Positive Climbing

Adrian Berry Climbing in Sardinia Photo by Mark Glaister

Me climbing in Mallorca back in May 2009, the shot was taken for the updated Rockfax guidebook to the area. This route was about 7a, only the bolts were all pretty well rusted which made it feel more like an E5! Photo by Mark Glaister.

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December 11th 2014

In my last entry things were building up to the official launch of all the new routes developed in Rhossili Bay. We raised £2,312 and, thanks to the equippers, equipped 72 routes. Despite poor weather a good forty people showed up to climb the routes and give the equippers a big thank-you. The barbeque was paid for and manned by Paul Twomey of TCA Bristol. Here is a list of everyone who contributed financially:

Alex Parker, Alex Wilson, Allen Weynberg, Andrew Davies, Andrew Fletcher, Andrew Riley, Andrew Varma, Anthony Hyland, Barry Arundell, Ben Davies, Beth McKendrick, Boulders Cardiff, Bruce Griffin, Caroline Barker, Caroline Mougenot, Cliff Woodman, Dan Svensson, David Douglas, Duma Brickhill, Edward Chapman, Emma Harrington, Giles Davis, Graham Ellis, Helen Bateman, Helen Kinsella, Holly Jenkins, James Smith, James Thyng, Jamie Rose, Jason Humphries, Joe Gallagher, Jon Chapel, Jonathan Redshaw, Jules Clayton, Julian Brugniaux, Justin Smith, Justin Timms, Kathryn Cooper, Kelly Vargas, Kevin Hughes, Liam Bolton, Lucy Bland, Luke Brown, Luke Maggs, Martin Lane, Mathew Dix, Matt Heason, Milton Keynes MC, Khalid Qasrawi, Neil Fowles, Nikuli Goile, Oliver Stanley, Patrick Ingram, Paul Christie, Paul Twomey/ TCA, Petter Lovehagen, Phil Haigh, Rachel Hunt, Rhys Foulkes, Richard Fewster, Robin Mcallister, Sam Clarke, Scott Mawby, Stephen Lucocq, Tanya Sage, Teresa Handley, Tim Rees, Tom Beasley, Alan James/UKClimbing, Vics Ashton, and Will Johnson.

A huge thanks to the main equippers: Roy Thomas, David Emanuel, and Simon Rawlinson, and last but certainly not least, the National Trust for allowing it to happen.

I had planned to release an update for the Gower Sport Climbing Rockfax Miniguide with all the new routes on it, but alas the PDF miniguides have now been discontinued because of the new digital versions that will be available... soon. The Gower routes should all be available straight away when it is released.
In July I got to meet Caspian Phoenix Berry - my second little one, which slowed things down rather. We hung around in London for a while, then when things were getting too easy, we packed the van and headed off to the south of France for what turned out to be a three month trip.

Not long after driving down to the Cote d'Azur I had to fly back to head out to Kalymnos for the regular autumn coaching trip. This time I was not only joined by Gaz Parry but also Lucy Creamer and Ollie Ryall. Ollie was a very welcome last-minute substitution for Simon Rawlinson who severely injured his knee a few days before the start of the trip.  It was the first time we had operated a format where clients got to choose which workshops they got to do. With a group of sixteen this was necessary as even the Kalymnian crags aren't big enough to politely accommodate a group of that size. Splitting into two groups for most of the time made sense as venues with more appropriate grade ranges allowed those at either end of the grade range to have a good choice of routes. Towards the end of the week we even had a group take up the option of heading over to Telendos to climb a long multi-pitch route. All in all, it worked really well, the feedback was excellent and we will definitely be doing it again.

Kalymnos Coaching Group

Photo: The biggest Kalymnos group ever! From L to R: Markus, Fiona, Susan, Abi, Helen, Daniela, Richard, Gianluca, Yee, Lisa, Hakan, Gaz, Lucy, Aine, Simon, and Ollie. Colm, Ian, and Gordon are there somewhere but must be hiding.

