Thursday, 22 January 2015

Plan B.(loc)

Apparently the weather is quite decent down in Peaks/Yorks at the moment - and it makes the snow dumped all over the crags look quite pretty. The gales forecast next week might wipe it away a bit with rain as well as wiping another week's chances of actually getting down there and climbing any grit.

Instead of sulking I've been errr sending. Or smashing, or whatever it is the kids of today do. Climbing small lumps of rocks above large stacks of pads anyway. Some of these lumps of rocks have been larger and some of the stacks of pads have felt smaller, too. And most of them have felt good training for technique, determination, and regular skin loss, as well as being rather fun...

Back Bowden:

Sheltering from the wind with Stevie. It was blowy as fuck man at Hazelrigg Wall and pretty mellow on the boulders beneath the Tube. I had lots of ideas and desires here and carefully timed them so I had 30 mins on each project, just enough to get demoralised and move onto the next with similarly no success. The only exceptions were Magic Leap - I hate dynos, this is a complete sandbag and totally misdescribed in the guide ("small but positive holds" - where? "crimp/sidepull" - what? "F6A+" - oh just shut up.), but it is also brilliant as it's not hurtling ineffectually on big holds but instead teetering and falling upwards on rubbish holds. Improbable and fun. The other exception was Mantle Underclass which was more like 30 attempts to failure rather than 30 mins. Still that was better than Mantle Masterclass which I can't imagine ever being possible for my physique. MU I could imagine doing after many hours effort, pretty standard for a F6B. Grades my sweaty RING.


Headed down with the McNair and a car full of chatty young things. God knows how we all crammed in but it saved me an hour of driving and meant there was adequate paddage for anything that was desired. Apart from poor Niall who we left on his own to crush some 7C/8As while we bimbled around. I laid Transformer to rest after discovering that I'd been previously trying the much harder RH version. Then spent about 20 goes being unable to lank Y Front Left-Hand (""6B+"") before doing Dog Eat Dog ("7A" going on steady 6C) in 3 goes. Grades my KNOBEND. The latter was pretty satisfying though especially for the amount of trad-style slapping and grinding at the top.


A few years ago I walked to this sheer quarried wall in the Galloway hills and rapidly walked away, dismissing it as too high and too blank. It turns out is is the former but not the latter, as just recently some dude called Fletch put up a nu-skool classic 6C(!) highball. So we had to go and repeat it the next day after the first ascent. It delivers as much as it promises and makes Physical Graffiti at Dumby feel like a lowball ladder of crimps. I managed to scrape up it after some scary goes, but knocked a jutting finger nubbin off at the top, and left a slightly crumbly hold (the rest of the slab is immaculate), so will have to go back and stabilise that hold to keep it's classic status.

Carrock Fell:

N.B. I didn't manage this little horror yet, I'll be back...

Finally to ensure that all finger skin is suitable brutalised, we went on a little tour of Carrock. A few steady classics like Captain Kirk, Kit's Arete and Terrace Wall led us up to Stratosfear following the highball psyche, which turned out to be no match for the snowy slope on top of the problem, so we turned down the snowy slope back to the road and finished with a thorough burnout on Left Wall. This is eliminate, morpho, and a complete sandbag on vicious holds, yet somehow is intriguing and entertaining for all that grimness. I eventually found a cunning short person's sequence, caught the top jug, adjusted my hand and slipped off and never reached the lip again. CUNTFLAPS. I'll be back....I might be back into this bouldering malarkey...

(most photos from Mr Weir.)

The scenery has been quite nice in it's winter plumage too:

Saturday, 10 January 2015

I can't believe it's not grit.

And at any rate you wouldn't want to spread it on toast. My grit psyche is still high, almost as high as the winds, humidity, and rainfall probability which is preventing any trips South of the Wall. So as a plan B I went bouldering on the next best thing: Shaftoe in Northumberland, which is as grit as grit is, in fact more grit than some grit. Plus it's rather good despite being an epic gruelling slog down the A68 to get there. Anyway, the weather was great, we warmed up in the sun, did a few steeper problems in the breeze, then as the wind and cloud came over took advantage of truly perfect conditions in the ravine to finally do a previous nemesis problem, the frictional slimper delight of Smooth Wall:

Stevie was getting some nice shots with his GoPro so here are a few of those (slightly fucked by Googles auto-photo-fucker of course):

Mmmmm slopers.

