Lakeland Activist Q&A: Rob Greenwood

We talk to the climbers racking up in the valleys, roosting in the crags, and reliving their ascents in the pubs of the Lakes this summer. This week we have the ever-enthusiastic Rob Greenwood.

 

Name, Age, Main activity when not climbing;

Rob Greenwood, 33, thinking about climbing 😉

 

Your favourite lake District Route and why?

This is an impossible question to answer, so I’m going to answer with a curveball: a route I haven’t actually done. Fast and Furious at Dove Crag has long been on my to-do list, but for reasons unknown I’ve never made it up there. Seeing as one of my favourite things in this world is visiting new places I think this loosely qualifies as answering the question, but I’ll admit it’s quite tenuous…

 

What does finding a true trad partner feel like?

When I started climbing I climbed with anyone and everyone, but that’s changed in recent years and I tend to climb with quite a select crew. When you’re climbing with the right person/people everything flows, there’s no friction, and things are just easy Walk-ins seem short and the chat just flows, but most of all there’s a whole lot of fun and laughter.

 

What climbs keep you awake at night?

I’ve been up to Scafell a lot of times, but every time I’ve skirted around the main event – Ringwraith. There’s only so long you can put these things off for and I’ve put it off for as long as I can, hence it keeps coming back to me – I need to climb this route. Knowing people like Tom Briggs and Ged Desforges (two very accomplished trad climbers) have fallen off the top pitch certainly adds to the intimidation, so it just requires me to get on it, stop worrying about it, and see what happens.

 

What’s your worst climbing habit?

I’m always in a rush. Whilst I’d love to say ‘I embrace the moment’ I do, I just like to embrace it quickly, then embrace the next one – hence there’s not much time chilling at the top of a crag and this can drive some climbing partners a little crazy (although most have just got used to it).

 

What’s your most treasured piece of kit?

My guidebooks I guess, as they’re the key to it all. Open a guide an it’s impossible not to be inspired.

 

Which notable climbers would you invite to your dream crag day out?

Stephen Reid, the owner of Needle Sports, has been asking me to head up to Pillar with him for years but we’ve never quite managed to get the dates together for it – as such I’d ask him. Stephen may not be known to a younger generation of climbers but he’s a total legend: he’s ticked Hard Rock, he’s edited guidebooks for the FRCC, and he’s currently working on a large historical tribute to Pillar (hence wanting to go up there). Over the years I’ve admired his passion and interest for climbing, its history, and its heritage. He’s also a complete all-rounder both in summer and winter, and whilst he may not be a superstar in terms of big numbers he’s someone that’s lived and breathed it – there’s a lot to admire in that.

 

What about the current state of climbing makes you unhappy?

I could probably go off on a negative diatribe here, but that wouldn’t be good for me so I’ll talk about something that made me happy instead. A month or so ago I was lucky enough to be camped up at Scafell, where we did – amongst other things – Central Buttress right at the end of the day, in the evening sun, with two good friends. I reckon we were the twelfth party up the route that day, which is incredible. I thought people were saying trad was dead and that nobody climbs in the Lakes, yet here we are with parties all over the crag, enjoying themselves, and making the most of this wonderful weather we’ve been having. The future is bright…

 

What’s the most important lesson trad has taught you?

Generally speaking people worry about routes, their reputation, and how it’s going to be far too much beforehand. I used to use the phrase ‘going for a look’ to dispel the tension and generally speaking it worked, because as soon as I stepped onto the rock I was engaged in something real rather than worrying about something imagined. That said, I’m still as guilty as the next when it comes to over-thinking the next route – take Ringwraith for example!

 

To what do you owe your climbing mentors?

A belay…

 

What’s the worst climb you’ve ever done?

This is a tough call, because I’ve always thought there’s pleasure to be had in climbing poor routes. Even the worst routes usually have something about them. Still, if I’d have to choose one it wouldn’t actually be in the Lakes, it would be in the Himalayas, where Jack Geldard and I tried to climb a new route on Peak 41. It was horrendous and led to me abseiling off a bulldog hammered into a tottering ridge of shale. Still, horrific though this experience was it did remind me just how good trad climbing in the UK is, and I’ve basically been a full-time rock climber (as opposed to ice/winter climber) ever since.

 

What single thing would improve the quality of your climbing?

Taking a few moments out to actually sit back, relax, and watch the sunset. Rushing is great, it gets lots done, but you do miss out on the finer details as a result. Penny – my partner – is always good at reminding me of this and I think/hope I’ve got better at it over the years.

 

Tell us a lake district secret?

