Friday, 29 March 2019

Hail to Shale!

So.. Those more familiar to this blog will know Mick fowler has been a role model of sorts to me, certainly in the formative years of climbing scrapes and Japes. More eagle-eyed visitors may recognise the title reference..
 Knowing I'd never do something as hazardous as Breakaway, my eyes have nevertheless been drawn to adventurous challenges of that ilk. North Wales has a whole host of such adventures on the Lleyn, and indeed a whole "Shale City". It was inevitable I'd be drawn here.

Unfortunately, it is mainly various shades of death, or wad fodder of course. There was one route that Intrigued me; The Aguille Merlot Traverse AD+. 3 pitches,Ray Kay, Tech 4... all the right buttons. Once the description mentioned a tent peg belay I was sold.

All I had to do was rustle up a partner, That's why Ben is reliable; he's special like me. 

Unfortunately, or first visit coincided with rain, just as we arrived...

However, 2 years later (last Tuesday) Our second visit was Dry!!

The Aguille Merlot Traverse (Plonk Fin) comprises of a 100m thin wafer of mainly rock jutting out of the cliff into a secluded bay. Access is scrambley or tidal, and quite adventurous. Also unlike most other such adventures hereabouts, it isn't bird banned.

Our welcoming committee

Starting off on the route, The shallow angle of this section had led me to believe a stroll in trainers would be sufficient... How wrong I was.
The general feel underfoot was one of  tightly packed, but disassembled lego. Combined with a healthy crop of thrift, it made progress a little delicate, I got a nut in a little further on from this point, the solitary gear of Pitch one.
Arriving at the first belay, a substantial, if wobbly spike.

Ben led the middle pitch, and was very excited to place his first Warthog. He was giggling quietly as he did so. He said it was because the world was vibrating.. It also steepened at this point, which made me glad that I'd changed into my rock shoes on the belay. The second belay consisted of a substantial amount of rope drappage, and another warthog (such fun!).
Pitch Three. a significant amount of sponginess under knee, hence crawling.. 

Contemplating leaving the picnic field and descending to the fangs below. Confidence is a well driven Warthog.

Here you can see the descent/ fang notch, and the ice axe/ rabbit hole belay. Great Route! a must for any discerning connoisseur. Any more difficult and it may have stopped being silly, any more solid and it would have been boring..

Following such a extravagant experience, we chose to cross the A499 for a very different world. Sport climbing comes to the Lleyn folks. Tyddyn Hywel quarry (next door to the trad Gyrn Ddu Quarry) was equipped last year (info on the North Wales Route Dump) and I was intrigued to see how it all fitted in. That, and after the Plonk Fin I was keen for a bolt. The parking and walk in were both discrete, subtle and aesthetically pleasing (if a little steep)/

However look at these steps!

Awesome views from this crag. There is a 5c, 6a, 6b, and then a string of 6c's, all feeling quite traddy. This is in part to the architecture of the rock, and partly to do with the humour (genius?) of the equipper. The bolts are good, well placed, but not always where you think they should be (a few long quickdraws help). Nothing feels dangerous, however the routes still have a spicy aurora that fits in perfectly with the Lleyn Aesthetic.

The 6b, I'm not too short, however I did have to lay one on round the first roof..

The Optimist 6c. Some proper wiggy moments and I got a little lost amongst the variations at the top. However, it was flipping brilliant! like a Tremadog E4 with bolts. I wouldn't like to be a climber caught in an unforeseen downpour though. Crux one, around the roof was intense as I had to clip mid sequence, then it ran out to the Arete, which was as good as any I've been on at Tremadog. I dithered for ages, squeezing the lichen off the holds and searching for anything foot-worthy. Once committed it was a fairly out of body experience...

Dithering again at the second roof. Not shorty friendly.

Happy at the end of the day. Best roped day I've had  in ages. Roll on Summer.

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Sloughing off the Winter Inertia

So it turns out sacking off January was a good thing. The welsh winter mizzled on without much breaks for a busy bouldering dad. It felt like last year was full of exploring, but not many actual climbs go produced. I'm keen to do a lot of re visiting this year and get some scalps!

To give an Idea this is a typical screenshot of my phone album....

So How to kick start this year? fortunately global warming was at hand to shake off the apathy of winter (at least for a bit). This sent me to the nearest "shed" I could slump to to assess my assets and benchmark my behind.

It never fails to expose my weaknesses. Before Christmas it pointed to my lack of bounce, which I diligently worked on in my meager training sessions. This Sunday it looked sidelong at my weak fingers, more things to work on...

Well today was a getting off my bum day, I had to buckle up, stop winging and walk up a big hill with two mats and a scooter.

Yep back to Marchlyn

As I've been in the slough of despond, my fitness was terrible. However, this gave me opportunity to ponder the possibilities of Elidir fach....

It was grrreat to get back to the project boulder, and conditions were mint. There was even a patch of snow above the Pillars of Elidir. While I felt ok going through my usual circuit (aided by a fancy pilates warm up) The Seamus low project still eludes me. However I was able to complete the last of the F6 lines that have cleaned up at the left of the boulder:

Bloody Stupid Johnson 

Bloody Stupid Johnson Right Hand

Fans of Terry Pratchett should know what I'm talking about. They're both in the mid to upper 6's

I Even reaaly enjoyed my scooter down. However, I had to walk the last little bit as I'd worn through another wheel..

So normal service resumed. I have a plan, and I intend to enjoy implementing it.

Come and Play

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Finishing off The Year

So that's pretty much 2018. I've almost managed one post a month,  I've climbed outside at least fifteen times or so, I'm fairly injury free and deep in the challenges of parenthood.
However, today was a break from that, I got to join the Scouser's chrimbo bouldering bash. Yes folk's,  I left Wales...
 The venue was Robin Hoods Stride, where Andre the giant was defeated in the Princess Bride.  It was mizzling profusely on the drive over and spirits were a little damp.  once out the car, the lack of rain and a smidgen of breeze, enticed a few optimists out to touch rock. It was damp.
Our fearless leader, stout of neck asked us to have faith, and we went on a pilgrimage for a dry hold. As we know,  from acorns mighty Oaks grow, and one dry hold was soon linked into another.  Contorted warm ups ensued on these heinous links, and the day rolled on gathering hope like moss.

Soon whole problems were dry..
 Look Right was an ace lowball compression that secumbed to a sit start at 6C
Razor Roof also dried and siege was laid, eventually giving in to a high heel

By the end of the day the square block was dry and some did battle with Ben's wall, I like Slasher above was content with Spine Lefthand at a more attainable 6B.

So the lesson is keep the faith,  struggle on, keep your mates close,  and accept small numbers in poor connies. 

I'm intending to take January off the blog, but I'm hoping to return to form in February.  Here's to a full 2019, full of adventure and friends. 

As Luke Cage says..

"Forward Always"

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Return to Rockaway Beach

Every two years or so, I get a yearning to walk down a steep hill,  and scare the excrement out of myself at Porth Howel.

In 2014 you could do the Rail without a mat.
In 2016 sit starts were now the thing.

 The beach in 2016

 However, the beach this year looks a little different..

In 2016...
Well in 2018, Richie Crouch and myself discovered sand, an extra metre of climbing, and even some roofs. We'd planned the trip well in advance due to the favourable tides. All we needed was the weather, which was looking dodgy. Day by day the forecast improved, until the day came, and despite overnight rains, dryness prevailed.

Well my first thoughts were did I pack enough underwear, could I reach the starting holds, and would Richie think I was sandbagging him. We warmed up on th eramp, and Up the Junction (bit crimpy with the new start), and then turned our attention with the next line along Rockaway Beach. All was going well (after another intense start) until we swerved left to the fierce crimp. What breeze there was was blowing over the top of the cove, and the wall was holding onto the residual dampness. Thus the crimp was well 'orrible. Rich Lanked, and I Backed off. 

The slight damp, and the added height sent us off on alternative missions..
Richie eyeing up the new roof at the end of the Wall. This became the sit start "What a Difference a Wave Makes" at 6Cish. back wall not in of course...