Prior to this and prior to 2015 appearing out of nowhere, I did actually get down to the grit grit, including amongst other places Almscliff, the most overrated crag in Yorkshire that people only go to because it's the quickest drying crag in the entire UK. I have a love/hate relationship with it: Some of the routes and problems are pretty cool, but the relentless hordes and unforgivable sin of giving the distinctly medicore arbitrary link-up semi-route Great Western 3 stars leave a disinterested taste in my maw. I also seem to end up there in slightly iffy weather due to having been drizzled off elsewhere, thus making the bouldering feel even grimmer than usual. On the other hand this was not the case the other week, when the weather was truly magnificent and the inspiration to rattle off a few short and thuggy routes was high. I didn't do anything that hard (Whisky Wall turning out to be a steady E2 with bomber gear without the spurious side-runners, but fun and unusually positive pocket-pulling), but I did get cranking pretty readily despite having a week off with a tweaky shoulder over Christmas.

Whisky Wall :

Clematis : Actually quite burly and good value.

 I was climbing with spragglerocks from UKC. She had an adorable Labrador called Dexter who was the best-behaved crag dog I've met, so here's some photos of him.

Before the Almscliff day I had a pre-match warm-up at the Hunter Stones. Jonboy, Cofe and Big Hands were there on the Hunter's Roof thing, Jon did with the customary power squeak. I did this nice V3 arete instead.

Friday, 9 January 2015

A Grit Game

So let's play a game Fiend. The purpose is simple, the concept is simple. Winning the game....may be difficult.

Purpose: To do some really cool grit climbs I'd have been intimidated by trying to apply the confidence and experience I've gained in Scotland to the gritstone, and thus seeing how well I've improved generally.

Concept: Climb more Peaks/Yorks grit E3s/E4s/6as in 2 seasons (2013/14 & 2014/15) than I did in 8 years living in Sheffield.

(N.B. I've changed a few grades to reflect reality...)


9 E4s (The Brush Off, The Knock, Moonwalk, Calvary, The Strangler, The Phantom, Pillar Of Judgement, Acid Drop, Demon Rib)

29 E3s (Big Greeny, The Flakes, Fat Chance, Hallmark, Jelly Ache, Boothill, Ignis Fatuus, Exit, Party Animal, Reprieve, Down To Earth, The Crocodile, Waterloo Sunset, Impossible Slab, In Off, Wall End Slab Direct, Ashes, Parallel Piped, Charm, Iron Road, Ascent Of Man, San Melas, The Swan, Chalkstorm, Apaloosa Sunset, Crystal Voyager, Autumn Wall (not E4, steady for E3), Gypfast (ditto), Jetrunner (ditto))

9 6as (The Knock, Moonwalk, Calvary, Big Greeny,  Jelly Ache, Down To Earth, Ascent Of Man, Crystal Voyager, Jetrunner)

(not counting: 3 E3s 94-97 (Long Johns Slab, Great Slab, High Flyer))


3 E4s (Stanleyville, Constipation, Thumper)

7 E3s (Four Pebble Slab, The Beautician (not E4, solid E3), DIY, Lazy Day, Hunky Dory, Sinister Rib, Weaver's Wall)

3 6as (Constipation, DIY, Lazy Day)

Which means I have to do:

6 E4s
22 E3s
6 6as maybe 4 months...

In my favour:
- Almost all my recent forays on gritstone have given me confidence and I seem to be able to rattle off routes fairly rapidly.
- With everything now clearly documented in great definitive guides, there are literally hundreds of routes that inspire me, covering every style and climatic condition.
- Even when the weather gets warmer, there are still many exposed / shady venues that have inspiring routes.
- I don't have much inspiring me elsewhere in the country so can focus well on this idea.
- Many places I want to visit are boring trade honeypots, so it should be easy to find people to climb with.
- Northumberland and grit bouldering is a good way to keep on the boil when the weather prevents a proper trip.

