Saturday, 20 August 2016

GB Team Training in Arco

As I sit here on my laptop, staring out of my window onto a grey, raining gloom-August in England-I can't help but think of the sunny skies of Arco, Italy, where I spent my last week on a GB Team training trip. The trip was a perfect combination of activities in a perfect location-we spent our time eating ice cream. swimming in Lake Garda, playing 'Manhunt' in the warm evenings and of course climbing, both at the incredible Rock Master Wall and outdoors at a variety of crags.
Having not done much outdoor sport climbing before, I was quite nervous at the start of the trip, expecting to be completely out-climbed and terrified of the whole experience. To my surprise, my fears soon subsided and as we visited more crags, my confidence grew and by the end of the trip I had flashed 7b and redpointed my first 8a outdoors. Topping out on 'La Cucina dell'Inferno' (8a) was definitely the highlight of my trip but I also really enjoyed trying the competition style routes set at the wall which proved to be very difficult but perfect practice for the European Championships coming up in a couple of weeks!
Overall the trip was great fun and I really enjoyed getting to know some of the team better. Thanks to everyone (especially the coaches) for making the trip such a success-I hope to be back next year to climb 8a+ or harder!
Keep climbing!
The team at the wall
Sending 'La Cucina dell'Inferno' (8a)

The Rock Master Wall

Sun's out guns out! (with Emily Phillips)

Monday, 11 July 2016

Senior British Bouldering Championships

Despite initially not being particularly bothered about attending this event (as it was a senior comp so would be very difficult and was not in my favoured discipline), I ended up finding the Senior British Bouldering Championships one of the most exciting events I have ever been to.
Located in a tent outdoors on Devonshire Green, Sheffield, the BBCs was part of the annual Cliffhanger festival, a festival showcasing outdoor sports with food stalls and live music to add to the atmosphere. However, upon arrival in the heavy rain, my initial feelings were not entirely positive and I began to wonder whether it had been worth turning up at all. The qualification format was one with which I am not entirely familiar-5 mins on 5 off for 5 problems (so no extra time to read the problems and no chance to grab some other beta)-and I found it stressful to figure out my own beta and get each problem done in the time. After almost flashing the 1st block but slipping off the last hold and then being unable to repeat the start, I did not feel positive at first. However, a flash of the 2nd gave me a confidence boost. Unfortunately, this was to be my only top, but it was enough to sneak into semis at 18th place (with 20 in semis).
After a good rest I awoke early on Sunday to get back to the wall before isolation closed at 11.30. I felt more comfortable with the time format and knew that even if I screwed up, I could only move down 2 places and, being one of the first out, the problems would not be too greasy. With only 4 blocks to climb, the semis was less tiring and went quickly-I soon found myself sat on the mat at the end smiling, for I had managed 2 flashes and 3 bonuses, a result good enough to at least retain my 18th place. However, to my surprise, I found myself sitting at the top of the score board for a while. Waiting anxiously by the barrier to watch the others, I counted down as people scored below me...a top ten finish was within site.
When it came to the last 4 or so climbers and I was still sat comfortably in the top 3, Watching the last climber-Shauna Coxsey, overall Boulder World Cup Winner of 2016-fall of the last problem (one which I had got first attempt) was something I did not expect! The final results were announced and I had somehow qualified for the final of the Senior British Bouldering Championships in 4th place (with 6 in the final) along with seasoned comp climbers (and world ranked athletes) Shauna Coxsey, Tara Hayes, Michaela Tracy, Leah Crane and Gracie Martin. As the youngest (by 3 years) and least experienced of the men and women in the final I was the clear underdog-the Wales of the European Football Championships.
The finals was incredible. With people from all over the world watching on the live stream as well as the live crowd, I felt anxious but excited and gave it my all. Being one of three to top the 1st problem and narrowly missing out topping the 2nd, I was pleased with my climbing despite finishing in 6th. Well done to everyone who competed and thanks for all the support from the viewers!
Keep climbing!
Head shots of the finalists

