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Friday, 16 September 2016

Siege Pt 2 - The Holy Grail

After last years solitary blog post documenting a summer getting spanked on my roof project at Llanddulas I guess I should finish the story. The grand plans for a winter of specific training didn't quite materialise as I spent the whole time working away. I was going Kendal wall 2/3 times a week so i was getting the training in but didn't have much chance to set replicas etc.. On weekends I had a day in Parisella's trying to repeat In Heaven, Pilgrim and Halfway House. Ally put up a new route extension to Parisella's Original which I managed Trigger Cut and later Halfway House into. This was a good confidence boost and I headed to Dulas early April for the first sesh. I repeated my biggest link straight away which was a good sign. This was from move 13 but I knew this year I would have to try and do a bigger link to build confidence. Logically speaking it's good to do these big links on a redpoint project. However it sometimes feels hard to summon the psyche needed to make yourself try that hard when you're not actually going from the start. It's easy to just tell yourself you might aswell go from the start when your psyche might carry you through. Jerry was the king at doing these big links prior to redpointing and consequently he often did things with minimal redpoints. Not only are you building up strength, muscle memory and getting a feel for the last moves when you're tired but it also helps to keep the redpoint stress down. So I started trying it from the 3rd bolt 9 moves in. After a few sessions I stuck the crux a few times but fell getting into the kneebar. The breakthrough came with Mick Lovatt one day when I managed from the 3rd bolt right to the end. I also managed from slightly lower through the crux and almost into the kneebar. This was a really important sesh and I felt like I should definitely do it this year especially as I was still heavy after a winter of morale boosting garbage intake. It was time for redpoints, I was back at square one from the ground though. The stopper move still felt a mile off most goes, even the set up move before felt hard sometimes. After a few sessions of this I started to get sacked with it again. After my last redpoint one day I pulled back up to the crux and desperately searched for something, anything to make it more high percentage. In what seemed like a eureka moment I found a new bit of beta that made it easier to get the pocket (but with the other hand). The only problem was it made the next moves sorting yourself out a bit harder. The new beta was more complex but seemed higher percentage than the nightmare move. I spent a few more days trying it from the start and experimenting. Although I got the pocket a few times I never managed to bring my left hand in. Back in Parisella's i was still improving and surprised myself by getting up Director's Cut - a problem I never thought I'd do. Surely I could scrape my way up the roof now. The crunch session came in early July, I was having redpoints with the new beta but just didn't feel with it. The whole thing was a slog and I didn't want to be there. The new beta was more fuckin about and more tricky moves to fall off. I'd done the start so many times the thought of doing it again filled me with dread. I literally couldn't climb it well anymore and wasn't in the right headspace at all. After looking like it was going to happen earlier in the year I resigned myself to leaving it. I didn't know if I would try it again that year or if ever. I started bouldering about at different places, developed a crag x in the Clwyd with Danny and kept popping into Parisellas. I also started doing a bit more training, some max hangs and physically i started to feel better and better. I decided to optimistically try and link Director's into Almost Familiar as it was a stress free project and I could just clip into the rope if i got there. I just needed a stand by belayer. One day i managed to get up Director's again. I made a few moves into the route but came off totally boxed. This could happen if i could refine the beta a bit. I worked out that move then a few days later got through it again but fell on the big crossover on the lip. Once again I pulled back up and found a better way. Next time I got there I knew I'd have a good chance. Sure enough the new beta saw me get to the end a few days later. I'd just climbed a meaty new thing that I never would have thought was possible a few months earlier yet I felt strangely dissatisfied. In my mind I'd failed on the main goal and although this was a nice consolation prize I knew i had to get back to the Dulas for one last look. A few weeks later I made it up with Norm. Immediately it felt better, my mind was refreshed and confidence was high. First redpoint I greased off the crux but on the next I stuck the move. A few foot moves later I found myself in the kneebar for the very first time. It's always surreal when you get to a highpoint after trying something for so long. It can be quite hard to concentrate on the job in hand. It almost feels a bit out of body. As i fought to get my breathing down and shake my arms I just prayed that the end holds of Temple were dry. A few moves later I grabbed the draw as I didn't have enough strength to clip it. Desspite this I was over the moon, i knew it was possible. All summer I had thought back to that session when I did it from the 3rd bolt with the original beta. next go I got through all the hard climbing to the last few moves before the ledge. I was on decent holds but I had nothing left and came off (smacking my arse on the ledge at the bottom). Although elated with this session I was off away for 3 weeks in just over a week and it was due to get hot again. I came back two days later, the roof was in much better condition as it was colder and I knew I had to make the most of it. I didn't feel that great but first redpoint I found myself on those finishing moves again but this time I had strength to spare. After doing the last big finishing move up to the ledge I screamed like a banshee. This was the moment I had dreamed about. Stood on the ledge before cruising up Zoidberg one last time. I got my top out into the light (I can almost see my house from up there). Somehow I'd come through the hardest mental challenge of my climbing life. In the end it wasn't really the seige that won the day. The route had only succombed when I'd raised my level. In the end I'd somehow got stronger than the route. I did the route 4th redpoint after the two month break and had managed the 'stopper' move 3 times out of 4. I think there's a lesson in there somewhere kids! Thinking back to when I was 17 when I used to scour the 97 Rockfax looking for a new route to do I was now pretty happy with my tally. 27 new routes from 7c to 8c and 15 8's. Onto the next...

