Category Archives: Climbing

New Austrian mountain fitness holiday for women, by women

Take your pick of mountain biking or an alpine e-bike tour

Take your pick of mountain biking or an alpine e-bike tour

So the summer’s over. Just about. And the thought that autumn and winter will soon be upon us is becoming an annoyingly real reality. Having had your lovely relaxing holiday, you’re now back to routine, back to the grind. If you’re anything like me, that means you want to go on holiday even more right now. But you’ve done just about all the lounging by the poolside you can do, so what would you think of a fitness and adventure holiday in the beautiful Austrian Alps? Tempting…?

Whether you’ve signed up for the Snowdonia Marathon or been inspired by Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games, this new Austrian alpine escape looks a great way to get motivated and conditioned, ready for your next challenge.

Your hosts for the duration of your mountain fitness holiday

Your hosts for the duration of your mountain fitness holiday

This new four day Mountain Ladies of Lungau fitness escape, run by St. Martin Chalets, is packed with activity. You’ll have a chance to contour the peaks, valleys and trails of Austria’s newest UNESCO Biosphere Reserve alongside some particularly fit locals.

Staying in one of St. Martin Chalets’ beautifully authentic Austrian chalets, in the Southern Alpine region of Lungau, each day you’ll be joined by St. Martin’s Power Princesses. They’ll encourage, guide and motivate you during a mix of alpine sporting endeavours, including trail running, summit walks, mountain biking and rock climbing.

It's not all serious, your hosts are up for a bit of fun too!

It’s not all serious, your hosts are up for a bit of fun too!

All five ladies live for the outdoors and boast plenty of credentials, from trained mountain guides, skiing instructors and UNESCO Biosphere Rangers to accomplished mountaineers, climbers, ski racers and cyclists. No need to be intimidated though… They’re up for plenty of fun too so you can take it as hard or as gentle as you like each day.

Here’s what it’s all about…

Who’s it for? They’ve obviously had a lot of interest from female guests and groups but they actively encourage male guests to pit their skills and fitness against the Power Princesses too!

Who are these ladies? All five ladies have different skills and talents to offer — you can meet them by visiting St. Martin Chalets’ website and scrolling down to ‘THE LADIES AND THE ITINERARY’.

Your home for the holiday, St. Martin Chalets

Your home for the holiday, St. Martin Chalets

Where is it? St. Martin Chalets is located 1.5hrs directly south of Salzburg Airport within the Lungau UNESCO Biosphere, Austria’s largest and newest Biosphere Reserve.

How long is it? This trip lasts four days and three nights, but there is no set departure date, which means longer/bespoke stays are also available. The new itinerary is available until the end of October 2014 and is subject to availability. After this, the next booking slot is between May – October 2015.

How much is it? Prices start at €450 (roughly £360) per person based on six people sharing. This includes chalet accommodation, return airport shuttle transfer, all activities and guiding, plus equipment hire (bikes, rucksacks, helmets, climbing harnesses and poles), use of private gym and sauna, daily chalet breakfast, a stocked fridge and a traditional Austrian chalet supper, plus dinner in a local castle. Not included in the price are flights, meals and car hire, except where stated.

Where can I fly from? Flights depart from London and the UK for Salzburg Airport, from as little as £45 each way.

Where can I get more information? Check out the St. Martin Chalets website — it has plenty of additional information.

A great spot to relax after a tiring day in the mountains

A great spot to relax after a tiring day in the mountains

So, what would I get up to on the fitness break?

