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.

17 November 2012

The Gymnastic Element

I rode the crest of the wave out of the route season strait into winter bouldering bay. A six-strong team of eclectic rock afficionados met together under one banner for a day of high-frequency crushing at the Wavelength Boulders. After the usual warm-up on the utopian Utopia boulder we headed to higher grounds to begin the siege. I managed to get Plinth Eyed (7B), a brilliant roof problem on the Pie-Shop boulder, on my second go after make a silly mistake on the flash. Then we pressed on up to ol' Wavelength herself. Jack introduced me to a 7A/+ slopey compression prow; Gav' Sitter and I managed to flash this with a nifty heelhook. The team headed up to Killer Weed (6C), Laura quickly dispatched this and Gwen was very unlucky to not quite get the top hold. Next time Gwen.
We trooped back down the hill to the brilliant Boysen's Boulder where Gwen levelled the field with an impressive and enduring flash of Boysen's Groove (6B). I played on The Witch (7B), a powerful problem that I never thought I'd be able to do a couple of years ago. The moves came together quite quick but it took a lot of goes to make the link. A great finish to a perfect days bouldering!

Me sieging The Witch (7B). Laura Perry Collection.

A couple of days later Laura, Dunc, Burdekin and I hit the Craig y Llyn Boulder. I'd heard mixed reports about the place from 'one of the best problems in wales' to 'shit'. On first appearances we were underwhelmed. The nice, leaning face, veiled by a tree and a boulder, played its cards close to its chest. We laid out mats out beneath, a peace offering. After a quick warm-up on some nearby jugs we proceeded to conga our way up Voie Normale (6b+). The next obvious link to try is Alice High (7A) which adds a couple of moves either side, I fluked a flash and Dunc and Matt got it quickly. Logical progression led us onto Voie Normale SS (7a+), I tried for the flash again and got it. Inspired and feeling confident I jumped on Alice (7A+) and flashed this too. Meanwhile Matt got Voie Normale SS and Laura got Alice High while Dunc got devastatingly close on Alice. I was distinctly aware of the Alice Normale link-up (7B), with a perfect score so far the pressure to flash it was keeping me quiet, I rehearsed the moves mentally having done most the moves through the original problems. I cleared my head with a bit of breathing and snapped into the first moves. I had to fight but it went down in the first round. Although, it's not really a flash (having done the originals) it was good practice for dealing with the pressure of trying to flash stuff, something which I really want to try and develop with my climbing, or perhaps old habits just die hard.
Maybe I'm biased but this block is well worth checking out, especially if you like leaning walls with positive holds!

The next day, armed with a hangover, 11 Cambrian Terrace (Dunc, Laura and I) went to Elephantitus Cave. The eponymous problem is another one I had declared impossible for me a few years ago. Weighing in at 7a, brilliant moves through a large roof lead to a total stopper move throwing off a nasty crimp to a sloping blob. Expecting to dispatch it quite easily this day, after my a couple of hours trying I was ready to give up. Dunc suggested taping the tips for the final crimp. Mummified, I could pull that little extra to make up the momentum for latching the blob and soon smashed in another nemesis. Definitely 7A+!
Given the recent spell of good form, when Sheep Pen was suggested I was happy to go along fro the day. I took a back seat for most the day watching everyone tick Klem's Arete (6B+), Kingdom of Rain (7A) and Toe Dragon (6C). At the end of the day I had a few goes at THE Pinch (7A+). This amazing problem snatches up from two crimps to a Big. Fat. Pinch. Then you paste your feet on the vaguest of vagrants and lay one on for the sloping, scooped lip. Having always previously been unable to hold 'the' pinch, simply being able to grab the bugger spurred me on no end. I had a few goes and was getting close to making the distance. Then it started raining and everyone wanted to leave. I'd been drawn in to the 'one more go' thing and just couldn't go. On my 5th 'last go' once everyones patience had worn thin, they began the pack up. I frantically cleaned my boots, the holds, the hands, the mind. One big effort and ill stick this. I snatched the pinch and gave it some, then in one big, screaming, uncharacteristic explosion I stuck the damp velcro top, mantled and ran down the hill after the departing team.

I had a brief trip to the peak, thwarted primarily by rain the first day, and a hangover the following two. Day 1 I managed to get all the moves on Hannibal (7C) at Tom's Cave, Stoney but my shoulder had enough before I could get the link. Very powerful. The following day I highballed out Hard Cheddar (E5 6b, or 6B+! in new money) with Guy VG, Oli G, and Chris Barr. Here's a little video for budding filmmaker Guy Van Greuning: http://vimeo.com/53399556
Next day, Laura, Dunc, Tommy and I went to Gardoms. After everyone smashed in Gardoms North, including a very special, long term project tick for Laura on Mark's Roof Left Hand (7A) we headed to the South End. I peeled off the top of Suavito (7B) more times than I'd like to mention and never quite managed to get it. I'd call it a nemesis problem but its so, so good and the line in undeniably one of the best in the whole country.

Several Nemesi down, this winter could shape up to be a great bouldering season. Just pull harder every go, keep breathing, maintain the tips and most of all don't get bloody injured again!!

