About me:

Originally from Hull, I now live in Llanberis, North Wales. Totally addicted to climbing, I work at the Indy Climbing wall and as a freelance routesetter to fund my dirty habit.

31 March 2011

Five minute warning.

I've just finished the best SPA ever with the legend Andy Boorman (over 50 and still cruising E5).

The first day was daunting, having learnt how to tie-off a belay and make a releasable abseil the night before. Anyway, cruised it. Today we had to demonstrate our personal climbing. We headed to Craig y Forwyn left-hand, a good single pitch venue for those wanting to get a load of S-E1 routes in the bag. Over the course of the morning Mikey, Bubbles, Oli and I took it in turns to do Arian Direct (VS) and Plas Newydd Groove (HS). All 4 of us passed, and all 5 of us enjoyed it, although I'm sure Andy must have been tiring of me asking about all the routes he had done.
'Extreme Rock' is somewhat of a trad climbers bible. It's a list of around 150 of the UK's best extreme routes, and in my experience upto now, it's not far wrong. As a slightly autistic list-lover a little pipe dream of mine is to tick the book.

As I was saying, we were at Craig y Forwyn 'left-hand'... The reason for this distinction is that the main part of the crag is banned due to the landowner's logic-less temperament. Within the banned section is one of my outstanding Extreme Rock ticks: Great Wall (E4 5c). I had to do it.

Arriving at the bottom of the wall, I craned upwards. When I got to the crag I had wondered how a route here could be in the climbing Koran. It all became clear...100 odd foot of smooth, immaculate, leaning rock. Several insitu threads guide a path up the wall via a series a well-formed features.

I leave the deck, get an early runner in and feel pumped. I contemplate heading back to the deck. I don't. 50ft later, forearms tight and tired, hindsight regrets. Blind moves head just where you want them to. I find myself 30ft from the top, begging for respite. It doesn't come. I'm falling upwards. Recovering is no longer an option. I beat the sting in the tail just in time. With the final few feet of climbing to do I'm no longer able to hold on. Using my forearms for hands I grovel out over the top.

I had to take five minutes to be able to open the crabs to make a belay. Awesome.

Whilst belaying Mikey up the landowner came out of his house. From the bottom of the hill he launched a barrage of unreasonable, uncompromising abuse. I wore my diplomacy hat but it was futile. Remembering the shotgun cartridge we had found at the bottom of the crag, his five minute warning was heeded.

I will definately be back, and I think a little reshuffling might put this route in my 'Top 5'.

27 March 2011

The times they are a changing.

Firstly, I want to say a huge thankyou. The blog has had more than 1000 views. I think that's amazing. If you were the 1000th viewer let me know and I'll post you a copy of Welsh Connections!

Anyway... Pant Ifan on Thursday, totally deserted. Just me and Tommy Martin. Duncan and Mike went to Blwch Moch to try Mike's project.

First up, the aptly named Barbarian (E1 5b). This savage will plunder and pillage your forearms for juicy lactic. A small, awkward roof early on merely hints at what's in store. A good fight. Next in line, Scratch Arete (HVS 5a). A much more pleasant opponent, gracefully conceding the win as you gain the awesome jug over the roof. The first ab left me beneath a clean looking wall. Inspired, I roped up again and set off into the unknown. A rapid, romping layback flake gained some good holds beneath a bulging corner. I stuffed a few cams in and cranked around into a groove, an unlikely backhand mono was the last memorable move before whopping great ledges to the top. The route turned out to be Rhych dy Din, or Itch (E2 5b), worth seeking out. I really enjoyed this knowledgeless style. True onsighting.

Feeling good I decided to have a go at Integral Direct (E3 5c), a bold, blunt arete. With only two small wires behind two thin flakes and a slopey crux sequence above I ran away with my tail between my legs. As the darkness crept in I soloed Scratch (VS 4c), trailing the ropes for the ab. The first pitch was fine with big ledges, and I managed it in my trainers. Arriving at the ledge beneath pitch two and eyeing the steep corner crack, I decided a switch to rock boots was in order. High up on jams and smears I was glad I'd made the change.