Final Cut:

The Holy Grail:

Wednesday, 15 June 2016


Back in 2008(?) Liam 'Leeroy' Desroy almost completed a riduclously hard piece of climbing in the UK's temple of link ups Parisella's Cave. The Cave has obvious potentially for such ridiculously sustained bits of climbing but most the beasts of the UK probably aren't good enough and they definitely don't care enough to put the time into doing any of them. Leeroy fell off the last moves of the In Hell/Clyde link up before he became perennially injured and lost interest. This would have been the hardest problem of it's type in the UK linking a tough endurance 8A+ into a short stopper 8A+. Leeroy was definitely ahead of his time there and it's a terrible shame he didn't finish it. Fast forward to 2016 and a fortunate bit of bad weather forced the blonde German global wad that is Alex Megos into Parisella's for two days in a row. Alex's performances have appeared to suggest he is right at the top of the tree certainly in sport climbing. First guy to onsight 9a, Biographie in 3 goes (!!!) and Action Directe in 2 hours. I had to see him in the Cave so i headed over Friday evening. By the time i got there he'd already done Malc's Start in the Pass and Directors Cut in the Cave. He then did the second ascent of East Coker in a few goes before finishing with Louis Armstrong (in a few goes). This was different to other wads I'd seen in there over the years. Usually even proper beasts haven't totally destroyed the place on their first session as there is a lot to learn and a lot of tricky beta. The difference with Alex was that these were not hard problems for him, it didn't matter if he hadn't found the tricks or the most efficient beta as he was well within his comfort zone on these tricky 8Bs. I did a little rain dance that night and luckily he was forced back into there the next day. What could a man with that much strength and fitness do to a place like that. He racked his brain and decided linking Louis Armstrong into Halfway House would be suitable challenge for the day and of course he did it with minimal drama. This is what the top level looks like now folks, all the strong people (some of them world class) I'd seen climb over the years seemed somewhat behind the pace compared to the level Alex was demonstrating. Anyway if he makes it back one day Louis Cut could do with a sit start. The hardest option being the start to In Hell (hard 7C+). There's certainly plenty of potential 8B+ and 8Cs in there but they will probably never get done. What about In Hell/Louis A/Bonnie Extension, 8C+ anybody?. And Alex you are forgiven for jibing LPT, we'll put that down to youthful blip (and going down on a gop freezing day). You're welcome to marry my sister anyday.

Here he is on Louis Cut:

