Wow summer has gone quick, I have only just realised how long it has been since I last wrote a blog and know I have no idea upon were to start when I consider what we have all been unto over the summer months. I guess that the summer has been split into two halves for me consisting of a return to two activities that had been on the back burner a bit in recent times.
since I last posted I have not clip one bolt! that is a long time for me to have not been sport climbing and if I’m honest I have only realised this fact whilst sitting here typing. That is not to say i have not been climbing, as my job as a coach and route setter require me to pull on most days in some capacity, but the summer would bring back a resurgence in traditional climbing.
Its great how sometimes everything just slots into place and you don’t have to try, well my new beginning at an aspect of the sport I previously held so dear seemed to flow in such a way and this is mainly down to the unstoppable force of nature that I once coached as a junior Chris Shepherd! Returning from a year studying in Spain Chris was on the pool for a new adventure, having spent the past year sport climbing at some of Europe’s premier spots I guess foxhole was not going to cut it any more and he had his heart set on Trad climbing. During his year away I had moved to Pembroke one of the best Trad venues in the uk so when the phone rang it was all to easy.
Thats when things stopped being quite so easy! I hadn’t seen chris for some time but like a brother it takes a split second to reconnect and laughing at each other as we head of across the range. Chris is no slouch and subconsciously I had been dreading this day , what the hell do you get a F8b guy to do for his first trad climb, and then how do you hold him back enough to learn all the randomness that comes with trad climbing? Or should I just let him free….. I guess the days when it was my decision are along way in the past as Chris is no longer in my climbing squad and I am no longer his coach, instead I’m here to unwires his questions and to try and get him to understand the judgments required to stay safe whilst still challenging himself.
We got to spend a few days climbing around St Govans with a standard day compromising of chris warming up on E1 then 2 then 3 these routes would rarely push him physically but you could see he had developed his ability to place wires and cams and was keen to push on. by the end summer Chris had ticked many Pembroke classics and fallen of quite a few E4’s and 5’s after some great battles, I have to add that along side all of this I felt a renewed interest in climbing and enjoying the adventure that trad climbing can bring, although this all came crashing down to earth.
After a fun weekend trad climbing, which included drinking to much Rum and shaving Chris’s hair into a Mohican I had a days work on Gower taking some young climbers sport climbing. This would culminate with a photoshoot for a new guide book. Chris tagged along keen to try some hard sport routes and was kind enough to place some draws in the route I wished to photograph. After a summer of assessing danger and making sound judgments maybe we both relaxed at this established venue with Chris climbing the classic 7a. Whilst we all relaxed, me preparing flashes and camera equipment and the young girl who was to be the climber in shot warmed up at the base of the crag Chris casual climbed the route he and many of us have done plenty of times in the past. Only this time as I looked up I witnessed Chris tumbling away from the cliff with a Fridge sized piece of rock following him, what happened next was a complete lottery.
Chris was saved when the rope pulled tight after around 20ft and pulled him away form the falling debris (due to the diagonal nature of the climb) just before disaster struck, I believe he undoubtedly would have been seriously injured if not killed had this not happened. Also due to our position on the floor we were saved from the shrapnel of shattering rock as it impacted on a rock ledge to our side, but on another day things could have been very very different. It was a timely reminder of what could be if you start to take you eye and mind of the what if’s.
On a more positive note My van broke down for the last time! We’ll at least the last time that I’m going to deal with it! After cursing for what feels like the millionth time and the final trip on a flat bed pick up truck a rush of blood to the head and a visit to the bank ensued. With a loan sorted I purchased a newish van witch hopefully will not let me down any time soon. This led to the fun part, converting a panel van into my new camper.
Fortunately with help form a few friends, Ben West, Gav symond and Carl Powell, pimping out my new ride was a swift effortless procedure. I have to say its been amazing upgrading to a van with a high top roof and a longer wheel base, this has given me room to build a permanent double bed as well as ample living space and with Gav and Ben’s help install some solar power to run all my electrical needs.
This has led to the final story from the summer which was our now annual surf trip, this time destination France. The Trip was fantastic and great test for the new van, after sailing to Brittany and surfing around the Finisterre region for a few days we reminisced of a similar trip myself and Rhod made some 17yrs previous before heading south. We surfed different beaches along the way and explored the coast line, I have to say I was outstanded by how beautiful and varied this part of France is and more so how quite! It may have been just out of season but it felt deserted leaving us to surf to our hearts content!
Île d’Oléron was our most southernly point and was like a secluded paradise with amazing sunsets and star filled nights as well as great surf. Along the journey back we found more and more idilic surf spots and even some incredible granite Bouldering, I already want to return!
until then here are some pics form a great 2 weeks.