Tag Archives: #northwalesbouldering

2020 Summer Update: Part Two

The last post about my degree was a little longer and more in depth than i had intended. I was going to tie it in with something else that’s been going on but it got away with me and i thought it best to leave it on its own. Who’d have thought finishing a postgraduate degree would be such a thing?

Anyway, for Part Two, i’m going to discuss something more usual: climbing. Obviously going climbing was tricky over the past few months and only really possible with the right ethical standpoint. That said, as lockdown has slowly eased, people have slowly been getting back out to the crags – even in Wales – to the point where from Monday coming, it’s all fair game again. Within reason, you know.

For me personally, the biggest disappointment has been that the hiatus has crossed over my birthday: a time when for the past ten years, i’ve managed to find a different country. Ten years, ten countries. Until now.

The Birthday Tradition Finally Ends?

First and foremost, please do not misunderstand me: there are myriad of more important things in the world right now than the fact i can’t take my annual holiday. It does not matter how important this trip is to me, or how long the tradition has been going, measured against even a single death and any personal gratification is nothing. And we have not seen just a single death. I have stayed home because it is the right thing to do, in every possible way.

But doing the right thing doesn’t mean you have to like it and it doesn’t mean you can’t be sad that this is the way it has to be. And that is what i am: sad, melancholy and disappointed.

I specifically asked for there to be no hoopla for my birthday this year, knowing it would just remind me what i’m missing out on. I also knew that no matter how much work needed doing on my thesis, i was taking the 23rd June off. Ten years is a long time and this was a real shock to the system. I was 24 the last time i had a “normal” birthday, at home with the same old routine, so i was determined to try and make it at least slightly special.

The bright side is, as i said to a friend on text in the evening, if i dind’t live in North Wales, it would most definitely be right up there on my list of places to be. The climbing is superb, the area is stunning and there is a sure fire reason i live here. The only reason i don’t want to be here for my birthday is that i’m here most of the rest of the year and i want a bit of a change. Otherwise, there are not many better places to be anywhere.

But here i was and the one thing that is missing every other year is family. Last year i was in Finland with my father-in-law, the year before in Germany with Em. In fact, since Rosie was born, i’ve only spent any birthday with one of our girls on one occasion. And even then she was four months old. It’s been something like fifteen years since i’ve seen my parents. So it seemed like a good way to spend the day. Everything being an opportunity and all that.

Family breakfast of pancakes and playing and an afternoon seeing my folks, watching the stone walls outside to see them dry was the order of the day. The plan was always to try and get a climb in somehow, preferably outside, so a few options had been planned to see how things went. I make it sound like climbing was all i had in mind but actually that time with family made the day really. The climbing topped it off nicely.

Around half four, i figured it wasn’t getting any drier and i better head out and hope for the best. Some deluded part of my brain totally misjudged the aspect of my target crag, thinking the Boss Cuvier area of Gelert Forest was open enough to have dried, depsite it still raining at noon. Thankfully, i had a backup plan at a roadside venue (and Tess loved the walk in and out).

Twenty minutes of setting up and walking in, fifteen minutes back and i should’ve felt slightly defeated but even before i set off, i knew it might not (massive understatement in hindsight) be dry and almost went straight to the Pop Bloc first time around. I’d been years ago, on the way to see my folks one evening, and have noticed a resurgence in recent months. Keen for another look, i took the short trip up to Rhyd Ddu, took the road over to Nantlle and found myself with bone dry rock in a sunny setting, as good as any other year thus far.

The climbing went pretty well too, albeit lines that were retro flashes rather than flashes. Not that i remembered them in the slightest. I noticed Alex Megos posted a caption on Instagram claiming a “retro onsight” which seems the most stupid thing ever but i genuinely couldn’t remember anything about these climbs. I didn’t even realise i’d done one of them until i went to tick it on 27crags.

Last time, i vaguely recalled – after finishing the climbs, memories slowly eeked out of the depths of my memory – the last session and looking at the other lines, thinking them too brutal and difficult for me. It’s called the Pop Bloc for a reason: the effect it can have on one’s tendons/pulleys. This time, though, i’m fitter, stronger and frankly, didn’t want to go home so i started to work on the next appealing line: Pop Art 7b+.

By the end of the session, by which point the shot hole had cut a nice round hole in my ring finger, i’d managed all the moves in two halves, not quite linking it together thus avoiding the slightly nerving top out with no one around but a sleeping dog. Nevertheless, it felt a very successful session, a very enjoyable evening and on the whole, a great day.

I’m still sad i couldn’t get away, no matter how substantial the reasons. 2020 will have an asterisk over it for so many of us for so many reasons and i’ll always be a little sad about mine. But the reasons were sound and you know what, it turned out to be a pretty damned good day after all.

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#itsadogslife a quick snap from my birthday playing yesterday evening. 2010: Val Daone, Italy 2011: Squamish, Canada 2012: Fontainebleau, France 2013: Zillertal, Austria 2014: Albarracin, Spain 2015: Magic Wood, Switzerland 2016: Stockholm, Sweden 2017: Glendalough, Ireland 2018: Garmisch, Germany 2019: Helsinki, Finland 2020: … I love where I live but at the end of the day, I live here and the 23rd June is a day, for me, to explore somewhere different. But not this year, for obvious reasons that are far more important than my summer trip. Nevertheless, and despite a lovely day yesterday, still a little melancholy. We'll see what happens next year . . . #worldclasswales #NorthWales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #rockclimbing #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #Climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #climbinglife

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The Rosie Effect

Time seems to  be moving in ways it has never done before; a point realised when i read the last post and found out it’s been nearly five weeks since my last post. It is understandable though given absolutely nothing has happened worth posting about. I could almost leave this post at that!

Still, a blog is supposed to be a regularly updated record of one’s actions and feelings so leaving it to drift off simply because nothing of any note has happened seems a bit of a cop out. There are still things going on around here, still progress being made and still things to talk about

An Insight Into Motivations

What seems telling about this long lay off is how it doesn’t seem to have faltered my motivation to climb at all. Nine long weeks of abstinence and the desire to get out is just as strong as it was back when Boris came on the tele for what is surey the most watched national broadcast in decades.

Just picturing getting back out on rock again seems so normal, so natural and as if it’s only been a few days since the last time. I’ve got a crag in mind for that first time out again (although i’ll keep that close to my chest for fear of creating a crowd) and i can picture the feeling, the setting, the movement.

It almost seems to fit the old adage of absence making the heart grow fonder but at the same time, i think the drive to climb hasn’t actually changed at all.

Training? What Training?

Saturday morning, i came downstairs and before i even made it past the end of the stairs, Rosie appeared badgering to do some exercise with me. It’s what she’s been calling it when we get the gym rings out in the kitchen; me with 30 seconds of exercise, her playing around, spinning, dangling and laughing in my 2 minute rests. She loves it but sadly even the joy it brings hasn’t been enough to spur me. Nothing has.

