Tuesday 30 September 2008

the plateau...

Progress. That's what it's all about. Improvement, feeling like you are actually getting somewhere after being at a standstill for what seems like an eternity.

This is part of what I love about climbing - the challenge isn't against anyone or anything else, it's all about you - what you can do, what your mind can pull you through and how far your body can follow.

Last night I went to the wall. They had finally put up some new boulder problems so despite feeling decidedly unmotivated and possibly even a touch depressed at first (that's another story), I did actually have a remarkably good session.

I have always liked the onsight style of climbing, and although it doesn't really apply to bouldering all that much (and certainly not to indoor bouldering), by definition that was what I was doing last night. And I was cruising. Onsighting/flashing V3s! Doing V4s on the second try! This is definitely progress.

I feel stronger and more technically capable than ever before despite being physically exhausted. I'm climbing better than ever before, even when my body is fatigued and weak.

I think I have broken through the plateau!

Sunday 28 September 2008

mountain biking...

...really isn't my sport. Ok so today's little foray was actually really good fun but I still don't think I'm cut out to ever be a mountain biker.

Dave took me up around one of the local hills on some basic scraggy tracks and trails in the woods and down the chalk slopes. It was quite a long session actually - I left home at 2:00, met Dave at 2:40 and got back home at about 6:15 - all that time spent on a bike. That is a very long time for me.
Ok so we weren't on the bikes the entire time - we did stop at the top of the hill for an ice cream (a 99 with strawberry sauce no less...) and on the way back we stopped at the local chocolate shop/cafe for a hot choccy. Even so, I spent longer in the saddle today than I have for the previous 3 months combined! (possibly a slight exaggeration).

Going up hill is hard work and I'm evidently not as fit as I'd thought. Admittedly the gearing on my bike really isn't ideal for any great climbing effort but that doesn't change the fact that I was pathetic.

Going down hill is fun until you start making it really steep and/or technical. Once it gets really steep and/or technical my brain starts to twitch and get all unhappy - the most likely cause of this is a deeply engrained sense of cowardice or possibly a firmly rooted desire not to hit a tree. Either way I'm not that good at going down hill either. Slowly is bad as it makes it really hard to control where you're going, but fast increases the tree impact risk. Somehow I managed to ride almost all of it today though, not resorting to walking anywhere near as much as I could have, so I guess I should be proud in a way...

I did really enjoy riding back down the path we'd previously slogged up (yes, we went up and down the hill twice via different routes). It was steep, fast and only semi-technical but had the critical advantage of not being particularly bendy and therefore not carrying a high tree impact risk rating. Hence I rode fast - I hardly touched the brakes :D

The hot chocolate was also very very nice...

Now, I'm knackered. Great isn't it?

sunny bolt clipping

I'm not a sport climber. I don't even like sport climbing. I'm not sure why I don't really like it, I mean I find trad scary so surely sport climbing should be better, what with there being whacking great bolts in the rock for you to fall on. Somehow though I find climbing on bolts deeply unnerving. I always end up thinking - I should be able to climb harder routes than this - I'm strong (ish), I'm technically competant (relatively speaking) SO WHY THE F*CK AM I CRAPPING MYSELF?!

Anyway, I managed to convince myself that I wanted to have another crack at it all. Last time I went sport climbing Dave and I went to Portland and I managed to pick routes that had ridiculously spaced bolt or were stupidly polished. We ended up going bouldering because I freaked myself out so much. So yesterday I was determined I was going to climb something.
We went to Trevor Rocks in Clywd - I've climbed trad routes on this escarpment many times in the past and really enjoy the style of climbing so it seemed like a nice idea to try some bolted stuff there. Turns out I was right!

I managed to scare myself up a 4 (first time on bolts and indeed on a rope for quite a while). The level of fear I experienced didn't really bode well I have to say, but anyway, what with Dave and Phil being all enthusiastic and a load of really friendly and psyched people also at the crag I eventually set my sights on a technical looking 6a. Small holds, crap footholds but a very easy looking top section - perfect! Happily I managed to onsight it, and enjoy it (a bonus!). Dave also enjoyed it.
Next Dave and Phil had a crack at a 5+ - Dave led and Phil [very competantly!] top-roped it afterwards. I was impressed! I didn't fancy that route so played with the video camera instead (hopefully I will manage to edit down some of the days footage so I can post some up here).

I had noticed a route next to the 6a I had just onsighted that looked to be of a similar nature but was a grade harder (6a+) - so that was the next challenge and after a little faffage, it was done! Ok so I fluffed the crux on my first go but second time around - cruised it.

We didn't try anything harder, even though I probably should. I certainly hadn't been operating at anywhere near my limit, so I suppose in a way it's nice to know that I should be able to climb considerably harder. I just wish I could convince my head that my body is able. Ah well, it's all part of the game isn't it?

