I have trended towards bouldering a lot in recent years as many of our outcrops in the north of England are suited to short solos or boulders. As I've climbed on these more I've tried to eliminate the natural gaps I see for my generation to tackle. I am partial to the odd trad route too but they have been of the short and hard variety again due to the crags. Now that I am back in the lakes I might have a chance to get stuck into the proper mountain trad again if I can stay away from my pads for long enough.
I like boulders with striking visual lines or great moves. I don't tend to like ground skimmers, overly linked up problems or stupidly blinkered/ eliminate ones, there is enough good rock about not to drop standards. Northumberland is where most of my favourite problems are and with Andy and Malcolm and Chris's high-quality additions almost all its hard problems are classics.
I've been putting up high 7's problems and harder since I was 16 and bouldering wasn't that popular, so I feel like I've seen a fair bit of development nowadays. In a way now I'm psyched more than ever and as my base level and strength improves there are some fantastic projects I can get my mitts on for the first time.
Get to know Dan
Tell us about your successes so far?
15 years of hard climbing in areas where I had little left to repeat.
What are you working on? What are your goals for the future?
With what free time I have now I’m still focussed on developing lines in remote areas of Northumberland, hopefully I’ll be able to get back into the lakes and Yorkshire as I get a bit more time but the Northumberland projects are really worth the time.
Why do you climb? What do you love about climbing?
Rock is the only permanent (in human time scales) natural structure on the planet, the fact that it makes such great challenges and isn't all over featured is a wonderful thing. It's fun to hunt out these shapes and challenges and bring them into the sport.
A truly world class line by my standards could go into the town square and people would be more than happy to have it there for its sculptural properties. If that climbs well too then I can't imagine a better thing to hunt out as a climber.
My day at Reiff in 2012 was pretty special, but climbing Bombadil on my own in 2019 after coming off the back of a bad wrist break was a personal highpoint. The self reliance and isolation really summed up much of my 15 years developing in the UK.
I've been forced into esoteric margins by the location of the best quality bouldering challenges the UK has. So it felt like entirely my own self-created conflict that I had to rise to, it is the embodiment of everything I’ve ever looked for in terms of difficulty and line, it felt like the only time I really had to give everything mentally and physically with no real safety reserve, in between a day job and two young kids it took some pulling off and breaking of mental barriers.
It felt like I had achieved personal excellence, but victory wasn't a factor as I knew it was already a lonely stage in a pursuit that's still not understood at all by most members of the public, no medals or trumpets on offer, just deep satisfaction of doing my best work on a worthy canvas.
The fact that I did it all off my own back without so much as a spotter was part of that. Climbing close to the limits of human capability at 8m high on a truly incredible bit of climbing and subtle features is something I doubt will happen again in my backyard at that quality, height and difficulty, I’ll always appreciate knowing what that top gear feels like, if only for a moment.
What do you do away from your sport?
85% of my life is away from my hobby, I’ve never been an athlete or had a coach etc, I’m just a good local hobbyist who pays attention to the details. So work, family, normal person stuff. If I get time for other sports then I like trail running and swimming.
I spend a lot of time about 4 miles from the road developing climbs for my own enjoyment. As that is only as far as you can get in England I'd say I know a bit about where far is, it's a lonely place with 0.0001% of the nation's visitors. No place really is too far in this country for me to climb at.
I'd love to imagine hopping about on Kerosene and diesel fuelled adventures enjoying my 1% privilege but in 2021 I'm more than happy just pottering about close to home on closer rocks using green electricity to get there. This is still a massive privilege and one that I appreciate every day, achieving happiness without just tonking away on the hydrocarbons to create it is a challenge I enjoy working towards in all areas in coming years, not just climbing.
Photo Credit - Mark Savage, Adam Long
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