Tag Archives: climbing

Tour du Mont Blanc – solo hiking and camping trip highlights, July 2015

In July I solo hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc, camping along the way. It was physically the hardest thing I’ve done so far, involving 9 days of sustained effort to carry all my camping gear through three countries, over 170km, and up and down 10,000m of accumulated ascent/descent.

It was also one of the most rewarding experiences, with incredible views, physical and mental obstacles overcome, and many lessons learned. Here are a few of the highlights of my trip: Continue reading

Ultralight backpacking – what are the essentials…?

The first ‘proper’ scramble I did was Pinnacle Ridge on the Scottish Isle of Skye. It’s an 11km hike involving easy rock climbing and an abseil over 6 Pinnacles on the Cuillin Ridge. It reaches a high point on the summit of Scurr Nan Gillean, a Munro with a height of 964m (3162 feet). I’d never done anything like it before. I didn’t know what to expect or how to prepare, and I carried all sorts in my bag including, for some reason, flip flops.

On the summit of Sgurr Nan Gillean with Castle Mountaineering Club and flip flops...

On the summit of Sgurr Nan Gillean with Castle Mountaineering Club and flip flops…

As I gained more experience, I learned to focus on what is fundamentally important, the basics of survival – warmth, water, and food. Anything beyond that becomes a luxury. Continue reading

Sea cliff climbing, Pembroke, Wales, UK

Sea cliff climbing feels like a proper adventure, but you don’t have to commit to hard routes to have an amazing day in beautiful locations. A long weekend gave me the chance to discover a little taste of what Pembroke has to offer…

Pembroke is a good five hour drive from the Peak District, and I was glad to leave the busy motorway for South Wales’ winding country lanes. Our journey finally ended as far west as it is possible to go, in St Davids, Pembrokeshire, a county that is bordered by sea on three sides. On the very edge of the country where the last of the land drops away are the sea cliffs that we were there to climb.

Day 1 – We started at Craig Caerfai, only 600 meters from the car park it has an incredible view across Caerfai Bay. The descent runs down a gully at the corner of the cliff, and we set up an abseil using stakes driven into the cliff top.

As I lowered myself to a platform of rock washed at the edges by the incoming tide I felt aware that I had to be sure I could climb back out, but the limestone was warm and the routes are short and friendly. It’s a perfect introduction, and we ticked as many as we could before the sun began to set.

Craig Caerfai abseil/approach gully

Craig Caerfai abseil/approach gully

Craig Caerfai Main Slab

Craig Caerfai Main Slab

Day 2 – We headed to Porth-y-FFynnon, a tiny purplish sandstone slab a few hundred meters from the campsite. As we set up the abseil it began to rain, and we were forced to admit that the slab was just too wet to climb.

We dashed to south Pembroke to chase drier weather, choosing an area that would not be affected by the afternoon high tide. Stennis Head was the only crag of the weekend that involved a short scramble rather than an abseil in. Starting from a sloping ledge well above the sea, we had time to enjoy a couple of routes including a short but interesting traverse under a mini roof.

View from the top of Stennis Head

View from the top of Stennis Head

Day 3 – We made our way Stuntsmans Buttress where I was keen to lead a route called Myola. I was excited to commit to a route I hadn’t even seen and enjoyed the abseil to an otherwise inaccessible niche in the rock. The route follows a long diagonal groove from sea level right to the top of the cliff. As I waited in the niche I had time to absorb the unique position, surrounded by nothing but rock and sky, waves breaking beneath me as the tide rushed in over bleached white boulders.

As I started to lead the position felt a little intimidating, but the climbing itself was never too hard and the whole experience was incredible. The next route involved tricky route finding, sparse gear and tiny limestone edges – great climbing and perfect for me to second.

Rusty belay Stake at the top of Stuntsman's Buttress

Rusty belay Stake at the top of Stuntsman’s Buttress

Relaxing in the sun with the gear after Myola and Myopia, Stuntsmans Buttress

Relaxing in the sun with the gear after Myola and Myopia, Stuntsmans Buttress

Feeling the need for a little relaxation we walked over to investigate nearby Saddle Head which has a selection of lower grade routes and a totally different feel. There were crowds of people, but it was a good choice for a quick and easy route to end the day.

Day 4 – Our final day was spent at St Govan’s Head, the most popular area to climb in Pembroke and it’s easy to see why. There are so many routes we were spoilt for choice, but as time was limited we decided on the top 50 classic route Army Dreamers. It starts with steep juggy climbing, followed by a short thin traverse to a pumpy technical section up a thin crack. It was the best route of the weekend, and as well as offering fantastic climbing, there are some beautiful ammonite fossils on the route.

Anna waiting to second by the rock pools at St Govans

Anna waiting to second by the rock pools at St Govans

The variety of climbing combined with camping in lush green fields with a sea view makes Pembroke a perfect location. The trip was a great introduction to the area, and I can’t wait for the chance to get to know it better.

#ShAFF2015 Sheffield Adventure Film Festival – Women in Adventure Panel and networking, 21 March 2015

Having previewed some of the films in the Women in Adventure category I was excited to attend the ShAFF networking event to hear the women that made and appear in the films talking about their experiences. Festival organiser Lissa Cook was keen to explain that the theme of Women in Adventure was something that ran right through the heart of the festival, not a separate or minority part of it. The panel and networking event provided a forum to discuss issues specific to women, and the aims were celebration, inspiration, sourcing, conversation, and networking.

The event started with a celebration of some of this year’s films, showing clips from the Women in Adventure category (made by or featuring women). Selected by ShAFF judge Claire-Jane Carter, they demonstrated the wider themes of the festival, some of them thoughtful, emotional, funny, or that played with the concept of gender roles and what we expect of women. Danielle Sellwood of the Women’s Sport Trust introduced the discussion, reminding us with some shocking statistics that as with many industries there is still a way to go before women have equality of opportunity and all that comes with it – professional recognition, sponsorship, funding, and equal levels of participation. This led to wider discussion in form of Q&A with the panel.

The WIA panel members, Danielle, Nikki, Jen, Mina, Brenda, Squash, and Steph

The WIA panel members, Danielle, Nikki, Jen, Mina, Brenda, Squash, and Steph

One of the critical questions addressed whether it is necessary or counterproductive to categorise ‘women’s’ films? For some the focus on gender may not feel helpful or relevant – in some cases even patronising. The panel recognised the responsibility of filmmakers to consider the way they represent individuals in the editing of their films – are negative stereotypes enforced if we see women crying or expressing strong emotions? Freelance producer and director Brenda Piekarski is aware that there is power in the choices made by filmmakers as they edit and interpret what they capture. With filmmaker Jen Randall, she discussed a ‘movement’ in film making away from action and focusing on storytelling. She described it as a search for authenticity and truthfulness, telling the story of the individual whatever that may be. The requirement for authenticity and quality was reflected in the selection process where there was no positive discrimination, every film was judged by the same demanding criteria. Having selected the films on merit though, there is a purpose in identifying levels of representation of women.

Increasing representation and inclusion isn’t just about high profile women, but as Danielle says “you can’t be what you can’t see.” We need more stories to be spread as widely as possible – and this means more sponsorship and support. Women that are making a career out of something that they love, work hard at and excel in should be recognised for it. As adventurer Squash Falconer and stunt woman Steph Carey explained, in the moment of action they are not aware of their gender, and their achievements don’t need to be increased or diminished because they happen to be female. Some women in high profile positions do feel obliged to make things better for the women that come after them, and to achieve this there are several issues to tackle. This includes raising women’s confidence and sometimes challenging the way that we perceive ourselves.

It is exposing to share, and it requires women to be brave enough to share their stories. US Ultra Runner Nikki Kimball in Finding Traction tells a deeply personal story about how running helps her survive depression. Professional climber Mina Leslie-Wujastyk in Project Mina temporarily breaks down under the pressure to achieve, demonstrating that confidence can be an issue no matter what your level of ability. Women may feel that their stories aren’t interesting, aren’t worth telling, or worry about how they will be perceived, but women like Nikki and Mina are leading the way for other women. The moments of vulnerability are where we all relate and connect, through that connection comes inspiration.

The event ended with a networking session, an opportunity to put names to faces and for people within the industry to meet. In future the aim is that it will not be necessary to specifically promote women due to gender inequality, and ShAFF is working towards a ten year plan. The outdoors industry is fortunate that there are women and men with the vision and the passion to effect real change. Thank you to ShAFF for starting this conversation and for inviting us to be a part of it.

