Thursday, 28 April 2016

Beginner's Mind.

Long time no blog. A relief I'm sure. I could pretend that after punting spectacularly in Spain I'd made a sensible tactical decision to let my mind, body, and now-recurring golfer's elbow to heal, ready for a steady and fresh progression up to full fitness and psyche. Well it was half that and half demoralisation and depression which is never the ideal mindstate for a dedicated climber. I don't need to write any more about that and you don't need to read it. Suffice to say I dipped down enough to realise that progression back would be slow and tentative not steady and fresh, but this did come with the realisation to actually take it slow.....some wisdom has been gained from years battling this shit.

Thus, hopefully, beginner's mind. Accepting I will be initially shit but assuming that all the winter's training and last year's mileage will be lurking and give some latent potential. So I went down to TCA and bumbled around on the circuit wall (how come I did the yellow within a couple of sessions, but now can't get past 33-35 no matter how good I feel? Pffft), and then more importantly went down to Yorkshire lime and bumbled around on trad and sport. Amongst other things I cruised Prime Cut which I'd somehow backed off last year in a fit of sore feet and fiddly gear. So apparently I'm better at Giggleswick E2 than I was this time last year - SICK DUDE.

Anyway...5 days mileage at various crags, I felt a bit weak and a bit awkward having to place protection from bad positions, but other than that I felt reassuringly natural, despite it being the first time on UK rock since Oc-fucking-tober. I think I still have a certain "go for it" vibe in my mind following last year's trad, which shows promise as long as the body catches up. I also really enjoyed what I was doing despite UK inland limestone being my least favourite rock. Actually having fun - yup that's a good idea.

Of course this cruisey start to the trad season has skidded to an icy halt - I went down to TCA in a snowstorm yesterday, and I'll be going to Ratho in a snowstorm today. Still, I need to train and if I didn't lose my trad nouse after 5 months I shouldn't lose it after 5....days....weeks?? Let's hope it's not that fucking long.

Also being out and about on UK rock does have some additional benefits:

Monday, 21 March 2016

Summing up the trip... one particular event.

La Riba - new crag, new excitement. A fresh change from Margalef pocket-pulling and loads of choice. This was it, this was the time, the place, to overturn the previous day's debacles, get on and crush. I hit the ground running (well, hobbling, it's a bit uphill and rocky) and got on Directa Reus to start. 15m 6b+ into 15m 6b+, gets 6c for the combo but it's got a comfy rest in the middle. No problemo! I boulder out the start, the pockets are sparser but bigger than Margalef. Good rest on the ledge then up steep jugs that run out so I swerve left via a mono into the crux layback, a bit committing but good stuff. Swing feet over, up to a good spike jug in a pocket by the next bolt, and....





Yes, bees. They start swarming out of the pocket. My mind doesn't think "quick, jump off to the last bolt", it thinks "quick, clip the next bolt and lower off", which of course allows the bees enough time to assume attack formation. I'm shrieking at PJ "LOWER, LOWER, FUCKING QUICKLY!" as I ride to the ground, trailing bees from my vest, swirling arms, goatee, and face... A furious battering dance (thank fuck gabber clubs are good training for this) and several stings later and I'm sat on the ground shaking. I get PJ to pull several stings out and lounge around with a dull ache throbbing around me, before I relax enough to fail on other routes for entirely bee-irrelevant reasons. I still have bruised scabs on my head and shoulders, and now I have an edited guidebook too...

I presume this will be features "as is" in any reprint...

On that subject, more photos:

Other wildlife was more amenable, especially if I was prepared to throw random stones for it. This persistent pooch cheered me up at Oliana after I had a massive strop failing on another F7a there. Furious doesn't even come close. I felt an extra dick afterwards because Sharma, Graham and Woods were further down repeating 9a+s and working on futuristic projects (i.e. the thing just right of La Dura Dura....incidentally it's surprising just how low the crux is on LDD, it's about 1/6th the way up the whole route). These are guys I respect not just for their world class ability but also their seemingly ever-positive and psyched vibes, something I try to have at 15 grades lower - and definitely didn't that day.

