At the risk of upsetting a lot of folk. Im going out on a limb here. Lockdown was one of the most precious times in my life. A truly Divine time. When the virus shenanigans all started I was pretty nervous. With a baby on the way I did not want anything, any harm coming near that house. At the time I was working for Rock UK at Summit Centre. Id spent the previous year and a half grafting my arse off running the Climbing Wall, trying to make a difference in that wall with so much untapped potential. For this community of climbers to have what it is has so long deserved. When the virus hit, I needed a break. I needed to heal my Soul ready for welcoming this little man into the world. With a few big BMC events set to be held at the wall and the outbreak on the cusp, I was not keen. I was not sticking around to bring illness to the mother of my child or him. I was mega relieved when furlough was announced and I could spend time healing up my fractured self.
As the day of Lockdown was announced, myself, Rich and Fyfe were spending a few days in Pembrokeshire finding new blocs, visiting gems and generally having a blast, climbing well.
'Agents of Shield 7b' - Mynnydd Dinas
On returning and discovering all these crazy rules and the potential of being stuck in a box during a time when life was exploding with drama, I made the decision to look after my own health, my way, taking full consideration of others. Liam and I (visited occasionally by Rich the legendary Italian Stallion) all made a largely unspoken but obvious pact pretty quickly that we'd take this opportunity to avoid the general mess of people at all costs, protect our families, but be outside as much as possible, in the remotest, cleanest, freshest, beautifulest places South Wales can offer. We'd climb, laugh, unplug from the onslaught of bullshit media and fear. We'd be human, conscious, respectful of others in our own way. Truth is, we both had a heap of shit going on in our lives and we'd have been no good to anyone any other way. In full knowledge of ourselves, our situation and our families we made the calls right for us. Right for our communities in light of our current headspace and potential to explode.
So we set about a routine, meet at late morning, jumped in the van, avoid everyone else and go bloc'n all day everyday, to as many places as we could, to the remotest, quirkiest blocs we could find. For me it was a pilgrim of South Wales Bouldering and its history, a chance to discover all the crazy shit, Liam and Alex and some others had done over the years. Endlessly loving their craft. The miles walked to do what they loved. The skin and blood sacrificed for the chance to improve their climbing, improve themselves, have fun, be outside, be Men. Yeah we found some cool places like 'The Creek' and put up new blocs, thats all well and good. But nothing compares to spending each day with a brother out in the hills, no pressure, no timescale, just a good friend and fresh air..positively contaminated with a bit of maryjanes sweetest scents. Those who know, know yano?
'Oasis' 7a+/7b The Creek.
Looking for Blocs in The Creek.
Chilling underneath 'Finger Tip Poetry 7b' Road Side Crag above The Creek.
'Finger Tips Poetry' Fa.
We met police, discussed the rules, staked our case, mostly ending up having positive experiences and continuing our bouldering pilgrim. We wore our hearts on our sleeves with anyone and everyone who crossed our paths. We allowed nature to guide us and heal our hiccups and life bumps. We toiled hard, building landings, cleaning blocs, walking miles, bushwhacking (nothing compared to Joe Squires sunday jaunts ill add!). Most of the time though we didn't see another Soul but each other, we were happy with that! For me it was an apprenticeship in bouldering, id climbed for a good while in most of climbings disciplines, and wasn't half bad, but Liams on another level compared to myself, especially in the art of bouldering, my relatively newer climbing love. We'd climbed together a bunch before, but how often do you get to spend everyday for the better part of 6 months with someone, learning by osmosis without any pressure. Iron sharpens Iron. Both me and Liam are pretty hard headed folk when it comes to some things. We definitely had our fair share of disagreements. But what we both respected is our backbones. Our honesty. Our simultaneous childishness and earth centred, fucked up, crazy youth enhanced maturity. See the world doesn't need nice dainty men, a few maybe, but nice gooey people don't get shit done. Sometimes you need Men a little rough around the edges to fight a battle. Ill tell you straight, South Wales climbing would be dog shit without tough and weathered Souls. To be an honest and truthful person in life, its a necessary precondition that you will offend some people. If everyone likes and agrees with you all the time then your just playing everyone and are certainly not honest. Honest folk authentically speaking their truth, thats what we need. Anyway, sermon over! haha. Back to the climbing Ish!
'Butt Rocket" - Roadside.
I mention all this because it is the outliers, the ones ridiculed the most that 100% of the time do the most for others. In climbing, in South Wales climbing, we owe a lot to that mentality. To people going out on a limb, bending the rules, acting in courage and stoke, offending some fuddy duddies to make shit happen. Isn't that why we love climbing, you don't have to be perfect, you just have to be honest to yourself and your abilities, your strengths and weaknesses and then be bold as fuck in order to get the top.
We found new rock, a bunch that we or Liam previously has, have, just never mentioned, recorded, or whatever, it just wasn't about that for us. The valleys is without a doubt one of the most beautiful places the UK has. Having the chance to soak up all the little things, the cob webs in the morning dew, the light refracting off old quarry walls, and deep green trees. Smoke rising in the cool crisp air. A chuckle in the silence, a roar of effort, a tumbling body falling from the top of a bloc. Thats as Divine as it gets for me.
Random little bloc on a hill.
'Cave Trav' 7a+ ish - The Cave Spot.
Pads underneath an amazing project - Grade Unknown- very hard.
Binning it off the Top of "Without a Paddle" 7c The Creek.
