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When climbing holidays don’t go to plan: Anna Taylor blogs

The back end of summer was a wet one. feeling the frustration of UK climbers up and down the country – we feel your pain! It’s not just us punters who get let down by the weather, it affects the pros too. Anna writes her second installation of her summer diary, spent in France and then back home to some familiar gritstone.

Anna’s Summer ’19 climbing diary part two:

Fontainebleau

We’d planned a trip to Europe for the end of August, the idea being that we would head to Fontainebleau for a couple of days before heading to Chamonix or northern Spain for some big multi-pitch adventures. Unfortunately, this just wasn’t to be. While the weather in Font was beautiful, it was deteriorating fast everywhere else, and it really wasn’t worth the fuel to travel to Chamonix or Spain.

The bad luck seemed to continue, as I picked up a cold virus and felt rubbish most of the time, despite the warm temperatures. Three days in, Ben accidentally sliced the end of his finger open with our cooking knife. After a morning of me having to drive frantically to the nearest supermarket (I’d never driven on the other side of the road before) and purchase a large amount of first aid supplies, I patched him up, but it was clear that I was going to be the only one climbing for the remainder of our trip.

Deciding to stick it out for a few more days, I tried to get into the Font bouldering style. It was weird, sometimes flashing 7a felt fine, but sometimes 6b’s felt impossible after half an hour of trying. I did some cool problems, including the infamous La Marie Rose, the super hard and slippy 6a, which was even harder and slippier in the boiling sun.

We returned early from Europe, pretty disappointed that the weather had turned on us, but we had a nice couple of days in North Wales on the way home to compensate, while we planned what we wanted to do next.

The beginning of the Grit season

Now in the early days of Autumn, summer is beginning to fade away as we head towards the winter months.

I’m going to be away all November on an expedition to South America, but until then, I’ve got one thing on my mind, Gritstone!

Ben and I kicked off the season with a couple of slab climbs at the Roaches on the 3rd of September. We started off with the classic Track Of The Cat, on the Roaches Skyline. I’d never been up there before but i’m certainly glad I went, as the clean cut slabs of flawless gritstone were a perfect way to reacquaint with the bold and friction based climbing style.

Track Of The Cat is an E5 that climbs a faint groove, then traverses onto a slab, which is easy up until a big slot where you can stuff a large cam to protect yourself on the scary top section.

After the slot there’s a couple of smeary moves, then a big lunge up to a juggy break just below the top. I didn’t like the look of the starting groove, as it looked a bit green, so opted for a direct (and way more fun) start, by throwing my heel by my head and rocking over onto the slab. I’m sure it’s been done many times before as it’s not particularly hard, but it certainly makes me wonder why on earth the route starts on the left when the direct is so obvious!

After Track Of The Cat, Ben and I walked out to the Nth Cloud, where we’d heard about a cool E6 called Judge Dread. I onsighted it on a top-rope, and found it thin and bold, but also right up my street. There was just enough gear for me to not feel that scared, so I was quickly on the sharp end, and found myself really enjoying the precise and crimpy moves on the top section of the route. I should probably have tried to flash this one, but have made a rule with myself to not onsight or flash any potentially dangerous grit routes until after November, as I think those are the one’s i’d most likely end up injured on. The rain followed Ben after his lead so we quickly bailed and headed for a supermarket cafe for lunch and coffee.

As the weather has been more than unpredictable this year, I’m going to concentrate on grit for now. I didn’t get as much done in the Lakes as I’d wanted to this summer, as everyone else by the looks of it, but I checked out a few routes for when it gets warm again. Until then, there’s plenty of hard stuff on the smaller crags to concentrate on. We did have a sneaky look at a slightly harder route when we were at the Roaches, so if all goes well, there will hopefully be more on that soon!

Exciting times ahead in South America, catch you on the other side.

Anna

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Confidence is key: Priceless (E7 6b) performance by Anna Taylor

As the mornings get colder and the leaves begin to golden, we asked Dirtbags climber Anna Taylor to reflect on her summer of climbing both in the Lakes and Yorkshire. The second part of this blog will follow, covering her time in France, and looking onward to Autumn on Gritstone.