Details about the event and ShAFF in general are here : http://www.shaff.co.uk/shaff-fringe/women-in-adventure-network/

Grindleford Gallop 7 March 2015, 21 mile trail race, Peak District

This is the furthest that I have ever run, but not the furthest I hope to run! If you do want to increase your distance and try a longer race, the Gallop is a perfect choice. It’s a 21 mile trail race that starts and ends at Grindleford, passing through Eyam, Great Longstone, the Monsal Trail, Chatsworth, Baslow, and along Curbar and Froggatt Edges. On the morning of the race I was excited, after a winter of training and dreaming I couldn’t wait to get stuck in and see what the next 21 miles would bring.

Bo, Elise, Anna, relaxing at the end of the Gallop

Bo, Elise, Anna, relaxing at the end of the Gallop

I loved the atmosphere – I am more familiar with 10k races where people are concentrating, there is a sound of pounding feet and hard breathing and it’s over in a flash. This race was much different, although we were working hard everyone seemed more relaxed and I felt that we were in it together rather than competing against each other. You can enter as a runner or a walker and walkers start when they like, meaning that there are other people along the route as you run and there’s no pressure to race as hard as you can – just go at your own pace and enjoy.

As I start to run longer races, I worry that I’ll go the wrong way or get lost. It might not always be possible to recce a route in advance, but in training we covered the Gallop in four sessions. It helped to build my confidence and meant that I could really take the time to look around and enjoy being out in the Peak District. I can’t recommend the race route enough, if you don’t want to run it in one go it’s still worth breaking it up and running the different sections. There is a magic moment when you approach checkpoint three (Longstone Edge) over the crest of a hill, and a whole new side of the valley opens up in your view. My heart always melts when I run through herds of deer past Chatsworth House, and being a climber, Curbar and Froggatt edges feel like coming home. If you don’t recce in advance though, don’t worry, there will be other people around, and there are signs at vital turning points.

Since I had never run so far I didn’t feel any pressure to be fast. I wanted to find out whether I really could do it and enjoy it. I didn’t have any idea how long it would take, although I had a target time of 3 hours 30 mins in mind I just wanted to complete the distance and aim for under 4 hours. I was nervous about running too hard in case I exhausted myself and couldn’t carry on, and because of that I never ran hard enough to be uncomfortable. Time seemed to go so quickly, the six checkpoints almost flashed by, and I finished in 3:37. I’m pleased with the time, but motivated because I know there is room to go faster.

On reflection, I still have a lot to learn. I believe the distance was a little too far for me at this point and I need to keep increasing my distance slowly in training to avoid any long term injuries. I need to practice more uphill (always more uphill!), and I need to work on my confidence, both in navigation and in running a bit harder. I like to eat eat plenty while I’m running and need to find suitable non-solid food. I also need to take the recovery more seriously, respecting the impact of running long distances on my body by eating right and taking the right rest.

Although the race was over in a few hours, the whole experience was the result of months of training. Although each person runs it on their own effort, we all support each other and will each other on. At the end of the race I was so proud of us for making it, and so happy to share it with Bo (uber training partner), Elise, Steve, and Ben. All the effort was worth it, the distance really wasn’t anything to fear. I tried to imagine that I was having a little break, and then would be running another 15 miles… the thought didn’t horrify me, in fact I’m looking forward to being able to increase my distance, run further and see more…

Ben, Elise, Anna, Bo, Steve celebrating at the finish of the Gallop... the start of training for the next race...

Ben, Elise, Anna, Bo, Steve celebrating at the finish of the Gallop… the start of training for the next race…

Kinder Downfall – winter walking in the Peak District

With snow and ice still in command this weekend I gave up on the idea of a 10 mile training run and took the opportunity to visit Kinder Downfall. We started from Edale up Grindsbrook, planning to hike across Kinder, then loop back down the Pennine Way to Jacob’s Ladder back to Edale, a round trip of about 8 miles.


Gate framing the trail up Grindsbrook

The usual trail was buried in deep snow and we reached the top via an icy gully. Not a problem with good boots, although we were concerned about the tourists in trainers who were picking their way up behind us.