The last route of the day was a 5. We figured it would make a nice simple, easy warm down. How wrong we were. I bottled it, completely. Dave managed to lead the thing - I'm still not quite sure how! I decided to top-rope it to see if I really had just been making a fuss about nothing...
It was horrible! Awkward, scary and potentially very painful if you fell between the 2nd and 3rd bolt (crux - awkward nasty holdless squoozing up and out of a really awkward groove.)
I'm sure there must be an easier way! Fair play to Dave though on what I considered to be a fairly legendary effort.

I need to do more sport climbing. Every sport climber that knows me is shocked and horrified when I admit I only operate around the 6a grade area - they all seem to expect me to be climbing more like 7a. I can't help but agree with them - I am certainly capable of climbing ALOT harder than I currently do. Hmm.

Friday 26 September 2008


Glasgow. The airport and the railways - these are all I ever get to see! Not that I've any particular desire to go sightseeing. Ok so there probably are some cool things to see, and I must admit there are some nice places to eat and the nightlife is good - there are a few rock clubs I wouldn't mind venturing into at some point.
Anyway, I digress, today I was back on the railway, again. Joy of joys. Dressed up like the tango man's sister, trogging along scummy sections of track hoping that I would be able to fix the problem quickly and go home. Thankfully I did, and the guys at EasyJet even managed to get me on an earlier flight home (I had booked the very last one in case the job had gone tits up, and yes, that is a technical term).
On a side note - I went to Burger King. I had an XL Bacon Double Cheeseburger and dear lord did it taste good. It was filth and floorshavings but it tasted fantastic after being stood trackside for ages. I normally avoid junk food of this ilk like the plague- it's bad for you and really doesn't taste that great in reality. I did suffer afterwards - I always end up imagining I can feel my arteries contracting and the fat cells starting to form and clump together on my stomach. Melodramatic I know, but it also wasn't helped by the fact that I also had cake. Yes, today I was very, very bad.

Phil very kindly picked me up from the airport and took me home. I'm glad he did because airports aren't good places to stay.

I have sort of developed a knack for dealing with airports - lord knows I spend enough time either working in them or travelling through them!

My reasoning on airports is: when travelling through the terminals, and indeed whilst on the planes themselves, there is no reason to let yourself get stressed (except pehaps because of the airport arseholes, and even they needn't be a cause of stress if you take the right viewpoint*.)

My tips on avoiding airport stress (and note that it is all about the art of queueing):
  • when travelling alone try to be at the end of the queue. Yes, I said the end. The back. The rear. Call it what you will, you just don't want to be at the front - that is where the airport arseholes tend to congregate (see footnote).
  • the only important queue is the one at check-in (and possibly the ones in the shops and cafes, but that's obvious). Don't be late for this queue as being late may mean you miss the flight, and even if you just scrape in, you will be stressed - being late and having to rush is stressful!
  • don't panic and rush through security in a flurry - for one thing, some airports have virtually no facilities once you are through security (I'm thinking here of domestic departures at Glasgow International for example), and for another - getting through security is much less traumatic if you are relaxed and organised. Make sure you have sorted youself out (empty pockets, laptops out of bags, jackets and shoes off if necessary etc) and remember the security staff are there to help you!
  • RELAX!!! Once you have checked in there is absolutely no reason to rush around like a headless chicken - it will always be easier for the airline staff to get you onto the plane than to get your bag off again. Hence, no need to rush. Plus, by not rushing you have a much better chance of being at the back of the boarding queue.
  • when you are travelling alone it is always better to be at the back of the boarding queue (see point 1) - if you have an allocated seat number it doesn't matter how many people board in front of you as you will be sat in the same place no matter what. If you don't have an allocated seat number (as with most budget airlines) you are better off at the back of the queue as you will get to pick the best seat - if you are at the front of the queue and pick what you think will be a good seat, you have a whole row to yourself, you can virtually guarantee that you'll either get the fat bloke with the serious B.O. problem or the screaming brat sat next to you. By being the last person to pick a seat you can choose to avoid such irritations. Simple.
  • ipods are you friend. They can block out a surprising amount of noise, including snoring, squelchy chewing noises, children crying (to a degree- don't expect miracles with this one).
  • if you do still find yourself feeling stressed at the airport for one reason or another, just think yourself lucky - you're only passing through!

*I will concede only two genuine causes of stress at airports - badly behaved children (and their parents), and arseholes.
My definition of an airport arsehole is one of those people who just have to be at the front of every queue and won't consider that there actually are other people alive and breathing who are in fact also entitled to a little standing room. I pity these people in a way because they are just making the whole sorry process unnecessarily painful for themselves! I still laugh when they trip over though...

Thursday 25 September 2008

oh god, my head!!

