Tag Archives: winter season

Life Is Rosie

Well, that’s it: it’s done, i can do no more. Literally, as if i were to climb any of the outstanding lines, they wouldn’t count. The Indy Winter Aggregate has finished.

So, despite the nicest weather we’ve had in North Wales this year on Wednesday, my evening was spent back at the Indy scrabbling for just one more point. After all, with scores tight at the top, it might make the crucial difference. As far as i was aware, there were only three outstanding lines left to try.

That was until i got there. Tim had set a couple of new lines the other day but had informed me they wouldn’t be numbered, being so close to the end. Turns out he was mistaken and i walked in to fifteen more climbs left to accomplish. On the bright side, that would definitely tip me over the 300 climbs mark for the season…

Irritatingly, despite only three graded 7a or harder, they were nearly all quite tough! Normally 6s fall very quickly for me, normally on the first effort, but every one, save the occasional 3 or 4, made me put some effort in and got me thinking. I think there were at least six climbs that didn’t get flashed.

Still, they all got done – including the 7b+ black route that captured most of my attention for the session – and thus concluded another fantastic winter climbing aggregate.

A couple of years ago, i posted a big thank you for the end of the aggregate and it’s been interesting to find it and read it again. The same is as true now as it was then; the only difference that perhaps i’ve started to take it for granted a little more.

Every year there are ups and downs with the aggregate and this year has been no exception. That said, the ups have far outweighed the downs: faces have mostly been stripped and set as a whole, eliminating a route being taken down prematurely or getting in the way of the new set, the weekly setting has returned and the grade range has been excellent as always. Most importantly of all, the routes have been 98% awesome.

It is tough to set good lines, especially consistently week after week, but the Indy do this very well indeed. Other walls – the Boardroom, so i hear – do a big reset of the whole wall but the graduated approach always gives you something fresh to tick off and something hard to project. This year, they nailed it.

The downs have mainly been to do with grading, where it has been a bit erratic this season. While it’s not the end of the world, it can get a little frustrating to sail up a 7b within a couple of attempts and then fail abjectly on a 7a+. Nevertheless, they are one of the few remaining walls that grade their climbs with actual outdoor grades, not colour grade boundaries and if the price to pay for that is some iffy numbers occasionally, i’ll take that every time.

My only other complaint would be the regularity with which the scores have been updated but again, it’s not a serious problem and considering i sat in top spot for five months as a consequence, it kinda worked out in my favour! Yes, this is normally a monthly update and it would be nice but knowing the lads as i do and knowing how this season has gone for them, it is understandable, in exactly the same way as routes not being immediately numbered all the time. Given the circumstances and what they’re actually trying to achieve, they’ve yet again done a stonking job.

One thing that hasn’t changed is the atmosphere, vibe of the place; yet again, it’s a real local hub. Part of the reason for my pseudo-supremacy is the lack of regulars out playing this year but there is new blood – there to make me feel old – coming in all the time and really grasping the ethos of the wall. No elitism, no snobbery, just climbers, there to climb and socialise and happy to help each other out.

All in all, win lose or draw, it’s been another great series. The Massive Monday Series has added an extra element of competition and was another storming success and from a personal perspective, it’s done for me exactly what i needed it to: it’s got me strong again. Not back to the levels of this time last year, ticking off the hardest lines of my life but back to some sort of form; something i can now go and build on. And that is exactly what i wanted.

With outdoor sessions now firmly on my mind, I did manage to make the most of the good weather during the day – nipping out into the forest to snag two more first ascents in Bryn Engan. Life is Rosie 6a and Slabadabadoo 6c won’t be turning any heads any time soon but are worthwhile lines to add to a growing circuit. And besides, i’ve now got a climb named after my daughter, which makes it all okay.

The days are getting noticably longer and the weather beginning to show signs of turning. The end of the month brings with it the changing of the clocks and the turning of the Climbing Year. What happens now remains to be seen but at least i feel primed to give it my best shot. With my new family for company this year.

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Progress? What Progress?

Nearly three months since my last post – the longest gap in a few years – should’ve been enough to have something to report on! I had thought nothing much worth writing about had happened but then i started writing and it just got longer and longer… So it’s time for a recap and hopefully a resurgence of psyche. Looking back, some of this is pretty incredible (for me) with some life changing events thrown in for good measure.

