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....

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Hey, are you....

....the guy who writes that Fiend blog?? 

Errrr....depends who I've offended this time, but, errr, maybe? 

This is the second time I've been accosted at Ratho and recognised like that, AND been told that they quite enjoy reading my blog, which as before comes as a pleasant surprise. I know a few friends read it (which I understand, I'd read their shit if any of them bothered to write it) and apparently a few strangers do too. One of these days I'll find out the other half-dozen readers, hunt them down, and persuade them to stop.

In the meantime I had to apologise because my writing and updating has reflected my climbing - mundane and often shite. I'm trying to rectify that in my climbing so why not here too. The Ratho dude said he liked reading about crags so here are some crags:

Brown Band Crag, Aberdeen
One of many new developments on the coast from the evergreen Rankers who has his overly-strong fingers in the various pies that form the cragging smorgasbord - developing hardcore sport at The Fin whilst putting up VDiff sandbags here and steep power bouldering at the nearby Brown Hole crag (well it was a lot more of a brown hole when the Costa express kicked in and I had to rush off behind the rocks hur hur). Anyway BBC is very typical south coast schist shizzle, steep, breaky, good fun if you slam in the cams and keep yarding, a miserable pumpy nightmare if you stop and think for a second. I mostly got it right apart from sliding off Devo Max with my fingers a mere inch from the crucial break, pretty gutting as I really put some effort in and it would have been an essential confidence boost.

Findon Ness, Aberdeen
Findon Ness is not a new development, but the information has been newly revised in a useful topo on Neil Morrison's flickr. As always a clear topo provides fresh inspiration as much as fresh information and this was no exception. I've ended up having 4 visits there this spring - a couple greasy, a couple immaculately fresh - and I've pretty much climbed it out and enjoyed everything I've done. An very worthwhile crag for the E2-ish bumbly.

Robbie Gow's Prison, Aberdeen
As part of a semi-abortive, semi-mileage trip which included stropping at Meackie Point because the tide was coming in, being too weak to commit to routes at Harper's Wall, and running away from The Outpost, I did end up doing a couple of decent routes here. Both short, steep sandbags, but rather good with a lot of intense climbing packed in. Definitely worth combining with the more classic Hidden Treasure wall.

White Crag, Langdale
We went to Black Crag the day before but obviously you lot know what that's like and if you don't you might as well give up climbing as it is some of the most delightful short cragging on the best rock in Lakes. As part of an accessible Lakes crag easy mileage trip it would have been rude not to go to White Crag too and complete the Yin and Yang of punterdom, especially given how well these minor crags are shown and described in the impeccable new Langdale guide. Anyway I did a few warm-ups, got inspired by this steep E3 that followed a footless rail across a steep wall beneath a crucial peg to a slopey lip encounter. I got onto the rail, stretched up to clip the peg, as soon as the karabiner just touched it the peg fell out and bounced down onto my hoodie. I reversed and lowered onto a cam, we sacked it off and went home via Bramcrag Wall at the ludicrously popular Bramcrag Quarry (add bolts to any olde choss and verily the hordes will come) which I'd been putting off for a while and it turns out it's quite easy but does have some great climbing. The peg is now a doorstop in the lounge.

Moss Crag, Buttermere
Now this was a wee treasure. Umming and ahhhing over where to go in the Lakes, having got punished by the sub-heatwave-but-still-relentless sun at Raven Crag the previous day, I spotted this wee shady, seemingly accessible buttress in the guide, and managed to persuade the beastette I was with that a day of (guess fucking what??) easy mileage would be worthwhile. And indeed it was, as much for the situation as anything. The seeming accessibleness turned out to be a 45° slog that was short enough to be okay and steep enough to be decent leg training, and perched us scenically above Buttermere, the weeness was adequately compensated for by nice rock and nice lines, and the shadiness was an absolute delight of lounging in the sun and climbing in perfect conditions. The easy mileage was perhaps a bit too easy for either of us but it was just nice to be there (God I am getting soft....).

