Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Cold cold cold….grit grit grit.

Bloody hell it is freezing out there. Literally. What a cold snap - it’s oscillated between -2′c min and 4′c max for the last several days. Now the clouds are more present it’s proper bitter.

And I rather like it. Hard frozen ground, ice instead of puddles, permanent frost, the searing chill in the air in every breath you take in. The subtle light whether it’s the pseudo-warm glow of the arcing sun of the almost monochrome deadness of the cloudy haze. Everything is crisp and crunchy….mmmm winter. The highlight for me has been out in some woodland, watching the veins of fog-melded frost on the tree branches, tinkling off with a gust of breeze and scattering the floor with crystalline shards…

The other thing of course is OMG HARD GRIT FRICTION CONDITIONS!!! etc etc

Actually it’s a bit of a strange one. There’s a lot of frost so some places are frozen up with that and/or have hideous top-outs. The bleakness has actually made it feel too cold in other places, especially exposed to the wind - sometimes it’s hideous trying to warm up.


In the right places, once warmed up, it’s been proper good. I’ve even kept my t-shirt on! I’ve been out a couple of times bouldering in the last week, with no particular agenda other than feeling the grit - although once I’ve been out, feeling the winter has been just as important :).

I’ve been on Stanage slabs getting my footwork up to somewhere near “tolerable” (which was fun), at the Secret Garden very nearly doing the sloper traverse with little warming up (it felt great), at Gardoms doing a random one move wonder and spotting a friend lobbing off the top of the “snapball” Suavito (both good experiences), and briefly at Burbage North doing Life In A Radioactive Dustbin in a few goes with little warming up (something I’d never even looked at, but it felt good).

My current unusually chilled mode has meant I haven’t been motivated to go hard and push it with my own plans, I’ve just enjoyed hooking up with others, and randomly finding something inspiring that I hadn’t really considered before. Through all of this I have been feeling the grit. Which is nice. I’m getting into it and it feels good. The weather may not last but I’m ready to get back into it whenever, I think

Oh yeah…


Monday, 10 December 2007

A brilliant route.

From when this was on Rockfax...

Welcome Fiend. Been on any great trips recently? Had any good climbing experiences? Let us know by updating your blog using the links below.

Well it’s not recent, but it was a great climbing experience. And the rain is lashing down again so why not recount it to keep morale up….

Desolation Row E2 5b ** (note these stars must be a mis-print!) Great Zawn, Cornwall.

This wasn’t the hardest route I did all summer. It wasn’t the most rewarding, nor the most meaningful. It wasn’t a route I’d been dreaming about. It wasn’t a route that had immediately inspired me. It wasn’t something I’d really planned to do. It was just there, and so was I, and so was Doug, and so was The King later on.

It was, however, utterly brilliant.

We were all down, hanging out in Cornwall during the Indian Autumn. The Pylon King, The Pylon Queen (containing then, The Pylon Prince), Doug, myself. And of course Fairfax. I had a flying visit past Lower Sharpnose (you know, the amazing fin-like Culm sea-cliff that you walk past the RADAR DISHES and COW HERD to get to), doing routes that were for me, hard, meaningful, inspiring etc etc. So I was in chill-out mode which suited the lazy campsite vibe, basking, drinking tea, swearing, playing with the campsite slugs, watching Doug trying to beat the world pasty consumption record, and occasionally venturing out to get spanked on the Cornish granite.

So this was one of those spanking days. Doug and I had managed an alpine start sometime between brunch and afternoon tea, and were sort of milling around aimlessly for a suitable venue. I’m sure I was trying to persuade Doug we needed to go do something hard and committing with a high chance of failure and equally sure he was justifiably dragging his heels in his sly way. So we sort of ended up at The Great Zawn, Doug with aspirations towards Xanadu and myself following The King’s hunch that Desolation Row might be worthwhile.

It all looked a bit ominous from the top, which indeed is The Great Zawn sales pitch. We mused on the options and decided to abseil down for Doug to inspect Xanadu and for me to do Desolation Row to warm us both up (a curious concept given that the gearing up point was sun-baked and the zawn bed was icily clammy). Xanadu looked utterly imposing from above, and to our mutual relief, entirely sopping close up. Thus Desolation Row was the route, and I was on the lead.

What can be said about it??

I think “perfection” sums it up.

The perfection that comes from combining many great aspects with brilliant climbing, and ticking all the essential pleasure boxes, that although aspects could be improved, to do so would merely be an exercise in turning the amp up to 11, or the stars up to 4.

A long single pitch of 40m, rising from the depths of an other-worldly zawn into the afternoon sun above. A natural line of least resistance in a distinctive setting. An intricate traditional experience of boldness and thought-provoking yet reliable protection. A continuous slab of delightful delicate climbing and several mini-cruxes interspersed with good resting holds. A culmination of challenge with a committing and technical crux right at the last move.

That’s not an exaggerated sales pitch - that’s the experience I had.

(And one The King had because he cropped up and I encouraged him to lead it so I could sit belaying philosophically in the dank below.)

So there you have it, climbing at it’s best, Desolation Row, go climb it next summer.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Training, training.

