Ride for Linda

When Linda was diagnosed with cancer, it impacted her, her family and all of her friends. Linda was incredibly brave and strong through her treatment and had fantastic care from the University Hospitals of North Midlands. Thankfully Linda is now in full remittance so we decided we should give something back and say a huge thank you to all the fantastic people who helped her through her treatment. So we agreed on a bike ride from her home in Loggerheads, Staffordshire to her static caravan in Tywyn, Gwynedd, a total of 100 miles.

Me and my brother setting off.

Me and my brother setting off.

The ride was a real family challenge with my Dad and brother and Linda’s son James. We started training early in 2017 increasing the mileage each week. We are all spread out over the country so most of our training was on our home turf. Mine was around south wales so I got in some nice hilly rides so was well prepared for the terrain.

We planned the route to avoid busy roads and take in the finest scenery, and some good coffee stops. 

We set off from Linda’s house on a lovely Sunday morning. We had a great crowd of supporters (and two dogs!) cheering us off. It was great to have such fantastic support and knowing this challenge was for such a heart felt cause. Our first stop was Baschurch, 30 miles of gentle rolling Shropshire hills to warm us up. Our support crew met us for a quick refuel then we were off again! Heading out to Llanfair Caereinion. This section was a bit more challenging with a few good climbs and a few well needed energy gels! We met our support crew at the old steam railway for some tasty high energy flapjack then were off, heading towards the Snowdonia national park. We were out of rural wales and into rugid wales. The scenery was fantastic. A mixture of flapjack and the scenery meant I didn’t notice the climbs too badly. We reached our high point and then it was time for an awesome descent! It seemed like it would never end, but we deserved it! Flowing and fast, no time to watch the scenery go by! Our final rest stop was Mallwyd. From here we headed along the A470 towards Machynlleth and then down the Dyfi Estuary. We though the last section would be a gentle downhill to the coast but there was a good few sneaky up hills to test our tired legs!

After 6 hours of fun and exertion we made it to our finish line. Linda’s caravan! We were rewarded with hugs, medals, champagne and a sit down. It was a great feeling to complete this challenge as a team with the awesome support of our family and support crew. Once off our bikes and refreshed I led a cool down yoga session to sooth and stretch out our tired legs. 

Setting off from a rest stop.

Setting off from a rest stop.

Tips for taking on a cycle challenge

  • Plan your event and train accordingly. If it’s going to be hilly, find some hills to train on. If it’s going to be fast and flat, find some flat training rides and work on speed. 
  • Plan your nutrition. Think about how regularly you need to eat to sustain your energy and what works best for you. I like to eat things like nuts, dried fruit, flapjacks and cereal bars with a few gels to keep me going. If I know I have a tough section coming up I’ll prepare by having a gel 10 minutes before. 
  • Taking on liquids is just as important as energy. I don’t like energy drinks that much so find them hard to drink. I’ve found some I find ok so I take a bottle of that and fill my second bottle with water or squash which I find easy to drink. Find what works for you. Plan your stops so you can refill frequently.
  • Plan for weather. If it’s hot, make sure you have sun cream, light layers, sunglasses and plenty of fluids. If it’s cold or wet make sure to take the right layers. Boot covers are great to stop you from getting soggy feet. If possible put spare layers in a support car so you can change mid way if you are wet.
  • Plan the route. Plan to cycle an enjoyable route. If possible ride on quiet roads, it’s safer and much nicer. If you like hills, find some! If you don’t detour around them, this may add some miles but will conserve energy if you find the hills a struggle. 
  • Find a good team! Ride with people of a similar ability who have the same goals. If you want to be competitive then find somebody who wants to push themselves. If you want to just enjoy yourself, find somebody who enjoys the same coffee stops! Try not to ride with people who are much better or worse than you. Constantly playing catch up is no fun.
  • Drafting is king! On a long ride, take turns to draft each other. It conserves so much energy and allows you to cruise through the flat sections. If you have a stronger rider who wants to push themselves, let them take more turns at leading and the weaker riders can ride the draft. 

In total we raised £4,200 for the University Hospitals of North Midlands. Thanks to everybody that supported us! 

 

The cycling gang.

The cycling gang.

The Reluctant Aid Climber

Looking scared, lots of gear and not sure what to do.

