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 July 2012


We paid our £2 parking fee and set off along the pastoral cliff top. Scooby, enticed by the meaty sheep, pulled hard against her lead, keen as mustard to get involved with them. Once in the next field I set her free and she bounced off through the long grass, rudder waving, tongue lolling. Through the final gate and atop Craig Dorys, I walked hard against the wind, keen as mustard to get involved below. I'd finally moved into a new house in Llanberis with Laura and Duncan and been set free from work. I bounced off down the long wall, rudder waving, tongue lolling.

Between Duncan and I, we only had 8 quickdraws, so after making a couple out of prussiks and screwgates I set off up Samarkand (E5 6a); the third, and hence, final route in the fine Byzantium Wall trilogy. Having not climbed for days and days I pressed on with gusto, where ordinarily, I would have placed high runners, reversed, faffed etc, I was fighting the urge and pressing on. The climbing was steady but in some fairly sketchy situations on rock with an estate agents' integrity.

The drive down had been through rain and clamminess, but we kept the faith, and down here in blue skys and perfect sunshine the gamble had paid off. It always does. Belaying Duncan up Samarkand, I couldn't stop staring at the 30m high, leaning tower out to my right. Perched delicately on an easy angled slab, there didn't seem to be much reason why it should remain standing. Concluding that the impressive pillars' descent was imminent, we abbed in to climb the central line of Absent friends (E5 6b) before it becomes merely a scramble on a beach. The route hosted the most solid rock I've come across at Craig Dorys, and thankfully so. The moves were physical, goey and superb all the way and with 5 decent insitu pegs it almost felt more like a sport route.

We drove over to Ty'n tywyn Quarries, a series of micro-granite craglets just off a beach. In the good weather the place had a real laid-back vibe, and me and Scoob kicked back whilst Dunc led the slightly disappointing Who's Who (E1 5b). As we walked out along the beach we passed a small, scrappy looking bay I remembered from the guidebook it apparently housed a well-recieved route called Microcosm (E4 6a). Not looking like much at all, I wandered over and only once stood beneath the base of the route did its overhang become noticable, which is suprising as it is very steep. I racked up quick as I could and blasted off up the steepening wave. Wild moves and intermittent bomber cams made for an awesome time and I drove home fully appreciating the 'sheperds delight'.

Stripping the micro-gem Microcosm (E4 6a). Photo: Duncan Campbell
After a rest day, where I failed to arrange a partner for the next day, I was chomping at the bit to get out. The Lleyn had been fun, but it never felt challenging and that's what I was after. I roamed around Llanberis trying to find someone keen for Gogarth. I've recently been reading Paul Pritchards' Deep Play, where he describes his life as a climber based in Llanberis and I felt like a character in the book. The only difference being it's now 20 years on, and the 'Gogarth scene' has dwindled somewhat.
Eventually I got given the number for a guy called Sam. He'd never been to Gogarth before, and had barely climbed recently as he'd become a victim of a particular strain of Seasonal Affective Disorder; Llanberis Fever. The perpetual rains of Llanberis lead people to believe that the sun no longer exists, and after the summer (rain) we've had (are having...), there is an epidemic amidst.
We drove out towards the light, dim at first, but, the further we went the clearer things became, until we arrived at North Stack car park, showered in sunshine. Patient cured.

Hell bent on going balls-out we went straight to The Long Run Direct (E6 6b). The tide was coming in and I couldn't reach the base of the route so I started up The Long Run (E5 6a), apparently with no change in the grade. The E5 section went by relatively quickly, without any inspiring runners but lots of imaginative sproggled in wires, passive cam placements and 'perched-on' slings, until 8 metres from the top. Here a decent break provided a smorgasbord of runners, the best of which was a friend 2 which I did not have. I arranged enough kit to be sure it would catch me and made my first skirmish towards the summit. The wall overhead had a healthy abundance of crunchy sea-grass, hiding all the holds. After the third forray up uncovering holds from the natural astroturf and unable to reach higher without committing, I figured that I would carry on with the E5 version and traverse out easily to finish, as going direct was itimidating, dirty, hard and bold. Then Sam shouted up that the sea was coming in. I looked down to see his stuck on a boulder with the tide cutting his access to the wall. My decision was made. The journey into the unknown began.

