Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Wales and Ireland

I’ve competed at, as far as I know, every Welsh Championships there has been, and this year was no exception! Despite the fact that it was in North Wales, a 7 hour journey (further than Sheffield!) away, I was psyched for the comp! We travelled up late on the Friday, slept in the van in the car park and were up early for the comp the next day.

The format for the Welsh is different to most comps, in that you do a whole 5 routes in a day, from the morning’s 3 qualifying climbs to the semis and finals in the afternoon. This format is good in terms of getting as much climbing as possible into a comp, and its great training having to climb that many routes in the day, though it does take some getting used to.

I flashed the 3 qualifiers and the semis pretty easily, but knew the final looked much harder, and would be difficult to top. I qualifier into the final in 1st, so came out last. I could see the draws swinging from the previous climber, so knew where I had to get to win. It was a goal, a point where I knew if I reached I would win. I set off, and passed the high point. I powered through the 10 or so moves, knowing I had won, but the psyche I felt was different. I was not climbing for a win, I was climbing for pride. This was not the psyche I was ready for, fired up for a competition final, and my mindset changed. I tried hard, and pushed through some very powerful moves, but my foot slipped around half height and I was off.

When I got down it was confirmed, I had won! I chilled out, watched the rest of the
finals and had a quick play on the 8a+ senior final, falling on the last move!

The next day we headed out bouldering in the Ogwen Pass, where despite the cold conditions I came away with a V8 flash and a V9! It was just my style with little crimps on gently overhanging rock; I just wish there had been more of it!

 This weekend it was the turn of the Irish to host their national championships. This year the senior and junior events had been split up, so I could only make it to one of them, and decided to go for the senior title once again. I knew competition would be tough, and when the whole of the Irish junior team and last years second place were on the entry list, that was made certain!

The first route of the day, starting on jugs and finishing with a spicy section on slopers, and I was 4th up. I like climbing early on my first route, it gives me a time to target my warm-up at, and this time was no exception. Bar a couple of big moves at the top, the route was no problem and I topped along with a good few of the senior males.
The next route was an entirely different prospect, with a big dyno around the 4th clip and an incredibly balancey and technical final few moves across a volume. I was relatively pumped when I reached those moves, so a sit down rest on a volume was well received when setting up for the final moves. It was such a nice final sequence, I squtted down on the volume, keeping my centre of mass low and rocked over onto my foot. I reached the little intermediate and bumped again to the finishing jug, topping the second qualifier. Dom Burns, the current European bouldering champion, was the only other climber to top the route, putting us in joint 1st
 going in to the final.

Next up was the final! I didn’t have a clue how far people had got when I came out. Normally you can tell from the crowd how people are doing, but this time we were too far away to tell. All I could do was top, or at least make a damn good effort at it!

I came out and looked up. The route was very powerful and burly in the lower section, but I managed to avoid most of the pulling with some high feet and a good few heel hooks! From there it was just my style. Little crimps and heel hooks, Ideal! I rested as much as I could, but knew that the final decider would be time in the case of a tie between me and Dom, so I couldn’t hang around. I reached across to an extremely tenuous side pull, bumped my hand in and reached up to the bottom of the volume. I slapped onto the volume and rocked over, squeezing myself against the volume to gain a basically no hands rest. I could have stayed here for another 5 minutes, recovered completely and gone for the move, but I knew time would be the decider if Dom reached the same point. I pushed up on the volume, eyed up the hold, and threw! I was close, but just at the deadpoint of the swing my grip failed and I was off into space. Just another centimetre would have been enough, but not this time.

The final route! Credit: John Banyard

Go big or go home! Credit: John Banyard

It was all down to Dom now. He set off and looked pumped from half way, but fought his way to the volume and rested his forearms. He was trying to press up with his feet and use the arête, but kept coming back to the volume to rest. After another attempt at pressing up, he went for the jump, getting 2 fingers on the hold but, like me, not sticking it.

It was down to time! A nervous wait followed, and after the judges checked multiple times it was decided; I was Irish champion again! I was so psyched to win this competition for a second year, the first title I have ever defended and my first senior title of the year! Bring on 2014!

On the podium Credit: John Banyard

My next competition in the lead and bouldering youth opens in Sheffield in December, where I hope to be reselected onto both the lead and boulder teams.

Monday, 21 October 2013


I was selected for the GB junior bouldering team last year, at the December youth open, but last weekend was the first time I’d had the opportunity to experience a European bouldering competition. We met the team in Manchester airport, and after a bumpy flight, a long wait at the airport and negotiating the infamous traffic of Paris, we arrived in the city. The competition was being advertised everywhere, so we knew the finals were going to be a real spectacle.

After a long opening ceremony on the Friday night, we headed for bed, ready for an early start on the Saturday to watch the girls and prepare for our qualifications. The wall looked amazing, 4 blocs separate from each other on the raised stage of a stadium sized arena. We went for a run to warm up in the morning cold, and then headed to the warm up wall below the arena. While bouldering to warm up, I was impressed at just how strong some of the climbers were, and knew it was going to be a tough competition. I’d not experienced European blocs before, so was keen to get on them and see how they felt.

It was a frustrating competition for me. I topped the first problem I tried, a quite powerful but technical climb up a vertical wall on gastons, but it went downhill from there. I seemed to be close on so many problems, but could not get the tops I needed. I managed the first, easiest problem after that, but no more. The main difference I discovered compared to lead competitions, is that while there is less pressure on every attempt, as if you’re off that’s not it all over, you need to keep motivated and positive throughout the whole of the 2 hour period. If you fall in a lead comp you have hours or even a day between routes to reflect, get frustrated and get psyched, but in a boulder comp every fall builds up, and requires a quite different mindset to deal with, something that with my relative inexperience of bouldering I have not yet learnt. This will come with time, but its still going to be annoying to fall off with a hand on the finishing hold, or come within a move of topping 3 others.

For Nathan, the captain of the GB team, this was his last junior competition, and he went out with style! He won the final in an atmosphere of the best psyche I’ve seen in a competition. It really was inspiring to see, and it was great to see him on the top step of the podium, the first I’ve seen since I stared competing.

The next day was the turn of the Youth B’s, and they had their qualification in a separate venue. In their first boulder competition, Pete and William both managed to make a European final! I really do envy them for their qualifiers, a whole set of slabs and crimps, hopefully something I get more of, rather than powerful campus moves off slopers, not really my thing that! It was another great final, and we cam away with another podium, with William making 3rd place!

I really enjoyed my first boulder comp, and really hope I get to take part in more next year! 

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

BLCCs 2013

Every year the British Lead Climbing Championships is held too far away in the smoke fuelled north. This year, happily, it was a little bit less north, with the event taking place for the first time I can remember south of the border at the new Awesome Walls centre in Sheffield. The wall looks amazing, and is great to climb on, it’s just a shame it’s so far away or it would be perfect for training. This was the first time the wall had be used, opening for the comp, so it was the perfect level playing field.

