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 … Read more Bouldering in Fontainebleau with a Toddler
“All the Grindelwald via ferrata are closed.” The woman at the tourist information office said these words in a firm, brisk tone that indicated that she didn’t realise that I would find them disappointing. I knew that there was a risk that the long, cold winter might mean that some mountain routes would still be … Read more A Little Bit of the Eiger – the Rotstock Via Ferrata
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 →
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.
Me trying to climb Easy Groove (V0 4c) on The Grooves boulder at the Roaches. Seconds after this photo was taken my left foot slipped and I flew off the rock.
Climbing Joe’s Portholes (V0+ 5a) on Joe’s Boulder at the Roaches.
Me climbing the fun problem Slab Dancer (V0+ 5a) on the Upper Tier of the Roaches. The problems along here involve stopping and coming back down again before the climb turns from being a boulder problem into a solo rock climb.
The Upper Tier of the Roaches.
Me reaching the top of the Arch (V0+ 5a) problem on Pine Tree Slab on the Lower Tier of the Roaches.
Climbing Easy Slab Right-hand (VB) on the Top Block boulder at Newstones.
This is me trying to work out the best way of getting from the good footholds I’m standing on to the good hand holds at the top. The problem is Nutmeg (V0 4c) on the Hazel Barn boulder at Newstones.
Newstones crag in Staffordshire.
Me climbing Clammy Wall (V0 4c) on the Clammy Hands boulder at Newstones.
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.
Me climbing problem 2 (Second Classe) on the orange circuit at Roche aux Sabots.
The Roche aux Sabots sector in the Trois Pignons area of Fontainebleau forest.
Me getting some chalk while climbing the pocket-filled orange 13 problem at Roche aux Sabots.
Me trying to do the crimping and smearing start of problem 7 on the orange circuit at Roche aux Sabots. This photo was taken by my 3 year old son.
The Canche aux Merciers area of Fontainebleau forest.
Traversing on problem 9 on the yellow circuit at Canche aux Merciers.
Climbing problem number 12 on the yellow circuit at Canche aux Merciers.
A creepy looking boulder in the Canche aux Merciers area of the Fontainebleau forest.
Climbing in the Peak District at this time of year usually means three things for me. Hoping that it won’t be raining so that I can actually climb. Trying to avoid climbing on rock covered in damp, green lichen that it’s easy for my hand or foot to slip off. Plus, climbing at a level that I can manage and enjoy when I either have a cold or am recovering from one.
The rain that had poured down on the Peak District last Friday disappeared by Saturday to leave clear skies and brilliant sunshine. It was great weather for bouldering and I was really pleased that I could try out bouldering at Curbar Edge for the first time. Read more →
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).
Me practising tying off a belay.
A view of Hathersage from Lawrencefield, where I did the first day of the self-rescue course.
Me prussiking up a rope (badly).
Me learning how to do a hoist
Sam abseiling (rappelling) past a knot.
Burbage, where I did the second day of the self-rescue course.
Me abseiling down to check on my climbing partner after having removed myself from the system.