Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Cheeks 'N' Beaks

Since the last entry the super cold weather has tipped me from route mode to bouldering mode, though I still have ambitions to keep up the routing through winter when weather allows.
Had a fun day at the Roaches trying to do routes, but cold feet and a bad head meant I got nothing done except Hunky Dory, a really good E3 on the lower tier.
The latest block of days off included an excellent session at the Plantation. Conditions were good and lots of people were getting lots of things done, Nige and Andy J rinsed up White Wand, Nige then did Silk, Mike Adams did Brad Pit SS and Careless Torque. I did a couple of boulder probs I’d never done before, Mono Slab (right of Cresent Arete) and Pressure Drop, plus finally did Archangel with the help of some padding and an excessive amount of going up and coming downing again. Quite psyched to go back and do Don and White Wand if I can strap my mind down enough!
Other than that I’ve been attempting a new boulder prob to the right of Happy Campus at Rivelin Quarry. Inspection from the insitu Cressbrook ladder revealed a loose ear of rock that pulled off to leave a first joint diagonal edge. I thought about gluing the ear back on to keep it as a super hard project but then promptly lost it amongst the leaf litter below. Duly cleaned I spent the best part of a day with Ben P doing a few possibly new warm-ups around a little roof right of the quarry (including a great Offwidth roof crack) and attempting the project. Initial efforts to gaston the new edge led to a highpoint strung out at full span on tiny edges with no apparent means of releasing a foot to move up. Having reached an impasse this way I tried using the edge as a layaway instead. By the end of the session I’d done all but the last two moves and figured it would go at a hard 7c+. The plan on the following day was to meet up with team Beastmaker (‘Back-two’ Dan and Nedwyn ‘folding boy’ Feastlally), fill the van up with big gym pads and head over for a highball session at Black Rocks. Early wetness put paid to such heroics and a return to Rivelin seemed like a suitable wetness/snow avoidance option. Much of the rock was wet when we arrived but fortunately Nik’s Wall and most of the holds on the proj were dry. I ragged off the top holds of the project while the yeastmakers had a do on Nik’s. Bob and Rob Smith arrived and everyone struggled to get warmed up on tiny crimps. Already trashed skin stopped Dan’s attempts at Nik’s wall, though he did seem to be making some headway before getting a splitter. After a few warm up goes on the proj I managed (with a push on) to do the two moves I’d failed on the day before and they felt a lot easier than I’d expected. Only the link now to do and after a quick rest it went down first go. I was mighty please as it’s a cracking line with brilliant powerful and tenuous moves. Difficulty of warming up, thin skin and the cold was sapping the rest of the teams psyche, hence only Dan managing the repeat (after only a few goes with a heinously powerful basic sequence). I’m not very sure on the grade, having not done much bouldering yet this year, but I’m going in at low end 7c and seeing what others reckon. As ever, it started out feeling horrendously hard and felt fine when I did it and even easier when I did it again for some pics, ho hum guessing grades is as hard as ever. It deserves some popularity as it’s nice and pully on positive holds, one of those rare grit probs where wall strength is very useful, so it shouldn’t take too long to get some more opinions on the difficulty. I can’t think of a better name so will go with the one devised on the day - Cheeks ’n’ Beaks, after a fictional chicken based breakfast cereal made with only our finest crunchy beaks and squeaky cheeks, yes ma’am a treat for all the family. The rest of the afternoon was spent messing about on the edge with the Smiths. We were all being a bit lame on Europe After Rain until Rob pulled it together for the team, good work yoot.

Cheers to Dan for the pics!

An old one I forgot to post

Here’s an entry I wrote a week or so back but hadn’t got round to posting:

Not a great deal to report since last time really. The trad grit mission continues though the weather has conspired against any remarkable deeds. Have done a couple more E4s, Joker’s Wall – Brimham and Hathersage Trip – Stanage, some easier leading and soloing and the odd spot of bouldering. The highlight of the bouldering being a day at Slipstones, dragging my sorry ass up Micro Corner, Sulky Little Boy RH and Layby Arete. Strangely I found them to be in the reverse order of difficulty to what the grade suggested. I’ve also had one good session on the previously mentioned route project.
To kill time during some of the wet days, I’ve taken to going out and abbing routes that I’ve decided I will never attempt to ground-up otherwise. This includes routes which are just too dirty to attempt without pre-cleaning and harder routes which I don’t feel up to sticking my neck out on without some knowledge of the gear. This may offend some purist, but I’ve come to a realisation that if I want to do some of these routes (and I do) that this is the purest approach I personally can manage and as such I’m happy to do this. The work on the new Gritlist goes along with this pragmatic ‘best style you can manage’ approach and may save me having to abb some stuff I might otherwise have blown the ground-up on. To be honest though I’m less and less concerned with the minutia of how my ascents might be defined, so long as I’m striving to push myself and do things in the best style I can manage, so be it. Too many folk end up doing next to nothing rather than getting on and just doing stuff however best they can, which seems a shame. Less than perfect ascents are after all quite valuable as stepping stones to better style. I’m no trad hero and I figure I’m not going to improve fast if I tie myself to trying everything onsight and ground-up. More importantly I will not end up getting on brilliant routes I might otherwise do. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still not inspired to delve into headpointing, other than for the purposes of new routing. I’ve still got far too many good easier routes I want to do before I need to consider headpointing.

Monday, 27 October 2008

A showery weekend at Rivelin

Friday’s weather vigil suggested that the weekend would be windy and intermittently wet. Scanning through my newly compiled grit ticklist Rivelin looked like a good sheltered option with a decent handful of things to go at. Nige had been enthusing about the quarry and we were both keen to have a look at some stuff there too.
Saturday we (me, Fi and Nige) arrived at the crag mid-morning. We boulder and solo about for a bit around the needle, between squally showers. Good to see Nige able to climb properly again after his shoulder op and subsequent long recovery. I’m struck again by how confident and assured he always is standing on rubbish footholds, where I often have head issues. We dodge a big shower and head over to try Auto Da Fe which seems to be staying dryish. Bump into James McCaffie along the way who’s waiting for a gap in the weather to do The Brush Off. By the time I’m racked up at the base of the climb the weather has really kicked in and the harness comes back off while we see what happens next. Nip around the corner and solo The Reprieve, which is just about staying dry. Finally even this gets wet, everything gets wet including all our gear. It’s too much, everyone decides it’s time to give up and we walk back to the cars with not much to show for the effort. Annoyingly it seems to stay dry after this and it feels like we might have given up at the wrong time. Arse! We decide to come back tomorrow if the weather allows.
Sunday, it’s just me and Nige, back at Rivelin in much less windy weather. Back to soloing around the needle. Nige does I’m Back, but the rains come again and I’m forced to jump off before getting committed to a rapidly wettening E4. Again we seek shelter at Auto De Fe, I’m starting to get déjà-vu. The cumbrian trad-wad is back too and he’s already on Auto, so we have to man up and head on to the bigger fish, namely a couple of two star E5s at the right-hand end of the crag, Moolah and New Mediterranean. The rain is not hitting the holds but the rock feels damp and greasy. I opt for a low side runner in Altar crack to protect the scrittly insecure 6a moves to reach the crucial mid height gear slot. The gear is pumpy to place, an rp 3, a rock 1 and a friend 0, all in the same slot. They seem pretty good and I scurry back down to the altar to de-pump. I climb up and down trying to figure the crux reach to the tiny ‘jigsaw piece’ hold, but I’m going about it all wrong. I come down again and let Nige have a do. He goes up and tries my sequence a couple of times but can’t make the lock either. The holds are by now very caked in chalk and feeling gakky in the damp, Nige hangs on the gear and gives the holds a much needed toothbrushing. With fresh arms and clean holds he soon figures a better way to get the holds and rocks out to the break. Beta now figured I head up again and climb through to the top without mishap. Great route, safe, bouldery and hard for 6b. Having placed the gear and done the down-climb we are now set up to get straight on New Med which uses the same runners. Nige goes first and gives it a good go but comes off due to moisture on the sloping flat undercuts. He tries again, gets his feet set but can’t quite make the huge span to a slot. A few more similar goes and no joy, but he’s getting super close. He decides to have one more shot from the start. This time he finds the extra inch and bags the route after a bit of pump on the upper wall. I go up after dodging another shower and have a similar experience, taking quite a few goes to crack a sequence that allows the big reach off sloping undercuts and non-footholds to be made. Another good safe route, this time 6c, with a couple of pumpy 5c/6a moves to finish. It’s getting on now but we have just enough time to do Auto De Fe, which feels relatively easy after the last two boulder numbers. It feels good to move fast and efficiently on a boldish E4. It’s not hard climbing, but I often dither on this sort of route and I feel I’m starting to get past my usual nerves and lack of trust in runners.
Good fun and three off my list. Satisfied. We never made it over to the quarry, but hopefully next time.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

This is what it’s all about.

