Emma Twyford

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My year so far part 1

My Year so far Part 1

Apologies for the delay on writing any blogs this year, my website has been a work in progress so here is an incredibly late blog that will be in two halves.

I wanted to write about the South African trad exchange which now seems like a distant memory from the beginning of the year. For me this has been one of two highlights of an incredibly mixed year for me. I decided to do as much route training as possible before heading but even sneaked in some January sessions at Red Wall, Gogarth. The excitement was building for heading somewhere completely new and meeting the South African team.

The hospitality and friendliness of the South African climber’s was incredible with a huge amount of organisational skills from Julia Wakeling. After skimming over the itinerary and just being psyched to go climbing for 3 weeks I completely underestimated how much we were going to be packing in, I’m also pretty certain their tactic was to wear us out with the walk ins and copious amounts of alcohol.

On arrival, and straight off the plane, myself, Pete and Mikey headed up to the majestic table mountain with Snort (one of the colourful characters of the group). Table mountain towers above Cape Town with some amazing views and impressive exposure I did my first climb of the trip weighing in at a hefty E4 it was great and just the right level after a long flight.

Out to Lunch – 24  (Table Mountain)


Stocking up on the important camping bits

The next morning we got up super early to join the rest of the team at Wolfberg. On the trip over we realised that Snort had left half his climbing kit and I couldn’t find some of my trad rack which I was pretty sure I’d left safely at the climbing wall (eventually got it back). Instead of telling the real story Snort decided to concoct a ridiculous one that involved partying, drinking and orgies in the van. What’s more ridiculous is that everyone believed this story for a couple of days, when Julia brought it up on the way back to Cape Town I couldn’t stop laughing and eventually told her the truth.

Wolfberg Features
Incredible exposure on Wolfgang (22)


Fighting hard on Red Rain (26)


Rest morning pancake scenes
I was too scared but most of the team had a good cool off

To me there are so many fond memories of this trad trip; the great bbq’s, drinking wine and socialising, pancake breakfasts, incredible rock to climb on. For me the highlights include:

Climbing at Tafelberg; even with a 3 hour hike-in carrying water and suffering in the heat this crag stood out for so many reasons. Every climb was five stars, and I had a great day with my climbing partner Jimbo ticking off numerous E4’s and 5’s. The route that stands out for me here is Blue Mountain Direct which was given 25 or E5 put up by Steve Meyers and Tiny, this felt like the biggest sandbag I’ve been on. I had to dig deep and try really hard finding ways to attain the breaks on small holds and placing more cams than I needed to. But the climbing and the exposure  on this route were five stars. To me it was also pretty magical bivvying out under the bright starry sky. I didn’t sleep much but for once I wasn’t complaining.

What a great place to bivvy
Crouching Tiger Hidden Giraffe – 24 (Tafleberg)
Echoes and Shadows – 25 (Tafelberg)



Tafelberg Spaceship

Watching Steve Mclure flash Triple Jeopardy (E8) on Table Mountain, I mean we all know he’s a pretty good climber right!? It was great to see everyone get their silly side out with 80’s style themed get up. Myself, Pete and Steve decided to have a look at triple jeopardy with local heroes Jimbo and Clinton. It was pretty roasting up there and Pete and myself both fell off at varying stages on the crux. Pete gave up but I had a look at the rest of the route. I though it was hard but what is more impressive Steve went first and with some vague information he cruised up this route managing to recover and make the holds look better than they actually were.

Dodgy 80’s attire
Attempting Double Jeopardy – 30 (Table Mountain)


No Longer at Ease, one of the best 25’s on Table Mountain

Climbing with Snort at Yellowwood, although this was a ridiculously early start (got up at 3am) and by about 1 we were baking in the sun and I had blisters on my toes. But climbing here on one of Snort’s first ascents called Fantastic Time felt like a real adventure. The rock quality wasn’t as good but I’m glad I didn’t miss out on going to this incredible place. It was very different to most of the places we climbed at the climbing on each pitch was serious, engaging and enjoyable. I did however disappoint snort by lay backing the bit where I was told the only way to do it would be to jam.

The last part of the trip was at a place called Blouberg with another 5 hour epic walk in and bivvy overnight. I was teamed up with Richard Halsey to climb an E5 called Once in a Blue Moon (aptly named because it had taken Hector a long time to complete the route for the first ascent). To me a lot of this was now type 2 fun, I could barely put my climbing shoes on without them being painful let alone climb in them. The lunch breaks were great but I was apprehensive about climbing the crux pitch when I couldn’t stand on big footholds. I don’t know why and luckily it played into my court but I was actually in less pain standing on small holds which the crux had plenty of, with minimal gear and a couple of hard to reach bolts I found this pretty committing, maybe more like E6. I was pretty terrified of taking a big lob onto small cams but somehow I managed to make up a random sequence of moves to clip the bolt and carry on to safety, much to my relief and the climbers around us. I thought we’d been making good progress on the pitches and topped out just before sunset, but little did I know we still had the maze to come and we hit it just as it went dark. This wasn’t where you wanted to be getting lost, but there were a few of us stuck up there. We were managing to make our way down at a slow rate of progress in a group when Mikey and Garvin found us, as it turns out we weren’t even the last people. Snort was against more rescues as it would be character building to bivvy for the night at the top for anyone else who was stuck. Luckily mikey and a couple of others headed out again to gather up the stragglers. Although this was mostly type 2 fun for me with my feet being in so much pain by this point I learnt some valuable lessons and it is probably one of the days that I still remember clearly and with an element of fondness. Even the descent from blouberg the next day was a bit of a mission with some of us nearly getting very lost. We had various stories from Saffers about 12 hour walks to get to or from the crag.

The grand scale of Blouberg
Cool dude at Blouberg

It was time for some of our hosts to go their separate ways and the rest of us carried on to Waterval Boven.
For me the second half of the trip to Waterval Boven was a bit of an anticlimax, don’t get me wrong it was great fun and the climbing was good but it’s not what I would travel half way across the world for when we have such good sports climbing already in Europe. I will give you my highlights of this part and if you are climbing out there hopefully some of the quality lines that Boven has to offer. The rock has a beautiful orange hue and there are some spectacular features but I feel it is a risk for any climber going here. With stories of people being robbed, held at knife point and Candice giving us her mace spray for the last few days it didn’t feel like a safe town to be in, however if you do visit the couple who run roc n rope are lovely and my recommendation would be to stay up at the beautiful tranquilitas, even though the road up is slightly sketchy the best climbing is up at this accommodation.
Luckily it was only on the penultimate day we had any incidents but it wasn’t very pleasant when Becca got bitten by dogs as we were walking out from the Restaurant crag. It was pretty nerve wracking on the drive in, there are buildings here that used to be accommodation mostly for visiting climbers but they are now abandoned and squatters from a political faction seem to have taken over. When we drove in we pretended we knew this guy to be able to climb there. Ben and Candice had to leave to get to the airport, so when a thunderstorm started brewing myself, Sophie and Becca walked out. As we approached the buildings three dogs started running out barking and baring their teeth, what is strange is that they went round myself and Sophie and started biting Becca who had been the furthest away. Luckily the guys managed to call the dogs off but not before they had done considerable damage. I’m not sure I could’ve remained as calm as Becca did, I’m pretty sure I’d have started crying if it had been me. Luckily the guys on the site were decent enough and one of them walked us to the gate to make sure we were ok, it was the first time this had happened so we decided it wasn’t worth reporting it to the police.

Becca’s War Wounds




Boven highlights:

Urisk the Rustic Brownie – given a grade of 23 the climbing is not a walkover but it is also at an amenable grade. The best bit about this route is that it is in an exceptionally photogenic location right by the waterfall.

Freak On (24) – the first route I did at Waterval Boven and what a cracker it is with some really funky moves near the top of the route.

Lotter’s Desire (27) – this has to be one of the most beautiful pieces of red/orange rock with some intricate climbing. It has a real sting in the tail.

Bikini Red (27) – another stunning line with a sting in the tail.

Snapdragon (29) – Dastardly tricky moves all over the place from start to finish, I found the mid section to be my crux with many of the holds never being quite as good as you would like them to be.

Monster (29) – one mega long pumpfest, make sure your arms are in full working order before you set off on this one. What a beauty!

Jack of all Trades (30) – like its name says you really have to be good at a bit of everything for this route. It starts off pretty steady but gradually gets harder the higher you get until you’re all out fighting not to drop it at the top.


Urisk the Rustic Brownie (23)
Lotter’s Desire (27)

The non climbing highlight of the trip for me was heading to Kruger on Safari for a rest day after climbing at Waterval Boven, it’s something I would definitely recommend to anyone visiting South Africa. I wasn’t sure if we would spot the big five, even if we didn’t it was a great laugh heading there with Ben, Sophie and Becca. I think half the fun is looking for the animals, I don’t think I’ve concentrated on anything for that amount of time in a while. We caught a quick glimpse of a Leopard which was the  most exciting but for me, I love Leopards and if I could be one animal I would like to be a Leopard for their graceful speed and agility. We saw Lion’s from a distance, plenty of Elephant’s, Giraffe’s, Hippoptamus and Zebra’s. I could’ve spent more time there, I think there is something magical about seeing creatures in their natural habitat hunting and exploring.


On my return from South Africa after an incredible trip I was riding a wave of psych; the day after I got off the plane,on a pretty cold March day, Pete robins and I headed to check out Caff’s new route Gravity Wave (E8 6c).
When we first abseiled into the route I had this feeling of being intimidated by the route with no chalk it looked impossible and scary with the sea lapping beneath us. Pete set off along the start, having been on it before with Caff he decided to check the moves out. The start looked tricky with not much gear and there is a bouldery crux in the steepest part of the route. Then  it’s just a case of keeping your pump under control with shallow cam placements.
As Pete put chalk on the route it started to look more possible and I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to attempt a flash of this route. Pete stripped most of the gear except the blind wires that protect the crux (the same kit Caff had in for the first ascent) and the starting gear just before it as they would have been a nightmare to get out.
I set off along the bold starting traverse with some trepidation trying not to think about what would happen if I fell off at this point, breaking it down into baby steps in my head. I thought get to the starting gear and the pre-crux wires first, then if I feel good I should just go for it. I tugged on the wires to make sure they were seated properly and went for it. Surprisingly  I made it through the crux boulder  with help from Pete on the moves and I was soon into the shake out on Chicama. Ok now it was just a case of making it through some big moves on reasonable holds in steep terrain. As I moved along I placed the cams I’d been given, pulling up high to view the placements and wishing I hadn’t as they were all so shallow. all I had to do was keep breathing, stay calm and try not to question if they would hold on a fall. In a certain amount of disbelief I made it to the top and then stripped the same amount of gear for Pete to grab the 4th ascent of Caff’s new route. Did I do it in the best possible style? Absolutely not, I think I could’ve done it in better placing all the gear but I did it in a style that I felt comfortable with and placed as much of the gear as possible. Is it E8 6c? I’m not sure of the grade, some bits felt pretty out there to me and without chalk or beta I think it would’ve felt hard on the crux, but the route suited my style after the crux in that I just had to stay calm and manage any developing pump.

Stripping Gravity Wave post send


Part 2 of my blog to follow soon……….