Monday, 20 June 2016

Weekend in Wales

Eyy! Exams are over!
To celebrate the start of my long 'summer' holidays (though it doesn't look much like summer to me) I travelled up to Snowdonia for the weekend to get some indoor and outdoor climbing done. Because I will be having a GB team training event next weekend to select for the European and World Championships, I decided to spend a day at the Beacon Climbing Centre where the selection event will be held to get some practice on the different walls.
I like the walls at the Beacon as, despite not being very steep like most other walls, they are very tall and often have consistent, non-cruxy routes which require stamina and solid vert technique-the kind of routes which suit me best. I enjoyed getting on some of the harder routes to onsight but discovered a couple of routes set with wooden holds-holds I had only experienced on circuit boards and did not like on routes. These were slippy and unpredictable but I gave them a go anyway. My favourite route of the day was an 8a up the main wall which had a dynamic beginning but very technical end. Unfortunately I fell off a bit over halfway up but I managed to get all the moves in sections.
On Saturday evening, after visiting the Beacon, I had just enough time to spend a couple of hours at the Cromlech Boulders in Llanberis Pass. I hadn't expected to do any outdoor bouldering but had brought a mat just in case-and it was a good thing I did because the problems were brilliant and by the time I had to go back to the house I had already ticked a crimpy 7a/v6 called The Edge Problem and given a good go at the famous Jerry's Roof (7c/v9).
The following morning I got up early as I knew it was due to rain at midday and I had to get back to London that evening. After a drive through not-so-promising mist and light showers, we arrived in the valley where the Cromlech Boulders are and got out the pad. I though our session would be short lived and was beginning to regret coming outside again after feeling the slippery, slanted footholds. Nevertheless, I pressed on and the weather began to get better. I soon found myself topping out on Roadside ArĂȘte, a nice 6c/v5 I had looked at the previous day, and proceeded to work the pumpy, sloper traverse into it, which formed Cave Route (7a/v6). The traverse was of course concealed in the local sheep toilet, which was less than pleasant, but I figured out the moves fairly quickly and managed to get the link.
Having battled hard keeping the sheep poo off my climbing shoes and bearing the pain of my quickly disappearing skin, I though it would be a good idea to try the next link-Roadside Basic (7a+/v7) and surprised myself sending it on my second attempt of the full link. Alas, the weather starting really packing in and I ran to seek refuge in the car-it was time to go anyway. I hope to return soon to claim the other links-Rampless (7b/+/v8) and Full Roadside (7c/v9)-and get back on the classic Jerry's Roof.
Keep climbing!
A cool problem I found-don't know the name

The Edge Problem (7a/v6)
Coming out of the traverse on Roadside Basic (7a+/v7)
Next move on Roadside Basic...

The sequence continues...

Friday, 3 June 2016

Imst EYC

Last weekend I entered my first ever international competition-the European Youth Cup held at Imst Kletterzentrum. Due to having an exam the day before the comp, I was unfortunately unable to travel with the GB Team, so arrived late on Friday.
The demos were scheduled for 8.30am on Saturday, so it was an early start for the whole team and we all got down to the wall in time to have a look around and get warmed up before the climbing began. The wall ( or I should say walls) was amazing,but what struck me in particular was the indoor wall (we were competing outside) which had an amazing range of angles, all crammed into a space smaller than most centres in the UK and yet far more impressive. My first qualifier was soon revealed to be a very technical vertical route up the middle. This should have suited me. However, extreme nerves overtook me and I found myself greasing of a pair of chalky crimps halfway up the route, with lots of energy still to spare. To my annoyance, the route was brushed straight after I climbed, but to my relief, I still managed to come 22nd out of 37, which, although not an amazing result, was reasonable for my first ever international route. I enjoyed the route nevertheless and would have liked to have given it another try.
I soon found out that I would be climbing last on my second qualifier, giving me a 6 hour wait in the heat and blazing sun. After watching a few of my team mates compete, I headed back to the hotel, with the intention of returning an hour and a half before my climb, enabling me to warm up and grab beta of some of my teammates (I would be missing the second demo).
Back at the wall, I began to feel nervous again and even started reading the wrong qualifier route (luckily my teammate Rebecca pointed this out to me!). When it was finally time for me to climb I had overheated in the sun and I found the first part of the route sketchy, as my sweaty hands struggled to grip the chalky slopers. This wasted energy and unfortunately I came off lower than I should have due to misreading the route and clipping from the wrong places. This placed me in 25th overall, which I was a little disappointed with. However, I feel that I learnt a lot from the experience and know that I can improve a lot as I will hopefully be less nervous at my next international.
The following day I enjoyed watching the finals with the rest of the team (big up to Hamish, Emily, Will and Molly who all made finals!) and was inspired by some of the incredible talent on show. I can't wait to return to the wall for another competition!
Keep climbing!
Squeezing the life out of the chalky crimps on my first route

