28 December 2009

Winter climbing in t-shirts

photo: Toby Dickens

photo: Andre Hedger

18 December 2009

my left foots

l'Usine. What can i say?
It's very cool to suddenly have a whole load of new routes to try and I'm sure they will not be ticked easily. The scene down there in Grenoble seems to be kicking, I was surprised that there were other climbers at the crag 2 of the 3 week days we were there. Access to the cave was easy and as drytooling venues go! its an ok place to hang about.

After my crap journey to the comp and climbing on sat the next 3 days were spent resting and getting a taster of Jeffs nails route "Bichette Light" I was thinking it might be feasible to climb sometime in the future, then I found the correct start (not the M8 right hand start i was doing) and was suitably humbled.

Malc spent mon/tue trying "God Jull" and "l'Usine" then had to fly back to Denmark. The drive back up to Lyon airport was not too bad and luckily it gave me another chance to try and take some photos of Lyon Airport Station by the architect Santiago Calatrava. I love the building but the photos need another visit and i need to buy that lap top more than ever.

Lyon Airport Station by Santiago Calatrava

After the airport as I was in the area with my fixed skis and new boots I drove back down Alpe d'huez.

Day one was good after a slow start.
Day two was shite, my boots were giving me all kinds of grief while snow and flat light made seeing the slope impossible (don't know how the hundreds of other skiers managed) so after skiing over my other ski and twisting my knee i slunk back to the car.

Every cloud.... finishing skiing early then leaving in daylight (before another couple of hours of snow fell) made the journey back down the hairpins just about acceptable. I wish that I had found out quicker that I had put the left insole in to my right ski boot and vice-versa though. I did quickly find out that the 15 pound part worn "winter" tyres did not cut the mustard, to be fair they are better than a standard tyre but no where like as good as the chunky treads you see in the mountains. Later that night I was back to tyre worship as they did a great job ploughing through the slush laying on the A6 and getting me to the winter forest surrounding my sisters before midnight. It was an early white christmas lunch that weekend.

14 December 2009


That little cave is about 25m high!! (Photo: Dry Tool Style on Facebook)

The Dry Tool Style competition at l'Usine exceeded my expectations, the number of hard routes and the number of climbers able to climb them (never really in doubt, this is France) and the number spectators. Jeff Mercier, Etienne Grillot and Emmanuel Bazoge (and loads of others) put together an awesome competition with a slightly unusual format that favored anyone who had climbed on the comp routes previously!! Despite this and a travel hangover I managed to get through to the final then super final, strange what an audience can do to my climbing.

A good crowd

There are about 20 routes at l' usine with potential for more, a topo will follow here and/or on Malc's blog.

Malc watching a super-finalist working part of Jeff's Bichette Light M[14/5?] that crosses the roof. The super-final route comprised a M8 start in to the roof section of Bichette (M13?)

Boris working the same line. Later I got to about 4th place in the comp by climbing some (the easy bit) of this route. First prize nomics, second sun glasses, third a rope and I got a flask hmmmm.

Malc and I climbed well for the audience despite me choosing a M7+ sandbag for the first route. I just scraped a redpoint of "God Jull" M10+ to get in to the final then almost (i like to think) flashed "L'Usine" 11?, baulking at the final move. The super-final was a red point of one of the hardest routes at the crag at night with a lazer pointer showing the holds, interesting but I was seriously flagging by that time.

Dark Journey

the best part of a painful journey from Kinlochleven to Grenoble: Lyon Airport SNCF Station.

Forgotten bags, missed ferries, illness and late nights

great preparation for the DTS comp.

8 December 2009

1000 Miles

Steve Johnstone winning the final and the Scottish Tooling Series

Driving from Guildford to Glen Coe is a mission, it takes about the same time as driving to font. I have been to Font a lot more than i have been to Scotland.

