Tag Archives: sport

Coping Around Covid: How I’m Trying To Make the Best of It

We all know the current global situation and it is not worth me even offering a summary; this has affected you, me and everyone around us. Despite it all, though, i’m actually feeling fairly optimistic and am definitely having a damn good stab of making this work for me. I thought i’d share how.

How the situation has affected me

As a professional climbing coach, once the walls shut, i effectively had no clients. I don’t currently offer outdoor work as part of my courses and while exceptions can – and indeed were – made, we all know this didn’t last long; the hordes coming to my local area not exactly helping the situation.

In an attempt to keep going, i have and continue to to offer online consultations (click here for more information), but this has had very little take up. It seems there is currently next to no work for a climbing coach in the early stages of building a business.

Those early stages have also negated any government help in terms of self-employed schemes. I’ll be honest and say i have been very impressed with the various methods the government has tried to protect it’s citizens incomes and there are so many different types of earner out there, it was always going to be an impossible task to cover EVERYONE. I’m just one of those that has fallen through the cracks.

Still, as above, time at home to work on the business is certainly a good thing, if done the right way and as long as i don’t make a substantial loss, i should be in a good position to come back pretty much where i left off – hopefully even stronger – once life returns to normal.

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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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Caring About My Clients

This is based on a core client base who are all great people and will likely come back when they can. They have all worked with me for a while and all deserve some attention right now. Looking after my regular clients as best i can isn’t just good business sense, it’s the decent thing to do and something i didn’t think twice about.

It needn’t be much and i’m cautious of badgering people; more just to inform them i’m around if they need me. Occasional check ins and some snippets of useful information, such as the New Years concept, are all that’s needed. For small businesses, this really is the bread and butter of customer service and one of the big advantages. It should not be overlooked

Building Online Presence

While my core clients are highly valued, the fact is i need more in the future to sustain the business. This downtime, with most people trawling the internet, is a great time to reach out to new climbers.

My business mainly relies on two things: a website (click here) and a Facebook page (click here). I’ve also utilised my own personal Vimeo page but am considering changing to YouTube for more traffic, opinions welcome on this. So as long as i’ve got good and useful things to say, this is a great opportunity to plug my services far and wide.

Cue the At Home Exercises series of videos, dotted up and down the page. These have been shared pretty much everywhere that is appropriate and the Facebook likes have leapt up with 44 new likes in the last 28 days, a 4300% rise. Turning this into actual paid work will have to wait – obviously – but for now, the more i can build this, the better i’ll be using my time. Please do help and share videos and posts as much as possible.

27 Crags

One job i have that i’ve put on the back burner has been creating online topos for 27 crags; the Finnish website that covers crags all over the world who got in touch with me to work on the North Wales section of their site.

In the last few days before total lockdown was announced, i quickly went out and got some photos of one of the local crags in Beddgelert on a walk with the kids, ready to spend time working on this once we were locked in. Annoyingly, i didn’t work hard enough at this and wish now that i’d gone out to every crag i could and got as many photos as possible. Alas, this can’t be helped and i’ve had to make do trawling the archives for suitable images.

It’s worked though, including my forethought way back in 2011 when i was at Cwm Dyli and got photos ready to do just this. There are now 11 Premium crags maintained by my group with more to come in the next few days.

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One of the best bouldering venues in North Wales, Sheep Pen, is published in Premium! ūüíé Even though Sheep Pen has a bit of an heavy approach, it's a must even for passing tourists. Once at the boulders, you will be rewarded with excellent quality rock and routes. ūüí™ Download the app from link in bio and check full info! ūüôĆ #27crags #rockfirstplasticsecond . . These great topos are made by @edwards.pete ūüí™ ūüďł: Charlotte Evans . . [NOTE 17/03/2020: Please respect the official guidances regarding hygiene, traveling, social gatherings and climbing due to the COVID-19.] . . . #northwales #sheeppen #boulderinguk #ukbouldering #ukclimbing #climbinguk #bouldering #bouldern #arrampicata #escalada #escalade #kl√§ttra #klettern #klatring #rockclimbing #climbing #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbingapp #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #iloveclimbing #bouldering_came_first #climbingpics #onbouldering

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Writing More

Despite my lack of posts on here, i have been writing feverishly whenever there is a lull in the crying around the house (more on that in a minute). So far, i have articles queued up with Chalkbloc, the Professional Mountaineer and possibly ukclimbing, with more still to come.

