22 December 2010

Arrived at nowhere

Simon heading towards the slab I landed on later,
ripping out what I thought to be a bomber hex, hitting
the slab and flipping upside down en route to landing
on the belay.  At least I held my axes and got down safely.

Jumping out of bed on Sunday for an early start didn't happen.  I did meet Simon on time but was about the last thing that worked out right.

Some things were avoidable: the forgotten head torch, the second attempt at driving up any icy slope, the hex placed sideways.

Other decisions might not have been necessary in different circumstances: should we carry on in the dark?

Whatever decisions that were made during the day all built up to me falling off the last, crux pitch of the route.  Maybe it was just bad luck?  or good luck to get away with just a little chip off my ankle?

or maybe sometimes a few risks have to be taken to get to the top?

As the pub was closed I went to hospital. Then probably the most memorable risk I took on Sunday (3 am Monday actually) was balancing on one leg and a crutch on top of the wall trying to chip the key out of the ice using a fusion by the light of my head torch to get indoors to get some sleep.

A great pitch and all for nothing! (photo Simon Frost)

Road to nowhere

Right from the word go shit was happening.

I only had two things to do on Saturday and somehow snow managed to turn them in to drawn out ordeals. It is fair to say that there was an unusually large amount of snow sitting on my Land Rover roof when I decided to leave, earlier than planned, for the 10 minute drive to Uxbridge. I had washed my down sleeping bag the previous evening and now it needed some time in a laundrette tumble dryer. As I crossed a bridge over the M25 I tried to see how the traffic was flowing, maybe the alarm bells should have started ringing when I couldn’t even see the M25 but it was only midday and there was no rush to get to Wales. A little further along the road, covered with a foot of snow by now, then….. “what’s this, a traffic jam?” then I remembered, the humped back bridge over the Grand Union Canal! On the road leading up to the bridge twenty drivers were patiently waiting in a queue to drive up towards the bridge, wheel spin for a few minutes then turn around. The look on peoples faces when their normally well behaved autos turned in to unwieldy toboggans was interesting. Engaging the diff. lock on my Land Rover I got sweet revenge on all those car drivers who wouldn’t let me out of the slow lane on the motorway. But this level of smugness is bad karma as I found out later.

Now, with a dry sleeping bag and no snow falling I tried to leave Uxbridge and get on the M40, this was not as easy as I hoped when I was quickly stopped by more traffic. I soon worked out that there is only one route West out of Uxbridge without a hill and everyone was now heading for it. Change of plan. When I got to the steepest longest hill out of town people were still trying their luck in the slush, and failing, then amazingly one guy got out and started putting chains on (he was driving a rear wheel drive Beemer so wasn’t out of the woods yet). Any cars with low ground clearance or rear wheel drive were worse off and I saw several Porsches going nowhere fast. Once on the M40 the action really hotted up………….

Carnage everywhere. I glimpsed the M25 as I crossed it again and realised it was going to be a loooong journey as I saw lorries skidded at all angles across the carriageway. Cruising north in the snowy 4x4 only lane things didn’t seem so bad until inevitably all lanes ground to a halt and everyone queued to pass uncontrollable lorries and abandoned sports cars. The worst of the snow was South of Warwick and further North things got a little easier. Fair enough, the UK is not used to snow but I still couldn’t believe how few people had snow chains and I don’t know what the snow ploughs on the motorway were up to, I saw a few gently redistributing the snow, one was even ploughing it off the fast lane and launching across the central reservation on to the other fast lane! The rest of the journey went pretty smoothly apart from walls of dense fog reducing visibility to 10m around the Nesscliffe area, good fun when the white lines are covered by snow. I arrived in Llanberis before midnight, just.

15 December 2010

What just happened to me????

It always seems to shock me going to l'Usine.  Every route I look at requires that I turn around to see the lower off, never a good omen.

See the end of this post for a slideshow

Jeff Mercier

Pavel Dobrinskiy

Jehan-roland Guillot

Benjamin Bucci

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8 December 2010

A rare view from a top out


Pete on his and Miles' route Travesty Direct (IX 9)

Not too sure why I’m writing this, I suppose it might jog my memory one day.  Here it is anyway……….

