‘#LikeAGirl’ – a continued fight for participation.

When Always first brought the struggles and misconceptions around female participation in sport to light in 2014 the idea was loved by many leading the campaign #LikeAGirl to become a huge hit.

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I was hugely receptive to the idea of increasing female participation in sport. Having personally used the tag on many posts on Instagram, continuing to do so till the current day, I believe it is brilliant idea to encourage, support, and give inspiration to like-minded women. Years of stigma regarding female participation in certain sports was rallied against and it was refreshing to see people fighting back for recognition in their fields across all ages, all abilities, and all races. This simple little hashtag allowed women an easy way to speak up and supporting one another around the globe. Since the conception of the idea is has built some serious stamina with it being used on over a million Instagram posts (1,036,473 photos to be exact at the point of writing), still remaining popular within the fitness world to encourage female participation and an active lifestyle.

Always describes the movement as “our epic battle”  as “at puberty, nearly half of girls (49%) feel paralysed by the fear of failure”*… but why these young women feel this should be the main question for exploration.dsc_5954

We are all human and we all fail. Yet, even though this ‘paralysing’ feeling in widely experienced by all, it is hard to accept the idea of failure in a world fueled by social media . ‘Stay Fit, Eat Clean, and Be Adventurous’ seem to be the message on so many Youtube channels, accounts on Instagram, and profiles on Facebook – looking at these can be disheartening for many as life is portrayed wholly unrealistically by so many popular influencers.

#LikeAGirl highlighted how perceptions of women change with age. Equally, how dangerous such changing perceptions can can be upon the minds of maturing girls who take inspiration from the popular culture of the day.

This is reflected within the mindsets of the teenage participants in the campaign’s main promotional video as adolescent men and women are asked to ‘fight like a girl’, ‘run like a girl’, and ‘throw like a girl’. All the actions are performed with negative connotations regarding feebleness, fragility, or vulnerability which have surround women partaking in physical activity for years. However, when younger girls are asked the same questions, their responses are entirely different. When one little girl of approximately six is asked “what does it mean to ‘run like a girl’?” her response is simple – “run as fast as you can”. Weakness doesn’t even enter their minds as they run fast, fight hard, and speak confidently.

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It is this enthusiasm which we need to preserve further into adulthood before the high level of interest and curiosity starts to fade. This want to compete against all and triumph is an innate part of growing up as you learn to push yourself and your boundaries. For myself, working as an Outdoor Instructor means I get to see such curiosity and fieriness on a regular basis when it comes to the ten and eleven year old children we have visit the sites. They are keen to learn all they can, see everything possible, and especially, want to touch all the interesting things they can such as the wood, mushrooms, and fire-lighting tools we use during some of the sessions. Yet, when it comes to the slightly older visitors, usually above the age of fourteen, everything changes. Many lack an interest in the outdoors and the natural wilderness surrounding them, as well as the courage to challenge their male counterparts in many of the activities and sports we teach like climbing or orienteering. We try to encourage them to be competitive, but you can see the change in mindset as they worry about getting muddy, ruining their clothes, or looking silly in front of their friends. However, just a few years earlier this age group had freedom of imagination and curiosity, with no worries regarding their actions and abilities. So, not only does Always’s campaign highlight the issues of female participation in sport through #LikeAGirl, but also the deeper underlying changes in mindset experienced during adolescence. Thus, the decrease in participation can be traced back to this change during adolescence. So, what can we do to try to combat this fear of failure when it comes to trying new sports and activities…

  • Try to see the activities as a new comer with a pair of fresh eyes – find new ways to present the challenges to groups which will engage all, especially those finding it nerve-wracking.
  • Reduce the alienation of a new environment – to many the outdoors, or sporting field, will be new, so take it easy with the new terms and the technicalities of the activity to keep it simple in explanation.
  • Be relatable – by this I don’t mean use slang totally unknown to you, just remain flexible and easily adjustable to their mannerisms and ways of learning over the course of the session/day.
  • Understand the different needs of different women – whether its age, ethnicity, education, family circumstances, or disabilities all need to be catered for in any session. Many small problems can cause a lack of participation and it is about working past these issues to enable engagement.
  • have fun – the first steps into a new adventure need to begin with smiles and laughter, this will lead to happy memories of these initial moments and hopefully lead on to the desire to try again.
  • Equally, get the positivity flowing – encourage and enthuse participants and reaffirm their developing abilities in a new activity.

