Monday, 5 December 2011

Roachford Blockwrestler

All through the Peak we cursed the Fletchers. There is no way it will be dry we agreed as the car aquaplaned down Froggat pass. Only fools would continue, but one fool had, and he insisted it was ok in the west and that roads and walls were dry. The cursing continued. As we passed the sign welcoming us to Staffordshire, it appeared there might be a chance. 

Things looked green, but dryish. The deep dark crevices were no good, but exposed boulders were actually climbable. Plus, Mushin actually looked ok. Jordan and Naomi turned up, padded it out and did the problem, thus dispensing any chance of blaming conditions for the impending failure. 

Good to see the Fletchers, good to be out with a full team for the first time in about a year. Biting wind at Mushin. Hard to stay warm. James does best, but that wasn't enough and none of us do it. I'm mithering to go to Tetris. James is bleating its a long way. It is, but it's worth it. Is this the best looking block of Gritstone? Jordan is there too, and has just done Columns. 

I do Tetris stand thanks to wild but correct jordan beta, and then nearly do the sitter but run out of beans before elimanating all possible means of failure. Go to the winking man for a pint. Good day for the Buys.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The end of days

I think when we last spoke I was wittering on about lovely days in beautiful weather bimbling around and actually doing stuff. The point of that post was two fold - partly to illustrate that it shouldnt all be about trying really hard, and partly because it was a lovely afternoon, and I was looking forward to the autumn/winter and it being cold. Well, it hasn't been, and it isnt.

One of the intervening weekends Foley came through and stayed. In my head it was all about getting out and having another day like that, but it rained solidly, so a lot of tea was drunk and some wood grifters pulled down at a heaving Climbing Works. Ned went to font, and despite wet and warm conditions came back with two 8B's (narcotic direct, satan) but didnt get to go on Gecko (too warm). And I even made it to the county - on my own, and admidst fog like death cloud. Needless to say, it was rubbish. Fucking Rock climbing. Bah.

Anyway, I have seen the future, and I would like to introduce you to the Dobowonderlog patent pending grade decline graph :

See that EDD? know what that means? Estimated Due Date.... Yes, thats right reader - we are pregnant! Well, I'm not but you get the picture. The graph shows the end of casual nonchalance on the 7th April, from thereafter will be a slow increase back to a max of 3b in about 2014, before a gradual slide into paunchdom thereafter.

Do we know what we are having? no. Not going to find out either. They can be wrong anyway, and she thinks it would be nice to have a suprise. I actually would quite like to know, but I dont really mind. Anyway, here is the little blighter :

To go with that, i have traded in the chavstra and bought a dad mobile :

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The 7a day

Dogged persistence may get you up projects, and whilst it feels great to do things you've worked hard for, its also important to have days without any prescribed agenda, days when you actually get to do some climbing and succeed without a battle. It's days like these when you remember what a fun experience climbing is, and when i find myself envying the casual punter, for whom this is the norm.  

These days are those where the light is good, the shadows long and the leaves not yet mulch. Rustling around between boulders, bantering with friends and actually succeeding on things. Feels good to be good at something. Going for a pint afterwards, scranning down crisps and eyeing the pork scratchings guiltily over the bar. The stings of the shower on fresh grit rash. Sigh. Its a good feeling as you slump into the sofa, tired but happy at the end of this perfect gritstone autumn day. 

People I have spoken to since seem incredulous that I could never have climbed at Rowtor, but I hadn't. Been for a walk, and been for lunch in the Druid, but never actually pulled on there. Armed with a selection of top three's from friends, I drove out to meet Dr Folog, Rupert, Sarah and mini-Rupert. The common factor in everyone's recommendation was yoghurt hypnotist, so that's where we started. 

Its an amazing place, Rowtor. Carved in the late 80's by a travelling hippy commune, temporarily kettled there by angry middle class villagers. There are caves, armchairs and drainpipes all carved out of the stone. Its a cool place for a wander around if nothing else. 

Yoghurt Hypnolog climbs a hanging rib beneath one such drainpipe, and whilst it climbs brilliantly, its a tiny bit elimanate as you could lurch to the drainpipe and avoid the difficulty. Can't remember the last time I actually did anything, so bouncing around excitedly having done it, I turn my attention to the off width on the right hand side. I am PWhiddy! I think to myself as I slide my leg into an overhead leg bar (bet they would have an actual phrase for such a move) and hang sans hands from it. Rupert is tired and cross, as he does all the hard bit of Yogalog and then fails on the mantle. James does the same. Baby Ru and Sarah play with leaves. I go to look at blood falls. 

Collect original team and wander off to Quine, and who should peer through the undergrowth than king of the geometries himself - Ms Lisa Anderson. Actually in the Peak district, and apparently climbing! oh, how having a lady friend has tempered this once virile firebrand - once was the time when he would have been glued to the board, fingers thrust into the shallowest of mono pockets, his girth dangling limply beneath him, but not now, no. Another great problem, get close but don't actually do it, then Lee leaves us and we move to domes. 

At first we have no concept of what is required, ultimately having to resort to looking at the picture in the guidebook, but that's no help, as it just has a picture of the Lord Wormsdale half way through the sitter. Eventually Rupert unlocks the sequence with what I can only describe as 'concept levitation'. I cannot compute the move at all, but eventually it yields to a wild slap. We try the sitter and conclude its very hard. The day is nearly over, we are all flagging and the dusk is drawing near. Nip to Short Sean's reachy roof, and the fatigue is clear in the honourable Mr Davies who looks beaten. We look briefly at that mantle thing which we all fail on, and finish on Blood Falls. Then the pub. Ahh the pub. Lovely. Its dark when we leave and I am late home. Great day.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Mecca Mucka

Time is only wasted if you think it so. If you look hard enough there's a positive spin to be put on any situation. You can choose to bang into metaphysical obstacles and resent them for being in your way, or you can seek teaching in your blunderings, learn from them and become all powerful. 

Certainly, when one is as incompetent as I, it pays to have such a positive (some would say foolhardy) outlook on life. You could look at yesterdays attempts to rock climb as another failure on the current route of my desires, you could say that you knew in your heart that whilst you were strong enough, that that wasn't the problem and that your fitness would let you down. You could say that you knew you had a split, and that that crimp would open it again, or you could look at the whole experience as being a chance to climb with someone new, to work out the cheating kneebars don't work for once and for all, and to be outside in the nature. 

Me and that lanky streak of piss Barrows went to the tor. When I got there he was already warmed up, so I put my harness on to give him a belay. The constant random prattling continued right until he stepped off the ground. Then I thought he was going to fall off the low wall - oh good, i thought, inwardly. I'm on full cruise control at that point, and could probably chalk and blow there. He won't do it before me. Jolly good. In a wild lurch he latches two tips on the very end of the gaston - oooh, he's off I think, but he isnt, he bumps in to the hold and carries on. Ah well, there's no way he can continue far after that start, and he doesn't. Gets a hand to the groove, fluffs it and stops. Fair enough. 

The prattling starts again, then with scant rest he sets off to the top, and rinses it. I wouldn't say it looks smooth, but who cares, he's done it in two sections with next to no rest. Its fully on for him. I'm actually quite excited. When I see these things (like when Ned does hard stuff) I find them really inspiring. Its like a reminder that it is possible to succeed. Anyway, its my go, so - all about me. I feel good, strong, its cold - best ever conditions i have been on the route, and as I get the crimp beneath the groove I feel good - I could do this today I think, I hit the horn - badly. I try to move my feet, the horn is really bad and I have to ninja footkick onto a hold which is not my hold, dammit! i try to jump my foot up but it all spings off and I'm airborne. Oh well. I look down at my hands and realise I have split an old not-quite-healed split again. In the words of Ben Moon - 'Dammmit!, i'm not gonna do it'....

The baton gets handed back to Barrows. A tense quiet hangs in the air. He sets off, makes it through the bottom a bit more convincingly and is soon facing the bottom of the groove. He slaps in to the wrong place, but it's what he meant to do, and then he rolls over to the horn - interesting. Then, quickly, he scuffs his knee into the groove and starts to shake out. Little shit! with his route fitness and tenacity, he's gonna be able to get enough back to do it! the knee comes out and goes back into the higher one, still looking good. He clips, stabs his foot on a smear and moves to the crimp - got it! nice one, then cool as you like gets set in the top egyptian and reaches over. At this point, visions of Stu's video of Rich Heap coming flying off are in my head, and he does look like he's going to, I brace myself on belay, but no - he's done it, reaches into the flake, clips the chains and doesn't even stop! no, he goes for a look at the extension first! good effort! 

The kneebars. Let's talk about the cheating low life knee bars - preserve of the weak. If I could get them to work i would do. The people who tell you they are cheating are either those who have invested their time and done it a harder way not using them, or who can't get them to work. I seem to be in the latter camp, so because i cant do them, I'm saying they're cheating. But i don't mean it really. You may say that that bolt scar wasn't there when it was first climbed, and maybe it wasn't, but the edge above was, and also - the horn was a shakeout jug. Just cos you did something a hard way - doesn't mean you get extra points, or that other ways are wrong. 