There will be more on the Prowess website too, assuming i get the chance. Weirdly, articles for the website have taken a back seat in favour of spreading the word elsewhere and desperately trying to find some paid articles. Still, anything published is a good thing for sure and it’s great to develop these channels further. Publishers welcome for my upcoming pieces.

Time With the Kids and Job on the House

In a normal week, there’s only so much time i get to spend with the kids, especially with tying this in with work and jobs on the house. This is a golden opportunity to make the most of this time to do both.

Almost immediately, i got to work: i cut and split to massive pile of wood in the garden that’s been there for months; i emptied, organised and lined the walls of the shed, that’s again been waiting for weeks for some free time; and i painted the outside of the kitchen, recruiting Rosie to help me out along the way.

We are allowed one GADE (Government Approved Daily Exercise) per day and spending that exploring different parts of the village with Rosie and Hannah has actually been really nice. Granted, it would be nice to be able to travel a little further but actually, given where we live, it’s been nice to stay local and remove the stresses and logistics that come with packing everything into the car that every parent will know only too well.

Finishing Study

This hasn’t really taken off yet but it will very soon i’m sure. My masters degree was due to finish in June and being forced back inside has removed the temptation to go climbing instead of studying. I’m on the final module now, the thesis, and it will be crucial to now crack on and get this done and finished.

I still can’t quite believe that i’m so close to achieving this and whatever happens with graduation, will be thrilled when it is done. Anyone who knows my past will know i did not do well with my undergrad degree, failing the finals, and this Professional degree has offered me a chance of redemption. Granted, trying to do this while having a young family and starting my own business has not been ideal but i’ve passed every hurdle along the way with aplomb and am so close to finally having letters after my name.

As time ticks along, this will become a greater priority and in a funny sort of way, i could do with the lockdown actually lasting longer to get this done. Not that i’m wishing for that in any possible way; i’d rather rely on self-control than curfew to get my thesis finished.

Learning More About My Weak Points

As much as i am a movement specialist and professional climbing coach, my knowledge in the strength and conditioning side of coaching isn’t as good as it could – or possibly should – be. That is until now.

I’ve got the books, just haven’t had the time or the inclination to read them, digest them and learn what i need to know. Now, i have no excuses and have been using this time to learn about agonists, ATP, fast twitch muscle fibres, disinhibition and so much more.

What’s more, with my academic connections, i have the unusual ability to be able to really dig deep into the science of training and develop a much deeper understanding of principles. Watch this space.

Getting Strong and Working Antagonists

Of course, i’m working on my own weaknesses too, having found and installed the gym rings i’ve owned for years in the kitchen ceiling. Today, i’m still aching from the Covid 100 challenge (100 press ups, pull ups, sit ups and squats) two days ago. The plan is to build muscle mass not only where i need it but also the antagonists to prevent further injury.

I’m also hoping this extended break will calm the tendon injury in my elbow that has plagued me all year. More research will be needed and more exercises completed as it is not improving (and not helped by the aforementioned work on the house) but hopefully, i can get it nice and strong again ready for the open door later in the year.

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For those living far away from the mountains of North Wales, rest assured they're still here and still the same. For those of us right on the doorstep, they are similarly off limits and today's GADE (Government Approved Daily Exercise) was pretty much down the main road, one short footpath aside. Many of the locals' signs discouraging anyone from from venturing into the hills remain, and clearly they are being strictly followed by all. It seems that even for those of us within walking distance of the pass are staying home, just as requested. Just in case you wondered if we were making hay while the crowds are away. #stayhome . . . #GADE #worldclasswales #NorthWales #snowdonia #snowdon #snowdonianationalpark #ilivehere #lifeinlockdown

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Summary: Making the Most Of This Time

I have certainly had itchy feet and a bit of cabin fever over the past week or so but writing this post has helped to make me realise quite how much i’ve actually done, less than two weeks into lockdown. I keep being told to pace myself and not go too mad but this pace is working, and working incredibly well.

We never know what is around the corner, what might happen with life in the next phase. The old TV show Stingray was actually remarkably on point: anything can happen in the next half hour.

We have a choice: mope or adapt. We could sit here and lament what is missing in our lives or we can make an assessment and see how we can use this situation to our advantage. This isn’t house arrest, this is an opportunity and only the strongest of us will use the next few months and weeks to put ourselves in a better position than we were before. The question now is which choice will you make.