The Saturday was the day for the junior competition, so we arrived bright and early to view the new wall and the routes that had been set for us. They looked great, and I was early on my first route, so set about warming up. The first route was really easy, no harder than 7a I’m sure, but the entire category topped it, so it was all down to the second qualifier.

This was the first route of the day up the main steep competition wall, and it followed the right arête of the protruding roof. This wall just as steep as the Ratho hangar wall, and is the closest I’ve seen in this country that comes close to that level of imposingness. The route began with a technical section of crimps and undercuts, before moving downwards onto a jug and a big move out around the arête. I hung around for too long on the jugs under the lip, shaking out the pump building in my arms but it was only getting worse. I had to go, and got my foot high and threw for the hold, my feet swinging off but sticking the move. I was pumped by this point, but kept moving and managed a couple more big moves before an awkward cross under spat me off. With only 4 in the category making it through to the final it was going to be tight as to who made it, and after Buster and Connor topped the route there were only 2 places remaining. Fortunately the 2 people who got past the big move in the roof fell off the same move as me, so I qualified for the final in =3rd place.

So pumped I'm dragging! Photo credit: Peter Wuensche

I was annoyed that the route we were to be climbing was leaked before isolation, so everyone had ample time to read the route and decide their sequence. I feel like the onsight factor suites me with just a 6 minute observation, so to have climbers discussing routes with their coaches or even drawing route maps is frustrating, and ruins the feel of a final for me.

My final route went straight through the steepest part of the roof, and looked particularly cruxy through the beginning of the roof. I was first out, and the beginning section was much more powerful and pumpy than I expected, and I had to throw for a lot of holds, not the ideal style for a lead competition. I arrived at the roof pumped, and despite shaking out on a sloper below the steep section I had to continue climbing still pumped. I reached an undercut at the beginning of the roof, threw out to a side-pull further out and got my heel under the undercut. The move I had read looked too big, so I desperately grabbed for a volume that I, and the rest of my category, had read as a foothold. I spent a good 2 minutes scoping out every surface of that volume with a pair of binoculars and could see no hold, but to my surprise, there was a veritable jug on the other side. I knew I would have to bicycle the hold next to my right hand to stick the move, but my heel was on the wrong side and I was too pumped to switch my feet, so I squeezed and hoped I could make the match, but was off. All but one in the category read the move wrong, and Connor made it to the same place as I did, placing my 2nd via count back. I’m pleased with the result, though it was luck that got me there more than anything. I have defiantly learned not to discount holds, especially if they appear to be the only way!

Heel up and moving to the mysterious volume... Photo credit: Peter Wuensche

The next day, and it was time for the senior event. This is the first year I have be eligible to compete in the senior competition, and was keen to make the most of it. I was on my hardest route first, so was psyched and ready to go when the time came. I was on early, so not too many people had gone, but there seemed to be big moves between slopers low down, and then my perfect style higher up, technical and crimpy on a slightly overhanging wall.

The route felt awkward and hard from the start, with a match by the 4th clip feeling very hard. I knew a big move was coming, and clipped high ready to jump between the slopers. I moved into the first, it felt terrible and slippery, and I stopped to consider my options, reversing the move. I knew it was big, and it looked bigger from here, so I knew I was going to have to jump, boulder style or try and get my foot up and static the move. I opted for the latter, a mistake it would seem after I slid backwards off the route, only 14 moves in. It was frustrating to fall off that low, but I know that next year I will be stronger and taller, ready to tackle the harder moves in the seniors.

Starting up Route 1. Photo credit: Peter Wuensche

The second route was my exact style, vertical and crimpy, and I topped it pretty easily, along with about 10 others. A nice end, but not enough for the final. A frustrating end to my first senior BLCCs.

Crimpin' on route 2! Photo credit: Peter Wuensche
I have just returned from my first Boulder EYC in Laval, France, so will be blogging soon about my weekend and experiences. Stay tuned!



Sunday, 29 September 2013

Norway and Worlds

After my performances last year, and with making 2 European finals, I was this year selected for the World Youth Championships in Victoria, Canada along with a small group of the GB team; Molly, Pete, Buster, Jim and William. The flight was long, dull and filled with films, with the most exciting event being the finding of an unattended in-flight cookie box around 5 hours in. Canada from the air is incredible, so vast, empty and untouched, we flew for hours without seeing a town or even a road.

After short hop from Vancouver to Victoria in the scariest little plane I have encountered, we were on the island, and were to spend the next few days adjusting to the time difference and the place as a whole. The city was amazing, and unlike anywhere else I’ve been to, every person I met was happy and always ready for a chat. The amount of random strangers I had conversations with was staggering! In terms of the time difference I didn’t suffer too badly, and found waking up was actually easier than in the UK!

The Team!

Friday rolled around, and it was time for the first qualifiers. I was one of the last to climb in the biggest category of the event, so waited for hours under the giant wall, watching the competition unfold. I met a fair few new people on that day and the opening ceremony the previous night, and it was great to talk to some of them during the day. It was late before I started my climb, but I knew what I was doing, knew I was fit and knew I was ready. In the first part of the climb I felt sketchy and perhaps a bit nervous, but when I got to the rest I told myself to relax, enjoy it and climb my best, and I did. I fought as high as I could, and made it beyond any expectations I had, falling pumped within 2 clips of the top. You can do no more than fall off fighting, and that’s exactly what I did! I ended up 13th on that route, which put me in with a very good chance of making the semis, so I could relax some more and focus on my next route, and try to do as well as I could.

Qualifier 1 (Photo By Nick Pope!)

Like the first, my second qualifier began vertical and steepened out into a roof towards the top, and looked like my perfect style! I was on much earlier today, and this meant I could warm up as soon as I got to the wall, which helped to calm my nerves. Normally on routes in competitions they feel easier than they looked, that is the holds are bigger than they look from the ground, and the moves not as long, but on this route this was not the case! It was insecure and sketchy but I made my way up to the vertical wall to a rest, where I composed myself for the harder moves above. I moved off and up, and got to a long rockover around the arête. It was one of the harder moves on the route, and required a fair amount of commitment. I rocked to it, moving off the intermediate, but only got to the bottom of the hold. I clawed at wall trying to move the last inch but despite coming so close, I peeled off backwards into the air. I’m normally good at rockovers, so to fall off here was frustrating! It was enough though, and I qualified for the semi final in 17th.

Qualifier 2 (Photo By Nick Pope!)

