Category Archives: Climbing

It’s official! Sport climbing IN Tokyo 2020 Olympics

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has announced that sport climbing is one of five new sports to feature in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, along with karate, skate boarding, surfing, and baseball/softball.

The announcement comes as a result of a successful proposal submitted by the International Federation for Sport Climbing (IFSC), a non-profit organisation whose main objective is to develop and promote climbing competitions around the world.

The BMC/Climb Britain is the IFSC member federation for Great Britain. They have supported the development of the proposals that the IFSC put to the International Olympic Committee.

Now the decision has been taken, Continue reading

#REVO Belay device – Wild Country Product Launch @wildcountryuk

Wild Country has revealed the REVO, a completely new design of belay device, and professional climbers Caroline Ciavaldini and James Pearson were on hand to demonstrate as I tested it!

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James Pearson reveals the Revo!

I found the Revo intuitive to use. You open the device, feed the rope through it, then close it and attach it to your harness with a krab as normal. There are no changes to the standard belaying technique – the difference is on the inside. The device has an autolocking function, which means that, if for any reason the belayer lets go of the rope, the device will lock and prevent the climber from falling. Continue reading

Women’s Climbing Symposium 2016 Announced! #WCS16

Last year I went to the Women’s Climbing Symposium (WCS), an event “designed to inspire and develop women’s climbing through collective climbing experiences, the latest research, and the best coaching.”

My lasting memory has been of the incredible positive energy of all the women attending as well as those on stage. I was excited to hear that this year’s event will take place at The Depot, Manchester on 8 October. Continue reading

Lake District Winter Walking – Winter Skills Course

When cold weather and snow mean that it’s not easy to run or climb I start to feel frustrated! Last year I attempted Striding Edge in the Lake District and the CMD arête up to Ben Nevis, but failed due to my lack of experience in winter conditions. This year I signed up for a winter skills course run by Mark Eddy of Mountain Journeys.

Continue reading

Women’s Climbing Symposium #WCS2015 – Climbing Works Sheffield 17 October 2015 #climbing2me

Genuinely inspiring people talking about what they love… and they all happened to be women! Continue reading

Sea cliff climbing, Pembroke, Wales, UK

Sea cliff climbing feels like a proper adventure, but you don’t have to commit to hard routes to have an amazing day in beautiful locations. A long weekend gave me the chance to discover a little taste of what Pembroke has to offer…

Pembroke is a good five hour drive from the Peak District, and I was glad to leave the busy motorway for South Wales’ winding country lanes. Our journey finally ended as far west as it is possible to go, in St Davids, Pembrokeshire, a county that is bordered by sea on three sides. On the very edge of the country where the last of the land drops away are the sea cliffs that we were there to climb.

Day 1 – We started at Craig Caerfai, only 600 meters from the car park it has an incredible view across Caerfai Bay. The descent runs down a gully at the corner of the cliff, and we set up an abseil using stakes driven into the cliff top.

As I lowered myself to a platform of rock washed at the edges by the incoming tide I felt aware that I had to be sure I could climb back out, but the limestone was warm and the routes are short and friendly. It’s a perfect introduction, and we ticked as many as we could before the sun began to set.

Craig Caerfai abseil/approach gully

Craig Caerfai abseil/approach gully

Craig Caerfai Main Slab

Craig Caerfai Main Slab

Day 2 – We headed to Porth-y-FFynnon, a tiny purplish sandstone slab a few hundred meters from the campsite. As we set up the abseil it began to rain, and we were forced to admit that the slab was just too wet to climb.

We dashed to south Pembroke to chase drier weather, choosing an area that would not be affected by the afternoon high tide. Stennis Head was the only crag of the weekend that involved a short scramble rather than an abseil in. Starting from a sloping ledge well above the sea, we had time to enjoy a couple of routes including a short but interesting traverse under a mini roof.

View from the top of Stennis Head

View from the top of Stennis Head

Day 3 – We made our way Stuntsmans Buttress where I was keen to lead a route called Myola. I was excited to commit to a route I hadn’t even seen and enjoyed the abseil to an otherwise inaccessible niche in the rock. The route follows a long diagonal groove from sea level right to the top of the cliff. As I waited in the niche I had time to absorb the unique position, surrounded by nothing but rock and sky, waves breaking beneath me as the tide rushed in over bleached white boulders.

As I started to lead the position felt a little intimidating, but the climbing itself was never too hard and the whole experience was incredible. The next route involved tricky route finding, sparse gear and tiny limestone edges – great climbing and perfect for me to second.

