Tim and Olive attempt to understand each other, but neither have quite got there yet!

A few days ago, I was climbing with Mick Lovatt at Llawder, Rhoscolyn, north Cymru. Ray Wood came along to take a few pics. It’s always fun when Ray comes along, he’s a mate and he makes me laugh, and his company adds an extra element to the day. It’s also great to get good quality pics of an area, a new route, or even an existing line, because, occasionally, I’ll write about the experience, and having good pictures is always better than having crap ones!

I enjoy writing; piecing it together, crafting, editing, and on occasion it leads to remuneration. Most of the time, I never really know what I will write about, I certainly don’t go out thinking, I’ll write about this or that, and even when I begin, I never know where it will end up. Sometimes, the climbs that I think will make the best stories, don’t interest me, it’s often the small, insignificant climbs that will have the best thread. Writing is one of the limited ways I make cash from which to live, although I must admit, calling myself a writer makes me cringe, so I’ll only do it under duress. And on the occasion someone asks, “are you a professional climber?” ha, this always recieves the same response, no, I’m a climbing bum, I’m not good enough to be a professional. I could make a small amount of money from my blog as I receive regular emails asking for guest posts. I could also make money writing gear reviews; I receive maybe one or two enquiries a week, offering me a piece of kit, or payment if I write an article about it. On occasion I reply to these people explaining that I’m sponsored by three companies, and to write about other brands, would not be ethical. I don’t say, I’ve never written a gear review, or gone out of my way to endorse a piece of gear even from the companies that sponsor me, companies, I will add, whose gear is very good, so I’m certainly not doing it for other brands. I don’t cope well with the whole consumeristic element of society, I really do think most people consume too much, and its destroying the enviroment, and explaining this to the people contacting me, would, I’m sure, be lost on them, possibly because we now appear to live in a time where selling and buying, advertising and promoting (including a style of life, or the individual), has become massive, loads of folks are at it. A large section of society appear to love the idea of selling themselves and self-promotion (look at all of the people you see taking selfies, some even have big long sticks to attach onto their phone!), and in our ‘outdoor world’ given the chance to get a free pair of shoes, or a straw to suck water from a puddle, outdoor enthusiasts and climbers appear to jump at the chance to endorse products.

If you’re still with me, you may be starting to see my problem. I’m a climber that writes, and on occasion my writing about a subject appears a bit close to the bone. How can I call-out something, when I’m the one also doing it? It’s a weird one, but I suppose, you will only feel similar, if you take the time to really look at yourself, and think about this kind of stuff, and even then, are you bothered about what you find? Recently, on two separate occasions, I’ve been told some of my diet choices will make no difference to the long-term effects of life on the planet, and unfortunately, I agree, but at what point does a person start caring, (for life on the planet, for the future and for yourself), and at what point do you take a stand, if only a very tiny stand that possibly makes no difference, apart from to the individual?

Anyway, phew, back to Rhoscolyn and the spray about a new route, that is possibly the main thrust of this piece… or is it?

Ray, Mick and I walked across the grassy headland. If you’ve climbed at Rhoscolyn, you will know it’s a beautiful and peaceful bit of coastline. The day was overcast, but there was the promise of sun for later in the day. The wind was a mere tickle, and anyone who regularly climbs quartzite will know, a mere tickle and overcast, is not the bests to transform the rock from dark and greasy into light and crisp. But whatever, we were here, it wasn’t raining, the company was good, and more to the point, it’s a gorgeous place. I was hoping to climb a line that had burrowed into my brain after climbing another route called, Warpath Direct. Warpath Direct was first climbed by Steve Long and Twid Turner in 2013, and I climbed it a month or so ago.

Not wanting to get to bogged down in the finer intricacies, but the story needs background, so here goes… Warpath Direct climbs a line to the right of the original start of Warpath, that great E5 6a, first climbed by Jim Moran and Paul Williams in 1984, and finishes up the original, making a superb E6 6a. On the right side of the Warpath headwall, is a fine, flying arete, that was also climbed by Twid and Steve (Steve belayed, but I’m not sure he seconded?) two years later in 2015, and called, No Country for Young Men E7 6b. No Country for Young Men, was climbed as a fifteen-metre pitch, starting from a belay half way up the Sun. High runners were placed before undercutting left, to reach the arete above its steepest section and the arete was then climbed to the top.

The route description taken from the addendum in the Ground Up, Gogarth South guidebook.

