Autumn flew by; a lovely final Rock & Sun weekend, a month of living wild in the bivouac sites and meeting some really great fellow van-dwellers and climbers, visits from friends and mushrooms season. Our climbing fire was stoked by all the different people we had the pleasure of bouldering with, finding new excitement in old areas and exciting new areas. A late summer arrived in October, softening us all up for when the cold weather arrived with a kick towards the end of the month.
One day we woke up to frost-tipped golden bracken and fantastic climbing conditions to see off those sticky projects - when it wasn't too damp. The forest, which had swelled with people during September and October, returned to it's quiet, close depths and the bivouac sites emptied when the taps were finally shut off. We retreated gratefully to a work exchange arrangement with some friends and the warmth of their guest house, fitting shorter climbing sessions more appropriate to the cold in between crafting an oak and tiled worktop shelf.
Was at the right time, for us. It had been cold for long enough to enjoy the good conditions, but the bad were becoming more frequent too. Most of our friends had been and gone, and we spent a lovely meal with those that live in the area. Sam boarded a rather impressive send-train towards the end, fitting in last minute ascents of classic 8a's Les Beaux Quartiers and Amok amongst others, and I re-climbed Close Contact for the gazillioneth time, until I was happy I had finally done the right line. The fun we have...
We headed back to the UK in an appropriate farewell mizzle, content in our decision.
Couldn't talk about winter without mentioning training... Despite being predominantly outdoor climbers now, we both started climbing indoors and still enjoy it. I love messing about indoors, and try to incorporate a bit of order and training into my sessions, whilst Sam just really digs training. When we are in the Stroud area we usually climb at TCA in Bristol, a great wall especially for steep training, and always a good crowd of people. In Cornwall, we have the ace Vortex Climbing Wall to retreat to.
There is one advantage to being back for the cold, damp, dark British winter – it's climbing competition season. For us, they are a great way to try some different styles of problems, catch up with friends and meet other climbers, and get a bit of a buzz on.
At the beginning of December I went to the redpoint comp at Rockstar Climbing in Swindon. The routes were good, they have some nice volumes and holds and are using them well to create some fun, athletic routes. I was incredibly pumped through the whole event; climbing more than three problems was a bit of a novelty, and it was definitely a call to work on my power endurance as my hands were just letting go on their own by the end. However, for the first competition back, and almost my first indoor climb for a month or so, I was pretty happy with my climbing...and definitely chuffed to finish second in the adult female and climb surprisingly well (if not well enough..!) in the finals.
The Great Outdoors
The other advantage to the cold, damp, dark British winter is that sometimes it isn't at all. There is the odd day when the sun shines over sparkling snow or the windswept coastline, and they are all the more special for their scarcity. If work and life allows we try to get outside and make the most of these days, even if we're just chopping wood in a patch of sunshine. The snow days after Christmas were super fun, running around with the dog out in the drifts on Minchinhampton Common (true name) and watching the sunset reflecting off icy particles turn our whole world molten orange.
New years eve was lovely too, we blew off pub celebrations in favour of a wild night on the cliffs, listening to the waves crashing and watching a distant fireworks celebration. Morning brought coffee and breakfast, and the obligatory walk with some friends that we (very randomly) bumped into in the car park. All quite idyllic really. Other than some old biddy smashing her car door into the van in the morning, and then getting cross that we had ruined her day when we apologetically called her on it...
Happy new year!