 

Please remember to follow government advice/requests to help combat the coronavirus and save lives. The hills will still be there when all this is done. Stay home and stay safe. 

 

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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Making the best of it

My travails in Barcelona – as enjoyable as they were – cost me a day of bouldering. With not being able to collect the car until 1pm and a five hour drive at least, by the time i got here, found the Airbnb, met up with Sally and ate, it was practically the middle of the night again with nought but a glance at the amazing red sandstone blocks i hadn’t seen since the week of my thirtieth birthday.

However, given our collective crippled state, this didn’t turn out to be the crisis we thought. My elbow has deteriorated again and i was nervous i wouldn’t be able to climb, while Sally – on her extended Spanish adventure and the reason i flew out here – had strained some abnominal muscles and wasn’t climbing for a couple of days anyway. Another rest day wouldn’t hurt. Getting stuck in might. Besides, that gave time to build a plan and some psyche…

I’m actually here to coach, not just on a jolly and arriving to find your client is crocked is not ideal. Instead, we decided to chat movement theory, goals and objectives with a view to seeing if any of it worked in practice later. With clients, i’m generally available any time people wish to chat so running over various ideas in person passed the time nicely.

There are several theories and academics related to climbing that i have developed and Sally is just the right type of person to take it on board. She’s also just the right one to tell me if i’m talking total shit and so far, seems very taken with the ideas; able to confirm through her own experiences or question when something doesn’t seem right. Not being able to climb sucks but¬† i think we are making the best of a bad situation.

The late night led to a late start which was no bad thing! Once up though, i headed into town for supplies, including food and some chalk from the excellent Sofa Boulder. They had not long opened when i was here last in 2014 and are just as friendly now as they were then. If you’re here, check them out.

After several cups of tea, in early afternoon, we finally headed up for a climb. I say we, i was the only one climbing and even then, i was being very cautious not to overdo myself and make the trip effectively pointless. A few 5s in and no pain, the tape holding my arm together and everything seeming pretty good.

A couple of 6bs and a 6c in and i tried the 6b stand start to some more appealing lines. However, when i paused mid route to assess my options (and test my ideas of movement theory on a wall) a nearby Spaniard mistook my musings for confusion and ran over to give me some beta. I wouldn’t ordinarily mind but the beta he was spraying me with was wrong and wasn’t going to work, confusing me further. Eventually i ignored his suggestions, pulled off a slightly harder-looking move and topped out to a round of applause that made me feel slightly embarrassed. 6b isn’t exactly that challenging for me (not that they were to know that).

Given all of this, they must have seemed slightly surprised to see me pull on to the 7a+ sit start version. From the noises they were making as i crept through the crux moves, i don’t think they were expecting me to get that far on¬†El Rompededos.¬†The look on my face at the top probably suggested i wasn’t either.

Sally had missed this taking a phone call and once she returned, found all the stuff had been moved around the corner. We’d looked at¬†Eclipse 7b on our way in; the problem being one of Sally’s projects and she was keen for my beta. I quickly glanced through the moves again, dropped pads down and within about ten minutes had done it in about three sections, working out how to cope with my own issues and apply my own style.

Annoyingly, i mucked up the one attempt that felt like it would be fluid and easy, leaving my foot on a hold too long before it snatched from the hold and smacked the floor. As i rested, Sally grew cold and increasingly frustrated – not at me, at the fact she couldn’t climb – and eventually decided to call it a day, relieved of spotting duties by a group of Germans who had just arrived. If only she’d given it five more minutes, she’d have seen me fight my way through the roof and on to the top. Not a bad return for the day and with next to no pain to speak of!

Certainly psyched for tomorrow.

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.

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!

Substance or Style?

I’ve always been a climber with a very distinct style: put me on small holds on a near vertical face and i’m all over it. Give me compression or intense shouldery moves and all of a sudden my grade drops significantly.

I know what i have to do – the phrase “train your weaknesses” has been floating around for many years now – but doing it is an entirely different prospect. I’ve even come up with my own add on to the phrase that says: “Train your weaknesses, play to your strengths”. Of course, all this means is that i constantly define everything as playing and nothing is classed as training and i never actually work on anything that i’m crap at.

Two of my last three outdoor sessions have highlighted this beautifully; bringing to the forefront of my mind quite how style-dependent i am and (certainly in the case of our Peak day out) the inherent risks therein.

