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.

15 September 2011

Screaming Heels and Painted Nails

After King Wad I was totally buzzing, it’s definitely one of the best routes I have ever done.  That wasn’t the end of the day though.  Livingstone went on and led Chreon (E2 5b), a big open corner with technical climbing 3-D climbing and gear just where you want it. To top the day off I led Killerkranky (E5 6a), I’d tried this a year or two ago and got shot down pretty badly, but it did mean this time I had a little inside knowledge. I managed to climb it pretty quickly pausing only briefly to fiddle in runners and assess the next moves, a style that I hope I can develop as I’m not the fastest climber around.

After a night of grinning like a Cheshire cat I headed to Main Cliff with George in search of adventure. We decided to have a go at Winking Crack (E3 5c) first. It has a fearsome reputation because of its final offwidth crack. I led the first pitch which was supposed to be 5a but I was made to work for it and had to knock it up a gear or two to finish the pitch.

 The night before Laura insisted on painting my finger nails so I let her do one hand for scientific research. Apparently Laura noticed she became a lot more aware of what she was doing with her hands with her nails painted. I decided to test out the theory and see if it could be applied to climbing.  In the morning I had to pick up some shoes for Laura, as I received the receipt from the cashier an embarrassed glance was passed from both sides as she thought she realised the shoes weren’t really for my girlfriend, and I realised what she was thinking.

Anyway, seconding George on the top pitch I gained the gnarly offwidth, psyched up and dived in to do battle, like a rugby player going into a scrum. Thrutching away I noticed my hand and the testosterone fuelled fight stopped and I began daintly shuffling my way up the edge of the chimney using all the little crimps and edges until these ran out and I wished I’d stuck to thrutching. So the verdict is, maybe painted nails is useful for slabs and delicate climbing but it’s a bad idea for butch stuff and buying women’s clothes.
Arm Barring at the top of Winking Crack (E3 5c), George Ullrich Collection.

Then we abbed into Main Cliff from the top of Resolution Direct/Achilles. We used a 100m rope but an 80m would probably reach, just. The Abseil lands you on the West side of the Gogarth pinnacle so it’s good knowledge if you’re doing two or more routes on Main Cliff or if the tide is still high as passing the pinnacle is one of the lowest bits of the traverse. We had come down to do Citadel (E5 6b). The route has two main pitches the first has a famous crux, whilst the second is an absolute festival of pump. I would normally pick the pumpy pitch but we let the Queen decide. She span round and round in the air landing face down in the dirt. Tails. I take the crux pitch.

The climbing felt good, some tricky moves over bulges and round overlaps led to a resting niche with some strange old, wooden instruments jammed into the crack. Above me laid the crux and a peg to protect it. I can only assume the peg was made of Cadburys Flake and has deteriorated since. It wilted further as I placed a quickdraw on it, and once the rope was clipped to this it looked ready to snap. So filled with confidence I inspected the crux sequence a few times, it was by no means obvious. I finally committed to some awkward undercuts, pulling out into the point of no return I threw in a pre-empted dropknee and before I knew it I had easier ground in my hands and a sloshing bucketful of exposure beneath me.

In the heat our tight rock boots had become tighter, excruciatingly so. I squeezed the sweat from the foam in my helmet whilst George cooled his heels before leading off. Struggling to enjoy the climbing through the pain he sprinted the pitch with me following suit. Even climbing hastily we still both felt the presence of the lactic reaper gaining on us.  As always on the Main Cliff the last pitch felt like a chore, you’re always ready to be topped out at the bottom of the last pitch, and to make it a little more punishing at the top of the route we had a terrifying 50m traverse across vertical heather  back to the bags.  We had planned to do another route but our Achilles proved to be our Achilles so we didn’t abb back down Achilles.

Three days later I had tired of watching the crap weather so me and Owain hit up the slate between the showers. We decided to have a go at the new multipitch sport routes in Twll Mawr.  The aptly named Supermassive Black Hole (7a,6b+,7a,6b) was up first we abbed in using a 60m rope to get down the top three pitches then abbed off the belay of the 1st pitch to get to the base of the route. I led pitch 1 and 2 in a oner (37m). There were a few technical moves but ample rests and easy sections made me think that maybe it’s only 6c+. Owain led the top two pitches in one 37m pitch at 6c+ again. This one had slightly easier moves but was more sustained. Overall the route is bound to become a classic outing with brilliant climbing in a brilliant place. Get on it.