Sunday, 8 November 2015


First and last post of 2015! The old blog, it's nice to look at the old posts as it documents a frenzied period of development on the North Wales lime. I can't really be bothered with it these days but I feel the need for a cathartic vent about this year's siege. After spending the first half of the year ticking some boulder problems and sieging Enter the Dragon at Trem I got back on longstanding link project at Llanddulas. After dispatching Raiders in good time last year it seemed like the time to finally try and crack the beta on the crux section. I bolted this section back in 2011 but never really came up with a decent sequence on the crux move.
In April I rigged up a little tension line between two of the bolts and sat there for a while trying to come up with something. One thing I'm good at is doggedly trying the same move over and over even when all hope has seemingly evaporated. On the rope I managed to reach the good pocket before the kneebar using a dropknee. This seemed like a goer but i needed to return with a belayer to try it properly. On my return I found it couldn't get to the intermediate to do it that way but I could just about go from further back although it was a much bigger, faster move. By mid May I had done this move into Temple and through the last hard move, encouraging progress. The next goal was to do it from the start of the crux section to the end. I was buzzing over it now, the sequence really flowed, 7 hand moves to the kneebar then 11 moves to the ledge. One day at the end of May I pulled up the rope to try the link, I took my weight on the tiny 3 finger backhand then 'crack'. I let go instantly, my finger had gone off like a shotgun. It sounded like a classic ruptured pulley. I sacked it off and spent the next week depressed, just as I was getting somewhere i had to stop, maybe for the year. After a few weeks my finger felt surprisingly good, this didn't seem like a pulley rupture after all. Easy routes felt fine and I started to think I could be back on the proj after all. It became apparent that it had been a ganglion cyst that went pop and not my pulley. I was still a bit hurt, as this was still traumatic to the tendon but at least I could climb.
By July it was feeling pretty good, I did a new 7c+ at Dulas and started working a harder one that I'd bolted in February. Pete Robins was waiting for the Diamond so he started coming and set about working Raiders, 8b+. I was a bit worried he was going to piss it as he has most of my routes but in the end it took him 7 sessions, only a few less than me on the FA. I finally worked out my bouldery project and got lucky one go. Dick Dastardly seemed Font 7c+ but it is very short so 8a+/b seemed appropriate.

Pete on the 2nd ascent of Raiders:

Yankee Doodle Pigeon and Dick Dastardly:

I'd done my two projects and my finger had done some hard boning so I got back on the big one. I soon got the big link I'd hurt myself trying. The start of the crux section where it leaves Last Crusade to the end. It was 13 steep moves to get to this point, i had no idea what the hard moves would be like from the start but it was time to start redpointing. Pete had bolted a project coming out of Wirral Whip so I could still rely on him for a belay. On my 2nd session I got the roll over to the sloper and was slapping out to the good pocket on the crux. Little did I know what a twat this move was going to turn out to be...
My work had dried up so i had to take a job in Guernsey, a lovely little number for most people but a bit frustrating for a man who's just started redpointing. Luckily i managed to do some nice bouldering and training while i was away but it meant 3 weeks off the route. Through the end of August into September I felt closer and closer to the crux but didn't stick it. It's move 19 on the route so it's quite far in and the type of move made it a nightmare on the link. My feet were over to the right on a smeary vertical bit and my hands right next to each other. In a really quick timing move your left hand slaps way out left to the pocket. It's timing, body positioning and execution. When I got there on redpoint I have a split second to execute and if I didn't do it right I was off. Yep my project had stopper move and I could get there feeling fresh and strong and still drop it. This is a mentally hard style for a route.
The breakthrough came on redpoint sesh 12, now October. I finally stuck the crux, my left foot came off and I lost my sequence and fell off but I was screaming with joy. In the back of my mind though i had a sneaky suspicion that just because I'd done it once it didn't mean it would become a regular occurrence. I did actually manage it again on my next sesh but for the next few weeks went backwards physically and mentally. All of a sudden I was nowhere near the move and even the set up move was feeling hard. I don't think you've truly redpointed until you've gone backwards on something and experienced the mental turmoil that comes with spending so many days falling off one move. It really is hard, it's widely known that redpointing at your limit is the hardest gig in climbing. After ten days when all the excitement has gone and it's become a slog, that's when you really have to dig deep. I played around on the beta, desperate to make it feel easier again. Throughout the year I'd used Parisellas to train for it with it being similar in style. I upped the ante of my training and even replicated the crux on the board. I trained more days on and took 2 rest days after. Just over week ago i stuck the crux again, this time getting a few foot moves further. The next moves are tensiony on shit feet as you climb into the kneebar. It turns out they felt horrendous from the start when your core was sapped. I was happy though and felt like i had cracked the training formula. This is when real life reared it's head again and with the prospect of working away til Christmas and with the weather turning I decided to take my draws out for the year.
Although disappointing i have to remember that at the start of the year i didn't even have a doable sequence on the crux and I managed to stick the move 3 times from the start (out of probably 70 attempts!). I got the thing dialled, learned how to train for the crux and that I needed more tension for the next moves. It's a bit dismaying to think there's 11 more moves from the kneebar to the end but they are a lot higher percentage, easier resistance climbing which suits me. For next year I need burl to stick the crux, tension to get into the kneebar then meaty power endurance to get to the ledge. I know it's pretty hard so I can't be too disappointed. It's 8A to stick the crux and get to the kneebar and then you have to do the 2nd half of Temple. On a good day i could do Pilgrim or In Heaven (the hard way) in the Cave yet only made it half way along the Dulas proj. My only concern is that I may have to deal with wet holds in the first half of next year. The crux hold gets a bit damp, it's a shame I had a dip in October when it was dry and mint and I had time.
And to the callous, thieving little twat who nicked my draws, I hope your head falls off.
Footage of my best go, on my last session:

Pete's project which became Turbo Terrific 8b, should be popular this:

Sunday, 5 October 2014

The Guide is Here (part 2)

I asked principal author Pete Harrison a few questions about the whole ordeal:

4 years later and the jobs done! How does it feel to have the finished product in your hand? Elation or just relief?

It feels awesome, a satisfying elixir of elation and relief! If I could synthesize the feeling into handy pill form I’d take one every day for the rest of my life.
When you took this project on did you appreciate the true scale of the task and if not when did the enormity of it sink in?
No, I didn’t appreciate the scale, and if I had I probably wouldn’t have started! I was so naïve starting out. The 1st year was all optimism, learning and excitement at seeing rudimentary topos and descriptions taking form on the pages of the InDesign software – when I look back now my early efforts look terrible. The 2nd year was still naïve optimism but by the end of this year it dawned on me how big a task this was going to be. The 3rd year was a hard grind with lots of dog-days of despair, including despair at not being able to climb due to a long-term back problem. By the 4th year I was running on fumes mentally, and I picked up lots of niggly climbing injuries whist trying to get back into climbing following an operation I’d had on my back the autumn before. I think the niggly injuries were partly a result of just being mentally exhausted from working hard to finish the book and partly a classic case of starting climbing again after a long lay-off. Things are all good now though, finally.

What were the main challenges/headaches during the process?

Well as a complete beginner to the process there were lots. Learning the finer details of InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop was tricky - I must have spent hundreds of hours reading online tutorials on how to achieve some subtle design effect which most people won’t even notice.
Trying to write and do design at the same time. I learned that for me it’s almost impossible to combine design/layout type tasks with writing – like the challenge of rotating your foot clockwise and drawing a number 6 in the air with your finger (your foot reverses to anticlockwise) - the two processes demand more than my limited ‘processor’ could handle at once.
Alan James’ domineering approach to all things guidebooks was initially a headache, which quickly turned into an advantage that spurred me on to prove that you don’t need to be rockfax to produce a visually appealing guide, whilst still remaining definitive and properly researched. Actually the BMC and others have already proved you can have your cake and eat it, and I used these as the model to aim for.

Although this was a mainly a joint effort by you and Andy how important was the local scene in checking routes/providing information/cleaning and equipping etc?

