Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Spring in Yorkshire: Something for Nothing and True North

I thought I would bring you all up to date with what I've been up to over the last 2 months or so on the Yorkshire sport crags. Since mid April and pretty much as soon as both crags properly dried out, I have been heading to Malham and Kilnsey with some unfinished business in mind. High up on my list of projects were Pete Dawson's Something for Nothing 8c at Malham and True North 8c at Kilnsey, both of which I had been involved with since 2014.

The crux of True North 8c at Kilnsey (Pic: Sam Pratt). My old, duff method!
By early April, I was making good progress on one of my projects in the Cave, In Hell V12 but I made the decision to cease attempts on that for now and divert all my energies into sport projects. My aim was to capitalise on a sustained period of bouldering and deadhanging since November last year. In Hell will always be there and is one of the driest problems around so it was an easy decision to make, even though I had been close, falling off 3 times after the flake match on Rockatrocity. Only one way to find out if I would be fit enough for Yorkshire, get involved! 

I had had some good burns on Something for Nothing back in November when Pete did the first ascent, getting halfway through the crux sequence by the last bolt. However, there is a savage crank off a 2 finger pocket to a distant undercut on the crux and this always stopped me cold trying it from the ground. With this in mind, my first objective on day 1 this year was to try and get the key link climbed from the 6th bolt of Cry Freedom (before the 1st crux of that route) to the top. On a half day off work with Al belaying, I shocked myself by climbing this link on my second day back on the route. This piece of climbing must rate 8b+ and only leaves the small matter of the introductory 7c of Cry Freedom leading to the undercut shakeout at the 6th bolt to link in. I felt way better than when I was last trying the rig in November, game on!

The crux of Something for Nothing 8c at Malham (Screengrab from video footage)

Barely able to contain psyche in between visits to the crag, I started the familiar process of trying to batter the route into submission. It took a few more visits on strategic half days off work to get it in the bag. I found that the stopping point on all of my redpoints was standing up into the crux undercut that you cross through to with your left hand off the 2 finger pocket. I must have had about 7 redpoints (2 a day) reaching this point before I finally managed to creep over the line and stand up to quickly reach over for the sloper which marks the end of the crux sequence. With Rich Waterton belaying it was an incredible feeling topping this one out, the end of 4 year saga! 

Video of Something for Nothing 8c

So, one down and my thoughts turned immediately to Kilnsey where I had already had a few sessions in late April refreshing the moves on True North. Kilnsey in April is not for the faint hearted and several baltic sessions were had where the only respite from the bitter north wind was hiding in the car inbetween burns. Iain McDonald kindly held my rope on a few occasions where I didn't have a belayer and, desparate to keep momentum up and with nobody keen to freeze their asses off, I rocked up at the crag on my own, a big shout out to him!

Nearing the top of True North (Pic: Sam Pratt)
I have blogged about my efforts on this one twice previously for those interested in a bit of background to the campaign:

Blog from 2015 attempts            Blog from attempts last year

So, without rehashing what I have already written about, I will just add that this time around, I was very lucky in that the crag co-operated in kindly remaining bone dry from mid April until early June, a period of 8 weeks, which to North Buttress regulars is almost unheard of. Regular sessions on the route on saturday and sunday coupled with the fitness I had gained from my Malham stint soon resulted in me getting up to the last move again, a highpoint I had last reached in August last year. The whole season was ahead of me this time, which made a massive difference mentally. Knowing that there was plenty of time to finish the route off even if it got wet, only left the small matter of actually climbing it, easier said than done!

Hanging out on the last bolt of True North (Pic: Sam Pratt)
I kept on with the sequence on the last move I had tried a lot last year, involving a deep right foot dropknee onto a low fin with my left foot still on the glued block. Unfortunately, I kept getting spat off as the recoil when coming out of this dropknee was savage! I was able to link through this fine from the Full Tilt belay and it was doable, although not every time, from the kneebar by the 5th bolt on Full Tilt. As soon as I tried it from the ground though, even after 2 full days rest and a perfect go where nothing went wrong, I was still getting shut down. When my falls off the last move (including last year) went into double figures, I knew it was time to change things up a bit.

