Wednesday, 27 April 2011

A mulltitude of mulling on Mull.

Woohoo I got to Mull. Simon D and I had a long-running plan over the entire winter to go there for some suntrap cragging. Generally the "sun" part of the suntrap cragging didn't happen enough to justify the drive/ferry/limited accomodation logistics, so the winter plan became a spring plan and a "whenever" plan. That whenever was the last long weekend and we took full advantage of it and had a great trip...

Day 1
Venue: Scoor
Rock: Schist
Climbing: Sheer slabby trad
Routes: Lead E2 5b, E3 6a, E2 5c, E3 6a, E2 5b


Day 2
Venue: Erraid
Rock: Granite
Climbing: Slabby and steep trad
Routes: Lead E2 5c, E2 5b, E1 5b, E1 5b, E3 5c, E2 5b, soloed VS 4c, VS 4c, HVS 5a


Day 3
Venue: Loch Buie
Rock: Gabbro
Climbing: Bulging bouldering
Problems: Crushed V4 (flash), V5 (2nd go), V4 (4 goes), V6 (worked)


Day 4
Venue: Ardtun
Rock: Dolerite
Climbing: Vertical crack/groove trad
Routes: Lead E1 5b, E2 5b, E3 5c, E2 5b


In general
Climbing: Very good. Mostly short but intense. Good value.
Variety: Excellent. Various rock types and various styles (there is also granite bouldering, gneiss and limestone)
Acessibility: Reasonable once over there. Some long-ish walks but not steep.
Scenery: Stunning beaches or dramatic mountains.
Wildlife: 4 friendly pigs, a hare, a cluster of seals, a lost cow on a huge beach, a small lizard, a normal peacock and an albino peacock.
Facilities: Figden campsite exposed but lovely setting. Good showers but can run cold if busy. Fionnport shop excellent for it's small size.
Food: Tobermory whisky B2B Isle Of Mull smoked cheese.


Thursday, 14 April 2011

Ticking over but not ticking.

So I have returned from another important, inspiring, and rewarding exploratory trip. Returned to a Scottish spring, summer, and autumn which stretchs away in the dank impenetrable gloom. Returned to the possibilities of more fun climbing, more exploration, more interesting venues, and more cool challenges in this fascinating and frustrating country.

It's the challenge which I am pondering on at the moment. I've done a fair bit of climbing recently, but, leaving aside the ludicrosity of Pedriza slabs, it hasn't pushed me that much. There have been some vaguely difficult routes, but few that have taken my outside my comfort zone into the "see what happens" and "gonna have to really apply myself" zones. This is something I miss, not challenge for challenge's sake, but a genuine feeling of missing the interest and intrigue that comes with trying something uncertain, with exerting one's skills, with having to PULL HARD ON SMALL HOLDS ;).

Of course the flipside to this is gaining a good amount of mileage and hopefully momentum that will translate into a good general climbing familiarity from which to tackle further challenges. This was perhaps evident from my bouldering this winter season - I wanted to push myself, but initially all I did was explore around. Great in itself but again not really pushing myself. Later on in the winter, though, I found I could get on and tackle some respectable challenges with readiness, positivity and often success.

I suspect the time might be right for doing the same with routes...

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

La Pedriza Beta.

Go here, it's cool:

La Pedriza beta April 2011

General approach:

45 mins from Madrid airport, roads generally easy to negotiate by Spain's appalling standards. Manzaneres El Real is the useful hub of the area.

Driving approach:

Main La Pedriza entrance is very busy at weekends but quiet in the week. Arrive before 9am weekends or you won't get in and will face an extra hour's walk. Sunday slightly quieter early on but busy later.

El Tranco entrance is also very busy at weekends. There might be sneaky parking available for the brave / cunning, unless the police close the road. Again arrive early.

Alternatives: La Ermita El Boalo is impossible to find from book, check a map in advance. Placas De La Ermita is a valid option.

Walking approach:

Most main areas are at least 20-30 mins walk, with many more distant crags, although a few areas are 10 mins. The lower paths are very good, the main difficulty of the approach depends on getting the right uphill path to the actual crags. Find them and the approaches are okay, miss them and double the approach time.


