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Rehaused: a collaboration with Berghaus

Since 2020 we have been working with Berghaus to prolong the life some of their useable fabrics. End of life products make their way to our workshop in Kendal from Berghaus HQ in the North East and we pick our way through them to make new products like bum bags, wash bags and even blankets.

Jennifer Dickinson marks out fabric at Dirtbags climbing HQ

Not knowing what will come in next certainly keeps us on our toes, but that’s what Dirtbags is all about – creativity and resourcefulness!

Rehaused blanket being held up in front of a lake

Check out our collection:

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The Dirtbags’ Workshop: 2017 to 2023

A corner of a workshop, with a sewing machine and an empty chair. A 'dirtbags climbing' sign is on the wall

The current workshop where all Dirtbag Climbing products are made is in Kendal, just outside of the Lake District. We moved here in Feburary 2022 – so now is a good time to give a low down on what have here, and what goes down here. But first, lets compare it to the very beginning when the idea of Dirtbags was born…


  • One domestic sewing machine tucked in the corner of our bedroom.
  • Jen (learning to sew)
  • James (teaching to sew, learning to design)
  • Tiny newborn baby (useless, is a baby)
  • Climbing ropes donated by friends.
  • A handful of orders from friends.
view of the Dirtbags workshop. Two sewing machines and an empty chair. Dirtbags climbing sign on the wall and a 'workshop' sign on other wall


  • Industrial sewing machines, a bar tack machine, a dedicated washing machine for grubby donations.
  • Jen (managing director, in charge of all admin, accounting and marketing, and custom orders…always learning)
  • James (techincan, ideas, design)
  • Karly (chalk bags, bike bags, donations manager)
  • Emily (guide book covers, bum bags)
  • Lina (chalk bags)
  • A team of supporters and ambassodors always there to shout the good word and give moral support and psyche.
  • Materials sorted and ready to be upcycled – ropes, tents, paragliders, sleeping mats, banners (you name it…it’s probably upstairs)
  • Tonnes of products have been made and sent to customers, all made from materials that would’ve ended up in the bin .

It has been a wild, difficult journey and we all work so hard to be as eco friendly, as ethical and as accountable as we can be. Excited to see what will come to years moving forwards.


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Chilly Dips and Frozen Nips: Swimming Through the Seasons

words by Elizabeth Stephenson

For the last two and a half years, I’ve carved out some time each week to bob about in a spot of cold
water. It’s a task that has become an integral part of my wellbeing and one I wouldn’t be without now.
I’ve brought together a collection of pictures of my favourite dips through the seasons with a few
words about each of them – I’ve not included the exact locations, but instead encourage you to seek
out your own!


I’ll start with autumn. For two reasons, a) it’s my favourite season and b), perhaps more relevant to
this piece, it’s when I first started weekly swimming back in September 2020. I was having a rough
time at uni with covid lockdowns and no in-person teaching, and a couple friends started getting me
out for a swim together – little did they know what they would spark! (Thanks Sam and Bethan.)
Autumn is a great time to start cold water swimming, mostly as it’s not that cold! The summer heat
lingers in the water longer than it lingers in the air and the colours that bleed into the pools are breath-
taking. The temperatures drop gradually with the leaves and that allows you to slowly accustom
yourself to warmth-gobbling temperatures.
Autumn tingles with excitement for me, the anticipation of the cold that winter steadfastly brings
swirls about my neoprene-clad feet each year with every advancing dip.


Unsurprisingly the best time of year for cold water swimming, winter brings a whole new level of
challenge, and fun. It sneaks up on you, imperceptibly, until one morning those autumn winds are
suddenly bitter, biting at any exposed flesh with sharp, vengeful teeth. Reclaiming warmth for its
own, the water stings, consumes, and drives all other thought from your mind.
Swimming in winter is as brutal as it is beautiful; but I love the rawness of it, the stress it momentarily
puts my body under as I adjust to the cold. It’s a fine balance, and certainly more dangerous – testing
and learning my limits and what my body is capable of is infinitely exciting – but it’s tempered with
caution, erring on the side of getting out early and keeping myself safe.
My body has become very comfortable with cold water but that doesn’t mean I can be complacent –
on my coldest swims, the wind feels warm against me – a strange sensation and a chivvy to get warm
clothes on quickly. I never push it and I never swim alone in winter – this isn’t an advice article, but I
feel the need to pop that in if I’m writing about it!
Cold water swimming has, over the last couple years, brought me a wonderfully freeing sense of
acceptance towards my body.
Sharing this experience with others, especially women, allows me to focus on what my body can
withstand and do, rather than a skewed societal expectation. The fish don’t give two ducks about body
hair, cellulite etc…anyway…
The effects of the cold stay with me for a while in winter – namely that invigorating buzz you’ll hear
cold water swimmers enthralled by which is as wonderful as everyone says it is! My mood is always
lifted by a swim, it’s a safety net I can unfailingly fall back on – and one I’m very grateful for. It’s
utterly absorbing and allows me to fully immerse myself in the bone-chilling power of this season,
bringing a new depth of appreciation for nature and experiencing the turn of the year on a very
visceral level.
On a practical note, my bum takes the longest to warm up and is often cold for hours!