Rusty belay Stake at the top of Stuntsman's Buttress

Rusty belay Stake at the top of Stuntsman’s Buttress

Relaxing in the sun with the gear after Myola and Myopia, Stuntsmans Buttress

Relaxing in the sun with the gear after Myola and Myopia, Stuntsmans Buttress

Feeling the need for a little relaxation we walked over to investigate nearby Saddle Head which has a selection of lower grade routes and a totally different feel. There were crowds of people, but it was a good choice for a quick and easy route to end the day.

Day 4 – Our final day was spent at St Govan’s Head, the most popular area to climb in Pembroke and it’s easy to see why. There are so many routes we were spoilt for choice, but as time was limited we decided on the top 50 classic route Army Dreamers. It starts with steep juggy climbing, followed by a short thin traverse to a pumpy technical section up a thin crack. It was the best route of the weekend, and as well as offering fantastic climbing, there are some beautiful ammonite fossils on the route.

Anna waiting to second by the rock pools at St Govans

Anna waiting to second by the rock pools at St Govans

The variety of climbing combined with camping in lush green fields with a sea view makes Pembroke a perfect location. The trip was a great introduction to the area, and I can’t wait for the chance to get to know it better.

The year is dead – long live the year… five favourites of 2014

2014 is over and I’m already anticipating everything 2015 will bring, but before I race too far ahead I’d like to take a moment to appreciate some of the best bits of this year. Here are my five favourite climbing experiences:

  1. Camino del Rey, El Chorro, Spain – 1 January 2014: This is a via-ferrata-type experience on a
    The Camino del Rey on New Years day

    The Camino del Rey on New Years day

    crumbling concrete and rusting iron walkway. It was built more than 100 years ago to allow hydroelectric plant workers access around the gorge, but fell into disrepair and became accessible only to climbers. Having never done via feratta before, and having a sheer drop to the valley floor between my feet from the first move, initially I was scared and backed off the Caminito. Left on my own at the start of the walkway though, I realised I didn’t want to miss out, and I made my way across polished limestone and rusted iron bars to catch up with my partner. It was a unique and atmospheric experience, never to be repeated as the authorities in Spain have since rebuilt and reopened the walkway as a safe and accessible tourist attraction.

A flavour of the Camino

A flavour of the Camino

  1. Via Media (VS 4c), Stanage Popular, Peak District – 1 March 2014: This was one of those days that remind me exactly why I climb. In spring sunlight with clear blue skies Stanage looked beautiful. Stanage Popular has an abundance of routes, but I always notice Via Media. It’s a 10m route that starts with a thin straight crack on a flat wall and it went on my wishlist as soon as I saw it, even when I thought the grade was way beyond me. It doesn’t happen often, but on this day almost all my climbing partners were out and at the same crag, creating a happy atmosphere. Clio belayed for me, I always feel particularly proud to climb routes with her as we don’t often see two girls leading routes together. All around me routes were being ticked, and I ticked mine, no drama, just an enjoyable climb at one of my favourite places with some of the best people.
Jonny belaying on a spring day at Stanage

Jonny belaying on a spring day at Stanage

  1. Doorpost (HS 4b), Bosigran, Cornwall – 18 April 2014: When I first learned to climb I would
    Leading the crux pitch of Doorpost, Bosigran

    Leading the crux pitch of Doorpost, Bosigran

    happily second every route, but now that I’m learning to lead I feel the need to pull my own weight a little more. Alt-leading is such a rewarding climbing experience, combining the luxury of seconding pitches in fantastic positions with the challenge of leading. Doorpost is a classic three pitch route at one of the most popular sea cliffs in Cornwall, and Jonny was able to lead an E-grade first pitch to make the route more interesting for him. I led the second pitch, technically the crux but really very straight forward, and Jonny led the final pitch. We spent a long long time at the first belay ledge, due to a slightly over-confident third person in the party ahead of us realising that he actually couldn’t second HS in trainers. All the more time to look out at the sea, watch for seals, and enjoy the Cornish sun.

Seconding sea cliffs in Cornwall

Seconding sea cliffs in Cornwall

  1. Slam the Jam (6a), Horseshoe Quarry, Peak District – 15 May 2014: I wouldn’t recommend this route to anyone, the bottom half involves a broken up groove which in Horseshoe Quarry style feels like it could collapse if you stand on the wrong part of it. The bolt that would protect the crux felt a bit too high and resulted in shaky precarious clipping, much slack, and a nervous belayer (Clio). But the finish is no-excuses hand jamming for several moves through a roof and up a rightwards slanting perfect hands crack. This is when I realised that I really had learned to jam! I was so amazed I led it twice, just to check that I didn’t dream it.
  1. Nutcracker 5.8, Manure Pile Buttress, Yosemite Valley – 15 September 2014: Yosemite granite schools us and schools us again. This time the lesson was that one litre of water is not enough for two people on a 150m 5 pitch climb during a heat wave. We had just arrived from autumn in the UK and hadn’t anticipated just how much heat would radiate off the rock. This is one of the most popular routes in Yosemite, so we should have realised when it was deserted that conditions wouldn’t be great! The route follows a series of cracks, the first one being the hardest with a pumpy and slippery layback round a roof. After that the climbing is never too hard, but certainly interesting, including a very intimidating looking mantle up a slightly overhanging corner. Long multipitch is what climbing is all about for me, we don’t get to do it very often in the Peaks where the longest route is around 35m. I didn’t lead any pitches, so thanks to Jonny for this experience.
Relaxing in El Cap Meadow, rehydrating after surviving the Nutcracker