Finally, here's a list I've compiled of the 100 best problems in North Wales. It's still 2 or 3 short so any suggestions are welcome!

The 100 Greatest in North Wales

3+ - 6B

Ysgo Crack-Porth Ysgo 5
The Ramp-Porth Ysgo 6a+
The Ramp-Cromlech 5+
Utopia Groove-Wavelength 5

Paul’s Bulge-Wavelength 6b
Boysen’s Groove-Wavelength 6b
The Seam-Pont y Gromlech 6b
Marsh Arete-RAC 6a
Cost of Living-Gallt yr Ogof 5+
The Thin Slab-Gallt yr Ogof 6a

Caseg Fraith Arete-Caseg Fraith 6a+
Idwal Squeeze-Idwal Cottage 3

The Ramp-Braichmelyn 6a

6B+ -6C+

Wren Arete-Angel Bay 6c
Chaos Emerald Crack-Angel Bay 6c+

Lincoln Hawk-Pigeon’s Cave 6c
Fast Cars-Porth Ysgo 6c+
Higginson’s Scar-Porth Ysgo 6b+
Made in Heaven-Porth Ysgo 6b+
Ministry of Silly Hats-Talfarach 6b+

Pac Man Arete-Pac Man 6b+
Lordy Lordy-The Meadow 6c
Killer Weed-Wavelength 6c

Moose’s Toothpaste-Cwm Glas Bach 6c+
Viking Invasion-RAC Crag 6c+
Riley’s Arete SS-Crafnant 6c+
Caseg Groove-Caseg 6c
Central Wall-Braichmelyn 6c+
Klem’s Arete-Sheep Pen 6b+
Toe Dragon-Sheep Pen 6c
Red Sky Wall-Clogwyn y Tarw 6c
Jez’s Arete-Milestone Boulders 6b+
Pit Start-Milestone Boulders 6c

Seren-Orion Boulder 6b+

George’s Crack-Lily Savage Boulders 6c+

7A - 7B

Clever Beaver-Parisella’s Cave 7b
Left Wall Traverse-Parisella’s Cave 7b
The Limpet-Angel Bay 7a

Popcorn Party-Porth Ysgo 7a
Truth SS-Porth Ysgo 7a+

Incredible Shaking Man SS-Porth Ysgo 7b
Jawbreaker SS-7b
Ding Dong’s Arete SS-Porth Ysgo 7b
Pill Box Original-Pill Box 7a
Fish Skin Wall-7a+

King of Drunks-Wavelength 7a
Willy Two Goes-The Meadow 7b
The Minimum-The Barrel 7a+
Jerry’s Wall SS-Carreg Wastad 7b
NASA-Craig y Llwyfan 7a
Elephantitus-Craig y Fulfran 7a+
Bustach Prow-Clogwyn y Bustach 7b
Voie Normale (SS)-Craig y Llyn 7a+
Clear Spot-Beddgelert 7b
Chummers Wall-Moel y Gest 7a/+

Mallory’s Crack-Mallory Boulder 7a+
Bingo Wings-Crag X 7a+

Sex Bob-omb-Ffestiniog 7a+
Wonderwall-Crafnant 7b

Smackhead-Gallt yr Ogof 7b
Lily Savage-Lily Savage Boulders 7b
Harvey Oswald-Milestone Boulders 7a
Ogwen Arete-Idwal Cottage 7a

Kingdom of Rain-Sheep Pen 7a
The Pinch-Sheep Pen 7a+
The Gimp-Caseg 7b

7B+ - 7C+

Left Wall High-Parisella’s Cave 7c
Lou Ferrino-Parisella’s Cave 7c+

Millenium Drive-Pill Box Wall 7c
14 Years Later-Pigeon’s Cave 7b+
The Main Event-Benellech Crags 7b+
Mutant Child SS-Porth Ysgo 7b+
Sloace-Talfarach 7b+
Lotus-Wavelength 7c+
The Big Smile-Dinas Mot 7c
Barrel Traverse-The Barrel 7c
Jerry’s Roof-Cromlech 7c
Lizard King-Craig y Llwyfan 7b+ - 7c+
Cosmic Wheels-Mallory Boulder 7c+
Ultimate Warrior-Craig yr Ogof 7b+
Cruella-Crafnant 7b+
Special K-Crafnant 7c+
Animal Magnetism 7b+
Paul O’Grady SS-Lily Savage 7c
Renaissance of a Small Hold-Ogwen Cottage 7b+
Don’t Think, Feel-Caseg 7b+
Main Vein-Caseg 7c+


Broken Trigger-Parisella’s Cave 8a+
Dorsal Stream-Parisella’s Cave 8b
Silk Cut-Parisella’s Cave 8b+
Pilgrimage-Parisella’s Cave 8b+
Mr Fantastic-Cromlech 8a

Pool of Bethesda-Cromlech 8a+
Cross Therapy-Craig y Fulfran 8a
Beautitude Kiss-Moel y Gest 8a
The Slopey Rail Project-Ffestiniog 8?
Isles of Wonder-Carreg Mianog 8b
Caseg Groove SS-Caseg Boulder 8a+