Right now I'm crouched over my laptop in the passenger seat of Scott's van, M5 past Brum heading North. The reason for the trip to Scotland is to check out the Scottish tooling series comp at the ice factor and then, if the conditions allow, we will try and find a mixed route to climb. Recently I have spent a lot of time on the computer trying to tie together various strands of this winter. Luckily I have got time for this as I'm not working but for some reason I don't seem to have as much money as before. The money I have saved from working this summer is leaking in to visa applications (75 quid the Russian embassy wants!!) flights, car hire and I still need a pair of ski boots. I had better savour any climbing I do this season.

When I get back from Scotland I have got a couple of days to get down to meet Malc at l'Usine (Grenoble) for a competition/meet that some of the French mixed climbers have arranged. While planning this trip I noticed on facebook that Jeff Mercier has completed a 2 year project at l'Usine, he has graded it M14/15 and interestingly he seems to have done this without figure 4's. Will have to get the low down on this line for sure, no chance of me not using a figure 4 though! Following the competition Malc and I have a few days to investigate what has been developed in the Southern Alps. Finances and timing mean that I will probably have to pass on the opportunity of climbing with 2 of the darkhorses of European mixed climbing. I hope I will get another opportunity.

Christmas - bring on those mince pies

Then it's the Russian trip. So far:
The visa is [almost] sorted (fingers crossed)
Flights payed for
Accommodation in Moscow arranged
Russian climbing federation are booking the sleeper train on the Trans-Siberian railway (Unfortunately it looks like I will be asleep for the journey)
BMC registering me to compete in the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup in Kirov.

I was a little bit under-awed with the trip until I received the official invitation in Russian and looked at the tourist sights of Moscow then I got a spark of excitement for visiting a new destination. The Moscow comp falls on a weekend when Ouray, The Ecrin, and Kandersteg comps take place. It's a shame these comps are on the same weekend as they will all be worth going to. But I can't fund (time or money) getting to the IWC at Daone and then back to Saas Fee let alone round the World. Hopefully I will be able to have a week in switzerland when the Saas Fee comp is on.

Bratislava Tooling Comp

Then the icing on the cake is Canada for Feb but there is a lot of water to pass under the bridge before that dream comes to fruition.


Now I am siting in the back of Scot's van (M40 past rain) on the way home having come second in the comp (a stupid mistake stopped me finishing higher). It was really good to see the support that the comp received and I don't think that the ice factor would fit many more competitors using the current format. There were almost 20 problems/routes of all different styles and difficulty to give a good days climbing.

Me in the final

A whirlwind couple of days traveling between Newtyle Quarry, Bramaer Mountain Sports and White Goods (I bet Shelle and Scott would be the first people to visit Newtyle and WG on consecutive days!!!!) not the planned schedule but the Scottish weather! at least I have a pair of ski boots now. Scott made a blinding effort on Jaz and almost got it ticked on his second go. I had a quick blast on Happy Hooker, I have been on it before but it was still a good test and I needed two goes to repeat it, it felt tough for M7.

3 December 2009

England and Wales bolted mixed graded list

My guesses for the record........

Different Game M10 (figure 4's) - rg 07
Finnish Start M10 - rg 09
Ready Steady Hook M10 (less figure 4's) - rg 08 - Repeated by Dave

Mental Block* M9 - rg 08/09
Chain Wall M9 (drilled slate) (sustained) - Ramon 09 - Repeated by rg
Left Goods M9 (cruxy) - rg 07 - Repeated by Dave
Power Pact* M9 - rg 08 - Repeated by Ramon/Dave?
Tumble in the jungle M9* - Dave 08 - Flashed by Andy

Doorstep Challenge M8 - Dave 07 - Flashed by Andy
Jaz* M8 - Dave 07 - Flashed by Andy
Ibex M8 (drilled slate) - Pete 09 - Onsighted

Demolition M7 - Ramon 08 - Onsighted
And Pears M7
Apple M7

Adam's M5

A graded list of the mixed (dry tooling) climbs in England (1!) and Wales. The drilled slate routes are easier to read (onsight) as the placements are generally good and obvious (when they can be found!!)

And as with all lists there might be some overlap between grades and mistakes by the graders.

