Monday, 21 October 2013

...and then he poured another drink

I look up and notice that the popular talent show is on, I look back down at the computer screen and continue to tongue at the pain on the roof of my mouth, this being the better of the two options. Craning my neck over I hear that noise again and let out a child size sigh. One of the drawbacks of having a skylight is that you're painfully aware of when it's raining, especially that heavy globule type rain. It's hard to not get down when both your hobbies rely on okay weather, not even great weather just run of the mill average weather (average for Southern France maybe). I check my log to see what I've been doing, bring up some memories and ground myself.


After the Alps trip I was at a loss as to what I was doing really, I took so much time in planning it feels like an empty void where all that excitement was now it's over. I knew what to do, head out to the grit and find some local soul, get psyched by home again. After a quick trip to Minus Ten and Stanage I was happy to be back in Sheffield again, sure it was hot as hell but the crags were dry. If at the start of the week I was beaming by end I was melancholy, a trip to Gordale and attempts on Pierrepoint had left me terrified with every clip feeling like a gripper. I was climbing like Pinocchio before the cricket got all up his grill. I wouldn't have felt so bad but Shrew was climbing annoyingly well, the antithesis, the bastard. Our parallel lines only meeting upon an inspection of 'Green Lipped Muscle' (climbs through a hole above a waterfall) both equally fazed by the position and state of the river we scampered back down the Tolkien steps, wild just doesn't cover it.

Back at home and work I thought about my terrible mental state in Yorkshire and put it down to being scared of falling again, on the Badile slab it meant potential 30 metre falls so this must have reinstated old fears of falling onto bolts, or I just didn't trust Shrew. It got me thinking about the trust we place in each other and also equipment, I reasoned no one really thinks about it too much and just gets on with it, with that I stopped looking at my quickdraws, tapped up well known' bold alpinist Malcolm Scott' and went to Raven Tor. My sort-of-siege-but-not-quite project has been the route 'Obscene Gesture' straight up the perma dry wall. The sequence felt familiar and Malcolm liked it too. First go I felt diazepam chilled but dropped it out of shock at nearly cracking the crux. So I sit down and cool my hands, talk about cheese or something and belay Malc, it will go next time, I don't even dwell on it.

Gurning at the undercuts again, stood on a belay ledge I stick thumb in the hole and pinch, move feet on smear and the little edge take the weight off your left hand by pulling in with the thumb/pinch, release from undercut and reach out for small layaway, pull on this to move weight onto left foot letting the right foot leave the smear and flag, reach up for good hole with left hand and then tinker around connecting dots of footholds until the crux is finished. There you go, now imprinted on my mind for who knows how long, I do wonder what useful memory nugget has been pushed out of the grey mass to make room for that now redundant sequence. I've since been back to try Obscene Toilet but didn't like the crux, the tor feeling fades...

After that I went to Majorca with my girlfriend, fell off 7as into luke warm bath water then boiled any internal water out of my skin sleeping in the hotel room. Once they stopped us on our sly booze runs it was just a fancy prison with less desirable clientèle. I enjoyed the beach party though, sand and drink is like rhubarb and custard. 

On the filming front I got to watch/badly film Nathan nonchalantly cruise the second ascent of Inspiration Dedication in the Burbage South quarries, amateur media circus in effect. A heavily padded trip to Baslow/curbar provided some out of condition sends of Grand Potatoe and White Water. Unfortunately I puntered my preparation and ran out of batteries before I could film Mark of El Vino slab running fame perform some modern day dawesism on the crux of white water, 3 times in a row. Momentum is where it's at on that angle, sort of cheating when you can control gravity (you do it through stern looks apparently). A visit to hen cloud with ex-never-was-a-patriot Steve Ramsden and Oli Gunner grounstar saw me not even tie on for borstal breakout and film them gently climb the scary looking B4 XS. My first trip to the Churnet yielded no ticks but some lovely footage of  Thumbelina and Inaccessible. In between filming other things I'm slowly collecting footage for Gritual and as long as I can hold back from making an edit I should have a nice haul by the end of the season. I just like the idea of small edits with good feeling, it might just be my short concentration span. 

As for the blog title, Hemingway drank didn't he? He was a dick too though, right. 

Emlyn with stirrups on

A commited slimline whale on B4 XS 

looking for spare change to supplement his paper round on White Water 

he has bad days but on his good days everyone wants to be him

John on Thumbelina (video still)

Second pitch, Inaccesible, not really but fuck! how good would that be!

Tubthumpingly good

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

The Alps: Being tired in scary situations

First things first - 

(Start with a bang, an exciting first delivery sentence to draw the reader in)

This was my first trip to the Alps and I shat myself, both figuratively and literally (you'll have to ask me about the latter when I see you)

It started off with a rush to catch several connecting trains after landing in Zurich, it quickly became apparent I would be playing the uncultured Englishman on this trip as my German and Italian were based on war films and the sopranos respectively - I couldn't order food but I could tell them to PUT UP YOUR HANDS NOW QUICKLY!

It was raining as we spiralled down the Moloja pass with clouds leaving us only with a view of wet pine trees. The bus took the corners in fine style, the Mercedes buses steer with all four wheels so you whip round them like on  a ride. Arriving is Vicosoprano campsite we realised we had no gas or the correct plug converters. Cold food and no brews ahoy, a theme set for the remaining weeks.

The next morning we headed up to the cable car at planzaira, in retrospect this spoiled us as we didn't realise the amount of leg work it removed by gliding up the sheer valley walls. Within minutes we were at the cable car terminus, the bottom of a relatively big damn, not golden eye but still impressive. The first climb I had a planned for us to warm up on was 'Via Felici' on the Spazzacaldera, a 9-pitch 'plasir' climb. Plasir means leisure and signals that the route has some bolts and bolt belays. The climb felt like cragging all in all but still felt a bit spicy on licheny granite with no gear. On pitch one I dropped Oli's camera, on pitch 6 I dropped my watch. I found his camera but my £8 Tesco investment was nowhere to be seen. The crux 6a pitch was a curving jamming crack that felt straight out of Almscliffe, so I found it desperate and cut my hand open just to make the comparison more valid. The route ends at the top of a detached pinnacle about the size of high tor, we abbed down into a notch and moved around to a loose gully to gain the summit jenga jumble. We were looking for the famous Fiamma, a needle-like tower on the summit which you climb then perch on while you bray your chest like the bloody adventurer you are. We couldn't find it and then in rained hard, finding shelter on the summit I thought we'd fucked up out first climb as we just couldn't see a way down through the mist. Thankfully it cleared just enough that we could see the exit gully and slid our way down the mountain  (well, spiky hill really, compared to what was to come)

damn that's big

The next day the Ol' Spazz was really busy so we moved further down the Albigna valley to Piz Frachiccio, expertly gaining height then losing it as we blindly headed across the boulder fields. Topos aren't great at features when the route is hundreds of meters long so after failing to find the start we took a gamble and decided that as the route was in a selected guide it would be a classic, as such we chose the route which had two parties just starting. All was well, yes the 3a felt 5c and the 5a - 6b but we were on our way in roughly the right direction. We were actually on the Kaspar Pillar (6b) it involved a steep, wet and loose corner filled with tottering chock stones (Oli's lead) and a beautifully long and easy bolted slab taking you direct to a second summit (my lead). As we were off route the descent notes made no sense and so it was time to fulfil an Alps rite of passage and abb off some shit. The threaded and loose boulder was just too shit though so we down climbed, running the rope through as we descended. This worked for the next abseil as well and it didn't look much further, ah no but the next ones steep as fuck and oh look it's now raining. 3 pegs, one good, two shit. I back up Oli with a wire and off he goes off no problem, I take out the nut and set off down then realise I weigh about 2 stone more than the youth. "It's all a game, just a game". 60 meters down through mist, nicely atmospheric, to a snow patch in trainers.

fairly gripped after an ab down a gully

Catching the peasant wagon further down the valley we arrived in promotogno, stepping off the bus you look up and see first the mass of the Cengalo, with it's giant all seeing eye, then the jaw dropping Piz Badile which deserves a much better name (Badile meaning spade or shovel, to me it looks like a dorsal fin of a shark)

As I had read before from this viewpoint it looks so steep that even the ridge seems barely climbable and I felt a predictable knot tie itself firm in my stomach (this firmness would prove truly metaphorical later on) 

Promotogno, the little shop next to this made harrods look like lidl

The bondo campsite is under a school and has a nice a relaxed vibe
feel to it, i.e. no one about. Being Sunday we couldn't get any food so had a meal at the hotelin the village for a price more associated with anniversary dinners than a place where ants run over your knife and fork (great food though)