New enthusiasm. Not that I generally lack motivation, but not for a while have I been picking over my guidebook collection and devising plans with such vigour. Finally I’m realising a long held ambition to get back into trad grit, after not doing much of it for the last five years or so. The weather has been good and now I’ve gone to three days a week I’ve got the spare time that’s needed. I can do one wall session on a work night to keep the fingers ticking over and then get out as much as possible climbing on the four days off.
Why trad grit? Obviously I love climbing, and living in Sheffield I’ve enjoyed climbing in the Peak a lot for the past twenty years. Generally I’ve been stronger and fitter in the second ten years than the first. During this time I’ve mostly devoted my energies to sport climbing and bouldering. Partly this has been for reasons of convenience, but mostly it’s because I had loads of classic things to do in these disciplines. I like to climb as hard as I can, but above all I love to do lots of quality climbing. I treat climbing as the collection of rare and beautiful experiences. Given the choice of spending ten days to get one treasured experience or spending ten days to get ten only slightly less treasured experiences I almost always plump for the latter. The consequence of this is that I have climbed, or tried and failed on many if not most of the best locally available sport climbing and bouldering. There is still good stuff for me to try but it’s ever more sparse and quirky (conditions dependant, or requiring re-bolting, or perma-wet, or serious, or other confounding issue). As I don’t like to loose too much strength or fitness, bouldering and sport climbing were ideal options when I only had evenings and weekends free. Now I’ve got more time to spare I can do a greater volume of trad and still find time to do some bouldering for strength. Get in! As I haven’t done heaps of trad climbing for fiv/ten years and I was never brilliant at it before, I still have shit loads of super classic stuff to throw myself at. This is proving to be great fun. In the last week I’ve been out six times and bagged a whole bunch of great climbs and still come home each day neither knackered or with trashed skin. Highlights have been Calvary, White Wall, Nettle Wine, Jelly Ache, Spock’s Missing and Moon Walk. Nothing amazingly hard, nothing particularly bold, just good honest brilliant routes. So much good stuff to go at, can’t wait for the next day out!

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

More grit

Haven’t been arsed to write for a while, so here’s a quick fill-in.
Since the last posting I’ve been to Bauston Tor, Black Rocks, Ina’s Rock, Eastwood, Almscliff and Stanage High Neb.
One new route has been done, Farmaggedon, a nice little E2 5c breaking out of Hot Yimminy at Eastwood to cross the upper bulge on perfect slopey edges and a pocket. Whilst at Eastwood kiwi Seb did the second ascent of my E5, Monster Monster in a ground-up highball style, including taking a lob from the lip. Have also been working on a couple of other more substantial new routes, but I’ll keep these under my hat for the moment.
Twice now I’ve visited the mighty Bauston Tor. Half a mile down the High Peak Trail from Black Rocks, swathed in Beech and Sycamore this most mysterious of buttresses juts out of the hill in a most unexpected fashion. Small but big, overhanging on all sides and painted in black and green. Just how an esoteric crag should be, very unique, with a small selection of good routes packing a lot of surprises. Anyway to cut a long story short, I’ve done all the easier routes there now, tried an E3 that was too wet to do, not tried the E6 and twice failed to finish the route of the buttress Bad News For Slab Climbers E5 6a. Twice I’ve got past the rust peg protected creaking flaked roof, past the leg jam, up the cracked arete, to fail at the sloping green mantel. Oh well, had fun both times and still keen to come back for a third shot when the leaves fall off the trees.
Went to the much vaunted Ina’s with Bristol Si after wasting myself failing at Bauston. Had a good day and did the classic Nadin E5 The Inaccessible which was great, start up a meaty fist crack E2, move left and yard through a pebbly roof of satisfyingly chunky holds, make a big lock and then push on up the pumpy headwall making sure not to pull on the wrong bunters. Also had a play on Thumbelina which is as fantastic as the hype suggested. Eventually bouldered out the crux lower half (Si even managed to climb it direct at I guess 7a+/7b), but felt far to wasted to want to quest on up the rather high continuation. A return visit with fresh arm and more pads might be in order. Having not got up it I can’t be too sure on the grade, but it seemed more route than boulder problem, E5 or E6 I’d guess at, depending on how the top feels.
The Black Rocks visit was on a drizzly day and was mostly spent checking out a couple of potential new routes.
The Almscliff day was mostly bouldering, mostly on old favourites. Did get the rope out for one route Grand Illusion. Not very long but mighty good yarding about on big pockets above bomber gear. Super safe and a bit of a softy at E4. Well worth bringing the rope for.
This Sunday we went to High Neb. The sun was out and Stanage was busier than a workaholic worker bee on crack. Not brilliant conditions but it didn’t really matter much for the stuff we did. Did a few warm up solos then led Quietus RH. It’s a exciting as it looks and the climbing is also very good, with the final moves up the fluting being exceptionally fine. Then went over to No More Excuses. Was being lame and bottled out of bouldering it out the whole way, but had brought some pegs and luckily had the right size to put in the hand placed channel so led it with this. Brilliant route/highball, now I know the move I think it will feel fine as a highball next time. Pottered about a bit after that and did a slightly contrived E2 called Meddle.
In between the trading I have been gradually getting back into evenings down the wall. As is usual early season the gains seem to be rapid and the bouldering strength is starting to return.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

More early season gritting

After last week’s new routing at Turning Stone I was keen to get back for a couple more plum lines this weekend. So for the second week in a row I spent both days in the Amber Valley, Saturday at Cocking Tor and Sunday at Turning Stone. Both days with a very longsuffering Fiona.
The objective at Cocking Tor was to climb the left side of the arete taken by the classic ’76 Bancroft route Jelly Ache. Rather hot weather meant the steep rounded upper arete felt harder and scarier than it would have been otherwise, but still very enjoyable. It went without incident and is every bit as good as Jelly Ache and a touch harder, but still probably only E3 6a. I’ve called it Both Sides Now, for the obvious reason and after the Joni Mitchell song. Then tried to force a new line between Jelly Ache and Cyclops’ Eye, but ended up wimping out at the top and finishing up CE. This line will go and will be E3/4 6a/6b, but lacks the line and independence of it’s neighbours.
Sunday I did the left wall coming out of Vee Chimney. I'd cleaned and worked this line about a year ago whilst on a bouldering mission. This turned out to be easily the best of my additions to Turning Stone. After placing ok but worryingly low runners, the climbing goes up a short rib to a thin break, makes a big pull past a roof to an eye, does a strenuous shuffle on the eye to get hands set, then rocks way over ‘right between the eyes’ to a small crimp in a second eye, up to a very slopey edge, right to a good edge, left to a sidepull, then a big slightly scary reach to a juggy break and easier climbing. I called the route Right Between the Eyes and reckon it’s just about safe but scary at E5 6b. After this I had a go at the direct start to Happy Landing, a big roof line just left of last year’s highball 7a+ Finger Bang. Low poor gear in crumbly rock and hard moves on snappy flakes saw a swift retreat and a couple of cams placed in the break above so that I could work the roof on a rope. Managed to do it in a oner eventually but it’s hard (font 7b), the holds are rather brittle and the gear is very suspect. I’d wager it’ll be E7 6c as a lead, but might be better suited to a highball approach, with lots of pads and spotters, though a fall from the crux last slap would be very wild indeed. The moves are great, any takers??

Calling the Grit

Right Between the Eyes

Both Sides Now

Said 7b-ish project roof

Monday was a drizzly trip to the Tor with Andy C and the Bee-keeper. A lot of the crag was a bit wet but we had an ok session and it was good to catch up with the chaps.