After I had climbed Warpath Direct, I wondered why the arete hadn’t been climbed as a continuation of the Warpath Direct start, that would have made a new, independent, forty-metre route, so one day, after bumping into Steve, I asked him about it, and Steve said this had been their original intention, but they were so hung-over after a heavy bout of drinking, they couldn’t face it, and took the Warpath Headwall option, only to return two years later and climb No Country for Young Men as a fifteen metre pitch, from a belay in the Sun. So, in my wandering mind, the challenge, having recently climbed Warpath Direct, was to do the direct start, and continue, without deviation, onto the arete by climbing the steep section that hadn’t been included in the original ascent. This is not meant as criticism, because Twid obviously climbed the line he saw at the time. I’ve done it myself; you get sucked into how something should be climbed, and the way to do it, and it often takes a fresh set of eyes to see other options. I now saw it as an opportunity to straighten the line, and make it into a brilliant forty metre climb, that would be hard and bold, and if successful, would turn a short, almost obscure route, into a belter. The thing I hadn’t seen at the time, was the completely overlooked lower section of wall between Warpath Direct and the Sun, this only became apparent, when Mick joined me to have a look at a route I climbed in 2010 called The Frumious Bandersnatch. On this day, Mick said, if he were going to climb the arete, he would climb directly up the wall below. So, I abseiled in, and climbed the wall, and found it was steep, but with good gear and great moves. It led directly to the Warpath flake, and onto the arete above, it was perfect to try as one big pitch, and if climbed like this, it really would be worthy of calling a new route and giving a name.

I worked the line over four visits, before feeling confident enough to give it a lead. The new, lower section, was well protected, but the arete wasn’t, there are only four pieces of gear from the knee bar under the Warpath flake, to the top, and to place any of them was almost as difficult as the climbing. Monster lob potential, without doubt! So now, on this, the fifth visit, I was stood beneath one of the steepest bits of rock at Rhoscolyn, expecting a bit of a scary fight, almost certain I’d be taking the ride!

The lower, twenty-five metre section went well, its steep and has its moments. As a pitch on its own, it possible merrits the grade of E4 6b, or E5 6a. But here I was, knee pushed under the large flake and shaking-out like a frantic shaking out thing. I had a knee pad on my right thigh, which cushioned the leg, but I only own one, so I had nothing on my left, apart from trousers and a big fat thigh. If I swapped legs, from right to left, the rock bit into skin, but for some reason, this wasn’t the top of my list of concerns! I’d already placed a cluster of good gear, so apart from shaking-out and swapping legs, there was nothing else to do until kicking-off. At one point, I placed both thighs under the flake, the exposure and craziness of it all was fun. The double kneebar felt good, and for a moment, I contemplated leaning back and hanging upside down, but a voice in my head told me not to be so bloody stupid.

“Right Mick, here goes.”

Having just left the knee bar, contemplating the first of many pops! Pic credit, Ray Wood.

Grabbing the first in series of undercuts with the right hand was ok, I was still in the kneebar, but the kneebar had to be released, and when it was, the steepness kicked-in and the stomach almost buckled. My feet were now somewhere way below, and my body was almost straight. I grabbed another undercut with the left hand, and another with the right, threw a foot to a high smear, and made a bit of lunge for a good finger hold. Hmm, still here. Keep breathing, relax! Running my feet high, I now made a long, strenuous move to the flake around the arete where No Country came in. Crunch time! If placing the cam didn’t go well, it would be the end of the attempt, because maintaining a position to place the cam, was draining. It’s this type of thing you can’t practice on a top rope, because you never quite know how your mind and body will react to the situation. A scum with the right knee took a bit of weight, but it was difficult to remain calm. Taking the cam from the gear loop, it was almost impossible to stand and look into the crack, oh, how easy it had been on a top-rope! The positioning of the cam was crucial, and the first go at placing it, ended with the cam hanging on the edge of the crack, almost falling to the ground. Come on, just go in. I pressed toes even harder to smears and edges, and pulled myself in to have another go at placing it. OK, that’s better. I pulled up the rope, and clipped, and then gave the cam a bit of a pull. What a mistake, the flake I was holding onto vibrated. Ignore it, carry on!

The first cam after leaving the knee bar is already placed, but still a few moves to go before the first brass nut. The clock is ticking! Pic credit, Ray Wood.

