Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Taking The Grade.

What a ridiculous concept. If I take the grade, what am I going to do with it? Stamp it on a medal? Tattoo it on my bellend (suitably enlarged if the grade is a BIG NUMBER) and wave it around to pick up hot chicks (or hunky blokes)? Superglue it onto my ego and see if it increases my sense of self-worth? Maybe I could make a little hutch for it, feed it kale and quinoa or steak pie and chips and see if it grows into a bigger grade? Do I need to take it on walkies? What about pet insurance? Worming tablets?

Maybe I could just take it as a fair indication of the level of challenge I just tackled, and that was the challenge I anticipated and prepared for and it was enjoyable and satisfying?? Sounds more like it.

Except it doesn't always work like that. Grades can be an unfair indication. Sometimes innocuously so....a bit soft, a bit hard (or is that just the after-effects of the tattooing?). Sometimes plain horseshit. Usually they get ironed out over time with consensus, but not always. Did you get the right level of challenge?? Definitely not. Do you take that grade (if you like taking grades) if it was clearly wrong?? Errrr.....

(How do I know that a grade is "wrong"?? I use common sense, experience, and the fact that, despite appearances, I'm not a bloody idiot. It's a bit easier with trad grades because they're fairly objective and usually correspond to unarguable facts about the climb: whether there is protection, whether there are rests, whether the rock is good, whether there are things to hit, etc etc. Sport grades are a bit less objective, bouldering grades are subjective toss invariably corresponding to reach and skin conditions rather than any actual difficulty. Sure with trad there are some times where one can say "it's a bit soft" or "a bit hard" and could go a bit either way and you wouldn't argue. But there's enough times where one can say "this is simply not the correct grade based on the facts about the climb and comparison with many other similar climbs all of which would have to be regraded" etc etc).

This all came about at Helsby with Coel Hellier Discoverer Of Planets. Lovely crag. Never had a bad day there, never done a duff route. This day went pretty well: The Umbrella, Calcutta Wall, Brandenburg Wall, Flake Wall.... Flake Wall is one of those unfortunate routes that is really rather good but suffers from a duff grade and hordes of bellends finding it all too easy to set-up a top-rope after Flake Crack, failpoint it, and claim some drivel like "FIRST E5 OMGZOR".

"Are you going to take E5 for that, Fiend", says the Discoverer Of Planets.

"Of course bloody not", says I.

As a bog standard onsight, it's not even hard for E4 (okay Coel thought it was hard for that so maybe we can average out at normal E4), it's not the hardest one I did that day (Calcutta just pipped it), and it's certainly going to be nowhere near The Brush Off (eeek!) or CFK (looks morpho nails). There's little doubt about the Flake Crack runner position, and a good cam in the face is more important anyway. The two crux moves are easy and positive 6a and a fall would give a clatter but not anything too serious. Facts, scientific facts. Thus, E4 6a. Quality is more subjective but I would say 2 stars as the crimps are just so nice and the position above good gear is too. Obviously as a failpoint it would get minus two stars for such a pointless non-experience.

So, taking the grade. I take the grade that indicates the challenge. If it's a bit uncertain, the guidebook will do (the latest definitive guide, not the Choadfax comics, which incidentally manages to get all 4 grades of those Helsby routes wrong, good effort). If it's a bit wrong, I'll take the right one. If no-one minds. Now I'm going to take it to the vets and buy some biscuits as a treat for it afterwards.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Keeping it dry.

Long time no blog, been too busy climbing. Edited highlights: The Maw (FA), Extreme Walks, Mean Feet, Breaking Point, A Far Cry From Squamish, Mirage, Tricky Dicky, Life And Times, Call To Arms, False Gods, Dawn, Grande Plage var, Sunny Corner Lane, Pass The Pigs, Demolition. Most if not all of which helped by good conditions and reasonable skin, all down to that lovely delicious and nutritious anti-hydral cream. A few people have been asking me about it so here's how I use the stuff:

Method for anti-hydral??

Carefully peel the foreskin back (or wrap carefully in clingfilm if circumcised), apply a copious coping, re-cover, and let marinate overnight. Guaranteed like leather after a week of this.
Errrr okay. Right this isn't a scientific post about the composition methodology and risks of anti-hydral. You know it's an extreme skin-drying cream from Germany, you know excessive use could lead to peeling, cracking, flappers etc, and you know how to google to buy a tube. This is about application because googling for how to apply it brings up loads of dodgy methods. Below is my method and the principle is simple:

Apply a small amount to the actual areas you're going to sweat, keep away from already dry / hard skin areas, and build it up over time if you need to. If you take time off climbing after regular anti-hydral usage, watch out for hard skin and sand/moisturise if needed. 

I.e. put it on the middle of the tips because that's what sweats and is most critical for grip, avoid the edges and any creases in the finger joints. I apply a little bit before bed and leave it on overnight. This seems to work well.


Yes - thumb is correct, a small amount in the middle, no excess at edges. If this is not enough then it can be built up over time.

No 1 - nope, too much rubbed away from crucial middle of tip, too much on edges which will give excess hard skin,

No 2 - nope, you're not laying bloody cement down, this will take ages to dry and possibly give a damagingly strong effect.

No 3 - nope, rubbed down into creases which will produce hard skin there which will crack and peel.

No 4 - nope, rubbed too far down whole finger including creases, if you're concerned about a2 tendon area sweating, what sort of monster jugs are you using?? Jeez. May very rarely be useful for horrendous vertical grit slopers.

Yes too all. This is what I do and it has a small but noticeable drying effect for the next day, without building up hard skin in problematic places. If I need to I can add a bit more - including applying to the thumb and softer pads on the palm. If I'm not climbing for a bit, I will sand and moisturise these areas to avoid hard skin build up in the days after the anti-hydral usage.

