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.
I was at school when I got in to climbing and mountaineering, when I was 16 – 17 my parents very kindly paid for me to go on a couple of courses at Plas y Brenin where I not only learnt loads, but realised the job of being an outdoor instructor actually existed. In my quest for more information about this career I got the Mountaineering Instructor Award and Mountaineering Instructor Certificate handbooks from Mountain Training and they are still somewhere in a box in the attic. Looking through those handbooks, I was hooked on the idea that I could be working on a cliff somewhere teaching climbing, but as a novice climber it seemed like a life time away and I wondered if I would ever be able to get the prerequisite experience.
Fast forward a year and as all my mates were off to uni I went to France to earn the grand sum of £40 a week whilst living in a tent working for an activity company where I ran taster sessions for youngsters going climbing, kayaking, shooting bows and arrows and such like. By that time I had started getting my qualifications, I had done my SPA training and I think my ML training, although may have been the next year – but being a Mountaineering Instructor still seemed very, very far away. In the early years of my outdoor career I met and worked with a few of them and I was always impressed with their experience and knowledge, to a young and impressionable instructor these people seemed almost like gods!
Yesterday, about 16 years after doing my SPA training, I had one of my best days at work ever. Rob Johnson (expeditionguide.com) emailed me last week to ask if I wanted a days work, guiding a client of his up A Dream of White Horses. Errrr, yes! The forecast was great, it looked like it was going to be sunny in the run up to the day (the final pitch can seep a lot so a dry run up is ideal) and then pretty good on the day itself – psyched. When I opened the curtains in the morning I was surprised to see some standard North Wales drizzle and wet roof tops, not quite what I was after. Oh well, no drama it’s always sunny on Anglesey!
I met Simon in the Siabod Cafe, he was excited to be getting out even though I said we may end up having to do something else if Dream was dripping wet, my mate Mike had been over at Wen slab the day before and it had been a bit damp then even in the sun. We decided to go and have a look as either way Gogarth was the best shout with the weather as it was, the drive over was sunny one minute, rain spots the next but it was quite breezy which meant although it was chilly the rock should be drying (I like to stay positive!) Walking in it was much the same, except even more windy… Down on to the promontory Simon was in awe of the crag, if you’ve been you’ll know why, if you haven’t, trust me it’s an impressive slab of rock. The last pitch had some wet patches, but nothing that looked like it would cause us a problem, Dream was on!
Setting up the abseil, I could tell Simon was a little nervous, he hadn’t done a massive amount of sea cliff climbing and Wen Zawn is quite an imposing place, but as much as he may have been a little nervous, he was even more excited! When we were both at the first belay it was time to get tied in and sort the ropes out, which I did as Simon was worried about dropping one in the sea whilst he was getting to grips with the position we were in!
The climb went super smoothly, Simon was following with a great big smile and I was constantly grinning at the thought that this was work, I’d promised Simon he’d see a seal and right on cue one popped up and floated around watching us for a few minutes! Whilst leading the big flake section on our second pitch I said to Simon that if he didn’t enjoy this section he should give up climbing – a few minutes later as he followed up he told me he didn’t need to give up climbing as he was loving it!
Before long we were at the belay by the Concrete Chimney ready to set out on the last pitch. The last pitch looks so improbable, taking in some really steep terrain and while I was happily taking a selfie, Simon was looking at it trying to work out how on earth he was going to follow me through it. As I climbed it, placing lots of gear to protect my second and extending everything to make sure nothing pulled out, I was really enjoying it and shouting back to Simon that he must remember to look around and soak up the atmosphere – it’s a special place. Before long Simon was cruising along it himself on the great holds that just keep coming and coming and through the odd wet bit, then up the final little chimney to join me at the top.
It was absolute pleasure to not only climb an amazing route, but have the privilege of guiding such an enthusiastic client on it.