Ok, so - with a split finger i wasn't going to be redpointing today, but to be honest, I knew i wasn't anyway. I know I haven't got the endurance of a sea lion and I knew I wasn't going to be able to do it yesterday. I use the session, and a happy and willing belayer, to work out the knee bars. I have gotten into the groove and clipped a few times, so if I could then wack in this knee bar and milk it, well - i could be in with a chance. The first lesson is this - there's another foothold for the first kneebar. This makes it much more viable for me. And, its not the bolt scar. SO, I get the first one and am still a bit under tension - its not good by any stretch, but its also the most comfortable I have felt there yet. I step out and up to the top one. Now this is good, and I can comfortably get to the undercut pocket and the crimp. But, I can't get out. Which suggests I am still doing it wrong. I struggle on and try to work it out, but never manage to exit the groove using kneebars. Finally, to finish I have a go from the base of the groove with my old sequence, and piss it. It feels well easy. I think I just need to stick to that and face up to the fitness issue. 

We talk about training. He has done lots of it. I just go on the board. He tells me something I knew really, but that I needed telling. That if your training doesn't make you feel pumped like you do on your project, then its not the right training for your project. There are lots of different types of pump, and I haven't managed to replicate the powered out mecca feeling indoors yet. But, i will. Question is - have i time before it craps out?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011


The problem with routes is that you get weak doing them. The problem with climbing boulders is that you loose fitness doing them. The problem with having a multitude of conflicting goals and aspirations is that you want everything at once - and you can't have it. 

Ah but you can - you just need time, inclination and propensity for hard work. The more immeadiate problem is the lack of people willing to still go bolt clipping. I've been wanting to get back to Cheedale, but news of hold breakage and potential wetness, plus it not being my primary objective have led to the realisation that it will all still be there next year, and that those rare moments where someone can be coerced into bolt clipping should now be focussed on Mecca until it really is undeniably shitstone season. 

I have to do Mecca before swamp donkey and before dylan gets back. 

However, with noone keen - I went back to Anston at the weekend, and the difference in my ability between a hot day at the start of summer and now was apparent. This, whilst it shouldn't have been, was something of a revelation. I thought I had been climbing allright. Not brilliant, but allright - certainly I thought I had done ok on the comp wall of late, so why doesn't it transmute - and that, dear reader - is the realisation. The comp wall, whilst fun, is about making big moves on reasonable holds. Its about body strength, and whilst that's what you need for comps, it isn't for outdoor rock boulderising. The board is. 

One person who seems to have leapt forwards is my celebrity belayer. There was once a time where I used to burn him off (happy days), then the next year we were about equal, then forever after he was ahead. At first a little, and now a lot. By god he is going well at the moment - there must be something in that moo moo shed. Ah well, surely I can bask in reflected glory as his training svengali agent and manager. 

Talking of celebrities, there was a rich vein of them at the Pritchard/Van der Meulen wedding a couple of weeks ago. Doyle and I were beside ourselves that we would be in the same room as Ben and Jerry, but the actual overlap was just 20 minutes, and we failed to sieze the photo opportunity. Ever the stalker of the visiting wad, I have since made it my business to foist myself upon visiting wads Alex Puccio and Chris Webb Parsons, both of whom seem very nice. 

Friday, 14 October 2011

The coaching scam

I know a little bit about hearts - there's more than one chamber, and some ventricle things, and even something called an 'Aorta'. So, I think i shall open a heart surgery shop. You can pop in at any time of day or night, and I shall minister to you with an array of tools appropriated from the kitchen. Roll up, roll up! Get your cut price heart surgery here! 

Don't think I should expect too many customers do you? It seems that if you do some hard stuff (or say you have) then you can set up a cosy little coaching business and earn upwards of £50 an hour to pass on your wisdom. Hang on, Hang on, let's play that back again, but ignoring the bit about lying, because that's another discussion entirely - I do some hard climbs, I'm a pretty good climber - well done me. I train myself to do them through endless hours on the board, campusing or whatever. Jolly good, SO, I must know a bit about training right? Not necessarily, no. You know what got YOU where YOU are and what made you able to do those climbs, but this doesn't mean you have studied sports science, understand physiology and can tailor training to another person. For the same reason copying training from PersonA wont make PersonB fit and strong. 

Its quite a dangerous precedent to set saying that anyone can deliver coaching, I mean - what about liability - could it be argued that bad coaching could be responsible for injuring a coachee? A coach doesnt have to be an 8B+ megawad, success alone does not a good climber make - over the years there have been many examples of people doing hard things through sheer bloody mindedness, and this whilst in some ways admirable does not a good climber make them. What I am saying, and what I want you to do potential coachee is look beyond first appearances and really think about who you are having coach you and understand why you think they will be able to help you be better than you are now. 

Just like all doctors dont need to be rippling adonis', so your coach doesnt need to have done harder climbs than you, but question what it is they can give you - why are they going to be able to help you be a better climber? In my head coaching should either come from someone who climbs beautifully and can explain themselves (i.e. is articulate), or who has studied and is going to help you build method into your training.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Eyeball Paul

The weather was dank, and it was nothing short of madness to go to the Tor, but with Dylan desperate to be like Basher and get Mecca done before his holiday, off we tootled, bright and early - making the most of the moist conditions. Time brought with it better conditions, but time we didnt have. We had to climb there and then. Needless to say, we were both bobbins. No new links, no progress (other than backwards).

Then she and I went on holiday. We had decided to drive to the south of France. The reason for the mega drive was that it meant we (I) could take surfboards. I'd planned to stop half way, which is roughly Font, so we got the chance to check out the Andy Jennings mega gite - the House. Its good. Got loads of potential, but also would cost loads of money to realise it fully. Did climb for about 30 minutes at Isatis. Saw squiff in the car park, he didn't see us, mainly because I ran off in the other direction to avoid saying hello. The house (as the andy jennings thing is called) is brilliant. Highly recommended.

Here's a wee pic of fontainebleau palace with the moon over it on the way down :

The bit getting to font was by far the worst bit. The roads around Paris are predictably busy. When we got south it was quite a different proposition. Dull, efficient, costly French autoroute. This part of the journey took 7 hours. Nothing to report - 'cept we saw a Lotus Evora :

Found cap de l'homy easily, and it far surpassed our excpectations. Picture a massive pine forest that stretches for miles in every direction until it meets a line of sand dunes and then the beach. Cap de l'homy sits just inside the forest on the edge of the dunes. To the beach was perhaps 300 metres. I thought that a municipal campsite would be a bit shit - as a council owned facility in the UK surely would? so, we were suprised and delighted at how clean, efficient and well run things seemed to be. Nice toilets (for a campsite), good showers, and most of all - amazing location. We hadn't taken a tent, instead taking the option to rent a canvas bungalow thing. Think like a little chalet but made of stretched canvas. There was a kitchenette area, all crockery and a little hob provided, beds for 5, bedding - everything you would need, and perfect to avoid having to travel with camping gear. The only thing it could have benefitted from was running water. You could fly drive here and it would be fine. If you came in season you would even be able to hire boards, so perhaps thats an option for next time.

Of course, the first thing I wanted to do was to check the beach. Incredible. It runs for something like 200 km from biarritz at the bottom up to the gironde at bordeaux. And, where you join it at cap de, you can see no signs of development - theres no high rise buildings, its just forest and then miles and miles of beach. Brilliant. We were tired and hungry and there was this terrifying, body smashing shore break scene in front of our eyes. Normally theres a flat fun bit with kids in it next to the beach, but not here - here, the sea rears up into an angry six foot monster inches from the shore! here is a picture not showing that :

Waves are generated from the action of a storm out at sea. The wind across the surface of the water starts a wave, which if it has space to travel before it comes ashore organises itself and becomes something called groundswell. In a sea without much room for this to happen (such as the North sea) this doesn't have time to happen, and what you are surfing on is probably windsea. I.e. the wind has created teh waves where you are surfing them. The difference between windsea and groundswell in surfing terms is that the latter is big fat powerful organised lines marching out across the ocean, and the former can be just chop! When aforementioned swell hits the land, the sea floor forces the bottom of the wave to slow down, but the top isnt so restricted - it goes faster, which means it overtakes the top, and rides up out of the ocean - which creates the shape and peak you expect to be able to surf on. Here in france the beach is both steep and made up of this gravelly sand conglomerate which means the waves take on a hollow tube shape - and pack a mean punch.

So, we have a problem. To get to the waves you want to be in you have to get past the crushing jaws of the shorebreak. The technique seemed to be to pick the biggest, gnarliest bit, get as close to it as you dared, and wait for it to detonate right in front of you, then dive over the back and hope to be sucked out beyond it! However, you also had to paddle. To rely only on the undercurrent was to be sucked into the death zone! This meant you would get into a loop where it would suck you into the worst possible place to be, knock your feet from under you and then explode on your head!

Anyway, I eventually do get out to the waves out the back but wherever you paddle to they move away from! or thats how it felt. And, there's this massive cross shore drift. So, sitting on your board with your view fixed on something on the land you move laterally quite fast. Speaking to Gav about this when I got back, he explained he would walk up the beach against the direction of the drift (north), paddle out, catch a few as he went and then go back in and repeat. This was sort of what went on, but to be honest it was quite a lot of hard work, and I have ridden better waves at Scarborough!

For the next three days I surfed and surfed until my triceps and back felt like I had been trapped in Tom Randall's cellar with Pete Whittaker and an array of rubberware. I was almost pleased when it went windy and rubbish. We went to Hossegor and Biarritz one day which was nice. Rained unfortunately, so didn't wander as much as we might have done. Talking about Scarborough - Biarritz is a bit like a posh Scarborough. I.e. its got a faded grandeur thing going on.

The next day the weather is as bad and we go to San Sebastian which is just over the border in Spain. Lovely. We really really liked it here. Normal sort of town stuff then a really cool network of amazing medieval buildings the foot of which are all tapas shops. Only, being the Basque country its called pintxos. Everything is out on the counters, so you can see what there is and pick what you like the look of, which is handy because they speak basque, which is sort of spanish, but with more x's. Monday and its still shit at sea, we do a bit more touring about, buy a hammock and loaf around. At least the sun is starting to come out (just accompanied by nuclear wind).

Tuesday and the surf is back in business. I run to the sea first thing and have a look - looks good, so I go and get suited up. Decide to ride the mini mal, as its not big, and this board means I can ride it on anything, and as surfing hasnt so far been very successful on this trip I feel like I would like to actually do something. Get a couple of ok rides, its 10am and I think I will go in and walk up the beach (see earlier drift thing). Speak to a french couple on the beach, and then pick a flattish spot to get in the water. Get back out and get an ok ride. Pleased with myself I start paddling back out. NOw, I dont really know how this next bit happened. Not sure whether I was on the way out, or had caught a ride and pitched into the water or something, but I end up in the drink and not on my surfboard. I am swimming back towards it (I think), then it gets lifted up and flung tail first at my head. The fin at the back of the board goes right into my left eye socket. I don't know this, but that's whats happened as will become obvious. All I know is that my eye doesn't work and that it hit me hard. I know I have to get in quickly. I want to know if I can see, and as I take my hand away from my face there's blood on it. I can't see if that's all there is, and I am in the water, so perhaps its been washed away - but there's not much blood and I am hopeful that's a good sign. Eyesight is foggy on that side, perhaps its just watering or something? god, I hope so. Things feel wierd, and the paddle back to shore feels epic. I get in, retrieve my flip flops and start walking out. I feel quite sick. See the French couple again and show them. Although they dont speak english, I hope to be able to gauge how bad it is by their reaction. They don't help, as she nearly faints, and he seems to think I should find a doctor.

I make it back to the tent and zip open the door. The honey monster is in the bedroom and I say 'Could you come and have a look at something for me?' then she sees it and is like 'Oh Shit!' etc etc. First mistake - we go local doctor. He can't see us until 1400. He says go straight to hospital. We do that and get xrayed, cleaned up and generally inspected. All of this takes about three hours. We are thoroughly miserable. And, as noone speaks english, and we dont speak French theres a lot of gesticulating going on to make understood. But, staff are very nice, facilities seem very good. We get told we have to come back tomorrow to see the surgeon and that I will be having an operation. I assume that this is just getting lost in translation, that they dont mean operation and surgeon, but doctor and stitches.

They didn't. They meant operation, they meant surgeon, and they meant operating theatre. 0830 the next day and I am shitting my pants. First I meet the surgeon. He does eye exam. You know when they are going through the motions and you cant tell whether its good or bad? then when theres a lot of interest and focus on something specific? well thats what happened. He puts some drops in to dilate the pupil and sends a nurse back with more of the same every 15 minutes for the next two hours. I have one massive eye, one normal one. I can see through it, but it hurts and keeps watering. He comes back and finishes the eye exam and says 'I sink you are verry lucky guy', and explains I should make a full recovery - there will be no long lasting effect, and that he needs to do some stitches, which he will do in theatre because he wants everything to be very clean. I think that sounds reasonable and am delighted that things are going to be ok. I feel pleased to have had it all checked by the top dude and know that its gonna be allright.

Now I get anaesthetic drops in my poor suffering eyeball. A very slow hour passes and my tension levels are high. I get taken down to theatre, made to put on the paper pyjamas and then lead in. Its a proper operating theatre. I lie down. Its cold. I am shaking. He says not to be nervous and that it will take no more than 30 minutes. He straps my head to the table, and tells me not to move. At this point he says 'So, you know you 'av zee two er... ow you say? wounds? oui?' oh? say I, 'yesss, one in zee eyelid, one in zee errr, conjunctiva? ow you say, errr - eyeball?' WHOA! no, i didnt know that! i knew I needed stitches in my eyelid, and thats what I though we were doing, but this eyeball business is news to me. Oh well i think. Committed now, and in the best hands. He seems to know what he's doing. An emotive thing your vision though eh? Especially having experienced 24 hours of 50% reduction and didnt like it. In for a penny in for a pound I say and he looks back blankly. THen starts ze work.

He explains that of the whole procedure, that the injections and the clamping of the eyelid will be painful and wierd respectively, and they are and it is. Then he places two stitches in my eyeball, and four in my eyelid. The ones in the eyeball are suprisingly painless. The actual prep is worse than the doing. He tells me to stare at his microscope light which, being terrified, I am glad of something to focus on. Having stitches in your eye is like watching someone stitching on a piece of glass just above your eye. It doesnt hurt or feel wierd or anything, but I suppose thats the anaesthetic. Anyway, the whole thing is over mercifully quickly, and i could hug him for saying I am gonna be fine and for fixing me up. We drive back to the campsite and rest the rest of the day in the sunshine. I feel fine, just a bit shaky and have only one eye. I can take the bandage off the next day though.

I must say - props to the wife for remaining calm throughout, and also for picking up the driving around to and from the hospital. She'd never driven on the continent and was a bit worried about it, but as she said after about a mile - 'if you know how to drive its actually very easy'! and of course, for looking after me during and after. Thank god for the honey monster.

SO, a day later, and the recovery rate is fast. I am feeling exponentially better and I take control of the driving back to font. This is a long day, but we make good time, and I even get to climb at Isatis and burn some Germans off - with a terminator eye! We eat at Pizza Mimi, and the next day I drive us to the eurotunnel. IT all goes well, but when we get back to blighty we are sick of being in the car and the remaining 5 hours home feels slightly desperate.

its been a good trip, even inspite of the little mishap, and yes - i will be surfing again. What happened here was a really wierd freak accident. Noone I have spoken to has ever heard of anything like this happening to anyone else, and I am just glad that I can still see!

Friday, 9 September 2011

A dog ate my parkin

You wouldn't have thought the Cornice would still be dry, not after all that rain? but it was. Bone dry. Roy nearly did Bricktop, getting right up to the top but being unable to clip and that being his best go. I nearly did Nemesis, getting further than before, but still wilting just before the jugs. Had a little work of the 'man's way' and couldn't make it work (there's a lesson there perhaps), but pleased to be pretty close. 

Also got to try with the official 5.10 kneepad. This is dynamite. Rather superior to the butchered shoe I was using previously, although I never found the hands off rest at the start of nemesis. 

A massive brown dog wolfed my parkin. It's owner was mortified, but I was quite taken with the furtive nature of the beast, who, in fairness - looked no stranger to food theft. His owner avoidance technique was second to none. Besides, there's another lesson there - Parkin does not get one to the top of Nemesis. Perhaps lettuce does? 

Tomorrow morning would be the next chance to get back there, but it's also Dylan's last day in the Peak for 8 months, so he has deciding vote, and he votes for Mecca!

Monday, 5 September 2011

Aloof Roof

To achieve one's goals, one must be prepared to stick to ones guns when all about one people are channel surfing. However, whilst a certain amount of doggedness is an asset, too much is stubborness. I thought I could do roof warrior in another session, and so I was scratching around for chances to get back to it. Noone could be persuaded on Saturday the 27th, and this is when having more than one thing on the go pays dividends. I didnt want to, but back to the tor I went and got on Mecca. I felt fat, weak and way off the pace. I think I knew this was going to happen, and that's why I hadn't wanted to go. Sulked off home at lunchtime.

