Last year was a good year, in many ways, but especially in a climbing sense. I’ve loved climbing for as long as I can remember, but 2016 was the year I really started training properly and I made a conscious decision to try harder.
In terms of training, I mixed it up with bouldering, finger boarding, laps on the auto belay and some core workout sessions. The single biggest piece of enlightenment came from bouldering, and I’m saying that as someone who would never call themselves a boulderer! It was the realisation that sometimes you have to try hard, I mean really hard, every last bit of energy you have might need to go into that move and instead of not trying, and letting go, giving it everything and trying might mean you get that route. Outdoors I bouldered Font 7a and indoors 7b and this has really translated to my sport and trad climbing, if you don’t give things a max effort attempt, you’ll never know if you could have got it or not.
The other biggest improvement came on my climbing trip to Spain. A month of climbing with super psyched people (in some amazing places!) really sorted my head out, not being held back by unrealistic thoughts of hurting yourself etc. really frees up your climbing. On that trip I managed to onsight my first 7a, then 7a+ and redpointed my first 7b then 7b+.
On returning to the UK I’ve been super keen to keep riding the wave of psyche so I’ve tried to translate the extra fitness I’ve got from the sport trip and the good mental state from taking loads (I mean loads!) of falls on sport routes. Yesterday I managed to get my first non slate E4, Katana on Holyhead Mountain, which has really got me excited for the climbing possibilities of 2017.
The list on my fridge helps give me some focus, sometimes I find the amount of climbing on offer a bit overwhelming and struggle to know what I want to do. Last year the list was 43 routes long and I only ticked about half of them, but the list provided a bit of structure and my total number of routes was just shy of 200. Highlights included routes like Left Wall E2 5c, The Strand E2 5b, Khubla Khan E4 6b, Heading the Shot 7a+, Quartz Icicle E2 5b and Dale Duro Negro 7b.
This year’s list is going to be hard to complete, I’ve made it quite challenging! But I’ll love every minute of working through it!
I love climbing, obviously, and I love sharing my passion for it with all my clients, none of us should ever stop learning so this year I’ve enrolled on some coaching courses to improve my own delivery so I can really make the most of my clients time with me.
A massive part of the fun hasn’t just been the climbing, but also the amazing places I’ve been and the awesome people I’ve met along the way that have made the last year so brilliant.
Anyone can improve their climbing if they want to, I’ve just been lucky enough to meet the right people to give me the drive and determination to up my game a bit, but if you need any help working towards your own targets, get in touch!
This summer has been awesome!
Work has been top drawer fun and I’ve been enjoying my climbing loads.
Work has mostly been local which is ace because I love North Wales, but I’ve also done a bit in the Peak District and the Wye Valley as well as a two week work trip to Croatia, which I can only just call work. The majority of my work has been teaching / coaching leading and such like, which I really enjoy.
In my down time, training at the wall has dropped off a bit but I’ve been getting plenty done outside including a mega trip to Chamonix in the Alps. In North Wales I’ve ticked some classic routes like Kalahari E3 at Gogarth and loads of other equally brilliant routes.
I’ll make the next blog more interesting, but in the mean time check out our Facebook Page for more regular updates!
My climbing has been going really well lately, I’m loving it and getting some great routes ticked, like El Guide Direct E3 5c in the Pass, The Weaver E2 5b at Tremadog and Quartz Icicle E2 5b at Gogarth. Recently I had a few days work in Swanage…
I spent a really enjoyable three years living in Swanage once upon a time, the climbing there is amazing – steep and juggy but loose and a bit intimidating. I remember my first time climbing there, me and my skinny arms got utterly spanked and it made me think I was the worst climber in the world!
Whilst I was living there I worked my way through most if the climbs that I could, got hit by the odd rock, watched a mate fall in the sea, got dive bombed by various sea birds, tapped a lot of rock to see if it was solid (usually it wasn’t) and was often scared out of my box! By the end of my time there I felt like I’d had my fill of Ruckle climbing and any visit back to Swanage mostly resulted in sport climbing at Winspit or Hedbury. There were a couple of routes that were still on the “to do” list though, one of which was Elysium E1 5b where the crux moves are very “un-Swanage” – being a crack and a crimp rather than the usual brutal roof.
