Working on my Weaknesses

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.

Me climbing the problem Wall End Slab Direct Start (V0 4c) at Stanage Plantation.

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

The End of Winter

A view of the Dragon’s Back ridge from the ruins of Castell Dinas.

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

Rainbows and Waterfalls in Snowdonia

A rainbow above Nant y Geauallt, near Capel Curig.

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

My Climbing 2017 in Pictures

Ice and Waterfalls in the Brecon Beacons

I had a fun weekend of contrasts in the Brecon Beacons, with snow and ice on the tops and waterfalls and rain in the valleys.

1 Day Wet and 1 Day Dry Walking in the Brecon Beacons

 

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

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.

My Climbing 2015 in Pictures

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

Hopeful Climbing

Hoping the rain will stop while belaying at Stanage.
Hoping the rain will stop while belaying at Stanage.

You need a lot of hope if you want to rock climb in the UK. Hope that it won’t rain on your weekend climbing trip. Hope that the rain will stop by the afternoon so that you can go climbing. Hope that the rock will dry out quickly from the last lot of rain because you’ve been sitting in the café far too long. Hope that the rain will hold off until you have finished your climb. Hope that the water slowly trickling down your sleeves as you climb is just a quick shower. Even hope that the patch of lighter cloud you can see in the distance is the “possibly clearing later” that the weather forecast mentioned. You need that hope, particularly if you are a London-based climber like me and every trip to a climbing venue is an investment of time and effort. It’s that hope that gets you in your car to drive to the Peak District or North Wales and it’s what gets you out of your tent when rain is pattering on it first thing in the morning. Read more

My Climbing 2014 in Pictures

’tis the season of competitions

A page from the January 2015 edition of Trail magazine and some tinsel.
A page from the January 2015 edition of Trail magazine and some tinsel.

Christmas is the season for giving. It is also the season for lots of really good competitions for outdoor clothing and equipment. Just as the shops put out their Christmas wears come December, so a range of shops, magazines and forums put on generous competitions for the sorts of goodies that outdoor enthusiasts would love to have in their Christmas stockings. It’s a fairly blatant attempt to boast sales during a peak buying period, but I don’t care, as I like entering competitions so much. Here is my run-down of the competitions I will be entering religiously over the next couple of weeks. Read more

Getting Out in Rab’s MeCo 120 Boxer Shorts

Boxer shorts from Rab made out of 120 weight MeCo fabric.
Boxer shorts from Rab made out of 120 weight MeCo fabric.

There are some items of outdoor gear that you don’t often see reviewed in the outdoor magazines and websites. Jackets, tents, rucksacks, baselayers, softshells, fleeces and boots all get regularly tested and reviewed in detail, but outdoor underwear doesn’t get reviewed much and, if it does, the reviews tend to be a bit cursory. Maybe it’s because it’s a little hard to review briefs, boxer shorts and so on without descriptions getting too graphic or crude and using photos that give the review an adult rating. That’s a bit of a shame because good underwear can make days in the mountains more comfortable. So, to redress the balance and point out the virtues of good mountain undies, this is my review of the Rab’s MeCo 120 Boxer. Just to be clear before we start, there are no photos of me testing this underwear (there’s no telling where they may end up if I post them online), but there might be some graphic details. Read more