The rest day was relaxing and gave me time to reflect on my performance, but before I knew it, it was back to the wall and into isolation. During observation the route looked just my style, techy and vert into more steep, crimp climbing. It looked perfect, and I was psyched to get on it! My time rolled around, and I was ready. From the start I felt good, and pretty solid on the first section. I got past the vertical and was resting ready to go for a big tufa that marked the beginning of the steeper section. I went for the move ready to use a small foothold as an intermediate, but it was terrible! I returned to the hold, ready to make the move again but had to move my hand around the rope, or it would have been in my way to do the move. I bumped it off, went around the rope, but when coming back down I hit the hold again wrong. I popped off it, over balanced and fell. I was devastated; to fall off with such a stupid mistake was completely frustrating. I ended up 24th, which with my qualifying results being much better I know there is lots of room for improvement, so bring on next year!

The Semis (Photos By Nick Pope!)

From Canada, after I got over my horrendous jetlag, it was to Norway for the final EYC of the year. The wall was in an ice rink, so warming up was the first challenge! The group sizes were relatively small, compared to somewhere like Imst at least, so I knew I would be on my first route reasonably early. I warmed up as normal and felt ready to climb my best. This was my last chance of the year to make a European final, so I had to get it right.

My first route was no soft touch. The vertical wall was littered with slopers that I knew were going to get my pumped. I sat in the chair, but was beginning to cool down as soon as I got off the warm-up wall. By the time it was my turn to climb, I felt fine, but as soon as I got onto the cold holds of the wall my fingers got cold I started to get pumped. I sketched my way over an awkward move off a sloper and rested on a volume, but just couldn’t shake off the pump. I had to press on, and hope it got no worse. I dug deep, and pulled over a lip before a move to and undercut defeated me. I came off pumped and frustrated with a final place of 12th on the route. Not bad, but not good enough for a place in the final yet. I had to do better, and I knew warming up effectively and staying warm would be key. 

I was dejected, but tried to stay positive. The route looked hard, and I was particularly worried about a section in the middle. I started and heel hooked my way up the arête to what looked like a hit or miss slap to a sloper, and there seemed to be more miss than hit. I got onto the hold below, looked up and reversed the moves. A high heel to hand, a rockover and a bit of luck later and I was past it, thank god for heels! I was pumped, but managed to fight my way to the next hard move, where I managed a crucial match on a big sloper before pumping out and peeling off. Now it was time to wait. For my efforts I gained a joint 4th place on that route, and had to wait the agonising hours to see if I could sneak in. The end draw closer and I was dropping places slowly. 6th… 7th… 8th… 9th… Then came 10th, the one place no-one wants to be with the end still not close. There were 5 to climb, then 2, then none. I had made it to the final of my first European this year, along with the rest of the GB junior team!

The 2nd Qualifier

The next day, finals day and I was set to go. I felt strong, and fit and ready. The route during observation looked desperate, with a hard double dyno move at half height. I read with a number of people, but knew the sequence was hard to read, and ensured I had multiple options for every move. I sat in the chair, put my shoes on, and then my favourite song came on in the arena. Perfect. I walked out, stood under the wall and read the climb. Time to go!

I had a huge scare at the second clip, where I had missed that one of the volumes was in fact a giant jug and went too statically, and almost didn’t reach it. Fortunately I held on, and fought my way through the lower section of the climb. I rested on a heel hook over a small lip and made my way, with some fighting, to the crimps before the dyno. It looked even bigger from here! I rested for what felt like an age on the crimps, and knew I would have to go for it. I got my feet up, and went! Looking back, it seemed like I was trying to do the move statically, or at least keep a hand on. I touched the hold, but couldn’t bring my other hand over to match it, and fell.

Looking back, maybe I should have rested longer on the holds, and gone for it with full commitment. But, I must say, the dyno was inappropriate for our age category. 4 fell at the same spot, and count back had to be used to separate us. One climber made the jump, and won the competition. This seems to be a new thing in competition lead climbing, dynos on the route. There were 2 in Norway, for some categories suitable and others perhaps not. Most recently on the male final in Purrs a sideways dyno caught out many of the strongest climbers in the world. Will there be more? I don’t know, but I will definitely be practising from now on!

I finished 5th in Norway, My best result in a European to date, and in my first year of the category. Hopefully next year we can bump that best up a place or four! My next comp is the junior and senior British Lead Climbing Championships in Sheffield next weekend, and then my first bouldering EYC in Laval next month, and am training hard!

Massive thank you to Paul Allen Wealth Management for their support, and bring on next year!

Happy climbing!

Alex J

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

The Road Trip

Sat in my final maths exam staring out at the sunshine, thinking about how the next weeks would pan out, I would never have imagined some of the people I’ve met, the places I’ve been and the climbs I’ve done.

We set off from the conclusion of that very exam, straight from school to begin the 7 week long roadtrip we had been planning since the beginning of the year. After a family wedding in Cambridge, we met up with Billy Ridal, one of my friends from the comp circuit who was also on the trip to Spain earlier in the year, who would be accompanying us on our journey. We were packed, psyched and ready to go, and boarded the ferry with high spirits. Bar the black foot marks in the cabin from constant "cabin bouldering", the 2 day journey passed relatively painlessly and we arrived in Bilbao ready to hit up the first stop on the list, Baltzola cave!

The one place we didn't have the guide for turned out to be the hardest to find a topo for, obviously, and we spent many hours in the city searching! Not to be outdone, we found the position of the crag online and decided to venture out topoless, and got on one of the nice lines until (we hoped!) some locals arrived. I managed the climb 3rd go, after falling from the last move on the second, and when a group arrived I was happy to find out it was in fact an 8a called “Blandiju”! As well as the route identification, we were also pointed to a topo online, which gives fairly accurate information about the routes in the cave. Fresh from my success on the first climb, I decided to try another 8, and settled on the 8a+ “Iluminatis”, another steep roof line, which despite trying it intending to get up the next day, I managed 2nd go! A very successful first day!

Second day, and I got on another 8a+, “Black Kongi”, which starts up the classic 8c of the crag, “White Zombie”, then ends with a boulder problem. It was an awesome line, and when I didn’t manage it that day I was deliberating whether to come back and finish it off or to move on to the next crag without the risk of another failure. Nice one to Billy for getting his 2nd 8a, and his first of the trip at this amazing crag! I made the decision to give it a last few attempts, and managed it, after a few good falls from up high.

I made a video of our time in Baltzola, including all the hardest climbs we managed. Some of the zoomed shots really capture the scale of the place!

After finishing the climb we left the crag and headed out to our next planned destination, Rodellar! There are very few, European destinations that allow for hard summer climbing, but with its North-South gorge giving morning and afternoon shade, and its proximity to the river, Rodellar is perfect, as well as having a great climbing scene!

My goal for the entire trip was to manage an 8a onsight, so with the aim in mind I set out to try as many 8a's as I could find, and it seemed like Rodellar would be the perfect place to do it, with plenty to choose from. We began with some fun mileage in the morning then set off for some more serious stuff on the huge wall of Gran Bovida. The goal for the day was an onsight attempt of Coliseum, the most onsighted route at Rodellar and a 40m long stamina fest. I set off, but despite easy climbing I was pumped out of my mind by half height, and came off fighting as hard as I ever have. I was going to need to be fitter!

