Monday, 29 June 2009

Stag Two

No climbing this weekend, but things have gone on so I have something
to witter on about. Its Thursday night, its late and we are getting
ready for bed. Best man James is driving up from Hastings on the south
coast. ETA 2330. So, I keep my phone on and curl up on the sofa with a
book, its 2200 - I fall asleep almost instantly and wake up at
midnight. He's still not here, but is about to be. I let him in, we
have a whiggy and I get to go to proper bed.

All too soon its time to get up again. He sets up working from the
kitchen whilst I work from the attic bedroom. There are two
interesting things about James' work (runs own product company), he
exists almost completely on Skype and they have improved this no end -
in short, its fully amazing where it used to be a bit crap before. The
most notable thing is that the call quality is outstanding. And the
other interesting thing he gave me was spotify. This is all the music
in the world (if you have fairly mainstream tastes) at your
fingertips, and for free. You cant download it, but you can create
playlists and just listen all day long online. Isnt so good if you are
into electronic music (from what I have seen so far), but is good to
listen to albums and other stuff.

Anyway, we set off for the dales, bikes strapped to the back of the
car and luggage stowed. Its Friday night, and Bradford is well busy
(predicatably). It takes two and half hours to get to Malham, but all
in good spirits and I am delighted when we arrive, as Kirkby Malham
village hall is perfect for our weekend. Indoor camping with cooking
facilities - and opposite the pub. With most people now here, we pop
over the road for a couple, before coming back for home cooked tea.
The kitchen is pretty awesome - proper full catering job, but
inexplicably with a shit electric oven. Suspect its used for buffet
preparation and tea making rather than Sausage and bean cassoulet.
Sausages, real ale and all boys together in one room - its going to be
a pungent aroma by the end of the night. Back to the pub, few more
beers, few more turn up, everyone is tired and we retire about 1am.

Thermarests are great things - really they are, but they are designed
for sleeping on grass, and its suprising just how soft grass must be,
because a hard wooden floor feels uncomfortable even through the
thermarest. Anyway, a bit achey people start blundering around early
in the morning (830) which is another minor issue with the village
hall, when one is up so are you all. My brother in law, Andy, turns up
at 930, and at which point I am informed that the postie has been.
Expecting this to be some stag shenanighans, I depart for the door
with trepidation. There on the mat is a mocked up post card with the
message on the back that Jim (the best man) has fixed it for me to be
a famous Ben for the weekend. The Famous Ben is Ben Hur! I get
outfitted in a centurion outfit and we head out for breakfast. Its
going to be hot, as PVC does not breathe well. Breakfasted and
slightly bilious we begin what feels like an almost vertical climb up
past Malham cove itself before looping back east round the top of the
tarn. This takes us to Street gate, and then the amazing Mastiles lane
which is a roman road which leads right to the tennant arms at
Kilnsey. The downhill section is fast and entertaining and we arrive
at the pub breathless and grinning.

Its funny being admist so much world class limestone and not pulling
on. Kilnsey is busy and as far as I can tell from the road -
completely dry. We pass the crag and continue on the road until
Arncliffe, when we turn left and climb steeply up back towards Malham
tarn. The sun is now out and it feels pretty oppressively still. With
a lot of stops and some fairly serious whinging from the less fit
members of the party we make it back to street gate, from where its a
short but sharp road downhill section back to the village. All but
three zip off to get to the pub, whilst Chris, lee and I turn back and
ride the first two km of Mastiles again, this time branching
rightwards to Weets top, before enjoying the best downhill of the
weekend. Swooping along flat out in a rut chasing sheep down off the
moor. There are swooping jumps and berms and again, the grin factor is

The dales are beautiful. Airton and Kirkby Malham are just so
wonderful little places to look at. I have visions of buying a house
there and becoming a bumpkin. Wish the honey monster was here to see
it, she would love it. But then again, everywhere looks great in the
sunshine and it would be pretty isolated. Perhaps we are too young for
such remoteness quite so soon. The last road section back to meet the
others in the pub feels hard work but worth it to sit on the green
outside the pub, the sun is out, theres a little stream at the bottom
of the green and it just all feels good! With a feeling of summer, and
euphoric post exertion well being in my bones (and a sore arse), we
head back to kirkby malham to change and go out for tea.

You can imagine the rest of the evening. Drinking beer, talking shit
and farting basically. In the morning the parish hall smells like a
sewage work. We have another slap up feed and a walk up to gordale to
watch someone dogging Supercool and tourists nearly maim themselves
trying to climb out on the footpath. Although tired I have had a
lovely time. I feel wobbly (hungover), but euphoric. I drive back to
Sheff, James collects his car and continues on to Battle. Honey and I
go out for tea. I allow myself more beer and we catch up. The day
finishes with Top Gear and the world feels a good place to be.

So then, this week - rock climbing. Weather is supposed to be shit
(for climbing), hot, humid etc. It might dump its load by thurs from
what I read/hear/see. I would like to get back to do Free Monster, and
that might be a good choice, but then foley was on about thormens on
weds. Will have to see if I can flex the time.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Free Monster

Years ago I went on the Free Monster at WCJ Cornice. Its a brilliant
route for me to go on because its everything I'm not good at. There
are no hard moves, no small holds, just lots of good ones and no
respite between them. With it being so warm, both the route and the
Cornice seemed like a great choice of venue, and I wondered how many
others would have come to the same conclusion, but the answer it
seemed, was none.

Dylog and I met at the Norfolk Arms, and I transferred to the newly
Saab seated van. Unlike the gaudy uncomfortable faux racing chair that
was there before, there's now a soft and comfortable leather car seat
out of a Saab. This is a big improvement. We swooped down to Rubicon
and were suprised to see a team on Caviar, which although in the shade
(just), must have felt horrendous in those temps.

The walk to the Cornice is lovely. Perched atop the hill on the
opposite bank to the 'con, a lovely view of the dale coaxes you deeper
into its folds until finally you weave down into the undergrowth to
get to the 'last grand daddy wave of them all, frozen on the point of
collapse' (zippy, in a guidebook somewhere). The mighty Cornice.

The crag is largely dry, with patches of wetness in the middle of BD
but certainly climbable. I set off up Brachiation dance, and whilst I
am teetering on the slab trying to remember what to do I pull a hold
off and get a rope burn into the bargain. In many ways, this is a good
thing, as I have now actually had a proper fall, and of the worst,
most feared type - a slipping off fall on vertical territory - but,
now I know I am not going to die and can climb till I'm off rather
than wimp out. I start again, and negotiate my way through the
dampness to the final break. As I shake out I think to myself whoa!
this is scary, then I think - no it isnt, and I rationalise. I go for
it. Its all fine and my nerves subside. Dylog climbs, slips off the
wetness, but we are only warming up. He strips the route and we move

The routes at the Cornice share some common factors. Usually there is
a tenuous wobbly bit on the slab at the start, then some heel in break
undercutting gubbins at the top. Free Monster (which is right next to
BD) feels very similar, just much harder. I bolt to bolt it putting
the clips in and remember the way. It feels like it will require more
fitness than perhaps I have. But I banish those feelings and try to
think like I am Ben Moon.

Dylog tries, works it all out but has a bit of a whitey about the
pocket before the crux. It feels like a jug to me, so I dont know what
counsel to give. He finds an alternative method and puts in some good
links. Back to me. Redpoint goes. From the ground I climb well, and
confidently, but manage to scum my toe under the roof on some milky
slime, such that when I try to use that foot again I get nothing from
it and fall. Thats ok, its the first time I have been on it in years.
I climb from there to the top. Another good link - I'm pretty happy
with how it all felt after such an absence. Dylog gets to the pocket
but cant make it work. Although we have another couple of goes, the
return I'm getting is diminishing and I put my boots away to wait for
another time.

The walk out is lovely, and we stop off at Rubicon to do the route of
the same name on the way home. Been a couple of years, and the holds
have changed again, but its still a fun route, and about the right

Thats climbing over until Monday at the earliest. This weekend is stag
2 up in the Yorkshire dales, mountain biking with my non climbing
friends. Am well looking forwards to it!

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Its not the winning...

Its not the winning that's important, its the taking part that counts. This is true, but its not meant for an already motivated person. What this statement says is that you shouldn't let life pass you by, you should take the chance, get involved - even if you will come last. Who knows what it might lead to - whatever it is might be the start of something new and special.

Its also true that second is the first looser and that there are no prizes for second best, but these statements are meant to motivate those already at the top of their game. The difference is, the first statement is saying have a go - live your life, and the second, well that one urges the already involved to strive for the top.

And so it is. Whatever you do, make the most of the time you have and be the best you can, but don't forget to enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Normal service resumed

As I walked to the shop to get a sandwich I thought it felt
suprisingly close. Humidity and warmth are not generally sought after
conditions for rock climbing, and with that in mind I wondered what I
should do, and where I should go when 3pm arrived. Given that Stag do
2 is this weekend, I should be riding this week - getting ready for
the weekend, but as I havent climbed much since Swizzy so I wanted to
get back on it and to the Tor I went.

Someone is writing a guide to Minus Ten at the moment. I like Minus
Ten, and I will buy a copy when it is published. These thoughts were
in my head as I drove through Stoney, but I didnt stop. No, I shall
save my bi annual minus ten session for when I am in possession of
this guide. Besides, I had designs on the right hand side of the Tor -
it was time to get involved with Staminaband once more.

There was noone at the Tor when I arrived, and it was boiling. A few
cars in the layby, but they must belong to fishermen as the dale was
tranquil. No crag banter, no chink of karabiners being clipped. I
warmed up, literally - as it was boiling but there was a pleasant
breeze being funneled by the trees down the shady right side.
Thankfully, this was where I was headed. All wasnt completely perfect
however - the base of the crag seemed to have taken on a greenish hue.
Things seemed like they had been damp, but not from seepage. Perhaps
some sort of condensation taking place.

Thought I was going to do the powerband. I have only ever done this
once. I find the last move so desperate (doing it the proper way,
reaching down with the right hand into the undercut), so its always on
the menu for me as I can always get there - the end that is, but never
usually seal the deal. I blast through the meat of the traverse and
find myself feeling suprisingly sparky and remembering to settle my
fingers on the edge of the last pocket. I walk my feet, try to relax
and fall off. Never mind I think, I felt noticeably better at the end
this time. I must be getting fitter (or just better at doing
Powerband?). After a few laps on the last move from a couple of moves
in, I try but fail once more.

Undeterred, I move rightwards to the start of Staminaband (good logic
- cant do the end traverse, make it harder!). I have tried Staminaband
on and off for years. For ages it was strength or technique which
stopped me - I just couldnt do the moves. Then I could do the moves
but not together. Then, maybe two or three years ago I got a bit
fitter and was getting to the end, and it looked on. Well, there's
some work to do to get back there I can tell you. I climb into
Powerband with a bit of a wobble getting out of the undercuts - but
this old bogey move is getting easier. Its not too great a leap of
faith to imagine being able to glide past it effortlessly (a la
Harris). I am aware of someone else having arrived watching and I fall
off early in the Powerband. Its Dave Hesleden. We chat, he heads off
home, such is my charm and wit.

My goes get better, and I find myself failing at the middle 'pillar'
of powerband. The problem with trying Staminaband and being on your
own at the crag is that you have to rest for ages and its very boring.
I play sudoku on my phone in between goes, but I am clearly quite
dense and my mind wanders... Thankfully, Dan Walker, Karl Bacon and
Andy Hutch turn up and save me from myself. We chat, they warm up, I
have a quick go on Blueband - finally working out a way of doing the
first move. As I have never been able to do this before, so the go
when I do it is the best go of my life. Still, I fail on the first
'hard' move (after the first one), but I'm pleased. Its good to have
things to focus on.

So, the rest of this week then. I hope to go out on Wednesday.
Thinking of trying to get to Entree if I can find someone else keen to

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Honey's birthday weekend

All week last week it looked dicey. It felt at times as if my finger
was a piston, glued to the F5 button refreshing the weather forecast
website. And they were all wrong. It wasnt half as bad as had been
predicted - with the biggest suprise being Sunday which was supposed
to stink but was glorious.