From here, it was a series of off-kilter slaps for sharp side-pulls on the left of the arete, and wobbly pops for sharp crimps on the right. I’m sure someone with better fitness and strength than me could climb it controlled, but that person isn’t me! It took me two attempts to get going after the flake. I thought I’d gone wrong, but it was the extra effort needed because of the weight of the ropes. Heel-hooking, first on the right, then on the left with loads of tension running through my body, I attempted to control the rising pump and panic. Placing the first of two, small, brass nuts, didnt make me feel like I was invincible, but with that done, another slap, and another pop, meant I could now place the second small cam. This cam, similar to the one below, had to be placed in the correct position for it to have any hope of holding a fall, but at least it was alongside me and visible. Please go in, I silently begged. My left arm was about to explode, but the cam was now placed. The crux sequence followed – a hard move to a sloping pinch on the right, a high left toe onto the arete, then another slap around the arete.

Looking at the sloping pinch before the crux. Pic credit, Ray Wood.

Holy shit, I was still on, but my left arm was almost useless! There was the last small brass nut to place, but I was so pumped, I didnt contemplate stopping, hoping that whatever dregs I had left in the arms, would take me to the top. Slapping, and popping, and slapping again, I somehow held on, and grabbed the first big hold in a while. Even climbing the last few metres, I could have fallen because I was so pumped, and even crawling over the top was an effort.

“Safe Mick.”

Sitting down, I took my first gulp of air for a while, and almost vomited.

Ray took some great shots, and the day after, posted them on DMM’s social media sites, that leads into what I was saying at the beginning, it brings quite a bit of confliction, but I do believe in the old saying that goes something along the lines; let others do your talking, don’t do it for yourself. Praising yourself feels boastful to me, and I must admit, I hate putting climbing pictures of myself on social media. Nowadays, I find it almost impossible to brag about my climbs on social media, it all feels basic and crass. There is another knock-on from everybody posting only good times, and that’s the effect it has on some people’s mental state, so, as in this case, I prefer to tell the whole story and give the story some depth. YOU, yes you, the readers; you have also made a conscious effort to click and read this piece, it’s not just hijacked you in a newsfeed, and by the time you read it, I will have spent four or five days, writing, editing, re-writing, thinking, editing, more thinking (yes, I know, I’m slow, it doesn’t come easy, and there are no-doubt, still loads of mistakes!), and in the end, I will have hopefully written something that might inspire, or maybe you will disagree, but maybe it’s something that has integrity and value and tells the whole story. Hopefully it gets you thinking and questioning  more than a single picture and a couple of lines?

Mick and I went back to Rhoscolyn two days later. Mick is trying something that he keeps letting go of (come on Mick, do your stuff!). James Taylor and Big Dom arrived soon after. I don’t really know Big Dom, but he’s Big and called Dom, and on second meeting, comes across as friendly and a bit of a laugh. I know James reasonably well, James is very strong, and very understated, and lives by the philosophy mentioned above, let others do the talking for you. In June, James climbed a new route at Porth Saint. Porth Saint, or Painted Wall is an overhanging sheet of quartzite just across the headland from where we were now. James’s new route was called Prisoners of the Sun, and given the grade E10 7a, it’s really bold, and really hard, and it took James several visits, over a few years to complete.

Painted Wall has gone from being an exceptionally quiet, and sleepy back water, (almost no-one climbed there for years) to being the go-to place for so many people, and after leading two of the routes (when it was less well known), I’ve decided to give it a miss for a while, because it’s become busy, and has lost that isolated, and somewhat quirky feeling it once had. I’ve joked with Mick, telling him it’s all his fault, because he has sprayed all the routes he’s done across Facebook, which has led to an almost non-stop procession of people coming to climb, who then post their own pictures on social media, and fill in logbooks, that encourages even more people. I say this knowing that when I climbed Staring at the Sun (also one of James’s routes at Painted Wall), Ray came along and took pictures and posted one of them on DMM’s Facebook page, so I’m also to blame, although that was in 2019, and it has taken until now to become very popular, so I’m not sure that made much of an impression, but maybe I’m a hypocrite living in denial?