The Flail Rail gained some height also, and Richie pushed through the wet patch for a valiant ascent.

A little later on the wind there was had done its work. and the holds moved from light brown to a whiteish grey. The Wall of  Something Dead was dispatched with a little up and down and girding of loins (now pushing over 7m!). Blitzkrieg Bop gave the most fight;
Here Rich gains  the original start, which was still hard back then. I  got through to the crimps above a couple of times, but couldn't set up for the eponymous "Bop". Rich made this, but bottled the highness.

Tucking our Tails, we made for the shelter roof at the back of the bay. Even here the storms scouring had provided more playthings
The wall to the left of Rich is "Bat Country" 6A this homage refers to the FA were I foolishly topped it out, skating up the scree and mud above. It now offers a chance to down climb closer to the pads after hitting the jug rail on the other problems. The Niche to the right finally got a sit start off an undercut near the right wall at the back (hint - the dry one). "The Idiot Kings" 6C is so named for the battle I had with the wet undercuts above ( I also couldn't find the kneebar again). Worth mentioning is the wall to the right with the crack, think I climbed this last time, but didn't top out, a little looseness and lots of Fire Brats!

The Arete was claimed by Richie via a low start. "O-Dogging" starts off a lefthand pinch and a righthand sharp undercut, and weighs in at 7A+. 

Rich trying the obvious sit start challenge to O-Dogging, as long as the pebbles don't rise once more...

Porth Howel is a Top venue and worthy of more attention. who knows, maybe next time I attend (2020?) we'll take a team!

There's Treasure Everywhere!

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Find a Rock, Climb a Rock

The urge to find new rock is slowly taking control of my sensibilities, and providing pure pleasure. Using the new bouldering guide as a launch point, I've delved into google maps to shine a light on dark spaces..
Case in point: Beddgelert forest, home to the Baboon. This lost highball pillar is now encased in dense pine forest. A friend Glyn managed to find it using Googlemaps (the coordinates in NWB are a bit out, its 53.009843, 4.146127). Inspired by this I started looking at other rocky stubbs buried in the forest. One wet day I turned on location on my phone, booted up the map (delve a lot in a  wifi area, and it keeps a cache once once your out of signal) and dived into the forest!
Looks path-ish

bit small

bit big!

Slopey landing, but enough to warrant a return visit with a patio team!

My random map searches has also led me off down the hill walkers paths, it may be a slog in, but a mountain bike is totally feasible if I find things to work on

Looking toward Bwlch Cwm Llan

Sunny dolerite crag..

..One realistic thing to play on

See a rock, climb a rock..

Much wandering later found me a roof crack! 
Abet an awkward mix of tight and baggy fingers, with nothing in between, tape was required

Pinky Campus..

Heading back to the car I found this much bigger roof:

the rock is a bit tut, but it gives some very strong climbing. Its certainly something I'd consider returning to

Tut roof

Finally, My new Muira's have arrived!

There's treasure everywhere..

Friday, 28 September 2018

Hot to Bog Trot

So all these efforts to go back to the start and rekindle my internal keen machine got a huge boost from this video by Tim Peck.
Basically I explored this area around the time that Seren was born. The following three years have been full of family and fun, but not much climbing.  The thought that these great stones may have been left to gather moss is obviously abhorrent, and I'm well chuffed that Tim developed them independently.
Here's the spark that has lit the fuse.
So life post NWB2 felt that things had been done, the major areas ticked.
Then Tim climbs the froth cannon.
The flame lead me to this page:
The thing about this map is there's blank bits. Not over the cities and fields, but the rocky bits too.

My trusty combo of geograph and googlemaps lead me to here:

Unfortunately this led me to here:

But eventually it led me here

Much bog trotting later I found this :

Sadly it was not quite right, but the keen machine is now chugging away, schemes are Afoot,  and if I keep looking,  eventually I'll hit gold.  
It wasn't all wasted, however, all that bog trotting.  I did get to play on some pristine (tiny) dolerite :

Ich bin ein Kiesel spanker