Font in the rain... of the best bouldering venues in the world and a place I have wanted to visit for so long. In March I finally did get the chance to go and what better an opportunity for the weather to pack in and rain almost constantly. Much time was spent fondling wet rock optimistically and it was frustrating to watch the days of our short trip go by from behind a window.
Nevertheless, the area is undeniably the best place I have visited for any outdoor climbing, with boulders littering the forests in well established areas such as Bas Cuvier,and hidden gems awaiting in the depths of the forest at Apremont Bizons and other more obscure areas. Despite not being able to climb as much as I wanted, I managed to tick my first font 7a, which, considering the conditions and lack of time on the boulders, I was pretty pleased with. I discovered lots of potential future projects and am excited to go back soon (hopefully when it isn't raining!).
Keep climbing!
Sending Magifix (assis) at Rocher Canon

Karma Climbing

In March I visited to new boulder centre in Tunbridge Wells-Karma Climbing. The centre was spacious and all though not very big, it had a really good vibe and the staff were helpful and friendly. The setting was great and I had fun trying some of their comp set which ranged from gutsy dynos to weird balance acts. I also made full use of their training facilities-a small gym, campus and peg boards, rings and two circuit boards.I would really recommend the centre to anyone living nearby or passing through kent-it's definitely worth a visit.
Keep climbing!

Catch up-Hackney Youth Sports Fund

I haven't written in a while due to exam/training stress, but I've finally had time to catch up! During March I received a youth sports grant from the Hackney Council awarding me £350 to help pay for some of this year's competition costs as well as a year's free membership at my local leisure centre. A few weeks later I discovered myself on page 7 in the local paper! Thanks to Hackney for all the support they've given me-
Keep climbing!

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Youth Open Bouldering-March 2016

After a long day in Liverpool competing in the leading event, I travelled to Manchester to compete at The Depot Climbing Centre, a brand new centre with loads of space and a variety of gradients. I arrived 2 hours before qualifiers began and took time to look at the blocks and get warmed up. There were lots of slabby problems with twists-a slippy foothold perhaps or even a dyno- as well as some powerful blocks.
Going around with some mates I managed to flash a slab and then one which came through a small roof. However the hard blocks far outweighed the easy ones, and I had trouble getting past the bonus on a fiendishly hard slab, a shouldery, bridging problem and a slab with a dyno to a tiny pocket. There was one problem which I suspect I could have done had I not messed up all of my attempts. The first go I grabbed a hold which looked the same colour as the block but apparently wasn't. The next two attempts my hand slipped just as I was setting up for the side ways dyno to the bonus hold.
This made me frustrated, but I didn't let it get to me and I found a steep problem which I managed to get second go (see picture). The eighth problem was a huge deadpoint which I couldn't make.
I was thrilled to qualify in 4th behind 3 members of the GB Bouldering team and sat back for a bit to watch the youth C and B finals. Isolation was busy (as always!) but I managed to warm up well and kept warm with my new fleece from Berghaus.
In observation I read our 3 blocks carefully with some mates. Our first block was my worst nightmare-a huge dyno to some volumes was the crux! Unfortunately I didn't get anywhere on this but I wasn't alone-only one girl in my category got it. I could do the first few moves of the second block, pulling up to a sloper and deadpointing  to a crimp on a volume, then going again to a positive sloper. However, the move to the bonus was a huge rock over on a high heel and, getting to this point 3 times, I just couldn't reach it. By this time I was beginning to think the results would come down to qualifier results as no one had got the bonus on the 2nd block either. The third and final problem was much more do-able, with a tricky start position (which I slipped of twice!) but then some good holds and a precise throw to the bonus, followed by undercutting a pinch, going to a sloper then throwing to a block hold and holding the swing, before launching for the last hold. However, I got to this point  twice but couldn't reach the last move-perhaps if I'd had it as my first block I would have topped. Again, only one girl in my category topped which left the rest of us separated only by the number of attempts it took us to get to the bonus, with two girls not getting the bonus and coming 5th and 6th. Unfortunately for me this meant coming 4th even though I'd been the only one of the  3 of us who tied to get to the last move of the last block. I had fun anyway, and was really pleased to come 4th in such a competitive field in my less favoured discipline. Well done to everyone who competed!
Keep climbing!
Climbing in the qualifiers in my new vest