Very important, the guide is a sum of the knowledge of many local climbers. That said, it was very difficult to get feedback for a lot of out-of-the-way stuff. Other than Andy and me, three people probably did 70% of the route-checking. Almost everybody wants and appreciates a good definitive guidebook, with up-to-date, accurate and inspiring content, however - despite me preaching the merits of definitive guides - the bottom line is hardly anybody wants to do the legwork necessary to produce one. People just want to go climbing, which is understandable. In theory it should be simple to organise some fact-checking, I mean it’s only collecting fairly basic information, but it isn’t easy in practice. I think a lot of climbers are relatively conservative and, dare I say it, self-interested by nature - it’s hard to persuade people to do something different to their usual climbing routine, like check a route - any route(!) - for the sake of the ‘greater good’ of having accurate guidebook descriptions or grades. They might want to try to onsight it the future! So you need either: an ego-less bumbly who doesn’t mind abbing routes to check details; or, better: a wad with an appreciation of what’s required to produce a definitive guidebook (and the willingness to help) who can just rock up and climb most routes. I’m not ego-less, and there are quite a few routes I didn’t want to abb inspect. Luckily we had said wad - in the form of Pete Robins – who knows what it takes to produce a definitive guide. Most of the recent definitive guidebooks in N.Wales have been greatly improved by Pete’s route-checking, script writing and willingness to help. When he stops being a great climber he’ll make a great guidebook author (incentive to never stop being good then). Tim Neill also deserves special mention – so many routes climbed and so much feedback volunteered. Tim and Pete’s efforts improved immensely the quality of this guide. (you did a great job with the history btw Chris!). All the chapter contributors did a great job.
Part of a guidebook’s job is to encourage people, give them more options. I think we’ve done a good job of giving people more options to consider on NW Limestone, but I do feel like I failed to highlight a few of the more esoteric and harder routes, mostly this is down to not being able to do it all myself - I had too much to do at times, as well as being out of action for a large chunk after surgery - and sometimes it was down to other people not stepping up to the plate. Routes such as the two E6s on the Gwynt either side of Psychic didn’t even have someone ab them to check the pegs/description; I did ask! Checking’s important because most (not all) climbers go for the knowns over the unknowns – few want to quest onsight up unchecked E6s with potentially crucial but potentially untrustworthy 30-year old pegs. The continuing popularity of trad climbing, about which some people get quite zealous, relies on people wanting to repeat the routes if they aren’t to become ignored and forgotten about. Good E6s and harder that aren’t just bold are a limited resource - especially on limestone where the climbing style and rock more often suits sport climbing. So I think it’s important to do all you can to look after precious trad routes by checking and highlighting the good ones (as well as look after the sport routes by using proper equipment). It’s not rocket science why some trad climbs get attention while others slip into obscurity and never get repeats, and new routes are a very limited resource in this country.
Re-equipping work. It’s been the lifeblood which has revitalised the NW Limestone area. What can you say – 99% of climbers will never know much about it. I noticed the rubbish state of the fixed gear in the area when I got back in 2008 from 4 years spent living in Canada. Out there, climbers seem to have more of a can-do attitude – like ‘I can drive an hour into a wilderness, then hike another 1.5 hours to a cliff, develop a sick sport route and use proper equipment’. Back home in the UK, there were so many cliffs 5 minutes from the road with 2and 3 star routes which had been consigned to the scrapheap and forgotten about. It’s an attitude full of negativity, but one that’s a result of what went before. It’s a shame that so much unsustainable junk was placed by climbers on routes during the 70s, 80s and 90s that, around here, it has required a small band of local climbers to dedicate countless thousands of hours over the last 20 years to re-equip many hundreds of routes, time that could have been spent climbing instead. Sometimes it seems like clearing up someone else’s shoddy work. It isn’t black and white though, people weren’t aware in the 70s and perhaps the early 80s… but later on they were – Dave Lyon was placing stainless bolts in the early 90s which are bomber today, but very few others bothered, we know who you are! 
And re-equipping thousands of mild steel bolts is enough to turn anyone against pegs on trad routes – placing and leaving pegs is just littering routes with unsustainable junk that rapidly rusts; just so a climber could climb it with an acceptable margin of safety and claim a route. It isn’t my idea of how to play the trad game. Even when winter climbing most of us try our best to remove pegs on second and I’d say about 95% of the time succeed - of course we have the tools to do so - but so should rock climbers really if they were (or are) considering placing pegs, I can’t think of a reasonable justification for leaving rusting junk all over the cliffs, although I can think of justifications related to ego.

How important was it to you to do justice to the more esoteric/ adventurous areas on the Ormes?

Ha well as the above suggest, very important. The remote cliffs are just as good as LPT/Pen Trwyn. It’s just that Pen Trwyn is so roadside and convenient and most people are so lazy – you have to drive right past loads of good climbing to get to the Lighthouse area on the Orme – and you can’t even see the cliffs! Also it’s a reflection of how time-pressed are a lot of people - a sign of the times - life in the UK is harsh on the poor in a way it didn’t used to be, better work hard…hmmm.
I’ve loved exploring the more remote cliffs and I made it one of my aims to try to showcase the areas away from Pen Trwyn/LPT. The afternoon/evening light on some of these cliffs is magical, as is the climbing.