Friday was the day of arrival. We'd collected a kitty of funds, been
to CostCo for supplies. The bikes were lashed to the back of the car
and a long slog undertaken. Its an hour on from 'Dudno, but a lovely
drive. We were camping at a place called Shell Island, which is just
above Barmouth, and below Harlech. The site is huge - 300 acres of
sand dunes and beachscape, and only one rule - you may not camp within
20 metres of someone you dont know. Awesome. Its raining when we get
there, but only lightly, so after 45 minutes trying to choose a spot,
we pitch up and as the skies clear, the barbecue gets lit.

Friday night turns out to be the big one. People are arriving up to
9pm and the barbecue churns out meat to feed them all. It gets to 0245
before me and the monster turn in.

I wake at a thousand degrees in the tent. I havent slept good and its
only 730. Bleary eyed I open the tent door and go for a piss. Other
heads are starting to emerge from other tents and I really need to go
back to sleep, but the noise level is on the increase and I've no
chance. Plans are hatched for the day ahead and the group splits into
Four. Two teams are going to Coed Y Brenin to go riding, another will
take some bikes locally to Harlech and there are a couple of no biking
at all-ers.

Coed Y Brenin is utterly brilliant. Its one of these trail centres
with something for all abilities. I have bike envy as we arrive -
noone has a hard tail, and noones bike is less than £2000. Three guys
from our party have gone on a ride called the Dragon's back, but due
to time and my being hungover, I am riding a trail with what looks
like a gay squirrel for a symbol with a mate of the HM's from work. We
wanted a shorter circuit, and setting off I am a bit torn as I wish I
was going on one of the longer rides, but - its the honey monsters
birthday, and I already feel guilty that I am separated from her at

The Gay Squirrel is a fit little fella. And it takes in some brilliant
sections of downhill singletrack which are fast and technical. Its
good riding and when we get back to the car we're both pleasantly
tired but happy. We drive back to camp.

Everyone is at the beach. Being so close to the sea really does make
you feel like you are on holiday. More barbecue action fills the early
part of the evening, and then theres the annual girls v boys rounders
competition, which this year is won by the boys.

Shell Island is in 'Cool Camping - Wales', and it says basically -
amazing campsite, really great location, good for groups, but
reception area a bit pikey. And that is completely on the money. We
all go to this festival thing thats up at reception for the last
couple of hours, and its quite funny. We're all a bit jaded from the
night before, so people start sloping earlier than previous. But all
have had a good time.

Sunday should be shitting it down, but its not. Cooler than sat, but
still beautiful, we decide to stick around until tea time, as its far
too nice to be sat in the car in the middle of the day. We hang out at
the depleted camp, soaking up the sun before finally wandering into
harlech for lunch. By the time we leave its gone 6pm so its a late one
getting back. We've all had a lovely weekend, and everyone is happy.
Pics on FlickR

Thursday, 11 June 2009

And ode to the tor

Oh Tor, how I love thee, thy keepeth my flanks dry in all but the
stoutest of rain, thy pockets be deep and thy crimps small, your
footholds shine with the passing of a thousand hooves and your shiny
ring bolts keep me swinging above the floor. In your dirt I delight,
in your moves I take light and forever you and me we be tight...

It rained and it rained like a scene from 2008's summer. Dylog and I
aquaplaned our way through the peak wondering what we would find. My
inner conditions-o-meter suggested there had perhaps been enough
volume of sky water to saturate the old girl but no, she had held
true. The pockets are not yet soaked, the footholds dry. There is
significant run off in the Out of my tree - Hooligan area, but Pump up
the power and rightwards are ok.

Dylog wanted to do Rattle and Hump. I wanted to do it again. We warmed
up, he equipped the route. I wanted to show off. I wanted to go first,
to do it easily and for him to be impressed, but he wanted to get
involved and like a rat up a drainpipe before I could say another word
he was camped out on the rope at the first bolt. The next move is
hard, it wasnt cold enough and the relative humidity was up in the
70's. On about his third try he does the move and continues to the top
in a push. Two sections then.

My go. I crush the boulder problem start. It feels easy - which is
good because it aggravates the bad finger. I know I am nervously
protecting the remains of an injury, so I'm not as gung ho as I might
be. I sprag the quark and move on past the bivi ledge jug to the
gaston, set it all up and whilst it feels hard, it feels doable, I
reach up but have been looknig at the wrong destination and there isnt
a hold where I am grabbing. I fall off.