Looking scared, lots of gear and not sure what to do.

Yosemite. September. 3 weeks. A rock climbers dream!! So I thought I'd best get training. We've been hitting up the Peak and Cornwall practising crack climbing and I'm slowly getting the hang of it. My crack gloves have been the best investment ever! I'm dreaming of big 20 pitch trad routes and endless high quality climbing. I'm not all that keen on the idea of a big wall so I don't need to learn to aid right? Wrong!! Andy informed me that many routes are 19 pitches of VS climbing with a sneaky E6 thrown in the middle. Unless I significantly improved my grade I would have to learn to aid. Noooo!!

To me it looks like cheating, and very faffy. I'm not one of these people who loves gear, I just use it. Whilst Andy drools at the idea of buying new cams! 

We were up in the Peak on a wet Saturday with our Yosemite climbing crew (also aiding and Yosemite virgins) so decided an aiding tutorial was a good idea. Andy was in his element. He got out all the rack and laid it out with ascenders, ladders, gri gris, daisy chains and fifi hooks. Firstly, what on earth is a fifi hook?! Its a hook you use to move up your daisy chain. 

Sarah giving this aid climbing a go.

Sarah giving this aid climbing a go.

To begin with I was terrified. I've only ever fallen on gear once, it held but I'm not always convinced. In aiding you need to rely on every single placement. This was scary. Each move I thoroughly tested and weighted my gear, tentatively moved up and frantically clipped my rope. I found the amount of gear quite confusing and was scared I'd clip the wrong thing. But actually, as you start moving you get in a rhythm and it becomes much easier.

Slowly I became confident in my gear placements and rope work and slowly I made my way up the wall. Meanwhile a guy cruised up an E3 next to me in the time I moved up 2 moves, but practice makes perfect!

In the end, I felt confident aiding, had increased my confidence in my gear which should also help with trad and actually had some fun! Maybe a big nail up one day.....

Paul loves the aid climbing.

Paul loves the aid climbing.

Tips for a newbe aid climber:

  • Get used to the gear!
  • Rack up in a logical way and try to consistently rack the same.
  • Try different systems and see what works best for you.
  • Don't worry about speed, speed will come. At this stage, safety is key! 
  • Although it can be scary, try to move as high up your ladder as you can. The further up you go each time, the less gear placements you will need.
  • Concentrate! Don't get your ropes, ladders and/or daisy chains twisted.
  • Breath!! And try to enjoy! 
At the top after my first aid lead.

At the top after my first aid lead.

Hardcore Women's Institute (H-WI)

We've already got Outdoor Woman's Alliance, Flash Foxy and Mountain Inspired. I'd like to introduce the new female adventure crew, The Hardcore Woman's Institute! 

Jump!

Jump!

I've recently started adventuring with an awesome group of girls. We met on a friends hen do and after spending the weekend coasteering and chilling out by a campfire we realised we had a mutual love of all things mountains and decided we must hit up the mountains together. 

Since meeting up we have climbed, run, entered marathons and generally had an awesome time. 

Our most recent adventure took us on a girls only trip to Snowdonia. We all usually climb with our male partners and rarely hang out with just other females. On the Saturday we did a great scrambling day. We climbed up the East Face of Tryfyn, up Bristly Ridge onto the Glyders and back down to Ogwen. We passed lots of groups on the way curious to see a group of high spirited girls confidently moving up the mountain. Many of the men we passed gave us the look of bewilderment of "they are girls, in the mountains, where are the men?! Surely they will get lost or stuck!" Well we didn't! 

The next day we had a multi pitching day at Clogwyn yr One, The Moelwyns. This was a day to help a couple of the girls build up confidence leading, and they smashed it!

I find an all female group super encouraging. There are no ego's and there is no need to prove yourself. Just a super supportive group of friends all with the sole intention of having fun! 

Don't get me wrong, I love to push my self. Thats why I climbing with Andy because I feel confident to push myself more with him. This is because we have built up a level of trust after climbing together for years and he knows when I need encouragement and when to shut up! However, the positive vibes you get with a group of girls along with the underlying feeling of 'if she can do it, so can I!' just spur you on! 

I'm looking forward to many more adventures with the Hardcore WI!