The weather is shit at the moment - it’s a good thing I’m pretty relaxed about my climbing. I’m happy just to go indoors and to train a bit, although I’m sometimes being as much sociable (yes, it can happen) as I am dedicated to training.

The thing about training is: I go to indoor walls regularly, I like them, they are good fun, I like the feel of the movement and pushing my physical limits. I like leading and bouldering, getting pumped, only just being able to pull through problems.

I also try to work my weaknesses within that context as best I can. I choose reasonable angles - not too steep - with the worst holds I can use - slopers preferably as that’s my main weakness. I focus on flashing boulder problems and forcing myself to fight on the flash rather than the oh-so-tempting dropping off if it’s not going perfectly right. I try to do routes as often as I can and make sure I get pumped, either doing stuff at my limit or doubling up routes.

I don’t do pure strength stuff like campussing and dead-hanging. Nor do chill out, bimble around on easy routes and just play on boulder problems. Nor, for that matter do I do exactly what I should do to progress with the climbing I like: What I’d need to do for that would be 50% falling practise, 30% fitness training (running etc), 20% stamina route training - THAT would be precisely working my genuine inhibitive weaknesses.

So I get the feeling I am in the middle of 3 camps, none of which totally approve of my indoor style:

Relaxed social climbers would say that I’m too focused on pushing myself and grunting my way up hard stuff.

Serious hardcore trainers would say that I’m too casual and not doing anything that would actually make me stronger.

Progressive climbing achievers would say I’m treading water and too lazy to do what I really need to do.

In a way they are all right, but what it boils down to for me is balance: I want to train and I want to progress, but I want to have fun and enjoy it. So I’ve found what’s fun and I work within that. The prospect of campussing / deadhanging / endless laps / running etc bores the life out of me at the moment, I wouldn’t stick with it so it’s not the best option for now. Falling practise scares the life out of me….but it is something I occasionally do and will try to do more of, it’s easily combined with the fun of leading decent indoor routes and stuff.

On the subject of “decent indoor routes” - make no mistake I am primarily an outdoor trad climber. “Decent” is just within context, right?

Anyway, off to the wall this evening. Chalk chalk pump banter chalk crank take the piss out of grades chalk chalk rest swear pump etc.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007


I have found a new crag to develop. Obviously I’m not saying where it is. Suffice to say I have been within 10m of it and the potential is obvious.

It’s a singular buttress with a dominating central arete, maybe 20m high. The rock is pretty blank looking (and relatively clean) and it would be best developed as a sport outcrop. There is potential for maybe 6-8 lines, with the central arete on both sides looking to be pretty high quality (this alone looks worth developing it for), and the walls immediately adjacent also having obvious good lines.

This raises the issue of learning to bolt and funding the bolting - that should be okay with time.

However, it is quarried rock, long disused and just at the entrance to a working quarry that might soon be disused too. It is very definitely not in the working quarry and in no way interferes with that.

Obviously this raises the somewhat more arduous issue of access. It is in a quiet area where there are probably no general access issues nor people causing trouble with quarries. However access is still no doubt technically denied. The sensible course (given the bolting required etc) would be to simply ask, and to present a clear case that climbers take responsibility for themselves (I could research the legal side) and that due to the separation of the buttress from the working quarry, there would be no hazard due nor interference with the working quarry.

And then the quarry owners might say yes or might say no - it’s a bit frustrating to find a potentially good bit of rock but not know whether it could be developed, simply due to a non-climber’s whim or nugget of bureaucracy.

Anyway, this might be a project - or simply a non-starter - for me next year.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Initiating blog transfer...

Climbing….I’m fairly relaxed about climbing at the moment, following a good autumn doing lots of diverse trad climbing. I’m vaguely trying to get used to gritstone again, but mostly training indoors due to the haphazard weather.

Yesterday I had a long session down the Leeds Wall with various friends. I hadn’t been there for a year but I like to visit different walls throughout the winter to keep training fresh (i.e. new problems and routes to read). I have the following observations:

1. They still have those shit ugly swirly holds. I don’t what it is but they just feel rubbish to climb on. When stuff like Bleaustone and Pusher are readily available I don’t know why they keep that dated crap. Just leave them on the beginner’s top-rope routes or something.

2. Grades are all over the place - pretty piss on some of the outlying walls, and pretty stiff on the main steep wall.

3. On the subject of which, there’s a general lack of solid mid-grade routes on the outlying walls, although plenty on the main wall. The main wall seems to have the best route-setting too, pretty well balanced and “go-ey”.

4. Unfortunately I am too morally weak to climb well on the main steep wall. A weakness to recognise, tackle and overcome.

5. The bouldering is still better than the routes, i.e. more consistently good and good holds. As usual it is beefy and gives you a good workout. My fingers have their first post-wall burn of the winter. The new bouldering section has good angles and some nice problems on the vertical bits i.e. subtle and thin holds. However it’s not bloody high enough and the top 2′ of the wall is wasted. This can probably be overcome with devious problem setting.

Anyway I didn’t climb routes so well, despite starting off well, probably due to just getting past a cold so having shallower energy reserves. That and being a f-ing coward even indoors. Bouldering felt better despite being tired. Still, pulled hard and got pumped, that’s what it’s all about.

Spare pics: