Sunday, 20 December 2015


I have wondered whether i might be a sociopath. You read about people having children about how life affirming it is, how it completes them and how this is their focus henceforth - i envy those people if indeed these feelings are real. Becoming a parent for the first time I worried more about how it would affect my life, and when (or whether) i would get to go climbing (selfish fucker alert!) ever again. I wasn't someone who longed for children, or felt there was anything missing. If you like your life and are happy, it's easy to muddle along without changing anything, only perhaps you might one day look back and wish you did. Whatever, i’m not clever enough to have that level of foresight. 

On November 5th our second child, Jemima was born. 7lbs9oz. Everything went great, really… if all births were this good more people would have them! we left home at 1130, she was born at 1206. We would have been home at 1700 but they were busy in the hospital and it got a bit later. Nevertheless, home the same day, stopping at the chippy on the way! 

The second child is infinitely less terrifying than the first. Yes, there is an issue of logistics which makes things tricky, but you have already made the sea change and adapted to being a parent. Also, because you know how quickly it all changes, so you know this current feeding through the night thing is only a temporary state. 

This is not about that. Well it sort of is. The bigger picture was always that we would have another. And with the benefit of hindsight, i knew time was going to be of the essence, and i also knew that it was totally possible to be keeping climbing, but that one needed to make it as time efficient as possible. When we bought this house it came with a 6x4” plastic shed at the top of a long thin garden (i think its 20m x 5m). This shed was neither use nor ornament, but was atop a concrete base. We started to shop for sheds. I reasoned that with it being so far away from the house, one could successfully hide a reasonable board, although no-one seemed to make anything suitable. Slowly i wore my wife down and persuaded her that self build was the way to go…. Principally, the thinking for this was height, and that a normal shed would not have been designed with the support of a board in mind. Eventually, after much ‘honest discussion’ the green light was granted for the shed build to start...

The central construction ethos for this build was “it’ll be alright” and “does it look sort of straight” as is evident from the pictures. I started by extending the shed base. I dug down, levelled off, then smashed up some old flags and bricks and piled them into the area (the reason they get convicts to do this is that its hard work). 

Once the base was laid I ordered £500 worth of wood from Arnold Laver. Then i built three frames. The thinking was that these would support the board and form the super structure, with a stud  wall and roof to be hung off this skeletoon. Here is Harry with the first of the frames going up.

basically i made a frame on the floor and then propped it in a tree. He is 3.5 and about waist high to give you some perspective. 
frame 2 now added, cross members holding it up and forming a box
here you can see the 'super structure' taking shape, the roof and the back of the board going in. The roof and back are just outdoor shuttering ply. I think the roof will be fine, as its clad in felt, but the back might have been better in shiplap or marine ply. What i might do is clad that in felt as well (there is some left!). This must have been about August/september time. The height at the front is 2.5m. Notice the board has moved to the right? this was the result of a full and frank exchange of opinions ;-) 

 The board itself gets installed to the right hand side, and the ship lap cladding is being added. The gap is for the main door. To the right i wanted a vertical hinging door, so as to allow you to stand underneath it and be sheltered from rain. My ginger chum helped with the board application, as there is no way I could've have lifted it and screwed it into place on my own. He's a good egg. He also needed to see his son
 taking shape now.
 in this picture you can see the board in side profile, and that a work surface behind it. I have since fitted a vice here and this is the winter wheels storage corner.
 Finally, kinda looks like a shed!
 Here you can kind of see the vision of the front opening garage door thing. This means if there was more than one person round then you could stand and watch and not be in the way, also you have somewhere to shelter if its raining. I originally thought i would have to do this to cater for back swing, but actually its totally fine with the door shut. Yes you cant do flamboyant back swings, but thats fine - its a board, you should be keeping your feet on!
Finally, the second tier of the finger board got added. 

To all intents and purposes it feels like an advanced fingerboard warm up board. Its 1.2m wide and 2.6m long. Clearly, you are never gonna hand in your climbing works membership in favour of climbing here (for a start, you aren't invited!), but that's not the point. I didn't make it with the intention of replacing the school or the works, i made it because i wanted to be able to have time efficient 45m/1hr sessions when i wouldn't have had time to go to the wall. 

