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 May 2011

The most exciting climbing of the year so far (Part II).

On the way home from Yellow Wall last night I got a call from Ed Booth. He wanted to do 'The Wonderful World of Walt Disney' (E6 6b, 6b, 6c?, 6a). It takes a parralel line to the infamous 'The Quarryman' (E8 7a) and is of a very similar nature, four hard, unconventional and sparingly bolted pitches.
I met the Ed in the car park in the morning and we walked in heads down against the wind. Arriving at the gigantic hole of Twll Mawr, Ed seemed entirely undetered by the ferocious winds and it was evident there was no backing out. I realised I'd picked up Georges boots so borrowed a pair of Ed's baggy shoes, not what yo uwant for your first slate E6. We traversed a scree slope and abbed in to the bottom of the route (already about 80m from the bottom of the pit). We tied a pair of ascenders to the end of the rope in case we couldn't do the route and had to back off, we could just pull up the rope with them. Stood at the first belay we watched the wind blow the abseil rope out of reach across the wall. There was no other way out now except up. We were well and truly committed.

Ed set off on the first pitch and tussled his way up an awkward, slick groove to a 'grip-clip' at the second bolt, but wedged in the groove with a double knee jam, when he tried to move he was spat out. Pulling back on, he laybacked away to glory. I seconded clean but only by the skin of my teeth.

At the top of the uber tenuous groove/arete on P2. Already exposed and
only halfway there

The next pitch, and my lead. I scrambled away from the belay across ledges for a few metres to an arete. With the wind howling and pushing me out of  balance it took a while (and distant side runners) to summon the courage to go for it, a swift layback move gained an old bolt.  From the bolt a funky rockover move to cross an overlap left me in 'no mans' land'. Unsure if I'd reach the next hold, and pretty put off by the wind I handed the lead over to Ed. This is when I realised just how keen Ed was, he went at it, no holds barred, unpeturbed by the old bolts. Several tenuous moves, but only one fall later he made it to the belay.

So on the third pitch I tried to lead again, bit of ledge shuffling, spooky mantle, clip an old bolt, cool 6b one hand one foot rockover and I have a good lefthand sidepull, only problem is that the groove is about 7ft to my right. This is the famous sideways dyno move. Unfortunately the wind blew my proverbial skirt untucked and I swapped leads again. Ed manages to clip a newer, higher bolt before launching himself across the groove, first go he comes swooping back across the wall. Second go, he drops across to the groove, almost horizontal. Amazing stuff.

Me by the last runner on the final (easy!) pitch, just a 5-move 6a
sequence, a 15ft juggy romp and a 'mantle to glory' to go.

So third time lucky and all that, I take up the lead again. The top pitch is a lot dirtier and I get the impression that most people get stumped by the dyno. Up at the top of Twll Mawr the wind is really howling, but my ego can't take another second, that was the 7th pitch in a row I had seconded.
After a fairly sustained sequence of 5c/6a moves I find myself a couple of metres above the last bolt unable to reach the finishing jugs. Psyching up for the jump was intense as anything, like Pete Robins at the top of Master's Edge in 'Onsight'. Fortunately I found a small slopey gaston which wass just enough to get my weight across.

We had done it. Well Ed had done it, an absolutely outstanding performance driven my pure passion, I've never seen anyone so keen to get up something. I had an awesome couple of days out of my depth, it was definately mind expanding. I feel very ready for the trad now.

NB. in the last post I said Alien had never been onsighted, well not wanting to sow misinformation, I have been reliably informed by local hero Rob Greenwood that 'The Man' Pat Littlejohn onsighted it on the first ascent. He climbed the first 25m (worth pumpy E5), placed high runners, reversed, and then climbed it in a oner. All that and probably with no chalk. Wad.

28 May 2011

The most exciting climbing of the year so far (Part I).