Tuesday the forecast looked better for Yorkshire, which was good as I had arranged to meet Toby in Leeds and go out tradding. After flicking through the grit guide looking for which crag had the biggest number of three star routes not yet tried I fancied a visit to Almscliff. Too often the bouldering crag of last resort, when all else is wet, I had barely done any of the routes, which is madness as they look better than the bouldering. Talked Toby into the plan and headed out fairly early to find perfect sunny but cool conditions. Warmed up soloing three HS/VS routes on Demon Wall and then Demon Wall itself, all of which were excellent if a little polished. We then decided to do the big three, three star E3s on the West Face, all Extreme Rock ticks no less. We both led each route, abseiling for the gear in between. What can I say, these routes are totally stunning, Western Front, Wall of Horrors and Big Greeny, awesome stuff, I’m mad keen to come back soon for the likes of Grand Illusion. Even dropping a lense out my glasses halfway up Wall of Horrors didn’t spoil the fun, just had to throw them down and push on blindly up the top half. After this we opted to escape the bitter wind which had been building and move over to Black Wall. Followed Toby with a solo of Black Wall Eliminate E2 and then seconded up a rather pokey E4 ‘Arrie’s ‘Ook. Topping this out I spotted a ring of Shaggy Parasol Mushrooms. It turned out to be a circle of 40 caps! Most where sadly a bit old and withered but there were enough fresh young ones for us to both take home a good amount.
Long live dry autumns and classic bagging on grit!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Turning Stone

From lime to grit.

It seems the remainder of my motivation for the lime is tied to the Cornice routes. With these wet and looking unlikely to dry out this year, evenings getting too short to go out after work and few exciting short term objectives left for me at the main dry limestone venues, my mind has been turning to the grit and tradding.
Being involved in the production of the forthcoming BMC Froggat to Black Rocks guide has got me interested in some of the less well frequented crags again. This weekend I got around to checking out some potential new lines I’d spotted ages ago at Turning Stone Edge. Turning Stone is an oddball crag and has never been popular, which is a shame as the climbing is good and a bit more popularity would go a long way to solving its biggest problem – rhododendrons. The upside of this neglect is a bunch of good new routes at amenable grades, ripe for the pickin’.
I had been over one evening in the week and abbed a couple of lines and was keen to try them ground up. Saturday I went there with Fi who had decided to rest her sore elbows and take on belay duty.
New route one was a fairly trivial filler in up the upper left arete of Amber Buttress, called Amber Gascoigne, safe but exciting E2 6a.
Number two is probably the best of the new finds. Calling the Grit E4 6b** crosses the left side of the roof between Second Chance and Happy Landing. Strenuous to place, but ok gear are placed and undercuts and edges lead to a very slopey horizontal pinch, this is used to make the crux move through the steepness to a good slot on the lip, a good cam and nice locky climbing to finish. I was quite pleased with this route as it’s the hardest ground-up new route I’ve done. There is potential for a good looking second pitch up the frontal roof of the upper tier.
The rest of Saturday was spent scoping other lines and cutting back rhodies on a new buttress.
Sunday was Turning Stone again to meet Feind, Cofe and Grimer. Started with a bunch of solos on the easier lines and then a solo of a new HVS 5b * - Tree Dimensional (vintage Cofield route naming). This route is essentially a very logical alternative start to an existing route. I think it improves on the other route, swapping a dull scrappy start for some lovely locking up a steep arete and then a nerve testing stride over the void. The finish is weird horizontal chimneying between menacing chock stones and a lot of fresh air. Feind and Grimer repeated the route and seemed to enjoy.
After more rhodie bashing the last new route of the weekend was added. Ballnut Whip (another Cofield gem) E3 6c * takes the line of least resistance up the front of the newly exposed buttress. The first moves from the lip of a roof are the crux and involve a deep committing heeltoe in a wide break whilst making a huge move off an edge to a pair of poor horizontal slopers, from which a good finger jug can be gained. Gear is low and a fall might leave you hanging upside down of a broken ankle. After repeatedly backing off this move (which I hadn’t practiced while cleaning) I opted to use a nearby tree to climb up and place the runners above the crux, then climb down and try with these in place thereby reducing the chances of injury. With these in place the route was very enjoyable and went first go. The top section is a beautiful fluted rib which looks like something you’d find on the lower tier at the Roaches. I think without the tree based skull-duggery the route would be E5 6c, but arguably less enjoyable.
All in all a good day and a good weekend’s pottering.

Some pics of Cofe's from Sunday:

Fiend on Baker's Groove

Grimer on Amber Arete

Me on Tree Dimensional

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Crossing the Rubicon

Last night I managed to finish off what was becoming something of a mini-nemesis – The Sissy. I’m not sure why it took so long, longer than Caviar infact. I don’t think it’s harder than Caviar, I just seemed to get a bit bogged down on it. Anyway, cheers and good luck/speedy recovery to Jules and Stu for the beta and belays.
There was still a bit of daylight left after the redpoint so I switched to belaying Kristian on a redpoint attempt on Beluga. He set off not expecting much, having struggled in awful conditions on Sunday, but surprised himself by cruising to the top first go. A fine effort. This is the fifth ascent now but the first I’ve got to watch.
I think that’s it now for my Rubicon year. Summer 2008 has been all about this place, which is something I would never have predicted, given that up till then it has been one of my least favourite crags. Not sure when I’ll be back having now done Caviar, Dangerous Brothers, Hot Fun Closing, Beluga and The Sissy, so don’t have many things left to go at. It has been surprisingly fun though.

2008 Rubicon highlights (other than routes bagged):
• Fi doing To Old to be Bold, her first 7c
• Belaying Ted flashing Dangerous Brother
• Text from Dan telling me he’d succeeded on A Bigger Belly
• Belaying Kris on successful Beluga ascent
• Watching Stu’s video of my Sissy success
• Chatting with Martin Atkinson at crag about FA of Dangerous Brothers

• Belaying Andy on Barracuda first ascent
• Bransby flashing HFC in full midday sun
• Adam highballing Piranha and subsequent epic descent of spindly tree
• Belaying bouldering Andy Banks getting up Caviar, his first sport route in years
• Tidying up the shit gear on DB and HFC

And the lows:
• The sound of Stu’s finger going pop on the Caviar start
• Floods, floods, floods and trying to climb/belay off palletes inches deep in water
• Getting called a ‘choad’ for cutting the tree down under Kudos (actually I found this more funny than distressing)
• Dave falling off the last bulge on Caviar three times! You’ll get it next go yoot

What next? Hmmmm. Get back on Cornice project if it dries or get stuck into a bunch of new grit routes I’ve spied while guide checking new Froggatt book and then there’s those great sounding sport routes that Kris was talking about on Beeston Tor….

Sunday, 24 August 2008

More project blues

Here we go again! I find a project of sufficient girth to absorb the mighty weight of my psyche... and then it rains... and rains... and rains.
I figured that I'd lain my towel down on a perma-dry bit of rock (bar the fairly easy start), but no, visits on Thurs and Sat revealed ever advancing wet patches thrusting in from every angle. It seems I'll have to put the project to the back of the mind tank for a least a week and probably more if the summer continues as it has been. Rotten dog-egg!
So what to do instead? Other than finishing off the Sissy of an evening I really don't know. Hmmmmm.

Love Amongst the Butterflies - before the rains came. Pic courtesy of Ryan Edwards

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Fear the radj

If you should go to Rajasthan, you’re sure to meet the radjy man.

His fist of radj held to the sky and from his lips a radjy cry.

A radjy face with radjy cheeks, he’ll peck your eyes with radjy beaks

Of crows he carries in his sack, upon his red and radjy back

All bent and twisted from the weight, of radj, and piss, and rabid hate

For all you men and beasts and birds who’ll chance to hear his bitter words

That spit out from his radjy craw to fall and land on dusty floor

Then crawl to slip out through the door, and poison ears forevermore,

Will know you’ve met the radjy man and turn to flee from Rajasthan

But being blind from pecking beak will fail to find the door you seek

For bitter words with cruel intent have sealled the way off as they went

And trapped inside the Radj’s den, with bones of four and twenty men

You’ll rue the day you made a plan to see the radj of Rajasthan

Monday, 18 August 2008

Big bites! Too much to chew?