We were moving onto warm-up climbs stage 2, the Flat Iron ridge  on the Piza Gemelli. The walk up to the Sciora hut was brutal, unrelenting, torturous - all that stuff. In between weazing like a golden retriever in India I could see what a beautiful walk it was, you were walking with butterflys all the way, of all sizes and colours (disappointingly only one shape though). As the height increased so did the amount of mountains we could see until after one particularly painful set of switch backs we were greeted with the whole Sciora group, pleasingly pointed looking and Patagonian in their spikiness. There was lots of snow around still and I got to see my first glacier, I hadn't known they were that blue, positively glowing! After setting our bivy, lovely views, converted cellar etc, we made plans for the Flat Iron. We woke at 4.30 to some god awful song Oli chose and were on the glacier within an hour, all went fine aside from exiting the glacier onto smooth granite running with water which was bloody terrible in boots. The route itself went by smoothly, 13 or so pitches of flakey granite up a giant rounded arête, after abseiling down we spotted with envious eyes two dots on the 6c Iron Heart, a line striking through the middle of the big, clean but dark face. Stellar. While watching the Cengalo shrug off rock and snow at regular intervals in the morning we decided we would head back down in the morning for a financially advisable shopping trip to Chiavenna just over the border in Italy. Walking back down and spiraling through the switchbacks it felt as if you were a turd and the mountain was shitting you out, constantly moving at half-jog to save your knees. 

the glacier on the left was falling apart big time

final ab off the Flat Iron

happy after coming down from the Flat Iron Ridge, Sciora group in the background

Refuelled and now with charged up electronics, still no gas but heroic portions of tuna we set off up to Laret again but forked right for the Sasc-Fura hut. A steep steep chain featured walk brought us to the charming hut, it felt like an expertly maintained peak cottage, clean and spotless in comparison to us knackered and gopping. After eating Rosti, cheese and bacon it was still another hour or so to our bivy under the Badile's notch in the ridge. On the recce the approach ledges for the north east face routes looked really hazardous and even the Spanish Wads looked unsure of themselves. Talking it over we made a choice to leave the Cassin and do the North Ridge in consolation, deciding to be cautious being our first time in the alps.

4.30am and shook ones part 2 starts playing (yes, cool) but we're already out of our sleeping bags and hurriedly putting on harnesses like on a game show. Hiking up through the first snow patch we are caught up by two British lads Rick and Tom. There ensues a race to be the first on the ridge, it gives us a great pace and by the time the sun breaks over the first distant peak we are all on around pitch 4. This worked really well and made the whole climb a much more social affair, after the initial rush we just pitched together, pooling knowledge and sometimes leap frogging each other as someone dared to run a few pitches together. The climbing was interesting, especially the 'difficult slab', but nothing to write home about, however the position was outrageous and you really felt the exposure. After a while an American Guide and his clients caught us and we slipstreamed him for a bit, he pulled away but we caught up with him later on on the summit ridge as it weaves through and around towers. Though I did feel an achievement at the summit it felt odd because I had always pictured us getting there via the Cassin route, after saying goodbye to the Americans we reversed our steps to the first abseil ring and a long but smooth journey back down the 20 or so abseils. Adhere to the guides suggestion and you won't go wrong, "stay as direct on the ridge as you can, the rings are every 50m" they proved to be closer together than this so we skipped plenty. Upon reaching the notch of the ridge we went and had a look at the ledges across to the face routes, the blocks had broken up and had slid somewhat creating a pathway through to the other side. We sat down and stared for a long time, without much further discussion it was decided we'd attempt a crossing early the next morning to try Another day in Paradise. I went to bed after a 14 hour day knowing the day after was going to be even harder. 