Magic Seaguess predicted that the conditions on the East coast would be favorable. Everyone else had gone on the sunday and monday and the reports came back of amazing sessions, overhead barrels and charging reef breaks. Tuesday looked even better. The Monday team had had to seek shelter, but by Tuesday PM it looked like the wind died out and favorably changed direction. Ed had just got back from a break to Thailand, where he had discovered God :

And the good lord said that we should ride waves.

The lord wouldn't get his wish. The first problem was that the tide was all wrong. Very big tide, and going to be high water just after we got there. Ideally it would have been low, then we could have gone to this runswick place. We went to Cayton. From the cliff it looked quite good, but as we got to the water it looked like there was a lot of white water and that as Ed put it 'a torrid paddle' awaited. And it did. Should have told a story that there were 50 people in the water, and only 2 out the back. We eventually increased the number to four, but not without some serious effort. Caught no good rides, agreed to check s.bay. Drove round in wetsuits to find the sea bouncing off the sea wall and no chance of surfing. Bobbins. Went for a cuppa and drove home hating surfing.

I got to go back to Roof Warrior that Thursday with incomprehensible Brian. Sort of felt a bit pumped from the off really. Don't know if I over-warmed up or something like that. He didn't look good on CoD either, so perhaps it was something in the air, but part of me knows it wasn't and that we were shit. So, let's analyse those errors :

This is a knee pad I made to make the route easier. It's an old Pink Anasazi with the top butchered so you can strap it to your leg. I showed Ned the above picture and he said the problem with such devices is that they are ok for bouldering because there isn't that much leg waggling before you need to use the pad, but with routes it could well move. And move it did. At the first knee bar it worked, sort of, but didn't acheive its goal - the position felt no easier, so it was kind of pointless. Then it moved between the kneebars and actually caused the next one - which should be a rest, to feel terrifying. Balls.

Saturday morning came and with it a chance to drag another willing victim down the dale. Things just felt better. I felt better, today was surely the day. I had eschewed the kneepad, and gone back to the comfy floppy clown shoe rock boots. For a millisecond, on the 'putting the clips in' go, I thought like a hero I was actually going to be able to do it putting the clips in! Quickly realisation dawned and i stopped that attempt. But, I felt like I'd climbed it well, that I remembered all the cheating tricks and that I was actually going to do it. Had a really good rest whilst Ed had a burn. Then it came time to tie on again.

I rinsed up the lower wall, punching through the sequence to a poor rest in the roof. CLip. Quick couple of breaths, change hands and stand around a bit, then reach back through the roof. I clamp my feet around the undercut and take my right hand off. This is a wierd move. I pivot out and stuff my hand into the sharp jug to move up to the first kneebar. I remember the nuances and make the next clip. Without stopping I put the top thighbar in and clip again.

Conciously I slow my breathing down, changing hands and shaking out trying as best I can to recover enough for the redpoint crux. Look round, and have a quick chat with Ed, then its time to go, and I throw myself at the edge above. It's an ok hold, and if it was on the bouldering wall you'd be able to do a one armer on it, but up there, after all that - it's not what you need. I shuffle along it, remember my foot sequence, toeing down on a blackened smear and changing my focus to the undercut above. I don't allow thought, stoppage or doubt, instead thrusting my hand upwards into the undercut - got it! Yesss! match in and snatch a few ragged breaths. I know I haven't got much left, and that I need to be quick. There's a good finger jug coming up, and I scuttle quickly up to it, hoping to be able to recover. I try my best but there's not much coming back in my arms, and I know that it'll soon be counter productive. Push on!

These are good holds, but they're all a bit flat - there's nothing you can hang off your skin on, and I feel that I am slapping increasingly wildly, but thankfully, before I fall off I get the massive hooter right of the chains and clip. Get in! Ed has another go, but is still really pumped, so we tootle back off to meet James.

That evening we and a group of 18 join Dylan and Lucy at the aagrah in Sheffield for farewell drinks. Its a nice evening, but we are pretty tired by then. It rains on Sunday. James attempts dog napping :

Ed shows us his lo-fi Dyson :

And our weekend finishes with a pie :

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

roof mong

I love the Cheedale Cornice! It's just brilliant. From descending into the leafy underworld to punching through the roof on massive jugs, it's just fab. Went back on Roof Warrior last night. I'd conceptualised what I had to do, and I had a notion that I could actually do it. What i mean is, I believed I could do it. 

First go bolt to bolt putting the clips in. Cover the ground, remember where the holds are - feels ok. My concept isn't too far from reality - sometimes when I talk myself into something, when I actually try it I realise my dreams were miles away from reality. 

Britain's best bum doctor asserts his place as Britain's biggest sequence mong and covers the distance in a thousand links. I have a redpoint. Get up to the roof, clip from a strange position, but carry on - these are big holds. The kneebars are good but never quite right. They're not quite rests, but they sort of could be, or so it feels. Because they're never quite right, you think there's value in messing with them, when actually it may have been prudent just to race through. On reflection, I think you have make the best of what you get and try and get something back. At least it doesn't hurt. I feel like I'm slipping out of the kneebar clips, but manage to do them, and then I'm on the headwall, hands on the crimp wondering how it could feel so piss in isolation but so scary now, pumped and having to boldly press on above the bolts. I wimp out, showting what will no doubt be my epitaph - 'take'. 

Meanwhile the big numbers are going down. The cornice scene is a strong one, with good energy and impressive feats all round. Neil Mawson makes short work of Bob's Techno Prisoners (although he says it took a number of sessions), Paul does Devonshire Arms, and Gus gets up Jug Jockey. We are lucky, living in sheffield, to have this place on our doorstep. 

In the middle section - secteur Fail, everyone's getting up there but not up there enough. My next go I get to the same place, matched on the crimp, and starting to rock up to the undercut. I wimp out again. Brian employs a wild sequence to not do Cry of Despair, and James forgets his own name. A foundry routes hero turns up in 80's shorts and runs up Roof Warrior, literally sprints through to the roof, has a breath and then busts out onto the headwall, looks good - surely he's gonna do it, but no, he stabs into the undercut but shoots off the edge of it and is airborne. Interesting, totally different sequence. Discussion follows about the relative merits of each, and we both decide to ignore the other (as both look close as we are). 

Brian leaps gazelle like between the holds on his 8b variant of COD. He tries hard but comes away empty handed, as do we all. I can't wait to get back on Roof log. It's brilliant. The secret is to breath, rest and calm down in the top knee bar. I felt like as the evening went on I got more efficient, and that if I manage to get back there soon then I think I should do it. Also, I need to do it early in a session. Or get fitter.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Cave Weakling / Roof Warrior

The traffic ground to a halt again. No accident, no roadworks or anything 'hard' to stop progress, just sheer weight of traffic and bad driving. As the BMW hurtled towards the bumper of the next small vehicle in its path I cowered lower in the passenger seat, embarrassed by the speed with which we advanced on our prey. Like a Panther swatting aside a spent carcass, we hurtled off again - 'You've been BMW turbo'd!' exclaimed the driver to the blurred angry faces gesticulating at the smoking tyres of the disappearing car. 

The weather was quite nice on the a55, but we could see clouds around the mountains. Inspite of them we quested onwards, and as we did things worsened from 'a bit grey' to 'lashing it down'. Went to the shop in 'beris, had a coffee with a cordial chap, and then continued to the orme. By which time it was also raining there, and a charming sea fog had drifted in to say hello. Joe and Vics were in the cave. Nice to see them, but rather a long way to catch up with two other Sheffield residents. They looked like they were doing ok, so perhaps it was allright, and certainly holds were dry but that wasnt the problem. The problem was grease, and humidity. Basically, we were shit. I didnt feel like i did more than two consecutive moves. Man, I even fell off Left wall traverse at the end. Which just goes to show that a summer of climbing with strings does not a man cave fit make. And, perhaps also that cave fitness does not cross over to anything other than the cave? I like boulderising though - its so easy. 

On the Sunday we went down the Cheedale Cornice. I felt exhausted. My arms felt strained. Nemesis seemed no so much unlikely as really stupid to get on. So I didnt. I went back on Cry of Despair to showboat, but forgot all the clips and had to hang around to get some more before the crux. Such a fun route though. Then Dylan and I went on the upside down madness which is the futuristic Roof Warrior. Wow. Another wild route with some great moves. Miles off doing it, but cant wait to try again.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Cry of Dobolog

It's felt a few degrees cooler recently, but thats a few degrees relative to what it was, and that still means warm. Dylan and I went back on Mecca last thursday. It felt smee. We didn't do too badly to say we haven't been on it for ages, and the idea was to keep the hand in rather than actually redpoint. I finally took the time to investigate the kneebars. Not great are they?

Then she and I bailed down to Cornwall, which was basically all about eating and drinking. There was also exercise in the form of surfing, but actually, i have had better conditions on the north east coast of late, so that wasn't brilliant. I suppose the interesting lesson from that trip was that the water is so much nicer in devon and cornwall! its blue for a start, although the beaches are busier. Much busier.