The Big Problem

We found ourselves in Birmingham for a week with my parents in between an awesome gig and an even awesomer weekend at Larmer Tree Festival. Music is probably the next big passion of mine and it was great to see some live sets from some bands that i truly love; Cat Empire, KT Tunstall, Gogo Penguin and Ezra Collective were just some of the bands that joined Bloc Party in our recent extravaganza.

However, that didn’t mean that i needed to totally neglect climbing while all this was going on and we were a bit further East, Cratcliffe seemed like a good option. I’d long thought i’d like to try¬†Jerry’s Traverse 7b there, as well as possibly¬†T Crack 7b if it wasn’t as scary as i remembered so now was the time. First though, i’d been recommended¬†Razor Roof 6c+ as a nice line and a glance in my guidebook showed i’d not actually done it before. With Hannah hiding under the roof, i finally committed to the obvious sequence and sent what really is a fantastic line.

 

Then on to the main aim but I should’ve done my homework. I am not strong at the moment, relying on my technique and footwork to get me up climbs. The problem on Jerry’s is that there are no feet; it’s a campus fest. The hands felt plenty big enough but even then, campusing sideways is about as far from my abilities at the moment it was a fool’s errand that finished with the only likely

It got worse. Late that evening, a strong and deep pain in my chest developed, around my sternum, balanced out nicely with a similar pain in the middle of my back. Slowly through the day, it worsened until i spent the majority of the night awake through pain – something incredibly rare for me.

I spoke to my mum about it the next day, while still wincing and she suggested an intercostal strain. It made sense and thankfully subsided by the second evening after a long soak in a hot bath. Nevertheless, the whole day did highlight the importance of training antagonist muscles as it is a surefire way to hurt yourself very quickly.

Flash in the pan

Once back home and fully recovered, i took a trip to an esoteric little venue with no more than four established climbs; the top out for one a dirty, grimy mess. It goes without saying that Llyn y Gadar is not a popular venue, which was annoying as the problem obscured by lichen was the one that certainly seemed the more suited to me.

There are two 7a+ there:¬†Freddie Kreuger¬†and¬†Freddie Welsh. On the same boulder, there was one more problem,¬†Freddie Right Hand 6c acting as the warm up. I thought i’d flashed the easiest line, only to realise i’d started two moves in by mistake. Thankfully, i didn’t get it second go either (meaning i hadn’t wasted a flash) but it didn’t take long after that.

Then on to the next line: same start, move onto a rising slopey traverse. Granted i didn’t keep on it for that long but try as i might, i couldn’t find the body position that worked. Worse than that, when i found something that¬†might’ve¬†worked, i couldn’t manage it with my weak shoulder muscles. Again, this was a climb that simply didn’t suit me and as such, i struggled. A lot.

I wondered if perhaps i was off form; weak and underperforming. That was until i got onto¬†Freddie Kreuger. Sat underneath, the right hand felt huge, the left ample and a super deep drop knee was ideal for me. Snatch up and i’m on the good crimp, shuffle feet and fly for the lip, bang! Slapped, stuck, swing the feet back on, go again with the right hand and i was onto easier terrain. Some tenuous moves later – top outs are often tenuous when you’re alone – and i was stood atop the bloc. One 7a+ miles beyond me, the other flashed.

I really need to work my weaknesses.

A Hat Trick

I didn’t climb again for another ten days, having been with the family in Cambridge for a friend’s wedding; a trip that included me camping¬†alone with a two-year-old and a ten-month-old for the night… I don’t know how i ended up in that situation and all went fine, i was easily up to the challenge, but i don’t know many other people who would do that.

In a wonderful example of my occasional ineptitude at life, i had arranged to meet someone in Kendal the day after the wedding. Cambridge to Kendal then, plus a night sleeping rough in the back of the Land Rover – it was like old times again!

I left a little later than i’d hoped but as i crept towards Carnforth weighing up my options, i decided i would head to another old haunt and, much like our Lakes trip back in April, exorcise some more demons. I had a dinner date that sadly cancelled (totally understandably) so options were food or climbing. I picked climbing.

So straight to Trowbarrow: a regular haunt during my undergrad days and home to the imposing Shelter Stone. This monolithic bloc houses some incredibly tough lines, including the notorious¬†Isla de Encanta 8b, climbed by the great John Gaskins. Some say he can’t have climbed it as it is simply too hard. For what it’s worth, i totally believe him, although looking at it, i’d love to have been there!