Reaching the 'eyes' on True North (Pic: Dale Comley)

I reverted back to a sequence that Will Kelsall and Tim Palmer had told me about involving taking the crux crimp with my left hand and slapping straight for the sloper below the finishing jug with my right hand. Although this was a powerful slap, it had the merit of being quick, involving only 2 moves as opposed to my old method's 4, plus even fewer footmoves. I had tried this method last year but had discounted it as being too powerful.
Steepening up! Stretching for the glued block on True North (Pic: Dale Comley)
The first time I tried from the ground with the new method was way better than last year and I immediately knew this is the way it would go down. I had a very close couple of goes where I tickled the sloper twice on the day when Pete Dawson sent it first try (a totally awesome effort!!) I knew I would have a good chance the next saturday as long as the route was dry. After a final light session doing routes at Manchester Climbing Centre on Wednesday and 2 full rest days on Thursday and Friday, I headed to the crag on Saturday morning trying to keep focused. 

Approaching the crux on Mandela 8a+ at Kilnsey (Pic: Kris Suriyo)
On my first go, I felt really good, the best I have ever felt on the route. I was amazed to finally stick the sloper from the ground and thought surely, this is it! Unfortunately, I couldn't find the small, white toe hold needed to stand up and roll over to the finishing jug and I dropped off unexpectedly, utterly gutted! I forced myself to recompose and had 90 minutes rest. I went back to the car to keep warm and gather my thoughts. On the second go, I had in mind that I had done Something for Nothing on my second go of the day so knew it was possible. I didn't feel quite as good as my first try but soon found myself at the last move. I gave it everything I had and grunted my way up to the sloper again. This time there was no mistake and with the last ounce of energy I had left, I rolled over with my left hand into the jug, it was done!! I was ultra focused on the still tricky, balancy rockover shared with Urgent Action and then took my time on the final groove. Clipping the belay was a massive relief after the efforts of the last 4 years and brought to a close a big investment in the route. I was too far down the road to quit, the stuggle must continue to the bitter end!

                                          Video of True North 8c

Over the last month, I have enjoyed briefly being project free at the crag. I ticked Mandela 8a+ the other week, which was a long term ambition of mine. 
New project time! The lower crux of Progress 8c+ at Kilnsey (Pic: Kris Suriyo)
I have also started to make inroads into my next project, Jerry Moffat's 'Progress' an 8c+ 10 meters to the left of True North. This one remains a lot drier than True North and perhaps suits my natural style a little better, being more fingery. Until next time and good luck on all your projects out there! 

Powerful moves by the 4th bolt on Progress (Pic: Kris Suriyo)

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Happy Easter! Update on bouldering and training

I thought it was about time I put pen to paper, so to speak, and write a little update on my winter's bouldering and training for you to digest while you are all munching your Easter eggs! The last time I blogged last year I was about to embark on a period of indoor training and bouldering with all the crags either already seeping or about to. I had some interesting sessions at Malham and Raven Tor right at the end of the routes season on Pete Dawson's new route Something for Nothing 8c and Evolution 8c+, making some mini breakthroughs on both, which has given me something to think about over the winter. 

Texas Hold Em Font 7B+, Trowbarrow  (Pic: Sam Pratt)
From November onwards up until recently, I have been doing the Chris Webb Parson's one arm hang programme before work on Tuesday and Thursday mornings followed by an evening session of either bouldering at the Manchester Depot or Rockover or routes at Stockport wall. I had a highly enjoyable week in El Chorro over New Year where I managed to get two fantastic 8a's done which I had tried 16 years (!) previously, Lourdes and Musas Inquietantas, the latter route being these days very difficult to get on with the Gorge walkway being now commercialised.
Musas Inquietantas 8a, Lower Gorge, El Chorro (Pic; Adam Bailes)
Porrot 7c+, Makinodromo, El Chorro
Since getting back from El Chorro, I have been getting out bouldering at the weekends as much as possible - pulling down on real rock at regular intervals is important for psyche after all! A lot of visits have been to Parisella's Cave where some extremely cold and windy sessions were had but also to Pill Box Wall and Sunny Wall on the Orme and Tremeirchion and the Gop near Prestatyn plus a day at Trowbarrow in the Lakes. I was chuffed that I have managed to tick off some of my hardest boulder problems, including my longstanding nemesis, Drink Driving V12 on Pill Box Wall, which has been satisfying. Halfway House V10 and In Life (lite) V11 in the Cave, Silence of the Trams Sit V10 at Sunny Wall, Enter the Dragon V12 at Tremeirchion and Push the Button V10 at the Gop have been stand out problems. I'm well keen for more though, its addictive this bouldering game! I have done some videos on my Youtube and Vimeo of some of these boulders if anybody is interested in getting any beta for their own ascents:

Youtube bouldering                                Vimeo bouldering

Here are a few pictures of the bouldering I've accumlated over the last few months:

Halfway House Font 7C+, Parisella's Cave (Pic: Ally Smith)
Pit Problem Font 7B, Trowbarrow (Pic: Sam Pratt)
Texas Hold Em Font 7B+, Trowbarrow (Pic: Sam Pratt)
The Lizard King Font 7C, under Dinas Mot (Pic: George Dunning)

The Tracks Font 8A, Barrel Cave (video still)
The last few weekends, I have managed to get to Llanberis Pass as the weather has improved to try out some problems I have heard a lot about at some new venues, which I think is important to do in order to avoid going stale at your regular crags. It has been cool to climb stuff like The Tracks V11 in the Barrel Cave and the Lizard King V9 under Dinas Mot and Corridors of Power V10 in the Cwm Glas Bach boulders over a handful of visits, which has left me hungry for more!

Pump up the Valium Font 7c+, Raven Tor (Pic: Ally Smith)
Recently, I was psyched to do a one arm hang on the central bottom rung of the Beastmaker 2000 without rotating and with no weight taken off for the first time, which is definitely progress! Here is a little video of the first time I did this on my right arm:

Now, thoughts are turning to the forthcoming routes season and I have already been back to Raven Tor and Malham to get involved with some of my projects there. This year, I am going to try and boulder as much as possible as well over the summer, to keep the power up - its got to help on those route cruxes. So, stay psyched out there and whether you are going for boulder or route projects this spring, try hard and all the training will be worth it in the end!

Views from Sunny Wall, Great Orme

Friday, 28 October 2016

Project updates from Kilnsey and Smith Rock

Hi folks, I thought I would update you all on progress on projects which I have been trying this year. As anyone who has devoted more than 3 days to a redpoint project can attest, the closer to your limit a route is the more things have to fall exactly in place for a send to take place. I have been beavering away at 2 main projects this year, at two crags that could not be more different but which I love spending time at in equal measure. The first is True North 8c at Kilnsey in Yorkshire and the second is Just Do It 8c+ at Smith Rock out in Oregon, USA. Having multi year projects has its challenges both mental and physical but I am hoping to seal the deal on both of them as soon as I can, roll on next season!

Leaving the Full Tilt belay on the first crux of True North (Pic - Dale Comley)
I have been out to try Just Do It twice this year, the first time was back in April this year. I was unexpectedly presented with the opportunity of a longer trip than usual at the start of September being in between jobs and didn't hesitate to head back there for a month for another crack but I'll come onto that later.

The upper crux of Evolution 8c+, Raven Tor (Pic - Sam Pratt)
First up, I'll pen a few lines on this years attempts on True North. (My blog on last year's attempts is here: After returning from Smith at the end of April, I had a few weekends on Evolution 8c+ at Raven Tor, the other hard project I would like to do eventually if all goes to plan. I made progress on the upper wall and had some good sessions with George on it who was very psyched before picking up a tweak to his finger on Weedkiller :( However, a split tip from repeatedly sessioning the crux move (a vicious lock on the lip of the roof left of Chimes using a tiny 6mm edge) meant I had to take some time off the route, by which time it had warmed up and True North was dry.

Locking the gaston pocket up to the left hand mono at the end of the first crux of True North (Pic - Dale Comley)
Looking back on how the summer panned out, I spent pretty much every weekend at Kilnsey from mid May through to the end of August, including a couple of half days in mid week and spent a lot of time on the route. After a complete sequence rebuild I was able to work out my ideal beta by mid July and made it to the last move for the first time. I got there 6 times in total by mid August which was a breakthrough in itself after failing at the penultimate bolt multiple times last summer, i.e. at the part where it steepens up to 60 degrees around a chunky glued block. What made the difference was firstly going out right by the third bolt on Full Tilt, which actually saves power for higher up on the route, even though its more long winded than going direct. Actually, for all but the most flexible, the direct moves are now basically defunct after a crucial foot spike for the flag move crumbled away (along with a few others, fortunately not irreparably ;)) Also, by keeping my feet lower on the first move after the Full Tilt belay (see pic at top of the page) and bridging out down and to the right so the moves using the razor crimps were less bunched up was much easier than my previous method. On the moves at the glued block, Luke Dawson pointed out that it is easier to throw a left heel up before you slap up for the big slot by the last bolt, which was a huge help and put me on the last move, which was exciting. 