View down towards Edale from the top of Grindsbrook

View down towards Edale from the top of Grindsbrook

The view across Kinder was spectacular and intimidating, completely white with no points of reference. Thick cloud was blowing through, so visibility changed from just meters to miles and back in the space of a few minutes. I was cautious about setting off into such a featureless landscape, but once we found the Pennine Way it was easy to follow…

The Pennine Way

The Pennine Way

…too easy really, and it wasn’t long before we decided to leave the trail and make our way across the totally pristine landscape and aim directly for the Downfall area. What an amazing experience, there were no footprints except rabbits, birds, and then our own. The wind blown snow has a fluid feel, forming in peaks and troughs like waves, and at times the clouds seemed to be below us so that I felt even more that I had washed up somewhere totally separate from reality.

Featureless snowy landscape on Kinder

Featureless snowy landscape on Kinder

After some time surfing and wading in the general direction of the Downfall the view suddenly changed and a rocky outcrop was visible. At 30 meters Kinder Downfall is the tallest waterfall in the Peak District, and in winter conditions it becomes a beautiful and precarious pillar of ice. Nearing the top of the Downfall I noticed strange formations of ice coating the gritstone boulders, glittering in the last of the day’s sunlight.

Ice formed around boulders at the top of Kinder Downfall

Ice formed around boulders at the top of Kinder Downfall

There was nowhere safe to stand, so unfortunately I couldn’t take a photo of the frozen Kinder Downfall. Two climbers were reaching the top and reported that conditions at the the bottom were not good, although it hadn’t deterred them from their ascent. As the clouds parted again the view down to the valley was spectacular.

View over the top of the Downfall to the valley below

View over the top of the Downfall to the valley below

The sun was beginning to go down and after one last look around it was time to leave. This is the first time that I have been to Kinder Downfall and what an incredible time to visit.

Icicles forming over the roacks at the edge of the Downfall

Icicles forming over the roacks at the edge of the Downfall

It was an easy walk home from here, whipping down the Pennine Way – actually easier in snow than on a normal day as all the awkward rocky sections became soft snow to wade down. What an amazing day, I can’t wait to come back in the summer to see what it looks like when the water is flowing, the ground isn’t frozen under ice and snow, and the rock is dry enough to climb.

Anna at the trig point on Kinder, taking the Pennine Way back down to Jacob's Ladder

Anna at the trig point on Kinder, taking the Pennine Way back down to Jacob’s Ladder

#ShAFF2015 Women in Adventure Film Previews – Sheffield Adventure Film Festival 2015

I have attended the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival regularly for the past few years, so I was excited to have the opportunity to preview four of the films that will be shown in the Women in Adventure category at #ShAFF2015. This year there will be double the number of films featuring female athletes and/or made by female directors and producers. This is due to a conscious effort by the organisers of the event not just to select more films made by and featuring women, but to address the reasons that there are disproportionately fewer women in front of and behind the camera. There will be competitions specifically for Women in Mountain Adventure Films, Women in Adventure Photography, and the exciting development of a ShAFF Fringe Women in Adventure Forum. The Forum has the specific aims of celebrating achievement, inspiring and encouraging more women to get involved, and to establish a network for women in adventure/outdoors sport to keep the conversation going.

The Showroom is a local independent cinema, it’s a perfect venue for ShAFF and really does help create the festival feel. It’s a great feeling to watch quality films with a crowd of people that ‘get it.’ In previous years there have been some fantastic moments, particularly the collective reaction to climbing films, often featuring familiar faces in places we know well and love. As well as celebrating the achievements of Sheffield’s outdoors community, adventure films are a source of inspiration, a way to open my eyes to sports or places that I haven’t seen before, and to possibilities and aspirations for myself. The following four films feature truly diverse women and their personal adventures. I absolutely loved watching them, and I’m looking forward to the rest of the ShAFF films.

Finding Traction – As an aspiring ultra runner, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to preview this film in which female ultra runner Nikki Kimball takes on the record for running the Long Trail through the mountains of Vermont. At 273 miles, the Long Trail is the equivalent of running more than 10 marathons back to back, and includes twice the elevation of Everest. To run this trail non stop is an extreme physical and mental challenge, it’s fascinating and sometimes painful to watch the effects of fluctuations in nutrition, hydration, and fatigue. As a successful athlete with a career spanning many years, Nikki has an insight into the ways that women and men are treated differently in sport. She is running the Long Trail to publicise a charity, Girls on the Run, and wants to inspire young women to discover that being outdoors will make them happy. You don’t have to be a runner or a woman to enjoy this film, but if you happen to be both, don’t miss it!

