Spain Jan/Feb 2013
After spending several weeks at home trying to regain a bit of strength we headed back out to Spain at the end of Jan. We'd missed some cracking weather down there over the New Year period but it looked set for cold and windy weather for our arrival. This meant a change of plan so instead of climbing around northern Spain we headed back to Chulilla. In the end we spent most of our time here with a couple of exceptions so I'll start with them first. A brief suggestion of some warmer weather enticed us down to Wild Side near Sella. We had a reasonable first day and I managed the popular Meditarraneo 8a 1st red-pt, after spending a bit of time on my flash attempt trying to find a sequence on the bouldery headwall. The next day however the mist was right down and it was pretty cold. Being a weekend the crag was busy but everyone was having a nightmare with the dampness. When we awoke the next day to more of the same we bailed out and headed back to Chulilla. For our last week we headed down to Murcia for a few days in the hope of finding somewhere warm enough to climb. We actually found perfect conditions in the Orihuela cave, happily climbing in the sun despite it being a notorious sun-trap. Th super steep nature of the climbing did shut me down to some extent, massive reaches between good pockets not being my forte. However, the side walls offered some consolation and I was pleased to flash Mi Nina 7c+.
The climbing at Chulilla suits my style exactly and I absolutely loved it here. Back in Dec it had been just too cold and windy for the NW face whereas this time it was bearable for the most part. We still had several days round on the east side due to the wind, and several more very challenging days battling the wind on the NW face, but on these days we were rewarded with superb friction even if we did have to climb with 5 layers on! The NW wall is a beautiful orange wall which gets steeper as you head left, but ranges between slabs and bulges at the right-hand end to about 10 degrees constantly overhanging for the main middle section, then some harder routes at the left-hand end with steep barrel shaped starts into less steep headwalls. The climbing is mainly technical on a variety of thin tufas, crimps, side-pulls Ė a face climbers dream venue really. There's plenty of good 6's and some superb 7a's but the main event is the middle section offering a superb choice of 7c and 7c+'s to on-sight. I did several of these, mainly on-sight or flash, only having to red-pt one of them when I blew the flash when a foothold broke on me during the crux sequence. I've still got more to go back and do but for me the best route was Moon Safari 7c+ and the one I was most pleased to on-sight was Senor etc. also 7c+ but which certainly pushed me almost to my limit. I was also chuffed to on-sight El Bufa 7c+/8a in less than perfect conditions, another one I had to work hard for. Steve and I also discovered a clutch of superb 40m 8a's at the extreme LH end of the wall. I managed to on-sight Diedri Mata, which had a superb upper groove that involved some extreme bridging, and El Capataz Ircapaz, which had an excellent technical headwall on edges and side-pulls. However, I was very disappointed to blow the on-sight on El Agent Naranja. This route had a stunning overhanging arÍte at the top but the obvious sequence to gain it was very reachy. My alternative sequence was pretty hard and it nearly worked on the on-sight but I had my left heel too far out. After sitting on the rope I discovered a closer spot that had been hidden by my body and that worked really well. It was a good example of how you lose your peripheral vision as you get a bit pumped and your brain doesn't think as well. The route went next go though. I also red-pointed a couple of harder routes, spending 2-3 days on both La Montana Magica 8a+/8b and El Infierro 8b/+. The latter route was round on the east face and was very new, only seeing one ascent before mine. Too be honest it was quite disappointing, with some loose rock and sharp prickly holds, although this should settle down. It was also very steady for the grade being more like soft 8b I reckon.
All in all another very successful trip for me. Yes it was disappointing that we didn't get back up north but the weather was pretty unsettled in the main up there with cold temps and some snow, and although I would have preferred it to be a couple of degrees warmer and a bit less windy at Chulilla I'm only being picky!
Checking out a great new crag! Photo: (C) Steve Crowe
Spain Autumn 2012
It was great to get back to Spain and the promise of some half decent weather. We started at Etxauri, near Pamplona. Some people may describe this crag as being 'old school' as it's not particularly steep, favouring technical, crimpy wall climbing. However, this type of climbing tends to suit me and I was in my element. We had a highly enjoyable first day ticking off loads of the classic F7a's and enjoying the sun on our backs. However, the weather turned showery and we spent 2 days trying to find the steepest sections which were just staying dry, except the slabby finishes which were a bit damp! Despite this the climbing was going well, moving comfortably up through the grades and getting a flash on the excellent Txogori F7c, a nice start to the trip. With the weather not playing ball we headed east to Bruixes where it was more practical to climb in the rain. Not too much left for me to do here, except the steeper routes at the RH side which don't really suit. I decided to start on Red Bull, a burly F7c+ which went down 2nd red-point. This was a pleasant surprise and I was expecting to have more of a struggle. When the sun came out we decided to head over to the north crag, Sector Regina, despite the cool temps. I was keen to get back on Alone, a great, endurance F8a+, which had been wet last year. It was still damp but at first I managed to get through the damp bit by eliminating the wettest holds. However, a couple of days later it was much wetter. This meant I had to clip off a wet hold then continue through the start of the crux sequence on wet holds. Trying to do the big crux move off two small pinches with wet hands was challenging and I got there 5 times but never quite caught the small undercut I was heading too. I was really disappointed but decided to strip it as it wasn't likely to get much drier any time soon. Instead we head over to Tres Ponts, a crag I've always wanted to spend some time at but Steve's never been that keen. However, he was up for it this year and I was pretty psyched. I had a great few days, making a fast red-point ascent of Aonvolsna, a 50m 8b, then on-sighting Trencalclatells F7c, Estill Classic F7c, Nidra F7c+ and Alt Urgell F8a. There's no doubt the grades are soft here but I love the climbing so it was a shame to leave. However, the temps didn't half plummet so we headed south to Chulilla, near Valencia. It was still chilly here and very windy so we were unable to climb on the north side. The east face was more sheltered so the temps were good when it came into the shade. Another venue that's not too steep and really suited me. The grades seemed fairly unpredictable but I was climbing well and quickly red-pointed La Boca de la Voz and Las Clochas de Targa, both F8a+ and on-sighted El Remanso de las Mulas given F8a. Unfortunately Steve's knee really started to play up and he could hardly walk at one point (he was still climbing amazingly well though) so we decided to head back up north for some easier walk-ins. We found ourselves back at Bruixes, with perfect temps in the sun as the air temperature was so cool. I jumped on Trekking, a F8a+ that I've tried before but never quite had the fitness for. However, I surprised myself by red-pointing it in just a few tries. We now only had 3 climbing days left and the weather forecast was for cold, overcast weather with some rain. We were at a loss as to what to do but in the end headed down to Corundella. We had a day at Siurana on the amazing El Pati sector. However, it was so busy I didn't enjoy it. I had a quick run-up Zona Zero (F8a+/8b) but there was a queue for it so after that we just did some easier on-sighting. The next day we didn't actually climb as the weather was pretty grim but the sun came out again for our last day. I persuaded Steve to go to the El Dard sector at Arboli. I had fond memories of on-sighting one of my first F7a+'s here way back in 1994 plus there was an amazing looking F7c called El Marginao that I had my eye on. The route didn't disappoint, 40m long with the crux at the top, it was a fantastic route following a soaring crack-line. An excellent finish to one of my best trips ever.
Misty Mornings Photo: (C) Steve Crowe
Well we all know what a disappointing summer it was this year. I have to admit to losing a bit of my usual enthusiasm for climbing. I've now been climbing for over 20 years and Steve not far off 40 so you do run out of quick-drying routes to do locally (and that includes stuff within a 2hr drive radius for us). Yorkshire has been pretty damp most of the year, the Northumberland sandstone has been pretty saturated so best avoided if you don't wish to break any holds off and The Lakes does seem to have been a wash-out. I had a week off in early July so we made the 8hr drive up to Ullapool in search of some sun despite the unsettled forecast. I was feeling optimistic that the weather would turn out okay but unfortunately I was wrong. We had an enjoyable afternoon at Reiff trying to hide from the sun where I romped up an E3 I'd done several years ago. The next day was considerably cooler but still dry so we headed north to Sheigra. However, the weather deteriorated and we arrived in a light drizzle, a strong northerly and temps of below 10C. After sitting it out for a bit it didn't seem to be improving so we headed out to the first geo (which is pretty steep so sheltered from the worst of the rain and wind) and threw a top-rope down a potential new route. The climbing was ace with thin protection, the long moves in particular suited Steve but there was no way either of us were considering leading it in those conditions. After torrential rain all night it was still pretty grim the next morning so we headed back down to Ullapool. From here we had an afternoon sports climbing at Moy which was fairly dry then we checked out The Camel the next day. The water was pouring over the top here and it was bitterly cold but the classic Stone of Destiny F6c+ was dry so we both did that. It was a great route and fortunately well chalked, it would certainly present more of a challenge unchalked. After checking the forecast we decided to head back home, with a stop off at Dunkeld. I walked up to the crag to find it soaked with run off so that was it, back home to Sunderland. For our next week off in August we had planned to go down to Pembroke but an unsettled forecast didn't inspire and I ended up going back into work. So we actually spent a lot of the summer bouldering on the indoor walls, taking part in the summer bouldering leagues. I'm not much interested in working indoor problems but I do enjoy going round a circuit and trying to flash what I can and perhaps pick up a couple of problems in a couple of attempts. Climbnewcastle was great for this as there was a new 25 problem circuit every fortnight so we would just nip in for a 2hr session and do what we could. Down at Ferryhill there were 50-60 problems per circuit which were up for a month so we would go down 2-3 times and even work some of the harder problems. I missed the first 2 rounds at Durham but really enjoyed the problems on the last two, doing as many of the 50 problems in one afternoon as I could. Since we spend a lot of the winter away doing routes I didn't really mind having to climb inside and I'm sure the extra bouldering did me some good. By August bits of Kilnsey were dry so I did have a few days on Lapine, but the warm temps and high humidity meant I was frustratingly close but didn't succeed. I was optimistic I would get it done in September when it cooled down a bit but it got wet so that put paid to that. However, Last Action Hero at the left of the crag stayed dry for a few more weeks so I was pleased to get something done. It's basically an extension to Metal Guru which it climbs to the ledge before heading directly up the headwall to finally finish up Bullet, so is a satisfying 30m pitch with some hard moves thrown in, so is good value for F8a. Since then I've had a handful of days at Malham and had a look at Predator. It's been pretty wet but I've been getting good links and have done it in two but it'll have to wait to the spring now as we're off to Spain shortly.
The Stone Pig
Photos: (C) Steve Crowe
Mallorca May 2012
When my parents said they were booking a property in Mallorca for a week that had a spare bedroom I impulsively decided we would join them as we hadn't climbed there since 1995. However, after booking the flights I did start to regret it a bit when I thought about how hot it could be. I'd also been nursing a shoulder injury that I picked up doing a crucifix move at ClimbNewcastle over the Easter weekend, but had been trying to ignore it and climb anyway. This was going al-right till I tweaked it again at the wall and it got so sore I couldn't even sleep properly. After doing GBH I saw a physio who advised resting it up until my week away and gave me the usual theraband exercises to do (which I was doing anyway). This was frustrating as the weather started to improve at about the same time as well. Anyway we flew out to Mallorca on a glorious Saturday at the end of May, a bit devastated that we weren't heading over to the Lakes or up to Scotland for a long weekend in the sun up on a mountain crag. Instead we touched down to temperatures of 29-31 degrees! Before booking the trip I'd read through the Rockfax guide and singled out Gorg Blau as a promising venue. We were staying at Soller so it was one of the nearest crags, as well as being up in the mountains and offering shade. In fact we did spend all week here as it was a mere 25 degrees up there with generally some air movement. However the climbing was disappointing and the grades seemed all over the place. It was obvious that some of the stars and symbols were awarded from the ground without setting foot anywhere near the route. I wasted some time looking at an allegedly 3 star, sustained and technical 8a only to find it was mainly steady but then had a very hard section that basically comprised of big dead-points between improved, chipped and glued on holds. Likewise a 3 star, sustained 7b+, which actually comprised of a dirty slab to a ledge, a short crux sequence on drilled slots with snappy footholds to another ledge then a slab to finish. We did find some good routes, although we didn't do anything hard (I like to blame the heat and a sore shoulder). The highlights were Karakorum 7c, which I got 1st red-pt and Gorg Blau 7c+, which I got 2nd red-pt. I also had a day on the long 8a+ Chill Out, which unfortunately was mainly pretty easy with a nasty fingery crux right near the top. On my second run-up I did manage to climb through this after a rest but it did involve big dead-pts to very small, sharp holds so I decided the loss of skin wasn't worth it. We did climb everyday though which was a bonus and my shoulder stood the test well. We got back to the UK to find the cold, damp weather had returned which was very depressing. I've been taking it easy doing routes down at Sunderland Wall but I'm hoping the Yorkshire limestone may have survived the deluge of the past week. Let's hope we get some settled weather again soon.