Having spent a winter down the wall I’ve managed to fit in plenty of climbing this year, so I really wanted to tick Elysium. I was down there for the week and managed some after work sport climbs but one evening was definitely going to be a Ruckle trip.
Me and Matt abbed down the free hanging 40m line to warm up on a VS called Heidleberg Creature which is ridiculously steep for the grade, I’m pretty sure it would be HVS anywhere else. I followed Matt up the first pitch and whilst it was easy, it was certainly a fierce reintroduction to Swanage trad! The second pitch was easy again, with the standard loose top out – having done the warm up it had to be time for Elysium.
Abbing down again for the main event I was psyched to finally be getting on it, although I was a little concerned that the very start of the route looked harder than expected, until I realised I was looking at the wrong bit..!
I’m a bit anal when it comes to my climbing kit and racking up with Matt’s kit was a little off putting, it’s all fine but it’s a bit of a motley collection compared to my nice matching rack of stuff.
The start is super steady and after about seven or eight metres you end up on a nice ledge where you can place a couple of good wires in readiness for the crux crack section which had a bonus newly stuck number 3 nut and the slightly dubious peg which I tied off with a sling. The crux involves using a small crimp to exit the crack into the halfway horizontal break, which was super soapy in the still evening air. After crimping hard on it with plenty of chalk on my hand, I was soon past it and traversing the break after placing a monster blue hex at the end of it.
After the crux the route goes through what’s described as a strenuous roof and that passed without any drama, ending in a welcome hands off rest which I milked as I was expecting the next section of small roofs to be a bit cheeky. Thankfully the holds are all good and even high up the rock is surprisingly sound for the Ruckle, the only struggle was the amount of rope drag I had as I hadn’t extended one particular piece of gear under the first roof.
I was super happy to have cruised this route as it had been on the list for so long, it felt like unfinished business.
Bringing Matt up on second was an extra work out, hoofing the ropes through with the drag fighting back, but before long he appeared at the top super happy to have followed it clean, but knackered – the standard Ruckle result!
Next time Billy Pig will be the target, another E1 I never did involving a mega roof which you cut free on…
If you want to learn the skills necessary to lead sea cliff routes or just want a taster of this amazing type of climbing then get in touch and check out the Facebook page to see what work we’ve been up to lately.
The theme tune to The Littlest Hobo starts playing, I love that tune and the lyrics seem to resonate with me, so it’s been the ringtone on my phone for years.
“Er hi! Is that Jez”
“Are you available for some private guiding during the week after the Bank Holiday?”
“Let me check the diary, I am, what have you got in mind?”
“I’d like to get some climbing done, but I’d really like to get a little more familiar with Lliwedd, especially Bilberry Terrace…”
At that moment I had flashbacks to my Mountaineering Instructor training, we did Bilberry Terrace, it was wet, green, involved tricky route finding and is on one of the biggest cliffs in Wales.
“Sounds good! I’m up for that!”
Fast forward a couple of weeks and I meet with Shane who was the man on the other end of the phone, who’d ended up booking three days with me and the focus of day one was to guide Shane up as much rock as possible getting him used to the exposure of climbing and getting used to tying nots, clipping in to belays etc., so we headed to Carreg Wastad on a beautifully sunny day.
Shane had climbed a bit in the past and has lead up to VS, but that was before work and kids put a stop to it for a while, so most of the stuff we covered was just a reminder really. I lead Shane up some cool routes working through the grades – Wrinkle a three pitch V Diff, Crackstone Rib a super classic two pitch Severe, Skylon stepped it up a bit to HS 4b and after that I asked if Shane was still in his comfort zone “well it’s had to get scared on the second isn’t it he replied”, so I took that as a challenge! Next up was Lion, a pretty stiff four pitch VS 4c, Shane had a couple of falls on the crux but battled through and on reaching the top he admitted his comfort zone had definitely been stretched a lot!
On the second day we went to Tryfan Bach looking at lead climbing skills before a quick visit to the slate quarries so we could get some footwork thought going on, ticking Equinox at VS and Solstice at HVS.
Day three was the main event – Bilberry Terrace.