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I hope that this increased interest in sport and an active lifestyle will continue encouraging women to try something new, and partake no matter of ability. It can be only be a good thing to get active, release endorphins and de-stress. there are lots of local classes in all areas aimed at a wide variety of abilities in all kinds of sports, and its so easy to access too, simply at the touch of a few buttons on the internet or a search on Facebook usually comes back with answers. I would also recommend checking out #LikeAGirl to gain some inspiration for the months ahead, and all the sunshine and endless hours they bring to head out and have as much fun as possible! So, go on, get out there and see what sport’s you’ll find.

 

*Based on a 2017 study among 1,000 UK women aged 16-24 years.

 

Me – at 20.

Hello…

So, I am 20 years old today.

I have existed upon this earth for two decades now and so much has changed about me over this time; equally, my outlook on the future has altered too.

It occurred to me that I will not remain like this in mind and body forever, and at this moment in time I want to document myself and this section of my life right now.

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I currently live in Aberystwyth, Wales.

I study English Literature at the university there.

I am 5’7″, with light brown hair and I never really known the true colour of my eye, but people tell me they are greeny-grey.

I have size 6.5 feet and enjoy wearing my Doc Martens boots best of all.

My favourite pair of socks are burgundy with a white stripe across the toes.

I have one piercing in each ear.

However, these are just the simple facts, the surface appearance and what is just underneath. My biggest enjoyment, and consequently largest part of inner self, is found in nature and the outdoors.

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Forests are places I go to find tranquility and peace of mind. The soothing green shades of light and sounds of bird song are a simple connection to the world surrounding you. A reminder that there is more on this earth to care about than just yourself. I find immense joy in teaching others about the natural world and love to pass on the knowledge I have learnt while also still finding out new things everyday about this world surrounding us.

The mountains are my true home though. They will forever be the place I go to find adventure and freedom and I hold the belief that nothing feels better than standing at the top of a peak with a breathtakingly wonderful view in front of you. It is this sense of achievement which continually pulls me back to these imposing places. Standing atop a mountain I’ve hiked up or clipping the top of a climb allows me to see the achievements below me, the path you took to reach that moment, the metaphorical and literal struggle to the top, and the glorious views and feelings of immense exultation are the rewards for this effort of mind and body.

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Climbing is my main sport pursuit but to me it is more than a simple sport. Settling upon climbing was like some unknown switch inside me just clicked as the sport fulfilled the dynamic fluidity and flexibility I had always possessed, but also allowed me to build upon what I had already to become stronger. 

It started with some multi-day hiking expeditions leading me towards understanding of how far I could push my body and still possess the ability to bounce back stronger than before. Over the past year of my life I have strived to climb at my limits, encouraging those around me to push me further too, as I began to understand the capabilities I held in order to explore how to push them even more. This desire to experience more, get higher, and feel stronger is what ultimately makes me happiest. To be able to try my hardest and see how far I get is so fulfilling; whether this was only 3 meters off the ground (something experienced a few times when starting out with Trad climbing) or, now I am progressing within the sport, getting to the top a 30m pitch enjoying the experiencing of getting there.

Climbing challenges all of me. It is a way to push both mind and body to new levels, a space to understand your self and the coping mechanisms you possess deeply.

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‘Looning The Tube’ HVS 5a – Australia , Llanberis Slate Quarries. 

As I have progressed from a relative new-comer within the sport into an experienced climber, the scope of growth I have experienced has shown me how much I have learned, as well as how much I still have yet to accomplish and experience. I have challenged my grades and ability to climb, however my mental strength has equally been questioned drastically. When you are handing off your fingertips 25m up you have to control the adrenaline, the fear and the excitement alongside carefully controlling every exact movement of your body too, you have to nail that hold or it’s off you come and down you fall. The fear can hold you on the wall but also shut you down, it’s finding the careful balance between the fear and excitement which is the ultimate skill to learn.

Knowing it is the best sport for me scares me deeply though, as  in the back of my mind I understand I won’t always be like this – strong and fit, with the ability to pull myself up sheer rock faces. Things will change, people will come and go, opportunities will take me down many different roads, and many things are simply out of my control. Right now I understand I am simply part way along my path in life, with so much more to look forward too, so many more goals to accomplish, and so many more adventures to go on. It is the understanding that my full  potential has yet to be reached which motivates me to continue.