Gorg Blau 7c+, Mallorca Photos: (C) Steve Crowe
April - May 2012
We arrived back from France as the good weather broke. It was pretty depressing driving north in the torrential rain thinking of how wet Malham would be getting. I was so keen to get back on GBH which I knew I could do and also wanted to check out The Well Dunne Finish to see if I could do the big move. The next few weeks were very frustrating really. We got down to Malham a couple of times only to find the crag pretty wet. I did get one session on a damp GBH which went well but it was so cold I couldn't face the red-pt and decided to have a look at The WDF instead. It was quite damp but I was able to try the crux section. The standard method on this seems to be a powerful move off undercuts to a small crimpy lay-away, build your feet up and egyptian off the big spike on the right then make a huge throw for the flat ledge. This however, didn't seem too realistic for me so instead I checked out the possibility of holding the intermediate flat undercut on the right and going up to the ledge with the other hand. It seemed to work, although required a lot of strength and core tension, but certainly more reliable than the big throw. Something to go away and work on then get back on the route in the autumn. We seemed to be spending quite a bit of time on our board or the local climbing walls, which was getting a bit depressing, so when we caught a forecast at the end of April for sunshine up in NW Scotland we packed the van and headed up for a 3day weekend. It wasn't perfect, pretty cold and windy but the sunshine was fantastic and the rock was dry and crisp. We climbed at the small gneiss outcrops around Gruinard Bay, south of Ullapool, a beautiful area of Scotland. I absolutely loved getting back on the trad and the crimpy nature of the climbing really suited me. I hadn't done any trad since our few days in Pembroke back in August but after following Steve up an E2 I decided to kick off my year on the E4 How the West was Won up at Gruinard Crag. This went well so I then did the E5 to its right Stand and Deliver which I romped up. We nearly didn't climb the next day as it was drizzly to start and really cold and windy. However, late afternoon there was a break in the clouds and we managed to snatch a few hours at the small Mungasdale. I'm not really a fan of short routes and these were only 8-12m high but the crimpy nature seemed to suit me. I went for the E5 Three Kings which was deceptively steep and pretty sustained but with reasonable small gear. I would like to get back there as there's a whole host of E5's to do and a very good looking E6. The weekend had gone better than I'd hoped so there was only one thing for it and that was to head to Goat Crag the next day and try Twilo Thunder. Given E6 6a but described as well protected and sustained but low in the grade it sounded like a good route to try for my first E6 of the year. It was actually typical gneiss climbing, steep but well protected, good trad climbing for sports climbers and suited me down to the ground. I was able to keep the pump under control, despite still being a bit rusty on the gear placements (it's much less strenuous when you get the right piece first go!) A great finish to a very successful and enjoyable weekend, I definitely get more of a buzz from trad climbing, although sports projects get under your skin and are very addictive.
The following Friday it was the Annual Spring Bouldering Competition (or ASBO for short) at ClimbNewcastle and I was hoping to better my second place from last year (which I managed to achieve despite climbing at Kilnsey for most of the day first!) This year I was more sensible and things were going well when I flashed a particularly gnarly, technical problem in the left-hand corridor. However, my lack of dynoing skills let me down as usual and I failed on all 3 of the 'jump' problems in the qualifiers (although I have to grumble about the problem where you had to jump to the starting hold, that just seems to penalise short climbers!) I qualified for the final in 3rd place though so there was room for improvement. However, I was gutted when we were lead out to look at the 3 final problems. The first and third problems both looked good and I felt confident they would pose no difficulty, I was right since I flashed those with ease, as did Alison and young Sid (an amazing climber, definitely someone to watch out for). However, my heart dropped when I saw the 2nd prob, a dyno! In fact most of us were gutted except for Hannah (another young climber) who tore it apart and cruised the flash, which gave her a well-deserved first place. I took 2nd place on count-back, thank goodness for the gnarly problem!
Despite these distractions I still had GBH on my mind and Jenny was probably getting sick of my texts asking if it was dry. We were tired of spending 4hrs in the car just to scratch around on a wet crag, so made the decision we would only make the effort if conditions seemed promising. Eventually the weather seemed to turn a bit more showery with reasonable drying days in between so it seemed worth the trip. In the end it took me 2 days of red-points before I got it done. Conditions weren't perfect, extremely windy so it was hard to stay warm but on the plus side the friction was in the main excellent (although I did have to keep drying off a crucial hand and foothold between red-pts). I loved the climbing on this route so I'll definitely have a look at The WDF via GBH in the autumn. For now it's nearly Kilnsey season and I've got a craving for some more trad as well so it's time to say goodbye to Malham for a while.
GBH at Malham F8a+ Photo Steve Crowe
France March 2012
I headed out feeling very optimistic. I was feeling pretty strong and felt my endurance wasn't too bad, after all I'd been able to top-rope GBH to the last bolt and had flashed a 7c+ at Sunderland Wall, not bad going I thought. Well I have to admit to getting a big shock. My forearm endurance was good and I had a great few days at Deverse in the Gorges du Loop, red-pointing both Once I had Friends F8a and Pas Vu Pas Pris F8a+ quickly. These were both 35m long routes, starting off gently overhanging for the first 25m on edges/lay-aways and undercuts before steepening up at the top and heading up to the finish on tufas. I thoroughly enjoyed these routes. However, the steeper climbing at the grotto at Peillon and the Jurassic Park sector both exposed my weakness Ė power endurance. Although I was certainly stronger and could usually do the moves I found them very powerful and the relentless nature of big move after big move quickly wore me down both physically and mentally. I don't enjoy that style of climbing where I have to throw myself at each move, being much happier on less steep tenacious territory. With endurance routes I understand the pump and am good at getting a bit back here and there, and generally know how much I've got left in the tank. However, with these steeper powerful routes I don't get that feedback, I'll feel fine then suddenly I can't do the next move, and even though I can still hold on any upward movement seems impossible. I find this very hard to deal with mentally and very frustrating. I had to drop my grade and went for 7b/7b+ on-sights instead with several dynos, power screams and mixed results. For our second week we headed up to St Leger just in time for the temps to hit the mid 20's. The La Balleine sector was amazing, if a little steep in places and the north crag was frustrating Ė I got shut down on some big moves here as well. We finished with an enjoyable day at Venasque, ticking all the worthwhile routes on the left wall of the roadside crag, it was back to the forearm endurance climbing I could handle!
A good learning trip in the main Ė once again my lack of power endurance had been my downfall. I'm always talking about training this but tend to fall into the trap of just trying to get stronger. However, for these steeper powerful routes extending the number of moves I can link would make a massive difference so it's certainly given me something to think about.
Pas Vu Pas Pris at Deverse F8a+ Photo Steve Crowe
February and March 2012
Back in the UK after our Turkey trip and it was back to the walls. I spent quite a bit of time on the board in the garage but also headed to Climb Newcastle for a one to one coaching sess with Chris Graham. I'm a very static climber which can be very useful on the trad but tends to hold me back when sports climbing and especially bouldering. Chris however, is very good at dynamic movement and I was hoping to pick up some tips. To be honest I think Chris was afraid I was a lost cause but the session actually went very well and I learnt a lot. I headed back to the wall the following weekend and dispatched many of the problems we'd worked on. I've obviously got a long way to go but I'm enjoying working on it so who knows you may see me dyno for a hold yet! I did the February round of the winter series at Climb Newcastle where that added bounce certainly helped on a couple of problems and I was pleased with my score. Into March and I was keen to get back to Malham and get GBH ticked. I had a couple of frustrating days on this back in October due to seepage. However, the wet holds had forced me into trying the crux the direct way which I had previously dismissed as far too reachy. I found it was possible after all, if rather hard, but nicer to lead so decided to stick with that method. Back on the route this spring and it fell into place quickly but again a very wet finish meant the last few moves were unclimable so red-pointing it was out of the question. Instead I was confined to running up it on a top-rope but at least my endurance seemed okay, despite neglecting it in recent months. It seemed I would have to wait for the red-point till after our trip to France.
Turkey January 2012
This was a trip I was really looking forward to. I was excited to be going somewhere new with stacks of routes to on-sight, instead of our recent red-pointing trips to Northern Spain. We had also been persuaded by Eddie and Mandy to join them in a 5 star hotel on the coast, and at £11 a night all in who could refuse? I was a bit concerned about my fitness levels, having only tied into a rope 3 times since the end of November. However, I needn't have worried as despite the routes being 30-35m long in the main, endurance seemed to be of little benefit. The main theme seemed to be wander up a bit, tricky move, massive ledge to rest on, hard bouldery crux (either manage this if it suited or fail miserably!), wander up a bit more then possibly another hard move or the lower-off. The moves I failed on tended to be big, powerful reaches between good holds, the routes I succeeded on tended to be more slabby and technical (no surprise there then!). The grades seemed quite unpredictable as well, since I flashed 3 7c's and a 7c+, but came off some 7b+'s when I failed on the big moves. When we could Steve and I preferred to climb in the shade at Trebenna West and the climbing here seemed to suit me, flashing No Money No Dance and Zin Zang (both seemed very generous at 7c) and Sucker Punched at 7c+. The routes here seemed more technical, comprising of slabs and grooves, but still with too many rests. When the temperature dropped down to 8 degrees and the wind turned to the NW, it became just a little bit too chilly in the shade for me so we headed over to the sunny side. We climbed at Sarkat and Mevlana, where the climbing seemed more burly and the rock very polished. I enjoyed Trio de Ligovilla (8a), getting it 1st red-point, but slumped off near the top of Mevlana 7c. After battling through both reachy cruxes I ran out of omph for the last big move up to good holds. I had spent ages climbing in and out of the hands off rest trying to work out a way round the big move just above. In the end I got so bored I went for what seemed the most likely method by laybacking the flat edge with my feet up by my waist and pulled really hard. A few power grunts seemed to help matters and I managed to reach the rounded boss. I would have been alright from here if the holds had been jugs, but a few more big moves on rounded holds was the end. This was the first day of our last 5 climbing days and seemed to kill my power levels completely. I managed to on-sight the crimpy Finger Prostitution 7c (but it did seem easy for the grade), but got shut down on the pocketed crux of Inner Smile 7b+. I tried the crimpy Flat Rate (8a), but although I found a way round the first crux (by some horrendous full span reach off a tiny undercut), I could see myself falling off the big move to the slopers at the top. The climbing inbetween was very enjoyable and about 7a, so if you're strong and tall it would def be an easy onsight.
In the main I enjoyed the trip as some of the routes were fantastic. However, I don't think I would rush back as if it's too hot in January when will it be cool enough? I would also need to be a bit stronger to really get the most out of the place I think.
Mevlana 7c Photo: Eddie Martinez
Whilst Steve was enjoying the sun at Chulilla, I amused myself by bouldering on the indoor walls, mainly at Sunderland and ClimbNewcastle. Once he was home we turned to our board and fixed the angle at 45degrees (it was about 50), which felt a lot better. It gave us more options on the problems, especially just using screw-ons for feet. It's great for improving both core and contact strength, and was very convenient over the Christmas period when the local walls were closed. I also got round to checking out ClimbNorthEast, the new bouldering wall down at Ferryhill. I was very impressed. The layout was more spacious than the other walls, it wasn't as high as rumours had made out and the problems were good. Another excellent facility within 30mins drive, we're getting very spoilt up here!
I had a very good trip to Spain, despite much more unsettled conditions than usual. The first week was very wet, then it improved for a time before another massive dump of rain, which left the crags pretty wet. However, the weather was very mild which made living in the van much more pleasant. It also meant we were able to climb in the shade which was a bonus. We started at Rodellar but after one day the weather broke so we did a bit of driving about, spending an afternoon at the football pitch crag at Santa Linya, then a day struggling in the cave itself, before heading up to Bruixes. The weather was pretty foul so we spent a day in the hotel before venturing up to the crag the next day. Conditions weren't good but we climbed anyway, despite the smeg and the water running down all the finishes. Amazingly the north crag (sector Regina) survived this first onslaught and the following week when things settled down we headed up there. This is a great crag for those operating in the 7c+-8a+ range, with all the routes being 28-35m long but pretty damn steep as well. I enjoy the long routes but the steepness was quite intimidating, with big, burly moves between largely good holds. I found the routes were taking me 2 days, usually going down 3rd red-pt. I ticked the awesome El Repte, the crimpy no.11, and the cruxy La Diva, all 8a. The 'slab' crux (it's actually overhanging still!) of La Diva was pretty challenging for the short, involving holding a particularly poor hold that those with longer arms just used as an intermediate. Unfortunately, the crag didn't fair so well after the second dump of rain and I wasted a couple of days getting shut down on routes due to wet holds. I'd particularly like to go back and climb Alone, an amazing endurance 8a+, that unfortunately got really wet in the middle so I couldn't red-pt it. I persuaded Steve to try Bruixes for a few days as the sun was now out and was drying back the seepage quite nicely, although it did make it pretty hot to climb. I jumped on Flix Flax, an 8a+ that I'd tried briefly last Feb before my heel injury prevented me from climbing. I was really struggling on the big move near the top, but managed to sort it via a very deep lock with a big drop knee, to catch the poor foothold then I popped from there to the good slot. Once I'd unlocked this sequence I did the route first red-pt the next day, despite the blazing sun. I couldn't bear the thought of waiting all day for the shade. For my last few days we headed back to Rodellar as I was keen to try Wiskyri (8a) which I thought would be dry. It was and most of it felt easy, however, there was a hard move involving a big rock-over from a poor side-pull that kept spitting me off. In the end I waited for the shade and what a difference. The move was still hard but do-able and the rest of the route went down okay. Hard work sitting around for a few hours for that perfect hour before dark, worth it in the end though. I then grabbed a lift to Barcelona airport with Tony and Murdo (cheers guys), leaving Steve to head down to Chulilla to meet up with Eddie. He's not back till 21st December, lucky bugger!