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The siege of summer

We all like the story of a good siege, where the protagonist succeeds after a battle and gets to make pronouncements about the deeply personal nature of their struggle, of how they overcame adversity and how they are now both richer and wiser as a result. Well not me. I have managed over all these years of climbing to manage not to absorb any wisdom whatsoever. Wisdom is overrated. If you are wise you probably get to the top of everything really quickly - like Ned. And look at how miserable he is.

It's been a long time since we spoke, and much has transpired. I don't think i ever really convincingly went back on Mecca except when Ben Thompson (world's worst belayer, but ripped face cat lover) wanted to try. As is the case with me and other people on that route, they get interested, look good and either do it or cant be bothered and move on, whilst i do ok for a bit but lack commitment to actually finish it. Anyway, another child has happened (three weeks ago today), and i got involved in (which is the siege bit) Grooved arete at Kilnsey. 

Years ago when i first had a go on this route, i think i had a couple of sessions trying it and still had moves to do. Specifically the weird move by the third bolt to get to the pocket. I couldn't do it. Well this year I could. I said then that if i managed to get through that bit (and its not hard, its just a bit weird and slightly sketchy) then i would spend an age getting up to the 'jug' at the top and running out of steam, and that is what happened. 

As a boulderer, the moves on GA are really steady. No one move you wouldn't comfortably do straight off the couch, but no appreciable rest either. Route climbers slap their way to the jug, but to them it IS a jug, so they get it all back and then complete the only mildly pokey move after it to get to the top. Me on the other hand, i follow a different pattern. First go, putting the drawers in, do it in sections - feel good. Go 2, the most likely go to yield  success, I am over excited because i think i'm gonna do it, over grip everything and go too fast from the jug. Fail. Go 3, the pressure is off, climb really well up to the jug, now over compensate for previous rush, wait too long, realise diminishing returns, panic, try, fail. 

In one session this summer, i got to the bloody jug four times! After the jug there are two slightly go-ey moves, which on their own are really steady. James and i went back one last time, when really it was too late in the season and really hard to keep warm, and i think i have found microbeta which should help complete it next summer. Hopefully (if i can remember what it was!). 

Anyway, its gritstone season now - something about which i am excited. I love the change of seasons in terms of climbing style. I have many hopes and aspirations for this season of luck based scrittle, and the list of things which need 'mopping up' grows ever longer. By this i mean, these are things i have been on before and should really have done : 

Wob - yr5
Bens wall - yr 10? 
Seans arĂȘte - yr2
Art of white hat wearing  yr 2 or 3
Full power yr lots
The dray, caley yr2
Scary canary, caley
Dick hymen, alms cliff
Back in the ymca  - 9a
Flick of the wrist (travs thing at bbg, a bit shit but good lunchtime fodder)
spare rib at stanton - kept nearly doing this last year but wimping out being scared. 
la poo (yes it is poo, but again a good one for lunches)
striker direct
Andy Browns wall, Cratcliffe, me and ned took harry to this after a night on the plonk with J_Fol (britains best bum doctor) and i nearly did it hung over, so should be possible! 

Things i would like to do :
Lay-by arĂȘte 
Red baron roof
To me to you
Silk sit 
Western eyes (elbow permitting) 
Back Street mime artist
Golden egg
Solomon seal
Ape drape - i know, i know - never done it though. 

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

The Tipping point

There must come a point in your climbing 'career' (Is there something presumptuous in calling it a 'career'? Climbing isn't a career, it's fun) when you stop getting better, and start getting worse?

From an athletic point of view there's definately a peak physical fitness age, when one can be the most beastly, but with climbing its so much more than beastliness (or should be). Perhaps that's what keeps us interested? Such a complex activity - so many facets, variables, opportunities and things to get wrong - its rarely just a simple question of strength (although be under no illusion, that helps).

