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.

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.

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