Sunday, 13 March 2011

The Good, The Bad and The Crush

A combination of low funds, and an uninspiring forecast led to Scottish winter plans being shelved once again, and me heading up the M1 to stay chez Julie and Andy in Leeds. Saturday's forecast looked vaguely promising, so Andy and I decided to go and investigate Clattering Stones near Widdop. Our journey there was obstructed by the Widdop road being closed, so we had to detour via the wilds of Burnley to reach the top end of the reservoir, where a short hack up the hillside took us to the boulders. Whilst not extensive, there is a good concentration of excellent looking problems, but unfortunately for us a lot of them were rather green and damp looking.

Andy oh so close to the top of Morning Sickness

After sulking a bit and eating some lunch, we decided to have an optimistic look at a V4 dyno called Morning Sickness. Neither of us have any dynoing skills to speak of, but we spent an entertaining while getting remarkably close, before giving up and going to Clatterjack Wall in the hope that it had dried off a bit. It hadn't, but closer inspection suggested that the holds on some of the problems might be dry enough for them to be worth a shot. First up was Clatterjack Pencil, a V2 up a thin seam, which Andy flashed and I managed second go. Next was Fontanelles, a V6 which Andy dispatched very quickly, but which I couldn't make much headway with. We decided to beat a retreat to Widdop, but the weather had other ideas and started to rain on us. This brought the day to a rather premature end, but we had seen enough to bring us back another time after a dry spell.

We spent Saturday morning trying to sleep off a red wine induced hangover, before the sun came out and we decided to see what delights Shipley Glen might have in store. Conditions were, if anything, a little warm when we first arrived, but it felt like Spring was here and the last vestiges of my hangover melted away. We started off around YMC Wall, and rattled through a host of fun problems, including the very high and very fun Glen Arete, before Andy's mate Chris arrived, and we moved to Leaper Roof. Here I enjoyed a brief moment of glory by flashing Leaper after watching the others fall off the last move, before we moved on again.

High on Glen Arete

Next on the agenda were the twin V1 aretes of Donner and Blitzen, one of which required an exciting slap for a jug, and the other had an exciting highball finish which certainly got a bit of adrenalin flowing. By this time the sun was nearing the horizon, and the temperature was perfect for some crushing, so we made for our chief objectives for the day. Manson Wall, a V5 6b for me, Paul's Wall, a V7 6b for Andy, and Red Baron, a desperate looking undercut arete at V7 6c for Chris.

Chris trying hard on Red Baron

Strange goings on below Manson's Wall (above Andy) and Paul's Wall (above Chris)

Manson's Wall looked a little high, with the crux apparently the slap for the top in a position where falling off would earn you quite a lot of air-time. At least the landing was good. The climbing was just off vertical, with a tough rock up off a manky crimp to reach a small but positive 'ear' before some chicanery with another manky crimp allowed the crucial slap. On my first go I just tickled the ear before falling off. Next time I managed to get my fingers round it, and furtled the next manky crimp, but spent too long thinking about the fall and grabbed the inviting looking tree just next to me. After watching Chris make slow, but definite progress on Red Baron I reluctantly had another go. I wasn't very inspired about my chances of success, but as soon as I grabbed the ear things felt more positive. I quickly moved my right hand onto the second crimp and before I could bottle it again I jumped my left foot up onto the thin edge and stood up on it. Suddenly I was very committed, and flung my right foot out to a distant edge for a bit more purchase before I realised I was going to have to slap for the top or just fall off. With huge relief I hit it and lo, it was good. The fun wasn't totally over though, as my wrist chose that moment to stop working, and I had a heart-in-mouth few seconds before finally pulling over the top. My first V5, and I think my first English 6b all in one problem. Maximum aceness. After that I decided to quit whilst I was ahead, and watched Chris have another couple of goes on Red Baron before Andy nearly reached the top of Phil's Wall a couple of times before being thwarted by some really, really manky crimps. Then it started to go dark, so we went our separate ways after another excellent day's climbing, and with plenty of inspiration for a return visit someday soon.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The List Of Psyche Part 3 - Scotland & Ireland

So, now for the final leg of this voyage through my sea of psyche. All of these suffer from being far away, and for the most part covered in rain and/or midges, but that doesn't stop them being great...

Grey Panther - E1 5b, Kilt Rock
My number 1 to do route. An Extreme Rock tick with jamming and bridging at the same time and it looks incredible.

Road To Ruin - E2 5b, Kilt Rock
More classy jamming and bridging but with added offwidth factor.

The Swan - E1 5b, Eala Sheadha
More sea cliff girdle action.

Spring Squill - E1 5b, Pabbay
Hard to get to, but sounds amazing.

Prophecy Of Drowning - E2 5c, Pabbay
Its reputation of amazingness precedes it.

