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.
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