Accommodation is a bit awkward as there is no obvious hostel / cheap climber's hangout available (El Tranco is a cheap hotel, the park refuge is 40+ mins walk in the park), and the plethora of camping options often have difficult to find information on the internet. The general choices are:

Camping at E18-20 for 2 people plus car / night.

Campsite cabins at E50-55, sleeps 2-4 / night

Hotel rooms at E50-60 for double / night.


Camping El Ortigal - below El Tranco crags, very convenient, very busy and the Spanish-only owner is can be uninformative.

Camping La Fresneda - few km out of town, close but car useful, have cabins but got booked up.

Camping Pico De La Miel - 30 mins drive away, but en-route to limestone. Have dozens of cabins and bar with rubbish food but decent beer. Owner can speak English.


12 quickdraws, 60m rope. All crags we visited we fully bolted, also we never saw anyone carrying nor recommending trad kit so I assume many if not most of the other crags were bolted. There are a few good trad lines but nothing you wouldn't get in West Penwith. There is a colour-coded guide to the safety(?) of most routes, this did not seem to correspond to the bolt spacing nor anything obvious.


Shoes need to be tight to get most precision on the crystals AND loose for heel down rubber contact, also need to be soft and rounded for most sensitivity AND stiff and edgy for most support and solidity. Good luck.


If you're thinking of going you should know what it's about: lots of friction slabs, lots of crystal climbing, lots of single pitch, some multipitch, some steep stuff that's well worth seeking out as respite. Be warned the slab climbing is mis-graded and highly random.


Some might say the grades are sandbags / stiff / whatever. The reality is they are simply wrong, albeit usually consistently wrong. The grades are normally 2 full grades below what they should be, sometimes 3, occasionally 1 if you are lucky. E.g. A Pedriza 6a slab will feel AT LEAST like a F6b / E2 5c slab elsewhere. The steep climbs are usually only 1 grade below what they should be.


A lot of the park gets a lot of sun and the crags are exposed to all of it (and any wind). Early April it was 22-24 degrees in the local town and most of the time we had to seek shade. The rock dries quickly but there is no shelter from rain on the granite.

Crags visited:

Canchos De Los Brezos: sun, fully bolted, 20 mins obvious approach, Sector Izquierdo can be runout, 60m rope.

Cancho Butron / Colina Hueca: shade unless sun is high, fully bolted, 25 mins obvious approach, narrow but comfy base, CB RHS has new direct lines.

Cancho De Los Muertos: shade and sun, fully bolted, 45 mins approach along river and up, path hard to find, direct ridge path from further parking would be gentler, great location at summit X-roads with steep climbing.

Muro Del Euro: early shade, fully bolted, 30 mins semi-obvious approach.

Risco De La Foca: late shade, fully bolted, easy 10 mins approach, steep routes at Placa Oeste debolted except F6c arete.

Quebrantaherraduras Inferior: shaded by trees, fully bolted, easy 10 mins approach, very busy, minor steep routes.

Placa De Las Nueve: sun, fully bolted, 20 mins okay approach, 60m rope useful.

El Indio / Risco De La Fuente: sun and shade, fully bolted, 20 minutes easy approach, bad rock on shady side of RDLF.

Patones specific beta April 2011


Local limestone is highly pocketed and good respite for the fingertips. PDLO is an essential visit in it's own right. Grades are usually a bit stiff but close to being right, some sandbags on shorter routes. Plenty of shade if needed. Easy road access heading East from the same motorway Junction that Pedriza is West from.

Crags visited:

Ponton De La Oliva: sun and shade, very easy approach, no parking problems, Placas De Sol upwards was closed from middle parking, West side is a cool setting, East side is as good as any Euro-lime crag. 60m rope recommended.

Los Alcores: sun, easy approach, entirity of riverside crag is flooded, remaining upper tier crag is worst I've visited in Europe.

Canyon De Uceda: shade, rocky approach and some narrow ledges, not child-friendly, Sector Antonio Martin worth visiting, rest very short.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

La Pedriza 10.