We’ll start off with the solitary outdoor bouldering session since, possibly, Torridon back in September last year: a day out at Beddgelert forest at the end of November. An old friend, Ben, who has accompanied me on various trips to Font, got in touch keen to get outside for a boulder. Not wanting to disappoint, i accepted, saying we would decide on the venue at the last minute to pick decent conditions. It was a good shout, opting for Boss Cuvier; a crag i’d yet to explore more than a cursory glance on a wet afternoon.

I’d been deliberately neglecting outdoor climbing all winter, partly due to poor conditions and partly to spend time indoors getting my strength back but i’m very glad Ben talked me into it. It was a great little day with crisp air and gorgeous skies offering us a beautiful sunset as we climbed until dusk. Nothing of any note actually fell for us but the act of getting outside again for the first time in a long time, coupled with spending time with an old friend, were marvelous feelings.

While Gelert forest was catching up with old friends, heading to the Boardroom in Queensferry around Christmas marked new relationships with new people. Em’s brother and i have climbed together a couple of times over the past year but with aforementioned poor conditions, we’d arranged to go indoors while we were both off work.

With James working through their aggregate competition and myself a grade or two stronger, he’d already thought he could ask me on some of his projects although as the session wore on, that became less and less likely. James is indeed a strong boulderer and nailed a couple of problems he’d been trying for a while, one with my help and one without. However, during the warm up, my foot slipped from a hold it really shouldn’t and my knee careered into a ledge-like hold below it, causing me to limp around for the next couple of days. Meanwhile, James was suffering with a migraine and slowly deteriorated to the point where he simply couldn’t climb any more. We must’ve been quite the sight as we left and could imagine some young and impressionable youngster arriving to see James with his head in his hands and me with a major limp, wondering what they’ve signed up for!

Between us, though, we got some impressive ticks. We both climbed hard and admittedly had a great little session, the cost of which may or may not have added to it! More to the point though, spending a day with my girlfriend’s brother is always time well spent, especially as he really is a stand up guy and a joy to climb with.

While these have been a couple of exceptional outings, most of my winter has seen me trying to make the most of my six-month pass at the local Indy climbing wall. I’d signed up for the aggregate competition, as is customary these days and they’d decided to run a Massive Monday Series, as mentioned in my last post.

Last time, we’d just finished the Dyno Comp and two more have gone past since then:

  • Grooves vs. Aretes. This one was my own little suggestion, when they were looking for ideas and with three problems left untouched, i found myself looking at the maths and realising that flashing the last three problems would put me first or possibly second. As an almost direct consequence, i choked, dropped two points on a straightforward 6c and despite flashing a 7a+ failed to finish the remaining problem and finished a lowly fourth. It proved my poorest score and i should’ve done better.
  • Pump Up The Volumes. A comp more in keeping with modern competition climbing, involving involved climbing and some technical moves where outdoor experience counted tenfold. I did reasonably, despite feeling completely wiped of energy, ticking most climbs. Crucially though, one of my main competitors declined to hand in his sheet after what he felt was a poor performance, and that, coupled with double points for the last night, meant i took third and jumped up the leaderboard.

The final scores? After five flash contests, due predominantly to perseverance meant i finished the series in second place! An impressive return considering some of North Wales strongest climbers getting in the mix there.

More importantly, again, it was a stellar series that will hopefully run again in the same vein next year. The points system was, granted, a little complicated but for an inaugural winter series, it was certainly a huge success in my opinion. With time, it should develop into a staple of the North Wales winter climbing scene. I certainly hope so.

Meanwhile, the winter aggregate continues and i still occasionally astound myself by looking at the leaderboard. The next time it is released will be the last and i can only hope that i find myself in the same position i have held over the entire competition: namely sat right at the top.

I think it’s a bit Leicester City, as i’ve mentioned previously, but you can only turn up and climb, you can’t control anyone else and with the end so tantalisingly close, i’m desperately hoping that come the end, i can actually win the competition. Whether i’ve actually been top all season is unclear, as the scores have actually only been updated twice as opposed to monthly like usual, but nevertheless, i’m still up there. There’s not long to go now and while, in terms of training, it’s not had the required effect of getting me back to strength levels of this time last year, it’s been yet another fabulous comp that for once, i’m craving the end of.

