Sunday, 8 January 2012

Reflections on Route Setting

What route are you taking?
What is its purpose?
Who are you trying to please?
think creatively,
decide on the next move,
consider what others want,
push your limits,
help others push theirs.
consider how are you positioning yourself.
being responsible for someone's safety and satisfaction
providing inspiration, excitement and challenge

All of the above relate to other aspects of my life.

Sometimes reflection leads to further reflection and for me something as simple as looking back at a day of route setting can suddenly spark thoughts on other aspects of life. For me, reflection can help me gain a greater understanding of or give me clarity on certain situations, it doesn't provide the answer, but it does provoke a deeper appreciation of the thought process behind my decisions and choices in life.

And yes I'm off to hug a tree now.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Monkey See Monkey Do DVD Review

"If you're not belaying, You're just climbing!"
Cory Richards
Photo: Matt Segal Blog

This isn't a new DVD, realised in 2009 by Hot Aches, it has won a string of awards, and having very kindly been bought it for Christmas, here's my thoughts...

The dvd is divided into four short films.

First up we have Johnny Dawes, Hazel Findlay and Matt Segal taking on the smooth slate of Gin Palace (F7c), in North Wales. This is worth watching for Dawes' hairstyle alone but the hard as nails climbing is obviously a big draw too. My hands got sweaty watching them squirm and wriggle, hand and finger jam their way up this unique, and to be honest, massively uncomfortable looking route.

Kevin Shields 'Single Handed' follows with some emotively shot footage of his E6 solo and M10+ dry-tooling (with a very awesome prosthetic ice axe). While he may be missing most of his left hand, wow has this dude got some balls. Despite his hand disability, suffering with epilepsy (a condition close to my heart) and depression, the motivation and commitment Kevin displays is nothing but inspirational. Feel yourself get frustrated for him as he discovers routes with moves that his disability just won't allow him to complete despite his best efforts.

Pic: Steven Gordon - Hot Aches Blog

We then head abroad to Madagascar, where James McHaffie and a team of top UK climbers head to tackle 'Tough Enough', one of the worlds hardest big-wall free climbs. The filming here gave the trip a laid back, almost sublime feel but the climbing it documents is on an epic scale... 12 pitches of sustained and technical climbing - 7b+, 8a, 8c, 7c, 8a+, 8a+, 8c, 8b+, 8b, 8c+, 8c, 6c! Cue sweaty hands again.

Finally, we have Sonnie Trotter and Cory Richards hanging out in Squamish, taking on the classic E8 route 'Presto'. The climbing here is slightly overshadowed by the invaluable belay advice offered from Cory, such as his belay warm-ups the "Ghandi Triangle" and the "Archer". Absolutely priceless and a very feel-good way to end what is an absolute treat of a dvd.

Adventures in Babywearing

Those that have followed me on twitter since my pregnancy days will know I documented my journey through pregnancy and used to blog about motherhood. I have been a fan of 'babywearing' since before Ffion was born, doing lots of research, I probably bought her first carrier when I was around 6 months pregnant.

Since having her I am often asked my opinion on baby carriers, most recently by an old school friend who has just had her first, and while everyone is different and has their favourites, having tried out various styles, I thought I would share my thoughts and opinions on them:

The first one I owned and used was the Baby Bjorn.

I know people have mixed opinions on Baby Bjorn carriers and they certainly don't work for everyone. But I couldn't have lived without mine. Before falling pregnant with Ffion and starting my 'all things baby related' research, I was totally unaware how 'big' babywearing was and the choice of carriers, slings etc out there! All I knew was that I loved the idea of having Ffion close to me, especially in those early days. I first took her out in the Baby Bjorn a couple of days after I left the birthing centre, she was just five days old!

Those early weeks were so precious. She would sleep while I carried her on long walks, round town, met with friends. Fast forward 6 months and she was facing outwards, spilling out and trying to jump out getting excited about seeing the world! At around 9 months I had to retire this godsend of a carrier as she just didn't fit well in it any more.

Marloes Sands, Pembrokeshire
Baby Bjorns new usually cost from £50 upwards - although I won mine on ebay for a ridiculously low price. And it was worth it's weight in gold. The material is soft and well padded, it's very simple to put on and put the baby in. It really came into it's own on a trip to Brighton (from Wales) as I managed to load our bags into and onto the pushchair (yes we have one of those too!) and push that while carrying Ffion close to me, keeping her safe at crowded stations and on busy public transport- much more important than the safety of our baggage! I even discreetly breastfed her in it on a busy London train. It also saw Ffion up her first ascent of Pen Y Fan, the highest peak in South Wales at 4 months old. Although she slept the whole way up and down!

Next up was my Vaude Baby Carrier. Sadly my relationship with this one didn't last quite as long, and it now lives in the cupboard under the stairs. Not a good use of around £80.
This carrier probably served us from Ffion being around 9 months to a 1 yr. I had tried it out in the outdoor shop in Brecon with Ffion in it before I bought it, but it wasn't until we were out in the hills for longer periods of time that I realised it didn't suit us.
Don't get me wrong, it had lots of advantages... the backpack style with a stand is great for taking on and off, and it was helpful that I essentially had somewhere for Ffion to sit if I ever needed a break, something that is lacking with more 'wrap' style carriers. The other strong point is that baby gets to sit really high and has a lovely vantage point of the areas you are exploring. Finally, with its rucksack style compartment under where Ffion would sit, I was able to take basic essentials for the day (a few nappies, wipes, food, liquids, an extra layer etc). These all really were strong points. I also had a rain hood that could be attached for drizzly days but was no good in windy conditions.

Up in the Carmarthenshire Fans
(Yeah, sorry about the hood design on that Ffion)
The biggest short fall for me was comfort. Perhaps because I had got used to the Baby Bjorn, I found that Ffion sat very high on my back in the Vaude. And while lovely for her to see around, I would find my shoulders ached within just an hour of being out. I also found as she got older and more excited about the world around her, if she decided she wanted to lean and look one side or the other, it would really throw off my balance!  The other disadvantage with this positioning for us was regulating Ffion's body temperature. I used the Vaude carrier during a long, cold winter with various trips out up the hills, and despite being wrapped up extremely well in appropriate gear, due to the distance from me, and her lack of physical activity while being carried, she got cold very easily.

So sadly after my short spell with this style of carrier, and lots of research later I settled on the Ergo Baby Carrier. Now, if I had known about this dream of a carrier all along, I would have used it from the outset!

There isn't anything I don't like about this carrier. We have used it from quick runs into the shops, she has napped in it on my back while I do housework, we've had long mountain days together... I've even climbed with her on my back in it. This is about as comfortable as babywearing gets. And it offers the option of having baby on the front or back, something we have taken full advantage of. And while Ffion sits lower on my back in this carrier, she has always been very happy and content in it.

While not cheap (new they start from around £75), lasting from newborn to around 4 years old, you certainly get your moneys worth out of it. I bought the 'original' but there are now more options out there including the Sport and Performance varieties, and Organic options. You can also buy accessories such as pouches, newby inserts, weather covers etc.

While this lacks the storage space of the backpack style Vaude, I found that I could quite happily carry a backpack on my front or back, depending on how I was carrying Ffion (see bottom, centre photo below).

Because it is so lightweight and compact compared to the backpack style carriers it can easily be chucked in a bag if you have a toddler who is walking but may get tired and want carrying at some point. I often chuck mine in the car, or in the bottom of the pushchair to have those options available.

There's not much more I need to say about it!