Clipping the penultimate bolt on True North, at the 'eyes' and before the glued block (Pic: Dale Comley)

On the last weekend in July, I got to the last move 3 times on the saturday and sunday and it looked like I had a good chance of doing it. However, it wasn't to be as the crag proceeded to get progressively wetter, catastrophically so in mid August, putting paid to all suitors' ambitions for another year (apart from a certain Alex Megos who was the only (2nd go) ascentionist this year). Oh well, this is part of the challenge of the route and it means that you have to really tick it in May/ June or risk running the gauntlet of the crag turning into a waterfall. Next year, I plan to hit the route early and take strategic leave days in May/ June for the campaign. Now knowing my perfect beta, which has definitely been hard won (!) no sessions will be wasted working stuff out so its all down to training and execution. 

Wrestling with the glued block, which guards entry to the last move, strenuous stuff! (Pic - Dale Comley)
Sticking the slot by the last bolt (don't do it this way, whack your left heel up on the block first!) (Pic - Dale Comley)

After North Buttress got wet, I took advantage of the chance to head to Smith at short notice that changing jobs had offered. One moment I was doing a lantern session at Rubicon, the next I was tying on under Just Do It on the Monkey Face, shaking off the jet lag! With a long stretch of 30 days to go for attempts, I was careful to try and avoid trying it too much and in the first 10 days or so, had second day sessions on White Wedding 8b+ or 5.14a in Aggro Gully to mix things up a bit, which I managed to send (see the video below):

So how did the redpoints go? Well at the end of my trip in April, I was pleased to make it to the 'porthole' (see my the second half of my blog post here: With a bit more time to play with this trip, I initially spent a few sessions on links in the upper part of the route, managing for the first time to link from the belay of the first vertical 8a+/8b pitch (at the 10th bolt) to the upper chains, which is a 15 meter 8b+ in its own right. Logically, if you can do this link then you should be able to seal the deal from the ground as there is a very good stemming rest just down and right of the 10th bolt, the famous 'Sharma' rest where he takes his jumper off in the Pusher video from 1997, where you can stand around for up to 3 minutes. However, I found during repeated redpoints from the ground that in spite of this rest, the upper crux feels substantially more pumpy than when you approach it just having done the 3 bolt 7b+/7c from the belay. 

Not a wet crimp in sight! (Pic - Bob Loomis)
On redpoint from the ground, I would get through the lower crux by the 14th bolt (a savage Font 7b+ crimp move in the steep purple rock) most redpoints (8 times this trip in total) but fail to get through the upper crux due to very high levels of pump. The porthole is such a good hold, albeit with very poor feet that it is tempting to outstay your welcome there. I would generally spend 45 secs to a minute there trying desparately to expel all the lactic acid from my forearms before pressing on. The upper crux feels extremely taxing in that state of pump as it is an insecure Font 7b stab to a deep 2 finger pocket that requires you to retain good form using an awkward right smear and executing a big cross through to a tiny left hand gaston crimp and then to the deep 2 finger pocket. Funnily enough, the stronger you feel and less pumped you are, the easier these moves feel, go figure! 

At the first shake by the 5th bolt (5.13b or 8a to here (Pic - Bob Loomis)

 I was hit with a 6 day warm spell at the 2 week mark after having 4 or so  attempts where I was quite close to sticking the pocket. However, for some reason, I kept repeatedly getting the gaston too low on the cross through and once that happens there is no way back, no adjusting is possible! Hard climbing was pretty much out of the question with temps up to 93F on one day. After some trail building in Cocaine Gully and a few training sessions in shady Aggro Gully, it was time to resume attempts. However, there was now an element of time pressure as I had less than 2 weeks left. The problem with a route of this nature on a relatively short trip is that you need a full rest day between serious attempts due to the sharp nature of the rock and the fact that you are pretty much wasted the next day! The days soon mount up and suddenly I was down to the last week. I was taking 2 full rest days to be totally fresh after a chat with Sonnie Trotter (which was rad!) who gave me some more ideas for foot beta - he sent it back in 2000.

