I walked down past the empty Christmas stalls, in the cold pouring rain, the puddles seeping into my trainers and Stop the Calvary by Jona Lewie echoing from a distance. My world felt dark and dramatic, but I felt strangely comfortable and thought ‘Yes, this is Bangor’.
I feel like the subject of making it through winter is oft covered here, but I will divulge anyway as their must be good (?) reason for this. I remember a few years ago Googling average rainfall for different parts of the UK. Non- surprisingly Wales and more specifically North Wales came up rather highly in this most intriguing research of mine.Generally however the winters have not been too dismal and the summers have been pretty good.
This winter was more than a little dark. Endless days of rain lead to the wall and with this either a rock or a hard place; depression or injury. It was at this point last year that some old sponsors of mine were bemused about my lack of social media over these dark months. I was pretty amazed with this naive view of what made for the best climbing conditions, and wondered what tick list they had seen from an unknown warrior who performed optimally in torrential rain. I instantly took a picture of my breakfast to post the next day. I literally had nothing to offer. They wouldn’t have liked this winter.
When the town you live in lacks any of the desirable attributes a place with which people may wish to inhabit should have, you quickly find yourself falling into a very monotonous pattern. For me this went something like; uni work, lunch (probably with some eggs in there), Orange is the new Black or Trailer Park Boys (nice bit of variety), tiny bit more uni work, wall, and then finally the pub (very little variety in Bangor) or maybe a nice film (again much needed variety). Whilst this doesn’t sound like a dreadful day it becomes surprisingly tedious, and always highlights just how important real climbing is for that much needed stimulation.
The only positive to all this is that going to the wall does get you strong if of course you don’t get injured or have too many pints when trying to take the edge off the night before. For this winter I actually followed a training plan and week by week ticked off all my little sessions and bits to do, the sweeping of the yellow highlighter as I ticked off another highly enjoyable fingerboard session being the only highlight of my day, bringing with it a glimmer of hope and satisfaction. I could only at this point imagine the intense feelings that ticking off a route in an actual guidebook may evoke.
The greatest relief from the winter is that I had also somehow managed to avoid getting ill/ injured, until the very end when I felt a sharp pain in my ribs. Whilst trying to absorb information from a PowerPoint, which in case I couldn’t read was also simultaneously being read out to me by my lecturer, I was struggling to breath. I realised such implications were not just from sheer boredom and decided I should get it checked out. I hoped it was merely a heart problem or maybe a punctured lung, not muscle damage so that I could continue with my climbing.
It was the latter and luckily with some rest I could soon breathe and sneeze again without keeling over in pain. Whilst climbing inside consistently highlighted how boring plastic is, being slightly injured highlighted how even climbing indoors could be missed. I do feel sorry for anyone with a real injury.
So after a few days on the rock in the UK, and a nice week or so in Spain I feel I can look back on the winter gone and make a few observations. The first of which is that North Wales in winter is probably the most written about thing on this blog, so whilst it may not sound like the best way to spend a good chunk of the year, it is clearly a subject close to my struggling heart.
However the most surprising conclusion is that training when there is nothing better to do is actually quite addictive. Moreover going to Spain at winters close with some endurance at the start of the holiday, and not just by the end, makes for much more fun. My favourite experience from a recent excursion being an onsight of Pren Nota, a beautifully sculpted wall with great climbing. Less surprisingly there is never a need to tell anyone what you had for breakfast, but for those interested I have thick porridge with Nutella, which is not mixed in, simply dolloped on the side and dipped into.