Getting More From Your Climbs

The most frequent questions we get asked here at ClimbNorthEast are usually the simple ones.

What’s the best type of chalk to use? Am I using the right shoes for the job? Is there a right way to test a crag? Of course, all of these can be boiled down to one simple query:

How can I get more from my climbs?

The interesting thing about the climbing scene here in the UK, is that it largely relies upon shared knowledge and experience.

Although we might well take some lessons early on in our lives, either in school or at a weekend club, the way us climbers learn is usually by doing. With each session on an indoor climbing wall, we slowly start to accumulate the necessary tricks of the trade that will allow us to reach for the hard to reach handholds and pinion us to the necessary walls. These are skills that are built on hard graft and practice, rather than theoretical learning, meaning that we need to spend hours on walls in order to make progress on the actual rock.

Taking the time to develop and hone the myriad micro-skills involved in climbing requires focus, requiring you to have the humility to identify your own weaknesses and the ingenuity to find a way to eradicate them.

This is just one of the many ways that you can learn to get more from your climbs.

Here are a few more to help you on your way:

Preparation, preparation, preparation

Climbers are often portrayed as fastidious people. Careful and cautious, they understand they usually understand the importance of planning and preparation. Then again, you can’t always believe everything that you read online…

It sounds like teaching your Grandma how to suck eggs, but it’s worth stating just to get the message out there. You can never plan enough for a day’s climb.

Everything from the route that you take to drive there to your packed lunch can be organised well ahead of schedule – the more that you have planned, the smoother your day will go and the more thought you can dedicate to the climbs that you embark on.

Test your gear have no fears

Well – ‘no fears’ is probably a bit of an exaggeration. Still, one of the reasons behind even the most experienced climbers’ sudden lack of confidence is usually a mistrust in their gear.

We spend hundreds of pounds on our climbing gear, but unless we thoroughly test it there will always be a niggling doubt in the back of our minds that it might not be able to hold our weight. Building trust with our gear is as important as building trust with our friends.

Make sure that you take the time to give all your gear a thorough test in the days leading up to your climb. Ropes, harnesses, helmets and carabiners should all be tugged, pulled and stressed so that you have 100% confidence in them when it comes to finally use them.

It’s not a team game but it kind of is

Even on their biggest free solo climbs, the greats like Steve McClure and Alain Robert have a support team with them to make sure that, should anything go wrong, they have assistance if they need it.

Although most climbers are taught this at an early age, it’s worth repeating just in case there’s someone who didn’t get the message: unless you are actually Alex Honnold, you should never climb alone.

Climbing in a group is one of the best ways to balance safety with practicality.

Whilst one of you climbs, another member of the party can spot them with a crash mat and the third can stand at a distance and guide the climber along.

In this fashion, each member of the party can benefit from the experience and everyone can learn from each other.

Road Trip To Wales, Climbing @ Cloggy

Legendary British Climber Leo Houlding called Clogwyn Du’rArddu (Cloggy for short) “the best crag in the world” – and for good reason.

Although I know April was itching to take us all out on another exhausting cycle ride, it was my turn to pick the next destination and Cloggy has been a destination on my mind for some time. 

asleep-adamWe all knew that we’d want to spend as much time exploring as many of the 200 or so climbs the region had to offer, so we all elected to make a long weekend of it. A gruelling 5 hours drive from our home in Consett, Adam hadn’t quite finished complaining about the effort he went through with the crash mat last week – so I elected to share the driving with April and keep him quiet in the back seat.

It was a good thing I volunteered myself, because Adam was a little worse for wear on Friday morning.

We’d all booked the Friday off work, to maximise the time we could spend on the crags and Adam had decided to further capitalise on this boon by having a few pints at The Company Row, the night before. April and I had to physically shake him awake when we stopped by his house to pick him up. Refusing to let him in my car smelling like the worst kind of brewery, we threw him in the shower and gave him an hour to sort himself out.

In the mean time, the sober pair in the group put on a pot of coffee and started planning out the day’s travel and where we’d climb when we (eventually) arrived at Cloggy.

By the time we’d eaten a second breakfast and drowned Adam in coffee, it was past 11 and our dream of getting a full long weekend of climbing had fast disappeared – the journey would take too long, and we’d almost certainly hit rush hour traffic around the dreaded M6. So, instead of completely giving up on doing something we hit the internet and found a decent North Wales tourism site to give us some ideas on what to get up to in the evening.

Although our climbing plans had been scuppered, we were lucky enough to find a table at a highly recommended restaurant as well as a decent hotel to stay at.

sosbanSo, as a freshly cleaned and fed Adam slumbered peacefully, April and I drove the 200 odd miles to Menai Bridge to dine at Sosban & The Old Butcher, a restaurant that has recently been awarded it’s first Michelin Star. Although our sleeping pal was a little confused when we woke him up, in the dark, in the quiet town of Menai Bridge – he was more than happy to hear about where we were about to eat.

The food was divine, as was the wine. In fact, the wine was so good that April and I might have drunk a little too much.

Saturday morning was another late start for all of us. This time it was Adam who was wielding the coffee and throwing us into the showers – still, at least we made it Cloggy before midday.

cloggy-climb

There’s something wonderful about being surrounded my so many other climbers at one time. The feeling is akin to dancing in a mosh pit or entering a music festival. There are over 200 different routes to tackle so, even with the area being well populated with climbers, there was always something new to tackle throughout the day. On top of the great variety of routes, there was also the benefit of seeking advice from other enthusiasts and passers by.

Although we were a little groggy at first, the proximity with so many of our fellow scramblers soon woke us up and we’d made a heap of valuable connections by the end of the day.

We called it an early night, the wine and rich food of the night before inevitable catching up with all of us.

Thankfully we had the first part of Sunday to finish exploring this wonderful landscape, something that I’d highly recommend to any climber of any ability.