The first crux of the upper section by the 14th bolt, the porthole rest up and left (Pic - Jason Bagby)

I gave it a really good go with 3 days to go with Calvin in pretty much perfect temps of 56F and had one finger in the back of the 2 finger pocket on the upper crux and felt the least pumped yet in the porthole.  However, as soon as my left fingers bit into the sharp gaston on the cross through I knew I was a little too low on it again, my body sagged downwards slightly and my left elbow went up... I was off again! On my last attempt on the last day after only one rest day where the very friendly French climbers Nina Caprez and Christophe Bichet were enjoying their second day in the Park up on the Monkey I didn't manage to make it to the porthole due to still being fatigued from my last attempt.

:Leaving the porthole, the big span for the first 2 finger pocket (Pic - Heather Furtney)
I am more motivated than ever to return as I have a better idea of what is required in order to send this beast having been up to the redpoint crux a fair few times now. You need to be both fit and strong at the same time, not an easy combo! There are plenty of climbers out there with multi-year projects in a similar situation who I draw inspiration from. Back at Malham and the Tor and in a new job, I am reflecting on the experience and already planning my winter's training for next year's bout on both Just Do It and True North. Thanks for reading and keep the faith on your projects out there!

Just Do It 8c+, East Face of the Monkey, Smith Rock (Pic: Adam McKibben)

Monday, 16 May 2016

Winter bouldering and Spring trip back to Smith

Hi folks, I thought I would write a little round up of the training and bouldering I've been doing over the last 6 months and my latest trip to Smith Rock along with my goals for this summer. The winter was spent training hard, doing a lot of bouldering at the excellent Manchester Depot and fingerboarding on my new beastmaker. I have a nasty ankle sprain back in December to thank for getting me more into 'hangboarding' as the yanks would call it. While laid up in December and before I could jump off properly again in early February, I had a period of intense sessions, often doing 7 climbing sessions per week spread over 5 days, with 2 rest days. Weekends were spent bouldering in Wales, mainly in Parisella's Cave but with frequent visits to Pantymwwn, Tremeirchion and the excellent micro crag, the Gop, near Prestatyn. This was hard work but I was psyched because it was with the overall aim of raising the bar strength-wise so I could have a good chance of making a breakthrough on or actually doing my project 'Just Do It' out at Smith and also to put me in good shape for my projects on UK lime. 

Smoke a Bloke, Font 7b+ at the Gop, North Wales (Pic: Sam Pratt) 
When you want something badly enough, you'll go the extra mile and make sacrifices to achieve your aim whether that is an hour less in bed before work, fingerboarding
The last move of Solomon's Seal Font 7c+ (Pic: Sam Pratt)
Solomon's Seal 7c+ (Pic: Sam Pratt)
at 7:15am or busting out an extra lap on Rockatrocity when the wind is whistling through the back of the Cave and its 3 degrees. I knew I had to get stronger to have any chance on the savage crux of Just Do It, situated by the 14th bolt and it was with this in mind that I set myself mini goals of doing Hatchatrocity 8A in the Cave, 36 Chambers Sit start 8A at Tremeirchion and Blokesmoker Low 8A at the Gop. I even threw in as a goal a grit 8A called Solomon's Seal Sit start at Stanage after getting the stand start (Font 7C+) wired. 
Ticking off anything remotely hard is satisfying and it was gratifying to tick off Hatchatrocity and 36 Chambers sit start both on the same day in March on my best day's bouldering since 2009. The others will have to wait as shortly after this, I had to do some emergency stamina training at Stockport Wall with 3 weeks to go before my flight and had to postpone attempts on these other projects. Sometimes its hard being an allrounder! Even though bouldering is great as a way of training endurance as well as power (aka Jerry Moffat's training philosophy), the thought of setting off on a 30m monster pitch having done no roped climbing for 3 months was sufficient to scare me into putting some time into this aspect of my climbing. 

36 Chambers Sit, Font 8A (Pic: Sam Pratt)

The reachy starting moves of 36 Chambers Sit (Font 8A) Pic: Sam Pratt
Sam Pratt, a talented photographer and climber living in Manchester has been coming out with me to Wales and the Peak and has been taking some snaps, some of the best ones are here. Thanks a lot for all these shots Sam!  

Hatchatrocity, Font 8A (Pic: Sam Pratt)
The last few moves of Rockatrocity on the link in from Hatchatrocity, Font 8A (Pic: Sam Pratt)
A couple of weekends before flying out to Smith, I had a couple of pretty cold outings to Malham where I managed to tick 'A.B.H' 8a+, a pumpy link up of GBH into Baboo Baboo, which was a good early season outing. I'm looking forward to some more Yorkshire action this summer, with True North, unfinished business from last season, being my primary objective. With Kilnsey already dry, attempts have begun at the time of writing, but more on that in future blogs :).