Somehow the early start didn't materialise and it probably wasn't far from mid day when Matt and I walked up to try the line I had seen on Tue - Cracking Up IX 9 on Clogwyn Du.  I had made a load of assumptions about the route most of which turned out to be wrong, I’ll put that down to a lack of experience of mixed climbing on gear.  Expecting either a quick success or failure in good style I was disappointed to find myself wanting to do a lot of down climbing to recoup arms and head (sculpting ice runners is time consuming).  This was ok but I had hoped to be a bit more decisive, when I eventually neared the point of no return where the route moves right below the roof it was decision time.  Lack of time and appropriate gear were all the excuses I needed.  [Down climbed from roof cleaning all gear]

Next time I’ll commit to the moves and see what happens (if it’s still in condition)

Climbing with Simon (a link to his blog on my previous post)

Simon finding a line.  Chris Parkin has previously been to
the ledge on Simons right.

Small pieces of information that are used to gain knowledge about a route to make it easier.
Even just knowing the (approximate) grade helps.  At least a grade indicates the climbing above is possible.
None of this information is available when trying a new route from the ground.

So when Simon suggested trying a new winter line I was keen to give it a go and I wasn’t disappointed!!  A bit gutted that circumstances didn’t give us a route we could finish this attempt but wobbling up blobs of turf frozen to compact rock with poor tied off warthogs for protection was surprisingly good fun.  I think this is my first real new route attempt although quite a lot of winter lines I have been on have a large element of uncertainty attached to them so it wasn’t a completely new experience.

Bring it on....  (obviously enthusiastic when I was writing this!!)

Simon about level with the peckers wedged behind what
looked like a loose block frozen in to the corner.
More climbing above, but how hard?

All of this lot above was written at the time, now I'll finish off the diary.
Italics added Dec 2012

rest day

Got a better start but still worried that someone had beaten me to the route, it was ok though, the team that was ahead only wanted to throw themselves off Travesty!!  But someone had been on my preferred route as there were a couple of wires visible at the pedestal after the roof.  I put in gear to the start of roof crack.  Back down for a rest.

Went for it and was pretty happy to step on to the ledge and clip the others gear.  Went for it again and got in to pod.  Now the wheels started to fall off, as I tried to get out of the pod I used a small rimed dish up and left that gained some height but did not allow me to get any decent placements in the crack above the pod.  So I gave up! and lowered off a hex removing all of the gear apart from a wire near the ledge.

Tired just walking up the hill then made a half hearted attempt at Travesty Direct, it was good climbing but not for what should have been a rest day.  Somehow which ever direction I looked, up or down, dislodged rime ended up in my eyes............... hmmmmmmm ............... bouldering in Font.................

Rest day

Last throw of the dice as had to leave Wales that eve.  Simon agreed to me taking another look and a good start got us to the crag early.  Having been on the route previously made climbing up to the ledge not too bad and I soloed up the ice to where the roof began then placed gear, getting in to the pod again was a different ball game but eventually I was relaxing in to that comfortable niche.

Unfortunately a Mountain Equipment photo of the route had been discovered in a magazine on saturday evening and the memory of this combined with poor holds in the crack above sent me searching for invisible holds out left above the pod.  From the belay Simon shouted up and assured me that the line followed the crack direct so (after some swearing) using a small edge uncovered near the dish I could reach back up and right to get a good torque and some blindly placed gear in the crack.  Bunching my feet below me then turning the torque to an strenuous undercut I reached up and hooked something covered by rime on the blunt arete left of the crack, committed I moved up and left until I could drop a large wire in to some shattered flakes further left.  Following the rib now, I clipped a jammed number 6 wire and mantled on to a good ledge.  Top quality entertainment on a very good route.

Me climbing (photo Simon Frost)

In Condition? Plenty of ice in the crack and well rimed from above but below the roof it could be whiter (see photo of Pete on Travesty Direct from earlier in the week)

Thanks Matt, Simon, Pete and Miles

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5 December 2010

Welsh Mixed Attempts

here is one of the routes that I haven't climbed yet!


more photos to follow.............