It rained again the next day So I went out bolting with the some of the Old Boys of North Wales, Chris Parkin, Andy Boorman, Norman Clacher and Jon Ratcliffe. I’d never been bolting before so I just did the cleaning. I weeded the base of the crag then spent hours digging mud from some enormous, juggy pockets.  The routes we cleaned and bolted are on a buttress about 50m right of Mayfair wall called Hanging Rock. They’re all fairly short (about 10m) and of  boulder nature in the 7a-7c range. The next day me and Jon tried to go to The Diamond but after sitting in the van through persistent rain we could see The Diamond had bore the brunt of it and would be gopping. We decided to go and warm-up in the cave while we waited for the routes we bolted to dry. Sure enough they dried in about 30mins, we had beat the weather through pure optimism.  First off we tried the rightmost line, Bethlehem is Lost (7a, used to be E3 6b), a bouldery start (V4) led to easier climbing on good holds but with little for the feet. Then we tried the leftmost line Slouching Towards Jerusalem (7b+, used to be E4 6b!) The climbing on this was very bouldery with an awesome cutloose dyno/throw, followed by another equally difficult move off a fingery hold, after this it’s a fun romp on the huge jugs I had dug out the day before. Before Leaving we Tried the central groove line, De Torquemada (it used to be E5 6c) neither of us managed it, the climbing seemed desperately technical. So there is still the first ascent for 20years or so waiting to be had on the two middle lines, it will not be easy!

2 September 2011

Crowning glory

If this post can be half as brilliant as the events which inspired it, it's going to be a good one. Having had a couple of days rest I knew I needed to reignite my muscles. So, on Tuesday Laura, Owain, Lisa, and I headed to 'The Cave of Justice' for a quick session, before going to see The Inbetweeners on the big screen. Gravity was strong and I didn't manage to miraculously flash anything I'd not done before, but I did feel like I'd started firing on all pistons again.

After a film and a kip I was ready for action. I headed for Scimitar Ridge with Tom livingstone, his big hair, and matching psyche. Tom decided to go for it straight off on Roc-Nest Monster (E4 6a), a stiff little number with some tricky, blind moves and hard-to-milk rests. A frustrating flash-pump had him off by the first peg, but he recovered quick and got the ground-up tick. I seconded then decided that Killerkranky (E5 6a) would be my next move, but I knew I was putting off the real reason I was here. My reasoning was that I'd not had much luck here before. I don't think I'd ever managed anything harder than E3 onsight at Scimitar. For me though climbing isn't about getting things done, it's about the uncertainty of success and the moment when the rational side turns off and the wild, rushing focus turns on. This is something I often forget but luckily, that day, I remembered. I racked up for King Wad (E5 6b).

King Wad is well known for its stunningly aesthetic upper arete, not only this, but it also possesses, quite possibly, the best finish to a route... Ever. At the bottom of the route, I put all my doubts and concerns behind me and set off climbing each move as it came. Moving quickly and confidently I soon found myself at a baffling move in the mid-height groove. Eventually some fierce crimping and smeary bridging gained a hands-off rest. I had gained the base of the arete proper. I scuttled out to clip the peg and place some gear a couple of times, then a couple more to get a good skeg at what laid ahead. Back at the rest I ran through my potential sequence a few times, trying hard to picture myself making the final lurch. I felt ready to go, so I gave it one more minute, shedded any excess gear, chalked up, rolled up my sleeves, chalked up, wiped my boots, chalked up, checked my harness, chalked up, checked my knots, chalked up. Let's go.

I raced through moves, which felt hard the first time, to my high point. With a slopey edge in my left I eyeballed a sidepull on the arete but couldn't take my right hand off to go to it, trying allsorts with my feet, then I spotted a heelhook by my hand. Seating the heel I knew it would work. I floated weightlessly up to the sidepull and locked on to it. Rocking round to the left I readied myslef to jump but it was further than I expected. I instinctively slapped my left up to an un-holdable sloper. This was it, fight or flight. Breathing deeply, I rocked backwards and forwards like a Preying Mantis, subconsciously rehearsing my trajectory.

I laid one on. Mid-flight, this could go either way. I latched something, but not the jug I was expecting. I'd gained a sidepull, it was supposed to by over. I laid back off it, smearing my right foot. I matched the sidepull with both hands and slapped again. I got a jug this time but it was by no means over. I suddenly became aware how far away I was from the gear and in such a wild position. I let out my most heroic squeal and swarmed up good holds to the top. Then finally, in a fit of uncontrollable elation, I yelled a few 'Fuck Yeahs' (and other less recognisable sounds of jubilation) down the valley before belaying in a state of mad, grinning euphoria, barely noticing the weight of my crown.