Stacked against me:
-- I now live 4 hours from the grit rather than 10 minutes.
-- So far in 2015 the weather seems to be utterly fucking abysmally atrocious.

As I say....a simple game....but maybe very hard to win....All the determination in the world counts for nothing with a forecast like this.


Thursday, 8 January 2015


Thankfully my New Year's resolutions don't include timely and prompt blog updates. Actually, they don't include much of interest but it's useful for me to write them down as a reference. Possibly like last year, I've learnt as much from what I've been doing right as from I've been doing wrong or not doing - some of these are of the "keep doing this, it works" ilk. Others are common sense. If only I could apply that more regularly.

Have many more trips abroad.
- Really missed out on this last year, I feel undernourished for exploration and new venues! Hell I'd even take Euro-limestone at the moment.

Climb South of the border.
- I've done enough in Scotland and don't have many inspirations left apart from a few odds and sods. I enjoyed getting back down last year, so I'm getting more psyche for other stuff around the UK: More on the grit in winter, and more in Mid-Wales, South West, and North Wales come spring and summer.

Keep training throughout the year - wall, gym, active rest.
- This has worked well for me, I haven't noticed much climbing improvement apart from a bit better core tension, but I have felt good keeping up with the training and I'm sure the benefits are there.

Do more stretching.
- The one bit of training I don't really do apart from in between warm-ups at the bouldering wall. I should do more as I'm sure I could benefit from it, injury-prevention and flexibility-wise.

Try falling practise on gear outdoors.
- I'm now feeling generally comfortable with regular falling practise indoors, but I still feel a bit wary outdoors. Not due to the protection situation, but more the variety of fall zones and fall directions. I think practising a bit outdoors could help translate that comfort and give me more confidence.

Get going earlier in the morning.
- I'm rubbish at this, and it means I end up rushing around and/or missing out on good climbing days. I just need to get started earlier.

Start more trips in the evening to be ready the next day.
- Similar to above. I struggle to motivate myself for a long drive in the dark evenings, but it's more efficient and climbing-beneficial to get it out of the way then, get a decent night in a hostel and a decent start the next day.

Make clearer and firmer plans esp. with disorganised partners.
- I'm rubbish at organisation anyway, and need to improve on that in general, and try to make firmer plans even if I have to change or cancel them due to the weather, rather than waiting to see what happens and then not making any plans. I need to do this even more so with some good partners who are a bit haphazard too!

So there we go. Simple and fairly mundane - unlike actually putting them into practice. But I'll try...

Sunday, 28 December 2014

The year in numbers.

Just because. This year I've mostly failed on exploration, trips away, and new venues, but I have done a good variety of Scottish and Northern England stuff, and maintained a fairly pleasing standard. The hardest things I've done in order:

Wheels Of Fire E4 6a *** (Bowderstone Crag)
Exquisite wall-climbing with wild reachy slapping way out from gear. Exhilarating.

Masterspy E4 6a *** (Wilton 1)
Action packed sketching with two hard cruxes. Rewarding.

Thelonius E4/5 6a/b *** (Mungasdale)
A long term ambition over several visits. Wonderful climb with a very hard bouldery start and great jug-hauling above.

First Of Class E4 6a ** (Far Hill Crag)
Really good, bold committing face climbing that I really had to go for it on.

Strangeways E4 6b ** (Reiff)
Great climbing with positive cranking, the crux is placing gear without blocking holds, I outwitted that by placing a wire that fell out as I went passed it!

Boxed E4 6a *** (Mull)
More great positive cranking, really good steep climb that I had to use all my reserves of determination on.

Scorched Earth E4 6a * (Burnt Crag)
Well-named on a hot Easter day. Wild and weird, squirming into a groove then leaping for a jug ledge in front of a some amused Lakes old-timers "did you see that? he fookin jumped for it! move of t'day, that!"

Sunshine Superman E4 6a * (Meikle Ross)
Fiercely thin greywacke slabbing with a very precarious crux. Very cool even if my feet didn't forgive me until the next day.