Buoyed up by last weeks success on Unleashing the Wild Physique I headed back to the Cornice on Saturday with south peak sport climbing legend Jon Clark. Initial intentions of going back on Ouijaboard were thwarted by fresh seepage so after a good warm-up I was casting around for a new target. Faced with the choice of cleaning up a line or going on an already cleaned and chalked one I opted to have a play on Love Amongst the Butterflies, which was already in good nick after Jon’s recent ascent and reliably dry unlike most of the other options. With the help of some much needed beta I had the moves figured by the end of the session and am pretty keen to get back on it. Funny how this route is not more popular really given that it’s an ever-dry, three star 8b, with long continuous but never desperate climbing on good rock with lots of bolts. I guess the vertical/technical nature, the long (compared to the Tor/Rubicon) walk-in and the element of un-known quanity serve to keep people away. Personally I’d always assumed it was very reachy which is not so, although there are a couple of sections where a few more inches would make life a bit easier.
Whilst lowering off at the end of the day I noticed a big juggy looking slot in the wall between RnP and LAtB. Further inspection seemed to suggest potential for a new line between the two routes, essentially a direct start to LAtB.
Come Sunday and my fingers were feeling pretty tired from the years first play on an 8b and I figured any attempt at climbing would be fairly lacklustre. With nothing better to do I headed back to the Cornice to scope out the potential new line properly. Bumped into Jon again who was down with his dad Pete working on Kristian’s new 8b+ called 32, which was just about dry enough for him to try the crux section. I stick-clipped and jugged halfway up LAtB to get a rope down the project and set about having a closer look. The slot once cleared of mud was indeed a very good hold and looked to be accessible by breaking right after the first bolt on RnP. Above the slot was a distant set of undercuts then a blank looking section leading into LAtB just after its rest i.e just when the hard climbing kicks in. More investigation revealed one good layaway and one poor layaway on the black section. A quick brush and I could hang the positions and decided it looked feasible enough to warrant bolting up. The rest of the day was spent putting in three bolts and cleaning up the line. The big undercuts turn out to be mostly a collection of disposable slats, stabilisation of the whole lot seemed impossible and in the end most of it ended up on the floor with only the a small solid section remaining which I then backed up with resin. The final verdict? Well it’s all definitely doable but it’s going to be hard, harder than anything I’ve climbed before, but looks like great climbing and worth putting some time and effort into.
So one semi-worked 8b and a possibly 8b+ project on the go, I’ve got my work cut out there then!! Is it too much to ask for the rest of the season – probably? Oh well it should be fun finding out.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008


The project, which was initially dubbed Cake Of Power (the root meaning of chav-jar the original name for Caviar), then Cavi’arder or Caviar d’est, finally came to rest as Beluga, a classier, less flippant name which complements and balances with the other new Caviar variant Barracuda I think. Since doing it on Sat 02-08-08 it has had three more ascents, from the Harris, Roy and Ted, all with a different sequences but all going along with the 8a+ and quality assessment. This is just about the most repeats any of my routes has had, except for the lovely Midgard Serpent at Thor’s Cave. Quite mad really given it’s only a few days old and also probably my hardest new route (though I reckon Pistol Finger might well be 8a+ too, as does the only other ascentionist Jon Clark)! It’s a shame LTQ and Thor’s cave aren’t so close to Sheff, it’d be nice to get more feedback on Escape to Valhalla (I rate this as my best new route and as good or better than all the other peak 7c+s), Spear Of Odin, Mosey on Down The Crow Road etc. I do love new routing. It’s a lot of work and probably not the most beneficial thing for fitness but it is a mighty fun process. I have a few ideas for new/redeveloped things in the pipeline…

Thursday, 31 July 2008

The Importance of Looking Weak

* I wrote this ages ago but didn’t post as I thought it sounded a bit preachy. Perhaps climbers aren’t as egocentric as I’m suggesting. As with any snapshot philosophy it ignores and glosses over lots of details and exceptions. But I haven’t blogged for yonks so might as well stick something up*

What I really mean is, the importance of not letting the idea of appearing weak/ineffectual in front of others hold you back.
To my mind this is a big obstacle to improvement faced by some climbers. As climbers, rightly or wrongly, we are prone to defining ourselves and each other by reference to our greatest climbing achievements. These are the things we have put greatest time and effort into, which probably suit our strengths, which happened when we were on top form, when conditions were mint and everything slotted into place. They might be super hard boulder problems or redpoints, bold leads or soloes, winning comps or doing 1-5-9. While these might be our most cherished efforts, these defining moments can become millstones around the neck if we can’t learn to deal with the fact that 99% of the time we will be performing well below the level of these finest hours. The harder these climbs are won, the harder they may be to replicate or improve upon.
If you have a reputation built on a few titanic efforts you will almost always look weaker or a worse climber than you or others might think you should. This might be hard to bear for the fragile ego of the average climber, especially if said climber has kidded himself he’s as good a climber as someone who’s top level is the same but who’s climbing CV is less top-heavy. The greater the disparity between a climber’s average level and their top level the greater the reality shock. Naturally it’s often the climbers who are least able to bear looking weak before their peers who suffer the greatest disparity, because insecurity leads to feverish grade grabbing. By grade grabbing I mean getting the number by the quickest means possible i.e. finding a soft touch that plays to your strengths then training specifically for it and siegeing it until it goes down. Most of us are guilty of grade grabbing now and then. Most climbers if asked would say they climb only for the joy of the climbing and that the grade was much less important, the mass popularity of some low quality soft touches whilst the three star sandbag next door returns to nature would suggest not everyone is as zen as they say/believe.
Pride is a serious obstacle to proper improvement in climbing. It can lead to too much emphasis on trophy bagging at the expense of real improvement which can only be gained by getting volume done within your grade and on a variety of terrain (you only have to look at the true heroes of the sport to see the truth of this). This disparity can then lead a climber to feel embarrassed by his performance out at the crag on stuff well below ‘his grade’. He may then react to this embarrassment by further avoiding easier stuff or stuff that doesn’t play to his strengths. Obviously this creates a feedback effect whereby the climber gets worse at what he is already not so good at and stronger within his self imposed pigeon hole. In the long run there is only so far you can go within a narrow niche and only so much fun to be had therein .
What’s the alternative?
• Understand that people with half a brain i.e. the one’s who’s opinions are worth bothering about, appraise you on your overall ability as much or more than on your trophy ticks.
• Accept this fact and try not to get hung up on other people view of your ability. Realise that the only way to improve how people view your climbing is to get better at it and this you cannot do if you’re too scared of looking weak to get properly stuck in. Consider the long run, some amount of humility now will lead to future glory.
• Accept that whilst climbers can be judgemental the majority are on your side and want you to do well. It’s cringe-worthy to see people kidding themselves, it’s easier to be empathetic to people who are honest with themselves and others.
• Do not be afraid to look weak/inept, it’s self defeating and pointless. If you consistently shy away from attempting stuff in company they will assume the reason behind it is weakness or ineptitude anyway.
• Accept the fact that everyone’s climbing goes through peaks and troughs and nobody worthy of consideration should expect you to be on top form all the time.
• Learn to enjoy being crap on your weaknesses. We all have them and might as well have a laugh flapping about ineffectually on this stuff and hence get better at it.
• Think about the bigger picture. Is jumping from one protracted siege to the next the quickest way to get better? Seigeing has it’s place but is just one aspect of the game.
• If peer recognition really is a major factor in deciding what you choose to climb, consider the fact that climbers may well be as or more impressed with you climbing a notorious sandbag 7c+ as they are with you bagging the same soft 8a/+ as everyone else.

And so endeth my pompous rant. I hope nobody thinks this is directed toward them, it’s not, it’s just an expression of frustration with a common malady within the climbing populace.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008


Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh! Back on project at Rubicon last night, but thwarted by warm greasy conditions and general wave of weakness. Saturday’s attempt was no better either due to the base being flooded making getting onto the rock something of an epic.
Getting a project at Rubicon has not turned out to be the most sensible use of my new six day blocks of days off. Basically it doesn’t come into decent nick typically until about 7pm so most of the day is wasted. The best sessions at Rubicon so far have been the after work hits.
To date I’ve had four sessions on the line. First was a recce whilst hanging off bolts on adjacent lines. Managed most of the moves with some tension during this session, but was usable to access the first bit. The second session was the day that Mr Harris did Barracuda. On this occasion I bolted, and cleaned the line. Very minimal gluing was required the rock being very solid, but I did back up a couple of things which looked like they might work loose in the future. I believe that if you are going to bolt up a line you should make the effort to back up any potentially dubious holds so that the route survives in a climbable state. You’ve only got to look at nearby Eugenics and Tribes to see what happens when holds aren’t fixed properly. This opens up issues of route manufacturing, but that’s another topic altogether. After prepping the route I figured the moves properly but had no juice left to try for a redpoint. During this session a key hold crumbled a bit making the route significantly harder, but also better I think. The hold seems totally solid now. Session three was the very wet Saturday mentioned above and session four was last night’s poor show.
The line dubbed Cake of Power (from the root words for caviar chav-jar literally meaning cake of power) for the time being, starts with the first couple of moves on Caviar then continues direct/right where Caviar goes left. It rejoins Caviar at the break, but there is scope for an independent finish. I guess it’s a direct version of Caviar but it contains more separate climbing than first appearances would suggest. It feels a fair bit harder than Caviar (which I did a couple of weeks back) but I’m not sure if it’ll be a full grade harder.
Next attempt will be Thurs eve. Hopefully the conditions might be a bit more conducive to success.

