Beachside Bouldering on Anglesey

Delightful cottage with all mod cons, less than five minutes walk from the beach and a short walk from bouldering in a rocky cove.

OK, the advert for the holiday cottage I rented for my family holiday on Anglesey didn’t read like this. Perhaps the ad should have.   It was great being able to do a little bouldering on the beach and an added selling point for staying in that part of Anglesey.

It was actually a happy coincidence that I happened to be staying close to a small bouldering venue. It was only after I’d booked the cottage that I found out about the bouldering at Lon Isallt Bay when I was researching the bouldering on Anglesey on UKClimbing.

Lon Isallt Bay is a small, pretty and sheltered cove on the Holy Island part of Anglesey between Porth Dafarch and Trearddur Bay. Read more

Peak Weekend

What a great weekend of climbing in the Peak District.  I did a selection of varied and interesting climbs, the sun shone (mostly), it wasn’t raining (mostly) and there was enough of a breeze to keep the midges at bay.

Got Giddy – a review of Giddy balms

Giddy produces brilliant balms that manage to pull off the trick of moisturising hands while not weakening calluses.

Giddy Hard Lotion, Balm and Salve.
Giddy Hard Lotion, Balm and Salve.

My son loves opening the mail. It’s probably because there is something intrinsically fun in ripping open envelopes and pulling apart parcels to discover what’s inside. Sometimes he discovers something fun, although mostly he finds a bill for me or yet another request to switch broadband provider.   Recently he enjoyed opening a parcel from North Carolina to find shiny tins of balm from Giddy. Each time we opened up a tin my son would say “that’s lovely!” at the fresh and zinging smell of the balm. Read more

Finding Somewhere New

I really enjoy exploring new climbing venues. They’re not new in the sense that they are untouched (I don’t climb that far off the beaten track). They’re just new to me and that makes them intriguing. That is part of why I enjoyed bouldering at the RAC Boulders in Snowdonia for the first time last weekend. It really felt like a discovery because I’d driven past the RAC Boulders fifty or more times before and never realised they were there.

What I found was that the RAC Boulders are brilliant fun. There’s interesting and varied climbing on a couple of boulders with a good selection of lower to middle grade routes (which suits me). It’s also, conveniently, only a few minutes from the road while being surprisingly quiet and tranquil. Read more

Spring Climbing

My climbing trips this Spring have had cold winds, some bright sun and (thankfully) no rain.  This has given me the chance to really get back into climbing on rock and to do some great climbs.  It feels like I’ve warmed up for the rest of my climbing year.

Exmoor Cold and Pretty

I paid the price for going, but going was worth it.

For days in advance of the trip to Exmoor I had been hoping that the rotten cold I had for two weeks would go away. When it didn’t, I decided to go anyway. I wanted to see Exmoor again and not miss one of my limited opportunities to do walking that was more adventurous than a London pavement.  But I paid the price in aches, snot and coughing. The grottiness was worth it though for the pretty walking through wooded combes, along rocky headlands and over freezing moor.

The Winter Mountaineer

In 2007 I went on a course that gave me the confidence and knowledge I needed to start exploring mountains in winter conditions. Years later, I decided I wanted to advance my skills and learn how to move over more difficult winter terrain. That’s why, last week, I went back to Glenmore Lodge, the Scottish National Outdoor Training Centre, to do a winter mountaineering course.

This course gave me an improved understanding of how to read the mountain environment and so make better judgments on the safest route. I’ve looked at avalanche and weather forecasts in the past before going out in winter, but the instructors gave these more depth and meaning by teaching how they related to the landscape I was going through. They emphasised being attentive and pointed out how to spot clues in the snow conditions under foot and in how the snow changed with the terrain. Read more

My Climbing 2015 in Pictures

Open Handed

Alice coaching me on how to climb using the open hand technique.
Alice coaching me on how to climb using the open hand technique.

Injuries have forced me to examine how I climb and to start thinking about how to change my climbing technique so that I reduce the chance of injury. It was a knee injury that originally got me thinking, but recently problems with my hands have jolted me into really looking at the grips I use. I’ve realised that I rely too much on crimping and that I need to use an open-hand grip more if I want to be minimise hand injuries. However, I’ve been struggling to get this grip right and it was only a coaching session a few weeks ago that helped me understand that using an open-hand grip is about much more than what you do with your hands. Read more

A Cut Above – Arc’teryx Straibo Hoody Review

The Straibo Hoody from Arc’teryx has the style to work well as a casual hoody and the technical features to perform brilliantly as a hoody for bouldering.