Baildon Bank, Yorkshire
I don't know how many people remember the picture of the sheer blank-looking corner of Anne Of Cleaves in the old Yorkshire Grit guide? I don't remember that clearly - possibly because I've tried to block all memories of the dire old YG guides out of my mind with their prehistoric design, insistence that Almscliff deserved to be deified, and reluctance to be dragged screaming and kicking into the 21st century of guidebooks - but I do remember it looked cool, even at a time that I doubt I would ever climb it. Fast forward a couple of decades and normally it would be a formality, this dire trad season it would be a minor challenge, and either way it would be inspiring. A sunny breezy made the Lower Quarry worth exploring and indeed it continues the quality which Baildon is renowned for, despite being grossly underused. AoC lived up to it's appearance, excellent climbing with a definitive sting-in-the-tail finish. I took faffing to a whole new level before committing to it, but it was good in the end.

I don't know how many people have seen the picture of a bold slabby-looking arete of Hergest Ridge in the new Yorkshire Grit guide? I do remember clearly - possibly because the fantastic new YG guides have firmly etched many inspirations and appealing photos in my mind. After a bit of a warm-up it seemed like a valid option and I was getting on well with the off-vertical crimpy quarried grit. Apparently I have some ability left because despite a "moment" pulling on sweaty micro-crimp sidepulls, I did the whole damn route in less time than it took me dicking around beneath the AoC finish. A small but real victory.

Hebden Gill, Yorkshire   
Another underrated gem which I recced in Autumn and realised it's steep positive climbing wouldn't suit the cold grit winter but could be great on the right sort of spring day. This wasn't the right sort of spring day, but it was almost close enough....almost. A warm-up on Crevasse Wall confirmed my suspicions that the whole wall was understarred and indeed as good as it looked, and then a fight on Performance Management confirmed that it was a bit too sweaty even for this sort of grit. I clearly needed to manage my performance a bit better as I flapped around on the crux until I skidded off a small bit of crusty rock a mere move from the crucial foothold, pretty gutting as I really put some effort in and it would have been an essential confidence boost.

Photos (Findon & Hebden):


Sunday, 24 May 2015

Half-time Score.

Climbing failures : 7 - 1 : Fiend

From my New Year's resolution list:

Have many more trips abroad. - complete fail.
None at all, none planned, feel pretty shit about this. Most of my climbing partners ask me if I've got any trips planned, I mumble a bit about "dunno" "not been organised" and feel like a dick.

Climb South of the border. - partial success.
I've done a bit, in fact most of my trips away, but still not really been to the places I really want to go, nor done the sort of climbing I really want to do. Call it a draw.

Keep training throughout the year - wall, gym, active rest. - partial success.
I've done some of this, and had my best roped successes at Ratho *CRINGE*, but also haven't kept up enough with fitness training nor therapy for my impinged shoulder, another draw.

Do more stretching. - complete fail.
None at all. Really need to do it more than ever, and really suck at motivating myself to do.

Try falling practise on gear outdoors. - complete fail.
None at all. Done some indoors but still feel scared and non-committal outdoors and need to cure that.

Get going earlier in the morning. - complete fail.
Getting even worse at this. Sleeping badly and sluggish. Missed out on entire days due to this let alone just a few hours of extra climbing.

Start more trips in the evening to be ready the next day. - complete fail.
Nope. Rubbish at this too.

Make clearer and firmer plans esp. with disorganised partners. - fail.
Nope. Missed enough days out and really feeling the minimalness of my climbing scene.

You could add "Climb well and really enjoy my climb as I usually do" to that list and get a "complete fail" too, although that's intrinsically linked to most of the above, especially the venues, exploration, and organisation.

So what have I done??

Bouldered overall better than ever over winter - success.
Deadlifting 2XBW personal best - success.
Run 20 mins / 2 miles continually with fuck all venous return - success.
Flashed Ratho F7a+ thrice in a week - success.

Taken out of context, those are pretty enjoyable and quite satisfying things. Taken in the context of myself and my desires they are somewhat overwhelmed by what I haven't done and what I'm not doing...

¿Still not sure of a way out of this rut?

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Wrong place, wrong time

Edit: Yes I know this is a shit blog post. I'm just trying to get it out of my head, God knows it's crowded enough in there already.

