Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Last one of the year.

Off to my parents in London to eat loads of nice Christmas food, off to Spain to tick big numbers errr climb something or other. Back and hopefully syked on the 1st January. Big year 2010 I think.

Had a last minute visit to Dumby before I left. It's very snowy up here which is very pretty but also very damp for climbing. Most of the V1s would be more like VI ;). But there were a few dry steep bits and I played around in the setting sun. I'd forgotten just how HARD Dumby was. On the plus side I did see a fly-by of five geese the size of Hercules transporters. And I got inspired to train a bit harder.

Bye for now!

Monday, 21 December 2009

Christmas Number 1

RATM always overrated, half decent music but not much flow and predictable attitude. Strictly Come Xhoad-factor I disdain as does any sensible human being.

My vote is for (in honour of it's 20th Anniversary):

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Back in the game...

...the training game, at least. Although last weekend I felt back in the trad game (the game that actually counts) too, and was pretty natural and comfortable despite being rustier than a very rusty thing. Anyway since last weekend I have been both struck down with a brief intense bout of Deer Flu, and been rather busy with stuff. Both of those have now cleared up (thanks in part to a daily diet of green tea, dinner with chilli and garlic, and whisky before bed), and I was even able to get out for a run on Thursday - that went okay, by my extraordinarily low standards, again 13/18 minutes in 2/1 running/walking intervals (and yes that is plenty fucking hard enough when your leg veins are fucked).

Last night I was back at Ratho, -20billion'C in there but it didn't seem to affect things too much. I do like in there, a lot. Even though I've failed to flash a lot of routes already, it doesn't matter so much as they're so bloody long you can forget them in a few weeks and effectively retro-flash (or is it amnesia-point??) them, which of course is better training than knowing the moves by heart. I like the grey coloured walls, the wall angles, the subtle rests that merely get you more pumped, and of course the sheer scale. Pity local authority's demands means they fucked up wasting £££ on fancy curved walls and massive atriums instead of the bleeding obvious expenditure of INSULATING THE SODDING ROOF *rolls eyes*.

Last night was good training for a few reasons: Firstly I flashed a couple of F6cs which is meaningless numerical gibberish as all grades are except it indicates relative progress compared to previously. Secondly I felt more comfortable and relaxed pushing myself on lead. And thirdly the reasons for both of the above was I did some good falling practise. I've been reading Arno's new book "Espresso Lessons" (essentially a practical summary of The Rock Warrior's Way without all the hippy / lifestyle / attitude shizzle, personally I miss all of that as I liked it tackling the deeper issues) and trying to implement not just falling practise but good falling practise, i.e. feeling more controlled and comfortable falling. Taking a few 5m falls whilst looking down and calmly letting go rather than shutting my eyes and flinging myself off in despair is in accordance with his principles and likely a step in the right direction. I can feel myself being more comfortable on lead AND more comfortable falling, now that IS good training :).

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Giddy at Gruinard, And at Ardmair.

Giddy with delight - the mission worked!

Actually I can't be bothered to do a write-up, so here are some pictures:

Saturday morning at Sail Mhor hostel. £13 a night, warm, comfy beds, good kitchen. Definitely the key to good climbing in winter.

The errr lovely Lyons at the gorgeous Gruinard bay. A minor crag but such a nice spot, this bit also wins "crag base of the year award 2009".

What Scottish winter climbing is all about!

Moody posy bollox.

Gairloch church. Drove over for a nice meal at the Old Inn. The hostel was surprisingly busy with a large hunting party who were culling deer, so I had wild venison steak at the pub in their honour.

No sun but still warm enough at Ardmair. This is Sculptress, on one the nicest HVSes in the history of mankind, go do it!

But bloody freezing (well -2'C to -5'C) around Inverness!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Train for Spain.

Am going to Spain for New Year! To Costa Blanca, not my first choice as I've been already and I like exploring new areas, but it's still nice to get away, particularly from the persistently soggy Glasgow. Hopefully it will give a good boost to my climbing. Of course to maximise that boost, I'm aiming for a pre-boost boost, and thus am training for Spain.

As often the case with homogeneous Euro-Lime trips, in the absence of new rocktypes or climbing styles, I like to have some crass, meaningless, egotistical goal to aim for out there. Previously that was F7a, and ideally I'd like it to be so again, mainly because F7a is a nice, neat, round number (and corresponds to Font 7a which I believe is what V6 is and what I can boulder). However God only knows what I'll manage this time. Wall training is going okay but my fitness is still bollox, maybe F6c (round enough) will turn out to be a bit more realistic. Well I've got another 3 weeks, just need to keep at it...

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Is it worth it??

So last weekend I painted...

Figure by Games Workshop, base handmade out of plastic bits, wire, and a spare model.

I like painting toy soldiers (sometimes the painting itself isn't fun, but the end result is satisfying). I was doing it before I started climbing, I'm relatively better at painting than I am at climbing, and I'll probably be doing it after I stop climbing (assuming my tendons go before my eyesight does). Regardless of outdated geeky connotations, it's good to have something different and creative to do - and very good to have something to do in the stupid pissing rain that all too often characterises this country's pretence at "weather".

The problem is like many things in life it requires a certain balance, and due to my ability to focus on things but my inability to switch focii comfortably, I don't always get that balance right. Thus I was finishing off painting this figure last Sunday, when the weather was really rather fine (a rarity) and there was no doubt some dry rock to be climbed and taken advantage of before the next deluge. Admittedly I was finishing it for an online contest with a Sunday deadline, but even so my organisation is sloppy enough and my prioritising perturbing enough that I was left thinking "WTF am I doing??".

Is it worth it getting het up about meeting an online contest deadline (I've entered and won a few already) in a hobby I do for fun and satisfaction, at the expense of other hobbies I find more rewarding. Hmmm. As I say, balance... Preferably a balance more climbing, more training, more painting, more socialising, more activities, more phat drum'n'bass etc...;)

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Stumbling around at Stronachlachlar

Bit of a mouthful eh. Popped out for a quick boulder the other day. In the abscence of a vaguely useful climbing scene in Scotland I'm trying to get to grips with the local bouldering. This first taster (apart from the mighty Dumby of course) was not the most encouraging: "local" translates to "an hour and a half's solid drive" and "bouldering" translates to "staggering around a frozen boggy hillside feeling sick and dizzy with exhaustion to discover that the two great lines at this supposed 'ideal in winter suntrap' are both seeping like a squid's snatch".

On the plus side, the hillwalking was tiring enough that I didn't need to go for a run, and the two classic lines looked cool and worth coming back for. Also, I managed a cool, classic V1. According to the guide it's Font 5 which is vague at the best of times (not least that Font 5 slabs are invariably harder than E4 6a slabs or Font 7as of a different style), but apparently roughly translates to V1 or English 5a. Hmmm. If I was pootling up an HVS 5a and found this at the crux, I would be somewhat perturbed... posing, I was struggling to hang on!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009


December has started quite literally and punctually with winter: 1st December, -4'C this morning. Pretty nice, although it didn't feel much below -2 to my senses ;).

This means I've kinda missed the boat for regular trad - although I did get out for a bit of bouldering yesterday (and a run, gentle antagonistic weight session, and good stretch later on, which I'm happy with), and although it was freezing in the shade, the rock was genuinely warm (not "normal", but warm) in the sun on the South face, which shows some potential. Anyway I can still go bouldering for training - if I can find something slopey enough to be worthy of -4'C.

This month has been mildly notable with things vaguely calming down (externally, not internally) with my move to Glasgow, and other than that solely notable for one wall bouldering session where I felt Not Weak. I best try to recapitalise on that feeling!

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Of course...

Climbing in the winter, irrespective of temperature, definitely requires conditions to be dry...

Well this is the 11th consecutive day of rain in Glasgow, and I think the wettest too. Screw this shit, I'm going to paint toy soldiers instead.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Winter climbing.

Fuck snow and ice, let's rock climb.

Sure it's colder, days are shorter, weather is generally worse - but there's still dry spells, accessible suntrap crags, and short technical climbs. Trad climbing continues throughout the year on gritstone, I've had plenty of t-shirt days mid-winter sheltering from the northerly breeze on sunny high pressure days. Scotland has worse weather overall but I can't imagine it's too different in principle - the few hundred miles north being compensated for by plenty of crags a few hundred metres lower than the grit plateaux. It's just about keeping an open mind and waiting for the right time - our ludicrous weather is so unpredictable who knows what (occasionally good as well as bad!) could be coming up next?? So I intent to keep giving it a try whenever is suitable...

Advantages to going away rock climbing during winter:

1. No midges.

2. No seabirds nesting.

3. Less vegetation and easier paths.

4. Suntrap crags won't be too hot and sweaty.

5. Crag choice is narrowed down and easier.

6. "Tourist" roads will be quieter and quicker.

7. Accommodation, where available off-season, will be quieter and cheaper.

8. Early nights and shorter days mean:
a. Plenty of time to relax and sort out logistics in the evening.
b. Plenty of time to get back from anywhere on Sunday and get ready for the week.
c. More motivation to make use of days.
d. Encourage early travelling which avoids morning traffic.
e. Less tiring overall.

