Tag Archives: #worldclasswales

Introducing Goal: 8a

They say train your weaknesses. But what if your weakness is training?

It’s been something i’ve always struggled with and the idea of “training your core” fills me with gloom and dread. I just can’t be bothered! The whole reason i got into climbing was to get out in the hills and the idea of staring at a wall dangling statically from my fingertips could not be further from that.

The problem comes when you want more. There came a point where just climbing wasn’t enough, i wanted to be operating right at the end of my ability level and there is only one way to make that happen: you have to train.

For me lately, there has been another driver, and one that comes up twice in year at New Years and during the Solstice: my Yearly Top Ten Average grade, calculated on 27crags. It may sound daft but for me, that single grade is a huge motivator. The problem i have at the moment is that it sits right below 7b. And i’m not in 7b shape: so i have to train.

But as i’ve mentioned, setting a training regime is really not my forte and while i could easily learn how to do it, sticking to it is entirely another matter. Will power is not something i possess in even small quantities and i am often found lacking any mental discipline for things like this.

So i asked myself: when i have managed to successfully train in the past? I’ve climbed 7c+ and i didn’t do that by simply going to the crag over and over, i have managed it before. What kept me focused for that?

The most obvious occasion that saw me even remotely training was preparing for Carnage. For any long-term readers (all three of you…) you’ll doubtless be aware of the effort i put in to tick this particular climb in Fontainebleau several years ago but for the uninitiated, and cutting a very long story short, it involved deadhangs on replica holds, a replica climb on a systems board and six months of preparation ready for my Spring attempt. And it worked.

Having such a definitive end goal gave me that undeniable focus. I had holds to copy, i had moves to practice, i had something tangible to work towards. And because of that, i’d find myself in the wall on a sunny day, training. But in the end it was worth it.

So there it was; the makings of a vague plan. Find a climb to work towards, and then work towards it. Simple really. But what climb…?

Again, my very top grade is 7c+ and i’ve wanted for a very long time to reach that next, momentous grade of 8a. There’s something very satisfying about the next number grade and it does have that tiny bit more cache. So why not?

I took a pen and a piece of paper and wrote in big letters at the top Goal: 8a. Then, i wrote down all the steps i could think of to get me from where i am now to achieving that goal. Turns out there weren’t that many either.

The first couple of steps are now complete, with huge thanks going to Tim Peck for helping me narrow down a long list of 11 to a shortlist of 2. Steps have been taken to move along on step 3 as well, although that ill discipline is rearing it’s head again. Still, this feels like progress. Now to see if i’m right.

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Catching Up

Need to step it up a notch? Fine! No sooner had i published my last post that i headed back out to the Cromlech boulders and within three attempts, had finished off James Pond sds 7b+ (the proper version).

Then it all went quiet; not that I’m complaining! Shortly after my success and right in the middle of the hot spell, we had a visit from my fantastic Aunty Helen and my cousin Leejah. The last and only time I’d met Leejah to date was way back in 2011 when I visited Canada and it was amazing to see them both again. Helen has been a few times since and every time, I will quite happily drop everything for them.

Back on that trip, I spent two weeks staying with one of my best friends, Simon, who now lives in southern Sweden. He recently married and in a move of pure genius, the newlyweds devised a plan to reduce the environmental impact of any get together and instead embark on a tour to visit their friends – located all over the world – of which we were their latest stop. Sadly taking a second week off work wasn’t possible and while we did manage to get two sessions in, it would never be enough.

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I've been itching to check out the #slowmotion #video on my new #sony #xperia phone but to be honest, the quality is really poor compared to at normal speed. It also speeds up the footage that isn't slowed and Instagram then cropped it further. Things to work on methinks. However, two things: first from the #coaching of #rockclimbing point of view, this is super useful and gives a very different take on things. Probably not as good as #coachseye but certainly another option. Second, it gave me a chance to capture @simoncfr ticking off The Slopes at the #cromlechboulders in the #llanberisspass on his current visit. So great to catch up with an old friend! #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #climbing_pictures_of_instagram

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Still, a first session back at the cromlech again, with time for walking in and bouldering restricted somewhat, turned out to be a lovely evening, with Simon getting shut down once more on The Edge Problem 7a and ticking a few nice dynamic problems before toiling on James Pond 7a. The daft thing is i’ve seen him climb much harder elsewhere but these two are both very particular climbs.