Spring is here you say? It’s getting warm?! Narp, not in the water! It takes a fair bit longer for those
clear, icy rivers to warm up, the lakes are a wee bit quicker but still a way behind the air! I’m
normally in a hat (or two) for most of March/April.
The abundance of life at this time of year can make for some wonderful encounters – I get excited
about anything that wriggles, especially tadpoles. Sharing your swim with ducklings (from a good
distance away) is a delight! I had a beautiful swim the other day with several bright blue dragonflies
flitting around me as I bobbed about on my tow float (affectionately named ‘Floaty toe’).
Providing wildlife are not in the vicinity, my dogs back home are excellent swim companions, even
Swift with her incessant barking at/trying to eat the water… I gain so much joy from messing about
with them in the water.
Swimming in all weathers is another favourite pastime of mine. Last spring, a huge weather front
blew across Cumbria, and I convinced my partner to jump in my car with swim stuff already on, run
into Bass as the rain lashed down and then drive the 2 mins back home to warm up. I vividly
remember closing my eyes against the drops as the gusts tore through me and dived into the water,
feeling utterly joyful at being alive.


The only time of year where the rest of the population won’t look at you like a nutter for getting in the
water! I once had a guy in the depths of winter ask me astounded if I’d lost a bet….
The water is my refuge in a different way in the summer, being someone who is not a fan of the heat,
slipping beneath the cool surface of a lake is a much welcome relief. The long daylight hours that
stretch the edges of the day are beautiful for late evening swims. It’s also a great time of year to
introduce friends to the joy of outdoor swimming and get them hooked in time for the temps to start
dropping again…

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ClimbMuz: why are inclusive spaces important?

words by Yasmin Centeno

A safe space for minority groups

I do not identify as being Muslim but I was raised Muslim both in the UK and in Malaysia. I am an ethnic minority and a woman in a male dominated industry at work. The sports I tend to enjoy are also male dominated. There are so many avenues to go down with this article, the difficulties being Muslim in the UK, the perception of being a Muslim woman as being disenfranchised of free will or I could go more broad and talk about the difficulties of being a woman in a male dominated sport like climbing. The list could go on but let’s focus on the need for a safe space for minority groups in climbing.

Colour Up

I regularly climb with a group called Colour Up in Bristol. The premise of the group is to encourage ethnic minorities in Bristol to try climbing in an inclusive space. Having moved from London, where frankly I felt more comfortable being an ethnic minority to Bristol which is far less diverse and aware of its own inequalities; I was so tempted to pack my bags and move back to London.

That was until I found Colour Up. So much of what ethnic minorities in the UK face is being seen as different. It seems to be the human condition to see differences rather than similarities, it’s how we define ourselves and organise ourselves. Being non-White British, we are from a different culture, we eat different food, we look different, we speak different languages: therefore we are just different and feel unfamiliar and unknown.

Being amongst the unfamiliar and unknown is uncomfortable and therefore we are seeing British society and politics become insular and popularist. For a lot of us, especially for those who have never lived overseas, the decision is either we assimilate to not be different or we fight to find a space to keep some of what makes us unique. For people like me I know there is no other choice but to accept that I am different and may not be accepted for that by everyone. The fact that this is the fate I am stuck with by the choices that were made by my grandparents and parents is sometimes outright depressing but when I go back to Malaysia, I realise… they all left for a reason!
For me, it’s hard to not talk about something without getting fully involved and talking myself down a rabbit-hole. I feel there is undiscussed xenophobia in Bristol towards people that look like me and that can often leave me feeling unwanted. I don’t always want to talk about my feelings of not belonging here amongst my peers but I want to be in a community that somehow gets it. We sometimes talk about that feeling of discontent and isolation and sometimes we just climb and focus on the problem (boulder) at hand. Colour Up has not just become my climbing group, they have become my social group and my support group during some tough times.