Tuesday was my birthday, 35. Jesus.

Yesterday was the first chance to climb. Although its going a bit cooler, its also rained more, and in the back of my mind is the concern that soon the cornice will be wet and with it, my chance to climb nemesis gone for another year (possibly more). So we (Dylan and I) headed down there with a loose plan of cry of despair and/or nemesis. Although actually, in my head I sort of knew it would be a bad idea to go on Nemesis - fat and weak after loads of trough, i'd only go backwards and get cross. And what better way to get back on it than going on this mega route which people kept going on about. I mean, positively raving about how good it is. Brian even said I could flash it! He must have been having those climbing dreams people were on about on the internet where amazing and fantastical things happen. He must never have actually seen me climbing! Either that or its 5b.

I knew I wasn't going to flash it. I must be one of the worlds worst flashers (!). Knowing this, and knowing that Dylan stood a good chance of beta flashing, I set off to clip it up and work out a sequence. Straight off the deck it felt like there was a tricky flick to a good hold, which on my last go of the day I finally realised you make much easier with a heel. Had we known all the little bits and nuances perhaps it would have been possible to flash it, but it doesnt matter.

I bolt to bolt the route, work out a sequence and come down to the ground. What a wild route this is! its got everything! two full hands off rests, an arse wedge and no rat crimps. Just what I needed on a first session back.

The route feels like it has three distinct sections. A vertical bottom wall to the undercut and kneebar rest, then a steeper section which contains the meat of the difficult climbing ending with an uncomfortable bit of respite in the open corner before finally a teeter up a vertical wall to the belay.

Dylan sets off on his flash go, getting to the undercut and putting the knee bar in. He doesnt look comfortable and slips off getting his feet over the overlap. I have another go, and I knew this wouldnt be a successful one, as I felt like I needed to know how the climbing felt like continuously. Bit kicking myself about this one really, as I got to the crimp past the sloper at the top but refused to slap to the pocket which signals the end of the hard climbing. Lowered off. He has another go, and it looks wild on the bottom wall, he doesnt look like he's going to do it, but he keeps going and makes it through to the corner at the top, managing to get his hands off and get it all back to romp to the finish. Nice effort.

The pressure's on, and I think I feel a bit pumped. Success is far from assured. But, its on this go where I find that heel at the start, and I skip a clip before the crux which means there are beans in reserve. Kicking myself from previous failure I dont allow any thoughts to enter my head and with a bit of panting and scraping I too am established in the uncomfortable groove at the top, wishing I could get it all back like he did. I get my breath to slow down and go for it. This next bit I have a great sequence on. Basically I wedge my arse in the crack and can almost sit astride it to rest. Again, I wait, and then finally a little wobble to the jug. Phew.

Great route though. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Cornish pasties

Couple of pictures from mini Cornish surf trip. Pretty log in terms of wave riding, very big seas but onshore wind messing things up, some really good people seemed to be able to get more out of it than me, I would take off, start to turn in and then it would close out so I'd either pull out or ride the White all the way to the beach. Bobbins. Anyway, heres one from fifteen :

Which was on the Saturday night. Lovely food, great service - I loved it. Oh, and amazing setting. It had taken 6hrs to get there though, so if we look a bit tired that's why.

Porth joke (round corner from crantock) on Sunday morning. We got in at a messy crantock after this walk.

Crantock church. Cute.

View from bedruthan steps on the way to padstein for tea.

A pal checking out the most expensive joint in town. We went to the chippy!

Bedruthan steps yesterday morning. The legend is that bedruthan - a Cornish giant, built the steps to cross the bay (like stepping stone) but was turned back by another Cornish giant (diggory). I feel a bit like a Cornish giant this morning. Back to slimming world!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The ancestral lineage of John Cooke

Sunday the 31st
At best it was going to be the last chance saloon - a slightly desperate attempt to catch some waves before the normal summer flatness returned. The signs weren't perfect, but in my optimism to surf I managed to convince myself it'd be worthwhile. Sometimes my aspiration and desire affects my judgement, and this was one of those times. I drove for 4hrs to splash around for an hour and a half in a dying swell with the wrong tides and not really catch anything, other than a whiff of agricultural effluent.

However, no experience is entirely negative, and inspite of this ozone burning exercise in futility, I've learnt that there should be minimum conditions present before embarking. These, I think - are 4ft, 8seconds and light off shore winds. And the right tides for wherever you head.

Dylan and I went to the WCJ cornice on Tuesday the 2nd. Bumped into some Scottish heroes when we arrived and then realised we had no belay device! Well done. Thankfully some kind chaps had one to lend and the day wasn't lost. Ropegunned Brachiation dance for them by means of mild exchange and then got on the disillusioned Glue machine. This is a route I first looked at the day I did Yorkshire 8b. I got on it for something to do, and to avoid rumble. It was filthy and I spent an hour cleaning it, but made little difference as it was so minky. This year someone more capable has put the time in and its restored to a reasonable state (so whoever you are - nice one! bolt heads want tightening up mind). Dylan has a great session flash go, getting to the vulcan pocket from the deck but not doing the move. I keep getting there and running out of steam. Anyway, we have a nice time, noone does it and we leave as it goes dusky (now 9pm).

My throat felt a bit sore that night, and by wednesday day its razor blades and I'm uncommunicative and grumpy. Thursday and Friday are mired in snot and even on saturday I'm still flaccid. Sunday I get a short unexpected pass but noone to climb with, so I furtle off down Blackwell dale to go on Paint it black. Fully expecting to be rubbish I'm pleasantly suprised, and whilst the pressure in my sinuses makes prolonged sequences of hard moves a bit uncomfortable, I can still do a bit and manage to scrape my way up the problem (but not before a thousand skin depleting goes). Again, a fair scene of dreadlocked puy jugglers, the sound of digeridoo music fills the air and the smell of agricultural by products once again meets my nostrils. I meet a man who is not John Cooke, but could be his doppelganger, and i accuse him of such, but this is not the first time he has been so challenged, and he puts me right. Apparently he is half thai, where John Cooke is half philipino. So now you know.

Monday night, as you know - is board night. Ned was bored though, and it was a nice day. He wanted to go out, not to climb, but just to get out of the house... I saw my chance, and I leapt on its back and rutted its leg. Ned got to walk to the WCJ Cornice, and I got to get back on the Glue Machine. Although not one of the Peak's finest lines, the climbing is good and I knew I could finish it. A tick in the bag is worth two in the book. I think it feels about 7b/+ route up to and including the last clip. THen you have a tricky move into some ok holds before a lurch to the belay. My first go I'm not warmed up properly and on my second go I get it done. I strip the route and we walk back, getting home for 1930.

The honey monster was away, so I went down the wall to meet another monster. A pinching monster. One whose claimed to be injured for far too long, only to be exposed hustling his way around the comp wall after dark. Like a shark patroling the black depths he paces the mat beneath the comp wall, watching and waiting for a unsuspecting seal pup to flipper into range (leah?), then, like a black missile, jet propelled out of the shadows he hurtles towards his prey, the vice like grip clamps down and crushes the weak back into obscurity. Hurty Elbone my arse.

Friday, 29 July 2011

The day Sean bit back

Often it happens that when you first get on something you do far better than you do on subsequent goes. This seems to extend to sessions as well. First day on Sean's with Ru I felt like it was gonna go down the next time I was there. The next time was last night, and I went down rather than it.

In fairness, it felt hot, airless and those holds are sharp. The problem isn't just skin when its like that - its lethargy (Copyright Davies conditions consulting, 2011). I didnt manage to do the first move again. I think it might be impossible with a taped split. Got pushed through it and did the next couple of moves - not as easy as I hoped. Did the jump to the pod a few times, exited it but never held the cut loose. Tried the campus at the end - its harder than it should be.

Thrash myself to within an inch of skin tolerance and go home defeated. This is certainly going to be rather more of a battle than i thought, although - as I write that I think - dont be so negative - you've got a big pad split which needed tape, and it was hot and sweaty.

I will finish by condemning the new guidebook for making the damn place popular. Rarely is the day when there's noone there anymore, and I don't like it! Gone are my quiet solitary afternoons pottering around the crimps, now its all wrestling dreadlocked puy jugglers, stepping over their unicycles to get to the problems. Bobbins. So nice one guidebook team, for encouraging the populous to go to places I like. Cheers.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

East Coast Tramlines

There was almost no chance it'd be dry. Ed had driven past on his way home on Friday night, and texted that it looked dank. Rupert and I agreed that we should at least look, as has been shown time and time again, Peak Slimestone can confound expectations - even the most practiced soothsayer can be wrong. The problem with Sean's roof is that there's not much above it to buffer incoming wetness, and the holds are entirely cracks and lines of weakess, which funnel aforementioned wetness earthwards. Whatever we found, I was excited. I was going to get to go on it on a rope and try more than the first move for the first time. Was Ned right, was the first move the hardest one? 

The first move is hard. Pretty blummin' hard. There are then a flurry of ok moves, but - read : relatively ok - i.e. still not easy. And mildly worrying - although that might have been a function of it being a bit soapy. Then there's a quite hard jump to the pod, which is a jug. Getting out of the pod is the final challenge, as killing the scorpion swing is v.hard. Seriously - doing this without a rope? its bordering on stupid! there's bolts there - use em! not doing means a wild swing into the path of traffic - its just not worth it! what you gonna do? wait in the pod until there's not a lorry driving past then quickly scuttle to the jug? mental. Do it on a rope. Oh, and its sharp. We do ok, both do all the moves, both get quite psyched to go back. That was Saturday.

All week an increasing tumult of internet chatter about the east coast has been on my radar. The mega swell was coming, and in the middle of summer too. 'The biggest waves in a year' on the east, etc etc. It would have taken an inert man to resist getting the littlest bit excited about it, at least on paper. And the reason I say that is because everyone looks at Magic Seaguess and they look at swell and period. Then they get excited and rush off to the coast. What they seem to fail to notice is the wind. And the words of the shops and locals, all of whom were saying - 'yes, there will be waves, but seek shelter, cos there's also mega wind'.

The way of the world is often for the wind to be lesser in the early morning, and with that in mind I picked Zen Surf Master up at 0555. We made it to Scarborough in an hour and a half, and went straight to south bay. The sight that confronted us was that of a disorganised, gigantic, heaving steel grey sea. It looked like a good place for sea monsters and ship wrecks rather than going for a swim with a lump of plastic. It seemed the forecast was right. Up at the town end, in the lee of the harbour wall there was some semblance of order. Already a few rubber clad bodies could be seen contemplating their predicament. Further out it looked epic, dangerous even. A feverish mood ran through the car park as folk struggled into wetsuits and scuttled about waxing boards. It was my first day of proper riding on the new stick and I was nervous whether I had made a bad decision only bringing it.

We paddled around the side and out the back. Size between 4 and 5ft on the sets, some waves peeling in either direction, some closing out, you just had to pick your wave and take your chances. I looked at my watch - 0802. As I watched, the wave rolling towards me looked good, but I could see something more interesting just behind it which looked interesting - I would wait. And there it was, the first wave of the day, its face clear and unmottled, pitching up before me. I spun around and began paddling, looking back it had almost caught up, i felt the board pitch up and my speed increase, then with the zing of someone fresh out of the car POP! up I went, in the perfect place, at the top of the wave and angled away from the peak, I felt good, my board in the right place, my weight even and SLASH! down I went, skudding across the unbroken wave face, the whitewater just behind me and for a fleeting moment I was actually doing it! YYFY!

I caught a couple of other good rides, and I learnt to duck dive properly. I thought I was doing this before, but I wasn't. Its quite tiring, but very useful. Surfing is quite tiring! Out of the water just after 10, and back in the car to Sheff.

She wanted to go to tramlines, and whilst ZSM said he was going to go to bed I thought i felt ok, and that I was up for it. We got back, she and i had lunch, then walked down to endcliffe park. Nice vibe in there, nice and chilled, lay in the sun etc etc. This was ok I thought, i can cope with this - as by now I had started feeling a bit wierd. My problem was compounded by my not having slept well due to excitement - which, potentially, is the next issue I have to contend with in respect to surfing. Anyway, we ended up walking into town and meeting up with friends in the melee which was Sheffield. What an awesome event! Totally free, totally random bands but amazing atmosphere in town. However, I wasnt in the right headspace, and I made us leave by about 1900. She wasnt impressed. Very very tired. Sorry!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Wee Eddie McTavish

Ever since I started learning to surf I have wanted to go with Edlog. Apparently he knows how to stand on floating hunk of fibreglass, and I wanted to leech his skillZ. However, at every turn my plans were foiled, and I only ever saw evidence of his proficiency with Fybogel.

Finally it happened. After 13 months our wave riding paths crossed and I got to paddle out with the man with the vice like grip. Man, he was rubbish! he couldn't even sit on his board in the line up! TEEE HEEE! This of course, is not true. Like a seal Ed cut through the waves to the calmer water out back whilst I splashed around like a flailing sea bass the waves crashing on my head, threatening to sink me and my fibreglass barge. Soon I was beside him, contemplatatively surveying the scene, and assessing waves for rideability.

The first problem I have with surfing is that I get too excited. I paddle out, sit there for a bit, see a half decent wave, and because I want a ride I go for it, when neither it or I are ready. Which ultimately is a great way to burn calories, but not such a great strategy to threatening Kelly Slater (did you know he was both in Baywatch and went out with Pammy for a bit? fascinating). Its easier for me to chill my boots with someone else there, and we had quite a good short session.

It was interesting to see how conditions changed with the tide. We were there on the falling tide (I think) and the shape of the wave was very different from when I went with Zen surf master a couple of weeks ago - less dumpy and less closing out. It seemed that as it started to change that it became more dumpy again? so perhaps Cayton on the push is like that?

I got on quite well, getting a couple of good clean water rides, but there were also lo-lights, however - these were funny. At one point I was paddling and nearing being out the back again, when I became aware that both Edlog and another gentleman were paddling for the wave I was at the bottom of, 4ft above me, pointy surfboards pointing straight towards my head and about to carve me into fish fodder with their fins. Thankfully they both aborted and I haven't been minced (sorry guys). The other amusing error was my seeing a wave, paddling for it, but it suddenly advancing its stage of progression and me being in the dump zone rather than on the slope. I did the yelp of a small child.

The other lesson of the day was that Saltburn is easier to get to than Cayton/Scarborough. Although geographically further, roads are better and it takes less time to get back from. Finally, before we move on from surfing - there's a mega swell about on the north east coast this weekend. However, sadly, its accompanied by mega wind too. South bay could be where its at.

Last week I made Ned come down Cheesedale for me to do Nemesis. Warmed up well, route looked dry, all the signs were good. First go I bolt to bolted, putting the clips in. Came down, rest etc, all looking good. First redpoint I rinsed past the hard bit. And I mean rinsed - it felt easy. I knew this was the go, I was going to do it! Got to the flipping jug that signals the end of the hard bit, tried to clip, fumbled it, droppped the rope - then MONO'd the draw in desperation! As the laughter went up from below I thought I was gonna have to pull on it, but some sort of wild dynamic quickdraw grabbing ensued and I lowered off. Few more attempts getting here, but basically had put all my beans into that go and none was as good. Pretty cool route Nemesis. Would love to get it done this summer.

Finally, on the way home Ned was kind enough to show me the numbers on Sean's roof. Man, what have I been doing? If I want to climb 8b+ this is where I should be! not questing up power endurance routes on jugs! crimping in a roof - thats where its at! I am actually quite enthused about getting back to this one. Anyone fancy it?

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Skin management

A thorny issue. Skin management should be quite simple, but it seems very easy to get wrong, and when it has been mismanaged can set you back weeks,
or possibly longer. As you meet other climbers you will notice varying
levels of exellence regards managing skin condition, from the non existant
(andi_e and squiff) to the expert (jon fullwood). The basic rules are simple

1. Splits - sand them till smooth. Grit your teeth, deal with the pain
and get rid of the burr.
2. Dont stop sanding them after the first time - the regrown skin needs
to keep being sanded or else you get a thick hard area, possibly with a
further impurity which will split again.
3. Sand your fingers down after the shower when you are hot and wet.
4. Always have some sand paper in your chalk bag. Aluminium oxide paper
seems pretty good.
5. Stop climbing before you put a tip through. To stop now is to be able
to climb again in a couple of days, to hole a tip is to be out of action for
6. After sanding moisturise.
7. After climbing, inspect, sand, moisturise
8. If you go in the sea - moisturise.
9. Even if its nearly healed, climb with tape covering the split. You can
remove it for one redpoint, but this is a high risk strategy.
10. Always tape a clean finger.

Your skin type may change the number of days, and the amount of time and
quantity of moisturiser you will use but the principles are the same.

In summer I get splits at pad creases - from crimping when its hot and your
skin is soft. These deep fissures are easy to tape, but take ages to heal.
The reason for writing this today is that I got one a few weeks ago, managed
it just about better, but allowed a ripple at the corner to develop. Had
this been taken off before climbing then it wouldn't have split again.

Friday, 8 July 2011

County mini raid

There once was a time where through work I would frequently go to Edinburgh. And never during that time did it occur to me to drive. I think I come from an age where flying was considered exciting, and I liked it, so I would always do that. But perhaps I was missing a trick. On the way to Edinburgh is some great surfing potential, and some better climbing areas.