The initial enthusiasm waned after a few weeks and as with so much of my training in the past, without a clear and specific goal, i lost that bit of interest. The same can be said of my biking, despite the enjoyment it brought that made me feel like a kid again (although to be fair, the mechanical issues that put me off those years ago contributed a lot). And again with running.

My latest run gave a time and speed that i really can’t be proud of, despite some progress several weeks ago. All those early runs coupled with a few bike rides have made no  gains as i’ve not kept it up.

Perhaps she will spur me on and with lockdown beginning to ease, it good be good timing to get my backside back in the groove.

An Elbow of Consolation

If there is a consolation it’s that i should probably have been taking this time off anyway. I realised earlier that i hadn’t even thought about the pain in my elbow for a little while and stretching now doesn’t hurt either. It seems this lay off might prove just what i needed.

I had thought it had turned chronic back when Boris put everyone on house arrest. Nothing seems to have made the difference: exercises, stretching, conditioning. Despite toying with the idea of getting further advice but typically – for me and for most climbers – i didn’t. However i’ve perhaps turned a corner.

Half way through Saturday’s exercises i realised it wasn’t hurting at all, although i did feel a bit of pain when waking in the morning. Only time will tell and that first session back on the wall will be the real acid test. Hopefully, i’ll pass with flying colours ; i’d hate to have to take another 8 weeks off again!

Continuing on the Unknown Route

Now deep into week four of UK Lockdown, psyche is starting to drain, motivation to train is starting to wane and a slightly monotonous routine is beginning to set in. For me personally, there is also a real and upsetting realisation that the great liklihood is that – just like so many other people and events – my dream may be about to die after 11 long years.

There are some bright sides to this downtime (many mentioned in the last post still apply) including injury rehab but even that isn’t going as smoothly as i was hoping and the concern now is that once this is over, i’ll still have this niggling issue that will hold me back.

While the last post was filled with optimism, this one is less so and more centres on some very real feelings of worry and sadness. Sorry if i bring you down.

Note: i’ll try and finish on a happier note so if this post does get a bit maudlin, keep reading to the end. 

End of the Birthday Tradition?

With events such as Glastonbury and the Tour de France now being cancelled or postponed – which usually take place around the end of June – the very real probability, not possibility, is now starting to dawn on me that the VERY long standing Birthday Tradition may be finally coming to an end.

To recap very briefly, back in 2010 i spent my birthday in Val Daone: a beautiful Italian valley in the Dolomites. Every year since then has been a different country: Canada, France, Austria, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland, Germany and Finland, last year. This year had yet to be planned.

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What a day! That's gotta be one of the best days in a trip ever. A late start pushed itself into the afternoon but after that, it's been all go. Firstly we headed to Koivusaari and the most impressive boulder in the most astounding scene. Right in the shore again, the lines were outstanding, even if I did leave with Peppu 7a+ agonisingly close. Then we shifted the focus and headed to Taivaskallio With a stack of Simon friendly problems. He blasted them out, one after another, flashing problem after problem. Taivaskallio is a very historical crag for Finnish bouldering too and it was great to experience such a fantastic crag. We're now back, battered and beaten by buoyed by a brilliant day off quality Finnish bouldering #Helsinki #Finland #helsinkibouldering #finnishbouldering #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #grimpeur #rockclimbing #escalada #escalade #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #birthdaytradition #sunsoutgunsout

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The fact is it was always going to end one day. Granted there may be 195 countries in the world and i’m certainly not going to live that long but let’s face it, a two week jaunt to Kiribati isn’t gonna happen; there are a finite and much smaller number of suitable countries. Throw in the fact that they need climbing (ideally) and that number reduces further. If we assume i live to 85, that’s 60 countries that fit the criteria of affordable, logistically possible, with boulders, and decent conditions in June. It would appear that 10 might be the max.

I do have the consolation that at least this tradition was halted by a worldwide pandemic, totally out of my control, and not due to lack of funds or friends or by family constraints. There is also the point that i could easily pick it up again next year instead, with a small gap.

However my little jaunts were all well and good when i was young, free and single but now are significantly less popular at home and a rather frank conversation suggested this was not expected to be rekindled later. Either which way, i know first hand time and again that once a tradition is broken, it will most likely die.

It’s not over yet and many of these trips have been pulled out of the bag at the last minute but i must start facing the reality that after ten long years and some phenomenal experiences – some of which i have no desire to repeat – this year i might be at home in Wales.

Not Turning the Corner with My Elbow

Fun pun aside, this is a bit of a worry: the tendinitis in my left elbow is not improving. Rehab exercises have only yielded more discomfort, bordering on pain, while resting hasn’t helped and sees me wake every morning feeling sore. I need to keep going with something but its difficult to know what when everything seems to make it worse. The only thing that’s helped it lately: climbing. And i can’t exactly do that right now.

I’d almost be tempted to go and get it checked out but the LAST thing the NHS needs right now is some dickhead with a self-inflicted and non-serious injury whinging about his hurty elbow.

What i do need to do is figure out how to fix this. I have several very good physios and medical professionals that i could contact and need to get on it before the lockdown lifts and i’m free to play again but left unable. Either which way, lethargy just won’t cut it any more.

Starting to Drain

My lack of action to deal with my epichondilytis isn’t the only thing lacking. Despite the initial enthusiasm after putting up the gym rings in the kitchen, i’ve not been using them and not been doing much else either.

The exception is running. After a couple of weeks without dusting off the running shoes, i’ve been working hard and getting the mileage in and have been enjoying it, to be fair, but the SAID principle does suggest this will only go so far.

The previous section demonstrates how any use of fingerboards is totally out right now – especially given there’s not exactly any nice comfy holds i can use on the two here – so it’s conditioning work or bust. Yet despite the fact i was actually enjoying the rings, i can’t seem to fit it in. It seems the Groundhog Sunday is starting to get to me a little and motivation is waning.

Some Good News To Finish

We’ll finish on a lighter note, as promised. I’ve been using my time well (something to be happy about at least) and have lined up insurance for the business to be able to run outdoor bouldering courses with Prowess Coaching!

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I'm thrilled to announce that I am now adding outdoor bouldering to the Prowess Coaching repertoire! (once lockdown is lifted, obviously) I've been using this time to do the necessary research and have finally put the pieces in place to offer outdoor bouldering courses, just like this day with @kellymariehenry just before we were all kept away from the mountains. Now this will be part of my day job! Cannot wait to get going again, gonna use the next few weeks to set everything up so we're ready to go. Please get in touch for more information and spread the good word. . . . #worldclasswales #NorthWales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #rockclimbing #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #Climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #climbinglife #klettern #coaching #tryclimbing #prowesscoaching

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My expertise is extensive and well established but a quirk of the qualification system says that in order to teach outdoor bouldering, i need to be proficient at trad climbing (proof of proficiency isn’t actually a condition by the way). Being as i’ve not managed to finish that off, i’ve been stuck. Until now.

