Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Pink and purple.


I love a bit of pink and purple action I do.

So it's a strange time at the moment. When I bashed my leg two months ago and I got it x-rayed at Macc A&E, I was a bit lax with hand hygiene and picked up some norovirus or equivalent, which to put it conservatively, was the worst thing in the history of fucking bullshit. So night 1 was hobbling out of The Roaches with the biggest leg impact I've taken, night 2 was turning myself inside out, and days 3-5 were existing on ~600 calories average while trying to heal that leg. Can you guess where my immune system went?? No, me neither.

The leg healed really well. Slow and steady and seemingly strong (more on that later).

My insides?? Not so much. Ever since the virus, I've had bouts of nausea every two weeks, lasting many hours, enough to stop me sleeping, stop me eating, and wipe me out for a couple of days. The origin point seems obvious, but the actual problem is unknown - and still being investigated. My diet is much better and I'm taking various natural supplements to help. This has put a dampener on things from my state of mind to my grander climbing plans. However in-between these bouts, after I recover my strength, I'm discovering that my strength is, well, surprisingly okay.

Take the last couple of weekends. Sunday day time I got out for the first time in 2 months and did this:



Really good fun. Tiny sloping ripples, extended moves, and a precarious feel. Nice day out. Proper mint connies and all that. That evening I feel happy, eat plenty of chicken and a light green salad, and soon started feeling nauseous out of the blue. Neck two anti-nausea tablets, crawl into bed, and finally pass out at 2am (early by bout standards). Couldn't do fuck all for 2-3 days. Rest of the week feel gurgly and bloated having started taking strong pro-biotics (bad timing).

Friday I don one of my highly motivational death metal vests (Cattle Decapitation), go to the gym feeling weak, and bust out a PB of 80kg x 2 benchpress (can usually only manage one). Saturday I swap to another vest (Napalm Death), brave a freezing cold Ratho, do my hardest indoor lead ever and get very close on an equally hard one. Sunday I am keep the ND vest on as I am still awaiting a fresh vest (Behemoth), go to the gym again, 3rd day on and not having done proper deadlifting for nearly 3 months, warm up, equal my 160kg and death-growl my way to a 170kg PB (see, the leg is okay). Hopefully if / when the next bout hits, I will be able to take some heart in this.

Back to Saturday and purple routes. I was chatting to Big Bob as usual and he pointed out a new Purple 7b on the Justice Wall. "Saved it for weeks, but blew it"...."Totally sustained"..."Fighting all the way in the middle"...."No rests at all"...."Will be a good top-roping training route". Robert and I are sort of vaguely equal in our climbing. What he lacks in strength, bravery, and strong vests, he makes up for in height, tallness, reach, and, errr, ummm, okay stamina, too much stamina. Generally if it's too pumpy for him then it's waaaaay too pumpy for me, but that's okay, having done all of my "onsightable" routes at the Mighty R (the other Mighty R, huh), I'm just after pulling a bit harder on things I won't get up, but will have a good fight however far I get.

Initially, this goes to plan. My first proper route is another Purple 7b, but this time on the New Comp Wall, a pure power-to-weight section that is my anti-style - particularly when it's a 7b ladder of incuts and pinches and no jugs in sight. However instead of getting shut down halfway up, I somehow end up one bolt from the chain and have to jump off as I can do the moves but not the clips. Not bad.

Sticking with the theme, it's on to Justice Wall Purple. I do like doing the earlier sections of harder routes here as they give a good cranky fight compared to easier full length stamina plods - good to mix in both. My aim is to get to the 2/3 height main lip, as I reckon I will be fine on the fingery lower section, while the steep middle section has decent enough holds to keep going but will burn me out totally, and it will all be good training / fun. Initially it all seems to work: The start is cranky and crimpy enough to offer little respite. Going into the middle section, Robert's warning comes true - all the decent holds are tucked around or beneath volumes ensuring they rapidly disappear as footholds, leaving volume smears and sketchy moves. I'm nearly off on some reachy moves part way but sporadic falling practise gives me the confidence to just go for it, and I stay attached - even at the lip. Aren't I supposed to be dangling on the rope, nursing my forearms already?? Apparently not - even when another tricky crossover to a sloping rail nearly spits me off again, but the frictional condition is a silver lining to the freezing cold and my paws drape along it. Another on/off move sees me, increasingly surprised, at a good edge shakeout, far further up than I should be, I can barely hear Lauren's distant encouragement below. I've been fighting for a while now so keep doing it, vigorous arm flicks and hyperventilating lead into another I-should-have-dropped-this reach to micro-jugs and then somehow the finish. My lungs are still hurting on the drive back.

In the grand scheme of things, while I feel occasionally fucking rotten, and indoor climbing is irrelevant toss, this does show some potential...

Oh and the pink part of the equation?? I've done quite a few pinks down at TCA. They are great problems with plenty of techniness and always make training fun. Possibly a bit too much fun as the weirdo knacky slopey ones always tend to lure me away from the pure power training a lard-arse like me should be doing. Including the squeezy egyptian volume sloper tickle problem on the new comp wall. One weak and queasy Sunday it felt entirely unfeasible, a few days later I unlocked it (and several others) fairly determinedly, mostly helped by Fultonious shouting "SAUSAGE" at me as I snatched for the shapely finishing hold  (more like a croissant shape to be honest but if Ally has got pink sausage on the mind who am I to argue).

Friday, 5 January 2018

The fleet.


I quite like radio controlled cars...

Car: HPI Savage XS
Type: 1/12 4WD monster truck
Upgrades: HPI SS-40WP servo, HPI CVD axles, HPI HD drive cups, Proline Big Joe 2.2 wheels, TBone Thrasher bumpers, orange anodised nuts.
Purpose: Everything!! Serious bashing, cruising, crawling, being a RC BEAST.
Speed: 40 mph (2S Lipo)
Finest moments: bashing  the  shit  out of it


Car: Tamiya Dual Ridge TT02B
Type: 1/10 4WD buggy
Upgrades: Absima CR2S receiver, Savox 9kg servo, Hobbywing Quicrun 13.5T brushless motor, full ball bearings, Tamiya aluminium drive shaft
Purpose: Enjoying the kit build, learning off-road track driving, gentle bashing
Speed: 23 mph (2S Lipo)
Finest moments: nice skate cruising


Car: FTX Colt
Type: 1/18 4WD mini buggy
Upgrades: Absima CR2S receiver, FTX 9g servo, FTX brushless ESC, Hobbywing Ezrun 7800kv brushless motor, FTX aluminium CVD axles, FTX sway bar, custom nylon sheet bumper, blue anodised nuts
Purpose: Melting the ESC and Brushless motor, mini-scale off-road track driving, fast cruising
Speed: 36 mph (2S Lipo)
Finest moments: getting the brushless conversion working


Car: Himoto Mastadon / Maverick Ion XT hybrid
Type: 1/18 4WD mini truggy
Upgrades: Maverick Ion MT wheels, Ion MT front and back bumpers, Ion aluminium shock absorbers, Ion aluminium drive cups, Ion aluminium dog bones, 3S Lipo
Purpose: Bashing, repairing, being too fast for it's own good - will probably sell soon.
Speed: 36 mph (3S lipo)
Finest moments: n/a

Car: Carisma GT24TR
Type: 1/24 4WD micro truggy
Upgrades: Carisma aluminium shock absorbers, Carisma carbon fibre shock towers, Carisma 12000kv brushless motor, pink anodised wheel nuts, custom nylon sheet bumper, custom LED lighting rig
Purpose: Being great value for it's size, bashing, cruising, fixing.
Speed: 31 mph (2S Lipo)
Finest moments: serious skatepark fun


Car: Losi Micro Truggy
Type: 1/26 4WD micro truggy
Upgrades: Losi brushless ESC + 2.4ghz receiver upgrade, Losi 2.4ghz transmitter, Losi 10500kv brushless motor, Losi micro SCT front bumper.
Purpose: Being ridiculously fast for it's size, bashing, cruising, good travel RC
Speed: 33 mph (3S lipo)
Finest moments: being fast....and fun


Car: WLToys P929
Type: 1/28 4WD micro truck
Upgrades: PNRacing 50T brushed 130 motor, custom LED lighting rig
Purpose: Street cruising, night-time cruising - will probably sell soon.
Speed: 23 mph (2S Lipo)
Finest moments: christmas cruising


Car: Oorlando Hunter
Type: 1/35 4WD micro crawler
Upgrades: 300 RPM motor upgrade, HPI RF45 receiver
Purpose: Fascinating micro-kit build, desktop crawling, annoying cats - will probably sell soon.
Speed: n/a
Finest moments: annoying cats


Possible future aims:
Tamiya Konghead 1/18 6WD monster truck
Traxxas E-Revo VXL TSM 1/16 4WD truggy
Volantex Vector 40cm brushless boat
(RCs follow the n+1 scale, but unlike owning lots of bicycles, it's considerably less geeky and not as certain a guarantee of massive bellendism).