Hope that helps :)

Monday, 24 April 2017

A Brimham Triptych

The grit season that never was keeps on giving. Fresh WNW-erlies and plenty of cloud cover were providing conditions far better than still sunshine would in half the temperature, so Tris and I hit Lancashire and Yorkshire. Various potterings were done, the highlight of which by far was the following combination of contrasts from the bewildering yet sometimes brilliant Brimham:

MMS. The full name is bollox so that will do. I backed off this on New Year's Eve with Spraggs a few years back. The slopers over this bulge are particularly gritty and confusing, I was just more determined this time. It turns out this crux is fairly naff as the holds lead you almost into Desperation Crack before rocking back out. However the rest of the slab is quite a voyage and makes the route worthwhile - never that hard but committing with some pretty fiddly gear (shallow keylock wires, folded hexes, etc).

Rotifer. I backed off this once on the same NYE as it started drizzling, and again last spring with Hobby as the breeze dropped and there was a shower of insects instead of rain and equally bad conditions. I've remembered that gritstone is 70% conditions, 20% reach, and 10% willingness to break limbs. This time the conditions were great, the willingness to break limbs was alleviated by good micro cams in the seam (not even the smallest old alien / camalot size, so this has been a feasible option for 20 years, I suppose you could highball it if you were weird and overendowed with pads, but I preferred the lead), and the reach.....was just enough - fingertips on the top after the 3rd 5c crux. A very cool wee proper grit route.

Beatnik. In a change from tradition, I've never backed off this. It was only vaguely on my radar as a potential option being at least protectable. It turns out the protectable bit is probably the crux, placing the gear at my feet and baws in the photo being pretty brutal, whilst the climbing was good honest grating fun. Bonus star for the perfect Friend 6 on the skyline.

So there we go. An OCD-sating 3x3 of 3 wholesomely varied styles. I nearly made it 4x3 with a long overdue solo of Acme Wall but the 20% reach 10% limb-breaking were far too prominent so that will have to wait. Unfortunately I managed to put myself out of action in a much tamer but much stupider way than groundfalling - in the hostel after this day I sliced my finger pad peeling back a half-open food tin, after looking directly at it and thinking "This is stupid, I should wrap a towel around it" and then somehow doing it with my fingers anyway. COMPLETE FUCKING BELLEND. Still, it should heal within the week and I was training back 3 and core etc at TCA yesterday.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Hardcore Will Never Die?

Maybe The Daily Mash had it right all along (they usually do, I rarely trust anything unless it's been certified by Prof. Brubraker). It's now 27 years since the release of the first acclaimed hardcore track:

Part of the retrospectively well-named Visions Of 2017 single. It's now 2017 and as far as I can tell hardcore is still around. About 22-24 years since old skool hardcore split into jungle and happy hardcore, and gabber (now called just "hardcore" - I'll use that term although I am very happy with gabber, and obviously the Daily Mash mean happier hardcore but I'm sure the extensive research at the Institute Of Studies takes into account all sub-genres) rose in parallel in Holland (and America, and the UK). 23 years ago since I first got into hardcore via the quite astonishingly good Technohead 3 compilation:

...and a similar amount of time since I first went raving to Rotterdam Termination Source at the Doncaster Warehouse. Raves and clubs around the country followed from Dance Planet in Cornwall to Rezerection in Edinburgh. I was always into the harder, darker, faster gabber so was strictly Room2 at Dreamscape / Helter Skelter, and had fun times at Bristol's legendary Death Row Techno and Rhyl's Steam (including a solo mission from Nottingham uni to see Australia's Nasenbluten and Xylocaine along with the UK's HMS and Loftgroover in a night billed as "music to make your eyes bleed :D). Those vibes were perfectly recaptured this last weekend with a French (yup, hardcore is international as well as persistent) invasion of Newcastle:

Excellent dark hardcore from Laurent Ho (who after banging out some industrial beats, hung around the dancefloor wearing a micro-skirt, tight black leggings and 6" heels), and merciless noisecore from the Michelson sisters. Great fun. The tiny club and sparse crowd pales in comparison to the massive Hardshock / Dominator / MOH festivals in Holland but still plenty of fun for the dedicated.

This brings the number of hardcore DJs I've raved to to quite a lot:
3Dom, Angel, Angerfist, Bass Generator, Brisk, Charly Lownoise & Mental Theo, Clarkee, Destroyer, Destructive Tendencies, Detest, Dione/SRB, Dolphin, Easygroove, Evil Activities, Fracture4, Hellfish, HMS, Jay Prescott, Laurent Ho, Lenny Dee, Loftgroover, Mad Tech, Madness, Manu Le Malin, Marc Smith, Mark EG, Mark Newlands, Mastervibe, Mikey B, The Music Maker, Nasenbluten, Neophyte, No Name & Mouse, The Outside Agency, Paul Elstak, Dr Peacock, Partyraiser, The DJ Producer, Rob Gee, Rotterdam Termination Source, Sei2ure, Scorpio, Scott Brown, Smurf, The Suicide Squad, Technotrance, Tieum, Unexist, Warlock, Wargroover, Xylocaine...

I still need to catch Dolphin (his recent output is excellent) N-Vitral (king of the kickdrums, and another near-miss at Twisted's Darkside), TOA again (just too good), and ideally m1dy (absolutely mental and cheerful Japanese speedcore). Unfortunately I'm not sure if Nordcore GMBH are still around as being creators of the consistently best atmospheric darkcore before the millenium, I've missed out if I never rave to this truly fantastic (in any genre, not just hardcore) track being played out:

Anyway after a 4:30am bedtime in a cheap motel in Newcastle, partly deaf and with chronic pizza mouth, I headed on a long recce trip around Yorkshire (fantastic breezy and sunny Saturday with no-one around to climb with, grrrr). Dovestones is still very inspiring although Coin For A Beggar is stupidly reachy so that got sacked off. Baildon is also as welcoming as usual, and Wombling Wall looks very reasonable (comments on UKC indicate it might be wrongly graded?). And Hetchell has lots of leading potential rather than just soloing, but the evening was just too good so I had to do something:

 Livia. Recently cleaned by some bloke on UKC so cheers for that. Decent small cams protect the crux rocking into the groove and possibly the top-out too. 

Augustus. Easy technically, bold adjectivally. No real gear on this one. I backed off it a decade or so ago and I can understand why!

After that solo mission, I had a choice of two climbing partners lined up for Yorkshire grit on the next days, so of course Sunday it wanked it down and Monday looked showery so I sacked it off via Eden Rock which is still a great fun venue and I did slightly better than last time. Weather still looks pretty cool and fresh so I'm still dead keen for approx 5,000 different venues around Yorks, Lancs and Cheshire....not sure what the next hardcore rave is though, although there is a Prspct Records night in Bristol at the start of May....

Friday, 31 March 2017

The Grit Season That Never Was....

....or at least, it started at 5pm on Saturday and finished at 6:30pm. During which time although the rock was too warm and the breeze was obstructively mis-aligned, at least the coolness of the hazy sunset made climbing enjoyable rather than debilitating (especially Dirty Stop Out which is only 8m but has 3 5b cruxes in which is nice). And afterwards it looked like this, which is also nice:

Prior to that it looked a lot like a fat weak punter with a chest infection lolling aimlessly on the ground, waking only sporadically to cough up some septic gunk or move vaguely out of the way of someone trying to lead routes above him. I did one warm-up route in the morning, backed off some slopey thing in the sun at lunchtime, and then just basked until dusk. Warm enough to fully sunbathe is not the grit conditions I was looking for. But dry weather and dry rock was something at least, and while bimbling at Bamford surrounded by the Rockfax-clutching hordes was pretty far away from the climbing experience I was after, it served a purpose for easy pottering whilst I recovered (from the Bangface weekends, two 5-7am nights and a big wall session and my immune system obviously fucked off elsewhere).

So yeah this was it, down on the grit at last (I have no special affinity with the grit, being physically unsuited to it and utterly rubbish at it despite thousands of routes, BUT it is the prime winter trad rock so still has much appeal, more so being extra distant from it and anything else that qualifies as prime winter trad with more than a handful of routes left to do). End of March AGAIN, dismal. But I guess not as dismal as not doing it and despite everything I climbed okay. I felt strong and energised the previous Saturday, this one I felt weak as fuck. A week without training - two now I've gone through anti-biotics. I really miss pulling hard. Soon to be 3 weeks of weak  - next week is my brother's wedding on Iona, after that it's back to some serious fucking climbing focus.

Natural grit was "out", exactly a day before I was prone beneath Neb Buttress, idly thinking "the lime really should be called already", the lime had been called. Great minds etc, and I hate Pennine lime. Of course calling of the lime also means calling of the non-grit, be it quartzite or pillow lava or whatever. Or indeed quarried grit, which bridges the gap. So after giving up the 2 hour grit season on Saturday, it was straight into training for proper rock in the Lancs quarries where the usual positive holds gave a bit more positivity in approach. Summit Quarry provided steady mileage, Warland quarry provided seepage and a return fixture, and Egerton provided both a failure (Phantom Zone LH - quite easy but I was simply drained (two nights trying to keep my lungs down)) and a scary success (Satin Sapphire - a classic headgame arete with a reasonably protected crux to a knife-edge rest that provides ample opportunity to panic before an off balance reach to safety. I made good use of that before doing it, it felt a bit early in the season for that sort of malarkey. Unfortunately I missed getting a photo of the situation as it was quite characterful, especially as the one photo on UKC shows some non-ascent of a headpoint failure with side-runners. Hard to believe that someone could waste a cool route in that way but climbers are fucking weird. Now you know, go and do it, there's a lot of great choice on Egerton Sunny Side now).

Tuesday, 21 March 2017


Festivals make me smile wryly. I see people posting excitedly on FB about them, then I go to look at the line-up and amongst all the mainstream, indie, student electronica and Radio 1 so-called dance music, there's one act/DJ I'd pay a tenner to see in a local club and two more I'd pop in to see if they were on for free in a pub round the corner and that's it.

Bangface is a bit different. In fact it's a bit different to everything: Not only the antithesis of standard festival mundanity, it's also the antithesis of chinstroking purist dance genre dweebery (too much of a party vibe for that), the antithesis of smart upmarket Londonised clubbing (far too ravey including pretty much a dress anti-code), it's even the antithesis of mid-late 90s raves with separate genre segregation. Look at the timetables below...

You get ALL of the harder dance genres mashed together along with various off beat and experimental stuff and a crowd that is about 30% die hard raver / crusty, 30% normal people dressed up flamboyantly and ridiculously like the die hard crusty ravers, 30% normal people who forgot their neon and horns and feathers, and a token 10% neds chavs posers etc - a proper dance festival by anyone's standards.

I went to the 2012 weekender which was a bit of a mission since it was 10 hours slog to Newquay and I didn't have enough petrol to get to rave and back on the first night so missed the Outside Agency etc etc, although after it was over I did get some great climbing on the North Cornwall coast. This time was a bit different because it was 3 hour drive and I got a cheap hotel at the Charnock Richard services (really quite disappointing to be coming off at junction  27½ legally but needs must), OTOH the weather was fucking dire so no essential grit hit before during or after. Instead I went to the Manchester Depot, met Julie Andy the Lincoln and the Bennetts which was nice and social, despite a late night (7am) I did really well, the sauna heat shortcutted my warm-up whilst the anti-hydral allowed me to cope with the manky holds (somewhat at odds with the splendor of the wall itself). The best and least injury-hampered session I've had this year.

So back to the banging. Lots of clashes on the flyer but I caught:

Randomer - really good proper techno, helped by a fucking mint soundsystem in room 2, apparently he's more of a *step DJ.

a bit of Ceephax Acid Crew - slow and mundane, I walked through pretty quick.

Om Unit - gripping deep and dark halfstep dnb into some jungle at the end. Not my usual dnb style but I skipped the ever-reliable Dave Clarke cos this sounded so good.