The final kitty of the day is....a bonus one ;)

Well I have started writing this long before the final day and will no doubt finish it long after, but this is how it went in between those times...

Get up eat tortilla pack car cruise to La Pedriza walk into shady crag to do slabs and one steep arete realise shady crag is sunny cos we're early for a change ARSE try F6a slab fall off ARSE try F6a+ slab and give up ARSE both utterly nails get on semi-shady F6a+ slab do several English 6a cruxes randomly fall off top DOUBLE FUCKING ARSE fuck slabs go round to steep F6c arete cruise it YAY FUN redeem something out of the day walk back down go for swim in icy mountain river BRRRRR repack climbing bags and drive 5 hours to Alicante due to cunning timing arrive waaay early wait for hours for checkin YAWN eventually get through and stuff self on Burger King YUM more waiting at gate YAWN eventually get on plane pointing right direction MP3 player runs out of batteries and can't get comfortable to sleep FFS land wait for sodding ages for hordes of numpties to dribble through customs FFS YAWN wait more for airport parking bus JESUS FUCKING YAWN car starts thank god crash into bed at 1:30 ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ.

10 days of climbing, and a really cool new area explored (what it is all about), I feel pretty...

Climbing: The 6c arete was very cool. I got a bit bored of how purely random the slabs were by this point.

Wildlife: Nowt.

And: Tired.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

La Pedriza 9.

Today's kitty of the day is....small ginger and white (cute despite gammy eye).

Today we couldn't get into the damn Pedriza park. At the main entrance there was the usual gridlock queue (surely mostly walkers....if you're that keen on walking then just park up and fucking WALK you dickwads and let the climbers get in to climb....this applies to Llanberis and Burbage and everywhere else in the world too), and the village entrance was barricaded by police FFS. So we spun round and headed back to the lime and explored a different valley crag that was thrumming with other climbers but seemed to have enough easy routes to soak up the ceaseless tide of punterdom (us included). We pulled on plentiful pockets and rattled off several shady routes which made for a good back-up day. Tomorrow an early rise, a hope that the devoutly religious Spaniards keep away, and a swift morning slabbing it up before a long drive to a late flight...

Climbing: Lots of steady pockety routes, fun but not much that really left it's mark apart from a cool little roof with awkward jamming in it (that the locals seem to avoid by a much harder duo pocket lock).

Wildlife: Camping kitty #12 - small, black and scruff (kinda cute, funny stare, pissed all over the hire car), and that's about it.

And: 8th day on and still syked, I was keen to push it more this afternoon if there had been anything else inspiring. Mmmm climbing is good yes.

Friday, 8 April 2011

La Pedriza 8.

Today's kitty of the day is small mongrel (annoying and hissy). A controversial choice but she is such a regular feature that it seems fair.

Let's play a game. Grab a blank granite slab, a pair of rock shoes, and a dice. Yes, a dice, you know, standard D6 that you roll to see if your Orcs hit with their axes or your Space Marine was saved by his armour. Got that? Good.

Pick a smear. Take your time if you like, there are many to choose from, but be aware there will be subtleties and factors you have no idea of that will randomise your choice. Now, roll your don't get to see the result, but you will feel it's effect:

1 - 3 : Your foot sticks.

4 : Your foot just sticks but has set you off balance, add +1 to your next roll.

5 - 6+ : Your foot slips and you fall off.

Now, assuming the result was 1 - 4 and you stayed on, pick another smear, and roll again (maybe with that +1 modifier you're not aware of), and again. And again. And again and again and again.

THIS is Pedriza. This is what we face on the slabs.

Climbing: 4 slab routes, including my first F6b+ (which was very good), but 3 failures on F6b/+s. The game of chance....bad luck to fall and fail, good luck to stick and succeed....roll the dice. Plus rounded off with a few minor but fun steep routes at a roadside crag. Good overall!

Wildlife: The usual motley crue with no change and no new kitties.