Inquisition E4 6a *** (Reecastle)
Typically brilliant Reecastle face climbing, two cruxes, one bold and one wild and goey. Maybe ran it out a bit too much, but lovely route.

Instant Muscle E4 6a ** (Diabeg)
Good but surprisingly hard slab climbed on a beautiful November day. Had to really go for it.

Ambalite E4 6a ** (Iron Crag)
Marble Staircase's scarier twin, still delectable but even bolder and more intricate. Good headgames!

Wee One E4 6a * (Glen Nevis)
 (Up from E3). Fierce and continuous bouldering to an on/off final crux. 6m of every move being 6a!

Snorting Quack E4 6a ** (Mull)
So many RPs to fiddle in, so little time. Not the usual Ardtun crack romp, quite intricate indeed.

Wet Pussy E4 6a ** (Craig Stirling)
Atypical Aberdeen schist - easy to protect and not a gruelling pumpfest, instead a technical delight with a very committing and thoughtful crux.

Mingy Metro E4 6a * (The Souter)
(Up from E3). Testing, brutally hard to place crucial RPs and sliders. Very good climbing though.

Marble Staircase E4 6a *** (Iron Crag)
Good value bold and committing wall-climbing. Delectable.

Dry Grasp E4 6a *** (Falcon Crag)
Fantastic wall-climbing in a fantastic position, postive cranking with with a bold start, switch brain off and bravery on.

Stand and Deliver E4 6a ** (Gruinard Crag)
(Down from E5 and steady for E4). Great face climbing high on the crag and quite amenable with a bit of go for it.

The Smouldering E4 6a * (Glen Coe)
A hidden gem with a steady but thin crux and a lonely wall above. Quite similar to many Lakes climbs I did.

Edge Of Insanity E4 5c ** (Glen Croe)
Never has a ladder of jugs felt so committing or exposed! Easy once you've done it, but space-walking.

Fever Pitch E4 6a ** (Dumbarton)
Also fairly easy once you've done it, but it doesn't feel like it looking down at the RPs beneath your feet after the goey crux! A grand line and a great trad feel.

Clementine Variant E4 6a ** (Dome Butress)
Outwitting the filthy and lethal central section with a small detour, but still technical and elegant low down and scary high up. An underrated crag.

Lorelei  E4 5c ** (Loch Tollaidh)
Another beautiful slab. Reasonably steady, reasonably protected, consistently great climbing on great rock.

Velvet Glove E4 6a *** (Limekilns)
Neil said it was easy, I didn't believe him and pretended it was hard, until I just did it the easy way. Less of a crack thrash, more of a fun jug romp.

Thumper E4 5c *** (Eastby)
Quintessential E4 5c head-games. Delicate crux at 10m, good gear at 5m. Classic!

Frustration E4 5c *** (Glen Shian)
(Down from E5 and steady at E4). Beautiful climb up a beautiful slab. As good as bold crimpy slabs get!

Armalite E4 5c ** (Raven Crag)
A weaving romp up a nice wall. Full of surprisingly good holds and unsurprisingly good moves. Really pleasant.

Noble Savage E4 5c ** (Ardmair)
Felt rather scary as an E3 warm-up, worth it's upgrade. Okay but not the usual Ardmair calibre.


And the hardest things I haven't done, in order:

Pockets Of Excellence E5 6a ** (Glen Croe)
A bit damp, a bit unclimbed, a bit fucking hard and blind. Did the first crux to the big and wet pocket, then no idea above.

Run From Home E5 6b * (Glen Nevis)
Nails razor-crimping past one BD 0 offset? Ran out of psyche for that.

??? E5 6a *** (North Yorks)
Fierce crack, good but hard, bad conditions, bad wrist.

Blade Runner Direct E4 6a *** (Auchinstarry)
Did all the hard/bold climbing on the direct (which is easier than the higher crux of the original), did the higher crux and fell of the final tricky bit I'd done before as part of Nijinski. Too warm weather but still ARSE!

The Pugilist Dir E4 6a *** (Floor's Craig)
Climbing was piss easy and very good. Placing the crux cam was horrible and desperate. Waste of good moves.