Featured post

An Eventful Summer

I’ve sat down to write a blog so many times since the end of May and now we are nearly into August. It’s been a busy but fun time for me with lots of coaching and setting work mixed in with some cool trips so I thought I’d write a little about the highlights of the last 2 months.

First up for me was was a 2 week planned trip to Rodellar with Adam Hocking and Tiffany Soithongsuk; Will Sim also came and joined us for most of the trip and Will Hardy for our last couple of days. I think as much as anything with a trip its not all about the climbing it’s who your with and also who you meet that can make or break a trip, this trip turned out to be great and lots of fun was had. Rest days in Rodellar are beautiful too, playing table tennis in the sunshine at Kalandraka or swimming in the gorges, I think the swimming provided the most entertainment for the rest of our group as I am not a water baby and I would usually swim from one side to the other as quickly as possible. For me the best bits of the trip were watching Tiffany flash Toma Castanzo (7a+) on her first day, having previously redpointed 7c this was her first 7a+ flash. Tiffany also did a 7b 2nd go and put in a really good fight on L’any que ve Tambe (7c) at Gran Boveda. Watching Adam climb Acrabita (8a) after breaking his toe before the trip and also watching a new friend Amir also put in an amazing fight to climb Acrabita too for his first ever 8a. My personal highlights were: Acrabita; fourth go (8a), Gracias Fina; onsight (8a), Kings of Metal; third go (8a+), El Sepes; second go (7c+/8a), L’any que ve Tambe; onsight (7c). This time I knew it was going to be a good trip climbing wise; on the first day I climbed Made in Mascun (7c+) which I’d struggled with the previous year due to a bad neck. I also had a look at Geminis (8b+), a striking line in the Gran Boveda which I made good links on quickly. Unfortunately it got too hot and I had to make the tough decision to leave it for another time.

One of many beautiful pools in the gorge at Rodellar
One of many beautiful pools in the gorge at Rodellar
Adam Hocking trying and failing to control the wing on Acrabita
Adam Hocking trying and failing to control the wing on Acrabita
Adam successfully sending Acrabita
Adam successfully sending Acrabita
Tiffany putting her yoga flexibility to good use on L'any que ve Tambe
Tiffany putting her yoga flexibility to good use on L’any que ve Tambe
Me sending Kings of Metal
Me sending Kings of Metal
Trying hard on Geminis
Trying hard on Geminis
A beautiful place to have lunch
A beautiful place to have lunch
The A Team
The A Team


Shortly after Rodellar I was on another plane this time to do some summer Alpine climbing for a Rab photoshoot with Calum Muskett, Adrian Samarra and Ben Winston. I didn’t know what to expect from this trip as I’ve never really climbed on granite and I’ve only put crampons on once before. The first day up on the Cosmiques was a bit of a steep learning curve for me, climbing down the ladder from the station with big drops either side I felt like Bambi on ice. I was completely out of my comfort zone trying things like front pointing on rock, whilst I was scared by the lack of control I had I also absolutely loved it. The trip certainly had its eventful moments with Ben trying his best to mangle his fingers by grabbing the drone on the first day. I learnt that I’m definitely not a winter baby because as soon as the sun went I got cold but I also loved the experience more than I thought I would and it’s something I am keen to go back and do more of. I loved the unforgiving nature of the granite where you have to be climbing technically well, the altitude didn’t affect me which was a nice surprise too and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. We didn’t get to try our objective of the Voie Petit properly which was a little frustrating but the highlights for me were climbing the crux pitch of Linia Blange (7b) on the Chandelle du Tacul and a day at Bionassay with Jude sport climbing. I guess the thing that will stick with me the most from this trip is not so much the climbing but the whole experience, learning some new tricks and whilst Chamonix is incredibly touristy it’s easy to see why; the scenery is truly stunning.

Beautiful 6c arete on the Cosmiques
Beautiful 6c arete on the Cosmiques
Walking in to the Grand Capucin
Walking in to the Grand Capucin
Climbing one of the pitches on Voie Petit
Climbing one of the pitches on Voie Petit
Climbing on the Chandelle du Tacul
Climbing on the Chandelle du Tacul

After the Alps trip I still had unfinished business with Melancholie but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it after 2 weeks of not climbing much. I first tried this route in March and felt like it would go pretty quickly given the less than ideal conditions and my quick progress. However this turned out to not be the case due to continued bad conditions with the odd good one thrown in to taunt me. I could only try the route every now and again due to my busy schedule which was frustrating, I couldn’t just pick and choose the days I wanted to do it and on those free days I sometimes just couldn’t muster the psych that was needed. I had one day before the Alps trip where I went backwards on the route falling just above the boulder crux each time which was my worst attempts on the route bar the odd warm up go falling off the boulder crux. I was getting frustrated as my high point of falling off going into the jugs on Bad Bad Boy was one that I’d attained quickly.  I found on coming back from the Alps I wasn’t any weaker but I was a whole lot fitter and my motivation to do the route was renewed after a change of scenery, I was no longer getting pumped on the route so now it was just down to silly mistakes. On the day I did it I fell off going into the jugs on my first go (at this point Wiz suggested a slightly different foot beta sequence which worked out much better), second go was bad but my third go I made it through to the jugs not pumped – I was in as long as I managed to stay relaxed! For me the end of Bad Bad boy is still hard and I don’t do it by the usual method from the undercuts, instead I roll over with my left hand from the crimp rail which works better for me on consistency. I was so happy to clip the chains on this iconic hard route and to take a breather from redpointing.

The second crux of Melancholie
The second crux of Melancholie
Finally sending Melancholie with a great support team!
Finally sending Melancholie with a great support team!

In this time I also did Ring My Bell (E7 6b) ground up second go after watching Ollie Cain headpoint it to climb his first E7! My first attempt did not go smoothly and I couldn’t seem to get my head in the right place but after falling on to the cam on the crux I felt a bit more settled, I’d got the scary bit out of the way and my first fall on trad of the year. I found the crux hard and even on my second go from the ground I felt like I just about scraped my way through the moves with a different method to Ollie. Even though I was disappointed in myself to not flash the route I was still happy with my ground up style.

Ollie leading a tricky E5 at Cwm Glas Bach
Ollie leading a tricky E5 at Cwm Glas Bach
A fun time at Cwm Glas Bach on the trad with these two jokers!
A fun time at Cwm Glas Bach on the trad with these two jokers!
2015-07-01 14.45.45
Ollie on Ring my Bell

Next up for me was a bit of a planned/unplanned event. I was involved in the FRCC youth Lakes meet. Before I go into this a bit more Caff mentioned a pre-weekend hit on Impact Day something which was on my radar but not at the top of the to do list. This meant leaving at 7:00am from Wales so that we could give it a good go but be back down in time to meet the kids at the Rawhead hut in the evening.

My thoughts on Imapct Day, E8 6c:

I was pretty sleepy on the drive up having thrown everything in the car for 2 weeks on the road starting from now. I parked up in Langdale and realised after about 10 minutes that Caff had already headed up to Pavey (keen youth that he is!). I packed the kit I thought I’d need and started the trudge up the steps to Pavey in the baking heat, I was soon down to shorts and a sports bra. As you reach the top of the walk you hit a nice lake and the first sight of the climbing on Pavey Ark (a beautiful sight), I could also see a small dot above Impact Day so I started moving as quickly as possible. Once we were all sorted and ready to go Caff and I both top roped it a couple of times to check out the moves and gear. I felt like I had a good sequence but was not mega happy about the start. Caff tied on to the sharp end and cruised it in his usual calm style, he made it look as easy as he had done on top rope. Everything was in control and there was no doubt that he wasn’t going to do it. For me I’d had a quick check of the starting sequence again as my only doubts lay in this bit, I think this was due to it being a big move and badly protected at the start but also in Part due to knowing that Hazel had come a cropper on the start of this same route; as Caff put it I wouldn’t have had doubts if it was just the former issue. I spent about 20 minutes at the bottom post Caff’s send deciding on whether or not to pull the ropes, the doubt was niggling at me but at the same time this voice in my head was overriding this telling me that I could do it. In the end the latter voice won and I’d convinced myself that if I walked away without giving it a shot I’d be disappointed with myself. I pulled the rope and the nerves kicked in – was I doing the right thing? Even though I’d climbed the moves easily I don’t take a serious headpoint lightly; I started off nervously placing the first kit then into the “E5” sketch start, a long lock off move saw me through the start and I could breathe again. I was so nervous though I knew I was over gripping because I didn’t want to climb the start again. I laced the break with kit before the crux, I was more pumped than on top rope but I was going to give it my all, my arms started to chicken wing mid crux but I somehow managed to make it through to a crimp rail and the peg to breathe and get a quick shake out. For me the route wasn’t over after the crux and I still found the top moves hard,  I needed to get something back for the top out as I couldn’t do it the same way as Caff, I just about got enough to get the pocket right hand, little crimp left hand, then crimp right hand, big move into a left backhand and kick my right foot up to press it out and top out. I was so relieved I’d done the route and happy to have given it my all and won the battle. We even had time to have a quick celebratory drink before heading off to meet the keen youths for the weekend.

Pavey Ark!
Pavey Ark!


Caff cruising Impact Day!
Caff cruising Impact Day!

The main reason Caff and I were up in the Lakes was to help out with an FRCC Lakes youth meet which Ron Kenyon had done a stellar job of organising and without his efforts this weekend would not have gone ahead. There were 10 kids signed up for the weekend ranging from 12 – 17 years old, what surprised me the most was that 8 out of the 10 were girls which was great to see. I was teamed up with a young girl called Ellie Cox for the weekend and luckily the weather gods were mostly in our favour managing to hit the two Raven Crags over the weekend. Ellie impressed me with her climbing skills and composure on the trad routes we did and by the end of the second day I was happy to pass over the baton to do a multipitch Severe called Original Route, I think it’s important to teach the basics of placing kit and making belays in a non stressful environment and having done a couple of trad routes previously Ellie was pretty solid on her gear placements. The aim of this weekend was to inspire the future generation for trad climbing and I hope we did that and that this event will happen again next year fingers crossed!