Huevo Roca! There were many more huevos going on every morning in the caravan. PJ lives off them and I can see the logic in that. I'm not so used to eggs every single day and did wonder if a slightly different diet affected my performance. Probably not.

Rochas without the huevos. Directly below the left edge of the right hand boulder is an epic 30m 7a I fell off, boxed, after trying my best. Cunts.

Good view from the caravan although the view of the woodburning stove with an entirely unsupported flue pipe soaring about 6m across the campsite bar was also good at this time of night.

The send train. Note that I am not part of it. 

View from Montsant. I'll be back. I've got at least a summer to work out how the fuck to climb.

 Micro-conglomerate at Vilanova De Prades. These pebbles would make rubbish holds as they are just a couple of mm wide...."I had to sprag on a quark" and all that ;)

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Discomfort zonas

Margalef and surrounds - it was 50% great (climbing quality, weather, caravanning situation, and all else), and 50% rubbish (my actual climbing). I started off quite okay and consistently deteriorated through the trip to make it the worst trip away for my climbing I can recall - by the end my performance was even worse than during the mediocre rain + climbing with a couple & young kid double belay bitch duty + obnoxious overcrowding Eastern Europeans semi-climbing trip to Turkey a few winters back. Sure performance is not the be all and end all of a trip, but then again it is a climbing trip and I like the climbing challenge, and ending up so detached from that for no obvious reason felt inherently wrong. Especially since with the best intentions...

Following on from my previous trip and related post, as well as sampling the climbing i.e. pockets, I wanted to try a bit harder and maybe sport climb a bit harder. In that context it must be said that Margalef: 1. Has some of the worst grading of any sport climbing venue I've visited - I can scarcely recall two routes of the same grade that were actually the same standard, apart from a few that were wrong on the same direction. And: 2. Is utterly rubbish for pushing your onsighting, with most routes involving being lost at sea of pockets, the easier routes I was on having more pockets and thus more confusion, and being less steep thus less chalky hints to avoid the shoal of grey and orange herrings.

On the plus side the climbing is really cool. I scraped up a few soft F7as, a few almost accurate F6c+s, and various piss/nails F6cs before even that started feeling less likely... So you don't get a ticklist, but the following list would have been a great one if I'd actually done it. Or most. Or any...

List of fucking shite:

1. Action Man F6c - entirely morpho (7a) crux that I tried repeatedly before falling off an off-balance slap to a duo that tall climbers could reach on a ledge.
2. Coraje Al Forao F7a+ - tried really fucking hard on a thin slab start, fell off just before a ledge with fingers so numb I had a few minutes of full hot-aches before I could start threading a ring bolt.
3. Ingravitus F7a - muffed a hand swap on a bucket at the first bolt partly because I was so shakey and unfocused after the above debacle.
4. Baby Siter F7a - tried really fucking hard on a pumpy head-wall with a sea of blind pockets. Slightly warm and slapping for nothing and fell off.
5. Talo Dret F7a (Montsant) - committed well into a very steep groove and ran out of reachable holds and strength.
6. La Estampa F7a+ - tried pretty hard and completely powered out trying to reach holds.
7. Garotina F7a - tried really fucking hard on various cruxes and came off 3 holds from the chain on a pumpy bulge, partly sweaty due to no breeze.
8. ??? F7a (Oliana) - committed well and ended up with too thin holds and no strength to pull on them.
9. ??? F7a (Oliana) - very morpho crux that I found too hard slapping to an out-of-reach duo rather than being able to reach it from footholds.
10. Massagran F6c+ (La Riba) - tried really fucking hard on the crux and ended up following unspeakably bad beta in the guidebook photo and wrong handed too far from next holds.
11. Uf Va Dir Ell F6b+ (Montsant) - tried to warm-up on this after cruising the walk-in and feeling fresh and perky, got to a bulge on less positive pockets and just powered out.
12. En Penitence F6c (Vilanova De Prades) - missed a completely hidden one pad mono.
13. Leidi Laura F7a (Vilanova De Prades) - mis-read the start, foolishly committed to the wrong sequence and fell off rubbish slopers.

Yup, that's a lot. And it gets pretty fucking boring trying hard and trying hard again and failing relentlessly and not getting any positive reinforcements for the effort.