To finish off this ever increasing post that started with me saying i had nothing to talk about, i’d like to quickly allude as to why this training hasn’t actually worked that well this winter.

Back in July last year, Emily and i discovered that she was pregnant. It was a bit of a shock but a very welcome one as we both spent the next seven months getting ready for the arrival of our first child. It’s meant less time spending evenings hanging from fingerboards and more time at home, with Em on the Mothercare website.

With a baby on the way, it became quite important to have a proper, finished and functional kitchen in the house. This building work had been earmarked for around this time for two years but it suddenly became more urgent. It was completed the week after Em’s baby shower…

And then, on the 10th February 2017, our beautiful baby girl was born. Rosemary Kirsten Edwards, our little Rosie, was finally here and i have never been more proud, of us or of Em. We’re both very proud parents, both very happy and both coping with the latest addition to our little family very well.

I’ve just said to Em that i may not be at the level i had reached this time last year but to be honest, if i was i think i would’ve failed them both. There’s no way you can support a pregnant lady, a newborn baby, get the environment ready for them and maintain those levels of fitness, especially with a full time job and my priorities have definitely changed dramatically now. Em and Rosie are now firmly the most important things in my life, along with Tess who has coped wonderfully and has definitely not been forgotten.

The challenge now is to balance life between all these aspects of my life. I certainly don’t want to give up bouldering – it is simply another love of my life, to go with these girls here. It’s just dropped down the pecking order in the last year or so…

Tumultuity: Part Two

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

A Good Man Gone

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

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

Bonnie Bonnie Banks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welsh Fun

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

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

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

The Bryn Engan Boulder
The Bryn Engan Boulder

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

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

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

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

The next step?

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

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

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

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

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

Power Down

The bit now firmly between my teeth, and Emily busy for the evening, i stopped for an after-work session at the Cromlech boulders on the way home for an hour or so of torch-lit blasting up the next project: Diesel Power V11/8a. It might seem absurd and i’ve long since extolled the fact that it is one of the worst possible crags for me to gain a long term project (roadside is REALLY not dog-condusive) but if i’m honest, and probably a little bit arrogant to be fair, it doesn’t feel like it’s going to be that long a wait…

That might be me underestimating the climb slightly. I’ve lost count of the number of sessions on it to date – not because there have been that many, i’m just not good at keeping count – and have already done all the moves. It’s an iconic North Wales classic line; a must for anyone operating in that grade range and a good solid one for a first 8a that isn’t brutally hard for the grade. And it suits me very well indeed.

So with Jerry’s done, this is the next hard one on my radar. That’s not to say i’m only going to get on this for the next few months, but it is a priority, especially when i’ve only got a short while. Being roadside certainly does lend itself to torch-lit sessions on the way home so why not i guessed.

In the shadow of the great and imposing #dinascromlech tonight lay a torch lit #boulder and an 8a project: #dieselpower – the next big thing on my agenda. Layered up to the gills to try and ease the cold brought by the fierce wind, it turned out the temperature wasn't the way the wind had in mind to punish me. Bumping my hand on the third move, the pad, shuffled relentless by gusts, slid down from under me and a split second later, my left hand blew hard from the hold. With nothing now holding me up and momentum from that hand throwing me downwards rapidly, I hit bare rock. Hard. Hip first, then shoulders. I lay there for a second, wincing and gasping, checking how everything felt. A little over half an hour later, it's okay but REALLY hurts, right up into my lower back. I'll find out in the morning how bad it is. Shame really as I was linking the first four moves well with only one more really hard one to go! The lantern from #screwfix Was ace though, I'm sure you'll agree! #llanberispass #snowdonia #northwales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #headtorchsession #night #nightsession

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Anyway, after faffing far too much at work on the way out the door, eventually i rocked up at the layby next to the boulders keen as mustard and ready to give it a token gesture warm up before seeing if i had the Power. Turns out i wasn’t the only one from the Brenin with that idea; local all round beast Dave Evans was there also having a quick effort on the way home, and new Assistant Instructor Kris McCooey spotted us on the way to the Beacon and stopped off too.

It’s worth giving Kris a bit of a mention at this point. On the roadside face is a climb called The Edge Problem. Originally given V5 from the two horizontal slots, the ground has now eroded to the extent that even with stacked pads, this is out of reach for all but the unnaturally tall. These days, you’re far more likely to do the sit start – one where your backside simply cannot reach the floor.