I tried many more 8as in the coming days, falling off most in the last hard moves. I’m not sure if it was a mental block, or I wasn’t fit enough, or the routes just didn’t suit me, but despite coming within moves of success, the tick eluded me! I managed some great climbs in Rodallar though, with 3 8a ticks and a 7c+ onsight (almost falling clipping the chains!). Perhaps the most significant for me though was redpointing El Delphin, the mega classic roof climb through a huge arch well above the valley floor.

The route itself isn’t particularly good and the climbing for the most part is not too hard, but the mental battle for me to clip the chains was intense. It wasn’t the difficulty of the route, but the combination of the exposure, the (from my point of view) poor fixed gear and insecure looking rock flipped some sort of switch in my head, and I just freaked out. When I fell off on the onsight, I was a gibbering wreck of fear. I haven’t been scared of falling for some years now, in fact I have come to enjoy it, but this climb made me feel like I didn’t even want to weight the rope, for fear of the rope snapping on the worn draws. If I stopped, let the route beat me and moved on, I felt like I could develop a mental block, and it could slow down my rapid progress on the trip. I had to get back on the route, just to show myself that I could do it. The next go I came off again, panicked, but less so than the first attempt, which was good. I got back on, and with a fight I slapped through the last boulder problem and clipped the chains. Not a route I plan to do again in a hurry, but an important step in improving my climbing.

El Delphin

From Rodellar we headed to Terradets, but even with the morning shade the heat was unbearable, and the rock felt slick in the humidity. The sixes felt hard, the eights felt just as hard, and when the sun finally peaked over the top of the crag, with no meaningful ascents under my belt, I left feeling frustrated. We drove off to find the next crag, Tres Pons.

Tres Pons is exactly my style, long, not too steep and on positive crimps, and with the summer heat being kept at bay by the river and the shade, was the perfect destination. We arrived too early on the first day for the afternoon crag, but as soon as the sun was off it we got on an unnamed 7b to warm up, and wow was it amazing! This is the single best route I did on the trip, and I’m not even sure why. All the moves just flowed, and gave me a route that meant I came down smiling. Perfect!

Fresh from this fun I geared up for an onsight attempt of a route to the left, Alt Urgell, a 7c that extends into an 8a. I had wanted to go for the onsight of the 7c, but put a few extra draws on so I could try the extension if I got there. I set off, and after choosing the wrong line of holds at the start and having to down-climb to just off the ground, I was soon at the end of the 7c section looking up at the final steep moves before a hard looking slab to the chain. I was already about 30m up at this point, but I could recover for the last 10m on jugs by the first lower off. I composed myself, and went for the crimps above. It was hard climbing, but all the onsighting I’d been doing meant I knew what to do, and with some high feet and long rockovers I was stood on the slab, shaking out my arms and staring at the chain some metres above. It was a case of moving slowly, taking the route one move at a time and ensuring I didn’t make any mistakes. Every move was a calculated risk, but when I latched the final flake that I knew would take me to the top, I let out a shout of delight! I climbed to the chains, clipped them, and lowered off. I’d done it, my first 8a onsight! I left happy that night, and looked forward to the next day at this perfect crag. Effort to Billy, who also managed to top this route, despite being a bit under the weather.

We warmed up on the 7b again, but it didn’t seem as good as the previous day, which was a shame, but it was no matter, and I decided, after some recommendations from locals, to try for the onsight of another 8a. This again was the extension of a 7c+, but also extended again into and 8a+ finish. I took enough draws for the whole thing, more out of hope than any real confidence I would reach the top. I pulled through the 7c+ well, and got to the angle change that marked the start of the 8a extension, another slab! The moves were technical and balancey, with every movement a risk of a foot pop or a slip. A few tenuous metres later, and I clipped the chain, surprised to have ticked my second 8a onsight in as many days. But there was more to come! Just 15 metres of slab climbing stood between me and bettering the whole goal of my trip. I was high up, but I relaxed and focused on the next move. I committed where I needed to, rested where I could and after battling with 60 metres of rope drag, a sketchy mantle and almost falling clipping every clip, I had reached the top of my first 8a+ onsight. I lowered off ecstatic, but sad to be leaving this perfect crag. Props to Billy, the hero of the day, who, when a storm stopped his attempt, battled to the top through the heaviest rain I’ve seen, and the loudest thunder I’ve heard, to strip the route. Not something many people would be queuing up to try! 

After picking up my Mum and Brother from the airport, Billy and I were deposited in Ceuse, the crag I had visited last year, while the rest of my family enjoyed rainy days in the Verdon Gorge. Ceuse did not escape the rain however, and after the first day or so rain was a constant delight we experienced almost daily. I managed to climb far harder than last year though, ticking Dolce Vita (8a+) before the rain set in and climbing the steep and powerful L'ami de tout le monde (8b), after a problem latching a long move by the 3rd bolt. I also spent some time working Slow Food, and extremely powerful 8b+ that begins with a V8 boulder that I was very close to linking, for me the key to the route, and definitely something to got back for when I’m stronger. Ceuse, as with last year, was full of great people, and the atmosphere is amazing, so I will of course be returning lots in the coming years.

The last stop on the outdoor leg of our journey to Imst was in Gorge Du Loup, the group of crags I had visited earlier in the year. Just an afternoon there, in the dry tufa-lines of Deverse was enough to convince me that this was in fact a good crag, and after climbing the mega classic 8a+ Deverse Satanique, I was keen to return to the many more hard lines this steep wall has to offer.

From Loup, it was off to Imst, so, after stopping at the Arco and Innsbruck indoor walls to re-remember how to climb on plastic and 2 days or driving we met the team. A couple of days of rest later, it was time for the comp. My first route and I felt calm, confident and fit, but a slip moving off a pinch ended the climb short of where I wanted, and needed, to be. I came 40th on this route, but just 4 moves more would have put me joint 10th, so to be so close and coming off relatively fresh is frustrating. On my second route, I climbed well, but with a small mistake higher up I was off in a much better 15th place, so I was reasonably happy. Overall I finished 28th, my worst result in a European competition. I needed to stem the mistakes and climb to my best to make the final in this comp, but the fact I can be close on many of my climbs in encouraging, especially for next year when I should be stronger and fitter after a winter of training.

After climbing on the final problems on Sunday, we started to leave when we experienced the first breakdown of the trip! The muppet of a mechanic they sent out didn’t have a clue, but with a promise of having it seen to in the morning we were left at a campsite. Turns out the problem was electrical, and with an hour of tinkering we had found the trick (which involves pulling wires around the ignition when you go to start), and we could drive consistently. Off to Font!