I left work on Wednesday at 1300. I drove north through the rain and standing water and arrived at a very bleak looking Beadnell Bay :

It looked rubbish. There were occasional sets which held promise, but really I would have been going in for the sake of it. Cos of the rain it looked like I was going to end up driving to the climbing wall in Edinburgh. Not happy. Decided to sack it and look at Bamburgh beach, and the first blip of excitement came when there were T4's in the car park, and people in wetsuits getting ready... I ran to the top of a dune and looked down to see big clean lines set out in front of me! Brilliant! I high tailed it back to the car and changed as fast as I could, almost as if any delay on my part would see these conditions dissipate.

When I got to the waters edge it looked to have gone off a bit, but there were lulls, and then there were sets. Dont be thinking pounding over head barrels, more like 2-3ft of clean organised waves - which is just what I needed. Caught a few rides, things were going well, but my feet were freezing and my board was slippy. Went ashore and scraped off some old wax and applied some new and got my boots. Back out for another hour - big difference! Positively stuck in place I had more control and i think one of the best sessions I have had.

Interestingly, as I bobbed around with seals in the sea, I could see that the incoming waves were forming tiny mini tubes. You couldnt have gotten in one, but you could stick your leg in or something. I remembered all that I had been told, about looking back over your shoulder as you paddle in to a wave to see where it was going, and began to both angle take off and slide along the face of the wave. So pleased!

Got out, went for some tea in the castle pub (bit log), and a final walk around the castle grounds :

Before driving the final hour and a quarter to Edinburgh. Checked in at hotel, went out for a beer. Next day, attended this meeting I was there for, managed to get away about 1500 and zoom back off to the County. This time I decided to climb, so I went to Kyloe.

As I arrived I couldnt believe the number of flies that swarmed around the car. It was so bad, I actually thought I must have parked on some carcass that they were feeding on, but it wasnt that, just that there were a lot of flies. I changed in the car, putting my coat and hood on and zipping it right up so as to prevent the little shits from getting me. Next I shot from the car and onto the path - no better, and - heavy rain started! back to the car, collect brolly. Wedge that in pads to prevent them and me getting soaked - works quite well actually. Stomp up to crag to find it totally dry, but then the sun comes out! it goes from a reasonable 16 degrees to 23, and the holds feel sharp and hurty. I get warmed up and have a go on Cubby's lip. Work out how to do it, but dont manage to redpoint. Ah well. Have a go on the yorkshireman, fail to step left foot onto nubbin, and everything feels desperate. Sack it off and go to look at waves again. There are none. Drive home.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Yorkshire wave

Dave lay back on his pad, staring up at the staminaband undercuts and disbelieving how much harder it felt than the last time he'd tried. The problem, he explained, was that last time was months ago and the intervening months had not been good ones in climbing terms.

We tried, we failed. Rich Ames turns up and shows us how to get to the end but still fail. In fact, I think he shows us this five or six times. Perhaps he will see this and comment to advise whether it went down after I left :

Then came the weekend, and with it crippling mega heat. I opted for a tactical weekend of abstinence. We had people for dinner on saturday night, and as they were leaving he mentioned that there was swell about on the east coast - was I up for it? Hell yeah! All too soon the alarm was going off and the monster and I were blearily bundled into the back of a car laden with surfboards.

I'd never been surfing on the north east coast of England before, and I had been wanting to go with someone else to get shown where to go and so on. As we caught sight of the sea my heart sank - it looked totally flat! My host and driver warned that you couldn't see from there anyway and to wait. We parked and looked from the headland there were waves! Good clean ones too! With a mounting feeling of excitement and perhaps a little trepidation we ran back to the car to get suited up.

I learnt that it looks smaller from the top of the cliffs. When we paddled out it was 5ft on some of the sets and I also learnt that Cayton is a very heavy wave. Which was another new experience for me. The waves seemed to go from unrideable to too steep to closed out in the space of a second and not very much distance. Bit frustrating really. Didn't get to make much of it on my new board as I'm not good enough to catch a wave and be straight into the turn, I need to catch it, get my bearings and then slowly attempt a turn, wheras to get the best out of this you needed to angle take off and get the rail hard in. Basically I couldn't react in time cos I'm still finding my feet. Fun though, and after a two hour session I'd certainly had a workout.

We drove back to Sheffield and went straight down to squiffhanger. Twitter is a marvellous thing. I managed to get up to speed in the car on the way back, so that by the time we got there in time for the finals we already knew nedlog hadn't qualified. Such a shame as it sounds very close.

The finals always lack something when there's noone you know in them, and by the time we left my old man legs were very tired as was I.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Nice day for a White wedding

Morning. No rock climbs this weekend. My aunty's wedding at loseley Park near Guildford. nice. Good day for it, and totally free bar.

Here is a pair of pals loitering outside the building:

Which turned out to be the ancestral home of the foley bum doctor dynasty. We know this because this picture of james was on the wall :

Too hot for rocks anyway, so it was a good weekend to be elsewhere. Congrats also to @Jim_p_t who got hitched this weekend also.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Groove is in the heart

The top of the groove felt greasy but I pushed on. In a position of extremis I could see myself turning puce. My breath came in shorter and shorter gasps... 'Just... make.. this move...', unable to think beyond the present I shake and pant and wedge my arse into the corner. It feels rubbish, and I'm slipping off. With the thought of having to fight so hard again, I stab two fingers upwards into the pocket and just as I think I cant keep going any more, its there, I can breathe for a second. The pocket allows me to get my arse deeper into the groove, and the weight back on my feet. I wonder if I have enough left to continue? As I shift about trying to get comfortable I look at my hands, glowing red and sore from the fight to get here, but I know I must. I look at the clip behind my knee. To clip it is to waste valuable beans, I must not falter. It's just climbing, don't think about it, just go for it. Empty your head and EXECUTE! I step up the groove and drop knee. My knee pushes into the corner. I lever myself leftwards to the crimp jug and man! has someone filed it down or something? its not a jug anymore - whoa! this is well different from doing it in isolation! The shouts from below come back into my concious and I hear them, I cant let them down! Continue! I suck in a deep breath, spin on my left foot and bounce my right up the groove. With a final lurch I snatch the penultimate hold, gasping as my fingers connect with a positive edge. It feels good, this move's trivial but better climbers have dropped it from here... Shaking, I slide myself onto the polished footledge and reach tentatively into the flake. A breath... I'm not airborne... Dont fuck it up now! grasping the rope I pull it up and reach towards the chains... But as I do so PING! my foot blows off the polished foothold, and I plummet towards the ground, still clutching the rope, a puzzled look of 'What?' on my face.

This is my dream, my fear - what I anticipate happening. This is why I will probably clip that last draw even though it feels wierd and its in the way behind your leg. Why I will investigate the knee bar. And this isnt what happened last night. Leading up towards a time when I will have a session on it I start to dream about what it will feel like to do it. And I can actually concieve of doing it as well. But perhaps now is the time to move on and save it for when its cooler. In my head I had visions of firing it on my first go, then going to the pub and buying everyone dinner, but it doesnt happen like that.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Booty Shaker

Sometimes, when people tell you things you dont want to hear, its easier for you to convince yourself that they are wrong rather than accept that perhaps, the reason so many of them say the same thing is because its actually true. I didn't want to go to the top, cos I thought it would be scary. Yet somewhere, a voice inside said - do it, it won't be that bad - and it wasn't.

I will always start the session with a go from the ground, as I think it can't hurt, and it keeps one's hand in. Made it to the groove with one hand, but tried to clip from a wierd place and ended up grabbing the draw. Had a chill, did groove - top, including the clip - which is ok. The thing is - getting to the top of the groove is hard, and exiting it is hard also. But, when I flick my Beyonce like booty into the corner at the top of the groove, although it feels unlikely at first, once wedged I can get a bit back. So whilst it feels a struggle to get established, if I can get there, and get my ass in position - I could be in with a chance.

The thing people said was to work the top. They all said to get that bit wired, and not to keep trying from the ground. And now, at last, I am willing to accept they might be right. I think in part its getting used to falling off a bit more. I always knew success on this route would depend on my ability to be able to fall off it. So, the next thing to do is pocket top. And I felt like i nearly did that as well. All good - back Thursday.

After that I took Britain's Best Bum Doctor down Cheedale for him to do Lockless Monster, which of course - he did. With the comment that he had done harder 7a's in France. Perhaps it is 8a if you are soloing and have to climb a loose vertical grass slope at the top in order to get down.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

self replicating media node

Blah blah blah, some links on Mecca, blah, drone, fear of falling blah. Boring isnt it? well, yeah - it is, but thankfully that's not all I have to say. Almost all, but not quite. In the intervening days and hours it has gotten hotter, stiller and less suitable for boning cheesy grips which attract the full glare of the sun, so whilst I have been back on Mecca, I have ploughed new furrows and actually writing with tales (partially) of success.

