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.

17 April 2011

'I'm gonna do this cos I'm a bastard'

Chee Dale was the venue this saturday. It's an old forcing ground of mine, I did my first 7a, my first 7c and my first (non grit) E3 here. Hurtling down the hill I broke through an old curtain of confidence I'd left here a few years back. I know where I stand in the dale; between a wall and a river.
Today I was with Billy L, Brad C, Noakesy and Steve, everyone was keen. We stopped at the max wall first, this is the scene of my first 7a and where I feel I  really learnt to climb sport.

The send-train departed at 12:10 from Max Pact (6b), with five passengers. The first stop Max Headroom (7a) and billy got a flash with beta fom Noakesy, it was a good send to see, you could tell he wanted it. Next stop, Max 'is Wall (6c), me and Steve grabbed a quick retroflash, I had always found this hard in the past but today it went down smoothly. From this station we had to make a transfer.
We went down into the depths of the steep valley, limestone walls hemming you in on either side. It feels like an expedition back to the Carboniferous Era. A land where vegetation prevails, growing out from the left and the right, from beneath and sometimes above. You can never be fully sure you won't encounter a velociraptor snarling out from the undergrowth.
We made it to the Cornice without any Jurassic encounters. This is a 20m high wall of overhanging limestone running along for about 300m, just pick your angle (as long as its more than 90degrees). It would be the best sport crag in the peak if not for the fact its always piss wet through. Luckily a handful of routes were dry on the righthand side. I jumped on More Adventures in Greendale (7a) and got the onsight. Billy, Noakes and Steve got the flash, and Brad got his first 7a redpoint thanks to his positive thinking. Looking a bit nervous about going for the lead, he took a deep breath and declared 'I'm gonna do this cos I'm a bastard'. Sure enough he was a proper bastard.
Noakes and Bill began to seige The Corniceman (7a) its got a desparate bouldery start with a huge throw. Me and steve got on Cordless Madness (7b+), great moves for the first half on steep ground, I thought this was the meat of the route when a reach a flat hold where the angle reclined. I was wrong the top half is vertical with poor undercuts and poorer feet. It involves lots of insecure foot stabs and thumb pressing to stabilise the movement. No one got a successful send on either route, The train was out of steam. Although I  reckon they're both 2 grades harder than stated. It was great fun though and I'm looking forward to getting involved in some redpointing again soon.

This will be my last blog until I'm back from Spain. I've really being enjoying writing it, it gives me a kind of creative outlet (yeah I'm not that creative). I hope it's inspired a few people to get out and go for it.
Summer is now here, go get on your project or inspirational route and enjoy it.

El Pollo

14 April 2011

Big T and two attempts at the big G.

Tom (Horsehead) Martin came on a flying visit to North Wales with the intention of getting some route fitness on the go. With the weather looking a bit dodgy on the monday we planned to go and try Appian Way(E2/3) at Castell y Gwynt on the Orme, because it has a capping roof which given the wind direction should've been staying dry. As we shifted into lightspeed on the A55 it was clear that the weather was a lot better to the West. We curved space and headed for Gogarth.
At the top of Castell Hellen it dawned on me. I had only gone and done the unthinkable. What a muppet. This can't be happening. Bollocks. I had forgotten my harness. Not wanting to ruin it for Tom I was determined to go for it anyway. With an assortment of slings lashed around me here and there it was time to abb in. I was suprised how tolerable it was as I began to abb, by the time I got to the belay, I had changed my mind. Because of my Duncanesque blooper we just did Lighthouse Arete (VS 4b), but falling was not an option so it was still pretty exciting. Its a wicked route, literally every hold is a whopping jug and theres plenty of gear so if you're looking for an introduction to adventure, this is it!

We weren't going to get much done like this, and the weather was getting better everywhere so we hot-footed it to the slate, in particular the Collossus area. This huge wall is almost plum-vertical for 45m, I love it.

Armed with a harness each now, Tom intended on doing the blood-sucking, Bella Lugosi is Dead (E1 5b) but the line was busy so there was only one thing for it... Major Headstress (E5 6a).
This is one of the most aptly-named routes i've ever done. The start is relatively steady, but theres enough suspect rock around to keep it spicy. After a few moves on spooky holds, above a small wire I was glad to clip the first bolt. Blasting up a rib on good holds I made the second bolt fairly non-chalantly. I could just reach the crimp above the bolt, with the tips of my tips just biting in and feeling a bit Dawesian I rocked over dynamically and latched a good hold, nice. Contrastingly, about 2 body lengths above the bolt my confidence was leeched by the fall potential. Yarding on a tiny, crozzly crimp I stretched up and up, my left foothold snapped off, arghh, quick, retreat. Shaking out, I eyed an alternative sequence, it looked tricky but there was only one thing for it. I launched up the couple of moves I had done before. Back at the tiny righthand crimp, left hand now on a sidepull, I carefully place my left toe on a coin edge and snapped up to a high position.  I can't remove either hand and stay in balance, I slap... and catch. Yes please to trad climbing. That move really took it out of me mentally and the next 20m were arduous to say the least. Tom got his desired pump on second. The sun went down.