Dylog : another good go, struggling with the gaston and its cutting
him. Our skin is soft and wet - its not good condition. Joe and Vics
turn up. I have a go on Staminaband and struggle through the start but
fall off in powerband. Really pretty psyched to get it done. My next
go on the route is successful, although it feels like a fight. Dylog
gets closer and closer, its in the should really do it on the next go
camp, but he doesnt and we go to look at a broken Mecca (the block is
now completely off), Culloden (needs reequipping and serious cleaning)
before driving home.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

And its goodbye from him...

Last night I tied in for the first time this year. It felt scary but fun. I am quite desperately unfit. By the end of a three hour session I had to fight my way up a 6c+.
Ed Robinson did Tsunami. He has video, which is on Facebook. I would link it, but I dont think you will be able to see it. Its about time this underacheiving force to be reckoned with started acheiving. Dr Zoidburg climbalike. A good year for him so far. The Hulk, Tsunami, loads in magic... Whats next? its good to see super strong friends reaching their potential. On the subject of which, dark horse Jerry le Sage did Staminaband before we went away. Another one having a good year.
Thinking about the Tor, thats where I will be tomorrow. I want to get back on Stamina band. Kind of plan to have a look at Dianetics too. Stu said the grips are v.small, and it might be in the sun. We will see. Dylog wants to do Rattle and Hump, and I would quite like to do it again - the moves are very good. And, theres also Blueband. I was going to go to Malham, but the fitness is v.bad. So not yet.
Last night was the last night of the Shirehorse. Keith's last visit to sheff before he sets off to build his new life in Austria. I have promised to go over, and he has promised to find out where the strip bars are. Think like Shabba Ranks, but with big guns, and you have the same picture I have. Good luck beast!

Thursday, 4 June 2009

no place like home

I wasn't supposed to be climbing at all this week. The grand plan was to abstain all week, let the skin grow back, really finish healing the bad finger and start afresh on monday. But... Because I didn't really climb on sunday, and because of the liberal applications of uncle hydral, my skin felt dynamite and I had a twitchy crimping finger. Re the finjury; when I first pulled on Pura Vida, I felt my bad finger aggravate (or so I thought), but then had no pain from it the rest of the week, even when I went back on PV and climbed through the bit that I thought had done it. And it feels better now. I wonder if I had scar tissue which needed to be broken off or something? whatever, it felt good last night.

So from not climbing at all to two sessions in one night. I had Ned in one ear and Folog in the other. Folog had the advantage - he was going out. The other wouldn't have gotten consideration usually (inside on a nice day, and not a training day either), but had Keith as an attraction, and as he is shortly leaving for good so I wanted to see him. And of course, young Ned Vegas. I havent had the pleasure for ages, so I did both. I went out to meet Folog at Rubbercon, and then finished up in the works with two walking anatomy lessons.

Rubbercon was warm (15degrees), but there was a bit of air about and it didnt feel too bad. I have no doubt that if you had wanted to do something, it could've been done - but that you would have had to try. It now feels like routes season temperatures. Do a bit, chat to Dan Cheatham and Ricardo and head up the road. I feel warmed up and ready to try. Jericho Road - tick. Cherokee lane is wet - X, The Pinch - tick. Pinch sit - tick (not done this one before). James wants to do the Hulk. I want to do it again. First go i hit the sloper - conditions are pretty good, my skin is mint and I know I can do it. James makes progress, I manage a repeat. Next up I manage a new problem for me which is called pink indians. Have a go on Sean's, do all the hard bit and fall off the top. Finish my first session by lapping to the end of Moffatrocity but not having the required resolve to finish it. Hot foot it back to the climbing wall.

I enquire as I arrive as to the wherabouts of my friends, but this was unnecessary. As I survey the punters, none of them look the part, climbing woodenly and covered with a layer of puppy fat. Out of the corner of my eye, at the other end of the room and on the steepest bit of wall I can see two bristling beefcakes, muscles rippling as they chalk their hands and swing through the roof on jugs.... Whoa there! JUGS? I've arrived at the end of some crazy volume comp training scene, the boys are yomping around the comp wall in preparation for some yogurt munching comp in Holland in a few weeks. Keith's vascular structure is amazing. He has a penis sized vein in his forearm (i.e not the size of a vein in your penis, rather the todger itself)(Penis Arms Bradbury). This man's title of 'The ShireHorse' is well deserved. I stay, chat and dick around for half an hour before going home to cook the tea.