A few things I can note about this list:

  • A lot of the harder routes I've done have been really solid at the grade, maybe half of them in total, and few are regarded as the upper limit.
  • I've done a couple of so-called 6bs on lead and they have felt like 6a.
  • I've done quite a lot in the Lakes and despite the Lakes reputation for hard grades, the routes have been spread very equally through the list.
  • Out of all those hardest routes, almost all of them have been really enjoyable and satisfying, with only a very few being not quite pleasurable enough (Mingy Metro awkward gear), Clementine Variant (dirty), Noble Savage (pokey)).
That's all for now.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Slipping it in.

This winter season I've been inspired to focus on the gritstone, because there's lots of it, there's great new guides, I feel pretty confident after another decent trad year, and it should be a bit more feasible logistically than Scottish winter cragging.

There may be a high correlation between that decision and the weather being relentlessly cunting awful.

I think this is the worst start to the grit season I can ever recall. Sure there have been a few decent days - sandwiched between storms, showers, and continuous rain - and very rarely adjacent enough to warrant a trip down. My browser is getting worn out refreshing the Metoffice forecast for Skipton and Hathersage, although it is forecast to be glorious on Christmas Day. When I will be in London. Fucking arse!

Actually it's got to the stage of putting up with ludicrously inefficient and expensive single day trips down, albeit only as far as the most Northerly crags e.g. Slipstones.

So we headed down on a rare day of amazing conditions with the plan to warm-up gently, do some highballs and soloing and maybe the odd lead if it was warm enough, or some harder frictional bouldering if it was cold enough. It turns out that conditions were a bit too amazing and the wrong way round - the bouldering end was just sheltered enough to be warm, the routes end was just exposed enough to be bloody freezing. And I forgot that the sheer clean grit of Slippys was generally steep and the seemingly positive crimps were generally cruel on the fingertips. It's a beautiful grit there but a strange sort of grit. Still it was good fun and I got inspired for more action there, which might happen in 2018. No complaints about the beauty of the day though:

And that's that. I might be able to sneak something in around Christmas if the weather allows. Otherwise I will be furiously considering a trip abroad as soon as possible.

Friday, 5 December 2014

The wrong side of the pebble.

I think I have improved as a climber since living in Scotland. I have more experience, more mileage on a variety of rock-types, more knowledge of dealing with climbing outside of my comfort zone, more tricks and tactics to use, more confidence due to falling practise, more ability to crank through moves in lead, more awareness of climbing challenges and how to deal with them.

However. I'm not any taller and my skin isn't any less sweaty and I don't have any more ability to hit the ground and bounce rather than break.

So when I go back down to the gritstone and expect to apply all I've learnt and all I've improved at, it's not necessarily going to mean SHIT. Sure last winter I had a pretty good trip at exactly this time, but the luck-based scrittle is as fickle as it is frictional and rounded and success and confidence on one trip / day / route / move is no guarantee of the next. This was well demonstrated on our Stanage day when I spent longer on the single crux move of Count's Wall (HVS/E1) than I did on the entire route of Counterblast (E2/3). Rhyme or reason?? None at all. After a couple of sketchy days I did manage something cool that reminds why grit is worth persisting with, Thumper @ Eastby:

 Still too warm despite being -2'C in the shade at the car.

Run out like a trout.

 Aside from that, this mini-trip was hampered by various things including too much driving, some poor route choices (morpho shite like Dracula) and some slightly poor conditions (thick clart on a first Eastby visit, dank top-outs at Crow Crag). So I've learnt a few things for next time:

  • Minimise driving around.
  • Be wary of under-climbed routes.
  • Have plenty of back-up routes at crag.
  • Have some technical warm-ups / problems.
  • Plenty of stuff to keep feet clean.
  • Long sling for quicker abseiling for gear.
  • Start earlier in the morning if possible.
  • More stretching.
  •  Don't pick morpho routes.
The few glimmers of success and trusting smears have maintained the psyche to go back down as soon as possible too. If the weather allows. Despite being better than the West of Scotland, it doesn't always end up looking like this...(sorry I can't upload that photo here as Googles fucking disgracefully awful intrusive photo enhance shit utterly ruins it even if I pre-tweak the saturation down.)