At some point the maximum will be reached, the full potential surpassed and the goals achieved, and then what happens 50 years from now when I can no longer do the things I love to the potential I once could. Hopefully, I will embrace the changes I have experienced over the years, keep building upon this current growth of mind and body, and expand my self to accept new challenges and changes. The mountains have settled within the core of me and seem there to remain forever, but hopefully they will become a place of solace, respect, and deep understanding, a place to go back to in times of need, a place to find my true self, and return to what I know.

 

 

Returning some from time away.

Starting this blog was a commitment for me, somewhere to record adventures alongside  thoughts. Now, looking back over the past over the past 6 month I have realised I have done so much, yet documented so little on this little site. Becoming busy with university, rushing around with lots of work, and accomplishing so many wonderful feats over the past from months took up my time and I may have documented it on Instagram, yet, photos can only convey so much. Words can portray so much more and as once again summer time is nearing, the academic year’s end is in sight and life is looking up. The sunshine is out so much more, and I don’t want to jinx it but it might be looking like it’s here to stay!
This is simply an update as to what has happened in the past half-year…

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Scotland – Dec’ 2017

So, primarily it has been filled with many assignments, much more university work than last year, but also some super fun moments here around Aberystwyth too. The harbour sessions this year have been super awesome, with so many people turning out to lots of them. We have a super strong club this year with a good mix of beginners, as well as advanced paddlers to help get as many people out as possible. Highlights include the session in which the tide was so low the harbour turned into a fast flowing river and we almost lost people to the waves never to be seen again! In reality, we only lost a pair of paddles to the sea in the end.

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Sophie and I out in Aberystywth Harbour.

The new university year began in September, and it kicked off with many Aberystwyth Mountaineering club trips. The main one being a weekend up in North Wales. Day one consisted of driving up to Tremadog and hitting the upper tier in the hope of teaching some gear placement and leading skills to the new crop of freshers to the club. However, low misty cloud meant the rock was sopping wet and rather unclimbable, so we did as much teaching as you can do at ground-level in terms of gear placement before making the decision to move to the Slate in Llanberis to get on with some leading.

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This turned into a brilliant day with many people confidently both top-roping and leading sport routes . The best route of the day for me was helping a friend Mads complete ‘CyberWorld Sl@te heads ‘; we both had a good hard go at climbing it wearing our selves out, eventually reaching the top after a few falls.

The second day was spent back at Tremadog, this time in the sunshine, taking out small teams onto the rock to teach leading. The group I was leading spent lots of time on Yogi (VS 4b) to help people with gear placement and illustrating anchor building using mine at the top of the big ledge. This weekend was spent staying at Eric’s Barn, the wonderful legendary cafe which supplied us well with lots of fun in the evening, and then breakfast for the morning.

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Sunset over the Slate.

Another personal climbing achievement which occurred in October was attending an SPA (RCI) Training course. This gave me some wonderful experience and knowledge for running group climbs, as well as improvement of personal rock skills, anchor building and gear placement. Ben W and I had a two great days in the sunshine, even if we did struggle to find somewhere to sleep for the night!

October also meant another big paddling event rolled round -Teifi Tour 2017! From the 27th-29th of October many university paddling clubs descended upon the small town of Llandysul to partake in one of the biggest paddling festivals. Our own club, AUCC, made a brilliant effort with over 70 current members and old boys tuning up to the event to represent Aberystwyth. The first day involved a major party on the Friday night, everyone had lots of fun, drank a lot, and a surprising amount of clothes stayed on. With many sore heads the next morning AUCC finally made it onto the river at about 1pm. We had so many paddlers so we split into two groups but ultimately ended up merging, over taking and leaving a certain sleepy Ben R to float down the river of his own accord. My favourite rapid on the river was an interesting weir with a big tongue in the centre, it was fun to paddle towards the edge knowing you were going to drop and then whizzing down the tongue. The final rapid was also awesome, I followed Maddie down with Caro behind me, it went so well (I may have overtaken Maddie on the final sections, sorry! photo below) and felt confident paddling this. Caro styled the rapid then took a rather big swim on one of the tiny bumps after, a moment I would rather not remember as I’ve never felt more useless watching someone stuck in a hole. We all got back and the Saturday evening got well underway and was an equally awesome party as the first night, however this time it was fancy dress. The theme of evening was ‘Llan Vegas’ and it was fully embraced my many attendees with many in hot pants, drag, poker cards, brides, grooms and all sort of interesting combinations, let your imagination run wild because what ever you can think of was probably there. The clean up action ready to go home occurred on Sunday morning after a packed weekend, and we all head back to Aberystwyth to catch up on some much-needed sleep.