I flew up through the first few moves which I had dialled by now. I looked to the top for inspiration, breathed hard and set off. Making the first committing foot-stab upwards I breached a bubble of serenity. I fingered onwards, flaking away the grassy beards optimistically where it looked as though there may be holds.  My state of mind masked my rising heart-rate. I was lying to myself and now I knew it. By this point I was a couple of body lengths out from my gear. I was out of reach of all the holds I'd cleaned. Out there.

North Stack Wall from Britomartis Wall. Long Run Direct (E6 6a) climbs more or less straight upto the house. Photo: Me.

I managed to hold it all together for long enough to clasp the top of the wall. Everything I had bottled up came splurting out. 'WOOOOO'. 'YEEAAAHHHHH!'. 'FUCKIN'!'. Cheesily, I began singing/shouting Pearl Jams' 'Alive'. I felt on top of The World, in fact, three days on the embers of that feeling are still smoldering away inside. Hopefully on Wednesday I can add some Main Cliff fuel to get the fire blazing once more.

The perfect solo. Spider Wall (E1 5a). Photo: Sam 
Anyway, after some lunch we abbed in to do Toiler on the Sea (E2 5b), but, both forgetting to bring the ropes I soloed back out up Britomartis (HVS 4c) to retrieve them. Back down and Sam made a brilliant, run-out lead of Toiler on the Sea. Typically, wanting more, I dropped back in one more time to solo Spider wall (E1 5a). Definitely alive.

28 July 2012

Deh-Shay, Deh-Shay, Bah Sah Rah. Bah Sah Rah.

Much to the suprise of my peers, friends, girlfriend, old school teachers (I imagine), lecturers and probably even dog - who've all seen first hand the bare minimum of effort I applied, I attained a 2:1 for my degree in Geological Oceanography. Interestingly, it was only my parents, who know better than anyone about my lazy, careless and hedonistic approach to life, who weren't suprised. 

Anyway, this gave me a real confidence in my confidence as I had always thought the best thing to do would be to scrape a 2:1, and having been bumped up from 59.3%, it's fair to say this was dutifully achieved. It adheres to my tenuously agglutinated, tongue-in-cheek philosophy, that the reality which pans out before you is largely and inexplicably a result of what you believe beforehand; we are the masters of our own destiny. Thus, if you want to challenge yourself, you'd better think you can do it before you try it. 

With this in mind I had a day down in Portland with Laura. After finding a crag which wasn't victim to the mud slides from all the rains we've had, I set about warming up on a few 6c's on Battleship Main. With a healthy blood flow, fluid motion, and drying rock I set about Dreams Burn Down (7a+). Mid-crux and chicken-winging like a mother, I fought hard to maintain the tenacity of mind neccessary for upwards progress. After a series of slaps of desperation I grovelled over onto a resting ledge, suprised. The same story unravelled on the adjacent Nihil (7b). Fortunately for my arms, the rains came so we scarpered.

The next day I met up with Dan Gibson for some steep shit at the most under-rated area in the UK - Swanage. We rapped down into the insanely overhanging Lean Machine Wall to be met by a centurion of riders on white horses. Taking sanctuary on a dry plinth we traversed into the meaty jug-fest, Sirius (E3 5b). Back down and Dan directed his attention towards Surge Control (E5 6b), a superb stamina test with testing moves between shake-outs. At around half height the lactic demons got the better of him, and unable to imagine recovering for a while, he returned to the deck and handed over the sharp-end. Knowing how handy Dan is, it was hard to fight intimidation; the catalyst of doubt. I breathed deep, inhaling self belief and surged up the wall, not necessarily in control. With half the gear in already, I reached Dan's high-point relatively fresh and was able to press-on to the top keeping the demons at bay.
Characteristically insatiable, I persuaded Dan to belay me on World in Action (E5/6 6b). Dan abbed down first, keeping quiet about the fact the wall was totally gopping, with sea-piss dripping out the cracks and undercuts. Given that the abb down is onto an isolated ledge with no other routes off it, I was left with no option. Chalk proved useful only for creating a slimy paste. I felt as though I'd been abandoned by a trusted friend.

