Summer is over

It has been quite some time since I last wrote a blog post. I guess in part as the Summer seemed to last for ever this year, Although that has finally come to an abrupt end! just before it did i received a copy of the new Kalymnos guide which features a few pics of mine. These two photos stand out for me as they feature parents of young climbers I took on a coaching holiday to the amazing island. But whilst there obviously they took part and got involved, it became a running joke in the morning about which venue the hard rock team (the youngsters) would go to, and were the soft rock team (the dads) would go. Who is laughing now…


Giles high above the deep blue Agean


Rick ‘if its worth winning, its worth loosing’ Frugniet

Also on the photo front Climber magazine printed some of my pics from the DWS comp and run an article I had written about a classic 7a at Dinas rock, this is to be part of a series highlighting some of the unsung classics around the UK.

Climber Magazine article

Climber Magazine article

So what have I been up to? Well as I flick back through my photos from this year it appears that I have been out and about quite a lot. Work has kept me on my toes with the kids progressing nicely, I really believe something special is brewing with our academy and soon we shall start to see the rewards of all of the hard work!

Garage training wall

Garage training wall


Liz messing with Sam’s skid master 2000 whilst I build his new training wall

Been out building a few more home training facilities for kids. This is something I love doing as I remember how exciting it was when my dad built me a training wall in my garden at their age. It made a huge difference, giving me the opportunity to play and train every day. Some one else I have built a wall for is Emily who is doing amazing well on the comp circuit and has been featured in the months Summit Magazine (a BMC publication). I felt quit quite teary eyed when I read that have helped to inspire her, especially as she is probably the most inspiring young climber I have met!


Emily Phillips in Summit Magazine.

Team training with all the youngsters has been fantastic with all of them giving their max. Our results at the Welsh championships prove that it was all worth while, with so many of the team reaching the finals and taking home the honours! This should lay down a marker of what can be achieved and everyone is onboard to take this into the new year and this seasons YCS!

Sam with his gold medal

Sam with his gold medal

I have also been route setting quite a lot which is amazingly fun, although physically taxing. In some form or another I have probably be doing this around 20 years, but I still get a kick out of being creative and trying to improve what I am doing. But the main reason my summer has carried on so long is due to a late summer euro trip to Portugal. We had planned this trip for some time and would be going with Rhod, Charlotte, Andy and Lucie. This was to be our first legit surf trip since me and Rhod went to Brittany back when, well when we were quite a bit younger.

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Surf Snowdonia with its mountain backdrop

As prep for this trip me and Andy took a trip to Surf Snowdonia, the first artificial wave of its type in the UK and pretty much the world! The summer had offered little swell so suddenly having this option available seemed a god send at the time, hopefully it would knock the rust of my technique before we left for foreign shores.

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Surf Snowdonia fun (photo by Liz Collyer).

Its a pretty fantastic place and although I had a hard time adjusting to the wave, it is not quite the same as a wave at sea, it certainly got my psyche high and was fun to spend a weekend around north wales in the van.

Andy prepping for Portugal

Andy prepping for Portugal


Some shaky footage of some shaky surfing by me at Surf Snowdonia

Portugal it turns out is a stunning country and the area we traveled along the west coast, close to the Algarve, is relatively undeveloped and littered with amazing beaches and surf breaks. We were fortunate to be staying in a friends holiday home situated in Carrapateira which overlooked a great beach with some amazing surf.

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Sunset at Carrapateira



The seafood is incredible in Portugal

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Sagres lighthouse


Every day we were rewarded with beautiful lines!


Andy letting rip at spot X


Rhod enjoying some Portugal gems

Obviously whilst out and about we had to sample some of Portugal’s famous golf courses, but it turns out they are super posh and in our apres surf attire we would only be allowed on the driving range, still good fun mind.

Obviously my pitch and putt training was paying off.

Then liz then went and made the winning shot, wait for the end as her reaction is classic!

Since returning we have made a huge change. The Gower days are over and although it has been a blast I now live in deepest darkest Pembrokshire. It was about time to make a change and it has already thrown up a heap of new opportunities as we start exploring the coast at weekends. So far the wind and rain has stopped us looking for some of the mythical bouldering spots but the surf has been exciting with Rhod joining in the fun we have found the new waves re invigorating and the lack of crowds magical!

Rhod enjoying some uncrowded winter fun

Rhod enjoying some uncrowded winter fun


Splash Down in the South West

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Just back from a great but long weekend in the South West, as it was The Quay’s, now annual  DWS event. Having run, in my eyes, one of the most successful climbing competitions in recent memory last year I was super eager to get back and get involved once again. Unfortunately a year is a long time and many things have led to me not being anywhere near my best with my climbing, although things are looking up, and also being away during the online entry left me believing that I had missed out on the opportunity to take part.

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Not to worry Emily and Crystal were competing and we decided it would be an amazing event to just hang out at regardless. One of my favourite parts of this festival is that you get to catch up with so many friends that you only see now and again so the decision to pack the van for a long weekend was a simple one.

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Friday was to be the under 16 qualification round so Emily and Crystal would be in action, I simply had not read the timetable so after an early morning wake up and a quick stroll around to the canal, the realisation that this would not be happening till late afternoon left me at a loose end for the day. No dramas as Ben West and the Bloc fest Team, Gaz Parry, Gav Symonds and Mike Langley were putting the final touches to their qualifying routes and without a second passing they were giving me some banter about my crap excuses for not entering. Having not entered I had in the last week been at Andy’s tattoo shop, getting a new tattoo. This was not fully healed so when the news of a spare spot was given to me I was left wondering if a bit of cling film and gaffa tape might be enough to protect me from the murky canal.