Mid-November I got woken up with a phone call early one morning asking if I wanted to head out to climbing, no idea where but did I want to go and climb something? At first I was a little unsure but after a quick look out the window to see blue skies and sunshine it was decided to go. We decided to hit up Idwall slabs and I took Ben R up the classic ‘Tennis Shoe’ (HS 4b) and had the chance to work on building completely rope free anchors as I was leading the whole route, and thus, needing to keep the rope separate making things easier for Ben. It was a beautiful day and we completed the route with little difficultly, bar a slightly run out top pitch. We headed back to the van, had some coffee and enjoyed the stars for a while before heading back.

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View out from Idwall Slabs.

Over the rest of November I went out a couple of times with the University Hiking club, the most memorable being a trip to the Elan Valley. This is such a beautiful area of Wales, and it was wonderful to see this area of the country for the first time. The whole area is full of many dams to create multiple reservoirs providing water for much of Birmingham. One of them, called Nant Y Gro, was used by the British government to test the ‘bouncing bomb’, which eventually lead to the bomb which would demolish dams in Germany’s Ruhr Valley, a story that became legend in the infamous film “The Damn Busters”. It was a great day out breathing the fresh air and soaking up the late autumnal sunshine.

The next event was the Kayaking Club’s seasonal North Wales weekend. We all headed up to Eric’s Barn & Cafe on Friday night, and as usual an evening of drinking ensued, many people got rather bamboozled, particularly young fresher Gabriel who managed to finish a whole bottle of Fireball whiskey, and certainly felt the effects the next day. The next day, once everyone had risen, river levels were checked and it was decided to run the Seiont. This was wonderful river which I would love to do again with less boat drama. All was resumed about 35 minutes from the end as Cookie became the kindest man I know to this day switching boats with me to make the paddle into Caernarfon Harbour with him, John and Jiri superb and so much less painful. We then headed back to the Barn, with people tired out from the days paddling and the previous evening it was a much quieter night.

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The Gamlan.

The next day we tidied up and headed home via the Gamlan. This is a big waterfall which only runs in higher water and its fun, and scary one, to run as one of your first big falls. I didn’t run it this yer, decidedly helped out by hauling boats out instead, but it looked like everyone had a lot of fun. Above is a photo of me running it the previous year so you can see what it is we were up to!

Next up in the year came a trip to complete Snakes and Ladders in The Llanberis Slate Quarries. A day of climbing with Tom, Claire, and Hanna got called off due the dismal weather but we turned it into a wonderful day by completing this lesser visited route within the quarries, a definite rainy day route using the ancient ladders, chains, and newer abseil points to explore the lost parts of the quarries. The best part was exploring the old building around the site, especially the big one’s right at the top, now turned unofficial bothy, with all the inscriptions on the walls. It’s a wonderful day out and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants some rainy day fun in Snowdonia.  It is not in any of the guide books for the area, however, I am informed there are some blog reports on the route floating around online.

Finally , we are into December and this meant I received an impromptu invite to Scotland from Jiri. We had a great time exploring the Glens in the van and I finally got to fulfil my dream of visiting Scotland, now I can’t wait to go back again soon! We started in Bangor, Wales driving up through the Uk dropping off Waka Kayaks along the way. Finally, reaching Edinburgh at about 2am we stopped for a rest (even though I’d already been asleep for quite a while before this) and met up with Peter the next day allowing Jiri to catch up with him. We explored Edinburgh in the afternoon and both of us to attend the Edinburgh University pool session that evening. This was great for me as I was able to perfect my roll, and get some coaching off Jiri and some of the other awesome paddlers there.

We then carried on to explore more of Scotland, stopping off in Glen Coe and Fort William over the coming days. We even went climbing at the Three Monkey’s Climbing Gym one evening which was a lovely interlude to the kayaking trip. Yet so far very little boating had occurred as we were on our own and not keen to paddle just the two of us. Therefore, we met up with Aberdeen University club; based in Roybridge we were able to head out each day seeking water in the snowy lands. Jiri got a run of the Orchy in, and I went on a lovely walk along the side.

