My Climbing 2016 in Pictures

 

Bone and Hound Bouldering

 

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

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

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

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

In his Stride

Valerie climbing JT (V0- 4b) at Robin Hood's Stride.
Valerie climbing JT (V0- 4b) at Robin Hood’s Stride.

I didn’t know how Leo was going to feel about his first camping trip last weekend. He’s not yet two years old and being taken away from his home and routine to spend a long weekend camped in a field at night and bouldering in the day might have been a bit too much for him. My main concern was that he would be nervous of the tent. I wondered how Valerie and I could coax Leo into what might seem to him to be a giant orange monster. Read more

Fontainetoddler

Leo climbing a boulder at Rocher des Potets, Fontainebleau.
Leo climbing a boulder at Rocher des Potets, Fontainebleau.

As first-time parents, Valerie and I have had to work out as we go along how to continue to rock climb while also being Mum and Dad to Leo. Last year we had a fun and successful trip to the legendary bouldering venue of Fontainebleau with a teething baby. This year we went back with an energetic (and teething) toddler. Here’s what we learned the hard way so you don’t have to. Read more

Learning to Climb Smarter

Alice coaching me on how to climb in a more fluid way.
Alice coaching me on how to climb in a more fluid way.

My main priority in my return to rock climbing is to build up my strength and develop my climbing technique in a way that reduces the chance of injuring myself again.  To do this I need to reassess how I climb.   My hope is that if I do this now, I can stop slipping back into any bad habits as well as stop new bad habits developing.  I decided that the best way to do this was to get an expert to assess my climbing and coach me on what to do to improve it.  So, I booked a climbing injury prevention session with Alice Turner, a qualified mountain instructor (MIA) and physiotherapist.  What I learned has really got me thinking about how I can climb in a smarter way by changing some of the fundamentals of how I move. Read more

Mostly Yellow in Fontainebleau

Me climbing problem orange 12 at Buthiers Piscine in the forests of Fontainebleau.
Me climbing problem orange 12 at Buthiers Piscine in the forests of Fontainebleau.

If it were not for bad customer service, I wouldn’t have been bouldering at Fontainebleau this week. On my first trip to Fontainebleau a year ago I tore the meniscus in my right knee while pulling hard on a heel hook. Since surgery on the knee, I’ve been trying to get back into climbing in a way that is slow, gentle and careful enough to avoid injury. Bouldering outside on boulders that often have sloping holds and rounded top-outs wasn’t necessarily what I would have picked as my reintroduction to climbing on real rock. However, I’d really enjoyed bouldering at Fontainebleau and I had a free Channel Tunnel ticket that expired at the end of June. This ticket was by way of apology from Eurotunnel for a four-hour delay to the train taking me to France on that first Fontainebleau trip and for failing to even reply to my initial complaints. That ticket was a good excuse to go. Read more

Back on Plastic

I’ve taken my first steps back into climbing following surgery on my injured knee.  They’re just small steps at my local climbing wall, because I worry that anything else will see me injure myself again or at least slow down my recovery.  My physio was clear about how to not hurt myself – avoid jumping down or falling off from boulder problems until my legs have regained the strength needed to cushion the impact.  The only way to follow that advice was to carefully climb easy problems and down climb everything. Back to plastic

This was limiting and could have been a bit irritating, but I decided the best thing to do was to accept climbing this way and ended by enjoying my session.  It’s sometimes fun to just focus on moving well during a climb and to forget about pushing yourself to climb harder.  I think that I’ve been guilty in the past of getting so caught up in things like the next gear placement, the fall below me, reducing rope drag or how to complete the next move that I just forget to enjoy moving on the rock (or on plastic).  My injury has been frustrating, but it is getting me to think differently and to think more about how I move, how I balance and how I can just relax into climbing.  If I can change my focus in this way then may I can  enjoy the climbing I can do more and build up the fundamentals of good climbing technique so that I can be a better climber in future.  Maybe I can also not get frustrated about how rusty my technique is right now and how much strength I’ve lost. 

My climbing wall session was the start of all this.  I’ve got quite a way to go yet to return to my previous climbing standard, but I’m happy to be back climbing.