Evol Intent - good neuro / techstep although a bit stop start in places, also there was too much Evol as Dj Hype didn't turn up - a pity as a more jump up jungle set would have broken things up perfectly.

a bit of Radium - bouncy frenchore, seemed to be going down well.

a bit of some Japanese dude - fast happy hardcore gabber, seemed to be quite fun.

Panacea - great set of neuro, techstep, crossbreed insanity. This has been a lonnnng time coming, 20 years in fact when a mate and I were in a record shop overhearing a punter saying "Nah I don't really like that heavy metal drum'n'bass", referring to his Low Profile Darkness album. Many albums, collaborations and a fantastic John Peel birthday set later, his style is a bit more squelchy neuro than super dark dnb, but he still does a great job.

a bit of Detest - good but a bit stop start i.e. a lot of drops into kickdrums but I dunno not as much flow as I hoped.

The Liberators - the opposite, pleasingly relentless banging acid techno, just how you'd expect. Another John Peel favourite and you can see why. They had some issues with decks skipping but the music was on point.

The DJ Producer - another highlight, I didn't think I'd last this long but the man like Producer promised "Facemelt Friday" and he didn't disappoint with a classic set of turntablised gabber, hardcore techno and crossbreed. One of my favourite DJs in the late 90s and he still has it.

Ratpack - a good set of the full spectrum of old skool from rave, funky house, breakbeat, early jungle etc. Not my sort of thing at all but they seemed to do a great job of it. A mellow breakbeat mash-up of the Born Slippy intro melody was a real nice chillout moment.

Ed Solo & Deekline - partly made up for the Hype no show with a proper dancefloor DnB set from modern jump-up back to jungle classics. Good stuff.

Angel - another highlight - I'd recently got some big Angel hype after finding out the Can You See Me track was her, and this was a great set of relentless ebbing and flowing industrial techno and crunchy analogue. Much better than some of the stop start stuff, the dancefloor went from empty to barely-able-to-move (even a grumpy security guard was nodding along) and yes there was much flying limbs at 2:03 above.

Atari Teenage Riot - did exactly what you'd expect. Decent aggressive gabber / breakcore with shouted vocals. I can see why people like them but separate tracks after some of the more crafted DJ sets didn't really inspire me.

a bit of Reso - finished on some great neuro jump up, apparently he's a dubstep DJ and I really wished I'd caught all of his set instead of ATR as a mix blending hard dubstep into DnB would have gone down a treat.

a bit of TQD - bassline house / grime / stuff. Not my personal bag but sounded pretty cool, good to have variety.

Skull Vomit - cheery speed gabber and breakcore, more of my personal bag, fast, silly, and fun.

the end of Bogdan Rathingy - pretty dire, bland and bleepy electronica.

Dieselboy - more proper hard neuro dnb, a good set with some nice slices of more abstract stuff mixed in. The modern hard neuro (astutely coined on Drum And Bass Arena as "Eastern European Sausage Tech") does get a bit samey but Dieselboy and Panacea mixed it up enough.

half of Bong-Ra - I wish he'd been on sooner as I was all out of energy and my feet were too sore to bounce away to his mentalist blend of breakcore, jungle and gabber. I still don't really get 180-200bpm breakcore but I need to give it chance when I'm fresher.

And that was it. First night I stayed until 6am, second night until 4:30am, not bad for someone with no drugs no booze and no mates! Now I have the man-flu so I don't feel like capitalising on the reassuring Depot training session any time soon but hopefully will get out in the decent forecast weather this weekend??

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

The Train Train.

A bit like the send train, but far more realistic for this wankshit winter.

My friend Jade posted this link recently: Interesting stuff, apart from it not being that interesting. A bit like this post no doubt but hey I'm writing it for me so stop reading it, okay? The author lives in Boulder Colorado, it is one of my ultimate aims in life to live in Boulder or SLC or Las Vegas. Fuck American politics, fuck miserable Brits slagging off crass and shallow Yanks, I want to live and climb in the desert (or near it, pedants). Anyway, from the article:

"Show me someone who said they had the time of their life doing weighted deadhangs all day in the gym, and I’ll show you someone I’d like to slap in the face." 
Show me someone who said they had the time of their life trying to rally some support for a grit trip, driving a 9 hour round trip to shower dodge and do fuck all apart from waste money and get weaker for when the good weather does finally arrive, and I'll show you someone who doesn't live in the fucking desert.

"The last sunset I watched through the windows of the gym was kind of lackluster if you know what I’m saying."
The last sunset I watched through the windows of the gym was kind of pretty and could have convinced me to try going out climbing if it wasn't for the sodden roads and buildings from the previous showers.

To be fair the weather hasn't been that terrible and it's probably fine if you live next to inspiring rock. To be fair I probably have a similar attitude to the author in that I love exploring diverse and interesting areas to do inspiring rock climbing and training is only ever a means to an end and a necessary evil. But I might as well enjoy and make use of that evil. Last winter sucked arse because I did fuck all rock climbing, but come spring I did fine on the trad and didn't get too strong to pull off too many holds on The Complete Works nor too reliant on bright plastic to miss the smears on The Baldest.

So after a low period I've got back to the gym to give my tweaked wrist a rest, and the weightlifting has fired my body enough that I've felt better at the wall and my wrist is now not as sore as my chronic golfer's elbow so I guess that's progress??

After less than 10 gym sessions and about 4 weightlifting sessions (for the first time in 8+ months?) I managed to get back to all my previous benchmarks (160kg deadlift, 80kg benchpress, 100kg squat, 20kg/arm military press, +25kg pullup) surprisingly quickly. I guess my body has adapted a bit over the years. Actually I've progressed a bit, 165kg DL and 160 more comfortable without straps, deeper squats, 22kg/arm MP (just!). My body feels good after that and I'm sticking to the maxim:

Increasing your 1rm (or at least, working your 3 rep max at 3 sets, say) will give you the best strength increase, for the least hypertrophy. Aka, the best of both worlds.
Anything else will be making you heavy!
As usual I'm mixing in these small sets of large weights with core work, antagonist work, CV, and climbing-relevant work (pulls etc).