And: Despite wearing a t-shirt (or perhaps because of, since it was my hideous yellow Fiend t-shirt), I have more sunburn and have just eaten my own bodyweight in a very garlicky potato stew. Good luck me sleeping tonight :S

Thursday, 7 April 2011

La Pedriza 7.

Today's kitty of the day is....large ginger (cross, ugly, and a personal favourite). A last minute winner with good reason I'm sure you'll agree.

Lime lime glorious lime. Well it is glorious out here rather than the blocky blotchy ugly polished choss that people climb back home. Chee Dale I ask you?? Honestly. Ponton D'Oliva is where it's at. It is actually a really good crag of very typical Euro-lime with lots of routes. And lots of pockets. I've pulled on so many today I've lost count and lost enough skin around my knuckles....but kept my tips nice and fresh for more granite horrors tomorrow. As well as good climbing there was good climbing dog action: Primo was my favourite as he had the optimum balance of chilled out most of the time but utterly daft and giddy once you stroked him:

But also this unnamed perro was a winner for cute faces (admittedly mostly when trying to scavenge queso y chorizo).

Talking of chorizo, I have some for supper, and I
chorizo :)

Climbing: 6 very fine routes, including a trio of good F6cs with thuggy starts and delectable finishes. Felt more like proper grades and proper climbing. Tired by the end! Back to slabs tomorrow to get spanked like the bitch that I am.

Wildlife: Kitties #9 to #11 - large ginger (cross, ugly, and a personal favourite), small black two (only one eye but a cute miaow), medium tortoise shell (actually looks like a proper cat rather than a scruffy mongrel). Plus loads of good crag dogs. Muy bueno perros! Or something like that.

And: 6th day on, still syked. Forecast still good...

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

La Pedriza 6

Today's kitty of the day is....small ginger (cute).

Today was a day of Anger and Lust. We were back on the slabs to rest our arms and trash our feet, and to continue trying to get to grips with this elusive slippery sneaky sandbag style. We found a shady slab, albeit not by finding the correct path to it, the usual boulder-bash being both an adequate warm-up and the redpoint crux of the day. We rattled off a few "easy" ones in swift succession, and one of them actually felt "easy". Possibly only a short grade undergraded. The Anger came next when I got on what could be the slab highlight of the trip, a mighty F6b+. Having done a few cruxy moves and generally on easier ground, I slipped off one poxy F6a+ move to finish. What a DICK.

Cue quickdraw and shoe hurling and a substantial stream of tourettes. As infuriating as this was, the general feasibility opened up the possibility of breaking the seemingly impenetrable F6b barrier. So I tried a F6c, did the crux moves of that (English 6b?) and then slipped off a slopey pull higher up, mostly due to warm conditions. It seems as the grade increases, the level of sandbagging decreases. Possibly. It also seems the conditions play as serious a role as they should - a couple of locals confirmed that "winter yes is the time for best climbing". Woot. Might have to come back. Not least because the Lust is there....finishing with a skin-of-teeth F6b, I felt a strangely alluring balance between the holdless horror of it all, and the zen-like zone of faith in friction. There is a seduction in these sheer slabs, a dark sensuality, a game of chance where one must seek calm in a hidden storm...

I rounded off the day with a dip in a snow-melt mountain river, mmm refreshing, an a huge tapas feast at a local bar. We could see the bar staff gazing and smirking at us when we'd clearly ordered too much and mountains of food kept coming, but they were all friendly handshakes and adioses and graciases when we paid the bill ;).

Climbing: Slabs slabs slabs slabs. 4 routes and a few more attempts....but it was supposed to be a sort of rest day....

Wildlife: The usual birdlife, camping kitty #8 - small, black (cute but limping), and lots of lizards today too.

And: Thanks to the hordes of people attempting to ID the mysterious heron-like things from my inept and vague descriptions, and congratulations to sidewinder who IDed them as White Storks. Here is a picture of a White Stork:

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

La Pedriza 5.

This is what we have to wake up to:

Gosh I am tired. Today we combined the steepness of limestone-style climbing with the texture of granite-style climbing and with a walk-in specifically designed to fuck my shit up. We headed to the mini-summit of Cancho De Los Muertos in search of steep shady granite walls, lo, after a "stop and rest every 2 mins" death-slog, we found what was promised.

