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Climbing Throughout Pregnancy

My experience with keeping life outdoors while growing a tiny human

words Jennifer Dickinson

This is my experience of climbing in pregnancy. It was 2017, we were expecting our first child and I found myself desperately searching for some other representations of women out there, continuing to live their life adventurously while expecting. To no avail. Maybe because of this, I didn’t venture out as much perhaps as I wanted.

Alas, now expecting our second bundle of joy, there seems to be way more experiences posted online, of pregnant women out there, who continue to explore, climb, swim and more all the way to term. One of my current inspirations is Shauna Coxsey, Olympic Climber, who has been sharing her journey with climbing during pregnancy and seeing the positive responses she has received has been wonderful to follow. It has helped massively seeing someone so confidently and healthily embrace fitness and pregnancy.

But, how do you know what to do, what not to do? There is a very definite do’s and don’ts list when it comes to food and drink, but a vague ‘exercise and keep active’ isn’t a lot to go on. Especially for those anxious parents to be.

Getting advice is very difficult, as one always tend to err on the side of caution. Every case is individual and I suppose the best rule of thumb I’ve found is – if you didn’t do it before, don’t start now. Stick with experience and something you feel confident with.

I have been mostly well and healthy and I decided to note down what we got up to during my second pregnancy. Note, I am NOT an athlete, nor was I before. If on a scale from Shauna to Sugared doughnut I’m maybe in the middle somewhere.

This is basically my pregnancy and how active I have been:

1st Trimester –

Hardly anything as I had morning sickness and was just so tired. I felt guilty about not getting up and about especially feeling a pressure with time to ‘do’ as much as I could before I was physically unable. But, other than a lazy week in Font bouldering…nada. Lots of sleeping, lots of cake. Looking back, I’m glad as I really did feel ill and tired. A Christmas swim in a local body of water with my cousin, surrounded by spectators.

2nd Trimester –

For the first two weeks I was battling a head cold and blocked sinuses so again that prevented any fun. 20 week scan showed I had a low placenta so I decided that whatever climbing I would do, would be gentle and extra careful. A few visits to the bouldering wall – climbing well below my grade and ALWAYS next to a route which meant I could downclimb. Tried to make it interesting by climbing up, then trying to reverse all the moves in the downclimb. I tried the first move on some harder problems and enjoyed just sitting and watching others climb the rest. Plenty of traversing. and lots of climbs only half way up. A number of wild swims, never alone, and I always just bobbed about near the entrance until my toes feel cold. (mind this is in the middle of winter!)

3rd Trimester –

Scan showed placenta has moved way out of the way so less panicking and now more confident to move more! Indoor pool swimming has been lovely, as the water takes all of the heavy weight off and being able to move freely in the water is amazing and being indoors means I can actually ‘exercise’ in my own time without worrying about the cold. Still outdoor swimming and very happy as the temperatures are increasing as it means I can stay in longer with comfort. I love the freeing feeling of being immersed in wild waters and the calming effect on my mental health has been priceless.

I decided to stop bouldering, as the bump has thrown off my balance, but instead have top roped outdoors on some easier climbs and I am very happy to continue with this as it feels great to move my body on the rock.

We are now at 36 weeks, and I happily seconded a VS yesterday. It was a short route I had led before, it felt so nice to move and use muscles in less of a ‘plodding around a supermarket’ way and more of a ‘look I can climb even with this watermelon strapped to me’ sort of way. I feel proud to have kept outside and kept climbing, and I feel fitter than I did with the first pregnancy. It has not been ‘to keep fit’ per se, but more to stay sane. And saneish I am.

Climbing in pregnancy is for sure the right choice for me. I will continue walking, swimming and climbing while it feel nice and enjoyable. With the chilled mind and body, it means I have the headspace to get excited for the bundle of joy who is now only a few weeks away.

Jen

also, here’s a good article where Shauna describes her experiences: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2022/may/18/im-a-pregnant-woman-making-choices-shauna-coxsey-on-climbing-and-the-bullies-who-want-her-to-stop


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The Road to Climb Muz: part two

words by Siddrah , founder and attendees of Climb Muz events.

“I work in London, but I live just outside of London, in an area which is not very diverse. I’ve wanted to get into bouldering for a long time, but found it intimidating to go by myself. My experiences were limited to a few sessions as I had done with a friend years ago. During those sessions, the climbing centre had mainly been dominated by experienced male climbers. I was very nervous going to ClimbMuz by myself but I felt immediately at ease after meeting Siddrah and the group of like-minded women. It was a safe space to be myself completely. I received encouragement from the group and Siddrah, and simply enjoyed bouldering – something I’ve wanted to do for so long but never found the right opportunity until discovering ClimbMuz.”