Talk Club

There is an amazing charity in Bristol that is advertised at Redpoint’s cafe called Talk Club which is a talking and listening club for men. They also offer sports clubs, similar to ColourUp and ClimbMuz. It helps men find a space to talk about their mental health in a safe space. The idea that sport is therapy is not because you release endorphins when you exert yourself. Sport brings people from all walks of life together to participate in something we have in common. Seeing a group of brown people doing the same things as the majority of people makes us seem not that different. Between climbs we would have random chats on the boulder mats and if you ever overhead us you’d realise we all have dating woes, annoying housemates or an irritating colleague at work. But we also can talk about how we
feel, we talk about the shit days and the good days and we club together when we need to and we celebrate together too.

ClimbMuz is a very similar space and I felt so welcome when I climbed with them in October. The first thing they did was compliment my tattoo which I thought they would be a bit sceptical of. From such negative experiences in Malaysia: I strayed from Islam mainly because of how I felt religion was being forced upon me, not by my own parents but by Malaysian society. Being Muslim was apart of what it entailed to be Malay but also my religion (even now) is stated on my ID as being Islam and Shariah law can be applied to me. It also influenced the company I keep in Malaysia, I have no Malay friends and I don’t really communicate with my mum’s extended family outside the pleasantries because of that fear of judgement of being a ‘bad muslim’ and by defacto a bad person.

In all honesty, we climbed together, we did not talk about anything to do with religion or anything particularly deep. Bethwall has enough corner climbs to hurt your brain. But it made me remember that Islam is a tolerant religion. The women I met at ClimbMuz are tolerant and inclusive; they welcomed me with open arms. When I think of my parents, I see them as tolerant people. More importantly, Islam is a way of life that they choose to follow in the same way that I choose not to follow the Islamic way of life for myself. When you see a Muslim woman with a hijab crushing it at Bethwall, she is just as psyched as everyone else there, she is a strong woman making a free choice to express herself and I think ClimbMuz is a space that encourages that self expression in a familiar context.

This is why spaces like ClimbMuz are important.

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A Climbing Mind: the wisdom of winter

words by Allan Evans

A little reflection on last year’s season as well as a bit of my thoughts on why I think winter is the greatest teacher of all the climbing disciplines. I also feel I should state, I’m a complete punter when it comes to winter climbing, but a little less so after this season.

Trip One

Having not done any winter climbing due to that thing that lasted a couple of years, that we would all rather forget, I kicked of the season with Number Two Gully on the Ben. A straightforward grade II gully to get back into the swing of things (I wish I could say that was intentional axe pun, but it wasn’t). My partner Ed was new to climbing and I’d been
mentoring him in the trad game for about eight months, he’s super psyched and got up to speed with trad very quickly. This would be his first winter route and I think he enjoyed it. I was rusty, and it was a long day finishing the walk out in the dark.

Ed looking at his first winter route

Trip Two

On my next outing I was climbing with Louise and Alec again opting for the Ben, going for Gardyloo Gully II/III. This route had been on my wish list for a while. It’s final pitch changes from season to season but often you climb through a rock arch/cave. This day was the epic of last season, with type two and three fun. It was Louise’s first winter climb and Alec didn’t have loads of winter experience. On the way up to the route we were chatting to some guys who had heard the crux was more like grade IV ice and had taken four screws. Needless to say, I was gutted when I fumbled a screw and it disappeared, even more gutted when Alec did the same shortly after, leaving us with only two.

We ploughed on, the climbing was steady for most of the gully, the ice was firm and there were steps from previous parties when it must have been a bit softer. So, we got to the last pitch and off I quest with my two screws towards the funkiest bit of ice I’ve ever seen form naturally. I don’t know how but the ice had formed into a kind of ice umbrella just in front of the rocky groove. I climbed into the groove to get myself established on the ice umbrella, threading a sling through the ice, and placing the screws. It was quite awkward to get on it and I had to reach back to get the axes in the ice, climbing in an overhanging position (maybe it was grade IV). I battled through till it eased off and I was in a comfortable position. Alec and Louise had been cheering me on from the belay, which I always find really helpful when I’m struggling. After finishing up the pitch I set up a belay on the summit, which was a big mistake, there was a scoop just after the pitch and before the summit, which was a lot more sheltered from the south easterly wind which was blowing hard.

