Saturday, 29 August 2015

Young And Easy And Under The Apple Boughs.

A surprisingly pleasant "breather", this line is not as crumbly as it appears, and is outside of the day's mould, remaining unseen amongst the creations of it's grand neighbours. Left as an oddity and ungrabbed by attention, it seemed to "spring in" when ready, and rang with the pleasure of those promising, blissful days of May.

This John Redhead is a cunt

There is a certain pleasure in doing a route that has, even to a small degree, a mark of the man. A Dawes grit route, a Pritchard Gogarth wobble-fest, a Smith roof or crack (or usually both), a Crocker sea-cliff line, a Fowler chossheap, a Bob Smith heinous highball... Of course I am far too bumbly for almost all of these, but occasionally something "outside of the day's mould" slips through the net of truly big numbers and is accessible to the masses. YAEAUTAB (jeez!) is one of a solitary handful of routes in ...And One For The Crow that I am actually capable of, the second one I have done, and an inspiration that was solely due to the book and photo. It definitely felt outside of the day's mould for slate, being a very trad experience with committing climbing above spaced gear - no bolts, crimps nor rockovers in sight.

Something else very much outside of the day's mould is this (although given the quality and accessibility of the crag, it shouldn't be!):

(photo: Terry Taylor)

Diamond Eliminate, at Bird Rock. One of the finest truly roadside adventures in the whole of Wales. If you can cope with the 1 minute uphill walk in, the Diamond face of The Bastion towers over you, gently overhanging for 45m. Steady juggy bold-ish E2 5b climbing neatly sandwiches a committing E4 5c crux on slopers past a definitive "cluster of bollox" gear selection, and leads to a fine summit experience at the apex. Typically for me this was an 8 year inspiration, following a showery recce in 2007, and typically it turned out to be a highly enjoyable experience under the watchful eye of local guru TT  - alas not one of his routes though, but I'm sure I'll do more of those soon.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Shock Of The New

...again. A trip to Wales without going to Rhinnogs is like a curry without a Cobra, a cappucino without an extra coffee shot - something essential is missing. And I don't mean Rhinnogs in the miserly token-gesture bandwagon-jumping Rockfax micro-coverage. Admittedly Lechau Mawr and Y Grisau are superb crags, but such limited plum-picking and honey-potting is quite contrary to the spirit of exploration in the area as well as a disservice to those developing and documenting it.

The days out I've had recently have been proper Rhinnogs days - hosted by the foremost developer and documentor, the legendary Terry Taylor, and accompanied by fellow enthusiast The Pylon Kunt....and naturally such days include new routing as well as second ascents. The lengths have been short, in keeping with the gritstone stature, but the quality has been high and the potential, around the Cwm Nantcol area, highly impressive. I've ended up doing two of the best new routes I've done:

The Bilberry Hunter E4 6a ** 10m
A good climb with a bold start and bouldery finish, and good cams in-between. Spring onto the first rail just right of (E4 5c), carefully gain the first break and then the second break on satisfying holds. A thoughtful crux on layaways leads to the finishing jug.
(named after the third man, who was easily distracted by local flora)

TT has numerous E5-ish projects at this short steep crag, but hadn't even spotted this line properly until he abbed down while I was repeating a neat new E2. He had a quick play on a top-rope but there were too many sidepulls for his tweaky elbow. I decided to have a quick look, quickly realised it was rather cool, gave it a good scrub, got the top dialled, and shot up it in a flurry of headpoint gaylordness. Not a style I'm familiar so it's hard to judge the grade, but the quality and balance of the pitch were still obvious.

Whillans Crack "HVS 5b" ***
Precisely named, with a grade as traditional as the line. The magnificent cleft delivers everything it promises, small cams and large nuts protect.

