The Nowist

The Nowist

– Nowist, a person who believes in living in the moment. A nowist sheds negative things in the past and gains energy from positive things in the present, thereby improving the possible future –


Somewhere in Pembrokshire there is a rocky hilltop called The Dragons Back. A series of small tors stretch out along the ridge. From below these rugged rocks give the hills the appearance of the back of a dormant Dragon. Rumour has it that King Arthur is buried here abouts. The rock is Preseli spotted Dolerite and is rumoured to have been transported to stonehenge in 2300 BC to create the outer ring. There is definitely magic in these hills, not least if you are into bouldering.


The Bouldering in the Preseli Hills has only recently been discovered and developed. I visited the area several years ago and had a quick explore but never went up there with my climbing shoes. Since then a dedicated group of climbers from South Wales have been developing the area and have put up some truly brilliant problems. The rock is some of the best I have climbed on in the UK, bullet hard Dolerite with amazing friction. “A better texture than Gritstone and with more holds”.

The Nowist climbs an amazing feature which is impossible to miss. A soaring arete with minimal holds. The hight is appealing, the landing is not.

This beautiful problem took me two sessions to climb. On the first session I warmed up on Simon Rawlinson’s amazing problem Purgatory which climbs a thin prow with compression moves and bizarre trickery. This problem is well worth searching out.

I then moved on to the main project. At first I thought the problem looked impossible, but after some work and imagination the moves came together and it was climbed in two halves. The meat of the difficulty is only four moves long and revolves around holding a very condition dependent pinch.

For the following week this problem was the only thing on my mind. Last Saturday, the 2nd of September, I returned. After a quick warm up I did the hard pinch move first go and assumed, wrongly, that it was in the bag. For the next two hours I failed to repeat that move, let alone link the moves together. The sun was coming and the conditions were slipping away. I thought I had blown it, I gave up for the day feeling frustrated and upset.

We spent several hours sitting in the hills admiring the magical place that we were in, watching the world and enjoying the moment. My frustration and thoughts about the problem drifted away, I was resigned to having to return at some point in the future, this didn’t seem too bad as it is a wonderful place to visit.

The time came for us to pack up and leave for the day, It was getting late and we had been on the hill for over nine hours. My pads were still down under the problem so I decided to have a go, more to confirm to myself that today wasn’t the day than anything else. I chalked my hands, sat under the boulder and placed my hands on the starting holds. Something was different, the rock felt cold and crisp, my hands felt like velcro I pulled on and before I knew it the hard moves were done, I was standing on the top of the boulder. The Nowist was climbed.

It seems that so often this is the way that I get up climbs. Once I have resined myself to “failure” and removed all pressure and expectation form the equation the climbing seems to take care of itself.  Perhaps this has something to do with being in the right place at the right time or more precisely just being in the Now!

I had spent every other attempt building up pressure on myself, setting up the drone for video footage, psyching myself up and telling myself this was the go, all that was needed was to let go of these external and internal pressures and just be present.

This did mean I had to repeat the problem to get some footage with the drone, unfortunately dabbing the pad ever so slightly, I did not feel this at the time and only noticed when watching the footage back. For anyone interested here is some rushed phone footage of the actual ascent:

With regards to the difficulty of this boulder problem, I really don’t know. The climbing suits me but the conditions on the day were far from perfect. It possible sits somewhere in the 7C+ to 8A range although it may feel easier in the cold. Repetitions will tell. Whatever the grade this problem is pure class and is up there with the proudest moments in my climbing.

The rest of the climbing on the Preseli hills is well worth visiting with a brilliant selection of easier problems, information for which you can find here

As alway I would really like to take this moment to thank my Sponsors Mammut, La Sportiva and Lyon Equipment

The Joker

After headlining as one of the hardest boulder problems in the iconic film Hard Grit The Joker has always been a climb that has inspired me. One move, pure difficulty, absolutely not my style. I am more suited to grovelling, thrutching and cheating my way up rocks using sneaky heels and toes. The Joker doesn’t allow for any of this trickery; or so it would first appear.

The Joker
Photo Hannah Brading

On closer inspection, when you start to really break down the move you realise just how technical one “pure power” move can be.

Ben Moon famously stated that “technique is no substitute for power”, but I beg to differ. Obviously you need power to drag yourself up pieces of rock, especially rocks as short as this, but the amount of power you need is directly proportional to the amount of technique you possess.

When/if you watch the video below notice the body swing as I step off the boulder. Get your timing right on the back swing and surprisingly little power is needed to reach for the top:

Technique in “full swing”?

Once I had mastered the technique of this move I could repeat it almost every time.

Admittedly just holding the holds is fairly difficult so some finger strength is required.

Anyway as I was saying this climb inspired me, in fact it still does although now I am trying it from one hold lower. It sits in such a majestic position overlooking all of the problems below. The Joker also signifies great improvements for my climbing, to do something which you would never have thought possible for you really is a great feeling. I walked down from the plantation that day with a massive grin on my face, and I wore it all the way home.