Today was awful. What more can I say? It started badly - I had a headache. I got into work knowing I had to conduct a 'departmental technical review' to try to sort out all the balls-ups. Even more of a headache.
I didn't actually drink all that much tea, well, not until the afternoon when the dung hit the twirly thing rather forcefully - major fault in a major situation. This thing had been brewing all week so it wasn't entirely surprising when I got the call at around lunchtime informing me of how dire the situation had got. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I am flying to Glasgow first thing tomorrow to try to perform an engineering miracle - I have to fix a system for which we have no spare parts! Lovely! So, I've got a 6am start, to have a day of pain and perplexity and will probably get home at some time between 11:30pm and midnight. On a Friday. Grrrreat.

reading: 6, 100% (spread uneven - only 2 cups were drunk before 2pm!) . Major, major stress today! I got home in an absolutely foul mood, especially as someone stole my parking space just as I was about to put the car in it!

On a slightly more positive, but even more headache inducing note, I went over the the aero club to participate in a Radio Telephony groundschool training evening. This was my first one and seeing as I have no clue about any of it as yet (including the basics of even understanding the charts), it was rather hard work. Really entertaining though, and apparently it will get easier!

I am hoping to go sport climbing somewhere on saturday - it will all depend on just how tired I am after tomorrow's efforts and, of course, on what the weather is doing. Ho hum.

new boulder problems

I went to the wall last night to do some more bouldering. In 3 months they have only put up 4 new problems - very frustrating.
So once again I cruised up some of the old problems (in itself not entirely unsatisfying - doing V3 and V4 probelms you previously struggled on, as a warm up is a pleasant gauge of how well you're doing). Next, meeting up with some of the other guys I often climb with, we embarked on a mission to complete the 4 new problems on the super overhanging bulge (yes, I may be exaggerating a little).
One is easy, one is hard and two are super hard (for me anyway). Did the easy one, then worked the hard one. Eventually managed it - that felt good, especially as I managed it when some of the much stronger guys didn't!

I have some 'different' methods of climbing to most - being a weak and feeble woman I had to learn all kinds of different techniques and tricks from early on, simply because I didn't have the strength to get up things without these techniques. Hence, I am a big fan of the heel hook, toe hook, small footholds, drop knees and use of ridiculous amounts of flexibility...I often do things in ways that make the guys scratch their heads!

I do enjoy watching others climb, especially people who are better than/climb harder than me - you can often learn alot from the way they approach things, the subtleties of their movements, the simplicity of ways in which they often attempt things. (I especially enjoy watching if they're male, ripped and topless...but I digress).
Yesterday I got to climb with a guy I often 'problem solve' with - he's definitely one of those climbers I consider to be better than I am, but there are some things that I match and sometimes even exceed his abilities with - hence we usually have a good time trying stuff. Last night he was on form though - cruised both of the new 'super hard' problems, one of which I don't think I'm likely to do at all. He did manage to convince me to try the other one though - a powerful problem with awkward holds and needing lots of body tension. I spent my first few tries unceremoniously plopping off onto the floor. Anyway, to cut a long story short - I think I will be able to do it. This isn't exactly a big deal, and the only reason I mention it is because it feels a stage harder than anything I've ever done before (it may not be), it feels like the first tiny step off of the plateau - I hope!

(Photo below is an example of abnormal flexibility apparently. It didn't feel all that bad to me!)

Wednesday 24 September 2008

lots of tea, rain and windy circuits

Today's tea-o-meter reading was 5, 100% for just the morning. I had this afternoon off so the tea-o-meter covers a half day and to hazard a guess - I probably would have had another 3 or 4 cups had I stayed at work. So all in all not a good day at work. Ok it wasn't actually catastrophically bad but did include a certain level of stress.

This afternoon I went for a walk and got wet. I said to Jim just before we left - "do you think I should wear my waterproof jacket?", "no", says he, "it won't rain again - trust me, I'm a glider pilot!".
I swear, the next time he uses the 'glider pilot' line when talking about the weather I am just going to stay indoors - every time he comments on the weather it does the exact opposite!

Anyway, despite the wet, wind and really low cloudbase, my flying lesson did actually go ahead today. More circuits, but this time with wind to make them more interesting!
I didn't do well. I might even go so far as to say that it was my first 'bad' lesson - I did everything wrong. All my procedures went out the window. I forgot my radio calls. I fluffed the circuit in a variety of ways including: turning too late, turning too early, getting blown off track and not correcting, not trimming properly, using too much power, using too little power...you name it, I fluffed it!
Eventually it did all start to fall into place again and my last couple weren't too bad. I am happy to say that all my landings were good though, and general control is becoming alot more instinctive - so it wasn't all bad.

Before my next lesson, I must read through my notes and refresh myself on exactly what I should be doing - hopefully this will help.

On a side note, my copy of the PPL confuser arrived today so I will have no excuse to not get on and do my Air Law exam next week. My medical is also booked!