I never take my work for granted, although I’ve put the effort in to gain my qualifications and to be able to climb something like Dream super comfortably so I can completely concentrate on my clients rather than myself, I still feel super lucky to be doing it. If anyone reading this is at the start of their career, working really hard for not much money – it’s worth it. The higher level qualifications are completely achievable by anyone if they want it enough and in terms of the MIA, it’s just a good excuse to get climbing!
Happy climbing 🙂
You can check out what other stuff we’ve been up to on our Facebook page
Here’s the feedback that Rob very kindly forwarded to me:
It was absolutely awesome. I can’t believe I’ve finally done it, and it lived up to, no it exceeded, expectations. Jez was great. What a really nice guy, very personable and clearly knows his stuff. A fantastic days climbing. Shame I had to leave as would have loved to have climbed more!
Thanks for sorting.
Heading the Shot is a route that I’ve wanted to do for a couple of years, the trouble is it’s hard! It gets given two grades, E5 6b if you don’t pre-place the quickdraws and 7a+ if you do, as although it’s bolted there’s a couple of bits you’d deck out from – they’re pretty spaced. I’d long ago decided that if I was to ever get on the lead, I’d pre-place the ‘draws.
Over the last two years I’ve gone up there three times and worked the moves on a fixed line and every time I felt like I was so far off the mark. The holds are mega thin and the hard moves are sustained – they keep on coming! Although I’ve been training down the wall a lot over the last few months the strength gains don’t really help on a route like this, there’s no big holds to crank on, it’s all about delicate rock overs and balancy climbing on very small holds. What does translate though is the confidence and head game, I’m happy falling off and super confident that my belayer will be concentrating which helps massively. Having never climbed 7a+ before it was always going to be a big challenge.
So yesterday we went up to Serengeti where Heading the Shot is to have a play on a top rope. I abbed down the route placing ‘draws to keep the rope in the right place so we didn’t swing around too much when falling or resting, the holds looked as small as ever! Michelle went first and although she rested a few times got all the moves done. My turn, this is hard, shit. I got all the moves but lowered off pretty despondent about it and with toes in agony from them being crammed into tight Five Ten Whites, pushing onto tiny edge after tiny edge.
Michelle went for the lead getting up to and past the first bolt, there’s a tricky move to get in to a position where you can clip the bolt and her head wasn’t in the right gear so she took a small fall and lowered off. Now I had decided there was no point at all in having a go that day, but had a quick change of heart sensing maybe, just maybe I could do something Michelle couldn’t! Past the first bolt, all steady, up to the second bolt, still good. The next moves make up the crux sequence and I just couldn’t commit, I lowered down, happy to have got on it but still not sure I had it in me.
We made the decision to go back the next day.
Now one advantage I do sometimes have (apart from being lanky!) is if I really want a route I can switch my leading head on enabling me to concentrate and climb far better than when I’m practising on a top rope, and I really wanted this route and knew I could try harder.
Walking back up this morning with Michelle and Oreo, the weather was amazing with wall to wall blue skies and when we got there the slate was warm to the touch. Days like this put all the rain we’ve had to the back of your mind.
Michelle was up first, top roping it one last time before the lead, she got it clean which was great, this meant no more excuses for her about not getting on the lead. I’d decided not to top rope it, there wasn’t any point, I knew the moves and all I needed to do was try harder so after a quick warm up of jogging on the spot and swinging my arms around, I went for it.
Go number one (that tells you what’s coming up!), the climbing was just as hard but I was progressing move after move feeling confident on every one of the small holds. First bolt, second bolt, boom – crux done, clip the third bolt and I’m on to the big holds of the traverse. Arghhh! My foot popped when I really wasn’t expecting it and I was off. I was super pleased to have cruised the crux but so frustrated to have failed after the hard part of the climbing.
Michelle’s go, she has to do the crux differently to me and she peeled off the route coming up to the third bolt making what seems like a really hard move.