After the lesson I'd learnt on Mammoth Direct, even after a hang I pushed on with full-bodied effort. I made it to the point where the route became vertical, where the abb rope met the wall, tempting me to grab it and haul out of this soggy cliff. I resisted, cranked on a chicken head and became airborne. Grappling at the rope by my eyes, I couldn't understand why I was still falling, until I realised that wasn't the rope I was attached to. I recalibrated just in time to get my legs out in front of me and save my face. Wanting more than ever to climb up the rope, I clawed out up the route to top-out jubiliant. I may not have got the route clean, but I managed to try hard with no incentive of a clean ascent and in terrible conditions - retrospectively, a greater feat.

Scooby graduating on my behalf whilst I was in Pembroke. Laura Perry Collection.

After a rest day George and I drove down to Pembroke intent on 'tearing it up'. The morning was drier than expected, but dampness lingered all around. After seconding Fitzcarraldo (E5 6a), I tried Magazine People (E5 6b), both in The Leap. It looked nails but Caff had said it was 'nice'. The route essentially saw me trade all my finger strength, stamina, finger-tip skin and 'toe comfort' for a bucket-load of sweaty-faced, dry-mouthed fear. 'Nice'. After seconding George on the stunning Big in America (E6 6b) on Bosherston Head, I was all but spent and managed to squeeze out Passion (E4 6a), at St Govans in one pitch and Slap up/Fitz in (E4 6b) back in The Leap. The latter of which had a superb first half, and if combined with the top half of Fitzcarraldo would provide an absolutely outstanding link-up.

After these four days in the South of England and Wales I began to believe in sunshine again. Just in time for 10 frustrating days trapped inside.

23 July 2012

June in a Nut: Part II

Back from Pabbay I was ready to go full tilt at North Wales' classic testpieces. First day back out Jon Ratcliffe and I went to Scimitar Ridge, the best crag for E5's in the pass. Jon wanted to have a look at a project arete, and I wondered about trying Surgical Lust (E7 6b) as it's similar to Pabbay; Steep.
We warmed up on The Kicker Conspiracy (E5 6a); a meaty route with varied and unrelenting difficulties. I'd struggled like hell to second George on it a year or two prior so it felt good to lead with a decent degree of control.
Jon then led Killerkranky (E5 6b), a route best attacked with a proverbial 'run-up', it seems you can hang around just long enough to place some good kit, then it's time to move again. Then the midges descended and sucked the psyche out of us. I had chance to have a quick look at Surgical Lust, and it didn't look too bad, which is never a good sign! Just before we drove off I pulled onto Roadside Full Extension (V9) and first go (I had done half of it as a V8 before) managed to do about 90% of the problem. I came back a few days later and sent the full thing as my second V9 (although they are both more 8a+ given the length).

Anyhow, the day after managing Roadside Full I went down to Main Cliff to try Mammoth Direct (E6 6b). We passed some guys on the way down who said it was suprisingly cold down there, so I counter-intuitively wore my trousers down. Needless to say before I even set off I could barely lift my legs up as a result of sweaty kegs. First go, I made it out left through the first 6b section to find myself on undercuts with screaming biceps and more unobvious 6b ahead. I made an attempt upwards, but, lacked commitment and was duly taught a lesson. I ran all the way back to the bags and changed to shorts ready for action.
Back beneath the mammoth, exhausted, I tried again. This time I got through the second 6b section, sweating like a human percolator, to be met by a third 6b section. This last one being the most awkward, the only thing spurring on my glistening, wasted meat bag was a rusty old peg. Not for the peg itself however, in the description it said 'join the original at a peg by a pocket with good holds in it, and continue up into the originals' crux'. I gritted my teeth, stretching up, ready to recieve some good holds only to be met by a fistful of sand. I quickly slapped a quickdraw into the peg and took a hang. After a brief rest, I carried on with relative ease to the belay where I suddenly realised that, until I sat on the peg, I was on for a clean lead. In the moment I'd forgotten this and felt like I was taking 'just another hang'. At first I kicked myself for forgetting it was ground-up, but retrospectively, I should kick myself for giving up, simply because I wasn't on for the clean ascent. It's something I do a lot, once I've sat in, fallen off etc I find it hard to try properly. Weakness highlighted.