So what the fucking hell went wrong??

  • I had trained well in almost all areas: I'd been bouldering well (e.g. some good benchmarking on the TCA comp wall), leading indoors well (e.g. good sessions at Ratho on both full routes and half "hard" routes (intended to be relevant to Margalef-style power-endurance)), gymming and running okay.
  • I was well rested before I went out and had tapered off training suitably.
  • I felt on general physically good form, and actually didn't feel tired, drained (well, apart from emotionally....) or de-energised on any day I was out.
  • I slept well and ate well and relaxed well in the evenings.
  • I felt inspired and positive before every day and almost every route (even after several days of climbing rubbish).
  • I felt happy with the pockets and felt I got used to them quickly.

Yes there were some issues with grades and blind pocket climbing but that wasn't the only things I was struggling with. Extrapolate for a further month and I'd be struggling to climb the stairs and there ain't no fucking duos on them. *I* was the problem and I don't even know how?? I've had enough times being hampered by injury and illness and conditions and tiredness and whatever, but sitting at the bottom of Montsant feeling fresh and perky in fresh and perky conditions beneath a wall of dream routes at my usual standard and not being able to get on them for no reason was a real WTF moment.

So. Answers on a postcard, and if any of them are the right answers I'll refund the postage.


Thought of a couple of things:

  • Although conditions were often excellent, some of the crux pocket-pulling was less positive than ideal and relying a bit on finger friction, which is always an issue for me, exacerbated by tape around several pocket-shredded joints (particularly 4, 7, 10, 11)
  • Although in training and in general I'd felt comfortable committing and fighting for holds, these were usually visible and obvious and required more effort than accuracy....unlike the pockets which sometimes involved theoretically lunging for duos with «5mm margin for error for me to hold them (particularly 1, 7, 9)
  • Although I felt I was climbing well and had enough strength and stamina, this was from bouldering (constant movement) and normal routes (constant movement with tactical pauses only at good rests). My "hanging around" strength / stamina was probably a lot weaker and that was a problem hanging around trying to find holds (4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11)



Okay that is a lot of moaning. Sorry / not sorry at all, I need to get it out of my system and writing through it can bring up useful ideas.

BUT, on the other hand, the routes I actually did were all really good. A lot of beautiful, characterful rock, a lot of fun and fascinating pocket-pulling, a lot of decently challenging routes at lower grades. Funnily enough my first sport trip away was to Sierra De Prades (camping in February would you believe it, ice on the tents in the morning, WTF were we thinking??), and I haven't revisited it since apart from a singular Siurana sojourn a few years back (partly due to the inferior Rockfax guide although at least they had the right fucking sequence photoed for Massagran). With Catalunya Climbs: Tarragona and exploration of some new areas, I still remained psyched with the area despite being unpsyched with my punterdom and am actually rather keen to go back. So that is some sort of positive result...

Monday, 14 March 2016

What you asked for... indepth description of all current drum and bass sub-genres, of course :). "It's just a load of clanking and banging" "It all sounds the same" etc etc YAWN. Basically drum and bass (evolving from jungle) has been around for 20+ years and has split into many different forms from stuff you could play to your gran to stuff you'd get arrested for if you played it to your gran. So someone needs to sort it all out and make a presentable list for the general public, and here it is.

This list assumes the reader knows the basic form of drum and bass i.e. complex breakbeats at a 170-ish bpm tempo (rather than straight repetitive drums like techno) combined with a prominent looped bassline. I've tried to use commonly accepted genre terms although there is much variation, many grey areas, and many artists dabbling in a lot of sub-genres (e.g. my knowledge of the minimal / halfstep / drumstep genres is vague, some artist examples are guesswork). I've also included tangential genres that are not true dnb, and some older no-longer-used genres for reference and context.