Friday, 4 July 2008

The Gravy Boatsmen

A sea as rich and brown as this
Through meaty mist by cabbage sail
To shore of pea and carrot bound
We gravy boatmen all

“Ahoya, ahoy an onion whale!”
A spout of gravy spume aloft
Astern the smooth black body sinks
To depths where fork folk dare

But “Never over the side!” they say
“Sink fast in thick brown brine” they say
“And nerry see the sun again”
“A fate most foul of all”

“But whither are we headed sir?”
“To ‘tato hills all crisp and brown.”
“And soft carved acres, folds of fowl”
“A tasty promised land”

Oh sea as rich and brown as this
This meaty mist, these cabbage sails
My shore of pea and carrot dream
We gravy boatmen all

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama

For the last week or so I’ve been mostly trying to get back into the limestone. This has involved two truly dismal sessions at Rubicon, one semi decent one at the tor, two days failing to do a grim 8a at Malham (Main Overhang – used to be 7c+/8a, has since lost holds and is hard bouldery 8a) and one sweaty humid day failing to get up a 7a+ at High Tor!!! Not a very auspicious start to the white season by any reckoning. I blame it on the School closing and goodish weather meaning I have done nothing but grit since my trip away. It’s depressing being weak, but at least I’m not down with injury…
On a positive note the St George’s Day Mushrooms are out and I have lot’s in the fridge waiting to be scoffed. These are pretty common and well easy to identify (especially given that they are the only large mushroom of any sort growing at this time), very much a beginner’s mushroom that everyone should think about seeking out.
The only really enjoyable day I’ve had cragging in the last two weeks was this Sat. A bunch of us (Cofe, Nige, Bogg, Kim L)manned up and walked into the Grinah Stones on Bleaklow. This is a place I’ve been meaning to check out for years. It’s a bloody long walking, but the climbing is great. We did some brilliant probs, at least one of which had probably not been done before. In keeping with the crag ethic I won’t go into too much detail. Suffice to say we all had a brilliant time and will be heading back. Due to starting fairly late we missed the last bus along the reservoir road (no cars allowed at weekend) so had to walk 6.7 miles to get back to the car! I was tres goosed on Sunday.
Cofe got some cracking pics. Cheers for letting me use a couple yoot.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Allez oop

Wet to the skin and in up to the knee I lifts one leg after the other through the thicket of windblown reeds, to wade queasily amongst the piss stenching, flyblown swamp is my task. Five fold five is the term of our days and none but the best will see us out. I take the reins again and rear up over the harrowed fen. “Forth lithe wanderer, we have heights to scale!” The bay mare shudders a little and lurches into an exhausted half trot. It’s been a month now and nothing but rainwater and sand apples for these travellers. “Have heart, be hale, reluctant stead. ‘Tis nought but a molehill” Kershaw lifts his long sad face and casts a weary glance upwards at the vast obsidian fang jabbing skyward before him, his four vast, limpid eyes all blood red and rimmed with tiny biting creatures. Like a beckoning finger of blackened bone, a last defiant gesture of the primal giant, now corrupt and laid prone amidst these desolate acrid swamps. This is their fate, to answer the call, to push against the tide and venture to the rotten heart of it all. Now is the time.
Well actually that’s not strictly true, but I did go back to Gardom’s on Saturday and out to Baslow last night. Met up with lots of folk on Sat and spent a lot of time failing to do Iain’s prob, nobody else faired any better. Went over to Plan D, Adam managed it using a right hand slap sequence, which looked steadier than my oddball crossover, but gnarlier as falling from this move lands you on the tree. He also did the obvious line up the right arête at 7a+, this is now called Forward Thinking Sound Engineer. I repeated this eventually, quite a good addition. Adam also did the sitter to Plan D and the static start to Business As Usual and is therefore king of the block. Wandered back past Barry Sheene and did this again, funny how some stuff you find hard suddenly feel easy once you’ve done it the once.
Sunday was wet. Went for a walk up to Gun Rock. Saw where Al’s fabled 7b must have gone. Shame about the flake coming off, it looks like it would have been mega. There look to be a couple of ok-ish up lines on the block and a brick hard low traverse to do, but not sure they are worth the walk.
Last night was very warm on Baslow edge. Nige came along for the heck. Bumped into Tetler in the carpark, he’d just put up a new route at Curbar E5 6a Triple Bum Drop. Felt like the grit season might be over. Warmed up on some nice random stuff, then had a go at the Ripper. Soon decided to sack it off as the hard move involved pulling on a small skin trashing edge, not good for warm rock and sweaty skin. Went up to the Eagle Stone where there was a nice cooling breeze and no puddles (for a change). Kim turned up. Did the 7a+ one that uses the tiny egg-shell crimps. This is the last of the old classics on the block I hadn’t done and it was real good. Did the mantelly one on the other side and goofed about on an eliminate trav Nige invented in his mind farm. Then did the Welford 7b one just right of the prow. This was excellent and surprisingly ok, steady 7a+ perhaps. The Dave K one to the left looks brilliant, I’ll certainly come back with an able bodied spotter for that one.
Think the next evening out will be on the lime unless we have another cold snap.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Late season grit

Some north easterly winds have been bringing unseasonably good grit temps. Unfortunately it seems to have also brought showers just in time to ruin my attempts at evening sessions.
Had heard via dense that Iain F had succeeded on a new line at Gardom’s South so I got in touch and arranged to meet him there last night to see what it looked like. The idea was to have a look at this and then take him over to have a crack at Plan D, my new 7c arête thing further along the crag.
Headed out with Si and warmed up on G Thang etc. Iain arrived with his HUGE airpad ordered via It packs down small and is a touch heavier than an extra large pad. It pumps up into a vast airbed. A bit weird to land feet first onto (feels nicer with normal pad on top), but very good for stuff where you fall onto your back.
Ended up trying Barry Sheene, a problem I have tried a lot before but not managed to crack. Conditions felt good (despite one sharp shower), but was still feeling unable to move when I got the edge off the left heel-toe. Decided to try it without the heel-toe, which is more burly but leaves you better set up for the next move. Was surprised to get matched up on the crimp after a few tries like this. Then fluffed it going for the sloper out right. Next time up, no mistakes, it felt fine and the nemesis was slain.
Nipped over and clean a better start to a nice little highball I did earlier in the year, while Si had a few more goes at BS. We all did the new line (slopey ridge finish to prob 12 in Ru’s book) once the mats were free and a lovely little prob it was too. Lots of climbing, interesting moves, never desperate, nice holds and a spicy finish. About 6b/+.
Then tried Iain’s new line. A very fine prow/arête, with steep sloper moves requiring a bit of fancy leg/footwork. Me and Si managed all but one move, a long throw off slopers to a good edge. It seemed likely that we would have to figure some alternative beta to Iain who could reach the hold off a reasonable heel-toe. Might come back for another look at the weekend. By now it was getting a bit dark so we headed off.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Belated weekend roundup

Saturday night was my sisters 40th birthday party up in Ilkley, so we decided to drive up Friday night and have a leisurely start Sat. Parked up on an obscure dead-end road high on the moors opposite Rylstone. Awoke to find the van surrounded by snow, being pelted by thick sleet. Eventually the weather cleared and we drove over for a session at Ilkley. The crag was remarkably dry and we went over to the quarry behind the Lost Boot area to warm up on some south facing probs in the new guide. These turned out to be chipped, tough at the grade, but really very good. Ilkley Bar Kid 6b+ climbed a series of slanting ramps up a vaguely scooped wall, very technical and precarious. Chuck Norris 6c+ took ages to do (felt at least 7a to me) and I suspect might be graded for jump starting. It’s all about the first move to a strange slopey diamond shaped blob of rock sticking out of flat rock. In the end after trying various methods it went to a basic but tricky right hand slap. Both of these should be on everyone’s Ilkley circuit. Tried a desperate thing called Steven Seagal, but soon realized it was very very hard for 7b!
Then went over to First Arete. Only given 7a+ this problem has shut me down on at least two previous sessions, I was determined to finish it this time. Kept getting to top pinch before a dog ran up and stole my lunch, I then got very pissed off and aggressively scrabbled up it in bad style. To me it seems like a problem that looks better than it climbs and having a nasty block in the landing felt generally unpleasant.
Fi wanted to try Ringpiece so I thought I’d have a go at Superset, a John Dunne problem on the Calf first done in 1987. After a few goes I decided I wasn’t going to do it using the sequence Sam is trying in the old guide photo. Eventually sussed a better way for me using the chipped J instead of the A, smearing with left foot and toeing into another chipped letter with right foot. From here I could throw into the crack but couldn’t latch it. In the end it took many attempts before I finally managed to hit it just right and bagged the prob. Very satisfying move in the end, the easier top bit is great too. Used to get V10 in old guide, now given 7b+, it felt 7c to me, but I can imagine the move being much easier to stick if you are a bit taller.

