Wednesday, 23 September 2020

I.N.S.P.R.E. 2020

Back in 2016, I ran a series of blog posts called I.N.S.P.R.E. This stood for Its Not Shit, Please Repeat Everybody. It was a lot of fun at the time, however, as Seren was only just coming up to 1 year old, inevitably I had more choice gems than I could get round to visiting (or indeed, revisiting). 
One such under rated masterpiece was Pinnochio Crack. I first became aware of this obscure Paul Pritchard route when Rob Greenwood, who was working in Joe Brown's at the time, directed me to its entry In the Llanberis guide:
Rob knew my love of offwidths, and it was intriguing to see one listed thus. A 3m route, eng6b difficulty. This was around 2010, and the twins had just been born. Most of my adventures around this time were very constrained by time and it was very hard to align the stars enough to bag an offwidth partner for the 60 min window I may have been able to secure tomorrow morning (you get the idea). Spending probably too much time on Widefetish; an American offwidth site, I came across a pusher set up for soloing offwidth chimneys. Basically a big cam linked to your harness with some via ferrata type shock absorption In between. 
I got inventing... 

My safety assured, I set off to the meadow of Ithel. This, it turns out was above Ben's bunk house, halfway to Nant Peris. 

The middle crack is Pinocchio, with little foos being to the right. The lefthand crack is blind and bottomed and desperate. 

Full of enthusiasm and confidence, I climbed aboard the ravens nest, chucked in some cams and got swimming... 
My next adventure arose shortly, when I flumffed out the crack, and found myself suspended in space, swinging by a sadly out of reach monster cam.. 

The crack turned out to be 45° overhanging.

Obviously, this was one to come back to with an actual belayer, and some more information. Although Pinocchio crack wasn't listed in the fa history section, little foos was, and it was a George Smith, Paul Pritchard effort. I sought out George for more info. 
Apparently Pinocchio was an unkind nickname of Paul's, interesting that even he had his doubters. Pritch had found the crag and enlisted George for the jolly. Little foos was named after foos at shale City (this immediately put me off it), both led pinnochio. Might be E3 might be E5, definitely 7m not 3.
Food for thought. 

Fast forward to this year, and heaven forbid, North Wales has another offwidth addict. Eben has been ticking things off here, paid a pilgrimage to Vedawoo, and even survived my sandbagging on Striapach at fairhead. Perfect partner for Pinocchio.

The brave adventurers approach our target. 

Approaching our target also involved a steep grass scramble via boggy ledges. We wisely racked up at the gully floor.. 

Another view with Pinnochio standing proud. 

I was first up to mount the now prestigious raven's nest. The crack was narrower than I remembered but the cam #6 slotted nicely (with a bit of wiggling) to protect the overhanging bit. 

What didn't slot in nicely was me! 

Unfortunately a couple of months off with my ankle had diminished my offwidth powers somewhat, and my t-rex hang up led me to discount a key hold near the back of the crack (nearly all the jamming on Pinocchio is lower body). Back down to the gully for refreshments, then it was Ebens turn. He also had a plop onto the rope, but a bit of dangling and ferreting around gained him the hold at the back!

At this point the rabbit kicked in and he was driven to the top by basic life preservation. Or at least a love of intact legs. 

Great great route, which we are both keen for a second round of cleaner ascents. The belay at the top is a thread, so the kit list is;
A #5, #6, a rock 4 & #. 5 for securing the belayer. 

Our bodies have cleaned it. Enjoy! 

Friday, 4 September 2020

Footwork, and Before the Fall

 Sooooo. Rehab is happening, and the foot is gaining in normality. Spannering myself mid July wasn't a cool move, especially with the kids at home. My wife was quite clear about that. However, lessons in patience and asking for help have been learnt. 

Loads of proprioception work as well as strengthening and massage going on. I'm happy to be top roping up to 7b without too much discomfort, just need to get impact proof before the rematch. 

This pause has given me an opportunity to bring you up to date with some of the other lockdown shenanigans that went un reported. 

Firstly I spent quite a lot of time here:

The Marchlyn super boulder is likely to make its proper debut in the new bouldering guide, and I was keen to mop up any lines that I could sensibly do. I turned my attention to the satellite blocks, especially the Atlantis block, that spends its mornings Submerged, to emerge into the summer sun in the afternoon. First job was a massive patio.. 
Then I got these two done. Proper class slopes. 

 The dark side didnt need the same landscaping, but was more overhanging. One scary highball arete, and a heart felt tribute to an old mate who passed over that month. 

I even stashed a spare pad up there, couldn't seem to keep it dry though.. 

Fairly well hidden though.. 

A couple of things escaped me. This toothy techy crack

And this slopey flailing top out:

A cool place that I hope will not fade back away into obscurity.

A slightly spooky trick of the light on the way down. 

Another thing I was playing with was patioing here:

Another work in progress I'm looking forward to revisiting. 

However, for now, it's rehab rehab rehab. 