Anna’s Summer ’19 climbing diary part one:

In the first part of this blog, I’ve written down my account of some of my favourite routes this year. The hard routes, and particularly the new route, pushed my boundaries mentally in one way or another.

Disorderly Conduct E8 6c

It was July, and I thought that it was about time I tried an E8 again. I wasn’t sure what to go for, it was too hot for grit, but I didn’t want to commit to a project on a mountain crag and get rained off either. After a bit of research, I decided that Disorderly Conduct at Reecastle crag might be a good option, it was five minutes from the car, and was apparently steep and crimpy, so would potentially suit me. So Ben and I headed up to have a look.

Our first session was on a scorching hot day, and although I quickly did all the moves, I really didn’t feel like going for the lead. The gear also wasn’t as good as I’d hoped for, there were quite a few pieces lower down, but none that I trusted 100%. The good bits were all too low to be of much use.

The climbing itself was interesting, it started with a really burly lower section on good holds, that became very strenuous if your feet were in the wrong place. Then there was a crux throw to a tiny pocket, followed by a run out on small, sharp crimps.

I was finding the crux particularly annoying as I couldn’t quite reach the pocket from both of the good footholds and had to bump my right foot up onto a smear before committing to the move, making it feel slightly more sketchy. The sharp holds on my skin meant we quickly called it a day. I was keen to return.

Two days later I was back at Reecastle, standing under the route and taking a couple of deep breaths before going for the lead. We’d had a slightly shambolic morning to say the least, featuring a flat tyre and a lot of driving to and from Keswick to sort it out. Warmed up and ready to go, I was a bit nervous mostly because all my hard headpoints in the past had been slabs or vertical walls, so I’d never had to worry about getting pumped or my fingers uncurling before. But I knew I could do it as long as I stayed calm. Setting off, as always, was the hardest part, and once I was on the wall I found it easy to get into a rhythm and flow through the moves.

Once I’d passed the initial overhang and stuck the pocket move I went into auto-pilot, and before I knew it I was at the rest jug and it was all over! I placed a couple of cams then wandered up the super easy upper section to the top of the crag.

Yes! I was really happy to have done the route, as I felt like it was a step out of my comfort zone in terms of style, but the thing I was most happy about was that it actually hadn’t felt that hard. I had to try, and try hard, but I knew that I wasn’t physically or mentally at my limit, and that more than anything was a victory to me.


Priceless E7 6b

A new one! I’d found a new line in Langdale.

Whilst I could top rope it fine, there was a bit of an issue with the gear…mostly the fact that there wasn’t any. One humid evening I found myself stood under the route, without a harness, just one bouldering pad and Neil Gresham for company. Realistically it was way too hot to contemplate a forty foot solo, but sometimes things just happen…

It was one of those angel/devil moments.

After a twenty minute spell of dithering, I found myself stepping off the ground. I’d told myself that I should just climb up to the first rest, then from there I’d decide what to do. Of course I knew that once I was up there it was irreversible and I would have to commit. Soon I was smearing gingerly across the first traverse, trying not to put too much weight on that suspect handhold. I’ll admit that I was pretty scared of the next bit, the fact that the rock-over had felt so hard last time (on a rope) was haunting my thoughts, but too late for that, I was there.

I’d stepped my foot high, and I was suddenly in the middle of the move. Just balance, balance, push with your leg, stand up, reach, got it!

Anna Taylor discovers a new Lake District hard trad climb – Priceless E7 6b

I was incredibly relieved to have made it to the good holds. While the next traverse was balancy and would surely feel outrageous without a rope, I’d never fallen off it, and I was not about to now. The forty foot plunge into a pile of boulders would not be an ideal end to the night. In reality it was just going through the motions, the hard part was long behind me and soon I was pulling over the slopey top out to victory.

In the end, I named the route Priceless. Grade wise I gave it E7 6b, which is nothing but an estimate, but it felt about that to me. It was nice to finally get another new route done, but next time I might wait until it’s a bit cooler!


Fire Dance E6 6a

The July heatwave was proving a bit much for Ben and I, so we decided to leave the Lakes and head over to North Yorkshire for a couple of days. There was a lot more time spent on the beach and playing cards than actually climbing anything.