Under the Bridge, Font 7b+, Pantymwyn (Pic: Sam Pratt)
Early on in the lower pitch (Bolts 1 - 10)
Pic: Julien Havac
I have been trying Just Do It for a year now, spread over three, 2 week trips. So, how did this trip's attempt go? Well, after 4 days re familiarising with the moves doing some links into the crux from the belay at the end of the first pitch (at bolt 10), I decided to concentrate more on top-down links rather than try repeatedly from the ground as this had started to become quite frustrating on my previous trips. We were hit with 5 days of very warm weather in the middle of the trip which was not ideal. It was like summer with temps as high as 79 degrees Fahrenheit making serious attempts out of the question. The Monkey is cooler than the lower climbing areas and often much windier but this has limits and on one abortive attempt, I literally has moist fingertips before bearing down on the left hand crux crimp, which meant pulling on the razor blade hold was a non starter it was so painful! Thankfully, on the last day of these warmer temps, a nice breeze was blowing when I set off on my link go from bolt 10 at 7:30pm. Climbing through the last 3 bolts of the yellow rock (a 10 metre 7b+ leading up to the upper resting ledge at bolt 13 just into the purple band) I realised conditions were actually pretty good due to the effect of the wind. Indeed, that same evening my friend Peder Groseth, a local Bend strongman, sent Starvation Fruit, a long 8c on the Picnic Lunch Wall that day so they can't have been that bad!
Gaining the porthole rest at bolt 15 (Pic: Julien Havac)

My goal on this link attempt was to get to the top and I was chuffed to get to the resting 'porthole' (shown in the picture below of the first ascentionist Jibe Tribout back in 1992) for the second time that session. I realised also that I wasn't that pumped at this point, unlike on many of my other link goes. The moves leaving the porthole constitute the redpoint crux of the route and although not as hard as the crimpy V9 moves gaining it, they are a major hurdle to clipping the chains. 

(See my earlier blog post for more detail and photos of these moves: 

It was the move shown in the picture below that I managed to stick for the first time linking from bolt 10, a stab off a tiny left hand gaston crimp into a deep 2 finger pocket with a tiny smear for your right toe that requires a fair degree of accuracy. Unfortunately I fell off the last hard move of the pitch, a throw off a slopey sidepull crimp for your left hand for a crimp rail by bolt 16, which marks the start of the exit moves to bolt 17. Still I was pleased to have nearly done the 8b+ link from the top of the first pitch to the top. 
So, with 4 climbing days left, I surely had to try from the ground and luckily was blessed with some cooler temps when I next came up to the Monkey with my friend Calvin. On my first go from the ground this trip, I was really pleased to get to the porthole at the 15th bolt for the first time, this link is 8c I reckon if the whole route is 8c+. I was buzzing as on my previous 2 trips I had fallen around 12 times from this move from the ground; it was the breakthrough I had been looking for. In retrospect I hung around too long in the porthole and didn't have the best way of holding it to rest. It is pretty awkward to hold as although it is a good jug, you have to hold it cross handed and there is only room for 7 fingers and the feet are not great so you are mostly on your arms. So when I embarked on the redpoint crux I didn't have much left to give and fell off 3 moves into the traverse rightwards. 

The upper crux by bolt 15 (Pic: Heather Furtney)
I was then faced with a dilemma with 3 days left. Do I rest 1 day then try the next to last day with the possibility of another attempt on the last day? Or rest 2 full days before an attempt on the last day? Or do some lighter climbing tomorrow then take a single rest day before have a last day attempt? I chose the latter strategy as I felt I was gaining fitness from doing other, easier pitches both on the same day after attempts on Just Do It and also on the next day before taking a rest day. A tick of Churning in the Ozone, a long, pumpy 8a probably in retrospect took more out of me than I expected but I enjoyed the pitch and it is so difficult to judge these things just right. Anyway, the last day dawned and my friend Andrew Hunzicker and me warmed up in Aggro Gully before heading up to the Monkey where we were greeted with really good conditions. After my initial warm up go, I set off feeling really good but unfortunately, the draw on the 14th bolt, which most people don't clip on the lead, stabbed me in the chest during the crux move as I was trying to get really close into the wall, pushing me off the move! I was gutted as this was the first time this had happened and I was feeling really good. No matter, after an hour and fifteen minutes rest and the draw safely removed from the 14th bolt, I had another go and got a new highpoint, making 2 moves further than my previous session and reaching the porthole for the second time. This time I had made a conscious decision not to outstay my welcome and set off after around a minute's shaking out. I had very little left for the pocket stab move but was psyched to have finally got there and had a go in anger. Would I have been fresher after 2 full rest days? Who knows, all I know is that I have proved to myself that this rig is possible for me for sure and that I'll be back next year for hopefully 3 weeks or a longer trip, can't wait! Here is a little video of my best attempt:

I was definitely feeling stronger this trip than October last year from all the bouldering and training and now know that as the route is so bouldery, it suits me to go in the Spring rather than the Autumn when a summer campaign of routing will inevitably mean a slight drop off in power at the expense of increased route fitness. So, here's to Spring 2017! In the meantime, there are plenty of hard sport routes to be dealing with here in the UK and I have been on Evolution as well as True North in the last few sessions, its certainly exciting to get involved with all these classic hard routes. Til next time, enjoy your climbing out there!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Suirana/ Margalef 2016

Happy New Year everyone, I hope all your climbing wishes come true in 2016! To update you all about the last 2 months or so since I came back from Smith Rock at the start of November, I started a period of exclusively bouldering at the Rockover bouldering centre in Manchester (which is 5 minutes' drive away from where I live) in the evenings after work. I combined this with weekend sessions bouldering in Parisella’s Cave on the Orme outside Llandudno. My aim was to increase my power levels in order to prepare for my objectives for the coming year, which are Just Do It at Smith Rock, True North at Kilnsey and Evolution at Raven Tor and also to prepare for a forthcoming 8 day trip to Suirana I had planned with Ally Smith. 

Give me more of that orange stone! Mucho Troncdo poca Madera 7c, El Pati, Suirana (the onsight that got away!)
After 6 weeks of pure bouldering I was starting to feel reasonably strong and was coming close to ticking Hatchatrocity, a tough Font 8A in the Cave, falling off the move to the final pocket several times. However, it wasn’t to be after some seriously heavy rain beat down in late November/ early December which meant some key holds required drying before each attempt, which didn't help matters. 

Something to train for! Pocket cranking on the steep start to Magic Festival 7c, Raco de Tenebres, Margalef
Also, unfortunately, I sustained quite a bad ‘category 2’ sprain on my left ankle in mid December after bailing out from the Cave one Saturday morning after arriving to find it was completely condensed out. On the way home, an awkward, twisting fall at the Boardroom bouldering centre onto quite a hard mat resulted in a trip to A and E, a precautionary x-ray and 2 weeks of exclusive beastmaker training while the swelling gradually went down. Oh well, take in on the chin as they say! This meant that I had to alter my objectives for my Spain trip. As the first 10 days or so involved getting back to walking normally, hard climbing would have to take a back seat for a week or two. I had intended to try Migranya, a tough 8b which I had tried on a previous trip and which is a powerful number. However, after a trip to my physio, Cathy Gordon of Romiley Physio (see if you fancy an excellent service in the Manchester area) and getting the all clear to go, I was keen just to see how my ankle would fare and trying more vertical, less intense climbs seemed a sensible plan.

Ally on La Seconella Direct 7a+, Suiranella Centre
As it worked out, 2 weeks off actual climbing coinciding with the Christmas festivities meant that the first couple of days were spent getting back into the groove and the ankle felt pretty weird and weak at first. Just scrambling in to the crags over rocky and uneven paths without tweaking it was a challenge. I was climbing with a baggy boot on my left foot and a neoprene ankle support to protect it. I was therefore reasonably satisfied to redpoint a 7b+ on my second day. 

Ally at Suiranella Centre
On previous trips, due to quite a few days spent redpointing Zona-0 and Ramadan and trying Migranya, I hadn’t made it round to the Suiranella crags before and I was keen to change that and sample what they had to offer. We ventured round to Suiranella Centre on the 3rd day and I managed to onsight a 7b+ without any problems. The following day, I was starting to feel like my ankle was getting back to normal whilst climbing and I managed to bust out a couple of 7c onsights at Raco de la Finestra, a superb pockety crag in Margalef.