This downtime has meant i could do some research and have found an insurer that doesn’t look solely at qualification. As such, once the lockdown lifts, i’ll be expanding the repertoire out into the mountains that got me climbing in the first place. And i’ll be paid to do it!

I love my job, i really do, to the point where it rarely actually feels like work. It is truly my dream and this addition means i am now in heaven with it. The plan now is to use this to spur me on to get my act together, get the injury sorted, get strong and fit and stop feeling sorry for myself.

Yes, i’ll likely be here for my birthday. I might even be working. But if i imagine that that i’ll be working in the place i love doing what i love in a job that isn’t work, what more could i possibly ask for.

Happy New Year: March 2020

For those who don’t know, my new year runs from when the clocks go forward, giving a much better point of the year for resolutions and goal setting. There is also a Solstice when the clocks go back. For more information, click here.

Well this is going to be a weird one… Let’s point out that these sorts of posts now appear on “memories” often so in the interest of our future selves looking back on this, let us set the scene of the current situation.

We’re locked down. Basically, thanks to the global pandemic of Covid-19 (commonly referred to as Coronavirus) we have all been instructed by our various governments to stay in our homes, only to leave for essentials and one GADE (or Government Approved Daily Exercise; an acronym of my own devising). This last point has proven some consternation but due to the closure of various different outdoor spaces – as well as not wanting to be that guy – all climbing, indoor or outdoor, has ceased. Indefinitely at this point.

Which basically makes setting ANY goals for this season nigh on impossible, as no one has any idea how long this is going to last or what is going to happen when it does finally end.

It has been a totally suppressing end to a slightly dour season that started so well before it all came crashing down.

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If you're going to push your limits, sooner or later you'll have to do some conditioning work. If you don't, you'll either plateau or worse, get injured. Recently I've been walking that line pretty close and I'm now on an enforced rest week. Part of this involves trying these smart bits of kit from @the_powerfingers. They come recommended by @neil.gresham and help to area the imbalance in the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the hands and wrists. I think, I'm not 100% sure yet as I'm still getting to grips with them and have some reading to do. Considering I'm struggling to open my fingers fully now though, I'm certainly hoping they'll help! #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #training #conditioning #stayingfit #avoidinginjury

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Season Review

The end of last season held so much promise and the outstanding form continued unabated into the winter, although this was primarily indoors. The winter rains came in and my logbook shows only two outdoor climbs between Solstice 2019 and the end of the year; and even these were repeat entries from Sheep Pen.

Nevertheless, whether it was indoors or out, this winter has seen me crushing like a machine, climbing any and all in sight. Given my new job – Prowess Climbing Coaching remember – i found myself at the climbing walls every other day and decided to try and take on not just the annual Indy Aggregate but the Beacon bouldering aggregate too.

I have written a post on this slightly foolish endeavour that will be posted soon but in short, the pure volume of climbing got me in the end, after a mammoth 85-problem session, and damaged a tendon in my left elbow that is still giving me grief.

Before this setback, though, i’d managed several impressive climbs in one wall or the other, including at least two 7c+ and my first 8a at the Indy as well as several gold grade climbs at the Beacon.

There was another unexpected highlight this season. What feels like an eternity ago now – in a different world, with the way it feels right now – i was given the chance, by my wonderful partner, the go to Spain for a week to get some climbing in. My good friend Sally was already out there and had asked me to go and Em actually encouraged me, rearranged her shifts and sorted out cover with the kids; all so i could have a few days playing in Albarracin.

It was a mixed trip with various different problems that probably added to the experience but one that yielded some great ascents (El Plus de Autobus 7b, Eclipse 7b and El Rompededos 7a+) and a fantastic, albeit exhausting, trip.

This was my third trip to Spain’s bouldering jewel in a burgeoning crown and one that brought back many memories and showed new haunts to explore with new friends. It also reminded me of the enjoyment to be had on a good climbing trip and has made me long for more again; or at least reminisce for the great trips i’ve had in the past.

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The one that got away again; the climb, not the guy. I mean, Pedro is super cool, super chill and great to climb with but it's what he's climbing that I really wanted to do. El Orgasmo was one that we tried back in 2014 and it was the only think I really wanted to get while there. I did give it a damn good go but again, no joy, I was too tired after climbing two 7b roofs! Another amazing photo from @sallylizzle who is on an epic Spanish climbing trip and is well worth following. . . . #Spain #spanishbouldering #albarracin #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #rockclimbing #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #Climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #climbinglife

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And of course there’s business, which i’m glad to say is still going (albeit temporarily halted, as with everyone else). I have a strong, if small, core of clients which will hopefully grow as soon as i’m able to get back on it.

This season has seen me consolidate the business substantially, with the acquisition of both my Development Coach Award and my Climbing Wall Development Instructor Award meaning i am now a fully qualified climbing coach that can add lead climbing in to my repertoire. The next step is outdoor top ropes and (far more importantly) outdoor bouldering before the tickets end with outdoor leading, although that seems a little fanciful. So far though, so good. Very good from the reviews i have read.

Previous Season Goals

  • Goal: 8a
  • Between 85-90% completion in both aggregate competitions
  • Complete the vast majority of the Masters work
  • Still be in business at the end of the season
  • Take Rosie climbing semi-regularly (including once on rock if possible)

How Did It Go?

Goal: 8a was going very well and the last session i had on Sway On saw me complete the route from one move in, even stroking the hold of the first move. I was soooo close… and then got crocked. Granted, i was six months ahead of schedule but was still a kick in the teeth. This will go on for at least another season.

The results of both aggregate competitions have yet to be released (i know i keep going on about the disruptions but it’s hard to convey quite how much the world is on it’s knees right now) but i do know that the Indy comp was pretty much done and i’d managed a completion of 94.1% with 373 completed climbs out of 393. The Beacon had been less successful, given i still had an entire room to complete when they closed, but if you eliminate that, completion was at – i gasped when i saw this – 86.4% with 476 from 551. Average between them sits around 90%. A win, if only just; a good goal after all!

What’s more astounding is this means a mammoth 849 completed boulder problems since the start of October. To give this perspective, my entire climbing career has yielded 739 outdoor boulder problems over the last 14 years. It is a ludicrous amount and one i shall think very carefully before attempting again. Oh and a dozen Spanish routes were this season too.