Have you ever had a climbing partner let you down? Ever been fooled into thinking you're safe: they're solid, reliable, completely trustworthy, only then to be let down when it really mattered? Maybe they were simply looking the other way, focussing on something else, just for a second...just long enough for a hold to snap, a foot to slip...

I was dropped once. I didn't really know my belayer - I'd only met him an hour or so beforehand but hey - he said the right things, he was a climber, he was safe.
It hurt a bit when I hit the ground, nothing major but it was enough to make me think - who am I trusting? What reason do I have to believe that I'm not going to be let down?

I wrote the above in a late night email to a friend a couple of days ago - I was annoyed and trying to make a point about something rather more menial (something along the lines of not responding to phone calls or texts). Reading back over it has made me think.

The past few days have been hard. One of my close family members is critically ill in hospital and has been since friday - thankfully now she's beginning to improve and we're all hopeful of a good outcome. I've felt stressed at work and haven't been able to keep with the normal routines of climbing and exercise. All of this I feel has triggered some philosphical thinking.

So why do we trust people without reason? Is this a normal aspect of human nature or am I just a fool? I just don't know. I like to trust people, it's just the way I am but sometimes you get let down, it's all part of the game I suppose.

Tuesday 23 September 2008

not much happening

Yesterday's (Monday) tea-o-meter rating was 5, 100%

I made and drank 5 cups of tea during my working day. It hadn't been hugely stressful but certainly wasn't stress free - the rating matches the scale.

I should have gone climbing but didn't. I did manage to get the rock rings up and have a bit of a play. I was feeling pretty weak though so didn't do too much, although I did manage to do 13 full pull ups in one set - an improvement on my previous record of 12.

Monday 22 September 2008

the tea-o-meter©

Today I am introducing the tea-o-meter as a system of measuring the state of my working day. The system is as follows:

Each day the tea-o-meter will generate a figure displaying the type of day (see "Day Scale" below) and the desperation factor (displayed as a percentage - the lower the percentage, the greater the desperation).
E.g. 4, 75%

The Day Scale

The day scale is a measure of the status of the day as determined by the number of cups of tea I have made.

0 - 3 cups = Fairly normal, everything pretty much ok. Nothing of note.
4 - 6 cups = Slightly stressful and/or mildly boring
7 - 8 cups = Not good. A bad day in fact, possibly including meetings. Too much crap.
8+ cups = Really should have stayed at home. Day has taken 1 year off my life span.

The Desperation Factor

The desperation factor is an additional indicator of the day's highs and lows (well only the lows really I guess).

The desperation factor is calculated thus:

(Number of teas drunk/Number of teas made) x 100

I felt the need to introduce this factor to the tea-o-meter as there are a number of reasons why tea might be made but not actually drunk:
  • Tea has been made purely for the sake of making it, i.e. as a means of getting away from the pc.
  • Tea has gone cold and therefore not been drunk due to high volume of work and forgetfulness
  • Tea has gone cold as it has been left due to a work based emergency

I shall endeavor to generate a tea-o-meter reading whenever I have a day based in the office and will update and improve the system whenever new methods and ideas come to light.

more circuits and gliding

Friday - went to the climbing wall to have a crack at the new boulder problems - was very disappointed to find they'd only put up a couple of new ones. Never mind. Had a fairly light session as I was still feeling a bit achey from a session with the rock rings on thursday.

Saturday - morning flying lesson. Flew some more circuits and I'm actually beginning to get the hang of it! My landings have improved massively - I actually feel more than happy with them now :) My instructor also introduce the radio calls into the circuit for me so I'm now doing everything. Apparently I'm doing really well and should be a 'low hours solo' - excellent!!!
Admittedly this does mean I need to get my finger out and do my medical and air law exam :S

We also did some stalling practice - can't say I found this particularly easy or pleasant - it's so instinctive to do exactly the wrong thing and make it so much worse! I'm sure it will get easier and less unnerving the more we do it. Maybe even do some fully developed spins...hmm.

Sunday - went gliding with Jim! Had an excellent afternoon - managed to stay airborne for over an hour, gaining over 2000' from our tow altitude. I'm sure this isn't stunning but for my first go at soaring I was impressed and really enjoyed myself. (Jim, if you're reading this - thanks for another excellent afternoon!)

Thursday 18 September 2008

psyche and motivation

Ok so I didn't mention last night's trip to the climbing wall - it was rubbish. They still hadn't changed any of the boulder problems despite the current ones having been up for something like 3 months! I'm not sure how long it's actually been but I know it's much longer than usual.
I had gone to the wall really psyched to do some new problems and to see how strong or weak I was after spending a week out in Font. Walking in and seeing the same old stuff still up was a huge motivation killer - I just really didn't have any desire to climb anything [again]!
Anyway, I eventually got myself moving - I just did some of my usual problems again and whilst it was boring and generally naff, it did provide a good gauge of my progress - I am definitely stronger :)

Tonight (having been stood up for my trip to the pub - apparently there was a good reason ;) ) I was hoping to dig out the knee supports and go for a run (I really, really want to be properly hill fit for the winter climbing season) but when it came to it - I just couldn't be arsed. I think it was mainly due to the fact that I have no idea where my running tights or shorts are actually, but the whole idea of going out just didn't appeal either.
So I didn't go running. Instead I got the rock rings* out in the garden and gave myself a bit of a strength and body tension workout - I also used this workout as an opportunity to test the mini dv camera and I must say the results were most impressive (not so much my gymnastic prowess as the video quality!).