So far this is definitely becoming my worst trad season climbing since, well, 2011. Except I was climbing okay then, it was just the weather being almost continuously appalling between the start of May and November. Okay, so worst trad season since 2009. Except I'd only just recovered from an elbow injury then. Okay, 2008. Except that's when I actually had the elbow injury. So the worst for many years then. I've done a lot of good climbs in those intervening years, but not in this one yet. I've perfectly timed a blend of apathy, tiredness, fear and ill-confidence when the weather was good, and a reasonable amount of motivation and determination when it's been bad. I took advantage of the latter by training stamina quite well, now I am bored of that. Training is fun but it's training for something and without that something it loses it's appeal rapidly.

Throw in terrible motivation, worse organisation, utter disinterest in the little remaining local climbing, bad habits and persistent laziness, and stir it in to a vicious circle of low energy, and that's where I am now. Not the best place for a dedicated climber.

There is an inherent sense of wrongness about this for me, I haven't been abroad for over a year, I haven't explored much this year, I haven't got to grips with pushing myself - and I genuinely do miss the experience of being challenged and enjoying the journey of working it all out, and I haven't got any inspiring plans other than a weather-and-driving-scuppered "Go to Wales loads". It all feels like the wrong place at the wrong time. Scotland is great but I miss the vast amount of options available down South, both local and weekendable (God, and I used to think I'd "climbed out" the gritstone when I was down there, I should have been more grateful for 4 guidebooks of local stuff rather than half of one.) and I miss the wider-ranging climbing community and options for climbing partners. I was chatting to someone who is fully immersed in the mid-grade trad scene down there about his success getting a last minute partner....

"Easy when the weather's so good!"
 More like:

"Easy when the weather's so good and you live somewhere within on a few hours drive of loads of climbing areas and on the doorstep to many more and have built up a large circle of enthusiastic climbing partners".
Not to dismiss my good climbing friends up here, but they are quite literally few and far between, and when I sometimes get in a rut and don't communicate and organise well, I rapidly run out of options.

So anyway I am revising the North Wales Rock and Meirionydd and new Langdale guides time after time and even some of the Yorkshire Grit ones too, and not getting anything actually done - the vast amounts of positive inspiration bubbling and seething in the discordant brew that is my mental state, hopefully it will dissolve like a good strong espresso hit and overwhelm the milky blandness of apathy and negativity.

In the meantime, I have quite enjoyed going to Ratho, and I've worked out another cunning plan of trying to be less of a massive gaylord outside - warming up on the occasional local sport route redpointing session (my minimal interest in local climbing) by falling on every single bolt as part of the dogging up. A small idea but anything might help.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Radio Silence.

Not that it ever is actually silent on my radio. Whether it's one of the hundreds of DnB compilation CDs I've made, or that neat Proxima dubstep album, or digging up an old Carcass album, or getting psyched for Twisted's Darkside rave next weekend with some  Hardshock Festival gabber mixes or being thoroughly shocked when the Drum And Bass Confrontation CD I picked up for a joke in the Abington services turns out to be not a risible cheese-fest of Subfocus and Hospital Records drum'n'pop but actually a heavyweight compilation of early 2000 tech-jungle....there's always some noise on there. Sometimes enough to drown out the voices in my head, sometimes not.

Actually the quietitude of my blog is not because I don't have stuff to write about, it's because that stuff is so moany and boring it even bores me. And if I don't want to read my fucking drivel then I probably shouldn't inflict it on others (I can think of a few bloggers who should consider this too ;)). In summary, I went trad climbing, I sucked, I got a bit depressed, I frittered away some of the good weather because I was tired of driving a lot and being scared of routes, I got a bit more motivated just before the weather crapped out, and now I'm doing some focused training to depunterify.

Instead of the moaning, here's some routes I liked doing and some routes I disliked not doing recently:


The Iron Chicken E3 5c ** Buckbarrow - warmed up with sore toes and hot rock on slabbier routes. This was steeper and juggier so less painful on the feet. Went really smoothly with some great "stepping out of an airplane door" moves out left above a bulge.

Question Mark E3 6a *** Vat O' Burn - A newish route I think?  PJ told me it was fine and for once the overly strong sandbagging shark was right, it was fine. Boulder problem start was good fun, bolder finish was even more fun. Just a really good route.