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Once Paul Russell arrived on the scene, looking surprisingly calm considering the scale of the event that was about to unfold under his stewardship, a new plan was hatched. Last year I had been super keen to take some pictures from the top of the floating barge that the climbing wall is built upon, but there was already a team of Photographers present and not wanting to press the issue the opportunity was missed. Chatting with Paul and Alison revealed that this year no photographers were present and I could have the gig!

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Fortunately I had packed all of my kit to get some shots of the Emily and Crystal so I was made up that I would be able to get involved and take the shots I had wanted to the previous year. Suddenly though it had gone from taking a few shots of the team to potentially photographing the event, which is something I would love to get more involved with as shooting from the crowd rarely offers the best angles and opportunities to capture the feeling of what is going on.

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Qualification looked quite simple for the two girls so I could leave them to it whilst I concentrated on getting some shots, to work out where best positions would be. The event itself is a breath of fresh air for British climbing competitions, being run to a strict and efficent timetable. This means the action is thick and fast with climbers attempting Three routes of increasing difficulty. Between each a climb a short rest allows time to dry shoes, find some more chalk or simply prepare for the next route. With this format once the first few competitors were finished the wall would very quickly be full.  Three competitors would now be climbing simultaneously on each of the routes, meaning action was everywhere with splash downs almost on the minute and some funky setting it was hard to know where to point the camera.

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By the end of play on Friday it was clear that leaning over the wall was not as easy as I had hoped due to a slight kick in the final section meaning getting the obvious wide shot would require abseiling over the edge and there was simply no room amongst the competitors, also I would have to leave my trusty flash guns packed as no one wants that in their face whilst trying to battle the 7m routes to reach the next rounds.

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Both girls qualified for finals day on Sunday which left Saturday for the adults and many familiar faces would be having a bash, including the DWS king himself Neil Gresham. Personally I believe the fact that this event can attract the likes of Neil into the unfamiliarity of the competition environment is a testament to the quality of the event and to Neil’s love of the sport. Along side Neil there was a packed wads list of climbers from all over the UK keen to have a piece of the action, as well as many climbers simply out for a good time. Watching the event through a lens was an interesting experience giving me much more of an insight in to how hard these guys and girls are trying and although the gap between the strong and the not seems vast so much more seems to be in the desire to try hard till the end.

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The setters rarely get the credit they deserve for events like this, but as with any event I have seen this team part of, it was pitched bang on. With the qualification phase allowing everyone to have great days climbing whilst still managing to trim the fat and produce the desired numbers for finals day. By the end of this day I had some great shots due to more favourable light than the friday, a bigger crowd and a more relaxed feeling. Now I felt that I was getting the shots I was hoping for, with some great comedy moments as well as the hard core action shots.

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Sunday was to be Finals day with all the remaining competitors taking part in a semi final of the same format as the qualification round. From here the top 6  would go on to a final for which a new format had been devised. This year competitors would essentially race across a route of lesser difficulty, having to hit a bell to stop the clock. The fastest three would go on from here to a second lap, adding their two times together would give this years DWS champions. From a photography day I was at first a little upset that once again the day was overcast and actually looked like it may rain at any moment. The previous year had been blessed with some amazing light for the finals with the wall almost glowing, but it appeared this year that was not to be.

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It was during the Women’s semi final that the rain finally started and once again the route setters had to step in. Building a temporary structure with a tarpaulin to keep the wall as dry as possible and allow the show to go on. After an hours pause play resumed, and my worry that we may have lost the crowds was short lived with hundreds of spectators crammed onto the quay side . As all the finalists were decided it became apparent that Emily, Crystal and Rhos were all through.

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Shooting pics of the final was all rather hectic with climbers clocking times under 30seconds the new format was frantic. For the crowd this seemed to be a massive hit but for a photographer climbing around wet scaffolding it was not easy as every few minutes I would need to swap sides. The most anxious moment for me was definitely Emily’s final, as during qualifying she seems to have plenty left in the tank but with the new format it would not necessarily be the strongest that won it would now require focus and precision. Fortunately Emily has both of these skills in abundance and even after an amazing time was posted by her nearest rival she smashed the final and took the win. In doing so she almost smashed the lens of my camera as the bell was on a long string and she hit it with some real venom sending towards me as I peared around the scaffold taking photos.

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The rest of the finals went well with Rhos finishing an amazing 2nd place behind Emma Twyford, Tom Frost took the under 16 male victory and a super strong performance from Matt Varela Christie was enough to be the open male champion in 2016.

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Time for a change

The Youngsters have been putting in the big performances around gower over the past few months with Jim Pope ticking the 8b+ getting headlines on UKC. But the local strong boys and girls have also been on fine form, and it will not be long before Elis gets his reward for putting in the hard yards.

Cai climbing Achilles f8b

Cia climbing Achilles f8b

Cai Bishop-Guest has had a great run of form of late, for once he seems to have survived a summer without hurting himself doing some crazy stunt. This has led to him breaking some new PB ground and in doing so he went on to repeat one of my favourite FA’s Achilles Wrath F8b. Hopefully he will continue this uninjured period and take his climbing to the next level.