Abstract - a less rhythmically smooth form of dnb where the beats and sound effects can seem more jarring with a less obvious, but still usually present, groove, and a neutral vibe, somewhere between breakage and minimal. E.g. Clarity, Overlook, Blocks & Escher

Atmospheric - spacey effects and sparse haunting melodies, often with crisp jungle style breakbeats and mellow bass. E.g. DJ Fox, Acid Lab, Pixel

Breakage - very breakbeat-orientated often with sparse effects and variable bass. Often uses the classic amen breakbeat or more complicated breaks. E.g. Equinox, Paradox, Bizzy B

Breakcore - harder and often much faster tangent of drum and bass, with emphasis on breakbeats sometimes mixed with irreverent samples and heavy metal effects. Similar in intensity to skullstep but usually less industrial-sounding. E.g. Shitmat, Bong-Ra

Clownstep - derogatory term for modern jump-up/wobble when it was first introduced, particularly when said genres have very simplistic childlike basslines. E.g. DJ Clipz, Twisted Individual, Generation Dub

Crossbreed - tangential blend between harder drum and bass and gabber, usually at the standard 174bpm tempo, but with the drums switching between drum and bass breakbeats and straight gabber kickdrums, and aggressive vibes. E.g. Outside Agency, Hellfish, Thrasher

Dark - emphasises dark sounds and atmospheres, often with a deep droning bassline such as the "reece" bass. Breakbeats and melodies are more variable but generally support the dark atmosphere. E.g. Paragon, Cern, Stranjah

Deep - roughly between dark drum and bass and liquid funk, having some of the dark-ish atmospheres of dark, but with the smoother musical melodies of liquid funk (or the spacey atmospheres of atmospheric but with simpler beats). E.g. Response, Seba, Klute

Drumfunk - see Breakage.

Drumstep - slowed down tangential drum and bass similar to Minimal / Halfstep but with more prominent, if slower, beats, not necessarily at a dnb tempo. E.g. Om Unit, Amit

"Electrofunk" - my own term for the lighter and most funky neurofunk, usually distinctly less intense than neurofunk with quirky, sometimes "clicky" beats and a strong upbeat groove. E.g. Mefjus, Rockwell, Noisia, Lynx

Halftime (or Halfstep) - minimal style of drum and bass, very similar to normal minimal but with distinctly stripped down beats at 1/2 or 1/3 of the 174bpm norm. E.g. Loxy And Resound, Kid Drama

Hard - harder end of pure drum and bass before it gets as industrial and mashed up as skullstep. Both beats and basslines are loud and occasionally distorted, and might have complex but conventional amen breakbeats. E.g. Technical Itch, Raiden, Dom & Roland

(Hardstep - depreciated term used in the 1990s to distinguish early harder drum and bass (preceding techstep / neurofunk / rolling) from prominent jungle / ragga jungle.)

(Intelligent - depreciated term used in the 1990s to distinguish early mellow drum and bass (preceding atmospheric / liquid) from jungle / hardstep.)

Jump-up (old) - semi-depreciated form of drum and bass that was very prominent in the 1990s with Mickey Finn, Aphrodite, Hype etc, featuring funky basslines and hip-hop samples and vibes. Rarely made any more but some artists favour the sound over modern jump-up. E.g. Bladerunner, SR & Digbee, Serial Killaz

Jump-up (new) - evolution of jump-up drum and bass following on from the clownstep era, with very brash, squeaky sound effects that often overwhelm traditional jump-up basslines. Breakbeats are sometimes simple but sometimes quite abstract similar to drumstep. E.g. Magistrate, Konichi, DJ Hazard

Jungle - modern interpretation of the classic mid-90s jungle sound, usually with similar reggae/dub influences and emphasis on breakbeats, but with higher quality modern production values. E.g. Digital, Spirit, Skitty

Liquid Funk (or just Liquid) - a very musical form of drum and bass with prominent melodies, recognisable instrumentation and a generally uplifting and accessible atmosphere, but less brash and "cheesy" than and Pop And Bass. E.g. High Contrast, Calibre, Dramatic & DB Audio

Minimal - stripped down drum and bass with sparse drums and subtle effects, but still with prominent, often smooth bass. E.g. D-Bridge, Stray, Sabre

Neurofunk - more cheerful, funky form of techstep, with similar strong beats and a sci-fi atmosphere but more prominent distorted but funky melodies, often with a "squelchy" sound. E.g. Agressor Bunx, Black Sun Empire, Maldini & Vegas

Old school - see Jump-up (old), also would refer to most standard older dnb / jungle.

