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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.......)


Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Pink Star

It was inevitable that the constant stream of new grade 8's on the North Wales lime would slow down eventually. After a steady stream of big numbers since 2009 (many of which nationally significant) there comes a time where the do-able lines start to run out. There are still some ripe plums out there but perhaps not enough keen beasts to step up to the plate. If there's one man you can always rely on though it's Pete Robins-North Wales master crusher of hard new lines. After 5 years of hard seiging though even Pete's resilience had to wane at some point. He picked off a couple of grade 8's at the Allotment and Craig y Don earlier in the year and then had some sessions on The Big Crunch project down LPT. This could provide the potential step up he'd been looking for although after several sessions it proved to be too much of a step up for now. Bransby made it look doable but he didn't return and Pete sacked it off. Pete climbed himself into form by establishing Ropes of Maui in the Pass and he knew he had some unfinished business come Diamond season. Back in the first year of the Diamond renaissance, Pete Harrison bolted (along with a load of re-equipping) a big diagonal crack feature on the right hand side of the crag. It was a striking and unique line that had future classic written all over it. The following year Johnny Ratcliffe climbed the lower diagonal at 8a and last year Pete Robin's did an obvious connection between the two at 8b+. The Pink Panther joined the top crack about halfway along but the obvious challenge was the feature in it's entirety and Pete immediately set about working on it. As the nights drew in and the conditions deteriorated he knew his time was up for that year but the route was top of the agenda for August 2014. As soon as the birds had vacated the crag Pete got back on the crack and soon picked up where he left off last year. After some beta refinements he was back at his previous highpoint and with time on his side the first ascent seemed inevitable. Today he finished it off to give The Pink Star (8c+), another quality hard route which unfortunately just missed the guidebook cut off point. It is an amazing route and is the sixth 8c+ in the area.

Pete checking out the holds in 2009:

Recent shots:

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Dulas Big Numbers

A few months ago i blogged about the big link project up at Llanddulas. I had a few more sessions but never made much progress and the greasy slots prevented much linkage. My attempts to stop the water by filling the back with resin made one of them smaller so i had to drill it back out to return it to its former depth. I've lost count of the number of days i've spent hanging in this roof on my own doing little 'jobs'. There always seems to be something that needs doing. Climbers can be a miserable bunch, as the masses rejoice in the hot weather the sport climbers and boulderers grumble about humidity and conditions. Options are limited for hard climbing when it is so bloody warm. The main cave at Dulas is pretty much heatproof and so a great option in the stifling temps. I was lowering down from Zoidberg in the Cave when i spotted a couple of holds between the finish of Temple and Last Crusade. I got a rope down the line and there was indeed another potential finish- there looked to be enough holds. I bolted it up and got on it, straight away a crucial hold fell off so i had to come back with glue. After using some shitty old resin that didn't set i finally got the hold sorted and returned with Pete Robins. I worked out some of the moves and he sorted some good foot beta for the crux. The finish comes straight out the roof from the kneebar on the link project and you could start up either Temple or Last Crusade.
Pete working out the heel/toehook combination for the powerful crux:

I've had about 4 sessions working the end now and it still feels pretty tough. It's fiddly to sort your feet out coming out of the shit kneebar and then the powerful crux feels desperate. I had a nice sequence with a wide undercut pinch but the rock is so slick and smooth by the time i've pulled up on it i'm greasing off so i had to figure out another way using a heel on a small spike. This finish is about fb7C and starting up Temple is about f8a/+ to get there. It feels like a really hard sequence to have at the end of a big roof. Hopefully i'll link the end soon but the thought of linking it all seems unfeasible for now. The moves aren't as hard as the link project but you've done much more to get there. Still it's nearly always decent conditions and is 10 minutes from my house so i have to look at the positives! If i get to having good redpoints this year i think i'll be satisfied. This style suits me but my best ascents in Parisella's were years in the making and to transfer that level to a new bit of rock and having to clip bolts is going to take some doing. Everything is magnified when you get a rope on, it's a much harder proposition than bouldering just off the deck. It's cool that the Dulas has a few potential big numbers now. Doing the new finish from Last Crusade could be 8c+, who would have thought it! And there's still the main aid line out the front if Ondra ever pops in (highly unlikely).

I thought i'd better give potential belayers another reason to go there so i bolted up an obvious alternative start to Zoidberg traversing into the end of Temple. It proved to be a fun addition with a crux slap to the black boss at the end of Temple before climbing to the ledge and finishing up the 6c. It's called Catch the Pigeon and is 7b.

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!