Youth Open Leading-March 2016

Last weekend on the 5th March I arrived at Liverpool Awesome Walls to compete in my first lead comp of the season and the first comp in which I would be representing the GB Team. This was exciting, although I felt nervous as I knew people would have high expectations of me. On arrival I was told I could collect my new team kit from Berghaus. It came as no surprise that the kit was much cooler than previous years as I knew Berghaus were a huge company producing quality goods. My favourite item is the branded down jacket!
After the initial excitement of trying everything on, I felt shaky again so went to warm up and watch my demos. Both of my qualifiers were technical with a slight overhang and larger overhang at the top changing to vert for the last few moves.
Pulling on to the wall for my first route I felt  a roomful of eyes turn to the Union Flag on my back and I knew I had to do well to prove my worth. After a few sketchy moves at the beginning, I reached the top section where others had been falling. Coming over the overhang on to tiny crimps got me pumped but I managed to keep my head and topped the route, being one of two in my category to do so.
This made me a little more relaxed and I went to have my team profile picture taken with a smile on my face. The next route look slightly harder as I had never used a lot of the holds before. After watching one of my fellow GB Team competitors fall low down on the route, I prepared myself for some difficult climbing. The first part was sketchy, with some strange holds which I didn't quite know how to hold. Reaching the place where others had fallen, I took care chalking up and just kept climbing. Coming over the overhang I had to lock off and reach as far as I could, grabbing the next hold with two finger tips. Unfortunately the hold was shiny and as I brought my foot up my fingers pinged off and I fell, slamming into the side wall and hitting my back. Nevertheless, I knew I had done enough and I soon discovered I had qualified for finals in 2nd place.
Isolation, to my annoyance, was in a small Boulder room which had a ceiling you could touch from the ground and a lack of poor holds for warming up. I spent time catching up with others in the cramped quarters and soon it was time for observation. We had been given the same route as 3 other categories, a pumpy route on the comp wall which arched out into a near horizontal section, then curved on to a vertical part to the end.
After a long couple of hours spent keeping warm in isolation, it was finally time for me to climb. The first part of the route was on smallish holds, moving into jugs through the roof. I chalked up on the last jug and powered over the roof on to smaller crimps. This transition made me suddenly very pumped and when I cut loose I thought I would fall. However, the crowd kept roaring and I didn't give up, only falling when I grabbed a hold with the wrong hand to clip and was too pumped to switch hands and move on.
I was slightly disappointed to come third, as I often do and I had qualified higher. However, I was still pleased with my climbing. Congratulations to everyone who competed!
Keep climbing!
New mug shot (credits to Nick Pope) in the new kit
My profile on the team website can be found:

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Blokfest round 4-Bloc Climbing