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I enjoyed the time taking lot’s of photos and taking in the epic scenery as we traveled out each day trying to find rivers with enough water in. We also managed another run of a wide river mouth estuary with a broken weir at the top, it was fun to practice ferry gliding but I was really struggling with the cold temperatures as my right leg kept seizing up and going dead due to the weather.

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Glen Coe.

We ended up leaving Aberdeen as they headed back home, they were lovely people to spend a few days with and it would be great to see them again soon. We spent the rest of our time catching up on some work (using the McDonald’s wifi) and looking at the touristy stuff in the highlands before heading back a few days before Christmas. 

After the Christmas break came Spain 2018, the first adventure of the year. I will include a photo here but am going to make a separate post about this because so many great things happened that there is just too much to try to fit in here. So keep an eye out for a report soon!

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Montessa – Spain 2018

After all this climbing in Spain, the weather across Britain over February lived up to expectations and was awful. Sadly, there was very few opportunities to head out over this time so the majority was spent climbing indoors at Beacon Climbing Centre, in Cearnarfon, and Indy Climbing Wall, on Anglesea, with friends. This was good as I could improve my fitness over this period, as well as my technical skills on the wall.

However, there was a brief interlude in the clouds which meant we could hit up Llanberis slate one of the days in the month, it was amazing. The sun was out almost all day and we could climb in just our jumpers and woolly hats. The highlight of the day for me was finally getting on and sending ‘Looning the Tube (HVS 5a; although this route is a contested E1, I firmly agree it is a HVS). For my first Slate Trad lead it was awesome, the climbing is great out across the slab traversing on some rather small holds needing technical footwork to reach the first bolt, then on to the old mining chains which make the first piece of trad gear. Here your reach a nice split in the face filled with nice protrusions to get your fingers around. The climbing flows amazingly as you continue up, popping a Cam in about half way along the top of the route, until you reach a narrow point in the split at which you have to move out slightly onto the main face using some small crimps or laybacking. Then its back into the crack to place a sling over a small spike, a few more moves and you’re at the top. It is a very freeing sensation to be stood at the top of this climb so high above the many layers of the old mining chasm below.

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Looning The Tube – Llanberis Slate.

March carried on much the same as February with increasingly bad weather and the arrival of ‘the Beast from the East’ which put a hold on pretty much all climbing for me. I therefore continued to spend much of my time working on university assignments and exploring Bangor when I had the chance to visit Jiri which lead to watching some brilliant sunsets over the Menai Straits and a visit over to Anglesea to see the Island and enjoy the beautiful view back across the water to the snowy mountains of Snowdonia National Park.

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The Menai Bridge.

In this time I also brought my Aqua Marina Stand Up Paddleboard. I’ve managed to get out on this a few times since and it’s really beautiful way to experience the nature around you. It slows down your traveling speed which means you can appreciate more of what is around you, which for me is the beautiful Cardigan Bay. I hope to eventually see the seals which I know live in the bay, and possibly even the dolphins which make  surprising appearances occasionally. I would also highly recommend the Aqua Marina SUPs, they seem to be super durable, yet lightweight which makes for easy manoeuvrability on the water.

Easter then rolled around the corner which for me opened up many work opportunities, I started as a Duke of Edinburgh supervisor and assessor and helped with training some Bronze groups with the company Entrust-Outdoors. This will lead to more over the summer which I am looking forward to as it will get me out across the country with work on Cannock Chase, up in the Peak District and down in the Chiltern Hills. I also got to spend some days at Standon Bowers OEC where I helped run some climbing sessions with Adam and had a great afternoon running the High Ropes course with Laurence. I have never been given the chance to put on all the safety gear and actually help run something like this. I learned lots in just a few days and hope to put it to good use in the coming months.

Over Easter it dried out enough to get some climbing in too, we headed out for a day on the Grit. Oli and I met up at The Roaches and started the day on a nice lead for me in a route we didn’t know the grade or name of. We just looked at the rock and thought the line looked good so why not try it. I got to the top and it was a big move to pull out and over a wide crack, so I got my arm nice and deep and went for it. Just as I got both arms over my foot blew and I almost came off but somehow stuck it and came over the top triumphant.

