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Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The One That Got Away

Most link ups are just an excuse to keep climbing on a bit of rock that you like. Sometimes they appeal because they present a hard physical challenge that has always seemed beyond your abilities. On the Pill Box the last link up has been staring me in the face for the last 6 years, something that should be attainable but at the same time feels like the next level. Straight after the crux of Drink Driving is a 4 move 7B+ up line with a crux last move off a wee crimper. I've never really felt in good enough shape to seige this link, in 2012 when i did the finish up Last Orders i had a few goes at finishing up Last Rites but never even managed the first move off a wide pinch. Fast forward to April this year and i was on a bit of ticking spree, i knew had to go and try the link. Sure enough i got through DD first go and for the first time managed the first move of Last Rites. I fell off tickling the crimp in amazement, this meant it was possible. For a couple more sessions i still had the magic on it, on my best day i greased off the last move and told myself i'd come back after a rest. I returned and just didn't feel as good and never have again since. For this thing i need to feel like a feather, it isn't a problem that's going to succomb to my usual siege tactic, if i feel really good i can get through DD but i need to feel amazing to have a chance on the whole link. So now i know it's possible but need to wait for another window of elevated form, pretty frustrating but i've learned one thing - always have another go!

Vid of my best attempt:

One that did go down, The Wire (great climbing):

A couple of other problems on the Box:

Sunday, 11 May 2014

More Gop Goodness

I love the Gop! In a world of technical wizadry, kneebars, cheeky heels and toes there is something refreshing about this hardcore little cave where tension and fingers are king. There's no getting around these problems, if your feet can't stick to the slopey feet and your fingers can't handle the small slopey crimps then move on! The occasional minimal toe hook is the only aid in progressing through this roof. Back in 2012 Dan Knight gave the crag its hardest problem. Paper Birds (8A+) was a hybrid line but with 3 nails moves it repelled all would be repeaters - until yesterday! Tom Newman had made a few recent visits and on his best attempts dropped the last hard move. Danny Cattell had also dropped this move a few times so it seemed like a repeat was finally on the cards. Tom returned yesterday to finish it off then a few hours later i went up with Danny and he did it too. The boys reckoned hard 8A+ for this beast. I'd recently spotted a few projects and i pointed Danny at the one on the right. This had a obvious start right on the back wall and came out through almost the widest part of the roof. He quickly worked out some beta and then much to our surprise he managed to pull it out the bag. He was a bit unsure about the grade but he was obviously having a strong day and was growling a fair bit so reckoned it was probably 8A. The name is Ken Masters (another streefighter reference) and is the Gops 6th grade 8. I did the moves on the other project, a low start to E Honda but both starting undercuts pulled off so that was that, gutted. The left hand undercut was also the starting toe hook on Blokesmoker Low. It makes it slightly more tensiony for tall people but adds a fair bit for shorties. Still no luck for me on Push the Button sit despite doing the original 3 times yesterday. I just can't do the crux climbing into it. E Honda 7B is excellent and well worth doing. The 7B to the right Streetfighter has lost holds so is an unknown quantity now. Long live the Gop!

Film of Paper Birds, ken Masters and others:

Some old news from Trem - Ned Feehally linked Enter the Dragon into 36 sitter. Enter the Chamber is still 8A+ because you get a resting kneebar on the starting tufa of 36. He also climbed into 22 Chambers from the sit position of Iron Flag to give 7th Chamber 7C+.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Last Proj's

Warmer times have arrived and it's all steam ahead on the sport crags. I don't think there will be as many new routes as previous years this time around but there are still plums out there for the lucky ones. I've been lucky enough over the last few years to do every route i've bolted bar two. The Big Crunch will quite possibly be the hardest route in Wales so i see that one more as my gift to the Orme rather than something i'd have chance on. Pete Robins is making good progress however and with a bit of luck he might get it this year. My other project is a link up at Llanddulas that i bolted in 2011. It is a link up of Last Crusade and Temple of Gloom but the hard bit is a new section in the middle of the roof of about 7/8 moves. I'd figured out the first hard move but couldn't suss the rest and only had a couple of attempts over the next few years. My seige of Parisellas culminated in In Hell and In Heaven, the two hardest bits of climbing i'd done so it seemed like a good time to get back on the roof. I started to figure out a sequence and was it definitely felt more feasible this year. It was still damn hard however and i still couldn't link the crux moves. One day i'd had a quick go on Liquid Ambar in the morning then headed to the proj with Tommy and Sausage. I may have had a sequence but i still couldn't do it. Liquid Ambar genuinely felt like a more feasible proposition. I was on the verge of giving up again. I couldn't link the new section on it's own and it was in the middle of the roof with the redpoint crux of Temple still to come at the end. Pete Robins asked to have a go and i thought it would be a good idea to get some help with it. Pete came up with some wacky contorted sequence which he reckoned was Font 7C+. It lit my fire a bit and i returned with fresh ideas and motivation. The next few sessions i made great progress. I found a crucial kneebar rest before Temple which would mean the fitness aspect was not quite as obscene. It's a bomber knee with a pad but your toe is on a smear in the roof so it's quite intense and you can't chill for as long as you'd like. The crucial moment came when i tried some madcap beta for the crux and hey presto it worked. It amazes me how often this happens on a new bit or rock. You think you've tried everything, can't find a nice way to do it then some amazing method that fits you well comes from nowhere. Now i could link from the first hard move after Last Crusade through to the kneebar. This was getting exciting! The obvious thing to do would be to do that link to the end of the route so i sussed out the end of Temple again and found more efficient beta than 4 years ago when i did the FA. This is a perfect hard project for me- my style, 10 minutes from home, an FA, all but for one little detail which has really dampened my sprits. Two of the slots on Temple seem to be perma-wet these days. I know it's only April but i have little optimism about their drying prospects as they were wet in July last year when Tommy did Temple. They are greasy, minging little bastards and they're really spoiling my fun at the moment. Add to that the fact that two more holds have become weirdly greasy and i'm struggling to know what to do for the best. I can only hope things improve as i'm going to need a lot of sessions to have a chance on this thing this year and i can't hold wet grips. Despite the adversity i'm obsessed my this thing, it's fuckin meaty and amazing. I love looking back from Temple at this cool groove line dissecting the big roof.

Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Spray 2nd Ascent

3 years ago Sam Cattell developed a little area on the West Shore side of the Orme down on the beach. He put up some decent problems but by far the best and most significant was a burly roof affair which he christened The Spray. The Spray is a really pure hard bloc and has received little attention since the FA. Globetrotter Dave Mason is keen on seeking out the esoteric gems as well as crushing global classics and this problem had long been on his radar. On his first day in Wales he popped to Craig Pont-y-Pant (aka Rhiw Goch) and made a casual flash of Lightweight(8A) and Badgers in The Mist(7C). It's worth noting that Ride the Wild Smurf is at least the same grade as Lightweight if not harder so probably deserves 8A too. He then dashed over to Maes Newyddion and did the first flash of Roof of a Baby Buddha (7C+). Next day we headed down to West Shore to try The Spray. Floppy Chris had been down recently and reckoned the starting holds may have suffered some storm damage. It certainly wasn't how I remembered it and Mule's right hand first sequence seemed unfeasible. We won't know for sure unless the man himself goes down for a look. Anyway for Dave it was obvious that going left hand first would be the way. After some huffing and puffing to even get off the ground he started slapping for a slopey edge just before the jug. He busted it out eventually and kept it together on the next tricky moves and topped out. He reckoned 8a+ for pure burl factor and I think he's on the money. Just getting off the ground is desperate.

Dave finished off his trip with Sway On (8A), Mr Fantastic (8A) and 14 Years Later and Fish Pie (both 7C+). Not a bad few days work!

I've had a productive couple of weeks ticking some good boulders and opening my routes account with Simon Says (8a) and Meaty Madness (8a+). Meaty Madness at Dyserth Waterfall is a link up but it's a bloody brilliant bit of climbing. The first roof on Meatsville Arizona is harder and even better since the juggy break fell off. I also managed In Hell which is my hardest bouldering tick, definitely harder than In Life. Hard 7C+ into hard 7C with no breather. Some vids of other stuff:


Lizard King, a gem of the Llanberis Pass:

Friday, 14 March 2014

New Robins Routes and a bit of Gop

Pete Robins has hit the ground running this year with a couple of tasty new routes on the Little Orme. First he climbed a new 8a+ at the Allotment just before the bird ban kicked in. This crag has some impressive projects but is bird banned March til August and then most head to the Diamond. On Craig-y-Don Upper he climbed a new line through the impressive roof at 8b. "Funky, cruxy with great holds and moves" was his assessment. Bit gutted I didn't check that one out myself.
Some photos by Paula Roberts:

I had a good sesh at the Gop with Danny C. He's looking on top form at the mo. He despatched the 2nd ascent of Dan Knights nails 8A link from Blokesmoker SS into Smoke a Bloke. You won't see many harder 8As than this. He very nearly did Dan's other nails testpiece Paper Birds 8A+ but had to rush off to work. The crag classic Push the Button is considered 7C+ these days but you can still get an 8A tick by doing it from a sitter.