Phwww. Made It1

Phwww. Made It1

Skiing Powder - A Beginners Guide

I’ve been skiing for 3 years now. I’ve been to America once and the Alps three times in March and December. Up until my latest trip at the end of February and beginning of March this year I had never skied powder!

Slaying the Pow!

Slaying the Pow!

I learnt to ski in super icy conditions in California. Since then I have had a variety of conditions but never fresh powder. This trip, we had so much pow!! To start with, I couldn’t deal with it! I have an all round pair of skis which are 96mm under foot, they perform well on a variety of snow conditions. For powder however, they were a bit too narrow. I had to lean far back in my skis to get them to move which resulted in some serious quad burn. Although far from an expert in skiing, here is my advice to getting to grips with powder.

  • Lean back in your skis. If you lean forward, it puts on the breaks and you are likely to fall over.
  • Embrace the speed. Speed makes it so much easier. The faster you go the more you will float to the top of the snow and the turns become effortless.
  • When there is a downhill followed by an uphill section you need to get up, straight line to get some speed up. Trying to skate in powder is impossible and hiking up in skis is a pain!
  • When you fall getting back up can be difficult. I have dynafit bindings so have powder leashes, this means that I don’t loose my skis in the powder if they come off. Dig your skis out and get them pointing in the right direction. Try to flatten down a patch of snow, this will help to get your skis lined up ready to clip back in. Use powder baskets on your poles so you can push yourself up. If you need extra help pushing up put both ski poles on their side and push, the increased surface area stops the poles from sinking. 
  • If you can afford rent or buy a fatter pair of skis for powder days, they will make it much more fun!
  • Enjoy the pow and get someone to take some pics, you will look epic!

By the end of the trip I loved skiing powder! Unlike falling over on ice, falling in powder is hilarious. You are waist deep in soft fluffy snow trying to co-ordinate your contorted body and clip back in your skis which is much more difficult than you would think! You get a lush gliding feeling as you slide through the powder. It’s much more peaceful with no aggressive turns or scraping of edges against hard snow or ice as you turn.

Andy found it a little easier on his big fat powder skis!

Andy found it a little easier on his big fat powder skis!

Overcoming the Fear When Climbing with Your Other Half

Leading VS in the slate quarries of north Wales

Leading VS in the slate quarries of north Wales

Speaking to my climbing girl friends this is not an uncommon occurrence, but come on girls, we need to be strong, confident and brave!

I started climbing at university when i was 18. I learnt with my university club and had a group of girls who I loved to climb with. We went on some great adventures and pushed each other, by the end of university I was confidently leading VS and trying the occasional HVS and E1. I was bold and confident. Then I met Andy. We started climbing together, I loved being outdoors and adventuring with my lovely boyfriend but was it really good for me?

Andy climbs a bit harder than me, he had no problem with me leading but I always felt it was boring for him to climb easy grades and I actually preferred pushing myself on harder routes with the safety of being on second. Slowly, I led less and less and slowly I lost my confidence. I went from being confident on VS to freaking out leading Severe. The more I climbed the worse I got at leading and the less I enjoyed it. We got to a stage where Andy would do all the leading but this wasn’t very easy in the Alps as it put a lot of pressure on Andy and made us slower.

Right, this is stupid! I’m strong. I can happily second E2. It’s all in my head. Lets sort this out. So we did. We went to Stanage for a weekend. We have climbed loads at Stanage before and i know a lot of the routes. So I started off at a grade I was happy at, Severe and I lead all day ticking off 3* Severe’s getting more and more confident as the day went on. The next time we went to the Peak, I did the same but this time with HS’s. I was a bit jittery at the start but I was determined to do this. That day, me and Andy swapped leads and ticked off 15 3* routes in a day. HS conquered! For the next few weeks I established myself on HS in the Wye Valley, Pembroke and the Peak District. I was now ready for VS. I knew I could do it because I’ve done them before but it felt scary. Come on head, you can do it!! And I did. 

I’m now at a stage where I can happily lead HS and most VS (unless they are too brutish!). I have ambition to conquer E1 by the summer as we are going to Yosemite.

I realised Andy didn’t care about seconding easier routes, he actually quite likes the rest! And he has enjoyed seeing me regain my confidence and we have big dreams for multi-pitches in Yosemite and the Alps. 