Yesterday I went with my dad to Bloc Climbing Centre in Bristol for the 4th round of Blokfest. Having wrongly missed out on finals last round, I was guaranteed a place in finals this round as well as a podium prize, so I went along ready for a full day.
I knew I didn't need to do well in qualifiers but I nevertheless wanted to achieve a qualifying position anyway to prove my consistency to others and myself. Fortunately many of the blocks were technical challenges so I was able to top a good number (22 of 25) achieving 210/250. However I fell off a moderately easy problem first go as I jumped straight on it in the heat of the day, only to discover that the holds were glistening with sweat and I had forgotten my chalk bag! I got back on it, equipped with chalk and a brush and got it easily second go, to my frustration. Apart from this, the qualifiers were good fun and well set. My favourite problem of the day I didn't top as I couldn't reach a hold on it. However the first part was very fun, involving a bat hang and a no-hands rest on a volume.
I thought I probably hadn't done enough to get a top 5 position due to my mistake on the easy problem I fell off.
To my surprise, when the finalists' names were announced, I discovered I had qualified in joint 4th, meaning despite having qualified automatically, I had also qualified in my own right! We weren't in isolation for very long and soon enough it was observation time. With 2 minutes to read each of the three finals blocks we didn't have much time to get a sense of them. I was pleased to find that my first block consisted of good crimps and  did not have a weird sequence. However, my second block started with a kick off two volumes to grab another, sloping volume. The rest of the problem looked easy but I doubted I could do the first move. My third block appeared to have a very odd sequence and was long, meaning I would probably only have 2-3 good attempts on it.
I was second out on block 1 and felt a buzz of anxiety rush through me as I knew the previous climber had flashed this so I couldn't afford to mess up. Fortunately I found the holds grippy and positive and managed to flash it without too much hassle. The second block was more tricky and I didn't have much faith in my first 2 attempts, throwing myself half-heartedly at the volume and sliding off. However, on my 3rd attempt I went more slowly, balancing on my feet and dodging around the volume to grab the top and side, meaning I was more secure. The last part was droppable and I knew if I fell off I probably wouldn't get the first move again. However, I climbed carefully and topped.
For the final problem I knew I stood a chance of placing on the podium- two of my competitors hadn't topped the second problem and one hadn't flashed the first, putting me in joint 1st with Gwyneth Uttley. I knew the game wasn't over yet so I went out to the third block determined. Infuriatingly I was called off on my first go as apparently I hadn't matched the starting foot hold ( I was sure I had!) so I threw away the flash. On my second go I got through the first part, coming from a hanging start to an undercut, up to a slot and onto a volume, before coming around the corner to the bonus hold-a side pull. However, I wasn't climbing carefully enough and slipped coming round the corner to the next hold. Now tired from a long attempt I let the time run down to 10 seconds left before jumping back on the wall. I got through the first part quite easily and rested on the volume-this was my last attempt and last chance to podium. I carefully came round the corner and pulled up to the last hold-a round volume. Matching, I jumped down relieved  and watched the others.
I was slightly disappointed not to win, as Gwyneth topped the last one second go, putting her in 1st place. However I was thrilled to come 2nd in my first senior final, beating many strong climbers. Unfortunately I won't be able to attend the final round next month as I have another competition then,  but I'm happy to end my Blokfest season on a high!
Keep climbing!
On the podium! (photo credits: Joseph Schenk)

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

GB Team Inaugural Meeting

Last weekend I woke up at 5.45am to catch a train to Sheffield for the GB Team Inaugural Meeting. Despite having to wake up so early I was really excited to get to know my teammates and coaches better and to get an idea of how the year was going to turn out. 
After a welcoming speech from the senior lead team coach the lead and boulder teams were split into groups for our profiling and training. Under the scrutiny of the coaches, everyone warmed up and then I was weighed and measured before doing some strange fitness tests to determine my general stability, flexibility  and upper body strength. I didn't find the tests particularly hard  but they got me to work muscles I never even knew I had! 
After lunch we had a go at some comp-style boulders set especially for the training day. These proved to be fiendishly difficult due to the combination of small holds and large, bad ones, lots of volumes, lots of angles and some strange sequences of moves. I personally felt quite strange being the only person not on the bouldering team in my group. However I found the problems very interesting and enjoyed trying them.
We all went to the meeting room after to partake in some group workshops to do with scheduling training around school and competing in comps under a lot of time pressure. We then watched climbing videos, pausing them at different points as a route reading exercise. Overall I found this section of the day helpful, although I didn't get to do much climbing.
After a relaxing evening at Wagamama's and a good night's sleep at the trusty Premier Inn I woke up the next day ready for more training. 
The day began with a talk from Ian Dunn, the head coach of the junior lead team, about the comps this year and what to expect concerning selection/kit/sponsorship etc. The lead team then warmed up together (with strict orders from the coaches as apparently we were all appalling at this the previous day) and we took part in a route reading workshop-climbing blind fold! We each had to choose a moderately easy route to top rope, reading it carefully first and trying to remember as much of it as possible when climbing it blind folded with a partner shouting advice to help. I managed to get my way up a 6b although the experience was strange and very different from what I'm used to.
After lunch I had a private meeting with my mum, Ian and Tony Smith, the parents' rep, to discuss my weaknesses and what comps/training events I am likely to attend this year. A lot was said about the European Youth Cup in May and the European Championships in September so fingers crossed I get to compete in those!
Next the team did a bouldering route reading exercise, this time based solely on memory. The aim was to complete a boulder with as many moves as possible without being told were to go whilst on the wall, having been shown it just once before. I found this quite easy but will practice it in my own training to improve my memory for climbing in finals.
The day ended with a series of functional movement systems tests to assess flexibility and body stability/balance. These were very strange and I have no idea how I performed on them but I am told that they are vital for athlete profiling.
Overall the weekend was an unusual experience but I enjoyed it and look forward to the next team training at the end of this month.
Keep climbing!

