Sunday, 28 December 2014

The year in numbers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


A few things I can note about this list:

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

Monday, 22 December 2014

Slipping it in.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, 5 December 2014

The wrong side of the pebble.

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

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

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

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

Run out like a trout.

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

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