Commando Ridge

Take a look at our video from our trip to Cornwall, where John became the first blind person to climb commando ridge.

Graded a V-diff, it’s well within our capabilities but some routes are more blind friendly than others. Bosigran ridge is firmly on the less-than-friendly side with out-of-sight belays and lots of gaps and boulders to hop across.

John's hands reach over the edge of a rockface down to a deep zawn
“Not that way”
Lauren holds onto a large flake of rock wearing a red T-shirt and green backpack. Behind her you can see large pillars of rock and the green sea below.
Lauren following up as a second
John stands below the commando memorial plaque

Back on rock!

Over the past couple of weeks we’ve been climbing again (carefully). We want to be as safe as possible so sensible route and crag choices has been important. It’s so nice to get away from this new normality and forget about what has been going on for a short while. It’s not about pushing grades – it’s about spending time outdoors doing things we love.

Organising climbing kit in anticipation of a day’s climbing
Top roping at a local crag with Anita Agawaal (paraclimber)
Anita leading a climb and John belaying
John has a first aid certificate. It didn’t cover ‘suncream in the eye’ but he still knew what to do
John ‘seconding’ a route

A video from our day at Harborough rocks

Abseiling in at Symonds Yat

We’d love to know where everybody else has been climbing or having adventures now some of the restrictions have been lifted!

A picture looking down at john who had just climbed over a small ledge on the rock face

Trad climbing in a winter heatwave

We don’t think winter heatwaves are a good sign for our planet, but nevertheless, when the weather is right, you have to make the most of it. When the warmer weather hit, we headed to the peaks for some classic grit climbing at Stanage Edge (video at the end of this post).

a view of the rockface lit by the sun. There are lots of boulders below.
A view of the rockface with the 3.5 mile long gritstone edge in the background.

We working towards being better and bolder trad climbers and more often than not it’s a real head game. Trad climbing or ‘traditional climbing’ is a style that involves placing your own gear and protection in the rock face. There’s no fixed protection or bolts so you have to wedge small pieces in cracks in the rock, thread ‘slings’ through holes and try not to fall off!

Placing a nut in a crack on limestone.

Usually in climbing, the grades are only down to how difficult a route is, but in trad climbing, how well a route is protected is factored in too. Up until now, the routes we have been climbing have been low or ungraded on the technical side and up to HVD (hard very difficult). This means the climbs are usually straightforward and well protected. Our aim has been to move up to the next grade and beyond which is Severe (S), Hard Severe (HS), Hard Very Severe (HVS).

a page of the guide book with names of routes, grades and some symbols that depict scary, pumpy or slopey.
A page of the guidebook. It gives a description of the route, the grade and symbols give extra info such as slopey, pumpy or a bit scary!

At the end of last season we’d just managed to creep up to Severe on Limestone in Symonds yat. The rock type affects the style of climbing and on limestone there are lots of pockets, crimpy edges and polished footholds. A month or so later and we headed to the peak district for some gritstone climbing. Grit is characterised by very grippy but slopey holds, large cracks that require ‘jamming’ and sparse protection. We decided to take it easy and stick to HVD or lower while we got ourselves used to grit again.

lauren reading a guidebook while john prepares some kit
Sport climbing at Horseshoe Quarry in 2018. Lauren reads the guidebook while John gets the equipment ready.

Come end of Feb, the heatwave happened and we drove to the crag to make the most of it. Joined by our friend Anita, we picked a bit of wall from the distance and picked something to climb, well, Anita did and she chose a Severe to start with (Wild west wind). We were arguing about who should lead it and in the end, it looked like Lauren’s sort of climb so she went for it and it was ok but the first half was completely unprotected. This is where the headgame comes in. The technical grade was 4a and what would usually be a warm up with the safety of a rope, but without it, it feels a lot different.

Anita is standing close to the crag and is looking down.
Anita standing near the edge at Stanage

John led a route of the same grade with an awkward bulge and struggled to find the awkward cam placement early on the route. Lauren was pleased John led that one as she had to take a rest when seconding it!

John climbing in front of a sunset. he is feeling for a foothold,
John on a boulder at Stanage far right

So, it’s early in the year and were on the severes already. Looking forward to more climbs!

Bear Grylls Adventure

Back at the end of October, we visited Bear Grylls adventure in Birmingham. It was a seriously busy day jam packed with activities…so much so, we barely had time to film anything. Instead, we went on highropes, did survival mazes, obstacle courses, archery and snorkelling.

We were supposed to go scuba diving, but because of John’s hearing aids, we need a note from the doctor first – watch this space!

The great thing about this place is that on the whole, they were really up for letting John do everything without a second thought or with some extra thought into how to adapt things slightly. The managers looked after Daisy (the guide dog) when we were on activities and apart from scuba diving (which needs a medical for the ears rather than eyes) we did everything.

Looking forward to going back.

john on a boulder in the peak district

Climbing at Stanage Edge!

A few weeks back we hit the grit up at Stanage and did a few easy climbs. It was great to be joined by Anita for a couple of hours too!

The plan was to get ourselves used to being on Grit again. It’s a completely different ball game to limestone. The holds are small, but grippy and you have to trust your feet a lot. Big run outs towards the tops are the norm but it’s fun!

Here’s the video:

And here are some pics:

Lauren and John at the top of Mam Tor in the peak district

Lauren, John and Anita at the crag

John coiling a rope with the sun setting behind him

Lauren and John looking happy at the end of a days climbing with the sun setting behind them.

daisy the guide dog on a waterbike

Up till now..

We’ve not long launched our social pages but we’ve been up to quite a bit the last few weeks. Here’s all of it in a single blog!

Our first proper little adventure was one leg of a 1000 mile journey around the UK’s waterways on a waterbike to raise awareness of litter and plastic. We rode 10 miles from Birmingham city centre to Majors green and took it in turns to pedal. When John was riding, he had to have directions from Lauren which weren’t always perfect!

The next big thing we did together was take a trip to Symonds Yat. A limestone climbing venue in the Wye Valley. We had a real laugh on this one and had a few epics too (what time does the carpark close?). Best just to watch this one..

Our next little venture out was to the Peak District for a first aid course run by Al over at Gritstone adventures. John needed his for his CWI assessment and Lauren’s was due to expire. We’d spoken on the phone to Al about John being blind and we weren’t totally sure how it would go before we got there but it actually went incredibly well.

Left: John sat with his cane stuck out of his leg with bandages supporting it. Top right: Lauren and John selfie – John has a bandage on his head. Bottom right: John having a bandage put on his head.

Apart from occasionally kicking the casualty (or body as John sometimes called them!) his first aid skills were top class. Al did a great job of providing some plain text documents with the important information so John’s iPhone could read it fine. Lauren sometimes had to describe things but on the whole we think blind people have the potential to make great first aiders!

Here’s a video from our celebratory trip up Mam Tor!

Sunset from Mam Tor

The last thing to catch up on was our visit to the Petzl UK Gri Gri tour at Redpoint Birmingham. We had a good chat about belaying and then tried out soft catches. Climbers..head to a tour date if you can!