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The next route we chose was and it had technical starting sequence; the whole climb felt like a technical boulder problem, but up further and further into the sky. It took a few tried to be able to pull onto the problem for me as the moves were very reachy,  but I got there and the rest of the climb was great. My final lead was called ‘The Black Pig’ (VS 4c). As a Slab climb it was a rarity on the grit. With one thin crack running up the centre of the climb the aim was the bridge up between the slab and the wall at 90 degrees to it, then from a large ledge move across to the slab using a big deep hold. Yet, this hold was just out my reach meaning this climb required some though and some different beta in order to reach the top. Over to the slab I got though and it was a clean and smooth climb to the top. Our efforts to climb some of the other harder routes at the crag were squashed due to the sogginess of some of the cracks. so decided upon a quick route under a humongous roof . This ended up working in our favour as the heavens decided to open everyone go soaked, bar us as we were protected by this large overhand our climb was sheltered by. We got to the to and ended up caught in the full force of it though as we tried to frantically untie and rack to rope in order to return to our bags at the bottom of the crag and layer on the waterproofs.

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The final event of April was visiting the National White Water Centre for the day to photograph Jiri and Charlotte partaking in the BC Raft guide training course. It was great to get out into the fresh air and see them having so much fun whizzing down the rapids. Over the day I got to work on my photography skills as I got the chance to properly sit down to experiment some of the settings on my camera and see what effect they all have on the final photo.

It truly has been a wonderful past few months, I can only hope the coming summer is as exciting.

 

 

 

 

 

Pembroke Peninsular Surf.

A breathtaking beautiful place, filled with golden sands and sunshine… I honestly can’t believe it has taken me this long to visit this wonderful place.

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Freshwater West, Pembrokeshire.

Heading off with five boards, five people, all five people’s luggage, and the tents in a little car felt like a proper cram it all in and go adventure. We were off on a mini summer holiday with a good surf forecast and an equally good sunny weather to enjoy. Thus, we arrived and awaiting us at Freshwater West on the first day was some epic surf…

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Matt warming up by the flags.

Landing upon the beach was the promised forecast of 3-5 foot waves with on-shore winds (the wind blowing into the shoreline creates a nicer cresting curve to the wave) meaning the waves were more big and barreling onto the shore. The sea wasn’t lumpy at all, it was strictly linear waves rolling in with a precise order, making it super easy to pick out each amazing set, then ride the crest of these big waves all the way back to shore.  It was so cool to be out there bobbing around alongside friends with waves crashing over our heads, experiencing the freedom it brings to be on, or in, the sea.

You look off to the horizon awaiting a wave and think what is out there on the hazy horizon. Sometimes a large cargo ship, or Irish passenger ferry, would pass by in the distance and, then it would bring in thoughts of what was even further out there, I was looking out to Ireland and even past that the Atlantic with America’s east coast staring back at me miles and miles away. However, not just what is out there in terms of distance, but also what is in the depths below, the endless ocean full of amazing sea creatures, notably huge jelly fish which Lindsey and Matt saw while sitting out back waiting for a set to come in. It didn’t happen while we were out in Pembroke this time, but in Aberystwyth, seals and dolphins have been known to come up and say hello. We have seen the seals while out in the harbour kayaking; the local university sailing club have has the Dolphins come up alongside the bow and journey alongside them on some trips.

Even though I saw no animals or sea creatures, it was still fun for all four of us catching waves in the sunshine. Matt caught a few big enough to even attempt some aerial moves off the top of on this first day, and we have more fun over the next few days sticking around Freshwater West and venturing to Manorbier Cove one morning where Joe and Matt decided to out over the reef to catch the biggest waves on the beach, while the rest of us enjoyed the sun on the beach. The best part for me was paddling out and happening to suddenly realise you’re sitting right close to a friend, both waiting for the same thing. An epic wave to track you back to shore, feeling the wind and water in splashing in front of you. Many times I came rushing in on a wave and could only liken it to what it must feel like to fly.

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Manorbier Cove, Pembrokeshire.

A Modern Slate Head.

There is no denying that the Slate is great… in my humbled opinion some the best, and most interesting, routes you’ll get in North Wales.

