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.

9 May 2013


Buzzing like a set of hair crack clippers after Skinhead, the next day I headed out with Ben Alsford. He’d been skiing in the Alps for the last few months so he was just looking to second some routes, get a bit of fitness back and have a catch-up. This worked out perfectly as I had set myself a challenge of climbing an E6 everyday for a week; seven in seven. I was lined up for the second of seven. For a change we headed to the Pass, as soon as we arrived it started raining and so, once more, we made off for Gogarth. Without any real objective we dropped down to Main Cliff. Eyeing up potential routes from the bottom of Eraserhead (E6 6a), the penny dropped and I set off, straight up. The first pitch provided a sustained E4, taking in a great variety of wall climbing and would be a great way to access the Positron headwall. As I belayed Ben up I felt so at home. I looked to the sea and recieved a ‘paddling ovation’ from the seal of approval. Ben and I switched at the stance and I swung off onto ‘the finger’ that points the way. I arranged my gear and surged on up the arĂȘte on positive edges, revelling in the run-out and the comfort of 5c moves. Ben followed with a rucksack and without a nut-key allowing him to optimise training potential as he hung around trying to remove my ‘beat in’ wires (there’s an offset blue wire left in Positron for you, Bubbles).

The day after, The Ullrich and I abseiled down the steep grass into the forgotten world of Easter Island Gully. I’d never been down here until now, everything I looked at made my arms feel tired. I whipped up a shady Supercrack (E3 5c) to warm up, instead getting numb hands and a whisper from fatigue. Indecision struck as all the appealing lines lay in the shade, eventually driving George into the sun on The Ancient Mariner (E5 6b). The route was disappointing and lacked any kind of distinction except for a hard crux out of a slim groove. George managed to make a necky slap to a ledge and grovel out of danger, I struggled up on second until I took a hang and a blind pocket made itself known. After a long lunch I prepared for the third of seven; For Madmen Only (E6 6b). The start is shared with Annhilator (E5 6b) so I could scamper off up this if it felt like too much. At the junction I didn’t even look towards For Madmen Only, my arms were torched, my neurons were fried and a cam leaped from my harness into the drink. I’m too sane. Mission failed.

After a rest day, Jemma and I made the bank holiday pilgrimage to sunny Pembroke. Jemma led off on Suspense (E4 5c),  while, at the bottom of Stennis Ford, tension mounted as I belayed and the sea inched and yarded, closer and closer. The belay was built in the nick of time, and I managed to hop across the rocks to the bottom of the route. After the first lunch of the day we abbed back down for me to try Ghost Train (E6 6b). After my success on Skinhead and a much needed rest day, I felt confident and cocky about the formality ahead.

The start felt harder than I expected, even though I expected it to be hard. I arrived at the big break before the big run-out with a bit of a pump and a fragmented focus. I clipped the threads and shook out for a few seconds, the whistle sounded. I climbed aboard. At the first committing move I should’ve reversed, but, I was haunted by haughtiness and I kept going like a man possessed. A long way above the threads now, I felt spooked. I made a demonic attack for the next thread, clipping in just as my forearms completely coagulated. I remembered to breathe again. I hung here for an age, regrouping and de-pumping. At the top it did not feel good. I felt disappointed in my fitness, my movement and mostly my arrogance. I totally underestimated the route and things could have turned out a lot worse. I was de-psyched by the whole situation, but it was an important lesson to learn.

 After our second lunch, we moved on to Caff’s lunch, finished this and headed over to The Leap. Jemma conquered intimidation and cruised up Bloody Sunday (E4 6a) and I conquered an old nemesis by slaying The Minotaur (E5 6b). Jemma kicked off the Sunday with a quick lead of Star Wars (E4 5c). I couldn’t decide what to do, I felt disillusioned and a bit useless after yesterday, so we drove round to visit a new area near Flimston Bay.
 At this end of Pembroke the rugged coastline boasts an array of compelling arches, coves and sea stacks, I can’t believe it doesn’t see more attention. Upon arrival we found that much of the area is bird banned, so we abbed into the leaning face of Mosaic Walls. Psyched up again by the impressive coastline and loads of new climbs I jumped on Bristol Cream (E6 6b). The wall was chronically greasy, it felt like you could ping off at any second, so I had a few ‘up and downs’ chalking the holds and arranging gear. When I finally went for it, it wasn’t as bad as I had expected, the holds were more positive than I imagined and it got less greasy with height. I was re-invigoured and enjoying it again. On second, Jemma dropped a wire so we went back down for it (having already lost half my rack this week). She led us out up the tremendously steep and butch classic; Wallbanger (E4 5c), then we headed North ready for a morning at Carreg-y-Barcud. 

