Molly Thompson Smith

Molly Thompson Smith
Edinburgh EYC 2013

Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Grampians

Climbing into the light at Trackside
Australia was always the place I was most excited for on my big trip (though Japan came in a close second). After a few months of South East Asia and a India as our starter, I was ready for a little break from the busy and well, simply different way of life. As soon as I arrived in Australia I was hit with their laid-back attitudes and the importance of activeness and fun -  a little different from the futuristic and orderly Japan. It felt good, and it was soon going to be better with the arrival of my boyfriend Billy and finally settling in in the Grampians National Park.

Billy on 'Rave Heart'.

During our 2 weeks down under, we were blessed with blue skies and sunshine most days. And our rainy days forced us back to the Hollow Mountain Cave, home to a myriad of holds - and boulder problems, or the shelter of Kindergarten. What I found interesting was how different each areas style of climbing was. You had the Valley of the Giants & Andersens, which had Font like features; Kindergarten with its white and orange swirly rock; the cave which glowed orange and was full of sharp crimps, cracks and seams, finishing up with pinches and pleasant holds on its outer edges; and Buandik which seemed to boast several different styles within itself. We quickly realised 2 weeks in a place like this was never going to be enough, and that somethings may have to suffer.  It was a mission each evening to decide where we would venture the next day, what boulders made the cut, and what boulders had to be sidelined for a far off return. Or even whether we sacrificed grades and resting for quantity, or the other way around. And each day ended with the same old 'I wish we had more time here' as we carried out our skincare routine. Nevertheless, we made it our aim to visit as many areas as we could.

The trip started off swimmingly for me, as I was able to do my first 7C+/V10 (The Departed) and a 2 days later my first 8A/V11 (Dead Can't Dance). Shortly after I had my eyes set on Sleepy Hollow, a V12 that claimed the second part of the famous 'Wheel of Life' in the Hollow Mountain Cave.

'Sleepy Hollow' - Hollow Mountain Cave
A promising flash go gave me confidence that this one I could get done, and potentially done quickly provided I had enough skin and felt rested. I guess this is where my downfall is outside - as soon as I know something hard for me is possible I struggle to keep it together almost, and it seems that I do everything I can to ensure it doesn't happen! Crazy! I kind of did this with Sleepy Hollow; once I knew it could be done, I felt the pressure to do it. Second session not as good as the first... chances of success slipping through my fingers. That crux beta that worked last time just doesn't feel right today, uh oh it's not going to happen. My skin hurts, and my shoulder - definitely going to fail. And here's where I recognised what the problem was. Fail. I asked myself why would I have failed if I didn't do the boulder? Because I should be able to do it? But why? Why should I be able to do it... surely I shouldn't be able to do anything, but can give everything my best? And as soon as I realised I didn't HAVE to do the boulder, that I was on a fun climbing trip just trying to climb some really good boulders, that I'd already achieved more than expected, the pressure to do Sleepy Hollow disappeared. More relaxed about it, I gave it one final session, and hey - it wasn't to be. But that's okay, because there are more boulders out there and it wasn't something I had to do. The last few days of the trip came and went, and I tried lots more boulders, as if it was a competition to get through as much skin as I could!

2 and a half weeks back into home life and training I of course miss the chilled out Oz & Grampians lifestyle, but training is what I missed when I was away and I'm loving feeling tired again :)

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Gap Year Travels - India

Whilst I’m sat on this endless sleeper train from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, I might as well reflect on my time in India last week. Before I went to India, I was pretty confident I knew what I was in for.

I'll forever be in love with India's architecture - Jama Masjid.

During my 8 short days here I leant a lot and made a lot of observations. Firstly, India’s winters are fairly chilly; this may be slightly biased as I am one of the coldest people you will ever meet! Crazy right?! India, cold? Never!
Knowing I’d only be in India for 8 days before moving onto a hot & humid Thailand, and also having a backpack with a 60m rope, portable fingerboard and several draws in it meant I packed light with minimal layers and not much warm stuff. Bad Choice. Yes it’s pleasant in the sun but India’s mornings, evenings and shady spots are pretty nippy – I even had to buy an extra jumper to avoid freezing. This made sightseeing in the morning and even a night camping pretty difficult.