30 November 2010

A flurry of new routes

Some potential new lines have been in the back of my mind for a while now so it has been satisfying to tick a couple of them off the list.

White Goods had an obvious gap on the main wall in between Doorstep and Jaz, now that gap has been filled by the route White Goods M8+. Matt and I bolted the route top down, somehow I got the easier angled head wall to bolt, however I had to clean a lot of loose blocks off the lip. Matt then did some strenuous bolting from the roof down!!

The bulk of the climbing up to the roof is provided by good cracks and ledges which I managed to on-sight before running out of ideas and enthusiasm at the roof. White Goods should provide a good intermediate between Jas and Tumble in terms of difficulty.

Will at the top of Guava Half

Down at the Kitchen.... Will and I cleared some ivy from the wall left of the tree to give 2 lines of similar difficulty as Apples and Pears (M6/7).
Just left of the tree is Guava Half that got it's FA by Will after Pete and I persuaded him to give the route a go. I bet that deadpoint to the flatty was exciting!!

Will demonstrating one (good) way
up the bald headwall of Guava Half

Moving left again is Agent Orange that featured a hands on rock crimp and axe head mantle rock-over move during my ascent (possibly cheating but good fun).

The most interesting line is the obvious crack that was lead on gear (next to the stepped corner crack - a project for someone with big cams?). It goes at about M5 and I strongly recommend stepping right to the Agent Orange lower off instead of topping out. Apocalypse Now.

Over on the Slate I completed my project on the wall left of Ibex to give the friendly little line Bambi M9.

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15 November 2010

Following our placements...................................???

the real big drip saw a few ascents in 2010 (less snow made the approach easier than usual??)

This vid, filmed around the time of our ascent, gives me a great reminder of the conditions Ramon and I encountered.

BD grassroots athlete Jesse Huey on The Real Big Drip (M7 WI 6), Canadian Rockies from Black Diamond Equipment on Vimeo.

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29 October 2010

the obligatory random photos..................................

The End

Dave on another good new problem at one of
those cool coastal venues that are spread along
the north shore.

Seriously missing my RAW editing software!!!!

The End

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18 October 2010

Some Summer Shots

Adrian Baxter on Iron Man 8c the morning after
his impressive last red point attempt success.
An early start was needed to get this photo as
Adrian was leaving and the crag is shaded later, it
was just a case of attaching a rope to the
easiest bolts then some intense speed jumaring.

Helena Coates on Coco Loco 7a+

Nicolas Durand

Ella and Ramon Marin with the 7c of cakes

My favorite climbing.  1 climber 5 viewers.

Ramon on Egocentrismo 7c after the successful
redpoint after the successful 7c cake

Lots of nature in Devon.
Cows might be Heifers, Bulls, Bullocks or Calfs.
And they can easily out run me.

Nic Dill on the good Cry of Love E3 5c at Maer


1 October 2010

No Trick Pony

Not so long ago I thought that I could climb trad, sport, winter routes and boulder averagely well, unfortunately this summers climbing has shown me otherwise.

Rodellar: I should have learnt that it takes time to swap from one type of climbing to another after I had a bit of a schooling on the Cornish granite in May after spending the winter hanging on axes. But I forgot this lesson and thought that good practice for Rodellar would be some slopey bouldering and trad slabs. Wrong! but where in the UK can I find 50m 45 degree roofs to climb on?? aaaannnnyway, no excuses I was well out of my league as I had done no training (I had guessed how I would climb in Spain in the heat of August anyway). On a more positive topic, I was blown away by the scale and quality of Rodellar's routes, massive lines through huge roofs..... WHY have i not climbed here before??? oh yea! I've been on massive lines, huge roofs all spiced up with axes and hanging ice. None of this Rodellar style red pointing in the sun with a mullet, a reefer and a crowd.  One day I might get fit and climb there though, definitely maybe.

So having justified my crap sport climbing performance I went back to what I thought I knew. Trad.......after a couple of good sport routes at Portland (vertical routes!!!) with Andre who is impressively collecting 8a's. My highlight was managing to crimp and mantle my way to a redpoint of Dumbfounded 7b fairly quickly.