A year and a half ago I had a baptism of fire on Main Cliff with George when we went to try Alien (E6 6b). It's notoriously hard to onsight (still not had an onsight?) but George put  in a great effort and dropped it one move from easy ground. Once I made it to the belay the sun was on the horizon and only one pitch in we pioneered a traverse into Gogarth (E1 5b) and finished up that.
On sunday evening we headed back to set the record straight, not even a rough sea could keep us away. Access to Main Cliff is guarded by a sea level traverse that is only comfortably passable at low, calm seas. With a mid-tide and sloshing waves the approach wasnt going to be easy. George left his ropes and rack behind and scampered round timing his movements in opposition to the Irish Sea. He came back round and we decided we would go for it. I went first and deliberated my line of attack, 'Watch out! Wave! Get hold of Something!' I hear. But like a rabbit in the headlights I watch the sea drop away and I know whats coming.
Yep. I. Am. Gopping. Totally soaked navel down but lucky not to have been sucked out on the retreat. After a good laugh at what could have been a lot worse I trudge back up to the bags in wet jeans, no one likes wet jeans.
Shorts donned we decide its best to give Alien a miss (Ok maybe a rough sea can keep us away) and George has a crack at Devil's Marbles (E5 6b). Its a recent addition and as such is a bit lichenous at the top but apart from that it climbs well on steep ground with the hard climbing culminating in a crux pulling onto the top slab.
At the belay we were directly beneath Achilles (E3 5c) so I took over the sharp end. At first I was peculiarly unconfident, but as soon as I set off I felt good and the sport climbing the day before really helped me make the most of tiny footholds on the crux in the top crack. Not a bad evenings climb.

Rest day.

Gogarth is back on the menu but the tides are bad so George and I head to Yellow Wall. Yellow Wall was obviously chiselled out by Escher. Every piece of rock seems to overhang in every direction yet once on the wall you can find yourself stood on a slab. That's not to say that you wont spend most your time cranking through steepness.
The Sun was out but it was pretty windy, once we abbed-in though we were well out of the wind and I experienced climbing in a t-shirt for the first time in what feels like a very long time. The 'warm-up' for the day was The Cow (E5 6a, 5c). I took lead on the first pitch, a steep flared crack about an inch wide. Too wide for hands, too thin for fingers. The crack is often damp and although today it was dry,a greasy veneer still lingered. After a couple of goes, going up and down, I mustered the commitment and blasted into the insecure crack, throwing a high foot up I made a stab for a good jam, 'right keep it together'. Feeling totally involved I plugged in ring locks and jams and started to feel pretty good on this awkward terrain. Getting to aa bottomless corner I stuffed my elbow into an undercut and got a hands-off rest. Woooo! for me this is what it's all about, getting pumped and feeling out there. One more hard move off a sandy finger lock got me to easier ground and the belay. The next pitch, dubbed as 'possibly the best single pitch at Gogarth' did not fail to adhere to its accolade. It pulls through 3 decent sized rooves in quick succession but is never too hard, then finishes up a sustained 5a/b groove. Milked.
I would recommend The Cow as a first E5, especially if you've done The Camel (E4 6a) on Main Cliff, they're very similar.
After a quick bit of lunch it was time to get composed on Ludwig (E6 5a,6a,6b). George led the first ptch with the intention of me doing the second. I figured out the first few moves which were brilliant, a few crimps and a few undercuts on overhanging rock, it  felt pretty wild for trad. Gaining a big flake I took a deep breath and pulled into it with gusto, everything I grabbed turned to sand and it was seemingly aa dead end. Where we were didnt quite fit the description and a few half-hearted attempts were made to head in different directions. In the end I conceded and George got involved. Getting to my high point he lashed out a huge move to a finger of rock out right, he grappled around with his left for a hold but it seems like Escher ran out of rock and so decided to use talcum powder to fill in the gaps. Eventually finding an undercut he cranked over in a shower of talcy debris. On second I couldnt even reach the way george had done it.

George led the next pitch too. After a bout of pre-match nerves he headed off, out of sight. The Sun went out of sight and it all got a bit lonely in the middle of an overhanging sea cliff. Remembering 'The Rock Warriors Way' helped me enjoy where I was instead of wishing I was on terra firma, it can be easy to forget that you want to be there. Retrospectively it's quite ironic that I stayed well composed on Ludwig. On the second I had another wake-up call as I tried to pull on the tiny chalked crimps and slopers George had used.

Back up top, we checked the guide and had done both hard pitches wrong. A new route.

22 May 2011

Movement Mileage

The intended rest period after 'Release the Hounds' never materialised, and the next day I found myself heading to Angel Bay with Laura, Chris Carroll, and the notorious Gogarth abseiler and born-again boulderer; Tom Ripley. People and pads were jammed into the car like clowns into a mini, on top of this a late start and a hot sun meant we were eager to get there. Like four excited terriers, we dived out of the car and down to the beach.

