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!

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A successful summer...

So...the summer has drawn to a close, and the bad weather seems to be starting. Luckily in two months I will be off to Spain for the winter for some sending!

Overall I have had a pretty good summer. I've been working and saving a lot, so haven't got out as much as I would have liked to, but the days I have had have been pretty darn awesome!

My favourite area to climb in Chamonix has to be the Envers des Aguilles, it is amazing granite, amazing views, and being a good 3hrs walk in tends to put a few people off so is less busy than other places. On this trip, me and Jonny climbed a 25pitch 6a called 'Le soleil rendezvous avec la lune'. Originally we had intended to climb the Republique Bananiere, but changed our minds as we didn't really fancy loads of rapping in the dark. the route we did do was amazing, there was only one other party on the route, and we raced up the snowslope approach to be first on the route! The climbing was fantastic, here are some pictures to attest to that:

After arriving at the summit, we spent another 3hrs rapping down and finally re found our bivvy just as the night descended.

Another fantastic trip was to the Petit Portalet de Clocher. This seems to have been a trendy crag in Champnix over this summer, and lots of people seem to have headed over. We climbed 'esprit de choc', in our guide a 6c, in the modern topo 7a.  Thank god for that! I haven't pure crack climbed in a while and the extra grade was a commiseration for how hard I found it. Still, as it tends to be around here, the granite was top notch and we had an amazing day, despite Jonny having nightmares the night before about 'the cow that picks stuff up'. Crazy boy.

That one!

Ive also been doing a fair bit of sport climbing at a variety of venues, although my niggly shoulder injury is holding me back. Two recent trips to Finale ( amazing ice cream and coffee), the Aosta valley and local dragging have all provided plenty of exploring. Switzerland also provided two cool crags in the Spain esque Rawyl, and the bolted crack climbing venue of Medji. Crazy stuff!




Anyway I'm back to the UK next week, hoping to get a bit of good old British trad in amongst the rain showers and see lots of friends!

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Osprey Kestrel 38l Review

Rucksack review: Osprey Kestrel 38

The first thing that you should know before reading this is that I am an avid rucksack collector. Not in a geeky way, but more of a 'I need one for every occasion' kind of way. I have a small pile of them in the corner of our apartment that my boyfriend despairs of and considers totally unnecessary.

I've used this bag for multi-pitch rock climbing, cragging, walking, alpine climbing, skiing and just wandering around town. It has proved itself to be very versatile and a good all rounder.

Osprey have a very good reputation when it comes to rucksacks and are many people's 'go to' brand. Their bags are always very well made and designed, and the Kestrel is no exception.

Heading down the Mer de Glace ladders, with rucksac in tow

The most important thing about a rucksack is that it is comfortable to wear. I really like the back systems on the osprey packs, as they are well ventilated, but haven't resorted to the 'trampoline' style ventilation which I consider to be a complete waste of space. The material that they have used to make the straps is really comfortable, and dosen't wear badly on bare, sweaty skin which is definitely a plus.

Holding out on a rainy day on Cnicht

The pack works well when completely full, and also when it has less contents as the compression straps reduce the volume really well. The waist strap also clips back into itself very tidily, something that I find essential when climbing. The bag itself is also quite narrow, so allows for a full range of movement with your arms. For trad climbing, I found that I could happily fit in my personal gear (harness, shoes, helmet etc), two half ropes, a couple of extra layers, lunch and water for the day with no problem for the approach and during the day shrunk down enough to climb VS multi-pitch happily. On the other hand, when not full, it is small enough that you can just use it as a day bag for wandering around town.

Everything above fitted in with space to spare

Some people hate a rucksack with accessories, but I don't see what the harm is! The side pockets on this rucksack fit a map or water bottle perfectly and don't eject them without warning when you aren't paying attention. The big front stretch pocket is great for stashing layers when you can't be bothered going down into the main body, as you know that you will want your jumper/coat/t-shirt again when it stops being warm/starts raining, or the sun disappears.

Outside pocket stuffed with a jumper, axe and walking pole stored down the side 

The bag itself seems fairly waterproof even before you bring in the rain cover, and is also made out of good durable material. Be careful about putting pointy things (Ice axe, walking poles) inside the side pockets, as they don't seem to be quite so harwearing.

Thats an ice axe and a whole baguette in the side straps this time!
I found that ice axes store best down the side straps with the head tucked under the hood of the bag, but they connect into the actual ice axe bits fairly well, without too much wobbling and potential for impaling peoples eyes.

On other small notes, for those people like me who think that a 38l pack doesn't need a sleeping bag compartment, it folds away nicely and you can forget it exists. For those who like it, the zips work fine and are accessible, but not too intrusive!

The 'stow-on-the-go' walking pole holder works well, however you definitely need to remember to collapse your poles first!

Overall, I think this is a great all round versatile bag. You can climb, ski, walk and put your swimming stuff in it for a quick trip out. For someone looking for something that does a bit of everything, this is probably what you are looking for!

 More serious mountaineers might want to check out the Osprey Mutant rucksack:

It is a little more streamlined for climbing with, and operates on a 'function only' basis, also thoroughly reccomended!