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.

20 March 2013

2013: The Beginning

In January I went to Tremadog. I hadn't trad climbed much for nearly 2 months. It felt fantastic. It felt natural. I felt at home. I'd been struggling with psyche since receiving my 6th annual finger injury on New Year's Eve (an accident waiting to happen after the stone I gained over Christmas and the deep dehydration from too much festive drinking), I'd wondered what to do with myself, whether to keep climbing, or not! That day in January though, that day reminded me why I climb; the freedom, the clarity, the fear, the effort, the pump, the utter engrossment, the doubt, the mental dissidence, the triumph and the rush!

The Ochre Slab on Vector (E2 5c). Dan Lane Photography.

I managed to keep getting to Tremadog once or twice a week, between rain and routesetting, mopping up some classics and working up through the grades, highlights being a repeat of the justifiably infamous Vector (E2 5c), the testing and diverse Pippikin (E4 6a) and the sublime Spare Rib (E4 6a). I managed a stunning day out in the Lakes with Matt Burdekin after setting at The Kendal Wall. We walked in up frozen marshland to the bottom of the initially underwhelming 'Burnt Crag'.  Matt cruised up the two bridging corners of Double Trouble (E3 6a) and Splinter (E3 5c), while I went ground up on a superb technical wall, Burning Desire (E5 6b). First go, I fought my way up to just short of the top until a long, committing move left me stranded and pumping out on a flatty. I had 2 blindly-placed rp's by my feet and only two options, keep climbing (not an option) or drop onto the rp's. Fortunately, they held and the second time round I had enough left in the tank to press it out for the top.
Swing round the top arete on Spare Rib (E4 6a). Dan Lane Photography.

The highlight of the trad season so far has to be a fluvial accent of 'The best E4 at Gogarth'; Pagan (E4 5c). The unbendingly, unperturbed Ullrich whipped down the rope first, indicating up that it was all good, giving me the go ahead to follow. As I abbed diagonally down the wall I thought to myself 'Well, it's a good job Pagan is dry, every other route is gopping'. I noticed two things when I reached the bottom of the route, firstly, George was laughing, second, I was getting wet. Tiptoeing around the sodden ground I looked above to see a bulge running with water, dripping all over us. The Ullrich had found himself committed at the bottom of the zawn so instead of prussiking out up the soaking ramp, like anyone else, he called me down so we were both stuck there.
It was decided that in some way it might be a good idea to attempt the route, good practice or something. I sat under the shower singing and dancing to keep warm and sane while George led pitch one behind a watery veil. The situation was ridiculous. At the first belay we realised the route kicked back left, through the soaking bulge! I set off pulling on pockets full of water, spilling out and down my sleeves. 'Why does this feel fun?'. I tried to force a line just right of the wetness, but it wasn't happening. I slithered through the goppage getting wet all over, straight into a sustained, run-out wall without a chance to catch my breath or dry my feet. Once at the second belay it was very windy thankfully so I dried off quite quick. Then, while george was midway up the third pitch a dirty, black cloud rolled in above, I shouted to let him know, so he went slower, timing it to perfection to top out just as the cloud burst and I got my 3rd soaking of the day. Karma came when George tried to pull the abb rope and got it jammed, rigging a pulley system only made things worse and off he went back down to free the rope. I made sandwiches and found an ideal vantage point to watch the struggle back out.

Off Moligna (7c+), Roca de la Espanelles, Margalef. Rachel Wilson Collection.
On a whim, I booked flights out to Spain, chucked a bivvy bag and a pair of shorts in my rucksack, jumped on a plane, jumped off, jumped on a train, jumped off, jumped on a bus, jumped off, walked the wrong way downhill for 4km, walked the right way uphill for 10km, hitched a lift and found myself at the Siurana Campsite. Hot from my big walk I didn't notice the icy temperatures, it was only when I awoke that I realised how cold it was and how under prepared I was. I met up with Jake Rogers who sorted me out with some food and lifts, after a few days in Siurana we met up with George and Rach, who brought more food and warm clothes. We all moved on to Margalef where things got consistently sub zero. Then Steve Ramsden turned up as it began snowing with more warm things including a tent and a down jacket, and Jon Freeman lent me a 'borrowed' blanket (Thanks everyone for sorting me out, I would have been screwed without you all).

All six of us headed to the best crag I've ever been to (Gogarth's an area!); Bruixes Wall, Terradets. It's simply stunning. 300m long, 35m high, gently overhanging all the way, dripping with tufa pipes and brimming with jugs. It suited me down to the tittle; lots of options for your feet, lots of holds to rest on and soft grades. On the first day there I surpassed any expectations I had for the trip and flashed El Latido del Meido (8a). On the 3rd day I kept the ball rolling and managed my first 8a+, Flix Flax. On the 4th I quickly redpointed Maneras de Vivre (8a), and on the 5th I gave it everything I had left and managed Energia Positiva (7c+) second go, and onsighted Orient (7c+). After this, everyone I was with had left and I climbed with Gerd the Aussie. We went to Santa Linya, the enormous cave crammed with 9b's and Sant Llorenc de Montgai, the old home of hard Spanish climbing, but then I missed trad climbing too much so I came back to Britain, to my van, my dog and our rain.

Jake using speed to his advantage on our new game at L'olla, Siurana (try getting from the first section of L'olla to beneath L'Elephant without hands using only the wall). Rachel Wilson Collection).

The Magnificent Bruixes Wall, Terradets. George Ullrich topping out Flix Flax (8a+). Rachel Wilson Collection.

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