When I started ClimbMuz, one of the things that weighed heavily on me was how do I make this group accessible. How can I reduce financial barriers to women attending these events as climbing is a very expensive sport. Initially, group members were paying full price for entry, then Bethwall which is part of the London Climbing Centre (LCC) offered us concession entries to the events which was absolutely amazing. To my surprise the group was growing at a steady pace.  Four months later, United We Climb (UWC,) stepped in to support. They provided financial support with shoes included. They had some funds available for people who could not afford to try climbing. I felt immensely proud at what the group has been able to achieve in a short space of time. 

 The events were proving very popular. Climbmuz’s profile was rising to the point where I had received a message from ‘The Nest’ climbing wall in Hayes. They were looking to increase diversity. There is  a huge Muslim community in their area so they offered the group free entry in the hope that other Muslims in the area would be inspired to embrace climbing as a hobby.  Other climbing walls, such as City Bouldering Algate in London also welcomed us as they were also interested in increasing diversity within their community.  

The other thing that weighed heavily on me, was how do I reach Muslim women who feel as though they do not fit in within the mainstream Muslim community.  I knew from conversations there were Muslim women out there who felt as though they were not accepted and judged by the other members of the community. Through these conversations with some of these women who identified as Muslim but for example were also part of the LGBTQIAI+ community, who dressed differently, were not as practising, tattoos, piercing and so forth felt at ease knowing that they would be accepted if they came to a ClimbMuz event and that they would have my full support. 

“I’d never climbed with Muslim women before so I was incredibly excited when I stumbled across ClimbMuz. Siddrah has created an important space that encourages Muslim women to become part of the wonderful world of climbing – a sport which may previously have felt inaccessible to them. As a queer Muslim woman, I was apprehensive about attending my first ClimbMuz event for fear of not being welcomed due to my sexual orientation. After a single conversation with Siddrah, my apprehension disappeared and I made plans to travel down to London for an event. When my partner and I met Siddrah at a ClimbMuz event, it was clear that we were in a safe environment free from judgement. I was relieved to find that ClimbMuz embodied some of the key principles of Islam of love and acceptance.” 

One of the questions that I have been asked is why these women cannot just go ahead and try climbing without this space. For some women, this space has given them the ability to try a hobby that they would have never considered. By creating this space, they have also had the confidence to go out and set foot into the climbing wall all by themselves.

“I am not joking, I really appreciate you. I know we barely spoke in the session but without your initiative I really would never have considered this hobby. It has helped my mental health so much. Thank you for creating ClimbMuz! I hope you know how much of an asset you are for us muslim women!”

To find out more about Siddrah and ClimbMuz – visit her on instragram, @Climbmuz and keep an eye out for upcoming events.


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A Climbing Mind: psychology of environmental impact

words by Allan Evans

If you are reading a blog post from Dirtbags Climbing, I imagine you probably have an interest in the environment, big or small. I also imagine that like me, you may be confused, angry and frightened by the little to no interest that the majority seem to have, especially given this years IPCC report.  Rather than sit and stew in these feelings, I thought I would do some research and reflecting to try and find out why? Why are people not panicking or changing their ways, when the science is reporting that things are going to get very bad! 

My aim is that by understanding people’s positions, I can have conversations that can facilitate change in a positive and respectful manner for all. 

Defence Mechanisms

Defence Mechanisms are tools that our subconscious mind uses to protect itself, it will employ these tools when reality is too much for it bear. Two that may be employed for climate change are denial and rationalisation. Denial is self-explanatory, we simply deny the reality of a situation. You would hear a person with climate change denial say, ‘the climate has always changed, it’s natural, we once had an ice age’. Someone who is rationalising might say something like, ‘hotter summers, that sounds great’ or ‘it won’t affect me in my lifetime’. The person rationalising isn’t denying the situation; however, they are making it more comfortable for themselves. 

The best way to engage with people who are employing these defence mechanisms, would be to ask them questions and reflect what they say back to themselves. As an example, you could say, ‘are you sure it won’t affect you?’ or ‘what about the younger generation?’. To the denier, you could ask, ‘are you sure that human activities aren’t playing a part?’ This will make them question their beliefs without getting defensive, when we state things at people it can come across as aggressive, which leads people to go into a defensive mindset. 

Capitalism, Politics, Self-Identity

Most western countries have a religion which has surpassed all others in terms of a strict following, capitalism. I realise that capitalism isn’t a religion, however it has become a belief in something larger than oneself and I merely use it as a comparison having read Sapiens, in which Harari states :

‘It now encompasses an ethic – a set of teachings about how people should behave, educate their children and even think. Its principal tenet is that economic growth is the supreme good, or at least a proxy for the supreme good, because justice, freedom and even happiness all depend on economic growth.’ 

He goes on to describe how ‘this new religion’ is even ingrained into science and politics, as scientific research is typically funded by private investors or governments, typically with the aim of improving ‘economic growth’ in some way.