Day 1

  • Fly into Salzburg before grabbing the airport shuttle to St. Martin Chalets
  • You’ll then get to know the girls over a few cold Austrian beers and a traditional Austrian ‘Jause’, which is a fantastic dish packed full of delicious cuts of cured meats and local produce (vege version available too). What better way to kick off your stay?! And depending on flight times this can be either before or after your run (see next point)
  • 17:00: Acclimatising 5km trail run along amazing trails and through beautiful mountainscapes
  • 19:00: Evening walk into downtown St. Michael for some more authentic Austrian food that’ll really hit the spot (the Austrians sure can cook!)
Explore Austria’s largest and newest Biosphere Reserve

Explore Austria’s largest and newest Biosphere Reserve

Day 2

  • 08:00: Chalet breakfast (DIY fresh rolls delivered and fridge re-filled daily)
  • Then take your pick from these activities…
    • 09:30: Three to four hours of mountain biking (e-bike optional) at altitudes between 1,000m and 1,900m. The super fit guides will lead you through the ups and downs of Lungau’s beautiful scenery. The girls are all keen mountain bikers, but if you’re looking for something a little more extreme, Isabella is a fearless speed junkie and is known by the locals as Lungau’s downhill lady!
    • 10:00: Climbing (rock or wall depending on weather). Don’t worry, the five ladies know some excellent lines for people of all abilities. Nina is probably their best climber (well she’s the youngest, so she should be). Climbing three times a week, both on the climbing wall and the real thing, she’s super strong.
  • 16:00: Evening trail run ca. 10km through the hills. This option is only if you’re really up for it! Living in the mountains keeps you lean and fit and there’s nothing like ending the day with a good jog. Plus it means you can eat cakes and pastries without feeling guilty — yay! Kerstin is the ‘gazelle’ of the team, and with perfect calves, she’ll motivate you to keep going!
  • 19:00: Catered chalet supper. Here’s a little secret… They’ve done a deal with the owners of the only Michelin Star restaurant in the region. Lucky you! They provide your chalet catering, and don’t worry, you’ll get served up mountain-sized portions of delicious local dishes. It’s pretty darned good!
The beautiful Castle Moosham lies just 4km from St. Martin Chalets

The beautiful Castle Moosham lies just 4km from St. Martin Chalets

Day 3

  • 06:00: Breakfast roll delivery (pack your rucksacks with sarnies)
  • 08:00: Summit climb — reach the heavens at 2,700m above sea level. Depending on how fast you are, two of the girls will whip you into shape over a five to six hour mountain hike over Alpine terrain. They’ll even hold your hand when it gets a bit precarious!
  • Lunch on the mountain
  • 17:00: Free time — use of gym and sauna
  • 19:00: Supper in the medieval castle, Burg Mauterndorf

Day 4

  • 07:30: Chalet breakfast before airport shuttle departs (depends on flight times)

All images courtesy of www.holidaystoaustria.com

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Interview: Adventurer Ed Farrelly

Ed Farrelly, Khan Tengri expedition, 2012

In the back of a Russian heli after leaving Khan Tengri base camp at the end of expedition, 2012 (c) Ed Farrelly

I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for this opportunity, but finally I’ve had the awesome privilege of interviewing 21-year-old adventurer and mountaineer Ed Farrelly! Why is he so awesome? Well in 2012 Ed ranked 6th in a list of the 20 most seasoned adventurers, explorers and expedition leaders in Men’s Fitness magazine. And currently, you’ll find he’s training for his next adventure — a solo expedition to climb Khan Tengri on the Kazak/Kyrgyz/China border this summer.

But adventuring is not all this young man does. He’s also studying for a politics and development degree at the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. In awe yet? Well let’s get on with it then… I’ve left this interview unedited, as his answers were pretty raw and real. So, enjoy!

What’s your very earliest memory of adventuring?

Well a relative took me up Tryfan when I was six, and as far as I’m concerned, from then on I was hooked. It’s actually quite funny, because a couple of weeks back Tryfan topped the polls in a survey done by Trail magazine, as the most loved peak in the UK! I reckon most will agree that it doesn’t take much to catch the adventure bug. I have also always had a personality that can never do things by halves, which I think plays a part in why it spiralled so much from there.

Who’s been your inspiration to get where you are today?