So a warning for girls. Its great to climb with your other half, but don’t get lazy! Confidence is easily lost and when it is lost, it sucks! I find it really beneficial to climb with other girls or people at the same grade. If you back off, who’s going to get your gear. You! Its fine to back off a route, but only if you are pushing to your max, not just because you don’t fancy that scary move and think that your big strong boyfriend will come and save you!

You are a brave, strong confident woman….go beast it!

Micro-adventuring

It’s the end of the winter and frankly I'm getting bored of hibernating! It gets a bit dull leaving to go to work in the dark and coming home in the dark. In the evenings I either go indoor climbing, do yoga or some weight training but its all a bit routine. So this week, me and my outdoor buddy Sarah decided to defy the darkness and go on a micro-adventure! 

Micro-adventuring -spooky head torch running 

Micro-adventuring -spooky head torch running 

We headed out of the city with head-torches and a map to explore some new running trails just on the edge of Cardiff. We headed out of the village of Abertridwr and up onto the ridgeway leaving the street lights behind. It felt like such an adventure to beout in the dark guided by the beams of our head torches. Technical trails became a bit more tricky and puddles and tussocks seemed to appear out of nowhere, but who cares how quickly you move and with how much style and grace. When its dark, no one can see you!!

We only ran 13km but it felt like a real (micro) adventure and was a great way to get out mid-week instead of just waiting for the weekends to adventure. Sometimes it is nice to just curl up with a blanket and a good book when its dark and cold outside, but sometimes it feels amazing to defy the darkness, conquer the cold and warrior against winter!!

Might Contain Nuts Trail Marathon 2016

Sarah, Kate and Lucy at the finish line at May Contain Nuts 2016

Sarah, Kate and Lucy at the finish line at May Contain Nuts 2016

It was September when Kate sent me a link to the #mightcontainnuts Trail Marathon with a caption saying ‘Lets do it!!’. 2016 had been an amazing year for me, we’d bought and renovated a house, got married and we’d just got back from honeymoon in Bali, however my fitness was not at its peak!

Without hesitation, I accepted the challenge and entered the event which would take place in December. Let the training commence! 

I had entered with two other girls, Kate and Sarah and I can honestly say, training with these girls was the best part of entering the event! We all trained individually in the week doing hill sessions, sprints and short runs and then at the weekend would head to the hills to do a long run together increasing our efforts by 2 miles per week until the event. We went out in all conditions, the most fun day being a snowy day out in the Brecon Beacons. Snow had fallen onto mud which resulted in more sliding and giggling than running that day. I also realised I needed some new trainers as the lugs on mine had worn slick which did not help in the slightest!! We were muddy but happy snow angles. 

The day soon crept up on us and the event was here! After a slightly stressful morning of getting lost around Talybont on Usk we reached race HQ ready to start the event. Kate’s husband Joe had just set off on the Ultra and we eagerly awaited our start. There was an amazing atmosphere with a buzz of excitement and some nerves. We were off!! Cow bells rung and the beeps of sports watches echoed as we took our first strides of many. There was a good turnout of runners with dogs, the dogs were very excited to be getting going and there were excited barks as we left the line. A friend of mine Dylan said ‘Don’t start a howl!’ which got me giggling from the start (If you have not seen Zootropolis…watch it!). 

We headed off at a steady pace knowing what challenges the course had coming up after doing a reccy of the course a few weeks previously. The course started on a lovely trail heading gradually uphill alongside Talybont Resevoir. Our first major challenge was reached after 4 miles where we started our ascent up Tor-y-foel, a beast of a hill with far too many false summits. As we climbed we disappeared into thick cloud and mizzle. But with every brutal climb, there is a fun descent and this one was great! We popped out of the clouds and the sun beamed over the peaks putting a smile on our faces as we wind milled our arms and whooped our way to the bottom of the hill. Living locally I sometimes forget to appreciate how beautiful the Brecon Beacons are, especially on a nice day.