My clothing and pack froze quite quickly, and my body started to go numb, I managed to get my belay jacket on which was a life saver.

The approach to Gardyloo

Louise and Alec managed to battle their way up the ice over a period of half an hour which was a long time to be in that wind. Once they got to the summit, we made the decision to down climb Tower gully a grade I as to escape the wind asap. It was steep and began getting dark as we began, it was a gruelling first winter climb for Louise and took its toll, so the decision was made for me to assist Louise walking down, while Alec built bucket seats in the snow to body belay Louise for extra safety. We bumped into the Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team as we got to the CIC hut and they graciously offered us a lift from the top car park down to the North Face car park and gave us sweets, which we were very grateful for.

Trip Three

On the third trip me and Louise decided to car camp in our recently acquired campervan module for Louise’s Berlingo, which was pretty brutal in winter. Waking up to frost in the car one morning, but totally worth it to wake up and go to sleep with the stunning mountains in Glencoe. Our friend Jon headed up to meet us and we decided to tackle the three-star classic on Bidean nam Bian in Stob Coire nan Lochan, which is an absolutely stunning corrie.


The walk in was a mixture of stunning views one minute then getting battered by wind and spindrift the next. The corrie was busy with teams, likely as it was one of the few places in condition in Glencoe at this time. Dorsal Arete was fairly straight forward mixed climbing with a crux at the end of the last pitch which I downclimbed on my first attempt as my hands had lost feeling, once I warmed them back up, I got it on the second go. With Louise and Jon following me shortly after, the wind had picked up and was strong enough to blow you over. We descended via the gully next to arete which was full of firm snow with me and Jon opting to slide down on our bums, the quick and fun way.

The walk in to Dorsal Arete

Trip Four

On the fourth and final trip to Scotland it was again me, Louise, and Alec. This was the most successful trip, racking up three routes in consecutive days. Which was likely due to the weather, there was no type 2 fun weather conditions. It was more like a summer alpine trip, with clear blue skies on all three days. Day one we started with Curved Ridge II 3, it wasn’t in great condition with the snow being quite soft, but being a rocky route it will go in any condition. I solo’d and Alec roped up with Louise more for a bit of confidence for Louise. Occasionally chucking the rope round a rock to belay. While it wasn’t in great climbing condition, the clear skies permitted us some stunning views of the Glencoe range.

Louise on curved ridge

Day two saw us heading to Aonach Mór and being able to take advantage of the gondola at the Nevis Range ski resort, making the walk in a little less painful. We went for Golden Oldy II a three-star classic ridge, there is some reasonably nice ice low down to climb to the base of the route, the ridge itself was stunning with incredible views. Alec solo’d while I roped up with Louise and we moved together placing the occasional piece of gear. We topped out and walked back to the gondola watching skiers and snowboarders enjoying the conditions.
We were all in a fun mood and had a little boogie in the gondola.

Me on Golden Oldy

Day three saw us tackle Tower Ridge, the longest of all the ridges on Ben Nevis and maybe the biggest in Scotland and therefore the UK. I’d been on the route a couple of times before, so let Alec do all the leading while I sat on the back of our rope of three and took pictures. It was a busy day on the Ben with it being March, people were likely making the most of one of the last weekends of the season. Although I’d been on Tower Ridge before the conditions were the best I’d experienced, the ice was in great condition and every axe and crampon placement felt solid.

A part of me was a little sad I’d not done any of the leading, especially when Alec quested off route. But I did get some great shots, so I shouldn’t complain. Car to car was around twelve hours, which is pretty good going for this route. Although I imagine guides are doing it in eight to ten. This was a great end to what had been my best season.

Louise on the Eastern Traverse – Tower Ridge

The wisest discipline

Climbing can and has taught me so many lessons, which can be taken into everyday life. Patience, determination, humility etc, the list would be long. It also teaches how to push through our fears and anxieties.

How to continue when things go wrong (like when you drop two ice screws, and the climbing is way harder than you thought it was going to be). So, what is special about winter climbing, well it teaches all the things other disciplines do and more, it does so in the most extreme and hostile of environments.

It teaches us to suffer and endure in a way the other disciplines can’t. Everything feels heightened, ultimately, I feel more alive and more thankful for life afterwards, because in this arena it’s ever more present how fragile life is and therefore how precious it is.

 Unknown climber Ben Nevis