Firedance at Stoupe Brow is a big, imposing looking arete perched half way up a steep hill, with beautiful views of the coast. For some odd reason, there is a line of bolts on the right hand side of the route that, while a bit silly, did save us the task of bush-whacking to the top of the crag. Ben led the route on the bolts, and climbed it easily apart from one move where he looked like he was on the absolute limit of his reach.

Sure enough, when it was my turn, I couldn’t quite make the span to the hold. This was so frustrating, particularly as the rest of the route felt fairly easy, and I knew that if it wasn’t for this move then I’d solo it without a second thought. Eventually, after quite a lot of swearing at the rock for not forming holds that were closer together, I discovered that if I used a slightly higher foothold, I could just about creep my fingers onto the hold. The problem now was that I was so stretched out that my feet were doing nothing, and the only solution was basically to do a pull-up to get my feet back on. Not ideal, but there was no alternative.

After a while I was top-roping the route cleanly every time. Slowly, the thought of going for the solo was re-entering my head. I decided to come down for some thinking time. For a while I wandered about, with the usual dilemma in my head. Do I or don’t I? I’ve been in this situation so many times now that you’d think I’d be quicker at deciding, but it always takes a while. In the end, as per usual, I decided to give it a shot. I knew Ben thought I was being reckless, and maybe I was a little bit, but I knew that I could do it.

Anna Taylor leading Fire Dance E6 6a

A few moves in and I was at the point of commitment. Not wanting any long pauses to put me off, I went for it. All I remember from the crux is thinking “shit…I’m really having to try here!” but I managed to just about creep my fingers onto the hold, before my feet came off and I hauled my body weight up and back onto the wall. Although Ben looked like he was about to have a heart attack, I could tell he was happy that I’d gone for it. We packed up and left the crag, and as soon as we got back to the Lakes we jumped into Rydal water to finally cool down (the joys of owning a van with no air-con).

In a way I’m still surprised that I went for Firedance. A year ago I would have wanted perfect conditions for such a sketchy move, and some decent bouldering pads, but I was happy in the knowledge that the heat and lack of any sort of protection didn’t matter as I knew I wouldn’t fall.

Some people may think that that’s crazy, but these routes all come down to confidence, and if you have enough of it, then I think you’re pretty safe. I’ll definitely be planning a return trip to North Yorkshire later in the year.


Anna.

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St Bees Head: product test and photoshoot.

A group of local friends and climbers joined us for a quiet afternoon celebrating the beginning of Spring hugging some rocks and testing out some chalk bags. We drove out to the coast, to St Bees; a gorgeous bouldering location.

Loaded with pads, shoes, lunch and a bag of new stock we carefully made our way down the cliff side to boulder the afternoon away. Due to the bird ban, and high tide, our visit was restricted to the Apiary wall area – which had lots of problems with a good range of difficulty.


We were excited to show off some of the new lightweight panel bags made entirely from offcuts, and the classic horizontal panel recycled rope chalk bags. We also brought along some bracelets and belts for the guys to have a look and test.

James and I were joined by Anna, Karly, Tess, Jonathan, Reece, Nick and Lauren. With a good range of climbing abilities it was a chilled day, not about performance or showing off – just everyone confident enough to have a go and to enjoy the day.

The day was made possible really by the power of social media , reaching out to those who might be interested in spending the day messing about on some rocks with us proved to be popular, and brought this little group together.

With aching fingers and bellies lit with an enthusiasm for this year’s climbing – we all left with big plans for summer.

And us particularly, to make days like this, with new friends all with the love of climbing in common – more regular.

Huge thanks to those who came, particularly Jonathan and Reece who worked hard taking photos while we all played.


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Anna Taylor – Climber Interview

Anna Taylor, a young upcoming climber – sponsored by Sportiva, Petzl, and now us! She has recently featured in ‘Just Anna’, part of the Brit Rock 2018 tour and ticked off Obsession Fatale, a bold E8 6C, she catches up to discuss why she climbs, and what lies ahead…

Hello Anna, we are delighted to sponsor you, a local female climber who has had a fantastic 2018 – gaining heights in many senses of the word. Let’s begin with the basics, what does climbing mean to you?