I abbed down, got the gear, pulled the ropes and...  nothing. Totally jammed in a crack! I sprinted up the never-ending staircase to free the ropes from the top. Tom shouted after me 'pull them up or they will get jammed again'.  Inevitably, I ignored his advice, threw the ropes and ran back down beaten and in the dark. To add insult to injury, the ropes had caught again. All remnants of patience were shattered as I frantically scrambled up dodgy terrain to unhook the ropes. A minor victory. At the same time a head torch appeared through the trees it was Mikey. He had done his project, cleverly named 'The Philtrum' (E6 6b).

The next day, we headed to the Grochan. It was as busy as toys'r'us on Christmas eve. I knocked out Brant Direct (HVS 5a), a classic corner climb, to warm up. Much more awkward and polished than I had remembered. Then, Tommy did Karwendal Wall (HVS 5b) a pleasant romp up a pair of perpendicular ramplines. Ready for action, I plumped for an effort on Mural (E4 6a). A nice bit of wall climbing led to a ledge. From here a crack runs to the top of the wall, but holds out left beckon and a few slappy moves gain jugs. After fiddling some gear in I made a sprint for it and topped out just as my arms were beginning to wilt.

The time is upon us to go out and get pumped to the eyeballs, Shame I've got work to do...

26 March 2011

Duncan's birthday.

On Wednesday it was Duncan's birthday, so naturally it was an excuse for two days of climbing...

On Tuesday Dunc and I headed up to Castell Cidwm, but he was feeling a little under the weather (bloody weather), so opting for the easy, we set off up The Curver (HVS 4c). I took the first pitch, then Dunc did the second, which takes you into wild terrain on the 'lip of everything', and is possibly only exposed VS. After this I had a 40 metre scramble pitch through heather and crap rock. As Duncan got within 5 metres of me on second, he said there was a lower-off where he had previously belayed. We reversed the choss and lowered off. A complete waste of 40 minutes.

Next up, The Straightener (E2 5b). A nerve-wracking lead on huge jugs of generally suspect nature. Each pull feels like any excess force would pull the hold clean off the wall. On top of this, the gear is quite spaced, and I wouldn't like to test any of it. Bold. On second Duncan sent a rugby ball sized block hurtling to the deck which generated a shuddering impact boom.

That was it for the days climbing as we were heading to Stockport to see a Ron Fawcett lecture. I had heard rumours that it wasn't very good because he was too shy and modest. Rubbish... It was great. Some awesome stories about roughing-it around the world, first ascents, and one-upmanship. What a legend.

On Wednesday (the birthday) we took the BUMS minibus and a few cars to the pass. Armed with 300 cubic metres of foam we laid seige to the problems at Wavelength and Utopia. It was great fun. Every problem getting its very own send train. The highlight was Boysen's Groove (V4), as Bubbles ticked it and morphed from avid ledge shuffler to psyched boulderer. Good effort! To round the day off we had a BBQ by the roadside boulders.

Summer has arrived.

21 March 2011

Weekend blog.

The weekend was a prime example of pathetic fallacy. Saturday morning, the sun not so sure of itself began to burn its way through the clouds. We walked through the woods, catching glimpses of the looming crag. After 15 minutes we were stood in the shadow of grandeur, beneath Castell Cidwm, a large square wall littered with a dozen or so roofs, the biggest of which produces the focal point of the route Dwm (E1 5b, A1/E3 6a) a classic aid climb which made it into Hard Rock. This is probably the worst route at the crag, nearly always wet and shady. The Toms (Ripley and Livingstone) dogged up it for 4 or 5 hours. Meanwhile, me and Ed Booth had an awesome time in the sun!