Ways to deal with the cold during winter rock climbing:

1. Maximum amount of clothes including accessories (gloves, scarf, etc)

2. Belay trousers!!

3. Always take windproof, gloves, hat etc up on harness.

4. Flask of tea.

5. Remembering how easy it is to warm up by running around etc.

6. Keep moving to avoid getting too cold.

7. Emphasis on choosing routes for likely speed of ascent.

8. Abseil and strip routes to reduce the time between action and ensure each person gets the most leading done.

Anyone got any more?? All tips and tricks appreciated...

Monday, 16 November 2009

Regression, progression.

Yesterday I failed on a route I quite fancied, and got rather (i.e. very) cross. It was a fairly insignificant route but it was the main route I wanted to do in a whole (albeit very short) afternoon. Plus: Each and every climb, irrespective of quality and worth, is an opportunity to show what quality one's climbing is worth - one practises and forms habits on the insignificant to be ready for, and deserving of, tackling the significant.

I failed in part due to encroaching darkness, but mostly due to fear of falling, fear of commitment, getting pumped, getting scared, going for a foolish clip rather than a sensible move. The same old story, the same old bollox I've been fighting against for the last decade or so, with varying success, and as such a regression.

However, I didn't fail due to: having my heart pounding so badly it juddered me off the rock, being so out of breath I couldn't survive on the route any further, having my vision go funny or feeling nauseous and faint from exhaustion, nor from still being exhausted from short walk-in hours earlier. Thus, in physical terms, a progression!! I was crap because I'm crap not because I'm crippled ;).

The message being: my body can probably take a more aggressive approach on overall improvement, and my mind certainly needs it!!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Improving at Ibrox.

Sorry for another wall-related post, especially one about a more mundane wall, but it is winter, it is Scotland, and physical progression is crucial to me at the moment.

Tonight definitely felt like progression. It felt like bouldering last weekend at Hepburn woke my muscles up and reminded them of what they could do and what was expected of them, and tonight I could feel and measure some progress in that area. I had a mixed session doing routes then bouldering, a rarity for me and even rarer it feels vaguely successful and I don't feel vaguely like death afterwards. Although the routes at Ibrox are pretty much boulder problems compared to Ratho ;).

Routes went fairly well, warming up felt easy (despite feeling a bit tired from wrestling a recalcitrant and oversized coffee table through the city), I managed to pull down okay, and also did some steep stuff okay and without much of the gibbering panic I usually display. I still felt a bit sketchy clipping (why?! it's not like I've been doing trad and sport for the last decade or anything....oh wait, I have...), and still got a bit dizzy if I was hanging on hard for too long. But not as bad as previously.

Bouldering was a bit more of a milestone. I got on several problems I hadn't managed to do after working in a previous pure bouldering session, and crushed them in a one or two goes - including a couple of good fights. I didn't feel too tired after routes (interesting, because my fitness is currently so poor), and I tried properly hard (without things feeling too tweaky, which is nice). It feels good to get some results, but better to feel I'm able to put the effort in.

Of course, I still need to work a lot on my routes stamina and my trad leading head....big challenges still to come...

Monday, 9 November 2009

Having fun at Hepburn, keeping training at Kirrie Hill.

After a series of minor but continual catastrophes recently, I got out climbing this weekend. Which was nice, as it always invariably is.

Northumberland is not in Scotland and I have climbed there lots already. However it is also a lot closer to Glasgow than it is to Sheffield, a lot closer to gritstone than most rock types in Scotland, and I haven't bouldered there lots already. Thus despite desperately desiring to do trad at the moment, when I was invited down on the annual lads bouldering weekend, it was enough to tempt me. I'd never even heard of Hepburn, but it was pretty inspiring: Nice rock, some good problems, and some sloping landings. I did a couple of things that tested me, improved my footwork a bit, got some inspiration for the future, and climbed until my skin and muscles were sore. Although it's not the sort of training and progression I need at the moment, it was a good wake-up call to my body.

The weather was glorious winter sun on Saturday, and glorious winter sun on Sunday, but the latter wasn't in Northumberland, which was wetter than a monkfish's minge, but rather in Scotland (an unusual reversal of the usual weather). The lads beat a retreat down South and I beat a retreat North-wards for many many hours - the drive being somewhat alleviated by Scotland, usually so dank and grim, being utterly gorgeous in the sunshine - to reach Kirrie Hill. Also a sandstone crag but miles away in rock and line quality. In fact pretty much a bolted chossheap, but that's not likely to put me off is it ;). Maybe the lowest of Scottish climbing experiences, but nevertheless some decent moves, decent training, and plenty of winter sun. I did a couple of routes, got a bit pumped, and pulled on a small hold I thought I might ping off. My fingers got a little bit sorer and I got a little bit better trained. That'll do ;).

Monday, 2 November 2009

State of play.

Summarising mostly for my own benefit:

1. My short-medium term desires are (in order of desirability but probably reverse order of effect):
Explore as much further afield Scottish outcrop climbing as possible.
Progress with my outdoor leading back up to a normal level.
Explore and utilise the closer-by Scottish outcrop climbing.
Progress with my climbing fitness up to a normal level.
Progress with my overall fitness.

(Scottish big in-the-mountains climbing is a longer term desire due to the season)

2. I am now living in Scotland. There is a vast amount of big in-the-mountains climbing available for weekend trips, a lot of outcrop available for weekend trips, also a lot of outcrop climbing available for longer trips, and a bit of outcrop climbing available for day trips.

3. It is nearly the start of winter. The days are shorter and colder, restricting any climbing to more accessible sun trap outcrops (which is all I can walk to anyway).

4. The weather is likely to be variable and often poor from now on, and at least unpredictable. This will further restrict climbing areas and necessitate flexible or last minute plans.

5. I have a reasonable amount of free time and could take 3 day weekend trips if I could find a partner for such.

6. I know plenty of people to climb down the wall with, a few people to go sport climbing with, a few people to do single day trad climbing with, and so far almost no-one to go on full weekend nor long weekend trips with.

7. My current level of outdoor climbing is approximately as follows:
(Taking into account reduced psychological ability and all dependent on type of climbing)
Trad adjectival: 2-3 grades below desired
Trad technical: 1-2 grades below desired
Sport climbing: 3 grades below desired
Bouldering: unknown, estimate 1-2 grades below normal
Redpointing: 3-4 grades below normal

8. My current level of physical ability is approximately as follows:
Technique: 90%
Flexibility: 90%
Upper body strength: 80%
Lower body strength: 60%
Overall fitness: 35%
(Upper body fitness: 55%)
(Lower body fitness: 15%)
Walking ability: max 45 mins flat, 15 mins uphill.

9. I have access to one very large but rarely changing "double size" climbing wall, and one normal climbing wall.

10. I have the opportunity to regularly run, swim, use weights machines etc etc.

The question of course is: How do I best use, or take into account, 2-10, to achieve 1? I.e. this is what I've got, how can I use it?, This is what I'm faced with, how can I deal with it?

So far the best plan would seem to involve plenty of fitness training, a fair amount of climbing training, plenty of looking after myself since I'm still recuperating, discipline to maximise the preceding, good organisation, particular diligence in finding suitable partners, and particular readiness for any chance to take advantage of breaks in the weather.

[Edit: This of course refers to "local" i.e. Scottish climbing desires. Obviously I still have very strong desires for inspiring climbing abroad, but that might have to wait for a little while. Although I really definitely should fit something in over Christmas - I haven't been on a single climbing trip abroad this year which is a shocking waste!!]

Sunday, 1 November 2009


Actually quite a bit of action and progress this month, unfortunately most of it being the "two steps forward, one step back" faffing around to retrospectively sort out the logistical mess left by my hospitalisation in August, and unfortunately most of it involving very little action, progress, nor indeed fun with my climbing.

Thankfully things have finally settled down a bit so I intend to settle a bit into a better routine including a lot more training of my fitness and hopefully progress in my climbing (as well as progress in other areas that are mercifully outside of the scope of this blog) - I have a long winter ahead of me to utilise well...

Thursday, 29 October 2009


After a lot of dicking around, I have finally got basecamp established approximately here (approximately, I don't actually live in the train station, and yes there is a reason for the strange name, but I've forgotten it). It seems a pretty pleasant area of Glasgow with decent immediate surrounds and good access to stuff. However it's fair to say the city of Glasgow has no specific appeal to me (although it's interesting trying somewhere new), it's all about location, location, location. Specifically a location that allows quite a few Scottish outcrops in a day trip, most of the Highlands in a weekend trip, and the mighty north west of Scotland in a long weekend trip.

Naturally in this context it is pissing down and forecast to do so for the next 90 trillion days, however this is to be expected, I am fat and weak and could do with training in the meantime (more on that later).

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Rogered at Ratho.

I was planning to do a whole series of the new "Fiend with fucked fitness in Scotland" blog theme, but I doubt I'll be arsed to do it retrospectively, so in summary they would have been:

Analised at Aberdeen - Nice sea-cliffs but got utterly thrashed on the easiest of routes.