Same valley, same guru, different day, different crag....very different climb. Somewhat tired and somewhat midged to death (I'd got complacent about the relatively tame Welsh midges and left the repellant behind), TT had already retreated, PK was soaking in the atmosphere, but I couldn't resist this fantastic fissure. What one route would Brown and Whillans done if they'd visited? Exactly. I topped out giggling with my left arm covered in cuts and grazes. Hosey, your time!

Also quite a cool line but not in the same class:

Word Of Pain E3 5c **
Likely to be uttered if you fall off. The right side of the sharp arete is serious but steady after a tricky start. From blocks place high tiny RPs, pull onto the arete and make difficult extended moves to good holds up right. More RPs possible, then climb gracefully up the positive arete with no further gear.

This is the right hand side of PK's Dark Orgasm pillar (itself an undeniable classic, visible from literally miles away). Great line, slightly unbalanced climbing, a cool hard crux with 1 HB zero next to your face and a jagged block below. Above that, delightful and easy. Unfortunately the camera decided to stop taking shots and missed the funky final reach with the last proper gear being just above my hand, and only a poor taped on skyhook above.

Incidentally before this we revisited the site of my Careless Orc mini-classic that I'm still bemused why it wasn't considered worthy of a North Wales Bouldering mention, and I'm pleased to say it 1. Hasn't fallen over and 2. Still looks really cool and inspiring.

Finally, here's a second ascent of a TT E4 6a, very much the spiritual twin of The Bilberry Hunter (similar height, similar steepness, also crux at the top, also on the lowest tier of a 3 tier crag system in the Nantcol pass...quite uncanny). Had to fight at the top of this which was nice:
The wall to the right has 3 E2-ish things in a row up obvious flakes, then 2 VS-ish things at the far end. There's another half a dozen routes to the left, a comfy bilberry base, and nice clean tops.

And the Lleyn looks like this from Cwm Nantcol...

Friday, 14 August 2015

Slate Of The Art.

 The next day's target, taken from Cwm Glas Bach.

 Making some Tentative Decisions like "Shall I decide to do this move and risk falling off, ripping 5 bits of shit gear I've got pretty boxed placing, and take a 10m lob past the lone bolt??"


 Wanna fuck with these goats?? Nah, didn't think so.

 You talking to me, motherfucker?!

Keeping busy whilst Coel is threading lower-offs...

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Snowdon Shower-dodging.

I've decided to spend a longer period in North / Mid Wales to try to do some of the many and varied climbs that inspire me down there. This has exactly coincided with a longer period of utterly dire weather and one of the worst "summers" the region has seen.  So for the moment the deeper desires of The Pass, The Rhinnogs, The Moelwyns, and Arennig Fawr have been put on a very reluctant hold, in favour of the mostly inferior but mercifully extensive wet weather options of The Slate, The Lime, and hopefully The Quartzite and The Lleyn. I hadn't fully warmed up for the latter so haven't actually tackled  Rhoscolyn nor South Stack nor Craig Doris yet, but have had a few fun days out and even a couple of hours bouldering squeezed onto the tail end of a showery snowdonia shitfest:

 The classic Dali's Hole hut, as surreal as ever. The room I'm renting in Bangor is a bit more upmarket than this, but only a little bit... This was after a very nice afternoon on the Railtrack Slab, with a total of 183 crimps and 57 rockovers used.

 Bouldering at Drws Y Coed after it had showered most of the day and we'd escaped to some minor sport climbing on Anglesey. After this neat problem I hooned over to Ogwen and just managed to squeeze in Bombshell at the Milestone Boulders, see below.

Sunset from Hornby Crags on the Great Orme. A fairly newly revamped sport sector with a lot of good 6s in an atmospheric and secluded location. We did 6 in an evening which was good mileage.

Video of bouldering:

 Pleased to get Bombshell done as on first acquaintance it seemed I wouldn't be able to do the move to the lip, nor the crux span from the back, and even if I hyopthetically did, I would need more pads and spotters given the weird landing. A bit of dicking around later and I had it all worked out, including using my beanie to plug up a seepage line.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Cornwall Photos.