Anyway, here we were at Rhoscolyn again, Mick, James, Big Dom and myself, and James told me that Jim Pope was travelling from Sheffield to come and give Prisoners of the Sun a go, which got me thinking of another new, hard route that had recently been climbed in the Lakes by Neil Gresham called Lexicon. Lexicon had only been climbed a few days before, and given a grade of E11, and somewhere that morning, I had read about Steve McClure, Dave McCloud, Neil Mawson and Franko Cookson, all climbers I respect for their climbing achievements, and all travelling to the Lake District at the same time to attempt Neil’s new route. This got me thinking, and to be honest, I’ve not been able to draw any conclusions, apart from we are all different, and we all get different things from our activity. But, I cant help thinking, that even if I climbed at such a high standard, I’m not sure I would want to go there when a bunch of other folks were also trying the same route, but I do appreciate this is my preference. This got me wondering then about the motivations involved in this rushing to drive somewhere, to join a queue, and take a turn. Is it any different than going to Spain and standing in line on a brilliant sport route, I’m not sure it is (I suppose it’ll be warmer and sunnier and the beer will be tastier, and the consequences of falling off and remaining uninjured, better!), although, to be honest, I don’t do that often either, because I just cant help feel there are so many climbs, and so many places, and life’s too short to stand in line, but, in this Lexicon situation, there is something I can’t put my finger on, something that makes it feel a tad weird. I dont understand the having to go and immediately get on this route only days after the first ascent, and being alongside a bunch of other folk all doing the same thing, but maybe I’m the weird one in not understanding? I can see how, if you climb at this grade, there are a minimal number of trad routes around to test yourself at this level (although it will be there next year, and the year after). I can also see because it’s just been done, maybe it’s in great condition (although it will be in this condition again at some point in the future), dry and chalked, so it’s better to get on it sooner, rather than later. I can also see that if you climb E11, the other people at the crag will possibly be mates, or at least, known to you, and you can share ideas and moves, banter, etc, and of course, that’s fine, each to their own. But still, to me, there is just something that makes it all feel a bit forced, like the route is being turned into something of a commodity, a thing to be quickly conquered. Tranquillity and nature go hand in hand with the action of climbing, these are some of the reasons I climb, and I wonder if in a situation like this, they are being lost and for what?  But like I say, I’m just airing thoughts here, I have no answers, and a reason for writing, (for me anyway) will be to help myself understand, and hopefully, to make other people think a bit, and maybe I’ll get some answers that’ll make me think even more?


Mick didn’t let go yesterday, 29/9/21, so the crack to the right of the arete now has the name, Pathological Crack.

The line of Pathological. That’s Big Dom in yellow, making the crag look smaller than it is!

Pathological E7 6c. 21 Sept 2021

40m. A steep, physical and uncompromising line that is very well protected in the lower and middle sections and sparsely protected on the upper arête. The route climbs without any deviation, straight up the middle of the wall between The Sun and Warpath Direct, and onto to the stunning, hanging arête on the right of the Warpath headwall. A section of the arête was climbed in 2015 by Twid Turner/ Steve Long and called No Country for Young Men. This climb starts from a belay on the small ledge halfway up The Sun, placing high runners on the right, before stepping back down and undercutting left to ‘grope for a low sidepull around the arête’, before continuation of the arête.

Start from the beach, the same as for the Sun if you are taking the, ‘from the beach’, start. Climb a little way before moving left to a large ledge and arrange protection. Move right, and climb the white wall, until the good holds at the break beneath the overhang. Pull through the overhang (good gear), on quartz flatties, before climbing a faint grove on positive snappies. A collection of flakes and bulbous fins are now reached, where a quasi, lie down rest can be taken. Climb the overhanging groove/corner above, before moving slightly right and boldly yarding through a very steep section that leads to the large break beneath the Warpath flake/kneebar, and the arête. Arrange bomber protection, before easing yourself into the kneebar. The first in a series of undercuts, just to the right of the arête, can be taken from the kneebar, before wild undercutting and a couple of hard moves, reach the obvious flake on the left side of the arête (this is where No Country for Young Men came in). There is gear here, but it’s awkward and strenuous to place. Continue directly up the arête, using crimps on the right, and side-pulls on the left, before reaching the top of the arête as for Warpath. On this upper section, there are a few small bits of OK protection, but hanging-in to place them, makes serious inroads into the arms and head!


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6 Responses to Pathological.

  1. Dave MacLeod says:

    I actually had no idea I’d meet Neil and Steve at Lexicon. I was just throwing the rope down when they turned up. I, like you enjoy a bit of solitude, hence why I went there on my own to try the moves. But I get a ton of solitude living in the highlands. I even train on my own and almost never get to meet other climbers, let alone some that are keen for the same routes to share ideas with. So it was actually a really nice contrast to be able to climb with them for the day and hear from both that we both have similar thoughts about climbing hard routes.

    There were three reasons I jumped in the car to go and try it straight away. First, I love hard trad routes and something with such a huge grade is a fantastic opportunity to push myself, which is one ingredient of climbing I like. Second, I’ve done the route beside it and thought the rock was really good quality and anticipated that Lexicon would likely be really good climbing, which it is. Third, I normally have to spend a LOT of time cleaning mountain trad routes. To have a cleaned route ready to try was a treat. And maybe one more reason – I haven’t left Scotland since pre-pandemic and this seemed a good excuse to go and travel somewhere.