Megamoon – This film is made by Hannah Maia and features herself and her new husband as they cycle across the US Transcontinental Great Divide for their Megamoon. First this involves rafting the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, then cycling from New Mexico, via desert heat, wind, and mud to Alberta, Canada. Hannah owns this film, she has shared a piece of her personal world and it is full of joy and the love of life. I particularly enjoyed the little moments captured by the camera, a wheel popping off the trailer unexpectedly, beard wiggling, and the face that happens when your tent nearly gets struck by lightning. I was so inspired by this film I was practically packing my bags to go and find my own Mega adventures before the end titles had finished.

Patience – A short film by Jen Randall about alpine climber Emily Ward and her journey to recovery from serious illness against the odds. It demonstrates the need not just for physical strength but for mental strength and the persistence to endure. Often in life, it takes a negative event to force us to find strength through adversity – but I don’t think so in Emily’s case. I’m sure she was exceptionally strong before her illness, and will continue to be in spite of it. This is a woman who has made numerous first alpine ascents in Kyrgyzstan. This film challenged me to question whether I have the strength of character needed to achieve my goals. I hope so, and if so, what am I waiting for?

Nobody’s River – In this film four girls from the USA kayak together along the longest free-flowing river in the world, first through Mongolia and then Russia. The film shares the highs and lows of the all-female expedition, the timing of this journey coinciding with an unforeseen tragic period in their lives. They encounter the beauty, naivety and spontaneous magic of Mongolia, tempered by the sometimes brutal reality reflected in the Russian experience. Feeling themselves bonding as a tribe, they are forced to take difficult decisions, having to make the right calls both as a group and individually. This is a film about friendship as much as adventure, the girls survive the physical and emotional challenges of the journey together using their unique blend of strength, capability… and just the right amount of intuition.

You can find all the details about ShAFF Women in Adventure here – http://www.shaff.co.uk/news-and-press/2014/11/05/Women_In_Adventure_Take_Centre_Stage_At_SHAFF_2015

And here is a link to the complete list of Women in Adventure films – http://www.shaff.co.uk/whats-on/women-in-adventure-films

Because #thisgirlcan ! A national campaign by Sport England, January 2015

This week Sport England launched a campaign “to celebrate active women who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it, or how they look” www.thisgirlcan.co.uk.  It features women participating in activities like cycling, zumba, and climbing. It’s so liberating to see these real women, and I have personally been reflecting on how important it is to have female role models to encourage and inspire me.

Although I train and climb with equal numbers of men and women, I particularly value the time I spend with female friends. We are more evenly matched in terms of strength and performance, which means that we participate on an equal footing and are more likely to share common goals to work towards.

I find it empowering to take decisions and plan together, and feel especially proud of what I have achieved through team work with my female friends, whether climbing a hard route or navigating a race in the hills. Beyond training and performance, being active together creates real quality time, shared experiences, and lays the foundations for strong and supportive friendships.

In the media and coverage of the outdoors world I generally find strong women’s voices are less common. I don’t know if that is because there are proportionally fewer women participating, whether fewer women seek to publicise and share their adventures, or whether they struggle to have their voices heard in stereotypically more masculine environments. Or maybe I just haven’t been looking in the right places.

I don’t need my role models to be exceptional in terms of performance. It’s great to celebrate women that are at the top of their game and pushing the boundaries, but regardless of your level of performance I love to see the places that you are being active, and the things that you are doing, because if you can do it, so can I.

How women are presented in the media and online is important, and This Girl Can feels so right because it has a message that all women can relate to. We need to see realistic images of healthy women. We can celebrate using our female bodies without sexualising them. We do not need make up or air brushing to make us look healthy and vibrant.

Packing light and having access to minimal facilities has challenged my assumptions about the ‘essentials’ of life, including realising that in certain circumstances make up has no practical use. Pushing my physical and mental limits has taken me to a place where there is no room to think about how I look. Being active gives me a sense of wellbeing and achievement that feels so good that it pushes out the insecurities about how I might look while I’m doing it.