Weak at Weem - Managed to get so pumped I was dizzy and nauseous....on an easy slab.

Relief at Rockdust - Despite the 10 minute walk-in feeling Alpine, I managed to climb okay, climbing as a team of 3 gave me longer rests and I had better route tactics.

So, back to Ratho. Normally of course indoor walls wouldn't be worthy of mention, but Ratho is Alpine in a whole different way - it's MASSIVE in both scope and wall height - bottled oxygen would be welcome. I was very impressed, it doesn't feel like a UK wall, but rather something of the next generation. And for me, at the moment, it's very good training. The routes go on for ages and I got pumped and pulse-racingly tired on every single one which is partly demoralising but partly inspiring that it's a good facility to get my fitness back. The next stage of course is to go with the pump and start falling instead of resting...

Things are (very) gradually settling down in Glasgow so I can focus more on training (all with the hallowed goal of exploring as much Easy Trad as possible ;)), and I suspect Ratho will play a large role in that.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

You can't have fun when you're weak...

...and bloody hell I didn't know it was possible to get THIS weak!! I should have paid more attention to The Path Of Weakness when I was hanging around with Duncan Disorderly... I've been out climbing a couple of times in Scotland and it feels any progress I'd previously made has been swamped by the logistical mess I'm trying to sort out moving to Glasgow, and the subsequent distressing lack of climbing and training.

The mind is willing, the desire is strong, but the flesh is oh so weak - or more like, oh so unfit. I'm getting unfeasibly pumped on routes I would have considered beneath my dignity as gentle warm-ups a few months ago, and have ended up slumped on a rope or collapsed at the top of a route, hyperventilating with exhaustion on a few occasions. When I'm nauseous with the pump and my vision goes funny on a slabby F6a+ (do grades really go that low??), there is definitely something wrong. And this wrongness is definitely down to my legs and the aftermath of the DVT clots (steep walk-ins are still a multipitch affair), and it is becoming clear that I am hanging on to what little fitness I've regained by a thin thread. I obviously need to keep up with exercise and realise what a long and uphill journey (although I'll stick to flatter walk-ins) lies ahead.

However, there is some hope. This situation is fairly reminiscent of when I broke my foot in summer 2005 and was hobbling back to fitness in the autumn - about the same time as now I was struggling just as hard on routes just as easy... And over winter, I trained, got my strength back, climbed well in early spring and then started my best climbing years ever in that next spring. This time, regaining CV fitness might be a lot harder, but my summer climbing experiences have been a bit more consistent, I've got several years more climbing "wisdom" (yes, really!) and I'm in an area with a better choice of mileage routes (in 2005 I ended up going to Clwyd limestone for a long weekend's mileage....Glen Nevis or Gairloch are somewhat more appealing choices!).

And of course, there's a follow on motto to this blog title:

You can't have fun when you're weak...

...But the great thing about being weak is you can get STRONG!

Monday, 5 October 2009


All Aboard! Not that I'm the biggest fan of Dillinja, but it seemed to fit.

The good ship Fiend is setting sail for new shores - specifically imminently mooring at Glasgow docks! I'm moving up there for a variety of reasons, of which the most relevant is to sample more Scottish climbing close up. I figure with weather, conditions, and vast amounts of driving all stacked against the enthusiastic explorer, living considerably closer to the Highlands for a while is a sane plan. I also have some life plans tied up with this move, hopefully that will come to fruition too.

Unfortunately due to some slight issues i.e. losing a month of my life with the hospital stay and subsequent slow recovery, this isn't a smooth sailing and there is indeed a fair amount of turbulent tacking required, not least alternating between Sheffield and Glasgow too often for comfort nor relaxation. Hopefully things will be sorted out soon and I will be able to attack autumnal suntrap crags, fitness recovery, and climbing training with renewed vigour.

Until then climbing and blogging might have to be a bit sporadic...

Once I have a base in Glasgow it will be open to any friends who want to visit and climb, with the sole condition that you take me with you :).

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Our stars, our sky.

The recent weekends of getting back climbing on proper weekends away has reminded me of the things I love about climbing, specifically the things that aren't climbing....the beauty of the mountains, the tranquility of hidden valleys and quiet venues, the unexpected wildlife, the sun and the wind, the burnt face, the chapped lips, fingers curling into claws, bleeding hangnails on most fingers, simple camp cooking being the most delicious meal ever, falling into a sleeping bag bed and falling into sleep from pure and positive physical tiredness...

...and the skies, the vast, diverse and spectacular canopy that is so much better appreciated from the active lifestyle of a climbing trip than with furtive glances from a hospital bed:

...a burning, broiling cloud layer over Manchester, reflecting a distant sunset...

...swirling tendrils of cloud wrapping around Snowdon, tempting our burnt bodies with the promise of imminent shade that never arose...

...the joyous twinkling clarity of a star-filled night, bisected by the Milky Way and stretching into incomprehensible infinity...

...the fading of a dusky navy blue into a deep sullen red over the Lleyn Peninsula...

...a vividly sunny autumn afternoon in the Rhinnogs, with a blue sky so pure you could almost steal some to paint with it...

It's good to be back, and it's good to have this appreciation, maybe stronger than ever. Oh, and this was Aberdeen last weekend:

Friday, 2 October 2009


Hmmm... Things are moving on, a bit too rapidly for comfort. I'm quite busy with a lot of different and scarcely compatible things at the moment, and unfortunately climbing isn't one of them, neither is blogging. More information "soon".

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Climbers are funny...

I was chatting with Paul B the other day, himself a veteran of both injury and obvious climbing enthusiasm. He'd nicely asked how I was doing, and I was able to truthfully say "Okay!" and mention I'd been climbing for the first time (this was when I went to Harpur Hill, a few days after my full discharge). Being the first thing I mentioned, my climbing enthusiasm in the circumstances was equally obvious, and prompted a response of:

"Climbers are funny" we're all so keen to get back into it as soon as possible after injury or other time off, regardless of other peoples' perceptions or medical convention. He has a point, this is a common situation of prioritising a return to climbing. But I have an alternative view:

"Climbers are great"

Okay, clearly they / we aren't - I've long given up my naive expectations that, due to participating in an unusual, challenging, individual and involving activity such as climbing, that climbers would somehow be smarter, more interesting, more liberal and more "outside the box" than the average population, and since realised that climbers are mostly a fair representation of that population with all the idiocy, narrow-mindedness, pettiness and general choadliness that mankind usually displays.

BUT, insofar as having a passion and a drive for that activity, there is a certain amount of greatness on display there - because we have something worth fighting for, something worth striving for, something that makes physical recuperation and physical recovery worthwhile. We can be crippled and down and out and told we'll be lucky to walk properly in 6 months time and are unlikely to climb again and 3 months later we'll be back on the rock, weak and wobbly but full of joy and passion and trying hard to improve ourselves and get are body to heal so we can climb again normally as soon as possible. We'll try hard and we'll keep moving and we'll get our fitness up and we'll do our physio because we have a reason to do so - not just general physical well-being, but a passion beyond that, a passion that puts our well-being to good use.

Every step I've taken, every length I've swum, every stretch I've done, every time I've sat in an awkward position with my legs up so they didn't swell, every time I've dilligently asked the doctors about what I can do to help my healing, every time I've rested when I didn't feel like it, every time I've been conscious to take care of myself, every little bit I've pushed to get my fitness back, it's been because there's something I want that fitness for - living a good life in general, and living a climbing lifestyle....which is pretty damn good ;). I make no claims of greatness, but I feel happy and proud to have this attitude and happy and proud that climbing is a big part of it.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Good morning Cadair!

I just love opening the tent door and seeing this...

...well, who wouldn't ;). This is from one of my favourite campsites, in Dolgellau. I've forgotten the name of it (doh) but it's mostly a caravan park with one wonky field for tents - and invariably quiet, with good showers and great views. It's also my favourite because it's central to Mid-Wales climbing, sandwiched between the Rhinnogs to the North, Arennig Fawr to the North East, Y Aran to the East, and of course Cadair Idris to the South. I know when I'm waking up here to a view like that I'm in for a great day of exploration, good climbing on great rock, hidden gems, and a wondrous solitude that's worlds away from the traffic and queues of the Pass... In between the waking and climbing, there's also a surprisingly great cafe in Dolgellau, again I forget the name, but it's the old ironmongers anyway.

This last weekend was no exception - although the walk-in to Craig Y Merched was desperately hard on my legs on the last slope, climbing there in glorious autumn sunshine, with a breeze rustling through the conifers and dragonflies flitting around, on the delightful Rhinnog grit, was as much a treat as anything in the area. Craig Rhiwarth the previous day was also fairly good and interestingly different.

Funnily enough, as much as I like the view of Cadair, I've never been up there, not for climbing nor walking. The closest is an abortive walk halfway to Crywfy before retreating in constant drizzle. Even my main inspirations in the area aren't on the mountain itself, but rather the outliers of Craig Y Llam and Craig Y Aderyn. This time I decided at some point that must change and I must embrace the mountain, climb on it, and look at my tent from the summit for the first time. Once I'm fitter for walking, and once I've polished off my climbing ticks in the area, I will try to have a full weekend or longer just climbing on Cadair itself. I'm looking forward to it already...