    • Nick Bullock says:

      Nice reply Dave, yeah, I get all of that. I can see some company would be a nice change for you 😉

      Hope you’re well,

  2. Roger Grimshaw says:

    Great item Nick. I know a couple of really good climbers who have job type jobs and who publish nothing despite cruising pretty much anything they turn a hand to. I suppose if you make money out of climbing you have to publicise – and anyhow your reputation is solid. I spray old photos but then I think history has a place and I’m too old for anyone, including me, to care. Keep up the skeer.

    • Nick Bullock says:

      Hey Roger,

      Thanks for the great reply. I’m with you, I also think history has a place. I love seeing old shots of climbers, climbs and places, keep them coming 🙂


  3. Rachel says:

    Dear nick

    I’ve enjoyed your recent blog posts, and especially your account of your fight on pathological! I love getting kneebars on trad, and thanks for the route description and topo. It’s certainly got me psyched and have added it to my wish life of ever growing routes in north wales I want to do. The pictures are fantastic and far better than the standard bum shots that George normally gets of me, I especially like to see pictures of hands and feet when looking at climbing photos to give me a sense of what the route maybe feels like and how desperate it looks. I love seeing how climbers are using their fingers and whether they are full crimping or leaving a pinky off! Maybe this sound a little odd, I guess it’s all part of the fight!

    Your thoughts on social media, crag popularity and ukc logbooks proved very thought provoking. It was interesting to hear your point of view and make me look deeper into the reasons I share things, repeat routes, and log my climbs. I thought I would give my opinion, which is different to yours. But not to say I think you’re wrong and I am right. This is one thing I have learn in recent years. People are entitled to their own beliefs and values, and they have the right to dislike me or like me and disagree! I just thought I’d add my 2p.

    Firstly social media. I definitely think it can be extremely toxic in many ways. But it can also be great for many things if used cautiously! Instagram, Facebook and climbing is another source of inspiration just like flicking through magazines, guidebooks and climbing biographies. I get psyched seeing pictures of females climbing hard trad and sport, and often useful information is posted alongside about training, periods, diet etc etc. I like following local people in north Wales that get out on the trad to give me ideas about crags and routes that may be worth going to, and even some bouldering accounts to try and motivate me to finally venture to the dark side (still not really happened, but when I see someone climbing a good looking boulder I will add it to a list on my phone). I have even made friends through Instagram, and shared ideas and route ideas with other girls who enjoy similar climbs and grades to me. I have heard from others that they find it can be bad for their mental health, but for me this has never been the case. I’ve certainly experienced the bad side of social media, but unrelated to climbing. In fact I love seeing photos of people doing new routes or going to new crags, or climbing things that are within my pay grade so I can get ideas. I’m psyched seeing photos of girls crushing the sport, trad and boulder, and it just motivates me even more than I already am!

    Why do I share photos of myself climbing? Firstly for similar reasons as to why I follow climbing accounts, perhaps I can inspire some other girls to get into trad, or give them ideas as to routes they might like to try. I love getting messages from others asking for suggestions of safe routes to try, or styles they like similar to me. Secondly I believe a lot of my climbing friends, normal friends and family (maybe not my mum!) like to see what I’m up to and know where I’ve been or what route I’ve recently done. Those that don’t, don’t need to follow me! This i think is the most simple way to use Instagram in a positive way. If what you’re seeing is annoying, upsets you or adds nothing to your life then simply switch off. What I get up to is probably pretty boring for most people, Im not doing any groundbreaking grades or climbing new routes, but I do have friends that I know enjoy keeping up with me and sharing the odd bit of banter with on social media. When I went off Instagram for a while I got a couple of messages from climbing friends that said they missed seeing what me and George had been up to. So this is a big part of why I post.

    Is it blowing my own trumpet? Well I thought long and hard about this. I’m certainly proud and psyched and routes I’ve done, but is this a bad thing ? Is it wrong of a potter to post pictures of their pieces they’ve made, or a baker to post their delicious looking cakes, or a mum to share pictures of her child’s graduation ? I wouldn’t consider these to be boastful, but of someone who is proud of their achievements and sharing it to others who would have an interest in them. I personally am not very artistic nor into baking so don’t follow such accounts, so it doesn’t waste brain time seeing such things. I guess it’s how you interpret it, and you could look at me posting photos of myself climbing routes as showing off, or you could choose to look at it as me being psyched and eager share with friends and family, and inspire other girls and give ideas to people climbing similar pay grades. Or maybe I’m just too far down that rabbit hole you described that I can’t even see it, and am in fact an arrogant, egotistical, selfish narcissist!