Swiss Alps

After the lakes I had a few days setting at Big Rock and White Spider, between my setting dates I crazily decided to head out climbing in Switzerland. My climbing partner for the 5 days (Jonny Baker) had some good ideas lined up and on the drive to our first destination showed me the options. I was psyched for some sunshine and new territory to explore, Switzerland definitely didn’t disappoint on the stunning scenery and 5 days of glorious sunshine. First up we hit the impressive limestone crag Wendenstocke for some multipitch climbing, the plan was to go and try the 13 pitch 7a Patent Ochsner. We didn’t have the earliest of starts arriving at the crag at 2 in the afternoon I wasn’t optimistic that we would get to the top of this adventurous route. Luckily we moved quickly though another couple who were abseiling as we hit pitch 5 thought we were slightly mad. The climbing was beautiful and techy with lots of delicate crimpy moves, for me the hardest pitches felt like the 6b+ at the start and the 6a+ slab at then end with no proper holds, spaced bolts and lots of smearing after 12 pitches of climbing. We made it down just before dark, a perfect start to the trip. I could have spent 5 days here though the walk may have destroyed my knees. The next day we headed to a lovely little sports crag called Simplon Dorf; I was surprised to see how many people were there but this crag had lots of good routes in the mid 7’s. With nice little open handed crimps it suited my style and we ticked off three routes there, a lovely litte 6c+ called Tabu, then a beautiful technical 7a+ called Andre am Bolzen. We moved on to a lovely 7c called Ferdinand Purrligaager that had a bit of everything, I managed to onsight this route which I was pretty happy with and then Jonny pulled a flash out of the bag (I always enjoy watching people fight on a route, something that I am not so good at).  Our plan for the next day was to hop over the border to climb at Cadarese; on the way over I’m pretty sure the guys at the checkpoint were very bored when they pulled us over and were also extremely disappointed when they didn’t find any drugs in the van. Whilst Cadarese isn’t much to look at once you get through the trees the granite crags are pristine with perfect cracks all over the place, I was keen to try and improve my granite crack climbing skills on bolts (safety first). We started of warming up on a lovely 6a then moved onto a crack climb called Hannibal, I decided to try and learn to hand jam so clipped the bolts but still fell back into the comfort of lay backing, whereas Jonny decided to get his head better at trad climbing so cruised it placing kit and found “bomber” hand jams ….. hmmm something tells me I’ve got a long way to go! We then moved up the crag to the mid sector where some nice Austrian guys were trying the most striking line of the sector called C’era una Volta (7b+). After they were finished I decided to give it a go clipping the bolts again, luckily it was more finger locks this time so I managed to fight my way to the top for the onsight in the heat, it was a great full body work out with some pretty smeary footholds on the crux. The last couple of days were more chilled as my knee started to play up on the walk to the Petit Clocher (one for next time) and some bouldering at the Col du Montets, it was nice to chill out and enjoy the stunning scenery again finished off with a lovely quick swim in the lake at Servoz on the way to the airport. I was sad to leave the sunshine and views behind to head back to work but reality has to kick in at some point.

The awesome Wendenstocke!
The awesome Wendenstocke!
Jonny cruising one of the pitches on Patent Oschner.
Jonny cruising one of the pitches on Patent Oschner.
The sun setting on our walk down from Wendenstock.
The sun setting on our walk down from Wendenstock.

Finally, this weekend just gone I was involved in a weekend with 6 kids who won their categories in the Rocfest comp earlier this year. The prize of a weekend with myself and Caff was provided by DMM with Jim Mcormack representing from DMM and Ray Wood filming the weekend. This weekend wouldn’t have been a success without the enthusiasm and organisation from the guys at Rockover (Tom Stewart, Tom LLoyd and Melanie Jackson). We had one day at Robinhood stride/Cratcliffe and one day at Plantation then the Climbing Works when the rain came in. These kids impressed me with their displays of natural talent and lack of fear on the rock, they had limitless energy and there were many red tips by the end of two days. I guess my main thing for them to take away would be to not get too wrapped up in grades and my gold star for the weekend would have to go to & year old Fae who showed no fear and great technique (she reminded me of myself at that age).

The Rocfest/DMM team at Stanage.
The Rocfest/DMM team at Stanage.

Now I have a few weeks at home to catch up with good friends, enjoy the lovely sunny welsh weather (hopefully) and fix my hard worked body.

Working hard testing problems = broken body!
Working hard testing problems = broken body!


Featured post

Kalymnian Sunshine

After a less than successful trip to Spain and a hectic start to the year I decided to have a weeks holiday in Kalymnos with a good friend of mine Katy Piddock for some much needed girl time, sunshine and ice cream. I last went to Kalymnos in 2010 for 3 weeks with Adam Hodgson and had an amazing time onsighting my first 8a. This time didn’t disappoint either, though a week just wasn’t long enough.


Obligatory Telendos sunset picture
Obligatory Telendos sunset picture

Before I went out I hadn’t really trained I’d been busy setting a lot and feeling pretty wiped out, just before we headed out I came down with a stinking cold as did Katy (not good trip juju). Both Katy and I had been messaging each other excited about our up coming holiday as we had both been working hard – equally looking forward to climbing together again as well as doing all the holiday things. We didn’t have any set plans we both just wanted to go climbing.

The first day we arrived it was windy with showers (not the Kalymnos weather we were hoping for, especially after leaving North Wales in a sunny state). We headed to Odyssey with Katy not having done much there, it was cold and we were glad to have warm layers. Warming up was hard work and with stinking colds neither of us were mega psyched but I persevered on. Katy tried Fouska but didn’t get on with the burly moves still feeling a bit baked from the journey. It was sheltered in this bit of the crag and I decided to put the clips in on Gaia (8b) and have a look at the moves. I’d initially been more psyched on heading to Jurassic Cave but heard that bits were wet and it was cold. Gaia is my anti-style being pure power endurance with big moves but they were also cool moves, in giving it a look I surprised myself by piecing together the moves quickly. However doing the moves and linking them together on something like this are very different stories. At the end of the day I had a quick warm down onsighting Alfredo Alfredo (7b+) which was definitely harder work than I anticipated in the freezing cold!

The next day we headed back, it was super windy again but at least it wasn’t raining! When we arrived some people were leaving due to it being on the cusp of dangerously windy! It was interesting climbing in the mega wind on the first sector so we quickly moved on my warm up was less than ideal. I had a quick go on Gaia getting a new high point, it was sunnier but still windy. Some of the Bristol and London crew had arrived bringing some new psych doing a cool route to the right. I had another go on Gaia messing up low down on the start of the crux being too cold but also getting a massive flapper on my middle finger. I didn’t feel it go as it was so cold but it was definitely a deep gusher – gutted! I did some maintenance then taped it with tissue underneath. I had another go getting to my high point again but finding the last hard move before going left super burly.

First flapper on Gaia was a big one!
First flapper on Gaia was a big one!


I had it in my mind that I was capable of doing this route even though it’s my anti style but also being unsure to continue with it due to only having a week. With the new high levels of climbing being performed its easy to forget sometimes that 8b is still really freaking hard.

The next day we had a plan to head up to Spartacus wall, my memories of this sector last time was it being mega busy due to having some classic routes. It was pleasantly surprising to find only one other team at the crag, we did some really cool routes to start with. The best route was a 6c called Les Amazones and for anyone operating at this grade visiting Kalymnos I would recommend climbing this beauty of a route. It was my 3rd day on and after watching a guy do Daniboy second go I decided to have a look at it. I felt pretty baked and didn’t climb well through the start getting my head stuck into the same beta that the guy had used to get out of the steep bit instead of working out my own sequence. Annoyingly I came off but pulled back on and figured out my own sequence which felt much easier. We then chilled out and headed to Grande Grotte to catch up with some of Katy’s friends, after a while I decided I was ready for a second go, this time it went down easily with everything flowing very nicely. It was good to finish on a high before having a rest day and we were both psyched to try and get rid of our stupid colds ready to hit the climbing after a day off.

Kalymnian days off are great when the sun is shining though it was still too cold to laze on the beach or go for a swim. We headed to Fatoliti’s and chilled out on the sofas on the sun with Adam Lincoln, the day seemed to race past chatting the hours away before heading for a delicious ice cream from this lovely Italian couple. A Kalymnos holiday wouldn’t be complete without getting ice cream, honey dough balls and lots of delicious seafood.

Feeling a little more rested and recovered from colds. Katy was feeling a little more refreshed and I was starting to feel a bit better too, the sun was out but still with a little breeze and all was well in the world of Kalymnos. Everyone that we knew or met was ticking off their projects and the vibe was chilled but psyched it was starting to feel like a good holiday, Katy and I were psyched to try and push it a bit more for our last 3 days before home, time was flying fast.

It was back to Odyssey for us and after a slightly better warm up I was back on Gaia whilst Katy was eyeing up the lovely 7b+ Alfredo Alfredo. My first go went well but I got another flapper this time in a more awkward place and had to tape up some more. I’m not a massive fan of using tape but desperate times call for desperate measures. Katy had a good first attempt at Alfredo Alfredo nearly making it through the crux section, a sign that the cold was departing. I had another go at Gaia coming heart wrenchingly close to doing the route, it went so smoothly and I’d done all the hard climbing hitting the pocket by the last clip I was moving up on to the last bad hold just before the chains when I came off in disbelief. I’d felt strong and was climbing well, the only thing I can think that happened was that the tape on my finger rolled when I was in the pocket as I felt like I didn’t have it well, in the back of my mind I almost changed to my front 2 fingers because of this but wanted to use my back 2 as they are usually stronger. It’s the first time I’ve been frustrated in a while thinking I was in and knowing I’d climbed well, I let out a huge scream (sorry to anyone who was at the crag) though I didn’t swear. I had one more go that day but didn’t even make it through the first crux due to it getting really hot and the footholds started to feel slippy, I knew I was just pointlessly shredding skin if I had another go.

Second flapper on Gaia, not so big but more annoying.
Second flapper on Gaia, not so big but more annoying.

Although I didn’t send my route that day it was great to see Katy cruise Alfredo Alfredo on her 2nd go and to be getting back to normal. She climbed it in great style and it was good to see her happy from success.

Like a good friend we headed back to Odyssey the next day for me to have another go at Gaia, this was the last day I was going to have a go. My skin felt terrible I was aching and the cold was still lingering but I knew I could do it. Some words of wisdom on this day were that you have to not desire what you want and I’d sort of had this approach on the route for the trip. No matter if I did it or not I was enjoying the moves on a route that didn’t suit me, I was getting high up so it was all good training out in the sun with good friends having a laugh. With the pressure off I had a first good go and got high but figured out a little subtle beta at the end of the crux moves that made a tricky move slightly easier, in my mind this changed the game and I knew the route would go next go if it remained cool enough. I had a good long rest going through the moves in my head wondering if I would do the route, I knew it was possible but my muscles were tired and my skin was sore.

I pulled on wanting to do the route after all the hard work and being so close the day before but knowing that I would be happy if I could give it my best because that’s all you can do right?

I set off through the easy moves feeling ok knowing if I could get through the first crux moves I was giving myself a fighting chance, boom I was in and onto the next crux getting a little shakeout I was through my redpoint crux again heading leftwards. One more big move to hit a small pocket and I was in, I’d taped well this time and when I hit that pocket I was determined I wasn’t coming off this time. I was so happy when I clipped the chains all that work and fighting hard on a route that didn’t suit me had paid off. I’d fought against my cold and done a hard route within the week we had picking something that I had to dig deep for. All that effort had been worth it and I felt like I was back on track.

Start of the crux on Gaia - Jacob Wrathalia
Start of the crux on Gaia – Jacob Wrathalia
The hardest move for me - Jacob Wrathalia
The hardest move for me – Jacob Wrathalia
Taing the power out - Jacob Wrathalia
Taking the power out – Jacob Wrathalia
Starting the next crux moves - Jacob Wrathalia
Starting the next crux moves – Jacob Wrathalia

This trip highlighted that all I want to do right now is go climbing, push myself and surround myself with good friends, I have to give something my all I can’t split my attention because I have to give 100%.

Katy had a quick look at Sirene (7c) after a quick soak up of the sun getting all the moves together pretty quickly. She had a couple of redpoint goes after putting the draws in and came mega close on the redpoint forgetting some foot sequences near the top after looking very cruisy. I was pretty convinced she could do it if we came back the next day.

