Whether it’s due to excess brains or empty space, I have a larger than average head. This makes it hard to find headwear that fits. Anything marked “one size fits all” does not include me in the definition of “all”. This might be only an annoyance if I were not a rock climber. I need a helmet to protect my head from falling rocks, dropped bits of gear, smacking my head into a cliff when falling off and banging my head against overhangs (which is a habit of mine). If a helmet is to protect my head properly, then it has to fit properly. Unfortunately, there is only a small selection of helmets that will fit my big head.
My head is a bit over 62cm in circumference but most climbing helmets on the market only go up to a circumference of 61cm. I don’t think I’m the only climber whose head is bigger than 61cm in circumference and so I have written the following helmet guide for climbers with generous heads. Read more
My self-rescue skills became rusty because I never got into the sort of trouble where they would be needed. That’s definitely a good thing. My self-rescue skills also became rusty because I never practiced them and didn’t get refresher training as often as I should have. That’s definitely a bad thing. The self-rescue course I did at the weekend highlighted for me just how risky it had been leaving it so long to get a refresher. There were so many aspects of the rope work that I had forgotten and other aspects that I wasn’t particularly confident on. The instructors were great at talking me through the steps of a variety of techniques and putting them to use in different scenarios on the rock. I feel more confident about self-rescue now and determined to practice it more often (although, only in pretend situations).
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
Giddy produces brilliant balms that manage to pull off the trick of moisturising hands while not weakening calluses.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.