How important was it to you to get the guide out in App format too?
It just made sense to me, the handheld device formats are only going to get more popular so why wouldn’t you go in that direction? Well, one good reason would be if you had to develop an App framework yourself. But luckily you don’t - there already exists a high quality App guidebook platform - Steve Golley has produced a fantastic App framework for any publisher to enter their books into: TheSend App. Most climbers probably won’t have heard much about TheSend Apps - Steve’s not the self-promoting type, but hopefully he won’t need to be in the next year or so when people see how good a product he’s built. Although, the owner of the most popular climbing discussion forum/climbing news website in the UK is determined to control the message and dominate the market, by promoting his own rockfax products and encourage online discussion about them while censoring any discussion of ‘competitors’ products from his forum on the pretext of not promoting commercial products - oh the irony!
I don’t think that’s a healthy environment, because a lot of people believe forum’s like these are an open discussion. But that’s one of the outcomes when you have discussion forums run by a business – it’s entirely justifiable, in business terms, to work the market (i.e. the users of a discussion forum that you’ve built) to your advantage, and for better or worse climbing is now seen by some as a lucrative marketplace.

The last 5 years have been frantic on North Wales lime. What have been the personal highlights for you and how much better shape would you say the area is in now?

Yeah lots of new routes to keep up with – you did pretty well for yourself! The NW lime area – away from Pen Trwyn and LPT - can now be appreciated by climbers of all abilities without the previously common experience of going to a supposedly great route, away from the honey pots (and even on LPT or PT), and finding it to be full of rusted non-stainless junk. There are so many good climbs to (re)discover.
Personal highlights? Too many to list, but I think the cover shot of the new guide sums up a personal highlight of climbing on NW lime – 30 metres up a new route you’ve created, on an adventurous cliff in a wonderful setting off the beaten path, that you’d wondered about whether it would be possible to create something on, in the golden evening glow with the sound of the sea crashing and the seagulls squawking!
Small things, like re-equipping a good route which hasn’t been climbed in twenty years – it’s almost as good as doing a new route; seeing LPT become popular again; Dyer getting his finger out and putting up the first ascents of Megalopa, The Brute and Dumpster Divers in one week; Pete repeating every hard route in the area except two (so far) and establishing his own raft of hard classics - route after route at 8b to 8c+ - has anyone matched him for volume of hard new routes in the UK in recent years? Seeing Dave Lyon and Norm Clacher getting psyched by the new guide for new-routing – what a pair of enduring leg ends!; opening up the Diamond with a novel approach and seeing it develop each season; and I’ve loved doing every new route because it always feels like an exciting creative process with a satisfying and tangible end result. A bit like creating a new book!

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

The Guide Is Here!! (part 1)

I never thought I'd see the day! 17 years after the last guide to the area we finally have a shiny new book packed full of all the developments and inspiring pictures to boot. Four years ago when I found out Rockfax were going to produce a new North Wales lime guide I was initially pretty chuffed. It was badly needed as the previous edition came out in 1997, a lifetime in climbing terms. I was less chuffed when I found out the guide wasn't going to be definitive. Like many people I believe the decline of definitive guidebooks would be a trend that would be detrimental to our historic areas. Not long after Rockfax announced their intentions to produce a new edition I heard about the bolt funds proposal to produce it's own guide to the area with all the proceeds going straight back into the fund that preserves many of our great crags. This seemed like a no brainer to me, the bolt fund guide would utilise the extensive knowledge of the many activists who'd been climbing in the area for many many years. It had the potential to galvanise the local scene and promote the continued work out there on the crags. New routing, re-equipping, bringing some old areas back to life and making the area a better place to play. Of course most the work in guidebook production is sat on a chair staring at a computer screen and to make a product that was on a par with some of the excellent guides that have come out of the UK in recent years was going to be some challenge. Mr Motivator himself, Pete Harrison was the man at the helm. Pete (with no previous design experience) was about to take a crash course guidebook production. He set about learning the basics of the various design software before fully immersing himself in the massive task. An optimistic 2 year release date had been pencilled in but it was soon apparent that this would be someway short of the reality. Pete had a full time job and his own climbing aspirations at the crag. The emails would come in at a regular pace, requests for re-equipping and route checking. Even getting people to pose for photos on specific routes wasn't easy. Pete had a vision for his guide, getting the exact shots to highlight lesser trod classics was important as was making the book as well researched as it could reasonably be. Andy Boorman was Pete's right hand man and invaluable to the whole process. He was out at the crags clipboard in hand and back home sending over text for Pete to process. As the years ticked by Pete's motivation ebbed and flowed and eventually the finish line started to come into view. It's crazy really, not many people would spend 4 years of their life and thousands and thousands of hours glued to a laptop (and out on the crags researching) without making a penny out of it. Well it has been 4 years and now the guide is in the shops, a true labour of love and a fitting tribute to this historic area.