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Fine nine, final nine.

The last 9 days have been as follows:

Sat - Climbing trad (Clogwyn Y Grochan, Craig Ddu)
Sun - Climbing trad (Tremadog)
Mon - Bouldering (Cromlech boulders)
Tue - Gentle bouldering (Holmfirth Cliff), gentle swimming
Wed - Gentle swimming
Thu - Climbing sport (Hangingstone Quarry)
Fri - Prolonged swimming, brisk stroll
Sat - Climbing trad (Craig Rhiwarth)
Sun - Climbing trad (Craig Y Merched), long walk

Not bad for someone who could scarcely walk a month ago!! The legs have held up well - the uphill walking on a few days has been hard, and standing around too much makes them swell slightly. Climbing and the associated lounging and faff in between seems fine, apart from bridging type manoeuvres which are too tiring so far. The climbing has been great in general, especially the Welsh Weekends - so nice to get on good trad in great weather.

This last weekend is a bit of a transition point. I'm moving on and doing something useful with myself. More details when relevant. Suffice to say that the climbing will continue, just in a different location - and it felt really nice to go to one of my favourite areas (Merionnydd) that I might not revisit for a while. Hopefully the healing and regaining fitness will also continue!!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Welsh Weekend Warmth.

If I were to speculate on a list of Things The Doctors Wouldn't Recommend, it would be something like this:

Roped/harnessed climbing.
Trad climbing.
Multipitch climbing.
Bold climbing.
Steep walk-ins.
Sleeping in a tent.
Long drives.

Thus, I ticked all of those this weekend. On the other hand, I wore a lid leading, I was careful to put the least pressure through my harness I could, I was very diligent with protection, I made sure to sit down lots and take comfy belay stances, I approached any boldness with a lot of consideration, I kept the walk-ins to 5-10 mins max, I got the tent comfy and propped my legs up at night, and Butters did the driving so I could keep twitching around.

More pertinently, I ticked three E1s and an E2, including a total of one 5a pitch and seven 5b pitches, as well as seconding some classic HS-VS stuff. All of it went very well - not bad given a month ago I couldn't walk!! It's definitely the sort of reassuring mileage I needed to get back into trad. My legs were a bit swollen and stiff from DIY on Friday (too much standing around), and haven't eased off much but haven't worsened either despite all the activity, but I'm going to rest well now.

It was really quite a spiffing weekend: Glorious weather, sunburn both days, busy in the Pass on Saturday, quiet at Tremadog on Sunday, good company, great climbing, and the joyous simplicity of a proper climbing weekend: Sleep, wake up, eat, climb, token beer, eat, chill out, admire sky, sleep. Rinse and repeat. Also the routes were all really good, it's been a while since the inscrutable urges of my soul have let me delve below E2+, and I really enjoyed savouring some easier routes this time - quality climbing with less fear. Hangover, Yellow Wall, One Step In The Crowds, Grim Wall Direct, go do them all.

Next I need to let my legs rest a bit, then slowly work on improving my fitness, and consolidating some trickier climbing - whilst taking care, of course...

Friday, 11 September 2009

Two events.

Firstly, I went climbing again:

As part of my NHS-approved-appropriate-recuperation-schedule*, and continuing my tour of only the finest quality venues to ease myself back into climbing, I went to Blackwell Halt, and led a F6a+, two F6bs, and tried a hard F6b+ (which was mis-graded as F6b!) but had to rest rather than risk a bigger fall. Overall good fun, I got pumped, I had to do a few pushy moves, but I felt natural on the rock. As before, climbing was fine but slightly tiring, whilst the walk back out up the incline to the A6 was murderation. One rest on the F6b+, three rests on the walk out!

* - this may be a complete lie.

Secondly, I had my consultation with the vascular specialist:

The upshot of it all is:

My progress is going well and proceeding smoothly so far.

Plentiful exercise is good as long as it's comfortable.

I need to be aware of any swelling or similar in my legs (none so far).

The treatment for the clots continues exactly the same.

I will need further blood tests once I'm off the warfarin to check if my blood is predisposed to clotting.

The main IVC vein is severely constricted, either with only a tiny passage with minimal blood flow, or entirely sealed. This is obviously quite weird for me that my vein might effectively stop and restart and do pretty much bugger all :S. The adjacent veins are clearly well developed given how active I've been in my life.

Surgery to open the IVC is not recommended as full reconstruction of that area of the vein would be needed, this is tricky and there is risk of clots and vein damage.

The treatment is likely to be being on warfarin for life, the specialist reassured me this is quite manageable and my life should proceed as normal.


Thursday, 3 September 2009

Two events.

Firstly, I went climbing:

On Monday I went out to Harpur Hill and led two F6as (I think one is F6a+ really) and a big HVS 5a. Which was nice!! Bleak weather, grotty location, minor routes, but good to be back. My legs were fine, moving over rock was fine, climbing was easier than walking - but walking around was hard, especially up the slope between the tiers, I often had to stop and rest. After abbing down the last route I sat exhausted, but with a smile on my face. I'm sure the doctors wouldn't have approved, but I took care, and my sense of well-being approved...

Secondly, I got the delayed results from the MRI Venogram:

Extensive DVT is noted in the distal IVC, both iliac veins and extending into the femoral veins.

The IVC does not appear to be in continuity from the abdomen into the heart and appearances would be consistent with either severe stenosis-stricture of the upper segment of the IVC or more likely IVC hypoplasia-aplasia at this site.

There are extensive collaterals into the lumbar veins and the renal veins appear to drain into these lumbar collaterals. There does not appear to be any mass lesion producing a compression at this site.

There is no other significant abnormality.

Basically I have got a prominent constriction in the main vein between my abdomen and heart, and possibly have had this since birth. This is very probably the main cause of the DVT blood clots. I'm now being referred to see a vascular specialist and see what, if anything, can be done. An explanation at last, but also quite unnerving. It's possible I've been walking around like this for most of my life....a ticking bomb waiting to go off...

Wednesday, 2 September 2009


Let's just pretend August never happened, eh.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Release relief.

After the better part of 3 weeks in hospital, I was fully discharged Thursday night. After 22 blood samples, innumerate blood tests, 4 X-rays, 3 ultrasound scans, an echo scan, a skin biopsy, a PET/CT scan, and a MRI venogram, there is still no answer as to why a fit, healthy, non-smoking, moderate drinking, suave, sophisticated, virile, handsome, ethically pure, technically adept, big number ticking etc etc, young man would get bi-lateral DVT blood clots with no obvious preceding events. In some ways it's good that a lot of serious and scary factors have been ruled out (literally everything apart from my blood inflammation level has come back normal), in other ways it's still very worrying that this seems to be a random event and thus could randomly occur again - a nasty threat to be living under.

Thus one of my plans is to pursue investigations by seeing someone privately, obviously costly but this is a fairly concerning health issue. The NHS doctors and services have been excellent and treated me with impressive diligence, nevertheless, firstly there is a limit to how much time and resources they can spend on me now I'm mobile and improving (I am due back in for blood tests and clinics and check-ups and stuff), and secondly second opinions can be very valuable.

Other plans....Recover, recuperate, readjust my body to activity and exercise. I am improving daily at the moment, maybe it will be smooth, slow progress, maybe not. Either way I'm just doing what I can, looking after myself, trying to keep moving, trying to do stuff without over-exerting myself. I've been swimming 5 times in the last week, done some arm exercises and stretching too, my walking is improving as well. I want to get back climbing too, obviously this is not medically recommended, but I'll be taking a lot of care and I want to feel the rock (or even plastic) lurrrrve. It's a big part of me I want to get back in touch with.

So this is me....recovery mode again.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Keeping sane.

Painted over several days in rooms 4 and 5, Ward 02, Royal Hallamshire Hospital. I'm rather happy with her, I could take my time and got the style and atmosphere I was aiming for.

More updates on progress as it happens.

Edit: Progress! I've been booked in for an MRI Venogram on Wednesday, and I am out and free until then. The consultant is sure that unless the MRV turns up something drastic, I will be discharged permanently after it. My legs are still feeling okay, although they sore and tired after a few minutes walking. Slow progress, but progress...

Friday, 21 August 2009

This patient...

Well. I was for a bit anyway. Not any more, alas. I'm out on weekend leave again. I should be allowed out soon properly. The state of play is thus:

Medically: A recent ultrasound scan found a clot is still prominent in my left leg, with a small amount of surrounding swelling. An X-ray showed no bone issues. My blood inflammation levels are reducing (normally 6-ish, expected to be 20-30 with effects of clots, mine started around 140, peaked at 350 earlier this week, and are now down to 200-ish. Only the Biggest Numbers for me). My temperature has stabilised. The crucial PET scan didn't show anything seriously or dangerously wrong to explain either the clots or the blood inflammation. This means the cause is still unknown, but at least it's not something really bad that the PET scan could have discovered. A consultant hæmatologist has suggested the cause might be a constriction in the main vein through my abdomen, slowing blood flow from my legs and allowing clots time to form. I am due for another scan next week to determine this. Other than this the doctors are happy with my progress and want me out soon. I concur!