Back to the trad then..... a trip to Swanage with Dan who is collecting an impressive tick list of onsight E5's all over the country. Unfortunately Lean Machine was still on Dans 'to do' list so I found myself abseiling an increasing distance from the Lean Machine wall to the boulders below. Once we had touched down on the boulders and set up a belay I used Sirius to warm up on, in fact I warmed up so much that I had to sit on a big fat nut half way up. Nice! E3 5b was beyond me. To further impress Dan (who has recently climbed the Nose in a day) I then spent a long time aiding up Lean Machine to clean the gear after his solid lead. A slight recovery of my ego was found on Brisingamen E5 6b which I managed to do ground up, albeit this was the second visit after an earlier trip with Pete.

By this point in the summer I was slightly missing Devon and its nice quiet slab climbs, however I had agreed to help Lukasz out with some photos and had planned to recruit a strong climber while I settled in to belay duty but it didn't quite work out like that, everyone was busy (or saw the forecast). So during the long trip north to Nesscliffe I had a long time to think about all of the routes that had beaten me during the previous month. When I reached the big sandstone quarry that used to hide highwaymen my only hope was that Pete would be keen to get amongst the pegs and run-outs but he was on a mission to tick 8a, 8a, VIII and E8 in a year. He said that so far 8a, 7c, VIII were in the bag and he was planning to check out My Piano for a headpoint. To warm up Pete had lead Red Square E2 so it was up to me to climb something different for the cameras which only really left E5 or harder. Putting my previous aid climbing to the back of my mind I gave Cones and Current a try and was happy to get to the top. Less happy after I studied the guide and it gave Cones and Current E4/5 (rather than E5 on UKC) I think E4 6b is about right but I didn't know that when I pulled off the ground.
Then it rained.
At this point it looked like I had delayed returning to Devon for a fortnight just to do an E4/5! I did have a 'Plan B' though; a pair of wet weather dry tooling axes were in my Land Rover. Simon was also ready to get the winter season started so the following day spent at White Goods justified the fuel bill a little bit more. Returning to climb at The Goods for the first time since 2009 (i think?) reminded me what an awesome route Power Pact is! however I'm a bit worried how little time on the axes I have had this year.............. maybe I can get some training started soon.........

But before I reverted to winter climbing I had some important business on the Great Wall. Darkinbad. Obviously I have known about this route for years but it had been too hard for me, now it felt within reach. Belayed by Stu (who has been unassumingly ticking lots of hard routes for years)

I set off from the boulder.

Unfortunately this story does not end happily for me, a lichenous slip combined with tired forearms to tumble me embarrassingly on to a small cam I thought almost too poor to place. Oh well, plenty more Darkinbads to try and onsight.

26 August 2010

Summer Holidays


It's half way through my 2 week trip to Rodellar and I've done not a lot of climbing but have no skin (familiar problem)! Think it might be something to do with the 35 deg temps?  Been having a good time catching up with my relatives after far too long and taking a few photographs, including Adrian Baxter on his 8c tick Iron Man.  Impressive climbing!!

Helena Coates on Coco Loco 7a+

Ramon Marin on Egocentrismo 7c

Harry Pennells below Egocentrismo

7 August 2010

Action packed traverses

Here are another couple of problems on video. Both of them are top quality lines with awesome moves although I made hard work of climbing them when I forgot the sequence!! Typical.

The slopey traverse at Pentire (The Brazilian Traverse) seems to be a new line as the rough brittle holds took a few pulls to stabilise, I was happy to tick that problem (as you can tell from the video). As for the traverse at Blackchurch, it's another good one that might have been climbed some time in the past (both Martin Crocker and Si Young have climbed routes on the other side of the bay). Probably not in its current incarnation though as it seems that problems below the high water line change quite quicky if the beach is high or it gets battered by a storm. I'm not really bothered if it has been done previously as the moves are ace. Thanks to Stu Morris for the camera work and inventing the route name.