Flix Flax 8a+
Photo: Steve Crowe
I've had a lot of work on these past couple of months which hasn't been too bad since the weather up here in the north has been very damp and deary. Even the mini heatwave wave was shortlived here and I missed it all due to work. By the Sunday we were back to rain!
At the end of July we headed down to Pembroke for a few days which turned out to be very frustrating as the crags didn't really dry due to mist/drizzle and no wind. We had a couple of sunnyish afternoons where we managed to get something done with the highlight being The Fascist and Me Ė amazing! Since then I think I've only actually done 2 routes, both of which I did 1st red-point Mr Nice 7c+/8a at Kilnsey and Body Machine 7c+ at Ravenstor. I loved Body Machine and quickly sorted the extension which I hoped to do the next day. However, the weather was foul and the mist and rain meant that end of the crag was wet so we drove home instead and haven't been able to get back yet. We've been down to the North York Moors a bit as well, mainly bouldering or top-roping a few of the harder routes (some of which I need to go back and lead Ė hopefully next summer). However, I've mainly be grabbing sessions on my board when I can or heading to the wall for a couple of hours. The conditions in Yorkshire have been very unreliable and I didn't feel I could spare the time to waste 4hrs driving to a potentially wet crag. Fortunately I've got a trip to Spain coming up so I think a few route sessions at Sunderland Wall might be needed!
Philleas Fogg (Font 7a), Camp Hill Photo: Steve Crowe
Following last month's plan of just ticking some routes I persuaded Steve that some weekends down in N Wales were needed. We've both done a lot of climbing down there in the past but prior to our weekend in June it was about 7 years since we'd been so it was great to get back. My main focus was Statement of Youth at LPT which I'd had a quick top-rope on in 2001 but had never got back on for various reasons. Emma's recent flash of this route was very inspiring and it's not easy, with good power endurance being the key. Conditions are always difficult to predict down there but I was pleased to get it 4th red-point, even if these attempts were spread over 3 days. I also had a couple of runs up Over the Moon Direct, another 8a to go back for, and one run up Musselbeach, which is not one to go back for! We also enjoyed a trad day on Excursion Wall climbing Clear White Light E3 6a, The Visionary E4 6a and Paint it Black E5 6a. It was great to get the wires out again and a couple of weeks later we headed back down with more trad in mind. This time we checked out the quiet Clogwyn yr Eryr in the Crafnant Valley, a great little crag with a clutch of excellent extremes. We climbed Phoenix, an outstanding E2 5c and Oriole E3 5c before the midgies descended and we made a rapid retreat. The next two days were spent at Scimitar Ridge where we enjoyed Rocnest Monster E4 6a, Killerkranky E5 6a/b and the soaring arÍte of King Wad E5 6b, where we both climbed up and down several times before committing to the top move Ė a great route. The highlight of the weekend was still to come though when we headed up to The Cromlech. Although I've been up here quite a bit there were a few classics that I still had to do, so I queued for Cenotaph Corner E1 5c, which was well worth the wait, then I nipped up Cemetary Gates E1 5b, before psyching myself up for the big one Ė Lord of the Flies E6 6a. What an amazing route, my style exactly Ė loads of small, positive holds Ė although the start is pretty serious now and a fall is unthinkable. I was in my element though and thoroughly enjoyed it. When we headed down to Wales I hadn't even contemplated going for it, but after the first good day on Scimitar Steve sowed the seed then I couldn't get it out of my head. I'm still buzzing two weeks later. Fantastic!
Killerkranky E5 6a/b Photo: Calum Muskett Lord of the Flies E6 6a Belayer/Photographer! Steve Crowe
I've been mainly trying just to climb as regularly as possible during the past couple of months and not to worry too much about the grades I'm climbing. I spent quite a few days on The Bulge at Kilnsey in May but started to get increasingly frustrated with it as I kept falling off the big move above the top bolt. To be fair I do find this move hard in isolation and big slaps are not my forte but I did feel fit enough. There were a couple of weeks in May when I was trying it 2-3 days a week, 4-5 red-points a day and still falling off the same move! It became a bit of an obsession, so much so that I even dragged Steve down early on the day of the ClimbNewcastle ASBO bouldering comp. We were climbing by 10am, I had 4 failed red-pts (usual highpoint), then left at 2.30 for the 2hr drive back up to Newcastle. We then blasted round the 35 qualifying probs at which point I was starting to feel a bit knackered. To make matters worse I'd ripped a big flapper in the pad of my index finger on my last red-pt attempt so was climbing with a taped up tip, not ideal! I somehow made the final then had to try and summon up any remaining energy to try the 3 final problems. I was seriously burnt out and to be fair was appalling on the two steeper problems. Fortunately, there was one technical problem which I managed to grovel up in a few attempts (the type of problem I would normally flash). Much to my amazement this was enough to give me 2nd place despite being totally out climbed on the other 2 problems. However, I was shattered the next day and it took me several days to get over the effort. The following weekend I had one more day on The Bulge (another 5 red-pts, off at the same point), but then decided I needed to get away from the route and try a few more things. I know other short climbers who've had the same problem (Alison and Ako), who, like me, spent far too many days falling onto the top bolt. However, they both eventually did the route, even if it took them more than one season. I will get back on it, but a break was needed first.
I decided to drag Steve out onto some trad so I did a few routes at Kilnsey that I'd done before then headed down to Wales. We enjoyed a few days in the Pass, not doing anything hard, just a few E3's and E4's, which was great. This was the start of a two week holiday, but the weather soon returned to its showery, unsettled nature. Steve had been recommended The Prow at Ravenstor as a long 40m F8a, so after much persuasion we headed there. I'd never climbed at The Tor so it was very refreshing to go somewhere new. After 5 climbing days, (interspersed with a couple days off when I aggravated my shoulder and the odd rest day) I managed to red-point both The Prow and The Crucifixion, both 35-40m long 8a's and just what I needed. Not long after that I had a successful day at Kilnsey when I red-pointed the burly Dr Jekyll (easy F7c+) in a day. After such a frustrating few months it was great to actually succeed on some routes again. Long may it continue.
I've had a very frustrating two months if I'm honest. The problem with my heel took longer to resolve than I thought it would and with my finger still giving me problems I was restricted to some weights, core work and swimming for a few weeks. By mid March I was able to get my old comfy trad shoes on, just in time for the last round of the Climb Newcastle bouldering comps. Considering I hadn't bouldered for two months or climbed for one, I felt like I was doing okay but then my foot popped as I was matching a particularly nasty finishing hold and I knew straight away that I'd done something to my shoulder. I stopped climbing there and then and Steve had to drive home. The next day I could barely move my arm but it did gradually loosen up. After three weeks it was still sore with limited movement so I went to see a physio for some advice. He did some work to move it back into position and said it would probably take about 6 weeks in total for the ligaments to tighten again. However, he did suggest I start climbing again but to take it steady. After a few wall sessions I headed down to Malham with Steve. I managed to second Yosemite Wall OK, so decided to have a look at Tremelo. I'd been saving this route but decided it would be a worthwhile project for my rehab. However, after a couple of runs up it on a top-rope I decided to go for the red-pt which went well. It was good to see I still had some endurance. Since then I've been slowly increasing my time on the rock and am now up to three days a week. My heel is okay so I can get out running again which is a relief and my finger is under control. Pull-ups and fingerboard sessions are still a bit risky and I'm hesitant about popping for holds with my right arm in case I catch them straight-armed. My deep lock and tricep press are coming back and I'm starting to feel pretty fit again. It's been a shame not to have been able to make the most of the good weather but I know I'm fortunate to be climbing again. I'm now very keen to get some harder routes under my belt.
The day the heel got sore at Vilanova
de Meia! Photo: Steve Crowe
Spain February 2011
I'll try and be positive but really I have to admit this was quite a disappointing trip. We started at the awesome Mas Riudoms on a busy Sunday. The only free route was the left-hand 8a, which I had failed on before due to a massive reach at the start. Surprisingly I hadn't grown but the rest of the route was good and it was possible to start up the 7c+ to its left instead. We cleaned off the 8a+ extension, to give a monster 50m pitch, but unfortunately, Steve had to clean out a crucial pocket which was going to take a few days to dry. This was frustrating as I climbed it clean with a quick pull on the draw to bypass the pocket, and would have given me a nice 8a tick with the LH start. Since the temperatures were set to rise (and it's a real sun-trap) we decided to head up to Siurana instead. I've had a few climbing days here on various trips in the past but have never really got into it. We bought the new guide and had a pleasant day checking out some easy 7's at various sectors. The next day we decided to have a look at the classic 8b Zona Zero. Although I managed all the moves I knew my power endurance was seriously lacking and it wasn't a route I was going to do in a couple of days. The fingery nature of the climbing wasn't suiting my sore fingers, one of which was really giving me some aggro, so I persuaded Steve to head further north with the promise of getting back to Siurana next time. Next stop the ridiculously steep Santa Linya. I had a couple of days back on Airline but it was so hot it wasn't going well. The mid-height jump felt hard, although the rest of it seemed less powerful than before. With the weather set to warm up even more we headed over to Bruixes as you can get some shade here at the beginning and end of the day and there's more chance of a breeze. After a false start at the very steep RH end and a very pleasant day over at Villanova de Meia we both jumped on Maneras de Vivir (8a). This had a good sequence of long moves which pushed my power endurance, followed by a big run-out then more reasonable climbing to the top (although there were a couple of big moves thrown in to spice it up). It went well and I got it on my second day. I then jumped on Flix Flax (8a+) which I had dismissed in the past due to a hard crux and a jump higher up. This time the crux went okay but the jump still didn't suit me (bit of a theme here). I decided I would stick with though as the rest of the route felt ok. However, the next day at the crag the opportunity to try for the flash on Orient (7c/7c+) arose so I went for that instead which was a good move. I didn't feel particularly fit so found it a bit pumpy but was able to keep it under control which I was pleased with. Unfortunately this was the last route I did as the next day I couldn't actually wear my rockshoes as the pain on the back of my heel was horrendous. Just touching it was painful so crushing my foot into tight shoes was out of the question. It appears that wearing the same tight shoes (I always wear anasazi velcros) had caused a rub (rather like a blister under the surface) and the tissue was really inflamed. This put an end to my trip so I just belayed for the last week. Steve was going well and was so close to Golpe de Gas (8b) but the warm conditions were against him and he kept greasing off the crux sloper. We had hoped to finish our trip with a couple of days in the Basque Country as we were sailing home from Santander. However, the weather turned pretty wet which put an end to that. The bad weather also meant the sailing was very rough (poor Steve was incredibly seasick), but it did stop us from eating too much on board!
Orient 7c/7c+ Bruixes Photo: Steve Crowe
Spain November 2010
This was our fourth November trip to Spain and it looks like it'll become an annual event. Although the weather was more unsettled than in previous years it was still much better than being in the UK and plenty of climbing was had. We caught the ferry down to Santander so started off with a couple of days in the Basque country. This is a great area and hopefully next year we will spend a few more days here. We then stopped at Riglos as we've wanted to do the infamous 'Biceps route' for ages. Unfortunately there was a queue so some Spanish climbers recommended Chinatown. They told us the crux pitch was 7a and just to follow the black bolts. It was quite an adventure as we couldn't find any black bolts so started up the white ones, and we had no idea of the pitch grades and which one was the crux. Eventually our route split and a line of black bolts headed off to the right so we followed them. The climbing was great Ė big moves on big holds up impressively steep terrain. Even when we got to the top the adventure wasn't over as we took a bit of a wrong turn trying to get down, before eventually getting the right path. Altogether a great day out.
From here we headed to Rodellar and I had a good day flashing El Sici and the tricky Los Cocoteros (both 7b+) on the Aquest any Si sector. We'd spent most of October bouldering to try and get some power levels up and this seemed to pay off on the latter route which I was pleased about. My endurance wasn't too bad either. I was then pretty psyched as there's still loads of routes I want to do there but unfortunately the weather deteriorated. Steve and I tried sitting it out before admitting defeat and heading to Santa Linya. This cave is amazing and very additive, but not me at all. However, we spent most of the rest of the trip between here and Bruixes. At Bruixes I was pretty successful managing to red-point El Latido and Formula Weekend, both 8a, with each taking a couple of days. I also flashed the awesome La Indomable (7c+), finding the slab crux to be right up my street. I had a look at Treking (8a+) but was disappointed to find a big shouldery move at the top that I couldn't do. Over at Santa Linya I managed to flash the first pitch of Arqueologico (7c) but had to red-point the first pitch of Airline (7b+). I had a couple of days on the Airline extension (8a) which was coming together well, but the weather let us down and my time ran out. Fortunately, we've got a trip planned in February so I'm hoping to get back on it then.
