Emma Twyford

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September 2014

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
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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.

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