Harder Gop problems:

Paper Birds 8A+ (Dan Knight)
Blokesmoker SS/Smoke a Bloke 8A (Dan Knight)
Smoke a Bloke SS 8A (Dan Knight)
Blokesmoker SS 8A (Danny Cattell)
Push the Button SS 8A (Dan Knight)
Danny's Smoke a Bloke Eliminate 7C+ (Danny Cattell)
Push the Button 7C+ (Mule Cattell)
Smoke a Bloke 7B+ (Danny Cattell)

Friday, 28 February 2014

Enter The Sweetcorn

2014 has pretty much been an abject washout so far. I had plans to get into the hills bouldering but record levels of precipitation put pay to that. All is not lost in these times in North Wales however. The much maligned Parisella's Cave really comes into its own in wet periods (whilst the naysayers are stuck indoors). It wasn't perfect, i couldn't try The Wire which i thought would be my next project in there. Instead i was forced right into the back trying In Hell/Life start which I'd never had much luck on in the past. With not much else going on i stuck with it and eventually started to make progress. It's 7c+/8a just to get to the Rocka jug and then you have a choice of 7c's- Rockatrocity or the Cave Life arch. On one magic go i finally got through the start and fell kicking onto left wall. This happened one more time before I went back after a bit of a rest and despatched. It's probably my hardest problem, vid here:

The weather has been on the up and it's starting to feel nice enough to get the rope out. I went out to Dyserth Waterfall to do some easy's and ended up playing on the arete between Rhubarb Wall and Strawberries Man. The crux round the base of the arete climbed really well and the top arete was easy but nice. It looks a bit squeezed in but climbs independently as Rhubarb Wall climbs to the left of the bolts and you're locked in on the arete anyway. I went back the next day to bolt it then went back again today to lead it. I forgot how new routes can make you feel excited, it doesn't need to be a major line. The name is Sweetcorn Man (some people will know what this refers too) and i reckon 7b+ish. Waterfall is a great crag if the temps are a bit low as it is sheltered and gets the sun.

I then went on to Tremeirchion to film Danny C on his lastest project. I had spotted the potential for a right hand sitter to 22 Chambers and tipped Danny off. He worked it out and had about 5 sessions redpointing on it. The crux is a slap out left to the flatty on 22 but then you're straight into the two crux moves of 22. I knew he had been close and so was hoping to capture it on camera. After one go to get him going Danny grabbed the crux move and stretched his fingers into the backhand. The horrendous 'piano match' followed and a sketchy top out to a high jug on the arete. The problem is called Enter the Dragon(8a+) and is a great companion to 36 Sit. It's cool to think of all the stuff that's been going on on the Lleyn and comparing it to stuff like this. I think diversity is what makes North Wales bouldering special. Hurry up with that guide Panton!


Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year!

With work, rain and injury I haven't had much chance to get out on the Welsh boulders recently but I did manage the 3rd ascent of this neo-classic at Tremeirchion:

The sitter to 36 Chambers is in my opinion one of the finest limestone problems in the country. It starts on a big chunky tufa and about four long moves lead into the stand up. The rock is bullet proof high quality limestone, the holds are lovely and it is very involved and continuous. It finishes on a jug at about 5/6 metres, the only thing it lacks is a top out. Danny Cattell made the first ascent of both the stand and the sit. He gave both 7c+(!) at the time but the stand has settled at 7c and most people think the sit is worth 8a. Strong long man Tom Newberry made the 2nd ascent of the sit in a fleeting visit in 2012. I'd always had aspirations to do the sit start but always struggled to repeat the stand let alone get it wired. The breakthrough came through sheer persistence and working out a more secure way of doing the last hard move. For most this move is slappy and accurate and you could fall there forever but I managed to put my long legs to good use and get them on the only positive foothold about. I started to feel pretty good and getting through the start consistently meant it was soon in the bag. The new beta on the top made me think it could be 7c+ for me but it is likely still 8a for the average sized man. James Noble made the 4th ascent last week and reckoned it was similar in difficulty and quality to Alphane Moon (an 8a problem in Chironico). I haven't had much chance to get out since and on Boxing Day I was scraping my windscreen when something went twang in my back. My whole middle was knackered and I couldn't even take deep breaths. So now I'm playing the waiting game praying it sorts itself out soon. I find it more than ironic that you can spend your life clinging to steep rock with little problem but can fuck yourself standing still moving your arm in a straight line!

Only a few months to go until we can dust off the ropes again and get back on the main meat. There's still at least 8 more 8cs and above for the bumpy boys to go at on the North Wales lime. I'm pretty excited about the arrival (hopefully!) of two new long awaited guidebooks to my favourite areas. Pete Harrison is coming to the end of 3 and a half years glued to his laptop putting all the passion and energy of recent times into a new North Wales lime guide. Knowing what a perfectionist he is I expect it will not disappoint. He's been going out his way to get specific photos and old areas re-equipped to make the guide the best it can possibly be. A lot has gone on in the last 4 years and this will be showcased in the new guide.
Also on the horizon is the second edition of the North Wales Bouldering guide. Panton has really mastered his craft now so expect a beautiful piece of work showcasing 8 more years of development. In fact the release date is probably dependent on him drawing a line under continued development cos as the old saying goes 'it never ends'....

Hope we get another classic summer and the crags are bustling with hangdoggers doing their thing.