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Blokfest-finalist among the big guns

On Saturday 9th January I set out at midday to Mile End Climbing Wall to compete in the third round of the 2015/16 Blokfest series. Blokfest is a fun, bouldering festival, open to all ages and abilities making it the most chilled series of comps of the year. In the qualifiers of each round, there are 25 blocks set for each category (female and male seniors, juniors and veterans-some blocks overlap categories) and the aim of the game is complete as many as you can in 4 hours, with 10 points for every flash, 7 for 2nd attempt, 3 for 3rd and 1 for any other attempt. The top 5 climbers for seniors of each gender battle it out in a showcase final consisting of 3 hard blocks, with 3 min+ timing.
Upon arrival I was told that the senior British Bouldering Team were all competing, due to them being in London for training. This excited me as I knew, while I don't specialize in bouldering so could in no way compete with these big guns, I would be able to watch them climb in the final, which would be a spectacle worth seeing.
The wall was packed and I found it very difficult to warm up, due to a lack of space and having to queue for every easy block. After a small number of easy problems I decided to get on the harder blocks anyway, despite still being cold, as I knew the time would run out and the queues would increase in length.
Luckily, many of the difficult blocks were my style-slabby, delicate problems which could only be overcome with precision of the feet and small fingers on crimpy holds. I managed to somehow flash two of the most difficult slabs before trying a slightly overhanging, longer problem which I got to the last move on and came off. I decided after this to take a short rest and have some food before trying the remaining 3 harder problems I had not completed as well as all the other easy problems.
I was disappointed not to complete the problem which I got to the last move on, as I tried it many times but could not seem to hold the sloping holds right. The other problems I didn't complete included a horrific slab consisting of chalky, sloping volumes and a powerful problem on great bulbous volumes which I couldn't even do the first move of.
Overall I was very pleased with my score, achieving 220/250, as I flashed all but 3 problems, none of which I managed. However, I was disappointed not to make finals as, despite having believed at the beginning of the day that I had no chance with such strong competition, I had started to realize that I had done very well compared to others. Nevertheless, the finals were very exciting to watch and I thoroughly enjoyed the day.
I thought that was the end of that...until yesterday when my mum told me she had been notified that the scores had been calculated wrong. I had qualified for the finals along with the likes of Shauna Coxsey, Leah Crane, Michaela Tracy and Tara Hayes, all of whom are top boulderers in the UK and some of whom are top in the world (Shauna, most notably is ranked no. 2 in the world). A mistake had been made and I had not been invited to climb in the finals. I was amazed to find this out as the thought that I had qualified to climb in a final with these girls in my less-favoured discipline was unbelievable. In the process, I had beaten others on the senior bouldering team. However I was disappointed to have missed this opportunity.
Luckily, as compensation for the mistake, I will automatically get to climb in the finals of next round and I will receive a prize! Well done to everyone who competed and everyone who helped organize the event.
Keep climbing!