goch

Craig Pont y Pant, as it is also known, has been a firm favourite of mine since i first obtained the section of the then new guide and ventured to the far side of Betws y Coed. It has a peculiar grade range, with one 6c, 7a, 7a+, 7b, two 7c, a 7c+, 8a and 8a+… or so i thought at the time. I have slowly been ticking off the next grade with every visit and reaching an impass.

That is until i looked anew at the guidebook and realised not only had some grades changed, there were other lines there too. The main face is the only one that (still) grabs my attention but now houses 50% more climbing than before. It transpires i’ve even done one of the lines already, Badgers In The Mist correctly splitting into two problems, with a new 7b+ and 6c to keep me busy while i fall off Nazgul’s Traverse again and again. There’s even a 6b and 7b that don’t have a photo topo too – loads to do!

Clogwyn y Bustach

At first, i got very excited about this one, until my recent visit, when it dawned on me that some of the new lines weren’t where i had thought and that, actually, they didn’t look as appealing as i was expecting. Nevertheless, i didn’t check out the other satellite problems and the draw to Bustach was and always will be, the main face.

Much as with Rhiw Goch, Clogwyn y Bustach has one main, steep face that houses a number of 7s. Again, i’ve slowly been ticking off the lines but had reached an impasse, with Bustach Prow 7b+ and Sick Happy sds (formerly 7c+, now 7c) next on the hit list. While only one line, the new Rudder’s Wall 7a+/b has given me added impetus to get back there and give it another good go.

I dare say with some searching around the mess of fallen trees, many of the other new lines will be worthwhile but the focal point is now Rudder’s Wall and then on to the Prow.

Pac Man

Lastly, as i’m aware the word count is rising rapidly, are the Pac Man boulders. The grade range here is slightly unusual, in that there are a number of high-6s and low-7s and then a big jump up to 7c+. As such, i thought i’d ticked off the crag sufficiently, until a couple of years ago when i went for another look. Spoon Machine 7c+ still looks nails but given enough time it could possibly go.

But that’s not the reason i’d be making the 30 minute walk in. The new guide – yeah, that bible again – has yielded more new boulders and problems stemming that gap. Thonz LH 7a and Thonz 7b+ both look like my cup of tea, while come of the problems on the Prisoners of the Sun bloc also look interesting. The latter are a little high, granted, but all look worth a session. While i’m there, might as well give Spoon Machine a look too; you never know.

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.

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.

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.

Shared Parental Leave: Worthwhile?

So as i mentioned in my last post, i am back to work and am looking at a bit of retrospection on three months of time off on Shared Parental Leave. Was it worth it? Did it make a difference to our relationship? Would i do it again?

I’ll be looking at it in two minds: from a climbing point of view (being as this is indeed a climbing website) and from the view of parenting in general. Throughout i’ve been trying very hard to champion the idea that you can still get out and stay active and debunk the myth that children kill your interests so it’ll be interesting to see how well i’ve succeeded.

First, What Is Shared Parental Leave?

It’s not a daft question as Shared Parental Leave (SPL) is something that nowhere near enough people in the UK know about. Typically, the mother of a newborn will get a year off work, on varying levels of pay. Fathers meanwhile generally get a fortnight.

To even things up slightly, SPL allows parents to, in a nutshell, move the mothers leave onto the father. There are various caveats and conditions to this but in essence, since my daughter was born, i’ve found it easiest to explain it to people by saying i’ve stolen some maternity leave. It’s not 100% accurate but people understand.

In our particular case, we decided that Emily, my partner, would take the first six months off work and then i would take over and take three months before we looked for childcare. The final three months on offer were unpaid so originally we opted not to take them but then, once i was off, we decided to go for it and so Em took the last three months, meaning i got a bit in the middle.

There are many different ways you can arrange the time off to suit your circumstances and it is possible even for the self employed. This has been one of my missions over the course of Rosie’s first year: to raise awareness of this as an option. For more information, there is a dedicated government website on Shared Parental Leave that i emplore you to read.

The Plan At Six Months

As we reached the Great Work Switch mid-way through SPL, i started to get some ideas of what i wanted to do with my daughter on our time off and what i wanted to achieve. For me as a climber, and even more so as a boulderer, and with Rosie not crawling yet, i had the #babyatthecrag circling around my mind: baby play mat for her to lie on and play while i dabble on boulder problems nearby, stopping often to check on her.

The timing was good too, with the release of the highly anticipated North Wales Bouldering guidebook at roughly the same time that we swapped over. Ideal! So much more to go searching for! Still, with so many variables and not much certainty this was going to go well, i opted to stick with places i knew well that would fit what i was looking for.

Company would’ve been great but hard to come by a lot of the time so i figured i’d need to be self sufficient. Sessions would need to be short too, or at least planned to be. An hour or two might be all we could muster between us!

When we couldn’t climb, i was still keen to get out and make the most of being off work with my little one. I was very determined not to spend three months sat in the house, staring out the window, pining to be out and moping as a consequence. So for those wet days, scouting missions to new crags would be the next objective. For this, we could go almost anywhere, within reason.

Did It Work?

