Posted on Leave a comment

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.


Posted on Leave a comment

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.  


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. 

A picture containing grass, sky, mountain, outdoor

Description automatically generated

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. 

A picture containing tree, outdoor, rock, plant

Description automatically generated

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.


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

Fachwen, Y Clegyr

A person climbing a large boulder

Description automatically generated with medium confidence

Craig yr Undeb, Yellow Wall

A picture containing outdoor, person, person, mountain

Description automatically generated

Milestone Buttress Boulders

A picture containing rock, outdoor, person, mountain

Description automatically generated

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

Posted on Leave a comment

To be a Dirtbag

Words by Elliot Mawson.

Climbing has changed so much over such a short amount of time, splitting up into a number of forks; trad, boulder, sport, to name a few. Ambasssador, Eliot, looks into how the term ‘Dirt bag’ has changed, and what it means to him.

Everyone knows that timeless photo of Fred Beckey, dressed in a crumpled t-shirt with an
old rope thrown around his shoulders, a helmet sat atop of his unkempt head, holding up a
battered cardboard sign with ‘Will Belay For Food’ scrawled in pencil.

Beckey epitomised the life of a dirt-bag

Living, literally out of his bag – hitchhiking, walking and climbing his way around Yosemite National Park. Even after his death in 2017, Beckey’s life is admired, maybe even with jealousy, by climbers around the globe. He was the true
spirit of a dirtbagger, living life in a sleeping bag and in the same wrecked set of clothes. It became an aspiration, and climbers wanted to do just, and only that, climb.

Steve Rhodes – Albarracin

The introduction of Climbing into the 2021 Tokyo olympic games is inarguably a dramatic
step for the sport. Climbing heroes like Shauna Coxey, Janja Garnbret and Adam Ondra (among so many other talented athletes) have been pulled from walls and crags and thrust
into the electric spotlight of mainstream sport. Even Kevin Hart and Snoop-Dogg were trying
their hand at climbing lingo (which is a great clip if you haven’t seen it, by the way). Never
before has climbing been so easily recognised on a worldwide stage, and the original principles of dirt-bags set by Beckey and other heroes may be forgotten. Recently, climbers have been able to train relentlessly in gyms during the week, and head out into the outdoors on weekends and send, no longer needing to live at the crag, and spend hours attempting a single project. While the olympics is a new and exciting prospect for climbing, enticing more WAD’s to try
their hand at it and perhaps causing more development of areas; it may be diluting this original idea of a ‘dirt-bag’, there is no longer any need to live on the edge of primitivity, in a
banged up van or battered car, as crags can easily be found all over, and many are even accessible via public transport routes. However, while this is a new step for the sport, I do not think that it’s entirely negative.

So, what does it mean to be a dirt-bag?

Are they all smelly, unwashed and unshaven adventurers?

I don’t think so, no. For me, a dirtbagger is merely someone who enjoys life in the great outdoors. They don’t have to be gnarled and unkempt, with hair that falls in knots around their ankles, or with armpits that smell so bad they could knock out a herd of elephants, they just have to understand the almost laughable absurdity of a grinding life stuck in a loop of work. The monotonous 9-5 with only a weekend to break it up. The Monday where we must once again don our suits, button up our shirts and plod in synchronicity with the rest of humanity to work.

The new wave of psyched athletes trying their hand at climbing may help shift this worldwide addiction to routine and structure. Why should we have to work every-day? Why should we spend our evenings panicking over overdue deadlines? Climbing teaches us to see life for how it is, shows us that a happy mind is far more important than a heavy wallet. And, if the Olympics broadcasts this sport that can usher in so many into a more peaceful mind and way of life, so be it. In a desperate attempt not to sound preachy, maybe the life of a Dirt-bagger is exactly what is needed in the non-stop bombardment of 21st century life.

Dirt-bags understand the insanity of this life of work, and aim to dilute it with time in the Great Outdoors, whether that be around work, around school, or even quitting and going all the way – living out of a car with a gas stove and a never-ending fountain of psyche.