Pop And Bass - tangential blend of drum and bass tempos, breakbeats and bass, with pop melodies, vocals and effects, usually relatively lightweight and radio-friendly even if made by normal dnb producers. E.g. DJ Fresh, Chase & Status, Sigma

Ragga Jungle - MC-driven jungle with prominent ragga vocals. Often defined by the vocalists involved while the music is usually an older-sounding mixture of jump-up and jungle with reggae influences. E.g. Top Cat, The Ragga Twins

Rolling - very standard, almost default, form of drum and bass with the emphasis on a distinct, funky, hypnotic bassline and a straightforward two step beat. E.g. S.P.Y., Need For Mirrors, Jubei, Genotype, Break

Ruff - see Hard / Breakage

Skullstep - an esoteric term for the hardest form of pure drum and bass, with hard loud beats that might be simple or more usually very mashed up (but still at 174bpm), and industrial sound effects E.g. Limewax, Cooh, Donny

Stadium D'n'B - see Pop and Bass, also with elements of neurofunk, liquid, jump-up.

Techstep - techno-influenced form of drum and bass with variable breakbeats and basslines but a strong emphasis on techno sound effects and a sci-fi atmosphere. Often fairly hard-hitting and less melodious, but not as noisy / industrial as skull-step / hard dnb E.g. Fierce, Zero Method, The Sect

Trance 'n' bass - rarely used but still suitable term for dnb with strong trance melodies and effects over normal dnb rhythms, somewhere between techstep and liquid funk, and quite uplifting but less cheesey that pop 'n' bass. E.g. John B (who coined the phrase), Ill Skillz

(Two-Step - depreciated term used in the 1990s to distinguish drum and bass with a simpler "two-step" breakbeat from dnb / jungle with a more complex amen breakbeat.)

Wobble - see Jump-Up (new)

Upfront - see Jump-Up (new)

Vocal - a generalised genre where the emphasis is on vocals (studio-recorded rather than live MCing) with drum and bass of whatever genre (usually rolling / deep / dark) playing a supporting role. Vocals are usually either rapping style or sung lyrical style and the artists are usually in collaboration with normal dnb producers.E.g. Robert Manos, DRS, MC Fats


As usual any questions or comments, send 'em in.

Thursday, 3 March 2016



Contains 19 minutes of straight-up footage of 25 classic 6B-6C problems in reasonable definition (might load slowly) with a mellow dubstep soundtrack.

Not much to add. The village is very pretty, the weather was amazing apart from the last night/morning when it snowed and made an epic/scary rush to the airport. The boulders are plentiful despite the bird-banned sections, there are enough typical Spaniards with adventure mullets and dreadlocked dogs on string, but not as much crag crap everywhere as people said.

I didn't do anything super-hard (for me) on this trip, but I was pleased to get a lot of 6Cs flashed or quickly - there was too much choice to spend ages sieging stuff on a first visit. I'd happily go back for general exploration when the bird bans are off, or a more focused trip working some cool 7As I dabbled on.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016


For a change, not BIG NUMBERS (these days unfortunately they tend to be either the weights I lift or the weight I to carry around, rather than ego-hollowing climbing grades), but SMALL NUMBERS. As part of a general procedure to try to reduce the afore-mentioned and ever-increasing carry-on weight, I have got into zero / low-alcohol beers (low as in 0.5% max, not that weird 2% piss that some crap lager brands are doing). I like the taste and crisp refreshingness of beer and have 0,0 interest in the alcoholic effect. I also have 0,0 interest in the 500 calories per bottle a typical beer might have, and while the low alcohol beers never taste as good as their fuller fruitier counterparts (but not bad for a quick post-wall guzzle), they don't taste 5 times worse for those missing calories - my favourite Sainsbury's Czech clocks in at 86 calories for a large bottle. So they are a worthwhile addition to my beverage arsenal (along with the ever-favourite diet soda water...), and they might be for yours too. Here's my findings so far:

Sainsbury's Czech 0.5%
Good crisp taste and very low calorie
Erdinger Wiessbier 0.5%
Nice taste with mild wheatiness.