The Shelter Stone, much like the Bowderstone, was always something i longed to climb on but would never attempt as it was too hardcore. I didn’t stand a chance – largely through the fact i refused to even try – and even now, much of it is far out of my abilities. Still, there are some low and mid 7s and i wanted to plant my flag on the top just once.

If only it would stop raining. As i got there, i struggled to find the lines in the new and excellent Lakes Bouldering Guide, not through any fault of the book but because i was trying to keep the pages dry. Annoying but one of the best things about Trowbarrow is Red Wall, which stays dry when almost everywhere else for fifty miles does not. Ironically, i left the Shelter Stone in search of shelter.

A handful of 6s later and the sky was blue, the ground drying enough. Back to the Shelter Stone and i found a small and innocuous 7a+ two move wonder. Ideal! and with my types of moves and holds! After some quick conversation with visiting climbers, i sat on my pad, placed my limbs on the rock and less than a minute later, pulled over the top to stand atop this mighty boulder for the first time. Fifteen years after my last visit and i had finally climbed something: Funk Phenomena. Boom.

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It's been a very long time. Fourteen years, perhaps. I think that's what made going back to Trowbarrow on Sunday so special. The Shelter Stone is, for me, much like the Bowderstone: one of those crags I always dreamed of climbing on but felt inadequate to the point I wouldn't try. Half the battle of climbing harder is to get on it and give it a go. Again like the Bowderstone, even more it is a tough venue, with many of the problems still out of my abilities. But after all this time, I now finally have my tick. And now than that, I've had the chance to return to this fantastic, scenic spot and enjoy it once more. #lancashire #lancashirebouldering #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #exorcisingdemons Huge thanks to @greg_lakesbloc for the excellent guidebook at gave me the chance to find something I could climb!

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Finnish-ed and Home

There was a part of me, on the last morning, that wanted to get another crag in. Simon, it seemed, was less enthusiastic. Three days and four crags is a tough ask for any climber, let alone one that is unaccustomed to day after day of intense climbing and another lacking in fitness to continually batter themselves. Simon, it turned out, was absolutely right.

We could’ve checked somewhere out and not climbed but there was no need; we were both more than happy with the week we’d had and i was happy to concede to his plan of checking out a flea market in the morning before leaving the apartment a little early and heading for the airport.

Flea markets, apparently, are very popular in Finland, selling new and old primarily on market stalls in a cross between a British market and a car boot sale. This one was sparse to say the least, with very few stalls and even fewer customers but the building it sat alongside was stunning on the outside and almost designed exactly as i would like inside. Cafes, boutique shops, the whole feel of the place was fantastic and the first served fantastic pastries – i’d been craving pastries since we got there, being in Scandinavia after all! – and a wide range of tea.

The Finns are the best country i’ve been for serving nice, decent tea and for once, there was little need for me to take a box of 80 tea bags. Good job, too, as i’d only taken a handful as we were “travelling light”. I say that, Simon travelled light, i failed miserably, realising as i packed up that half of my electronics hadn’t been used and could’ve easily been left at home and swapped for an extra t-shirt and a thin jumper. More lessons learned that could prove invaluable later in the year.

After finishing our tea and breakfast, i’d arranged to meet up with an old friend Tomi Lindroos. Tomi was one of those that started 27crags and we’d exchanged many emails and messages over the years but never actually met in person; a wonderful example of how modern social networking can be a fantastic thing. He’d seen my posts of being in Helsinki and got in touch to see about meeting. Granted, we hadn’t climbed but it was great to meet him for lunch and chat about climbing, 27crags, North Wales and the world in general.

We bid farewell, hopefully not for the last time, and headed back to the apartment to pack up. We had one last trip in the world’s most awesome lift that must’ve been 100 years old but had not lost any of it’s charm, before some tactical packing saw us leave nice and early. We now had around six hours before our flight left the tarmac.

It turned out we did go to Meilahti again after all, just to have a look really. There is a public park across the road so after craning our necks up and wondering who on earth would classify this as¬†bouldering we sat outside a rather large building that seemed lovely but gave no indication of what it might be. Turned out there’s a reason: it was the parliamentary residence. Our last act in Helsinki was to have a picnic outside the president’s home. That sums the week up.