Relaxing in El Cap Meadow, rehydrating after surviving the Nutcracker

Now… Onwards to 2015 and all it’s adventures, planned and unplanned, bring it on… Happy New Year!

Embankment Wall, Millstone Edge – A little bit of love for the Peak District

It’s great to discover new places, but when you visit the same place again and again you get a real appreciation for the changes in the light, weather, and wildlife throughout the year.

One of my favourite places to climb is Millstone Edge in the Peak District, it’s one of my local crags and the one I have probably spent the most time at.

Here is a year in pictures at Embankment Wall, which is just one wall of many at Millstone. As well as having great routes to climb, I think its the best looking and it’s amazing how it can appear so different every time I visit.

If you have never been to the Peak District, I hope it gives you a feel for this little part of it that I love…

This picture was taken during the exceptionally snowy winter of 2012/13. You can see the routes where the cracks are frozen and full of ice on an otherwise almost completely blank face.

Beautiful stripy wall

The rock has amazing stripes of colour that can look anything from pale pink to dark red, green, or grey.

To prove that I actually do sometimes do lead, here’s a picture I took at the top of Chiming Crack, a lovely but short thin hands crack (HS 4b).

To prove that I actually do sometimes lead routes, here’s a picture I took at the top of Chiming Crack, a lovely but short perfect hands crack (HS 4b).

At the end of the day the rock glows in evening sunlight and the colours come alive.

You can see me here through the trees, on a day when we were practicing finger cracks by climbing the right hand crack of Embankment 2 (which takes it from VS 4c to E1 5c).

In summer the days are long, the heather is purple and the rock is warm!

In summer the days are long, the heather is purple and the rock is warm…

In summer the walk in looks like this!

…and as a bonus, the walk in looks like this!

My favourite routes at Millstone are – Covent Garden, Plexity, Eros, and Embankment 3 & 4. I have lead some of them, others I still hope to lead.

I wouldn’t have had the chance to enjoy most of the routes at Millstone if it wasn’t for my climbing partners who lead much harder than I do… thank you Jonny, Mark, and Sam x

You can read more about the routes above in the UKC guide to Millstone Edge here… http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/crag.php?id=19

Simple living – the answer to life’s big questions…

In September this year I was fortunate to travel around California for the best part of a month, and I was looking forward to the holiday as a period to take time out and reflect on the big questions I felt life was asking me.

It’s the longest time I’ve travelled and I was able to take so long because, as a result of the continuing public sector cuts, I was offered voluntary redundancy. After five years at the same place the time felt right to move on and I saw it as an opportunity. But needing to take potentially life changing decisions naturally caused me to question… What do I really want to be doing? Where do I want to be heading? What am I doing with my life??!

We flew into LA, driving for hours through hellish traffic to arrive at Joshua Tree national park in the dark, grateful to find a free space at the Hidden Valley campground. Our headtorches illuminated the bulk of the boulder-like formations that the camping spaces nestled beneath.

We were woken by coyotes howling, one group yelping frantically nearby and another replying from somewhere in the distance. It was 6am, but with an alarm call like that there was no way we were going back to sleep. The sun had just come up, and looking around at the unfamiliar rocky landscape I felt I had travelled to another planet.

Scrambling to the top of the tall ridge that formed the far side of the campground, I looked back down and saw an expanse of white sand and pale yellow-white granite. Over the other side lay a vast and perfectly flat plain crowded with the Joshua Trees themselves, their unusual shapes poised like joyful dancers.

Joshua tree is beautiful and like nothing I had ever seen, and as the sun rose, the mountains on the horizon glowed a deep wild-salmon pink.

Tiny campers nestled in the rocks, and a red sunrise

Tiny campers nestled in the rocks, and a red sunrise

A coffee moment in Camp 4, Yosemite Valley

A coffee moment in Camp 4, Yosemite Valley

When you’re car camping in California, life is simple. Finding it too hot in the south, we travelled up Highway 395 through Inyo County, the High Sierra mountains always visible to the West. Passing through Bishop, Mammoth, and on to Yosemite National Park, we stopped off at Pleasant Valley, Twin Lakes, and Tuolumne Meadows campgrounds.