I don’t really have one single inspiration, it’s been more a sort of collection. I admire people like Bear Grylls who have been able to very successfully turn a passion into a career, but I also draw on guys like Messner, who had skill that was out of this world and without whom the sport would not have progressed. I’m a mere mortal in comparison to those lads.

Ed Farrelly, Amphu Lapcha Pass, Nepal, 2010

Amphu Lapcha Pass, Nepal (2010), two days after Ed had become the youngest person to summit Baruntse (7,129m)  (c) Ed Farrelly

What’s your next adventure and how are you preparing for it? What are you most and least looking forward to?

I’m heading off on the #solo2014 expedition to climb Khan Tengri on the Kazak – Kyrgyz – China border in summer 2014. It’s basically an attempt to become the youngest Briton to solo a mountain over 7,000m.

My prep so far has mainly revolved around running. I’m in the process of building myself up to a base fitness level from where I can then begin exercising a little more strategically. I run about 25 miles a week I guess.

I’m looking forward to the same thing I always do, seeing the mountain come into view for the first time and thinking, “Wow, what the hell am I doing here?!” The mental challenge is what it’s all about.

Why do you choose to work on your own sometimes? What do you love and hate about it?

I don’t always work alone. Indeed all of my big adventures so far have been as part of a team. For me, this is a new challenge and a very different one from previous. Operating solo is very mentally straining. I have no one to fall back on and every decision I make is my own. Ultimately if something goes wrong, the chances of help are far slimmer. In that respect, it’s very much a double edged sword, the rewards are bigger but so are the potential consequences. Either way, what I can be sure of, is that experiences in the past have shaped the way I view mountaineering and make me sure that I’m doing this for the right reasons. Whether summit or fail, it’s already a success.

What’s been the craziest/scariest thing you’ve done in your life so far?

Hmmm… That’s a really tough one, there have been quite a few strange experiences I’ve ended up in. I guess the No.1 that sticks out was Aconcagua in 2011. Tragically one of my team mates passed away on the mountain and I ended up in hospital with frostbite. It was a life changing experience to be a part of, and has completely shaped what I’ve done since. No one ever thinks they will end up as part of something like that, it’s unreal. Coming out of it I asked myself endlessly why I did a sport that was potentially fatal and it took me a long time to answer.

Do you still want to be doing this when you’re 70? 

I want to continue doing what inspires me and never settling for second best. Whether my body permits it, I guess that could involve climbing or maybe it’s just getting out of bed in the morning and taking the dog for a walk. Everyone has their limits. I strongly believe it’s more about pushing that than anything else. I think legacy is also really important. In the same way that we are inspired by those that come before us, we also have a responsibility to inspire the next generations.

Ed Farrelly, Amphu Lapcha, Nepal, 2010

Nepal in 2010 on the Amphu Lapcha – one of Ed’s favourite shots (c) Ed Farrelly

What advice would you offer females who aspire to do the stuff you do? Do they face different challenges to men?

I think it’s actually quite simple. If you have a long term goal, begin by coming up with an idea that will take you closer towards that, plan it and then execute it. If you take things one step at a time, it’s amazing how far you’ll get. Also in the process of execution you might well decide that your long term goal was wrong and change it. Adventure is all about trial and error and is very much an evolving concept, centred around the individual (it’s not wrong to change your mind).

I actually think that when it comes to adventuring, women and men face pretty much the same challenges. Mountaineering like most sports is meritocratic — people are judged on their performance. Also I think mentally women can be just as strong, if not stronger than men, and in that respect adventure sports can often advantage them. The obvious obstacle that does exist is in travelling, there are many parts of the globe where I know it is not safe for women to go it alone, so I guess in that respect there is work to be done!

Have you worked with any inspiring women in your life as an adventurer?

I saw a talk by Rebecca Stephens MBE a few years back, which really impressed me. Again, I thought it was great to see how someone could use their skills from past experiences and translate them into becoming a very successful adventurer. She had a plan and executed it.