Personally: This last week has been distinctly down and then up. Coinciding with my inflammation levels being up, my well-being was very down earlier in the week. The blood clot in my left leg - down into the inner thigh - was constantly painful, and lying on my hospital bed, terrified of needing a piss because of the exhaustion and pain that walking 30 yards to the toilet would entail was not really a high point of anything. Eventually I broke down and got given morphine and sleeping tablets. Having a proper night's sleep at last was a huge relief. Since then things have gone gradually up, I am no longer scared of the toilet for a start :). The pain has reduced a lot and I'm a lot less tired. Apart from the left leg, the rest of me is pretty fine, if bored. I don't know if things will be smooth from here, but any progress is good.

And now?? Not entirely sure. Hopefully more recovery, as simple as that.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Home bitter home.

This has been my life for the last 9 days, and is due to be for several more days next week. I'm allowed out on weekend leave at the moment due to the Visit Of Pie (which is a relaxing and distracting relief), but I need to be in next week for monitoring and a crucial PET scan to determine why my blood inflammation level is high and how that might relate to the clotting. I'm still a man of mystery!

So I've become rather familiar with that bed, in an admittedly quiet and spacious room with an admittedly good view out the window, but it's still imprisoning me - although my lack of mobility is imprisoning me just as much I guess. Note the table with plenty of paints and a toy soldier to use them on, and the discman on the bed, I forget if I was listening to minimal dark ambient or old skool death metal then. Suffice to say I'm trying to keep myself sane as best I can.

In the meantime it's a waiting game...

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Shit, deep.

Or more specifically, Deep Vein Thrombosis.

I have a DVT blood clot in both my upper legs (a new scan just showed this), as well as inflammation around my pelvic joints and a slight blood rash in my lower legs. I am being kept in hospital for monitoring, blood tests, biopsy tests, and administration of blood-thinning drugs, although I'm allowed out for a few hours daily at the moment.

At the moment I am fairly comfortable at rest (I'm on regular co-codamol), but am only able to walk - very slowly - for a few minutes due to the stiffness and pain around my pelvis and groin. I don't know how long the recovery period will be nor how I will progress from here, although it seems blood thinning drugs are a standard and successful treatment.

I'm still being tested and analysed for various things, including some atypical symptoms of a blood clot, and a thus-far unknown cause. Before it came on I was as fit and as healthy as I've ever been, and there is no obvious cause. The timescale was thus:

Sat/Sun 25/26th - Long day out at Kinder, redpointing at the Tor, felt great.
Mon 27th - Slight pain in lower back and buttocks, seemed like natural stiffness due to exertions. Flew out to Spain, 4 hours total on plane but got up to move around twice, plus have flown to Oz/Nz thrice before.
Tue 28th - Fri 31st - Still mild pain in lower back and buttocks, gradually decreasing. Went for 3 short runs in the heat, some lounging, some swimming, some stretching. Flew back with no change.
Sat 1st - Still mild pain, slight increase in pain in evening.
Sun 2nd - Noticeable increase in pain, more in right hand leg. Had to rest twice walking 10 mins to Stanage.
Mon 3rd - Severe pain in leg, booked in to see doctor and physio but unable to walk more than 20 yards. Dr diagnosed pain as sciatica (based on the symptoms then), prescribed many painkillers.
Tue 4th - Leg slightly less painful due to painkillers in morning. Severe pain in evening and leg noticeably swollen with blood speckles.
Wed 5th - Booked in to see doctor ASAP. Referred to one hospital for possible DVT, then to second hospital for possible rheumatic-related issue. Leg very swollen and immobile (gained 5kg due to swelling).
Thu 6th - Scan reveals DVT blood clot and treatment begins.
Fri 7th - Sun 9th - Kept in hospital. Leg swelling decreases significantly (lost over 2kg of that swelling), but still continually painful and immobile around pelvis when hobbling.
To be continued...

Not much to say about my feelings about this. It's scary and horrible and to go from being able to run 40 minutes to being able to walk 40 yards is shocking. But....I just have to accept it and do the best I can.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Still down.

Further to my previous post, my leg has swollen up is showing a strange rash, so I have spent most of the day touring Sheffield hospitals with people trying to work out if it's sciatica, DVT, an infection, vaculosis or some kind of arthiritis. I'm back in hospital tonight for monitoring and further tests.

Suffice to say I'm tolerating the discomfort but I am shitting myself about what it could be and what the effects could be :(.

Butters, please update me on your blog list as "Sheffield's Most Broken Climber" again.

Monday, 3 August 2009

Struck down.

Fucking hell.

A week ago, just after rotpunkting at The Tor, and just at the start of a week off, I felt the fittest I had for a couple of years. A few weeks of regular sport climbing and occasional running and a bit of hillwalking, and I felt noticably really good in my body. Lovely.

Today, a week later, I have barely been able to walk for 20 yards without excruciating pain and feeling exhausted, even with a crutch. Stairs have been agony and getting out a chair a major effort.

I have - completely randomly and for the first time in my life - a bout of sciatica, an impingement of the sciatic nerve in my lower back, affecting my leg as well. I have been to see my doctor Simon Connor (no, not THAT Simon Connor!!), and my osteo Kim, and they both say it's not a slipped disc, it's just a general impingement, and it should be fairly short term: A few days of total rest, a few more days of only gentle exercise, and a few weeks until it's totally clear. And it might not crop again for a long time.

Even so, to go from full fitness to being a cripple has been utterly shocking.

In the meantime I've been given 100 Co-codamol, 84 extra strong anti-inflammatories, and 14 Dimazepan - more drugs than a 90s rave!! With this and the doctor's/osteo's advice, the prognosis is fairly good given how grim today has been. And, trying to be positive, it's another useful challenge for me to deal with a bit of a shit time. Hmmmmm!!

Sunday, 2 August 2009


Since I have started doing more sport climbing, I have started encountering British bolting on a more regular basis. Except there is nothing regular about it. British bolting is like the British weather that has forced me onto the bolts: Variable, unpredictable, unreliable, is frequently bollox and doesn't do what it promises.

Noticeably often it's not sport climbing in the truest sense, but dodgy-clip-stick-reliant-badly-positioned-mixed-semi-sport-climbing-semi-aid-climbing-relics. Partly due to our trad-orientated heritage but seemingly partly due to the archaic, insular, and sometimes downright cretinous attitudes that perpetuate and promote a heritage that is no longer suitable for that genre of climbing.

It's simple: when I, or indeed most people, choose to go sport climbing, we want to go sport climbing. If we wanted bold climbing with dodgy fall potential, we'd go trad climbing. If we wanted mixed climbing with long run-outs above bolts, we'd go slate climbing (well, the slate climbing that hasn't been retro/grid-bolted to fuck - now there's a more worthy target for the "sport climbing traditionalists"). If we wanted varied and weirdly spaced fixed protection, we'd go on some trad limestone.

But if we want sport, we want sport. That doesn't imply, as some people like to transparently foolishly extrapolate, grid-bolting, over-bolting, adding dozens of bolts to everything, regular bolting on the easiest ground etc etc. There are some modern overbolted routes around and these could do with a few bolts removed just as much as some of the relics from the 80s could do with a few bolts adding. But what it does imply is sensible, proper bolting. Bolts that are well spaced, that don't require clip-sticks unless they're impossible to clip otherwise, that are clipped high from resting jugs, that don't encourage ground-fall potential from clipping nor single bolt failure. As I say, it's simple, sport that feels like sport. Almost invariably, every example of shoddy bolting I've come across, could be fixed by adding merely one or two bolts, and rearranging one or two. It might be impractical at the moment, but it's by no means excessive or unreasonable.

And yes, I understand bolting requires a lot of effort, I am grateful to all those involved - particularly those bolt well. And I will donate to bolt funds when their effects trickle down to my lowly level and I see an effect on the climbs I'm interested in.

In the meantime, my friends with clipsticks and my trad climbing heritage gets me through these inconveniences - but they shouldn't have to.

Saturday, 1 August 2009


Hmmm so there have been some vaguely interesting and vaguely uninteresting developments this last month. Most of which have revolved around sorting out - or trying to sort out - a few non-climbing issues, that might lead to future progress and future plans, and in the background an undercurrent of limestone sport climbing which is pretty much all the climbing I've done in the month. As is often the case the utterly repulsive summer weather is the culprit, and looks to remain guilty for the foreseeable future, but at least clipping bolts has given me something vaguely fun to do. Next month's plans are: More stuff, definitely getting away to Wales/Cornwall if weather allows, and a bit more sport and local-ish trad if (when) it doesn't. My elbow has been a little tender so I'll have to be careful and cunning with that once more...

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Das rotpunkt ja?

As part of the general sport-climbing-as-training-for-greater-ranges plan this summer, I've started trying to redpoint the occasional route. Just like Steve Mclure, I've got some places where I'm running out of things to onsight, or there's nothing I can onsight, so I have to resort to redpointing to get some climbing done. I'm a sort of VS Steve Mac, yeah...