Font was so much better than I expected. Even though we only made it to Bas Curvier, the sheer volume and quality of the problems that were there made me want to go back as soon as I could! While there, I managed Carnage (F7B+) and was excruciatingly close to the sit start, which is definitely something to go back for as it is such an amazing problem. I also climbed many easier problems, as the heat made it difficult to redpoint, but even these we a far superior quality to any boulders I have climbed in the UK. I am not the greatest fan of pebble pulling, but this place was definitely the best argument I’ve had for giving it a good go!

More driving, another ferry and the European leg of the trip was over, but we still had one final destination, the annual summer Youth Open comp in Leeds, and the first to include bouldering in the form of the Junior BBCs (British Bouldering Championships) round 3. The Saturday was the bouldering comp, and being a close second in the overall rankings behind the ever strong European bouldering champion Dom Burns, I was in with a good chance of taking the title. In the qualifiers I climbed ok, but not at my best and came away wit 6 tops in 7 attemps, but was within 1 move of another. This meant I qualified for the final in 4th place.

The finals were really good. Isolation actually had places to warm up, we weren’t in there for too long, and the problems actually looked really good! After observation, I was out early but from the speed people were coming back into isolation I knew I had to flash the problem to be up there and in with a chance. It was my turn to go, but a foot slip caused me to fall on my first attempt. I got back on, and despite taking a monster swing on the finishing jug I held it, and had topped the problem second go. The next problem was harder for me, with a long move from a sloper to a gaston which I couldn’t reach from the foothold, meaning the move became a full footless crucifix between the two. I didn’t manage this problem, and I didn’t even get the bonus so I was behind going into the last problem. The last problem started with powerful moves in a roof, into a long press and crimp moves on the headwall. I knew this problem would suit me, and when I came out I knew I could do it. I stepped out, read the problem and climbed it first go. I was slightly disappointed, as the problem felt relatively easy and I knew it would not be enough to put me in a better position, but I finished this comp in 4th, and the overall series in 2nd! I’m really happy with this for my first year in Youth A, and will certainly be back next year to challenge for the title. Off of this performance, I was selected to compete at the final bouldering EYC of the year in Laval in October, which will be a great comp!

Photo credit Peter Wuensche

The next day was the lead comp, and after coming 2nd in the last youth open I was hoping to go one better. My first qualifier was exactly my style, a vertical crimp-fest that actually required some technique, which was nice to see in a comp. I topped it, and was looking to repeating that on my second climb. Sadly, that was not the case. I made every move hard, got every hold in the wrong place and came off low down. Was it not for my first climb I could not have made the final, and when I came down I expected just that. Fortunately, in a final of 6 I made it in 5=. Not where I wanted to be.

In isolation I didn’t feel 100%. In fact I felt terrible. I had a pump in my arms that I could feel, and knew it would surface as soon as I pulled on to the final route. Isolation was crap as well, warming up on vertical walls is never easy! I came out, climbed as well as I could and tried hard, but the pump appeared, I went for a long move and was off. It was better than I expected to do, as I finished 4th, and were it not for my abysmal qualification I could have been higher, with count back deciding against me. Not my best comp, bouldering the previous day and just the fatigue from the whole trip really took it out of me, but I’m ready for the next national comp, the BLCCs in Sheffield in October. I will also be competing in seniors, so I look forward to seeing how I compare!

Its been an amazing summer, and I’d like to thank my Dad for putting up with me all trip and making it happen. Also to Billy for coming and keeping us company! Cheers everyone, and stay tuned for my next blog about the World Championships in Canada!

I will also be competing in the final EYC of the year in Norway this weekend, so follow me on Twitter for updates and to find out how to watch. 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

A lot of catching up to do

It’s been a great few months for me and my climbing, with new personal bests and excellent competition results. Just recently, around 2 weeks ago, we had a GB team training day at Westway in London. The day took the form of 3 routes, interlinked at half height, meaning we had 9 routes to attempt and get pumped on! The day was similar to the Northern training day at Kendal, but the routes harder and pumpier on the steep Westway competition wall. Compared to my clean sheet of tops at Kendal, Westway proved hard for me, and a combination of onsight mistakes, foot slips and pump kept my total as low as 6/9, not the best result but great training for the Ratho EYC the following week.

Last week, I competed in the first EYC of the year in Edinburgh. No matter how often I go there the venue looks incredible, but the weather is normally drab at best! This year was different, and the sun meant a new first for Ratho; no down jacket all weekend!

Competition wise, I’m disappointed with the result! I didn’t climb badly on either route, but then I had no performance I was happy with either. The first climb tackled the most technical section of the wall, a slightly overhanging flat panel on the old comp wall, just my style, but everything just felt hard! The holds were smaller than I thought, the moves much bigger and I ended up the most pumped I’ve ever been on that angle, perhaps ever. When I went to shake out on a jug after the climb, my left hand literally couldn’t grip, and all I could do was stroke the hold in hope of grip returning for my next climb.

The first route
Pictures by Sandy Carr :)

It didn’t. The route was up the centre of the main wall, and was a long easy section of about 20 moves to a “rest” (rests in EYCs consist of a greasy sloper caked in chalk), before a hard section over a bulge to long moves on good holds in the roof. I felt fine through the easy section, milked the rest and went for it through the bulge. I felt strong, the moves felt fine, but suddenly, on an undercut and a crimp, pump returned instantly and viciously. My grip was gone; I couldn’t even make the plus point.

I ended up 21st. This equals my worst result ever, and without making any major mistakes. It was my first competition in a new category, with harder routes and better climbers, and it’s clear to me after the weekend that I need to be doing more. I need to do that extra circuit, take risks and suffer a bit if I’m to get to where I want to be. It’s going to be painful, but the rewards will be worth it. Hell, I may even enjoy it!!

I’ve also spent a fair bit of time out on the rock recently, taking momentum from my spring trips and making use of the drier weather. In bouldering, I have been continuing work on my project, Jungle VIP (font 8A). This incredible granite roof line, put up by my coach Mikey Cleverdon, is just 10 minutes from my house, making it the perfect project. I made a breakthrough recently, doing the move and the problem, but a small dab on the pad as I swung made, for me, the ascent invalid and I didn’t take the tick. I know the dab did not make a difference to my holding the move, but to spend this long on a project it would be frustrating for me to not be entirely happy with the final ascent. It also gives me an excuse to carry on climbing on this perfect move, so I can’t complain too much!

So Close! 

In sport, I have also made significant leaps; my project at Anstey’s Cove, the classic Tuppence, recently succumbed to my continued attempts! The powerful and short 8b on Ferocity wall, which I have been working for a few months now, should be my antistyle, but the draw of the steep limestone within relatively easy reach was too much! The climb is amazing, straight up the centre of the wall, every move hard. I fell off every move while working it, and most quite a lot more than that. After getting close a few days earlier, only being thwarted by a foot slip, I was ready to do the climb. A couple of false starts later, coming off at the 3rd move, I was up and past the crux, and setting up for the final hard moves. They are all powerful and dynamic, and after the bendy, crimpy, madness of the crux it is all so easy to come off. The last move is a killer, but I just caught it, throwing a thumb on to keep- me on the wall. I’d done it! My first UK 8b, and my first one solid at the grade.