Go number two for me, psyched up off I go, second bolt clipped, noooo, foot popped before the crux and I’m dangling again.
Mid fall screen grab!
Michelle’s go number two and she fell off the tenuous move she has to do again after looking super solid up to that point.
Go number three for me. I didn’t want to have to get on this again after this effort so I was ready to give it my absolute all. Up to the crux fairly easily, this is it, awesome I’ve made it on to the good holds of the traverse. DO NOT FALL OFF NOW! I crimped hard and made sure I wasn’t going come off here again, this time I made it in to the finishing groove which still isn’t a push over and was standing on great holds – the kind it’s hard to leave. The fourth bolt was clipped, a fall would be perfectly safe, I just did not want to ruin this attempt so I took my time, stayed calm and stupidly proceeded to climb the top section via a completely different sequence, which luckily worked…
I was super stoked to get this route ticked, it had taken time and effort, afterwards I definitely felt a sense of achievement and a healthy dose of relief to have got it.
Michelle still hasn’t got it, but 100% will next time!
To put it all in to perspective for me, someone came along just after and on-sighted it with relative ease!
Heading the Shot is an awesome route on a great looking slab in the Slate quarries of Llanberis. There’s a brilliant guidebook for the slate by Ground Up and more importantly there’s great cafes nearby.
Check out the Facebook page for more shots etc. of what we’ve been up to lately.
Dark evenings, rubbish weather, and wet rock all mean one thing. Frustration!
To ward off the frustration we have to make the most of what we have available to us and for me at this year that is time. Work is less busy so I have time to run, time to get down to the Beacon climbing wall, time to use my Rock Rings and time to make plans. All of this means that when the weather does relent and show us some dry rock then I can hit the ground running.
Running: I like to run, it gives me a chance to clear my head away from admin and other distractions, I put my headphones in and get some miles under my belt. I think the cardiovascular side of climbing is often neglected, even if it only means the walk ins are easier then it’s got to be worthwhile! In addition to this though it helps burn off some useless fat and in my mind helps me feel fitter and fresher whilst on routes. If running isn’t for you maybe try swimming or cycling.
Climbing Wall: The best way to get more climbing fit is to climb! If you’re climbing at a higher level then specific training regimes are going to be the way forward and you’ll find loads of info to this end on the internet. If however you’re climbing at slightly lower levels then just get the climbing mileage in, don’t forget to concentrate on your climbing technique as well as things like clipping with a straight arm at chest’ish level. Falling off is super important too, this will help you with your head game massively and this directly translates to outdoor climbing – if you’re scared to fall off even when it’s safe to do so, you will not fulfil your potential. Try routes that you might fail on (keep doing plenty that you can do too!) and work hard on them, you’ll soon be crushing them, feeling fitter and stronger.
Get strong and work on your weaknesses!
Rock Rings: Great for snatching a quick hit on at home in front of the TV… Metolius have some great work out routines (click here for their page), but personally I stick to my own sets of pull ups, offset pull ups and a couple of types of knee raises – don’t forget the importance of a strong core, especially on the steep stuff. Mine are hanging off the stairs in the living room meaning I can either get some music on the stereo or watch yet another episode of Big Bang Theory!
Planning: It’s cold, wet and dark outside which makes it hard to stay motivated sometimes. For me my motivation comes from having a few “just out of reach” routes that I’m working on at the wall but more importantly I have a wish list of routes for the upcoming year. I’ve just made my list of routes for next year, a top 40 that I’m aiming for – I usually tick around 150 – 200 routes a year plus what I get done with clients at work.
Although I will climb all over the UK as well as abroad my wish list is North Wales centric
Well that’s my plan for the winter and it’s going well so far, back up to steep 7a+’s at the wall and managing to snatch an E3 on the slate in a brief period of dry weather this week (Goose Creature – E3 6a).
Good luck with your own winter training and even better luck with your goals for 2016, whether that’s your first outdoor lead or on sighting an 8a!
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