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And here it is: likely my final @indyclimbingwall aggregate score for the season. 372 problems completed out of 392 set. That's 20 problems not finished and a completion of 94.1% well within my goal of 85-90% back at the start of October. I still have a week but am unlikely to finish any more given my elbow trouble and other commitments and of course, everyone else still has time to get a few more. The reason I'm posting this now is that this season, I'm not measuring my success based on anyone else. Instead I'm driven by Personally Referenced Excellence: the desire to do the best I can. That doesn't rely on anyone else, it's just me and the climbs. And I'm pretty chuffed to have done this well. Climbing gives us the chance to set our own goals, to draw our own lines in the sand and to keep getting better. So go choose your own path and see where that takes you. . . . #northwales #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #boulderingpicturesofinstagram #rockclimbing #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #Climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #climbinglife #goals #achievement #passion

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As for the Masters work, i am now writing up my thesis and look to complete that very soon, hopefully even before the original deadline. I’m now reliant on supervisors – which was already complicated before coronavirus as my supervisor of the last two years has left the university – but hopefully, this will all be completed very soon.

And i am still in business! which brings a huge smile to my face. As above, i have a strong client base and hope that once i can back to work, things will start to get rolling quickly. In the meantime, i continue to try and continue as best i can, making training videos and building exposure to the business with the public.

Sadly the last goal has not come to fruition. We have taken Rosie once or twice but she hasn’t taken to it much. We will continue to offer her climbing and will try and take her again as soon as is possible. However i’ve always said that i’ll not push either her or Hannah to take up climbing; we’ll simply put it on the plate for her and see if they take it. The choice, as with everything in life, will be entirely theirs.

Next Season Goals

This is where things get really difficult. The lock down is supposed to be reviewed after three-weeks but Wuhan province in China is due to come out of it’s own lock down in early April; several months after it began. If that continues here, we’re looking at early June before we’re even allowed out of the village.

For context, the Premier League and Football Association don’t even know when, and even if, the football season will complete. The whole world waits to see how this will turn out and so making any sort of goals at all hinges on, well, no one knows.

That being said, i am supposed to be a professional climbing coach and making the best of things seems to be my bread and butter for the foreseeable. So that is what i shall do.

Goal: 8a hasn’t really changed that much, apart from being able to actually try the route, as training will still be tailored to attack Sway On at the earliest opportunity. Training can continue at home quite easily, especially due to the two bolt hangers now installed in our rather high kitchen from which gymnastics rings, a pull up bar or pinch grips can easily be attached to compliment to two fingerboards in the house already. And this will all rely on my golfer’s elbow subsiding; something which the current situation may actually help with.

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I finally dug out the gymnastics rings that have been kicking around the house (two houses, they moved with us nearly three years ago) asking with some coach bolts, some hangers and a couple of old karabiners and put them up in our unusually (he suddenly very useful) very tall kitchen today; new additions to the home training facilities. Only taken a global pandemic and nationwide lock down to get around to it… If this is what it takes to stop the urge to go out, to not socialise for a short while and to remind me of the sacrifices made by so many wonderful people around the country working tirelessly to fight this virus then so be it. Not that we should need reminding: these people have always been there and deserve a round of applause such as they received this week every week of the year. Perhaps some of the good of this difficult situation is that we start appreciating people more and stop taking our lives for granted. Wishing the best of health to all. Thanks to @emks93 for taking the pictures and apologies for the starter of our kitchen. . . . #northwales #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #Climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #climbinglife #athometraining #hometraining #gymrings

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Finishing the master’s will be crucial, although staying in business will continue from wherever i’ve left off as finances should theoretically remain there to be used once i go back to work, hopefully with some top ups either from online coaching (book a consultation please) or online articles in the interim.

  • Goal: 8a
  • Conduct Home Training
  • Let elbow heal
  • Finish master’s degree
  • Publish articles and find online consultancy work
  • Continue to offer climbing to the kids

Sadly the idea of takings the kids more than two miles from home is currently fanciful but as and when we can, i will offer climbing to them as before and as such, it can go on the list. They are both still so young but are becoming such wonderful human beings that it really matters not. Now more than ever, they are there to remind us what classifies as “the least important things”.

Happy New Year!

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I once told a close friend that there is no reason for having children. Today, I think I might be right: there is no single reason I've found, no one enlightening experience that explains it all, no single moment that I've had that makes it all make sense. I don't think you suddenly realise how much you could love someone, I haven't found it's suddenly given my life meaning and I don't feel my kids complete me; not as a single part. It's not about looking for that one defining quality. It's about the look in her face when she says "check it out this!" because she wants to show me something. Its the look on her face when she tells me off for not finishing my dinner. It's about her hand on my shoulder, comforting me because her infant sister won't stop crying. It's about the way she finds comfort in me when she's hurt, just by holding me. It's the way we make each other laugh, simply by staring at each other across the kitchen table and giggling hysterically for absolutely no reason. It's the way she almost instantly forgives me when I've shouted at her wrongfully. It's three years of these moments that you could forget in an instant but you don't because these that are the reason you so desperately care for and love your children; moments that are impossible to explain to anyone that doesn't instantly understand first hand. Three years that I could never have imagined that have been, and continue to be, wonderful. Happy birthday Rosie and thank you. I hope this never ends. Photo, as usual, by @emks93 who captures the pictures so much better than I

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Suboptimal Preperations

These past fortnight have seen that rarest of rare phenomena: a dry day with me being free and able to climb. Only i couldn’t, i was forced to rest; my elbow tendons screaming at me that they could take no more. Tweaked simply by overuse from competing on too many levels, i was forced to down tools (or rock shoes) and stare at some of the first dry days from the kitchen window. It sucks.

Things are looking up since last Friday on the elbow front but then earlier this week got a bit harder again. With a few days to go before i fly off to Spain, being fighting fit is looking hit or miss. Not exactly ideal preparations.

Elbows

Where my last post held such promise and excitement, shortly afterwards i tried to catch up on the aggregate competitions after a Christmas break. I’m working on a post about competing on two fronts this winter to be published once they’re done but for now, let’s say that an endurance session on the Monday followed by 85 problems at the Beacon two days later was not good for me. That is, in essence, how i hurt my elbow.

Since then, i’ve been trying my best to rest but with being at the wall most of the time, it’s been tough. Throw in some manual labour as well and it’s been perpetually tweaky ever since.

That is until Friday gone when i bumped into one of the parents of the kids i coach. He suggested the latest thinking is to work it slightly and he gave me some exercises and some conditions on climbing; something Tim had also suggested previously which i’d discounted in favour of full rest. It seems to have done the trick and save for some aching from sweeping moss and dirt off a flat roof yesterday (cleaning is bad for you people!) my arm is starting to feel back to normal.