So, yeah, I've never done redpointing before, never been bothered. Flashing is infinitely more pleasurable and of course trad infinitely more pleasurable still. But in these times of need, it can fit the bill nicely. The other week was a prime example, in the last week of that grim muggy sweatathon heatwave, before of course all the summer rain came in. Far too hot to try anything remotely inspiring and worthwhile, so as The Eagles and I mused, there is nowhere better to be than dangling on the end of a rope, working something.

Of course, that working something then leads me to see potential, and get a bit into the idea, and wonder if I could actually redpoint something a bit challenging, as well as getting a little bit stronger and a little bit fitter (and a little bit tweakier in the elbow, so I'm going to have to be careful). So I've dabbled a bit more in recent weeks, the weather has encouraged this too by forcing me onto perma-dry and thus steep and hard crags. It's been kinda vaguely fun and something a bit different *shrug*.

Anyway today I did my first proper redpoint, Another Choadside Attraction at Raven Tor. Woo. Hoo.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009


It is now pretty much the height of Summer, so naturally it is pissing down and forecast to be the dreaded "sunshine and showers" for the foreseeable future or at least the next decade or so. Once again those who take pleasure in dry outdoor activities are labouring under the tyrannical yoke of this country's obnoxiously unpredictable and unreliable weather, and once again those who are most inspired by exploratory trips away to the mountains and coasts in the West have to suffer this yoke the most of all.

Welcome to the grossly unfair battle of Syked Trad Climber vs The Weather.

However this year, knowing that this is an unwinnable battle head on, I have been nimbly outwitting the situation, with advanced preparation. I have been trying to sort "stuff" out in the meantime, contacting lots of climbing partners and getting options for later in the "summer", and also doing sporadic running to keep fit. Hopefully giving me time and readiness if the weather does ever clear up (unfortunately I missed the last good periods due to said "stuff").

Also, more prominently, I have been on the Lime a lot, sport climbing as training for the Greater Ranges. I've dabbled a bit with this in the past, and it was a plan for last "summer" but of course injury stopped play then. Recently my injuries have felt fine and fairly healed (although I had a very slight niggle in my elbow last night, something I will have to heed diligently), and I have discovered that although Pennine inland Lime is generally Turd, it is a valuable training resource. I have been onsighting in the Matlock quarries and in Yorkshire, and working routes on local Peak crags, verily even thee Tor. All of which has got me stronger and fitter, given me some climbing to do when weather and time prevent away trips, and who knows there might have been a bit of enjoyment at some point...

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


Halfway through the year fuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuckfuck fuck fuck fuck.

Esoterica / cancelled trips / exploration / some ticks off the list / UCAS applications / driving and more driving / changing plans / seemingly uninjured / new medication / quarries / redpointing / issues and more issues / inspiration vs reality / oppressive heat / missed opportunities / tempus fugit / fuck fuck fuck.

Incapable of comprehensible blogging.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Loose rock, dust, vegetation, hidden holds, obscure moves...

...blind climbing, dirty slopers, dampness, spaced gear, badly positioned gear, man-eating plant-life, icy river-crossings, misleading descriptions...

Sounds like a full on adventure climbing horror, right??

Actually, it's supposedly proper convenience climbing - Peak sport climbing, on natural limestone.

I got a taster of it today in Chee Dale Upper, a taster that was at best educational and at worse bore an only highly tangential relationship to "enjoyment". All of those factors featured throughout the day, sometimes all on the same route - although the river crossing was rather fun. Compared to my recent experiences in the quarries, which have some of those qualities but generally in less overwhelming quantities, it was rather offputting. I can see the sense in training on this....stuff, it certainly works my weaknessness better than the pleasant and often reasonably bolted quarried crimping, but....well....I climb for FUN :S.

Thursday, 11 June 2009


Stuff going on, sorry.

Have been doing some interesting climbing stuff but no coherent thoughts to post on it (like that usually stops me, LOL). Maybe soon.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009


Eeeep. Tempus Fugit and all that. Although there have been interesting developments this month.

Climbing-wise, well, the month did end rather well. With weekends like this, in places like this:

....there is enough to feel happy about.

More later.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009


Ticklists again. I love/hate ticklists. Hate the ones that are herd-following obvious commercial Here Is A Book Full Of So-Called Essential Routes this is what you must tick lists. Love the ones that are obscure and quirky and have a distinctive theme and get you going to places you wouldn't otherwise go and doing things you wouldn't otherwise consider.

Something I've know for a long time is that I'm fascinated by different rock types - the aesthetics, the formations, the textures, the feel, the way they lend themselves to climbing, the diversity, the curiosity (especially of "WTF is this"-type rocks). Something I've realised recently is that I'm amassing a fairly respectable ticklist of different rock types, and am still enjoying it as much as ever, climbing on new ones.

In this country we are cursed by the weather and crowded roads, and blessed by the equally the best trad in the world (along with America) and by a phenomenal variety of rock crammed into a fairly accessible area. Just consider North Wales or the Lakes, each of which with a half-dozen major rock types within an hour's drive of each other. So here is my list, in true bumbling non-geologist style, from South-West to North-East:

Limestone (Torbay, also everywhere)

Limestone, Quarried (Torbay, also everywhere)

Shale (Bantham Hand)

Amphibiolite (Lizard)

Granite (West Penwith, many other places)

Granite, Quarried (Cheesewring, etc)

Killas Slate (Carn Kendijack)

Greenstone (St Gurnard's Head, Carn Gowla?)

Pilau Lava (Doyden Point, Pentire Point)

Culm Sandstone (Compass Point, Lower Sharpnose, etc)

Oolitic Limestone (Ham Hill Quarry)

Sandstone, Quarried (South Wales, also Pex, etc)

Arennig Gritstone (Rhinnogs)

Ignimbrite (Craig Y Mwn, also in Lakes?)

Gabbro (Porth Ysgo, Carrock Fell, western scotland etc)

Shale/Sandstone (Craig Doris)

Shale/Arennig Grit (Cilan Head)

Gwyna Melange (Twyn Maer Maen)

Meta-Dolerite (Pen-Y-Cil)

Dolerite (Tremadog)

Felsite (Carreg Hyll Drem, also Falcon Crags??)

Rhyolite (Dinas Cromlech, many other places)

Slate, Quarried (Dinorwic Slate, also Lakes Slate)

Quartzite (Gogarth, Rhoscolyn)

Sandstone (Helsby, also Northumberland and everywhere)

Hornstone (Beacon Hill)

Magnesian Limestone (Harborough, Brassington)

Gritstone (Roaches, Stanage, and everywhere)

Quarried Grit (Wiltons, Millstone, and elsewhere)

Coal Measure Sandstone (Wharncliffe)

Conglomerate (The Hoff)

Andesite (Borrowdale, Lakes in general)

Whinstone (Peel Crag, Crag Lough)

Greywacke (Meikle Ross, Portobello, all Stranraer area)

Micro-Granite (Llagantalluch, Crammag Head)

Basalt (Dumbarton, Central Belt Quarries)

Trachyte (Trapain Law)

Mica Schist (Dunkeld, Substation Crag, Glen Nevis and all Scotland)

Schist (???)

Gneiss (Diabaig, Loch Tolldaih, Sheigra)

Torridon Sandstone (Torridon)

Old Red Sandstone (Am Buchaille)

Anyone got any more for me to try??

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Finest pleasure in life...

...abusing and mocking those people who can't jam, when they struggle on easy crack climbs :).

Monday, 11 May 2009

Bouldering grades

Reasons why V grades are better than Font grades:

1. Visually simple linear scale.

2. More easily combined with English tech grades for crux moves.

3. Simpler and better applied in the lower grades.

4. Not confusable with other grading systems. Font grades are confusable, visually and linguistically, with English tech grades and sport grades. If you're telling someone "I did a 6b today", that could be English 6b, F6b, or Font 6b. If you say "I did a V4 today", that's clearly a V4 boulder problem.

^^^ The last one is perhaps the biggie and most conclusive.

Non-reasons why Font grades are apparently better:

(1.) "More accurate in lower grades." Whilst it's true there are a few more subdivisions, they don't seem to make a significant different and are universally badly applied, especially in Font.

(2.) "British climbing is most similar to Font climbing." Simply not true as both British climbing and Font climbing are very diverse, there's no reason why the Font system is any more applicable than the V system.

Okay, unfortunately it seems Font grades are catching on, for little reason other than fashion, trends, and probably the justifiable popularity of Font. So once again I am fighting a losing battle and will have to give up and learn the sodding messy Font system. But once again I will go down fighting and being RIGHT :P.

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Training revisited.

When wet: go indoors to lead walls, lead pumpy routes, push self, do falling practise. In general train for inspiring rock climbing.

When dry: go to local quarried / limestone, onsight some routes, maybe work others, push self. In general train for inspiring rock climbing.