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Gym'll fix it.


The simple raw beauty of an authentic natural experience. This is not the gym.

Looking down from that raw beauty into the septic miasma of Glasgow. Gyms lurk here.

It's raining (I don't even know if it is, but it's a fair assumption), we're training. Circuits, hangs, bloques, plastic, resin, wood.......metal?? All of the above??

Gyms are awful places. Crass, bland, utterly sterile, full of terrible music and desperate girls on the treadmills and inflated meatheads flexing in the mirror. About as far from the raw beauty of a natural experience as it gets....but out in that environment, say, braced and dangling above the sea on the "grossly overhanging" Call To Arms, those very arms and and indeed legs burning, the idea of having some fitness and strength is quite an appealing one and could even make gyms an appealing means to that end. 

Of course, that end is climbing and gym training isn't climbing training, as people (often people who are already very physically fit with fully functional legs that require little additional work AND very climbing fit etc etc) are quick to point out... "Do more climbing training", they say. Bloody great idea if you have rhino skin and steel tendons. On the other hand when I have the following options...

1. Train climbing 5+ times a week, bouldering, routes, boarding.
Likely result: Unable to climb hard after first week due to fucked skin and fingertips. Unable to climb at all after second week due to chronic golfer's elbow and shoulder impingments. 

2. Train climbing 3+ times a week, rest on the other days.
Likely result: Able to cope with the climbing level, get fat and demoralised in between times. Climbing progress slows due to weight and slothfulness.

3. Train climbing 3+ times a week, do awesome outdoor activity 2 days a week.
Likely result: Able to cope with the climbing level, but either drown, get hypothermia, or give up awesome outdoor activity as it's too bloody miserable in Scotland in winter - or even if I survived I'd be too hampered by DVTs to make full use of a glorious hillwalk in horizontal sleet. 

4. Train climbing 3+ times a week, go to gym 2 times a week.
Result: Able to cope with the climbing level, complimentary training at gym improves core and antagonists, along with CV in a drier environment, weight is stable and climbing progresses due to stimulated muscles and improved motivation/energy.

...then hopefully those uberfit uninjured climbing hones can forgive me if I choose the option that actually works for me.

Bear in mind I try to use the gym quite sensibly - I have no intention of becoming an inflated meathead, although I do enjoy lifting heavy metals in short controlled bursts:


Yup actually having FUN doing a physically challenging activity can be a useful motivator.... In terms of weights, I've spent a bit of time looking at bodybuilding videos on Youtube to find what is effective for bulking up and finding common threads e.g.: focusing on the 8-15 rep range, aiming for the maximum time-under-tension, isolating specific muscles, not resting weights on fully extended/contracted limbs, doing specific muscle group sessions, eating a lot to support muscle growth etc AND THEN DOING THE OPPOSITE e.g. focusing on 1RMs and high weights / low reps for pure strength, aiming for maximum effort in very short bursts, working overall movements, resting between reps and long rests between sets, mixing in all different muscles groups in small doses for each one, and trying to eat healthily but not excessively.

My usual gym training consists of some of (in varying proportions):