Why so much gym stuff?? Firstly I'm too tweaked to train at the wall all the time, if I did more wall sessions I'd be held together by tape and scar tissue and my skin would be fucked. Secondly I'd get a bit bored wall training all the time. Thirdly there are some issues I can train more effectively at the gym (core, legs, CV) which will feed into my climbing one way or another. In short if I didn't go the gym I'd either be less fit or more injured or both.

Of course I go to the wall more and focus on that more, albeit pleasure and fun has a role too! But having some good benchmarks for weights got me curious about aiming for more climbing-strength-specific benchmarks. This is not some miserable abarro81 style PHD-level training plan, it's just having some goals to aim for so I can try a bit harder and maybe get a bit stronger. So I did some tests:

Weighted bar pullups: 1 x +30kg, 2 x +25kg, 3 x +20kg
(Aim: 1 x 40kg )

Weighted BM smallest edges hangs: 3.5s x +20kg, 5s x +15kg, 7s x +10kg
(Aim: Not sure, the weighted ones felt pleasingly hard so I'm keen to try more)

BM smallest edges hangs: 13s
(Aim: Not sure)

BM 30' sloper hangs: 30s
(No aim, too conditions-dependent)

BM 45' sloper hangs: 1.5s
(No aim, too conditions-dependent)

BM smallest edges pull-ups: 4
(Aim: 5 full pull-ups)

Campusing medium rungs: 1:3:4
(Aim: 1:3:5)
(N.B. Pre-dvt / weight gain: Campusing small rungs: 1:3:5)

TCA 45' campus ladder feet on single rungs: 1 full set + 1-2-3-4-5-6-7
(Aim: 2 full sets (2 seconds chalking after drop-off)

TCA 45' campus ladder feet on alternate rungs: 1 full set + 1-3-5-7
(Aim: 2 full sets (2 seconds chalking after drop-off)

TCA 45' campus ladder feet on alternate rungs without twisting body: 1-3-5
(Aim: 1 full set)

Of course most of these are highly dependent on skin, conditions, fingertip soft-tissue pain due to heaviness, etc. So not as pure as lifting a load of metal off the ground ;).

The goal of course....get on Billy Sprag and have good crimp strength to keep pulling on edges, and good thigh strength for any fierce rockovers, Get on Pass The Pigs and have good enough body tension to keep in the layback and have allowed my wrist to heal to hold the roundedness. Get on Woodland Ecology and have enough burl to commit confidently to the moves for the slopey ramp.

Etc etc etc.

Friday, 3 March 2017

Sunday, 26 February 2017

The RC Car hobby.

I like radio controlled cars. I liked the idea of them as a 10 year old, and a long time later I like them in the metal and plastic. It's quite nice getting involved with a new hobby and new culture (with people like the madly cackling RCSparks providing regular inspiration), cruising them, breaking them, upgrading them, posting on forums and going from being a complete noob to someone who gets gratitude for helping other people online.

So I thought I'd write a beginner's post about it, in the context of the completely separate climbing community which is of course where my heart and life's purpose still lies.

Should you get involved in the RC Hobby?? Hell yeah. It's not that expensive if you choose right, it doesn't take up that much time to go out and cruise with an RC car, choose the right car and you can do it when the weather is shit, choose the right driving style and you shouldn't need to do much repairing or maintenance, and there's a wide choice of approach from a £40 micro you mess around with inside to an £800 1/5 scale monster that's infinitely upgradeable and can mince all over the roughest terrain. Pick what suits YOU.

(In terms of the climbing lifestyle it has no benefits as an additional hobby apart from possibly night time / wet weather driving with the right set-up. And major repair work is a good warm-up for the fingers pre-training. OTOH go to an empty crag with an off road RC shoved into your sack and it might be fun while resting between attempts on your SICK PROJ RIG, who knows ;)).

Start by considering the size you want and the style of driving that appeals because there's a lot of choice. I wanted to do some bashing and jumping and happened to choose the HPI Savage XS, it's not cheap at all but is an absolute beast, very fast, jumps well, cruises over all terrain. Then I wanted something smaller to try in the flat and maybe out at local carparks (the Savage is waaaay too powerful) so I got a Carisma GT24TR which is really nice for speed cruising and small jumps, and a WLToys P929 which is cheap, tiny but solid and fast, although things do break easy at smaller scales. It's a different choice for everyone. But there's one essential pre-purchase step: Check the model you're choosing has spares readily available. Trust me on this.

Have some information:

Types of RC car usage:

Racing: Proper RC for people who can actually control them well ;). Needs a proper track (on-road for race cars, off-road for buggies) but not necessarily hugely competitive.

Speed runs: Tinkering and testing to go as stupidly, pointlessly fast as possible in a straight line. Usually needs a GPS logger like SkyRC and a dweebish attitude towards endless upgrading (so one for road cyclists then).

Drifting: Pimped up cars, low bodies, slick wheels, smooth surfaces, and all your Fast And Furious fantasies. Quite niche but good for small areas and indoor fun.

Cruising: General generic driving, on or off-road, just getting out and having fun.

Bashing: "Drive it like you stole it", "If you didn't break it you ain't doing it right". Jumps, bumps, humps, drops, skate parks, and a lot of time ordering spares online. Great fun.

Trail driving: Taking your car out for a walk. Generally on rougher terrain with a slower car than you'd have for cruising, one for the explorers.

Crawling: Extreme trail driving with extremely slow but agile cars, basically climbing over rocks, chasms, stream beds, the more awkward the better.


Large scale: 1/8 - 1/6 - 1/5 , often nitro/petrol powered rather than electric, very expensive and big.

Normal scale: 1/10 - 1/12-ish , nitro/petrol or electric, expensive-ish but lots of choice.

Mini scale: 1/14 - 1/16 - 1/18, mostly electric, still lots of hobby-grade choice.

Micro scale: 1/24 - 1/36 and below, electric, still a good choice but not so many high end models.


Toy grade - cheap, can be fast and agile, but not upgradeable, not repairable, and might not have a good transmitter. Skip an evening in the pub and get hobby grade.