1 November 2012

The Big Payback

During my week off I managed to limit myself to just a couple of hour-long sessions at the wall and to be honest it was quite refreshing. Whilst my psyche was locked in its cage the stories of other peoples days out was like waving a red flag at a bull. I managed to channel this into doing some stretching and tennis-balling (rolling your back on a tennis ball to work the knots out). I cannot describe how beneficial this was! I went back to my project; Never get out of the Boat (8a) and the moves felt solid, even the top crux off the pinch was ok. I felt so, so much stronger, a little bit of a power top-up and a rested body gave me inexplicable gains. I went for a redpoint and made it to the top shake-out before the crux but I couldn't recover! I had nothing to give to the pinch and the game was up. I forgot to shake my left hand out early on after the first couple of moves which didn't help. I didn't really mind, it was great to make progress and feel strong on moves which felt so hard before. I  knew it would be on with a bit more fitness.

Two days later Tommy C, Ollie C and I went to Upper Pen Trwyn to do some routes in the sun, I was going to use this day to get some fitness on. We warmed up on Pure Gold (6c+), it had a lovely lower groove, but the problem headwall was a real slap in the face. Next up was Gold' n' Delicious (7a+), I went for the onsight but UPT's thin, technical walls are heinous to read. I spent a good while trying to figure out the top, finally finding a two-finger micro-crimp which was enough to balance over to some insecure, pulse-raising undercutting and then the lower-off. This was probably as hard an onsight as I've ever done, so I was really impressed with how easy Tommy and Ollie made it look on the flash.  Moving on, it was Tommy's turn to go first on The Magical Ring (7a+). I stepped in for the flash and it felt good. It's amazing what a bit of chalk and beta can do.

We'd had enough of the thin stuff so we drove back round to Parisella's. Tommy jumped on Harry's Zontal Band (7b) and after the first crux pull he walked across the rest. I got psyched up and went for an onsight of Tomorrow People (7c). From the deck I plotted every move I wanted to make, throwing in plan Bs and plan Cs for the less obvious bits. I consulted with Tommy, who had done it before, and his sequence was very dissimilar. I concluded that our dimensions are also very dissimilar and so it was onwards with my sequence.
The first few moves felt harder than I had imagined. It was time to Engage plan D: pull harder!! I made it to the poor shake-out on the lip, then launched into the top boulder problem and executed it with just a little juice left in the tank. The top 'easy bit', which I hadn't accounted for, was nearly fumbled but I made it to the top. I decided to take the flash tick as it's a bit of a shit route for my first 7c onsight and technically I did have beta. I managed to squeeze out a flash of Harry's Zontal Band to cap off my best ever day on Pen Trwyn.

A week later I returned to The Diamond to find pretty disappointing conditions. George and Tommy had two goes each on Dumpster Divers (8a+) in the same time it took me to go bolt-to-bolt on NgootB as I had to clean and chalk ALL the holds. The top 8 or 9 holds were all soaking wet with water running down the wall, so where the route would usually be more or less over, leaving me with a juggy romp to the top, I now had a lot of wetness and insecurity to contend with. As I lowered-off I shouted down 'it'll be a miracle if it goes today, it's all soooo gopping'. I gave Miles a similarly lengthy belay on Boat People (7c), did a couple of quick sprints along the pebbly beach and set off on a redpoint. I was shaky on the first few moves and could feel the warmth leaving my fingers. I remembered to flick the left hand this time. 'Breathe' I told myself, puffing out hard, trying to restore some focus but I continued to climb jittery as soon as I pressed on. My feet pinged on the grease a few times as I neared the pre-crux shake-out. I was upto my eyeballs in acid. Lactic acid. It felt more and more improbable that I could make another move and it got harder and harder to fight the gravity and the doubt but I made it to the pre-crux shake-out. I thought about Adam Ondra and the way he breathes. I mimicked his powerful exhales and I could feel my forearms reinvigorate. 'I can do this if I give it everything on these next few moves'.

I grabbed what I now affectionately knew as 'the pinch' and squeezed a few million years of fossilized life from it. I slapped out into the next hold. 'I've never got this far'. My elbows cocked but for everything my body lost my brain gained twice over. I was never gonna let go, I was never getting out of this boat. I slapped up again with nothing left in my arms but the memory of strength and so I looked to my feet for assistance. I put so much effort into nailing the footwork, dropping the knees further than ever before and it worked! I grabbed a soaking wet jug and my heart sank. I couldn't hold it. For some reason though everything that should have been happening wasn't and a few moves later I was one move from the top. All the chalk I had left on the penultimate hold had turned to unclimbable slime and I had to hang around cleaning the hold for 3 or 4 minutes before I could pass, the whole while being so conscious about not blowing it. I had a single 5a move between me and my hardest route ever, the pressure to not ping off the greasy little blighter was enormous. As I grabbed the final jug I felt an almost physical whooshing sensation of relief. Out of the boat just in time for the start of bouldering season.

The first session on Never get out of the Boat (8a). Owain Atkins Collection.

Thanks for all the Diamond psyche Tommy.