Switching leads on the multi pitch China Town 7a Photo: Steve Crowe
A bit of a mixed month this. My main objective was to red-point Le Lapine but I was also keen to start doing some strength training for our trip in November. I arrived at Kilnsey feeling good but found someone already on Le Lapine so I decided to have another look at Complete Control F8a, a link-up between WYSIWYG and They Brush Me. I'd had a brief look at the top half in August when the start was wet and thought it suited me, being more vertical and crimpy. I wasn't wrong. I nipped up and put the draws in and climbed the finish a couple of times, then came back down. After a brief rest I went for the red-point and was soon clipping the belay Ė success. I then decided to have a go on Le Lapine anyway and was very close on a couple of attempts but didn't quite nail the final dead-point. Still I felt it was almost a formality and that next time at the crag it would go. Unfortunately not, off at the same point another few times! My last day on the route was a nightmare. I was feeling fairly worn down as I'd been bouldering a lot plus the rain was blowing in and the finish got wet, so altogether a disaster. The crag then got soaked and it seemed the Kilnsey season was at an end. A fortnight later we headed to a very hot Malham but once it clouded over conditions were good so I jumped on Conehead, a very fingery F8a+ on the upper tire. It came together well and I was quite psyched but again the weather was against us and Malham was a right-off. So instead I've been doing quite a bit of bouldering both inside and out and I'm starting to feel the benefit, it's been a nice change.
The classic Jumping Jack Flash Font 6a+ Photo: Steve Crowe
Apologies for not updating my blog sooner but I seem to have been really busy these past few weeks so I've lumped the past couple of months in together. Most of our time has been spent at Kilnsey which seemed to stay reasonably dry during the showery weather. I've been working a bit extra as well during the summer holidays so we've been mainly driving down for the odd day as opposed to stopping over in the van. We started off being keen on the trad and reclimbed some of the classics such as Central Wall and Claws. We also added/replaced some of the lower-offs and fixed gear, and cleaned off some of the harder routes. I abbed and cleaned Ken, which was a rather pokey E5 6a directly up the wall right of The Diedre. Steve had led it years ago and talked me out of it at the time, now I know why. It was quite serious in it's lower half with some hard 6a climbing in a potentially groundfall situation, then sustained 5c/6a climbing above with some small gear. There was certainly no-one queueing up behind me to do it, despite it being clean and chalked. We both top-roped High Octane, a superb E6, both hard and bold. I flashed it on a top-rope but it was very sketchy as it was pretty filthy (it's certainly a few years since it was climbed), so it would have been a rather committing lead as the gear is small and spaced. Unfortunately it got wet again before I got it head-pointed so is now rather dirty again. Something to add to the list to do next year. I was then drawn onto The Thumb (F8a) after being inspired by seeing Dal on it. I'd tried it previously but had felt that the long reach over the lip at the end was a bit beyond me. I couldn't do it Dal's way which was almost a jump but I found that by getting my feet over the lip whilst still holding the undercut I was able to almost lever up onto the sharp crimp, then bring my right foot in and pop out to the jug. However, it felt pretty desperate in isolation and I spent several days falling off this section on the red-point before finally dispatching the route. Although I've climbed routes with higher numbers this for me was probably the hardest route I'd done and certainly tested me mentally Ė I was very pleased to do it. Steve also red-pointed it on the same day so we decided a break from Kilnsey was needed and so the following weekend we met up with Dave and Mary in the South-west. We'd forgotten how long the drive was Ė 8hrs is hard work, but we were rewarded with some good weather and tides. Saturday was spent at Lower Sharpnose, nothing too stressful. I enjoyed Out of the Blue E2 6b, Fay E4 5c (which I'd seconded back in 1992 but never lead) and Break on Through E4 5c. The next day we headed down to Pentire, this is somewhere I'd wanted to climb for ages so I was quite excited. We started on Eroica, the once classic E2 which is now E4 6a and quite committing since the demise of the peg. I was up and down a couple of times before going for it. We were both a bit disappointed with this route and didn't think it deserved three stars, maybe two for it's classic status. Next I was super keen for Darkinbad (E5 6a) since that was the route I'd really come to do, however we were faced with a dilemma. Steve also wanted to lead it but didn't feel in the mood that day. Fortunately, Mary came to my rescue and offered to second me. She'd on-sighted it earlier (in excellent style) and was happy to do it again. There wasn't much daylight left so I decided just to lead the first pitch then finish up the top pitch of Eroica, then do the top pitch next time with Steve. I really enjoyed the route and found it more of a challenge than I thought I would. Face climbing is usually my forte but most of my trad climbing this year has been on sustained, well protected routes, so being faced with committing rock-overs above RP's was a bit different. However, the time restriction meant I didn't have a chance to dither and all went well. I was really pleased to get it done.
The rest of August was fairly non-eventful. Kilnsey got quite wet again and I didn't feel very psyched. However, by the end of the month I decided to get back on Le Lapine and see how it felt. The same move was spitting me off again, mainly because I was so stretched that I was losing the tension required. I managed to find a different sequence though involving dead-pointing into a tiny undercut then building my feet up for the move to the sloper. There seemed to be some mileage in this so I decided to persevere with the route Ė sticking with the shorter, power routes isn't good for my ticklist but I'm sure it will help me in the long term.
Darkinbad (E5 6a) Photo: Steve Crowe
Ireland June 2010
We had a great fortnight in Ireland with some amazing weather really. We started our trip at Fairhead, joining the masses of keen climbers on the Mountaineering Ireland Meet. The weather tended to be a bit misty and damp first thing but improved to give some beautiful sunny afternoons and evenings. We started with a classic three pitch E2 called Cķchulainn that involved various off-widths, corners, roofs and grooves. What a fantastic outing, all fairly strenuous and very different to limestone face climbing. Since wall climbing is my thing I asked around and Face Value E4 6a came highly recommended. This was great, plenty of edges to pull on but good gear as well. Next up was the classic E5 6b Wall of Prey. I spent ages below the roof at this long reach, staring at the in-situ gear above my head but not being able to reach it and not daring to commit to the move without it. In the end Steve taped open the gate on a quickdraw which I pulled up, and this meant I was able to clip the gear off the good foothold. I then managed to reach the jug by a rather hard sequence then involved a press off a tiny edge, a poor smear and a very high rock-over. (Steve couldn't see what the fuss was as he just stood on the good foothold and reached up, a complete non-move he said!). I was then faced with the standard crux move, which was a big pull over the roof Ė this was a path in comparison and very well-protected. The 5c top pitch was also very good, with a few tricky moves to keep you interested. I felt like I was really getting into the climbing but it was time to move west to Donegal and the less well known venue of Muckross. This was a great little venue, and we were able to park the van up about a minute from the crag which was a bonus. The crag is sandstone, not very high (about 15m) but generally pretty steep, and involved powered up between breaks or across roofs with plenty of gear in the main. Unfortunately, it tends to seep a bit so although it had been really dry, the couple of wet days we had meant some of the lines were too damp to climb. However, we still enjoyed one and a half days of climbing, interspersed with a bit of tourist action. The highlights included Tandoori Chicken E3 5c, Elvis E3 6a, Stormy Petrel E4 6a and Wily Coyote E4 6a. Next stop was The Burren, after a rather tedious six hour drive. The weather really started to pick up here, with a couple of showery mornings but plenty of sun and a good breeze to keep the temps down. Last time we were here we had a lot of rain so the cracks started to seep really badly. This time, however, everything was bone dry so we were able to get plenty done. The hardest routes I did included the varied Quicksilver E5 6a, the bouldery Blockhead E5 6a and the awesome fingercrack of Refraction E5 6a (pretty intense this one). However, some of the other routes worth a mention include the bold Siren and Key Largo, both E3, the totally amazing Wall of Fossils E4 and the unique The Ramp E1, which seemed to involve more crawling than climbing! We also had a quick play on Faith, an awesome E7 6c put up by Andy Long. I managed it clean 2nd go on the top-rope but the last move involved a big pop for the top quite a way above your gear and I wasn't too keen to commit to that. This move wasn't a problem for Steve, however, the high rock-over lower down was significantly harder for him so he decided not to lead it either! If it was nearer to home I would definitely have spent a bit more time on it to get that last move totally wired as the rest of the route was great. After five days of climbing finger cracks Steve's fingers were looking a bit battered so we decided to head back east and spend our last weekend in The Mourne Mountains. We arrived to find the walk-in on fire so spent an afternoon at the beach instead. The next day we headed up to Buzzard's Roost to have a play on Divided Years. Unfortunately, it was getting battered by the northerly wind so once the sun left the wall it was baltic belaying. Climbing conditions were pretty good though and I managed to do the moves and string several sequences together. What a fantastic line with steep, well-protected climbing (probably worth F8a+). This was another route I wish was closer to home as I'm pretty sure I could do it, but it would take me longer than the few days both Dave's spent. We might go back there next year but will the weather be that good again? The next day we both felt a bit battered but it was our last day so we walked into the popular Lower Cove Crag. All we managed though was an E2 then I'd had enough, so we headed to the beach again before catching the ferry home. Altogether a very enjoyable trip, with some fantastic climbing and the weather to match. Roll on next year!
|Wall of Prey E5 6b, Fairhead Photo: Steve Crowe||Stormy Petrel E4 6a, Muckross Photo: Steve Crowe||Quicksilver E5 6a, The Burren Photo: Steve Crowe||Buzzard Roost, The Mourne Mountains Photo: Steve Crowe|
Since returning from Europe we've had a few weekends down on the Yorkshire limestone. I've been keen for some trad action to get my head in gear for Ireland, whereas Steve was more into a bit of sports action. The great thing about Yorkshire is how easy it is to combine the two. We started with a Malham trad day out on the right wing, with the aptly named traverse Rounded Horizontals E4 5b, 5c. This obviously hadn't been done for a while and was pretty dusty in places which added to the excitement. Next up I did the worthwhile Bad Brain E4 6a,6a, although I'm not really sure I climbed it right due to conflicting route descriptions and poor diagrams. Still once you're pass the loose start the climbing is on excellent rock with spaced but good gear. My next trad foray was at Kilnsey and the awesome Overlap E5 6b. All the dry weather has meant the crag is in excellent nick and Steve very kindly offered to give the start a brush as it's a bit of a seepage line usually. I thoroughly enjoyed this route, with quality climbing all the way to the top Ė superb. Whilst I was on a roll I decided to nip up Crank Stroke Groove E5 6b, which shares the same start before pulling right. Nowhere near as good as the Overlap but still worthwhile. We also enjoyed a day in Gordale during that mini heatwave, where we indulged ourselves with laps on the Cave Routes Ė the best two routes in Yorkshire in my opinion, fantastic climbing. On the sports front I've been playing on Aaron's route at Kilnsey, an entertaining 8a right of Subculture. It's all down to one move now, which is a bit of a pop, not what I'm best at really Ė in fact there's a few slaps on this route, not my usual style at all. However, I've decided to stick with the shorter, steeper routes this summer and embrace my weaknesses.
Rounded Horizontals E4 5b, 5c Photo: Steve Crowe
Steve and I set off to Europe armed with a van full of guidebooks and plenty of ideas. We had planned to start at St Ledger in France but heard it was pretty wet so we decided to check out Venasque then Buoux. We did two great routes at Venasque (steep and sustained) before an early afternoon thunderstorm arrived. The next two days we spent at Buoux which was great. I hadn't been since 1995 so had loads to go at. I managed to tick several classics such as Piliar de Fourmies, No Man's Land, Les Diamantes sont Eternal (well worth seeking out), Jolinoville and the amazingly positioned Le Rose and Les Sables. From here we headed west to Millau with the intention of spending a few days at Gorge du Tarn. We bought the guide to Gorge du Doubrie so drove up to Le Boffi for a day. The weather turned pretty hot so after a day here we decided to head towards Spain as we knew where to find guaranteed shade. On the way we had an afternoon at Le Livre in the Ariege. We did a couple of excellent routes here on very compact limestone, a very different style to other European crags. From here we drove through Andorra to one of my favourite crags, Tres Ponts. Unfortunately it's one of Steve's least favourite so we only had a couple of days here. I started with a good mileage day, working up through the grades, finishing off on a route that the topo gave 7c to the 1st lower-off then 8a to the top. The first half was very steady (more like 7b!) then the bolt hangers had been removed from the top Ė all very disappointing. The following day I had my eye on one of the long 7c+'s. It was all going so incredibly well that I wasn't surprised to find myself at the last bolt and a bloc move. I spent ages climbing up and down trying to find my way around the long reach but in the end admitted defeat, pulled on the quickdraw and climbed to the lower-off. I had a closer look as I lowered off but had been reading it right. I was so spanned between the two undercuts that I couldn't move - so frustrating as my fitness was up to the job.