Old Bolts from KalymnosWhile out  in Kalymnos, I put some time aside to re-bolt a route of mine, Spartan Wall. I had received reports that the bolts were rusting badly (they weren't actually that bad). I had already been in touch with Steve and Sue of Glaros Bar who had ordered bolts from Jim Titt (the same as I had used down at Rhossili Bay) and resin. I had high hopes of being able to drill the old bolts out and re-using the holes. Jim Titt had already told me that this was technically very difficult but I had a go. Jim was right - despite drilling a couple of holes  either side of the expansion bolt, to the extent that the old bolt was rattling around, it just would not come out! I had previously considered just drilling all the way around it and lifting it out, but was advised that with most practically useable resins, the shrinkage during setting makes filling large holes inadvisable.

Photo: some of the old bolt hangars removed from Spartan Wall, Kalymnos.

I was glad to have my drill out with me: Gaz used it to replace the first bolt on DNA and I used it to move a belay on the route Kurva on Spartan Wall - Kurva was a great route but clipping the belay was always utterly desperate (check out the comments on UKClimbing), so I moved the belay down about one metre and then bolted my way up the wall another couple of metres, put in another belay and so now there is an extension - Kurva is now 7a rather than 7a+ and the extension is around 7b.

Kurva, Kalymnos

Photo: Richard Wood nearing the top of Kurva

Not long after the Kalymnos trip ended, the last places on next spring's Fontainebleau Workshop were filled. It must be a record to be filling trips five months in advance. Not wanting to disappoint, we decided to offer, for the first time, a second Font trip, this time in September.

Photo: Aine at Kalydna

At the end of October we headed off to Oltre Finale in northern Italy. It was somewhere I'd never been before and was keen to check out. We had a few good days climbing in the sun, though carrying two young children for over a kilometre to the crag in addition to all our kit (and theirs) was fairly punishing, and I suspect that whoever put the 'child-friendly' buggy symbol on various sectors was not in possession of first-hand experience of taking children to a crag.

Oltre Finale

Photo: Audrey enjoying the roadside climbing at Oltre Finale, Italy

Things are looking good for trips next year - the spring Font trip is full, the May Kalymnos trip is over half-full and I'm taking bookings already for the autumn trips. I'm hoping to get some work done on the 'back-burner' project that is the South Wales Sport Climbing Rockfax which I am working on with Mark Glaister. Needless to say, if I give any crags a 'family friendly' symbol, it will have been well-tested.

July 2nd 2014

Last May was the first time I've ever run a coaching holiday in Kalymns that wasn't in the autumn. I decided to try it out as I had too many people chasing too few places, so needed to offer something in addition to the usual September trip. As usual it sold out months in advance and with the skilled coaching from buddy Gaz Parry, the week went really well. It was an unusual week in one way: the standard of climbing was very high! We had Florian getting a whisker away from his first 8a, Mark and Alex both climbing Spartacus - their first 7b+, and Sandra getting so very, very close to a redpoint on her pet project, Jellyfish Pie. Typically clients come in the 6a-6b range and we push them into the upper 6s and 7s, but this time people were climbing 7a on day two.

Each time I go out to Kalymnos I try to do some equipping - partly out of the fact that I enjoy it and partly because it's good to give something back. In September last year, Gaz and I bolted a three pitch route above the Afternoon Slab which will probably be the hardest multi-pitch on the island. This time we decided to take a contrasting approach and bolt the easiest mulit-pitch on the island! I've always thought that one of the things really lacking on Kalymnos is accessible multi-pitch routes, especially in the lower grades.

Gaz and Skyhook

Above: Gaz gets to love a skyhook

I'd notice a big hanging groove line above the right-hand side of Panorama for many years. As with so many good lines, I was amazed that it had never been climbed. I suggested it to Gaz, who was up for it, and so we spent the first day climbing established routes at the right-hand end of Panorama so we could have a better look. It certainly looked like it would be possible to weave a line up to the groove by coming in from the right, and it looked pretty low-grade, low enough to bolt on the lead.

Neither Gaz nor I had ever bolted on lead. Fortunately I brought a skyhook with me, and a new drill with a total of 12Ahs of battery capacity meaning we wouldn't get halfway up with no power left.  I usually get bolts from Steve McDonnel at the Glaros Bar, but this time I was very pleased to get forty bolts and a few belays from Aris who had been supplied by the “Climb Kalymnos bolt supply” from the income of his guidebook.