Climbing relevant training:
Pull-ups
Lat pull downs
Rows
- All pretty damn obvious. I don't mind mixing in some higher reps with these as I figure a little bit of muscle gain from pulling down on stuff is probably offset from being able to, errr, pull down on stuff.
Antagonist weight training:
Benchpress
Shoulder press
- Bog standard antagonist stuff. High weight low reps for these, warm-up on 5s, then down to 3s, then down to 1RM. Total of 15 reps overall with lots of rests. I love the motions of both of these especially bench.
Dips
- Also standard antagonist and probably good for helping with mantles. I usually do these in sets of 10, again banking on relevant muscle gains.
Leg weight training:
Deadlifts
- I love deadlifts. If you don't love deadlifts, check for a pulse. All round great exercise for maximum muscle stimulation. 
Squats
- I have problems with leg fitness, which is particularly noticable on steep uphills. I figure that a bit of leg strength might help. Also good for rock-overs.
- High weight low rep stuff for both of these of course. I don't want fucking cyclist thighs.
Core training:
Leg raises
Machine crunches
Machine rotations
- Bog standard core. Again I don't mind doing longer sets for these as they are so relevant to climbing.
CV training:
Compound lifts
- Very light weight clean and jerk into overhead press, renegade rows etc. Overall body and good heartrate boosters in a short time.
Sledge pushing
- The sledge is a cunt, nuff said. This is THE most relevant exercise I've found for slogging uphill with a rucsac on, not least because I hate it, so it must be right.
Rowing machine
Recumbent cycling
- Both obvious, both specifically good for me with my legs, the former as it uses other muscles too, the latter as the recumbent posture encourages venous return. I do these after the heavy weights as they're meant to be more effective once muscles are stimulated.

Will this get me to "tick 8a" or "first Enumber" or whatever crass fucking bullshit I'm supposed to aim for?? Not directly, no. Will it improve my body and mind overall to be better prepared for climbing training and physically harder climbing subject to a lot of climbing training?? Yes, yes it has.

Gyms are awful places. But they are useful places to push yourself physically and improve yourself physically, and I've kinda grown fond of them in that way.....and all those poncy twats down there, at least they're putting the effort into something physical and active and progressive....

The music still fucking sucks tho.


Saturday, 18 November 2017

Three of the decentest.


It's been a long time since proper blogging. Sucktember slipped into Cocktober and then into Knobvember and no-one noticed except the days of rain and sunshine and showers grew shorter, as they invariably do, but not drier. The lack of proper blogging might correspond to the lack of proper climbing, my grand dreams of an autumn cranking to match my spectacular spring in the South West were diluted into homeopathic proportions and washed down the drain. I got South of the border a couple of times, one of them was to Armathwaite with a bone dry forecast and the whole thing was damp and I did some shitty greasy boulder problems in the first bay while Katy's lunatic Jadedog dug a WW1 style trench and turned the highballs left of Time And Motion Man back into proper solos and it was a fucking waste of 3.5 hours driving. As was Berryhill where I failed on an HVS (!) and then out of "sunshine and showers" only one of those came true.

Cheviot from Berryhill. Atmospheric and bollox.

BUT.

Amongst all this fucking DROSS, there were moments of enlightenment, and by enlightenment I mean doing cool routes that might be a world away from my mega-inspirations but are also a world away from greasy eliminate bouldering (best left to Peak Limestone fans and other perverts who rank only slightly above winter climbers and vegans in the fucking weirdo stakes). Such as:

Counting Out Time, Newtyle Quarry:



Aka proper climbing at Newtyle which has become infamous as the dank hole in the ground where the aforementioned winter perverts gather to slot their tools into grubby slots. It's also got an impressive sheet of slab which no-one climbs because of it's 2 minute access, loads of mid-grade climbs, quick drying, evening sun, scarcely an hour from the Central Belt etc etc so why would anyone actually climb there instead of queuing for chalk-crusted smeg on Marlena wall or polishing Dumby some more?? Anyway it must be said that the slab itself is a bit bold, the E2 warm-up I did had one good cluster of gear in 25m. But on the other hand this gem has a great line and loads of gear (even at the "bold" overlap), it also has a proper slate smearing crux and overall is quite a treat. I loved it.


Whipper Snapper, Ashie Fort:




Another crag in the "hordes of the unwashed polishing the pebbles at Moy while this more accessible, closer to Inverness, equally sunny and infinitely more scenic crag languishes relatively under-used" ilk. I like Ashie. It's tricky, techy, necky, can look a bit mossy (nothing that more traffic wouldn't help), but it is essentially a grit-scaled conglomerate crag in strictly the mellowest of situations. This day, sandwiched in the middle of the dreichness, started badly struggling up a seeping HVS and finished well styling up this elegant and bold route. A vast amount of gear can be faffed in before the crux scoop, at least one or two bits might hold. Thankfully with a bit of composure and commitment it all went smoothly, another little gem.