So far, so fun. I had a good wall session the other week - in fact my best indoor leading session since 2007 (pre-injury)! I climbed a few challenging routes, had to pull properly hard (sore fingertips and fingers - on lead!), and got rather pumped a couple of times. This is good. Okay, I got scared and then carried away and didn't do falling practise, but aside from that it was cool. Similarly I had a nice evening down in a Matlock quarry (rapidly becoming my prefered training ground) where I pulled reasonably hard on lead. Sluggish warming up but got into it and into the relaxed bolted vibe. This is all good as it's keeping me fit and keeping me climbing well, or at least climbing okay, so when I can get away to proper places (currently Mid-Wales I'm especially keen for), I should be ready. Of course things - i.e. my deranged and fragile psychology - can still go up and and down, but physical preparation is always helpful.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Spank holiday.

Edit: Week late due to busyness, laziness, and grumpyiness.

Well, not quite a spank holiday but not much of a climbing one either. Another weekend of reasonable weather which I really didn't capitalise on with much decent climbing, although the social side was rather more pleasurable. One of these days I'll get my act together and make the most out of these weekends, but this wasn't that day. Having said that what I did do was kinda fun and had some interest:

This is some route or other at Long John's Stride at Wharncliffe. Very nice bit of the crag, quiet, sheltered, grassy, and some decent routes including the massively overgraded but not at all overrated Autumn Wall. Anyway I did the above arete and the one to the right of it. For both routes the crux of both grades was placing the gear, and quite predictably I had a wobbler whilst doing so. What was notable that through the cloud of swearing and belligerence, once gear was placed and climbing was commenced, I realised I was really rather enjoying it. The grouching was solely related to the gear faff and pretty transitory, and the pure pleasure of climbing was not long obscured. Which is nice :).

Also in this area and of interest is some, well, I shall call it ART. The quality of the work and the sympathy to the surroundings, both rock and woodland, defies the label of "graffiti".

So yeah that was that. Wharncliffe ho hum. This current weekend looks like it's properly toss. I really need to sort myself and my climbing organisation out.

Monday, 4 May 2009



Up down up down up down up down....

Thursday, 30 April 2009

Fear of falling

I am scared of falling. Utterly completely "handbrake ON" "simply can't do this" terrified of falling AND of getting in any situation where I might fall or might be so committed falling might be an option. This is safe falls onto good gear on clear terrain, BTW. Not terrified all the time, but enough of the time to confirm it's my default state. I've got side-stepped this fear on many occasions, almost always by cunning, tactics, working things out optimally, and generally stacking the odds so far in my favour that falling simply doesn't feel like an option.

However it is still an issue - no, THE issue - that holds me back the most, holds me back from the most climbing pleasure. A "lack of committment" as I once described it is simply a fear of committing to a possible-falling situation....a "fear of ending up unable to place/clip protection" is simply a fear of of falling onto the previous protection. I can committ quite well on moves to a big ledge or bomber gear slot!

Some might say "this happens to everyone". Well, aside from that being factually wrong, I'm not interested in everyone. I'm interested in my climbing, what I can do to progress, and getting the most pleasure out of it. The most pleasure will come from being less scared of falling and being able to enjoy inspiring high quality climbs without being held back from actually climbing them. This is not rocket science and I've been aware of it for many years, nevertheless that awareness ebbs and flows and it is quite clear at the moment that I need to, and would like to, keep trying to deal with this issue.

Thus, I sentence myself, for my own good, to falling practise each and every time I go to the climbing wall. This - as intimidating as it is to me - has helped before (another way I managed to , well, not side-step it, but actually tackle it) and I expect it will work again. Thus, a plan for progress.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Battered like sausage, beaten like egg.

Result: Fiend omelette. Delicious, nutritious, and with all your essential saturated fats guaranteed.

The recipe for turning Fiend into mincemeat was demonstrated this weekend. Take an overhanging slanting jamming crack, arrange the crack so that many good hand jams are visible in the first half, and arrange the rock strata to give the impression of being slightly overhanging, all to imbue the victim/ingredient with a sense of awe and confidence. Stir said ingredient into the mix and slowly puree along 15m of mild hand crushing. As things start coming to the boil, widen the crack and increase the angle to ensure upper limbs are adequately tenderised, then briefly simmer in a traumatic leg searing niche, allowing the exposure and exhaustion to pulverise any firmness left in the meat. Serve hanging on the rope....and for dessert ensure that the only method of retrieving ropes is a 2 hour epic of abseiling, retrieving ropes, prussiking, and semi-seconding said horror.

For a digestif, finally abseil off and realise the whole crag overhangs by many metres, including the so-called slabby niche that is merely overhanging slightly less than the rest.

Next time I'm taking a sodding protractor or surveying equipment so that when insidious thoughts like "it overhangs a little bit" and "that niche looks like a good rest" bubble up into my mind, I can get a grip on REALITY first!!

Suffice to say, I was beaten fair and square. I tried hard, but it was too hard. Too exhausting overall, too wild, too blind and committing a finish to deal with when I was that knackered....and stressed.

In fact, in common with the previous weekend's debacle/failure (yes, there was one, obviously), the key factor was discomfort/stress. This week it was overall exhaustion, arm pain from the climbing and leg pain from the hideous niche that meant I couldn't recover. Last week it was extreme foot pain on a slate slab that meant I could not stand around and work out crux moves. Both situations required time - time spent in one area, working out moves (and letting limbs recover) - and a clear head to deal with the challenges. And in both situations there was unavoidable discomfort, discomfort that made spending that time increasingly hard, AND created stress and that stress clouded my mind so I couldn't work out how to progress.

Clearly there is a lesson to learn there. Dealing with discomfort and stress: partly by preparing better, but mostly by dealing with it as it happens, accepting and allowing the discomfort, but not succumbing to it, keeping the mind calm even as the body is pressured. Not easy at all, but recognising the issue, it is something to work on.

But there is also another lesson....both situations may have been resolvable by pressing on quickly, in an uncertain and unlikely way, with a chance of progressing to somewhere to recover, but with a high risk of falling why didn't I do that...

Monday, 27 April 2009


Alas, poor slate, I knew it well. Not very well, as an outsider and a relative youth, but intimately in my own way. I knew it as a fascinating and obscure medium, a venue of mystery and magic, of brilliant climbing amidst industrial wreckage, of climbing quality masked by the rainy day tag and the lure of the mountains, of eerieness and quietness and exploration and intrigue.

And now?? The rock is still there - if you can see it past the crowds and bolts - but the magic is going.

This may be due to retro / re / grid bolting and the seemingly determined attempts to turn it into the Portland of Snowdonia, but also due to fashion. Fashion and trends and crowd following and suddenly a once mystical area is swamped by hordes of braying Londoners and Brummies, gangs of students and beginners who can't resist the newly bolted 4+ slabs, girls who like crimpy bloody slabs, and vapid UKC sheep full of internet information and empty in soul and spirit, all queuing for routes and blethering on about their latest big ticks and big numbers, all overgraded and overbolted of course.

Why was I there? Convenience, guilty as charged for that, but also my partner's desire which I trust is an older and purer one than many. Still, I will keep coming back, with partners when they need to, and maybe the new guide will highlight some interesting options and spread the load...

Friday, 24 April 2009

"Exploration, and maybe sport climbing"

Or indeed both.

One day I went to Slaley Brook Quarry near Matlock for some sport climbing, this was fun. In the grand tradition of such quarries there is a lot of appalling rock but also some distinct sections of quality climbing. Indeed at Slaley the appalling choss is truly horrifying, and the more climbable Marble Wall is really rather nice, with a surprisingly amount of flowstone and a nice selection of steady, crimpy wall climbs. I did a few and they were jolly nice really. I felt happy.

Another day I went to Pallet Crag near Barnard Castle for some esoteric exploration, this was fun. In the grand tradition of such minor venues there is a fair amount of scruffy bits and signs of underuse but also some definite hidden gems to be found. Indeed at Pallet there is only one climbable buttress, and it is really rather nice, a small but proud pillar of well featured gritstone and a nice selection of varied mid-grade routes. I did a a few and they were jolly nice. I felt happy.

Hurrah. The latter day also reminded me that - as a professed esotericist, I do enjoy these jolly jaunts to obscure hidden gem crags :). Not as much as I enjoy exciting and massively inspiring routes that I can't get out of my mind, but at times like this, odd little curios keep the fun going...

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

False start.

There has been one. After a perky March, April has been somewhat more foolish for my climbing. As always, the fool is me. With weather, experience, and fitness stacked in my favour, my state of mind has let me down. A certain amount of depression and doubt has been more conducive to gazing at climbs in a state of terror and worry and walking away, rather than actually climbing them. This is the way it sometimes is with me....I have issues....those sometimes affect my climbing.

Last spring I had to be careful and cunning with my climbing plans as my body was weak and fragile.

This spring I have to be careful and cunning with my climbing plans as my mind is weak and fragile.

Thus....I've realised that when I feel this way, I should stick unintimidating climbing - climbing that suits me, is within my comfort zone, is not so dependent on inner confidence. This doesn't have to be mundane - Gogarth Red Wall for example is unintimidating as although it's adventurous, the climbing is piss. But in general, exploration (the obligatory exploration = route choice!!), and maybe sport climbing too, seem like good plans. And if I have moments of confidence, I can follow my higher inspirations then....go with what I feel, knowing that my feelings are pretty important in my climbing...