19 November 2009

Tide times

I always check the tide times before heading down to climb on the chalk as getting trapped by the sea while i'm wearing a rucksack doesn't appeal. Last night I knew it was low at 1800 and high at 2400 but that didn't really help me as I waded out from the Thunder Dome through waist deep water.

Scott and I picked up Simon on the way so probably arrived at Telscombe about 1900 then met Toby and Shelle in the Dome. The low traverse of the Dome is a good boulder problem/route with interesting moves through the steepest section. Everyone was climbing well and being entertained by a couple of flat-on-the-back ripped holds (the bread basket sized, heavy chalk blocks ripped off as a hold breaks always aim to land on the climber who broke them). Then Scott saved some serious trouble by letting us know that the tide was well on its way. I was pretty shocked when I saw where the milky water had got to, it was at least knee deep at the start of the first of two butresses we needed to pass to get back to safety. By this time It was probably past 2100 (will have to check the stopped mobiles) with choppy seas and a 6.5m spring tide. Interesting. Not quite dangerous by 15 min max.

Check the tide 3 hours past low tide.

I hadn't planned on making swimming part of my training for the winter (or sport climbing!). I spent June to September working and saving money. With weekends climbing if the weather/enthusiasm allowed. October: France/Turkey. And now I'm thinking that the comps and hopefully some Ice are not not very far away. So I have joined the gym, been running and done a couple of chalk sessions. The biggest headache is working how I am going to get around the comps (Russia, Italy, Switzerland on consecutive weekends) without spending all of my savings or doing no climbing.

11 November 2009


It was a simple plan: go sport climbing with Danny.
Not a bad plan on the face of it but Danny had been distracted from his bouldering trip for a few months and I haven't done much sport climbing (my last sport trip was to Kalymnos in 2005). So I wasn't certain how the trip was going to pan out. I shouldn't have worried, it was a memorable couple of weeks in a cool location with good people.

The first hitch was what kit to bring? As it turned out I needed to take a rope, two harnesses, all of the quickdraws and some chalk. In addition to the climbing gear we had decided to camp so I also needed a tent, mat and sleeping bag. All of this kit meant my one checked bag weighed exactly the allowed 20Kg, but only if I took the draws on as hand luggage! Surprisingly I got them through the x-ray at Heathrow but then got stopped at Istanbul. As I unpacked for the Turkish security the double bagged climbing chalk grabbed the attention of the guard and as he delicately lifted the bag high in to the air with his finger tips a look of disbelief crossed his face. I'm not sure that laughing helped my cause but the photo of the climber on the bag was enough to get me on to the plane. I did have to check in my bag of quickdraws and chalk though which meant a delay at Antalya getting my bags from different reclaim areas.

After the bag delay finding Danny reclining in the middle of the floor of the empty terminal was a good moment partly because the trip had been arranged from France by text the week before. A 40 lira taxi in to Antalya, a 30 lira pension then some Efes and Raki resulted in a super late start the following day (the Kaleici (old town) is a good place with some nice cafe/bars in the maze of small streets, it's also a fantastic place to hide a pension in the dark). Now we were ready to get to the climbing campsite, a perfectly timed 2 lira Gozleme, Ayran and lots of staggering about in the sun with heavy bags lead us to the conclusion that getting to the climbing in Geyikbayiri (carefully pronounced GAYkBAYR) was not going to be easy. Dannys Turkish speaking was awesomely good but mainly extended to buying tasty food and the problem was Geyikbayiri was miles away across the other side of town from the airport. Randomly the barber who cut Dannys beard!!? was able to drive us up to the campsite for 50 lira but only after we sat around on stools in the street for ages drinking çay.

There were slabs, walls, tufas, overhangs and some short routes but mainly longer single pitches. From the small number of routes that I tried the slabs seemed to be super sharp pocketed limestone and it was the tufas and overhanging pocketed routes that saw most of the attention from visiting climbers.