A slightly earlier start was required for this one so we could get parked at the Pen y Pass car park and I think we pretty much got the last space at 0800.
The walk in to Lliwedd is about an hour, it’s pretty easy going until the final scree slope up to the start and we didn’t have too much kit to carry as the weather was once agin brilliant and we only had a small rack of kit fo the route, I took a set of nuts and a few cams, along with the usual few slings and krabs plus a skinny 30m rope. On the walk in we stopped to look at the cliff and guidebook so we could work out the route, this always gets harder the closer you get and I made sure Shane was involved in this as well as it was part of his goal to be able to come back and do it without a guide at some point, the route takes a devious line though some really impressive terrain. The Stevie Ashton scrambling book (jokingly known as the little book of death..) has a really good description for this route, which I was super useful considering this wasn’t a route I had much memory of in terms of route finding.
The start is a steep, tricky rock step so Shane put me on belay for this bit and I placed one runner on the way, a red nut before getting to the first of many direct spike belays. From here you follow the terrace easily enough so we moved together for a little bit until there’s a cheeky corner with a chockstone to thread as a runner, this was the only other bit I pitched during the route and to save faffing with a sling a chucked a gold cam in before reaching a nut belay.
So far so good, we hadn’t got lost yet, the rock was bone dry and although there was plenty of vegetation and some loose rock, it was nowhere near as grim as I remembered! The key now was route finding so we looked at the book regularly and to my surprise were able to follow obvious signs of wear from other people who had prevuoisly adventured this way, in the form of cleaner rock and worn away steps in places. Don’t be fooled though, this is not a polished path like many scrambles and the weather was being extremely kind to us..
Before we knew it we were at the half way point and for virtually every section I went ahead leaving shane attached to a spike belay before finding another spike to belay from, mostly scrambling about 20 metres each time. The route takes in some absolutely fantastic positions and the views to Snowdon, Crib Goch and back East towards England were absolutely breath taking. Shane was loving it all, really soaking up the atmosphere, the only near miss being him dropping his phone which thankfully only went a few metres down on to a ledge!
The rest of the scramble went nice and smoothly and I think I was enjoying it just as much as Shane was, two hours after starting the scramble we were stood on the summit bathed in sunshine. A celebratory handshake and a few photos later it was time to make our way back down, I decided to carry on a bit further on towards Snowdon before heading down a quiet grade one scramble called y Griben so we needed to concentrate a bit longer before reaching the super highway of the Miners Track, which always proves a bit of a slog back to the Pen y Pass.
Shane had wanted to do Bilberry Terrace for about 20 years after someone mentioned it to him all that time ago, so I was really psyched to have been able to help in facilitating this adventure. Lliwedd is a great cliff and you’re guaranteed solitude even though you’re in the shadow of what is apparently the busiest mountain – Snowdon.
If I’m lucky enough to guide anyone up there again I’d take a similar amount of kit, even though I used very little of my rack, in worse conditions I expect I’d place more kit and you never know when you might need to run away! If this has inspired you to go and do Bilberry Terrace take care, it’s a serious place to be and you need to be well versed in roped scrambling, if in doubt seek instruction!
To cap the day off I went climbing after work and ticked Mabinogian E2 5c in the Llanberis Pass.
Check out our courses page (and our Facebook page) and if we can help you achieve any ambitions, just give us a shout!
We’re now into our third year of running these and we’ve just finished another Original Mountain Month, as always it was a great success.
Over the month the four participants got loads of climbing and hillwalking done.
Highlights include a great little mini break camping in Cwm Glas after a traverse of Crib Goch in stunning weather and climbing great routes like Grim Wall Direct (E1 5b) at Tremadog. We got loads of other stuff done too, scrambling over Tryfan, night navving in the Carneddau, staying in the Cwm Dulyn bothy, lead climbing loads of trad and sport on the coast and in the mountains.
At the end of the month they did their SPA training and ML training courses too.
Over the month we had five other highly qualified visiting instructors joining me to give a really good breadth of instructional knowledge and experience.
The next course starts in September and there’s just one space remaining… (for more info click here)
As usual you can see what we’ve been up to lately on our Facebook page