Our final destination was the sport climbing mecca of Rodellar. We arrived to find it nice and dry with temperatures hitting 28 in the shade due to the heatwave sweeping Europe. Fortunately this was followed by a bit of a cold snap and temperatures plummeted to 10-12 degrees which was more to our liking! Rodellar is a stunning venue but if I'm honest the climbing doesn't suit me at all. Yes the holds are all pretty good and the routes are long, so if you're strong and fit it's a great place to get some big ticks. However, I tend to struggle on the steep stuff (the best sectors at Rodellar overhang by 30-45 degrees), as I get quickly worn down by big move after big move, plus I'm very much a rock-over/frogger type of climber which doesn't work so well at these sort of angles. Nevertheless it's good to work your weaknesses so we started in the Gran Boveda. I had a day on Cadres Regeneren (8a) which was pretty awesome but quite damp (I had hoped this wouldn't effect it much but it did), so decided this was one to come back for. After some easier on-sighting we headed up to Las Ventanas to try A Cravita (8a), an incredibly overhanging prow. This was my worst nightmare, far too steep and powerful for me and I managed to tear the muscle in my left forearm as well so I had to have a few days off. We both decided that a longer route was called for so back to the Gran Boveda to try Coliseum (8a). This 40m route takes the soaring corner in the middle of the Boveda and involves much strenuous lay-backing, interspersed with a few bulges. The moves came together quickly but would I be fit enough? After a poor first red-point attempt on day one I returned the next morning and decided to climb it in sections to warm-up. However, as I got higher up the route without falling I became more determined to succeed but the pump was getting harder to control. I only just got the jug beneath the final bulge and had to spend quite a long time here to get it back under control before the tricky finish. Fortunately, all went well and the route was in the bag, but I hadn't been that pumped for a long time. Next up was El Sepes, downgraded to 7c+ in the new guide. Quite a contrast with a steady start, a powerful roof section, a reasonable shake-out then a powerful section to finish. After two days and three red-points (failing at the last bolt!), we were beaten and decided to head back to the Ariege for our last two days to try and escape the rain. We climbed at Calames, which as well as being quite damp was heavily manufactured Ė most holds seemed to be either chipped or glued. On the whole I wasn't too impressed by the area but the best crag was bird-banned so we'll probably head back in the autumn and give it another go. All in all a very enjoyable trip, even if I didn't achieve big numbers. Our next trip is to Ireland in June for a bit of tradding, hopefully we'll be lucky with the weather there as well.
Piliar de Fourmies at Buoux Photo Steve Crowe
Well at last the weather started to improve enough to get out on the rock. I was pretty psyched to get across to Hell's Wall in The Lakes as I wanted to try both Inferno then Bleed in Hell. The routes on this wall get trad grades as they are protected mainly by pegs with the odd wire, however, they climb like sports routes if you can trust the insitu protection! My first day on Inferno (E7 6c) went well, getting it all sorted then top-roping it in one. The next two Sundays were very disappointing though as despite reasonable forecasts the weather didn't play ball. Both were absolutely baltic due to strong winds, with rain stopping play early afternoon, very frustrating. I had a few days off over Easter but with the poor forecast we decided not to go away. We spent most of the weekend at various walls but did get across to The Lakes on the Sunday. Despite rain in the morning the day picked up and conditions were perfect by mid-afternoon. I went for the red-point and the route was soon in the bag. It was great to get it done and I even had some time left to quickly get the short person's beta off Mary for Bleed in Hell. This seemed to work well and I got a good link on the top-rope. Luckily for me I had the following Friday off and conditions were good Ė cool and cloudy with a slight breeze. After warming up I went for the lead and after a couple of false starts the route was done, Bleed in Hell E8 6c. The climbing is ace, and suits my style being very fingery and technical, where body positioning is the key to success.
I celebrated my success with a very sociable day bouldering at Caley on the Sunday. It was great to be shown around and there's plenty of problems to go back and do. The climbing highlight of the day though was probably my flash of Pedestal ArÍte Font 7a/7a+, the sit-start was a bit trickier though Ė definitely something to go back for.
Bleed in Hell E8 6c Borrowdale Photo: Steve Crowe
What have I been up to these past few months, well unfortunately nothing too exciting. It's been a great winter if you're into the white stuff but pretty grim for bouldering. Both Northumberland and The Pennines have been covered in snow for most of the last three months so apart from an aborted trip to Goldsborough and a baltic couple of hours at Kyloe In we haven't been out. Instead we've been climbing indoors, making the most of our board at home and the various local walls. I've enjoyed all the local bouldering comps and managed a clean sweep this winter, taking the women's title at Sunderland, Newcastle Climbing Centre and ClimbNewcastle. I feel like I've made some strength gains this winter plus some progress in my aim to become more dynamic, which is good. We've deliberately avoided the routes, only tying into the ropes about 4 times since our November trip. It'll be interesting to see how my endurance fairs once I hit the routes again.
Well it's been a relatively quiet month up here, mainly due to the weather Ė rain for the first half of the month then the snow arrived on the 17th. It eventually melted by the 30th but came back with a vengeance the next day and it's just getting deeper and deeper! Consequently we haven't bothered climbing outside (although we have tried - almost making it to Goldsborough one day but severe black ice and nowhere to park due to the snow put a stop to that). We've enjoyed several walks in the snow instead though. Fortunately we've got a reasonable board in the garage so we've been using that quite a bit as well. The highlight of the month was the Climbnewcastle comp where I managed a reasonable score of 304, out of 350. It was a good set of problems for me with no dynos or long reaches and instead, several problems where being flexible was a definite advantage. Hope the next one is more of the same.
Fontainebleau in the snow Photo: Steve Crowe
At last our three week trip to Spain had arrived and we headed down to Portsmouth to get the ferry to Bilbao. The crossing was fairly rough but we survived okay and arrived to rain in the Basque Country. We had some paper topos for Baltzola Cave so we decided to check that out first. What an amazing venue, itís almost like climbing underground, with just two openings letting in any light. There was quite a bit of seepage but we still got a couple of climbs in before setting off in search of the next crag. This was the impressive looking Etxauri, for which we had no info, other than the town circled on the map. We managed to copy a few routes from the topo in the local bar and headed out to that sector the next morning. We bumped into a few friendly locals who recommended a few routes, which all turned out to be excellent Ė 35-40m long up immaculate, gently overhanging limestone, just what I like. Our next few days were a bit of a tour, getting rained off at Riglos, frozen at Rodellar before eventually arriving at a very windy but sunny Mas Riudoms on the east coast. Steve was psyched for a couple of 8aís he hadnít quite finished in the past so started on the awesome 40m ATP. Iíd done it earlier in the year but it had an extension over the roof to give a 50m 8a+, which I thought would be worth a look. On first acquaintance the crux seemed very hard but the rest wasnít too bad so I lowered back down to the crux, pulled the rope through and had a proper look. I managed to match on the sloping edge, get a very high heel which I then rocked up on enabling me to reach the crucial undercut which just left a full length span onto the lip. After that a few more slaps and a high rock-over gained access to the headwall, a breather and a few easier moves to the belay. It was certainly doable but was I fit enough? There was no rest at the top of the 8a, instead a series of burly moves led out across the roof into the crux. In the end I got it 5th red-point which wasnít too bad and a good start to my trip (plus an excellent way of topping up my endurance). Meanwhile Steve managed to dispatch both his 8aís so we were both happy. From here we headed back west to Bruixes and the main focus of my trip. A couple of years ago I spend a few days falling from the last bolt of Golpe de Gas (8b) so I was keen to get back on it and get it done. Dogging up it all felt fine and the crux sequence seemed okay, although I was a bit worried that it was too warm (the crux involves a nasty sloping pinch). I then spend two days falling off at the last bolt again (the V6/7 crux) and was feeling a bit demoralised. Steve suggested I rework the crux and I found a better foot sequence which refired my enthusiasm. However, it had really warmed up and it was too hot to climb in the sun so I left my clips in and we headed across to the Terradets North Crag for the next couple of days. I took it easy, deciding to just do some on-sighting, despite really liking the look of the 8a+ everyone was trying. Instead I did a 7b+ and 7c on-sight and came so close to flashing a 7c+/8a (had a bit of a technical incident which I wonít go into Ė had to settle for 1st red-point instead!) The next morning Steve and I were at Bruixes early, well before the sun hit the crag. I quickly warmed up then went for the red-point. The new sequence worked a treat, the route was in the bag and we were back down to the van by 11am, before most people had even arrived at the crag. Since weíd had a good period of warm, settled weather we decided to risk Rodellar for our last few days. As it happened there was still a fair amount of seepage but enough dry routes to keep us busy. I made the mistake of not having a rest day after my successful red-point. Climbing for four days in a row is not the best recipe for success as I found when I got powered out trying to on-sight a 7c. I spent the last two days doing some easier 7ís of the short and steep variety which I really enjoyed. All in all an awesome trip and very successful for both of us. Roll on March!
Golpe de Gas (8b)
The highlight of the month was Steveís ascent of Central Wall (aka Totally Free II) at Malham. Basically he started up The Groove, continued up Free Ďní Easy and finished by climbing the roof of Breach of the Peace. This he did in one massive 70+m run-out to give a stunning F8b, fulfilling his ambition of climbing Malham Cove in its entirety. Unfortunately, I missed his ascent since I was stuck at work, it would have been pretty special to have been there.
Meanwhile I had a few days on Predator, getting some short persons beta off Jenny. It was coming together nicely with some massive links on top-rope but with our trip to Spain getting close I was running out of time. Headed down the weekend before we went away, despite the grim forecast, as you never know. However, conditions were horrendous so ended up back at Durham Wall. Four hours of driving for nothing!
We had a break this month from the Yorkshire limestone, mainly due to various other commitments and a trip to France. A couple of weekends were spent bouldering which was highly enjoyable and relaxing after the pressures of a red-point project. It was good to get back to Kyloe In despite the fact that it was chucking it down and that I was rubbish! I had a better time the following weekend at Shaftoe then a highly enjoyable day at the Bowderstone. Iíd never really bouldered here other than a brief attempt on a wet day years ago where I donít remember doing very well. However, better body tension and stronger fingers meant I did okay and am super keen to get back this winter.
We then headed off to France for a fortnight. We started at La Balme and were very impressed with the crag, the angle of Kilnseyís north buttress but about five times its length and twice its height. The holds are mainly all upside down, giving reasonable side pulls or undercuts with smeary feet, with occasional knee-bars to aid recovery, offering super sustained climbing. After three days I felt I was getting into it but weíd already decided to head to Orpierre for a week to meet up with Jenny and family. Orpierre was a complete contrast Ė still steep but crimpy, with some hard moves then excellent rests. My aim was to on-sight F7c but had to settle for quick red-points, wasnít fit enough to read the cruxes on-sight. We finished our trip with another two days at La Balme, where I failed to on-sight another F7c, getting pretty pumped in the process. An awesome crag though and keen to go back next year.
Meeting up with Jenny and family at Orpierre.
Photo: Steve Crowe
Another unsettled month weather wise but we just decided to forget all thoughts of trad climbing and stick with the limestone. Kilnsey got wet then dried again briefly and as I write is now pretty saturated. However, it stayed dry long enough for both of us to get our routes done. For me it meant ticking Bullet, a long 8a+ at the left end of the crag, which has frustrated me for a couple of years now by being dry enough to work but not to red-point. This year I was determined to clear off all my old projects and with Climb of the Century and Zoolook already dispatched this was the only one left. I knew I could do it, just needed some cooler conditions. The day I did it didnít start well as heavy rain meant the actual finishing holds were wet. However, the rain cleared by 4pm and a brief breeze arrived on the crag, perfect conditions, and the red-point went very smoothly. What to look at next I wondered? Jenny was working Subculture (8a) so I joined her the following week to get the numbers. Absolutely nails I thought and was very impressed when Jenny red-pointed it. I try not to throw in the Ďshortí card but this route is certainly no soft touch for those on the shorter side and makes Jennyís ascent particularly impressive. The next day I looked at Arranís new route to the right (also 8a) and found this more to my liking. I returned the following week to try for the red-point only to find the start and finish wet, so just tweaked the crux section. I managed to top-rope it cleanly from the 2nd bolt to the Subculture lower-off so know I could do it but since the crag is now a write-off it may have to wait till next year.
The highlight of the month though has to be Steveís red-point of Stolen (8a+/b). This is the extension to Cold Steal (8a) which Steve bolted back in 1997. Heís tried it on and off since then but due to various injuries and other commitments passed it over to me in 2006 and I grabbed the first ascent. Itís been wet the past two years but has stayed pretty dry this year, so Steve was pretty keen to get it done and has worked hard towards achieving this goal. The humid conditions werenít helping but with cooler weather forecast last weekend I suggested he had a couple of rest days before going for the red-point. This (and my last minute pep talk) seemed to help and he finally sent the route. All the more impressive given that a year ago he dislocated his shoulder and has had to work very hard to regain his strength and fitness. He celebrated with a well earned beer!