The second session saw us back at Caseg Ffraith, this time with little Rosie in tow. The crag has history with us and many years ago, when he lived in the area, we were here one evening when the weather turned on us in spectacular fashion. We hurriedly buried all our kit under the roof as the raindrops slapped the floor. We stood, trapped by the immense deluge, and listened to the thunder echo across the valley, from one mountain to the other. It was incredible to witness and to be honest, we could’ve quite happily waited it out and enjoyed the spectacle if it wasn’t that the rain began to creep down the roof and the curtain falling in front of us slowly edged further and further into the cave…

As we inched our kit further and further into the cave, slowly accepting the fact we were destined for a soaking, we looked up to see two people beckoning us into the hut a mere thirty yards away. This may sound dramatic but to explain how heavy this rain was, that thirty yards drenched us from head to foot. And we were running.

This time we had no such issues and enjoyed a pleasant evening in mild heat and intermittent sunshine. Rosie was a dream and Simon worked Boneyard 7b+ just as he had done all those years before.

A great friend and my daughter, taking by his fantastic wife and with the glorious Tryfan watching over them in the background. Photo credit: Kim Nicholas. Insane expression credit: Simon Rose

Success again wasn’t forthcoming but that didn’t matter – not for me at least. The last time i even saw Simon was at Arlanda airport in Sweden in June 2016 so for me, the trip had been as much about catching up and drinking beer as about any climbing, not to mention revelling in the chance to chat climate change and other politics with Kim. For him, i’m sure he would’ve liked to climb more (so would i, to be honest) but i hope it was nice for him to be back in North Wales again.

There was talk of a plotted return next year. I can’t wait.

Now that our visits are done and life returns to normal, I can turn my attention to the latest plan. I’ve always been poor at training; I know my weaknesses but have typically lacked the discipline to do anything about them. The only times I’ve managed to train have been with a particular project in mind. So the obvious step is to put a project in mind.

But that will have to wait for the next post…

 

Presently Looking to the Future

I wasn’t expecting to post any time soon but when there’s a session like my last one, i’d be foolish not to document it. I keep prattling on about the heatwave of late and i truly got the chance to reap the benefits, at the Cromlech boulders no less. After nearly a ten year wait, the landing under James Pond at the famous roadside boulders was finally dry.

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Finally, after probably about ten years of waiting, James Pond was possible after the longest dry spell I remember meant you didn't need wellies to get to the start… What a session that turned out to be: a 7a flash, a 7b/+ tick and a host of other excellent #bouldering that I'd honestly never done before. I've been waiting a long time for this and save for attack of the midge, might have had just enough left in me for #jamespond sit start too. What's more, you really can't argue with the setting (proximity to the road notwithstanding) – not many places you get to climb under the shadow of #dinascromlech And #dinasmot! #cromlech #cromlechboulders #worldclasswales #snowdonianationalpark #snowdon #northwales #northwalesbouldering #rockclimbing #escalade #escalada #grimpeur #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_lovers #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #meclimbing

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Granted, it’s not really been ten years and i’m sure it’s been dry in that period; it just didn’t happen to fall right for me or i didn’t end up there. Either way though, it is NOT common, being the lowest part of ground following the run off from the Glyderau high above. Now, finally, with a dog free evening and not a huge amount of free time, was my chance.

I took it with open arms and a grateful smile. A repeat of Moose’s Problem 5c/6a and the sit start at 6b+ were a great place to start, being so fun the first time around. After that, The Slopes 6b proved to be significantly better than i’d first thought, before heading into the cave proper.

