Extreme Punterdom - an interview with Penny Allchin (Dinkypen)

Penny at the crux moves of The Crow's Nest (VS 4c) at Birchen
© Nick Smith

With now over 16,000 registered users at it's not a difficult task looking for the next victim for the Interrogation room but it is difficult choosing who, especially as we are all climbers and all have a tale to tell.....and there are only twelve months in a year. It would take a millenium and a third to interview everyone registered today. It would be easy to go for some of the obvious choices, the outspoken, the outrageous, the strongly opinionated or the funny on the UKC forums and I'm sure one day they will hear a knock on the door. Hopefully they'll be in and answer it. But it is often those who don't shout so loudly or stand out so significantly that often have the most interesting tale to tell. It is a pleasure browsing through the user profiles and talking to a few mates looking for potential victims. And then when I have the prey in my sights I have to pose the inevitable question!

Hi Dinkypen. Will you be my next victim in the Interrorgation Room: re: interviews with UKC climbers?

Why me? I am really very boring!

 I'll be presumptuous and take that as a yes. Are you around for the next week or so? I don't expect you to answer the questions immeadiately.

Oh and by the way, you spelt 'interrogation' and 'immediately' wrong! Tut tut! I can't abide bad spelling.

I am a bad speller. I try hard though.

10/10 and a gold star for effort then.

How old are you? When you did you start climbing and how did you start climbing?

I am 41. I was a late starter and only started climbing 5 or 6 years ago. It all came about after my laddy (aka the Real Weeman) had been to one of those kid's birthday things down at the Edge in Sheffield. From then on he was hooked and wanted to head down to the wall at every opportunity, so I thought I may as well learn to belay him. Needless to say, before too long I ended up on the other end of the rope. I met up with Nick Smith via the 'Lifts and Partners' forum at and I haven't looked back since, although I would hardly class myself as hardcore!

You seem to have done quite a bit in a short time, sport, trad, bouldering, ice. You get around a bit. And what's this 'hardcore' business? What's it mean? Is it important?

Yes, I have dabbled in many aspects of climbing, mainly thanks to the people that I have associated with over the years. I love the many variations and permutations of the sport, each with their own physical and mental demands. However, I have never really clicked with leading trad, thanks to my head letting me down on too many occasions. I have more confidence on bolts than I do in my own gear! I am relatively new to ice climbing but hope to get more experience up in the mountains with my man this coming winter. I feel most at home up in the hills so fingers crossed for a good winter season!

The Real Weeman and the Man, LDB on top of Aonach Mor after climbing Golden Oldie
© dinkypen

As for this hardcore business, I would put myself more in the punter category! I climb for the enjoyment and not because I need to climb harder, constantly pushing my grade. Sure, I get a certain satisfaction from completing a route that is harder than anything I have done before, but climbing is not the be all and end all of my life. In fact, I was forced to temporarily abandon climbing at the beginning of the year after I sustained an injury to a thumb ligament when skiing in the Pyrenees. As a result, I branched out into other sports, specifically fell running (we have completed the LAMM and the Saunders LMM this year!) and mountain biking which have provided new personal challenges. I am sure it is only a temporary break from climbing and have no doubt I will be back on the end of a rope or on a boulder somewhere by the autumn, by which time I will be leaner and meaner than ever before.

By the way I was going to put you in your late 20's.

Late 20s!!!!! Blimey, you are a mate for life. My laddy turned18 in June which made me feel old, I can tell you!

 A mum and son team? Does he burn you off?.

 Burn me off? Hell yeah! He's like a whippet, dinky like his mum but very lean and strong with it.... and being a youngster, he is far more fearless than me. But, from a mum's perspective, that causes problems in itself! But as he gets older, it gets easier.

 I see you have two businesses. Are Stopover Connections and your main jobs? Are you the boss of these companies?

 Yes, I set up Stopover Connections around 7 years ago as a way to indulge my passion for France and all things French. It is a reservation service for characterful b&b, small hotel and chateaux accommodation in France and is 100% Internet based. The initial interest in the business was such that I took the plunge and gave up my full time job in credit management in 2000 to work full time on the business from home. Many people thought I was stark raving bonkers, but hey! It turned out to be the best decision I have ever taken and the business has gone from strength to strength. It also means I have the lifestyle I always wanted. I can 'bunk off' whenever the fancy takes me and don't have to report to some corporate suit who is going to tell me what to do day in day out. With it being Internet based, I can also work from anywhere in the world, which is a bonus. I am also really lucky in that my man is a bit of a programming wiz and is currently working hard on the development of the website database which will enable us to expand the business - we have big plans for the future, so watch that space!

 And Indoor Rock?

 Indoor Rock was actually Jamie's (my laddy's) idea and has been tootling along for the last couple of years. It is again an Internet business which acts as a reseller for the majority of the UK climbing hold manufacturers. We have holds, fingerboards and fixings by Bendcrete, Entreprises, Holdz, French Rock, Beacon, King Kong, Wager and Moon on there now!

 So the Real Weeman is an entrepreneur just like his Mum?

 The entrepreneurial flare seems to run in the family. My brother was voted 'young grower of the year' in February as a result of his work in the family blueberry business 'The Dorset Blueberry Company' and my mum has written many definitive books on camellias, blueberries, cranberries etc. She is a well-known name in the horticultural world. The pair of them were on the TV at the Gardener's World Exhibition in Birmingham back in June, they are featured in a 5 page spread in September's issue of 'You are what you eat' magazine and will be featured with the TV chef Phil Vickery on the 'This Morning' programme some time in September! As for Jamie, he currently has his sights set on a course in forestry and arboriculture when he returns from his gap year in 2006, so he may well join the ranks of the self-employed some time in the future.... that is IF he returns from his gap year!