I wondered whether i had reached my tipping point. I'm sure I used to be better on the board, more bouncy, better at comps and so on. But on consideration - i don't know that that is the case. I haven't been on the board as much as i used to go on it - I've been out rock climbing. So I might not be as strong, but am I a better climber? possibly (hopefully!). I think I've done more things, and I feel more competent, but where in the past I would have done some reet hard moves to get up something hard, now I have to climb it more efficiently. Within us all there is a ceiling limit of how good you can be with the resources (time, genetic muscle makeup, ability) we have. Or is there?! I'm all for boundless optimism, but realism creeps in, undermining my aspirations of burning Neddy off or doing one armers on the belay of Mecca!

Ah Mecca, Mecca, Mecca. Object of desire for so many, and more busy than the M62 on a friday night just lately. What does one do when confronted by the prospect of sitting in traffic? One does something else and waits for it to calm down. Then I saw Char's video :
(Sexy guy at 20m - for 10s)

and that got me all psyched to go on it again! It's a cool route, and I dont like to leave things undone. But I dont lie awake at night thinking of the moves on it. That I think is because its already turned into too much of a siege. I should probably have gotten my head down and sorted it out already, but for various reasons - time, skin, fitness, child, fear - I've so far managed not to do it. But, watching the above, and being reminded of what I consider the halcyon days of limestone sport climbing, has made me want it again. 

Perhaps because of my advancing years my project desire (i.e. the drive to get stuck into projects) has been tempered by a love of getting to the top! what I mean here is that I like doing hard moves, but I like succeeding more. So whilst I would like to climb 8c, i recognise that the effort required to make that happen would detract from the fun i could be having climbing more temperate things. Maybe then, this is the tipping point? instead of getting on dead hard things with blind optimism, maybe now I'm more realistic in my goals???

Friday, 24 May 2013

The curse of being too into climbing

All these people desperate to work in climbing or do something to do with it for a job - don't you get bored? doesn't everything always being about climbing all of the time get to you? It's nice not to have all your eggs in one basket. When you see young punks strutting around the climbing wall, 'cock o' the wave', and they aspire to being outdoor pursuits instructors - i always think - what's your exit plan though? i mean, do you still see yourself doing it at 50? I don't know, I obviously haven't and don't do that job, so maybe its great and really fulfilling, but its not something that immeadiately appears to tick all the boxes.

Then there's roped access. The preserve of the hard core rock jock, but again - do you really think after a 12 hr day on the ropes you're gonna be bustin out the big moves on the wave? Its gruelling dirty work, often with a few hours drive at either end of a day. Malcy famously would still train after the day described above, but this is Malcy we are talking about - one of the most driven dedicated human beings, with a proven record in hard work. Certainly, rope access isn't for everyone.

I'm not saying you shouldn't do these things, or that they are worthless careers, just that you should go into them with your eyes open. Be realistic about your prospects and what will make you happy. You're a long time at work, so doing something you hate just because its not office based is a mistake. Whats so bad about the office anyway - at the end of the day, at least you're gagging for action! Of course, most of the time people slip into these things because they think that they will make them happy which may or may not be true.

I have created a chart of climbing occupations ordered by desperateness :