After all this time, i was a little sad to flash James Pond 7a, although after my send of Cross Fader the other day, it did help to flash another at the same grade. At least it wasn’t soft! Bog Traverse 6b+ also put up little resistance and was excellent, before a first attempt at linking them with Bog Pond 7a+. Shocked by the success, it did mean i could get my teeth into the James Pond sit start either at 7b/+ or a little lower giving 7b+ proper. The former was done on the third attempt, the latter left for another day once the midge descended…

I’m not sure if it was this session, the recent spate of outdoor ticks or seeing my Top Ten Yearly Average creep up yet again, but something has lit a fire under my backside. I’ve never been one for training very well, lacking the mental discipline. Now, it has dawned on me that the only time i’ve been able to knuckle down and train is for a specific problem. So i’ve come up with a plan.

Goal: 8a. With a small ream of A3 paper and a pen – only one colour for a change – i’ve written not only the new list (photo on instagram imminent) but also five steps to achieving the next magic grade. My logbook shows two 7c+ after Love Pie was upgraded in the New Testament and that extra little bit of number has spurred me on. To climb 8a given my track record, experience and past would be good. to do it with two young children would be mighty impressive.

I’ve listed eleven of them to start with; next step is to scout them out and slowly whittle the selection down to one. Watch this space.

In the meantime, despite a dry evening, i’m heading for the Indy. It’s the first time i’ve been since they dismantled and rebuilt the famous central boulder and to be honest, i’m itching to see what it’s like now.

Any time i pass up an outdoor session in favour of an indoor one, i question what the fuck i’m doing but i think sometimes it is a sensible thing to do. This morning it rained solidly for five or siix hours, and it would be worthwhile to go and get 8a advise from some strong boys who’ve actually gone and done it.

Moreover, the Indy isn’t just a local climbing wall, it’s a local hub for boulderers, wads and general climby types and to be honest, i have missed it. Justified or otherwise, sometimes it’s important to forget what you should be doing and just do what you want to. The list of projects will still be there.

With Germany in jeopardy – the trip, i’m sure the country is fine – in could be timely to be thinking of things a little closer to home. I wouldn’t like to say that i’ve never been so close to the departure date while still not being 100% sure we’re even going but i certainly haven’t been in this situation often and definitely am not enjoying it. The Land Rover, which was to be transporting us, is still suffering mechanical problems and is out as an option and Em’s Berlingo isn’t filling me with masses of hope.

Only time will tell if all goes ahead and on schedule. Not a lot of time either: at time of writing, we leave home in about two days.

We have been discussing backup plans and a city break is on the cards, although i mentioned to Em that i’d be loathe to chose somewhere i’d later want to go for a June climbing trip. Nevertheless, the Iceland football team has really inspired me and i’m now itching to go. Perhaps a last minute change is possible but i’d rather collect up some strong lads and head over with a bit of a crew. June would be ideal and from what i’ve read, might be a good time to try.

With the present looking uncertain, perhaps focusing on the future could brighten my spirits. Who knows. I just hope when i look back on this year, wherever we head that there will be just reason for it to be remembered in many years to come.

Link to awesome Iceland bouldering article: here.

Looking Up, Looking Forward

My focus has seemed to shift slightly since my last post. After that great period of send after send, i couldn’t put the other important things off any more and had to do a bit of work on the house.

A fortnight after my Dog Crack success, and after boarding the loft, it was time for a coaching session with my excellent and long term student. After recovering from injury, this was one of our first sessions for quite some time and as such, we headed up to The Barrel.

Without going into the details of the session, it was interesting to get stuck in to some of the other new problems around what was, before the New Testament, a crag i’d pretty much ticked off. Just below the famous Barrel proper lies another, slightly high, boulder that now plays home to half a dozen problems or link ups.

Admittedly there were some that involved trying not to scrape your arse across the floor but overall, these have been worthwhile additions to the area. While i’m not sure they justify a star for each problem, Baby Barrel 6a, Baby Roof 6a and OLD Finish 6a+ should all get a few minutes of anyone’s attention on their way up that way.

