Thursday, 22 January 2015

Plan B.(loc)

Apparently the weather is quite decent down in Peaks/Yorks at the moment - and it makes the snow dumped all over the crags look quite pretty. The gales forecast next week might wipe it away a bit with rain as well as wiping another week's chances of actually getting down there and climbing any grit.

Instead of sulking I've been errr sending. Or smashing, or whatever it is the kids of today do. Climbing small lumps of rocks above large stacks of pads anyway. Some of these lumps of rocks have been larger and some of the stacks of pads have felt smaller, too. And most of them have felt good training for technique, determination, and regular skin loss, as well as being rather fun...

Back Bowden:

Sheltering from the wind with Stevie. It was blowy as fuck man at Hazelrigg Wall and pretty mellow on the boulders beneath the Tube. I had lots of ideas and desires here and carefully timed them so I had 30 mins on each project, just enough to get demoralised and move onto the next with similarly no success. The only exceptions were Magic Leap - I hate dynos, this is a complete sandbag and totally misdescribed in the guide ("small but positive holds" - where? "crimp/sidepull" - what? "F6A+" - oh just shut up.), but it is also brilliant as it's not hurtling ineffectually on big holds but instead teetering and falling upwards on rubbish holds. Improbable and fun. The other exception was Mantle Underclass which was more like 30 attempts to failure rather than 30 mins. Still that was better than Mantle Masterclass which I can't imagine ever being possible for my physique. MU I could imagine doing after many hours effort, pretty standard for a F6B. Grades my sweaty RING.


Headed down with the McNair and a car full of chatty young things. God knows how we all crammed in but it saved me an hour of driving and meant there was adequate paddage for anything that was desired. Apart from poor Niall who we left on his own to crush some 7C/8As while we bimbled around. I laid Transformer to rest after discovering that I'd been previously trying the much harder RH version. Then spent about 20 goes being unable to lank Y Front Left-Hand (""6B+"") before doing Dog Eat Dog ("7A" going on steady 6C) in 3 goes. Grades my KNOBEND. The latter was pretty satisfying though especially for the amount of trad-style slapping and grinding at the top.


A few years ago I walked to this sheer quarried wall in the Galloway hills and rapidly walked away, dismissing it as too high and too blank. It turns out is is the former but not the latter, as just recently some dude called Fletch put up a nu-skool classic 6C(!) highball. So we had to go and repeat it the next day after the first ascent. It delivers as much as it promises and makes Physical Graffiti at Dumby feel like a lowball ladder of crimps. I managed to scrape up it after some scary goes, but knocked a jutting finger nubbin off at the top, and left a slightly crumbly hold (the rest of the slab is immaculate), so will have to go back and stabilise that hold to keep it's classic status.

Carrock Fell:

N.B. I didn't manage this little horror yet, I'll be back...

Finally to ensure that all finger skin is suitable brutalised, we went on a little tour of Carrock. A few steady classics like Captain Kirk, Kit's Arete and Terrace Wall led us up to Stratosfear following the highball psyche, which turned out to be no match for the snowy slope on top of the problem, so we turned down the snowy slope back to the road and finished with a thorough burnout on Left Wall. This is eliminate, morpho, and a complete sandbag on vicious holds, yet somehow is intriguing and entertaining for all that grimness. I eventually found a cunning short person's sequence, caught the top jug, adjusted my hand and slipped off and never reached the lip again. CUNTFLAPS. I'll be back....I might be back into this bouldering malarkey...

(most photos from Mr Weir.)

The scenery has been quite nice in it's winter plumage too:


Saturday, 10 January 2015

I can't believe it's not grit.

And at any rate you wouldn't want to spread it on toast. My grit psyche is still high, almost as high as the winds, humidity, and rainfall probability which is preventing any trips South of the Wall. So as a plan B I went bouldering on the next best thing: Shaftoe in Northumberland, which is as grit as grit is, in fact more grit than some grit. Plus it's rather good despite being an epic gruelling slog down the A68 to get there. Anyway, the weather was great, we warmed up in the sun, did a few steeper problems in the breeze, then as the wind and cloud came over took advantage of truly perfect conditions in the ravine to finally do a previous nemesis problem, the frictional slimper delight of Smooth Wall:

Stevie was getting some nice shots with his GoPro so here are a few of those (slightly fucked by Googles auto-photo-fucker of course):

Mmmmm slopers.

Prior to this and prior to 2015 appearing out of nowhere, I did actually get down to the grit grit, including amongst other places Almscliff, the most overrated crag in Yorkshire that people only go to because it's the quickest drying crag in the entire UK. I have a love/hate relationship with it: Some of the routes and problems are pretty cool, but the relentless hordes and unforgivable sin of giving the distinctly medicore arbitrary link-up semi-route Great Western 3 stars leave a disinterested taste in my maw. I also seem to end up there in slightly iffy weather due to having been drizzled off elsewhere, thus making the bouldering feel even grimmer than usual. On the other hand this was not the case the other week, when the weather was truly magnificent and the inspiration to rattle off a few short and thuggy routes was high. I didn't do anything that hard (Whisky Wall turning out to be a steady E2 with bomber gear without the spurious side-runners, but fun and unusually positive pocket-pulling), but I did get cranking pretty readily despite having a week off with a tweaky shoulder over Christmas.

Whisky Wall :

Clematis : Actually quite burly and good value.