I’ve had a couple of other competitions since my last post. I managed to win the Leading Ladder final in Kendal, where I was the only one to top the 8a+ final route. I have also had the second round of the Junior British Bouldering Championship in Glasgow, where after jumping off before the top of an easy problem in qualification, I got through to the final in second place. The finals were hard, and I was suffering from flash pump on the first 2 climbs, topping neither. Fortunately the final problem was a slab, and I topped out, bringing me to second behind an extremely strong Dom Burns, European bouldering champion and monster. I am now in second in the ranking overall, with the result between me and Dom most likely deciding the winner!

SYBCs, the last qualification problem

Finally, some really great news! After much discussion, I would like to announce my first real sponsor, Paul Allen Wealth Management, a tremendously successful local business dealing in the financial industry, specialising in the areas of Investment, Retirement provision and Inheritance Tax Planning. This is a big step in my climbing, and has been one of my goals for a while now, so to achieve this and with such a great firm is fantastic. I look forward to working with them!

Only two weeks to go now until exams are over, and the Europe road trip begins! Tres Pons, Terradettes, Oliana, Rodellar, Tarn, Ceuse, Loup, Grenoble, Innsbruck, Imst and Font all on the ticklist……. Its gunna be a good one! 

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Gorges Du Loup

After 90 minutes sleep, a copious amount or Red Bull and a long journey I stood underneath the imposing, but rather wet, overhang of the Gorges Du Loup crag Deverse. After some amount of searching, we came up with the 3 dry routes at the crag, a 7c, Mecanik destruktiv komando, an 8a variation of this and a 12 move 8b to the right of these. To begin I got on the 7c, falling off the 1st move once, then missing a jug and falling higher up. It wasn’t going well, but I managed to scrape my way up next go. I then tried the 8b, the aptly named New Power Generation. It would be fair to say this 12 move route was my anti-style, powerful, short, steep and pockety, but I set it as my goal for the crag and set about working the moves. I quickly got them but linking proved a real challenge! Great effort to Buster Martin, fellow team member, for cruising this! Tired and somewhat deflated, I headed to the house in hope of a good nights sleep.

Warming up, top ropes were oldddd!

Heading out the next day perhaps more tired than the day before, the day did not treat me well. The wet crag we visited sapped my psyche, and as with Deverse, the dry lines that were available offered no inspiration, I tried an 8a+ that I flashed to the crux, but, as I found later, this was not easily passable, as Ondra has dropped it on his onsight, not a common occurrence! With little psyche, I spent the day watching Monaco below, dreaming of what it would be like to be rich, and climbed some easy slabs in my trainers.

The next day, and the next crag was a turnaround to how I felt like I should have been climbing. We went to Mesa Verde, a less steep crag than Deverse and with some slightly more inspiring lines. That was the main thing I was disappointed about at this area. In most areas and in most crags there are at least a few lines that inspire me to climb, but I found that this wasn’t necessarily the case here. I was climbing for the wrong reasons, for the grade or because someone else had done it, not because I wanted to climb the route for the moves or the experience. I had come on the trip with the goal of an 8b, whereas I should have just been climbing.

Mesa Verde treated me well, and I was back to some sort of form. To begin the day I dropped the top of a bouldery 7c on the onsight, and thought the day might go the way of the others before it, but I did the climb next go, and after a short rest onsighted Petit Poucet, a crimpy and pumpy 7c+, my first onsight of the grade! Happy, and after beta I flashed the classic 8a of the crag, Arrowhead. This was much better climbing, and my claim to fame is that Daniel Woods dropped this on his onsight ;)

We returned to the crag the next day, and I set to work on the bouldery extension to Petit Poucet. The guides are confusing, with each topo saying different names for the same line, but we settled on L’Ogre, possibly 8b or 8a+. The climb starts up Petit, to the rest before the top, and then continues out left to a boulder problem which for me utilised a 3 finger quarter pad undercut in the roof, to be used for the crux slap around the lip. It was a real fight, and not knowing the top section well and getting there pumped almost proved fatal, but I turned the lip and slapped my way up the headwall, searching for holds as I went. The grade, I’m not entirely sure! It felt harder than Pet Cemetery, and that was last year, hopefully I’ve got a lot stronger since then! The breakdown also looks a lot harder, Pet is a 7b+ into and ok rest, then a V4/5/6/7(?) boulder problem. L’Ogre is a 7c+ into a good rest, before a long boulder problem which feels a lot harder than the one on Pet. Who knows, but it defiantly felt easier than Tuppence seems to be! I’ll plump for 8a+/8b, nice and indecisive! More experience needed I feel. I then did the 8a+ right hand start to the extension, onsighting the bottom section putting the draws in. Definitely easier but still hard! Effort again to Buster for getting these!

L'Ogre 8b? 

After a couple of successful days, it was time for a rest day, so we played a few games of tennis and visited a little fort town to pass the time.

The next day was back at Deverse, still wet and demotivating, but there were routes to be climbed so I got on! After warming up on the 7c I reworked the moves on New Power and it definitely felt doable. After a rest, I got to the last of the hardest moves, but there were still droppable moves above. This continued for a couple of goes, but I could feel my power begin to drop significantly so stopped trying it, vowing to return the following final day. Jonny White cruised this, looking super strong and composed. Ellis also put in a good effort, getting up this a few days earlier! Seems to be a good first 8b, would it be a good second? I jumped on Super Mekanik, the 8a variation to the 7c and to my surprise got it in a couple of goes! This made the day more worthwhile, an psyched to return and get up the route we headed off.

Unfortunately I didn’t get my chance to return, and due to others not wanting to visit Deverse due to the wetness we headed back to Mesa Verde. I spent the day chilling in a hammock, did another 8a extension to Petit Poucet and onsighted the last of the lower 7s, and it was time to go.

A successful, if not the most inspiring, trip. My first major comp of the year is the first EYC in Ratho in June. After this year’s assessment day, I have been selected for all competitions this year, including the European Championships in Austria and the World Championships in Canada this summer. Really excited for the year ahead and all the comps! As it's my GCSE exam year, we're planning to do a roadtrip across Northern Spain and France, before finishing in Austria for the European championships. Safe to say I'm excited! 

Friday, 8 March 2013

The Rain in Spain

This half term I took the journey to El Chorro in the Andalucía province of Spain, to climb in the famous gorge and surrounding area. Armed with a bulging tick list and overflowing psyche we arrived at the villa to dusty ground and high suns. The crags lie between the many orange and lemon plantations of the area, and with such scenery and the rock we’d seen on our journey I was ready to get out on rock again!