Ever since then, my climbing focus has been firmly on our upcoming trip to Germany. Assuming we get there…

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The #heatwave we've been experiencing, coupled with our impending #adventure has reminded me of my last extended stay in #Germany – what became known as the Ill Fated Trip Of 2013. The keen eyed among you will notice in the last picture the bonnet of the Freelander is up as the mechanical problems began. The first one is one of the very few #climbing photos I have of that week, taken on a timer as I was there with only Tess for company on our first #camping trip away. No idea where I was out what I was on. All I know is that we were in the #Frankenjura. It wasn't great. 40 degree heat probably didn't help. The middle photo though is probably one of my favourite #outdoor photos ever. Don't know why but I love the #juxtaposition of the green tree canopy with the brown floor, with the blue adding something extra. It's a simple shot but I like it. #bouldering #boulderingisbetter #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #rockclimbing #grimpeur #escalade #escalada #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram

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Friday gone and i received a text from my better half saying her car was not in fit shape. She called my dad, my expert mechanic consultant, who came to have a look and arranged for it to go into the garage. I’m glad he was at our place, too, as on my way home, the thermometer on the Land Rover hit max, a bad smell appeared and steam rose from the bonnet. After nose-diving into the nearest available space, it was obvious to anyone the radiator had gone, as boiling hot water sprung from the front of the car in a jet.

Long story short, three eggs in the rad didn’t work – it’s not a myth, it can work for small holes – and i was towed home. Friday night is a bad night to break down, and despite ordering the parts that night, it was Wednesday afternoon before the new one finally arrived.

I took two extra days off work (thankful for a quiet weekend) and slowly drove myself nuts at not being able to leave the village. Family time was awesome but there’s something about not being able to do something that puts it at the forefront of your mind.

Step forward the wonderful Mr Dan Webb. Despite spending his whole day in the Ogwen valley and living half an hour away from me, Dan drove over to my house, picked me up and together with Alice from work, we headed out to the boulders. It was significantly better than an hour walk into Pac Man!

With no dog and all of us having had a busy day already, the Cromlech boulders were an obvious choice. Much as i’ve never been that keen on them and think them over-rated, there’s no denying the quantity of problems there and the grade range is huge. What’s more, following this extended hot spell, there was an outside chance some of the soggier landings would’ve dried up slightly.

I was half right and our focal point was the Heel Hook Traverse 6b. With Dan wanting something to get his teeth into and Alice certainly capable, not to mention the ground being less than usually saturated, it was a good choice and almost yielded a send or two. After a rest, i have faith in them both.

We trundled around some of the other boulders, collecting more than a dozen problems for myself, before my colleagues declared themselves done for the day. After having seen the latest edition of Girl Crush (see below) i was eager to try what looked like an awesome climb: Cross Fader given 6c in the film but 7a in the guidebook.

It’s not 7a. Irrespective of using my own abilities to grade, it felt soft for even 6b. Maybe it was just my style – admittedly that is true, it suited me – but the handholds were solid and the footholds were huge! How it has got that grade i’ll never know. It was an easy flash and just to be sure, i repeated it just as easily.

Hopefully it bodes well for Odenwald; the lesser known area in the North West of Germany that i am still clinging to the hope of getting to in a little over a week. I bought the guide back in 2013, with no idea where it actually was, and have now found it is an ideal place to head to en route to the Alps.

I can’t actually find anything about it at all and any online search for “Mannheim bouldering” yields nothing but indoor walls – not exactly what you’d travel several hundred miles for! Still, i was chatting to a customer at work who knew the area and said it was worthwhile. I’m sure i’ve been to worse.

Then it’s south, heading for Garmisch-Partenkirchen. I don’t know much about the area, can find next to no nearby bouldering, but it is a typical climber’s town, famed for it’s Alpine mountains and ice climbing. I can’t wait, and am desperately hoping we can still make it despite our mechanical woes.

Super Cracks and Repeats

The feeling of total disinterest from Em couldn’t dampen my spirits on Tuesday when i announced proudly and loudly to her my latest climbing achievement: my Top Ten Yearly Average grade had finally tipped above 7a.