If you weren’t an adventurer, what would you be? 

I would probably be a conventional sportsman. I need something physical and mentally challenging to focus on, otherwise I feel like there’s something missing. I guess that would be the next best thing to adventuring. Although it would still be no comparison!

Ed is sponsored by Rab, Adidas Eyewear, Edelrid and Scarpa. If you wantto find out more about this adventurous lad, check out his website (www.edfarrelly.com) or follow him on Twitter (@edfarrelly).

First ever lead climb

Preparing for my first lead climb

Preparing for my first lead climb

“Do it sooner rather than later” is something I’ve been told a lot. So I decided to take the plunge and try my hand at lead climbing… before it becomes my monster in the attic.

The plan was four weeks solid prep before attempting lead climbing, but with the twists and turns of everyday life, this turned into a mere two sessions. So with enough butterflies in my stomach to fly me up the wall, I donned my harness, chalk bag and shoes that felt three sizes too small and gave my first lead climb a go. Surprisingly I didn’t die and even enjoyed it.

Climbing is often viewed as an extreme sport reserved for adrenalin junkies and there’s no denying it can be dangerous; the sport has after all seen some pretty horrendous accidents in its history. Just last summer an experienced 32-year-old climber died after falling 50 feet from Dancing Ledge, near Swanage, Dorset.

But these are very isolated incidents and those involved tend to be climbers really pushing the limits. But taking the right precautions, climbing can be fun, safe and exhilarating, even if your heart still skips a beat at the thought of falling.

So why am I so keen to jump headfirst into a sport where falling is as much a part of the fun as the actual climbing? Am I an adrenalin seeker? Not really. I’ll avoid falling at any cost. Even roller coasters scare the living daylights out of me. I’m much more at home in the spinning teacups.

I started climbing last September and wasn’t planning on falling in love with it, but I did. I thrive on the sense of achievement upon completing a route you thought impossible and conquering a lead climb should give me even greater satisfaction.

Picking out a nice route for my first lead climb

Picking out a nice route for my first lead climb

Sport leading can be just as safe as top-roping, but with the added technicalities and increased scare-factor, senior climbing instructor, Tym Miller-White, recommends spending two to five months getting comfortable with top-roping before attempting to lead.

There are a number of challenges when starting out. Of course there’s the fear, but you also have to take in some additional fiddly bits like ensuring you have a firm hold before clipping in, making sure you don’t Z-clip or back-clip or place your foot behind the rope. I’ve been told, should I fall having placed my foot incorrectly, I could end up upside down. Gulp!

The Challenge

So after six months of bouldering and top-roping it was finally time. Having managed to ‘rope in’ the help of some friendly volunteers including Josh – a senior outdoor instructor and keen lead climber – and a friend who’s a dab hand with a camera, we trundle down to my local climbing centre, Boulders.

Leading tends to be done at a lower grade than top-roping, and as I’m currently top-roping at 5+, Josh sets up a 4+, informing me it’s “a nice one” after nimbly mountain goating to the top in a matter of seconds. One slight problem – I’m a head smaller than him, so a nice climb for him turns out to be rather a stretch for me. But I relish a challenge.

A few preparations and I’m ready. The moves to the first carabiner are fairly straightforward, so I clip in no problem. I find it amazing how much more I have to think about my moves, despite it being a relatively easy climb. But at the second clip I make my first mistake.

Josh explains the dangers of Z-clipping

Josh explains the dangers of Z-clipping

“You Z-clipped Margaux,” Josh exclaims. Basically I’d taken the rope from beneath the last carabiner to clip into the next, so had I climbed another metre and fallen, I’d have fallen four metres instead of two.

First attempt foiled, I try again. First clip. Second clip. The third clip gets a little tricker, as I have to squeeze the hold with my left hand, reaching over it with the right to clip in. Cramp, cramp, cramp and release; phew! This climb reminds me how flexible I used to be. I really ought to work on my flexibility again – I’m sure it would do wonders for my climbing.