Wherever you start, the problem is notorious. The slots for the stand start are fiercely small, as is the next hold for the left hand and many a strong climber has repeatedly been spat off this climb, often to the point of never going back. Two old friends who are both substantially stronger than myself have long since given up on it, finding their strong sausage fingers simply too big to get in the slots.

For those of us with small girly fingers, like me, he says smiling wryly to himself, the tiny slots soon become little finger jugs but nevertheless, The Edge Problem is still a fierce little boulder problem that bites back all those who don’t take the time to woo her correctly.

All except Kris, it seems. Kris arrived at the face, never having been and asked us what was there, starting with The Ramp V1 and then ticking off Pocket Wall V4, both slowly and carefully. By this point, i was getting impatient and had moved a pad under The Edge to warm up my fingers for my attempt on Diesel Power. Much to my surprise, he decided to join me and then did something i’m not sure i’ve ever seen before: he flashed it.

Not only did he flash it, he did it with such ease that as he rocked over the top, i was left feeling that he might pip me to Diesel Power, were he to stay and join me. While i continued to smoke as a post-warm up rest, he then got on the equally brutal Johnny’s Problem V7 next to it and dropped the last move. It was some of the most impressive climbing i have seen in a very long time.

Kris, Dave and Jack Rattenbury (another local who had rocked up for a quick session and headed to Jerry’s Roof with Dave) all departed and left me in the company of my lantern and self, underneath Diesel Power thinking “what if?”. Meanwhile, the wind continued to batter me and remind me that despite the nice weather, North Wales can often still have a bit of a kick to her sometimes; chilling my hands and blowing the pads out of position.

The problem is a fierce crimp fest that requires substantial body tension. Yet, the first move, for me at the moment, feels remarkably straightforward. The second follows suit and then i’m left with a choice: follow the normal beta and bump right hand up or go left hand onwards instead. Both moves feel equally fine and both will be followed by another brutal one so i’m trying to make my mind up. On my last effort, i opted to bump the right hand.

But as i did, possibly slightly distracted or maybe simply through too much sweat, my left hand exploded from the fine crimp. My right hand mid move, i was suddenly catapulted downwards with great force, unable to do anything about it. While this is not an uncommon occurence, on this occasion, it almost caused me substantial problems.

What had distracted me was my pad. The wind, as i’ve mentioned, had been lifting them and shuffling them around since i had placed them on the rock beneath the climb and while i was setting up to thrust upwards, i had heard it slide down the rock slightly.

Only it wasn’t a slight movement: it had completely moved from underneath me. So when i departed downwards with excessive force, there was nothing between by bony hip and the rock beneath.

I hit it with a thud, hard. The one consolation was that the force of my left hand had twisted me round in the air, meaning i didn’t fall straight back onto my back but instead landed entirely on my left hip, my shoulders falling back on the rock but the hip had taken the brunt of the force by this point. It was as bad as i’ve had for a long time.

I lay there trying to assess the damage. I often carry my phone on me while i climb, just in case and lying there, alone, in the dark, i wondered if this was one of those times i would be glad i had. This could be really bad, if i’ve broken something or cracked my pelvis but with no signs of nausea, i tentatively decided to try and get up.

Lots of groaning and moaning followed but thankfully, the pain wasn’t that bad and i seemed to be in tact. Such is the level of my enthusiasm at the moment, i considered trying again but being as i was struggling to walk, i opted to call it a night. Packing up was slow but eventually i got everything together, arrived home and proceeded to limp my way around and eventually have a rather uncomfortable nights sleep.

Today, i’ve been hobbling around Plas y Brenin, explaining with simply i “fell off” whenever quizzed. Nevertheless, given half a chance, i’d be there again tonight, after my shift finishes at 9pm and i’ve been home to collect stuff. Sometimes, the psyche is that high. It is purely from my better judgement that i’ve opted not to. Helps i’ve got an Em to keep me company.

Frozen Out

You have good sessions and you have bad sessions; that’s just part of life. It’s about balance and comparison – if they were all amazing, that would just become par. What’s frustrating is if those bad sessions come when you’ve driven nearly three hours, half way across the country…

I’ve bouldered in the cold before, many times, and yes, it does help the friction on the rock slightly but i’ve also been derailed by it as well – most notably in Switzerland in November 2012! This Sunday was one of those trips. We went to the Roaches, on the request of my friend Pablo, heading over full of psyche and enthusiasm, ready to have a blast at Tetris 7c and buzzing from the short dry spell we were right in the middle of. The stage was set for one of those days that you remember for a long time.

