Monday, 19 January 2015

The start of mid January?

After a rather slow start to the winter, the snow has finally arrived!

Photo credit: Heather swift
Photo credit: Heather swift
The first big dump of the winter gently floated its way down onto the slopes and Saturday was a truly fantastic powder day. Unfortunately, the gorgeous fluffy powder was covering a multitude of hidden rocks, meaning that I now know a collection of people with core shot skis (when you strip off the bottom of the ski down to the wooden core-ouchy ouchy ski!) and I myself have very scratched skis. Despite this I have had some amazing runs off the top lift of Grand Montets with the 'girly shred crew' in the the fluffy stuff this weekend, as illustrated by these pictures...

Amazing powder through the trees!
Photo credit: Heather swift

A rather sparser snow day at the Brevent the previous weekend
Photo credit: Heather swift
Leading up to this first snowfall, the winter has been rather sparse. I passed New Years down in the Pyrenees doing some winter assessment prep with Claire, Alistar and his son, Magnus. The week started off horrendously cold and windy and ended up too warm by the end. We looked at lots of trees and animal tracks and stuff like that, and barely covered any ground.
A powder day...on snowshoes.

And by the end of the week,
most of the snow had melted...

My whole family were here for Christmas which means we were running around like headless chickens trying to find something to do in the complete lack of snow, but had some good days skiing at Les Contamines (Rosie totally smashed her first off piste experience), a couple of days snowshoeing, and just some normal walking in the valley as well. Also had the achievement of doing Christmas dinner for 8 in my 19m2 flat!
The aftermath of the Bulgarian
 present exchange
This is what 'fresh tracks' look
like when there is very little snow

Rosie totally shredding the nasty sun crust at Contamines

Team snowshoe out at Le tour

Need straight legs!
Photo credit: Heather swift
Standard, mainly spending
my time sitting of the mats
Photo credit: Heather swift
In between all this, I've been climbing indoors alot, until I hurt my shoulder last week. I've been feeling really good and strong moving about on the plastic so its a bit of a bummer to have injured myself, but I have been very aware that my core has been letting me down, so going to take this opportunity to address that, so sit up city here I come...

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Getting ready for winter...I hope

(Forgot to press post on this one so dates back from November!)

So after a dump of snow down to valley level last week (or the week before?), ski psyche for the winter is high. I've dug my boots, ski and skins out of the garage and even gone for a quick snowshoe up at Le Tour (got to get IML logbook days in!). Unfortunately it has now been unseasonable warm and dry for the last week and the snow level has disappeared somewhere upwards in a slightly worrying manner. At least this means that climbing season is still going strong!

We have taken a move from the van into an apartment, as everything was getting a bit cold and damp. The relief of living inside four walls with a shower, toilet and sink can probably only be understood by someone who has done the same.

I took a trip back to the UK last month in a last ditch attempt to get my car fixed (failed), and although the weather wasn't great, saw lots of friends, my godchild, my parents and spent lots of time at indoor walls.

Climbing indoors in Chamonix, I only ever boulder at an indoor wall called the EMHM (Ecole Militare de Haute Montagne), its a wall on the French army base with great facilities for training, not so great for just having a fun time. It was so nice to go back to the UK and climbing on a wall where the problems were already made for you and a bit less testosterone flying around!

I got back to France feeling a bit stronger than before, but unfortunately the snow put a stop to immediate crushing, so more training on the indoor wall.

Just the same as last year, I then had to drive the big van back to the UK for its MOT (first time pass go van!), which combined with getting stronger and a bad driving position, immediately means I have shoulder pain again.

I've been trying to combat this with yoga at least every other day, and am already feeling the benefits, not only in my shoulders. I'm feeling more stretchy all over! The apartment has been great for this as yoga outside is a bit too chilly and damp.

Despite all this there has been trips outside. Whilst Jonny goes to Sarre roof in Italy every weekend, I've been going to more chill crags like Pierre a Voix and Bionassy, trying to tick routes around 7b to tick over. I'm not feeling a need to push hard at the moment, and I think it is unhealthy to do that all year, so I am really enjoying climbing just for the sake of climbing and being outside with good friends.

Who knows what the winter will bring!?

Sunday, 19 October 2014

A summer update

So, this blog tends to fall short rather as the months go on and nothing particularly significant happens. Seeing as my little sister has just started a blog (see here:, this has prompted me to remember that I am the older sister, and clearly my life should be more interesting than my little sister by right of having had come first.

This summer has been rather hectic, but unfortunately without much climbing. In August I passed (thank god) my summer IML assessment, and much of the summer has been spent wandering about practicing reading a map etc in anticipation of this.

I've been on lots of trips throughout France, down to Briancon and the Ecrins a few times, over to Norway (LOVE it) and lots of time wandering around the Chamonix valley, here is a quick photo review...