For the next 10 miles the route varied between well walked paths, open moorland, muddy fields and rocky paths with plenty of ups and downs. We then re-joined the nice trail above Talybont Resevoir and headed out west toward Pentwyn Resevoir over beautiful tracks running over open moorland with awesome views. At this point I had quite a lot left in the tank and was encouraged to split from our trio and push towards the finish. I soon caught up with a few people who had previously overtaken us and felt great! At the 20 mile point we joined the Taff Trail and I knew it was all downhill from there, I pushed on envisioning that finish line. I was surprised how tough those last miles were, after 20 odd miles downhill was not a simple case of gravity, it required quite a lot of effort to keep the legs turning!

Finally I reached the Canal where I knew it was a short push to the end. I had been pacing a group of three guys who had been tailing me for the last half an hour. As we neared the finish line with 500m to go they started sprinting, I pushed but my legs did not have anything left to give and they got past me with 200m to go. I continued my sprint (the slowest sprint I think I have ever done!) to the finish line where I was cheered in by friends as I received my medal and took a breath to reflect on what I had just done. I had finished in 5hrs 54 which I was super chuffed with, my target was 6hrs. I came in 7th female, not too bad for my first proper marathon. Sarah and Kate came in 15 minutes later and it was smiles all round. We’d done it! It was now time to re-fuel at the pub and talk about our next challenge!

I was really impressed with the #mightcontainnuts Event. The whole event was really well organised. The route was really varied and interesting with easy to follow directions and well stocked feed stations at the check points. There was a really friendly feel to the event and a great atmosphere both on the trail and at the start and finish line. The event includes a Trail (10 mile), Marathon and Ultra-Marathon (43 miles). I would highly recommend the event to experienced and new trail runners who are keen for a fun race in a beautiful location. 

Mission to find snow – Christmas and New Years 2017

Top of Tryfan after a brilliant week away

Top of Tryfan after a brilliant week away

After an awesome start to the Scottish winter climbing season in November, we eagerly booked up a week long trip to the Cairngorms to crush some gnarly (Grade 4 or 5!) winter routes. However, our optimism resulted in a sudden end to the winter as the white mountains turned back to lush green just in time for Christmas. We decided that a 12hr drive to Scotland to do some damp scrambling, running or hiking didn’t seem worth the effort so reluctantly cancelled our trip. Luckily for us the UK is an amazing place and adventures can be found to suite all conditions!

Day 1 – Storm Callum

Cold Day of Dry Tooling

Cold Day of Dry Tooling

Our trip started in the peak district on boxing day with the arrival of storm Callum. Callum threatened high winds but no rain in the peak district so Andy had the fantastic idea of heading to Mason Leas. A ‘sheltered’ quarry with some great limestone sport climbing and Andy’s favourite thing in the world, dry tooling! I started off on an easy sports route to warm up, but to be warm was a bit optimistic as the wind was blowing straight into the quarry chilling the rock and my poor fingers. I gave up pretty quickly as my fingers had gone numb and dived straight into my belay jacket and mitty’s.  

Unfortunately for me, dry tooling was the only option. Andy was thrilled! For those not lucky enough to know what dry tooling is, it is the poor mans version of ice climbing, using ice axes and fruit-boots (rock shoes with crampon spikes) to climb dry rock. It requires upper body strength, dynamic power moves and being fearless of your axe popping and smashing you in the face. FUN! Unfortunately it is not loved by all cimbers and dry tooling is often demoted to damp cold caves where no other climbers wish to climb, Mason Leas however is not too bad. Andy led a M7 to start, which with great beta from Andy, I managed to climb with only a few rests. We then did a pumpy M7+ with an overhanging start which to my surprise I found not too tricky and actually quite enjoyed (I had to pretend I didn’t though or else Andy would decide I loved it and we should do it every weekend!). I think what I enjoyed about it was not the style of climbing but the measureable improvement in my strength over the past 12 months. I’ve been doing a lot more weights and core training and it’s actually paying off. When I have previously dry tooled I’ve got super pumped really quickly but I found I could hold my weight and make the moves with much less effort. 

Working my way up at Froggatt

Working my way up at Froggatt

All the other climbs at the crag are pretty tricky so we climbed our two routes again and were then pumped so called it quits. Despite Callum we had a really fun day and have ticked off Andy’s dry tooling allowance for another 6 months ☺

Day 2-5  – Wow, the Peak is Amazing!!