I scanned ‘The Barcud’, this was another new venue to me and in contrast the walls were clean, smooth and slabby and the crowds and hot, sunny weather gave it a friendly ‘playground’ atmosphere. Feeling feline, Jemma set the ball rolling, delicately padding up Kitten Claws (E3 5c). I then took up the sharp-end for the sublime Mean Feat (E5 6a). Slabs aren’t necessarily my cup of tea but I thought this was totally brilliant, the blank-looking headwall secured the route as my favourite of the trip. With time for one more, I jumped quickly on Beyond the Beyond (E5 6b). The description read; ‘...the crux is at the very top, but the whole affair is harder for the short’. Am I ‘the short’? Arriving at the top crux, it was confirmed, I am the short. Heinously thin crimps, mono finger stacks and smears for feet left me with a tenuous slap for the finish. I held the top... just. I think I may have just done my first 6c on a trad route. We drove back to Gwynedd ready for a rest day...

...but Tuesday came, the weather was good and I can’t say no. The aim was; Wen Zawn’s Mr Softy (E6 6b). We went and warmed up in the 3-D complex of Yellow Walls. We set off on Pergyl (E3 5c), but with only an old route description to go by we ended up joining The Drunk (E6 6b) after its crux. We hadn’t realised and carried on trying to make the guidebook description fit, leading us into some  fresh ground to give quite an interesting and worthwhile new diagonal line; You (E4 6a). At the top of the crag, all my psyche had gone, the thought of hanging around on sea cliffs, pulling on these stiff fingers and yarding with these sore shoulders was horrible. I was unbelievably relieved when George announced his concerns about doing anymore climbing. He was suffering from a stag-do hangover, I was consumed by a full mind and body fatigue, so the pair of us Mr Softy’s threw in the trowel and enjoyed a nice, relaxing BBQ at Fingers’ new house instead. It’s time to put concerted effort into resting.

3 May 2013


On the 20th May George Ullrich and I are off to try The Long Hope Route (E7 6c). Dubbed as ‘The most adventurous route in Britain’; this 400m, 23-pitch behemoth, on the remote Scottish Isle of Hoy, was originally aided over nine continuous days by Ed Drummond & Oliver Hill in 1970. Since then the best attempt on the wall has been a free ascent over four discontinuous days by the handy pair; John Arran and Dave Turnbull in 1997. Yet for some ludicrously optimistic reason we are going to try and do it in a day, or at the very least, spending a night on the wall and doing it in two days.

When the plan was whimsically hatched back in January time, it seemed like long enough away to detach myself from the reality and imagine the scenario as though ‘someone else’ were going there. Now only three weeks away from my this mammoth challenge I’m fully aware that it will be me on St John’s Head and in a feverish attempt to have any vague chance of success I have to get A LOT fitter, A LOT better, A LOT faster and A LOT braver. There has never been a better excuse to climb all day, every day.

Last Tuesday the youthful youth; Callum Muskett and I went to Gogarth. He wanted to try Yellow Shark (E7 6b) on Yellow Walls. I usually find it a little intimidating climbing with Callum as the concept of fear seems to completely evade him, leaving me feeling yellow-bellied and lily-livered. Pulling into the car park, Callum admitted his apprehension at diving in there without chainmail and thankfully for both of us the whole cliff was greasy and damp so we swarmed out up Creeping Leema (E3 5c). We bailed over to Upper Tier and I took up the sharp end for the long, looming crack of The Cruise (E5 6b). I had put off trying this for ages because of the appearance and the rumours, but, the route went well. I was confidently slapping in a runner and pressing on, even the top flared scoop went by in calm control. I realised I should be getting on E6’s now.
I followed Callum up The Horrorshow; written up as a bold, steady and disappointing E4/5 wall climb, we found quite the opposite; safe, superb, technical and E6. We dropped down onto Main Cliff and attempted Food and Drink (E6 6b). I took up the first pitch, following an E4 corner to a roof. I stuffed in some cams, covered greasy undercuts in chalk and went for it. Round the roof, I slapped wildly and with total conviction up opposing sidepulls until a custard pump set in hard and I couldn’t see any more holds. I laid one on out left for my last stand, but I was off. Totally buzzing and 30ft lower than I was a second ago, I lowered to the deck and watched in shock as Callum didn’t pull the ropes, top-roped up and proceeded to fall in the same place as myself, twice. It must be hard up there...

Wednesday: Rain poured across Gwynedd, and so, with the dry wit of Lee Roberts, the super psyched Rob Pitt and rock climbing’s Peter Pan; Jon Ratcliffe we headed for Dinbren. This stumpy, little limestone outcrop, nestled high in Denbighshire, delivers more than it promises and we all had a productive day. Rob and Lee smashed out a series of sport routes before getting embroiled in a gnarly 7b+, finally unlocking its sequence just as the arms gave in. Jon endeavoured to tick all three ‘Dinbren Right Wing E3 Classics’, in which he was successful, aside from the fact there are actually five Dinbren Right Wing E3 Classics. As I was the only one who had never been there before, and as I’m half their age, they sandbagged me into the crag classic Climb High (E4 6b). All was going well up to the crux when I was given duff beta and persuaded to traverse right and mantle a crimpy seam. In hindsight, I did think it was weird that I wasn’t mantling on the mantleshelf.