But i hadn’t really anticipated it was going to be one of those really cold days. The thing with these days is to try and keep the psyche going and get on the rock as much as you can – get warm, stay warm. And that was my problem, i just couldn’t get going. We started on Trust 7a: a tricky mantle onto a steep-ish slab where your only option is to place your feet carefully and trust them. It didn’t appeal and while i could do the first couple of moves with ease, i just wasn’t feeling it.

I soon got straight onto Tetris but found myseld spat off unceremoniously – like an old-time tobacco chewer in a Western. And with that, my head went down. I sat down and smoked a cigarette, got up to spot, smoked another. Very occasionally i put some shoes on and had another blast but they were token gestures at best, getting colder and colder and rapidly losing psyche, struggling with the problem at best. It soon became apparent that 7c wasn’t going to go in a session (it was optimistic from the offset!) and while i knew i should get on something else, something easier, when it started to snow lightly, i knew i was done.

I did feel very bad for Pablo but to his enormous credit, he didn’t let my pathetic attitude affect his climbing. He gave Tetris a damn good go and towards the end of the day, got back on Trust and nailed it like a pro. We left shortly afterwards, my respect for my companion even greater than it was before.

It wasn’t all bad: it was very nice to be outside on rock again, irrespective of how the performance went. It was also a stunning day and a great one to drive 300 miles or so (even if we did get a flat tyre on the way home…). But most of all, it was brilliant to spend a day with a guy i originally met randomly at the cromlech roadside boulders and who has become a good friend of mine.

The following day, i headed back into that same pass, this time alone. I’d been delayed by sorting that tyre from the night before and trying to overcome the lack of psyche from Sunday, but eventually Tess and i took the long trek up the hillside above Ynys Etws towards a problem know as Lotus. In the film Stick It it was given 8a, in the guide gets V10 (or 7c+) in reality, it’s fucking brutal. It’s a traverse from low left under a roof and requires a lot of pads and with only one with me, i was restricted to trying a move or two at a time. Even then i struggled.

But it was first session and i did tick off a couple of other problems and top out on a rock climb. It didn’t matter what it was – for this week, it was enough, that was my victory. Now Thursday evening, it’s forecast to rain again tomorrow for another week and it turns out, i didn’t actually tick two established climbs. It didn’t matter.

It just goes to show that sometimes, it’s not about how hard it is, it’s not about the grade. Don’t get me wrong, ticking hard lines feels better than sailing up easy ones but sometimes, it’s just to be out tasting success. I coached another session that Monday night; my third coaching session in two weeks and i worked with that group absolutely contented with my two days of bouldering. Funny how it goes sometimes.

A Gap In The Clouds

My phone blipped with a text. I looked: it was Pablo. “Man I’m heading Jerry’s roof now”

I looked out the window and it was, near as damnit, dry outside – the first chance i’ve had for weeks. Out the back of the house, the stone walls still clung to the damp but the tops of the trees were swaying slightly, meaning the rock might actually be in nick.

I looked at the fire and the teapot resting, staying warm. On the table sat my appealing-looking tea, slowly cooling. This had been my plan for the morning: drink tea, tidy up a bit, crash out for the morning doing boring normal-person jobs. To be honest, this was quite appealing – was i really gonna change plans at the last second? After all my complaining, it would’ve been pretty pathetic not to go because i had to sweep the floor and drink tea.

I looked at the clock: quarter to eleven. I’d made plans to help with a cleanup at the Mill at 1pm and i really don’t like letting people down. But two hours might be enough for a short session… And of all the people i know, these guys would surely be the most likely to understand. And it’s not as if i wouldn’t go, i just might be a bit late.

I looked at the dog and she returned that look of hope that we’d go do something slightly more interesting than sitting in the house yet again. She wanted to be out and while Jerry’s roof would involve a ground anchor and being tied up, at least she’d be out! A change of scenery, someone else to pester, just not to be stuck in here would be good enough.