Sasc-Fura hut, felt pretty mucky here

best bivy, north ridge behind

the top was metled from lightning strikes, that camera didnt perform well


We gave ourselves a lie in 'till 5.30 but were woken up by the weekend masses heading to the mountain through the boulders. The steeper snow patch  was much easier with the pre-kicked steps and before any time we were making a small abseil from the notch down to the ledges,  dawn broke on the tip of the Piz Badile. Eyeing up our intended path we snaked in between the sleeping giants and made it through, breathlessly running up a slab it felt like running from the police. The second snow barrier would need to be tackled internally and without much thought Oli crawled through and I followed, the tunnel proving only just big enough as while you slid along the wet on your belly your rucksack scraped away at the ice above you. We emerged from a hole in the middle and traversed the rock underneath, victorious, the climb felt inconsequential now these obstacles had been crossed after months of doubt. Identifying the quartz vein that symbolised the start of the route we roped up and tried to relax. I had a pang of jealousy looking across a little further to the teams starting up the Cassin, later this would turn into pity as they got caught up in queues and almost certainly wet chimneys. 

the way through to the face route starting ledges, big blocks of snow

heading for that slot in the back of the second snowpatch

running from cops

The first pitch also brings with it the first crux, the crux pitches are graded 6b but we thought them between 6b+ - 6c+, however we may have lost perspective with the added variables of gear etc. Oli cruised it like an 8b climber on 6c should, following up I was less smooth but just as happy to be executing actual moves rather than shuffling up easy angled terrain. I lead through onto a 5c+ pitch and was almost stumped by a move through an overlap, thankfully a 5 inch adjustment on an undercut gave my tips just enough purchase to pull up but not before the first 'watch me' of the trip. The route is bolted well, especially on the crux pitches, but throughout the 5 and low 6 pitches you are faced with heroic runouts between bolts with gear a concept rather than a reality. Helpfully these runouts didn't really dawn on you until you were stood on nubbins with wet hands. The climbing style, intricate slab, you could really climb anywhere so just followed the bolts. Some people wouldn't like these line-less pitches but I do like them, really like them. I have often felt hemmed in by the tramlines of more traditional features like corners and cracks. Basically - You're fingermantelling onto a flake as wide as your nail and as long as your middle finger, concentrating and breathing hard as you try to get a big toe anchored to this feature, weight it and roll upwards. You then stand up on this tiny perch and look up at the next bolt glinting in the distance then down at the billowing arc of your ropes to the last one you've clipped 'was it an old one, I can't remember'. Sometimes you look beyond the bolt, past Oli hanging on the belay and down to the cracked glacier, your eyes sweep along this feature as it ramps up the neighbouring mountain Cengalo, as you do this your vision zooms out and bit by bit you realise where you are. A speck of dust on a towering giant. You look down at your toes, 'fuckin' hell my bastard feet hurt'. Repeat.

high up on another day in paradise, the ridge sweeping away on the left with the cengalo glacier below

As we came up to the final easy pitches my feet gave way and the boiling pain flooded in with every step, barefoot on hedgehogs. I started cursing Oli, why wasn't he destroyed too??? Thankfully he wasn't and could lead the tottering choss pitches while I slipped on my trainers. Apart from my feet I was just totally and utterly exhausted. The Ab down was punctuated with sleeps at every station, with a final lie down at the notch, my body was shutting down and I couldn't even speak. I had my last energy gel (some shit from Holland and Barrett, avoid) and put my boots on we'd stowed away. I won't dwell on the descent as I'd like to learn what I can and forget that feeling, stumbling dangerously, unthinking and wild. At the bivy we just sat there panting like dogs, I had no appetite and just patiently waited for the chlorine to work on the melt water, my head was empty and I was thinking of nothing. 

looking up with a helmet and bag on is a fucking nightmare

starting to lose my cool with painful feet

KO'd and asleep at the notch after Another day..

the ever moving seracs

Later in the evening while sat there with a thousand yard stare a spaniard walks up on his recce of the 'spiggolo' and quizzes us for info, I get the distinct feeling we look rough as fuck and it feels like that scene at the start of Platoon (you know the one). We've had our turn, and now it's someone else's, individual battles in team after team. 

lazy morning the day after the monster 2 days of climbing

For the rest of remaining days we ate lots and tried to avoid walking uphill at all costs. The airport sucked, all the flies were attracted to us and the Swiss cleaned allllllllllll night. 

swarm of flies just out of shot

security for sleeping at 9 francs a day

The onset of ADHD in adulthood

I haven’t been able to write, I had wrote bits down here are there but linking them together felt tiresome and boring, bored just reading ‘what I gone and done’. I’d like to just put the various pieces on the table, they wont fit or be in the right order but it doesn’t matter as the game got played and everyone left happy.

