A breakthrough weekend

This weekend I went back to Tintern Quarry, where I have already been before, but somehow it felt massively different and I liked the place so much more this time around. Everything worked together this time to make this weekend a breakthrough moment in my outdoor climbing so far this summer.

Tintern Quarry lies on the east bank of the River Wye, not far from Chepstow and just over the Severn Bridge if you’re driving from London. The Wye Valley will always be memorable to me as the place where I did my first trad lead, but the sport climbing in England hasn’t really managed to find its way into my heart until this weekend.

The quarry is pretty big and has a vast selection of walls with quite epic names – the Jurassic Wall, with routes up to 40m; Sunnyside Wall, which felt more like windy wall to me; Red Dust Wall and Strawberry Wall.

We started climbing that day on the first wall that we came to, Entry Wall, and my god the climbing was just wonderful. The routes are well-bolted, for England, which I think is why it helped so much with my confidence. It felt like climbing on a normal sport route in Italy or Spain (I will do a separate post on Spain, because THAT is something else entirely!).

Clay, with whom I have been training for a few months now, and I both marvelled at how our labour has finally begun to bear fruit. Both of us struggle with fear of falling on sport routes and therefore our technique falters and we end of overgripping the hand holds and tiring ourselves out. But this weekend, we kind of nailed it.

We warmed up on a lovely 5+ at the very entrance to the crag, which felt exceptionally easy, and moved on further down the wall, where a 6a+ called “The Unkindest Cut of All” crosses with a 6b line, “Burning Embers”. They both end on the same anchor, which also houses a 6c route, “Dispossessed”, probably the best 6c I’ve done outdoors thus far. I wasn’t quite ready to lead it, but I happily led the first two, and I will definitely come back to the 6c to lead it clean after working out the moves a bit better. Clay dominated it, so he’ll move on to bigger goals no doubt, but that would be my first outdoor 6c lead.

The best part was that I felt pretty comfortable and the sheer terror of falling that I usually get on real rock seemed to be well and truly gone this weekend. I hope it’s gone for good! Of course, I still felt apprehensive about some moves, but I no longer felt paralysed by it. I felt in control.

I guess all the fall practice and the amount of time we are spending outdoors has really been paying off, even though it isn’t immediately noticeable. It feels pretty amazing to get confirmation that we are on the right track, even if it probably isn’t a straight road up. So exciting!

The great stuff doesn’t end there. We also found a great spot half way up the path to the quarry from the parking lot for wild camping – tucked away, we weren’t disturbed by anyone all night and ended up sleeping in until nearly 10am because it rained too heavily in the early hours to get out of the tent. Great excuse 😉

No more lead fall practice at the Reach?

My climbing evening was well and truly ruined and I felt like I was back at school being told off by a teacher for wearing the wrong coloured socks. And I was so excited about going back to train at my favourite climbing gym in London, The Reach

Continue reading No more lead fall practice at the Reach?

Climbing for beginners: How to start

So you have been thinking for a while about giving this climbing thing a go, and you’ve even talked your friend/colleague/significant other into trying it with you, but you just don’t know where to start and what to expect? Then this post is for you.

Going climbing for the first time can be quite daunting, especially if you decide to go on your own. Just like any other sport, being a beginner among experienced athletes takes a little bit of courage. But fear not – it isn’t hard to learn the basics, and if you go on a group induction you will not be the only beginner. Safety in numbers always helps!

Continue reading Climbing for beginners: How to start

Sport climbing in Portland

This post is a little late – my trip to Portland was over the first bank holiday in May, but better late than never!

Both my knees are bruised and scratched, my hands look like I’ve had a fight with a tiger, and it really hurts to walk…a sign of a good outdoor climbing trip! Or rather, a sign that I have experienced a number of moments of desperation, and fell quite a few metres to smash my body into some rock. 

The first days of May mean only one thing to a climber – the start of the outdoor season. So we forget indoor gyms, where we climb on colour-coded plastic in the winter, and migrate to real rock.

On the first bank holiday in May I went to Portland for some sport climbing – a rare luxury in England, where most climbing is trad. Despite a shoddy weather forecast for the bank holiday weekend, we managed to get in two days of good climbing in the (occasional) sunshine. Well, mostly in the sunshine, actually!

Continue reading Sport climbing in Portland

Strong women: Climbing pregnant

“I’m used to endurance training, I used to do 28 routes on lead in one go,” she said, as I stared in disbelief. A heavily pregnant woman stood in front of me, having just climbed a 6b+ route (indoors) I had been quite proud of leading just a few weeks earlier, and given it the verdict of “really easy”.

This was something I encountered during a recent training session at The Castle Climbing Centre, a climbing wall in North London.

I was just admiring the fact she was climbing so strong despite being so far along, and then we started chatting. I mentioned I climb a lot at The Reach and she and her partner said they hadn’t been there. Then I mentioned the big overhang project wall there, and how sustained the climbing was on these routes. That’s how we got to the endurance conversation.

Continue reading Strong women: Climbing pregnant