Must be climbing ok now as this evening I managed to tick a problem at Blackchurch West (proposed name Metamorphosis and I'm giving it 7b). I have had 4 or 5 goes on this spread over a couple of months during which time holds have fallen off sometimes making moves easier somtimes harder. After a warm up consisting of carrying mats to the beach I pulled on to the starting holds and proceded to haul my way up the problem which felt like grade 6 something!! why can't that always happen? but true to form I found myself embroiled in a wobbler trying to get my foot on to the final hold. Another very good route I have had the pleasure of climbing.

dull photo! sorry.  The chalked line is Evolution 7a.
Metamorphosis starts on the same holds
goes left and up to mantle on to the slab.

5 August 2010


After hearing about some new North Cornish problems (Psycho Cowboy and Dollies Death) on Javu I visited the area with Rowan Spear-Bulmer and added some new lines. Well, some of these must have been climbed previously!! but there is no topo so they felt like 1st ascents.

Rowan has finished his traverse now.

And I have added a slopey 7b traverse to the area.

31 July 2010

when rains stops me from holding rocks

i try and hunt out something interesting to photograph.  I spent ages looking through a wet windscreen at Polzeath beach rammed with what looked like fish out of water learning to surf (and a very few others riding long waves across the shoreline) deeply envious of how much effect the rain was having on their sport.  As the sun dropped lower I wandered across the gently sloping sand thinking of some type of surfer sunset shot then I met a group of people holding long L series lenses at the waters edge.  Luckily my lens was too short to get any surfing shots.

(a Flickr Set on my blog)

Beautiful Istanbul

north coast

here are a few climbing shots that i have accumulated over the last month or two....

Justin Timms on Diamond Smiles at Sharpnose

John Mcshea on Out of the blue at Sharpnose

John cruising Culm to Mother
(North face, Middle Fin, Sharpnose)

Me on the north coast (Rob Butcher)

Pressure Drop at Spekes Mill Mouth behind the photographer
(cheers Rob B)

Ramon Marin on a new/re-discovered line
.....UPDATE.....climbed previously!

Rowan Spear-Bulmer after a cool ascent of
Black Magic at Pentire

Rowan getting amongst

Rowan on a new problem (probably?)

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17 July 2010

Video - north coast 1

hopefully there is going to be more bouldering videos soon......

north coast 1 from rob gibson on Vimeo.

16 July 2010

Cross Training

So this is it ...... I have bitten the bullet and hired a personal trainer.  After years of messing about climbing I have decided to take it really seriously.  Following on from this winters holidays I wanted to get in good shape for climbing rock during the good summer conditions.  So after much deliberation I decided to sell my car, scrape together my remaining funds and move to the hub of UK climbing: Devon.  I have invested my last savings to attend the Kirby fitness and well being spa in the certain knowledge that the guru in charge of this establishment will make me climb harder.


Taking Ian's sound advice I have been doing huge amounts of cross training, not your standard running or weights, oh no. This is much better. Scrubbing tiles, digging drainage, lifting slate floor slabs etc. Ian has told me that to convert the finger power that I have developed during the winter by holding on to axes in to much more useful shoulder stamina for the North Devon slab routes I need to keep busy renovating the farm. Not that I have had much time or energy to get on many routes after all that cross training.

Ian and I moved the three hundred kg slate tabletop from it's brick base by hand but when 4 of us couldn't carry it from the old dairy he was finally persuaded to get some mechanical assistance.

15 July 2010

Fingers re-exercised

Sometimes good things happen..........

(a Flickr Set on my blog)

6 June 2010

Finger exercises

after watching the seals watching me.......

I like this shot. If you look closely you will notice two things: first the image is sharp and there is surprisingly little reflection from the surface of the water. Second there is a smirk on fish face!
The reason for the grin?
My lens was in the rockpool

30 May 2010


good climbing as always.....
some new areas.....
ready for next time.....

trying to find cool conditions one morning

Pete Collins on Renversement Dialectique 7a at Franchard Isatis

Ian Kirby on Renversement Dialectique

Duncan Bull on Petit Toi 6c+ at J A Martin


as my skin isn't compatible with warm rock I need another hobby....

(a Flickr Set on my blog)