It was understandable, really – it’s not exactly exciting news! But to me, it showed how my recent spell of outdoor sessions and (more importantly) outdoor sends has improved. Since my last post and the success on Regeneration i’ve managed no less than four days of outdoor bouldering and one lunchtime hit outside on the steps of a fire escape…

The crucial factor has certainly been the weather. The Spring finally arrived and yielded prolonged dry spells, meaning that the forest crags began to dry out and escape from the searing sunshine was possible on the wooded crags of North Wales. First and foremost, the local Brenin boulder was finally dry.

Back at the end of April, one Thursday while walking the dog, i went for a quick lunchtime look and was stunned to find it not only dry but in reasonable nick. I’ve since joked that there are winter lines around here that are in condition more often than the Brenin Boulder and to be honest, even now i don’t think i’m actually wrong; it takes that long to dry.

Downside, it was warm, muggy and humid; so a repeat of either Eat the Meek 7b or Original Traverse 7b weren’t on the cards. What was possible was to retro tick a load of the old stuff, some of the new link ups and to manage every climb there below 7a in a session. Not bad in a quick hour after work before coaching!

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I couldn't believe it when I wandered up here yesterday: the #breninboulder was dry! It's in condition as often as some of the ice routes around here! And yes, I've done all the lines in the old guide, but the new #northwalesbouldering guide has various new link ups (and of course I've got this #noretroticks thing going on) so I was super #stoked to get up there for an hour or two after work but before coaching this evening. Everything under 7a done and a quality play on actual rock with Pete Fagan, who took this sweet photo of me repeating #thehobbit 6c+ on significantly better style than the first time around. Anytime I get to climb is great at the moment, anytime it's outside is even better. Having Pete there was the icing on the cake; always great to have #psyched mates there with you #worldclasswales #northwales #capelcurig #brynengan #snowdonia #bouldering #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #boulderingisbetter #rockclimbing #grimpeur #escalade #escalada #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram

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Ten days later, i was out again. Different day, different forest, same thinking: head into the woods, make the most of it and find the shade. Sadly, motivation was lacking slightly and it took a while to get into the swing of things.

The last time i was at The Shocker area in Beddgelert forest, i think, was back in 2015, not long back from my very successful foray to Magic Wood. I’d been eager to try The Shocker 7b+ again ever since but may have forgotten quite how hard it was.

Back then i was using some printed text from the guide that would not appear for another two years and struggled to find the problems. Armed with the new guide, i found myself looking at the same lines but not finding any further inspiration. Sadly it seems, The Shocker Area may not be for me.

The one line that i did complete back then and thoroughly enjoyed was Houdini 7a and despite some early setbacks – i couldn’t even hang the holds at first – eventually i managed to pull myself both together and off the ground and repeated the one move wonder. I even managed to throw in Derw’s Move at 6c too.

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Didn't realise it had been this long! This was actually last month now, up in the #Beddgelertforest at the shocker area, a 7a called #Houdini. This was actually a repeat, so given the slightly poor landing, the myriad of pine needles on the top and the solitude, I opted to skirt left on the top out, making it a bit safer. I did want to give The Shocker 7b+ a good go but for the life of me, I can't seem to feel the right movement! Given that it was 2015 the last time I was there, think it might fall off the bottom of my list. Shame as I'm sure it's awesome when it goes. #northwales #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #boulderingisbetter #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #rockclimbing #grimpeur #escalade #escalada #climbing #climbing_pictures_of_instagram

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Sadly, though, lacking enough pads to give full confidence and with my head hurting slightly from all the head-scratching, i realised i could not for the life of me figure out the movement on the dyno. Even a video online failed to provide inspiration and i fear i may not be going back for another go.

Any disappointment didn’t last long though, as a week later i found myself with another free evening and finally heading to a crag i’ve been waiting six months to get to: Supercrack.

Deep in the Aberglaslyn pass, hidden in the trees above Aberglaslyn Hall, i’d been to see this crag during a deluge with Em and Rosie and was so taken, it had been my main priority to get back there armed with pads and shoes ever since. But it would’ve been pointless to go when the holds were likely still seeping and this was my first chance to go since then.

Even more surprising on my arrival was that i was not alone; there were a couple already there, enjoying the bank holiday weekend by ticking off the classics of the area. Blessed with two extra pads and the knowledge that two people stood behind and below me, i managed to make the biggest hash of the top out on my way to ticking Supercrack 7a. Without them, i could have seen me backing off.