Duel Variation, Dunkeld:



No photo for this one so here's a picture of an enormous and rather cool caterpillar instead. Due to the weather I had too many visits to Polney (and Upper Cave but I'm not talking about that), none of which involved doing what I really wanted to do. Something about this really steep impending wall with flakey crimps and a tied down sling for gear before eventually getting a distant peg put me off. As usual enough psyche and I eventually crack, one of the visits I had the usual indepth look, then a sit down and a good talk with myself about committing to the process, and then did it. Did it bloody well too, flicked a skyhook on during the steepness, cranked to the peg, tried a cam to back it up, didn't fit but I didn't faff, just ignored it and rocked over the lip to not glory but the satisfaction of snap decisions erring on the side of actually doing the climbing. And yeah another great wee route.

The moral being, good routes are good routes even if they're not quite the good routes I wanted to be doing....

Friday, 17 November 2017

Trajectory Of The Twat


Left foot up smearing, right foot up smearing, step left foot onto high edge, bring right hand over above left hand onto the arete... Something - still unknown - gives way, the compressed posture springs me out, arcing me down, the meticulously planned running belay comes tight, slamming me into the overlap like a soft meat wrecking ball. Thigh on the overlap, calf on the shelf below, knee luckily nestled in-between. Lower to the ground I was nowhere near, a couple of minutes unable to think or speak, but through the haze of pain I am weight-bearing so the bones at least are intact. Half an hour sorting kit, a mile hobble on the rough wet track on my own in the dark. Recompress myself into the car seat, test I can do an emergency stop, drive to Macclesfield A&E, x-ray confirms no breaks, but massive swelling, bruising, and a full length compression stocking for the foreseeable future. Hartington Hall hostel. Drive to Glasgow via almost every services to keep leg moving. Prop box and pillow under desk so I can use computer... And here I am, from that position to this one.

...

The grit had been called and I was out of the starting blocs pretty quick. After an abortively mediocre weekend at Crookrise, I'd written the list and summoned the determination - both steps that usually summon the rain gods for several months but maybe they were bored after all their exertions throughout autumn?? In an extravagant convergence of Audi A3 TDIs, Tom had driven from St Austell and I had driven from Glasgow and we met at the crag in glorious weather. I'd spent a few years getting inspired by such grit routes, a few days getting intimidated by this route, and a few hours at the crag analysing, calming down, planning and getting inspired. And then I got on it and then I fell off it and then I was lying on the ground thinking:

 "What the FUCK happened?? I had planned so well, I had climbed well, I had fucking FAITH in the grit and that's the whole point of being able to climb it?? And how the fuck can I try anything challenging if I fell off a 'safe' section and here I am lying on the ground??"

This, in a way, was more upsetting than the fall, than the pain, than the failure, than the prospect of injury and recovery. If I do everything right and it still goes wrong (and this isn't some bullshit like winter climbing where the whole route or climate can fuck you over untoward), how can I trust the rock, how can I trust myself?? Mistakes are easier to learn from than lack of mistakes....

Except they were there, and the dark hobble gave me enough time to think about them: In general, I don't fuck around with maximising the safety system, and I try hard not to fuck around with faffing too much these days (it's a work in progress...). This time:

1. I underestimated the need to faff on that one section of the route. I'd got very focused on the start ("traverse right with care" - implying it was remotely difficult when it wasn't, and is part of a much easier route, which I'd have known if I'd have read the guide more) and the finish (clearly bold). I hadn't got focused on the sequence getting to the finish, because hey it wasn't mentioned and it was right next to the gear, right? When I got there it felt tricky but I still didn't take it that seriously - my mind wasn't in the moment, it was in the future, thinking "I just need to get this done so I can be stood up and work out that bold finish". But of course that section still needed focus and really my trademark faffing would have been much more suitable. Don't underestimate the easy / un-mentioned sections on gritstone.

2. I overestimated the safety system. I'd got so focused on the bold finish and using a running belay to not hit the ground, I hadn't considered other risks in the fall and that the running belay might be unsuitable for other sections (though if I had fallen off the finish, the sort of impact I took would still have been better than a groundfall). DOA - Distance, Objects, Angles. I'd been so fixated on the distance of a fall that I hadn't looked at the objects (the overlap) or the angles. Tom did the running belay plan perfectly, but if I'd actually planned for a softer catch on most of the route, I could have avoided such an impact. Consider all aspects of a fall not just the distance, and consider falls from all possible areas of a route.