Ooh and excitement of excitement - heard this strange noise in the sky. Definitely an aeroplane over the airfield but not one I could easily recognise from the sound...
Phil and I went out front to see what it was and saw a Spitfire showing off over the airfield! Awesome! I just wish he'd been there yesterday so I could have seen him from the air, maybe even exchanged acknowledgements. Never mind, it was still pretty cool to watch a spit doing low level steep turns and maneouvers from such close range :)

*rock rings - basically funny shaped gymnastic rings with small finger holds, designed for climbers

learning circuits

Following a crappy day at work yesterday that seemed never ending, I managed to get away early to get over to the airfield for another lesson.
The whole week I was in Font I kept wanting to go flying, I think I could probably get as obsessive about it as a hobby as I am about climbing. Ok, maybe not ;)

Anyway, it was a slightly shorter lesson than usual because I was a tiny bit late, and you can't fly circuits after 1800. Yes, this was my first go at flying proper circuits! Woo!

I am amazed at just how much I had forgotten, in a week. The basic skills were still there - I could still fly the aircraft passably competantly, it was just that I could not for the life of me remember the appropriate airspeeds, altitudes, flap configurations, engine rpm's etc for each stage of the circuit (to be fair to myself, I had never actually done it before and so it was all just theory I'd been told).

Anyway, notes to self:
  • Take off - airspeed around 55kts when you pull up, 10degrees of flap, climbout at 65kts, trimmed
  • 300ft raise flap
  • 1000ft level out, reduce power to 2100rpm to settle at 85kts (this is just for my first starting circuit training lessons, there are other things to do for real apparently)
  • Turn 90degrees onto crosswind
  • Turn 90 degress onto downwind (there is a point at which you commence turn)
  • Trim for straight and level at 85-90kts, 1000ft, do downwind checks (BUMFFICH)
  • Turn onto base leg, reduce power in turn to allow base leg configuration
  • Base configuration: 75kts, 10degrees of flap, descending
  • Turn onto final - long sweeping 10degree turn to straighten out in line with runway. 20degrees of flap, 65kts, trim (not much throttle at this point)
  • Use throttle to control rate of descent, not pressure on control column - 65kts needs to be maintained!
  • Once getting close in to the runway drop the power back, allow airspeed to stay at 65kts (the aircraft will nose down of its own accord), flare at last minute to glide down onto runway
  • Once touched down, immediate take off needs: 10degrees of flap (reduced from the 20 used to land), full power and pull up at 55kts
Other points of note: my [new] headset from John works great :)
I need to read the Aero club notes and sign myself off on the T-card system (this is all new, very painful)

I still love flying!

Tuesday 16 September 2008


Engineering. What a crap profession it is sometimes. God I wish I could just quit and spend my time sleeping. Eating, flying and climbing all require funds though, come to think of it so does having a roof over your head.
I know I know, I should think myself lucky that in these times of economic turmoil I have a reasonably paying and relatively secure job. Shame I find myself hating the company now, it never used to be this way...

Ok I think I'm being unfair - engineering is a fantastic profession - I love the job itself, I just hate the company politics.

Monday 15 September 2008

my neck hurts

Whiplash isn't fun. Even sleeping is hard work - everytime I move/fidget in my sleep the pain wakes me up. I've spent the whole day trying to avoid moving my head.

I spent the day working from home. This included having lunch at the Cafe in the Woods with Phil and going shopping for a mini DV camera - it is awesome. I just need something to film now - I kept wishing I'd had one in Font so now I do! Yes I know it's too late, but the next bouldering/climbing trips will now be possible with video :)

I'm not looking forward to work tomorrow - I've got to present a training course somehow without moving my head...

font day 9: going home

Today we had a quick visit back to 95.2 so I could have yet another go at La Mur de la Fosse aux Ours, my 7a project. Needless to say I still didn't finish it. I did get to watch a rather nice young German chap try it and also not get any further than I did, although he did seem to be somewhat stronger than me so that was nice.
I blame the fact that I'm just not a very good climber, and I'm weak. But also - I think I have whiplash. Stupid stupid woman. NEVER get wrapped in a bouldering mat, not for any reason, ever.

