Sunday, 20 December 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, 26 November 2015

The siege of summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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