The view from Cancho De Los Muertos:

Cancho De Los Muertos from the view:

The Cancho is rather fine place indeed, with sheer buttresses forming a summit crossroads micro-plateau, each way out leading to a different spectacular compass viewpoint, and some ways out leading to cool little climbing canyons. We did a lot in the main one of these, relishing in the shade, sliver of sun, and occasional fresh breeze....and relishing in steep granite climbing WITH HOLDS. Yes, actual holds. That one can pull on and all! The only slight detriment being that some of them were quite small and most of them required quite a bit of pulling, so the skin has suffered. A night of marinating in anti-hydral cream and a day of "gentle slabs" calls. Eeeek!

Climbing: 7 good, satisfying routes, 6 short and intense steep things, one so-called easy slab to "warm down".

Wildlife: All the usual suspect, plus one bonus ginger and white cat (seemed quite placid lying on a wall, so I threw chorizo at it). Still don't know what the bloody red beaked heron things are.

And: 0% San Miguel. The connoisseur's choice. And by "connoisseur" I mean "idiot".

Monday, 4 April 2011

La Pedriza 4.

Today it has not been raining. Instead, this was the sky at lunchtime:

Which was nice. There was a rather late start due to a somewhat cloudier forecast, and a pleasant breakfast fending off innumerably shy yet greedy kitties. Then, rather than slogging into La Pedriza with uncertainty as to what would dry, we went back to the limestone we recced yesterday. This proved to be a more than adequate choice with a vast amount of quickly drying routes set in a plush valley with a harmonious combination of natural beauty and minor manmade spectacle.

After 5 fun and mostly undergraded routes starting off a convenient walkway (somewhat more substantial than El Camino Del Rey), we had lunch and took stock of the situation. Despite the 11am departure, it was still only 3:30pm! Well there was only one sensible option, so we headed around to the other side, recced some now-baking routes for another day, and finished off with a blast of steep pocket pulling. The sides of my fingers are now trashed but my tips should be ready for more granite tomorrow...

This is not the approach path I am looking for...

Climbing: Lots. I thought the limestone was going to be a second-best rest/rainy day option compared to the granite, but it's pretty swish in it's own right.

Wildlife: The following cats that attempted to raid/scavenge our bungalow: big and black (mean looking), black and white (bland), big and white/ginger and fluffy (king cat, must overheat here), small ginger (cutest), small mongrel (annoying and hissy and not getting any more food), other small mongrel (also cute)

And: Fucking crickets. Like a constant ray gun fire alarm rave outside. Why can't the kitties eat them??

Sunday, 3 April 2011

La Pedriza 3.

It is raining. This is bad, but not as bad as it could be. Firstly, our bungalow. This is a cramped, over-priced, uninsulated, wobbly box with fake wood plastic walls, loose sliding doors, a poxy micro-hob, and a bathroom sink unit that leaks and comes away from the wall. It is also - assuming one isn't using that sink - apparently completely watertight, and potentially warm. I knew with the non-100%-guaranteed dry climate that there was a good reason to get a bungalow rather than camp, and tonight's relative comfort and general relaxation makes the extortionate extra Euros and hours spent trying to find a suitable box worthwhile.

Secondly, the overall forecast. It was supposed to rain all day today, but it didn't start until 2:20. At 2:18 I started up a typical sketchy slab route, at 2:25 I lowered off the top just as it was getting problematic. We had preceded this by a couple of longer, easier angled, and smearier pitches. The usual deal but with slightly less bolts. Halfway up the first route I led I was feeling queasy due to the constant tentativeness of it all, by the top I was revelling in the sheer nonsense. So a planned wash-out day turned into actually getting into the park on a Sunday, a bit of walking, a bit of climbing, and then an afternoon vaguelly recceing some pretty nifty looking limestone areas. The forecast is okay tomorrow but the rock might need some drying time, then glorious for the rest of the week. Possibly too glorious with lots of sun and little wind, so we might need to hit the limestone as shelter from the sun (and slabs!) rather than shelter from the rain.