Baby faced me and the Baby Taj in Agra.
I also learnt haggling can be fairly draining, especially when you don’t know the value of things but know you’re probably going to get ripped off if you don’t get the price down a bit. As a baby faced, petite young girl I look like an easy target, however I’m fairly decent at standing my ground and not giving into the ‘I’ll give you this and together they’ll be xxx, best price, won’t find anything like it, handmade and of the finest quality.’ When clearly it’s not or you had no intention in buying the item in the first place. The sellers can be fairly aggressive and relentless in their efforts to achieve a purchase – very unlike what happens in the UK. It takes some getting used to but it’s all experience.

Doing my India travelling in a tour group ruined the experience for me. Of course it’s all personal opinion and preference, but following a group of people and just being one of those westerners on a tour took away all the excitement and adventure of discovering somewhere full of history, culture and unique people. And in that sense I feel as though I didn’t get a taste of authentic India – only one where I was a walking, talking bag of money with lots of other moneybag friends. And it’s not so nice feeling like that. Even though I think I’d have had a better time without a tour or even in a different country I guess it’s always good to experience something – I thought I wasn’t a tours person and now I know for sure that it’s not for me.

The Taj Mahal - Agra.
However, I did see some beautiful architecture, my favourite being the one and only Taj Mahal. It was hard not to be impressed with its scale, almost perfect symmetry (just ruined by an extra coffin being placed off centre!), fine paintwork and the story behind it. I think it was one of the highlights of the trip for me! Another thing I secretly enjoyed but did an awful lot of moaning during was camping in the Duhla Village. Now it wasn’t exactly camping – more glamping with beds in our tent and even a toilet. As I mentioned before I don’t do cold and so a night basically outside was difficult for me! But as soon as the sun came out the next day and we wandered around the local village meeting people and watching them carryout their daily duties I decided that maybe it hadn’t been so bad. And lastly I think I will remember the sky of Jaipur on the day of the festival of Sakranti – the changing of seasons. It’s a tradition to wear yellow and fly kites around India, particularly in Jaipur. A pink sky full of kites being flown on rooftops, the odd lantern and fireworks was definitely up there in my favourite sky collection!
George enjoying the chilly morning after glamping.

And I must also say that not everyone in India is trying to sell you something or take advantage of you! I know my blog has a slightly sour feel to it but I did meet some incredibly friendly people with incredible talents and skills. India is clearly a country very proud of its history and culture and is one where respect is highly valued and that is something to be admired!

Safe to say I’ll never assume a film representation of a country’s climate, culture, facilities etc (Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was what I went off!) is accurate.

Next blog… Thailand. 

Saturday, 30 July 2016

The Transition

As most people know, I’ve got quite the reputation for being a religious gym climber, plastic puller and even ‘fake climber’ to some. I’ve been climbing for 11 years now, with almost all of that being indoors in London.  My training partner when I was younger, Buster Martin, was very into climbing outside and would be constantly engaged in conversation with my coach about the routes he’d just heard of, projects he had,  and hard climbs he wanted to do one day. Being cold, uncomfortable and not being able to see the next hold never appealed to me at that age, and I felt a pressure to join the masses and climb some stuff outside. But I never felt as if I’d ever enjoy it or be able to climb/push myself as hard as I could inside – in my comfort zone.  I was constantly being asked when I was going to make ‘the transition’, or get into climbing outside and back then, funnily enough I hoped the answer was never! I was happy being Molly who only ever climbed inside and would be a comp climber for the rest of her life ha! So this blog is about the turning point for me, and about my newfound psyche that is pretty hard to get out of my head!