The journey back was fairly straightforward, although we did see some kind of weirdness going on at one of the motorway services - it was closed and ALOT of fire brigade vehicles were turing up, including the chemical unit and the big vehicle lifting airbag thing. Not quite sure what was going on but it did spawn some interesting conversations in the car.
I also had a really nice panini for lunch - chicken curry in a toasted ciabatta! Amazing! French motorway services clearly aren't all bad.

We had dinner at Cite Europe even though all the shops were shut. I only mention this because I had a huge bowl of mussels and they were lovely!

font day 8: stupidity

Cleared out of the Gite then back to 91.1 for a chilled out day bouldering. I swear the grades there are harder than at other areas. Or maybe the climbing's just a different style that really doesn't suit me, I don't know. Anyway I think Dave enjoyed himself - he certainly managed to get into some interesting positions at times.

Anyway the main point of this post is to emphasize just how immensely stupid it is to be wrapped up inside a bouldering mat and then participate in your friends challenges. Ok so the wrestling (see above) wasn't so bad - I only ended up with a face full of sand. And the race round the boulder was tame enough. The falling over backwards thing however, was a REALLY REALLY crap idea. I cracked my head really hard on the ground and very nearly passed out. Stupid woman.

Ok so after the day's antics we went to the restaurant near Elephant - I had the Kangaroo steak - it was lovely :)
Then we made our way over to the Formule 1 hotel at Moret for the night. Cheap but, umm, well, kinda crappy - but hey, for around 10 euros each it was a bargain!

Friday 12 September 2008

font day 7: condoms and climbing

Bas Cuvier. Who's idea was it to go there? Ok so I wanted to have a go at 'La Marie Rose' - the first 6a in the forest, and we wanted to see why the area is so popular.
I didn't finish the problem and we didn't stay very long - the place is littered with all kinds of nastiness (it's also a major dogging spot).

We moved on, firstly to the Intermarche for dinner supplies, then to 91.1 to climb.

We accidentally overshot and ended up at Cul du Chien temporarily and then I got lost as we ventured back towards 91.1. Anyway, we got there eventually and I had a mission - a 5b that had defeated me on my last visit to the forest.
Jen cruised it. I got spat off repeatedly. I may have had a bit of a paddy.
Did some easy problems then went back. Long story short, eventually I got it! Thank god! It's amazing what difference a subtle hand movement can make.

Not sure what's on the cards for tomorrow...

font day 6: pain

A good day all round. Dave's first day in Font - I think he enjoyed it.

Ok so I didn't get anywhere near to doing the 7a but I tried and I suffered for it. Nearly split a tip and ended up feeling incredibly battered. Such hard moves!
Anyway, my excuse was that the conditions were too bad - it was roasting! Apparently 32 degrees for alot of the day - the rock sweats. Jen and I failed to do a 5b we'd both flashed earlier in the week, purely because the rock was sweating so much!
Phil and Alex managed to finish their project so the day was still a good result.

Ok so I gave up on the 7a and we went off and explored 95.2 a bit more - it's a cool area. Found a nice arete problem, graded 6a that we decided to work. I managed it first (not that I want to brag ;) ) and then repeated it a couple of times (see bottom photo). Jen and Dave both did it too and were really chuffed :)

Again a nice dinner - Phil cooked a curry of sorts, once again lots and lots of good food. Oh, and crepes for dessert - amazingly fun. We even discovered that Dave truly is 'a great tosser' (his words not mine!).

Wednesday 10 September 2008

font day 5: rest

So today was a forced rest day. Think I've been going stir crazy.

Just got in after having a short but entertaining session on the training wall. Admittedly most of the time was actually spent chatting but hey!

Once again a big meal with a ridiculous dessert - was a bit of a shame that the entire tub of ice cream had melted in the freezer and was more of a fluid mousse type thing. Not great but still.

Picking Dave up from the station tomorrow morning, still undecided as to where we're going to climb (I do however have a desire to head back to 95.2 for a 7a re-match)!

font day 4: de-motivation, rain and the world's biggest spag-bol

Ok so day 4 was a bit of a washout. We went to La Roche aux Sabots with doing the whole yellow circuit in mind (this was mainly Alex's goal so we all thought - great a nice day of fun climbing!). Anyway, we only managed 12 out of 34 problems before we all got fed up and went to sit down to eat lunch. Unfortunately it then started to rain quite hard so we beat a hasty retreat back to the car.

We had a bit of a play back at the training wall, doing some endurancy type circuit work (I felt the need to do more exercise after eating a fair amount for lunch).

Dinner was, well, large. Jen and Alex cooked Spaghetti Bolognese, or at least they would have if they'd found the spaghetti in the cupboard. Instead we had pasta bolognese. All fine so far, the trouble was they had decided to use a whole packet of pasta plus the remains of another for a meal for 4 people! Honestly, there was enough to feed 7 or 8! Plus we then finished the massive chocolate gateau from Monday night. Dear goodness was I full!

