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 January 2012

The Medium of Learning

Well, I finished my exams just in time for the rain to return. I had a few days on The Orme and managed to wrap-up a few Parisella's projects including; Clever Beaver (V8) and the Clever Beaver SS into Right Wall Traverse (V7), the latter opens up a plethora of link-ups to try. I had a crack at some of the Mayfair Wall Routes too. I managed to repeat Julio Juvenito (7a) and flash The Bloods (7a+), but, Bloodsports (7b) got the better of me. I bottled the crux move, reversed and slumped. After a bit of heckling from Callum I continued from where I was. This time I managed the crux, clipped in and took a hang. This still wasn't good enough, so I forced myself to the top of the wall, no more rests no matter what! Needless to say, with the right attitude I left the anxiety behind, and ploughed up to the chains, elbows by my ears. Fitness reclamation phase 1: initiated.
 Also, one day, when the cave condensed into a temple of sheen, Callum and I found Manor Crag to be dry. We enjoyed a good V4-7 curcuit on overhanging cracks, steep slappy moves and potentially did a new problem, although apparently the Cattell Brothers 'cleaned-up' here a few years ago. Here's a link to a video of the worthwhile: Why do I have to be Mr Pink? (V5/6).

The most interesting, eye opening event to have happened lately occurred on a trip to the slate with the younger slatesman; Callum Muskett. I went out without any aspirations or routes to try, Callum on the other hand had a few things in mind. First on the agenda was a route on the California backwall, Stairway to Silence (E7 6b). I belayed off a single old bolt high up on a pedastal, while Callum tried to set off from various positions, unsure of the correct/best line. He decided on a thin rockover manouvre to begin and in only 3 moves became pretty committed. After a couple more moves he placed a wobbly skyhook on what looked like a useful hold and pressed on. Once he was stood by the skyhook, it became intense, watching cold fingers struggling to find purchase on the tiny crimps, then... in a moment of perceived madness he lined up for a dyno, a few sharp breaths and some prey mantis-style rocking and...
 "TAKE!". Callum returned to the deck at 9.81m/s, ass first, but he was not the real victim.
Callum still smiling, and the remains of the skyhook,  just after decking out on Stairway to Silence (E7 6b).
One skyhook down, we retreated to the bottom California to formulate a new plan. I went for the lead on Espirit de Corpse (E4 6b). It's a route I'd always looked at and wondered how it could warrant the grade as it follows good cracks all the way. I was hit straight away with a demonstration of the routes difficulty having to use some tenuous footholds to gain a break, but it didn't feel 6b. After this it became fairly straight forward, and I assumed the top was nearing, until I looked up and found myself beneath a really long, thin (rock 1 size) stretch of crack. Ready to eat my words, I pushed on only to find a series of great moves linking some big crimps together to the top. 
The 'trad head' was with me much more than at Gogarth, or, is the route is a softie? Anyone done it?

After this I gave Callum a belay on The Medium (8a), a desparately thin slab testpiece from the Dawes himself. He made light work of it, on toprope, remembering the moves well. I almost declined the offer of a toprope myself, assuming that 8a slabs would be far too hard for me, but without much else new to try I gave it a shot. I popped off before I even got to the hard bit, making me feel pretty useless. Then I thought about it: What makes one man able to stand on these holds, and another unable? Finger strength? Not on these ungrippable slithers of slate. Good edges? Well, I had brand new boots with perfect rubber. Without finding a single reason why I couldn't climb the route but others could, I tried again. Ignoring the feedback from the mob of senses in my feet "off! off! off!" it came together, I got through the whole crux sequence really quickly, bewildered at what just happened.

The one thing I was missing on my first attempt was the belief in myself, that I could do it, the faith in friction and balance. Once I'd thought about it, I was lost for an excuse and just dug in.
Callum led the route straight after my go, not a bad consolation prize. Then, it was on me, I'd not even come to terms with being able to do the moves at all and it was my turn to lead. I set off into the crux sequence with uncertainty and doubt, and my prophesy was right, or self-fulfilling?. I popped off stepping into the crucial sequence. Darkness decended and we left.

This day was an essential day for me I realised two really important lessons:
Don't go out to 'practice', go out with intent. Too often I just go ticking routes and avoiding the main challenge of the day. I need head out with a plan, or at least be more ambitious on arrival.
Secondly, assume you can. I guess this kind of emphasises the first lesson. I need to develop a more 'aggressive' or rather, confronting approach, and rationalise the self doubt within.

I returned two days later with Duncan to try again. This time the conditions were less crispy, but I managed to refine the sequence and on my best effort fell off the final lunge for the '9mm jug'. Hopefully Ill be back tomorrow for the send, to begin learning the lessons. 