Lastly, i looked in the mirror: dickhead. How could i not go?! I’ve done nothing but complain for three months of the relentless deluge of drizzle and now i had a great opportunity to get out and climb on rock! Turn this down, and i would effectively be turning down any hope of outdoor winter climbing this season. I had no choice. And i didn’t want one.

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Half an hour later and i was desperately trying to get warm under the big roadside boulder, pads everywhere, dog bothering us but happy to be outside pulling on dry rock once again. I even let out a little cheer the first time i pulled off the floor!

But that cheer was nothing compared to the whooping and hollering that was to follow! I would’ve joined Pablo on Bus Stop 7b+, and did repeat some of the moves, but i’m rarely a fan of repeating problems i’ve done before. Jerry’s Roof V9 was another option but a touch hard and i didn’t think i’d have time to have a proper blast. Instead, recently i’d seen a video clip of someone doing Johnny’s Problem V7/8 on the right hand side. It’s a problem i’d always neglected in the past (not sure why) but looked okay so i thought i’d have a blast.

I wrote an article recently about how modern technology is changing the way we climb and this was no different. After a token gesture effort to pull off the floor, i decided i wanted video-beta for my feet. It turned out to be pretty useless and some common sense would’ve gone far further (get your feet high to get power from an undercling, and if a hold is heavily polished, it’s probably the one everyone uses…) but nevertheless, at around 1 o’clock, just when i was supposed to be arriving at the mill, i pulled off the floor with feet high, got enough power into my right hand and snatched the pocket with my left. A minute later, i was cheering so loud it was embarrassing.

And just like that, it was done – only my second outdoor climb since the 30th October: Johnny’s Problem V7/8. Pablo, too, made progress on Bus Stop and we both left happy, chatting about the possibility of Albarracin next Christmas, spirits high at having thwarted the weather at last and got outside at last!

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The rest of the day went well – the Mill clean up was hugely successful and i spent the early evening with a fresh pot of tea watching James May talk about Land Rovers (amongst some other cars). It was the type of day that renews your faith in life, brings optimism to the fore.

The previous day, i’d been at a fantastic gig in Capel Curig at the Siabod Cafe and was chatting to people about the atrocious weather we’d all been suffering and while a good moan is good for the soul, i did say we had to keep the faith. Stood under that boulder on a windy afternoon, those words resonated in my mind. It’s there for the keen. I hope we all get out again soon.

It happened. It was always going to eventually. Yesterday, I finally managed to #climb #outside on #rock! And not just that: I #ticked something new as well! This is only my second tick since 1st November as the few dry days (and I mean about three of them) just haven't fallen to me kindly. So you can imagine my joy yesterday! The climb in the photo isn't actually the one I managed yesterday. This is #busstop 7b+ that fell last year during the #summerofsends but #johnnysproblem is just to the right at V7/8. #jerrysroof traverses from the bottom left of the picture to rise and finish in the middle at the top. Here's just hoping my next session isn't another three months away… #llanberispass #northwales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_pictures_of_instagram

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8 Points Dropped

It’s a funny old crag the Cromlech boulders: it has some really excellent aspects going for it but at the same time is an utter bag of shit. It’s also undoubtedly the most popular bouldering venue in North Wales.

There are dozens of problems within a few seconds of the road, some of them of exquisite quality – definite three-star classics – and while i’m not advocating missing problem like The Ramp V1, The Edge Problem V6, the Cromlech Roof Crack V6 or Jerry’s Roof V9, i do like to try and tempt people from these little blocs.

My theory is that there are boulderers out there who have climbed Rampless at V8 on the roadside boulders but are yet to even look at other classics at much lower grades (and much higher quality) such as King of Drunks V6 just a short slog up the hillside on the other side of the valley. And this despite the polish, the sharp holds and the incessant traffic that can often be more dangerous than a fall!

This has had a significant effect on the erosion at the crag as well. Let’s take The Edge Problem as our example, where the handholds for the standing start are now out of reach for all but the very tall stood atop stacked pads and the sitting start means your backside can no longer reach the floor. It’s something i find myself explaining to people regularly, such as the Sunday following my Porth Ysgo success.

Brimming with enthusiasm, but lacking anyone to go with, i looked through the list and was torn between the Barrel and making the big walk up to have a maiden effort on The Lotus V10. Either which way, i figured i’d have a warm up at the Cromlech, where the problems are a touch easier, and see if i could persuade anyone there to come somewhere, well, better!