Tomorrow is a forced rest day. Slightly depressing as I'm desperate to get back to 95.2 to do battle with my 7a project again (a problem called La mur de la Fosse aux Ours).

Monday 8 September 2008

font day 3: I am a glutton for punishment

Day 3: 95.2

Ok so we got off to a late start. No-one got up particularly early and then we had to go shopping. Lots of fun in the Intermarche. We were so late that we decided to have lunch at the gite and just take snacks for the afternoon.

Ok next I managed to navigate us to completely the wrong area. A combination of Phil and Jen being sensible managed to actually get us to the start of the blue circuit at 95.2.

We never intended doing particularly much, just the problems we saw that took our fancy. Anyway, I managed to get a few 4s and 5s done - the hardest being another 5c. Then we stumbled upon a really nice 5a (managed to flash - nice) which had a similar problem next to it that I thought I would have a crack at - vertical wall completely covered in calcite (so no real friction) with small crimps and edges, my sort of thing! Anyway, it transpires that the problem is a 7a - way beyond my current capabilities. Anyway I had a few goes and I actually think I can do it. It will be a struggle and a bit of a siege but maybe, just maybe it will happen later in the week when we go back :D Fingers crossed!

Sunday 7 September 2008

font day 2: a punter's paradise

Ok so it's day 2 of our Font trip. Today we actually got to climb! Yay!
The plan was to try to do a complete circuit somewhere, so we went to Canche aux Merciers to try to do the entire Orange circuit. No problem. Ok so we started late and it rained half way through but we did it, along with a couple of other interesting problems along the way - the hardest of which was a rather nice overhung, juggy 5c.
I felt good, fine, full of energy and having no problems right the way through the circuit until around about problem 35/36ish (out of 44 total, plus others), at which point it all became hard, scary and rather lacking in technique. Still, we finished and all is good.

Had a rather nice meal and am now sitting watching climbing DVDs with the others. The shower is awesome.

Plan for tomorrow is a mammoth shopping trip to get [hopefully] everything for the week. Then we go to 95.2 and just try stuff we like the look of. We may start out on the blue circuit or something, just as a means of getting moving. I'm looking forward to it :)

Saturday 6 September 2008

font day 1: the journey and sink disasters

Ok so right now I'm sat at the dining table in our Gite in Font. Fantastic. We've just eaten a rather nice chilli con carne (I made it so it had to be good!) and had a slice of strawberry tart for dessert. A nice glass of red wine on the side has made for a really nice evening. Everything was going so well...

Ok so everything has been fine today, journey was ok, nothing special but no major problems. Phil did a valiant job in driving the whole way (thanks Phil!). We've eaten copious amounts of junk food - crisps, sausage rolls, chocolate, more chocolate etc and now had a nice wholesome meal.
Absolutely all was good, that is, until Jen decided to wash up. Now the sink is blocked. Lovely. Imagine a blocked sink with pieces of manky food and ancient sludge from the pipes floating around in it, yummy! We're hoping it will drain overnight - not sure what we're going to do about washing up after breakfast if it does though!

Anyway, tomorrow we're planning on having quite an easy day. Not sure what the weather's going to do but we're planning to go to Canche aux Merciers to try to do the whole of the orange circuit - should be fun! Hopefully this will help us get used to the rock and general style of climbing so we can get on and try some harder stuff later on in the week.

Friday 5 September 2008


It's raining. Again.
It's been raining all morning and is forecast to get heavier but then possibly stop late afternoon/early evening. Not that I'm obsessing over the weather at all - I just really want to fly today. Sigh.

On a more positive note everyone is gathering at ours tonight in preparation for tomorrow's epic journey over to Font. I may just be a teeny bit excited underneath all the stress of packing (I wish I wasn't so disorganised and didn't have so much ironing to do...)
Phil is planning a scallop risotto - sounds intriguing and yummy.

Thursday 4 September 2008


Saturday. 6am start for a 10am ferry crossing. I'm excited, not by the early start - I prefer to stay in bed, but by the fact that we're going to Font again for a whole week - woo!!

ups and downs...

Right. Last night was a bit up and down to say the least. My flying lesson was cancelled due to a strong crosswind (meaning flying just wasn't possible). Bummer. On the plus side though it did mean that I could get to the climbing wall without rushing around like a headless chicken, getting stressed and then climbing like something akin to a walrus in heat...

Session at the wall was passably good. Lots of good people to boulder with despite most of my regular partners being unable to make it. Saw lots of guys I haven't seen in a while, had some nice converstations and may even have gained a keen new trad partner - yay!
Shame the problems still haven't been changed - it's been a few months now and I'm a bit bored of just cruising around on the same old v4s and still being unable to touch the misgraded v3s (stupid lanky problem setters - I will not dyno for a tiny crimp and pop another pulley!!)