On the first day we climbed at Poema de Roca at the Frontales sector, a massive scoop out of the side of a towering limestone cliff. The steep climbing features mixed climbing on steep tufas, juggy pockets and vertical crimps, and the mix of style suited me well for a first day back on rock. I blindly jumped on what I can only assume is the one jamming crack in Spain, reaching the top of the 6b+ confused.

The next route I got on was a classic steep 7b that had been recommended to me, La villa strangiato. A shallow slab lead to 4 hard moves and then fun juggy climbing on undercuts to the chain in the middle of the roof. Great fun! There was more of this style to follow as I jumped on the again classic roof climb adjacent to it. Eye of the Storm, 7c is described as “Disorientating climbing” and it certainly lived up to its reputation. The climb takes a juggy line through a roof groove, and the many twists and turns in the roof gave great moves! I reached the top, pumped and psyched and happy to be back at my previous level of last years trip to Ceuse within the first day. Great effort to Billy, who fell off the last move on his first go, and di it second go!  I jumped on a pumpy 7b+ and climbed a classic 7a afterwards to end the day. A great first day!

The next day and we drove to the classic crag of Desplomilandia outside of the town, and I was keen to onsight some of the classics at El Triangulo. After warming up on a 6c+ the dirtiest, sharpest 7a I’ve climbed, I rested and wanted to try one of the 2 8as of the crag. With no expectation I set off up the route, putting the clips in as I went. With a massive effort, power screams and probably a bit of luck with beta, I was at a small undercut only moves away from the crack above. I reached out left to a small crimp, went over the top to a pinch, then moved out to a good sidepull. Then disaster, my right foot opposing the sidepull popped and I peeled off! Frustrated about the result but happy with my effort it was to my despair I found the next hold was a sinker jug, and the next, and the next, all the way to the chains! Cursing myself, I lowered to the ground, rested and set off again. My foot stuck, my hand hit the jug, I shook out and climbed the route to the chains, my first 8a in almost a year and very nearly my first 8a onsight!

I climbed a hard 7b while waiting to try my main goal for the day, a flash attempt on the classic 8a of the crag, Mar de Ortegas. The central line takes in the tallest section of the wall and a mixture of tufas and small pockets. I collected the beta I could and while Mark abbed off the top to get pictures of the climb I gave it a go. The first section climbed really nicely and I reached the easier upper section on better holds relatively fresh. The climbing was amazing and before I knew it I was clipping into the chains of my first 8a flash! A great feeling and it put me in the mood for more hard climbing on the trip. Then the rain came………………………..

The dry weather we had experienced on the first days was gone and from Monday night it rained continuously for the next day and night. Thought of climbing were abandoned and we spent the day watching climbing films to get psyched for when (we hoped) the rain would stop!

The next day and the rain had stopped, and despite the condition of some of the crags we took the absolutely massive walk to the star crag of the area, Makinodromo. We could see that it was likely wet but we were too far into the walk to turn back. Sure enough, we got there and the seepage from the day’s rain was draining straight through the tufa draped wall and falling like rain to the ground below. Not a climbing day… After chilling out for a while we walked back down to the path below and took on the Kings Walkway, something I had been dreading for the whole trip. Despite having a shiny new Via Ferrata kit I had to walk using slings, always plan ahead and don’t leave it at the villa! The walk, despite my fears, was amazing, one of the best things I did on the whole trip and I was a lot more comfortable on it that I expected, and ended up doing a pullup off one of the foot rungs near the end of the route. I would thoroughly recommend doing it if you have the chance!

We actually managed to find some dry climbing right at the end of the gorge, and after finishing we climbed all the way through til dark, and I climbed and amazing vertical 7a+ and tried an amazing vertical 8a on tiny crimps with some amazing moves. Definitely something worth going back for!

On the next day we planned to return to Poema de Roca, but after doing many of the climbs there on the first day Billy and I opted for trying Amptrax, a long 6a multi-pitch route tackling the tallest section of the cliff. I was very nervous having not climbed a multi-pitch before, and after learning how to set up a stance at the first stance we climbed the amazing route. It really was a great climb and an incredible experience and we abbed off from the top happy and satisfied. We joined the others in the cave for the end of the day and I climbed a fun 7a and a pumpy 7b to end the day.

On the last day of the trip, another wet day, we were determined to climb and headed back to Desplomilandia, to another supposedly dry in the rain sector. It unsurprisingly wasn’t dry for the most part and I managed to climb a 5+ and a hard 7b in the first part of the day, and tried the 8a extension to find puddles in holds and water running down my arm. With no other dry routes to climb, I chilled for the rest day and belayed people putting in great efforts on the 7b!

Good effort to everyone on the trip, everyone climbed well and many got personal bests, thanks for making it a sick trip! J

This was an amazing trip, such great fun! I’m currently on the train for CWIF in Sheffield this weekend, hopeful for a good result! J


Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Rocfest 2013

A few weeks ago we travelled to Manchester for the annual Rocfest bouldering competition at the Rockover bouldering wall. The wall is pretty nice, looks like a good training facility, with rings and a campus board. The qualifiers were packed, so many people and lots of the problems were long traverses that often blocked other lines, so it was difficult to get on a lot of the time. I climbed badly in the qualifiers, but with some running around with very little time left on the clock I made it through to the finals in 2nd place.

Isolation went fine and I felt a bit stronger in the warm up, although still not as good as I’ve felt recently. The crowd was big and psyched, and the music was great. In observation all the problems looked good and all pretty flashable, bar maybe the last one.

I knew the first 2 out had topped problem 1 first go, and I could hear the crowd cheering. It was me out next, and I felt surprisingly calm. I topped pretty easily, it wasn’t as hard as it looked, but I was still happy to have got the first one out of the way.

The second problem I was pretty stupid on. During observation I discounted completely a big volume at the start, and only after a go of falling off the last move did I think to ask if it was in or not. Obviously the answer was yes, a silly mistake. Something to remember for next time! Using this volume I did the first move much more easily and carried on to what I presumed was the crux dyno to the finishing hold. I set up and sprung upwards to the hold, latching it with my right hand. 2nd go, better. After the first qualifier topped 3rd go, this put me in 1st place going into the final problem.

This one was much harder, especially the crux slap to a small crimp off of a big sloper. I felt very close to this move, but after 30 qualifying problems and a long day, my forearms were flash pumping from the first move and my fingers were uncurling by the time I got to the move. I had failed to top, and as noone else had topped this climb it meant the final climber had to top to win. I was a stressful 4 minutes as he tried again and again. He hit the stopper move as the rest of us had and fared in the same way. His 4 minutes were up, down he came, I had won.

Nice little clip of me topping problem 2 on this!

