Monday, 24 January 2011

Normal Service Is Resumed

After all climbing efforts last weekend were thwarted by terrible weather, I found myself in Bristol this weekend enjoying the hospitality of the Doctors Gray and hatching silly trad climbing plans. Accordingly, Oli and I set off on Saturday morning for Three Cliffs on the Gower, which it turns out, is quite far away from Bristol. When we eventually got there the walk to the crag featured a worrying about of ice and frozen mud, but on walking through the natural arch to the crag we found rather balmy conditions. It was my lead, so after spending a few minutes reminding myself how my harness and all this jangly metal was supposed to work, I started up a pleasant little HS slab. I got to the top without any near-death incidents, and followed Oli up the adjacent route, before soloing another HS which looked entertaining.

Scavenger (thanks to Yorkshire Dave for the photo)

Suitably warmed up I cast my eye over to Scavenger, reputedly one of the best VSs in the area, and certainly an eye catching line up a slabby corner arcing over the natural arch. The climbing turned out to be excellent and well protected. The top crack was a little wet, but that didn't detract from things. Not a bad route for my 800th on the ticklist.

Next on the agenda was the nearby Pobbles East, a shy and retiring cove with an appealing little wall containing a two-star VS called Smalt. After wrestling with the unreasonably barnacley start, Oli made short work of the upper crack, and, after soloing the adjacent VS, we retreated from the rapidly approaching tide towards Pobbles West. We spent a pleasant half-hour or so here soloing everything in sight, before finishing off the day with a fun mountaineering traverse of the crag's eponymous three cliffs, which is definitely to be recommended.

Pobbles East

The evening was spent playing poker badly into the wee small hours, so an early start was off the cards on Sunday. Eventually we ventured Southwards to Fairy Cave Quarry, which turned out to be impressively large and possessing of some inspiring lines for a limestone quarry, but sadly was rather damp. So we drove over to Goblin Combe, which was also damp, and thence the Avon Gorge, which was seeping badly. Having run out of worthwhile crags to wander around the bottom of looking sulky, we snuck off to the local bouldering wall (I did need a bouldering fix after all this trad action...).

Oli and a whole lot of limestone in Fairy Cave Quarry

So, trad psyche has been restored. I'm still keen for bouldering, but I'm at least as keen for it to stop being wet, and start being sunny.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Boulderers Anonymous

I've always been a pretty rabid anti-boulderer. Why would you spend all day falling off a small rock, when you can do worthwhile trad routes instead? With that in mind I have a confession to make:

I've been bouldering. And really enjoyed it.

After Carrock Fell and then a slothful December, I brought in the new year with a Bank Holiday visit to Crookrise with Sophie, young Dan and friends. It was baltic (there were icicles hanging off the crag) and I found myself smugly looking at the sole pair of trad climbers who had dared to venture out and who clearly weren't having any fun at all. After managing to somehow persuade my atrophied arms that they could propel me along a grossly overhanging, but very juggy traverse, I had a crack at Crease Direct, a classic V3 6a (I still don't really get these font grades). After quite a lot of falling off, and some crucial sneaky palming beta I reached the finishing hold (and then stylelessly gibbered my way along the easy traverse off). It was a great problem, and I really enjoyed the challenge of puzzling out how to get up it. I felt a bit dirty for having enjoyed a boulder problem so much, but mostly just pleased and psyched for more challenges.

This weekend after a huge amount of venue related indecision, I headed to Gardoms with Jaime and Dan. The boulders were a bit green and the rock a little scrittly, but we found a couple of nice easy problems to warm up on, before I went to investigate another V3 6a which looked suspiciously easy. I managed it second go, and it was really rather too easy, so tried a sit start. This also went on the second attempt, athough felt like it might actually have been 6a.

Sophie on G-Thang

Next we wandered up to the main area, where team Sophie arrived to join in the fun. As we approached some people were working on G-Thang, yet another V3 6a, and I commented that there didn't appear to be any real holds on the problem. A few minutes later I was clinging to the non-holds for grim death, and only a shortage of gumption at the top stopped me from flashing it. I was still really pleased to nail it on the second attempt, although I then totally failed to get myself up anything else worthwhile for the rest of the day. I did, however, have lots of fun watching others falling off the terrifying overhanging arete of Suavito from ever increasing heights. Eventually young Dan, Graham, Dan A and Tony all earned the very impressive tick.

Plummeting off Suavito

I now find myself in the somewhat conflicted position of being really psyched for more bouldering. Perhaps it's just a temporary madness caused by a lack of proper climbing, but while it's this cold it seems a lot more fun than getting hot aches half way up a VDiff. I might even have to adapt my spreadsheet to understand bouldering grades!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Hurrah! Another Year, Surely This One Will Be Better Than The Last. The Inexorable March Of Progress Will Lead Us All To Happiness

The last few months of 2010 were pretty uneventful, climbing-wise. In fact, December was the first month in which I climbed absolutely nothing since 2006! This wasn't a conscious decision to take a break, or even an injury-enforced lay off, just a combination of various factors. There was one abortive attempt to take advantage of the excellent winter conditions in the Lake District which failed thanks to an epic logistical clusterfuck (although i did get a nice walk in the snow), but it was strange that I didn't get frustrated as i have in the past when I've not been able to climb. Perhaps I just needed a rest.

Anyway, 2011 is here and I've got back on the climbing wagon, but more of that later. In the meantime, how about some statistics:

In 2010 I climbed 279 trad routes, 395 pitches, 7290 metres, 41 boulder problems, 5 winter routes and 4 new munros. I led my first E1s, led 38 HVSs (more than every previous year added together), seconded less routes (44) than any of the previous 7 years and soloed more routes than I led (142 to 134).

I also visited some amazing places for the first time (Donegal, Fairhead, Wen and Mousetrap Zawn at Gogarth, the Lleyn and Mother Carey's in particular), finally overcame a few old nemeses (Pingers and Wednesday Climb), ticked off a few things I'd been hankering after for years (Eagle Front, Dreamboat Annie, Croton Oil, Scratch Arete, Fireball and Formula One) and found a few new nemeses (Nowanda and Moonraker), as well as seen loads of new inspiring routes.

It's fair to say that my psyche is back and I'm super-excited about what the New Year might bring. The list of things I'm hoping to do is far too long to write down (or indeed actually do in a year), but it features getting stronger and climbing harder. E2 by the end of the year? Only time wil tell!