Friday, 31 July 2020

The Lockdown Diaries; Home Schooling

So lockdown meant were were suddenly all supposed to elevate our abilities to teaching our own darlings. Nevermind this was not "life as normal" for them or us, and we'd been thrown into Confined quarters with them, let's have another thing to argue about. 
Fortunately, my lot were all still primary, and not really in the sausage factory yet. Throw in some smart alec-ness and a smattering of additional needs, and we felt it was best to follow "child led education".. 
Ethan wanted to go new routing! It just so happened I had the ideal venue. Short walk in, easy to escape from, good rock and all Ethan sized. 

Impressed maybe? Hard to tell with these cool types. 
First off was the left hand crack, and a quick lesson in jamming. He took to it, eventually.. 
He chose to name this first foray "JamRock" , and hence crag had a code name. 
We'd go once or twice a week, concentrating on a different line each time, picking off the low hanging fruit. 

This is Sequencer, the key turned out to be using the holds in the right order (who'd of thought?) 
One of my favourite named problems of Ethan's; Doper Sloper. 

This was the first line that slowed him, tenuous direction holds meant he had to think about his feet a bit. 
His first split tip! 
This route became "First Blood" and has a lovely selection of slopers at the top. 
Big brother paid a visit, however he's more into sport climbing and hurling himself into the sea.. 
This was his penultimate send. Lean n' mean was tricky for him as the leaning arete required some forceful footwork (hence it was mean). Two sessions and an exciting jettison into the bushes later it was in the bag. 

The last gap on the wall was a blank bit with a lovely pocket and a little slanting edge. There was only a little rock pimple in the place Ethan needed to plant his foot, and his stature meant he was a little stretched. Credit to him, three sessions smacking himself through the same move, watching the footage and seeing what worked, it had to go eventually.. 
Jurassic Dyno. 5C++ (Dad is tight as they had to have adult grades. 

Throughout all this Ethan assembled his topo (although the lazy tyke made me his secretary). Therefore, if any of you climbing parents want an off piste roadside venue for your own chaos monkeys you can plug (53.1284168, -4.1528944) into Google maps. 

The bloc is all his own work but as the traverse was a little reach, he kindly let me have a crack. 
Home Skoolin' 6B. No tops, and even Ethan ignored the foot block in the middle. 

The midgets descending, well it is Summer, and the car is 10m away. 

Enjoy if you visit. This is the last Lockdown Diary entry, as I should be back at work next week (yippee). 


Wednesday, 22 July 2020

The Lockdown Diaries: Fear

So lockdown is sidling into the background like an awkward troll.
Fear of coronavirus appears to be replaced by the fear of missing out. There were reportedly 500 cars illegally parked around pen y pass, such was the clamour to stomp up Yr Wyddfa. I just wanted to stomp up to cwmffynnon. Although to be fair this was another product of fear. I was trying to get projects done before the area was highlighted to all and sundry. For the guidebook gods were chuntering...
As I live behind Elidir, it seemed a good ldea to take the scenic route through Ogwen..

Only that was chokka too. 

However, I eventually arrived (and legally parked!) at my destination and slogged up to my little playground. I did pass an elderly couple, who I thought were being very sensible avoiding the crowds. Only they then asked how to cross the river, and it became apparent they were more (slightly lost) snowdon baggers. 

There was even a crowd at Smith's rock, and peeps at mallory,. No hiding place it seems. 

Eventually I arrived at my destination; F Hole crack area, home to The Cutthroat World of Esoteric Bouldering. 

A couple of shots looking up the aforementioned route. 

My previous visit had found the crack wet, and I was keen to climb this feature. I had suitable equipment to clean it this time and it was duly dispatched. 

F Hole Crack 5C! 

The name refers to the fret holes in violins that let the sound out. My adled brain sees a resemblance. Having done that I was drawn to the arete, which was peppered with lots of protruding shards mushrooming out of the Tuff. These attractive features are in reality a pain in the butt, as they provide an exercise in Russian roulette. Un daunted I saw this as a good opportunity to test my mental resilience and had a pop. One unexpected pop later I successfully managed to get to the top. 

Organ Stop Arete 6B!

The reference is the protruberences all over the rock, best not to pull them at random. 

I've always been fond of highballs. Coming into bouldering from an adventure trad background, they provide an element of that primal fear / danger/ risk that first set alight my climbing passion.

After these easy ticks, I approached the altar that was the Shard. This was one of the first things I found in cwmffynnon, and despite the firm intentions I'd chickened out of properly going for it. Whether it was fear of failure /injury, fear of not controlling the risk (I only had a couple of mats) or fear I couldn't persuade anyone to come help me get it safe and sorted. It was a way into the wilderness, not everyones into slogging through bracken. 

I had decided to see it I could do it with two (decent DMM highball) pads. I worked out the sequence off a rope, I believed I could do it, but once committed and at height, I got scared. Fear is the mind killer, and often leads to stupid things. I lost faith in my sequence and improvised into a blind alley. 


Strangely this left me quite excited. I was now 40 minutes from the road with an ankle that just went click. I rummaged in the bag and got inventive.. 