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After the ignominy of missing half of Friday and Saturday to an unknown illness that resulted in me asleep for 24 hours and not #climbing as originally planned, I managed to get out yesterday evening. After a short heat wave, the chances of #Supercrack finally being dry – after a six month wait – were pretty high and sure enough, there it was, waiting to be climbed. I was half surprised not to be alone, as I was greeted by two very nice and kind climbers here for the bank holiday weekend. Here is @domybridge trying Dog Face 7c while my own dog face looks on on the background. I was incredibly glad they were there too, as I quickly found myself performing the worst and most graceless topout of my life, mere seconds away from beginning to blub that I was terrified and thanking anything I could think of that they were down there behind me. The most striking thing for me, as I continued to try Super Has 7b after they'd left, was how short my sessions are now before I'm too spent to compete properly any more. Still, as I watched my new friend nearly tick the entire crag after recovering from serious injury, I couldn't help but feel how nice it is just to get out and meet other climbers, no matter what we try. 7a or 8a, it's all relative really. #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #northwales #bouldering #boulderingisbetter #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #grimpeur #escalada #escalade #adventure #excitement

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Meanwhile my new friend worked hard but sadly fell one move short of the second ascent of Dogface 7c. Inspired me though! Once they’d departed, i continued to try Super Hans 7b and did almost complete the crux move but quickly ran out of juice.

What has struck me lately is how short my sessions have become; not necessarily by time constraints but i just don’t have the fitness to keep being so relentless any more. Quite simply, i’m lacking the conditioning and somehow i need to get it back.

Still, another week later and yet another free evening, continuing this brilliant run and, of course, it was back to Supercrack. This time with my friend Lewis in tow, i was focused to get back on Super Hans now knowing the beta and fresh. I was also keen for him to get on the namesake problem, as i was sure he would nail it.

I was right. Well, more importantly, Lewis was strong, savvy and more than up to the task. It took him a little while but sure enough, after unlocking the sequence, i watched through the lens of the camera from a distance as he applied a very committing heel hook above his head and, thankfully, topped out with ease.

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Apologies for the poor quality video, I blame the midges – they were, after all, what drove us away! Not before @lil_lewis_climber nailed #Supercrack 7a with the most committing heel hook I've seen in years and inexplicably, I also ticked off the link in from the right, Dog Crack 7b. Shocked as that wasn't the line I wanted to try at all but I couldn't be bothered to keep shuffling the pads under Super Has 7b. Was far too hot for the crux sloper anyway. Then, quickly, on the way home, we stopped at the cromlech boulders and I got Leo's Dyno 7a+ on the second go! Not a bad evening, all told. #worldclasswales #northwales #snowdonia #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #boulderingisbetter #bouldering_pictures_of_instagram #sport #rockclimbing #escalade #escalada #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram

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Not wanting to continually shuffle the pads around, i opted to try the link between Dog Face and Supercrack, a 7b called Dog Crack. First go, barely pull off the floor. By the time Lewis finished his own climb, i had finished my own, thoroughly shocking myself in the process. A second 7b of the year and one surprised but happy climber.

The midge chased us away before either the dark or an imposed curfew on Lewis and despite not feeling the look of Voie Normale by Llyn Dinas, we stopped briefly at the Cromlech Roadside for a quick effort on Leo’s Dyno 7a+. I’d tried it with Alice a few months back and figured i had time for a couple of efforts.

It was all that was needed. Miraculously, i remembered the footholds and for the second time that evening, shocked myself by finding myself suddenly hanging the familiar lip having skipped half the holds on the Edge Problem.

And thus brings us up to date. That top ten mentioned in the first paragraph currently consists of two 7b, one 7a+, four 7a, a 6c+ and the rest at 6c. As long as this good weather holds and my darling better half continues to be happy for me to get out, i can only see that average going one way.

Regeneration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Year: March 2018

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

Some Highlights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Spring/Summer Goals

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

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

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

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

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

2018 Year-long goals

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

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

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

Happy New Year!