Hobby grade - "proper" RC, from budget to luxury. Cheaper ones are not necessarily much fancier than toy grade but will likely be better materials and components, and likely to be upgradeable and repairable - the former aspect is fun, the latter aspect is very useful.

Ready To Run (RTR) - most RC cars come like this these days. Just add batteries. You can often still dismantle them to the base components though!

Kit form - much rarer than it used to be, although Tamiya still do plenty. You get less choice but if you really want to build something, go for it.

UK Shops:

Steve Webb - my cousin's shop so I have to give him a shout out. The website is a bit hopeless but they have loads of other stock in store and a lot of expertise. If you live near Chester pop in to the shop in Frodsham in person.
There are many more but I've used those regularly.


RC Groups
Ultimate RC
RC Universe
R/C Tech

These are invariably American so it can be a bit frustrating when you see a really cool looking car with a big thread discussing all the options, then find out 98% of the stock goes to China and America and it's only available in the UK from one Hong Kong exporter who charges £45 postage and it will take 8 weeks to get here by which time the manufacturer has discontinued it and you can't get any spares.

Good makes:

It really depends what you're after but some good names are: Kyosho, Tamiya, HPI (& Maverick), Traxxas (& La Trax), Dromida, Associated, Losi, Carisma, WLToys and FTX.

If any of this is slightly useful, then in the words in RCSparks "get out there any enjoy the RC hobby" :)

A bit disappointing.

Warning: This post contains some criticism. If there's any issue with that, please take it as customer feedback, from a fairly dedicated customer.

New guidebooks are exciting - proper new guidebooks that is. Modern, locally researched, extensively updated, characterful definitive guides, rather than mundane honeypotting recycled select guides. New information, accurate coverage, the full spectrum of venues covered and their value overhauled and recently assessed. That always fills me with psyche.

The new Lancashire Rock guidebook is exciting - it manages to escape the archaic shackles of The Brick, going from one of the worst old guides to the best modern guides. All the classic quarries presented in exhilarating detail, along with many appealing minor and hidden gem venues that have me itching to kick off the trad season with some Lancs suntraps.

Given the general quality of the tome, it was surprising to go to the Egerton section and find two new (well, a decade new) routes missing, including one that's had several photos and an entry on the country's largest climbing website for 10 years , and one that fills a pretty obvious gap (yes a bit eliminate but not nearly as eliminate as a starred E1 we did at Lower Montcliffe, nor as odd a line as the spaghetti junction of link-ups at Summit Quarry).

Did no-one look at the gap to the right of the climber (larger than the gap that separates the two HVSes right again), and think "I wonder if something's been done up there?"

Corrected topo for Egerton's Wood Buttress. Feel free to print it off and stick it over the current page.

Obviously I'm only writing about this because I really care about the fame and the glory and want to see my climbing artworks immortalised in print. No, really. *Rolls eyes*. Actually it's more to do with this being an example of accurate research and information, or the lack thereof. The rest of the guide seems great but it gets me worried how much I can trust it when something fairly obvious (if minor) is missing....

I asked about this - very neutrally, just asking for information - on the Lancashire Rock Revival Facebook page, and the consensus answer I got was that many of the team didn't use UKC for information and had personal issues with the website. Hmmm. I'll try to avoid raising too many of my own personal issues with people who choose to ignore the UK's biggest online climbing resource while researching a national guidebook, but that is just bloody idiotic. I'm no fan of UKC per se, I've been banned twice, fallen out with a lot of people due to my chronic intolerance of morons, and have no love for the Rockfax parent company, but like it or not, it IS a resource, it DOES contain information, and it should NOT be ignored. Sure, due to the aforementioned morons the information and opinions should not be taken as gospel, but at the very least the information available should always be considered, factored in, or used to raise questions for further research.

Take this for example: - terrible photo, useless caption, distracting banter - 30 seconds to click on my profile - email user "I've seen this photo of you, is this actually a new route and can you supply full details of it?". Or this:"Can you confirm that Hot Rubber should be E3 and supply any more details?"

The latter comes from another recent release that was thrilling to me initially but has had plenty of frustrating moments: Bosigran And The North Coast. Again, by CC's standards, a refreshingly semi-modern update after the previous unprogressive reprint, lots of topos, clear design, well presented information....but not all of it is accurate enough due to some pretty simple lapses:

Thick Wall Special line is wrong on not one but both Bosigran topos, despite the clash between this line and Visions Of Johanna being fairly apparent. Not the most classic Bosi route but very worthwhile as a rare steep slab in it's own right.

Pedn Kei West is a great wee cliff despite the precarious belay slope above, and really could have done with a topo especially as Pete Saunders managed to get one on UKC.

This photo seems to show part of the cliff with a 3 star hidden gem on it....why not show it properly??

Carn Vellan is a great cliff that is far more than chopped bolts and controversy. The main slab warrants having it's low Extremes well described and shown.

Freedom Zawn, another great and grand killas arena. The main wall is pretty adventurous and not the sort of place you want to be totally off route. The topo is as wrong as wrong gets.

Pretty sure Aire Point wasn't thoroughly checked if the grades and stars of the adjacent E3s haven't been sorted out.

Photo captions are a minor deal but perhaps symptomatic.

Again at least two or three of these, if not more, could have been avoided by more online research. And like Lancashire, Cornwall is a classic and varied area that really deserves to have it's qualities fully highlighted in an reliable guide. Hopefully this issue will be rectified for the forthcoming Chair Ladder & Lizard, and especially the next North Devon & Cornwall guide, which will likely be the last definitive print guide to such a wild, complex, and adventurous area, and as such it would be really nice to see a supreme quality guide to match the climbing and last the years to come.