‘Lakes E4’ basically means E5, although maybe this isn’t that much of a secret?

 

If you could bring something of climbings past back to life, what would it be?

The past is ingrained within the routes, so if you want a piece of it just go do them. Kern Knotts Crack is a good example of this, as it provides something of a shock even to the modern leader (it’s no pushover at VS…) and yet it received its first ascent courtesy of O.G. Jones in 1897, which is – as you’re there thrutching up this horrific cleft – utterly obscene.

 

What does the future of climbing hold for you?

This is something I think about a lot. Climbing has consumed so much of my life, and will no doubt continue to do so, but things do change. Take performance for example, as there’s going to be a day when I can no longer perform to the standard I used to. If climbing hard is all that climbing means to you then you’re basically in a cul-de-sac; if climbing means something else, something more, then there’s countless days out just waiting to be had – they just might not consist of multiple extremes!

Lakeland Activist Q&A: Jerome Cooper

We talk to the climbers racking up in the valleys, roosting in the crags, and reliving their ascents in the pubs of the Lakes this summer.  Jerome Cooper, a climbing insomniac with a passion for Fallen Angels.

Name, Age, Main activity when not climbing;
Jerome Cooper, 30, when not climbing?!?

Your favourite Lake District Route and why?
Tough Question. It seems each time I head out to climb this changes. There are so many hidden Gems in the Lakes it difficult to pin a single route down. Fallen Angel E4 6a*** on Pavey Ark definitely left a lasting impression. It was one of my first E4’s and it didn’t go without a fight. It features a puzzling crux sequence followed by a spicy run out. What’s not to love!

What does finding a true trad partner feel like?
When you know, you know…..
I’ll happily climb with anyone who has a cheerful disposition and a sense of adventure.

What climbs keep you awake at night?
The one’s I haven’t done! Obviously this results in many sleepless nights!

What’s your worst climbing habit?
This one’s easy. I have tendency to pull on to routes prior to fully reading the route descriptions. The inevitable result being some fairly adventurous route finding dramas!

What’s your most treasured piece of kit?
This may seem odd, but it has to be my chalk bag belt. Out of all my gear it’s the single item that I have kept with me since I started climbing. It’s literally been with me on every route I’ve ever climbed.

Which notable climbers would you invite to your dream crag day out?
Gwen Moffat, Don Whillans, Andy Kirkpatrick, Dave Birkett

What about the current state of climbing makes you unhappy?
To be honest, there isn’t anything of importance about the current state of climbing that makes me unhappy. It’d be great to see more routes cleaned up though!

What’s the most important lesson trad has taught you?
Always bring that extra slingdraw…… you will need it.
More seriously though, it’d be learning to trust my own judgments. Knowing when it’s safe to go, or when it’s better to save a route for another day.

To what do you owe your climbing mentors?
So much! They’ve been a constant influence on me since I started climbing and I still feed off their love of the sport! Sometimes it helps to be pushed!

What’s the worst climb you’ve ever done?
Whatever it was it must’ve been wiped from my memory. I’d be almost certain it wasn’t in the Lakes though.

What single thing would improve the quality of your climbing?
Being Ron Fawcett.

Tell us a lake district secret?
Never! Go find your own! The more you explore, the more you know!

If you could bring something of climbings past back to life, what would it be?
It would’ve been amazing to witness some of the first ascents of some classic routes. I wouldn’t exactly be envious of some of the Lakeland pioneers options for protection though!

What does the future of climbing hold for you?
A lifetimes worth of adventure, exploration, opportunity and growth.
Starred routes, scary routes, easy routes and everything in-between!

 

Lakeland Activist Q & A: Jenny Foster

We talk to the climbers racking up in the valleys, roosting in the crags, and reliving their ascents in the pubs of the Lakes this summer. Second in our Q&A is Jenny Foster, Lakeland Revival Big Weekend Attendant, Currently hailing Southhampton.

 

Name, Age, Main activity when not climbing;

Jenny Foster, 36, been climbing for four years with a slow move into outdoor climbing. I’ve always been sporty though. I squeeze in plenty of hiking, trail running when I can and have been known to take the odd wild swim when the opportunity arises. Back at home I’m a keen DIYer and also make prints inspired by my adventures. More prosaically I’m a librarian and rather sadly love my job, not least because its just allowed me to relocate me back in the northwest!

 

Your favourite Lake District Route and why?