Apart from visiting Harrison’s Rocks when I was roughly 9, I count my first ever proper outdoors experience as a day spent on the grit at Stanage with the GB Junior Bouldering Team 2 years ago. I enjoyed the novelty of it all, but it was a little strange; this is what everyone raved about? Looking back I can only laugh at how wrong I was. The climbing was fun, the people were fun, the pads were a bit of a faff and it snowed so I was cold. Overall, a mixed day.
Goredale - Rob Russell

I decided to give it another go later that year with my two coaches at the time – Liam Halsey and Rob Russell.  I had been having a great season, with winning my first EYC and finishing 2nd in the European Youth Champs (both in lead), and thought with my current form and positive attitude I might find this outdoor psyche I was missing. It was a great week and I did enjoy bouldering in the Lake District and getting on some routes, but again I was a little uncomfortable, scared of falling on a rope, and annoyed at rubbish phone service. I went home having had a great time but ready for a break before I returned.

Kilnsey - Jim Pope
I tried Kilnsey next, with the experienced Jim Pope and Ian Dunn. This was a great 3 days where I tried a few routes, but wasn’t that keen to pull on more than a couple times a day – a mix of fear of falling/not knowing where I was going and lack of confidence I think. It was good fun but I still didn’t feel comfortable with not having bright blue blobs showing me the way, and with feeling so alone high up on routes.

Egöiste - Joe Swales (Font 2)
The next stage of my transition was my two trips to Fontainebleau. I went once in October last year, and again in March this year. These trips were pretty social, going with friends and having an attitude where I was psyched to have a go at stuff but wasn’t too fussed with what I got up and was cool with watching others climb hard. I did climb my first 7C on the first trip (Carnage sit) and was like ‘ahh that’s cool, wonder if there’s anymore I can do’… which there weren’t, and I wasn’t too fussed about it. The second trip to Font was a bit unfortunate; my good friend Aidan shattered his heel, Luke hurt himself (twice!), Joe pulled his hamstring and it rained for 7 out of the 9 days we were there.  So I came home having not climbed much but not caring that much again.

So… fast forward to July 2016….

A group of friends and I decided that Magic Wood would be a good summer destination for a climbing trip. I was keen to get away from the comp scene, be with friends and see what this place I’d seen plenty of vids about was like. I actually felt pretty psyched before I went out which was definitely a change! The long journey gave me an opportunity to look through the guide and actually create a list of stuff I wanted to try and get done, again a first for me. Whilst climbing in Magic Wood I learnt a lot; I learnt that sometimes things don’t always go in one session – a concept that was absolutely absurd to me previously as I was a firm believer of I can either do it today, or I cant at all! I also learnt how to full crimp (yes I know it took me a long time, - I grew up dragging), and also got an idea of what level I thought I was at outdoors. I noticed that I didn’t care that it was cold, or that I couldn’t get any service, or that sometimes I’d have to go for a ‘jungle pee’, or that I might have to walk 20 minutes up a hill to get to someone’s project… carrying pads too!!!  It was all part of it, and I was enjoying every single second of it. I didn’t want rest days to come, I wanted to try everything – even if it was cold, raining, too lanky, not my style etc… I realised that I actually enjoyed being outside with friends, and enjoyed having a crazy battle with a piece of rock (and sometimes succeeding).

Having a great time failing on Beach Mantle (6C) - Billy Ridal
So I’m not going to talk about all the things I got up in Switzerland, I’d rather you knew that I learnt things, and found the appreciation and enjoyment for climbing outside that I’d been looking for. I still get the ‘but you don’t climb outside!’ every now and again, but now I at least feel like that isn’t completely true, and that I can at least say that I really like doing it! 

Bit long but thought why not, it’s been ages since I last blogged! So well done if you got this far ;)

P.s I decided to dedicate my instagram page to climbing (mainly!) so if you want to see what I’m up to and where I am then follow @mollyts123 !!

And lastly, a massive thank you to my sponsors, especially ...

Lyon Outdoor
Sport England
Michael & Lauren Clancy