    You may say why do I not just use guidebooks for route inspiration, and magazines and books. Well I do to a point, but often books can be outdated. I have only been climbing about 6 years, and do not feel I have the skill set, experience and mental strength to know when pegs that are perhaps crucial are of good quality or not, when to back off things and how good or bad my gear always is! I’m still relatively a new climber, and don’t enjoy getting scared. Knowing that a route has new pegs or good gear is really helpful to me. I’m not a bold climber, and don’t like too much adventure and have already broken a heal and ankle once, (from too much partying!) and don’t want to do it again. I have fallen head over heals in love with climbing, and have dived into the world that it now dominates my life! I have never experienced a sport quite like it where time disappears, and every cog in your brain is focused on the rock infront of you. All worries or dramas going on disappear, and it can leave me still smiling at bedtime. I still chuckle to myself when I remember pulling onto the ledge on vulture and picturing myself as a cat sliding off with their claws out. I don’t even know why it’s funny but it’s what I thought at the time. I also love the diversity of climbing. I’ve many friends who all get different things out of the sport, for me I love pushing myself on a route that’s safe but is at a physically demanding level allowing me to throw myself at it and go for it. I love getting pumped and still making moves when I thought I was off 6 moves previously. I love it when your body does something that you didn’t even feel like you computed, like throwing a toe hook in on atomic finger flake which saved me from falling off. I love a bit of adventure like big long multi pitch days (generally in the sun), being above the sea whist belaying and getting splashed by the waves, or racing to get down before it turns dark. What I don’t like is loose rock and too much adventure! I’m not a bold climber and actively seek out routes that I can place gear above my head!! But I have friends who love the things I hate ! Like Dom, whose dream climbing day would be some wet, loose, runout adventure away from the crowds (we did mousetrap and mantrap together and our recount of the day is considerably different). I remember reading a pat Littlejohn quote saying adventure precedes rock quality, I would say the opposite. He lived up to the hype when we met with him on the llyn throwing debris off a route with titanium tim in tow (jepson). And the great thing about climbing is that it doesn’t matter what sort of climber you are! Take from it what you want! I recently met lewis Perrin at a party and it struck me that we were both such different climbers and took such different things from the sport, yet we could have a conversation and share our passion for it despite loving completely different aspects and rock types. I remember thinking at the time this is so great! I find it hard to express what I’m trying to say but basically climbing is just fucking great hey, and it doesn’t matter if ones a wimpy climber like myself choosing routes they’ve seen others doing, or someone with bigger pants doing new lines. We’re all just climbers at the end of the day.

    Crag popularity. We went to Painted walls 3 times and only one occasion was it shared with another couple for about 10 minutes. I actually hoped there would be someone there because I really enjoy meeting new people no matter what they’re climbing and have made a lot of friends this way. It’s also nice to talk to someone other than George! If you want to go somewhere quiet it’s not that hard. We sometimes visit esoteric crags, but even popular crags are often quiet/deserted (if you’re really desperate come to the rhinogs for a bit of solitude – you’re unlikely to see another person walking let alone climbing). And Isn’t the whole point of climbing a new route and providing a description for it be repeated. You’re not just immortalising your name against a line up a rock? I once met Jim Perrin at mother Carey’s just after we topped out of one his climbs. I remember thinking how awesome it must be to see climbers still repeating his route 50 years on.

    Finally ukc logbooks! Similar to things I’ve previously said, I don’t really see much trumpet blowing or constantly downgrading routes. We use it all the time for route inspiration. Guidebooks are ok but knowing that someone you know has done it and found it good/bad/easy/hard/loose/whatever is helpful to me. If you don’t want to know anything then don’t use UKC, or if you think you’re getting more than you want then stop reading. I do admit that ukc logging has become a bit like collecting eggs, and it’s fun seeing a green tick and %of crag climbed! Probably some OCD there but I guess it could be worse.

    One thing that has upset me in recent months is not social media, but people at the crag that I’ve found to either not be very receptive or sometimes down right rude. A basic smile and acknowledgment can go a long way. It’s saddened me to meet people i held great respect for and even idolised, to not have the time or day to say hello. Not everyone wants to talk and that’s fine, but I guess it’s difficult for me to understand seems as I’m a relatively friendly and sociable person and I don’t know why you wouldn’t be. It’s left me feeling somewhat embarrassed and stupid for being so eager and keen to talk. It comes across as elitism to me, although I don’t know if this is actually the case.