The days assumed a rhythm that started with the ritual of coffee. I love that solitary time in the morning before most people wake up, listening to the muted blaze of the stove for the moment that the pot bubbles announcing the arrival of coffee. The day seems suspended in that moment of waiting, perfect in its possibilities before caffeine catapults me into action.

Each day we would climb, locating new crags, navigating walk-ins, and tackling the routes. Or I would hike, almost disbelieving at the start of the day that I really would be at that highest point of the horizon, and back again before dark. As darkness fell the various climbers, boulderers and hikers would reconvene at the campground to hear about each other’s days and plans for the next day. Food and drink tastes better when you’ve earned it, and as we clustered around the blue stove flames to cook we savoured the taste of local brewed ale, inventing ingenious ways to remove the bottle tops.

Some nights the milky way would appear bright in the clear sky, and I watched its rotation feeling insignificant, peaceful, and incredibly lucky. As each day started with coffee, it ended with making the beds, another ritual which involves clearing the back of the car and making sure the roll mats are smooth, creating pillows out of down jackets, laying out the sleeping bags in the exactly the right position. And then – glorious sleep.

Car camping, Pleasant Valley

Car camping, Pleasant Valley

Moment by moment by moment, I was absorbed. I didn’t think about the future, or worry about what might or might not happen. As a way of living, it felt so simple and so pure, focusing all my attention on each event in my day as it happened. I know it’s not possible to be on holiday constantly, I don’t want to run away from my life and become a rootless traveller. There’s a danger in living for future plans, as much as there is in living in the past.

I went away thinking that time out would give me perspective, and I came back wanting the opposite of escapism. I want to be present right here, right now. Too much reflection can become a distraction, so maybe I did find the answer to the big questions… stop questioning.

Failing to climb Bony Fingers, Whitney Portal

I have mixed emotions when I look at this picture. It was posted on UKC and was voted into the top 10 two weeks in a row. The route is Bony Fingers and as you can see it’s a continuous finger crack on an otherwise blank granite face which is dotted with round black ‘knobs’. What you can’t see is that I was crying with fear and frustration as I struggled to second this route.

Attempting to second Bony Fingers, Whitney Portal

Attempting to second Bony Fingers, Whitney Portal

The day started full of promise in the Pleasant Valley Campground just outside Bishop, with a drive through towns with truly American names like Independence and Lone Pine. The road climbed steeply into the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and in no time we rose from an elevation of 4,000 feet to over 8,000, Highway 395 less than a hairs’ breadth in the panoramic view of the valley we’d left behind. At Whitney Portal, granite towered above us on all sides, framing the jagged peaks of Mount Whitney.

Hiking, Mount Witney framed the the Portal of granite

Hiking, Mount Witney framed by the Portal of granite

The walk-in began on a beautifully soft trail of pine needles where in the higher altitude and thinner air an uncompromising clear blue sky contrasted against greywhite rock and occasional vivid green pines. Looking up we saw The Whale, the hump of rock split by our route, but we missed the approach and the walk in became a sweaty and frustrating ascent through a boulder field. We finally reached the route feeling dehydrated and testy.

The 90 meter finger crack is undeniably beautiful. And yet as I watched my partner lead the first pitch, beginning with a hard thin slab and then a run out traverse, I just felt a flat sense of dread. As much as I’d trained, I find finger cracks painful and difficult to climb.  I’m scared of traverses and this one definitely required as steady a head for the second as the lead. I began climbing already defeated. I struggled, I pulled on quickdraws. We left gear to protect me on the traverse. I was terrified, and couldn’t muster the spirit to climb English 5c move after 5c move. Something about the whole experience overwhelmed me, and just below the first belay my partner lowered me off with tears in my eyes.

I don’t know if I defeated myself, or if the route defeated me. I left Bony Fingers disillusioned and frustrated – unsure if I even love climbing any more. One of the things I do love about climbing is the places it has taken me to. Although I didn’t have a great time on what should have been a classic route, my lasting impression is the feeling of experiencing that place for the first time – the sheer expanse of granite, the sense of distance from the valley below, the summit of Mount Whitney another 6,000 feet above us, looking so near and yet so far. I wasn’t aware of it at the time, but Mount Whitney is not only the highest peak in mainland USA, it is also the start of the John Muir Trail. I still haven’t figured out how I feel about climbing, but when one door closes another one opens. I have a feeling that next time I go through that Portal the journey might end in more Happy Isles…

http://www.hikejmt.com/yosemite/yosemiteframes.htm

http://www.ukclimbing.com/images/dbpage.html?id=247469