 

Spring Forward

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

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

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

The Pit at the Milestone Buttress

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

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

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

Gallt yr Ogof

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

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

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

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

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

Supercrack

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

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

Rhiw Goch

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

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

Clogwyn y Bustach

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

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

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

Pac Man

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

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

Mint Conditions? Or Utterly Baltic?

I had some really good sentences to start this post with but they’ve disappeared from my head. I’m gonna blame the cold, which seems to be infiltrating everything lately, including my sanity, although oddly hasn’t actually stopped me getting out climbing on actual rock! Well, kinda.

This all stems from the fact that, wanting to make the most of her maternity time, Em decided to go visit family and friends for a week, leaving Tess and myself behind to fend for ourselves. I think it was at the point she first mentioned it that i wondered what the weather would be like…

It turned out to, somewhat miraculously, be dry and sunny! The rock was dry and all of a sudden, that Saturday afternoon while at work, i could ponder the best choice of venue and where i really wanted to head.

I was looking for something specific: it was dry but hadn’t been for that long, so somewhere that caught some wind would be ideal to allow it to dry off. Forest crags: out. But, by that token, there was still a winter wind whistling through the valleys so somewhere perched on a high plateau was definitely out.

After a massive amount of deliberation, eventually i opted to head to the Milestone Buttress boulders; an oft forgotten venue with some outstanding climbing.  I’d looked at and dismissed the Pit before, due to landings and encroaching boulders behind the climber but figured it needed another look.

As i drove in, down the Nant Ffrancon valley, it suddenly dawned on me that our chosen venue would be shrouded in shadow. Fuck. Oh well, needs must, how cold can it be? Turns out it was almost bob on freezing.

Pablo – my Spanish sport climbing friend, for reference – and i struggled on, as i ticked Jez’s Arete 6c, jibbering like a fool on the top out and only completing as reversing the climb or jumping off looked worse than the committing moves to finish. Ping 7a also succumbed – a lovely little climb that is thoroughly recommended – and was then repeated a few times (missing the first two hard moves) with winter weight gloves. It was soon evident it was hometime.

The Monday proved much warmer and much sunnier, but the morning was preoccupied visiting my parents. However, that turned out to be much quicker than expected and despite my protestations of a lack of time, the day was just too good to pass up.

Now i’ve recently begun an article about mental preparation leading up to a session and perhaps that had a bearing, being as it was only when i drove down the steep Gwynant valley that i actually decided where i was going. That or i may have just been ridiculously out of practice but the session did not go that well.

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How much does this say about so many places in the #outdoors: a padlocked gate and a broken #stile. This is at the entrance to the #clogwynybustach boulders and was a massive pain trying to get the dog (who managed to squeeze through the gap) and the pads across. Even with access seemingly allowed, it can far too often be very difficult to where you want to go. The sad thing is I don't actually know what to do when I find something like this. #northwales is amazing for the work that's done on maintaining paths in the popular places but there is so much more potential here, so many more little things that could be done and some big and blindingly obvious ways to get people into the area safely. All we can do is keep getting out and keep sharing our adventures. #getout #getactive #woodland #woods #coeden #blackandwhiteisworththefight

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Clogwyn y Bustach, alone but for Tess, Fagin 7a as a warm up before working on Rudder’s Wall 7a+ – an unticked climb for me. It took a couple of efforts to remember and work the first few moves but quickly i found myself at the exit jugs… and totally bottled it. I went to rock over, glanced down, suddenly changed my mind and reversed the move to come back down. “That was weird” i thought and shuffled the pads. Visual inspection of the top didn’t help and i found myself looking for excuses but i knew i had to do this.

Back on, back to the jugs, try and do the (remarkably easy) rock over at the top, bottle it again. “Fuck! what’s going on?!” i couldn’t fathom what was wrong with me!

Eventually, after repeated efforts, i committed to it, got my feet set and hands on good holds and climbed onto the top of the boulder, hyperventilating massively. “Have my trad climbing fears infiltrated my bouldering?!” i thought, worrying my climbing career might actually be regressing. No, come on, this isn’t hard, you’ve done this a hundred thousand times before, suck it up, do it. I got back on the route and finished it again.