Flicking through the guide it is immediately apparent that the fears we'd end up with an 'amateurish' product were unnecessary. The design and layout is what you would expect from a quality modern production and akin to it's contemporaries. When you get one in your hand it becomes a bit more apparent why it took so damn long! It's a real beast, 452 pages of sporty/trad goodness. This is bolstered by 26 pages of history and this is a real asset to the book in my opinion. Not only is it an interesting read but it's a important record of what our Orme hero's of yesteryear got up to. There are quotes and anecdotes from some of the big players in Orme history - Edwards, Pollitt, Moon, Moffatt and Carson and the more recent development is catalogued in more detail. Photography wise Pete had many specific shots in mind for the book. He could have easily have filled the book with photos from the honeypot crags but as with the rest of the guide doing justice to some of the adventurous classics was extremely important to him. The shot of Will Oates on Ocean of Emotion on Detritus Wall is a prime example. A classic but rarely climbed on immaculate wall that now is shown off in full glory. Surely these little tempters will entice the more curious consumer onto these superb but committing walls. Going the extra mile isn't essential from a commercial point of view but it what makes the best guides. The various historical shots are also a welcome addition and provide a nice contrast with the current crop of heroes (Pete Robins!). The graded list illustrates that there are many more hard routes to go at in the area (only starred routes make it in however). 8c+ is the grade for the bumpy boys, 8cs and 8b+s are still a bit thin on the ground. There are some notable but necessary upgrades. Finally Masterclass and Oyster get the offical upgrade to 8a (they're old skool nails) as does Central Pillar on the Gwynt. Liquid Ambar gets bumped to 8c+ making it the first 8c+ in the world (still needs more repeats to confirm). Pete has adopted a slightly harsher star system for the book, this means that some very good routes get 0 or 1 star and this has been a slight bone of contention with a couple of locals (on Upper Pen Trwyn in particular). The key though is that there is relative consistency and although some routes might appear to be undersold you really know your onto a winner when you get on a 2 or 3 star route. All in all it's a pretty amazing effort that really shows the area off in it's best light. I've got a mini interview with Pete that I'll add in a day or two. I didn't want to stick in on the end of this as it would make it a massive post.

Monday, 25 August 2014

Raiders of the Dark Ark

Just under a month ago I blogged about a new project I'd bolted at the mighty Llanddulas Cave. I didn't really fancy my chances back then and redpoints seemed a mile off as I was struggling to work out the tricky finishing moves. I persevered and finally the moves came together with some beta tweaks. The first time I managed to link from the kneebar to the end I was totally in bulk and couldn't have done another move! In my mind it was still something to train for over winter for next year. From the next session onwards everything changed, I don't know why but it just felt a lot easier. The moves were solid and I managed a link from further back to the end. I then did it from the 3rd bolt to the end and that meant redpoints. After re-aquainting myself with the start of Temple (I hadn't been on it for 4 years) I soon made it to the kneebar but was totally boxed. Every session I made progress and I was bracing myself for the inevitable backwards session where you suddenly start falling off everywhere and the stress starts to kick in. On redpoint session 4 I found myself at the last move pulling into a good sidepull that marked the end of the hard climbing. It wasn't to be as my heel ripped off the small spike but I knew it was on from that point. One big problem I faced was that on every link I'd done to the end my hamstring had pulled on the heel move. When I did it one redpoint i could feel it from my calf up to my arse. I knew I couldn't keep pulling my leg and that if i got to that move again I really needed to top out. This created a bit of pressure and I thought about it a lot over the next week. A week later I returned with Luke Clarke, the conditions had been amazing for a few weeks and this day was no different. First redders I powered out on the last hard move. Then i dropped the start and the middle and on the 4th RP I found myself hanging off my heel rocking up to the sidepull. I got it and grabbed the big undercut and reached the jugs. As I was rocking over the finishing hold a big jug I'd been using started wobbling giving a heart in mouth moment. Luckily there was another one and i clipped the lower off ever so slightly chuffed. This roof really does give excellent hard climbing. It's like a non polished version of Parisellas with better rock and cooler holds. Raiders of the Dark Ark does the Font 7B start to Temple to the 3rd bolt then does a hard toe hook move right to a kneebar (I slipped off here quite a bit). The kneebar felt pretty good on the redpoints and was a decent rest for the arms if a bit sapping for the core. The route then busts straight through the roof with some cool foot beta and finishes at the ledge at the same height as Last Crusade. The end felt 7C when I was working it but more like 7B+ when I had it wired. I considered topping out up the 6b Lord Nibbler but after doing the route again I decided it wasn't really in keeping with the bottom as you end up chimneying up both walls. I'm pretty sure it's 8b+ but you never know, it's certainly a grade harder than Temple and didn't take long enough to warrant 8c. All in all a great surprise that I didn't even know existed until 6 weeks ago. Sometimes it does feel like the climbing gods are looking after you. It's not the end for this roof as the link project is still to go and you could do that into this finish too. It was the end of a great week for me in which I managed my hardest problem and hardest route in 3 days. The steroids are finally paying off.
Start of Temple:

The kneebar rest:

The crux sequence:

Footage of the FA:

Friday, 22 August 2014

One For The Road

Back in 2008 I was sat under a snowy 8B Swiss boulder problem with Keith Bradbury and we were talking about big numbers. I remember telling Keith about a project link up on Pill Box Wall that would be 'my 8B'. That year I'd done a new up line in front of the Box, the second i topped it the big challenge was laid down. It was so obvious, straight after the crux of Drink Driving launch straight into the 7B+ with no rest to create a crimpy power endurance beast. The years past and although I didn't really try the last link the challenge was omnipresent and always niggled away at the back of my mind. It was looking unlikely that I'd ever have the tools for this one. The first breakthrough came in 2012 when for the first time i managed to get through the original traverse more than once or twice. I even managed to finish up Last Orders, a 7A right at the end of the box. I returned with the hard link in mind but never managed the first move of Last Rites, in truth it was still miles away. Roll forward to 2014 and after a intense Cave campaign I managed to do the first move of Last Rites from the start for the first time. 3 sessions later I was still getting through Drink Driving and on my best go greased off just as I was getting my foot up for the last move. Climbing can be a cruel sport and I've been on the rollercoaster long enough to know that every time you think you've cracked it there's a bumpy descent back to earth just around the corner. I returned for another 4 sessions and sure enough the window of opportunity had closed. Unlike most the stuff I've done I couldn't seige this one, it just didn't work. Normal level was falling on the cross under of DD. Elevated level was needed to have any kind of chance and even then it probably wouldn't be enough. Frustrated I walked away and continued with my summer trying to forget how close I had been. After seiging a new line in Llanddulas i had suspected i might be finding form again so returned to the Box to have a look. Straight away I felt light and floaty - essential conditions to have any kind of chance. I got through DD 3 times that sesh but only made it past the first move of LR once. I knew I had to return quick before the window closed again. After a rest day I returned, I didn't feel quite as floaty but made it through DD, this time I nailed the slap off the pinch. I got my feet up stretched to the crimp, my foot popped but I moved quickly and got rocked over for the last hard move to the good pocket. It felt like I was eyeing it up for an eternity, I slapped expecting everything to pop but somehow I landed it perfectly. The last move was fine and I jumped onto the box and that was that. It's only another link up on the Pill Box but for me it's been there taunting me for fucking years and has always been a bit too hard. One for The Road could be the hardest thing I ever do so I'm going to savour it even if it is a link up in front of a toilet. Compared to the 4 8A+'s I did in the Cave this year it feels like hard 8A+ (or 8c if you think such things should be given route grades). IIRC Ben Freeman, Ed Hamer and Dan Knight all thought Drink Driving sneaked in at 8A+ (Barrows thought 8A but he could keep his feet on a good low foot on the two crux moves). I would say it feels 8A/+ to me now (I struggle to believe i can lap 8A+). Last Rites is pretty soft for 7B+ too but its short and the last hold is a pretty small crimp (plus the feet are small which feels hard when the tensions gone). Time to start going there and back now ;) (well if it's good enough for the Bleausards.......)