If I did this sort of route again.... I'd read the book carefully, I'd know the start should okay (but still pay attention to it). I'd divide my focus up more evenly. I'd plan out the gear and running belay better. I'd look at other aspects of the fall and try to plan for those. I'd anticipate challenge throughout the route. I'd take heed if sections started to feel unduly tricky and treat them with respect. And hopefully I wouldn't fuck it up, or if I did I wouldn't fuck myself up. And understand that, I'm pissed off that I failed but I still have some faith.

...



Finally the current state of affairs after a week: I can hobble effectively and almost walk normally (slowly!) if I'm warmed up. My leg is still swollen but the bruising is coming along rather nicely. I'm able to go to the gym but only for arm stuff or very light CV using my legs. I'm aiming to do gentle climbing within another week. I have no idea what muscle damage there is or how long it will be to get full strength back, so outside climbing might be several weeks off, but at least I can train reasonably in the meantime. I can probably bash around with RC cars as long as I don't stand in one position too long...

Monday, 28 August 2017

Leftovers from Dartmoor and Wye Valley Sport.


All photos ©®™ Mark Davies / Dark Mavis / Pylon Kunt 2016, 2017, ad infinitum


Leprechaun, Irishman's Wall, Dartmoor. Lovely wee spot that we visited as part of a hectic Dartmoor photoshoot weekend (IW, King's Tor, bivvy, Sheep's Tor, Great Links Tor (approx 200 mile walk-in), Myrtle Turtle Quarry), which turned out to be pretty satisfying as PK got some genuinely great photos for the book. This route above was a merry jaunt after battling on Non Metallic Silver to the left. Non Metallic Metals is a toy soldier painting technique which I particularly dislike as it's only good from set angles and it's usage is mostly driven by fashion and trends. I had to do the route regardless but made sure to huff about it.


The Legend Of Pip, Haytor Quarry, Dartmoor. I had to do this route because of my then landlady's whippet, Pip (apparently a bit fat for a whippet, I'm not so sure):
The route itself is a nice little solo, somewhat of a dodgy landing and committing off the deck, but fine quarried granite.

Two Mules For Sister Sara, Woodcroft Quarry, Wye Valley. Woodcroft is a cataclysmic hole to rival the worst of Peak Lime quarries but scattered around the dire F6a-choss-infested walls, there are some fine micro-tiers of good rock and techy climbing despite the aesthetics. Rippled And Toned just left of that groove is a great compression arete.

A Blast From The Past, Woodcroft Quarry, Wye Valley. More decent Horseshoe-esque gems.

 Saudi Air, Woodcroft Quarry, Wye Valley. And more.

Don't Lower The Tone, Woodcroft Quarry, Wye Valley. Tone already well lowered with shorts/stockings combos. PK described my style as "death metal bassist" which is possibly the nicest compliment I've ever had :). Pity this one didn't make it into the book as I rather like the shameless grindr-profile flexing errr I mean the balance of climbing and ivy and tension in the move (the latter being quite genuinely as it was thin and fierce and bloody satisfying even if I only stayed on with a blind toe-scrape mid-move).


Lounge Lizard Leisure Suit, Ban-y-Gor, Wye Valley. I had far too many photoshoots at Sandbag-y-Gor and got increasingly disillusioned in the place. On the first visit it was okay including this tricky wee fucker which I think I knee-barred on.

So Gross, Ban-y-Gor, Wye Valley. The final visit to this hole and one which put me off South West climbing. This slice of bolted Brown & Whillans grimness was the only silver lining and another version of the grotty cleft furtling ended up as the surprise and subversive cover shot (I've already apologised to PK for any massive drops in sales).

One of these days I need the cantankerous old cunt to take some photos of me on routes I'm really psyched by. But that's not happening imminently, bah. Still fun to be part of the process.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Berdorf.