Yes, no and kinda.

I’d figured out i needed somewhere with a relatively short walk in, due to the excessive amount of kit i’d need to be carting in there, and somewhere with a decent flat area to leave Rosie while i was on the wall. With me happy to repeat old lines again, our first three targets were Caseg Ffraith, the Braichmelyn and the RAC boulders. All three would be dog friendly crags too.

They all worked a treat, with a steep learning curve. That first session at Caseg Ffraith and i’d opted to leave the baby bag in the car; a mistake i did not repeat! Even so, i had a good climb, got some awesome photos and Rosie had fun being out in the mountains. Tess had a whale of a time too, as she always does when we go bouldering together.

The Braichmelyn was similar although better planned and better executed. Conditions weren’t great for climbing but i couldn’t ask any more from the structure of the session and the whole day was exactly what i wanted.

The RAC was similarly a great little session and a long one at that! Still, Rosie did catch the sun a bit and i learned another important lesson about parenting!

The imposing figure of the RAC boulders – imposing to those that don't know the #climbs they hold. This is #northwales premier beginner venue, with a plethora of low grade lines ideal for those just finding their feet in this #sport – now with all documented on 27crags.com For those of us with more experience, these days, there are a handful of harder lines to be searched out or, thanks to my No Retro Ticks rule and the challenge of repeating everything in the area, a chance to get some mileage in. Despite not doing anything over 6b+ today, 29 problems actually worked as reasonable training on another glorious day in #snowdonia. #babyleave is rapidly becoming #bouldering leave… #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #Bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram @27cragsofficial

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But then the rain came and it honestly hasn’t really gone away enough since for me to have any success taking her out. Where alone you can risk it on those iffy days and bail if the weather turns, i couldn’t take that chance with a baby and all the associated crap in tow – it just isn’t possible to run away in a hurry and keep the offspring safe. I might be determined but i’m not that mad.

It started to get to me a little after a month of outdoor inactivity, culminating in a moan on the blog and a mid-point retrospection following a Facebook debate with an old friend.

I never really recovered, as neither did the weather. From then on, it became solo missions on the occasional baby free day or indoor sessions – for which i can’t thank the Indy wall enough. Without that, i probably would’ve been substantially more surly.

Then came a rash of non-climbing interruptions that were far more important. In short, we moved house and climbing took very much a back seat, albeit for a very good reason. Sadly, #babyatthecrag lasted about a month, although not for lack of trying. And in that time, we honestly made the best of a damp situation.

We snagged one final day out, in great company with Dan Webb and Pete Fagan, at Upper Tier Tremadog which gave the whole time off and out some closure. All told, considering the stories i’d been fed before we started, we’d done bloody well.

What About Time Off With Rosie In General?

I have said before and reiterate now, having this time off with my daughter has developed our relationship so much. I don’t know, obviously, but i imagine it would’ve taken years to get to this point without this dedicated time together.

It’s given me some perspective as to what Em had to do while she was off the first time around and given me empathy as to what she’s doing now. Now i walk through the door after a long day at work with a totally different mindset and i’m happy to grab Rosie straight away and catch up immediately, where before i often just wanted to sit down for a few minutes.

Mostly though, and this may sound bad but hopefully makes sense, i think i love her more now than i would do otherwise. I’ve seen her grow every day into a wonderful little human, as she develops more personality, more emotion and she learns about the world around her.

I’m so glad that, climbing aside, i’ve been able to show her more of the world than the four walls inside the house and i desperately emplore any new parents to do likewise. Please get out with your kids, take them and show them the world as it’s been a wonderful experience that i wouldn’t change for the world.

I’m glad to be back at work now and have some normality back in my life – i don’t think being a stay-at-home dad would suit me that well. But if you took me back to that point at the start of the summer again and asked if i would do the same, there is not a second i would change. Now we can take this experience and grow even more and i can’t wait for the rest of our lives.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Washed Out

This weather is ridiculous. So far this month, we’ve had sunny spells interspersed with heavy showers, meaning we’ve got a beautiful view of a lot of rock that is perpetually too wet to climb on. And as a consequence, a dad here who is getting more and more frustrated at the world.

This happens this time every year. I often comment on weather patterns and that if the latter half of July and August is wet, September normally comes out to be dry and pleasant. A dry August will normally see us suffer from damp, potentially until the spring. So far, autumn 2017 isn’t looking that good.

With being off with Rosie, it’s mostly been a case of making the best of it and trying to get out as best we can and while it seems we haven’t done that much since my last post, looking back through the pictures on my phone has actually just shown me we’ve done pretty well after all!

30th August, two days after saying my farewell to Clare, i actually managed to escape for some baby-free time and head back up into the pass. I’d been keen to head to the Meadow and re-tick Killer Weed 7a for a little while and now, with Em and Rosie potentially to follow on a bit later, i took Tess up for a session. On the way, i bumped into an old friend, Mikey, and a youngster he was working with, who opted to take the long trudge up the hill to join me.