First off, the uber jugfest of Vertigo (HVS 5a, 4c), an amazingly exposed route tiptoeing out across the lip of the undercut wall. Potentially the best HVS in North Wales, and one I'm sure a confident VS leader could jump on. Next up, Central Wall (E3 6a, 5c). The sun beaming down and a gusty wind provided the perfect backdrop for the giddy exposure of the day's main event. Some say this route is an E3 for E5 climbers, I reckon it's a good E3 to go for if you're going well. Ed took the first pitch, up a smooth groove and left to beneath a diagonal roof. Here a few hard pulls on slopey jugs gains the sanctuary of the belay. I took pitch two, a tremendously juggy affair, with perfectly spaced gear and perfectly choreographed moves by Gaia. The finish is spectacular, pulling through the steepness on sinker jugs with a small cam way below your feet. This crag must be the most one of the most undeservedly neglected in all of Snowdonia.

The sun disappeared behind the hills so we hot-footed it over to Clogwyn y Wenallt. Solid rough rock in an idyllic setting. Racing to the bottom we chose to do Torero (E2 5b, 5b). The first pitch went by uneventfully, but the second pitch had brilliant climbing, on immaculate face holds. What an awesome day checking out some of North Wales' lesser known gems!

We had to make a swift getaway as I had other engagements. I had been invited to the 60's and 70's Bangor university climbing club re-union as a guest speaker. I have to admit it was quite a daunting experience, making idle chit-chat with a group of old friends who hadn't see each other for years. The evening consisted of inspiring conversations, tales of huge whippers into Whillan's Harnesses, a few impressed comments on having done Central wall that day 'without any points of aid', pronounced awkward silences, and a gut-busting load of buffet meat.

Sunday, the cumulonimbus hung heavy on us. A late start, even then only heading to the Llanberis Mountain Film Festival. We had a quick look around for freebies and entered a few raffle draws, then spying a gap in the clouds we ran to our car. We bombed it down the Pass looking out for the hallowed sun spot we'd seen, instead spotting Mikey and Ed doing a bit of bouldering. We nipped across to meet them and I managed to rapidly dispatch Fear of a Slopey Planet (V6) just after the other two.

Back to the cars, we drove up to try and find sun Nant Gwynant instead finding thick cloud and more rain. Back down the Pass, and the sun had found its place on the Grochan. Like a sailor to a Siren, deaf to any reserve, Ed marched up with one goal, Cockblock (E5 6b). Me and Mikey followed splurting out beta all the way. Once at the bottom of the crag, the sun went in and the clouds came down. I would have gone home at this point, but Ed, unpeturbed, racked up, had a quick Birkett-esque warm-up and went for it! Moving rapidly through the bottom section, looking solid and steady, he reached the rest on the arete, unable to make it work for him in the moist conditions. He pressed on. Bomber nut in, he launched into the crux sequence. A misjudged slap and he came off. After another couple of attempts in vain and rain, we left. 

Near his High point on Cockblock (E5 6b); Laura Perry Collection
 No more attempts were made for dry rock, and we went to the Beacon for a session, but my knackered tendons couldnt take it. I now have a dark cloud hanging over me. Are my fingers fucked? Should I take yet more time out?

17 March 2011

A working title.

I've really got my work cut out the next few weeks. With a cubic fuck load of uni work, and a new famine regime on the go, I forecast arduous times ahead. Nonetheless, I'm feeling pretty up for it...

Since my last blog I've started portion control ready for the summer of pump. Last year I managed to lose over a stone by dieting, and it did wonders for my climbing, especially my endurance. So again I shall shed the winter layer and reach my 10 stone fighting weight! I also hope to realise the potential of capillary action by harnessing the power of aerobic capacity. In other words, I've started going for a run in the mornings. Well, I did it once but it was great. It energised me for the day and probably helped me shed a few micrograms. Hope I keep it up.

I would like to give blog updates of my weight, but our house scales are pretty naff and can vary by about half a stone in two consecutive weigh-ins, so I reckon recording attempts would be futile. Instead, weight loss analysis will be done by using a celebrity ass comparison rating. Currently I'm on a J-Lo, aiming for a Beyonce by week two.