Karin redpointing Bullet 8a+ at Kilnsey Crag
Photo: Steve Crowe
This was quite a disappointing month really if Iím honest. Iíd managed to arrange a couple of long weekends off work before the school holidays started, with the idea of continuing the trad theme and getting back up to Scotland (either the far NW or out to Lewis) or down to North Wales. However, the unsettled weather arrived and the heat wave broke. Instead our first weekend was spent in Gordale, always a bit intimidating on re-acquaintance. The first day was pretty grim so we worked out on the Cave Routes but the rest of the weekend was mainly dry with the occasional heavy downpour. I was keen to get on Cement Garden (E6 6c/F7c), one of those classic semi-sports routes, mainly protected with bolts but with a trad finish and some snappy rock. It obviously hadnít seen some traffic for a while, (hardly surprising given the last two summers), so I spent a day cleaning it and sorting out the sequence before dispatching it next day. Really enjoyable face climbing and got me quite keen for some more Gordale action. However, the weather wasnít really up to it so the next few weekends were mainly spent at Kilnsey, with the odd climbing wall session thrown in. At Kilnsey I ticked the popular Dead Calm (F8a) on my second day then jumped back on Bullet, hoping to get it ticked this year while itís still dry. The still, humid weather isnít good for the fingery Man with a Gun start, but after a couple of sessions on the route things are progressing well Ė watch this space!
(The Barra Isles, Scotland)
This was our 7th trip out to the Barra Isles (Pabbay/Mingulay) in the past 9 years (and definitely our last for a couple of years). Yet again we were blessed with some excellent climbing weather, with plenty of sun and a cool north-easterly wind which is ideal for drying out the sea cliffs. We started on Mingulay and enjoyed 3 days on Dun Mingulay ticking some classics, including Ray Of Light E4 5c and the excellent Voyage of Faith with our own Oceans of Air pitch (E4 6a) Ė an absolutely stunning traverse left below the top roof with bags of exposure. This was followed with a day on the enjoyable Boulevard where I ticked Precious Days E5/6 6a (probably only E5, steady climbing on small edges but only protected by the smallest RPs). Over on Pabbay we spent a couple days on Banded Wall, where I lead the amazing Ship of Fools E5 6a and its neighbour Geomancer E6 6b. Steve also added a new line here by climbing the corner to the left of Geomancer into its finish to give a good E5 6a/b Parting Shot. Unfortunately, our last day started misty and our chosen venue was very smeggy, so we decided to just chill out whilst others did battle with the grease.
This year instead of heading north to Lewis for our second week weíd been offered the opportunity to join a small team heading to Sandray on the Wednesday, so decided to check out the rumours of some climbing on the south-west coast of Barra first. We managed to find some decent 20-25m cliffs and climbed a few lines in the E1 Ė E3 range that will probably have been done before. We also spied an awesome overhanging arÍte which we did at about E6 6b. Up to this point the weather had stayed fine but the forecast for our few days on Sandray wasnít good but we decided to head out anyway. Two days of gale force winds and prolonged heavy showers meant we were confined to the tent most of the time but Saturday wasnít too bad and we managed to get several routes knocked off, including three E4ís, before Donald picked us up at 9pm.
All in all a highly enjoyable trip and quite chilled. Weíve still got the odd route to do out there but weíve now ticked the majority of the classics as well as adding several new routes over the years. Next June we may head out to Orkney instead as neither of us have been up there before.
Another successful month as another of my outstanding projects was dispatched. Our week off at the start of May was mainly spent in Yorkshire due to the wet weather, however this turned out to be a positive thing as I jumped back on Zoolook F8a. I spent a day re-working the route (itís fairly sequency) then started red-pointing. As many people who have done this route can testify, this can be a rather involved process and it may look like youíre falling off the same move time and time again when in actual fact youíre progressing by foot movements. Hence two days and six red-points later it was in the bag. I was pretty chuffed I can tell you as I hadnít found it easy, but that power endurance training seemed to help.
The following weekend I jumped on GBH, Zoolookís close neighbour. After getting some useful beta on the Saturday I had all the moves sorted then managed to do it in two halves the next day which was a good start. Despite being next to Zoolook it has its own style being much more burly (undercuts this time, as opposed to side-pulls), with the usual Malham polished footholds Ė strong biceps and core recommended.
Although I was keen to get back on GBH, a few days off work and a good forecast enticed us up to Sheigra, in the far NW of Scotland. This was where Steve dislocated his shoulder last year and he was keen to put a few demons to rest. We had a couple of good days, I on-sighted a couple of E4ís that I hadnít done before which I felt was a good start to my season and Steve also got a few routes under his belt. We had a day out to climb the stack Am Buachaille which turned into an epic involving an over-turned dinghy, a non-swimmer, a strong tide and almost disaster. Fortunately, everything turned out well and several lessons were learnt. The second bank holiday we headed back down to Yorkshire as I was keen to get reacquainted with Bullet, which had been frustratingly wet over the past two summers. I just decided to spend the first day on the Man with a Gun start. This went okay but I did feel a bit knackered. The next day I woke up with a full on cold and felt crap, ended up stripping the route and not climbing for the next few days. Off out to the Outer Hebrides shortly so no more sport climbing for a few weeks. Really looking forward to getting back into the old trad climbing.
No Porpiose E4, Sheigra
Photo: Pat Nolan
Well itís been back to Malham which has been really dry. I started on Space Invaders F7c+, the short, powerful extension to the classic F7b+ Space Race. It was pretty neglected but cleaned up fairly quickly and was dispatched 2nd red-point. If you like undercuts itís a good one to try, although the bolts arenít in the best nick (a bit on the rusty side). We didnít go away over Easter weekend, preferring to climb locally to avoid the worst of the traffic. I was also suffering from a bad sinus infection so didnít climb Friday or Saturday. Katherine and Nic were up in The County for a few days so we headed out to Great Wanney to meet them on the Sunday. The crag was in perfect condition, so I enjoyed leading some of the classics and seconding Katherine up Thin Ice E4 and Endless Flight E5 Ė a very good start to her trad season. I also had a quick play on Crisis Zone Ė still desperate, more training required! We headed down to Malham on the Monday as I was keen to get back on Climb of the Century F8b after bagging it last autumn due to a knackered finger and prolonged seepage. I had a very good day on it so we headed back the following Sunday for the red-point. Conditions werenít good Ė full on sun, very warm and no wind. After a quick attempt late morning (which I blow on the last hard move Ė thought it was in the bag, relaxed and missed the hold!), I sat out the rest of the day waiting for the shade after 6pm. The wait paid off and the route was successfully red-pointed. Perhaps thereís something in that power endurance training?
Climb of the Century F8b
Photo: Steve Crowe
The first half of March was spent enjoying the sunny limestone back down in Northern Spain. It was almost an awesome trip as I came so close to on-sighting my first F8a. This was a bit unexpected, especially as it was early on in our trip. I easily dispatched it 1st red-point and felt pretty psyched to push myself out of my comfort zone a bit more. The way the trip evolved (due to bird bans, seepage and busy crags) seemed to lead us away from our usual stamina crags/routes and into less familiar territory. This was a great experience and involved me taking on routes that generally didnít suit me Ė shorter, more intense routes, hence I did a lot of falling off which is something Iím not keen on (there was quite a lot more Ďalmostí moments!) It really highlighted my weakness Ė power endurance Ė which is something I have to admit to never training. However, Iíve been researching it since and have recently enjoyed a couple of sessions which have been real eye-openers.
The weeks before and after our trip were kept busy thanks to the three main local walls and the various bouldering comps on offer. Many thanks to all the staff at Durham, Climb Newcastle and Sunderland for all their effort and great route-setting. I really enjoyed the comps this year, generally being very pleased with the way I climbed. They were all well attended, making them very sociable as well.
Itís now Malham season and a chance to jump back on last yearís projects in the hope that they will feel easier. Weíll see!
Steve and I enjoyed a week in El Chorro at the end of January. We had a mixed bag of weather with extremely strong winds, cold temperatures and a fair bit of rain. It was a good few years since weíd last been so there was plenty to go at, plus many more crags to explore throughout the region which we did on the poorer days. Enjoyed getting in plenty of mileage and felt reasonably fit. Got an 8a red-pointed but it took me 3 attempts as the strong winds made some of the moves feel pretty precarious. That was pretty frustrating as it had felt easy when I worked it and I fully expected to get it first go. Still I really enjoyed the climbing, long moves between edges, not very steep but 35m long Ė just my thing really. We had an epic 23 hour journey to get back home, which involved cancelled and delayed flights, long waits at airports, scary coach rides, two train journeys and finally a pick-up at Durham train station, all because of a bit of snow!
Since weíve been back Iíve had a couple of days out on the rock which Iíve really enjoyed. The first weekend was a bit of a wash-out because of all the melting snow, however, we did find two small areas of dry rock which entertained 6 of us for a few hours. Last weekend was better so we headed down to Brimham which was in excellent nick. I knocked off several problems I hadnít done before in the V5-6 range, had a few good attempts on The Grouch V8, then headed over to Pinkie V7 which I dispatched after a few attempts (including a bail-out from the last move). It was a good day.
Photo: Steve Crowe
When looking back at 2008 it was easy to get drawn into excuses about the wet weather, finger injuries and Steve dislocating his shoulder. However, I actually had quite a good year, both in terms of specific routes and grades. On the bolts I on-sighted several F7cís and my first F7c+ as well as grabbing some quick red-points of F8aís over in Spain. I didnít get as much trad in as I would have liked but what little I did went well. Personal highlights were The Bonxie E6 6b and Perfectly Normal Paranoia E6 6b out on the Barra Isles and Trilogy E5 6a in the Lakes (a route Iíd wanted to do for years). The trip out to Pabbay was also special as it was here that I climbed my 100th route of E5 and above (climbed as in on-sighted or flashed). I started to compile a database of my harder routes a couple of years ago which was quite interesting. I still havenít climbed E5 on grit; perhaps I should make that a goal for 2009? Any suggestions most welcome.
I have to admit to not taking my bouldering perhaps as seriously as I should, especially in the past. This year I didnít do much, although when I did go out I was pretty focused which worked well and I ticked several Ďbogeyí problems that had eluded me for a while. Of these Hitchhikers was for me a massive tick, as despite itís rather lowly Font 7a+ grade it had always felt desperate to me until this year when it felt okay. My hardest tick grade wise was The Nadser at Font 7b+ which Iíd always thought would suit me but had never got round to trying. Needless to say, it did suit me which was great!
Well thatís a quick summary of my year. Looking forward to plenty of good climbing in 2009.
Well itís been a quiet month on the climbing front but hectic elsewhere. I had plenty of work lined up to keep me busy, plus all the usual Christmas shopping, etc. To top it all off Steve and I decided it was about time we got married and since both families were going to be around we thought we would try and organise something Christmas week. This we managed to do and although it was a very quiet, low-key affair that was just what we wanted, which was great.
I did manage to get some climbing done this month but it was mainly inside. Jason and Ian had been busy at Sunderland setting some great routes, so Iíve had a few visits there. Durham was excellent as always plus I enjoyed a couple of visits through to Newcastle. Iíve also been to the gym a few times and out for the odd run and bike ride. Unfortunately, there are still tins of chocolates at work which are always too tempting so Iím not feeling particularly light at the moment. However, weíve just been planning our trips for the year which is getting me motivated to start some proper training again. Bring on 2009.
I had three weeks booked off work this month so after Steve received a cautious go-ahead from his physio we headed to Europe in the van in search of some sun. We spent a few days down in Provence, France first, a once popular winter destination for us in the early 90ís. I had visions of enjoying some pleasant 6ís in the sun; I donít know what I was thinking! Iíd forgotten just how blank those French slabs are so after a couple of days a wet afternoon gave us a good excuse to head south over the border and into Spain. We awoke to torrential rain but it gradually eased mid-afternoon and we ventured out to the local bar to check out the forecast. Five days of sun was predicted, in fact the good weather lasted for the rest of our trip with perfectly clear, sunny days, just what weíd hoped for. Due to Steveís shoulder and my sore (but improving finger) I mainly led easier routes which Steve could then top-rope. We started at Montgrongy, and then headed to Rodellar and Alquezar for a few days. Rodellar was amazing, so quiet; we usually had the gorge to ourselves. It was great to be able to climb in the sun as well so we enjoyed several of the longer wall climbs. We spent our last few days at Bruixes. I was feeling fit after plenty of mileage and my finger was holding up well so I decided to try Premier Line 8a. The boulder problem start took a little sorting but the rest was straightforward and the route was dispatched 1st red-point. I then jumped on Last Line 7c+/8a. I found the crux of this quite perplexing at first due to a seemingly lack of footholds. However, this was sorted by a super high rock-over and the next morning I sent it first red-point. With a poor forecast for the weekend (in particular snow) we decided to leave for home early to ensure we got over the Pyrenees (turns out this was a very wise decision). We both really enjoyed our trip with Steve climbing much better than he thought he would. My finger held up well and despite not climbing much beforehand I was pleased to still be able to on-sight 7b+. Itís back on the walls for now and weíre certainly spoilt for choice up here with the newly opened Climb Newcastle giving Durham and Sunderland a run for their money.
Premier Line 8a.