Dealing with injuries is something i’ve not had much experience with, thankfully and so i’m not the best when it happens. Having a good support network – either for myself or for clients when they get tweaks – will prove invaluable in the future. I think i’ve hit on someone well worth working with!

Suboptimal Preparations

The timing of this is not ideal, given that on Monday i fly off to Spain for a week in Albarracin. Ideally, i’d be tailoring my training to be at peak for a trip like this but such is life, and now i’m just hoping i can get some good routes in. Annoyingly, i’ve not been able to do much climbing this week either and my only session really will be tonight in Worcester.

I’m actually coaching here this week and don’t want to walk in to work in the wall blind. It’ll give me an opportunity to climb with my father in law too, which i’m really looking forward to, and to have a mild training session. I’m expecting to get on the lead, which should lower the intensity slightly too and give a different type of climbing to get ready. Not that i’ve ever prepared for a bouldering trip by sport climbing before but we’ll see if it works!

It’ll also be a chance to see how much these cuts on my fingers hurt too. While cutting wood Monday gone, i threw a piece towards a pile and, just as she often does, Tess went to catch it. Unfortunately, she got a bit too close and her teeth badly scratched my middle finger and cut deep into my index. It was a total accident and you’ve never seen a dog look so humble and apologetic but that didn’t make it hurt any less. I managed to squash it back into place and so far, it’s healing very well so hopefully it won’t hold me back and Tess can be forgiven for her over-enthusiasm.

Coaching Building

While out in Spain, i’ll be working with a friend on mine as she quests towards her first climb at a milestone grade. It’ll be great to be working with someone for a few days on real rock and i’m super psyched to get out there and get started. Her attitude is amazing and she’s a credit to herself in her approach to getting her project done.

For me as well, this is why i wanted this job in the first place. For the vast majority of sessions, it doesn’t feel like work. I love watching people climbing, see them improve and develop and it’s an amazing thing to behold when they tell you they’ve achieved a new grade; something that happens a lot to me!

Working in Worcester this weekend will be similarly great experience. This will be my first new wall in quite some time and new clients are great to work with. Stoked to have the business building.

The present might be frustrating and the immediate past hasn’t been great but the future is looking very promising. Now to see what happens when i get there!

Waiting for the Click

Many climbers really don’t like football. Often, they don’t see the point of it, the appeal, or why there is so much hype and money in the sport (and i can hear many of you nodding at your screens right now…). I do, though, ever since i was a child, and have always supported Liverpool Football Club. And they are currently going through one of the best and most successful periods in their history; which if you know anything of the club is an unimaginable achievement.

Now, for this next bit i need to explain a little about why they’re doing so well, but bearing in mind the above paragraph, i will keep this simple and brief so please bear with me. Liverpool haven’t won a league title since 1990 and are currently 13 points clear at the top of the table. That means they need to lose five matches that their nearest competitors win in the next 17 games to throw away this winning margin. So far in the league this season, they’ve won 17 and drawn 1 of their 18 games. In June, they won the European title for the sixth time and for context, only two other clubs can match or better that, anywhere on the continent. Just before Christmas, they even world the title for the best club in the world; competing against the best clubs from each continent. In short, they are beating everyone and destroying records that have stood for decades.

For me, having recently hit the form of my life and trying unprecedented grades, i take great inspiration from this. I’ve supported this club through some really fallow years where nothing really that noteworthy was achieved and to know that they can pull it all together and really go for it, really push the boundaries of what the club can do reminds me that i too can do the same.

We often hear of sportpeople being referred to as heroes or inspirations and sometimes i hear people scoff: how can they be an inspiration when they’re on hundreds of thousands of pounds a week? How are they heroes for kicking a ball around? How is it relevant to us anyway?

We go again

As i drove up the Llanberis Pass yesterday, on my way to try the project yet again and hopefully for the last time, the prosperity of my chosen football team wafted through my mind. The standards they are currently at are, quite frankly, absurd and they are at a point where they could push the limits of possibility on to new levels. Granted, they’re in a multi-billion pound industry and i’m some bloke on a bit of rock most people will never even know existed but on a personal level, that’s what i felt i’m doing: pushing my own limits to levels that only a couple of years ago would’ve sounded ridiculous.

To climb 8a these days isn’t nearly as impressive as it once was but climbing isn’t about measuring yourself against other people. It can be, if that’s what you want, but it doesn’t have to be; it is one of those pursuits that allows you to be the very best you possibly can without needing anyone else to compete against. For me, to achieve this would be to show myself there are no limits to my abilities and that i can be my own Liverpool Football Club and can do things i never dreamed possible. If they can, i can, as daft as that sounds.

And yet the reason for the success of LFC is that all the parts have come together and are working in perfect synchronicity. No part of their system isn’t working, they are all gelling in perfection. That’s why it is working. And that’s exactly why i did not end my year with the climb of my life.

Something needs to click

The conditions yesterday were, with no exaggeration at all, absolutely perfect. The temperature was right, the wind was right, the holds felt good and i was fresh and well warmed up. The stage was set for me and even though i was thrown not to find the boulder to myself, my fellow climbers left me to it after a while in favour of other nearby climbs.

And yet something is not quite clicking with it. This climb is notoriously hard and people are quick to remind me of that but i don’t think that’s it, i think there is something else holding me back that i cannot quite place.

While coaching others, i use something called the TTPP model: four attributes to performance sport to break down areas that are holding someone back: technical, tactical, physical and psychological. Well i certainly have the technical skills so that’s probably not the right area to worry about. My tactics could possibly be better, perhaps with timed rests or paying more attention to when my body feels right to try again but i felt yesterday that wasn’t the problem and that i was suitably prepared for each attempt.

The temptation is usually to focus on the physical and suggest that i need to get stronger. It’s also an easy cheat, as by getting stronger than you need to be, you can compensate for something lacking in another area, not to mention strength typically being the most straightforward to improve. The thing is with Sway On, i’m pulling on fine, i’m hitting the hold fine, and i can do all the other moves. I can get to the hold and hold it, i’m just not engaging when i get there. The problem is in my mind.

The last time i was there, i remember thinking i’m not invested enough in this climb yet to do it, it doesn’t matter enough to me; which is frankly ridiculous as it will be my first 8a and i’ve had it lined up since August 2018! Nevertheless, there’s something missing, something lacking. Yesterday was the same, something wasn’t quite clicking in my head and i don’t know what it is.

The problem now is that to clear my mind, i usually go climbing. But how to clear my mind to be able to climb? Two seasons ago, you could feel the same thing with Liverpool. They were almost there, just not quite clicking yet. Now they have, they’re flying. If it can click for me, it may just unlock the next level.

It’s All About Feel

Climbing is all about eliciting feelings: physical feelings, psychological feelings, social feelings, ethical, emotional, even spiritual at times.