Apollo E2 5c ** Curbar - Apparently this is a bit of a testpiece? I must admit there was a tiny bit of matching the handjams where I had to focus and have faith, but it went really fine. Okay I do like jamming and the 3 move crux between rests played to my recent bouldering experience, but still it was nice to do something smoothly.

The Toy + Smoke Ont'Water E2 6a ** Curbar - Not either route per se, but just the experience of doing some Curbar horrors. Both retro-flashes from 10-15 year prior failures, the sole uselessly obvious memory of "those thin cracks were fucking horrible" giving me a clean slate to try again. Thin, rounded, bad fingerjams and worse footholds, hard to place gear and harder to do the cruxes afterwards, a sort of ridiculous but rewarding experience. Neither of them quite as hard as, say, Gouther's Castration Crack E3 6a **, but neither far off.

Violation E3 6a / F6c *** Tilberthwaite - Tight groove placing gear off a bicep wedge into footless cranking to a squatting mono rest into cutting loose on a jug and a jam to rock onto a slab into a blind toe-hook onto the jug and double fin pinching to rock back into balance - sounds like typical slate yes? Pretty bonkers route for it's size and really funky stuff.

Various E2 5c routes Attermire - Again not a particular route, nor a vast amount of unbridled pleasure, but a good trad training experience of local sandbags and lactic acid soreness. Comer was quite pumpy, the grade easier Brutus was both much pumpier and had a much harder crux, and Neon Crack was even more OTT, a Curbar horror with worse gear and a sketchier finish. Battling through that lot has to be good for something, right? Nice sunset too:


Censor E3 5c *** Stanage - fiddled loads of bomber gear in the start, got well psyched, did one move up and foot slipped. Cue massive gear-throwing tantrum and 2 weeks of demoralisation.

Dextrous Hare E3 5c * Millstone - tried to warm-up going part way and downclimbing, then got back on it again. Flash-pump and numb fingers trying to get any suitable gear in before easy moves into easy corner. Lowered off with hands over head in case cams pinged out. Guidebook bullshit about RPs is bullshit, it's small cams and offsets. Crux of both grades placing gear. Fuck off.

Jealous Pensioner E4 5c * Millstone - climbed lower wall to ledge, using up crucial shothole hex in the process. Guidebook bullshit about gear at foot level because it doesn't mention it's shothole gear and nothing else so you can't use up shothole gear on the shothole-covered wall. Spent ages trying to hammer an over-large hex in, didn't like it. Moves were green, massively reachy and in the full sun. Escaped off.

Great West Road E2 5b *** - got 5m up, feet started skidding, no motivation, downclimbed and decided to give up climbing. For at least 2 hours.

Unreachable Star E3 6a * Curbar - committed to gear slot, reached up to bad smear sloper handhold, no way I could hold it let alone pull on it in +ve 'C temperatures, slumped off. Probably should have gone for the fall at least.

The Beer Hunter E3 6a * Curbar - backed off once before because it was far too windy. Backed off this time because it was not windy enough. Did all the usual faff with gear but although there was a fresh breeze on the rest ledge, as soon as I moved onto the sidewall it felt too greasy to trust the holds. Next time...

Woodland Ecology E4 5c ** Hawkcliffe - got to lower solo crux, seemed too dynamic, a bit warm, and target ramp was a bit green. Reversed a bit and jumped off safely. Landing very soft, need to go back with more time, a mate to clean it off, and a better plan of where to be spotted in case of a fall. Still thank fuck at least I didn't headpoint it like some massive UKC gaylords.

Jitterbug E3 6a ** Tilberthwaite - Looked hard, committed into flake crack, slammed in bomber wire, cranked up on a fingertip flake facing the wrong way and slate smears, and fell off inches from the jug. Kinda annoying as I did go for it and was so close.

And now:

5 x 5s on GCC auto-belays.

4 x 4s on GCC routes.

1 x 1s at Ratho.

Loads of falling practise everywhere.

Pissing around on local sport stuff to train my toes and tenacity, when it stops sleeting anyway.