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.