James Dickinson and Karly Green – Appleby

I believe a dirt-bag is just someone who understands the innate human need for a life outside

Whether that’s a scratty boulderer from Yorkshire, a fell runner from Scotland, or an incredibly accomplished mountaineer like Fred Beckey. They all have one thing in common. Simply ; they love the outdoors.

H. Dickinson – Lockdown back garden camping

Posted on Leave a comment

Otter Life: cycle touring Scotland

by Elizabeth Stephenson

My bike is called Otter, she’s been my faithful companion for a number of years now, mainly for commuting. However, earlier this summer we took the rather deep plunge together of going on a cycle tour.

My main sports are climbing and fell/trail/ultra-running (anything that involves an excuse to walk uphill essentially) so cycle touring was a rather new adventure. I’m not fully sure where the idea to give it a go came from; I think I just decided it looked quite fun. Fast forward to the start of July, and I found myself on a ferry from Mallaig to Armadale on Skye with a friend from the climbing club at uni cajoled along for the ride. (I later discovered he’d done some cycling holidays before, not as novice as he let on!) The original plan had been to cycle up the Outer Hebrides, and then back down the West Coast, however due to my inability to book ferries until the week before and some uncertainty around dates due to graduations, we had to reverse the direction to be able to make the crossings work. I think it ended up better though, with the harder West Coast out the way, allowing for a more relaxed second half.

The first day of cycling started well although I swiftly realised that one packet of tortellini for dinner was not enough to fill me up.

I had several moments where I felt a bit overwhelmed by the task ahead of me, with my mind frequently wandering to the thought of ‘it’s ok, I could just cycle back to the car within a day’; but once we’d crossed the Bealach na Bà at Applecross (the highest mountain pass in the UK, a great one for your first day of cycle touring….I hope you can hear the sarcasm) those thoughts were quickly dispelled as there was no way I was going back over. With 55 miles and a decent amount of ascent, fish and chips at the bottom never tasted so good and the yellow weather warnings that had accompanied us up the motorway didn’t make their appearance until the evening,

Over the next few days, we wound our way up the West Coast, eating massive dinners (although I kept eating my breakfast when I woke up in the middle of the night) and trying to dodge the midges. Poolewe was a particularly stunning spot with our first proper bit of sun and a wash in the sea, I wrote a couple of snippets whilst sitting on the rocks by the shore.

“Oyster catches peeling the setting sky open with their calls. The sun glinting through the intricate lace of clouds draping the bay, handsewn together by the weather; wind for the holes, rain for the pattern and sun to bleach it white. The sharp distinctive tang of seaweed tickles my nose as I watch the waders in their teeniest of pitter patters flit across the shore.”

Throughout the next week we crossed from Ullapool (if you haven’t been to the Seafood Shack there and had their haddock wrap, especially when you forgot to buy breakfast the day before, then I’m not sure you’ve lived) to Stornoway on the Outer Hebrides and gently settled into the rhythm of cycle touring. At times I found it a little stressful, half an eye always kept on looming rain clouds, wondering whether I needed to pack away the optimistic solar charger slung over my panniers. Other times my body felt attuned to the weather and the lie of the land, the hills a statement, something requiring further effort from my legs accompanied by a thin film of sweat. A rather different method of travel to merely pressing harder on the right-hand pedal.

Our first night on the Outer Hebs was a wee bit tragic, and the lowest point of the trip. With no decent spots on the road heading north late at night after the ferry got in, we ended up on some rocks and between concrete blocks by a fishing lock. The midges nearly exsanguinated us, and breached the tent, meaning I slept in a head net for the night. Singing to myself was required to distract from how grim the current predicament was.

The rest of the week however was a gorgeous meander down the Hebridean Way. A medley of calligraphic beaches bordered by mountains, and evenings spent by the sea, watching the oyster catchers thread the tide line. We washed in the sea most evenings, a rhythm I delighted in and found brought me in step with the pace of the journey. North Uist even spoilt us with an afternoon of roaring sunshine, and I bobbed about in the sea with my eyes shut against the reflected light, feeling on the cusp of merging into the seascape that held me.