There was something strange about Trollers Gill with it being a dried up riverbed. It didn’t feel like a place where you could stay long as the river felt just around the next bend, hushed up and waiting. Although it’s an oxymoron the stones really did look freshly water worn. This and the fact it was my first day back sport climbing after fingergeddom made me tense, I was going to get wet or broken. This narrow ravine nestled away in the Yorkshire dales has a compact and undercut sidewall with lots of good 7s and if I spied the line right a stellar hard route of Nik Jennings’ recent creation, the classic 7a Jim Grin was polished and had smooth climbing, it must have been an amazing trad route . The climbing was good and everyone had a great time, you should go. That evening we went to Gordale , being my first time I couldn’t contain an excited "fuuuuckkkinn’ hell" as rounding the corner it came into view, this has to be one of the best crag-reveals ever as until the very last moment you don’t know what’s coming*. Oli set off up Cave Route right hand in gusting wind,  so much so that him calling down for slack was met with the wind taking him in tight. I wish I could blame all my short roping on nature. Save one fist-fight in the upper crack he blitzed it and it was a shame he’d completely fucked it up the week before. Tim and I did Last dog, an hor dourve 7b on the bottom of a big wall with a big route on it called Pierrepoint. Tim led it the strong way and I the way where I desperately try to put my toe upside down in a peg scar to get any purchase. To the left of the cave routes there is a massive route called Supercool. That’s the one, that’s the dream route right there, 40m or so of technical 8a+ climbing in a setting that makes climbing look like warfare, on horseback.
*a technique normally attributed to sea cliffs, when you’ve abbed in and can’t swallow the frog in your throat as even the HVS looks steeper than hunter house road **
**where Jerry lived
With sport and bouldering off the agenda for a time I embarked upon a sort-of-easy trad campaign in the last month, starting off with a day in the shade of Millstone. I hadn’t done Great North Road before which seemed a glaring omission for a climb so close to home.A big grit pitch and a proper route. Emlyn and I then headed down into the sweltering hole of Lawrencefield, suffice to say Emlyn spent 30 minutes on the suspense crimp rail seeing how long it takes for different things to melt, things like rubber and belayers. I couldn’t say for definite but I’m sure the pool was bubbling.
10 meters in I’d used all my slings. 35 meters in, having placed shit gear, I realised I hadn’t brought up any medium wires. 40 meters in beneath the crux I realised I didn’t put in any gear before the insitu ‘bolt’ and thread. 45 meters in I slowly slid off, grating down a small bulge before finally taking a diagonal running flight waiting for a museum piece to hold my fall. I’d just fucked up Darius, a climb I’d been waiting years to try. Escaping off to the debauchery belay I lowered down on Simon’s victory ropes grumbling like a schoolboy with bad vibes , I then abbed off the end of the rope...

If this was the lesson, consider it taught. I don’t need any replays or more realistic injuries, this will do fine. 10ft and a commando roll is enough to make me daydream of ropes slipping through belay devices and bodies tumbling through space. No matter how high you’ve been riding it does always come as a surprise when a bad day knocks you on your arse. Exciting plans feel like scary prospects and improving injuries become stagnant ailments. Of course everything is the same, I’ve just cracked my head, but there is nothing like a cathartic blog spew to clear the rumbling grey matter; with that I WANT YOU TO IMAGINE STORM CLOUDS

As far as I can tell the human desire to wonder, speculate and discuss is crushed by daily work. I am now a basic trio of action, sleep, work and play. In an attempt to reignite a part of the brain long gone I send waves of nostalgic thoughts down through the synapses, however these sparks are dampened and become squibs with the main-brain counterpointing this expedition with brutally real questioning, “how will you ever pay rent?”
You can see yourself on the bus looking out of the window and actually sense you are thinking of nothing, unfortunately not in any meditative way but rather like the beady-orange-eyed pigeon perched on the bus stop. You cannot force character into pidgeons like you can with other creatures, they seem to deflect all personification in their desperation. Except woodcots, woodcots are little priests.


Wednesday, 15 May 2013

132 calories in a 330ml can of Heineken

Chris trying trying to Free the Monster, please stay dry!