Angel Bay is a small, enclosed, pebbley beach with a tidal boulder edifice reaching about 50ft at its zenith. Unfortunately the complex nature of the boulders means that a lot of the rock is unclimbable as it either rarely dries, is covered in sharp little limpets, or other boulders block potential lines. However what can be climbed is brilliant and the rock is often smooth and rounded from costal erosion.

Laura sending The Letterbox V4.

Conditions were perfect so we got to work. Max Stanley and Owain Atkins came and joined us. It was a proper social boulder session, everyone taking it in turns and moving from problem to problem. 5c wall was ticked by everyone to start (two V2's and a V3). Next up The Letterbox (V4) a burly little problem and hard for the grade. Despite its name sends weren't coming easy, and only succumbed to powerful prowess. Laura had tried it last year and failed to do the independent moves so it was good to see the progression in the form of a quick send.

From here a quick successsion of problems were rattled through including Ren Arete (V5) an unlikely looking, slopey prow, Tony's Through Trip (V5) a lip traverse into a jumble of boulders emerging through a man-sized hole to finish. We then crossed the beach to an undercut wall with an excellent row of problems. Maintaining the same pace we rattled through the classic V4's, Travel Light, The Bulge, Bridey Arete and the Mantlepiece. 
Me on Bridey Arete (V4).             Owain on The Mantlepiece (V4).

Then fish and chips and home. Friday now, and the rain forces a rest day, phew. By 6 o'clock the Sun's come out and we can't resist. Laura, Duncan and I head to Caseg Fraith in the Ogwen Valley for a quick hit. The ground is saturated from all the rain and it doesn't take long for the mats to soak up so much water that they weigh about 20kg each. Again we go round curcuiteering, ticking the problems as a team. There are 3 V3's in a row, all fiercely crimpy and hard for the grade. The first one goes 'first go' for everyone, the second takes a bit more effort with a tricky rockover move.The third, the classic Caseg Fraith Arete, another old nemesis of Lauras take a more concerted effort but she managed to dispatch it in good style in the end.
Lauras current run of good form seems related to the recent trip to El Chorro. Although the moves were easier than the boulder problems a certain level of consolidation was made, enough to push through to a new grade boundary. 
It is obvious how bouldering helps to get through the hard moves on routes, yet I reckon there are some currently ill-defined benefits of route climbing for bouldering. Maybe it's something to do with flow and tenacity?

Finally, and I shall try to keep this short now, I went to Yellow Wall on the Orme yesterday with George Ullrich, Sam Farnsworth, Matt Burdekin and a girl Called Jess who had never climbed before. Arriving at the crag around 12am we quickly got about our business. We fell into the same kind of curcuit-mode as is usually applied in bouldering and knocked out 8 routes in 4 hours. I really enjoyed the quick pace and multi-disciplined (trad and sport) day. We did Pale Shelter (E1), Melkor (E3), Pen Trwyn Patrol (E4), String of pearls (6b+), Pirates of Pen Trwyn (6c+), Crunchy Toad IX (7a+), Dive, Dive, Dive (7b) and Wet Dreams (7a+). Jess impressively managed to get up Pale Shelter and halfway up String of Pearls on top rope, not bad for a first effort. George flashed Crunchy Toad IX and Dive, Dive, Dive which doesn't seem that impressive on paper but these are intense and uber-fingery routes that are tricky to read. I got Crunchy Toad IX second go, and fluffed Dive, Dive, Dive on the flash. I did manage to get one over on George though at the end of the day on Wet Dreams. Sam and Matt and had been trying it, but the desparate fingery sequence had stopped them in their tracks. George went up and tickled his way through the crux but dropped it above without the knowledge of a blind pocket. With the beta I managed it, but willpower played a strong part in the clean ascent. 
I learnt a lot on this day about how tiny hand and footholds can be and still be used to keep you into the wall. I definately need to work on my contact strength and expand my idea of what constitutes 'a foothold'.

18 May 2011

The start of summer

Since finishing my exams, the weather has beeen a bit naf and I've not got round to do the things I was keen for. But I've had a good few days out.

Last thursday I went with Laura to Mayfair Wall on the Orme (on which apparently all the routes are getting extended because of a ban lift) and warmed-up on Contusion (6c) a wicked route with rests before the hard bits. Then bagged King Krank (E5 6b), but its more like a 7a+ as all the hard moves hard a bolt near them, so a good one to break into the grade (although the moves are hard for E5). It rained so we finished off in the cave.