We hiked up without any particular idea as to how to do it - but as with so many things, you learn what you need pretty quickly. As it was generally quite slabby ground we didn't need to do much hanging off the skyhook - just as well as it would have been pretty gripping - falling with a drill and a hammer hanging off one's harness is not a pleasant thought. The one trick we did learn was to run it out and place bolts in the easiest places, then lower down and fill in any gaps rather than placing bolts in awkward positions.

When we got to the top of the fourth pitch it was quite obvious that the big groove we had spotted from down below was quite dirty and the obvious line was the big slab leading off leaftwards - this turned out to be the best pitch on the route.

Gaz Parry 5th Pitch Space Walk

Above: Gaz seconding the 5th pitch of Space Walk - Kalymnos

At the top of the fifth pitch we found ourselves on a miniature meadow that looked as through it had never been touched by man. Behind it was another proud cliff, and what looked like another good line that would take us to the highest point. It was Gaz's turn. Because of where we were, it was going to be easier to hike around to the top and bolt on abseil, and that's what Gaz did. It was hard work in the full sun, and when he had bolted and cleaned it, it was down to me to get it climbed - amazingly it was still only grade five - with lots of big juggy pockets.

Below: Gaz equipping the final pitch of Space Walk - Kalymnos

Gaz final pitch space walk

Amazingly, the climbing never got about French grade 5 and there was plenty of good solid rock. We did pass a few big blocks and a fair few bushes, but decided it would be better to abseil the line when finished and clean it off then when we would be able to make sure there was nobody below us.

Back at the road I looked up to see where we had been - what a surprise, to find a way to the top of the crag that pretty much any climber visiting Kalymnos can do.

Space Walk Topo

One thing that the May Kalymnos trip taught us was that it would be good to be able to work with small groups of similar abilities, combined with the fact that we are constantly over-subscribed, and we have decided to do something very different for the September trip - we have increased the number of available places to 16, and doubled the coaching team to 4 - and Lucy Creamer and Simon Rawlinson will be joining me and Gaz. Now, the other change is that rather than having one big group all doing the same thing and the same time, we will split up into smaller groups of similar needs and so preserve the low ratio of coach to client that works so well. The trip in September will be a bit of an experiment, but with such a strong team I expect it will work well. It is fully booked, so if you want to take part, the next trip will be in May 2015 - which has started filling up already.

Moving on...

I am very pleased to announce that the project to equip a large number of low to mid-grade climbs in Rhossili Bay, Gower is coming along very well. Not far off a year ago we set out with the mission of equipping 30 routes below 7a in twelve months and set out to crowd-fund the project by raising £1,000. We raised a £1,000 in around a week thanks to some extremely generous donations, and the money just kept on coming.

Now, I have to admit that the seed of the idea was a chat I had with Simon Rawlinson on the walk back to the carpark from Shipwreck Cove. We both had a rough idea that there must be 30 sub 7a routes left to develop, but in truth neither of us had actually done a thorough survey! When the money flooded in I realised that we were going to have to find the lines - so last autumn I headed down there and went for an explore. What I found made the promise to equip 30 lines seem very conservative as there was a superb crag further down the beach which would easily have 30 routes on it alone! Fortunately the money kept coming in as did the necessary permissions.

Mermaid Wall

Above: a sneaky preview of Mermaid Wall - more post August

Work was slow over the winter, but this summer things speeded up thanks to the bolting 'A team' consisting of Roy Thomas, David Emanuel and Simon Rawlinson plus numerous helpers. The equippers have not wasted any time in getting the job done. The current total is 38 routes. In the last week we realised for the first time that we were running out of 6mm glue-in bolts so a bit of an appeal for more money was made and within hours we had enough to order another 190 bolts to allow us to bolt another 35 routes. We have now raised a total of £2,312 - and every penny has been spent of hardware for equipping routes.

The project will be officially opened mid-August with a BBQ down on the beach and a fun competition (with Prizes!). After then the routes will be officially open and information will be distributed freely.

What else?

Oh, I was very pleased to see the publication of the Peak Bouldering guide. I had started working on it about three years ago and handed it over to my publisher and co-author Alan James about a year ago when I had done all I could do on it. I was particulary pleased to get so many fantastic photos from the likes of Adam Long and David Hudson which made my job a lot easier. The final layout and maps transformed what I did into a work of the very highest quality and if last month's sales are anything to go by, it seems that all the hard work is being appreciated.You can order a copy direct from Rockfax via this link: http://www.rockfax.com/climbing-guides/books/peak-bouldering/.