 I was climbing with spragglerocks from UKC. She had an adorable Labrador called Dexter who was the best-behaved crag dog I've met, so here's some photos of him.

Before the Almscliff day I had a pre-match warm-up at the Hunter Stones. Jonboy, Cofe and Big Hands were there on the Hunter's Roof thing, Jon did with the customary power squeak. I did this nice V3 arete instead.

Friday, 9 January 2015

A Grit Game

So let's play a game Fiend. The purpose is simple, the concept is simple. Winning the game....may be difficult.

Purpose: To do some really cool grit climbs I'd have been intimidated by trying to apply the confidence and experience I've gained in Scotland to the gritstone, and thus seeing how well I've improved generally.

Concept: Climb more Peaks/Yorks grit E3s/E4s/6as in 2 seasons (2013/14 & 2014/15) than I did in 8 years living in Sheffield.

(N.B. I've changed a few grades to reflect reality...)


9 E4s (The Brush Off, The Knock, Moonwalk, Calvary, The Strangler, The Phantom, Pillar Of Judgement, Acid Drop, Demon Rib)

29 E3s (Big Greeny, The Flakes, Fat Chance, Hallmark, Jelly Ache, Boothill, Ignis Fatuus, Exit, Party Animal, Reprieve, Down To Earth, The Crocodile, Waterloo Sunset, Impossible Slab, In Off, Wall End Slab Direct, Ashes, Parallel Piped, Charm, Iron Road, Ascent Of Man, San Melas, The Swan, Chalkstorm, Apaloosa Sunset, Crystal Voyager, Autumn Wall (not E4, steady for E3), Gypfast (ditto), Jetrunner (ditto))

9 6as (The Knock, Moonwalk, Calvary, Big Greeny,  Jelly Ache, Down To Earth, Ascent Of Man, Crystal Voyager, Jetrunner)

(not counting: 3 E3s 94-97 (Long Johns Slab, Great Slab, High Flyer))


3 E4s (Stanleyville, Constipation, Thumper)

7 E3s (Four Pebble Slab, The Beautician (not E4, solid E3), DIY, Lazy Day, Hunky Dory, Sinister Rib, Weaver's Wall)

3 6as (Constipation, DIY, Lazy Day)

Which means I have to do:

6 E4s
22 E3s
6 6as maybe 4 months...

In my favour:
- Almost all my recent forays on gritstone have given me confidence and I seem to be able to rattle off routes fairly rapidly.
- With everything now clearly documented in great definitive guides, there are literally hundreds of routes that inspire me, covering every style and climatic condition.
- Even when the weather gets warmer, there are still many exposed / shady venues that have inspiring routes.
- I don't have much inspiring me elsewhere in the country so can focus well on this idea.
- Many places I want to visit are boring trade honeypots, so it should be easy to find people to climb with.
- Northumberland and grit bouldering is a good way to keep on the boil when the weather prevents a proper trip.

Stacked against me:
-- I now live 4 hours from the grit rather than 10 minutes.
-- So far in 2015 the weather seems to be utterly fucking abysmally atrocious.

As I say....a simple game....but maybe very hard to win....All the determination in the world counts for nothing with a forecast like this.


Thursday, 8 January 2015


Thankfully my New Year's resolutions don't include timely and prompt blog updates. Actually, they don't include much of interest but it's useful for me to write them down as a reference. Possibly like last year, I've learnt as much from what I've been doing right as from I've been doing wrong or not doing - some of these are of the "keep doing this, it works" ilk. Others are common sense. If only I could apply that more regularly.

Have many more trips abroad.
- Really missed out on this last year, I feel undernourished for exploration and new venues! Hell I'd even take Euro-limestone at the moment.

Climb South of the border.
- I've done enough in Scotland and don't have many inspirations left apart from a few odds and sods. I enjoyed getting back down last year, so I'm getting more psyche for other stuff around the UK: More on the grit in winter, and more in Mid-Wales, South West, and North Wales come spring and summer.

Keep training throughout the year - wall, gym, active rest.
- This has worked well for me, I haven't noticed much climbing improvement apart from a bit better core tension, but I have felt good keeping up with the training and I'm sure the benefits are there.

Do more stretching.
- The one bit of training I don't really do apart from in between warm-ups at the bouldering wall. I should do more as I'm sure I could benefit from it, injury-prevention and flexibility-wise.

Try falling practise on gear outdoors.
- I'm now feeling generally comfortable with regular falling practise indoors, but I still feel a bit wary outdoors. Not due to the protection situation, but more the variety of fall zones and fall directions. I think practising a bit outdoors could help translate that comfort and give me more confidence.

Get going earlier in the morning.
- I'm rubbish at this, and it means I end up rushing around and/or missing out on good climbing days. I just need to get started earlier.

Start more trips in the evening to be ready the next day.
- Similar to above. I struggle to motivate myself for a long drive in the dark evenings, but it's more efficient and climbing-beneficial to get it out of the way then, get a decent night in a hostel and a decent start the next day.

Make clearer and firmer plans esp. with disorganised partners.
- I'm rubbish at organisation anyway, and need to improve on that in general, and try to make firmer plans even if I have to change or cancel them due to the weather, rather than waiting to see what happens and then not making any plans. I need to do this even more so with some good partners who are a bit haphazard too!

So there we go. Simple and fairly mundane - unlike actually putting them into practice. But I'll try...