In other news, I had an Indy session on Tuesday night, and had a crack at the new circuits. There's a 6b+ and a 7a+ (in reality 7a and 7c). After a few laps on the 6b+ I managed to get within 2 or 3 moves of finishing the 7a+ 3 times. This seems like the perfect standard of route for me right now.

I'll take this opportunity to introduce a few new blogs to you guys. First off is Andrew Mcque, he's a keen blogger, blogging about all there is to be blogged about in climbing, check it. Next up, Duncan Campell, a housemate of mine and a pocket-sized wad, mad keen for whippers and the Vector headwall. His blog, as well as reflecting on his climbing, appreciates other blogs and should unearth some interesting musings from around the world.

Anyway, excel is summoning my back for some fairly standard deviation so I'll be off, and maybe I'll see some of you at the LLAMF or in the pass this weekend.

14 March 2011

California, what a hole!

Went out into the mountains today, well the slate anyway. I forged a path up the 'California' wall via Dwarf Shortage, a bolted E4 6a. The first ascent was done just last August, but once this route gets established it'll be a 'rite of passage' I reckon; perfect slabby wall climbing on just the right amount of holds. The route is meant to finish up Central Sadness (E5 6a) but knowing I had to strip the route myself I headed left to the P1 belay. I ended up about 10m above the belay before I could move across. This wasn't such a problem, but stripping the draws turned out to be pretty exciting. It involved a series of high octane, high speed plummets and pendulums, plus the reversal of a 5c/6a mantle. I probably wouldn't have had the fortitude to do this, had it not been for the Menai bridge-swing we did on Thursday night.

Also tonight we see the addition of a few new links. One to my mate Herve's blog, who's currently travelling the globe, going to everywhere you would rather be. The other takes to my Vimeo account. It has a couple of old videos from last year, of bouldering and other bits and bobs, so give that a skeg if you get chance.

On a conclusive note, thanks everyone for visiting the blog and making it feel worth it. I've had about 300 views in the first week which is wayyy more than I expected, so thankyou.

12 March 2011

No climbing zone.

Uni work, a First Aid course and the 'rest phase' of muscular hypertrophy have dictated a 4 day rest, but I didn't want you all getting bored so I've provided links (on the right-hand side) to Mike Goldthorp and Guy Van Greuning's blogs.

Mikey is an optimistic cupboard-dwelling rock tiger, and having no conceptual grasp of word 'adversity', is bound to end up on the front of a magazine or as a jigsaw puzzle-esque autopsy. Guy in his aspirational Trashbat style, is a man with his finger on the pulse, always at the cutting edge of the 'scene', in other words; an emo.

The third link directs you to my UKC logbook if you wanted to know a little more about the routes under review.

10 March 2011

An inspiring day.

Yesterday the BUMS went to the Orme looking for shelter from the wind. Turns out the shade was as cold as the wind, and so, not much got done.

On top of the cold conditions I felt totally useless dogging two 7a's (Quicksilver and Julio Juventio) one of which I didn't even make it to the top of. I did manage to do Vagal Inhibition (E2 5c) though, so it wasn't a sendless day, but it made me realise just how quickly you can improve/lose your climbing ability, especially fitness.

Back at home the inspiration for endurance was surging, and so began a big training session. Me, Laura, Dunc and Mikey set up a circuit session incorporating core, arms and legs. After a good hour or so we were all spent and warmed-down with some stretching focussing on frogging ability. Huge gains were made really quickly, and I'd throughly recommend it, as being able to 'frog' pays on about-vertical terrain.

Group training is where it's at! Hopefully we'll keep it up and be lean machines sometime soon...

8 March 2011

Castell Cidwm...