I’d have to say the only route I’ve done – Route No. 1 at Upper Scout Crag – completed as part of the multi pitch clinic I did. Although I’ve been climbing for nearly four years I’ve spent all but six months of that time living in Southampton – and the Lakes is an awful long way away from the south coast!. What I can say with certainty is that I’m sure I’ll be finding new favourites once I’ve trained up my new belay partner. Sitting in our campsite at the end of the Langdale Valley I looked around and realised just how much excellent climbing there was around me. Plus unlike much of the south coast the rock actually stays where it is meant to.

 

What words or phrases do you most overuse when tradding?

“I’m not awfully happy right now”

 

What’s your worst climbing habit?

I’m chronically untidy when racking my gear. Although I’m chronically untidy generally so at least I’m consistent! I’m definitely improving though, at least on the gear side. The house not so much.

 

What’s your most treasured piece of kit?

Probably the Cam that got returned to me after I over cammed it on a climb on the Roaches. It was the first time I’d led for a while, was feeling a bit exposed and was desperate just to get anything in. My second spent a good twenty minutes trying to get it out but in the end had to abandon it. Although considering that the only reason it got returned to me was because it had a tough tag on it, maybe i should make the tough tag my treasured kit!

 

Which notable climbers would you invite to your dream crag day out?

I think I’d like to spend a day with some of the early pioneers of women’s climbing, those women who climbed despite the expectations that they stay at home and keep house. I’m not really one for fandom, in any of my hobbies or interests, but to learn more about how they achieved what the did, and what their beliefs were politically and socially would be really interesting.

 

What about the current state of climbing makes you happy?

The extent to which the community comes together. Whether it’s beta at a bouldering wall, fundraising and volunteering to maintain sport routes (Dorset Bolt Fund I’m looking at you) or the individuals who run clubs. I think in any sport there is a core that contribute more for the benefit of others – but in climbing it feels more apparent.

The thing that makes me unhappy is mess left at crags. I see it all the time and there’s simply not excuse for it. Take your crap home people, all of it!

 

What’s the most important lesson trad has taught you?

That I can overcome (the not unrealistic) fear of falling. I’ll always be a cautious climber, but trad has definitely pushed me past my mental limits at times.

 

To what do you owe your climbing mentors?

I consider my friends at Southampton Climbing Club to be my mentors. They took me from an inexperienced indoor climber and made possible what seemed impossible to me and have taken me on climbs i wouldn’t have considered on my own.

Suffering from anxiety breaking into the climbing world was incredibly daunting, there was so much alien language that was thrown around casually and everyone seemed so good. The club was so welcoming though and most importantly gave me the time, support and training I needed to get to grips with both the mental and physical aspects of climbing. I’m currently part of the expanding northern sector of SCC and have no intention of changing that.

 

What’s the worst climb you’ve ever done?

A horrible greasy climb near the Don Whilans hut that ended with a squeeze through a tight hole. I’m never going to be a particulary svelte climber and it was no mean feat getting myself through that hole. I honestly didn’t think i was going to make it at one point and given the climb I’d had didn’t want to go back down!

 

When where you happiest on rock?

I think when I find that spot, with an incredible view, that you know most people will never see. Climbing literally gives you a different perspective on the amazing island that is the UK. Every time it makes me feel incredibly privileged.

Climbing has been incredibly important to me as I’ve fought depression and anxiety over the last few years. Thinking about this now I’m well (or at least as well as I’ll ever be) a lot is down to the space I’ve been able to find through climbing. Those moments alone while at the same time being surrounded by friends, whether that be on the rock, at the wall or at the pub. When you know you’re not capable of interacting but also know that you need to surround yourself with people. Bouldering especially has helped massively as it requires both mental and physical concentration, allowing me to focus for a short period on the present, working on my problems alone while having friends round me.

 

What single thing would improve the quality of your climbing?

Time, and right now getting my partner to learn how to lead belay!

 

What does the Lakes mean to you?

Growing up in Manchester I probably visited the Peaks more than the Lakes simply because it was more accessible. However i was still shocked when I moved down south and people told me they had never visited the Lakes. To me it was like saying you’d never tried cake. Some of my earliest outdoor memories are from the lakes, kayaking, abseiling and caving with the Woodcraft Folk as a child and it’ll always be special for that reason. In later years it was a refuge when i needed space and will always be somewhere i can find peace and happiness.

 

What does the future of climbing hold for you?

I hope many more adventures, many more views and many more nights round a campfire sharing climbing stories with friends. I’m still climbing relatively low grades and while I’ll never be the sort of person who is constantly looking for the next big challenge I would like to climb harder and get to the point where I’d be comfortable on big multi pitches. I also had my first taste of winter climbing in the Cairngorms in February and cannot wait to get back out and improve my skills in winter.