Original Route - E1 5b, Old Man Of Hoy
History and aesthetics aside, there's a dirty great crack to climb, and a proper summit tick. Winningest.

West Flank Route - E1 5b, Cir Mhor
Granite chimneys and cracks, lovely.

Shibboleth - E2 3c, Buachaille Etive Mor
"The finest route of its grade and length on the planet" - sounds worthwhile.

White Wall Crack - E1 5b, Buachaille Etive Mor
Reputedly ace.

Unicorn - E1 5b, Stob Coire Nan Lochan
More bridging cornery goodness...

Yo-Yo - E1 5b, Aonach Dubh
... And yet more.

The Big Top - E1 5b, Aonach Dubh
There's an incredible looking photo of this in Gary Latter's Bumper Book Of Lies.

King Kong - E2 5c, Ben Nevis
Another rather over-ambitious route, but damn, it sounds ace.

Minus One Direct - E1 5b, Ben Nevis
I've wanted to do this ever since we saw a party on it from Tower Ridge years ago. A Whole lot of E1 for your money!

The Devil's Alternative - E1 5a, Hell's Lum Crag
Need to get improve my granite slab skills first though.

The Needle - E1 5b, Shelterstone Crag
A mega-classic.

Hall Of Mirrors - E2 5b, Sgurr A'Mhuilinn
A jamming crack/slab double header.

Angel Face - E2 5c, Beinn Eighe
Apparently both sensational and improbable. Doppelwin.

The Pillar - E2 5b, Diabeg
Another one of those mega-classics.

Jack The Ripper - E1 5b, Stac Pollaidh
Awesome situations on an awesome crag.

Bloodlust - E1 5b, Sheigra
Steep moves on big pockets by the sea.

The Sarclet Pimpernel - E1 5a, Sarclet
Basically everything at Sarclet looks great, this in particular, and it's got a puntastic name. Hurrah.

Main Mast - E2 5b/c , Sail Rock, Donegal
Everybody who's done it rates it as the best E2 ever, so it must be good.

Railroad - E1 5b, Fairhead
Looks ace, Fireball's companion route.

Crib Pad Crack - E1 5b, Fairhead
More jamming goodness.

Toby Jug - E1 5b, Fairhead
Yet another jamming testpiece.

An Bealach Runda - E1 5b, Fairhead
A proper Fairhead main cliff experience.

Conchubair - E2 5c, Fairhead
I love Fairhead corners...

Equinox - E2 5b, Fairhead
... And here's another.

I think I'll stop there for the moment. Now all I need is a really long holiday, some unlikely weather, and some more skillz. Hmm.

Monday, 7 March 2011

The List Of Psyche Part 2 - England

And on we go. There seems to be a fairly heavy geographical bias towards the South West and the Lakes, but that's where my psyche is obviously keen to go:

Rock Dancer - E1 5b, Carn Kenidjack
Improbable looking and apparently jug infested.

Sacre Couer - E2 5c, Blackchurch
Crimpy, slabby, mad looking bit of rock.

Astral Stroll - E1 5b, Carn Gloose
I heart sea cliff girdle traverses.

Matchless - E1 5b, Oldwalls Point
More crimpy slabby, mad rock goodness.

Crimtyphon - E2 5c, Compass Point
Apparently rather good.

Doors Of Perception - E1 5b, Baggy Point
Good name, climbs a slabby corner and I like Baggy a lot.

Heart Of The Sun - E2 5c, Baggy Point
Adventure with a capital AAARGH.

Fruitflancase - E1 5a, The Dewerstone
Classic granite crack climbing.

The Ocean - E1 5b, Lundy
American Beauty, only harder and with more vegetation? Sounds great.

Fifth Appendage - E1/2 5b, Lundy
We have previous.

The Promised Land - E3 6a, Lundy
Too hard, but a mega-inspiring line.

Headline - E1 5b, Lundy
Should have done it last year but wimped out. Looks great.

Magical Mystery Tour - E1 5b, Berry Head
See above comment about sea cliff girdles. Not too sure about the swim though.

Coronation Street - E1 5b, Cheddar Gorge
Uber-classic at an awesome venue. Apparently rather committing...

Ricochet Wall - E1 5b, Shooter's Nab
A nice line at a crag I really want to go back to. Sweatyman also looks ace.

Aladdinsane - E1 5a, Trobarrow

Night Of The Hot Pies - E1 5b, Cathedral Quarry
For the name alone. As a bonus it's apparently also quite good.

Razor Crack - E1 5a, Neckband Crag
A crack in a slab? Oh yes.

Aphasia - E2 5b, Sergeant Crag Slabs
A slab with gear and holds and maximum goodness.

Phoenix - E1 5b, Scafell East Buttress
The top pitch looks amazing.

The Philistine - E1 5b, High Crag
Great photo in the guide. Allegedly not that bold really. Hmmm.