See climbing for me is a means to an end. I love it with all my heart and soul, but i love what it makes possible more. The chance to bash yourself against a rock until you have to change yourself, the chance to support another, to be supported by another. The wilderness, making a home in amongst the dirt. The inescapable honesty you have to have to improve. The brotherhood, sisterhood, family. Its all on you, yet you are nothing without your fellow climbers, thats the true essence id take over individual success any day.
'Apres la pandemie' 7a+ - Slab in the woods (Inn Crag on UKC)
Have you ever seen a master at work? Man alive, watching Fyfe move those tiny little feet about like a dancer, clawing, hooking, pushing, flicking his way through sequences like a body based poet, it will never cease to amaze me. Theres nothing like having something look so easy you yourself jump on with full confidence you can replicate it...not a chance! You cant fake 10 thousand hours + of practice and dedication to a craft. You cant fake raw tenacity for what you love. But it does pass on to others! That confidence I get from seeing what is possible is awesome. You get humbled a lot, but the barriers we put up in our own mind slowly disappear too. I still cant apply sideways by-lateral pressure through my feet while floating sideways by the force of Jedi mind powers (thats how it looks at least), on the tiny holds like these true masters of rock do. (Yano the Fyfes, Toms, Eliots, Paddies, Si's and alike) But I can now accept fully that the only way to eat my slice of heaven is to commit 100% with your heart on your sleeve, in truth, to your own and others potential for greatness. I can now say hmmm Heaven is a state of mind simply shared with others.
Cheers Lockdown, Cheers Fyfe, I and Split Tips owe you and the Valleys land a lot.
Big Love x
For anyone who reads this, I am not one for writing or selling myself or my stories outside of a genuine conversation. But after reading Ishy boys writings and him asking if I would like to add something I will give it a punt!
The stark reality of the whole lockdown entrapment was something I immediately decided, based on where I lived, the position I was in, with lots of spare time and psych I would be going out climbing and walking in the immediate areas I could get too. I didn't know what would happen or what I would be faced with, but also as long as my family were not put at risk by me bringing any virus home, I decided I would just do my own thing and have some solitude for me, just my pad, shoes and chalk.
Ish decided he would do the same, as there were plenty of places either could go and not see another soul. Reality soon struck that company makes bouldering what it is. And we would act and soon make the connection of becoming extended family real in our lives.
So I had ideas of plenty of unclimbed rock and areas, combined with this, it all felt the perfect time to finally put ‘The Origin’ at Dinas to bed… for weeks we encountered nobody, lying on a pad in an empty Dinas car park smoking a fatty after an amazing session, just seeing the odd familiar face of a local dog walkers and them being happy to have a chance at smiling at someone! It was surreal!
But times would change, people getting territorial made us start our covert ops to crags, C.C.S was formed! Covert Covid Sending became a daily thing, armed with bouldering essentials, an ounce of skunk and shit load of psych, we developed some amazing boulders. ‘Without a Paddle’ ,'C.C.S' and many others came to fruition. The tour was insane! We revisited some old bangers I had kept to myself, ‘Stereotypical’ is a prime example, the best bit of sandstone in wales!
'C.C.S' 8a F.A: Prime day.
After weeks of walking, smoking and talking it was time to get sorted and settle a score at Dinas. Now walking from the industrial estate behind my house due to covid complainers trying to territorialise the parking at Dinas. Mind blown that I was literally living on the other side of the hill and the patheticness of their arguments, we unlocked the ultimate, a beautiful and blissful 45 min approach over the hill from Rhigos… with the perfect joint spot halfway! The perfect place to sit and watch a sunset after a sesh, the time had come! Slay the demons and ‘Origin’!
3 sessions a week, a fairly brutal walk in and the doubt slowly creeping back in, I just wanted it done! Little did I realise after a few easy days out climbing the fitness of all the exploring and the positive headspace I was in, the time had come!
We walked in, the day was beautiful! The birds chirping, no sounds of cars or any distraction, joined by some other fellow C.C.S scandals! I wasn't going home, there was no danger to my family, my mind was clear and present, although a bit hazed from all the dutch stuff, I was better than ever.
Hazed but ready for the 'Origin' 8b+ Dinas.
First go went well, I felt good. Second go was a complete Punt my nerves kicked up. Time to roll a rocket, sit in peace and brush the holds…. I remember saying to Ish and Rich, ‘my heel will stay and I will cruise it’. Two hard tokes on the send stick and I set off! I climbed clinical, it felt easy… my heel stayed and I pathed calmly to the end. Chapter over, most productive and beneficial time of my life. I decided that moment like the moment before this section of the story that it was now time to leave Wales. Maybe one day I will write about Swizzy, that's a crazy story for another day.
Cheers to everyone who joined us and used their brain at that time, for the constant love that was within our group, you are all the reason I found myself…
Especially Ish, brother we had the time of our lives!
"Safety in numbers"
Without a Paddle
Not sure on the name but a gem around 7a - 7b.
Unknown a cool little bloc in a beautiful spot - Roadside.
Deryn Boulders Sandbaged 6a+ probs 7a+ classic Fyfe and Al.
New stuff opposite side of the road to Deryn Boulders, Great little crag loads to go at.
Gem of a Bloc Above Cwm Dare! Quite a number of routes on the bloc considering its size. Think this trav goes at around 7a-7b.
Slab in the woods (Inn crag) "wild step".
Other little gems.
Fyfe running laps on 'Body Wisdom' at his home crag: Kennelgarth Dinas.
Cheers Fyfe for all the shots! shame theirs not more of you! But your far prettier behind the lense anyway butt! haha Big Love. Cheers folks!