I wrote a little poem while we were on Luskentyre beach, it’s nothing much but here goes:


Cycle touring as a method of travel surprised me in many ways.

The slower pace made each day feel like it spanned at least two, or three, because it gave me time to notice the area around me in greater depth than I’ve previously experienced. It also leaves you more open to interaction with people, where the necessity of a car door otherwise creates an obvious barrier. Greetings and smiles from those in their gardens, accompanied by passing enquires about our journey’s start and end, lent a feeling of community on the road.

Our final day of cycling saw us ploughing through a heavy headwind all day, and exhausted we finally made it to Lochboisdale. A reminder that had the weather been in cahoots against us, the trip could have had a rather less relaxing feel. Our ferry back to Mallaig at early doors had an odd feeling to it, I’d got rather used to the routine of wake, cycle, swim in the sea and allowing the landscape to sustain me. Though I won’t fib it was nice to be in a bed having shared a tent that was too small to sit up in for two weeks!

With thanks to my friend for joining in on my idea and to Otter for having nothing go wrong mechanically as that really isn’t my area of expertise….


Posted on Leave a comment

A Climbing Mind: Breathing Power

Breathing Power – by Allan Evans

We often hear our fellow climbers reminding us to breathe when we are climbing, and, likewise, it is us shouting it up to the climber.

When we are climbing at our limit it can often be the first thing we forget about. I don’t need to tell you how important it is to breathe while climbing, or for just generally living. But I do want to explore just how important controlled breathing can be while climbing.

Breathing and particular types of breathing can help you manage your fears and anxieties – pre and during climbing. Regardless of what type of climbing we are doing it’s common to have anxious feelings at times, whether it be a fear of falling, of failure, of blowing an Onsight attempt on a route you have been saving for years! The list goes on.

A technique I came across in researching breathing techniques to use with my counselling clients was hacking the Vagus nerve.

What’s the Vagus nerve I hear you ask?

This nerve secretes a fluid which helps regulate our heart rate. As our body can’t distinguish the difference between what our mind is making up or what we are imagining, it responds to whatever story the mind is telling it.

Therefore, if we start getting fearful or anxious before a climb, our body responds. It elevates the heart rate and will produce adrenaline and a whole host of bodily functions are affected.

That explains the sweaty hands…

We can hack this nerve by performing longer exhalations, simply take a deep inbreath and on your outbreath make it slow and controlled and slightly longer than the inbreath. This stimulates the Vagus nerve and therefore slows down our heart rate, putting the body into a calm state.

Breathing deeply also has the added benefit of allowing more carbon dioxide to enter our blood stream, and having more carbon dioxide in our system slows down parts of the brain, including the amygdala, which is where fear is generated. Deep rhythmic breathing can also help us focus, when we get scared it takes our attention from the task at hand, to climb, to place protection well.

Do breathing techniques work?

In my own personal experience yes, they do. I can remember countless times on routes where I have been scared for whatever reason, a little voice in my head tells me to focus on breathing, in doing so I’m able to shift my attention back to climbing and continue.
Unfortunately, that little voice doesn’t always appear, and my fearful mind takes over, I hesitate, get pumped and either down climb or ask my belayer to take. I’m still working on using this powerful tool myself.

These breathing techniques can be used to help you manage your mind and body whilst climbing, including your fears. I am however not suggesting you should not be fearful, fear keeps us alive and stops us from hurting ourselves. Climbing is an inherently dangerous activity and managing your risk is your responsibility.
It’s science!

I have linked a few articles I used as inspiration, they go into greater detail about the techniques used as well as the science behind it all, it’s interesting stuff.

Thanks for checking out the first instalment of my blog, I hope you find using the power of the breath useful not just in climbing, also in your day-to-day life.

If you see me at a crag, say hello and let’s do some breathing together!