Pockety fun on Magic Festival 7c Raco de Tenebres, Margalef - don't forget the kneebar ;)
After a rest day, and not having a 2 day hangover for a change ;), we decided to hit up Suiranella Centre again. After warming up onsighting a 7b+ and fluffing a tricky 7c, I decided to have a go at Memorias de una Sepia, a crimpy looking 8a after watching another climber crush it and taking mental note of all the foot bumps on the crux. There seemed to be a left foot heel hook move using some poor slopey crimps to deadpoint for some better holds leading into a scoop by the 4th bolt. I had been informed that from here to the top is 7b+ so I knew this should be doable. The heel hook crux went exactly as planned with a few desperate slaps and was the first heel hook since my sprain so I was psyched it still worked and there were no ill effects. Getting into the scoop was satisfying but the rest wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped. Nothing for it but to quest on upwards! Knowing that an 8a flash was on the cards if I could keep it together was a great incentive to keep cranking and I took my time over the next 6 bolts, milking the rests and trying to keep my cool on the last redpoint crux, a crank on some tiny crimps with a left foot jam in a crack leading to a monster jug and easy ground. I was made up to be back climbing nearly at my best onsight/ flash level so soon into my ankle recovery. 

Victory pose after flashing Memorias de una Sepia 8a, Suiranella Centre
To celebrate, I redpointed a tricky 7c, Matarrates, further left on the same crag and eyed up La Crema, a famous 7c+ wall climb I had wanted to try the next day.

The bulge of Matarrates, a quality 7c at Suiranella Centre
After a few beers in Goma Dos, the new local bar for climbers in Cornudella, the next day, I warmed up on a 7b and then set off on my onsight attempt of La Crema. It all went well with some tricky, technical moves interspersed with good shakeouts (so much so that I had to force myself to leave them at times). A total hands off rest 3 bolts from the top is the nail in the coffin of the route being 8a (it isn’t, despite the abundance of 8a ticks on scorecards out there ;)) and allowed a complete recovery before tackling the top crux. This involves a few intense cranks on some tiny crimps on a slab which allow you to do a hopeful rock-up for some more positive crimps and the jug of glory! I was pleased with this one as while on paper it was my ideal route being a crimpy, vertical wall climb, it still has to climbed at the end of the day. Setting off is the hardest part as always and once into the rhythm of climbing, I enjoyed every minute until the chain was clipped.

Onsighting La Crema 7c+ Suiranella East
Unfortunately, I split a tip on the top crux and had to tape up my right index finger for the remaining 2 days of climbing. This didn’t stop a productive day at Margalef however during which I managed to flash a 7c, La Corva de Felicitat at Raco de Tenebres, a cool, steep conglomerate/ pocket crag and redpoint 2 others including Tsunami, a powerful short one that had got away on my last visit to the area in 2012. 


Tsunami 7c at Sector Laboratori, Margalef (no walk-in required!). Brian Weaver climbing in lower picture
On the final day, we both felt quite tired but last day psyche kicked in and we both managed to redpoint La Ardilla Roja, a tricky 7c right of Zona-0 at El Pati after we had failed to onsight it. With an hour to go before we had to bail to Barcelona airport for our evening flight back to Manchester, I managed to onsight a 7c at El Primavera Sector to round off a highly enjoyable trip.

I was happy to be back climbing after the ankle incident and whilst the swelling is still there and I am not allowed to jump down from boulder problems for another 10 days, I am pleased with progress so far and psyched to get back to bouldering training. Interestingly, I have always found that a fitness trip like this usually kickstarts my bouldering for some reason, no idea why, maybe a break from a power cycle or something rests the muscles!? I will leave that one to the training boffins out there J Happy climbing folks.

Suirana Village from Suiranella Centre
My Trip Ticklist above 7b+

Memorias de una Sepia (flash)                                                        Suiranella Centre


La Crema (onsight)                                                                          Suiranella South


Antologica (onsight)                                                                         Raco de la Finestra, Margalef
Festa Fotre (onsight)                                                                        Raco de la Finestra, Margalef
Estratosferica                                                                                   Suiranella Centre
Matarrates                                                                                        Suiranella Centre
Mucho Tronco poca Madera                                                            El Pati, Suirana
Magic Festival                                                                                  Raco de Tenebres, Margalef
La Corva de Felicitat (flash)                                                            Raco de Tenebres, Margalef
Tsunami                                                                                            Sector Laboratori, Margalef
La Ardilla Roja                                                                                 El Pati, Suirana
Hijos de la Pedri (onsight)                                                               El Primavera, Suirana


Teoria Punset                                                                                   Suiranella East
La Refinaria (onsight)                                                                      Suiranella Centre
Berrio Cabrero (onsight)                                                                 Suiranella Centre