Now, don’t misunderstand, climbing wonderful Trad routes at crags like Tremadog, Tryfan, and in Llanberris Pass in the sunshine are all equally enjoyable. However, the unique techniques and skill sneeded to climb the Slate is what draws me back to it again and again in an almost obsessive manner; meaning before I’ve even done the first few climbs of the day I’m already seeing other nearby routes I aspire to do.

Currently, comfortably climbing at 6a+ keeps me on my toes (literally!) with many routes to try within the grade. One of the lesser know, but greatly technical climbs withing this grade, is ‘Fresh Air’ in Nuremberg area of Never Never Land . This hidden gem is a slabby masterpiece made up of many high footed rock-overs with the final, rather hidden ledge is a miracle jug after trusting a completely blank section and trusting your feet to reach the lower off. This is a brilliant route to start off on before attempting some of the harder climbs in area, such as another sport route  ‘Swiss air 6c’, or alternatively the trad routes ‘Breaking Wind’ or ‘Hot Air Crack’ both HVS. However,  I could almost guarantee is was this singular climb that cemented my love for this imposing, yet magnificent, landscape which suited my flexibility and strengths in climbing perfectly.

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Clipping on ‘Fresh Air 6a’. Belayer Patrick.

Since this moment climbing many other routes has led me to even surprise myself. Noteably, a route on the ‘Above The Rails’ level in ‘Australia’ called ‘Surprise Surprise’, which I can only guess is a reference to the huge mantel shelf at the top of the route. A wonderful surprise when you reach for it, or in my case pull a mini-dyno across to it as I was slipping on the sloper of a foothold below. However, I triumphantly made it to the top and can say it is one of my proudest climbs. This isn’t due to this dramatic finish, more the blocky bouldering style start to this climb. It starts with an impressive right-handed side pull, while jamming your toes into a little triangle hole, then jumping up to the positive jug and locking off to then reach up and over to a rounded ledge, finishing with a massive heel hook up and over… I almost wanted a bouldering pad below. Then right there was the first clip so onward and upward I went. After looking at this route all morning it felt sublime to clip the anchor and turn round to enjoy the epic view all the way across ‘Australia’, and out further over to Llanberis with Snowdon in the distance.

Of course, the danger of falling is there when pushing yourself on this dynamic rock type with it’s many tiny holds and slippy foot placements, and therefore, it’s something I’ve grown to become more comfortable with. Trusting bolts and Trad gear alike, and becoming willing to try harder routes with increasingly complex sequences requiring more than a simple onsight attempt, with less fear is allowing me to push my grade further and understand not only the limits of my technical abilities but also the limitations of my mind and the fears with in it. No one wants to fall, there is always the risk you will keep falling and splat! Though it is this fear which helps me climb on upward in many cases, the little bit of knowledge sizzling away in the back of your mind that you simply can’t let go pushes you further above what you thought possible of yourself, and even further outside of your comfort zone.

“The Llanberis slate quarries are home to some of the boldest, finest, hardest and weirdest climbs in Wales.” – Mark Reeves, UKC 

Since the beginning of 2017 this has been my goal, to rid myself of this unique fear, and become a modern version of the great slate heads of the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. These pioneers  saw it a a complete blank slate, open to all possibilities of lines, and now almost 50 years on myself and many others are still venturing into areas like Australia, Serengeti and Never Never Land to complete the most popular climbs, and looking down into Twll Mawr simply dreaming (as it will always be) of a day in the future we could complete some of the impossible routes like ‘The Quarryman’, with a grading of E8 7a.

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Matt enjoying the view over the Quarries to Llanberris and Snowdon.

 

For more information on the geological history, pioneers of the sport, and greatest achievements these Quarries hold check out Mark Reeves UKC post:

https://www.ukclimbing.com/articles/page.php?id=3682

 

 

 

Ventures up Valkyrie – The Roaches

An exciting morning on this classic route in the Peak District lead onto a day of sunshine and fun climbing for all of us.

A quick plan to head off climbing was created after a days of work for all of us; Oli, Will, Lewis and I. Multiple route ideas were thrown around over the coming days and finally we settled on a mad 4 person ascent of Valkarie (VS) at The Roaches Lower Tier.

We headed up to this beautiful location, starting the day with the brisk walk up to the face. Once there we decided upon a link up of Pebbledash (HVS 5a) to Valkyrie (VS 4c) as this alternative start looked like an enjoyable extension to this Peak District classic.