Chris climbing at Shipwreck Cove

Chris climbing at Shipwreck Cove

Chris Shepherd has been back in town whilst on holiday from studying the universe and he came within a whisker of repeating Rob Lamey’s new route at the cove. With a grade of 7c+, Rob must have had his tongue firmly planted in his cheek as it apears to be significantly harder, but hey it is about 7c+ in Rob grades! I had two sessions taking pics of chris whilst he was working the route one from the floor and this one on the rope and I’m very pleased with the result just a shame his t-shirt wasn’t a nice bright prime colour. Chris has already left the UK for his year studying in Spain, gonna miss you buddy, catch up soon.

Blue Lagoon, Pembroke

Blue Lagoon, Pembroke

Been busy working on my landscape photography, and I’m especially happy with this shot of the Blue Lagoon. This is somewhere I spent a lot of time in my 20’s taking thousands of people coasteering. Taken whilst on a whistle stop tour of Pembroke with my folks, it was great fun to go for a swim with mum in what turned out to be pretty chilly water, and then wait for the sun to set and produce this great sky #nofilter

Van Life

Van Life

Had a week traveling around West Wales with my parents. Its great when they make it across and doing blasting around one of my favorite parts of Wales was always going to be a winner. Saw some great castles and plenty of the coast although unfortunately it was super flat so there was no opportunity for a cheeky morning surf, Dad made van life a lot brighter with his cigar box guitar playing!

Maya keeping an eye on our Xbox skills

Maya keeping an eye on our Xbox skills

Looking forward to a holiday to Portugal soon with Rhod and Andy for a bit of a surf adventure . Its been a long time since I went on a holiday that included no work. Some how Portugal has never been on my must visit list but it looks amazing.  Hopefully we should get a mix of DWS and Surfing as well as explore a bit of Portugal.

New Ink

Also had some a new tattoo from Andy at his place, check out Hidden Jewel Tattoo Studio or on Facebook to see some of there amazing work! the only downside is I have to know stay out of the water until it is healed and I’m super keen to get loads of surfing done before Portugal. But after Andy did my Phoenix tattoo, which is amazing, I was super keen for him to do the next one and when he said he had a time slot ……


Return of the jedi


Had a great month, with lots of days out on the rock and in the sea. Also go to go back to Austria for another comp with the Phillips team both of whom came second. Got a new camera with Nikons cash back upgrade offer! Plus been taking loads of pictures again so thought I would simply post a load of pics rather than write some nonsense about it all.

Tracy mid flight whilst testing the Arc.

Tracy mid flight whilst testing the Arc.

Finished painting the Arc and took some pics before it gets covered in boot rubber. it will be open to the public by the end of the week.


Sunshine in Austria

Loving Austria at the minute, having never been prior to this month my two recent visits have shown me what a beautiful traditional country this is.


Father and son

Team Phillips warming up for the Petzen climbing comp. This wall was actually in a playground on the way to the competition and served as a better preparation area than was on offer at the event.



Oscar going for it during the bouldering round of the Petzen climbing trophy. Amazingly with only 10 blocs the organisers and setters managed to run a great event for all ages and almost 300 competitors.



Emily on the same bloc for her Bouldering comp. Emily had a great few days at the event tacking 2nd in the bouldering and Lead events, plus a 4th in the speed event.


Team Phillips

Both Emily and Oscar climbed and bouldered well in Austria with them both taking 2nd place in their respective categories.

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The scene of much despair, the crux of Vennerne

Back home Richard Marrota ticks his first 8a with an ascent of Vennerne 8a at Shipwreck Cove. This has to be one of the best routes of its grade in the UK!

Richard Marrota climbing Vennerne 8a

Richard Marrota climbing Vennerne 8a

Same guy, same route.


Ruthless tenacity

Elis Rees ticked his first 8b with an ascent of Gunshow. This route links Airshow into Helvetia giving an awesome and sustained outing. Elis has shown the way by putting in the time, he is at the crag every available minute and is quietly ticking off the hardest routes.

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Oscar has been on top form this last month including reaching the finals of Roc around the Bloc, a bouldering competition for under 16’s at Boulders. Even though he is substantially younger and tiny compared to the the lads taking part he managed to get on the podium with an impressive 3rd place.

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Whats next

Emily has recently been introduced to sport climbing outside and has quickly found her feet on sighting every 7a in her path and moving up into the mid 7’s still is not stopping her. here she is dispatching a regional classic, Staple Diet 7b at Witches Point.

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Training is paying off

The same is true of Oscar, who has already put many 7a’s on his ticklist.

The Future

The Future

Could this be the future jedi for team Phillips?



Nice New Things

I, like every one else love new stuff! Thats not meaning I don’t like my old stuff but its great when you get some new piece of kit to play with and the past month has been raining down new stuff!

New Monkey fist Tip Stick (photo from Monkey fist)

New Monkey fist Tip Stick (photo from Monkey fist)

First off got some great new skin balm from the main man at Monkey fist. This Welsh company have been around a year or so know and I have been using there product after setting and climbing and it works just great. I have to say I love the new dispenser as it fits nice in my chalk bag so I don’t loose it ( I used to loose so many of the previous pot design). check out their products also available at loads of retailers all over the UK.

Next up after years of support form the guys at Beyond Hope last year we parted company. This was due to me taking some time out from climbing after various injuries seemed to be mounting up so it seemed the right time to call it a day. Well after my knee coming good from surgery and months of rest I’m climbing again and its great to share the news that I am know on board with Boreal, in an ambassador role. Don’t ask me exactly what that entails as its only been a week, but the shoes are brilliant! Extremely well made and banging straight out the box. So far I have only been climbing in the new Lynx model, but it suit me perfectly, offering great support and a neat toe box that is bringing my psyche back for some training and some more action on a few undisclosed projects.

New Lens

New Lens (photo f-stopper)

Oh yeah and I bought a new lens, couldn’t help it. I ended up choosing the Sigma 24mm 1.4 over the Nikon due to many online reviews giving them pretty similar results (even putting the Sigma ahead on some points) and of course price ! It was around half the price!

So far it has been stella and like anything new its great fun to experiment with and test with every moment possible. Luckily I had a great weekend lined up taking The Boulders Academy outside climbing which inevitable gives me a chance to test out the new lens.

Emily Phillips bouldering at Dinas Rock

Emily bouldering at Dinas Rock

Oscar bouldering at Dinas Rock.

Oscar bouldering at Dinas Rock.

More action at Dinas Rock

More action at Dinas Rock

Amy climbing high above the sand at Rhossili.

Amy climbing high above the sand at Rhossili.

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Anya warming up on a F5 on Mermaid Wall.

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Anya attempting a 7a+ at Shipwreck Cove.

Some Crap

Been a funny few weeks since Austria, as always had absolutely loads on. Lots of coaching days inside and out, plus all the normal Indoor action with the first of Boulders summer comps.

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Dave Cale giving it the big one for the crowd.

Last weekend saw the last of the BMC outdoor sessions I have been running to help youngsters get out onto the rock, in doing so helping have their first experience of rock climbing. The sessions have been great with the young climbers getting loads from it, unfortunately this one was going to be a little differnt.

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Lucie enjoying the great start to summer at Foxhole Cove

Back at Foxhole we found that we were not alone at the crag and a few other parties had also elected to climb at the crag. So far all quite normal until one unfortunate climber (you soon understand why) went off with some loo roll to relive himself. This is something that all of us have probably had to do at some point but unfortunately for us he elected to go underneath the easiest climbs at the crag. This area is around the corner and hidden from sight and I can guess from what happened next he simply didn’t realise. Once I had finished giving an introduction to the day we went around the corner to start our session on some easy climbs to be confronted by a pile of poop. Fortunately we managed to work around it until the offending climber realised the error of his ways and came back and picked it up, yes with bare hands.

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Ready to pounce.

The kids found this very funny and whilst pointing and laughing I started to feel a little sorry for the poo guy. His day was to get worse as upon his return my dog had managed to eat his sandwich’s bring his visit to Gower to an end. Whilst talking about Gower I wrote an article for which featured many of my favourite pics from Rhossili over the past few years. The Article has had over 7000 views to date and it was great to get such positive feedback from so many of you.

Read the article here 

Richard enjoying a great evening at the Cove.

Richard enjoying a great evening at the Cove.

On the photo front I have been playing around with some prime lenses and have been saving up for a new wide angle lens. This will hopefully help me out in low light situations (almost all the climbing shots I take are in low light) as it is F1.4, plus I’m keen to get out and attempt some more star shots. On that front it was possible to see the northern Lights from south Wales a few nights ago, which I’m gutted I missed. But fingers crossed next tim will be ready and poised to test my photography and check out one of the coolest looking phenomenon we can see.

up and coming events at Boulders

up and coming events at Boulders

The Bouldering comp at Boulders was great success with almost 80 climbers taking part on a glorious evening. The Bull Run was a concept we ran last year and this second attempt was bigger and better although running comps is way more exhausting than most people realise with hours of route setting and forerunning taking place hoping that we pitch the grade about right allowing as many people as possible to climb as much as possible whilst still getting a result.

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One of 80 climbers enjoying the Bull Run

Any way enough rambling for one day, the surf looks great tomorrow and the evening should be good for shipwreck so I’m off to sort my kit!


I’ll be back!

So I’m just back from an amazing trip to Austria. This is somewhere that somehow I have never been previously. Having spent so much time in the Alps when I was a wee bit younger, Austria some how slipped by. So once the online entry opened for this years Youth colours climbing festival in Imst, I was super excited to go.

Anya competing in Imst, Austr

Anya competing in Imst, Austr

The main purpose for my visit was to help 4 young climbers that I work with in south wales compete in their first, European competition. Secondly It would be a great insight to how far off the pace we were with the level of performance that we could deliver.

As with any trip that involves air travel, the journey day seems to last forever. Fortunately we were lift sharing with Gwen and her family so only had to drive to Cardiff, from here Jezza took the con’s and got us safe and sound to Luton.

Luton Airport, an airport I have never traveled from prior to this trip, and know on a list of places i’d rather not go again. Its alright, relatively clean but the UK seems to have something wrong. I am a paying customer, yet treated like scum. Their is no need to be rude to me, or treat me like I’m stupid, in fact for those that know me this will only lead into a negative spiral of sarcasm from me. Any way with out this rant continuing, its fair to say I was not impressed with the members of staff that I came across.

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New Luggage, thanks mum!

On the plus side though this was the first trip I had travelled with hand luggage only and also the first trip I had used rolling luggage (thanks mum for the new pack it amazing) which made up for all the frustration of luton airport as I no longer had to wait around like cattle being herded for slaughter, and could simply walk on through.

On arrival in Switzerland it was immediately apparent how much more relaxed everything can be in Europe, no hussle and bustle or confrontations at every stop. Instead people actually smile as you go through passport control. Here we met up with Oscar and Emily (plus family) and some silliness ensued as we waited for parents to sort hire cars.