22 January 2012

Revision Break

Despite having another exam this coming Tuesday, when I came out of Friday's I felt a surge of relief and freedom. The sun had been out for a few days and was set to stick around so I wasted no time in making plans for Gogarth on the saturday. I haven't fiddled in a wire, sent home a cam, nor even draped a sling on a handy nodule for months, so I was pretty damn excited to get out and see how I got on.
I headed out with George to Blacksmith Zawn; an impressive cave, overhanging the sea with an plethora of hard, steep routes. The place is so-called because of the angry blacksmith (who owns a field above the crag), known for throttling Stevie Haston, letting his rabid dogs chase you down, and even bear arms if you are to pass by his turf. Fortunately, on this day the blacksmith was nowhere to be seen.
I racked up for the first route, struggling to keep warm, wondering if bouldering would've been a better idea. We abbed in, just left of the line of choice. Once down at sea-level it was much warmer and really pleasant in the sun. I set off on Groove Tuesday (E2/3 5c) in the adjacent, Smurf Zawn. All the holds felt like jugs, but it was taking three or four goes to get any half decent gear in and my calves noticed the slower pace almost instantly. I got established in the groove proper with steepness overhead. Not wanting to be stood on my calves much longer, I pushed on up to a huge, flat flake in the roof and fiddled a small wire behind it. Only after this did I remember to perform 'the tap of integrity'. The hollow sound coming from the big flake just above my head sent my legs quivering like a silent phone on the bedside table. I scampered back down to a safe place to reconsider. Then, I tucked my skirt in, held my breath, closed my eyes and pulled on the damoclean flake. In a jittery whirl I managed to get the holds above, leaving one final pulse-quickening rockover on the bloody thing, and then I was at the top (retrospectively it's probably not that loose but it certainly felt it at the time).
George took the next lead. With a bigwalling trip to Venezuela in a few days he was pretty keen to get some fitness in and decided to go for Angel Dust (E6 6a). This route is gaining a bit of a reputation for being a fantastic, strenuously overhanging pump-fest through some slightly suspect terrain. It overhangs the sea in every dimension giving it a level of commitment usually reserved for poorly protected, and multipitch routes. Brilliant...

If there's one thing I've learnt whilst studying oceanography (there probably isn't), it is that the sea is pretty unpredictable. So despite thinking we had abbed in after high tide, once george had left the belay the sea began splashing ever closer, in front of me and behind me. I didn't know where to watch. Thankfully an intense proximity is as bad as it got, but it certainly made the belay exciting. George was about halfway now and the sun had gone. It looked hard and I was cold. I considered methods of escape. There was no escape but the route. It's something I often suffer from, belayers nerves. Once I get cold, or have sat around for a while, I lose the desire, but this time I had no choice. George made it to the top. My only incentive to climb was that he had fallen off a few times so I might have an opportunity to burn him off.
 In a state of partial rigour mortis, I took the last piece of gear from my belay and set off, on the initial steady ground. I made it to a resting ledge before the real steep stuff and warmed my feet which had become angular, yellow blocks. I set off again with a big committing move straight away so I had to plough on. All the hands and feet sloped away, and it didn't take long for the pump to devour me. All that remained was an undignified dog out.

Usually an early season spanking kicks you into gear, so that's what I'm hoping. I really lacked the ability to hang around and my movement was particularly cagey. I think next time I go trad climbing I'll try something a little less steep first, and I definitely need to take a load of falls to get used to it again. I haven't properly fallen off for a couple of years now and there is without doubt a mental block building up.

Anyway back to something a bit more seasonal. The day after I headed to the pass to meet Kieran, Tim and a few others. The sun never quite made it to the valley bottom so we spent the day freezing our tips off. I tried the last moves of the big roadside face link-up into the V2 on the far right. I managed it second go, and upto this point the traverse is V8, but I'm sure I've read somewhere that the link is V10/V11... What ever the grade is I'm keen to get back and do it when the finger has made a full recovery, it should be good for getting some fitness back.

After this me and Kieran got the tick on Ultimate Retroparty (V8). It was a bit of a battle, every go getting one move further, which made it really satisfying when it went.
Me on Ultimate Retroparty (V8). KK Kollection
After this we had a team send of Bull's Problem (V5/6) a little gem which would probably be one of the most popular problems in the pass if it weren't for the boulder behind it (which only detracts aesthetically).
Tim on Bull's Problem (V5). KK Kollection

Keiran made a little video of the day if you're interested: KIERAN'S VIMEO

That's all for now!

