With 9,954 climbs logged in the UKC database, 712 crags listed under his name as moderator, Dan Barbour - dannyboy83 - stood out as being the keenest UKC climber and logbook-user by a mile. Having ticked-off 100% of UKC's Top 23 Climbed Climbs and 91% of Rockfax Eastern Grit: Top 500 ticklists, 29 year-old Dan is a route-logging machine. Intrigued by his exploits, we thought Dan - our Logbook Legend - and girlfriend Lena would make for interesting interview subjects.
"I was hoping to go unnoticed as UKC's biggest geek!" - Dan
Where are you and Lena from?
I’ve been living in Sheffield for almost 2 years now and it seems like a pretty good place to be if you’re into climbing rocks.
Lena is Polish and has been studying in Krakow but wanted to expand her horizons and spend some time studying in another country. She could have chosen Paris or Toulouse, but for some strange reason came to Sheffield.
How and when did you get into climbing?
Being the son of a climber, it was inevitable that I was going to start when I was young. My dad used to take my brother and I out onto the gritstone crags and drag us up the classics. I remember shedding a few tears when I couldn’t get up Sunset Slab. I didn’t really take climbing seriously until I went to university and joined the mountaineering club at Southampton, and became hooked. By spending more time climbing than studying, I managed to improve a little. After many, many years I am still as addicted as ever, although I still sometimes cry when I fail on routes.
Lena started climbing a little over a year ago, a decision which has already affected her life choices. She moved to Sheffield in July 2014 and after I sent her a photo of Maisy, my very cute rabbit, she couldn’t resist moving into my flat.
What are your occupations?
For the last few years, I have been enjoying the climbing dirtbag lifestyle, doing just enough work to maximize climbing time. However this is a terrible idea for saving money or career prospects.
I spent around 5 years route setting and doing some coaching at Calshot climbing wall, near to Southampton. This was definitely a great way to get fitter, although I am pretty unbalanced as I could never jumar left-handed.
Lena is studying Interior Design and has now finished her Erasmus year and will complete her studies back in Krakow.
You have logged almost 10,000 climbs in our database - where do you find the time to climb so much?!
The combination of not having a regular 9-5 job, living in Sheffield, soloing lots of tiny little gritstone slabs and being so anal about recording this, has meant that it seems like I’ve done quite a few routes.
Which climbs stand out for you, and which areas?
I really love the Peak District and it always brings back fond memories of my childhood. Gritstone often lends itself to soloing with small 8m climbs, often with no decent protection. For me this is one of the most rewarding forms of climbing, but hypocritically I hate watching other people soloing!
For trad climbing, Pembroke, Pabbay and Mingulay and Fairhead stand out for their epicness and intimidation factor. I have so many favourite sport climbing destinations – Ceuse, St. Leger, Siurana, Geyikbayiri – but I think Kalymnos (which is where we are right now) is my paradise. It is always the non-climbing aspects of a trip that really make a place. The atmosphere, people, food and being able to relax in the sea after climbing makes Kalymnos such a special place.
In terms of routes, it’s the long, more adventurous ones that stand out for me. I have great memories of climbing the Grand Capucin wth the tough and unbreakable Felix Coxwell, and spending a romantic night on the Frendo Spur with Dan McManus.
You are a moderator for 700-odd crags - how do you manage to keep on top of them all?!
As it’s very apparent, I am a logbook geek and it’s just been an ongoing project of mine to update the database as much as I can from my guidebooks. I think it’s a great tool and the database on UKC is the most complete of all sites I’ve come across. After inputting routes to a crag, it really isn’t much work to keep them updated.
From reading your blog, you don't seem to "train" as such - do you rely on just "going climbing" to improve? If so, how does this work for you?
I’ve never really been too keen on a regimented training plan and I just climb lots to get strong. This is difficult to achieve climbing on 8m gritstone slabs and so I have reached a plateau over the last few years. As a new and ambitious climber, Lena has re-invigorated me to try to push myself as much a her. Since the start of the year, we have been using gym and now my notoriously weak antagonists are in a constant state of shock. An hour of fingerboarding has also been incorporated into our daily routine. So far, it seems to be working and we have both achieved milestones, albeit with the help of some friendly Kalymnian grading.
You clearly love travelling - what is it about travel that you enjoy so much?
Both of us love the simple life or travel and the chance to escape from the mundane and opportunity for new experiences. It’s a relatively stress-free life and our biggest worry right now is what we’re going to cook for dinner. As soon as we’re back home, we are dreaming of the next adventure.
Which place will you always return to?
Dan - I will always return to Kalymnos as a climbing destination. This is my 4th trip here and I’m still in awe of the view from our balcony. The west coast of Ireland holds a special place in my heart from childhood family holidays on the almost endless beaches and exploring the caves and mountains of Donegal.
Lena – With so many amazing places to see in the world, I will always seek to find new places and adventures. But, whilst travelling, it becomes clear that it is people that you are drawn back to and therefore I will always return to my hometown, Gdansk, and my family.
Tell us a bit about your blog.
Our blog was hastily put together in response to another one of these ‘best jobs in the world’ competitions. Backpacker magazine were recruiting a couple to explore, write and photograph the National Parks of the US. We had just a week to complete various tasks, one of which was to start a blog. Even if we don’t win, it was worth the hard work and we will try to keep it updated regularly.
Lena is passionate about her photography and you are passionate about writing - you are both sharing your adventures in a creative way. What inspired you to start sharing your travels?
I’ve always been quite shy and very much against self-promotion but Lena has convinced me that we should create a space that hopefully might inspire other people. I love to follow the adventures of other people and at the moment I am keen to go road-tripping around the US, after seeing Jacob Cook’s blog.
What are your ambitions in life, both climbing and non-climbing?
Dan - Whilst I’ve never really been too grade-obsessed – I get almost as much pleasure from soloing severe as redpointing a 8a – I think it’s important to set goals. As with everything in life, it’s great to see improvement and the nature of the grading system means it is impossible not to be ambitious. You strive to the next level. I still want to climb 8A, which will be hard as I’m really weak, and E8, but I think my days of scary grit headpoints are coming to an end. I’d like to spend some more time in Pembroke, where trying these routes is less likely to require a trip to the hospital. I’d really like to visit the US and try big-walling and also head to China and SE Asia. Having written all this, it might be surprising but climbing isn’t everything and a big ambition is actually very boring and to find a job that I enjoy.
Lena – At the moment, I would like to focus on redpointing more 7a’s and 7b’s and hopefully with some more training, 7c’s in the future. As I am quite new to photography, there is so much more for me to learn but one of my goals is to, one day, take photos good enough to be published in a magazine. As for less climbing related goals, I would love to have a job, that will not only be enjoyable but allow me to travel as much as possible.
Tell us about your rabbit! A few images have cropped up of some climbing antics on UKC?
Maisy is our very cute bunny who hops around our flat and sometimes comes out climbing with us. We have a love-hate relationship with her since all of our clothes are half-eaten and I don’t think we have any chance of seeing our deposit again
Describe yourselves in three words (three words for each of you!)
We both find this difficult so have described each other:
Dan – Optimistic, Caring, Chilled-out
Lena – Enthusiastic, Ambitious, Creative
Check out Dan and Lena's blog.
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