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Oscar warming up in the Airport

The drive through the foothills of the swiss alps and into Austria was beautiful, bringing back memories of why I used to climb here so much. I was actually pleased as a 14km tunnel was closed and forced us to climb over a high mountain pass and take in the stunning scenery. Eventually we arrived in Imst and sorted our accommodation for the night. An Austrian guy called Hienz met us, with a large smile and he showed us around our pad for the next few days.

walking around Imst

walking around Imst (quite pleased as i shot this hand held)

The morning led to Jezza waking us up at god knows what time to go to the supermarket! It must have been 0600! We had to wait till the supermarket opened we had arrived so early, I’m wondering if he wet the bed, but anyway we got some food for lunch and headed over to the climbing centre.

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Gwen in Action

The Centre is fantastic with amazing facilities for many sports, the most obvious being the large outdoor climbing wall. As route setting was till taking place we could only see the wall from a distance and as such we headed indoors to there original training facility. This wall is old, I’m not sure when it was built but it is an amazing structure that i would gladly swap for many of the UK’s newest walls. The first observation was the number of harder routes on offer, with multiple 8b’s and an 8c, straight away allowing young climbers to dream beyond the seemingly glass ceiling we have in the uk were walls never set beyond 7c (few exceptions). Also the bouldering was an old school style woody with no set problems, instead holds in every T nut allowing climbers to play, and make up there own challenges. This is something I will try to bring back to boulders and our new bouldering area, as the benefits seem huge!

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Oscar warming up

Emily had competed at this event the previous year so was able to give us the heads up on how the day runs and what to expect. Jane (emily mum) also had the beta on were to set up camp to avoid the heat during the day, so a plan was hatched to arrive super early to A. get parked before 280 competitions turned up and B. establish camp under the only tree.

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Emily on the pretend 8b, you had to be there.

The comp is unlike any I have been to in the UK with youngsters climbing unto 10 climbs over 2 days giving them plenty of time on the wall. It was actually impressive how with a small army of volunteers the staff at Imst managed over 280 competitor around 8 climbs on opening day, thats well over 1000 ascents taking place. And all of this through some amazing weather conditions, first of the heat was killing us with the youngsters having to go cool off in the fountains between climbs to keep heat stroke at bay. Then as the afternoon wore on some large electrical storms brought havoc to the site, but still the comp kept going through the wind and rain until all had completed their goes.

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Gwen in action on the amazing comp wall

It goes with out saying I am very proud of the young climbers that we accompanied to Austria as they each achieved great results and pulled out stella performances on a much larger stage than they have experienced before. Emily can agonisingly close to a podium with some gutsy climbing, whilst her brother Oscar took a huge step in controlling his emotions that allowed him to up his game each climb. Infant he had become so calm that whilst others were loosing there spirit in the storm he cruised his way to the top of a route that had seen many sag back onto the rope. Gwen and Anya both did fantastically well showing they have what it takes to push there climbing to the next level and although both seemed nervous to start they both pushed on with the best once they found their gears.

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Outside of the comp was a hoot witch actually is one of the best and most forgotten about bits of comp climbing. The youngsters get to travel, make new friends, experience different culture and all the other cool stuff that climbing can give and this was no exception. Watching them all play on a trampoline in the pouring rain, or seeing Gwen make her way down the 3km Alpine Coaster was as much a highlight as the competition. Unfortunately I think that I missed the best bit as Oscar and Glynn (his father) were planning a Mentoes and cola experiment that could only end one way!

We will be back in Austria next month for the another open European event at Petzen so hopefully with some more experience we can start attacking the podium positions.

Emily keeps her own blog and you can read about her experience here.

I even found a brief bit of time to have a play with some photography, and I’m very pleased with the result. Im keen to do some more landscape style shots as I’m terrible at it so I have been practising a lot around home but have been struggling to get life into the shots. After the first day i noticed all of these amazing hay barns across form the climbing centre so an early morning alarm and hey presto a shot I’m pleased with that does not have a climber in it. There was a little play on Lightroom to remove a blemish and to add contrast to the sky (I used a grad filter to lower the exposure on the sky) , and a slight raise in clarity. Anyway I like so hopefully the practise is paying off.

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A Tyrol Haybarn



Two Good, One Bad

After hours and hours spent building the new ‘Arc’ bouldering wall at the climbing centre, I could finally have a few days off. But time off never seems to be time off like I remember it. These days days off are filled with work for other people, I’m not complaining the credit card bill is dropping at a nice steady rate so long may it continue. So day of number one was working for the BMC with a outdoor day at Foxhole Cove.

This crag has a lot of fond memories for me being one of the venues on Gower I have spent the most time climbing. I still remember my first real visit with Jon bullock, climbing Joy Da Viva 7a and some other great lines. I also had a six month battle establishing the hardest route on Gower, at the time, Surplomb de Ray 8b. The route is one that does not stand out as an amazing line and in truth is probably on no ones must do list, but it was an important one for me. I was keen to leave my mark at Foxhole, I was also keen to attempt a line that was not my style and ‘Surplomb’ was the perfect test being essentially a boulder problem. In all I estimate it took around 60 visits to finally link together, with around 3 visits a week over 6 months!

Surplomb De Ray 8b

Surplomb De Ray 8b

I have not since nor am I likely to again invest so much energy and time into a route. All that said every time I go to Foxhole its great to see ‘Surplomb’ and remember the battle and how much it taught me about climbing and training. I am often asked about the name which is a reference to my dad, Ray. I finally climbed the line on Farthers day giving me a great excuse to name a route after my dad who is my hero. Add to this my poor french skills and you have Rays Roof, as the line takes on a very steep roof like feature – it being bolted french seemed the obvious way to go.