I was pleased with how this comp ended up, especially as I wasn’t climbing at my best. My power has improved a lot over the last month or so, and I had one of my best ever bouldering sessions a week before the CWIF on Saturday! I have just returned from a very wet but amazing week in El Chorro, blog to follow soon!

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Looking Back and Looking Forward

As 2012 draws to (a very wet!) close I thought I would take a look back over the year, a forward into next year.
2012 was my first year in the GB team, and my first year of international competition, and was certainly an eye opener. It didn’t start too well with a poor performance at the team assessment day in March meaning I wasn’t selected for some of the first EYCs but I was psyched for the first one at Ratho and eager to show what I was capable of!

I finished 11th, missing out on the final by one place and just a plus point. Frustrating and pleasing at the same time, and because of my poor performance at the assessment day I would have to wait until Imst in August to try and improve. This was of course a setback, but that, along with my abysmal climbing at the assessment day I believe pushed me on in my training in general, and helped me to climb how I did in future competitions.

I spent the next two months alternating between the Barn and High Sports working on my endurance. Lap after lap on the 16 metre wall at High Sports, and lap after lap on the 45 degree board at the Barn! I do like being pumped……..

At the beginning of the summer holidays I went to Ceuse for 10 days, about the best crag in the world and an ideal training venue. The horrendous walk in and the long routes were perfect for building up my endurance. I had a great time there, and it was nice to be at a crag with so many great climbers. Inspiring stuff and I managed my hardest onsight of 7c+ there as well. We came straight back to Ratho for the Youth Open. The training and Ceuse had paid off, I won. My first win at National level and it felt good! It also meant I was selected for the European championships in France in November and I travelled to Imst the following weekend feeling confident.

Imst was my second EYC and I was keen to improve on my 11th place at Ratho. The first qualifier went well finishing in joint 4th so I just needed a good climb on the second qualifier to be in the final. It didn’t go well and I was 7th when I fell with lots of good climbers still to go. A stressful wait began which I did not enjoy and I ended up 16th on the route, but in the end just enough to make the final. I was great to have made the final but the stress and worry meant I hadn’t warmed down properly and drunk anything so, despite and good meal and an early bed, I didn’t feel quite as good as I could have the next day. This showed in the final, getting pumped early and then missing a hold meant I didn’t improve on my qualifying position and remained tenth. A big lesson for the future, but an improvement on Ratho, but could still do better……………

Next comp was the BLCC’s at Ratho., I went there planning to win, but I’m still making small errors that are costly. I finished a disappointing 5th, but it was enough for selection for the final EYC at Kranj at the end of November.

The next big competition was the first ever European Championships held in Gemozac in France. My dad and I will always remember this weekend as it was very emotional for both of us. As we were travelling out we heard that my Grandpa had died suddenly in Spain which was a shock, but in a strange way relieved the pressure on me and despite the circumstances I felt relaxed when I came out to climb. They were running the routes simultaneously  so I climbed my hardest route first and was moving well until my foot popped, but I had finished tenth on the route so knew that a top on the second route would be enough. The route went well and I felt solid the whole way, clipping the chains to lots of noise from the GB support and was in the final in 8th place. This time I warmed down properly, drank plenty of fluids and had a big bowl of pasta before an early night and woke up feeling fresh and ready!

The final looked like it suited me and the 6 minutes observation was spent reading and refining the sequence. The route started well and I moved through the opening sequences easily. Then it went wrong. I didn’t clip from where I should have and moved to a point where it was difficult to clip from. Despite numerous attempts, I just couldn’t get the clip in and eventually resorted to lifting the clip with my foot, which I knew wasn’t allowed, and was called off the route. I was bitterly disappointed as, yet again, a mistake had cost me. I felt sure I could have gone on but in the end I finished 7th.

The last EYC of the year was at Kranj in Slovenia and I really wanted to finish on a high. My Dad surprised me by turning up at the hotel on Friday, and as it was his birthday on the Saturday I was keen for a good result. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Yet again small errors cost me and I finished in my worst position of the year in 21st

The aim for next year is less mistakes…………………

Other highlights of the Year included climbing The Cider Soak, 8a and then Pet Cemetery, 8a+ both before my 15 birthday, and Raindogs 8a at Malham and winning the seniors at the Irish Lead Climbing Championships.

Next year has, in effect already begun, with the December Youth Open, at Awesome walls Liverpool, and the first round of the BBC’s held the next day and the Climbing Hanger. These events form part of the GB team selection for next year and everyone move up to next years categories. I was moving up to Youth A, where I would join Buster Martin, Luke Dawson, and Conner Byrne and was keen and make my mark in another very strong category. The qualifiers went well, and I topped the first route, and finished 2nd on route two, falling from a horrible slopey volume. This meant I went into the final in 2nd behind Buster.

The final was steep and long, but I climbed badly in the lower half, my feet weren’t working for me and I cut loose twice before the crux traverse. I was pumped. A good heel I could sit on a bit gave me a lot back, and the traverse was really enjoyable. Then the crux. As in Kranj, I ignored the beta I had scoped from the ground, opting for what felt right. Wrong again. The heel did not allow me enough reach, and my pumped arms gave up as I tried to turn my foot for my original beta. Off backwards! Buster went on to top the route, one of the best efforts I’ve seen, and the first power screams of his I’ve heard! I ended up 2nd, and I’m reasonably happy with that for my first competition in Youth A, here’s to a good next year!

The next day was the first round of the 2013 BBC’s. The format had been changed and it is now over a number of rounds, a nice addition, although they could have not had 2 of the rounds in Scotland, worse than lead! I went to the wall happy with the weekend, and I was extremely relaxed during the qualifiers. I was very surprised by how I did in the qualifiers, and when I was doing problems the strong guys were falling on I was stunned! I ended up qualifying in 2nd, how I have no idea!!

The finals looked good but hard. The first was an amazing slab, which I knew no one before me had even done the first move, something that frustrated me about the final. It was not full isolation and we could speak to each other when we returned, on this occasion it helped me as it took all pressure off, but a format as in world cups would work better, or as with the BBCs last year. I spent around 7 goes sorting out the first move, but then with 40 seconds on the clock did the move with a weird press. I had no chalk so had to move quickly, a thin film of sweat building as I rested. I got to the bonus, slipping off but managed to hold it and move to the undercut before the finishing hold. The foot was hard to see and as I moved across to put it on the hold I missed, slid down and was off! Frustrating but as only one other had reached the bonus it put me in a strong position.

Then the problems got really hard. One person, Hamish Pokotar, a Briston TCA wad, topped it, but the rest of us were stopped just above the bonus. Again on the 3rd problem, it was very hard and none of us could top. I ended up being 2nd, after getting all the bonuses and behind Hamish by that one top. Not bad considering bouldering isn’t my main discipline!

I ended up selected for the GB Lead and bouldering teams for 2013, a great result for my first competitions in Youth A!  Next year is going to be a good year……..

Happy Climbing,