With my meticulously packed bag we headed for Main Cliff to get embroiled on The Big Groove Direct (E4 5c). For those who don't know Main Cliff is the dogs. More than 100m high and rising straight out of the sea the climbing is at the very least, committing. From the racking-up spot it was evident the sea was a bit too much. Every 3 or 4 waves sloshing well above the traverse line. We went down to double check but those white horses were angry. Emulator (E1 5b) takes off above sea level at the toe of the buttress, a good route for when the sea prevents access to the cliff proper. It follows a perfect right-angled corner for 40m. It's an absolute pleasure to climb, several sections require you to get fully engaged and a clean ascent is hard-won.
This route plonks you right at the base of The Eternal Optimist (E2 5b). I had wanted to do this route for awhile after seeing Jon R do it a year or two ago. It takes an overhanging groove and arete. The climbing is goey, the protection is tricky to get right (big gear helps apparently) and just when you think its all over the crux slaps you in the face. There is a lower-off at the top of pitch one but it looks a little sorry for itself.

Tom was fully pumped after this route and so headed home. I jumped on the end of Dave Morses' ropes, he had just done The Strand (E2 5b) this is about as good as climbing gets at E2. Good holds and gear all the way, but it keeps coming and steepens at the top. It's a good route to go for as its very safe, there are no hard moves, it feels secure and is about f6b.
One more route. Shag Rock (E1 5a). It takes you to a pinnacle summit via some chimneying, laybacking and seagull turd. Once again though, I had forgotten something. My bloody boots, I had left them in my bag. Oh well, trainers it is. Holding on tight all the way, for fear of a foot ping, sitting on top of the pinnacle was made all the more sweeter. All the tat to abb off was rotten so I abandoned my big pink sling and an old screwgate. Now the Pinnacle looks like a gay Rambo with a pink bandana.

Well I'm back in Hull now for a few days, I might get out in the peak on saturday, if not there won't be an update until I get back from Spain. I guess that justifies this length blog.

Finally here's a little video I saw on facebook this morning, not usually that into poems, and I've never thought much of Tim Minchin before but sometimes two wrong make a right or something.



10 April 2011

Go with the Flow

Well I got all my work in for now so thats a great weight off my shoulders. Went to Penmaen Head the other day. For those who don't know, it's a recently developed sport crag off the A55. When you park up at the top you're not sure whats in store but it feels quirky already. As you head down the steps past heaps of rubbish (including a bike, a vaccum, an old lamp and probably a few syringes) you really need to set optimism thrusters to 'Goldthorp' standard, to prepare yourself for the sight of the crag. Upon first aquintance this rubbley, little flytip looks disappointing to say the least. But as you traverse along between crag and council estate, flowstone! This most mythical of rocks drapes down the walls, animated by its semblance. Drawn in now, the rock appears better than before, and round the corner the routes are more impressive in stature.

This crag is just what North Wales needs, a mid-grade sport venue with lots to go at, and an outlook that makes you really appreciate the mountains. Going for a milage day I managed to knock out 8 routes including; Fathers for Justice (6c), The Quarrywoman (6b+), and the neo-classic, Flowstone Shuffle (6b+). The crag is really worth a visit to up your sport grade, or get in the early season mileage. One bit of beef I have with the crag is the bolting, its an good venue for easier routes and learning to climb, so I think bearing this in mind, the bolts should be close together with limited deckout potential. This is not the case, the harder routes are bolted a bit better, but generally the bolts are a bit to far apart to be experimenting with gravity.

The three things I gained from the day were; reinforcement of 'the thumb theory', the  reassurance of the massive benefit of high feet and wide feet, and finally, i felt 'the flow'. Much like the rock here, after 3 or 4 routes I was really flowing, climbing instinctively and without hesitation. Recently I've been noticing a tendency to hang around not really doing much other that worrying about what's ahead. This day I was moving with gusto and impetus, from one hold to the next, it felt so good.
The 'joy of movement' is much talked about, but rarely felt (imo). This day it happened for me. I remember Johnny Dawes talking about how it happens once or twice a year, everything works and intuition guides. I reckon this is wrong. I think you can feel it from getting 'in the zone'. To get 'in the zone', my theory is to do a warm-up route followed by a harder route. Now drop back down a grade or two and as the climbing feels easier you can really flow and commit. It's now turned on and you can apply the flow for the rest of the day.
Give it a try and let me know what you think! Did this route combo work? Did you feel 'the flow'? no, well you got a better idea then, smartarse?