Emily high on Pioneers 7b, next to Surplomb

Emily high on Pioneers 7b, on the same roof as Surplomb De Ray

Any way this time I was here with some up and coming youngsters as part of the BMC drive to help young climbers take their indoor skills outside. This infact was the 3rd such day I have run over the past two months and as with the previous two the weather was on our side. The Phillips family were todays climbers with Emily and Oscar being part of the academy I run at boulders. We had a great day with Both Emily and Oscar climbing 7a and there two younger brothers having the first go at climbing outside on some of the crags easier outings. I really hope this will see a start in them getting outside more this summer as they are undoubtledy hard working talented young climbers and this would give them more avenues to establish goals and develop themselves away from competitions.

Oscar redpointing Marmalade Sky 7a

Oscar redpointing Marmalade Sky 7a

Also on the good news was that with a second day off I could finally do some work in the garden. Know I’m no garden expert but I do enjoy outdoor space. Living on Gower gives me so much amazing outdoor space that it is easy to neglect the garden. That coupled with the fact that we rent means the incentive to financially invest in the plot of land out back of the cottage is not high.

Decking finally in place

Decking finally in place

Fortunately for us our landlord is a great guy (although we have barely ever met), and he agreed that we could forgo a months rent if we invested in the garden. This seems a great concept  allowing us both to gain from the situation. So fresh from building at boulders it was straight to work in the garden creating a new decking area to replace the collapsing patio. Ripping out the forest of crap that was behind the patio revealed a large space that was previous undiscovered by man, and with help from Rhod the decking was smashed out in several hours. This has transformed the garden in to a great space for summer BBQ’s and many more Gower gold evenings plus the dogs seem to have found the summer chill out area!

Know onto the bad. So after finishing the decking me and Rhod were feeling quite happy with ourselves. At this point the wind was gusting at around 60mph and the rain had become harsh. But we would not be stopped in enjoying the few hours of light remaining , and with hope that sheltered spot might produce some ridable waves an evening surf would be on the cards. When we arrived at our chosen break, it was working (although a bit smaller than we had hoped). Suiting up quickly we made a dash to the water as it was a struggle to simply hold your board in this strong wind. Surfing is so much fun and although I’m utter crap I generally can’t get enough so even though conditions were far from perfect with the strong cross/off shore I immediately had some good rides. After 2 hours or so I was considering getting out as the tide was abnormally high  and the wave had died down from a promising start when a short wave ended in disaster. As the wave was fizzling out I jumped of my board only for the wind to pick it up a throw it into my face. The impact was hard and the crunch sensation followed by spurting blood left me little doubt about the state of my nose.

Surfing gone bad

Surfing gone bad

Fortunately Rhod followed me in a drove back to the house whilst I held my nose together. After about an hour the bleeding stopped and apart from swelling and a few sore days there is little lasting damage (I have previously broke my nose, This break may of in fact bent it back a bit the other way). And with that its bags packed ready for Austria and the Imst Youth Colours festival for some of the climbers I work with!


Building the Arc



They say it never rains but it pours!

This is a very true statement if you live in Wales, even in the warmest spring for some time the rainfall as ever is well above average for this time of year. It is also true of climbing walls, with most regions offering multiple indoor climbing venues. Just over the bridge into Bristol you will find 4 major walls in one city! Closer to home and I count 15 Indoor climbing walls within South Wales that in some way or another offer regular climbers the opportunity to participate in their love, whilst the heavens open!

And I’m sure if I thought about it a little longer there are actually many more, not counting home walls such as ‘Kev’s mega wall’ or the soon to be built ‘Hyper cave’ of Super Sam’s. Add to this that I’m sure that more walls will turn up across South Wales in the next few years it would be fair to say that it is currently raining climbing walls in our region.

My role at Boulders is to coach the ‘Team’, and in doing so I have one major problem, space. Boulders is a large climbing facility and depending on how you take that measurement, it is probably the largest in South Wales (Rock UK is higher but probably, I have never measured, has less actual wall space/lines). But even with so much space the bouldering area is relatively small, when on any given night there can be 50 – 80 climbers bouldering. Yes if you turn up on a quiet afternoon it will seem massive and compared to the bouldering available other venues it has much to offer. But Boulders is in a large city centre, ish, I’m not convinced its city centre but I’m regularly told it is (in a city centre that is). And as such the regular traffic is much higher than other walls which in turn requires more wall space.

So on a weekday night when I’d like to use the bouldering area for team training I have this problem, it’s full. The solution is obvious to me – Build more bouldering! And with the backing of my boss this is what we set out to do.

At first I listened to his 3 year plan this, and in time that. But I have heard this before and understand that it is not so easy to follow through even with the best intentions. Cash flow and the question of will-this-investment-be-worthwhile-from-a-numbers-at-the-bottom-of-the-page point of veiw make it difficult for any wall to develop once the gates are open. But my boss gave me some hope, he seems to be a solution sort of guy. Out of the blue to me (as I’d already given up on plan A and was considering my next move) he came down from the high office to the shop floor with a wild look and a story that went a little like this…

Boss – So I have found some steel we can have.

Me – What for.

Boss – To build that bouldering area you wanted.

Me – How much is it? (I was sceptical, and any figure over £500 and I would assume it was unlikely to materialise.)

Boss – Its free!

Me – (long pause), Cool! How big is it.

Boss – Mmmmmm thats the problem it’s huge (he shows me a picture, it is massive).

Me – Get It!