When it’s good, it’s fippin awesome! Day 2 of out #missiontofindsnow took us to Frogatt a lovely grit stone crag near Hathersage. It was still pretty chilly when we arrived so we decided to do our favourite style of climbing, easy and lots! We smashed out 11 HS, VS and a couple of HVS’s in a couple of hours topping out of our final route as the sun set over the stunning moors.

On Day 3 we were joined by our friends Kate and Joe. This was Kates first trip to the peak so we were keen to show her how great it was, Stanage was the obvious place to go! The weather could not have been better, crystal blue skies and not a breath of wind. A perfect grit day! Another perfect peak district evening. Joe topped out of the Asp (E3) as the final rays of sun disappeared over the horizon and we headed back to Hatersage to fill up on vast quantities of food at the Little John Inn.

The next day started as all days should start, with breakfast in Outside Café! Fueled and ready for action, we headed out to end our western grit tour at Burbage North. Another blue sky beauty of a day.  I think its safe to say, Kate and Joe now love the peak almost as much as us!

Day 5  took us to a misty day at the roaches. After an hour pottering around touching rock to see if it was dry we headed to Scout Crack. Kate was keen to get confident with her gear placements and start leading. This was the perfect place to practice, a nice slab with lots of gear and easy to scramble to the top to shout words of encouragement. She smashed it and will be ticking off the E points in no time ☺ 

By lunchtime we were a bit damp and cold so swapped the climbing shoe for the trail shoes and did a lovely 11km route along the top of the roaches and down to Lud’s Church, an awesome cavern in the woods (it looks like a place from Lord of the Rings!). It was SOO muddy, it was amazing!! I love the type of running where you feel like a kid; dodging puddles, sliding in mud and jumping over fallen trees!

Our tour of the peak ended with four muddy, tired but happy adventurers. 

Top tips for the Peak

-If you like your hands, get a pair of crack gloves. They allow you to hand jam without the fear of taking off your skin and make climbing on grit a lot more pleasant. 

-The tops can be a bit breezy so take up a pair of mittens or gloves for belaying so your hands are warm and ready to get on the next route.

-Learn to trust friction! Your feet will stick to anything (almost). If you are new to climbing on grit try doing lots of routes to build up your confidence. You’ll be surprised what you will stick to!

Day 6 and 7  – New Years!

Climbing teams the same

After 5 glorious days the weather broke in the peak so we headed across to North Wales for some new years mountain adventuring. On New Years Eve we explored the slate quarries. I’d not been to the slate for about 5 years and had forgotten how much I love it. It is so atmospheric climbing in the abandoned quarries with every chink of gear and call to you partner echoing through the empty expanse. It’s so grey but in a strange and unique way, it’s really beautiful. The climbing is such a contrast to the peak district. Slate is like climbing on glass, the foot and handholds are super positive but often small. There is no friction!! I love this style of climbing, the moves are much more delicate and you really need to think about each move instead of scrabbling and smearing your way up. We climbed some classic routes and it really wetted my appetite to come back and do some more climbing in the slate quarries.

Top tips for climbing on slate

-Forget about friction! There is none.

-Keep your hands warm so you can hold onto the little crimpy holds.

-Take lots of small gear and learn to trust it. 

As it was New Years Eve, we headed to the pub for some food and beverages and some locals belting out tunes on the karaoke. 

The night was a little exciting for Kate and Joe as another storm came through shaking their little tent. I was rather smug to be in our cosy van! We woke to a true Snowdonia day, pouring rain and low cloud. Looked like our last day of adventuring was a right off. The farmer at the campsite told us to stick around as a weather front was coming through at 12 and would bring clear skies with a cold wind. It didn’t look like that was possible! We headed to Pete’s Eats to start the New Year with a good breakfast. At 11 the clouds were lifting but it didn’t look promising. Kate and Joe headed back to Cardiff. We remained positive and trusted the word of the wise farmer. We headed to the base of Tryfan and geared up for a speed ascent. At 12 o’clock as predicted blue sky appeared above the mountains! We started up the mountain quickly gaining height and by midway up the ridge…we found snow!! Ok so it was hardly winter conditions but on the exposed parts of the mountain there was hard ice which definitely made us question our choice of footwear on or fast and light ascent. It felt great to be out in the mountains on such a glorious day and was the perfect way to start our New Year. Hoping for many more mountain adventures for 2017!

Tryfan on a sunny day

Tryfan on a sunny day