  1. Roped access worker L1 - the lowest of the low, grinding out the hours, being the lackey for the L2 and L3 workers. Considered by everyone to be a goon. 
  2. Climbing Wall reception slave - face of the climbing walls, to the punter you are cool because you made the choice to work in climbing, but you're bored.
  3. Climbing Instructor - see above. You stand by miserably as legion after legion of bored children come through having to feign enthusiasm
  4. Gear shop worker - you still have to talk to punters. Its hard work. You have to talk to punters again. limited scope for drinking tea. 
  5. Roped access worker L2 - still hard dirty work, but with measurably more standing around and drinking tea. 
  6. Climbing wall cafe slave - in my day this meant covered in chip fat, hung over, in a hot broom cupboard and able to see your mates having fun through the window, but nowadays it means baking nice cakes and looking at the internet, hence its position in this list. 
  7. Climbing wall manager - You get to do all the hard work the wall owners dont want to do, but there are a lot of perks. Plus, you get to boss 2, 3 and 6 (and possibly 4) about. Long hours, and do you really want to stay at work after youve finished doing rock climbs? 
  8. Route setter - Hard work, you get to be a virtuoso and some people will actively hate you because of your work! 
  9. Roped access worker L3 - standing around, drinking unfeasible quantities of tea, telling people off. Still grotty, and long hours. 
  10. Climbing film maker - Your fastidious nature means you spend hours agonising over the detail, but then the goons will scrutinise your work, so you need to. 
  11. Roped access trainer - sitting around, drinking unfathomable quantities of tea, eating biscuits, paying for Alex Puccio's internet and telling people off on internet forums. Oh, and running climbing soft goods companies on the side
  12. climbing soft goods manufacturer - you work really hard, but dont have to do too much goon liason, and besides - you are Ben Moon, so none of this matters, you were the best in the world! Go and look at that picture of agincourt again. 
  13. sponsored hero - you get to go climbing all the time, but everyone always expects you to be on it, and then you have to go to boot demoes and talk to people - Pretending that you care that they want to do their first 7a this year.
  14. Gear rep - you drive around the country in a fast car someone else has paid for, getting to go to the gear shops and burning their staff off on their projects. A young single man's job (excepting Paul Craven ;-))
  15. Climbing Wall owner - the cream of the crop. 

Right, i think i have offended nearly everyone there. Back to work

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Winter round up

Often, in quiet moments on the motorway/toilet, I think to myself - I really should write something on the internet. By now though its almost been so long that any post would be a massive rambling monolog which you don't want to read, and I don't want to write. And besides, why should I write anything? that was always the good thing, I didn't have to do it, there was (and is) no agenda, I can say whatever the fuck i want. Or not. The thing with the internet is that you get out of it what you put in. If you lurk quietly reading things, you've invested your time, and you might come away with some knowledge (which may or may not be lies), but by contributing you get so much more back. In my writing this its an ordering of thoughts, and a bit of catharsis. Putting some things down so they get out of my head. The thing is you see, that if I dont write anything, the thoughts and rants still happen, they just get internalised, and I have to deal with them. Why not share the pain?

So then, lets get to it. I had said i wouldn't go to Switzerland this year, and so as expected, when the boys booked their trip i was jealous. Bendy challenged my reasons for not coming, and i had one of those epiphany moments where you think 'actually, yes - thats a good point'. My reasons were that it wouldnt be fair to leave her with the boy whilst he didn't sleep through, only he pretty much does now. I opened negotiations, and because whilst she wasn't back at work - it kind of made sense to go. So, i find myself with a month to train, suddenly about to go on a trip, fat and weak and pudgy after christmas. The last time we went, noone had been able to get out for weeks because of the weather, so we all had shit skin. This time I overcompensated, going buck wild and grinding sheets of skin off in the process. And that's where plans started to become unravelled. On the Thursday before we flew out on the Saturday I went to Earl - possibly the sharpest grit crag in the uk, and it was a bit damp to boot. Then on the saturday night after we had arrived, I applied Uncle Hydral to my already thin dry skin.... If you're not slapping your forehead with your hand now, you should be. First day, we go to Cresciano. I get two deep fissure splits in the pads of both index fingers. On the first day! Major error. Still, you live and you learn hey? We did some fun rock climbs, had a nice trip but really truly and deeply, i didnt come back having done what i wanted to do. However, i believe you only loose out if you choose to think that you do. I prefer to look on the bright side. I got close to doing something i really wanted to do, and did some cool climbing and had a nice time. The end.

Got back, did Famous Grouse. Felt dead hard, hilarious video on Faceache with gravity defying leg flick. Nearly did Walk on by, but nearly is nowhere, and ultimately I didn't. Got quite excited about art of white hat wearing, but also came away empty handed. That was a problem where I got to the top with one plan in mind, only to realise that there was no way it was going to work.

Started trying Ben's groove sit at caley. Left it too late in the year to get on that one really, and although thought i was gonna do it, basically climbed up to the crux, fell off, then could do from there to the top. i.e. i didn't actually do the move. Mina tried to rope me in to careless. Blew her out to go on WoB with Neddy. That was the day she did it! error.