A few days pass and I start to loose the faith once more, and in due course the conversation that I’m expecting happens. ‘The Frame has gone, we were too late’. That is where these conversations have ended in the past with me tutting and muttering under my breath. This conversation however was a little different. ‘So I got this one instead, it will be here in the morning’.

Steel (1 of 1)

Ant, preparing the acquired steel frame

So the morning arrives and sure enough a large steel frame arrives. Another conversation takes place regarding what we are going to build. If I’m honest at this point I may have muttered something about a small boulder with a low angle overhang on one side and a slab on the other. I also remember holding a bit of wood up against the frame to show a gentle overhanging wall that I was picturing. It was at this point the Boss left for a short holiday leaving the centre in our safe hands. HA HA HA

The build

Building a wall for me seems to have two options. The first is to plan the development with accurate drawings and various meetings with engineers to establish ‘working loads’ and the requirements needed to support the structure being built. If I’m honest that is not how I work best, so I choose the second method. This involves a quick sketch normally on some scrap paper (and I’ll only do this if other people are working on the build). Next start building and allow the structure to morph into itself. Obviously this can cause wall owners headaches, with unknown costs plus an unclear picture of what in fact is being built. After a short meeting with the relevant full time members of staff at Boulders a few ideas were discussed. It was quickly decided that it should be different from the bouldering already on offer at the centre. We would make it a top out boulder, allowing climbers to finish on top of the boulder in a way similar to that of bouldering outside. And most importantly it should be inspiring!

Build it and they will come.

Build it and they will come.

Next I needed to assemble a build team. My first port of call was obvious, Ant (Anthony Williams) is our in house route setter and general work aholic who knows his impact driver from his chop saw so he was a given, and the necessary muscle needed. Now I’m no carpenter, my dad would testify to this, having put up with me on the building site when I was younger. He has watched me cut myself more effectively than most bits of wood I was asked to. That being said, since those early days I have built many climbing walls and would like to think I have improved somewhat. Still, having a carpenter whom can help shape an evolving 3D shape was going to make life a little less stressful and a parent of one of the young climbers I coach fits the bill perfectly, Carl Powell.

Whilst the cats away, the mice will play

Whilst the cats away, the mice will play

The three of us in place, we started to build. Initially only I had a picture in my head of what I wanted us to create so a few joists were framed up to show what I had in mind. Luckily for me the team seemed happy to give it a go with only a few raised eyebrows from Ant. Within a few hours we had constructed all of the joists to frame the large overhanging barrel that would be the centre piece of the construction. It was exciting and nerve racking as we first bolted the frame (which would be the constructions’ heart that would bear the load initially) to its final position and then almost like roof trusses, one by one we lifted the massive joists into position. At this point it was apparent that the build was going to be considerably bigger than the conversation I had with Boss before he left.

The basic frame in place

The basic frame in place

In my mind was the fact that building a non significant small boulder would have little impact on the centre. It would not help with additional worthwhile space for my team training sessions. Nor would it help Boulders in developing for the future, something that until recently it has not been in the business of doing. I want this boulder to be the start of Boulders completely renewing itself and doing so in a way that has climbers at its core! The centre is large and has the space to look to the future, with many options to transform a good climbing facility into a one of the top training facilities in the country.

The build team after the successful engineer test.

The build team after the successful engineer test.

Hopefully the next post about the arc will be about it’s grand opening in July, once we have finished painting and the crash mats are in place. There is certainly a mass of excitement around the centre about the project and I can say it has has given me a lot of pride to be part of a great team building for the future.

Oh yeah, the Ark reference. Whilst standing on top of the build, many climbers shouted up ‘What are you  building, an Ark?’.


Having unfortunately missed out on the opportunity to work on a coaching trip last year, due to rupturing my cartilage in my left knee. It was with great excitement that I boarded a flight to Kos ready to work alongside Adrian berry, Lucy Creamer and Gaz Parry for the first of this years Kalymnos workshops.

kalymnos sun (1 of 1)

The sun always seem to shine on Kalymnos

I have run many trips to Kalymnos in the past working under the name Make the next move, along side my friend and previous work college Paul Walters. But most of these trips were aimed at young climbers and were to give them there first experience of climbing abroad at world class climbing destinations.

This was the first time I have worked for someone else on a coaching trip and it was a very enjoyable experience. This was due to the fact so often as a coach I find myself working alone, making it hard to share idea’s and concepts, but straight away working with 3 highly regarded and massively experienced coaches this was not to be the case. It was immediately apparent one of the huge advantages to Adrians set up, and probably one of the reasons his trips have been held in such high regard for years, was the pooling of knowledge and sharing of idea’s which intern gave the participants an amazing experience.


One of the biggest lessons I have learnt from my coaching to date is that opportunity has to be one of the biggest factors into someones development. These trips have a magical power about them in that they seem to develop an environment that put the climbers in a mental state that allows them to attempt harder routes and push beyond there normal comfort zone. The evidence of this was apparent on day one with almost half the group achieving PB’s.

route reading (1 of 1)

It can be hard to chose routes when so many are world class.

As the week went on some amazing climbing took place with my personal favourite including the coaching impact that helped one climber take on and flash of an amazing 6b. It was my favourite moment due to the previous 2 days, from were the climber in question had been suffering with lack of self belief and struggling with his foot work. After a session on weight transfer, some fall practice and some work on mental tenacity we stood under ‘Janis Kitchen 6b’ found at Afternoon wall. Putting all of these layers back together and seeing a climber move with confidence and flow left me and  Dave very pleased with a few days work, even more encouraging was that dave continued to use the tactics and techniques we worked on to continue this progress by himself once the trip had finished!

