Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Things to do...

...that I'd actually like to do, with people, instead of climbing.

Outdoor active

Skiing -

Running -

Exploring & dicking around in the countryside -

Hillwalking -

Scuba-diving -

Paintball -

Alton Towers -

Indoor (semi)active

Dry-slope / indoor skiing -

Swimming / saunaing -

Ice-skating -

Clubbing -

Playing pool -

Bowling -

Indoor chilled

Board games -

Card games -

Eating out -

Eating in -

Watching DVDs -

Cinema -

Art galleries -

Friday, 11 January 2008


Another number ;)

Climbing goals for 2008.

1. Climb the remaining routes E2-4 in the Lleyn section of North Wales Rock.

2. Go on a climbing holiday to Scandinavian granite and/or German/Czech sandstone.

3. Join with more climbing and bouldering trips abroad.

4. Climb more with my friends, old and new, and join in their climbing plans.

5. Climb at a few of the inspiring places that I didn’t manage to visit in 2007, specifically: Baggy Point, Nesscliffe, mid-Wales, Pembroke, and a bit of grit.

6. Climb more in Scotland.

7. Go on a climbing trip to Ireland if weather allows.

8. Push myself more in bouldering and deep water soloing in different venues.

Now….if anyone wants to join in with any of these, or has any trips they want to invite me along to….get in touch….I’m keen to be involved with a more diverse agenda this year

So, the way things have gone: 2006 and 2007, overall, were great climbing years for me. I finally - after a lot of time, a lot of effort, and a lot of ups and downs - felt like I was climbing how I wanted to, and a level I had always thought I was capable of, doing the sort of routes and climbing that deeply inspired me (mostly, as it happens, trad climbing).

I had this vague notion that if I did enough, that if I really felt I’d done what was true to me and the dedication had paid off, that I’d be more relaxed about my climbing, more willing to firstly not be quite as obssessed with it, and secondly to be less specific and go along with “whatever” climbing was around rather than purely my specific plans.

So far, somewhat surprisingly, I DO feel like that - still inspired, still keen, but also more relaxed, and less pressured. I don’t know if it will last but it’s a good way to be now.

Thus, my 2008 goals - mostly about travelling around, exploring, different styles of climbing, and joining in with what other people are doing (only the few UK ones are really specific, although Scandinavia and Germany/Czech are also strong inspirations I’ve had for many years). Hopefully this will enable another good, but diverse climbing year. The sort of year where someone can say “Hey Fiend, fancy coming to Magic Wood for a long weekend” and I can reply “Sure, sounds cool” rather than “No. Must stay in England and prove to myself I can climb hard in The Lakes etc etc”. Or where I can invite friends to the honeypots of Pembroke instead of having to drag people to some esoteric uber-gem that the voices in my head told me I have to do.

It is, I think, all good…

Tuesday, 8 January 2008


I have an uneasy relationship with numbers - climbing grades that is.

On the one hand, I like them: Or rather, I like the meaning behind them. They are useful pieces of information that roughly quantify a level of challenge. They tell you roughly how hard a climb is going to be and enable you to make an informed choice on what you’re going to be climbing and how you’re going to approach it. I like having an accurate and fair grading system - particularly when it is reliable enough to positively encourage onsight climbing with the information it provides. Knowledge is power…

On the other hand, I dislike them: Or rather, I dislike the way they are used and abused by climbers and the climbing community. The grade-chasing, number-ticking, ego-boosting, cock-waving “I’ve done grade X, look at me” / “I really want to do grade X, getting that number will be so significant to me”. Okay a crude summary but the attitudes are out there for all to see. Focusing on a number as if it is important?? The number is meaningless….only the meaning is important! Myself, I’m human too (despite some opinions to the contrary), and I too find myself susceptible to this, a desire to measure my progress that occasionally flares up into a desire to attain and achieve…

Thus it was with a similar unease that I set myself a number-orientated goal for a recent trip to El Chorro: I wanted to onsight at least a few F7as (that number - of course - being of no public significance).

Would this be a case of the tail wagging the dog?? Chasing routes for the grade alone, it all seemed somewhat sordid. On the first day in El Chorro I was wandering aimlessly and aimlessly wondering about my motivations. There were reasons for this goal - in recent years I have progressed tangibly with my trad climbing, and also (when I can be bothered) with my bouldering. I am also keen on sport climbing, and also keen to progress in it, yet I found myself having plateaued at a vaguely constant level in the last few years. The plateau, I think, is from mostly a lack of trying and a lack of ambition. Thus, a more quantifiable ambition - onsight F7a more - could give me a focus.

(Also, I like F7a as a number, it is complete and neat. F6c+ is so messy…)

But still….for me the lines, the inspiration to climb them, should come first…

My wandering and wondering stopped when I reached one of the F7as I’d considered: Arabesque on Sector Escalera Arabe. It looked great (although the F6c to the left up a sinuous groove, looked even better). Thin, technical climbing up a blunt rib, good rock, good position, the occasional rest, obviously fingery cranking in places. I led it, just after sunset, and it was great, testing, intricate, and satisfying.

And onwards…

Un-named route, F7a, Las Encantadas - looked great, sheer, intimidating, sustained, a wild finish up a hanging blunt rib, supposedly the crux. Was great, lots of good climbing, steady rests and a brilliant “go-for-it” finish in the best position on the crag.

Poema De Roca, F7a, Poema De Roca - looked great, ridiculously steep, wild rock features, possible cunning rests but obviously a mega-pump. Was great, err….ridiculously steep, wild rock features, possible cunning rests but obviously a mega-pump.

Uretofilio, F7a, Desplomandia - looked great, a high quality bulging wall promising varied bouldery climbing between decent rests. Was great, a series of increasingly hard boulder problems with good rests but a sustained and thin finish right to the last move.

So there you go….the quality of the climbing, the pleasure of the experiences, the thrill of the challenge (a challenge which was just right for me at this time) - all justified the goal (which was really a goal of “slightly increased challenge and progression”) that led to them.