I convinced her over the evening that we should go back so we made a plan to do a double hit on our last day heading back to Odyssey then Grande Grotte.

We warmed up then I went up Sirene to change over a couple of draws and give the crux holds a brush. Katy then got on the route cruising the first bit, I had my fingers crossed that this was the go and she absolutely cruised. It was great to watch and an amazing last day send, I was pleased to see Katy do this route in great style and to be fighting fit. We packed up and headed to Grande Grotte so I could have a go at onsighting Priapos (7c). The thing with these sort of lines is the climbing is on massive jugs but you just have to keep on trucking through wild terrain. I really enjoyed the climbing in upside down tufa land it was fun climbing, to finish off the day nicely we had a cheeky ice cream and then headed off to get the ferry back to Kos.

K Piddy post Sirene ice cream celebration.
K Piddy post Sirene ice cream celebration.
Ice cream to celebrate the end of a magical trip.
Ice cream to celebrate the end of a magical trip.

This trip with Katy was so much fun and everyone we met was lovely and psyched!

Bye Bye Kalymnos, what a beautiful view!
Bye Bye Kalymnos, what a beautiful view!

We arrived back into Stanstead at 11:30 and Katy did an amazing job of driving back to Sheffield (we got back at 4am). My head was still on Kalymnos time so at 8:30am I was wide awake! I headed in to see the amazing new clothes line from Rab and have a bit of a better catch up with Gabriel. Watch this space for some exciting news over the coming months!

Then I committed to the drive back popping into DMM to get some stuff for the BMC coaching masterclasses I am currently on the road for.

With this in mind I didn’t want to be a slouch, I went into to Brown’s to visit one of my best friends Charlie who is always psyched! My mind was geared towards going home and sleeping lots but she got me psyched for heading up the pass to Corridors of Power with a small team of Michelle, Dougie and Sorle. After a coffee I was ready to go and chill in the sunshine but on seeing the problem I couldn’t resist trying the problem. It seemed to be one of those that suits the girls better and I came close to doing it quickly but didn’t quite have the beans so will have to head back soon. Then we went to a very busy Pizza and Pint it was one of those nights where it was so good to see many familiar faces and have a good old North Wales catch up.

The next day I headed to LPT with Dougie, I knew this would be my last chance on Melancholie for a while and it was dry. On being down there we found out Oli Grounsell had made the 4th ascent of Megalopa which he was very casual about – congrats to Oli for an absolutely cracking effort! My first effort wasn’t very good and It felt like hard work as it was slightly cold. Second go I made it through the redpoint crux but was unable to feel my fingers and third go I made it to going for the jugs on Bad Bad Boy. I was gutted but pleased at the same time; I’d made two new high points and it was my 5th day on. In my head I know I can do this when fresh as this was the first time all the holds were dry, I had nothing left in the tank at the end of the hard moves but it was so good to be trying hard I loved every minute of it.

My last day in North Wales before being on the road for a while was spent at Gogarth with the legendary Dave Evans doing two classic E3’s in the sunshine by the sea with seals swimming in the water a perfect end to a brief time at home. I may need to reacquaint myself with placing gear well though and being less faffy on the rock, trad head is definitely not in full swing just yet.

Rodellar blog coming soon!

Featured post

Fighting Back

Fooling around striking a pose! - John Bunney
Fooling around striking a pose! – John Bunney

Thank you for the amazing response to my last blog, getting the responses I did really touched me and I hope that everyone out there who is struggling realizes you are not on your own. Life has been a bit hectic but hopefully I will get time at some point to sit down and contact those who messaged me.

After a rocky start to the year I decided to try and get my act together and make this year count in the best possible way. I don’t do self pity for long as it’s easy to get stuck in a pit of doing nothing. My first blog was an insight into the fact that my achievements don’t come easily, this one is to give everyone out there a bit of hope that it is possible to turn those negative feelings around.

For many climbers we want that quick fix but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. Our downtime seems to be pushing ourselves physically and mentally to the limit but how often can we do that? We’re only human so there are times when we are just not going to manage. Sometimes there are other things going on in our lives that are out of our control be it relationship issues, stress at work, moving house, exams – there are so many things. We can’t always switch it on to push ourselves, whilst I’m aware of that because of the high risk when it comes to trad climbing sometimes I’m too hard on myself with sport climbing as I think I can still push myself hard. This was not the case when I headed back to Spain and I found myself getting frustrated that I could cruise 8a+ second go but lack the mental fight for 8b because my head was elsewhere. As the French say C’est La Vie! I came home early from the trip and from there my life crashed a little bit but as the weeks have gone by I feel my head clearing and the psych returning, things have got a little less complicated and it feels great.

Early on in the year I decided to get fit and strong I wanted to do myself proud at Superbloc and give myself a confidence boost. I wasn’t expecting much as my head was still all over the place after a heavy counseling session but I think this allowed me to kick back and relax. The semi finals were brick hard and to qualify for the finals I only needed to get 2 bonuses in 2 attempts; it was hot, sweaty and slopey. I didn’t particularly enjoy semi finals but I’d qualified in joint 6th for finals so it was enough. I’m not a comp bunny and I was terrified about being in the finals but after viewing the problems I knew I could do at least one of them as it was crimpy (my kind of problem) but the other 3 looked hard! I came out having a blast as I knew I could put the pressure on from an early stage; to my surprise I flashed the first problem by doing the sideways jump static, I then also flashed the 2nd problem too which was the one I knew I could do. I gave the other two my best shot and was pleased with how I’d climbed. This landed me in 3rd place to my surprise but gave me the confidence boost I needed, I knew I was in shape and climbing well.

Getting shut down on brick hard problems at Superbloc - Alex Messenger
Getting shut down on brick hard problems at Superbloc – Alex Messenger
Climbing like a trad climber in Superbloc Finals where I finished 3rd! :) - Duncan Bottrill
Climbing like a trad climber in Superbloc Finals where I finished 3rd! 🙂 – Duncan Bottrill

In between the two comps and routesetting I did two boulder problems I’ve always wanted to to do. On the Friday I did Jerry’s Roof (V9) and on the Saturday I did Rock Atrocity (V9) both of which are pretty burly. I was so stoked to do these problems thinking that I would have to step my power game up dramatically to do them but it seems setting is good training for now. More importantly I got to spend some quality time with friends in the fresh air in a stunning location which was all the therapy I needed after a tough few weeks.

A busy cave on the day I sent Rock Atrocity!
A busy cave on the day I sent Rock Atrocity!

I then got a last minute invite to do CWIF for the DMM team. It had been a busy few weeks route setting for me around the country but I was psyched to meet Guntram Jorg and see Alex Megos again and get to know them both a bit better climbing as a team at CWIF. I was happy with how I climbed on the Saturday and qualified in 4th, but the next 12 hours were stupidly busy for me. I had to drive back to Llanberis after qualifiers to do a ladies evening at Llamff (which was a success and I really enjoyed myself) then I drove back to Sheffield and got to bed at 1 a.m. Semi finals came around the next day and I was unsurprisingly knackered, I did not have fun. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry or hide away. I climbed like an idiot, had no power and it took all I had just to get up one of the problems.

Fighting hard on problem 2 of Cwif Semi Finals - Alex Messenger
Fighting hard on problem 2 of Cwif Semi Finals – Alex Messenger
Pissed off with my performance and tired this picture captures that frustration perfectly - Lena Drapella
Pissed off with my performance and tired this picture captures that frustration perfectly – Lena Drapella

I then went off to London routesetting for 4 days, it was possibly the hardest 4 days on the road I’ve had. I felt burnt out and whilst I enjoyed setting I was homesick. I desperately wanted to see my friends and have some climbing therapy. Come Friday evening I was bombing it home and psyched to get out. First go up I hit LPT for two days, I decided to have a look at Melancholie after having a quick look over 3 years ago but deciding that because you need good conditions I needed to live nearby if I wanted to do this route.

I surprised myself by almost doing the big crux move at the start straight away and then linking the higher moves together quickly. The next day I went back in less than ideal conditions again (the shakeout undercuts were still wet!) and came close to doing the route falling off the redpoint crux feeling good, unfortunately my hand pinged off a slightly damp hold so I’m hoping this route will go quickly in better conditions. My active rest day from trying this route was to have my first trad day on the Grochan in Llanberis pass with some good friends including 2 ginger brothers from different mothers. I climbed with Jonny Baker and after team slack start we smashed out 5 routes including an onsight of Cockblock at E5 6b. It was such a grand day out in the sun and I almost didn’t want to ruin it my blowing this route but in such good company I decided to give it a blast. I had all these stories of it’s fierce reputation in my head and I didn’t really trust my initial gear which led to a lot of dithering but somehow as I got more run out on the good gear my head came together. I just need a few more sessions to get back into trad flow but psyched for more days out like this as I find these days hard to beat.

Trad climbing at it's best, hard and with a spicy run out! Cockblock (E5 6b) - James McHaffie
Trad climbing at it’s best, hard and with a spicy run out! Cockblock (E5 6b) – James McHaffie
Getting more run out! - James McHaffie
Getting more run out! – James McHaffie

Another route I have decided to get my teeth stuck in to this year is Bat Route at Malham, I’ve looked at this line longingly for a few years but felt I wasn’t good enough to get on it. This year I decided it felt right to give it a go, I surprised myself by getting all the moves through the roof but the headwall was too wet to climb. I’ve just had my second session on the route and looked at the headwall which didn’t disappoint. What a line! I made some good links on my second go up and was chuffed with the quick progress making good links. I’m psyched to put some time into this route and challenge myself but not quite at the point where I’m ready to put my heart and soul into redpointing just yet.

The cove in all it's glory!
The cove in all it’s glory!

After a couple of days setting at the Boardroom before the easter weekend I had another quick hit to LPT but my shoulders felt destroyed. I had toyed with the idea of going to Malham but couldn’t face the drive after so much time being on the road working. I decided to listen to my body and mind, so I climbed when I felt like it and chilled eating ice cream and sunbathing when I didn’t. This worked out particularly well with plans not being made I had a last minute trip up the pass on Sunday with a strong Bristol team, Alex Haslehurst, Ollie Cain and two of the strong youths from North Wales (Sam and Zed). Last year I had a quick look at an amazing V10 in Llanberis Pass called the Lotus. I had figured out most of the moves but thought it would take a bit of work to do the problem with it being quite burly. Yesterday was my second session – Cailean, Alex and Ben had unlocked some new good beta but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it their way as it looked quite stretched out. In the end I felt like my way had a low success rate so I started giving their way a go. It went from feeling desperate to being possible, there was one move I hadn’t quite done but I decided trying it from the start would be good as I knew if I stuck this one move I could do the rest. It paid off and I was topping out my first V10 in the sunshine with a massive grin. Bouldering doesn’t normally get me psyched in the same way routes do but this one had stuck in my mind and I was psyched to get on the send train!

The Lotus - Alex Haslehurst
The Lotus – Alex Haslehurst
The Lotus - Alex Haslehurst
The Lotus – Alex Haslehurst
The Lotus - Alex Haslehurst
The Lotus – Alex Haslehurst
The Lotus - Alex Haslehurst
The Lotus – Alex Haslehurst

I’ve got trips that I’m psyched for lined up starting with a week in Kalymnos with the lovely Katy Piddock and then Rodellar in May with the strong team of Adam Hocking and Tiffany Soithongsuk! I’m going to be trying new things this year as well which I’m nervous and excited about. I’m looking forward to some fresh challenges and having exciting plans this year. I’m surrounded by amazing people, I’m in the best shape of my life and I have a new place to live. This year is going to be about following the famous Alex Lowe quote that the best climber is the one having fun. My last year of being in my 20’s is going to be fun filled, with good friends and making sure I’m happy.

I hope everyone has success in happiness this year and most importantly have fun!

Lush North Wales Sunset! Not a bad view to have.
Lush North Wales Sunset! Not a bad view to have.
Featured post

This is Me………..

Before I went to Spain I had all these expectations and plans. I had my goals for what I wanted to do but none of them happened due to unforseen circumstances. I was hoping this blog would have all these amazing routes that I’d done but whilst I did some cool routes and was happy with the way I climbed sometimes this blog is about to turn out very different. I was happy to climb Ramadan and Tirabolts both 8a+ 2nd go and to Alzheimers flash Bon Viatage 8a after climbing Tirabolts which is my best climbing day in terms of doing two 8’s in a day but this isn’t really what this blog is about.

I had a hard time sitting down deciding on whether to write this or not and it makes me emotional just writing it but if it inspires just one person to achieve their goals and believe in themselves then I feel like this will have been a success. It’s scary putting myself out there in a vulnerable light knowing that people may judge me differently. This isn’t a blog seeking sympathy it is more me telling a bit of my story.

A couple of days ago my 4 year relationship ended but I don’t blame Alex, I only feel sadness that it has ended. He’s one of those infectious, strong characters who makes you smile and laugh, it’s impossible not to like him because he’s outgoing, disarming and easy to talk to. I on the other hand am completely different, I’m introverted and I don’t like big social groups but I like talking to small groups of people. I’m shy at first but once you get to know me then I’m happy chatting away.

The point of this blog is that I suffer from bad episodes of depression. It mostly affects me in social scenes because I become anxious and then I get down and usually hide away. I’m trying to learn how to control it but that is by no means an easy process, sometimes I’m left feeling helpless and exhausted. But the biggest thing that comes across is the feeling of guilt I have afterwards when I’m ok again, guilt that I’ve been that way in front of friends.       It also affects me in my climbing because as most people know success usually comes from the head as much as the physical aspect. When I don’t achieve my goals I lose my confidence and sometimes it is incredibly difficult to bounce back.  This depression strips me of all my confidence and leaves me feeling incredibly vulnerable and alone.

But I believe I am a strong person who fights it most of the time without realising, I’ve had so much success over the last year and I’ve bounced back from times when I’ve felt rough and ready to give up. Climbing keeps me going most of the time in a way nothing else ever could, I’ve had some incredibly rough times (that I don’t want to delve into) over the last few years that broke my heart and put me in a really dark place but climbing and good friends have always dragged me back out.

I guess I wanted to write this because many people will only see the success I have had but essentially it is only half of me, it doesn’t come easily and I have to work hard to fight myself sometimes and try to keep positive. No one ever sees behind the scenes they only see the outcome.  No one sees that I’ve started to have counselling, no one sees me hit rock bottom and have to start from scratch again to pick up the pieces, no one sees the days when I struggle to find motivation to get out of bed let alone do anything productive. Would I choose to be like this? The answer is definitely not. I wish I didn’t get upset and depressed, I hate how it affects loved ones. I wish I could articulate myself better in times of need instead of shutting out those people who do care, I wish I could come across as normal to everyone instead of awkward and shy. I dislike the moments of doubt in myself that push me back, it feels like I make 2 steps forward and 1 back most of the time. I’m a perfectionist, I have high standards and expectations but when I don’t reach them it does leave me feeling shattered and thinking I’m not good enough.But it does make that success so sweet when it happens and I savour those moments for as long as I possibly can before it takes hold of me again.

I’m so grateful that the climbing scene has so many wonderful people and for the close friendships it has given me particularly in recent times. One thing they have taught me over recent times is that good friends are there through thick and thin but that they also accept you for who you are and in the title of a Clint Eastwood film they will be there through the good, the bad and the ugly times.

I’m still reeling from the beginning of this year and it’s a while since I’ve been depressed for this long a period of time but I’m also ready to take on the challenges of this year and do my best to fight the demons and win the battle. Bring on 2015! 

I hope that everyone out there has a successful year in whatever challenges you face.

2015-01-13 17.01.13

Slacklining in base camp with some new friends.
Slacklining in base camp with some new friends.
Clifford Hakimi on a cool 7c at Margalef
Clifford Hakimi on a cool 7c at Margalef
Attempting Golpe de Gas 8b - one of the times my head beat me.
Attempting Golpe de Gas 8b – one of the times my head beat me.
Casa Mauri - a good place for some down time.
Casa Mauri – a good place for some down time.
Featured post

Facing Fears

With this year’s Women’s climbing symposium nearly upon us and with the hashtag be bold be brave I thought I would write a blog on facing fears. I think all too often it is easy to go down the safe route and go into our comfort zones but those times we push outside of our comfort zones can be some of the most memorable and rewarding.

First up was the DWS competition in Exeter and it was a fantastic event. How does this link in you ask?

When it comes to water I’m not the biggest fan, the thought of going under water scares me a little bit as I feel out of control and I let my mind go into overdrive as to what may be lurking in the water.

Suffice it to say I was more than nervous about doing a comp that involved falling into water. The day before the comp Neil, Michaela and myself headed to Berry Head for some filming with Lukasz and his partner in crime Wojtek. This was a new venue for myself and it was great to sneak in a morning on the rock climbing the classic rainbow bridge. The decision was then made to have a look at Neil’s 8a called Cutlass; the brief dilemma I had was that once I committed to the route my first fall into cold UK water would be inevitable. I got into the start of the crux and was trying to figure a way to do the move but also realizing that cocked up the sequence and a splashdown was imminent. My fall into water was not graceful and the shock of cold water took the breath right out of me, I’m pretty sure my reaction to being the water was to get out as quickly as possible but I’d done it!

The next morning I woke up with no voice and feeling pretty rough as my cold had not fully subsided with Alex saying that I did not have to compete if I wanted to do. In a true sponsored hero way (yeah right) and mostly down to a huge amount of stubbornness I knew I was going to climb no matter how I felt.

I was pleased to top all the semi final routes and took the compulsory jump into the water, which was surprisingly not as cold as the sea the day before. I knew that I was lacking in power on the climbs but I’d managed to scrape my way up them and was hoping for a stamina fest in the final.

Semi Final Route 1 - Jamie Vanstone
Semi Final Route 1 – Jamie Vanstone
Semi Final 2
Scary top out on semi final route 1 (not the best method) – Jamie Vanstone
Semi final route 2, definitely the most fun of the 3 – Jamie Vanstone
Splashdown after topping route 3 – Jamie Vanstone

Coming out to read the final route it looked fairly power endurance based but the climb looked like fun and I was going to give it my all. I was up third from last having tied for first in the semi-finals with Michaela and Sierra. I climbed ok through the start but had used more power than I wanted to, I came to a big kick out onto a volume and tried to lock across to the next hold but hadn’t set up right for it, in true route climber mode I decided to head back for a shake out instead of pushing on through. I think normally this would have worked but my arms were having none of this recovery business and I had no power to kick back across. I hung on for as long as I possibly good but again a splashdown was inevitable. I came off knowing that I could have climbed better which was disappointing but also having enjoyed the freedom of the style of climbing and the routes that had been set.

I watched Sierra and Michaela climb past my high point and was chuffed that Michaela won overall with an impressive display of power. The men’s final was fun to watch after we had climbed and DMM’s own dark horse Liam ‘the hitman’ Halsey stole the show to win! Thanks to the Blokfest team for an amazing set of routes and the Quay team for coming up with this incredible event. I am psyched to compete in this event again next year which is a positive improvement on my attitude towards water.

finals route
Climbing on the final route – Jamie Vanstone
michaela crushing
Michaela crushing the final route – Jamie Vanstone
Liiam hitman Halsey
Liam ‘hitman’ Halsey did DMM proud by winning the men’s comp – Jamie Vanstone

My next big fear was faced a couple of days later on the lovely South West sea cliffs. I seem to have a mental block with E4’s and especially E4 5c’s in particular. I’m not sure why but it may link back to the first E4 I ever tried in the Lakes where I came close to killing myself. It’s definitely the grade I seem to back off the most and the one that I seem to have mental epics with the most recent being Ray of Light on Dun Mingulay.

When we headed to Tintagel the plan was to do Vagabond (E4 5c) and then Il Duce (E5 6b). Alex was keen to lead the main pitch of Il Duce and I was half tempted to give him the lead on Vagabond as well because he has a cooler head for the chossy scenes. On the way down though I decided to stop being a wuss about leading the route and decided to ‘woman up’ and lead the two 5c pitches together and get over my head problem.

I think it is safe to say I was pretty apprehensive but I took the task in hand, this route as it turns out was fairly dangerous with some suspect holds and a dodgy exfoliating peg. As it turns out this route is now considered to be E5 5c! The first 5c pitch was pretty trick at the start with some good cams and I was committed hoping some good gear would appear on the headwall, I was disappointed to find a rusty peg but clipped it as there was no other gear. I continued up at a slow controlled pace with my heart in my mouth for another 8 to10m finding no other gear on the way and reaching the ledge for the belay. I decided to continue up the next 5c pitch with the gear being better but not really trusting the rock and was up and down one tricky section for what felt like ages until I decided to go for it having calculated what I thought was the best method as long as none of the holds broke in my hands! It was just as well I lead it because Alex’s back spasmed out and he only just stayed on the route; I was pretty chuffed to have made a step upwards in my climbing mentally and it was nice to have this confirmed by Alex being impressed with the lead. It’s not often I look to him for approval but it made me feel all fuzzy knowing that he was proud of my lead on this route. Il Duce remained elusive on this trip as time had run out but it is one we are both keen to go back and climb at some point in the future.

Heavily Laden Motorbike
Tom Bunn with a heavily laden motorbike after climbing at Tintagel

The next day we head to the more solid Pentire head; it’s hard not to be inspired by such striking lines and we decided to head up Eroica (E4 6a) as the last one on Alex’s list at that crag. I lead the first pitch which was fun but slightly greasy as Alex was intent on leading the crux pitch. It’s pretty fierce from the start with one small wire to stop you from falling onto the belay as the pegs are now rusty and disintegrated. Alex went up and down a few times trying to figure out the crux move which he normally would have cruised but due to his back and potentially fractured foot from doing silly boy things (skateboarding) he backed of which took me by surprise. This was a new experience for it to be all on me to get us out of there as I made Alex lead all 4 pitches on Ray of Light at Dun Mingulay whilst I cried my eyes out the whole way up it.

I was nervous setting off and went up and down a few times too trying to figure out a good method until I finally decided I’d got the best sequence and just had to go for it which paid off.

I know they are not the hardest routes I have ever done but I had to face some demons to get to the top of both of these routes and I think I finally beat them.

No Hands Alex
Alex finding a no hands rest on the first pitch of Eroica E4 6a
pentire sunset
Beautiful sunset view after climbing Eroica

I wanted to finish off this blog with a link to James Mchaffie’s blog about Neil Mawson’s new route. I feel it is relevant in that  from Caff’s blog you can see the amount of drive Neil had to do the route but also in relation to my coaching session this weekend he had to do a lot of brain training to achieve this impressive send. I’m hoping for any ladies attending our session that these different mental aspects will make this achievement all the more amazing. There are so many extra elements in climbing that we tend to forget about apart from seeing a hard route sent and I think Caff’s blog touches on some of these behind the scenes extras. So here it is:

To finish it all off I hope these picture beneath provide some laughs; this is what happens when you take a group of boys to restaurants with napkins, especially when Alex is involved! Any captions welcome 😉

The two Alex's
Alex eyeing up the other Alex’s napkin boobs ‘Alex H I do rather like the look of yours, Alex B yes I am rather proud of them’
Liam looking very pleased with himself
Yan and Joby
Yann looking pleased that he finally made some napkin boobs and Joby looking confused at what to do with them
Jim adn Wiz
Jim trying to make his seem bigger than Wiz’s
Featured post

Late Bloomer

I’ve had a hard time sitting down to write a blog this year, I’ve written many and deleted them all due to sounding like I was feeling sorry for myself. I started off the year training well but picked up an inhibiting neck injury which prevented me from pushing myself on the rock, I found this very frustrating when Alex and I headed to Rodellar as there were a number of days I couldn’t climb, luckily it’s a stunning place to be and Alex tried to teach me how to juggle, we played frisbee and generally chilled out and had a holiday.

When I got back to the UK I decided to visit an Osteopath called Belinda Rae who has been absolutely amazing and is helping me get past my niggles, however I have also been doing my best to hinder her by having car crashes!

I also had one of my worst climbing experiences ever when I headed to Pabbay and Mingulay; it was no one else’s doing but my own. The group I headed out with were amazing and the location was idyllic but my head was just not in the right place for climbing and it was crazy how much it affected my climbing. I seconded Alex up an E4 5c on Mingualy called Ray of Light (which should have been an enjoyable experience, albeit the traverse pitch was slightly wet), needless to say I think I cried my way up most of the route on second and didn’t enjoy the climbing. At the time I was embarrassed and felt incredibly down about the whole experience.  I didn’t have many positive feelings to take away from the last few months.

Over the last couple of months I have realised more than ever that whilst it is important to have a good group of people to climb with the only person that can make a change is yourself. So I set about doing this in every aspect of my life as well as climbing; the change in attitude made a big difference almost immediately. I was having fun climbing again but without pushing myself hard unless I wanted to or felt ready to. This culminated in a flash of Yukan 2 E6/7 6b at Nesscliff, this route is so good and I’d love to do more at Nesscliff. I found this route really suited my style in that it was quite technical but you could also slip off at any point. The most inspiring part of the day was watching Alex Mason fight his way up this route second go with some incredible power screams; it made me feel like I wasn’t trying hard enough and I wanted to be giving it my all on a route.

Yukan 2 Beautiful sandstone line - Ollie Cain
Yukan 2 Beautiful sandstone line – Ollie Cain

A few weeks later I headed up to the Lakes with Caff getting prepared to be scared on some classic sandbag routes. One route he’d suggested for the start of the trip was an E7 on Dove Crag in the Lakes called Dusk til Dawn – nothing like a gentle warm up into the week.

I was keen to head back to Dove Crag as the last time I had been there was 11/12 years ago with Caff; at the time I had found this crag incredibly pumpy and intimidating with some steep trad climbing. I also got sandbagged by Caff telling me that the walk in was only 20 minutes, this time I was more prepared for the hour to hour and a half walk in.

Dove Crag a nice 20 min walk in right??
Dove Crag a nice 20 min walk in right??

We warmed up on a tasty E5 6b called Outside Edge and then Caff decided to ‘man up’ for the main event. Dusk til Dawn starts up another E7 called Bucket Dynasty (this route used to be given E6) which is known to be pretty fierce in its own right, this was proven to be true when Caff did not breeze up the start. It’s one of the few times I have seen Caff pumped and he made the decision to just do Bucket Dynasty first time up which was a fine onsight effort in its own right. I was keen but also apprehensive to try and flash this route placing the gear, I’d just seen Caff struggle and get pumped so I was there thinking that I could maybe do the route but if Caff had got pumped was I good enough to do the route?

The start did not go smoothly and I was up and down a couple of times before committing to the crux due to the fall being a bit more spicy than I would have liked but when I did commit it all came together, a moment of being in the zone until my leg started to shake placing the gear. One more move and I would be on jugs and into safe gear haven, but then it gets hard again. A little sting in the tail of this route which was burly almost saw me off, I don’t really know how I stayed on but I was fighting hard and enjoying that feeling of wanting to do a route badly. I was psyched to say the least when I got to the top of this route and for me that was the day done, for Caff he decided to have a look again at doing Dusk til Dawn now he knew the start of the route and with usual Caff prowess he dispatched another E7 onsight.

Psyching up for Bucket Dynasty with a nervous look - Caff
Psyching up for Bucket Dynasty with a nervous look – Caff


Caff cruising the stunning line of Dusk til Dawn.
Caff cruising the stunning line of Dusk til Dawn.

The rest of the week was a blast with a one day hit to Malham in the blazing sunshine and a first visit to Scafell. The hike up wasn’t as bad as I was expecting and we climbed a classic E3 called Nazgul in the evening to top off the day. The next morning we were up at 6 (thanks Caff) to go and climb the mega E4 Lost Horizons and have a look at another E7 called Borderline. I think Lost Horizons has to be one of the most stunning pitches of E4 6b climbing that I have ever done, the  gear is good and the climbing is sustained. Like an idiot I did try to make it into 6c climbing by exiting onto the arete too early and nearly coming off as everything was slopey and out of balance, luckily I managed to reverse it just in time and decided to go the 6b way.

Lost Horizons an immaculate line on one of the best mountain crags - Caff
Lost Horizons an immaculate line on one of the best mountain crags – Caff

It was time for borderline and Caff set off up first getting to the crux placing the gear and trying to figure out the sequence which wasn’t chalked or obvious, in the end he climbed back down and passed the ropes to me. I was still on a high from earlier in the week so I thought I’d have a look, I got to the crux but was having the same problem as Caff in that the sun kept peeking out. I unlocked a sequence but couldn’t quite get into the good crimp which was extremely frustrating so in the end I backed off and climbed back down. It was Caff’s turn again but this time he had my new sequence for the crux (I think that means I get half the credit) and he made it through only to fall higher up – close but no cigar. He worked out the higher moves he’d come off and then came back down to have a rest. Second time up he got it but still had to work hard, unfortunately I let him down on second by not being able to do the crux but also feeling satisfied that I’d made the right decision on lead. Maybe it was due to being tired by this point or maybe I needed to figure out a better sequence for myself in the end I had to be lowered off as I had swung into the midair of no mans land with this route being deceptively steep. With the climbing done we walked back down with my Dad and headed to Langdale for the fun Raven’s Pit event that had been organised by Claire Carter which involved some good Cumbrian Tales, a local band, good food and a bit too much wine plus walking into a fence.


Lakeland legends photo caption anyone? - Dom Bush
Lakeland legends photo caption anyone? – Dom Bush

The next morning the hangover had definitely kicked in and there were a few people milling about looking less than fresh. My parents had rocked up so I tried to put on a bright smile and failed miserably. The walk up to Pavey was gruelling and whilst Caff chilled out I climbed a classic E1 called Capella with my Dad and another guy. The hangover and other mishaps put paid to our plan of climbing Sixpence but as far as trips go this is one of the best I have ever had.



I know this is the part of my blog that most people will jump to and I’ve found it hard to write down my thoughts about the route as it has finally sunk in that I climbed it. This year it was one of my main goals to retry this route and get it done if I was good enough. I quickly realised that this would be achievable if I put my mind and some time to it but my visits were still pretty sporadic until the week I did it.

A week before I did the route I made it through the crux for the first time from the ground since I’d started trying it, this was a big mental breakthrough for me as I found the crux really hard. Not only did I make it through once I then made it through another two times but was falling high on the headwall due to having focused my attention on the crux and I was getting overexcited. I decided to head back up as soon as I could whilst everything was still fresh, on the Sunday morning I didn’t want to get out of bed. It was raining outside and everyone else was all snuggled up cosy and warm. I dragged myself up and got in my van to drive to Malham in the pouring rain; it took an immense amount of psych to persevere on, at Chester I almost called it quits and turned back. The rubbish weather did take the pressure off, after arriving and warming up I thought I had nothing to lose by giving it my best shot. I was psyched up and ready to go after seeing Toby put in an impressive first effort of the day getting high on the groove. I tied on not sure if this would be the go but hoping that I would get through the crux again to give myself a fighting chance.

I didn’t climb the start very well (at least not in my mind) but it was good enough to feel fresh once I hit the start of the crux. It’s funny when your redpointing because something that initially felt desperate and impossible becomes easy and you climb almost in a trance, the crux now felt easy on redpoint and I was through again this time determined not to mess up on the headwall. The move I had to fight the most on was hitting the pockets, I wasn’t really pumped but my fingers were starting to get a bit cold so I had to throw a bit more than I would have liked to. It was important to me to have to dig deep and really commit as too often I give up due to it not being perfect. Once I was in the pockets I knew I could do the route but I also had to stay focused as in true Malham style everything is still pretty sketchy. When I clipped the chains I couldn’t believe I’d done the route; after pouring my heart and soul into trying it I was so happy to have done the route but a slightly masochistic part of me was also going to miss trying the route.

I’m not going to give the route a grade, to me it felt like the hardest thing I have ever been on and done, I don’t hold the experience to pass comment on something that is subjective at best. I had to work hard to figure out the moves and do this route, the crux for me had to be nothing less than perfect due to the burly nature and being spanned out between the holds. Whilst it felt easy on redpoint I have to remind myself of the amount of work it took me to do the route and how the moves initially felt, I didn’t get the crux moves figured out the first time I went up the route and it was only through hard work, stubborness and determination that I won the battle with this route but I enjoyed every minute of the process this year.

Early attempt in 2011 - Toby Dunn
Early attempt in 2011 – Toby Dunn


Trying the crux moves - Ray Wood
Trying the crux moves – Ray Wood


A very happy face after doing the route - Toby Dunn
A very happy face after doing the route – Toby Dunn

As is always the case its onto the next project now and time to start planning some trips. I’m psyched to see how far I can push myself but also to have some fun. I would like to thank Rab for taking me on as one of their new athletes and also give a shout out to some friends (Will and Becky) for giving me some cosy Bob Hats – if you haven’t got one then order one now to keep your head snuggly and warm in the winter.

I hope everyone has had a fun summer on the crags and my next blog will be coming soon on DWS and facing fears.

Featured post

A Little Bit of Bolt Clipping

My main focus this year has been trad climbing for various reasons; I thought it would be a better focus as I wasn’t really feeling the love for a year of training hard and having projects. I think most people will agree that this has been one of the best years to date to get out on the mountain crags.