Raindrop - E1 5b, Black Crag

Troutdale Pinnacle Superdirect - E1 5a, Black Crag
Might only be HVS, but it's a superdirect. Ooh yeah.

Columbia - E1 5b, Stonestar Crag
A little bit out of the way.

Bloodhound - E2 5b, Gouther Crag
A bit bold, but a lovely piece of rock.

Praying Mantis - E1 5b, Goat Crag
Ungainly crack climbing for the win.

Arcturus - E1 5b, Pavey Ark
Apparently the peg isn't that bad...

Capella - E1 5b, Pavey Ark
Low in the grade and free of scary pegs.

Poker Face - E1 5b, Pavey Ark
A challenge to climb this without hearing Lady Gaga in your head the whole way up.

Woolly Jumper - E1 5b, Bowfell Buttress

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The List Of Psyche Part 1 - Wales

After last weekend helped to further demystify the E-grades, I've been mentally cobbling together a little Extreme List of Psyche. Some of it's a little ambitious, but, hell, a boy can dream...

Cemetery Gates - E1 5b, Dinas Cromlech
A soft touch, and I've bottled getting on it before.

Ivy Sepulchre - E1 5b, Dinas Cromlech
A bridging corner, what's not to like?

Grond - E2 5b, Dinas Cromlech
Blatantly far too hard, but it's supposedly the ultimate test of jamming...

Plexus - E1 5b, Dinas Mot
Maybe the best rock in the world?

The Grooves - E1 5b, Cyrn Las
More corners, and a Hard Rock tick too.

Fear Of Infection - E4 6a, Cwm Glas Bach
The offwidthers offwidth.

Vember - E1 5b, Clogwyn Du'r Arddu
There's chimneying, and it would right the shameful wrong of never having climbed on cloggy.

Bella Lugosi Is Dead - E1 5b, Slate Quarries
Well protected slate? Yes please.

German Schoolgirl - E2 5c, Slate Quarries
Mmm, more bridging goodness.

California Arete - E1 4c, Slate Quarries
OK, so I'll never summon up the bottle to solo this, but it looks ace.

Gnat Attack - E1 5b, Bus Stop Quarry
Apparently the bold top section is easy. Eek.

The Groove - E1 5b, Llech Du
A proper big route on a proper big crag.

The Plum - E1 5b, Craig Bwlch Y Moch
What a line.

Barbarian - E1 5b, Craig Pant Ifan
Looks ace, if a bit surly.

The Exterminating Angel - E3 5c, Craig Cwm Trysgl
So, an E3 on a slab. But it's a slab made of amaze-o-rock. It has to be good, surely?

Atlantis/North West Passage - E1 5b, Castell Helen
P1 of Atlantis and P2 of North West Passage looks like an awesome combination.

Anarchist - E1 5b, Red Wall
Andy keeps trying to persuade me that Red Wall is a fun place. I'm unconvinced, but this looks rather good.

Mousetrap - E2 5b, Mousetrap Zawn
Incredible rock in an incredible place.

Emulator - E1 5b, Gogarth Main Cliff
Yet another ace looking corner.

Cripple Creek - E3 5b, Craig Dorys
Somehow compellingly terrifying.

Sinecure - E1 5b, Carreg-y-Barcud
A cool looking route at a great crag.

Beyond The Azimuth - E1 5b, Carreg-y-Barcud
Awkward crack climbing nonsense.

Lucky Strike - E1 5b, Range East
Been wanting to do this for ages.

Preposterous Tales - E2 5b, Range East
More compelling terror, but this time with added darkness.

Cool For Cats - E1 5b, Range East
Looks totally awesome.

The Strait Gate - E1 5b, Mother Carey's
Might need to get a bit fitter for this one...

The might keep me busy for a while. Next up, England.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Food Glorious Food (And Crushing)

In honour of my 29th Birthday, I organised a minimal logistics weekend away in North Wales last weekend. In spite of a terrible weather forecast, DanDanDan, Simon, J-Rowe, Sarah, Andy and Julie all made the journey over, and we fell asleep on Friday nights to the all too familiar sound of rain on our tents.

We awoke on Saturday to dampness, but no actual rain, so after what felt like an eternity trying to goad Dan into action, we made a move for Caban, apparently the new pretender to Pete's Eats' throne of lardiness. It turned out to be rather more genteel, with posh tea and organic bacon. The breakfast portions weren't over-generous, but everything tasted marvellous, especially the mushrooms, mmmm. Suitably galvanised, and with things looking like they were drying off, we headed up to the slate quarries.