10 days since the life ruiner, everyone's been real nice knowing it's my first. Iced/icing it to within an inch of it's life, hand buzzing with blood like it was cartoon radioactive (waa waa waa). Easy climbing and iBRUprofen gel. Tonight I climbed with some tape on and did some yellows at the works, absolutely buzzing (could it not even be a partial?). last night I went shoe-less to the Tor with recent Hull evacuee Lee Cooper, got him on the classics and tried to force him into loving it, he'll come round soon enough. Distracted from staring at potential filming positions I made embarrassing orgasmic noises encouraging some lad CRUSH Mecca sans knee-slags. Seems strange because it's obviously eliminate but it fits in with other anecdotes I hear "James flashed Rock Atrocity the Malc way", "Barrows did bear claw with a pad". 

going once, going twice, and not sold to the paper boy in the green. Auctioneer 8a+.

Did a bit of filming on a rope at the WCJ cornice, need a seat or access harness as it was a complete bastard on the old pins and the spine-in-a-bap.'Trad man' Oli has forgot his roots and been sports climbing. More films soon, hopefully not just of Oli though as yewtree will be all over me. 

Fake monster from Guy Van Greuning on Vimeo.

When I try to express what it is about climbing I've become so obsessed about I write-then-delete write-then-delete, the space bar a game of pong with words like deep and simple appearing then gone. When I try to express what it feels like to climb the words bubble up from my stomach rather than the head, that's not a metaphor but how it actually feels. The metaphor would be that there is a cork in my throat preventing this lexicon vomit, a cork that can dissolved with beer, or something, I don't know....what is the cork made of? 

A great writer, and drunk, once said "you lose it if you talk about it", god knows what he meant I never met the man, but to me it can work in two ways - 1) a release of trauma or 2) a warning, to keep the indescribable exactly that and keep a fire in the belly. My favourite writing is one that puts you in their position, palm sweating. Unclesomebody's minute detailing and Alex Mason's grand missions. It feels as if the movement and action is put across but the reason for it is silent but shared, in Mason's case not so silent screaming FUCK YOU at Gogarth's coastline.

I like this song, painfully hipster name AND it's a remix but when the real deal kicks in it's great. i'll try to use this in a video, however the start sort of hurts my ears? 



Tuesday, 7 May 2013

warm up for your warm up before you do the warm up

Blimey, this seam is thin, I’ll just hack my foot up onto this hold and. . . “oh no”. A dull cracking sound, like a pencil being snapped underwater, precedes a sense of foreboding gloom, there is no pain right now, only instantaneous grief.

Skip back a few days.

Liam, baskin'
We’d been to Rhoscolyn, I bottled Electric Blue, I got cold and scared filming the fun time boys.  It’ll be better in high summer, making a deal up there on the cliff top. Early morning boldness on Savage Sunbird and moving fast on The Sun, I kept repeating the same Alan Partridge joke while I was on the sun, everyone got it but I persisted, ARE YOU NOT AMUSED. Liam did warpath, Tim did Magellan's wall , Mark did the route I should have done, Centrefold, and I boa constrictor-ed myself on our hanging belay, wrapping the ropes around my legs. Al put in a good show, running it out above my head on Dreams and Screams with Jemma  belaying from somewhere inside my lower intestine.

Rhoscolyn DWS from Guy Van Greuning on Vimeo.

 I had plans on going back to my home town so had to duck out of a bank holiday trip to Wales, I consoled myself with the fact I’d still get 2 days climbing in the beautiful weather the peak was currently having. Home was good, my mum had bought me a headband from Norway, grit chic. Due to a lack of licenses Jon and I were going to catch the bus over to Millers dale and if the tor was a furnace walk the nice walk over the cheedale. Wake up on Sunday morning at 8am, pack bags and grab some food. Walk up the hill the bus stop, 9.43am Jon rings from further down ecclesall road and says the bus just went past him without stopping, full to the brim. Next bus at 2pm. Fuuuuucccckkkkkkkk. Semi-Contain adult tantrum and decide to catch a bus to Matlock. 1 hour 30 minutes later we arrived in the town and walked over to Long Tor, admired the admirable High Tor. “it's ok I’ll climb there tomorrow” I told myself. At the crag Jon brushed his way up the 6c+ Jade. Pulling the ropes I headed up after him, two moves in and. . .see top.
 It’s most certainly the A2 pulley on the ring finger of the right hand, bog standard injury. Your time has come, grab a ticket, get in line. I don’t have an ice pack at home and the peas aren't working so I freeze the tomato purée tube and wrap it round my finger. I know what’s needed, I've read enough online. I need an ice cube tray and diligence   
peas (frozen) out, I'm off to do some sit ups and drink some wine, more of one. 