However Alex and I had planned a two week trip to Ceuse in August and a few mates were mentioning a possible trip to Spain in the dreary winter months. I was going to write about Ceuse a while back but other events took hold and it seemed silly to then write about it. I wouldn’t say that either trip stood out as being the hardest climbs I have ever done but I flashed some good routes and got a chance to climb at two areas I have never been to. I’m hoping the next few years will bring more trips abroad for longer periods of time.

You can’t go to Ceuse and not be impressed unless you are a humbug! It stands out proud atop a hill – an hour long walk in that gets you incredibly fit. The first day up I was gasping for breath near the top but by the end of the two weeks the walk in was actually enjoyable, especially with some psych music going. I had fun trying lots of routes with a 3 go rule and I had a play on a couple of harder things for next time.

It was hard not to have a good trip; with good company (you know who you are), nice wine and some lovely days chilling in between with delicious ice creams. Although the run outs are notorious in Ceuse some of them were fun but some of them were definitely scary – even coming from a trad climber!

Highlights of this trip included:

Dietetic Line 7b – onsight

Super Mickey 7b – flash

Vagabond 7c – flash

Priviliege du Serpent 7c+  – 2nd go and Mirage 7c+ – 2nd go both in the same day

L’ami Caouette – 3rd redpoint

Looking at the next moves - Alex Haslehurst
Looking at the next moves – Alex Haslehurst
Trying hard but no success - Alex Haslehurst
Trying hard but no success – Alex Haslehurst
One for next time - Alex Haslehurst
One for next time – Alex Haslehurst
A very enjoyable route - Alex Haslehurst
A very enjoyable route – Alex Haslehurst
Happy after smashing in L'ami Caouette - Alex Haslehurst
Happy after smashing in L’ami Caouette – Alex Haslehurst
Lucinda Whittaker smashing in a 7a post pregnancy; pretty inspiring - Alex Haslehurst
Lucinda Whittaker smashing in a 7a post pregnancy; pretty inspiring – Alex Haslehurst
Rob doing what he does best; being special - Alex Haslehurst
Rob doing what he does best; being special – Alex Haslehurst
Alex Haslehurst self portrait - never leave pictures on the camera that you may not want to appear publicly ;)
Alex Haslehurst self portrait – never leave pictures on the camera that you may not want to appear publicly 😉

For Spain I wasn’t sure whether to go onsighting or find a project and I think this meant that I found it hard to find motivation. I came away from the end of this trip with mixed emotions. I felt like I had climbed well on routes I did but I also felt like I hadn’t really pushed myself.

I would love to go back and I particularly enjoyed Tres Ponts and Oliana. Again with Oliana it is a world class crag with plenty of hard routes to go at. I had a play on one of the never ending 50m routes and was pleasantly surprised to get all the moves first go up. I had a couple of goes but was falling off due to mega cold hands, I am keen to head back though to give this route another go but a bit of winter training is definitely needed first!!

Spain has a ridiculous amount of world class crags with mega long routes, it’s hard not to be impressed and also a little intimidated by some of the crags and numerous strong people climbing at the crags. The interesting thing about some of the crags we went to is that the hard routes felt about right but the easy routes felt absolutely desperate – some of the 6b’s felt as hard as the 7b’s!!

Highlights of this trip included:

El Segre 8a – half flash/half onsight

Orient 7c/+ – flash and Energia Positiva 7c+ – flash  both in the same day

Ke Bo Ke Sta El Pa Africa  7c – flash

Dave Evans cruising Ke Bo Ke Sta El Pa Africa at Collegats
Dave Evans cruising Ke Bo Ke Sta El Pa Africa at Collegats
Cute cat psyching up to jump at the ranch
Cute cat psyching up to jump at the ranch

Anyway I’m now back from my trip and I may squeeze the odd day in outdoors (I already managed a couple) but my head is definitely leaning towards indoor training mode as I suffer from bad circulation – ice block hands and feet! 😦

I hope everyone enjoys the winter season and has a very nice Xmas and New Year 🙂

Finally as this will probably be my last blog for this year thanks to DMM, Mountain Hardwear and Five Ten for their support with kit to help me climb and keep warm!

Featured post

Rare Lichen E9 6c

Here are my thoughts on the last few days, its all been a bit crazy and I think it may be starting to sink in.

I’m going to start with this time last year as I feel it is relevant; I was in a pretty bad place for various reasons and not psyched for climbing. It took me a long time to get back into training mode and so for this reason and also because the weather was amazing I decided to go trad climbing more and see if I could push myself.   As the trad season wore on I became more and more confident. I’m pretty good at listening to my gut and I’m not ashamed to back off things when it doesn’t feel right for me.   I achieved some personal goals and did some cool routes I have always wanted to do, I also fell off trad routes for the first time in a long time. I fell off on a flash attempt of a route called Kaya E6/7 6b and I also fell off Strawberries E7 6b. Whilst I’m not saying falling off stuff is cool I learnt a bit more about myself – yes I get scared; I’d have to be pretty mental not to but I can control my head and still go for it.

If I was younger would I have this same appreciation of the seriousness of some routes?

My answer is I think not; the way things have panned out makes me who I am – I am very measured in what I do. One thing I learnt growing up on trad is that your not really supposed to fall off so I tried my best not to. I veered away from climbing at 18 when I got glandular fever but when I came back to it I got more stuck into sport climbing. Now I live in North Wales I try to find a balance in my climbing between bouldering, sport and trad.

So back to the route, I had looked at Chicama earlier in the year when Hazel tried it (I definitely want to go back and do it but the weather stays better on the coast). Then I had a look at Trauma E8 up on Dinas Mot, it was a hot day and the moves felt pretty spanned but maybe I will have another look on a cooler day as it would be a good challenge. Finally Calum suggested going up to Gribbin Facet to have a look at Rare Lichen whilst he had a look at another route. It was a hot evening in one of the best summer’s we have had and neither of us were psyched on prospective lead attempts. I was happy with most of the route except the crux of changing sides on the arete, I wasn’t sure whether this was due to the heat or not.

Over the next few weeks I couldn’t stop thinking about Rare Lichen and the cool arete line it takes, I knew I was hooked and when that happens there is only one thing to do and that is lay the ghost to rest.   I went back with Alex to see if I could top rope the route clean and refine my sequences in cooler conditions. Both of these things were a success and I top roped the route clean twice but for some reason my fingers were achy and my body was tired after.

I decided not to lead it that day but I came away happy knowing I could do it, the next few days I was working and then we headed to Ceuse – I could potentially have done an evening hit but saw no point in being pushy, I wanted to do the route when I felt ready.  Unfortunately when I got back UK weather was on form and it was raining! 😦

So the day I felt ready came, the weather forecast looked after working the weekend and I was hoping a couple of nice days might have made the route less slippy from it being a wee bit lichenous!    When I woke up I was dismayed to see it looking overcast, I spoke to Ray and we decided to have a chilled start and head out at midday.  I can’t stress enough how amazing Ray and Llyr were whilst filming because they put no pressure on me to do the route that day.

First time up on top rope to remind myself of the moves I did it clean but the holds were moist and greasy – so far not great! I brushed and chalked them thoroughly and it was pretty frustrating to have to brush the holds each time I used them. If I didn’t a black layer of grease stayed on the holds which definitely wasn’t ideal given the seriousness of the route.  I gave it one more top rope and did a dry run placing the gear, after doing that my gut instinct on the day was to have the gear pre-placed.   This was confirmed moments later by some atmospheric fog rolling in and over the rock!  So to get the boring bit over with, I did the route first time up on lead and I was mega chuffed.

Now to answer the questions that will surely come with the critics – should I have to do this? Probably not but there are definitely plenty of cynical people out there.  To my friends who know me they have supported my choice on what I did.

So first question:

Why did I pre-place the gear?

This is by far the most serious route I have done to date and maybe in future I will try to place the gear but I will always go with my gut instinct. I could place the gear ok on the first crux but I was having to place it blind, and on the top crux I could just about place the lower piece of kit from the rest but I could not place the higher bit of the kit in the same mini crack without climbing into the crux. I’m pretty sure both Cal and Caff placed the gear from the rest. So my dilemma was do I place some of the gear? Immediate answer was there is no point in going half and half.  In addition to this the rock was not in ideal condition and I wanted to give the gear placements the best possible chance of holding if my foot popped or my hand greased off on the sketchy small holds.  The friends at the start become pretty redundant after the first couple of moves, then you have to make a committing scary moves to reach the next gear.

The next gear that protects probably the crux of the route is a size 0 brass offset (rated to 2kn) and a size 1 brass offset (rated to 4kn).  After that on the top crux I had in a size 2 brass offset and a ball nut.  All in all I’m glad I didn’t test out the gear placements, whilst I didn’t place them there are still some serious committing moves above some mega small kit and the consequences if I fell off could potentially have been bad.  At the end of the day I’m not trying to hide how I did the route.

Should I have saved it for better conditions to place the gear?

Maybe, but the weather in the UK is pretty unpredictable and this may have been my last chance this year!  I was in control and felt there were a couple of points I could shout for a rope if the fog and low lying cloud had made the rock feel terrible again.

Do I get the E9 tick?

Who knows. At the end of the day grades are pretty subjective, headpointing a trad route and redpointing a sport route makes the technical difficulty start to feel easier but on trad there is still the head game. If I’d fallen off I may have seriously hurt myslef; but I may not have I didn’t fall off so I don’t know what could have happened.  I felt like I couldn’t fall off for most of the route and I certainly didn’t want to blow the top bit and have to climb the bottom of the route again.

Hopefully this satisfies people’s curiosity.

Thanks to Mountain Hardwear, DMM and Five Ten for their continued support with amazing kit!

Finally a big thanks to Alex Haslehurst for coming out and supporting me. Plus Ray and LLyr for being super chilled. Also huge respect to Leo for putting such a cool line up in the Ogwen!

Pretty overcast walk - Alex Haslehurst
Pretty overcast walk – Alex Haslehurst
Beautiful cloud inversion: not so good for climbing - Alex Haslehurst
Beautiful cloud inversion: not so good for climbing – Alex Haslehurst
Alex getting me to pull a scared face just before setting off - Alex Haslehurst
Alex getting me to pull a scared face just before setting off – Alex Haslehurst
Crux scary bit of Rare Lichen - copyright Ray Wood
Crux scary bit of Rare Lichen – copyright Ray Wood
Post ascent celebration - Alex Haslehurst
Post ascent celebration – Alex Haslehurst
Featured post

The Fine Line Between Success and Failure

After my last blog I have quite a bit to write about.

Starting with the week of awesome weather we had a couple of weeks ago! I had such a brilliant week doing things I have wanted to do for ages.

I started by trying my project at the orme but it was too hot, I thought I would be tactical and leave my draws in for later on in the week.

The next day I was setting routes in the Beacon but by the end of it I was tired and my back was spasming, (route setting is definitely not a rest day!) this did not bode well for the next day as I had agreed to go bouldering in the pass at Jerry’s roof with some of the girls. I was anxious that I would not be able to climb but still keen to head out and support Jemma and Sophie in their attempts on Bus Stop after work. We all warmed up on the Cromlech boulders, it wasn’t a great start for me but I felt a bit more loose than earlier on in the day so decided to have a bash at Bus Stop too. My first go on the flash attempt went pretty well but my foot slipped out of a very irritating heel hook – this happened quite a few times. Jemma and Sophie were also cruising through the start but decided to look at the finish (we had decided to finish up Jerry’s having been told it was nicer) but I decided ignorance was bliss and hoped that if I got there I wouldn’t fall off.On my last go of the day with skin wearing thin having pretty much gone through on one finger I fought my way through to the Jerry’s finish regretting not having checked it out and desperately not wanting to blow it. For once I was lucky and I managed to push through to the finishing jug. I was a very happy lady to do this v8+/9 in a session as it is very burly plus there was a bit of blood on my thin skinned finger after the attempt so it as just in the nick of time!