Obviously if I know of information that's not being used, I should try to help out. Equally obviously I didn't know it would be ignored for those guides, particularly since I'm currently very non-local to the areas. I will be more diligent in the future - for ND&C I've joined the Facebook group and emailed in feedback, as well as spending a good couple of hours sorting out the Carn Gowla UKC page after it was left in an unusable mess by the previous moderator who is apparently a local expert but doesn't think UKC has any useful information, and was quite blase about a dangerous sandbag like Demerara (VS going on E2) being left unchanged because "You don't really get people climbing those grades at Carn Gowla" - when a quick look at UKC shows Gowla VSes with 70 recorded ascents......

Last but not least at the opposite end of the country, the new Highland Outcrops. SMC guides are being dragged screaming and kicking into the year 2000, and will get to modern standards eventually especially when they show all the lines on topos, but they're certainly an improvement over previous ancient books. However the latest HO, while inspiring in many ways not least the astonishing breadth of coverage, does fall down in some very similar areas.

The Glen Shian slab was an obsession of mine for many years - an immaculate slab of lovely sheer schist with acclaimed video footage of E10 first ascents but no useful information available. Eventually I got there, had a great time and set about rectifying it's obscurity. Again my excitement for the new guidebook was slightly diminished to see a woefully inadequate entry for this crag. Now I know that Andy Nisbet as one of the dozen active trad climbers in the Highlands had a lot on his plate writing the guide, I know he probably didn't have a big team to check online resources.....except in this case he had seen my UKC entry (and for Dome Buttress which he rightly asked me to take down the topo of) and had even used my photo as the basis for the Glen Shian topo. So why not use, or at least question, the accompanying information??

Missing descriptions, unedited grades....
....sparse descriptions, mis-applied stars...

The end result is that one of the best accessible mid-high grade single pitch slabs in Scotland (not a common feature) might not be well described enough to tempt the mid-Extreme leader over to have as good a time as we did. Again, yes I wish I'd been involved, I didn't know it would end up like this - and receiving a "Fiend, you seem to like this crag, do you want to write it up properly for the guide" would have spurred me into action, 6 hour round trip and all.

TL,DR: Guidebook writers, regardless of your personal issues with online resources, they are still resources to be used, even only to raise questions for further research - please do so!!

Monday, 30 January 2017

Albarracin v2.0

The second leg of the trip involved one rest day, collecting my own hire car from Alicante, being rather pleased that the budget option had been upgraded to a Ford Focus with 2k on the clock, 6 gears, cruise control etc etc, going for a chilled long drive cross country to Valencia, calmly negotiating Valencia city centre with it's 5 lane unmarked roundabouts and associated swerving traffic in search of a model shop for spare wheel nuts, and a Decathlon for spare power vests, thankfully I resisted:


I survived all of this and then on pulling into the parking in Alba village, scratched the side of the car. Cocks. No I don't want to spend the same amount as the fucking car hire on excess-negating insurance, but equally I don't want to be charged £230 to repair this:

£230 per door with minor damage. The front door could conceivably cost 2/3 of that to fix. The 5cm micro-dent and 1cm chip on the rear door, yeah fucking right.

The car hire guy didn't deny his company were "completely criminal" for this overcharging. Yeah I scraped the car, yeah I should pay for the repairs, so charge me for the fucking REPAIRS (and the lost earnings for time of the road). Thankfully I still had independent generic excess-negating insurance and amazingly after sending them every imaginable document to do with my trip from a graph plotting the tyre pressure on each kilometre travelled to a list of which Alba problems were the most badly graded to a page of estimated lengths of all the hire company staff's anal beards with no more than 15% deviance, they actually paid up. So go to and give them a go.

After all this debacle there was some climbing, not a lot each day but a decent amount overall, along with walking all over the forest reccing all the areas I thought were available pre-bird ban but turns out after not available as it's been upgraded to a perma-ban, ooops. I climbed okay, I'm still rubbish on the mega-burly roofs and still okay on the soft-touch sloper problems, that might be something to do with the conditions which were outrageously good, 6 days of perfect sun, light breeze, sub-freezing nights and shade, and humidity so low that I got dry skin patches on my arms. Wow. This is the sort of climate I should be in rather than the fucking rank troglodyte shit up here and in the UK in general. So yeah the slopers felt lovely and my elbow actually got better without the damp and the anti-hydral just worked enough. On the last day I woke up barely able to move my wrist, my shoulders in knots, 3 small blood blisters on my fingers, and it was drizzling. Time to go home.

As well as the climbing I had fun hanging out with Kelvin and Anna and a TCA/GCC crew, and also building precarious tripods from fallen pine branches, so this happened of course.

Here have some photos:

Good morning Albarracin! It is a lovely village to wake up to, although I was too lazy to walk up into it this time.

 Finding a 7A roof at Psicokiller too hard for me, I did this instead. 6C/+ , took me 3 attempts.

 Grumpy gato. None of them wanted to be my friend.

 More grumpy gatos. Even away from the village centre it's all pretty nice.

 Just chilling on a balcony, why not eh.

 Balcony perro bossing it.

 Well fortified against hordes of traveling boulderers.

 Moss and trees. This was the first day during when I started exploring at 11am and finally started bouldering at 4pm. I had felt pretty nauseous for no good reason. The last 2 hours were good though!

 Sofa Boulder perro. So cute and fluffy.

Dinner for one. Is this suitable for the unfit and overweight punter, even after being active all day and just snacking on persimons and hazelnuts?? Probably not. Then again I saw an 8B boulderer eat a similar pizza, albeit topped with pears and ham. Hmmm.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Costa Blanca v4.0

The one glimmer of hope this winter has been a Spanish trip of Costa Blanca B2B Albarracin, which was really a very pleasant experience. I went to Costa with Big Bob, the clue is in the name although we had separate bedrooms in our budget apartment, and I only fell off two routes using his unspeakably bad gigantalope beta. He'd already booked the time in CB but wasn't very keen because a previous trip had been characterised by polish, heat, and losing the will to live. I was desperate to get away and almost none of the many other climbers I know were available, but wasn't very keen as after 3 trips I thought I'd climbed out CB. It turns out that even in the old guidebook there's loads of crags I hadn't visited, and with careful choice we only had one warm afternoon and a grand total of 2 polished routes (one of which being a *** F6a+) in the whole trip.