It can be a vulnerable feeling to share your thoughts and experiences, but I believe that we are all role models and mentors, encouraging and inspiring each other. I would like to see active women increasing our representation, and this means building confidence in our skills and abilities, finding our voices and being comfortable sharing to a wider audience. It means recognising that our opinions and experiences have value.

My small part of it is to keep sharing the joy of being active outdoors in all seasons in the best way that I can, and to keep reading and being inspired by you…

The year is dead – long live the year… five favourites of 2014

2014 is over and I’m already anticipating everything 2015 will bring, but before I race too far ahead I’d like to take a moment to appreciate some of the best bits of this year. Here are my five favourite climbing experiences:

  1. Camino del Rey, El Chorro, Spain – 1 January 2014: This is a via-ferrata-type experience on a
    The Camino del Rey on New Years day

    The Camino del Rey on New Years day

    crumbling concrete and rusting iron walkway. It was built more than 100 years ago to allow hydroelectric plant workers access around the gorge, but fell into disrepair and became accessible only to climbers. Having never done via feratta before, and having a sheer drop to the valley floor between my feet from the first move, initially I was scared and backed off the Caminito. Left on my own at the start of the walkway though, I realised I didn’t want to miss out, and I made my way across polished limestone and rusted iron bars to catch up with my partner. It was a unique and atmospheric experience, never to be repeated as the authorities in Spain have since rebuilt and reopened the walkway as a safe and accessible tourist attraction.

A flavour of the Camino

A flavour of the Camino

  1. Via Media (VS 4c), Stanage Popular, Peak District – 1 March 2014: This was one of those days that remind me exactly why I climb. In spring sunlight with clear blue skies Stanage looked beautiful. Stanage Popular has an abundance of routes, but I always notice Via Media. It’s a 10m route that starts with a thin straight crack on a flat wall and it went on my wishlist as soon as I saw it, even when I thought the grade was way beyond me. It doesn’t happen often, but on this day almost all my climbing partners were out and at the same crag, creating a happy atmosphere. Clio belayed for me, I always feel particularly proud to climb routes with her as we don’t often see two girls leading routes together. All around me routes were being ticked, and I ticked mine, no drama, just an enjoyable climb at one of my favourite places with some of the best people.
Jonny belaying on a spring day at Stanage

Jonny belaying on a spring day at Stanage

  1. Doorpost (HS 4b), Bosigran, Cornwall – 18 April 2014: When I first learned to climb I would
    Leading the crux pitch of Doorpost, Bosigran

    Leading the crux pitch of Doorpost, Bosigran

    happily second every route, but now that I’m learning to lead I feel the need to pull my own weight a little more. Alt-leading is such a rewarding climbing experience, combining the luxury of seconding pitches in fantastic positions with the challenge of leading. Doorpost is a classic three pitch route at one of the most popular sea cliffs in Cornwall, and Jonny was able to lead an E-grade first pitch to make the route more interesting for him. I led the second pitch, technically the crux but really very straight forward, and Jonny led the final pitch. We spent a long long time at the first belay ledge, due to a slightly over-confident third person in the party ahead of us realising that he actually couldn’t second HS in trainers. All the more time to look out at the sea, watch for seals, and enjoy the Cornish sun.

Seconding sea cliffs in Cornwall

Seconding sea cliffs in Cornwall

  1. Slam the Jam (6a), Horseshoe Quarry, Peak District – 15 May 2014: I wouldn’t recommend this route to anyone, the bottom half involves a broken up groove which in Horseshoe Quarry style feels like it could collapse if you stand on the wrong part of it. The bolt that would protect the crux felt a bit too high and resulted in shaky precarious clipping, much slack, and a nervous belayer (Clio). But the finish is no-excuses hand jamming for several moves through a roof and up a rightwards slanting perfect hands crack. This is when I realised that I really had learned to jam! I was so amazed I led it twice, just to check that I didn’t dream it.
  1. Nutcracker 5.8, Manure Pile Buttress, Yosemite Valley – 15 September 2014: Yosemite granite schools us and schools us again. This time the lesson was that one litre of water is not enough for two people on a 150m 5 pitch climb during a heat wave. We had just arrived from autumn in the UK and hadn’t anticipated just how much heat would radiate off the rock. This is one of the most popular routes in Yosemite, so we should have realised when it was deserted that conditions wouldn’t be great! The route follows a series of cracks, the first one being the hardest with a pumpy and slippery layback round a roof. After that the climbing is never too hard, but certainly interesting, including a very intimidating looking mantle up a slightly overhanging corner. Long multipitch is what climbing is all about for me, we don’t get to do it very often in the Peaks where the longest route is around 35m. I didn’t lead any pitches, so thanks to Jonny for this experience.
Relaxing in El Cap Meadow, rehydrating after surviving the Nutcracker