There must have been at least five repeats before i began to feel even slightly comfortable again. It’s not a hard top out, not that high, maybe it was being alone? Well, i’m often alone and have had entire weeks in foreign countries alone before! Maybe only having a solitary pad? Again, i can’t rely on being able to carry multiple pads in, especially when the landing was sound. Still, after a few successes, it started to feel normal again. Hopefully, i was just out of practice.

I’m sure i’ve heard somewhere that you can equate three bad experiences to one good one (backed up by an interesting article here from the New York Times) and it certainly makes sense. What it means is that every time you bottle it, or every time you back off, you need to have three good experiences so as not to reinforce that negative experience. The downside in real terms to that is that it takes a lot of time to build those positive thoughts (think Oddball in Kelly’s Heroes) and by the time i start to try Rudder’s Wall i was spent.

It was a sobering session and not exactly one that filled me with joy but i guess an important lesson: time indoors cannot totally replicate time outdoors and if you want to climb hard boulder problems outside, you need to go try boulder problems outside.

So Friday afternoon, following two days at the fascinating Adventure Sports Coaching Conference at Plas y Brenin, which i will talk more about another day, Friday afternoon came and under blue skies, i headed out again. With good conditions and little wind, and as i was coaching in the evening, i opted for an old forgotten venue: Gallt yr Ogof. I’d always been put off before but recently seen some videos of ascents and wanted to go have a look with fresh eyes. Having a topo now helped too.

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

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The path was wet on the walk in, the turds and ruts on the path totally frozen but i persevered anyway, figuring a walk would do Tess some good anyway and was pleasantly shocked to find the routes themselves bone dry! Granted it was cold but it was dry and it’d be fine.

The Ramp 7a/+ Smackhead 7b+ Diamond Eyes 7c Regeneration 7b and even Sway On 8a all looked much better than i’d remembered and very inspiring! They’ll all be on the list for the future but given the situation and temperature, the first priority was GyG Arete 6b+.

It’s a bunched start but my bendy-ness helped and quickly i was off the floor, reaching over the top for a neat little flash when my hands began to slip on the holds. Almost totally numb now, i had to see if i was still clinging on as my hands peddled off the holds and after a few seconds standing there feeling very confused, i jumped off. Looking at my hands i saw they were now actually wet and another inspection showed a complete sheet of ice across the whole of the top of the boulder.

I pondered for a few minutes, repeated the moves a few more times and tried to figure out what to do. Even if i managed the top out, i’d now be alone on a very slippy bloc that while wasn’t that high to climb onto, would still be quite painful to land off after a slip. Working low moves risked missing out on a potential flash (unlikely but possible). Reluctantly, i opted to sack it and go indoors.

Oddly though that didn’t actually feel like a negative experience and while i walked out with my tail between my legs and hands pressed hard into my armpits to thaw, the fact i’d gone and tried made it feel much better. It is worth thinking closely about what constitutes failure.

Later that evening my coaching session was sandwiched by a few burns on the last remaining projects at the indy before the latest reset. Andy Marshall was there and as i stood eating my hard-earned Chinese take away, with Tim explaining we were level pegging on our scores, Andy arrived and with huge glee announced he’d ticked off another problem and i should be demoted a place. It appears we have some healthy competition this year! So it was a sweet feeling to tick off another problem myself by the end of the evening.

Since then i’ve returned to indoor sessions and other than a hugely successful session Wednesday gone – including three 7a, four 7a+, a 7b and a 7b/+ which thrilled and confused me in equal measure – it’s been pretty much back to normal. Snow adorns the hills today but the big lesson i’ve learned: if you want to be able to get out, you gotta start getting out! With one eye on a family font trip in Spring, i think i’ll be checking the forecast.

Shared Parental Leave: Worthwhile?

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

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

First, What Is Shared Parental Leave?

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

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

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

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

The Plan At Six Months

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

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

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

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

Did It Work?

Yes, no and kinda.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What About Time Off With Rosie In General?

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

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

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

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

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