Sunday I was a bit worse for wear after the party, but ended up having a short sesh at Curbar. Did lots of the usual 7a/+ stuff plus Dan’s Wall and Jihad which I hadn’t done before. Tried r-man’s new thing on the bad landing block. Did all the moves but didn’t manage a link, it seemed quite good and I’d agree with the grade of 7b+.

Was going to go out tonight but it’s now lashing down….

Monday, 14 April 2008


I love mushroom picking, but mostly I have to wait till autumn to go out a huntin’. There are a few exceptions to this rule, certainly the finest yet most elusive of these is the Morel. Highly prized (and priced!)by chefs the morel has a unique flavour and texture unlike anything else. They are unfortunately extremely difficult to find and grow for only a two or three weeks a year. That time is upon us and as is my custom of the last five years I made the annual pilgrimage to my secret location to see what this year had to offer. It was actually my dad who found the morel patch and brought home a fine collect way back in 1993. It was maybe ten years later that I got around to visiting this spot at the right time of the year after having very little success finding them elsewhere in the intervening years. Since then I’ve collected a modest crop for four years out of the last five. Last year there was nothing due to an exceptionally dry spell, but this Wednesday the patch came good. Five fine black morels where collected and within hours we were dining of a very tasty gratin of morels, cream, potatoes and pancetta. I’ll have my eye out where ever I go for the next couple of weeks, but I suspect that it’ll be another year before fresh Morels come my way again

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Jonny two hols

Week (five days actually) one was snow blown grit up in Yorkshire, week two was sun kissed pockets in Buoux.
Not feeling very wordy at the moment so will make this brief.
Yorkshire: Generally windy with snow showers meant Brimham was a good sheltered option. I love Brimham too so going there twice was good. Also had a day at Caley where the rock was in remarkably great nick, a snowy walk up to Simon’s + Lord’s Seat and a cold damp day at Malham. Did a bunch of good new-to-me probs at Brimham up to 7b including The Green Nose, The Governor, Black Chipper Arete, Arthur, Hole In The World, Joker’s wall flake SS and Murky Rib SS. At Caley I finally did Ben’s Groove after bottling the top bit on previous visits, need to go back for the amazing looking sitter now. Also did a cool arête mauling 7c called the Drey, which felt a bit soft with cunning beta. Repeated Blockbuster again, which felt harder than usual, cold fingers I reckon. Malham was a bit too cold for my tastes but it was raining so the best of a rum deal. Did Free And Even Easier, Consenting Adults and Bongo Fury, all of which I’ve done before. Fi led Consenting Adults which was something of a milestone for her. Although not too hard for her it has always been a bit of a nemesis route since she took a nasty upside down fall from the third clip a couple of years ago.
After a couple of days rest it was Buoux time (see Dob’s blog for fuller write up). The occasion was Kranken Arthur Harribo’s stag do. Fun was had, cheese was eaten, Arthur was dressed as a gay bear, pockets were pulled on. Routes of the week for me would have to be No Man’s Land 7b and Devers Pervers 7b+, both totally stunning routes. Least favourite was Reve De Papillon, nasty sharp pocket traversing with polished bugger-all for feet. Goes to show fame doesn’t always equal quality. In general I thought Buoux was a brilliant crag with perfect rock and many varied routes, far from the homogenous pocket hauling you might imagine. I did think however that based on my admittedly limited experience that it was a better crag in the 6s and 7s than in the low 8s. The 6s and 7s I did there where as good as any I’ve been on, the 8a-8bs seemed few and far between, very small pocket orientated (great if like Harribo you love the pockets), often unsubtly manufactured and for me not as interesting/varied as the harder routes at other big name euro crags such as Gorges Du Tarn, Ceuse, Rodellar, Terradets. We also had a day at Volx. Fun polished steepness, not bad for a knackered old crag but this style of climbing is done a whole lot better at numerous other places. Did a couple of 7bs there and redpointed a 7c+ (with unfortunate rope dabbage). The last day of the trip was a belter, ten routes on ten sectors. A great way to get a flavour of what Buoux has to offer. Will hopefully get round to posting some pics soon.
Sunday back in the peak and a snowy day on Burbage N. Nothing of note to report. Did a pleasant new low start to Little Brown Thug, starting on the left arête of Wednesday Climb. Little Brown Wednesday(?) – 7a, Nige being first up the “line”, getting his last session in before a shoulder op. Nige and Andy B both did Blind Drunk the heel way. One said 7c+ at most, one said deffo 8a. It’s hard putting numbers on lists! Tried Submergence but got snowed off.
Went back last night with Si to try Submergence again. Didn’t manage to do, although I did get the move to get the high layaway sorted (it’s all about turning the right heel outwards). Met Iain then went over and did Giza, which had up till then been a minor nemesis. It felt 7c to me and took quite a bit of effort, but I know lots of folk piss it (especially the lank) so it’ll get listed at 7b+ (for now) based on a range of opinions.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008


Saturday was as wet as it had been predicting all week. I had a cold in the post anyway. After a wet plod around town sorting shit I headed out through the fog and drizzle to have another look around Wharncliffe. Wet days are a good time to go looking for new lines. You aren’t wasting good climbing time and the lichen is soft enough to easily be brushed off in great swathes with a plastic floor brush. That said it’s a fairly miserable business tramping around wet bracken trying to imagine what this green filthy wet lump of rock might look like when dry. You really need the eye of faith. Spied a few bits to go back for but nothing strikingly good. Ended up at the Lescar later on and stayed fairly late, it’s hard not to when the weather is grim.

Sunday started out pretty dreary too. The deepening cold and mild hangover didn’t help much either. Eventually the weather sorted its act out and the decision to leave retreat to the wall as a late afternoon escape plan was vindicated. After much deliberation me and Mawson opted for the Plantation. Warmed up a bit, did Silk start (not the sitter), then went over to have another go at Back In The YMCA, a problem which I have been shut down on twice before. Bumped into Adam L and John Wainwright and heard the fabled Sharma was on his way over. Lots of cursing and crimping dirty little pockets ensued. Eventually a passable sequence was devised and Neil and Adam bagged the beast. Pretty hard for a supposed 7a+ (I Neil notice gave it hard 7b+ on his scorecard)! I got set up for the last move once but bottled the slap, then couldn’t get there again, I blame the lurgy. It’ll go next time. By now Sharma was warming up around Crescent arête. We had planned to go over and try Welford's newish problem below BAW’s Crawl – The Golden Path 7c, but what about getting the Sharma tick? We went over to try TGP. It’s hard! Fairly high with a pretty good landing, but tough all the way. After much jiggery pokery we figured a way to do the lower arête via a left heel-toe and a very poor sloper on the arête. I say ‘we’, in truth I never actually managed the move. This bit is good 7b/7b+ in itself and leaves you on two reasonable slopey crimps either side of the arête. Neil could get here most goes but was having trouble doing anything with it. Adam, John and then Bransby arrived, sadly no Sharma (the missus was feeling the cold so they went to the wall). Bransby managed the arête bit once but got stopped at the roof. Oh well, no team send today. Seems like a great problem, will probably become a classic one day. Must remember to ask the elusive Mr Welford for the numbers next time I see him.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Hither and yon

Unlike the boundlessly energetic Mr Dobbin my blogging motivation ebbs and flows. The last week or so it’s definitely been on the ebb. But in the name of keeping things ticking over I shall attempt to sketch out in brief what’s been going on climbing wise (this is pretty much exclusively a climbing blog after all).

