Sometimes the day works out better than you expect. The forecast last weekend was for low clouds and showers. That’s certainly how the day started out, but by the time I’d walked up to the edges and tors above the Derwent Valley a low autumn sun had broken through to create one of the best days I’ve had in the Peak District. Read more
Rock climbers are advised to work on their weaknesses in order to get better. The trouble is, since my injury, I’ve had quite a few weaknesses.
A piece of advice that I’ve read in lots of different places is that you should work at getting better at the things you are weak at if you want to become a better rock climber. The thinking behind this is that people tend to avoid the things they’re not very good at. A lack of practice means that you don’t get better at the thing they’re shunning and so continue to avoid it. In rock climbing, you could be avoiding something because you find it’s too physically hard and/or you cannot master the technique. For the first few years after I started climbing my particular weakness was smearing. It felt insecure, unnatural and unsafe. So, I tried to climb routes using as little smearing as possible. This was a bit of a challenge as I was doing a lot of gritstone climbing at the time. However, somewhere along the way I did enough smearing to get the hang of it. It went from being unnerving, to being another useful way of getting up a climb, to being fun. I now really enjoy smearing up a featureless gritstone slab. Read more
It’s been a year since I climbed on real rock and six months since the accident. After lots of physio exercises, surgery and weekly sessions at climbing walls to remind my body how to climb, last weekend I finally got back to climbing outside. It brought a smile to my face and reminded me of why I love to climb.
The accident was stupid. One of those seemingly minor things that have surprisingly big consequences. Read more
Winter was ending by the time I turned up. The weather system nicknamed The Beast from the East by the media had combined with Storm Emma to bring freezing conditions, blizzards and strong winds to the UK. This late season storm had been the last blast of winter. It had been gone a week when I visited the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons, but I could see the remnants of this wild weather. Read more
Forecasts of 45mph winds, with gusts up to 65mph, meant that it didn’t seem like a good idea to climb a mountain in Snowdonia last weekend. So I decided to do some fairly low level walks. On the Saturday I walked from Capel Curig to the pass near Crimpiau, and down to Llyn Crafnant. I then walked around the western shore of the lake, before heading over the ridge to Llyn Geirionydd. From there I walked through the woods back to Capel Curig. Every so often bright sunshine broke through to create more rainbows than I have ever seen on a hike. Read more
Why does the best weather always seem to happen the weekend before I go on a climbing trip? Sunshine, clear skies and low winds bless the destinations of my long-planned climbing trips on the weekends before I try to go climbing. The weather forecasters often refer to “unseasonably good weather” when talking about those weekends, before going on to say “but the weather will change mid-week.” This means that by the time I try to go climbing the weather is rainy, unsettled, changeable or in some other way not really ideal for rock climbing. That preceding weekend feels like a teaser of what might have been. It makes not being able to climb because it’s raining that little bit more annoying.
This is what happened last weekend. A weekend of good weather in the Peak District was followed by an intermittently rainy weekend. After a couple of abortive attempts, Read more
It was a fantastic coincidence. I was due to go on a weekend climbing trip to North Wales and on the Monday before my trip the new North Wales Bouldering guidebook was published. I’d been waiting a long time for this book.
The first edition had been out of print for years and it seemed that only the quick and lucky (and possibly wealthy) could buy a 2nd hand copy. From reading the periodic UKClimbing threads asking when the next edition would be published, I had the tantalising impression that the reason the second edition was still not available was because the author, Simon Panton, just kept finding more and more bouldering delights in North Wales that he could not leave out. Read more
I’ve been climbing at the Roaches many times and never bothered to look at the other climbing venues just next door. The Roaches is just so big and has so much great climbing that I never felt the need. I did some brilliant bouldering there on Saturday, climbing problems I had wanted to do for a while and pushing my grade a little. Unfortunately, the weather forecast for Sunday morning showed that it would begin and end with showers (plus “the chance of thunder”). I therefore looked through my guidebook for a bouldering venue with a very short walk-in so that I could walk-out quickly if need be and I found Newstones. It’s a small series of boulders and little buttresses a few miles from the Roaches. The rock has great friction and some strange veins running through it that I’ve never seen before on gritstone and which made for sharp edges and flakes. This helped make the bouldering interesting, varied and fun. Despite the great climbing and a pleasant location, Max and I had the place to ourselves the whole time we were there.
This weekend showed me that the big climbing venues are brilliant, but that I need to flick through the pages of my guidebooks more.
The Stonghold Climbing Centre has a cool name and describes itself as London’s largest indoor bouldering space. But is it any good?
London’s newest climbing wall is hidden away down a quiet street a few minutes walk from Tottenham Hale station. The Stronghold Climbing Centre is housed in an old warehouse that had previously been home to a charity recycling and reusing domestic furniture and appliances. These workshops have been replaced with a big, open and light climbing space and a range of good facilities. Read more
Giddy Joint, Tendon and Muscle Balm aims to help sooth the pain and tenderness you can get from climbing hard. It’s made with natural ingredients and has a kick of menthol. I’ve been trying it out to see if it keeps my hands in good shape.
The idea is that applying Giddy Joint, Tendon and Muscle Balm relieves pain, stiffness or tenderness in muscles, joints and tendons affected by overuse and/or injury. A combination of natural (and nearly all organic) ingredients is meant to sink into the skin to help sooth and heal. Read more
The woods around Fontainebleau have a reputation as one of the best places in the world to boulder. Thousands of sandstone boulders, with tens of thousands of boulder problems, scattered about a pretty forest that covers some 300 square kilometres. Fontainebleau also has a reputation as being a great place to take kids. That’s a reputation that my wife and I have found to be deserved on our trips over the last few years. It’s been a bit daunting and challenging at times taking a teething baby and then an energetic toddler on climbing trips in a foreign country, but it’s also been fun and taught us things about being parents.
Here are a few of the things we’ve learned about going bouldering in Fontainebleau with a toddler. Read more
I love bouldering at Fontainebleau. There are so many wonderful things about it. All those boulders scattered through a pretty wood. A stunning amount of climbing, in a wide variety of forms and often on boulders that weird, beautiful or both. The different characters of the climbing areas. The feeling of community among the climbers. The inland beaches that make for good landings and nice places to have a picnic. That it’s a giant, wooded playground for kids (more about that in my next post).
Fontainebleau’s not somewhere I get the chance to go very often and I always leave wanting to go back.
UPDATE: 19 May 2019 – I’ve written an expanded blog post about bouldering at Fontainebleau with a toddler that uses my experiences of this and earlier trips.