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Pebbledash (HVS).

Climbing in a team of four was an interesting logistical challenge, working out leaders and seconds climbing order to create an anchor point capable of swinging leads while also incorporating two ‘spare’ people at the belay stance, even so all four of us racked up ready to go. Will took charge of the first pitch which started as an open cracked gully containing what looked like many solid gear placements. Lots of bridging got Will up this pitch and he then deftly negotiated the scary looking traverse across a rather blank section void of hand holds apart from two widely spaced cracks. He edged out towards the safe and secure foot hold, however getting there was a trusting a strechy move out on one handhold; once the foothold is gained though the move across becomes easier. Once Will made his belay spot at the top of Pebbledash, we all followed up and easily fitted all four of us on, and in, the belay stance, relaxing in the sunshine while Oli climbed on up and readied himself for the main pitch of Valkyrie.

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Seeing the ‘Nose’ of the main route for the first time from the ground was a little daunting, made only worse by Oli explaining we would have to climb up, over, and down this rocky outcrop. Not only this but also attempting to find “a sneaky foothold” under the Nose of the route complicating this already scary, yet exciting, route. He set off making easy work of the pitch. However, for the rest of us climbing this was a scarier story, the description from Oli was “just before you bottom drops out you’ll find the secret hold” and proved to be wholly correct. So, after Will had lifted me up to reach the first holds which seemed to be miles above my head, I hand railed across and down the large crack. Jamming all the way up to my elbow at points and leaning back across the gap using a side press and low undercling to inch slowly over finally stepping through, without any notion of where this elusive foothold could be, and wiggle out along a small sloping ledge. All of us climbed cleanly over the gap (eventually) at the base of the nose and then enjoyed a rest at the corner before moving on up.

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Down-climbing the ‘Nose’ of Valkyrie (VS).

After the scary bottom-dropping section is a high reaching, slabby climb which suited many of our styles of climbing. The pinnacle of this route came for me when the move required a large rock-over pulling on some small slopers, which I loved, and came up over the top to find Oli beaming in the sunshine. Lewis came up this pitch next and it was great watching someone with little outdoor climbing experience take on such a challenging climb and complete it with what looked like relative ease. Will came up next after deconstructing the anchor, Lewis and I watched from the side as we had descended from the top anchor point and enjoyed lounging in the sun for a short while until everyone was back together again. This was a proud moment for all as we looked back at the previous pitch, congratulated Oli on his lead, and Lewis on one of his first climbs being such a notable classic.

One thing we certainly didn’t realise was how long this climb would take us, and it was now late in the afternoon so we took the descent path back to our bags and had some lunch. While we were snacking Oli and I wandered off to retrieve a piece of ‘crag swag’ (forgotten gear) I’d spotted on an easy VD route. Oli free-soloed up Prow Cracks reaching the nut and quickdraw easily came out, we decided to give it to Lewis to start his rack off.

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Lewis enjoying the view after the climb, upper tier in the background.

After this short break we headed up to The Upper Tier, Lewis and I had a few routes in mind but only managed to get one done, I chose to do a lead repeat of Right Route (VD) almost exactly a year on from when I climbed this route as my first trad lead. I was able see how much I had improved not only in my climbing technique, but equally my trad placement skills. I remember the fear I felt the first time, needing to place gear every few moves, on the other hand this time I was comfortable climbing the whole thing. Especially my anchor building skills, which previously I had to be guided through, this time I was able to make quick decisions on placement and angles of the nuts and slings used to get Lewis up by me with no difficulty at all.

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Joe’s Portholes (we think?).

From what I was told, Oli and Will took on a much harder climb, an E1 Oli had been wanting to tick off for a long while we tried our route. However, they seemed to get terribly off route after sequencing an overhanging section wrong leading to an off route adventure but nonetheless had fun all the same it seems, and got some suntanning in at the belay point.

While these two quested up their challenge, we finished ours and planned another route, Kelly’s Shelf (S), however found I had the wrong size cams and nuts for this climb, mainly needing tiny ones when I had the largest ones on my gear loops, and thus have decided to go back and try it again soon. So turned to the many boulders scattered around the location and created our own routes up them using any chalked up holds we could find, and challenging each other with some crazy dyno moves as well as a sticky traverse for the final climb of the day. We all walked out and went home our separate ways with promises to be back again soon.

Thank you for reading.