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 April 2013

Every Dog has it's Silver Lining

Back from Spain I couldn't wait to test out my new arms. I made an erratic foray down North Stack Wall, with Gwen Lancashire, on a damp evening to try A Wreath of Deadly Nightshade (E7 6b), before quickly realising it was too dark, too wet and too slabby to engage the Latino forearms.
The next attempt was made on South Stack area with Jemma Powell. After having done zero routes for over four years, she whistled up Northwest Passage (E1 5b) placing all of three runners.
Then we dropped into Yellow Walls. I followed the awkward traverse pitch of Creeping Lemma (E2 5b), tentatively, again with few runners, to access the top pitch of Ludwig (E6 6b).
Ironically, the main difficulty I encountered on this route was composing myself. On the crux section, it took a few reconnaissance missions to spot the sequence and each time I returned to my ‘safe place’ my pulse and breathing reached allegro. An inner panic I could dispel with a deep breath last year was taking a whole can of mind beans to clear. I announced the problem to Jemma, belaying just out of sight, she said to ‘use it to my advantage’. Having absolutely no idea what was meant by this, I pressed on into the crux proper. Upon reaching ‘the point of no return’ my heart rate exploded and in a brief, yet eternal crescendo I made a wild slap for a fragile, crimpy flake. I barn-doored. The flake creaked. I squeaked. The flake held, and I scrabbled frantically to get established in the groove above. I gave a roar of relief then convulsed a little through the force of a few hundred BPM pumping through my veins. The top groove rounded off the experience nicely, teasing the ticker right to the top.

The next week Charlie T, Laura P, Timmy P, Scooby and I headed to Northumberland to see our old Uni pals; the man full of power and soul; Kieran King, and the increasingly talented/lanky; Mikey Goldthorp. Unfortunately, I had a major skin malfunction a few days before, so my ‘cling-filmy’ tips stopped me from being able to pull hard, but I had a great time socialising and watching everyone else bear down. Notably Tim’s determination on the dynamic Barbastelle (7A), Laura’s gristle on Darth (6C), Kieran’s futuristic efforts on Transformer (7C), Mikey’s ability to climb pretty much everything and, in first place, Charlie’s tenacious, cool-headed send of Down Boy, Down (7A). The best thing about the trip, however, was that it gave the perfect send off for my little brown dog; Scooby. After a week of running around the moors, unleashed, lots of ‘Scooby Snacks’ with the guys, and plenty of attention, she received... the wrong kind of stroke. In a glorious, archetypal swansong of piss, yawns and two sodden sets of bed sheets, she was gone.

The compelling Klondyke Wall (E2 5c). Kieran King Kollection.

Inspired by tenacity and the delicacy of life I’d witnessed, I jumped straight on Alien (E6 6b) at Main Cliff. Like a crab on the moon I laybacked diagonally up along the greasy, undercut flakes past a few powerful sections, arriving at a very burly ‘rest’ on a wobbly, undercut tooth. Within a minute or two I had completely pumped out on the ‘rest’. I slumped onto the rope in a moment of disheartened weakness and as I did, my chalkbag popped off, landing very close to the sea. I retreated from a cam and a wire, and Jemma and I returned to the Upper Tier, where she struck up Strike (E4 6a) with typically few runners and minimal fuss.
By this time ‘the magic hour’ was upon us, the white walls turned to gold and the late light of summer revealed another layer of psyche. Encouraged by the brilliant light and the unfamiliar tranquillity of the sea, I threw caution and pumped arms to the wind and jumped on the serious and reachy; Blackleg (E6 6a). Having failed to make the crux reach without a tight rope a few years ago, there was an uncertain orangey-glow in the air. I moved uncharacteristically confidently up the flaky wall to arrive at the crux. I put my faith in a pair of small wires in smaller flakes and drove on through, mantling on a two-finger pocket and latching the jug of glory at full stretch. Photosynthesis.
With a cam and a nut to retrieve (a significant proportion of my current capital!), it was obligatory to try Alien again. With Tim Newton, I returned to the best cliff in the England and Wales. Armed with knowledge and fresh pipes, I stormed up the wild rugosities. At the last hard move before the bicep-burning rest, my rope Z-clipped itself, I was forced to untangle the Z mid move; guns a blazing. I managed to get it sorted but I’d spent some crucial rounds. At the killer shakeout, I fiddled in an extra cam, reaffirmed my suspected sequence and launched up the overhanging fin above. Compressing like a hungry alligator, I squeezed the life from my arms and made a last ditch snatch for a jug and sanctuary... I was out of ammo.
A short flight later, I felt disappointed, then chuffed that I had committed above my gear and took the lob, without a second thought. After a quick shakeout, I got back on the extra-terrestrial horse, smashed up the flakes, smashed up the fin, smashed up the groove, smashed my nuts in and whooped with hard-won triumph. E5 my arse.

I returned the next day with Jimmy ‘Fingers’ Marjot for a crack at Dinosaur (E5 6a). I had been on this before and bailed off a wire at the greasy crux. Today I got there feeling much better, the crux was gopping, but I had nothing to lose and I snatched my way out of the chimney and up the funky wall above. Jimmy blitzed the wacky groove on pitch two, and the rest, as they say, is prehistory.
Friday: Sam Underhill and I tried Gogarth again, but the whole of Holy Island was clagged in, so we made for the North Coast to the definitively esoteric, Carmel Head. At the bottom of The Lost Pillar of Schieser (XS 5c/E2ish), a big, brown groove to the left called out to be climbed. Access was guarded by a steep cave, but, not one to miss the opportunity for a first ascent, I embarked into the unknown. I was quickly sucked into the roof, stuffing in cams like a drunken boxer, the rock around me shattered and made a beeline for Davey Jones’ locker. Out of the frying pan, the tottering brown groove above licked with blue flame. Pillars, flakes and blobs all fell to a watery grave; I wondered if I was next? The climbing up delicate school gutters and brittle trees in my youth paid dividends here as I was forced to distribute my weight evenly; thighs and elbows taking their fair share. I really enjoy the movement prescribed by choss, I was engrossed until I had both feet back on terra firma. The Legacy of Scooby lives on at XS 5c (E4ish).
Seal Pup Scoob. Mikey Goldthorp Collection.
The next day, Jemma and I found perhaps the only climbable conditions in North Wales, at Craig y Foreskin. In a constant mild-drizzle maelstrom, Jemma moseyed up Sangfroid Direct (E2 5c), and marched up the magnificent Great Wall (E4 5c). Alternately, I meandered up Manhattan (E5 6b), and crimped my way up the surprisingly superb and perfectly protected Space Mountain (E5 6a). We had no hassle from the landowner, and Space Mountain is an absolute ‘must-do’ for any E5 wall climber.
After a rest day, Gwen and I went to the Orme, sheltering from the wind. Determined to get the most out the day we climbed Contusion (6c) to warm-up. I then retroflashed Bloodsports (7b), followed by an impressive flash from Gwen. We moved into the sun and I onsighted the surprisingly difficult; Scary Canary (E5 6a/b), the safe and intense Flake Away (E5 6b) and Private Investigations (E5 6b). The latter giving a shit spooky experience yarding off a skinny ‘handle’ of improbable strength. This was my first ‘E5 hat trick’. Shame the Orme doesn’t count.

In Memory of the late, great, turd factory; Scooby. Kieran King Kollection.