Ugg climbing at Foron, a great crag just down the road from Morzine

Sandra taking Sadie for a walk some ladders

...which turned into a rather nasty thunderstorm, luckily my map is waterproof!

Some goats underneath 'La Blanche' in the Ecrins

Classic view from L'envers des Aiguilles sunset shot

Dad investigating the fast way down a snowslope in a white out...ooops!

Amazing sport climbing close to Ailefroide

The wrong way up this mountain!

Norway, described as lots of rock and water. Generally accurate

Psyched and ready to go

Family walk above Emmoson

Final day of IML assesment

Climbing with Heather in Gastlosen

Heather (s) summit shot

So despite the summer being damp to say the least I seem to have go out lots! The autumn so far has been lovely, but I am unfortunately stuck in the UK at the moment waiting for my car to be fixed. A return to rock climbing is hard but its great to be improving again and psyche is high!

Friday, 2 May 2014

A girly guide to fears of falling

In my mind falling and failure are linked, but not in the way one might expect. I’ve been climbing all my life, but only in the last 3 years have I really got into sport climbing. Coming from a trad background, and taught by my parents I had never pushed myself into places where I was likely to be falling off, and up until a few years ago had never fallen of EVER on ANYTHING. This developed into a huge fear of falling off, something that I have tried to overcome this year. I’ve managed to come to a point now where falling off is not the failure, but rather failing to push myself until I either fall or succeed on a  route.

After a fairly unsuccessful 6 month trip two winter ago, getting more and more frustrated with myself as I failed to perform, it became clear that this was due to my inability to climb above a bolt due to a paralysing fear of climbing off. After talking to lots of my girlfriends it became pretty clear that I was not alone in this. Allot of the frustration comes from knowing that you could and should be trying harder, but the fear is holding you back. I’ve decided that I’ve now come on enough  to share some of the things I have found helpful with the world of the interweb. (Apologies for the fairly girl specific points in advance)
A picture of the amazing gorge of Mascun Superiour, Rodellar. Because I can

1)      Climb with people who you trust, are attentive and understand you
Possibly alot to ask on a daily basis. I mainly climb with my boyfriend at the moment and this is NOT who you want to be working on your fear of falling with, as it is much too easy to get frustrated and take out your anger in yourself on them. Not great for your climbing or your relationship! Luckily I made a load of progress this summer going climbing in a big bunch of girls, before I came away on a long trip with my boyfriend. I find that the approach a bunch of girls will take to a day out climbing is very different to a day with a bunch of guys, everything is a bit more relaxed and less macho grade orientated.
Jonny having had fallen off the Delfin AGAIN-he seems to have no fear!

2)      Start small
Fall practice is fairly essential  and at some point you will have to start trying. However there is no need to throw yourself in the deep end. Just deciding not to clip the chains at the top of a route and lobbing off is unlikely to do anything for your head. Start by just slumping on to the rope on a top rope, then let go, then let go with a bit of slack in the system. And I’m not talking about once, or on session on one day. Do it a couple of times every time you go climbing. Once you feel confident with that start working up to jumping off on lead, below the bolt to begin with, and then gradually work up until you are falling off higher and higher. Don’t expect overnight miracles, its going to take time and patience. 

3)      Warm up properly
I find this important, as it gets not only your muscles, but your head warmed up and ready to climb. Start on a route you find easy and gradually work up to harder things. There’s no point in starting the day cold and scared, as things are unlikely to get any better. If by the time you get to a hard route you have already done a couple of harder moves (but ones that you feel happy on), got warm fingers, arms and toes,  and successfully completed a few routes already you are going to feel alot more confident. The same applies if you have just scared yourself half to death, chill out, get on something easier and relax a bit.

Duncan warming up in Collegats

4)      Project routes
Great for increasing confidence. Try not to work things on a top rope, allow yourself a clipstick, but if you can go between bolts-do it! Once you have the moves sorted you know that you can do them, and you know that there is no reason why you shouldn’t be doing them above the bolt. Choose projects that you really want to do, and then go for it. If you get scared above a bold, stop and think for a moment. You know that you can do the move, so go for it. I can guarantee that even if you do fall off going for it you will feel better than if you grabbed the bolt.

Me setting off on Magic Festival-must have fallen off the top of this route about 5 times before I held on to the top

5)      Boulder
This may seem counterproductive on first instance. However, I found that bouldering really helped my confidence. When bouldering you move dynamically and do harder moves than you would do on a rope. Having the confidence to know that you can do harder moves really helps when you are about to go for it above a bolt and may be just enough to give you the bravery to make the descision to keep going up, rather than hanging on a bolt.