5 April 2011

A series of wrong turns...

Arriving back at the Mcdonalds we had bought a coke at 40 minutes earlier, we realised the error of not taking a map. Paying more attention to the road signs, we made it to the Bosherston campsite to catch up with the other car full. Some might say our circumnavigation of Milford Haven was tactical, as upon arrival all the tents were pitched and ready for bedding-down. The excitement was inevitably uncontainable. No one could sleep. We read guides, swapped beta, and doled out recommendations until we realised the time.

7:30am and the tent's golden tinge hints at sunshine. After 30 minutes of pootling around the campsite (hoping to be noisy enough to wake everyone) I can't take it anymore. I start cooking. Bacon. No nose can ignore that smell. Within minutes we are atop of St. Govans.

Sea mist fills the air, but enthusiasm prevails and we all head down. Mikey (flamboyantly as ever) finds himself a hands-off rest on the crux of The Butcher (E3 5c), while the send train begins up Army Dreamers (HVS 5a). Next up, my lead. I have a quick glance in the guide and pick War Crime (E2 5b). After a suprising amount of effort I check the guide only to find that I've done the first three quarters of Get out of That! (E4 5c). This ego boost is quickly followed as Mikey fluffs Tangerine Dream (E4 6a) at the same point I did 3 years ago. 

Mikey (in pink!) at the bottom of Flight Path (E3 5c)
 as the sea goes wild.
I set off up Flight Path (E3 5c) as the tide encroaches, and need no telling to make haste. Exciting wall climbing takes me onto the arete where a fierce pull on a crozzly spike gains what should be easy ground. I pull out too early and only realise I'm in the wrong place when I see the peg on Rising Tide (E4 6a). With the sea creating earth-suddering booms, and the rope caught around my leg, the position I'm in becomes amplified. The holds shrink and disappear as try to reverse. As my head is ready to explode I gain the jugs and plod to victory.

When the waves are big I always feel compelled to challenge the sea in some way. Whilst belaying Mikey on Test Case (E3 5c) a huge wave hit the rock platform. As I turned to see, it blocked out the sun, 300 style. Hurtling towards me in a great arc, it dropped short by my feet. I felt like I had won.

Day two. We went over to St Govan's East; much less frequented than the main section, but very worthwhile, and a great spot for the morning. First up I tried Forbidden Fruits (E3 5c). Getting to some crimps and seeing the peg I had to go for, I felt a little out my depth and climbed down. Naturally, Mikey cruised it. Feeling the need for redemption I got on Body Language (E4 6a). It has a steep, bouldery start, followed by plenty of intricate wall climbing. At half-height I didn't know which way to go. Unfortunately I (and the line on the topo) went wrong and spent 20 minutes pumping out on a sloper before moving back right. By this point my feet and arms had had enough, and even the top VS corner was painful.

After some lunch we headed over to Huntsman's Leap (it wouldn't be a trip to Pembroke with getting down the leap). Quiet Waters (E3 6a) seemed like the obvious choice. It's in Extreme Rock. The Rockfax description says 'overhyped'. Bollocks. It's brilliant. Lots of good moves, good spaced gear and a 'sting in the tail'. I'm quickly coming to the opinion that a 'sting in the tail' makes a route great. I've seen somewhere this route gets E2. I wouldn't argue against E4, given the hard moves and the old peg. Memorable.

Me nearing the top of Quiet Waters in the leap (E3 6a).
 Mikey decided against Ghost Train (E6 6b) as some bits looked wet, and it's quite dangerous. Instead he opted for Head Hunter (E4/5 6a). As we abbed down the leap the tide was ready to cut off access to the plinth where this route belays from. We slipped across just in time. There was no going back. Stood on my metre wide island, I watched as my fate unfolded. The white horses cantered in, constantly gaining in force and stature, whilst Mikey's arms were wilting with every move. A final heave through the crux and I knew it would be in the bag for him. As he pulled up the last of the slack I gloated in 'beating the sea' again. Stepping up to the proverbial oche the sea exclaims "just before you leave...". I was soaked. My bag and trousers, my chalk bag and boots. Drenched. I had to pull on the gear as my feet slipped around like Bambi on ice. The moral of the story? Don't fuck with the sea. 

One thing I discovered in Pembroke is how useful thumbs are, not only for expanding the possibilities of holds, but for resting with too. A thumb is like a fat kid in a fight... Not particularly dexterous, but never goes down. Think about it, have you ever had pumped thumbs?