On arrival, Bus Stop Quarry looked damp, which spared me the terror of an attempt on Gnat Attack, so we took Simon (who had unaccountably never been to the quarries before) on a mini-tour. We visited Dali's Hole, then into California, where I ignored Andy's best efforts to persuade me into a swift death falling off California Arete (although it did look ace) and we threw slate at each other instead (well, mostly at Dan). Next we huffed and puffed up the levels to Australia, where Looning The Tube looked a) dry and b) quite good, so I decided to stop pansying around, and get on it.

The initial traverse on Looning The Tube (Photo generously donated by Sarah Clough)

I wisely ignored everybody's advice about only taking 3 quickdraws, a cam and a sling, and augmented this with a full rack of totally superfluous nuts before tying Simon down to a big spike to stop him catapulting into space were I to fall off, and stepping up off the pipe. The initial traverse felt steady, although I lost cool points for trying lamely to lassoo the chain at the earliest opportunity (and missing of course) rather than just manning up and stepping across to it. Eventually I did man up, and then tootled up the crack, with a tricky move past the bolt, to the top. Not a bad route really, but a lot more like an easy HVS than E1, and also a lot more like sport climbing than the guide would have you believe.

Next came a team rescue of Dan, who had managed to strand himself on a small ledge whilst trying to solo a HS, before James and I pottered about on some bolted VSs (!?) and then slogged up some more levels in search of Mad Dog Of The West. The guidebook boldly draws comparison between this route and Yosemite, which led to me being somewhat underwhelmed when I first saw it, being only around 15m long and rising from a scrappy gully. Luckily the climbing was really nice, very reminiscent of Lost Horizons at Baggy Point.

Getting stuck into Mad Dog Of The West (Photo generously donated by Sarah Clough)

After stumbling back down the levels in the dark, we visited our next culinary highlight, the Gallt y Glyn Hotel in Llanberis. Make your own pizza was the order of the day here, and all manner of horrific concoctions were conjured up, including Dan's 'Veg-o-phobia' and my 'Pizza del Crush' featuring Ham, Peppers, Chilli, Goats Cheese and Artichokes. A whole plateful of win.

Sunday morning continued in similarly gluttonous style, with a large breakfast and a pint of tea in Pete's Eats, just like the old days. This warmed us up nicely for the drive out to Holyhead Mountain, where the sun was shining and everything seemed rosy. Until we opened the car door and were promptly flattened by the wind. But we persuaded ourselves that the crag would be sheltered and set out into the gale. Our optimism was well rewarded with an afternoon climbing in glorious sunshine, with only the odd gust of wind to contend with.

I began by leading Black And Tan, a VS I had a recollection of as having a stiff reputation, but which wasn't too bad once you'd committed to the exposed monkeying around on jugs at the top - good fun. While I was on this Andy was slowly working his way up the adjacent slab of Breaking The Barrier, an E1 which was on my list of psyche, so I was keen to hear his report. Apparently it had fiddly gear, small footholds and lots of sidepulls, but was very good. Hmmm. Julie decided she fancied a crack at it next, so that delayed my vascillating and James and I soloed a couple of routes and then ambled up a fun, and very 3-dimensional Severe nearby. Meanwhile Julie had been forced to retreat by fiddly gear, sideways handholds, and a lack of the height required to lank past the first hard move. Hoping I might be adequately lanky I decided to give it a whirl, and set off with some trepidation and a lot of tiny nuts. The gear protecting the move which had stopped Julie was finicky and small, but eventually I fiddled in enough size 1/4 nuts, no. 1 peanuts, and brass offsets to persuade myself that I was safe, and stretched for the elusive hold.

Julie just before the heightism set in on Breaking The Barrier

Mercifully I just tickled my way onto it, which set up a delightful series of delicate moves on just adequate holds. There were a few bits of good gear to calm my inner wuss, but soon I found myself stopped by a sudden paucity of footholds. There appeared to be a jug about a foot above my hands, so I gave myself a talking to (and tried to focus on the bomber nut below my feet and not the shonky number 2 RP by my waist) and ended up launching myself inelegantly towards it. Success was mine, so I celebrated by somehow cutting one of my fingers and bleeding my way up the finishing crack, which maintained the interest well without ever being too tricky. I sat at the top belaying with the sun low in the sky feeling very satisfied with life, the weather, my climbing, and a great weekend with excellent company. And Dan.

Of course it would have been rude not to finish a weekend in North Wales without a Sunday evening visit to Conwy Kebab House. I treated myself to an eponymous kebab, and lo, it was awesome. So, what have I learnt? Eating a lot is clearly good training for climbing hard, blind optimism in the face of bad weather forecasts is sometimes rewarded, and I can still climb E1s without dying. In fact, in spite of the ungainly lunge, I didn't actually have to lay one on at any point on Breaking The Barrier, so perhaps I need to find an E2 in a similar vein to crush. Any suggestions on a postcard to the usual address please.

Just to prove that I'm not lying about the sunshine (Photo courtesy of Sarah again)