Those of you who are fortunate enough to know me will know I am shameless in my persuit of media domination, and so when I got to climb with Nick "berlusconi" Brown, the chance of cro-barring my way into the Outcrop films forthcoming production was too pungent an opportunity to ignore. Nick was standoffish, even cool at first, but slowly, slyly, I weaseled my way into the gusset of his affections, and began planting seed(s). It was Ned's fault. He went off to pull on plastic grifters, so I had to widen the net in my quest for sport climbing satisfaction. We went to the Tor, it was boiling. We looked at Sean's - wet. The dale beckoned its gnarled finger...

When Ned, Ed and I went and investigated the nook last year, I was offended by how crap it looked, so I had low expectations. We went round to the Cornice to attempt to find someone with beta, and we found Ethan. We wandered across and put in the clips from the tree. We wasted as much time as we could but there was no sign of the beanie hatted beta machine, so I sacrificed Nick's chances of the flash and sent him up to work it out. He did well, and actually made me thing it was doable, but he didn't do. I squandered more time, still no Ethan, so up I go - "Come On!" I thought, "Dylan's flashed this! it must be piss!" but my attempt ends where Nick's did, hanging off a jug in space with no means of climbing beyond it. I refine the sequence and as I lower off, a beanie bobs into view. We heed some of his advice, dispense with other bits of it and Nick goes again. He flumps off and after a quick confirmation of my master sequence, lowers off. I go again, and its well easy. I get to the top amazed that anyone could think it 8a. Lower off. Nick does it. We go home, my hayfever goes nuts.

Encouraged by the new, easier approach from Millers Dale and the tunnels, I find myself back there a couple of days later, only this time its all about the Cornice, and the route Nemesis. There are punters (Dylan) on the warm ups, and thus I am off the hook (of having to teeter up a dusty vertical wall towards a loose and damp belay). We get stuck in and a couple of times Nick and I climb through the crux and get stuck crossing the bulge which leads to the easier climbing (which is still pumpy). This is good, and a pleasant suprise. Time ticks past and I find myself back there, this time with buck toothed crimp fiend and now camera afficionado Paul Bennett. He pitched it as being him wanting to take some pics, so I wasn't prepared for the media circus which ensued. Paul had brought Stu Littlefair, and both chaps had more stuff than those who were climbing, only their bags were full of camera gear. But, they took some nice pics, and it was worth it because I have never had nice pictures of me climbing, so it was good to have some for once.

Ben Morton on Nemesis, Cheedale

Dylan on Nemesis, 8a+, Cheedale Cornice

Nick on Nemesis, 8a+, Cheedale Cornice

Finally (because I have to get some work done), I recieved my copy of the new guide again yesterday - and what a fine thing it is. As you would expect, its beautifully presented and crammed full of exciting new areas and contentious grades (brad pit - 7c!). And, after a year of campaigning - a picture of me! Already, talk at the crag is of who is this handsome new bastard, casually ticking the Peak's best problems and maintaining suave sophistication throughout. Ok, its not. People were talking about seeking out these new areas and going bouldering again - a dirty word until october at least.

Thursday, 26 May 2011


Is it a good sign when you arrive somewhere to climb and there's noone there? If its a popular crag - probably not. That said it was a funny time - after the morning shift, but before the normal workers would have been able to get there. The sun wasnt out, and the ground bore signs that it must have rained during the day, but the mega wind had been stifled and the air was warm and muggy. Did some rumbling around on jugs then bailed to Culloden.

Ned hadn't even put his boots on. He was supposed to be saving himself for Revelations. I felt the pressure of execution - the knowledge that you have the physical ability to complete a climb and just the doing between you and success. Rumbled up it putting the clips in, then had a moment on the rope at the jug pocket before the crux. Decided to put the next draw in to have a go on the move with the rope above. Describing it as 'the move' is misleading, as that implies its the hardest move or something, which it isn't. In the final analysis - its a pretty easy move, but its the one which requires commital, and that which I backed off when I last investigated. So, with the draw in place, I do the move - its easy. I take the top draw off and come back to the pocket. Having a moment and telling myself just to go for it I crimp through the crux moves and with slightly more aplomb - launch to the jug - yes! its allright! I dont collapse in a trembling mess of jelly, I do it! awesome! I get lowered off and set the stopwatch to wait.

Some time passes, some general nonsense, some israeli chocolate spread. Now I feel nervous. There's really nothing between me and it - but I have to actually get it right this time. Doing my best to empty my head I set off. It goes well - as I pop to the pocket the holds are all alright and have beans to spare. Crimp, crimp, stab and I am at the high point. I dont allow myself time for consideration, slotting my right hand up into the locky jam thing, and then up come the feet, I try not to allow myself to get bogged down in the minutae of foot position - what I have is good enough, so I make my move, and its like its above the mats at the climbing works and is 6a - I reach out to the jug! get in! Delighted, I lower off and share congratulations with Nedward who is so enthused by my success that he's already squeezing his tootsies into his boots for a go.

With no warm up his first go is a fumble. He swings around a bit, works out what to do and where to hold the holds then comes down for a chill for a minute. As he sits on the ledge surrounded by murder weapons he steels himself for the rat crimps above, then, like a fox pouncing on a chicken he goes - pow pow pow! he's at the crimp, the fox looks to be less pouncing, more having a swat at, but a swat is enough and with the culloden chicken in his jaws he scampers to the jugs with his tail in the air - BOOM! A ned o dob o log tag team ascent!

Back to the tor... Dave Musgrove and Miles are wandering about, and the crag is still reasonably quiet - certainly compared to how it has been. Dave is on one of those routes above Pinches wall, Its not little extra, and it looks hard. Ned gets on Revelations. He does the move to the pinch every time he tries, but never the move after it. Poor Ned, he's getting cross with it but I am so convinced he is going to do it that I wont let him off the rope. In short, he doesnt ever do the go again move off the pinch, but the bit I thought was hard he makes look easy!

Miles is having a look at evolution. Bear in mind that I saw who I think was Markus Bock on it last week, and he was having a hard time - Miles was all over it. The moves which I have seen other people struggle with looked like jugs to him, but the easy roof bit he seemed to find difficult. Suspect theres some trick we didnt know about.

I have a go on Mecca. I feel good before I set off, and I sort of know and expect to get into the groove this time. As my right hand snags the horn and I walk my feet through, I think the difference is one of attitude. IN the past when I have been in this position I wimp out and grab the draw, but buoyed with the success around the corner and some encouragement from below, I walk my feet out and get into the egyptian. I match and actually shake for a minute before taking a hand off to clip. Whilst it doesnt feel easy, I do it and go back into the semi rest egyptian. I have a shake and look up the groove. Then decide to rest on the rope. But this is still progress.

Into the groove from the deck is a gateway link. The climbing changes at that point from burl to technical, and the groove offers some respite, whether from a kneebar or an arse bar which ever way you do it. I did have a little furtle at the knee bar last night - blimey, the first ones not great is it!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Lord of the fishes

Si Holmes made a good point - climbers diversifying to surfing like it so much is because every day is a school day, you get to enjoy that rapid progression that so enticed you to climbing in the first place. Each time I go, I learn lessons. I come away ruminating on the latest revelation, and feeling like I have improved. I think its also because it crosses over quite well - strength to weight ratio of a climber should be better than average, and with it the ability to flick to ones feet rather than struggle.

We had a wedding in Croyde (well, in Saunton, but you will have heard of Croyde), so with a fair group of others, we trekked down to North Devon. Rather than camping we had rented a house in the village, and although the weather would have been ok for camping it was pretty cool, and rather breezy, so a house changed it into a pleasant experience rather than a trial. I mentioned that it was windy, and this all but did for the waves. There was scant little swell anyway, and what there was was blown flat by the wind. That said, there was occasionally a rideable wave surface, but it was small and short lived.

Just like you wouldn't go to Stanage in June (unless you were getting up early and going to do snatch), so a good surfer wouldnt even paddle out in conditions like these, but a punter can still learn things. Which is another thing about learning - there's something to be gained from having a go. The water was conspicuously quiet, and there was a definate lack of good people, but of course there were - you won't get Ed Robinson in the water unless its at least 3ft, >10secs and light offshore. I on the other hand, went out every day and did a bit and loved it.

So, what were these lessons then? I got to ride a mate's fish - this was the first revelation. First of all, I could duck it, which meant getting through white water became less daunting. Less daunting = greater willingness to try. Then when up on my feet it was more responsive, allowing more precise control of direction and enhancing my ability to be in the right place to prolong the ride. I managed to both bottom turn and get between sections which I havent yet done on my own mini mal. I also learnt that having a watch is a great thing, as it feels like you have been in the water for hours when its been 30 minutes. And finally, i learnt that when paddling out, you dont need to paddle as hard and fast as you can - save that for catching waves. A more relaxed stroke on the way out allowed greater longevity of session and better recovery for those explosive bursts on the way back.

So, back to sheffield, back to the tor, back on the route. First day on it again since Croyde tomorrow.