10 January 2012

The Bad Finger

In the last post I mentioned a little finger niggle. As usual it's in the base of my left-hand, ring finger (A5?). Whilst my belief in Santa wears thin (seriously, in one night?), if he substantiated his argument for exsistence by claiming to have been tweaking my fingers every christmas time (perhaps because he'd ran out of coal or something), I might begin to believe again.

It always seems to be between Chrimbo and New Year does the tweak,  the scourge of my climbing.
But, I think I'm getting it now. Usually I detatch myself from the blame, assigning my misfortune to that mystic energy field known as luck, or lack thereof. This year though, this year I decided I want to do something about it. So, instead of shunning responsibility and releasing myself to the wholesome temptations of saturated fats throughout Winter, I decided to watch my weight. In september I weighed around 11 stone, 3 months of healthy eating and calorific awareness and the Christmas Eve weigh in... 9st 11lbs. Crucially though, I have no finger injury.

Then Boxing Day comes along, with all that Chrimbo dinner increasing my gravitational attraction, I get the annual tweak. It was blowing an absolute hoolie that day so I didn't really feel anything until I got home and warm.

I'm not really suggesting a few days of heavy eating twanged the tendon, but the cumulative effect of festive inevitabilities probably did. A slight increase in weight + dehydration from boozing + cold temps + rushed warm-ups = injury. Apparently, if the body is dehydrated, one of the first parts of the body to lose its moisture is the tendons, particularly at extremities. If a tendon is dry and cold, it is unlikely to have much by way of supplty. Under the increased stress of a bit of extra weight what else could I expect?

Now though, where usually I would be overcome with frustration and hit the campus board with furious denial, I have remained positive about my situation and decided to take the necessary steps towards recovery and prevention of further injury.

The day after the injury I began an icing regime, alternating between hot and cold for about 5-10 minutes each. I've not stopped climbing on it, I had a few day rest then spent my time in the peak climbing open-handed and avoided any high impact moves on my left hand. I've been drinking more and warming-up more, but the one new thing I've added to the rehab-mix is the use of a metolius gripsaver ball (It's one of those foam balls with rubber finger and thumb loops coming out both ends).

Supposedly, the outward pull on the elasticated loops works the muscles in opposition to how you usually would when climbing. The idea here is that it balances the muscles out, so the discrepancy between protagonist (muscle working in the direction of force) and antagonist (working against the direction of force) is less significant, and therefore the fingers become more stabilised and less prone to injury. In just three days of use I've noticed big gains in outward strength, and usually when this happens it means you were really shit at it to begin with, which would support the idea of my fingers being very unbalanced. I'm gonna stick with it, and if I don't get an injury next year squeezing balls gets my vote!

9 January 2012


Currently awash in a sea of revision, not much is occuring except bouts of online procrastination, a few sit-ups and a few more house chores than usual, although, over new year I did manage a moist trip to the peak. The first day SteveR and I arrived at a wet Secret Garden, departed and ended up at plan Z:  Minus Ten wall (an everdry base to a short quarried face). The rock was dry enough, but our enthusiasm dampened, it was only after much deliberation that shoes were adorned. It felt like climbing in a cold, damp pyrex cellar. Shoe rubber became moistened with every step on the mat, so friction maintainance became the number one priority for the rest of the sesh. I mostly only managed repeats, but I did get one new 7A tick which felt very satisfying. It does seem that every problem on this wall has superb movement, yet, it could just be that in the absence of any independent problems, natural aesthesis or friction, like an eye to light, my appreciation aperture became dilated beyond usual dimensions.

Day Two: New Year's Eve and the hydrosphere is in giving mode. The plan is, Early session at The Works, and an evening of celebrating another successful orbit. The works is good fun, but a finger niggle keeps me from achieving much. Similarly, the evening was a memorable one, marred by an over zealous swig of absinthe too early in the evening. Beyond this I couldn't face anymore alcohol, and had to sit out on a night of beer/testosterone-fuelled madness.

Day Three: New Year's Day, riding on the crest of a hangover, fending it off with a shitty Weatherspoons burger and a good stint in front of the hypno-box.

Day Four: (Avoiding revision day 1) was the day I discovered that Birchen Edge has nearly as much quality to offer the boulderer as the wire wielding, weekend warrior. We (Me, Laura, Steve, Guy, Jo, James, Billy, Noakesy and Scooby) hit up a great V4-V7 curcuit including, a campussy dyno, a technical scoop, a highball roof and a lowball compression problem. It's well worth a visit if you climb around V6 and fancy a varied set of problems. See GvG's blog for a video and his account of the day:  Guy's Blog.

Day Five: (Avoiding revision day 2) 'MORE WATER!', another session at The Works materialised. This time I was going a lot better, having got used to the styles in play here and managed to get up a lot more things in a lot fewer goes. At half time we enjoyed tea and buscuits. Toodle pip.