Chris is sponsored by the material, leather.
Zippy's Traverse, Crag X

Moffatrocity, Crag X

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Not far but away

Lucky Strike, Rusty Walls at Pembroke. I had just begun abbing into the shady belay ledge perched above the sea when two thoughts occurred to me, I hadn’t been trad climbing in a year and that this was my first sea cliff. I ignored these thoughts as Tim passed me the rope ends and I tied in. I know it’s next to the sea and all but I rather naively didn’t expect it to be so wet, the rock was the colour of mud (or rust!?) as I made my first few steps above the waves and eyed up the rising flake line like a gift. “Is the foothold wet or is the rock dark brown in colour?”, check the sole of my shoe, “wet”. The route went by smoothly and aside from some cobwebs of the mind needing blowing away all was fine.
Tim followed up and we semi ran back over and down into St. Govans. I started up The Arrow and after the obligatory greasy start ambled my way to the top, on the way I had turned my head for a life affirming gaze only for the view to be obliterated by a bank of mist. Ah well. We walked back round to our bags and after some gentle persuasion by Tim (he’d abbed in and flaked the ropes before I said no) I stood underneath The Butcher. Those that know me can attest to my famously wet hands so it was with an atmosphere thick with static rain and a pair of slippery kippers that I set off up the starting crack, two runners in I knew this was a piss take, as elegantly as possible I down climbed removing my placements, hopefully wowing spectators with this gallant display of tactics. Back under terra firma Tim Led us out through a steep E2 and upon surfacing we watched Dan McManus calmy dispatch The Butcher like it was type one fun. A move over one buttress or so for Tim’s main event, the classic E5 Get Some In.

Tim Lounds getting a right old sweat on
He cruised to half height, where the duality of  good hold/not-so-good gear had him stuck in a mental loop. I asked him if he was getting anything back, he said yes but the code of the belayer had been understood. Tim found a small placement that focused his mind and he set off up into the crux, a sequency move on good holds and a slap for a ledge. With tired arms he broke through the crux and like a veritable brown shirt sieg heil’d a sinker jam in the horizontal break above. He'd definitely be getting some in later (in the pub for those who missed that  humdinger of a pun)

We caught up with Liam and Mark on Star Wars and watching from Stennis head could see El Grippo in full effect, plenty of good in-jokes surfaced from this ascent but I know from experience they sink like fibre-lite turd when retold to others, so I won't, apart from GREASY and DESPERATE. There was a queue under Manzuko so Tim guided me across his dad's route Riders on the storm, amazing rock and a proper crux above a low tide crashing away below, smiling all the way. The E1 was cool but I think if you stray from the groove you sort of make up your own line on the face, I enjoyed the line I chose. Back towards the car we met up with the boys as Liam topped out Ships that pass in the night and we watched Mark dyno his way up on second. I cant even wax poetic about the route. Stunning, fucking stunning. 
pure buzzin mate

no contest

We knew bad weather was due on the Sunday so it was little surprise in the morning when the pitta patter of raindrops could be heard on the kitchen window. We decided to outrun the weather and move to Avon where the rain wasn’t due until 4pm. Sad to leave Pembroke, not a goodbye just a see you soon.

I’ve never been to Avon Gorge, I knew it was close to Bristol but this is definitely urban cragging, multi-pitch at that, whereas the last urban crag I went to was Bell Hagg so quite a difference. Tim had said good things about the routes coming up into and out of the ‘ramp’ feature, a slither of an Idwal slab. The bottom tier had suffered rock fall and had been shut off so I started up Banshee a relatively short offering about midway up the ramp. After Tim supplied me with gear beta I set off into the crux and with high feet caught the flatty at the bottom of the groove, the crux was supposed to be the mantle just after this move but thankfully it doesn’t feel so bad after the grit. Tim’s lead and he opts for the route Them right at the end of the ramp where one step off the belay puts you 30 metres up, he weaves his way up cursing shit pegs and praising technical moves. I had initially looked at this entire wall with disdain due it’s sandy/snappy appearance, but nearly every move on this E3 was sublime, dinky nodules for feet and technical cross overs on crimps for crux’s. Highly recommended. Topping out over a fence into a busy park on a Sunday was a new one for me and felt very alien, though all in all I was just doing exactly the same thing as the joggers, cyclists and ice cream eaters were doing, enjoying their waste of time.