That’s certainly why i climb: to feel something. I want to feel my body moving, i want to feel my mind at work, trying to process this complex sequence or control the small variables to be able to work, and so on. What i am less inclined to try and feel is the cold. Especially when that cold is so utterly baltic and freezing that it totally stops me in my tracks.

Trapped in a Paradox

That’s the situation that i found myself in last Thursday gone: just cold. There’s no reason to elaborate on it really, i was simply cold. And it was not fun.

I’ve realised that despite all this “optimum friction” malarkey at low temperatures, my body just refuses to function in the way i want it to once my tempterature drops too low. Many a wasted day has been spent thinking the friction would be top only to realise that it makes little difference when i can’t get my body firing.

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Another day off #goal8a today but absolutely bitter, I got stuck between needing to rest and needing to keep my fingers firing. In the end I lacked time and the necessary sticktuiteveness to get anywhere. @curly_hair_climber on the other and had an awesome day! A stack of ticks in the 7s ended with a flapper but a great day nonetheless. His success far outweighed my poor session and had me leaving with a smile. My worry now is that I'll have to wait until spring for the right conditions. But that probably won't stop me going back in the meantime #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #northwales #escalada #escalade #grimpeur #rockclimbing #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion

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It doesn’t help when my body shape is so slight that i lack any discernible body fat and with it, any natural insulation; and while i can make up for this with layers – cold weather now instantly brings out the “double legs” approach – i cannot do anything about my fingers. If the rock is cold and the weather biting, i’m stuffed before i even start.

So, there i was, underneath Sway On yet again, optimistic that this time, it could go and i could change my climbing career forever. Yet i was stuck in this paradox: pull on a couple of times to warm the digits but then need to rest; rest and the fingers go cold again. If i keep climbing, my fingers tire and i risk injury but if i stop, i chill off and am back to square one.

Gloves and various other things taken along didn’t help and within a short while, i realised it was fruitless and that i would need to wait for another day. I much prefer cold days to hot days but there is a point where you simply need to admit defeat and call it a day. The wait continues.

How Are You Feeling?

Learning to harness feelings like those experienced that day is the key to climbing at your limit, both tactically, psychologically and physically. When is my body rested enough to go again? When am i tuned in enough to give it enough effort? It comes down to listening to yourself and reacting to those feelings to get out what you have put in. Sometimes that results in learning to deal with the disappointment of a bad day.

My morning was filled with emotion and nerves, almost to the point i didn’t want to go. The session itself held so much frustration, not to mention cold (did i say it was cold that day?) and of course the reason i didn’t have that many attempts was simply because i didn’t feel like i was able to pull on properly.

Listening to your body and mind comes through heavily in my coaching and it’s really hard to teach, especially with youngsters who are used to being told what to do and when. Nevertheless it’s one of the most crucial aspects of developing our skills whether in the wall or at the crag. If you want to improve, you have to listen to yourself and what your body is telling you.

For me, the long battle i’m engrossed in continues for at least another week. I’m not actually planning another session there any time soon, with indoor training and conditioning taking centre stage while it rains before a planned day on the limestone crags of the Great Orme on Friday. I’m hoping i’m feeling better then.

The Calm Before The Storm

I am quite used to constant, mild pain; it’s part and parcel of exercising hard i think. Running normally does it to me more than anything, primarily because i don’t do it very often and whenever i do, i go too hard too quick and can’t walk properly for about four days.

Dealing with the pain is fine but there does come a point where you start to need to listen to your body and that’s exactly the point i got to a fortnight ago. Despite all the recent success and the obvious form, it was a case of rest or ruin and i really didn’t fancy several weeks off injured (at best, i imagine).

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If you're going to push your limits, sooner or later you'll have to do some conditioning work. If you don't, you'll either plateau or worse, get injured. Recently I've been walking that line pretty close and I'm now on an enforced rest week. Part of this involves trying these smart bits of kit from @the_powerfingers. They come recommended by @neil.gresham and help to area the imbalance in the muscles, tendons and ligaments in the hands and wrists. I think, I'm not 100% sure yet as I'm still getting to grips with them and have some reading to do. Considering I'm struggling to open my fingers fully now though, I'm certainly hoping they'll help! #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #training #conditioning #stayingfit #avoidinginjury

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Enforced Rest Week

And so it came to pass – coinciding nicely with a bout of wet weather – that i forced myself to have an enforced rest week. No climbing, more than necessary at least what with me now working in the climbing walls, and nuts to the various aggregate competitions.

In fairness it worked well and allowed my body to settle and recover enough that those niggly pains had just about gone. But there are still some tweaks in my shoulders and neck, my back still doesn’t feel great and i still can’t sleep in the position i have for years as the pain becomes too much to let me drift off. I’ve realised i need to pay more attention to my antagonist muscles and do more conditioning on a regular basis, not just driven by the pain but also by the fact i know i’m climbing hard and becoming imbalanced.

After getting back on the wall and having an outstanding and epic session at the Indy – reducing my remaining climbs down to only 2 from 145 – i realised i need help. None of us know it all, there are always gaps in our knowledge and Tim Peck knows far more than i about anatomy of climbers, injuries and conditioning to help them. So i recruited him to help me come up with a routine to follow. I’ve yet to get into it but i was really impressed with the way the session was tailored to the parts of me that needed it most and how informal it became, lacking any judgement.

So conditioning and rest week all in hand. They say you get stronger on your rest days so i’m hoping a whole week off will serve me well for what comes next…

It All Builds To This

The preparation for this afternoon started back at the weekend gone, when i aligned the diary with the forecast and realised there was the ideal gap for the next episode in my Sway On saga. After my break, it’s now time to crank up Goal: 8a and get this thing done! Before the snow comes proper…

I’ve long advocated that a project session starts long before you arrive at the bottom of it and this is my own little proof. Every now and again, every day for the past week, i’ve been pondering this problem, running through the moves in my mind, imagining success. I’ve been putting things in place, asking friends if they want to join me and generally psyching myself up for the climb of my life.

It makes a difference. Last time i was there, i was close but felt like if it had gone, like i’d have missed part of the process. I hadn’t invested enough in the climb yet and don’t think i would’ve experienced the euphoria i have on other long term projects; which sounds insane considering i’ve had this in the back of my plans for well over a year!

Now that we’re on the day of, waiting for the weather to warm up slightly, all i can feel is nervous. The niggles in my body mentioned earlier have cranked up the volume, i can feel doubt in my mind and i’m looking for excuses, wondering whether to go out at all. Oh, i’m tired; oh, my back is sore; oh, i’ve got too much work to do. All this plays it’s part in making this morning slightly unpleasant.