Climbing: One slab with less angle and less holds (was this possible? apparently so), one slab with more angle and more holds, mostly pointing in awkward directions. Fun!

Wildlife: Still more heron-like things, we still don't know what they are. 3 crag dogs one of which apparently would prefer chorizo rather than the stick I offered him. Not a chance.

And: Might be time for my first shower since Friday morning (too scared with sunburn last night). Mmmm hmmm.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

La Pedriza 2.

Today it all began: The granite....the slabs....the bolts....the friction....the holds.

The holds??


There weren't any fucking holds.

The day started somewhat tiresomely with circuitous driving around the local town Manzaneres El Real in search of parking, food, parking, access to La Pedriza national park, parking, and more parking. It seems most of Madrid comes here at the weekend, and you can see why - truly spectacular amounts of undulating, slabby, bulging and layered granite, interspersed by limitless boulders. However the popularity ensures vehicular access is a faff, and even once parked, the deceptive scope ensures ambulatory access is somewhat tiresome if your legs don't work. However the scale of the rock with it's uniform texture is also deceptive, and we reached an appealing slab in reasonable order. A wise choice it seems, due to the "easy" grades and in this case plethoric bolting.

Hmmm yes the grades. There were rumours that the climbing was desperate for the grade, that is one correct way of putting it, another equally correct way is that the grades are complete shite. Either Costa Blanca / El Chorro / Costa Daurada / Siurana / Ceuse / Buoux etc etc are wrong....or Pedriza is. It's not rocket science, everything is simply undergraded by at least one, usually two grades. Oh wait, "It's friction slab climbing, you just aren't used to it yet". Bag of COCKS. I've done enough slabs and friction slabs to know. You don't get San Melas or Chalkstorm given E1 5a do you?? Exactly.

Anyway it's blank, it's desperate, it's tenuous....but it's really rather cool. A whole day of pure and proper slabs. There is a lot more where that came from, in fact rather too much, so we will be seeking the all important variety, to give the feet and mind a rest!

Climbing: Smear smear smear smear feet on nothing smear hands on crystals and be unduly grateful when you get a massive 1cm wide micro-nipple that enables you to get up a F6a after 20m of relentless English 5c slab climbing.

Wildlife: Two wild goats, two horses, lots of cool heron-like things in big nests by the road, and loads of griffon vultures....had seen these years ago in the Verdon and they are spectacular, 1m long, 2.5m wingspan, when they fly overhead it's like the shadow from an airplane.

And: Sunburn, yoiks!

Friday, 1 April 2011

La Pedriza 1.

So I am away in Spain again. A long overdue trip to Pedriza, the well reputed home of terrifying granite sport climbing. It was a toss-up between this and Annot, the increasingly reputed home of sandstone....stuff. Being able to actually buy a Pedriza guidebook (a novel concept that the Annot book writers should perhaps consider) was the deciding factor. So Pedriza it was, but the associated faffing and procrastination has forced a somewhat lengthy journey. Glasgow (wet) > Prestwick (boring) > Alicante (relaxed flight dozing next to two perfectly sulky teenage girls) > 5 hour drive to La Candreda (LONG, but actually went fairly smooth and beta-flashed bypassing Madrid).

Of course since it was dry and sunny and daylight, it would have been particularly ungracious to not stop off for climbing en-route. To ensure a reasonable arrival out our campsite cabin, I picked a nice bulging pockety limestone crag 5 mins down the motorway. A quick stroll in, and so much for a reward for our dedication, almost all the crag, including by far the best bits, was seriously flooded by risen lake levels. The flat grassy base was now 2m of water, so we had to dick around on a poxy upper tier before establishing bungalow basecamp and some much needed crashing out for the night.

Climbing: A few short steep easy routes at by far the worst crag I've climbed at in Europe. Still it loosened the muscles after a long journey.

Wildlife: A small turtle, a giant fish, and a cute, daft, giddy Rottweiler puppy with big paws.

And: A bottle of 7.3% beer on an empty stomach after a full day's travelling washed away all the stresses. And any sort of coherence.