    Anyway I won’t bore you with anymore of my ramblings. P.s I wish you did have a ukc logbook, we’ve looked up at the jub jub bird a few times this year and always been too intimidated to get on it! Plus everyone we’ve spoke to has had quite a hard time on it! It was only yesterday when George read in the white cliff book (surprise present in the post from bilbo who we had only met once at the crag in Pembroke) your account of it, and the fact that you fell off and didn’t break your legs. Thanks for the inspiration because this has psyched us up to maybe have a closer look! Tone is often lost on the internet and it’s really easy to take things the wrong way or interpret something wrongly. That’s why it’s always good to say hello in real life!

    • Nick Bullock says:

      Hi Rachel,

      Thanks for the reply, it’s great to get your take on things, it all makes me think and consider. Like you, I am a firm believer in we are all different, and in many respects, we are all allowed our opinions, as long as those opinions are legal and do not cause hate. In respect of social media we obviously have very different views, maybe it’s because I’m an old git, (by the way, I’m still laughing about you walking beneath as I was climbing with TPM and Glenda, and saying, “Ah, this is where all the pensioners are hanging out 🙂 ) although I’m sure there are many people who are young that also share similar views as myself on how damaging, (on many levels) social media can be.

      Social media is not ‘just like flicking through magazines, guidebooks and climbing biographies, social media goes out to the world, it has few boundaries, well, unless you live in China or Iran! An individual’s posts on social media are unsolicited, unedited, unchecked, and dare I say, on occasion, untruthful. Honesty and integrity are exceptionally important, and, in my opinion, these things are being lost at an astonishing rate due, in part, to some individuals needs for fame, fortune, acceptance, greed, or to fluff their egos? I can only talk from limited experience, but I’ve read posts of things I’ve witnessed, or things I have intimate knowledge, that I know are untrue, (also on UKC logbooks) and I’m sure you, and everyone else can say the same. I have always said, and understood, there were, or can be, good apects of social media; inspiration for minority groups as you mention being one of them, but I think the good, in general, has been lost beneath a whole pile of hubris, greed, lies, hate and money making. Unlike the magazines and the books, it’s just so easy to put stuff out there, stuff that can be seen and read by hundreds of thousands of people. Magazines, guidebooks and memoirs have gone through editing processes, generally, there is at the very least, one other person involved, and often, many more. American magazines employ fact checkers, sub-editors, editors. Guidebook editors will be rigorous to check facts and also have other people to read through and fact check. Biographies take years, and have hours and hours of checking and procrastination, before an editor receives it, and it goes through a rigorous editing process. Also, for magazines, guidebooks and biographies, the reader has made a conscious effort to read them, they have physically gone out of their way to get a hard copy or download a version, then, before they open the cover, the reader decides if they are in the correct frame of mind and place to engage with the content. One big bugbear of mine, is being mugged by social media, but maybe I’m just too old and sensitive to cope with a modern world? Even this week there are multiple stories in the media about the damage being caused to teenage girls, by posts on Instagram and Facebook here is one of them

      “Being surrounded by constant images of the ‘perfect’ life and seemingly perfect bodies can also have a big impact on how you feel about your own life and appearance, and it can be really hard not to compare yourself to others,” Emma Thomas, the chief executive Royal Society for Public Health.

      Like you say, sharing pictures with ‘real’ friends and family was, I’m sure, one of the things that made social media fun and handy, and keeps you in touch. I’m no expert, far from it, but unless you only have a very strict number of friends on Facebook, your posts will be seen by more people than just friends and family. There are algorithms designed to share stories and readers, or should that be consumers, are encourage to delve deeper, click some more, read a few more posts, see more adverts. Can you be sure you’re inspiring them all? And if you’re not inspiring, maybe some of your posts are doing the opposite and putting people off, or making them feel a bit shitty about their own achievements or lack of achievements? Its a very fine line between inspire and demoralize, and takes a lot of skill to get it at the correct level. There are many ways to share your climbs with family and friends that doesn’t involve posting to a feed on a social media platform, (or, as in many cases, posting to several social media platforms!) there are many ways for banter within a closed group, it isn’t a must to have on-line banter with loads of people, many of which you will not know. You say switch off if what I see upsets, I’m not sure it’s that simple, do you really think it’s that simple? Social media is very addictive, (its made that way) the pressures to fit in, to know what’s going on, to be up with the gossip, not the one being left out, to join in; these things are massive and keep us clicking, and it takes a very strong and confident character to choose to ‘turn off’. The thumbs up and hearts give us a quick belt of dopamine, a buzz of acceptance, and they foster a need for more and more and more. Social media companies are not your friends, they are behemoths that make billions of dollars for directors through advertising, they pump out lies that change opinions and at times to devastating effect, and they will do their best to stop people from ‘turning off’.