The fact is, there’s no reason i can’t do this today and those nerves are actually a good thing. The conditions are perfect, i’m in the form of my life, recently rested and have recruited a friend to come along. Everything is set up and perhaps that’s why i’m jittery: the weight of expectation. Today has the potential to be momentous for me. The trick is going to be to take a deep breath and enjoy it as much as i can.

Merry Solstice: October 2019

For those who don’t know, my new year runs from when the clocks go forward, giving a much better point of the year for resolutions and goal setting. There is also a Solstice when the clocks go back. For more information, click here.

I could’ve easily fit another post in between my report from last weekend and this year’s Solstice post, such is the form i’ve been on, but truth be told, if i had the time to write that, i’d most likely have been out crushing something else instead. The fact is, something incredible seems to have changed over the course of the last season and i am now, unbelievably, stronger, better and fitter than i have ever been.

While this is undoubtedly fantastic news, it has left me with a quandry: i have no idea where i’m at or what sort of goals to make next. It is pretty remarkable considering this time last year, number one goal was “Climb. A bit. If Possible”. Now i’m getting 7c in a session – albeit ones i’ve been trying for some time but haven’t visited for years – and wondering just how far i can still go.

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The good form continues, and it seems my coaching is partly responsible: after many years of substantial effort, I finally analysed my foot beta properly, changed my tact slightly and boom, Nazgul's Traverse 7c. Quickly sent Arya 7b+ too. This was Tuesday and yesterday, I had a VERY good blast on Sway On at Gallt Yr Ogof, now millimetres away from the first move and hopefully with it, the send. Tired out on that, I quickly got the easier version of Diamond Eyes at 7a and then the link from Regeneration at 7b+/c. Quite a haul for two days of solo bouldering! #worldclasswales #NorthWales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #grimpeur #rockclimbing #escalada #escalade #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion

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Season Review

Cue the section of this post where i scroll back through Instagram and 27 Crags to see what i’ve done in the last six months… I do love this part of this post as it is a good prompt to check out what i’ve done in the recent past; something that is far too easily forgotten.

For example, our Lakes trip back in April. We had a week off and wanted to take Hannah on a good adventure so camping in the Lakes – especially after a heatwave – seemed a good idea. I can still vividly remember the feeling of waking up on that first morning with snow capped mountains all around and us wondering what in the world had prompted us to do this.

We stuck it out and did have a great time, including a very successful session on the Bowderstone, ticking Picnic Sarcastic and the sit start to Power Pinch both 7b as well as a flash of Statstick 7a. The start of things to come it seemed! Moreover, the trip did turn out very well, with plenty of excitement and activity for both us and the kids.

Local excursions continued through April and into May, with Down on an Elephant 7b finally falling, and a first ascent at Supercrack that i called Doggle 7b. It maintained my strength levels before my birthday trip, kept alive by the stellar soul of Simon Slater who almost single handedly got me to Helsinki for a standout trip that also worked as a great bonding experience with my father-in-law-to-be.

It was yet another fantastic birthday, with birthday pizza only tainted by the divebombing seagulls and four crags visited in only three days. This trip wasn’t about ticking high grades – a couple of 7a to show for my efforts – and was more about keeping the tradition alive and spending time with someone i have a rapidly increasing admiration for. Still a bit gutted i didn’t finish Melankolia 7b+ though. The trip even inspired an article on ukclimbing.

Then came the Stunning Summer of Stress: a week in Birmingham (including a day at Cratcliffe), a music festival with the kids, a week in Worcester and a wedding in Cambridge (more kiddy camping), not to mention the beginning of the travelling for my thesis for my Masters. It was a fantastic experience, each trip a great opportunity and great to look back on but the stresses involved meant we completed each week saying “that was amazing! When is this all going to end…?”

Eventually it did end and we settled into an Autumn at home; the difference being that for the first time since 2015, i came out of the summer just as strong as when i went in. Maybe even stronger, given the growing list of local ascents getting ticked off.

The catalyst for my current high has to be, looking back through the ticklist, Barrel Groove 7c, my first of this grade since before Rosie was born and you can hear the emotion in me on the video. I’d had the idea for a film called Seven 7s all year and so it came to pass in the past week or so. I’ve wanted to do this for a long time and i’m thrilled i’ve finally produced something.

Almost to cap off the season was a weekend spent at the Roaches, again with my extended family. A healthy mix of time spent on boulders and time spent with children, this was a great way to round things off. Or so i thought.

Once back, and making the most of my current free time, i hit the crags again and wowed myself. In two days, i climbed a 7a, two 7b+ and a long-awaited 7c (Nazgul’s) and suddenly threw open a world of possibilities i thought may have been lost to me forever.

A Quick Note On Prowess

Out of all of this, the Autumn of 2019 will always be remembered as the time i finally went self-employed and decided to run my own coaching company. Prowess Climbing Coaching was named after my greatest first ascent near Plas y Brenin and had been running for around a year when i decided to throw everything into it. A huge thanks must go to Em for being so supportive, especially considering what is at stake if i get this wrong.

It has started well but is not yet sustainable and so i emplore you to check out the website, like the Facebook page and most importantly, help me find clients who are keeen to improve.

I will always be proud of taking that step, no matter how long it lasts. If i can keep it going into a viable career, i will have truly achieved my goal. And hopefully, will be able to help so many people with it.

Previous Season Goals

  • Unassailable 7b annual average grade
  • Re-establish The List
  • Work towards Goal: 8a
  • Train in the Mill/swim for the club again
  • Remember family and masters matter more than personal achievements
  • Write these goals down somewhere obvious

How Did It Go?

Well put it this way: within a couple of weeks of writing “7b average” on a sheet of paper and sticking it on the wall, i’d had to up that to 7b+ because i’d already done it. And you know what? This week, i’ve hit that revised goal as well.

Again, my situation is volatile and the rug may be pulled from under my feet any day now. And yet, despite all of that, i’m thriving and believe it or not, nearly three-years after my eldest was born and a year after she was joined by my youngest daughter, i’ve actually surpassed my best ever year of climbing. Whatever i’m doing, i need to keep doing it.

The same is true for my mental state too and both of these probably stem from turning self employed and developing Prowess Climbing Coaching. That has freed up so much more time, has left me significantly happier in myself while seeing me do what i love and what i’m actually really good at. I don’t mean to blow my own trumpet too much but if i was designing the ideal job for my particular skill set, my current job would be it.

It seems to be working too; all the noises i’m hearing are excellent, the reviews i’ve got online are outstanding and at least three clients i’ve had have gone on to climb a grade harder since a session with me.

It’s all got me improving my own abilities and both The List and Goal: 8a have gone very well. Granted i’m not as good at updating the List as i once was but it is vaguely up to date and is helping. My season goals are stuck on the wall to the right too.