Cue 3 hours of fighting with blogger as it relentlessly tries to fuck up the order, spacing, text and every other damn thing it can with photo uploads....

 Wiki Wiki Wheels @ Aire Point, after trying Spitfire for a while and realising it was more like E3 6b and utterly horrible. This was a much nicer route with some cool moves into and out of this crack and onto funky jug veins. Great location for a crag although a bit crystally.

 Crucial Rock 5 (actually a Wallnut 5, what sort of neanderthal do you think I am?) on Finesse @ St Loy. Had to carefully move this wee bugger to get the wire in, and again on abbing down to get it out - got some really dirty looks each time. Finesse was one of the best experiences of the trip, it all went super-smoothly despite a muggy day, and despite a "do I really want to do this?" moment on the psychological crux (Pedriza 5+ move with the only gear in the last 10m being the infamous "wire loop over a crystal"), I felt the sort of wonderful confidence I've missed this year.

  Dogs Befriend The Inventor Of The Sausage Lottery @ The Lizard. Any guesses why I wanted to do this route?? I like dogs and I like sausages (and obviously I like sausage dogs). It turns out the route is even better than the name, being particularly exciting and dramatic for it's size - a continuous battle of insecure jams, laybacks and small feet. Really nice to do such a sparkling hidden gem.

 Hostile Witness @ Bench Tor. Stanage-like trade route, but bloody great for all that.

All smiles at Levan's Wall :)

Midnight Express @ Levan's Wall. Good line, good route, quite pokey at the grade though, with fiddly gear and spaced holds.

 Devil's Meridian @ Levan's Wall. A real classic this, better overall than Bermuda Wall, with a good line and continuously interesting and thoughful crack climbing.

 Bermuda Wall @ Levan's Wall. Not quite as balanced as DM - it's a bit of a sketchy E3 5c with thin gear to start into a classic E0 for most of it - but I can't argue with 3 stars for the line alone. Went for a great pub meal in the Old Success @ Sennen Cove after this.

 Silver Shadow @ Carn Vellan. Nope Carn Vellan is not just about bolt controversies and E10s etc etc. It's got a load of great E2-3s on an impressive but pretty amenable face, with a great chill-out area beneath the cave. You do need to get the tides and sun right though, low tide to access most routes and afternoon sun to dry the rock. This had plenty of both especially the sun and I reached the top with my eyes stinging from sweat!

 Hot Rubber @ Carn Vellan, timed to get the shade but it turns out to be almost a grade easier than Silver Shadow rather than harder, so it wasn't needed, but at least reduced the heatstroke a bit... I'm really pleased with the light on the first photo, and the last photo shows the face well. I've got a few things to go back for, I really like the Killas :). This was after a morning at Pedn Kei, a great day out overall.

Monday, 13 July 2015


It's an absolute delight to revisit old haunts with a new perspective, especially an area such as Cornwall with it's delightfully all-pervasive sea-cliff atmosphere. This distant peninsula is one of the best areas to immerse oneself in the coastline and feel the power of the sea and the contrast of the rocks, and I've enjoyed visiting and climbing there regularly but sporadically over the last two decades. The 9 (or 11 with the bollox traffic between Stoke and Somerset) hour drive is a slog, but a return visit was very welcome, despite various false starts with tides, approaches, failed recces and fractured radiators. In the end I got some pleasant climbing done, with a particular emphasis on avoiding Rockfax honeypots (ensuring that when I head back down with anyone keen for the usual Sennen / Bosi bollox, I still have plenty to do there). Nothing particularly progressive, but I felt I was climbing slightly better on the granite and killas than before, and certainly with more inspiration than recent months.

Cornwall Ticklist:

Brownspear Point:

Parallel Flow E1 5b * - a bit awkward and flakey.
Tetrapod E3 6a ** - hard and sketchy, good though.
Madam Sixtoes E2 5c * - quite hard but cool climbing.