The view west along Sarkit

The Unknown Climber probably on Pusht Bush 7b+

Saxafon 6b+

Retsa 6c

When we were there at the start of November the weather was variable, some days it was blazing hot in the sun and the only place to get any shade was the north facing crag Trebenna, if it rains Trebenna is steep and also sheltered from the rain. This was a good crag but it gets busy and feels claustrophobic after a time. During our visit it rained a couple of times and a couple of days were very humid, not ideal for sending hard routes. Some Brits who were out the same time of year in 2008 said that they had five days of rain in a ten day trip. Generally though we had no problem getting out and climbing whenever we wanted and the quality of routes was excellent.

Transport, Food etc
There are two campsites close to the climbing: The Climbers Garden and Josito.

The Climbers Garden (bottom left) with Trebenna centre right

The Climbers Garden is the smaller of the two and I think slightly cheaper for chalets. There is a well equipped kitchen available for use.

Josito is the all inclusive option as breakfast, lunch and dinner can be brought (stoves can also be hired).

The local butcher is set up outside The Climbers Garden and he sells a few meals, snacks and beer. Alternatively the restaurant up the road is very nice with good food (15 lira ea.), fish ponds and tables sheltered by vines, no beer here as they are religious. Down near the market in Akdamlar (Sat and Sun only) are brilliant cafes set in the trees where we ate slap up breakfasts of gozleme with all the trimmings for 10 lira ea. Awesome.

Fresh fruit and veg can be brought at the market (oranges, onions, tomatoes, peppers were all 1 lira/Kg (or 2 lira if you are carrying an expensive looking camera)) Rice about 4 lira/Kg. The bus goes to Migros if you want nicer cheese. Cars can be hired at the campsite for 25€/day.

The pazar

All of the locals we met were friendly and hitching lifts and catching busses is sort of easy but a bit time consuming (when I left I luckily got back to the airport for under 10 lira). Learning some Turkish is very useful. We heard a story about some people paying stupid money for breakfast and the prices at the market seemed a bit variable but then the thieves at Orange will be ripping me off just for looking at my mobile when I'm not in the uk - same same.

Neptune 7b 1st rp. Geyikbayiri Games 7b+ 2nd rp. Sucker Punched 7a. No Money No Dance 7c flash. Freedom is a Battle (1st lower Off) 7a. Rattlesnake Saloon 7b 1st rp. Ahtapot 7a. Dragonfly 7a.

Hopefully I will return to Turkey for longer next time......

Turkey Shoot

16 October 2009

say "Arghhh"

due to a sore throat that the doctor said would probably result in a cold I have done no climbing. But she did advise me to eat yoghurt, ice cream, creme brulee, that sort of thing. not been to the doctors for years but I think i'll go more now! Watch out BMC medical insurance there is a big claim for Haagen-Dazs heading your way.

not so bad - the ice cream eating venue

5 October 2009

A Test of Faith

Slate – surprising!

I first heard a rumour about a huge slate cavern from Andy while on a trip at the start of 09 but it was one of those things that I never quite got round to checking out. It was lurking in the back of one of the quarries near Llanberis and on the handful of trips I made to N Wales during the summer there was always somewhere better to go. But as winter started closing in (about August time) we got motivated for exploratory expedition. So one afternoon Ramon, Andy, Pete and I made the walk up to the top of the quarry and I got the first sight of a big steep wall. Impressively big but also, as it’s in Wales, wet and green. The approach brought us out at the top of a slab so we abseiled that (~30m) and went on a quest to get to the lower part of the cavern. I don’t think anyone has been down there since the quarry closed in the 1930’s, a few pieces of shrapnel have made the journey as the Air Ministry disposed of evidence in the 50’s but that’s about all. On the floor of the cavern everything was coated with a thick layer of moss that sort of gave the impression of stability but below the carpet there was scree, primed and ready to fire off down the slope. After the delicate mission to cross the frictionless razor talus we actually got to look up from the base of the wall. It was massive. Looking down from above had disguised its size but now the scale of the wall and its features sank in.

Ramon Marin

The back wall of the cavern seems to have been formed by a fault and then the slate has been quarried from below to leave a huge steep wall, not as steep as Newtyle but much bigger. The wall is divided in to three areas: on the left is a ‘short’ steep wall probably 20m high and overhanging at about 45deg. Here; Ramon and Matt bolted a line during the Aug bank holiday weekend. Then there is the central wall of the cavern with two caves formed by tunnelling during the quarrying days and on the right of this, the steep groove that Pete and Andy have been working on. Then further right is this hanging arête with a few chunks taken out of it, initially I thought this seemed like the line to do....