Went snowballing which was cool, but lets be completely clear - you are still soloing, just from a bit higher ground. Remembered about wanting to do chip shop brawl just as the snow all went. Had massive revelation that the only reason anyone does trad is because its all piss, just a bit scary.

Finally, jasons roof. Mina did it in a session (good effort!). I went on a mission after work and thought it was 8b. Couldn't do some of the moves. Watched her video and slowly it came together. She climbs it really well. Went from not being able to do sections to having two overlapping halves, and then to redpointing, and to actually nearly doing it. Went back a week later, which was too soon. Skin scabbed over from the week before, scabs fell off, i bled and it was just too painful. Imagine the scene, Neddy, Jon Fullwood, Sam Whittaker and the Folinator all wanting to know what to do. I style out to the lip, getting to the jug but slipping off, and we all think that its definately on for me. Neddy then nearly flashes it. Sam and John pull it out of the bag, James forges a path, and I get out there another 4 times but never finish the deal! Beautiful walk out. John and Ned do a new problem. Neddy does sidewinder.

Have a week off from trying, to go to the county, where I finally manage Cubby's lip. The yorkshireman is still 8b. We go to Hepburn, and I wish we had gone there first. Preparation H is possibly the best problem in the country! I wobble up Northern Soul which is super cool.

Manage to get back to crookrise the week after, and expect to smash Jasons straight away. Not so, still have to fight for it, and in the end when i do it, it takes its toll of flesh and I climb it really badly! you will see when i get round to the video. So now thats that, the end of the brown rocks (???). Pretty psyched for bolt clipping. we will see what the summer holds.

Friday, 21 December 2012

The 25th of August! That was when we last spoke, which is in stark contrast to the daily updates of old. And its not that I dont love you anymore, nor have I lost the appetite to poke fun, just a question of priorities. Also, I've actually been working rather than giving voice to my existential debates on the internet. Anyway, enough about that. What's happened since August? Well, firstly, a girl did Mecca. Admittedly one who climbs 8B (yeah yeah, she will soon ok - think of it as future proofing), which prompted me to crank up my trusty ginger sidekick and head to the tor. As is commonly the case these days, he did it and I didnt. Nick took some nice pictures.

The rest of limestone season was driven largely by the prospect of going to Stoney chippy on the way home. Ned tried the Bastard, Jon Welford's visionary testpiece from the mid nineties but only managed one and a half moves, Nick took more pictures, and I did the Sissy again. A far cry from the blissful evenings idling away at the Cornice last year. Anyway, Stoney chippy is indeed a good chippy.

I was glad of the shift of focus to the brown rocks, and unsuprised to discover I was even less competent than before. There were little forays of success, tales of skin mismanagement and more stories of failure. I failed on the art of white hat wearing and great white, but did (and recommend) the Hippo.

I learnt that the weather is so consistently bad, that if you have chance, even if it is for just an hour - you should go out, and to that end I have been collecting projects close to home - i.e. accessible in a couple of hours quick raid. These so far include The art of white hat wearing, great white, monochrome, boyager, Walk on by, full power, western eyes and musee imaginaire (which was the scene of a hideous failure with Bransby the other day).

In child news - he has his first tooth, so although he's been a bit grumpy he's still really good. Nearly nine months old now, and although its all anyone says - it goes so fast. To which end although the first three months are hard work and you do wish the time away a bit, it gets loads better and now he is really fun to play with. Still hard work mind. (ours in nearest the camera in this pic)

Anyway, happy xmas! hope you have a good festive yuletide and that you consume a river of port and a mountain of mince pies (i.e. so I can burn you off when I see you at the wall).

Saturday, 25 August 2012

What doctors do when they don't have jobs

Here's Rupert and Dylan making the best out of the bad weather, me enjoying a little saucisson on one of my regular big wall missions and finally some insight into my secret training scheme, just before an intense wedge workout.

All work credit the twisted mind of Dr folie