As it turns out, that’s exactly what happened. As i turned out, i saw a girl topping out The Edge and then had to explain that she’d just ticked the V6 version and had no need to try it from any lower. Nevertheless, she said, she’d been working it from lower and wanted to finish it off – and full credit to her for that.

Within a few minutes, they asked what i was up to. When i mentioned the Barrel, pointed across the valley to it and found it in the guide, they opted to come with me! Success!

While nothing went for me, it was nice to have company and was great to see my two new friends ticking problems and relishing having somewhere new and fun to play on. The day ended with a hot chocolate in Pete’s Eats, as all good climbing sessions should.

But with a slight tweak in my right bicep, i opted to rest for a week or so, with a potential competition coming up the following Friday. I’d heard about the Beacon Boulder Bash for a while but wasn’t convinced until two of the Centre Assistants from work persuaded me to go along.

So competitions can work in many different ways: aggregate competitions last for months with no time limit on completion, timed comps with 5 minutes per problem and 5 minutes in between or a good old fashioned flash contest.

Normally, the flash contest can be pretty tough: 10 points for first attempt, 7 for second go, 3 for third and 1 point for hitting the bonus hold. For this one, though, they were slightly kinder, offering 10 points for a completed problem within three tries, 5 points for any completion thereafter and 3 for getting the bonus hold in control. It meant there was much more room for error, and more encouragement to keep trying things and stay till the end… and the after party!

In store for the winner? £100 cash prize, with other monetary prizes for second and third. The downside to this? A large group of very strong North Walean climbers came out the woodwork, keen to snaffle what would equate to a couple of days wages.

So despite psyching myself up on the drive in, convincing myself that i might be able to win this, as soon as i walked in the door and saw who was there, reality hit hard and i realised the only chance of going home with any cash was to start rummaging through everyone’s bags…

Anyway, it wasn’t about winning, but it wasn’t just about taking part; i wanted to do well by my own standards, to compete against myself, so to speak. Competitions can be very different beasts to just climbing without pressure and despite my best efforts over many years, i’ve never really got it right.

This time, though, it went very well. Out of a potential 300 points, i managed 239, dropping only 8 on problems i should’ve done better on. It was good enough for twelfth and those 8 points would’ve bumped me up another two places.

I can’t really complain about that to be honest, and i won’t – it was a great event, well arranged and well attended, with good problems and a great vibe. The winners worthy, the rest content and all told, a fantastic comp, well worth considering for next year.

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Popcorn Party

An just like that, the psyche comes back and i’m out again! Simple as that really, it’s all about motivation and once you’ve got it again, you’d be amazed what you can achieve.

The day after my soggy ramble in the pass, I’d arranged a climbing day proper with Alex Cutbush. An excessively keen all-rounder, Alex can boulder pretty damned hard but was still exploring what North Wales has to offer so, optimism packed in abundance, we made the long trek down to the very tip of the Lleyn Peninsula and the old classic venue of Porth Ysgo.

Now, it’s a trudge down there and it always feels far too far but once you’re there, it’s an awesome venue; so much so that if it were more easily accessible, it would doubtless rank as one of the best in the UK. There are a few spots like that, like St Bees up in Cumbria for example.

Not that i’ve been to St Bees, mind, i’m going purely off reputation there. The frustrating thing about it is i was living quite close for three years at University and never bothered – there were always places that were closer that would do. Now, years later and itching to get up there, i’m left ruing my neglect.

With this in mind, we persevered down the Lleyn, despite showers and wet roads, armed with “it’ll be fine” repeated over and over. While Alex kept giving me sideways glances, i knew of Porth Ysgo’s reputation and sure enough, as we scrambled down to the coastal blocs, it was easily climbable with plenty to go at.

Not that i was really that bothered: i made a bealine straight for that long standing project, Popcorn Party V6, the lowest graded problem left on the list. It was in good nick, i could start on the low letterbox and it would go.

So, after a warm up that lacked me actually getting warm on Jawbreaker, a classic V5 nearby and some head scratching that the massive adjacent block had moved, we were on it. Alex nailed the slightly-higher V5 version quickly, i got the V6. After years of round-to-it-ness.