Bouldering at Fontainebleau in the Straibo Hoody
Bouldering at Fontainebleau in the Straibo Hoody

When I bought the Straibo Hoody early in 2015, Arc’teryx was selling it as part of their Whiteline collection for skiing and snowboarding. Their sales pitch was that the Straibo Hoody combined “contemporary looks with performance fabrics and design” to provide a jacket that “travels from a day on the mountain to a relaxed evening in town.” In other words, Arc’teryx had crossed an urban-style hoody with a technical, mid-layer fleece to produce something that was practical without looking geeky. Since then Arc’teryx seem to have stepped back a bit from promoting the practical, mountain applications of the Straibo Hoody and are now selling it as part of their 24 lifestyle (i.e. urban) range of clothing. All of this makes me think that Arc’teryx’s marketing department hasn’t realised what the Straibo Hoody really is. It might be good snowboarding wear and it certainly looks pretty good as casual wear around town, but what the Straibo Hoody really excels at is being a bouldering hoody. Read more

A Good Turn? Review of Mammut’s Tec Step Bionic Turn 2 via ferrata set

The Tec Step Bionic Turn 2 is Mammut’s top-end via ferrata set. It’s robust, handles well and has some brilliant features, but a swivel joint that doesn’t swivel enough and a couple of simple design issues mean that it isn’t perfect.

Me climbing the Klettersteig Pfeilspitzwand using the Mammut Tec Step Bionic Turn 2.
Me climbing the Klettersteig Pfeilspitzwand using the Mammut Tec Step Bionic Turn 2.

Two things persuaded me to buy the Tec Step Bionic Turn 2. The first were the strong safety claims made about it by Mammut. The second was the swivel joint designed to eliminate that annoying problem of your lanyards getting twisted during a climb.

Safety

Mammut states that that the Tec Step Bionic Turn 2 “incorporates the most recent findings from safety research” and that:

  • the lanyards are of “an extremely strong and robust construction”;
  • that the shock absorber that has been optimised to “brake falls even more gently and thus better protect the body”;
  • that the maximum impact force of a fall has been reduced; and
  • that it will still safely hold a fall “in the case of a 180 degree misuse” i.e. a fall when only one carabiner is attached to the cable.

Read more

Climbing a Wet Badger

Me climbing Badger Rock in Kentmere in the Lake District.
Me climbing Badger Rock in Kentmere in the Lake District.

Badger Rock is a famous boulder that I’d been eager to climb for years. Its reputation is built on providing great climbing, across a range of grades, in a picturesque, quiet Lake District valley. If that wasn’t enough to make it popular, Badger Rock is also only about ten minutes walk from a car park. I’ve been waiting for a chance to climbing on Badger Rock since I first saw it three years ago when walking the classic Kentmere Horseshoe. Last weekend looked like it might finally be my chance to climb on the Badger, but all of my hopes of climbing rested on it staying dry. Read more

Small and Perfectly Formed – the Klettersteig Knorren

Valerie climbing the Klettersteig Knorren
Valerie climbing the Klettersteig Knorren

The Knorren is a broken mass of yellow, cream, grey and ochre rock that rises out of the side of its parent mountain, the Penken. One side is made up of steep stone faces, pinnacles and buttresses above a field of boulders and bushes. The other side, facing the valley below, is covered in trees and vegetation. A via ferrata (klettersteig in German) ascends the rock faces of the Knorren by alternating between sometimes strenuous vertical climbing and easier traverses. After reaching the summit, this via ferrata traverses and then descends the spiny crest of the Knorren before negotiating a buttress that stands just apart from the main peak. This via ferrata is easily my favourite of the three I climbed in Austria. It is in a wonderful location with amazing rock and climbing that is fun and occasionally surprising. Read more

A Climb in the Woods on the Klettersteig Huterlaner

Me climbing the Klettersteig Huterlaner.
Me climbing the Klettersteig Huterlaner.

I did my first Austrian via ferrata last week, introducing my brother-in-law Nick and his son Ben to climbing with cables. The Klettersteig Huterlaner was a fun and varied climb with some good views down the Zillertal and of the town of Mayrhofen. As it starts only two minutes walk uphill from the base of the valley and is in the woods, it had a different feel to the mountainous via ferrate I’ve done elsewhere. Read more