Calum is a North Wales based climber and currently the youngest of our sponsored team.
Calum lives at the foot of the Ogwen valley and was introduced to climbing by his parents when he was 13. He now takes full advantage of the mountains close to his Bethesda home.
It was trad climbing in particular that caught Calum's imagination. He quickly showed a natural ability and cool head on the sharp-end by leading his first E5 (Waves of Inspiration) only two-and-a-half months after starting out. At 14, he led The Cad (E6 6a) at Gogarth, not fazed by the route's reputation for boldness on less than perfect rock.
Within a week of getting his first taste of ice climbing at 15 years-old he led the Devil's Appendix (V) in Cwm Idwal with only a couple of ice-screws and a pair of straight-shafted ice axes, he also made an early repeat of the neo-classic Devil's Appendage (VII, 6).
Calum is currently finishing his A-Levels and has a summer of climbing planned.
- Rare Lichen (E9 6c) - 3rd ascent
- The Great Escape (E8 6c) - first ascent and currently unrepeated
- Hope, Faith and Charity (E8 6c) - first ascent and currently unrepeated
- Forsinain Motspur Super Direct (F8a) - first ascent
- Travesty (VIII, 8)
- Golden Gate (5.13a), El Capitan - free ascent
- Divine Providence (ED4), Mont Blanc
- The Fish (F7b+ 850m), the Marmolada
- Pichenibule (F7c), Verdon Gorge
Rab recently caught up with Calum during a break in exams and revision to find out a little more
Where were you born and where’s home now?
Bethesda born and bred. Wales’ lesser known climbing capital.
Tell us about your work?
I’m finishing school this year I guess A levels would fit into the work category. On top of that I do bits and bobs of work from guiding for Run Snowdonia to cleaning at Plas y Brenin which is actually really cool as you get free cake, a really good boss and a nice place to work (but it’s mainly for the free cake!). I’m taking a year out before going to university to study history and in the future I’d like to be a mountain guide.
How long have you been climbing?
For about 4 years though I’ve been mountaineering and scrambling all my life.
Describe your very first climb.
My first climb was Ordinary Route on the Idwal slabs but I can’t really remember it- I must have enjoyed it though!
Describe your climbing career.
I started when I was 13 and I improved really quickly at first through climbing on the slate all the time which really suited my weak arms and strong fingers. It also taught me how to remain relatively calm in dangerous positions which stood me in good stead for the future. I went from my first lead to my first E5 on-sight lead in the space of 3 months which was really cool but I soon found my development slowing down.
It took me about 8 months to diversify which made me a much better climber in the long term and I began to improve again as a result. Because of this I climbed in loads of different areas across Britain and started climbing with more people that I met along the way.
My first experience of Alpine and winter climbing came when I was 15 and I was fortunate enough to have good weather and good partners. I found ice climbing fairly straightforward- one big hold and exciting positions, I thought it was amazing though and leading the Devil’s Appendix on a minimal rack with old school tools a week after my first winter route is an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life! Likewise alpinism is amazing and I’m probably most enthusiastic about big alpine rock routes in the sun.
From there I guess it’s mainly been more of the same but at different venues and with different people. I also started new routing which I really enjoy: from finding new lines, preparing them and leading them; it can be a trial at times but is a very rewarding experience.
What are your most memorable climbs?
Difficult question. I remember the massive feeling of relief I had topping out The Strand at Gogarth which was my first E2 lead. It was such a battle climbing it and my arms were knackered for the following week!
Another memorable experience was climbing on the Grand Capucin in the Alps. It was my first alpine route and over-ambitious in a realistic kind of way. We ended up starting on the wrong face following a topo line and after flailing around, getting lost and taking a whipper we managed to traverse across to a route called Gulliver’s Travels. We got within about 3 pitches from the top when we had to retreat after my friend, Francis, stubbed his toe whilst holding my fall.....sorry!
What do you do when you’re not climbing?
I’m quite a keen runner and I dabble in all sorts of sports like biking and kayaking. I also enjoy playing the piano.
What’s your proudest moment?
Climbing wise it’s probably got to be leading The Cad at Gogarth on-sight when I was 14. I couldn’t really believe what I’d just done. It’s always a great feeling when a plan works out like that.
Who or what inspires you?
Anybody pushing themselves really hard or doing impressive feats. Climbers like Johnny Dawes and Steve McClure. Also paranoia about being beaten to my new routes- not that I’m competitive or anything.....
What are your future plans/goals?
I’d like to become a reasonable all-rounder before setting a real focus. I’ve been saving up to go on trips to the Dolomites, Alps and Yosemite this year and I’m hoping to go on an expedition next year.
What are your favourite pieces of Rab kit?
The Xenon Jacket is ridiculously light and really warm, ideal for multi pitch climbing where you’ve got to compromise weight with warmth on the belay ledges. I’ve also found the Easy Rider Pants to be great. Comfortable, light and quick drying after heavy rain.
How else do you train?
I guess I train mainly through climbing and keeping fit from running and cycling. I mainly struggle with powerful moves so I’ve started to boulder a bit more.
How do you think your friends would describe you?
Duracell Bunny has been used to describe me several times.
Mars or Snickers?
Beer or wine?
Tea or coffee?
Carrot or ginger cake?
Oasis, Manics, Debussy, Kasabian
Pie or salad?
Bivi or B&B?
Hot or cold?
Cat, dog or goldfish?
Car or bike?
Radio 1 or 2?
Long haul or short haul?
Facebook or email?
Christmas or New Year?
Film or theatre?
Favourite stand up?
Favourite time of day?
My favourite is ‘The wide mouth frog joke’ but it’s a physical joke. So how about: I want to die peacefully in my sleep like my grandfather. Not screaming in terror like his passengers.
‘The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.’ William Blake