Sat 1st – Went Curbar then Burbage North. Had a good warm up at Curbar with Birkby, Crabstick, Jo and Gib. Then had lots of goes at Ben’s Wall with Gib. We could both hit the pocket with our right hands, but seemed nowhere near hitting it with the right motion to hang it. Think I’m missing some subtlety. Need to watch someone who has it dialled. Then went over to Burbage N on my tod to do The Terrace. A popular prob but one I’ve never got round to trying properly till this year. Last visit I’d figured the move but was a tired so didn’t do. This time I was not tired and it went down first try despite a sloppy cutloose near the top. Then tried Giza with the Sausage who had just arrived. Could get up high on it but was lacking commitment above the sloping landing.

Sun 2nd – Went to try an esoteric project at an undeveloped two problem quarry, Mervyn Stutter Crag. Strange place with kids toys all over the place and a vague smell of baby sick. Was out with Ned, Variable and Gentle Face. Warmed up on a nearby natural grit boulder, nice probs but all easy. In the quarry Ned did the easier right hand line at about 7a/+, for now it’s called Scooter Ram, quite good but not worth a visit in itself. After lots of effort on the left arête Ned nearly managed it at 7c+, but ripped off a key crimp on what would almost certainly have been the ascent. It will still go, but will be harder, maybe even 8a. Dan got pretty close to doing the move without the crimp. We then flew over to Eastwood for a play. Did a couple of solos and both the traverses. Saw Vicky and Sausage. Vicky had a good sequence on the trav.

Sat 8th – Had been out till early hour on Friday for Garen’s 30th party (where I met the legendary Nibile), so wasn’t up to much. It was a bit drizzly anyway. Went out to Froggatt to look at various things including Iain’s prob Jelly Bomb on the Hairpin boulder. Couldn’t suss the first move out so gave Iain a call. It turns out Iain topped this out direct rather than rightwards into the scoop as described in the guide (this could well be from me giving Ru dodgy info). Even with beta I could not touch the first move. It’s a hard problem, harder than most peak 7c, I suspect the 7c+ grade than Iain gave it originally might be correct (not sure how the downgrade arose). Managed a version of the stand start, which was a great 7a/+ in itself, although not the way Iain did the top as you end up with the other hand in the good hold when doing the sitter (and hand swapping is another hard couple of moves). Had another failed attempt at Ape Drape direct. It doesn’t feel hard, just committing. It then started to rain properly.

Sun 9th – Lovely day out at Rowtor with Cofe, Adam, Scouse, Harris, Roy, Busby and Jim (arrived later with sprog). Tried the Brazilian but couldn’t get my weight over the heel. Watched Andy do it twice, Roy once and Adam nearly stick it as a dyno. Did a good circuit of stuff – Blood Falls, Yoghurt Hypnotist, Domes SS and Bus Stop Mantle. Finally got round to trying a strange mantel I’d spotted years ago. Wasn’t fast enough and got gazumped by the Adam. Quickly managed a second ascent with the aid of Adam’s shin beta, plus a sneaky toe-hook roll of my own. Great little problem, very Castle Hill. Very hard to put a grade on this sort of thing, but opted for stern 7a, the prob is called The Mantelist.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Double Gardom’s

Ended up going to Gradom’s Edge both days this weekend.
Saturday after a lateish start I headed out on my own to Gardom’s South to meet up with team Dobbin and the Beekeeper. I arrived before the others and warmed up on G-thang and the sitter. It was overcast, mild and windy with dampness in the air and the rock didn’t feel too grippy. I’d moved on to half-heartedly trying Barry Sheene by the time the Beekeeper arrived. The Beekeeper is a friend of old who I’ve climbed on and off with, shared houses with, been on many skiing and climbing hols, but don’t see so often now he’s moved to Tideswell. Got word from Ben that they’d pushed on to Eastwood thinking Gardom’s could be wet. Barry Sheene wasn’t going too well in the less than prime conditions so showed Beeks some of the other probs in the area including the pocketed wall on the opposite side of the Sauvitto block. Did this and then spent a while cleaning and climbing an extended finish up the rib above. The new bit is really good fun in not too hard but a bit scary way. No change to the grade, but makes for a much more complete problem.
Then took Beeks over for a look at English Voodoo. The top bit felt a bit too easy for the 7a grade I gave it, but I couldn’t touch the sitter I’d given 7b. Just goes to show how hard and imprecise an art grading new things is. Went away thinking the stand-up might be 6c+ and the sitter 7b+, but they could feel totally different again on another day, hey ho.
Feeling fully warmed up I was keen to get on this project of sorts I’d tried a few weeks back. I say of sorts as it is eliminate in that it tries to climb an established problem (Rob Smith’s problem Dirty Business) without a pair of large hand holds out right. A lovely sharp, smooth, quarried arête, vertical on the left and overhanging on the right side up which the line goes. The handholds amount to one positive headheight crimp, low friction arête pinches with very little for thumbs and small well spaced footholds close to the arête. The difficulty ends at about 4m with a big flat break and a fun easy high bit. When you see the feature and try the moves it seems much more of a true line than the description suggests. I’d go as far as saying it turns a fun but relatively trivial none-eliminate, into a brilliant, utterly absorbing eliminate. Truth is that I’d not spotted the possibility until Adam mentioned it (hope he doesn’t mind me pinching it). On the previous attempts I’d figured a way to get a fair way up it by whacking a heel round the corner, pinching hard with the left hand and crossing over to a thumb down pinch with the right on a high sharp bit of the arête which has a smidge more friction than the glassy rock around. On that day I’d been completely unable to move anything from that position without barndooring off. Session two and I was getting easily into the position, but still struggling to do anything with it. Poor old Beekeeper was forced to stand around getting cold while I repeatedly barndoored off the same move time and time again. Stopped for a rest and got a text from Dob who’d moved on from Eastwood via Calver café to the Sauvitto end of the crag. After making an attempt at stepping right foot high onto the start crimp I figured out a possible way to move up. From the heel-hook, pinching both arête holds hard, lean out and carefully slide left foot to a small notch on the arête. At this point you are teetering on the edge of barndooring off leftward with only thumb friction keeping you on as you stand onto the notch and step onto the start crimp to stop the barndoor. Then it was back to barndooring off time and again, this time one move higher, trying to figure a body position that would allow progress. I figured it might be possible to do a crossover slap to the break from these holds, but couldn’t get set properly. Tried getting pushed on and after a few goes manage to land the slap to the break from the same holds but with right foot off completely and a left knee tucked around the arête. However try as I might I could not climb into this subtly different position from the deck. It’s starting to feel like this Saturday is going to be a repeat of last Saturday, totally knackering myself out on a project and then not doing it.

Here's a pic from session one on Plan D. Thanks for pic go to Cofe

Beeks was cold and ready for home by then and I needed a rest so I let him off the hook and ran over to Sauvitto to see if I could blag Ben into spotting me. I arrived just in time to catch him cruising Sauvitto after having done it once already off the boulder. Good to see him looking confident and fluid on the grit and loving it. He’s happy to spot we rush back to the arête with maybe an hour of daylight left. A bit of a rest, better nick and some Morton psyche and I get to the move and latch the crossover slap on the first try. Get in! Ten minutes later and the sitter is added too. The sit doesn’t have any hard moves but does make the top a bit harder. We discuss grades and I’m settling for hard 7b+ stand-up and 7c from sitting, but as ever it’ll need repeats to confirm this. Ben tries for the repeat in the failing light but is struggling with the tenuous step-up before the slap. It’s the sort of move that takes a few goes to get the feel of. He agrees the climbing is class anyway. I’m not sure if you’re allowed to give names to eliminates these days, but feel this one deserves it’s own identity. I’ll call it Plan D after a Bill Fay song I can’t get out of my head at the mo and see how much stick I get for it.