Massive head on Banshee

The weekend had felt like a little holiday and I glow about it now. Now I’ve had the most fun it’s time to actually try harder, the weekend approaches.

Went to Garage Buttress at Stoney on Tuesday night, wanted to try the getting-classier 7b+ but it was busy so belayed Oli on Jerry’s Little Plum, did half of some sketch 6c then watched Ben and Will try that extra bit harder and both climb King of Ming one after another. When I look up I’m really impressed with this sweep of rock, great colours.

Last night we were running over to the WCJ Cornice, Oli talked me through Brachiation Dance and I had a fairly good flash go, dogged to the top then ran out of light, felt reasonable even with some wet holds to manage. After the one move on the slab it’s big holds all the way and can see it being a good warm-up in future though shouldn’t get ahead of myself. Oli set off up Free Monster with my head torch, though he would have been better off with a fan and some tin foil.

Thursday, 11 April 2013

It is technically Spring

Everyone was out snowballing, I didn’t want to. It was strange to not have the excited feeling like I used to but I’d just come off a sport climbing trip and really just wanted to climb some routes and pull down. I did try, went for a walk and swam up to The Sentinel, it felt fun but had no spark. At the plantation it was a surreal setting and a great atmosphere of enjoyment but grumpy as it sounds, looking around at the excitable masses, it was as if the snow was to these Grit Classics what the London Riots were to JJB sports. Is this what some of the old guard feel when we do things with pads?
I went out for some techno on the Friday evening, didn’t intend to drink as was up early for a shady Tor with Mark. I was real tired by 11pm and on the soft stuff by midnight so slumped in the corner, pint of water in hand and with my eyes flickering closed I may have looked utterly mashed to the passer-by. I took Chris’s keys and slipped out the exit. Arriving at the Tor in brisk shade there were streaks dotted around, One fist sized wet patch on the flat hold next to the second clip of my project (Obscene Gesture), though I could work around it. Clipped up bolt to bolt and felt great lowering down, thinking I’ll just work the bottom and have a redpoint, must have tried 20 times to find a steady way through the start before someone pointed out you could start from the left where it originally came from, joy! Not next month now, next week. I wonder how I’ll feel on the last stretch to the good crimp on the headwall, a warm excitement as I even type the words. It all comes down to when I get the undercuts and bridge my feet higher, slotting my right thumb into the mono and pinching upwards and across to the small crimp and then the amazing pocket with the left index. If I can get this move in motion i'm in, it's one of those strange moves which feels in micro terms like a knackered car turning over before it kicks in, always some doubt.

The day after we went to Rubicon with the idea of having a preliminary recce of Moat Buttress and the upper circle. Millers tale felt hard and I snatched badly, never nice to have that jarring feeling. While the others sought kudos I wandered down the dale scoping out the crags as I passed them, it wasn’t too busy, there was wildlife all around and I felt really happy to be in such a place “if this isn’t nice then I don’t know what is”. I thought I could hear the rumbling of off-road bikes in the distance but upon looking into the stream it turned out to be a myriad of frogs out on the pull. I guffaw’d out loud. Eat the Rich had a single wet (not seeping) important pocket, Let the Tripe Increase was wet down low and the WCJ Cornice looked remarkably dry consdering. I hope the great melt this weekend doesn't fuck it all up.

I’ve felt really tired since I got back from Spain, partly because I fell ill within two days of returning, but I’ve become stuck with a feeling of exhaustion that needs looking at. The wall was tough work and I felt heavy, not helped by a work colleague saying my face has filled out, “oh really? It must be the beard” I said, knowing full well I could of stopped that sentence without the letter D at the end. I haven’t been too tired to dream though, even though I haven’t completed by medium term goal of 7c I’ve started to cultivate the unthinkable thought for a Jonny Q Punter - climbing an 8a.

Since filming Oli on the Zone I haven’t recorded anything, I have a vague idea of what I’d like to do but I’ll have to either organise myself better with the good climbers I know or put the feelers out for anyone who’s got something decent going down. All this whilst juggling my immense personal climbing ambitions. It’s going to be tough to make some nice Limestone clips, it being pretty crap looking on film, but for the sufficiently nerdy it’s great to see these routes up close. If I can get someone on Evolution this season I’ll be chuffed, no pressure Bobbows. I cant realty afford any more kit but I’d love a new tripod and slider, anyone?

oh yeah, Thatcher.