As our governments are so invested in economic growth, we have been too, people are generally indoctrinated into a belief that they are ‘British’ or whatever nationality you are. This then goes on to develop into smaller tribes within the large tribe of nationality, what town you are from, what sport, music etc you like. These are all microcosms of identity. Many of you reading this are likely to identify as a climber, wild swimmer, runner; the list goes on. All these smaller tribes have their own set of values and ethics within the larger tribe. It even goes into smaller tribes from there, are you a boulderer, trad climber, sport climber etc. 

The point I’m hopefully making here, is that we all have our own unique set of beliefs dependent on how we identify with ourselves and those around us.

Most of our belief systems develop from an early age, from when we are a baby to around seven years old. Any beliefs which were developed at this age are very ingrained into the subconscious mind and are difficult to change. I’d argue that the capitalist doctrine is ingrained into us at these ages, with adverts for the various toys available shown between cartoons, our parents taking us around shops, we are consumers from an early age. We learn that we can acquire goods with relative ease, no one discussed where they come from or what impact they have.  If I look at myself that was me for a long time, my awareness of the environment didn’t start developing until my early thirties (I’m 37 now). I feel I was open to changing my belief system and to reject capitalism for several reasons, I was going through a period of change with my mental health, I was studying psychology to become a counsellor, I got into climbing and got interested in its history of anti-establishment. 


So how do we change things?

Ultimately, we can’t make people change and it would be ethically wrong to try do so in my opinion, we can only hope that by using some of the language I have suggested, we can have positive conversations which allow people to decide what is best for themselves as well as the planet and their fellow humans. 

We could also change the system, for those who want to remain with the consumerist mindset, we can do so by us switching to a more circular system, rather than using fresh materials, we repurpose. Dirtbags are one of those companies leading the charge in this field, it seems larger companies are starting to follow suit, particularly in the outdoor industry. 


If you want to see a change, be the change

I feel one way we can have a positive impact is by making changes ourselves, I have made small steps in being more environmentally friendly over time, I know there is more I can do and shall continue to do so. Through making changes I have seen that this inspires people around me to also make changes. Our subconscious is a bit like a sponge it soaks up all the information we consume, it stores it away to learn from it. Conflicts will arise as that old capitalist and consumerist mindset is still stored, however the newer information our mind receives the greater the influence it will have and the stronger it will become in fighting the old belief system. So don’t be too hard on yourself if you occasionally take a step back. 

 Set a goal

I set myself a task for 2021, to not purchase any clothing or shoes, to repair or resole. Honestly, I didn’t achieve this, I bought three items of clothing and one pair of shoes. Which could be viewed as a failure, however my decisions for the items were more conscious and not from a simple consumer angle. The items either replaced worn out items or fit a specific purpose within my life that other items didn’t achieve. While this goal is a personal one, in setting personal goals where you make a change, you can talk about these publicly creating a conversation with others. Your changes can have ripple effects within your tribe. 


Final words

I realise that the climate crisis we are facing can seem daunting and overwhelming, I certainly feel that way sometimes, especially when I don’t see the change happening as quickly and as urgently as I personally feel it needs. However, change happens over time and the more we engage the bigger this change will be, things might start small but over time will have a larger impact. I also feel by staying in a positive mindset with our goals towards making changes, is something people are more likely to want to embrace and become a part of. 


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Outdoor Gear for Good: a new collaboration

Closing the loop on outdoor gear.

Dirtbags are joining forces with a new non-profit organisation to save yet even more textiles from landill.

While we use all of the otherwise unusable fabrics and components, Outdoor Gear for Good resell all of the products still good for use. All of the profits are then sent to the European Outdoor Conservation Association, funding projects throughout the UK and Europe to help preserve our beautiful green spaces.

This means that between the two of us; faulty returns, samples, offcuts, retired gear and deadstock, stay out of the bin and put back to good use.

A family business. Turning a spider infested, dusty empty space into a workable unit took plenty of hard work and time. It was all hands on deck!

Space Sharing

So how does the collaboration work? We are two separate businesses, but we are just working in the same space. Dirtbags will have a sewing workshop downstairs while the upstairs can store the stock for Outdoor Gear for Good. Operating in the same space means we can share ideas, and pass useable / unusable textiles between us.

Before and during. Becoming more like home each step of the way.

Mini Store

What’s ace about our new space is the opportunity to be able to create a corner showing off our products. Right in the front entrance we have created a ‘mini store’ where the general public are welcome to bob in and see what we have to offer, something we weren’t able to do in our previous property.

Would you like to learn a little more about Outdoor Gear for Good? check out their website: outdoorgearforgood.com or shopify: outdoorgearforgood.myshopify.com


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North Wales: A Climbing Diary

Ambassador Kish spent the summer of 2021 climbing around North Wales, here he writes his experiences and top moments of the trip. If you’ve never been, or the grey days of January have got you glum – here are some wonderful sunny pictures and ideas to get you psyched for warm weather again.

words by Kishan Vekaria

If you want to seek adventure, North Wales seems like the perfect playground.