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

General and various aims...

I only write them down because my memory is so rubbish I actually forget what I want to do :)

England and Wales only. Scotland Ireland and the rest of the world are many more kettles of fish. You get the gist I think.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Wank Holiday


Maybe I didn't want to go climbing that much?? Maybe I got so confused by the unpredictable weather that I lost motivation?? Maybe I'm just lazy??

I don't know, I've realised I don't fully understand climbing yet - well, I understand myself as a climber and a person even less...!!

Monday, 13 April 2009

Takein - Intake.

I've found a new training ground for the summer: Intake Quarry (link to Gary Gibson's delightfully archaic, haphazard, and fairly broken website - entirely appropriate for the venues described! :)). Although partially featuring in the Rockfax Limestone Guide, I've been unduly intrigued by this particular one of the numerous Peak Limestone Quarried Shitheaps - mostly because of the large number of trad routes featured on the site.

I had a delightful Bank Holiday jaunt there yesterday (what a fine choice for the weekend, sir :P), and found as well as being reasonably pleasant for a chossy limestone quarry (and believe me there is a lot of choss here surrounding the "slightly" better sections of semi-climbable rock), it looks reasonably suitable to keep me route fit when time dictates only local days: Long pumpy-looking sport routes around F6a-F7a, long pumpy AND scary-looking trad routes around E1-E4, it's likely there's a good workout to be had.

Not even I will claim to be that inspired by such a place (although no doubt there's the odd gem, hidden in plain view), but I'm inspired by keeping fit, and it beats the climbing wall, just...

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Funny business - fear and failure.

Climbing's a funny business. Funny strange and probably funny haha if one is that way inclined. Maybe it would benefit me to heed the ludicrosity of it all a bit more?? Cos it still bemuses the hell after me - trad leading especially. After 12 years or so climbing, 1000s of routes, route after route after day after day after year after year pushing myself and progressing, I still don't really get it. The waxing and the waning, the ebb and flow, the maddeningly random ups and downs that see you one day cruising everything in sight and the next day struggling even to do warm-up routes. Climbing challenging routes is an admirable goal, but so is consistency and whilst I've managed the former I still don't seem to manage the latter as much as I like.

Today was one such example of this: I went somewhere with inspiring challenges (or is that challenging inspirations) for me to try, and not much else. I went with a purpose, but that purpose SCARED ME. I had THE FEAR through most of the day. Eventually I felt ready and somewhat more syked and got on a warm-up route. Autopilot took over for a bit but it didn't take much for the fear to come back: a bit of pump, a bit of scruffy rock, a bit of a crux and a lot of THE DAMN FUCKING FEAR SCARING THE SHIT OUT OF ME WHEN FACED WITH EASY MOVES AND GOOD GEAR BY MY KNEES. Jeez... Why?? I don't really know. A bit tired? A bit struggling for syke? A bit unfed? A bit of a fucking gaylord? The latter most likely ;).

There is some stuff to learn from this, and a simple method to follow: Be honest. Analyse weakness. Train it.

But although I'm not so cross now (there was a "bit" of swearing at the time), I'm still bemused. Climbing, funny old business. And who knows what it will bring tomorrow...

Friday, 10 April 2009

Climbing sandwich.

A few recent days:

Bread: Bouldering in poor conditions. Whilst recovering from my throat infection, I went to Carrock Fell for some bouldering mileage. Not quite sure what I expected but it was a particular blend of fun: hazy conditions that were dreadful for climbing on the rough gabbro slopers, new skin growth peeling off all the time, painfully breaking in new shoes, disappointing easy problems, feeling weak as a kitten, AND feeling nauseous after every single problem due to the antibiotics. YAY :). Actually I did enjoy a couple of problems and accepted all the issues around and at least the haze looked great with the evening sun...

Filling: Trad climbing in good conditions. A little while later, after some chillout time and a recuperative session of crazy putting, I went to Cambusbarron for some leading mileage. And indeed got more miles than I expected, the partner I was with fortuitously decided he'd like to second some ""harder"" routes for a change, so I raced through a few easy extremes, much fun. I also equally unexpectedly managed my main Cambusbarron tick, Chisel, which was well worth the syking up required and provided a satisfying challenge. However now I've done that there are many more challenges there....and elsewhere...

Bread: Bouldering in poor conditions. Went indoors for a brief hour of power. Not quite sure why as I'm sure I should have been running or doing routes or something relevant, nevertheless. Anyway I got my comeuppance, a decent workout but almost entirely devoid of actually success - and almost entirely due to conditions. I seemed to choose sloper problems with an unerring knack, and slide off them with even less erring. No surprises being hampered by conditions not strength, but it's all training of a form isn't it...

Monday, 6 April 2009


Bit slow with this one but never mind.

1/4 of the way through the year. Jeez. Scary. I don't mind time passing in general (as long as some of it passes well) but this is passing somewhat quickly and I have a lot I should be doing. This last month "a lot I should be doing" has gone fairly bollox (has gone? I've made it go, more like...). On the other hand, other life "stuff" has been pretty exciting... And climbing has been pretty good, in fact the best for a year, I reckon: Injuries still present but very slightly lessening and usually manageable, fitness okay, tradding good and bouldering good. I just feel ready (and syked) for climbing, without being too desperate. Where's my mofoing party poppers??

So this month has gone quickly but it's gone fairly well. Now I need to make sure I do fairly well, and soon...

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

And now...?

So....what now?

My injuries seem, at last, to be managable. My climbing seems, at last, to be going well. This is good! Hopefully I can follow some inspirations and enjoy some good climbing this year.

What I intend to do for now is to be smart and stick to what inspires me (proper trad, bit of sport, bit of bouldering projects), I shouldn't be climbing too much but want to make days out count... In the meantime, fit in some good training: Indoor routes or outdoor sport routes for stamina and mileage (and hopefully the dreaded but obligatory falling practise...), and definitely keep up with the running for fitness. I feel on reasonable form with strength and ability, but stamina and fitness have always been weaknessnes - thankfully training those is fairly obvious and logistically simple so I should be able to do that steadily to support days out.

Seems like a sensible plan...

Edit: And now... I've got a tossing throat infection :S. Still I've caught it early and am on Penicillin. 3 illnesses in 3 months, not a great track record this year, boo hiss. So I guess this is a useful rest week then *rolls eyes*.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Excuses and reasons.

1. Climbing ability.

2. Skin conditions. Sweat. Toughness. Weather conditions. Sun. Wind. Temperature. Humidity. Rock conditions. Rock quality. Chalk type. Shoe type. Shoe rubber. Tiredness. Illness. Injury. Diet. Warming up. Days on / days off. Light. Time. Atmosphere. Distractions.

There are many factors involved with challenging climbing and pushing personal potential. Actual ability (and all that entails!) is one. Temporary or external factors are many others. These factors can be present or absent, real or imaginary, effectual or exaggerated, reasons or excuses. They can be genuinely stacked in the climbers favour and the climber can crush or fail (maybe because of them), they can be genuinely stacked against the climber and the climber can still crush or fail (most likely despite them).

A climber may be foolish by ignoring such factors. A climber may be foolish by believing those factors have more of an effect than they do (there is no weighting given in the two lists above). But also a climber may be foolish by dismissing and disbelieving such factors.

On the other hand, a canny climber uses all the tactics and planning their armoury to stack all the odds in their favour. The canny climber also honestly knows when those factors have a genuine effect - and also that knows they still may crush....maybe.

Incidentally, a fair amount of the climbing I have done, I've done because of stacking the odds in my favour - often to overcome any shortcomings in No. 1. ;). But occasionally I've done well despite No. 2., and of course part of the learning process is to learn to deal with - or outwit - any odds stacked against oneself...

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Changing inspirations.

Inspiration is a funny factor: fundamental, but fickle. For the dedicated, passionate climber, it is the finest motivator, true inspiration from amazing lines, intriguing rock, personal tastes, the climbing journey and the challenge of the route, and of course a large dose of anticipated pleasure and fun.

It's certainly what drives me. That and the inscrutable exhortations of my soul, of course.

What makes it curious is that I can define, write down, and explicate my inspirations, but they are still an opaque driving force. Recognising and admitting I am inspired by X doesn't mean I'll do X and it doesn't mean the inspiration will last and it doesn't mean that when I'm ready or able to do X that I'll actually want to then. A goal may be set down but it is not set in stone, the whole point of inspiration is to follow it, not to dictate it.

Thus in recent months my motivations have changed from esoteric mileage to bouldering circuits to hidden grit gems to highballs / solos to general rest and finally to bouldering projects and proper trad. I had vague plans and desires over the winter which I pretty much entirely failed to do, and now I feel more capable of tackling them, I have little or no interest!! And there's a part of me that thinks I'm missing out, that thinks I should be doing what once inspired me....but then I realise it doesn't matter: I'm doing what I'm inspired by NOW, and what I was inspired by THEN is less relevant and warrants no regrets.

So whatever tomorrow's inspiration brings, that will be the one to follow...