Dave putting his new footwork skills to good use!

Dave putting his new footwork skills to good use!

From my point of view it was fantastic to take some concepts that I have worked on in the gym with my comp squad, and put them into play with adults on the real thing. It was fair to say the week was a huge success from a climbing point of view and the feedback has been fantastic form the participants. An interesting observation I and the other coaches made from the week was the number of ‘near misses’ that occurred each day (thankfully not to our clients).

Kalymnos is a climbers paradise with great rock conveniently located just a short walk from the village of Massori. It would be easy to take safety for granted whilst here as in many ways it is setup similar to a climbing wall, with bolts close together and more often than not clips at the chains.

grotta (1 of 1)

Simply stunning!

Each day I witnessed a accident or near miss that could have been fatal if not for lady luck being  present in some form. Most were due to rock fall, and again Adrian set his stall out early on this one – DO NOT STAND AROUND IN THE GROTTO! or any other tufa infested area. Simply put, they break with little warning and often they are large rocks falling from hight. If one was to hit a spectator, belayer or bystander the results would be serious. Equally once they hit the floor, like a grenade, they can spay shrapnel for some distance. If you do not need to be there don’t! watch from a safe distance etc….


Me on Super lolita 8a on a previous trip covering some serious tufa infested terrain. Watch out below!

An observation I have made from years of being in hazardous environments is that it is more often than not safer to be in close to the wall than run outwards in the event of a rock fall. On two occasions after a shout that signalled falling rock, I watched in horror as climbers fleeing outwards were almost taken out. Where simply staying in close to the rock would have been a much a safer alternative (especially on overhanging cliffs that we often sport climb on).

the other common cause of near death or at least serious injury is one I have noted for years in Kalymnos, and is the result of stripping equipment from steep routes! I believe that this is a common problem here as the fantastic routes in the Grotta allow climbers to take on futuristic terrain that is normally the preserve of the euro sports wad. As such DNA 7a, must have the most accidents from stripping the draws of any 7a.

Gas showing how it should be done on DNA

Gas showing how it should be done on DNA

On the last day of the trip we were sitting safely away from the grotta with the group after another great day in witch one climber achieved his redpoint of Priapos 7c! Only to watch in horror as a climber on DNA broke his wrist (and was fortunate he was wearing a helmet) after lowing of the steep route removing draws as he went. Using a quickdraw as a tram to keep him in close to the wall, until the lowest draw his belayer started lowering him out in to space before he could be lowered to the floor (leaving the tram on!) This is a common method as a swing would not be advisable from this hight due to the irregular floor in the Grotta. So far so good, but then the climber had a brain fart and remover his tram line, introducing a good 40ft of slack into the system whist he was still 10ft above a rocky landing. If you can follow this you are probably wincing already and the thud, bounce, thud, bounce that followed was not pleasant viewing.

It highlights the need for everyone to check there crag skills, and to double check you buddy especially after climbing when they may be tiered and not focusing as they should. So many experienced climbers have had serious accidents at this point (myself included) and some were not fortunate enough to have a second chance!

A close call!

A close call!

Anyway back to good times, Along side working I got to do some climbing which is something of a novelty for me of late. On the last day with a trip to Telendos and a crag I have not visited before, ‘lambda’. This sector is home to many great routes with some 50mtrs in length. Adrian was prepared as ever and had the 100mtr rope to keep faff low. With this it was game on with several 7a’s and a 7b providing the warm up. A short walk back toward Irox passes you by the crag Pescatore witch although shorter has some attractive tufa features that lured us in and although it would be nice to say the 7b+ flash was easy, it was easy simply as its probably 6c! But the 7c+ ‘Amores Perros’ is an incredible line worthy of all the stars a Kalymnos guide will throw at it. Adrian had a brilliant Onsight burn coming so close to the top, Lucy suffered from reach at the large slap in the mid section and I simply was not fit enough, but 7 months of little climbing due to being on crutches were unlikely to be amazing prep for flashing close to my previous best. The route was amazing and I’m keen to get back on it in the future after watching Adrian dispatch the line 2nd go with ease.

Adrian putting skills to the test.

Adrian putting his skills to the test.

It was also brilliant to see a buddy from South Wales on the Island. Paul Rogers happened to be on a trip with buddies and after discovering on Facebook that we were both in town a plan was hatched to get up to the Grotta and for Paul to have a flash of Priapos 7c. Paul climbed amazing well, poised and controlled right till the final few meters were the pump took hold. An epic fight ensued with Paul narrowly missing out on the flash but it reminded me how hard you should be trying if you want to take your climbing forward!

Paul fighting for the chain

Paul fighting for the chain

Snorkelling around Kastelli was amazing although how I did not stand on a sea urchin is beyond me as there were hundreds over the rocky exit I climbers out off. It was only afterwards they were pointed out to me and I realised how close i came to a nasty last few days to the trip. The food was amazing as ever with Prego’s being a personal favourite but in reality its hard to go wrong as all the restaurants are fantastic.

Kalymnos has changed in the year or so since my last visit with more climbing shops and cafe’s than ever before, but the charm remains with the locals being so friendly and welcoming. The social aspect of Kalymnos is still fantastic with both ‘Fatolites bar’ and ‘Gelateria Italiana Kalymnos’ being the hot spot for climbers to meet and discuss there days battle!

All being well ill be back on the Island in Sept or Oct and I cannot wait!

check out for info on future workshops.