Sunday in brief. It looks set to rain mid-day but decide to go out anyway and try Heartland and Mark’s Roof Direct at Gardom’s North. Climbing with Fi initially, Katherine and Vicky B turn up later as the rain starts. We hide under Mark’s roof and eventually the rain stops. Nearly bag it off and head indoors, but find one problem nearly dry, the 7a left of Heartland and persuade folk to have a play on this and see if other stuff dries off. Manage the 7a, then try Heartland as it dries. Have to keep shielding the slopers with various items to keep more rain off. Andy H pops by on his way back from an out of nick Raventor and gives me some beta, I also phone Mawson for beta, but end up doing it in a completely different way to both the suggestions. Not a bad problem, some good moves, but pretty soft for 7c when you get it figured. Then try Mark’s Roof direct which feels hard, but mostly very scary due to having a very solid heel-toe and shit handholds. Visions of dangling head-first off a broken ankle prevent any real commitment. Fi pulls it out the bag again and manages Mark’s Roof Left Hand and is well pleased. Good weekend all round.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Rock bouldering

What I did last weekend.
Saturday was a trip up to Yorkshire to try a bouldering project, up early and head out with Fi and Vicky B. The project is one I’d spotted last year and have spent a session on already. It involves pinching along a sharpish hanging lip from right to left with ok pinches but hard footwork, to a hideous rockover onto a heel-hook. On last year’s attempt I could do everything on it except for one piece of footwork in the middle. At the sticking point I’d end up stretched out and horizontal with hands crossed and feet either side of the lip in opposition. The problem being that the feet need to be released but I couldn’t take one off without breaking the opposition and cutting loose uncontrollably. After quickly re-learning last year’s sequence I’m back to pondering the foot moves. Unfortunately due to the way the thing climbs I can’t pull on and work this move in isolation, rather having to get there from the start every time. After lots of foot squeezing, shoulder wrenching effort, trying all my mind could muster, I find I can get a very poor left toe jam in a pocket in the roof and ‘walk’ the right foot (heel, toe, heel, toe) along the lip to a small toe hold without ever releasing pressure. Pushing hard on this toe then allows the toe-jam to be released in a semi-controlled fashion. After several more goes I’m through this sequence and onto a biggish dish and little edge, with just the last rockover to do. Rock up as high as I can and attempt to flip right hand into a palm-down, but haven’t got the height. Slump down, take a breath and try again, but gain even less height. Damn, it’s not to be, the final deep locky rockover, which is hard in isolation, is just too hard for my tired shoulders. After that I’m broken and don’t manage to get through the move again, although I do manage to improve the sequence some more. Oh well, it will have to wait till next time, whenever that might be. Retire to Sheffield for fine curry and beer at the Sausage’s house.

Sunday comes and the skin is thin and everything else hurts from too many goes on the project, but the weather is amazing again and I really want to get something done after all the fruitless efforts of yesterday. Nearly go to the Roaches, but ended up at Burbage S with Mr Mawson, figuring that shady rock would be more forgiving on skinless fingers than warm sunny slopers. End up going round most of the edge circuit and a bit on the boulders, showing stuff to Neil who then proceeds to do them all on the flash or second go. He has a good day bagging Little Gem, Zorev, Electric Storm, Yoghurt, Alliance SS, Little Rascal, The Rib, Desperate and the 7a slab on the Pock Block. Not bad for someone who hasn’t climbed a lot this year and claims not to be much of a boulderer. I’m pleased enough to get two new ticks with Zorev and the 7a slab on the Pock Block. Zorev proves to be one of those problems that feels horrendous on the first few goes, but gets gradually easier, eventually feeling ok on the se… ascent. Then injured Nige turned up and made some gentle faces...which was nice.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Hot grit

Initial plans to go to a certain Yorkshire grit crag to try a project ended up getting shelved due to lack of team. It’s hard to drag people a bit further a field at the best of times and most of the usual suspects were away, injured or likely to be too hung-over to get up in time. Next weekend hopefully.
Decided I needed some morale boosting successes so opted for a quick trip to complete things on Mossatrocity and then over to try Dick Williams which I’d heard was steady at 7b+. Met up with Dave Parry at Grindlewald and set to work on Moss’. Warming up was hard work but got there in the end and managed to improve my sequence a fair bit. Did the top bit once, then went for the link and got it on the second go. Pretty much did it all off the left heel as per Adam’s beta. Funny how the heelhooking wasn’t hurting my hamstring this time, but had been too painful to use last weekend. Great problem.

On Thursday at the Works I’d had to leave after less than an hour due to a pain/pulled muscle in my left peck. Had hoped the hasty retreat and a couple of days rest would have sorted it out but this wasn’t so. Trying hard on the last bit of Mossatrocity caused it to flare up worse than before. But weather was too nice for home and rest so I decided to push on with the pain and then take a week off training down the wall and hope it’s fixed by next weekend.
Dave wasn’t feeling it on Moss so we moved on to Secret Garden. Lots of folk there (Joe L’S, Vicky, Jo W, Jim, Tetler, Joe B and about four more) and just missed Dobbin. Managed Dick William quite quick without too much pain. Brilliant problem, can’t believe I’ve never tried it before. Had a brief go at Zaf’s but it was hurting too much so wandered over to Mother Cap, where it was boiling. Greased my way up Conan before deciding to sack it off for somewhere cooler.
Spent the last of the day at the Plantation. Deliverance Traverse seemed like a good one to try that wouldn’t hurt the peck. I’d tried it a few times before but always given up before really getting to grips with it. Watched Si piss across it with a Dawes/R-man-esque side leap, which I totally failed to duplicate. Managed to do it in the end by squatting down very low on the smears, kicking a limb out, pushing a pebble and shuffling about a bit until I could grab the sidepull. Another class boulder problem and pleased to do three new things in a day. Good to bump into ozzy Si/Rubber Chicken who’s over for a couple of weeks.

The pulled muscle felt well sore on Sunday and thought it best to take it easy. Fi wanted to try Gorilla Warfare so I went along as spotter and beta monkey. She’d got close earlier in the week and was well psyched. After a slight tweak to the sequence she bagged it on the third try. Good effort!!

Had abortive attempts on Ben’s Wall and The Art Of White Hat Wearing, but boiling temps and the injury prevented any serious effort. Think it’s time I had a few days off now.

Monday, 4 February 2008

Normal service resumed

Well, I’ve been back a month now and it feels like I never left. Back to work, back to weekends on the grit and evening down the wall, back to rain and Tesco and traffic, back to the Sheaf, the Mangla and proper beer.
At first it’s downright depressing, but soon enough the mind adjusts and finds ways of spinning out what fun there is to be had across a week mostly spent behind a desk. Mid-weeks are survived with the help of the interweb and daydreaming about new lines, or stuff to try as highballs. Endless three star 8as are swapped for “can I do that 7C on the 50 degree board?”, but still I’m pysched. I’ve got a list of over fifty projects, mostly on peak grit that I need to get round to trying and there’s always more to find, as proved by the excellent looking Mossatrocity recently climbed near Grindleford Station. Not to mention all the route ideas I never get round to trying….

Had a good weekend but haven’t got much to show for it except worn tips and sore arms. Saturday was a snowy Rivelin with Nige, Si and team beardown. Played around on various variants on Acid Reign, then had a go at Chimp A, a likely looking highball rib. The bottom bit was nice and not very hard for the V7 that it gets in the guide. The last move proved to be the meat due to scrittle rock and a rounded top. Nige had a near miss when half the flake he was pulling on snapped and Si was the only one to top out with the help of a very bendy branch. Next up was Sparks 7b. Had done a RH version of this line years ago but hadn’t really climbed the feature properly. With all six of us seiging it a sequence was eventually cobbled together, Cofe being first past the mark. Quick repeats followed from everyone else I think. Having done two of the at least three different ways up this I’d say this one is THE line and a very good tricky 7b. After that me and Nige went to try Master Kush while the others did Moontan start. Conditions were good and we were hitting the lip every time. That’s the easy bit, the hard bit is holding the huge swing when all you have for the right hand is a tiny slopey dish. Mighty frustrating, but feels tantalisingly feasible, who knows…. It certainly merits a bit more attention. Latching the move would be amazing.
Wasn’t expecting to get out on Sunday as the forecast had been dire all week. In the end it was overcast but dry so I rang Nige and we headed out to try Mossatrocity at Grindleford Station. Appearances are not deceptive, this is indeed a fine new boulder problem, very pure fridge hugging on good rock in a lovely setting. Adam turned up and swiftly did it, having been on it the day before. Adam’s beta was good and Nige soon bagged it too. Then Sam arrived and made it three ascents. Unfortunately I couldn’t get to grips with the beta they used as it put too much strain on my left hamstring which is still dodgy from an injury in 06 (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). Did manage to figure a sequence which worked for me in the end, but didn’t have the juice to link it and my best shots saw me falling off going for the crack just below the top. Oh well, can’t wait to get back on it, maybe I’ll take the lamps out and have an evening hit with Si.