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.

30 August 2011


It's been a while since the last blog, but between the rain and work I've done a fair bit of climbing...

I've done a few scary solos including The Boulder (E1 5a) at Cloggy and Electric Blue (E4 5c) at Rhoscolyn (This one's above water but I'm shit scared of the sea so it made hardly any difference).
I've done more climbing above the big blue, well my big blue bouldering mat. I've mostly been 'mileage' bouldering, with my favourite tick being Seren (V4) which is up on the hillside behind Ogwen Cottage. It's an absolute gem that holds its cards close to its chest, get up there and check it out. If you do head that way you'll pass Ogwen Bank Boulder, a roadside venue with a handful of worthwhile V3's, and a brilliant slappy V6, Tavistock Square. My recent bouldering highlight though has to be... Edge Problem (V5). It has evaded me for so long, but I got it first go of the day last week. It sounds like good news but now I have no excuse for not trying Roadside Full, which finishes up Edge Problem. Its' going to be a heartbreaker.

Electric Blue (E4 5c/F6c S2), Owain Atkins Collection

Anyway, it's all about what happens once you've tied the knot (a bowline usually). My most noteworthy 5 ascents of the last month would have to be:

Byzantium (E4 6a) on the Lleyn. A place with a heavyweight reputation for looseness. This route is one of the more conventional on the Lleyn, where the climbing is less of a rock roulette and more about being careful and sure-footed. The route takes a direct line up a huge 45m wall. Where the climbing is not difficult or run-out the rock is suspect, so interest is sustained, and you have to keep your head in the game. If you're thinking of doing it take a lot of draws including several long extenders and a big rack of cams. The wall steepens out at the top, but the rock improves thankfully, and just when you think it's all over, the crux appears... some crank straight through it on some small edges, but there is another method, honest.

In a similar vein the next route on my list is Television Route (E4 5c) on Red Wall, Gogarth. The birds have flown south for the winter so now we get to crimp on their crusty turds. I've been meaning to go to the unlikely looking Red Wall for a while, so as soon as those Cormorants moved out, I moved in. The guide said to aim for a peg to begin with, but with no peg in sight (it's definately gone) I moved up the loose wall tentatively (the uncertainty of suspect rock has a certain moreishness). Every time I lifted my foot, the hold I was just stood on remained stuck to my boot and dropped off. Committing. I could tell no one had been here for a while so I didn't trust anything. After a few metres I relaxed a little but I was still treating everything with suspicion. I gained a groove after a short traverse and got a good cam in, it was as though I could see in colour again, the sound of the sea came back and the holds felt a little more solid. After a handful of confident moves I realised I was fairly run-out so I stuffed a cam into an undercut flake and give it a gentle tug, the flatscreen TV of a flake nearly came completely away, I took the cam out and tip-toed away as if trying to not wake a giant. The rock was still loose and there was no good protection in the last 25ft. With my heart lodged firmly in the back of my throat, I knew the only way was up. The turmoil never ended. First off I went the wrong way, then, with 20m of climbing above me, I realised I had only 3 runners left. To top it off the crux was nails for 5c, and my feet were in agony. Needless to say, once I topped out I bloody loved the route.

The next route subject to retrospective waffle is Decomposed (E6 6b) on Suicide wall, Ogwen. It's a bit of a special one this: my first, first ascent. The route forges a direct path straight through the historical Suicide Wall route 1 (E2 5c). It takes an obvious yet subtle slim groove to begin, housing the crux with a few bold, fingery moves above half a rock 5 (maybe one of those superlights would fit well). Once on the ledge the route plows straight up the wall on pockets and sidepulls as a safe E3/4. I headpointed the bottom half but the top half was flashed after abseil inspection/cleaning. I'm really happy to have bagged the first ascent of this route, a good line in a famous place. I'm still waiting to be told it's been done before. Here's a link to the V12 report of the route.

Decomposed (E6 6b), Chris Carroll Collection

Another in the mountains, West Buttress Eliminate (E3 5c) at Cloggy. This big route proves to be very testing at the grade requiring a wide range of techniques across its 4 pitches, as well as a cool head and calves of steel. The first pitch is the crux pitch with bold, run-out climbing. The second pitch, Duncan led. It's supposedly 5b, but there were some very thin moves quite high above the gear. The third pitch is the big one; a 25m groove with no holds bar the odd little edge and a soggy crack in the back. Once your tenactity is wilted and your legs are burnt out it delivers one last tricky section before the sanctuary of a good foothold. Phew. The last pitch nips out up an exposed narrow slab and gives you an opportunity to absorb the full grandeur of Cloggy.