Bouldering in Albarracin ©Jonny Baker

6)      Climb ‘go-ey’ routes
Also an odd one, but I’ve found myself much more confident on routes where I don’t have alot of time to stop and think. If your brain is totally engaged in getting to the next hold, there’s no space left to think about falling off! You might be at the top of the route before you even know it.

7)      Enjoy yourself
Remember the reason why you climb; because it’s fun! If ever you start feeling unhappy with yourself take a step back and try to work out why. Once you have worked out why, find a solution and apply it. For instance, if you are beating yourself up over grabbing a draw instead of going for it, climb up to that draw, do one more move and then try and jump off. Even if you don’t manage it that time, it’s still progress!  

Looking happy even after a mega alpine route

Measure your climbing days not by grades achieved, but by how hard you tried. Even if you don’t achieve your route that day, come home knowing that you tried your best that day, and any effort you put in today will be training in the bank for tomorrow.

Friday, 14 March 2014

RAB Women's Neutrino Jacket Review

The nice website shop has sent me a lovely new down jacket to review!

The excitement at finally having a functioning down jacket, after spending three months of this winter shivering in an ancient, empty jacket is hard to explain. This coat is probably everything I would ask for in a down jacket. I've been mainly using it as a belay jacket at spainsh sport crags, which whatever people tell you is not always a baking hot day! It's has been windy and overcast this winter so temperatures haven't really been getting very hot.

As a belay jacket, this coat has many great features. For a start, it has a 800 fill loft meaning that it is super warm, but not so puffy as to encumber movement. It has great big pockets for stuffing your hands in to keep them warm whilst waiting in between redpoints as well as room for hand and rope whilst belaying. It also has a handy inner pocket for a mobile or something that you are worried about getting cold. 

Making full use of the pockets on a chilly afternoon at Terradets

It has a nice big hood which will fit over a helmet, and a simple velcro adjustment system so that you can still look up whilst belaying.

Just move the strip of velcro down and you can look up

Probably my favourite feature is that fact that it has a super long length in the back, meaning that my bum stays warm when I'm belaying. You may think this is insignificant, but it is bloody amazing!

No-one likes a belayer with a cold bottom!

Although the zip is maybe a bit stiff,I like the double sided zippers so that you can poke your belay device out without having to hoik up the front of the coat and get a cold belly!

Double-ended zips so that you can poke your belay loop out

The fabric is really tough and hard wearing and has coped with being dragged through spiky spanish shrubbery, as well as surviving many a drizzle without becoming a sponge and ruining the loft (the water actually beading which suggests it will survive worse weather conditions as well).

It's worth bearing in mind that the sizing seemed relatively large,
so whilst I normally go for a size 12 jacket to fit thousands of clothes under, the size 10 was actually perfect, and on top of that it is so warm I didn't need as many clothes anymore!

Buy it here!

On top of my enthusiasm for the women's jacket, my boyfriend has the men's jacket so I can vouch for that being pretty fantastic as well! 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

And here are the pictures to accompany the previous blog post...

Christmas in Chulillia was hot and sunny

Jonny smashing some tufas at Sector Oasis

Bouldering in Albaracin

A beautiful sunny day at Siuranella Sud-Mac on an 8b that I forget the name of...

Hol crusing at Sector Espadelles in Margalef

Tickmarking the holds with blood for the next climber

Lots of Rosemary at the crag

Sorting out the van. We have two whole trad racks with us-not so useful at Margalef!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

A wet winter worldwide

I write this sitting in my nice cosy van, in the middle of a rainstorm in Margalef. Not quite ideal conditions.

I hear that it has been wet everywhere this winter, Wales, the Peak, Chamonix, and therefore I actually feel quite lucky to be blessed with days that in majority are not monsoon esque.

In other ways this winter has been rather successful so far as well. Last week I climbed my first 7c, a route called Follame ( apparently means 'fuck me', classy) at sector Espadellas Extension. I had quite the battle and fell seven times from the very very last mov, but all's well that ends well! 

We have been in Margalef for almost a month now, climbing mainly at the fantastic wall of Espadellas, a gorgeous pockety south facing crag. There is routes for everyone, from 5 to 9a and I feel like I am fast coming up to everything I can do without some siege style projecting! I've done some great routes though, and seem to generally be cruising along happily on 7a's.

The grades here came as a bit of a shock after Chulillia where we started, which either really suited my style or had very soft grades. It seems to just be getting popular as a destination, and rightly so! The setting is like a mini Rodellar, with the climbing on the sides of a gorge. There is everything from techy wall routes, to tufa mega routes. It was a great place to gain confidence at the start of the trio as everything is well bolted and friendly feeling.

We plan in spending another Two weeks here, then moving on up north to Terradets and other crags hopefully. Pictures will be coming soon I hope!