Sadly, i haven’t trained: Em’s evening shifts moved to prevent me swimming and the Mill closed down temporarily. BUT to complain about that given what i’ve already said would be ludicrous. Yes i need to train, especially my antagonists, but to worry about it in terms of improving would be idiotic.

Next Season Goals

Dave Noden’s voice is ringing in my ears at this point: “never let good form go”. Yes, it might all go wrong any day and i might have to go get a typical job but while i can, i might as well aim high. Aim for the moon and you might hit Milton Keynes and all that.

So the goals are chosen to reflect how well life is right now and considering Friday gone saw my first ever 8a at the Indy, they’re pretty damned high.

With freelancing at both climbing walls, i’ve gone in for both aggregate competitions and that gives around 700 (seven hundred!) problems to try and tick off. As a consequence, i’m keeping to roughly to the same indoor goal as last winter.

Of course this hinges on still going to the walls regularly and that will come from still being in business throughout the season. More importantly will be not going bankrupt and putting the family in jeoaprdy but if i can keep building Prowess then it’ll be a big success.

Lastly, Rosie has taken to climbing in an unbelievable way, on that first session at the Boardroom and it was great she got to spend time with her uncle and develop that relationship further. I’m keen to keep this going but in such a way that there is not pressure on her at all. Keep the option open for her but don’t push her at all, that will be key.

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So unbelievably proud of all of my girls! A day at the @boardroomclimb yesterday and you wouldn't have thought a two year old could climb so well, phenomenal effort! At one point we had to stop her going higher, to which she pointed to the top of the wall and said, "I want to touch the yellow one" Credit to little Hannah too, who adapted to what must've been a strange day very well, and of course to @emks93 for getting on the wall and making some good sends, not to mention looking after two little ones while we were busy playing. Finally, we couldn't have done it without @james_slater_vertical and it was fantastic that we got to spend some time with their uncle. They've got a good climbing pedigree already these two! First three photos credit to @emks93

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  • Goal: 8a
  • Between 85-90% completion in both aggregate competitions
  • Complete the vast majority of the Masters work
  • Still be in business at the end of the season
  • Take Rosie climbing semi-regularly (including once on rock if possible)

This is a scary period in my life in so many ways and yet it is scary because it is so incredible. I have been trying for so long to achieve something noteworthy, not so much for the recognition from others but more for the recognition from myself that i can actually achieve if i put my mind to it. I’ve got myself to the doorway and am now staring through. Next i have to take the next step and i cannot wait to see what i get to put in next season’s post.

Merry Solstice!

Getting Into The Groove

1258 days. That’s 3 years, 5 months and 10 days. In that time, we’ve moved house, changed Land Rovers, got engaged. Two children have been born! Seven countries visited over at least six trips away, including dozens of crags with countless ascents, not to mention all the non-climbing specific adventures we’ve done.

There have been two new prime ministers, a new American president, several leading political figures have died. England have won a world cup (of ANY kind), that’s how long it’s been.

All that since the last time i climbed 7c. Until this week.

Getting the Groove Back

In my last post, i mentioned about spending two sessions on Barrel Groove 7c as it almost relented before i got distracted with another, more urgent, climb. Ever since then, the weather has been poor at best and while i don’t normally keep even a vague eye on the weather, recently i’ve been checking relentlessly to keep my diary free for the next window of opportunity. There have to be some perks to being self employed after all.

Wednesday was that day and i rose to find myself oddly nervous. All of a sudden, this started to matter to me. I walked poor Rosie to school running through the moves in my head, over and over, largely ignoring her as i was busy visualising. Moving on to drop Hannah off with the childminder, i rehearsed the moves again (she’s less bothered if i talk to her or not). Walking home i was even worse; waving my arms around while walking down church road.

What i didn’t expect were the nerves. I got home and while all common sense said to pack up quick and get out there, i found myself faffing and busying myself, almost deliberately delaying myself from leaving the house. I can’t figure out why but i know i was very trepidatious. It took a couple of hours before i pulled myself together and dragged myself up the Pass. I think Tess’s looks of longing to leave helped me a bit.

Even at the roadside, the nerves remained. A quick blast up and down The Ramp 5+and up Ramp Central 5+ before five turns on my old favourite The Edge Problem 7a – a trunk route for me that i regularly complete in approach shoes – to warm up the fingers sufficiently. In between each burn on the wall, i’d stand, arms folded, staring up at the Barrel and what was about to come.

When the time came to walk up, i didn’t think anything of it at all. Pack up, grab Tess, slog up there and set up. It was unpacking the pads and setting up the camera that i started to get those butterflies back. I’ve no idea why, there is little risk to this problem, so it was all performance anxiety. Even then, failure wasn’t exactly a problem. I suppose the weight of expectation to finally succeed on something i classed as hard after all that time was hunching my shoulders.

I needn’t have worried. The first few blasts threw me back to the floor but i knew instantly that was because of the poor condition of the holds and that once they had chalk embedded, they’d be good to go. I was right too, and within an hour, i’d slapped the top again.

Now was the time to learn lessons. Self coaching (i’m supposed to be quite good at the whole coaching thing) was what let me down last time and i was damned if i’d make that mistake again. I looked and instantly realised a right foot on the hold out left would leave me much more in balance, even if it felt more committing and slightly more scary. I forced myself to try it.

Scary didn’t matter. The first fall was fine, the second attempt and i latched the hold. I’d started the climb trying to touch on Flow State by sequencing the moves on the floor and now knew i was past the crux and stable. This was it, one more move and a top out.

Someone asked me later that evening, how many attempts i’d had. “Three sessions” i told him. “Three sessions?!” he replied, slightly aghast. I nodded. This is hard climbing, this is where i want to be again, and it doesn’t come easy.

Only on the send, it does. On that final go when you find yourself screaming the word YES!!! as you top out over the top of the climb, it does come easy. Everything clicks into place. It all comes together.

That wasn’t why i was shouting though, and apologies to anyone who heard me. It is hard to explain the emotion that comes from succeeding after a project like that, even one that hasn’t lasted that long. We, as people, put meaning into all sorts of things (just look at horoscopes) and for us boulderers, climbing a handful of moves in one go without falling off can feel like the whole world has opened up in front of you. I’d done it, i’d climbed 7c again. Much like Liverpool FC chief executive Peter Moore said this week about my beloved football team, i feel back on my perch. And it is sooooo good.

Seven 7s: coming soon

You’ll notice there are no photos with this post and that is because i did not take any. It is hard work taking photos of yourself when you’re climbing alone and Tess is USELESS at taking photos…

What i have been doing is videoing my ascents with a view to compiling them into a film. The name of said film with be Seven 7s and they will all be from the local area. I currently have six recorded that are suitable (plus a couple that are poor) so only one more to go. Watch this space.

In the meantime, have a picture of the dog to keep you sated.