Photo: Steve Crowe
Well I have to admit to being rather demoralised after a frustrating few weeks. I had a couple of days down at a rather damp Malham on the August bank holiday weekend, where I had a productive day on Climb of the Century (only the start was wet) and a more frustrating day on Zoolook (only the crux was dry). Driving home I was aware my finger felt a bit sore but forgot about it till bouldering later in the week when it felt pretty damn sore. I spent the next week or so climbing with it taped but it didnít seem to be improving and with Lundy round the corner I decided to stop for a couple of weeks and give it a chance to improve. The trip to Lundy was amazing, 8 days of sunshine, what a bonus. Unfortunately, there was no chance of Steve climbing so he decided to stop at home while I climbed mainly with Andy, but also had a couple of great days out with Ed and Jana, and climbed a few routes with a fit and confident Pat. There was plenty of seepage about which limited our choice of crags but everyone still had a very successful and enjoyable week, with many of the classics getting several ascents. Despite my lack of climbing I was still fairly fit which was just as well as I was a bit out of practice with the trad gear and to start with rarely got the right size first go. There were several highlights that week. For situation and atmosphere the routes we did down in Deep Zawn stand out. First off I teamed up with Andy and Ed for an ascent of the classic Antiworlds E5 6a,6a,6a each of us getting a pitch. The boys did well on the first two stunning groove pitches which were running water, as well as suffering from general dampness, it certainly added to the experience. I thoroughly enjoyed the headwall pitch up the twin cracks, the wall glowing pink in the early evening light, fantastic. I returned to Deep Zawn at the end of the week for a quick ascent of another classic, this time it was Quartermass E2 5c,5a,5c. This time Andy and I were joined by Pat and we climbed together behind Dave and Mary, all five of us setting up the route at about 6pm, the last person topping out as the sun went down. A great end to the week. My favourite route though was Olympica E5 6a, Pat Littlejohnís immaculate wall climb from the late 70ís, right up my street that one. After seeing the picture in the new Lundy guide I couldnít wait to get on it and certainly wasnít disappointed.My finger held up fairly well as you can get a lot of weight through your feet on those granite slabs, so after another week off I decided to try it out at Malham. Not my brightest idea I admit, in fact the whole experience was a bit of a disaster. My route was wetter than before Ė the start running water and the half height shake-out also wet (never seen it that wet before) Ė it was really hot and my finger got sore again as soon as I started pulling on them crimps. Consequently, Iíve being joining Steve at the gym and pool (his shoulder is doing well) and tried to stop myself climbing. However, we did enjoy a pleasant few hours down at Wainstones in the NY Moors last Sunday, where we rattled off a few of the easy classics. I was keen to try out my new superlight Black Diamond Oz quickdraws and was very impressed. The difference in weight was amazing, a real bonus on those long routes especially. My finger seems to be improving so hoping to do some climbing this weekend but forecast looks a bit disappointing so may have to try some of the easier routes at Sunderland.
Antiworlds E5 6a,6a,6a Photos: Jana Edwards
Well Iím working 4/5 day weeks at the moment but donít think Iíve been missing much as the weather has remained pretty unsettled. Enjoyed three good days in the Lakes at the end of July when we got that week of good weather. Got Trilogy E5 6a at Raven Crag, Langdale done at long last after backing off it back in 1996 (the year I started leading E5ís). Was expecting to romp up it but did find it quite pumpy so it was more eventful than I expected! I also got to the excellent Burnt Crag in the Duddon and had a great day, highlights being the intricate Scorch the Earth E4 6a and the excellent Burning Desire (although I did opt for the easier LH finish), E5 6a. It was very hot on the Sunday so we headed up to Tophet Wall where I followed Pat up the superb Vikings E3 5c, then we enjoyed a couple of E2/3ís on Kern Knotts. It was great to get back over to the Lakes, really enjoyed the weekend. I then had a very productive day on Bullet at Kilnsey a fortnight ago, climbing it in two halves quite comfortably. Unfortunately, the good hold that links Man with a Gun to the Bullet extension was running water meaning I couldnít clip, climb through or rest so the red-point was out of the question. The rain over the past fortnight wonít have helped so not sure when Iíll get back on it. Last weekend I had both the Friday and Monday off so Steve and I decided to take a risk and made the 8hr drive north to the sea cliffs of Sheigra. Itís a really beautiful area, with good climbing on steep gneiss. We were keen just to get plenty of routes done, so had knocked off several excellent E2ís and a good, steep E4 when Steve decided to finish off on an entertaining looking E3. It was a bit damp unfortunately which can weaken some of the black bands of rock. A hold broke on Steve as he was doing a big cross-over so he fell awkwardly and dislocated his shoulder backwards. He was eventually helicoptered out to Stornoway, Lewis where they x-rayed it before pulling it back in. Very frustrating for Steve, it means he could be out for 3-6 months. Heís staying very positive at the moment and encouraging me to get out climbing and training, so Iíve had a few good bouldering sessions this week at Durham and Sunderland. Next trip is Lundy at the end of September and Iím sure a big high pressure will have settled over the UK by then, it canít rain forever.
The superb Bloodlust Direct E2 5b **** at Sheigra
Photo: Steve Crowe
Well not much to report since my return from Scotland. The weather has been very unsettled up here, especially at the weekends. The highlight was probably climbing the usually overgrown Original Route E3 6a at Kilnsey. This has been cleaned recently and a good lower-off added, making it a very worthwhile route. Also at Kilnsey I went for the on-sight on No More Jumping to Conclusions a tricky F7b+, only to get horrendously pumped (havenít been that pumped for ages, it was awesome!) Fortunately I managed it next go. Since then the crag has got pretty wet and will take a while to dry which is very frustrating. Last weekend I had two days at the Durham Wall, enjoying the new set of problems. Iíve also had a couple of evenings down at Sunderland Wall, which also has a good set of problems at the moment. Been out to Shaftoe a couple of times as well with some good results, so although Iíd rather be routing, Iím quite enjoying my bouldering at the moment. The plan is Iíll get a bit stronger so when the weather settles down and the crags dry Iíll be able to make the most of the good weather.
The plan is to get a bit stronger for when the weather settles down!
Photo: Steve Crowe
Once more we headed north for our annual trip to the Outer Hebridean Islands of Pabbay and Mingulay. We had assembled a super psyched squad of 12, some of whom had been before. The weather in the main was ideal, with plenty of sun, not too hot and a good strong wind to keep the crags dry. Our previous two trips had seen record high temperatures but the still weather meant the crags stayed smeggy, not so this year with a strong north-westerly battering the islands. We enjoyed 5 excellent climbing days with all the classics getting multiple ascents. Personal highlights for me included The Bonxie E6 6b, I suppose a cormorantís out of the question then? E5 6b and Perfectly Normal Paranoia E6 6b. The most exciting route was The Guga E5 6b which was just as committing to second as a fall from the crux would leave you hanging in space Ė awesome. I also had a great day with Pat on Dun Mingulay when we knocked off Call of the Sea E3 4c,5c,5b, Sirens E3 5c,5c,5b and Voyage of Faith E3 5b,5b,5b,5c all mega classic routes up this fantastic cliff. Steve and I thought this would be our last trip but perhaps weíll go back again next year.
After our week on the Barra Isles we drove north across Barra, South and North Uist, Harris then up to Lewis. Weíd planned on spending our second week climbing on the Lewis seacliffs with hopefully a trip down to Sron Ulladale as well. However, after two days of rain with more forecast all week we came home late Tuesday which was disappointing. Iíd enjoyed driving around, doing some sightseeing and plenty of cafť stops but can only take so much inactivity. The weather back home was better and we enjoyed a couple of afternoon/evenings pottering about at Shaftoe (canít really use the term bouldering as we were so rubbish it was laughable, but since I hadnít bouldered since March what more could I expect!) Pretty psyched for some more trad action but as I write this the weekend weather has been pretty grim Ė wet and horrendously windy. Perhaps next weekend will be better?
The Bonxie E6 6b, Pink Wall, Pabbay
Photo: Steve Crowe
Just back from a few weeks in Europe in the van. This time of year can sometimes be quite unsettled over there which is certainly what we found. However, the rain and seepage gave us a good excuse to check out loads of different crags and to get plenty of on-sighting done. We visited St. Ledger, Gorges du Tarn, Montgrony, Tres Ponts, Bruixes, Rodellar and Wildside, all of them excellent venues that would warrant several weeks stay in their own right. Highlights for me were my on-sight of a superb 35m 7c/7c+ at Tres Ponts (I really had to fight on this one) and getting the red-point on Ambicion Zero 8a at Rodellar the day before 36 hours of torrential rain wrote off the crag. No more Euro trips now till November but off to the Outer Hebrides soon for some trad action.
Sunshine and showers at Montgrony
Since returning from Spain Iíve been working loads to get some money for our next trip so havenít had much spare time. Iíve found this has helped my focus though and Iíve actually done some training in the past few weeks. The bouldering wall at Durham has been a big motivator this winter as the problems have been consistently well set requiring more than power and reach to succeed Ė thanks to Jason, Jamie and Ian for those. The past few weeks started well with a win at the comp at Durham. After cruising round the womens 25 problems, Steve and I went round the mens as well, getting 10 of those flashed before running out of steam. It was an awesome six hours! The next day I headed up to The Woods and got myself up Jocks SS (7a+), a good tick for me as Iíve never been happy on that last move. The following Sunday we got a tour round a rather damp Brimham, no big ticks but several bloody tips. The next three Sundays we were back up at The Woods with some success. Firstly it was The Gauntlet Traverse 7a that was quickly dispatched then the following Sunday The Nadser 7b+ went down surprisingly easily, despite a fairly damp finish. This was topped off a week later by Hitchhikersís (a mere 7a+), but a problem that has always alluded me since first trying it in 2003. This year though I shocked myself by climbing it quite comfortably. I was quite made up really. The new Northumberland Bouldering Guide has also just gone off to the printers so I now feel the time is right to get back on the routes.
Hitchhikersís a mere 7a+!
Photo: Steve Crowe
I enjoyed a good start to the year with a three week trip to Northern Spain in the van. We had several venues in mind depending on the weather but decided to start off with a few days at Montgrony. Pat Nolan joined us for our first week and I thoroughly enjoyed getting in plenty of mileage on-sighting routes up to F7b+. Itís a fantastic area with just stacks of superb routes from long, technical walls to steep, short tufas. We were enjoying it so much we decided to stay there for another week. This went really well with four F7cís flashed (Anant amb Croses, Angie, Beautiful Vision and Pornoerotic Sexual) and a good effort at trying to on-sight an F7c+. Unfortunately sometimes thereís no way round a big move so after battling through plenty of steep moves I was off. The rest of the route was excellent though. Our last week was spent touring round a few crags before meeting up with Longy, Jason, Ian et al near Tarragona. We took in Tres Ponts, Alos de Balaguer and Santa Linya. The day at Alos went particularly well with a first red-point ascent of Mirall Trencat F8a. With Longy we had a couple of days at an excellent crag near Tarragona. I was very pleased to get a proper power endurance F8a 3rd red-point (I was so close on my first attempt but messed up my feet). Power endurance routes are not really my style but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. All in all a very enjoyable and successful trip.
Anant amb Croses 7c, Montgrony
Photo: Steve Crowe
Quite a manic month cramming in loads of work, Christmas shopping, some climbing and planning my trips for 2008. I have to be pretty organised on that front so I can get locums booked well in advance, something best not left till the last minute! With the way the Bank Holidays fell over Christmas it meant I was actually off this year so Steve and I decided to head to Spain at the last minute. We enjoyed a few days at Siurana checking out some of the sectors that had been developed since we were last there in 1995. I was thoroughly enjoying the crimpy walls and just on-sighting easier routes in the sun. We then met up with Longy and Chegs, Jason and Daisy, Pat, Ian and Percy. I had to fly home on the 31st as I was back to work on the 2nd January but Steve enjoyed a week around Montgrony with the squad and came home raving about it. Weíre back out in February so I think weíll be starting there.
Karin climbing Crooked Mile E4 6a Lower Sharpnose, South West
Photo: Steve Crowe
Did a little bit of bouldering at the start of the month before heading out to Northern Spain for two weeks. Spent the first week back at Montsant which was a bit of a shock to the system. I had one more F7c to try which I got 1st red-point after blowing the powerful start, then I moved onto Monomania, a short, power endurance F7c+. What a nightmare, a series of two-finger pockets with bad feet and very steep. I was getting closer to it after 2 days but fortunately ran out of time whilst I still had some skin on the sides of my fingers. We then moved north to Les Bruixes, Terradets. Here I jumped back onto Golpe de Gas, the F8b I tried at the end of my trip last February. After 4 days on the route, two of which were spent falling off at the last bolt (the crux at 33m!), I decided I wasnít fit/strong enough and decided to bag it. Instead I jumped onto the cruxy Flix Flax F8a/8a+ to itís left. However, that left me with a ripped tip and I couldnít hold the crux hold with tape on. So not much to show for the two weeks but I still enjoyed it. I love that part of Spain and the weather was more or less perfect with plenty of sunshine.