It's personal again! Who the fuck goes to Berdorf? It's not Siurana or Chullila or Kalymnos or  Ceuse or Frankenjura or Lofoten or anywhere. It's one crag, in the woods, in a tranquil and mostly flat area of Luxembourg for God's sake - hardly Catalunya. On the other hand it's bloody lovely. Imagine driving out of one of 3 campsites in the local village (I highly recommend the extra spacious Belle Vue 2000), after a swift half hour cruise from the airport the night before and swanky meal at the local bar (I highly recommend the seared swordfish with caper butter), parking up next to a cornfield, strolling 5 minutes downhill through ancient woodland and a lost world ravine to be greeted by an amphitheatre of fully bolted double-height Bowden+Kyloe buttresses.

Okay so it could be quite humid and gloomy under the trees in the wrong conditions (bring a soft brush to curb chalk build-up), it will be very busy at weekends, the base is annoyingly sandy (bring a rag to keep your starting blocs clean), and the F9a beast might feel rather short-changed with a crag that excels in F6s (although the F8a beastling would have to be particularly miserable to moan about the smaller selection of immaculate F7c-8a+ face climbs that could tempt even me to sit on a bolt). But for what it is - a singular giant bolted Northumberland crag - it is great. One of the nicest places with the nicest rock and routes I've climbed on - possibly even better than Wilton!

The right-hand walk-in, rather nice in itself, leading past some "High Rocks" style corridors. Don't worry the mediocre and climbing-banned choss on the way in is the only similarity with Southern Shitstone.

The other walk-in, even more charmingly, leads you straight to this. Voleur Le Spits F7a+ *** (F7a?). From 0 to 3 stars in an instant, setting the tone for the quality if not the style.

This is unusually steep for the crag, but still great fun despite it's lack of technicality. Quintessential steep yarding and hooking, pretty easy if you can jam and pace yourself, with a brilliant finish.

Luftikus F6b *** - the amount of quality in the F6a-b range here is exceptional, and as such is a great crag for a bumblathon, although you do have to pull hard even on the easies. This one starts with a ramble before a jug-hauling prow and a final balancy arete move - brilliant.

This wall is the second thing you see (partly because it gets a bit more light than the rest of the amphitheatre) and is irresistably inspiring, just a beautiful bit of rock. Willy F6c *** (F6c+?) is possibly THE classic with a better balance than some other routes including a few hard pulls.

Schotte Bob F6b+ ** - a slight eliminate at the top but still good fun on great rock.

The wall to the left is simply world class, a magnificent 25m sheet of perfect impending sandstone. If you climb F7c-8b you will be translating awe into action with much glee.

Petite Trou F6c ** - another semi-eliminate in a "don't use the arete" sort of way (F6a+ with), but it does make sense where the holds lead you. Like many Berdorf routes this is typically cruxy, involving a long crank off small pockets to a good break.

Tempete F6c+ ** (F7a ***?) I missed out on Takla Makan F7a *** by casually muffing the boulder problem starting crux, thus a brief but explosive trainer-throwing tourette-a-thon tantrum. This route was a very worthy consolation prize, less popular, less chalked, better rock, and...

...no less than 5 mono holds / moves. These are monos 4 and 5, the crux was below using a ring-finger mono (#3) near the bolt to match hand and foot in the upper good pocket. Really satisfying and one of my favourite routes (along with Arrete Paulette! later that day which has a steady but sublime finishing crux on the best sandstone you'll touch here).

Sweating and swearing up Bleausard F6c *** (F6c+?). This was before a diversion to 'bleau itself for a few days, but I doubt it would have made much difference, the slab crux on this route is just plain hard, very tenacious moves with a keyhole slot that mangled my pinky.

Lots of people bring dogs to this crag. Most of them are as peaceful as this fluffy little lady, but a few of them are constantly yappy twats. I love dogs more than people, but seriously, an hour of yapping to not get the message that you shouldn't bring the neurotic fucker along??

More crag wildlife. This wee fella (2 inches long) was a bit dopey. Probably highly confused by the weather. Last time I was in this bit of Europe it was 34'C most days. This time 20-ish and showery on a few days. Most of the rock dries fairly quick although obviously fresh breezy conditions are best.




No tears please, it's a waste of good suffering. Luxembourg makes an easy and palatable rainy day excursion, being a mere 30 minutes to the city limits. The Old Quarter and city battlements are cool, although, in general, fuck culture (I still like cool architecture tho).

The end result of this is, errr, more Nesscliffe and Pfalz psyche. Of course it is. Personal reasons you see.