I started the trip in possibly the most useless state I've ever started a trip: Woefully under-trained, the usual tweaked elbow, a less usual tweaked wrist, tweaked lower back from a crimpy rockover at GCC (what? how?), full up to the hair follicles with the manflu, and one blocked ear that didn't depressurise on landing in Alicante. So my goal was just to "feel a bit better" and  "climb some nice routes" (ugh how bumbly) and  I did both. The former came on a day when I persuaded Robert to climb in the sun given it was 10'c at midday at Bellus. Too warm for him (apparently there is someone worse than me for coping with the heat), but after failing on a F6b+ because I couldn't even think straight, I onsighted a half hour nap in the sun, did a couple of really nice grey slabs and on the hour bimble back to Calpe started to feel better instead of exhausted.

Fat, weak, ill, injured, what a knob. Regular readers will be pleased to hear the trousers didn't make it back alive.

First evening view from Altea Col. Obviously the illness is going to clear up rapidly, if not the fatness nor knobness.

The latter came throughout the trip, and what I lacked in tackling harder routes, I made up for in an unerring ability to choose awesome easier ones ;). Highlights included Arte Del Olvido at Sella Shady Side which was an absolutely massive pitch up an endless line of resting pockets, Gandalf at L'Ocaive which had an amazing continuously technical headwall miles above anything, and Espresso at Los Pinos which I'd backed off ill on our first full day and did pretty smoothly on our last day. And of course the mega Tuna Steak Of Glory - a huge slab at £9 a kilo from the supermarket, Salted, flash fried, and served on a bed of bulgar wheat, sliced swordfish (£12 a kilo), asparagus, with fresh mint and fresh lemon. If I'd paid £15+ in a restaurant for this I'd be happy.

   Kill it some more, just in case!

Best tick of the trip. Note the Amstel 0,0 - I'm trying. It was pretty bogging. San Miguel 0,0 is the one whilst in Espana.

There was even time in the long dark evenings for a spot of light cruising at a local plaza. This is a 1/28 scale WLToys P929 with an upgraded motor and my own LED lighting rig. It's the size of my hand and I clocked it at 23mph before Xmas.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Back once again....

....and who knows I might keep it up this time.

In short, November and December I sulked. New Year I went to Costa Blanca and Albarracin, more on that later but suffice to say I cooked the best tuna steak I've ever had.

Now I'm back in the shithole that is Scotland in the winter, and back training. But for what?? Good question. My immediate goal is to spend the next 3 months climbing on gritstone - right time, wrong place, but I'll try. The training for that revolves solely around anti-hydral cream and some stretching. In the longer term I want to push myself and physically improve (a little bit!), but in what direction?? What do I need to do to do what I want to do, which is essentially "more of the same" challenging inspiring trad, in more varied situations??

To answer this, what could have been better last year, which was mostly decent for the first 2/3 of it?? What did I struggle with, and what can I train to improve those situations.

Some UK routes I failed on, and some reasons why:

Traction Trauma, Dinbren - undergraded, reachy, missed footholds when boxed.
Back To The Old Ways, Backways Cove - undergraded, silty death.
Gale Force Zero, North Pembroke - conditions (too smeggy), undergraded, got pumped
Life's Just A Ballgame, North Pembroke - conditions (hot and sunny), scary bold friction climbing
Peryl, Avon - conditions (too sunny and hot), missed guidebook description of rest ledge.
One Rawl For All, Avon - conditions (too hot on the rock).
White Spider, Dartmoor - conditions (only warm but very slopey friction climbing)
Some E3, Anstey's Cove - conditions (warm even in the shade), tired, slipped off.
Black Sapper, Robin's Rocks - very pumpy, committing, hard to read, more pumpy.
Some E2, Gower - conditions (okay on the rock but too warm in general), hard and holdless.
Dragon's Den, Dewerstone - conditions (a bit grubby and not cold enough for rubbish slopers), didn't rest long enough to let skin cool down and rechalk.
Some F7a, Wyndcliffe Quarry - conditions (damp and greasy), hadn't warmed up enough.

And a few routes I really struggled on:

Mad Mutt, North Pembroke - conditions (a bit smeggy), undergraded, power endurance.
Tremelo, North Pembroke - conditions (a big smeggy), very undergraded, pumpy
Black Magic, Pentire - conditions (gloomy and greasy)
Dogs Of War, Gogarth - conditions (hot and sunny)
The Baldest, St Loy - undergraded, missed hidden RP.

Useful. Really fucking useful. Don't climb when conditions are bad, don't get on sandbag routes.Yeah sure let me factor that into my TCA / Ratho sessions *rolls eyes*

Okay. So, more useful might be to rewind back to the late winter sport trip where I really struggled, and conditions were less of an issue - compared to routes being reachy, or really hard to read with endless blind pockets, at least. Physically though, there are a few common threads:

1. Getting generally pumped on relentless trad.
> I can train a bit for this by doing laps on routes and TCA stamina circuits.

2. Powering out on short sections of steep ground and intense climbing. 
> I can train a bit for this by doing more climbing on steep ground, this has previously been identified as a weakness of mine. I've started doing some sets on the 45' foot-on rung ladder at TCA, partly because I've got an injured wrist and it requires little twisting, but I think it should be relevant. I'll also do more nu comp wall routes at Ratho when it warms up.

3. Getting stressed and tunnel-visioned in the above situation and missing options.
> This I am not so sure about as it's partly mental. I can try to focus on looking around me whenever I'm challenged indoors, try to spend a bit more time on the holds to get used to hanging around. General fitness and general climbing fitness will probably beneficial as the problem goes along with being tired, out of breath, etc.

So that's a start. As mentioned my wrist is tweaked (annoyingly from doing eccentric wrist curls to try to prevent further tweaking to my elbow!) which limits what I can currently train on normal indoor holds by about 50%. I'm trying to work around that with more board and fingerboard work.

I still need a lot more regular grit partners though. I haven't been down once yet. Fuck living up here.