Relaxing in El Cap Meadow, rehydrating after surviving the Nutcracker

Now… Onwards to 2015 and all it’s adventures, planned and unplanned, bring it on… Happy New Year!

Beating winter blues – Three ways to increase your motivation in winter

In the past I have found the winter months quite hard, often feeling low on energy and quite down. As darkness fell I just wanted to be in bed, and winter felt like a period of hibernation to be endured until lighter warmer days. This year is different. I feel energised and more motivated than ever. I know it isn’t always easy, but it is possible to actively create the right conditions to keep your motivation and energy up. Here are three ways to enjoy rather than endure this winter:

1 – Discover what you love, and do more of it. It’s important to me that I enjoy what I choose to do with my free time, and that it doesn’t feel like a pressure or a chore. At the moment it isn’t really practical to climb outdoors after work, but it is possible to run. I would like to get faster, I could go to the track and do speed sessions. But the thought of it doesn’t inspire me, and in the past I have found that the pressure of ‘having’ to stick to a training programme actually demotivates me. There have been many great moments, but one that particularly inspired me recently was pausing on a night time run at one of my favourite places at Stanage. Turning the headtorch off, looking across at the moonlit shapes of the hills on the horizon and the patterns of the lights in the Hope Valley I saw a totally new perspective on the familiar landscape that I love. When I finish work, even when it’s dark and the weather is wild, there is no part of me that doesn’t want to get out there and run through the Peaks because I know that each run will give me a unique experience. I don’t think of it as training, but as I have stopped putting pressure on myself to achieve and just enjoyed what I’m doing, I’m finding that improvements are coming naturally.

2 – Find a goal that inspires you, see yourself achieving it, and feel the real connection between that longer term vision and today’s training. I find it easy to set myself targets – for example to run a faster 10k, and it’s good to work towards them so that I can measure my progress. But targets can become a pressure, something else to beat myself up about if I don’t make progress fast enough, or if I ‘fail’ to live up to them. This winter I also have a vision – I want to go further so that I have the opportunity to see more. I want to visit remote places and learn how to be self sufficient and leave no trace. I want to acclimatise to alpine air and run up and down mountains. I want to smell warm pines and run on soft sandy trails. These goals are not quantifiable – there are no criteria to pass or fail. The only thing that will stop me is if I don’t go and do it. It has given me something to really work for, a reason to run further and faster. To be capable of achieving and enjoying them I have to train, and having such vivid goals means that I really feel like every step I train is a step that will enable me to live those dreams.

3 – Connect with people with similar attitudes and interests, stay in touch and support each other. It’s great to spend time with people who are enjoying what they’re doing. I have gained so much inspiration through meeting or reading about people that are passionate about what they do. I have fantastic training partners and friends that are always up for it, full of ideas and positivity. Through their attitudes and achievements they are proving to me what is possible. I have also found that reading magazines and following other runners, climbers, and hikers online has really made me feel part of a community and given me so many ideas for things I’d like to do. Whether we meet in person, or virtually, we are all part of a community that shares values, interests, passion, and energy. In whichever way works for you, give that support when you can, and take it when you need it.

It’s so important to make positive choices about how you spend your time and who you spend it with. Trust yourself, listen to how you feel, and make what you do work for you.  I want to say again – I know that it isn’t always easy, and sometimes even small steps can feel tough. If you feel like you struggle through winter, don’t be overwhelmed by the journey ahead, focus on those first small steps and have confidence that you are already increasing your motivation and creating the conditions to beat the winter blues.

What motivates you, especially in the winter? What do you do if you start to feel low or in a rut? If you can identify with this subject I would invite you to comment and share…