      My point about the popularity of crags, after they have been repeatedly posted about on social media, well, I think I looked at myself and my faults reasonably well, specifically in the case of Painted Wall, and similar to your turning off social media comment above, I’m not sure its as simple as saying, go somewhere else if you don’t like what you find. I have written loads about what I perceive as people following the crowds of the social media platforms, in the worse case scenario, it can lead to access issues and damage to the environment. On a more selfish level, the peace and tranquillity is lost when the crowds turn up. Maybe I’m just an anti-social wanker, but if I want some banter and a group situation, I’ll go sport climbing or to the Beacon. Like you say though, each to their own, and more often than not, I do take myself away, hence my love affair with Craig Doris, but there are still occasions I would like to enjoy the more ‘standard’ day out, that isn’t over-run by crowds of people, following other crowds of people.
      I’m sorry Rachel, but I refuse to go away, and I don’t see why I should. Yes, it upsets me, but with the risk of sounding like some conspiracy theory peddler, I truly believe social media is damaging, so sitting by, or ignoring the problem without at least trying to address it, is not an option for me. I get upset by lies, the world is being fed bullshit by people on social media, (of course, they were fed bullshit before, but not in such an all-encompassing and persuasive way and not by so many) there are so many warped tales, half-truths, mistruths, lying by omission and complete lies. I can only speak on the subject of climbing, but everyone with experience knows what is going on, they know that on occasion, things are inflated, twisted, warped, conveniently forgotten, and it’s done for what… acceptance, ego or self-promotion, and it’s happening all of the time, and there are so many people at it, and it drives me berserk. And what drives me more berserk, is the fact that, in general, we all know it’s happening, and hardly anyone says anything because they are scared of being bullied, or told if they don’t like it, ‘turn off’. Well, I refuse to be a bystander, I refuse to be complicit even if it means sticking my neck out and taking some flack, which you may be surprised to find, I actually really dislike, it stresses me, it keeps me awake, it causes anxiety, but I can’t just turn off and go along in my own little bubble, (I’m getting very close though) because I feel its ruining not only climbing, but society in general. I’m sorry if what I write about makes people (you) feel uncomfortable, but sometimes looking inward, and trying to find the honest answer, can be difficult.

      Phew, ok, nearly there… logbooks. You really don’t see much trumpet blowing, or down grading? Fair enough, if that’s what you really believe, we will agree to disagree. And once again you say, if I don’t like something, well don’t engage, and once again I’ll say, do you really think it’s this simple? I choose to engage so to have an opinion, so on occasion, I can put out a different opinion, or possibly say something that makes people question and think. It’s not very inclusive or dare I say, understanding to say, well if you don’t like something, don’t engage, especially when it involves something close to my heart.

      We are all individuals, you never know what’s going on in people’s lives at certain times, and what has made them act the way they have, or a person respond in a certain way. Most of the time I try to hold judgement and make it my aim to win someone over, or at least try to understand their motivations, it can often be rewarding to break the barriers and discover the real person. Yes, this can be difficult and on occasion backfire, but so be it, at least I’ve tried! And a long time ago now, the charge of elitism was used regularly, especially in the field of alpinism, so regularly as to almost be a cliché, and it is now, as it was then, (in my opinion) a lacklustre and somewhat convenient and lazy way to try and put someone on the backfoot, to make them defensive, and it is usually done without any real evidence, so I’m very careful to accuse people of being elitist.

      Rachel, after reading the paragraph where you explain what climbing is to you, and what you get from it, how could I ever be dismissive of this, what a remarkable paragraph, this is truly inspirational, it explains so much, and how much it reminds me, of me, even the me of now, a cynical old bastard. Do you have a blog where you could edit and craft this style of writing into a really inspirational long form piece for people who choose to engage? Just reading this paragraph has lightened my mood, so thanks for this.

      Climbing is many things for many people, I’ve known this for a long time and really get it and adhere to this philosophy, I do. I also understand the all-encompassing draw of climbing, its possibly a good thing there was no social media in the first decade of my climbing because I’m sure I would have been spraying, bragging and bigging myself up with the best of them. Nowadays, I’d like to think my ego is almost under control and I’m confident enough not to worry about acceptance and validation, maybe this is one of the few good things about being an old git and having lived a very fortunate existence for the last eighteen years. Unfortunately, social media appears to be with us for the long haul, and I wonder, if in thirty years, are we going to look at it the same as we now look at the cigarette companies and think, what the hell were we doing?

      Cheers and no doubt see you soon,

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