The Flame:

Crazy from the Heat E1 5b ** - well-named, boiling in the evening sun, good value, committing.
The Wick E1 5b * - done after backing off the E3 (scary E4), not bad.
Local Hero E2 5c * - good stuff, nicely balanced.

Pedn Kei West:
Linda's Choice E2 5b ** (***) - excellent, rambly line but great adventure, climbing, and positions.
Flying Finish E3 5c * (E3 6a **) - hard, shredded my ribs on the crux, rewarding tho.

Carn Vellan:
The Blimp E2 5b * (**)  - good value, quite continuous and a great finish.
Silver Shadow E3 5c ** (***) - really good, fine line and positions, boiling in the sun so hard crux.
Hot Rubber E4 5c ** (E3 5c *) - easy, nice, not as continuous as other routes here.

Aire Point:
Biggles Flies Undone Direct E2 5b * (E1 5a*) - quite nice, main flake was the best bit
Dick Dastardly E2 5b (E2 5c *) - pretty stiff, hard roof, interesting arete above.
Wiki Wiki Wheels E3 6a (E3 6a **) - steady but really nice, well balanced and cool rock features.

Levan's Wall:
Bermuda Wall E3 5c *** - great line, pokey start and steady after, good voyage
Devil's Meridian E2 5c ** (***) - better climbing than above, strong line and good crack climbing.
Midnight Express E1 5b ** (E1 5c **) - quite hard, good value.

Cribba Head:

Kerynack E1 5b (E1 5b *) - thin start, nice above, worthwhile.
Boysen's Crack E2 5c (E1 5b *) - steep, steady, good fun.
Boysen's Groove E2 5c ** (E3 6a **) - desperate, Curbar 5c at least, satisfying battle.

St Loy:
Finesse E4 5c ** - absolutely delight, two good pitches, bold but felt easy, could have done more.
Monochrome Men E1 5b ** - very good, continuous quality.
Scarlet Women Direct  E2 5c * (E2 5c **) - ditto!

The Lizard:

Seagulls Draw The Line E1 5c (E2 5c *) - fierce committing start, nice finish.
Dogs Befriend The Inventor of The Sausage Lottery E3 5c ** (E3 6a ***) - excellent, as good as short routes get, fine line and a fine battle.
Aboriginal Sin E3 5c ** (E2 5b **) - easy but great fun on good holds.

Bench Tor:
Hostile Witness E2 5c *** - proper classic, really cool.
Hotshot E3 6a * (E2 5c *) - steady, neat, worthwhile.

Helman Tor:
Hell's Tooth E1 5b (E1 5c*) - good value with plenty of interest.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Climber's assessment report:

Must try harder. A lot harder.

As per the previous update, I've been out a bit, and I've climbed a bit. I can unhappily say that I am getting pretty good at doing E2s competently.

E2 is not a grade, it is an admission of failure. E2 is not climbing, it's just bad beta the crag approach walk. E2s are not routes, they are at best a mundane part of the warm-up procedure, as forgettable as swinging your arms around or traversing the crag base.

I suppose there is something to be said for smooth, fluid competency. That something being that is gets a bit boring after a while. I still miss the spark of trying hard, hence the teacher's report above. Except I'm my own teacher and pupil, I'm giving the lessons but am I learning my lesson? Not so effectively when I'm in the wrong classroom and the most educational subject matter is many hours away. I've got some plans to rectify that, heading South for a bit, then hopefully heading West for a bit. Maybe both at once.

P.S. One thing I have realised, due to recently and still annoying near misses, is that I am, of course, weak. No, genuinely this time. I'd fooled myself that because I'd bouldered quite well over winter, including on some burly stuff, that I was bouldering strong. Actually, I'd spent so much time bouldering that I didn't have the skin to do any bouldering training, therefore I now realise I was bouldering well, but bouldering weak. Technique is no substitute for power and all that....