Day 1 – The plan: drop a rope down the line, bash in a lower off and a few bolts down the route.
The reality: drop a rope down the wrong line, ab off, jumar, drop a rope down the correct line, bash in a lower off, ab off in to space. Hmmm it’s steep!

It took a while to adjust to the scale of the place and the length of time things took to clean and bolt. It also took time to get used to the intimidating drops, loose blocks, razor sharp edges and, when wet (all of the time!), zero friction slate.

Click on photo for more info

After the initial exploration some psyche for the venue returned and Ramon, Andy, Matt and I chipped in for 50 bolts (and Ramon and I brought battery drills). This was clearly the time to ensure that a pure ethic was adopted for the routes and we agreed that everything would be climbed ground up. So we ground up a lot of slate and tried to climb it. Unfortunately the slate features are tiny and more friable than eggs, so unlike White Goods, holds have been drilled. Starting at the car we carried all of the drills, batteries, bolts, cable, hammers, crow bars and jacks up the quarry and down the slab (try jumering back up that f****r on a dynamic rope, in the wet with a 40Kg pack on!). Slate route bolting ethics? Anything goes. Climbing ethics? Only hands on axes, no spurs. Or for the ultimate tick, leashes and strap on duo points!

To equip the arête the plan was to fix a 2t s.w.l. sling to bolts at the top of the route then use a Land Rover screw jack to tension 50m of 8mm stainless cable down the arête. Why cable? I have tried drilling while ‘standing’ on a ‘tensioned’ static line before, it’s ok for shortish routes but this route wasn’t short.

Day 2 Bolts top and bottom, hang cable.

Day 3 – 6 The August bank holiday weekend. The back of the cavern is always dry. The approach slab was always wet.
During those 4 days I placed most of the bolts on the arête. The arête was generally straight and after the cable was tensioned I could tie it back to a quarry spike and a bolt approximately one third and two thirds of the way along its length. Bolts were placed from a top rope using the cable or 6mm bolts tied off with 2mm cord for positioning. The line of the lower section of the route was changed as some looseness and big roofs with sharp edges were encountered. Maybe a harder start at a later date? An especially memorable moment was hanging from 2mm cord horizontally below a roof using a crow bar to remove a loose block I was astride.

After stumbling about amongst the debris for a few days I wondered what it was like for the quarrymen working down there where 1 tonne of slate had to be quarried to produce 50Kg of slates.

B&W photos - http://www.llechicymru.info/

4 October 2009

Ruckle Rufes Rool

The Boulder Ruckle is one of the great places to climb at Swanage and these routes are all classic, good work Simon, not bad for a first visit!!

(In a particular order)
Silhouette Arete - A good intro to the Ruckle (VS)
Aventura - get it while you can!
Lightning Wall
Thunderball - HVS, Cool route
Ocean Boulevard - unlike the other routes it's not cruxy (and the moves are only a little bit harder than on Thunderball)

good practice for font i think

10 September 2009

quality location

swanage trad climbing is a very good thing indeed
Thanks Lukasz. LWimages

Joe M getting out there

no work. what next?

warming up for winter


4 June 2009

La Foret

Long time no post! Probably something to do with the fact that I never get out anymore save the annual trip to Fontainebleau. Ian Kirby's 40th birthday celebration trip provided one such escape , just a shame the birthday boy couldn't make it!!!!

Dave and Rob working the highball " L'Arete du Domino" at Roche du Paradis.

Rob on the excellent long traverse in the Hautes-Plaines area.

2 June 2009

Rough with the Smooth

Time flew today as I was busy at work, hope it continues! (flying not work)
Not the best end to my climbing holiday as I took several spankings from a Portland 7b and everything in Font.

Nice work Dave
Leane @ Paradis 2nd go

30 May 2009