Bavaria 0,0 Wheat beer
Much nicer than the normal Bav, quite wheaty
San Miguel 0,0
A classic, not much taste but palatable
Estrella Free Damm
A classic name, another light but okay one
Morrisons Saint Urquel
Quite light but not bad

Goat piss:
Bavaria 0,0
Too sweet and malty
Cobra 0%
Too sweet and malty
Becks Blue
No taste as you'd expect from a big brand

Need to test Brewdog's Nanny State which I'm sure will be good...

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Comfort Zonas

So I went to Chulilla and punted around as usual. Actually despite having trained stamina over the course of exactly 1 week prior to the trip, I got it back quickly and did okay. I climbed 7 F7as, so I'm taking the F49g tick for that :). Most of these went smoothly, all that Culillan sport climbing for trad climbers bollox - I'm not bad at downclimbing to rests and shaking out into boredom. Numbers, schmumbers, whatever, they were all ace climbs so fuck you very much, ego. The point of all this is that Julie pointed out "You're doing these quite comfortably..." - I'd fallen off two 7as one due to heat and slopiness the other due to laziness - " should be trying harder things". She has a point, not because of the ever off-putting "should", but because I WANT to be climbing harder sport, I haven't pushed myself so much in that area and I'm enjoying doing harder moves on lead, slapping for holds and feeling able to go for it and risk falling off - sounds quite sport-suitable eh??

So on the last day I did. Despite it being 6th-ish day on I was still feeling good (El Altico's light dinners, wee drams of red wine and comfy beds no doubt), and went for a "mild at the grade" F7a+ - vertical face climbing with cranky positive moves between shakes, all in cool dry conditions, should be perfect for me. Needless to say I came nowhere near it, during the end of the crux sequence I just managed to clip a bolt before fingers uncurled in extremis. There was a slight user error that I'd climbed through the crux past the bolt and had to pause awkwardly to clip it, but pulling back on revealed sketchy and slopey moves to the top, I'd have had to be very lucky to have done it. Julie pissed it on top-rope despite being apparently too tired to climb anything. Whatever the strong midget.

Which made me think of my track record of F7a+s:

Axe Grinder, Creag Nan Cadhag - skin of teeth bouldering with bellowed encouragement from Tat himself. I was very pleased. Felt like a step up.
The One And Only, Brin - this might have gone down to hard 7a, whatever, tell that to someone who gives a shit. I was fully slapping for holds well above the bolt as I couldn't clip the one next to me. Soft but the experience was good.

Puss 26, South Africa - I think this is the name, it was at some tufa-y limestone crag and it's the one I'm most gutted about as it was an amazing route up steep tufas and an animal related name. Far too pumped and maybe not confident enough.
Aphrodite, Kalymnos - too hard a bloc crux, not much to say really.
Alexis Zorbas, Kalymnos - sheer crozzly cranking and not a Kaly soft touch (which I generally didn't do there). Ridiculously close, fell re-adjusting on the pocket after the crux. Cue much swearing and tantrum. Thanks JadeL for collecting my shoes after. This one should have gone.
The Seer, Moy Rock - attempted after warming up on Hoy's South Face route a few days before. Fell off with fingers and feet tied in knots on small pebbles. Could have gone, but quite chancy.
Persistence Of Vision, Dumbarton - put off for years until I was climbing well. No chance really, it's just very tricky and fall-offable. Funny that, at Dumby...
High Pitched Scream, Weem - put off for years until I was climbing well. The guidebook description and occasional downgrade are both goatshit, it is nails. If I'd spent a month training specifically on the GCC and Ratho steep walls I might have stood a chance, maybe.
Sulaco, Pena Roja - see above.

Okay I don't know what to conclude from that. Don't try Scottish ones as they are nails apart from the only 1 or 2 I've done are Scottish?? It all feels a bit like my approach to indoor problems and routes, the line between "finding this hard but can flash it" and "no fucking chance" seems a very slim one. I can usually do stuff in 1, 3, or 70 attempts. The edge of my comfort zone is a funny old place, I wonder if I need a passport and do they use Euros on the other side or just accept your soul as currency??