Big mountains, boulders, and plenty of lakes to have a dip in! It’s slowly becoming a tradition amongst my close circle of climbing friends to head out there every summer for a week or so, to enjoy all the variety that this place has to offer.  

Lakes

The entire trip, we were caught out in blazing sun, so it was a case of finding somewhere shady to climb with a lake nearby to swim in before driving back to the accommodation. These are the swim escapes we discovered*

 *check access and rights. Wild swim at your own risk

Llyn Idwal

Approach: 20 mins

Temp: warm (this was the height of summer…guys)

Mud height: ankle deep

A short walk away from Ogwen cottage and very conveniently located to crags. Feels a like a beach on the middle of a mountain

Llynnau Mymbyr

Approach: 5 mins

Temp: warmest

Mud height: knee deep

Behind Plas y Brenin, this is very accessible and surprising very quiet (although the mud depth may be the reason for this). People pay good money for mud baths – here’s a free one. Definitely don’t put your head underneath the water.

Llyn Padarn

Approach: 5 mins

Temp: coolest,

Mud height: non existent

Approaching from the Fachwen side of the lake. Crystal clear, cool and refreshing. Since we were staying up the road it made sense for us to head here nearly every evening. Apologies, I don’t have a picture of this one but here’s a picture of me sitting on the wall overlooking it.

Places we stayed

We had this tiny cottage booked on the outskirts of Llanberis.This cottage is ultimate in the definition of basic. There’s bunkbeds and a kitchen, but no mains water supply. We had to boil the drinking water and insert pound coins into a meter to get electricity. Luckily we had only decided to stay here for the weekend; the heat wave and lack of rain meant that we ran out water on the third day in. 

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The second place we managed to stay is apparently known by the locals as the Beverly Hills of Llanberis, Fachwen. Owned by the family of a friend, this is an old slate miners hut with boulders in the back garden. Mad, I know! Although the amount of moss covering them could be compared to a Persian carpet. The proximity to the lake proved ideal for an evening swim on most nights. 

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Dinas Mott

A big shield of rock in the middle of the Llanberis pass that gets shade when the rest of the valley is in the sun. Often busy and plenty of variety in climbing grades. We climbed Direct Route (VS) and (for someone who is casual summer trad climber) it went swimmingly well without a hitch. A nice easy trad day out. I think we started climbing at 10am and got down by 2pm. This meant we had time to drive back into Llanberis to get ice cream. Win!


Cloggy (Clogwyn Du’r Arddu) 

The reputation of this place is no joke. Seriously don’t go here unless you’re a competent trad climber. I’m not really scared of heights, but the exposure and style of climbing is tough to say the least. It had been recommended as the place to go if you want to avoid the sun, but the two-hour walk-in was reason enough to put it off for the first half of the trip. After reading the guidebook and checking UKC reviews the night before, we opted to go up Great-Bow combination (HVS) after someone called it a great introduction to Cloggy.

We got up early to avoid walking up there in the hottest parts of the day. It was a good idea as well, because I don’t think we got back down the mountain until 9pm! Halfway up the approach is a little hut called Halfway House. Someone in the group offered to buy us Skittles for the journey up, which became a lifeline for climbing fuel at the belay stances. I could write an entire blog about our mini epic up this route. Overall, it was an amazing day full of laughs and type two fun. I wish I had taken up a jumper at one point though – that was a mistake. 


Slate Quarries

The slate is a little beacon of Sport Climbing close to Llanberis. However, heading there in the heat is a bad idea. We were originally told that the multipitch climbs in the Twll Mawr section would be in the shade. When we got there, however, they were in the blazing sun, and black rock gets hot! So, we spent the morning trying to find some shady rock, but that proved very challenging. We ended up going to the California section, through some tunnels that provide pretty pictures. After doing only one 6a route which seemed possible in the conditions we decided to head back to the house and head out bouldering on some stuff later that evening. 

The land that time forgot

Nearing the end of our trip we were pretty exhausted from long walks in and no days of rest from climbing. So, it was very much a case of we went wherever anyone suggested. We read about a quarry with boulders in the shade, but we would need to lower our bouldering pads down into “The Land that Time Forgot”. Then walk down around with the help of some fixed ropes and descend down an in-situ ladder then walk into a huge tunnel with a tiny outlet into the quarry, where our pads awaited.



Boulders

Creigiau’r Garth, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest


Fachwen, Y Clegyr

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Craig yr Undeb, Yellow Wall

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Milestone Buttress Boulders

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That concludes the highlights of the trip! Thanks for reading. Until next time… 


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