We got distracted on the way at the Wavelength boulder and started ticking. Despite being there only a few weeks previous, No Retro Ticks came into play and i repeated almost everything again and in a wonderful example of why it works, ended up ticking off a new line, Gav’s Sitter 7a+ on the second effort!

Two days later, we were out again, back at the Brenin boulder to see if it had dried enough since our last effort. Land Rover parked in the bushes, pads and baby crap carried in and very quickly it became apparent that the slightly high but easy top out was wet and slimy. While easy and not scary in the dry, in these conditions, it could be a touch treacherous and alone, it just wasn’t worth it. Instead, we bid retreat and headed to a small party to say farewell to this year’s crop of Centre Assistants – a great bunch of guys who will, i’m sure, all go on to great things.

The following day, with no rain since then, we tried again. Without even taking the baby up to the crag from the track this time, it was evident that it was still too damp so the backup plan came into effect: the RAC boulders.

The RAC is an unusual crag, having an abundance of easy lines but without much in the harder grades and since i began generally operating in the higher 7s, it’s somewhere i’ve normally avoided. Most of the lines i’ve done before and weren’t actually that challenging so the idea of going and repeating them again never really inspired. The difference now is a new guidebook to tick and a very baby friendly crag. Plus, there’s a load of new stuff that is actually that little bit harder now.

Old habits do die hard and i quickly ran up and down most of the climbs on the easier lower boulder, one after the other. It did, i must admit, feel very good to get some mileage in and did tire me out a little. Next was the front face on the other boulder and after finding a safe little dip to leave Rosie, i happily repeated most of the lines, trying On One 7b+, the hardest climb at the crag, to little avail. I did, however, forget to tick the 7a Frontside Traverse which is a little frustrating.

The imposing figure of the RAC boulders – imposing to those that don't know the #climbs they hold. This is #northwales premier beginner venue, with a plethora of low grade lines ideal for those just finding their feet in this #sport – now with all documented on 27crags.com For those of us with more experience, these days, there are a handful of harder lines to be searched out or, thanks to my No Retro Ticks rule and the challenge of repeating everything in the area, a chance to get some mileage in. Despite not doing anything over 6b+ today, 29 problems actually worked as reasonable training on another glorious day in #snowdonia. #babyleave is rapidly becoming #bouldering leave… #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #Bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram @27cragsofficial

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On my return home, i continued to update 27crags with accurate records of all of North Wales bouldering and found, to my dismay, thirteen climbs of 6c or harder that i’d either missed, neglected or not had a chance to finish! It appears i need to read this book more and not assume i know the crag…

Since then, outdoor climbing has become nothing more than a dream. Where the weather was glorious on the Saturday at the RAC, the Sunday was nothing more than a deluge for Em’s birthday and her planned trip up Crib Goch was undoubtedly cancelled. Instead, in search of some shelter from the torrential drizzle, Em, her brother James and his partner Rachael, their mum, Rosie, Tess and myself all went for a little wander through Beddgelert forest.

It had crossed my mind to do a bit of boulder scouting but that wasn’t the point of the day and it wouldn’t have been right to try and hijack it. This was Em’s birthday and despite the poor weather, it was a lovely family day out, topped off with food and tea in the Hebog cafe in Beddgelert to dry out a bit.

A dry day the following Wednesday (that i’d forgotten about) was stymeed by a cement mixer making a hash of getting up Goodman Street here in Llanberis and managing to spill a large amount of concrete all over the road… and the cars parked along it. Three cars took the brunt, including the Land Rover with a splash on the front wing.

She was in desperate need for a clean and a polish anyway so that was the plan for the rest of the day and to be fair, she looked absolutely sparkling afterwards. Problem was, the day after, i noticed cement underneath, on the suspension, diff, brakes, all over so my beloved green machine is currently away being tended to while we cruise North Wales in a Nissan X-Trail.

It proved quite useful for our Non-Climbing Commitment (or NCC) in Birmingham at the weekend, giving us an economical and comfortable ride there and back. A party for some old friends on the Saturday evening was preceeded by a trip to the Botanical Gardens in the daytime and to be fair, it was an excellent weekend.

Since then, it’s been a case of timing the gaps between showers and getting pissed off. Thankfully, Rosie has grown to the point where she is now able to ride in the rucksack carrier and so, armed with a steak pie and a smile, on Monday gone, we went boulder scouting once again, to the Llyn y Gadair boulders and then possibly further into Beddgelert forest – a spot seemingly turning into our second home lately!

Sadly, on arrival in Birmingham on Friday evening, i’d decided i was only going to get strong if i exercised more and went for a run. An hour later, dripping in sweat, i had staggered back and my legs hadn’t quite recovered by our walk on Monday, meaning that as time wore on and progress slow, we cut the walk short and headed home. Llyn y Gadair looks good for a short session though.

Looking back, it seems i’ve not actually been that unlucky after all and it’s surprising how high are the standards i’ve set myself of late. We’ve actually been getting out much more than i’d realised and given i have a young child in tow, I’ve been spending my mornings writing lately on how you can maintain much of your old life once a baby arrives and it’s important to remember what you have done. Once you’re into the day to day routine, it’s easy to think you’ve not done enough.

Roo Stops Play

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.