A couple more tricky manoeuvres up past the fourth clip, more huffing and puffing, and I’d made it – elated, joyful and proud. But it wasn’t over yet. I still had the hardest part ahead of me – the fall. Oh why had I agreed to voluntarily throw myself off a climbing wall?

The fall

The fear of falling in a lead climb is one of the biggest discouragements from trying it out in the first place, and can become a huge hindrance to your climbing development if not dealt with. Tym has the perfect solution, “When inside I try and fall off in every session, just to remind myself that falling is completely safe. It’s the unknown that people are scared of, so you need to get rid of the unknown and fall off a lot.”

Taking a breather before my first lead fall

Taking a breather before my first lead fall

I’d practiced a few falls with a loose top-rope, so I knew it would be scary, but I hadn’t anticipated just how frightening it would be. So heart thumping, hands sweating, I put all my trust in my belayer Josh, and jump. My involuntary scream attracts a few inquisitive glances. The fall has surprised everyone, because instead of falling two meters, I fall more like four.

Having anticipated a somewhat shorter fall, my Scottish cameraman had zoomed in too far, meaning I fell off screen. Now for the sake of some video footage I had to do the whole thing again. The second fall was just as inelegant, landing pretty much face first into the wall. I’m sure with time, I’ll learn to bring my feet up.

Although not entirely thrilled at having to go through two pretty big falls in one session, it’s certainly given me confidence in the equipment and although overcoming the fear of falling will be a battle I face every time I climb, I’m starting to win the head battle.

“Lead climbing gives you a lot of freedom, the freedom to go and climb anywhere really. With indoor climbing you have the freedom to climb on any route, in Boulders, that’s 60% more choice than if you were just top-roping,” Tym shares.

I think if I was like Tym, who basically lives and dreams climbing, then I like him might also be booking three lovely climbing holidays this year. But I think I’ll settle for some nice climbing in Dorset or my local quarries when the weather warms up a little.

Young climbing sensation Brooke Raboutou

I’ve only been climbing for a few months and recently climbed my first 6a. What an awesome feeling of achievement! But then you compare it to an 11-year-old girl who’s been climbing since she could walk, and it looks like a pretty small step.

But what an inspiration Brooke Raboutou is. Her determination and flexibility makes climbing look so effortless. It just goes to show what you can do with a little hard work and perseverance.

The last few months have taught me how climbing makes you bolder and helps you overcome fears. I’ve been training a little more recently, getting ready for my first lead climb on Sunday. And as part of the training I’ve been trying to get used to the sensation of falling, so that the fear doesn’t keep me captive, preventing me from pushing that little harder and completing a challenging route.

But climbing doesn’t only help you conquer the fear of falling, I think it teaches you a lot about determination and taking calculated risks. It’s something that will ultimately help you meet life’s challenges with a different perspective. You may take on a challenge, and there’s a chance you could fall, but if you’ve taken the right precautions, you’ll always have a safe landing. There’s no greater tragedy than the disappointment of not even trying.

Take a leaf out of Brooke Raboutou’s book – enjoy!

Women’s Climbing Symposium 2012

Spotted this video on UKClimbing.com and was so inspired, I wanted to share it with you. The Women’s Climbing Symposium has been running for a couple of years and was held at the Climbing Hanger in Liverpool last month. The event was a sell out and, there are plans to host one in London next year. They’re even hoping to start touring with the symposium in the near future.

I’m sure looking forward to my climb later!

Introduction to climbing

I’m relatively new to climbing, but I already love the sport. It’s a great social activity and a fantastic work out. So if you’re thinking about taking up climbing, here are a few things to get you started.

If you live in the Cardiff area, Boulders is a brilliant place to try some indoor climbing. Is there a great place near you? I sometimes travel around and try out different places, so it would be great to hear about the places you love.