It feels good to be back in the Peak again. I have always loved the park, it feels like home. I have had many good memories and happy times within its boundaries over the years and it will always have a very special place in my heart. Whether its Raven Tor or Stanage (I was going to write Rubicon for a laugh), what you are doing doesnt matter, if it makes you happy keep doing it. Keith says theres no scene like there was, but what he really means is that there's no board, which is true (we might be back in this winter...) and perhaps it is true theres a less cohesive training scene, but all thats done is move the pools of people about a bit and thats no bad thing. So, is a shame Keith is to leave, but is good to have somewhere to go stay in Europe.

Monday, 1 June 2009

magique homme

Magique Homme from dobbin on Vimeo.

So. The last time I wrote it was Saturday night and I was cooking tea up at the bunkhouse on our last night. Sunday came and everyone was knackered. Everyone that is, except Jonboy - who looked suprised when Rob mentioned it. I suppose thats what you get for being a rock warrior!

Sunday was a mint day for climbing. At least, it should have been had we been anything other than weeping fingered Zombies. Up early and out we went for the last time. Our pads were stashed near the bruno, so we quested through from the top, stopping to look at Practice of the Wild on the way. Warming up felt desperately hard, and I think we all got more enjoyment out of throwing pine cones at each other. As I reached the top of the de facto warm up traverse, James and Dylog sent what felt like tons of pine needles and forest detritus down over me. I am having E6 for that I reckon.

Warmed up, Ed and I have a quick foxtrot on la dance, and its then that I realise that I am pooped. Well and truly pooped. After a week of walking around the forest, it becomes minorly epic getting around laden with pad and so on. Magic wood is basically a talus scree slope partially covered in moss. So you are forever high stepping around roots and boulders - which is fine, but my spindly sport climbing hooves are feeling the pace today. I take my boots off for the last time and go do some spotting. Suprisingly, its pretty cold down by the bruno and I soon feel chilled to the core. Dylog and James put in some good attempts at pt2, but its rather too late in the day. Rob turns up and we quest off to electroboogie. I dont make it, being unable to face (be arsed) to walk up the hill. Besides, I sought it out earlier in the week. As I'm not trying, I'm not that interested. Rob isnt either, so with immunity, I retire to the bunkhouse an hour earlier to have a shower and pack.

When assembled we pick rob up from the campsite, leave the pads for jon and set off out of the Averstal valley. As soon as we round the corner the heavens open and it pretty much chucks it down all the way out of switzerland. Flight is 10 mins late, but compensated by the bags already being on the baggage carousel when we get through passport control. Its midnight when we get home and I feel a bit emotional that its over, but glad to be back.

Some pictures for you. The video will follow, when I have had time to put it together (a lot of crap). Some favorite pics :

Check out these vests which Ed Rob had made =
How gay is this picture? hommes in the forest
Really pleased with this pic of james on Piranja
This is where we lived for a week. Terribly built up and polluted
I dont know what to say really. This is how lots of the week was spent - giggling doing daft shit whilst other people were trying to climb. james is stood atop the hohenrausch boulder here. Hohenrausch is the crimps on the right
Dynamite! the obligatory Ben Moon locking on a bar pick. Particularly James' pursed lips and that my forearm blocks Dylogs head out!

So then, focus shifts to the next trip. The reason I have gone back to switzerland so many times is because its a style of climbing which I am good at. So, I can acheive my potential and theres less reliance on conditions - which, are generally good. You hear far less stories of people being rained or snowed off in swiss than you do in font for instance. I honestly believe I could climb 8b in switzerland, but I have spent quite a lot of time there over the last few years and it is chuffin expensive. Last night on the plane home Foley and I hatched a plan to raid le forest of fontainebleau towards the end of the year. And once the seed was sown I ruminated on how good it would be to get into font. Its much closer, and I have only been twice. Perhaps its time to learn to climb...