Spent most of this month sweating it out in Kentucky at the Red River Gorge. Record temperatures (90ís) and high humidity didnít go well with the sandstone. Plus the reality of the Ďenduro climbing on big holdsí was a bit of a shock. When referring to the endurance routes my information source had missed out the power bit, and to be fair the holds were big, however, they certainly werenít positive, with big sloping pockets and wide pinches being the nature of the game. The climbing here certainly exposed my weaknesses but it was awesome none the less, and I was soon slapping and screaming my way up the routes like the locals. The climbing pushed me to my limit, and although I didnít come away with any big ticks, I tried harder than ever before. Very keen to return (perhaps next November), when hopefully, the conditions will be more favourable and Iíll be more prepared.
Since weíve been back Iíve enjoyed a couple of days out in The County, ticking the old classics and getting on a couple of Ďwinter projectsí. I also had a great day at the new Durham Wall and enjoyed the fairly technical problems there. If you havenít been yet, then check it out.
The highlight this month was our week out on Lundy. We were blessed with pretty good weather but also cursed by the ĎLundy Lurgyí. To be honest I got off quite lightly as I only got the nausea and general tiredness, without the full on works. Got to climb on The Diamond this time around which I was both excited and nervous about, it is very slabby! Although I really wanted to do Widespread Ocean of Fear (what a name), I decided to do one of the easier single pitch routes first. Ace of Diamonds was the chosen one as it had very kindly been chalked up by one of our team (nice work Andy). Trusting your feet is the key on this sort of angle and I certainly was more concerned with the footholds and staying in balance than searching for the next handholds. All in all it was a good experience and I was still keen for Widespread, but a very hot day, followed by a wet day meant we ran out of time. However, weíre already booked in for next September so itís top of my list for then. The route of the trip though was Wolfman Jack, what a fantastic climb on pristine granite.
We finished off the trip down south with a couple of days at Lower Sharpnose. Iíd had one day here in the early 90ís when E1 was my top grade so I was keen to get back. What an awesome place, just my type of climbing. Started off with Pacemaker which must be one of the best E5ís in the country, before seconding up Faye in the rain. The next day I rattled off 3 E4ís, all high quality, before the sea came back in. Shame there wasnít more of it.
Felt quite tired after 10 days of climbing so took the rest of the month off before our October trip to Red River Gorge, Kentucky.
Bit of a mixed month with a bit of everything thrown in. Malham got quite dry at the start of the month so I jumped on Zoolook. It came together well and I thought I might get it done but then two weeks later it was wet again, so frustrating. As I write this I believe itís dry again but with several trips lined up I havenít got the time (or energy) to get back on it, so it looks like I will have to leave it till the spring. Mixed in with the days in Yorkshire weíve enjoyed a few days at some of the quieter Northumberland crags. Here Iíve been working one of the harder lines, leading some Ďeasyí cracks and cleaning off some new boulder problems, quite a contrast which has been great. The month ended on a highlight though with a long weekend in Pembroke over the Bank Holiday. It was a very social weekend but also got some great routes done, with John Wayne and Headhunter being the hardest, but also found a couple of gems out at Stackpole/Mowing Word Ė Vladimir goes to Havana and The Olive Branch both excellent E4ís and worth seeking out. Off to Lundy for a week in September which Iím quite excited about, then Red River in the States at the end of the month so plenty to look forward to.
Well the dry weather certainly didnít arrive this month did it! Still with a week off work we had to go somewhere so decided to check out The Burren in Western Ireland. This venue had come highly recommended by Andy Long, which was cemented by a recent visit by Katherine Schirrmacher. Immaculate limestone sea cliffs up to 40m high awaited us, offering well protected and super sustained trad climbing. The majority of the routes follow thin crack lines so being a proficient jammer would help. However, I have to admit to my shame that jamming is something I tend to avoid so I felt a bit unnerved on the first few routes. Fortunately, my fitness was good so I was able to lace the cracks with gear which helped. Unfortunately the seepage due to all the rain the previous week became worse due to a couple of wet days and a poor forecast lead to us setting off home four days early. However, we enjoyed three good days on the crag with the highlights being my flash of the bold wall climb Ice Queen E5 6a and following Steve up the never-ending crack line of The Cutter E4 6a. Returned home to a very wet England and with a lot of work lined up decided to have a couple of easy weeks. Managed to get plenty of DIY jobs out of the way though which was good. The weather has now picked up again and the limestone is drying so time to hit the crags again.
Had a great start to my trad climbing season with a stunning week out on Mingulay and Pabbay. Got a week of unbroken sunshine and record temperatures, in fact it was so hot we couldnít climb till about 4ish but since itís light till after 11pm that wasnít so bad. Got a few E5ís under my belt which was great. Steve and I also added a new finish to an E6 we did a few years back. After heading back to work for a few days we drove back up to the far far NW of Scotland for a few days at Sheigra. We were lucky with the weather and enjoyed sunny, blustery conditions, ideal for seacliffs. Rattled off a few more E5ís one of which I think was a new route. Really psyched for some harder trad now but the weather has gone a bit rubbish really. Even the limestone is seeping which is always bad news. Fingers crossed for some drier, more settled weather.
Another fairly quiet month. Enjoyed a couple of days in Gordale reclimbing the Cave Routes (we tend to do them every year as they are fantastic) and a couple of very cold days at Kilnsey just getting in some mileage. Had a great week in Northern Spain. Visited Rodellar and was pleased to get Nanuk F7c first redpoint as couldnít actually do the crux moves last year. Then had a couple of days at PODís crag at Camasara aka The Jungle, ticking some of the classics. Was close to flashing Shere Khan F7c+/8a but in the end had to settle for first redpoint.
A quiet month really. Been working loads so havenít had much spare time. Had a few days out bouldering to some of the lesser known Northumberland venues, checking them over for the new bouldering guide. These included a couple of days at Kyloe Out (grabbed a flash of a nasty V6 mantle), Callerhues (one day was baltic, the next boiling) and a very enjoyable day up at Dove Crag, Simonside. Also very close to red-pointing a route at Malham, but need cool conditions so itís on hold for now.
Enjoyed a weeks trip out to the Costa Blanca. Hadnít been for 10 years so was keen to visit some different venues. Climbed for the full 7 days and grabbed a few more F7c on-sights so a successful week. Came home and went out and bought a van! Weíve been thinking about it for a while and decided to take the plunge. Spent the rest of the month re-structuring the garage to fit the van in, then working on the van itself Ė insulating and fitting it out. Looking forward to a few trips in it this summer.
Great start to the month with a two week trip out to Northern Spain. Although we had a few wet days the weather in the main was bright and sunny, just what we wanted. We started off with five days climbing at Montsant (near Siurana) to get some fitness going. What an awesome venue, stamina city, just pocket after pocket for 30m. I was pleased to find my fitness wasnít too bad and on-sighted up to F7c. Iím hoping to get back in November to try some of the harder routes. We then headed north to the awesome Les Bruixes, Terradets. Last time I was there I had a shoulder injury and was struggling on F7c+, so I was curious to see if I faired any better. In fact I did much better with one F8a+ dispatched first red-point and another 3rd red-point. I then spent a couple of days on an F8b, which was going well, but ran out of time and energy Ė one to go back for.
Had a great start to the new year when I managed to climb Cubbyís Lip Traverse at Kyloe ĖIn (V9). Itís been a goal for a while but was never strong enough until now. Also enjoyed a day down at Brimham where I played on The Anchor LH (must get back), got Pair in a Cubicle (V6) second go, and had a good attempt on íthe hardest V6 in the worldí (now reckoned to be V7) at the end of the day (another one to go back for). Off to Spain sports climbing next so will be interesting to see how my fitness is doing.
At last some dry weather, so got some days in on the crags. Down at Brimham I climbed The Anchor V7, whilst up at Bowden some superb weather before Christmas saw me grab Transformer Direct, The Mantelshelf, Main Wall low level traverse and a flash of Dog Eat Dog (all V6). Although nowhere near cutting edge bouldering, these were all important to me personally. Iím certainly not a strong boulderer and tend to go out and potter about; consequently, Iíve only done a handful of V6/7 problems previously. I now have several goals and would love some settled weather (wouldnít we all!) to try and get stuck in.
A disappointing month weather wise, with quite a bit of rain. Still I decided I needed to start training properly, so started building it up slowly to try and prevent injury. By the end of the month was definitely feeling stronger and managed some problems on the board Iíd never done before.
Had a great fortnightís climbing in Kalymnos, what a great climbing holiday venue. It offers climbing at every grade and angle, a lot of it within walking distance of the accommodation. An early start is recommended to grab some shade then when the sun comes round between 2-4pm you can head for the bar then the beach. Steve and I both managed to find some long, endurance routes so I was pleased to flash several F7cís. I tried a couple of F7c+ís but stamina and lack of self-belief let me down,
definitely a goal for next year.
Quite a frustrating month. Had plenty of time off work but hardly climbed due to shoulder injury. It was starting to improve by the end of the month so had a couple of trips down to Malham. Jumped on Zoolook and was pleased to discover could now do all the moves, so Iíve got a project for the spring.
After working the
Cold Steal extension during a very hot July my first cool day on the
route saw a successful redpoint. What a difference conditions make, the start
was far easier so was still quite fresh when I made it to the top of Cold Steal. There's a poor rest here before launching into a quite steep and
sustained section which leads to the large break and a good shake. I was pretty pysched when I made it here and knew I was going to do it. Just those last
couple of tricky moves past the last bolt then I was clipping into the chain. I
was pretty chuffed I can tell you. Since it was Steve's project which he passed
onto me the name Stolen seemed apt. As for the grade, well it's probably
F8b given the length and amount of climbing, however it may just be hard F8a+.
Hoping Arran Tonks will make a quick repeat and let me know!
Spent the next two weekends doing some bouldering and getting in some mileage on easier routes. Nice to take it easy after the intensity of having this project looming over you, and the weather was poor anyway (2 very wet weekends). August bank holiday saw us heading down to Pembroke for a week with a large squad from the north east. I was pretty pysched and had quite a long tick list. After a steady intoduction on the first day (isn't Suspense superb) we were warming up on Insignificance when I was hit by a block. In a way I was quite lucky as it hit my (fairly narrow) shoulder and not my head (I wasn't wearing a helmet). However, it put an end to my climbing plans for that week and even now (almost 3 weeks late) I'm still not climbing again. Still at least I'm still here - and I'll be wearing my helmet next time I'm down in Pembroke.
Spent most of this month either at Kilnsey or Blue Scar. Working on an extension to the F8a route Cold Steal at Kilnsey which is progressing well. At Blue repeating a lot of the easier trad routes as hoping to try a few of the harder ones, perhaps next month?
A good trad month which started with a trip out the Outer Hebridean Islands of Pabbay and Mingulay. Several days of amazing weather see a few E5 on-sights plus Steve and I grab a new route on Mingulay, an awesome new route, K&S Special 58m E6 6a on the Red Cliff, definitely the highlight of the trip. Return home psyched for some more trad climbing so have a couple of weekends in Gordale with plenty of mixed weather Ė very wet, very cold then too hot! Still, repeat many of the easier routes that Iíve done before just to get back my ĎGordale adventureí head, then get a flash on the bold ĎBurning Daylightí E6 6a.
Weather still good for bouldering and the Yorkshire limestone is wet so head out into Northumberland quite a bit. Shoulder much better now and strength is improving. Work my way through many of the classic problems at Hepburn, a venue Iíd hardly climbed at before but actually very good. Finish the month off with a good trip to Rodellar, Spain. Comfortably on-sighting F7b+, but wet tufas combined with 30 degree temperatures discouraged me from trying anything harder.
Started climbing a bit more frequently, mainly at the wall. Shoulder still sore at times but holding up okay so manage a few bouldering sessions outside. Really chuffed to get the fingery low level traverse of Hazelrigg Wall at Back Bowden (V7) done really quickly. Get the trad gear out and start on a VS but grab a couple of E3ís a few days later. You canít bet the feeling a good trad route gives you.
Spent most of the month not climbing but had another trip to Terradetes booked at the end of the month so again climbed every other day. Still on-sighting F7b+ and got a F7c and a F7c+ first red-point, but struggled to do some of the moves on the harder routes.
Not a good month, unfortunately. Turned up at the Blackburn BBC, discovered several months of not bouldering had done nothing for my power, and then made the day worse by partially dislocating my shoulder and tearing the deltoid muscle. This injury was to see me hardly climb for the next 2 months.
However, I already had a trip planned to Terradetes, Spain at the end of the month so went anyway and climbed every other day. Although shoulder was very sore surprised myself by still being able to on-sight several F7b+ís.
Had a great trip out to the Western Cape region of South Africa. Climbed around Cape Town on the steep sports routes as well as enjoying a superb day up on Table Mountain. Drove east to Oudtshoorn where I on-sighted the awesome 40m ĎLost Safarií 28/F7c, then moved back west and spent a few days at the sports climbing mecca of Montague. From here we drove north to the beautiful Cederberg Mountains for some mountain trad on superb sandstone. The highlights being ĎOceans of Airí 23 at Tafelberg and ĎCelestial Journeyí 22 at Wolfberg. Altogether a most enjoyable and successful trip.