Last but not least, Psychic Threshold (E5 6b) at Castell y Gwynt on the Orme.  The crag that no one's heard of, but the few who have know it for being steep, shady, hard for the grade, but most of all, for being totally frikking awesome. I first went there a fortnight ago. After doing the classic girdle Appian Way/Watling Street (E2 5c) I wanted to try an E6 but the crag was all damp and slick. I was revved up for a fight so I got on Hidden Sign (7b+), needless to say I was spat off on greasy pinches. Same happened again on Cruella Deville (7a+). Despite/because of the total defeat I was psyched to return.

A week later I tried again with Andy Scofield this time jumping on The Exile (E5 6a) a steady one apparently. After getting pumped to my gums on some poor guppies with ground fall potential I dug deep, reached the sanctuary of a thread and lowered off as I was pumped beyond recovery and it looked like the meat of the route was still to come. Feeling like it was another win for the Gwynt I resigned my trad plans and tried the two sport routes again. This time I managed them both first go, so I got the ground-up tick after last week's attempts. They both feel hard F7b.

Then, again, I went down a couple of days later with Tom Livingstone, we started off on New Dimensions (E4 6a), an Extreme Rock tick. I took pitch 1, a burly bit of blobby tufa climbing. Tom took the famous groove pitch, technical, wide bridging. Tom extended his pitch with the 'mini-finish', a 5c crank over a super exposed, capping roof. Nice.

Lee Roberts on Psychic Threshold (E5 6b), Jon Ratcliffe Collection

So, the main event, 45m of overhanging, pocketed limestone. I was determined to onsight this one after all my previous spankings here. Having recently learned that jumping on things without too much thought helps prevent intimidation, so I had a quick glance up and set off. A big roof early on slowed down the quick progress I was making but a quick sit down in a cave saw me ready to launch through the roof. This led straight into a goey section on crimpy pockets. Then the route chilled out for the next 10m on big juggy pockets. At the end of this I took a rest in a wide crack and got a nest of gear in, things were going well. I moved up to  a steep section with sidepull pockets to clip a bit of tat before the crux but it had blown out of the way. it took 4 or 5 pumpy ups and downs with shake-outs in between to finally get it clipped, by which point I'd become fairly pumped. I had a brief look at what was ahead but it was fairly blind, I would have to climb into the sequence to find out. I launched upto my high point and straight away committed to the crux, with opposing sidepull pockets I got my feet high on slopey foot holds and locked in hard on my right. groping around with my left, i felt a real surge of urgency, so making-do with a poor edge I pressed on slapping between edges getting further and further from the thread. I got a good hold and tried to fiddle a wire in, but with a fairly solid pump on I had to press on. Luckily above were better holds and finally a more positive foothold. I knew if I could stay on top of the lactic build-up it would be in the bag. A few fingery moves higher the rock quality deteriorated a little so it became a bit delicate which was hard to do pumped, but in the end I topped out victorious and enjoyed that skin-of-teeth feeling.

Ok, one more, but ill make it quick. Samurai Groove (E3 5c) at Carreg Hyll-Drem. This has to get a mention as it's utterly proposterous. An E3 that breaks through dramatically overhanging ground with an almost unvoidable cutloose move. We headed here because it was raining, and legend has it that Hyll-Drem stays dry in all but the wettest weather, luckily for us the rumours were true and we enjoyed a days cragging in the rain. Anyway, the route has a steady first pitch which Owain led. Then the main pitch heads out on sloping jugs to reach a 'one cheek seat' in the sky. From here you can oggle the impossible looking crux for as long as you like. Once appropriately intimidated, you set off into a fairly technical sequence utilising some poor undercuts to gain a hidden jug. Swinging wildy on to the jug there's no going back. From here all you can do is pump out until you find the next hidden jug. when I got the second hidden jug I pulled across into the groove and became immobilised by terminal rope drag... rope tranny. I was so pumped I thought it was game over, that I would have to drop off, but they came free after a handful of flicks. The last 10m were all on enormous jugs but being so pumped it felt like a real struggle.

Well that's the top 6 of the last month.

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