Giddy produces brilliant balms that manage to pull off the trick of moisturising hands while not weakening calluses.
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. Continue reading →
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.
The Marsh Boulder and the Frontside Boulder at the RAC Boulders.
Me bouldering on the Marsh Boulder at the RAC Boulders.
Bouldering on the Marsh Boulder at the RAC Boulders.
Me on the problem named Scoops (F4) on the Marsh Boulder at the RAC Boulders.
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. Continue reading →
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.
My first trad lead of 2016 on Recess Crack (VDiff) at Bamford Edge.
Climbing the absolutely brilliant Gargoyle Flake (VS, 4c) at Bamford Edge.
Climbing the boulder problem Big Slab Right (V0+, 5a) on a wonderfully sunny day at Higgar Tor.
Hound Tor and Haytor
Me on the top of the pinnacle on Pinnacle Buttress at Dewerstone (thanks to Peter for the photo).
A busy Spring day at Stanage Popular end.
The BMC Guidebook describes this climb (Mantlepiece RIght, HVD) as a “bit steep and scary.” The scary bit probably comes from how hard it is to get a second piece of gear in, but I finally managed it.
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.
Gnarled and bent trees in Worthy Wood near Porlock.
Walking through Worthy Wood.
An old groyne on Bossington Beach.
Walking towards Bossington Hill along Bossington Beach.
Dead trees sticking out of the march behind Bossington Beach.
The old coast guard lookout at Hurlstone Point on Bossington Hill.
Bossington Beach seen from Hurlstone Point.
Little Rowbarrow (on the left) with Dunkery Beacon in the distance.
Marcus playing his ukulele on top of Dunkery Beacon.
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.
Me in Coire na Ciste on my first day of the course.
Bill the instructor walking across Coire na Ciste.
Descending a ridge above Coire na Ciste at the end of the first day.
Me digging a bucket seat for belaying.
The group walking up Aonach an Nid.
The Anoach Mor ski area.
Bill teaching Sam and Conor movement skills on the slopes of Aonach an Nid.
Bill giving Conor tips on digging a bucket seat.
I never thought I would deliberately stand on a cornice, but here I’m knocking a cornice down so that I can practice descending the edge.
Having kicked a lump of cornice off, I’m now descending the edge while being belayed by Bill.
Bill and Conor walking up Fiacaill Coire an t’Sneachda.
Me practising abseiling off a snow bollard I had made.
Me abseiling down a section of Fiacaill Coire an t’Sneachda.
Me in a bucket seat that I had dug and attached to a buried axe.
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. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
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
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. Continue reading →
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.
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.
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. Continue reading →
A little over half way up the Klettersteig Pfeilspitzwand there is a brass bell hanging from the rock. If you want to ring the bell, then you need to take a detour that traverses the face of the buttress above a sheer drop. There’s a slightly tricky step to negotiate, before you stand on a very small ledge, hang off the cable with one hand and clatter the clanger in the bell with the other. It’s a bit surreal and a bit silly, but fun. Ringing that bell feels like you’re declaring to anyone who can hear that you’ve managed to climb this far.
The Kathedrale overhang at the start of the Klettersteig Pfeilspitzwand.
Valerie climbing the Kathedrale section on the Klettersteig Pfeilspitzwand.
Valerie climbing the Klettersteig Pfeilspitzwand.
Me on the Klettersteig Pfeilspitzwand.
The view of the Zillertal from the Klettersteig Pfeilspitzwand.
Having a brief rest under an overhang on the Klettersteig Pfeilspitzwand.
Me standing by the bell on the Klettersteig Pfeilspitzwand (the bell is just visible behind my lanyards).
Me climbing back along the traverse that leads to the bell on the Klettersteig Pfeilspitzwand.
Valerie climbing the Klettersteig Pfeilspitzwand.
Climbing that far does take quite a lot of effort as the Klettersteig Pfeilspitzwand throws a few challenges at you. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
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. Continue reading →
The crossFIXE range of products is meant to sooth, moisturise and provide maintenance for your skin before and after training. It’s made using all natural, food-grade ingredients by the same people who make the ClimbOn range of skincare products for rock climbers. I was curious to see if the crossFIXE range was as good as ClimbOn and whether it does anything different or better that would encourage me to use it instead of ClimbOn. Continue reading →