 

Rockfax Peak Bouldering Guidebook

April 25th 2014

Just want to share some thoughts on a debate that is taking place as to developments in climbing coaching in the UK.

In the early 'noughties' I teamed up with Neil Gresham to market the personal masterclasses he was offering via the rapidly growing Internet. It wasn't actually anything entirely new, Geoff Birtles, the editor of High Magazine had attempted to launch coaching from the trio of climbing superstars Jerrfy Moffatt, Ben Moon, and Ron Fawcett, but it never took off because the medium of print just wasn't suited to the product.

We needed to come up with a snappy title for what we were doing, and I suggested we call it 'coaching' - which sounds pretty obvious now, but at the time it was pretty radical! Anyway, I ended up getting directly involved with coaching when we began to run coaching holidays through planetFear - and I've been doing it ever since.

In the years of running coaching holidays Neil and I would regularly bring friends out to see what we were doing - the idea was to get more top-level climbers into coaching so I could keep up with the huge demand for the trips. The list of names of those who came out on the trips is almost a directory of the UK's best climbing coaches: Steve McClure, Gareth Parry, Leah Crane, Adrian Baxter, Lucy Creamer, Steve Golley... we learned so much in those years  that I had to keep notes - and when I finally left planetFear (to be replaced by another big name in climbing coaching - Katherine Schirrmacher!) I gathered those notes together and wrote Sport Climbing+.

At first it wasn't an easy sell, what we were doing was very new, certainly in the UK. There was still a cultural norm that climbing should be about learning the hard way - fine if you have plenty of time, but if you have a full-time job, family commitments, and you don't have climbing on your doorstep, then you will never have time to progress without some well-informed help.

The importance of labelling what we were doing as 'coaching' rather than the traditional 'instructing' was important. We needed to be clear that we weren't teaching safety skills and that we expected our clients to be competent climbers with plenty of experience. We defined climbing coaching as all the climbing skills that are apart from the safety side of things - basically how to get up the routes! When I spoke to professional instructors about what we were doing it was clear that this was not something that was being offered by the 'establishment' for whom advanced skills was synonymous with self-rescue. Some thought coaching was all about teaching technique - and we did teach technique - but there was so much more! Some thought we were teaching training techniques - but we did very little of that, most of our clients were plenty fit and strong enough. We taught all the important stuff that wasn't knots and belaying, wasn't heel hooks and drop-knees, wasn't pull-ups dead locks and wasn't easy, we actually taught people how to get to the top by climbing smarter. And we learned off each other and we got pretty damn good at what we did.

Off course, we were outlaws! Not literally - there's no legal requirement to have a formal qualification to teach climbing. But we were outside of the establishment. We were too busy climbing (and coaching) to worry about getting qualifications more focussed on taking groups into the mountains than teaching the art of climbing.

And that was how things were to be - until I got an email from a BMC officer asking for my thoughts on whether climbing coaching needed to be regulated in some way. I had a think about it and thought that it didn't. It seemed that there were plenty of highly competent people about who had plenty to offer and it wasn't as if they were overwhelmed with work. All you had to do was google 'climbing coaching' and up they all popped.

It seemed that there are more people pushing for climbing coaching to be regulated and formalised than there are who are happy with the smooth anarchy of the free market. Mountain Leader Training have unveiled a scheme offering to produce the next generation of climbing coaches. Why? Perhaps so that standards of climbing coaching will be raised? Perhaps something to do with a Sport England grant of £336,000 " to put towards a whole series of measures to develop the provision of training and enhance coaching expertise." I digress...

So, will the new climbing coaching qualifications raise standards? Let's have a look at them:
The coaching awards scheme had three levels, two of which have been developed.

"The Foundation Coach Award is designed to enable coaches to be more effective in coaching the delivery of the fundamental movement skills of climbing."