Sending Bus Stop V8+/9 - Sophie Wilmes
Sending Bus Stop V8+/9
– Sophie Wilmes
Sore Skin After a few attempts, done just in time!
Sore Skin After a few attempts, done just in time!

On the Thursday I went to the Orme again to try my project. I thought it would be perfect with the afternoon low tide. Unfortunately there was no breeze which made it hot and humid. I was also a bit stiff from the last couple of days but decided to give it a bash. I was pleased to make my highpoint feeling fitter and stronger so it bodes well for future attempts.

The next day I went to meet Ollie up at the Cromlech in the afternoon by now feeling pretty jaded and thinking I should have been on the shady side of the pass and not the sunny side! I was on a mission though to try Right Wall (E5 6a), this is a route I have wanted to do since the first time I visited the Cromlech when I was 16. I was going to second Ollie up True Grip to warm up but he backed off so I decided to just get on with it.

This route did not disappoint me, I loved every minute of climbing it and being in such an amazing position on such a sunny day. It is definitely a route I will remember for a long time.

Finally on the Saturday Alex and I headed up to Cloggy with what seemed to be half the UK trad climbing population. We ended up queuing for a classing E4 6a called Great Wall, on the walk up I was tired and my knees were sore to the point we almost headed back down. For the climb we decided I would lead the first pitch and Alex would take the second. I climbed ok to the crux not too far from the end of the first pitch but my head wasn’t really psyched. I’m not ashamed to say that after consideration I down climbed from the crux to the bottom of the route knowing I didn’t really feel up to going for it. In the end I had a very pleasant day seconding Alex up both pitches and just enjoying the climbing.

This week has been a bit of an eye opener after 10 days straight of work I was keen to chill out but also psyched to climb and make the most of some half decent weather.

On Monday I headed to Tremadog with Dave Evans, the initial plan was to do Weaver into Bananas (E5 6b) but there were wet patches on the route including the crux so I decided to head up The Croaker (E3 5c) to finish which was a cool route in its own right. After that we did Void (E4 6a) where I was lucky to get the final pitch – it was so good but felt like a bit of fight. I never felt like I was off and I could place good gear but I still got a bit pumped. This route was safe but made the climbing on Right Wall feel like a path in comparison, I guess I’m just not used to thrutchy climbing!

On Tuesday Calum and I headed up to Glyder Fach for Calum to try his new route, I was also keen to have a look at a route called Kaya (E7 6b). After a couple of top ropes on Calum’s new route he cruised to victory making the crux climbing look easy. I seconded him up it cleanly but had no inclination to try and lead it. Next up it was my turn – Calum kindly chalked the holds ad gave me a bit of beta before setting off. I was nervous about falling of the first bit into the ground but seemed to climb quickly and in a confident manner to clip the first peg (phew)!  The climbing then eases off but there were a couple of burly and sketchy moves to make with sidepulls and smeary footholds. I got anxious about blowing this bit, the friction on the rock was amazing but the sun was out, I waited for a while to get some a shade from cloud cover but it wasn’t long enough. In the end I went for it, I made it into the big sidepull with only a couple more moves to go, but I relaxed and tried to get my foot high on the good foothold too quickly. My right foot slipped and I was off. Disappointed I pulled back on and went to the top with ease kicking myself for coming off where I did.

The committing part before clipping the peg on Kaya - Calum Muskett
The committing part before clipping the peg on Kaya – Calum Muskett
A good rest before some final tricky moves - Calum Muskett
A good rest before some final tricky moves – Calum Muskett
On the top after falling off :(
On the top after falling off 😦

On reflection I learnt some valuable lessons from that route.

Was it a failure? I don’t think so. I have consolidated at E5 this year, I haven’t onsighted E6 yet either. Its nearly 3 or 4 years ago since I last did an E7 (Monopoly) whilst I was living in Sheffield, but I did that route as a headpoint. I guess I have been pretty focused on sport climbing so my fitness is pretty good. I don’t feel like my head let me down though, I committed to the moves and definitely went for it, I think this will hold me in good stead for future E7 attempts. I was a bit gutted not to do the route on my flash attempt but happy to have put in a good effort at the same time, hopefully I can go back to finish it off.

Yesterday Calum, Ed Booth and I went up to try Ogwen Crack (E7 6c/7a) we all found it ok up to the crux just above the peg but then found the crux absolutely desperate and a bit unpleasant on small painful holds. We decided to try and work out the moves on top rope, I managed all the moves but one. By this point none of us were psyched to continue though I may go back for it one day if I run out of things to do. We decided to move on to try another E7 6c called Daisy World (Calum had already climbed it before). On the way over being the massive klutz that I am I went over on my foot and bashed my knee badly but was lucky it wasn’t worse than that. We continued anyway and had a play on Daisy World, the climbing is pretty tricky and off balance to the pegs but the crux of the climbing then kicks in. I managed to climb the route in two halves and with the exception of one time I made it to the pegs clean. My reservations with this route are that the landing is terrible and there is no gear till the pegs. I am keen to head back to try it when the sun is not on the route and when I don’t feel stiff and sore to see if I feel differently about trying the route on the sharp end.

Attempting the desperate crux on Ogwen Crack - Calum Muskett
Attempting the desperate crux on Ogwen Crack – Calum Muskett

I am starting to find a new passion for trad climbing. I love the diversity in North Wales where I can go bouldering one day, sport climbing the next and then trad climbing in the mountains the next day. I enjoy bouldering and sport climbing but trad climbing and getting pumped trying hard is giving me a new sense of satisfaction. It has given me a new level of psych in recent months, I feel very lucky to live where I do.

I hope everyone is making the most of the amazing dry rock the UK has to offer!  🙂

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Swiss bouldering fun and More!

Where to begin……..

I’ve been wondering about writing my first blog of the year for a few months now but I’ve often wondered where to start and what to write.

Being blunt the end of last year was not a good time for me, I went through some personal tough times and didn’t really climb much apart from a couple of days in Morocco whilst on a trip with Mountain Hardwear. I managed to surprise myself by flashing a 7c+ whilst climbing with Tim showing that some element of my climbing was still there. It was difficult to accept that last year was a bit of a step backwards but I hope I can push forwards again this year, sometimes things don’t always work out the way you plan them.

Whilst my psych for climbing was low I did my Mountain Leader qualification through Phill George (for anyone doing any qualifications along these lines I can’t recommend him enough. I had a great time and learnt so much from him, Mick Jones and Sam Leary). I spent many windy days out on the mountain and committed to going out at night to navigate with Ollie Cain, it felt good to be productive in another way.

So this year came and I was still finding it tough to get motivated to climb until Alex and I started talking about a 2 week bouldering trip. Bouldering isn’t my forte but I was psyched to try and get stronger so we set each other training programmes and decided to enter the CWIf comp.

I had a lot of fun at CWIF climbing with Tanya who climbed amazingly well. I also surprised myself by coming 7th in my first competition in a long time. I held my own but still felt like there was room for improvement.

Unfortunately 2 weeks before we went away there was an extremely sad event for Alex that came as a complete shock. Neither of us was sure as to what was happening or whether we would still go away but in the end we managed to get to Switzerland for 11 days of climbing.

The weekend before I headed to Pembroke for some trad fun climbing with a group of friends. I climbed with a mate called Dougie on this very windy trip (we were pretty surprised at how quiet it was for a bank holiday) I will not recount the whole trip but the first day was definitely an adventure of the wet variety! I have learnt the valuable lesson never to The Rob Greenwood about sea cliff tides and karma for laughing at Ollie Cain as the tide was coming in came back to bite me when we abseiled back in with Rob and Duncan only to get soaked by spring tide waves on belay duty – plus the wimpy side of me got a bit scared!

Team wrap up warm with Dougie, Ollie and Helena
Team wrap up warm with Dougie, Ollie and Helena

Highlights of Pembroke included:

Butcher E3 5c                            Get Some in E5 6a

The Fascist and Me E4 6a

John Wayne E5 6a

Finally it was Swizzy time – yeah baby! I was so excited about heading out and looking through the guidebooks on a daily basis for the best problems in a very geeky way.

We climbed at Cresciano on the first day but it was so hot and I lost a bit of skin, the higlight of the day was a 7a traverse that was cool. We did want to have a look at le boule but it was in the sunshine for the best part of the day!

After meeting up with Ben West and his wife Heather in the evening we decided to head to Chrionico but the next day it rained heavily. We were itching to climb and the next day was overcast with light showers but we managed to get out  🙂

I really loved climbing at Chironico and Magic Wood even though problems were wet at Magic from snow melt. I am psyched to go back which is a first for me when it comes to bouldering! I was pleased to tick some powerful problems and frustrated to come so close on others in particular Jack the Chipper (7c) at Magic Wood where I slipped off the top. I was pleased to come away a bit stronger though I would have liked to do better, still that’s all part of the game.

I was also very proud to watch Alex smash in Never Ending Story Part 2 (8a) a problem he has wanted to do for ages and came very close to last time .

I also learnt that I can survive more than two days without a shower even if I did get a bit narky towards the end plus I did brave washing my hair under the cold river water!

The tables are turning for the next trip in August when we head to Ceuse for some roped climbing – psyched!!

Highlights of this trip included:

Powerstrips 7c

Autopilot 7a+/b

Slooper Attack 6c+/7a

Chads Bulge 7a

Autopilot 7a+/b - Alex Haslehurst
Autopilot 7a+/b – Alex Haslehurst
Autopilot 7a+/b - Alex Haslehurst
Autopilot 7a+/b – Alex Haslehurst
Autopilot 7a+/b - Alex Haslehurst
Autopilot 7a+/b – Alex Haslehurst
Autopilot 7a+/b - Alex Haslehurst
Autopilot 7a+/b – Alex Haslehurst
Brushing sweaty holds on Le Pilier 8a - Alex Haslehurst
Brushing sweaty holds on Le Pilier 8a – Alex Haslehurst
Trying Le Pilier 8a - Alex Haslehurst
Trying Le Pilier 8a – Alex Haslehurst
Sore skin from hot humid attempts - Alex Haslehurst
Sore skin from hot humid attempts – Alex Haslehurst
Powerstrips 7c - Alex Haslehurst
Powerstrips 7c – Alex Haslehurst
Powerstrips 7c - Alex Haslehurst
Powerstrips 7c – Alex Haslehurst
Powerstrips 7c - Alex Haslehurst
Powerstrips 7c – Alex Haslehurst
Close but no cigar on Jack the Chipper 7c - Alex Haslehurst
Close but no cigar on Jack the Chipper 7c – Alex Haslehurst
Close but no cigar on Jack the Chipper 7c - Alex Haslehurst
Close but no cigar on Jack the Chipper 7c – Alex Haslehurst
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