Phil cooked a lovely chicken satay stir fry (after a bit of a row about scallops - don't ask) before I went, shame we'd rushed it a bit because of my lesson. My instructor is hassling me to get my Air Law exam done (more hassle, ok so I really do need to get my finger out).
Incidentally I have now gotten onto chapter 7 of 15 that I need to read and understand and the last 5 are really short, and one's just a terminology glossary. Ok so there's still quite a bit to go.

My intention is to finish reading the book. Re-read the important chapters and the ones that aren't really sinking in and make notes, lots of notes. I also want to get hold of a copy of the PPL Confuser that has [equivalents of] all the exam questions in it, along with some nicely explained answers, read through that and then just have a go at the exam! If I fail, I fail and have to do it again, no big deal (apart from the exam fee).

Wednesday 3 September 2008


Yes, I am officially cack-handed. Hopefully as I won't be back-dating any more entries after this the ordering will start to make sense - this is actually a post about the weekend before last (i.e. before the Tiger Moth flying)
Climbing. My love, my passion and possibly my obsession. Exhilerating, exciting, fun but also phenomenally frustrating and occasionally really quite dangerous.

Phil and I were in North Wales, by far my favourite place to climb trad. Admittedly I haven't really climbed in all that many places but of those I have, I like North Wales the best.
I'll get my excuses in now, before I even start to explain Sunday's happenings - I really wasn't feeling very well (possibly glandular fever - I've had it for 3 weeks now and it's only just beginning to get better).

Anyway, we met up with Ritchie (aka the self-named rock god) who took us over to Gogarth (Anglesey), Holyhead Mountain to be precise. I had never climbed on Anglesey before so this was a pleasant surprise.
Phil admirably lead an S 4a (can't remember the name) that I actually thought was really quite hard. Maybe it's just my seconding head, I don't know. Anyway we moved on to an HS 4b called 'Pleasant Surprise' that I lead - actually really rather enjoyable, no problems there. Next was a VS 4c called 'Teaser' (see photo). And this is where it all started to go wrong.
I will admit, it wasn't the type of route I would normally have any desire to climb - it had a wide crack that clearly involved my most hated of climbing styles - jamming. So my head wasn't really in the right place to start with.
I won't drag this out, basically I messed up. Big time. Climbed the crux (after much procrastination) and reached a good spike hold, over which I was meant to place a sling. I got muddled, was a bit freaked out and long story short, clipped the sling to myself rather than onto the rope - end result being that when I carried on upwards, my only protection for a few metres came with me. Not good.

So, would I compose myself, climb up and place another piece of gear to protect myself or would I somehow manage to get myself into a position from which I could deck out?
STUPID WOMAN. Going off route due to fear/adrenaline/whatever, finding yourself on a slopey ledge with no viable gear options and being so far above the last piece of protection that a fall would result in almost certain serious bone damage (not even going to contemplate the death potential) is never a good option. Needless to say it all came right in the end and I was ribbed mercilessly.

I need to do more trad mileage and sort my head out. VS is normally cruise level, not struggle and generate death potential level.
Oh well.

tiger tiger burning bright

Ok so I may as well start off by explaining myself a little. I have always wanted to fly, ever since I can remember, so recently I started to learn.
I have to say a massive thank you to John for the help he gave in getting me into the local flying club because it is awesome. Expensive but awesome.
So far I have logged 6 hours and have started flying circuits (admittedly the circuits I have flown so far have been around random fields - this was due to the airfield being out of bounds for circuit practice due to air cadet gliding activities, not finished). I think I am getting the hang of it all too.

Things to remember:
  • Adjust trim for airspeed - this can effectively half your workload, which, when you are trying to do a thousand things at once is a real mercy
  • Do clearing turns before actually turning (that is, check you aren't going to hit anyone when you turn basically)
  • Don't forget the Carb heat when cutting engine power
  • Don't panic
Anyway, the lessons are going well - my instructor is keen to send me solo real soon as I'm picking everything up really quickly and flying well.
Before I can fly solo I have to get a medical done (deep joy) and I also need to pass my Air Law Exam. This is NOT FUN.
Honestly, I have been reading and studying for hours and just when I think it's all beginning to sink in I reach another level of legality, bureaucracy and general nausea. Why does it have to be so tedious?!

Anyway, back on the fun stuff, on Saturday Phil and I finally got over to Norwich to play with John's Tiger Moth, and to pick up a headset. Honestly, that plane was beautiful. What an incredible day! Ok so there was lots of sitting aroung waiting for the wind to drop but it was all so worth it. Can't really say or do more than grin!

the first

So I finally gave in, started a blog. I've been thinking about doing this for a while, mainly as a means of tracking my progress with my flying but also as a venting point for my ineptitude and poor performance when climbing (currently either bottled up or unleashed on unwitting climbing partners and friends) and maybe even a means of ranting and rambling on about nothing in particular...
I'm inherently disorganised so it will be interesting to see just how well I keep this up. I wasn't good with diaries as a child - I could never see the point.