 Where's he gone?

 He's only down in Dorset helping with the blueberry harvest at the moment - he is down there for 5/6 weeks every summer and is my brother's right hand man! He is coming back to Sheff at the end of the month and then heading off to the Himalaya mid September to climb Island and Mera peaks with Ben P, James Jackson and A N Other, before traveling down to New Zealand where he will be working on an environmental project for a month, then hopefully working on a fruit farm for a couple of months before he makes his way back up to North Island, exploring and climbing along the way. He will then have a month in Thailand before he returns to the UK at the beginning of June next year. I'm not jealous at all really! I'll miss him, that's for sure.

 Interesting to see that Farmers Markets have arrived in the UK....sorry Penny just reading about the Dorset Blueberry Company and some woman called Jennifer Trehane.

 That's me mum! My brother, David Trehane, is the driving force behind the business though. My grandad was the first person to bring blueberry plants to the UK in the 1930s.

 I read the history. Very interesting. Do you get down to Dorset a lot (I love the place)......and when you do, do you hit Portland?

 I only get down there a couple of times a year and have only ever been to Portland a couple of times! I found the rock really quite slippery and polished and not of the same quality as the Costa Blanca 

 Whilst Penny was down Dorset I asked one her friends Adele (Adders) what Penny was like.

 “Penny is fitness mad, constantly doing some form of exercise - I think she thinks if she doesn't she'll pop or something. We started bouldering every sunny evening as we were both Sheffield based and as we are a similar size and boulder at a similar grade it made us the perfect bouldering partnership.  She's really easy to get on with. I challenge anyone to meet her and not think how fantastic she is. She's just getting into that fell running and mountain marathons business at the moment which I've told her on many occasions is wrong and evil, but she seems to be enjoying them. She tells me she likes metal and rock but I wouldn't be surprised if I found the Pretty Woman soundtrack in her car. She balances perfectly between a motherly role and the feminine even though she kicks ass bouldering and is a great drinking pal.”

Penny competing in the Saunders Lakeland Mountain Marathon.

 How was the weekend Penny?

Had a very relaxing weekend at mum's down in Dorset taa :-) Just what I needed. Had various problems with my hips over recent months and was in a fair bit of pain with my left one last week so finally got it x-rayed at the hospital yesterday. Should have result next week. I am falling to bits! It is very frustrating as my hip has prevented me from exercising and we were due to compete in the Phoenix 'Long O' orienteering event up in Northumberland this weekend. We also missed the Capricorn 'Long O' event in the Howgills at the end of July because of my sprained ankle - grrr! I will turn into a tub of lard if this carries on!

 What sports were you doing before you started climbing?

 Bugger all! During the 1990s I was a 'corporate whore', working full time in a demanding job, single parent, setting up my business Stopover Connections with little time for anything else. Looking further back to my childhood, it is ironic that it took me so long to get into outdoor activities, as I grew up in an outdoor pursuits centre on the fells above Windermere where my father was the warden. I was however a pretty lazy teenager and my mum now finds it amusing that the lass who would refuse to walk anywhere now competes in mountain marathons and has fitness as a big priority in her life! It is only really in the last 18 months since I met the man that general 'fitness' has become a big driving force in my life. I have built up a fair bit of strength since I started climbing but I didn't feel like I had any real aerobic fitness. But we have worked hard this year, trained together and have thoroughly enjoyed the fell-running that we have participated in and we have felt the fitness benefits as a result. We would like to compete in a duathlon or two before the end of the season but injuries and illness are currently causing us both big problems, so we may put that idea on hold until next season.

 What of the future?

 If all goes according to plan, Andy and I are hoping to head down to the Tarascon area of the Pyrenees in the first week of October to look at buying a property out there. We will hopefully be able to move out there permanently sometime in the future after Jamie has gone off to Uni. It has always been my dream, being a total Francophile! I can't wait to escape this country.

 There's a lot going on in your life. It seems that some of it all started with the Real Weeman's trip to a kid's birthday thing down at the Edge' climbing wall. How do you reckon things would be different if you and Jamie hadn't got into climbing?

 It's hard to imagine how life would have turned out, as the outdoor scene is such an integral part of my life now. In fact, I don't think I CAN imagine how life would have been. I have done things I never thought I would or could do, I have pushed, and continue to push, my physical and mental limits in the outdoor world, I have had some amazing experiences with some fantastic people. I met my man through UKC and my life is generally more fulfilling than I could ever have imagined it would be.... and it's only just begun! I have a lot to thank Jamie for, that's for sure!

You can see some of Penny's photography and more photos of her climbing at her photo gallery.

Mick Ryan is a regular contributor to You can read his first UKC Interrogation Room interview with Graham Gedge (aka Horse) here and more at the articles section of UKC.

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18 Aug, 2005
If you're going to do an article with PunterDom in the title, you could at least interview me... Dom ||-)
18 Aug, 2005
She should put some plugs for some web businesses into the interview.
18 Aug, 2005
LOL. I can't believe this... you in Micks ongoing 'Hello Magazine/Heat' feature. Andy is famous by association now a sort of Posh to your Becks. Does anyone else find this whole concept hilarious? Not to say it should stop... it's kinda fun. I do like that the articles don't focus totally on climbing, GG on his bike, and Penny as an entrepreneur.
18 Aug, 2005
and all that bloo poo
18 Aug, 2005
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