I think I already said that movement was actually a small part of what we teach, but anyway, let's look a bit more closely: you need to have climbed for 6 months to get this award - and there is no minimum level of ability. Aside from the fact that someone could get this ticket with only 6 months climbing - and that need not include anything outside - how can there be no minimum level of competency? There is this idea that to coach you don't need to be an expert - you can coach swimming, or cycling and not be particularly good at those sports, but this is to completely misunderstand climbing - it's not a simple, mechanical activity - it's extremely complex! Climbing has far more in common with dance or martial arts that simple athletic sports - would you really be impressed by a martial arts instructor who wasn't a black belt holder? Would you wish to take dancing lessons from someone who had two left feet? No? Me neither. Good climbers don't necessarily make good coaches, but you can't be a good climbing coach if you're not any good at climbing.

One of the assessments for this qualification is to 'prepare a series of lesson plans' now, earlier I shared my view that coaching is something beyond the simple ropework of climbing. To expand upon that here is my definition of coaching in the context of climbing:

Coaching is personalised teaching based on assessment with clear performance objectives.
Ropework and gear isn't coaching not because it's related to safety skills but because teaching it is a one-size-fits-all product - and there are no performance objectives either it's safe or it's not! The skill of coaching is studying someone and analysing what they need then giving it. If you've already planned a lesson before you've seen you're clients, then you're not really coaching.

The development coach award is the next level up, but it too has no minimum level of climbing ability, and requires only 12 months of experience.

For those of us who have been happily getting on with coaching for the last 10+ years the creation of this coaching awards scheme is unwelcome because it is set to rebrand inexperienced climbing wall instructors as climbing coaches, and does nothing to differentiate highly capable and experienced coaches. Neil Gresham has been collating the views of many of us coaches and it is hoped that our input will prompt the Mountain Training boards to reconsider how to proceed. In the meanwhile, if you're looking for coaching, look for someone who has reached a high level in the sport and has many years experience in coaching as it's not a skill learned quickly.

Font Workshop 2014

I recently had a great week in Fontainebleau running our annual Easter coaching workshop with Gaz Parry. Weather was perfect - nice and cold air, but plenty of sun. The group was very psyched and we were out of the door by 9.30 and typically spent eight hours a day out on the rocks. By the end of the week everyone was pretty worn out despite the rest day. In fact, it was down to Adam Blewett to complete the hardest problem with his ascent of Le Coer (7A) on the final Saturday morning, particularly impressive because Adam injured his ankle on the first day and spent most of the week unable to climb.

Above: Michelle and Adam doing the footwork exercises on the first morning - Michelle has a pair of goggles that allow her to see only her feet and Adam is going one further by climbing with a blindfold.

Abigail Womersley attempting a 7A highball at l'Éléphant.

Jack on the classic La Plage slab at l'Éléphant.

Abigail poses for the camera on a problem at Isatis - she had done the problem earlier in the day but I asked her to get back on it as the light was so good and I needed a new photo for the promotional poster!

Abigail on a highball at Sabots - she had previously slipped off and bounced off the matts on the boulder and landed on the floor. Gaz build the impressive pad platform and Abigail completed the problem.

Jack Shewring having a nervous moment, then cleanly completing the top of a very highball slab at L'Éléphant.

September 13th 2013

First of all an update on The Rhossili Bay Project - we had set out to raise £1,000 in 12 months - and we did it in 6 days - a fantastic response! The money is still coming in and we now have over £1,800 - which will greatly boost the number of routes we can equip and means we can use higher quality materials. I paid a visit to the Bay before heading out to Italy and Shipwreck Cove itself was packed! My route Airshow has now had a couple of repeats including an onsight ascent by Steve McClure, and the grade seems to have settled in at 8a+, especially if you have a long reach! The other big routes on the wall were all clipped-up and chalked-up and it all looked very different to how it looked the first time I saw it - loose and dripping wet!

One final stumbling block was making sure that the National Trust were happy with the continued development. The NT had visited the site and agreed to the proposed development of the rest of the bay (except for Sheepbone Wall) with the condition that grassy and vegetated areas were not disturbed.

The NT had however read some dissenting voices on UKC and wanted to be sure that climbers wanted this. So it was put on the agenda of the BMC local area meeting to be held in Cardiff in September. Some feared for the worse but they needn't have worried, the vote was unanimously in favour of the development!

While there I had a walk along the bay with Simon Rawlinson and we scoped out where we wanted to develop new routes. Further along the bay, out towards Sheepbone Wall we found an interesting wall - short, and quite tidal, but if properly developed I'm sure it would be a popular spot with a good grade range. Currently we are waiting to receive an order of glue from Jim Titt - when that arrives we can start the development work.