That wasn’t quite our last act, as we then walked a fair way out of pleasant parks and scenic city into more industrial settings to our train station. By this point, we had everything with us and i was dearly wishing i’d learnt those lessons about travelling light¬†before¬†i’d left home. As the traffic and the buildings grew, i eventually dragged my way onto the platform, grateful that carrying this unholy pile of stuff was nearly at an end.

It felt hot, as it had all week but that was suddenly put into perspective as we walked off the plane on the tarmac in Munich. Suddenly slapped in the face by a swell of hot air, we realised that we’d been the lucky ones all week to be so far north and away from these blistering conditions covering the entire continent. Some German food in a Bavarian airport finished us off, before i admired Birmingham from the air before landing back home.

It felt as if we’d been gone for weeks, not days, such was how much we packed into the trip. The whirlwind hasn’t stopped either, with two pieces since written on Helsinki, one published right here.

It was genuinely one of the best trips i’ve been on and will live long in the memory of the Birthday Tradition. I’ll forever be grateful to Simon, my future father-in-law, who was one of the best travelling companions i’ve ever had. I can only hope that this is the first of many.

Not Better or Worse, They’re Different

My second time on Shared Parental Leave (SPL) and we’re off to a rocky start, in so many ways.

I’m very conscious of mentioning Rosie every time i talk about Hannah – it can’t be nice to be continually compared to your older sibling. In this case, though, i drew inspiration from the first time around and built on previous experience. Makes sense really.

Thus, on day two of SPL 2.0, i packed up the child and the pads and headed off to the very same crag from two years ago: Caseg Ffraith in the Ogwen Valley.

I’ve looked up the first photo from that first time (see below) and Roo doesn’t look happy. It obviously didn’t last as i remember that being a pretty good session, with the caption confirming that somewhat. And that is where the parallels end. The setting may have been the same but the reaction certainly was not. These two are, after all, totally individual.

Today has made me realise quite how little i’ve developed a relationship with Hannah thus far in her life. This is, of course, the reason for SPL in the first place and again, i do wish more people would take advantage of it. Hannah is not a fan of being left alone, and cried as soon as i topped out the first climb and disappeared over the top of the crag. Distraction didn’t work that well and putting her in the ball pit taken to contain the beast resulted in more screaming.

I’d managed a pitiful warm up before i realised time was of the essence today and need to step it up quick. I’m not one for long warm ups, having conditioned myself over years of poor starts at places lacking in easy options, but even by my loose standards, performing to any sort of level after this was unlikely. The more i tried, the more she cried and i was trying anything i could think of to keep her occupied.

Back in the car seat, now she had some finger food which allowed me a short while to have a blast. Crucially i managed to recreate the old photo of myself and Rosie that appeared on The Project Magazine for an article i’d written on just this topic. Alas, it didn’t last and soon enough her attention waned and we ran out of puffs…

Giving her the packet – a popular and noisy toy for this little terror – bought me enough time for three or four attempts at¬†Boneyard 7b. It’s a tough beast, this climb, sapping energy and requiring the climber to complete what is a difficult dyno in itself after seven snappy moves. With such poor tactics (enforced by baby, granted) i had little chance and soon enough realised that a crinkly packet wouldn’t cut it any more and time was up.

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There's a nice parallel here: this was the first crag I took Rosie and today, I introduced this stunning valley to Hannah and continued with #babyatthecrag. It is always important to remember how every child is different though. The irony is that in the first incarnation of this shot, Rosie didn't look happy but allowed me to climb. Hannah looks like she's loving it here. It didn't last. Every baby, like every person, is individual and requires you to interact with them on their own terms. Where Rosie was independent, Hannah prefers to be held and comforted. It'll be interesting to see how this month ahead goes. #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #northwales #escalada #escalade #grimpeur #rockclimbing #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbinglife #climbing_is_my_passion #mountains #scenery

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Hannah has been exclusively breast fed right the way up to beginning weaning and even now, getting liquid into her is a challenge. What this has potentially meant is that she likes the closeness and comfort of being held. Meanwhile, she hasn’t had much exposure to the outdoors at this stage, unlike but primarily because of her sister. While #babyatthecrag is feasible, toddler at the crag is a totally different proposition with significantly bigger consequences. Once they start crawling, the goalposts move drastically and you’re in a totally different game.

This may contribute to the poor day, or it may be something else. Maybe this is an off day, maybe my standards and expectations are too high after being so successful last time. I don’t know but i do know if i’d persevered more, tempers would’ve flared. Now is time to calm down, regroup, learn the lessons and get ready for the next time out.