After a full week of rain, George and myself headed to Yellow Walls at Gogarth for the adventure fix the weather had been denying us. After getting stuck in work until 5pm instead of 2pm it became something of a quick hit so I jumped straight on Me (E6 6a). 'Yellow Walls' strikes me as a very unassuming, reticent name for such a wild, warped, escher-esque piece of rock. Twisted, as it is, you'd imagine to personify the place would be to describe an unhinged schizophrenic; volatile, unpredictable and requiring care.
I set off from the belay with a paradoxical emotional mixture of excitement and tentativeness. Only a few metres up, on the least steep section 'the pump' was murmuring in the back of my mind. Moving further up, footholds began exfoliating, showering down on George, whilst the damp sand in hand threatened to depart perpetually. The mind-chaos began. The sounds of the sea and the birds whirred into an intimidating white noise, drowned out only by the conflict in my head; instinct screamed 'Down!' and desire whispered 'upwards' like a fork-tongued hyponotist, whilst rationality froze, insisting the only sane thing to do was to stay still and wait for help. Controlling the physical situation became an aside to the psychological, yet it was only at 'rests' where it was possible to regroup and restore sanity. After about an hour on the wall, the internal chatter began to acquiesce, this far up, the safest way was up. In a state of mental harmony I climbed into the final section, lured into a goey sequence, and yet, happy to accept the consequence either way. Fortunately this time, my body did its job and all that remained was to pass 'the suspect block'. With no visible connection to the face, it was a real 'off-the-wall' bit of climbing to finish. Triumphant and basking content, I watched George battle with his mental demons on a stage of gold, the rock, the waves, the sky all illuminated by the setting sun.

The rest of June was wet.

Here's a little video short from the International meet a few years ago with Nico Favresse on 'Me' and off Nightmayer (E8 6c).

19 July 2012

June in a Nut: Part I

Blogging came easier when I had uni work. The moment I walked out my last exam, I went straight to North Stack Wall, Gogarth. The verbal diahorrea brought on by post exam ecstacy was duly corked as I started up the snaking line of The Cad (E6 6a), but, after a few deep breaths I found myself a third of the way up the wall with un-tieing shoe laces. I was in two minds as to whether I should reverse to the deck, or press on to the foot-ledge mentioned in the guide at two thirds height. I reversed.

As I rocked through the crux, I could see no sign of the supposed ledge and the moves forced me onwards. Eventually I got stood on a 5cm by 5cm square block and began to relax, totally thankful that I had reversed to tie my laces. I stood facing an old bolt stud which can be threaded with a wire, a bolt stud which I'd been told was no longer neccessary as there was a 'bomber' skyhook.
I looked at my skyhook swaying in the wind and at the moves ahead.....
I fiddled about trying to loosen the heads on my wires to thread the bolt, but, none of them would free up, so I was left with some very thin moves to do with only a wobbly skyhook between me and a 90 foot ride. A few tense and tenuous moves led to a mindfuck of a final move, with no other options, I stuffed all my eggs in one basket and piano-played up the wall with my left hand, as my feet were creeping beneath me. Suddenly, time warped back to its usual pace, the calls of fulmars could be heard once more and the sea returned to flagellating itself on the rocks beneath as I grabbed a proper thank-god hold. A final few moves went by, then I sat on top and gratefully appreciated the strength of flaky quartzite.

Well, I'm still over a month behind and If I carry on at this pace, and you read as fast as myself, you'll never catch-up, so here's some delights for your delicate, multi-layered, light sensitive membranes.

PABBAY (Probably About as Brilliant and Beautiful Area as You'lleversee).

Duncan warming up on the ferry. Photo: Gwen Lancashire

Trying to get the burnt bits out the sun on the exposed P3 belay of Prophecy of Drowning (E2 5c). N.B. we were so far North that the horizon can be seen to curve dramatically, the sun doesn't set until midnight either! Photo: Duncan Campbell

Home. Photo: Duncan Campbell

Seconding George on the awesome Johnny Scuttlebutt (E5 6a), Banded Walls. Photo: Will Nicholls
Starting out my short-lived attempt on Every Cormorant is a Potential Shag (E7 6b). Photo: Ben Alsford

Setting off on P2 of Perfect Monsters (E7 6b), Dun Mingulay. Photo: Duncan Campbell

Pabbay and Mingulay from callum coldwell-storry on Vimeo.

Perfect Island, perfect weather, perfect holds and gear, it's just a shame about the company.