Rhossili Bay

Above: A site for future development in Rhossili Bay, Gower

The family holiday this year was spent in Val di Mello,a beautiful granite valley right at the very northern tip of Italy. I'd been there in 2005 when I was running a coaching holiday with Gaz Parry. This time Audrey and I were joined by friends with their children so it was a mixture of climbing and childcare.

Neve

Above: Neve and Justin bouldering in Val Masino

There were quite a few good routes that I hadn't done, including Kochise, a 6a+ slab direct on Il Risvergio di Kundalini route. I quickly remembered just how hard 6a+ is on Italian granite - something like climbing gritsone's Downhill Racer (E4) but with bolts- over and over again. We had intended to link up into another route but we had to wait a while before we could start, then I forgot where the path went and we spent ages trying to find the start of the route and by that point we were getting pretty tired and decided to retreat from the fourth pitch of Luna Nascenta while it was still easy to do so. Audrey and I also got on Mombi, a five pitch 6c close to the Remenno campsite. The 6a+ pitch turned out to be the crux, and I have to admit to standing on a bolt to do one section as I was completely stumped. The rest of the route was more accurately graded and the best pitch by far was a long 6b wall that Audrey led.

Mobi

Above: Audrey on the 6c pitch of Mombi, Val Masino

A few weeks after returning from Italy it was time to head out to Kalymnos to run the annual Kalymnos Workshop. The trip was good fun to run, with a big range of abilities, all managing to make a lot of progress (due to a lot of hard work). I reckon we had some very happy customers as the remaining places on the Font trip were all snapped up before I even got home!

And here we all are...

Kalymnos Workshop Team 2013

Above: The 2013 Kalymnos Team

I had a few days at the end of the trip with Gaz and we set about bolting up a couple of great lines above the classic Afternoon Slab. Armed with Neil Gresham's drill and a pile of bolts and belays supplied from the Glaros bolt fund, we hiked up to the top of the wall and dropped a rope down. I went down first and had a look at a striking wall - though decided not to bolt it as it was likely to be pretty hard and I only had a few days. Gaz will be back out in October, so decided he would do it. I bolted a much easier line to the right - a big corner I had spied every year I'd been there. I spent one day bolting and cleaning and one day bolting, cleaning, and climbing. Then I helped Gaz clean and bolt his line. The original idea had been to climb Beta and continue up above, but I noticed that there was another tufa line to its left, so we bolted that one making the line more independent. On the last full day we jugged up a fixed line and Gaz redpointed the top pitch - a very exposed and fingery 8a.

Here's a topo (note that Gaz's project is exactly that - assume is it closed until written up in Glaros.

Kalymnos New Routes

July 23rd 2013

Adrian at Wreck CoveIt's been a great month! On the weekend before last I got down to Gower and had two days at the fantastic Shipwreck Cove. On the Saturday I got on my project with a view to working a way of doing the crux move without using the razor-sharp edge that keeps cutting through my tip and severely limiting the amount of times I can do the move in one visit. I had been told by Rob Lamey that it was possible to use another hold (he'd been on the line while I was there earlier in the year) and I was pleased to find that he was right.

When you have to drive five hours to get to your (tidal) project and you only get there for a couple of days every few months you have to be very tactical in how you go about things, so I decided to not give it a redpoint attempt that day and to save my energy and skin for the following day. The next day we waded out through the sea to get the earliest start and avoid being in the full sun. Now that there are some routes on the east-facing wall there ability to warm-up properly is to be had where previously there was pretty much nothing. After a couple of warm-ups I got back on the route. Soon I was to was a bit surprised to find a large hold had completely vanished, leaving only a small edge in its place. On a previous attempt I had felt this hold creak while hold out a big armful of slack and facing a proper big whipper so I wasn't entirely shocked. Still, it was a bit disappointing that despite all the topos pointing out that this was my project, someone had decided it was fair game. The removal of the hold meant that the section after the crux was a lot more continuous and the route was a bit harder.