Thank guys! I’m very grateful for the support. I started climbing when I was ten and, apart from a small break in my teenage years, it has always been my main focus. When I was younger it was always just something I did for fun, and while that’s still the case I guess it is now a bit more than that. It’s kind of a way of life in that most of the things I do in both my free time and work life are centred around climbing. I like that there is so much variety, that there’s always a new challenge around the corner, and it’s a great distraction from any negative things in life.

At the beginning of 2019, many people pick up hobbies and try new things, here at Dirtbags we are always looking for adventure and to learn skills along the way. What advice would you give someone who would like to begin the sport?

Get some good shoes, learn the basic skills that you need to be safe, and then just have fun with it. What I love about climbing is that it never feels like a particularly serious sport. You can just muck about making up silly boulder problems at your local wall, have loads of fun and still improve.

I’d also say to try and climb with people better than yourself, as it is a great way to learn.I never had any formal coaching but just picked up bits and pieces from the good climbers at the wall.

Anyone who has met you will comment on your grace and how cool, calm and collected you are. How do you handle those climbing nerves? Don’t kid on, we all get them…

It’s funny, the few situations I have been in where a fall would have been genuinely serious I’ve been able to keep my head. I have also lost my cool spectacularly in situations where I probably could’ve fallen off and been fine (unfortunately most of these have been on film). I would partly put that down to inexperience, as I have definitely thrown myself in at the deep end of a few routes and found myself in situations I wasn’t prepared for, but it’s a valuable learning experience for the future.

On bold climbs if you’re not climbs if you are not climbing efficiently and moving well you are probably in trouble already, so it comes down to being able to switch off your brain for those crucial moments and know you are climbing perfectly, as any shaking or hesitating will probably make you fall off. It is a skill that I haven’t mastered yet, but I’m slowly getting better at it.

Hodge Close
© Alastair Lee

How did you find filming ‘Brit Rock’, and what challenges did you face while being part of the Brit Rock team?

Getting used to being filmed all the time was a bit strange, as I had limited experience with that sort of thing in the past. However by the end it had started to feel more normal and acting natural in front of a camera was a lot easier. I guess the biggest challenge of the whole thing was just getting an ending to the film. I had a project that in the end was climbed by someone else, but I was actually still intending to finish the film off with that route regardless, as I had put so much time into it. However, literally the day after the route was climbed I snapped a finger pully whilst bouldering, and I suddenly couldn’t climb at all! We had two or three weeks left to finish the film, and it was going to take two or three months for my finger to heal. I honestly thought it was over then, but I got really lucky with Obsession Fatale as it was both a route I already really wanted to do, and was also the only one I had a chance of climbing whilst injured – so we just about got away with it.

Obsession Fatale
© Neil Gresham

Where is your favourite place to climb?

That’s a tough one! I love to climb in so many places but if I had to pick just one I’d probably go for a place called Reiff on the North-West coast of Scotland. I’ve been on family holidays there since I was little, and it is where I did a lot of my first outdoor climbs, so it is pretty special to me.

It is one of the most beautiful areas I have been to; I have had some pretty great evenings bouldering on the cliffs with just a few seals and porpoises for company. To me it doesn’t get much better than that.

What lies ahead for you this year, and what are you most excited about?

At the moment I’m trying to put in some training time for the coming year. I have always been very guilty of relying on technique when climbing, and my power and endurance suffered, so it has been nice to make progress with those. I think I am most looking forward to just expanding the range of climbing that I do. I travelled around the UK a bit this year, so the plan is to go back fitter and more experienced and hopefully start ticking some routes off.

The UK has so much variety within climbing, and I want to experience as much of that as I can.

Has climbing outdoors affected the way you see our landscape and the place you live? How would you encourage climbers to look after our environment?

Absolutely. I was born in the Lake District and I still live here, I probably took the area for granted when I was younger, as it was all I’d ever known. Now I’m a little more travelled I can see more clearly how special this place is, and spending time on the crags only reinforces that more. It is important for climbers to remember that although they are climbing on a crag, it doesn’t give them any right to alter or damage the landscape around it.

I am a massive animal lover so seeing things like cigarette butts, plastic and other potentially harmful things at crags always make me sad, as it show how careless some people can be. It only takes a small amount of common sense to leave a crag how you found it, and this is particularly important in the somewhere like the lakes.