Now I know not everybody carries decorative gaffa tape, there was a reason for it. However it made an excellent splint! 
Fortunately, being an old man I already was carrying a walking pole, and 80 minutes later I shuffled into my car with all my kit. 

I was blessed that it was a minor (and weight bearing) sprain. With icing and wiggling and generally having to use it, I've made progress every day. 

40 hours later. 

So Fear. Important to help bring things into focus, important in that it provides us with something to overcome. I'm already planning the successful ascent of the Shard. This will involve me overcoming my fear of asking for help. I need a pad party. I need to trust my sequence, and trust my ability to prevail. 

Exciting times. 

This is the vid of the almost successful attempt :


Sunday, 21 June 2020

The Lockdown Diaries - Once More Awaiting Vizzini

Slowly finding my feet and gaining ground once again. Trips to Marchlyn have increased my drive, and I'm genuinely excited by all the born again esoterrorists charging off into the wilds of clegir and facwen. There has been a reported 80+new problems on clegir alone, and that has drawn me to reflect on my past dalliance there.
The twins had just been born, and I had 3 kids under 2 years old. I was running to stay still basically, and my mindset was on the microadventure; short trips with maximum adventure, and looking back I was also very selective of what projects I took on.
I only had 1.5 mats so many things were rushed past as for another time or person.
With the bonanza on clegir I decided to dredge the muddy memory banks and see if any of my discoveries were worth a punt before others swooped in.
Also I had temporarily ground to a halt at Marchlyn as I reached my grade ceiling, and a lack of progress triggers an automated response in me:

"Go back to the beginning and wait for Vizzini. "

In this case that meant revisiting Craig Ddaear Drwg. No one else had bothered in the last 9 years, and looking at the landings you can see why:

However, the past 9 years had taught me a lot about patios and mat placement, so I chose a few choice lines that could be calmed by a single construct and set to work:

2 hours in.. 

End of second session - complete! 

Sooo, the lines we high, but I now had 2 DMM highball pads, and more importantly generous friends. The day before fathers day was lovely and breezy, and my beautiful wife kicked me out to play. After a fair bit cleaning 4 ascents were made:

Encroachment 6A+! 
This dolerite pillar took a bit of cleaning as it was at the back of a sort of bay. Despite being a little daunted, the rock was ace and gave me confidence to commit to the moves and get it first go. 

Waiting for Vizzini 6C! 
Due to the stepped patio this gave me a little concern, but a sea of mats soon solved that. It took very little cleaning but I was unnerved enough to have a try on a grigri before committing. The bottom took a bit of figuring out

Shawshank 5.8 (r) 
The squeezes I cleaned by abseiling down with a towel and giving a good rubbing. This was the narrower and dirtier of the squeezes, hence the name. 

McClane 5.8 (r) 
The left hand squeeze was quite tricky to start. Both squeezes gave flutter moments at the top, but the offwidth grades look weird with a ! So I went with the traditional r rating. You could protect them by someone shoving a mat in sideways once you were high enough. However I was on my own. Both flash ascents. 

There's still a few gifts at Craig Ddaear Drwg, notably the overhanging fin left of McClane. All landings will unfortunately require any would be ascentionist to put the time in. (please refrain from disassembling existing patios). 

Stay safe and good hunting! 

Monday, 1 June 2020

The Lockdown Diaries - Hide and Seek

So with all and sundry visiting my esoteric backwaters, I've started wandering in new places, local but perhaps overlooked on previous occasions. As always I have been blessed by the tip off's of friends, in this case the ever reliable G.
This is the Burger. Maybe a 90's creation of G and Tony. The game is traversing the break, the top being out of bounds. Being a 90's creation the landing is rubbish. However, a spotter would be all that is required to keep it friendly. It's somewhere in the 6B region and starts at the nose on the right, at a widening in the break.. 

Having located this hidden gem, my eyes were drawn to the arete just below it. 

Made from the same high quality grit as the Burger, it sinuously swerves through a variety of angles and curves. 
Dead sexy. 

As it was also fairly high with a substandard landing I chose to come back another day with two mats. You can see that there is work to be done in this picture. 

Patio built. 

Mats level. All that was required was a scamper up the back, and de-fluff the top holds. This also allowed me to see how small my mats looked 

Everything is on a slope, even the camera sorry. Amazing climbing, and not too hard. I named it Personal Space Rocket, it was about 6A. The name links into the last lockdown diary, the main effect all this is having on me is a thinning of my emotional shields. My requirement for alone time has shot up, and I'm struggling to share my obscurities with others. However, I'm super proud and impressed by their efforts, and who knows esoterica may go mainstream. My wife is also super supportive and I'm getting out for an adventure every 4 day's. We have 4 kids. She's an angel! 

I wanted to get a proper picture of myself on the bloc with the moon in the background, but my phone only has a 10s timer. This resulted in a series of sprint and dynos to get into position. 

Things we do.. 
There's still treasure everywhere, stay safe.