By the time I got to have my go, the sun was beating on the top section of the route. I was feeling quite drained by the heat, but that same heat made me feel more warmed-up than I had ever been at that crag. Simon offered a belay and I started up. The crux is about half-way up. I won't bore you with the details, but I almost fluffed it up by trying to make a reach when I hadn't set my feet high enough - costing me a few seconds and a lot of strength. I pushed on into a long sequenced of fingery moves, at the back of my mind I knew I wasn't going to make it but thought I should just give it one big go as I was unlikely to be having another that trip. I surprised myself in getting all the way to the lip of the final headwall where two big locks gain holds that lead to easier ground. I managed the first big lock, but then the second shut me down, I just didn't have enough strength left. Desperately I slapped for some random bit of rock hoping to latch something I could use as an intermediate hold. There wasn't much, but what I did find was quite rough and it grabbed by skin and allowed me to slap again for the better hold. I hit the hold but this time it was the turn of my fingers to fail, again, it was another rough hold and the roughness alone kept me in contact. I was just able to get my feet up and made one more move to a semi-rest. I worked the rest for a little while, recovered well, and managed to climb the final section to the belay and enormous relief. I called the route 'Air Show' and reckon it's probably just about 8b - though I am a bit rusty when it comes to grading routes!

Shipwreck Cove has come a long way from September last year when I abseiled down the face on a cold foggy day to find it soaking wet a littered with loose blocks! It has matured quickly and now there are a number of really good routes. I have been surprised by how friendly and open the atmosphere is there. Climbers down the beach with the families who have brought their harnesses and shoes on the off-chance that they can grab a belay have not been disappointed.

Walking back along with beach with Simon, I mentioned how much better a venue it would be if there were more lower-grade routes. There is plenty of rock, but bolting is a time-consuming, and expensive business and naturally we want to bolt the routes that we want to climb. I suggested that there could be a way of raising money to fund the bolting of low to mid-grade routes and the idea was born to raise £1,000 to bolt 30 routes in 12 months. I have now set up a bank account, and a Paypal account, and if you want to read more about The Rhossili Bay Project just follow that link.

I will be updating the Rockfax Gower Sport Climbing Miniguide soon. The bulk of the work that will be the Peak Bouldering guide is done, just checking some of the lower-grade problems and getting the final finish complete.

We're off to Val di Mello in a couple of weeks - so hope to report on that when I get back.

Photo: me on an earlier attempt to redpoint 'Air Show', the hold I have my right hand on is no longer there... Photo by Simon Rawlinson

May 10th 2013

Had a bit of a frustrating winter. Towards the end of last year I had a few sessions on a bolted project at Shipwreck Cove, on Gower. Although I didn't realise it at the time, one of the holds resulted in a sore tendon which took a while to heal and so the winter was mostly spend trying to rehab that injury. By February this year things were looking a lot better and I began gradually increasing the difficulty. It was pretty annoying to then go a pop a pulley while trying a hard circuit at The Biscuit Factory, this was only sixe weeks before the Fontainebleau Technique Week was scheduled so I needed to get things to heal quickly. I didn't want to get onto an NHS waiting list so saw saw a private physiotherapist who specicialises in hand injuries. Two sessions of ultrasound and laser, plus my own self-treatment seems to have helped things and I do think that the injury healed more rapidly than I would have normally expected.

In March it was the time to run the Fontainebleau Technique Week with Gaz Parry. My finger was healed enough to climb, and I had a full van for the drive over. The week was a lot colder than we normally experience, but it was dry and the result was some very good climbing conditions. We changed the venues around a bit this year and I think this improved the week. The week went really well from the coaching perspective, and the only think holding people back by the end of the week was fatigue - despite the rest-day.

Font Technique Week 2013

The 2013 Fontainebleau Technique Week team from left to right: Colm, Lisa, James, Rhys, Adrian, Gaz, Daniela, Florian, Jordan, and David.

The feedback from the trip was all very positive, and becuase the 2013 trip was booked up so early, I have opened the 2014 trip to bookings already.

I've not done any ice climbing this year. I had a weekend in South Wales back when it was very cold, but when the choice between a crusty bit of Brecon ice and a day in Pembroke presented itself I opted for Pembroke and had a great day with Audrey. I had one day on my Gower project last weekend and ws pleased that my fingers were up to it, I just need more strength-endurance to get the redpoint.

The big work project this year is to complete the Peak Bouldering Rockfax. This book is proving to be a massive project, and is going to take most of the weekends with good weather - so the coaching is going to be of limited availability I'm afraid.

2012 Entries are here.