Friday: DMM Dougie and I went back to Main Cliff. Strong winds and big seas washed away our original plan of doing one of the big Main Cliff E5’s. Instead Dougie cruised up Aardvark (E3 6a) leaving me beneath the oddly compelling Coming on Strong (E6 6c). I had to give it a shot. I knew nothing about it other than Pat Littlejohn did the first ascent so it was probably nails. Yep, it was nails (and disappointingly contrived, wandering in and out of Achilles). With an hour of sunlight left Dougie wolfed down Branflake (E2 5b), a fibrous jamming crack on Holyhead Mountain.

Saturday: Guy VG and his band of merry men were heading for Rhoscolyn all fancying their chances on the classic DWS Electric Blue (E4 5c), so Jemma and I went to meet them, not wanting to miss out on Guy shitting his pants. The weather was perfect, Murdoch and Bullock rocked up too, there were eight people at a grit-free trad crag!! After a quick warm-up Jemma got on the Warpath (E5 6a), she stormed through the lower defences like an angry panzer and was soon behind enemy lines; over the crux roof. However, three days of stamina training caught up with her, cams were frantically tossed over the shoulder when they didn’t fit, the elbows were out and eventually the lactic Nazis caught up with her and she was airbourne. I took over the lead, and having done it before, I got to really enjoy the headwall this time round.
We rapped down into Fallen block Zawn straight onto Guy’s belay creating a total mess with ropes everywhere, a veritable ‘rat’s nest’. Once some understanding of who was tied to what was established, I launched skyward with a vengeance on Dreams and Screams (E6 6b). I tried this last October after beating my fear of falling, inevitably falling off. I had doubted whether today would be any different. My new streamlined, confident and aggressive approach was serving me well and I was at the slopey, pre-crux shake out in a flash. Forearms primed, gear in place, I tore onwards, slapped in a big, blue cam, and rode the layback flake to victory. I was barely pumped on top and I finally acknowledged that I am on the form of my life. That means only one thing...

Tangled Humans. Liam Postlethwaite collection.

http://vimeo.com/65258675 Liam, Mark and Tim on Electric Blue.

Tuesday morning, the sun beamed outside, it was another perfect day, I sat playing Donkey Kong to distract myself. I oiled my cams, discarded rotten carabiners then I got the phonecall I’d been waiting for ‘ok, I’m ready’. I jumped in the van, cranked the stereo up to eleven and blared out George Baker’s; Little Green Bag (That’s actually a lie, but, retrospectively it would’ve been a good song choice). I picked up George from work and headed for Main Cliff. I didn’t talk very much, nerves came and went like the tide. Arriving at the base of the cliff, George led off on pitch one. Nagging doubts came into my mind, I searched my mind for excuses, yet, there were none. Conditions were prime, I’d had a rest day, the sun was shining and after a lengthy period of self talk a smorgasbord of  brit pop songs stating reassuring little phrases such as ‘ you know it’s gonna be ok’ and ‘everything’s gonna be alright’ sprang freely to mind. I seconded pitch one. I had to go through with this, I felt like everything I had achieved so far this year would be consolidated or shattered through my actions here. My confidence, commitment and perhaps legs depended on success on this next pitch. I envisaged ‘The Bucket-Seat Belay’ at the top of the route, I was ready to do the dance. Skinhead Moonstomp, here I come!
I set off with a veneer of confidence on the best named route in the world. The first few metres went by without much fuss and only mild trepidation. I arrived beneath the headwall at ‘the resting place’ with eyes full of chalk, but, I’d imagined myself here so much that I was totally thrown; it was nothing how I had expected. I bimbled around aimlessly, confused and intimidated. ‘Up there?... Seriously?... Up?... There?’. I didn’t know what to do with myself, there was no more gear to place as a distraction, it was breathing time. I focussed in on the reasons to continue; you can’t back off now, not without trying. You’re going well, you’re fit, you’re confident above gear and the air beneath you is particularly thin today. You’ll cut through it like a feathery knife if you fall. ‘The bucket seat belay’ will feel fantastic under your buttocks. This is THE route you’ve always wanted to do, don’t taint it with a retreat, don’t wait till you know you can do it. I had drained ‘the resting place’ of its healing mana, I had seen the sequence and my eyes were sufficiently full of chalk. Go. Go now!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xHDBn7TL4JM Symarip-Skinhead Moonstomp.

At ‘The Bucket Seat Belay’ I looked out to sea (I pondered how the stretched and golden reflection of the setting sun always shone directly at me whenever I witnessed it? Not my smartest moment.), a tropically warm (chalk bearing) breeze drifted up the wall and I felt inexplicably content, savagely fit, nobly brave, arrogantly smug and slightly blinded. I felt like the world was my audience and became uncontrollably compelled to yell ‘Fuck you!’, so I did. I don’t know why though. I quite like the world.