Was aborted due to the cold. So me and Tommy Cole headed to Craig y Castell. It was still cold here. We kicked off with The Wasp (E2 5c). What a route! Maybe I'm just really enjoying climbing at the moment but this could be the best E2 in North Wales... The first pitch takes an overhanging, flared crack with perfect jams in the back, and it has a real sting in the tail. I got stung, so took a real nice confidence inspiring fall. Just what i need right now. I pulled up, made the tricky top out, and Tom followed on his first E2 pitch ever. He set off on the second pitch confidently but a cam-removing tug on the gear made him think twice about leading another so soon after. Taking the lead again I set off with gusto, but the pace was slowed by the suprisingly technical groove and the amount of vegetation! Anyway after a huge variety of groove based moves I made it to the belay in awe. It's a great pitch and certainly deserves more attention than it seemingly gets. A must do.

The next route, Tantalus (E1 5b), was another good experience. The first 4b wall is fantastic. A flat easy-angled wall on jugs leads to the grassy belay below the main event. Tommy went for it, cruising away up the headwall. From the belay it created a great opticall illusion which made it look like he was climbing almost horizontally. At the arete he placed an RP and a micro-cam and shouted down, 'I bet you can find good gear here, but these are shit'. Calmy he went off up the arete. As he neared the top a foot popped. He whistled down the crag, not stopping. The cam ripped. His trajectory was shunted. He span on his side and slammed into the lip of the overhang really brutally. Pretty disorientated he came back to the belay, both of us shocked the RP held.

I took over lead, discovered just how cool that optical illusion was, and discoved a bomber rock 1 slot where the micro-cam was. It turned out that the climb steps out left on much easier ground than the arete too. Job done. Another good day. Heading to the Orme tomorrow, so watch this space.

7 March 2011

The sun came out...

A sure sign it was time to come out out finger-rehab-hibernation. A good first half of the week was spent mainly at Gogarth getting back into it. Managed to knock out a few classics, Resolution Direct (E2 5b), South Sea Bubble (E3 5c), The Strand (E2 5b), and The Needle (E3/4 5c). The latter took a whole day's worth of effort due to a few chalky mishaps. Then after a couple of rest days and feeling ready for trad again, I got spanked by Grendel (E1 5c) a savage roof crack at Holyhead Mountain, go try it.

On the sabbath with the BUMS, ready to earn redemption, I went to Clogwyn y Bustach in the Nant Gwynant valley. It's a great crag, but looking more than a little friable in places (although I personally didn't actually break anything off). To warm up I soloed Gallop Step (HVS 4c), a phoenomenally juggy traverse that starts and finishes on the ground but manages to gain a pleasant amount of exposure. The perfect solo.  Then I got a belay from Laura on The Growler (E5 6a), which tackles a steep, peg-filled (good pegs too!)  bulging wall to begin, and then moves up a steady slabby section which leads into 'Gallop Step' and a rotten lower-off. I lowered off here but the route keeps on going up a sidewall with a scary move to a peg. I thought the route was great fun like this though and probably about E4 6a. Check it out, and if you do, take some cord or an old wire for the lower-off, it's looking a little worse for wear.  As the sun left the crag so did we. Back on the bus and onwards to the slate. It was a bit nippier than expected but still nice. Here I managed to get the 2nd ascent of  Swiss Air (6c), a new bolted line just right of Fresh Air. It starts up a thin slab via some borehole pockets and then takes a swooping corner to a final push up a dirty, loose wall. It should get better with traffic and rain.

Anyway heading to Castell Cidwm tomorrow, so hopefully I will have something to talk about...

The first blog.

I decided to start a blog in December (mostly because everyone else was doing it), but realised it had no real point. I wasn't doing anything interesting enough. Now the summer is on its way and the trad season has begun things have changed...

I guess my goals in writing a blog are two-fold. Firstly, there's the personal side of documenting 'what I did when I was young', and secondly, I'm hoping my rantings will provide a few people with the inspiration to get on something they've been putting off for a while, visit a new place, or try an underrated gem.