The next day Tommy C, Chris C and I headed to Craig y Forwyn, the banned crag from a blog a while back. The weather was gash for most the day but inbetween the showers Chris and Tommy led The Flue (VS 4c) following a wicked crack line. I was feeling psyched so soloed that route and Pterodactyl (HVS 5a) just left of the flue. I had a crack at Quick Step (E5 6a) on the arete of the Great Wall but the rain and time pressure were too much so I reversed stripping the gear.

On saturday I was having a rest day, but with nothing better to do I headed to Bubbles with Gogarth. He was keen for Flytrap (E2 5b) so I nonchalantly agreed. Sweet Jesus, it is frikking 'out there' for E2 (as in, it's E3 in disguise). The first pitch is a juggy romp to a ledge. The second takes a downward traverse line to the back of a cave and the base of a groove. The third heads up the groove to the top corner of the cave, then launches out right on jugs to a steep section. Deep in the Bowels of Gogarth and 'the grip' is coming over me. The next few moves are steep and really greasy, it takes a few goes to commit. I finally launch into the roof and get bridged out over the Irish Sea. I over reach out right to jugs, and cutloose, wohoooo! The belay is on a huge chockstone in the roof of the cave, a spectacular position.

A couple of Indy sessions later, and its Wednesday. Jon R, Doylo and I went to this new crag with a new 7c, the first ascent was yesterday. It is probably the best 7c in North Wales (according to Doylo and Jon). It tackles an overhanging axe-edge arete, and finishes up a perfect headwall. I went for the flash, but I got spooked about making the 3rd clip and dropped off. Jon and Doylo dispatched the route quickly, and so with the peer pressure on, a biting wind and just time for one more go it had to be done. Ignoring any imperfections with the sequence, I just kept cranking and made it to the headwall, pumped. Straddling the arete I mustered a hands off rest and knew it was in the bag. Clipping the chains, I had made the 4th ascent of  Release the Hounds (hard 7c). Sweet.

15 May 2011

Bloga de la Espanol escalada

This is the first blog for about a month because I've been away in Spain and then had exams, so ill do a two part installment.
Well, I went out to El Chorro (for the third time!) with Heather F and Duncan C. After a night in Malaga airport a series of particularly fortunate events landed us in El Chorro. We headed back to the caves where I had lived for a month 2 years before. Rumour had it that they had been burnt down, but I had to see for myself. There clearly had been a big fire, all the walls were scorched black and the doors and worktops I remembered had gone. However, a few troglodites had passed by since and re-equipped the caves with a couple of foam matresses and a jar full of pickled chick peas. The flowstone water filter was still in full flow and the feeling of being at home here re-ignited immediately.

The wet, overcast weather had a dampening effect on more than just the rock. It was hard to get keen in the miserable, cold (relatively!) conditions. Anyway, after a couple of steady days it was time to try something hard. Watching some local battle it out on the notoriously tricky Morritos Jeager (7b/+), I eeked a bit of beta for the first half.
Now I'm at the half-height jugs, I shout down for beta for the top but quickly get lost and I'm beginning to feel urgent. I hear 'just go, and then you go again'. I  surge on with determination and enigmatic advice, pumping out now I throw for a blocky hold and it clicks, go again, bammm. Its as good as done.

We left our caves and moved into the Olive Branch as the rest of the BUMS were there. More days out and more rain followed. The social side was good and everyone was trying hard and learning lots.
The trip was slightly dissappointing for me as I had to take more rest days than expected, and a lot of the things I hoped to do, I never got chance to. The best days for me were at Desplomilandia, a brilliant crag with lots of steepness and a big grade spread. The only problem is its a 20km drive away. The fist time there I boshed out a 3 7a's,  a 7a+, a 7b and a 7c flash. I was climbing really well that day and It might be down to the flow theory from one of the previous blogs. Unintentionally I climbed a 7a, then a 6b+ then back on to a 7a+. This dropping of the grade seems to get your body moving really instinctively.

While in Spain I read 'The Rock Warrior's Way' and its absolutely brilliant. If you have any problems with your head, read this. Take it all on board and you will climb harder in a lot of ways.
Anyway writing about sport climbing is a bit dull so to sum up, I dropped two 7c's, one of which I had less than a metre of climbing left. The trip was good fun but next time I go abroad ill go somewhere else, somewhere dry.
Finally, top efforts to Chris Carroll who crushed his first 7, with a 7a+ flash. Beast.