And so it meant i could hobble through the kitchen this morning and scrub the first problem from The List in 2016. Hobble? Yes, well, that was because of last night…

You see, once the motivation comes back, for me, it’s a case of do something every day. Wanting to rest my weary elbows, i was at a bit of a loss what to do with myself. Then, at some point in the afternoon, i remembered a video i’d watched on YouTube last week.

It featured Chris Davies training at the Mill. There, while cranking hard and waxing poetic of the quality of climbers in North Wales, he advocates taking up some aerobic exercise to compliment it. I run every now and again so figured i might as well go for it.

I have no idea how far it is around Llyn Padarn but that’s the standard route, and i completed it relatively easily (once i got going). Tess certainly seemed to appreciate it.

Tonight, i’m working late so it’s an enforced rest night but tomorrow i’ll be out again and hopefully, this is a sign of things to come. Back on it with keenness and gusto.

Snap To It

Yesterday, i was lambasting a friend for not making the most living in North Wales. Then it occurred to me that, recently, i was just as guilty.

Granted, since Fredrik left at the start of November, it’s rained relentlessly. Over the Christmas period, it even rained enough to make headline news – more so in Cumbria and Yorkshire but North Wales had it pretty bad. (That being said, Boxing day, i did enjoy driving the Defender through some awesome floods between here and Caernarfon but that’s not the point).

Instead, it’s been time to train. With access to the Mill, and a free climbing wall at work – one where i can set my own routes as well – coupled with a weekly treat to the Indy to tick off some more aggregate problems, i’ve been back inside every other day.

While this has led to my first 7c+ ever (albeit indoors) it has also led to some slightly debilitating tendinitis in my right elbow. Even typing is aggravating it slightly.

So today, something snapped me out of it. Granted, i didn’t get out of bed until half past ten, but then, i got on with things. Washing? Done. Tidying house? Super fast. Tea? Two cups in thirty minutes. Crossword? Complete and then off up the pass.

On the bottom of The List is a problem i’d not seen for real before; the Lotus 7c+. I put it on there right at the start, possibly after hearing it was good, and having seen a video, thought it would be a good project for the next dry spell. So, softshell-ed up, i jumped in the car with Tess and headed out. Drizzle meant that even scrambling over rocks to find the climb was tricky but, despite navigating with only a still taken from an online video, eventually we arrived at said problem.

And it looks good. Turns out it’s not hard to find either; something i discovered on the way back down and i quickly stumbled across the Wavelength boulder. It will undoubtedly be one of the first i’ll be checking out as soon as the pass eventually dries out.

But more than that. While it might just have been wandering in the rain looking at rocks, today was the day that dragged my sorry backside out the house to get me back en route. While i’ve said before that New Years makes little sense for goal setting, being mid-season, it’s hard to deny that 2015 was immense; both in terms of trips and ticks. And it may well be that it’s not until March 27th that i’m not able to give it a full onslaught. Nevertheless, today feels like a big step in the right direction. Here’s to the New Year.

The Road to Recovery is Currently Under Water

The path to getting those pesky V9s and the elusive V10 is back on track, with indoor training sessions reigning supreme at the moment.  But the roads running like rivers, even the prospect of running my fingers over rock at the moment seems wildly optimistic to the point of pathetic.

Where, over the summer, The List proved perfect for motivation and inspiration, yesterday on my sole day off this week, i found myself cooking breakfast staring intently at the stove, refusing to even let my eyes glance in it’s direction for fear that it would be too depressing. The fact that there are very few of the lower grade problems left and that everything on there will doubtless take multiple sessions makes it even worse – a vast storm currently engulfs the UK with North Wales doing it’s bit at taking the brunt.

Not that this is unusual for this area of the world in November. Just a small weather window is often unlikely and, as i mentioned previously, i’m left thinking Fredrik and Tobias were lucky to get here just at the end of the good weather. What it does mean is that, after a fortnight resetting the body and avoiding a serious injury, now is the time to train and train hard, ready for that next dry spell, whenever it might well be.

With access to a local training facility now, time constraints are less of an issue than they have been previously. In the last week or so, i’ve clocked up a session in the wall at work, a brief sling-trainer and press up session, an Indy session and, best of all, an after work training session… after i finished work at 9pm.

It all adds to the fact this this winter could be a heavy one. The problem now is to work out the best way of organising myself. More on that one next time!