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

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Dear Prudence...

So my Birthday came around,  and I started hatching a silly plan, a chance to tick some boxes and scratch some itches. However,  a tweaky finger steered me away from the usual trad and bouldering options. I'd been enjoying coasteering with the kids, and was trying to conjour a more untamed option.I'd always wanted to visit some of the climbing on Cilan head, but I've left behind some of the boldness of youth, and didn't fancy trying hard without adequate protection.  But if I coasteer I can just swim past the tricky bits, right?
Plans were hatched and the forecast poured over,  I knew tide was important, turning and receding tides bash you less, and recently I'd been introduced to a swell forecast.  My thinking was get it small,  it'll be safer.  0.8m sounded small,  and as Sunday was worse,  I decided to go for it on Saturday.
I'd started to get overly psyched. It was 3km long without many escape points, I was zooming in on maps, and trawling the Web for more info.  I was realising this may not have been done before,  and was feeling the rat of nervousness gnawing at my optimism.  I countered this by organising buoyancy aids and paddling helmets.  We could always reverse.
On the day we were enjoying guessing the back roads so much that we missed the turn off to the Hells mouth parking,  and ended up at the Dorys farm parking instead.  This meant that we were much closer to the start, but would have a bit of a walk at the end. The mist was in and Nick Bullock's van wasn't there, surely an ill omen. However,  the walk down was chirpy, and the fisherman's path to us straight to the start.
I remember looking back at Dorys and thinking I was glad I wasn't climbing there, having some fluffy fun instead.
And it was until the first zawn. It looked a bit to serious to climb around,  and there was a stepping stone bridge of pebbles to the other wall, where a sloping ramp would spit up dry once more. Once in the swoshy sea decided to swat us a little,  like a cat with a toy. The rockover onto the ramp ended up much more dynamic and slippy than expected too. The rock losing all friction with the waves. No matter,  we pushed on, this sloping shelf couldn't last forever,  and we'd turn the corner into more bandy and breaky territory.  Indeed the rock reared up and jutted ahead of us, just the other side of a boulder strewn and foamy Bay.
The sea continued to taunt us. The tide was supposed to be slacking,  but the waves were still bouncing around the boulders, throwing in a beast every so often to shit us up. A more experienced reader of the topography may have reasoned that the sloping bedrock was amplifying the waves, and the boulders adding a bit of chaos to the currents. A more experienced coasteerer may have studied the sea on the approach and changed plans.  No matter. I was about to gain that experience.  We waited for a lull in the waves,  and with a nod we dropped in,  crossing the gap quickly. It was then the wheels started to come off. It became apparent that the near shore of the bay had no exit.  Ben pushed on to a distant crack, and I followed.  The waves seem massive and malicious at close quarters. The gap between Ben and I grew as I tired and I realised Ben was a better swimmer than I.
Like a pint glass hurled into a busy bar, the waves broke over my head, and I started to panic.  I've got a life jacket,  surely I'm safe? Waves like punches struck from unlikely directions,  pushing water into my mouth. Shit shit shit!
I'm a climber! I searched out any weakness in the shore, and latched onto a nearby rib. Hope was sucked away with the surf. No holds, no friction.  I latched a limpet with my hand and mantled. Only for a king wave to unseat me. Ben, now up the exit crack watched impotently as I was tumbled against the shore. Panic was now all consuming. I remember kicking out from the shore and telling Ben I was drowning.  To his credit,  he told me not to be silly,  and hatched an escape plan. He jumped back in, riding the waves to me he calmed me down,  and we kicked with the waves back to our starting point. Once back in the bay, the chaos of currents kept spitting us back from safety.  Somehow we found a path into the back of the bay and round to the boulders.
Hands on something solid I felt like crying. Especially as my foot was wedged. Once I'd flicked it out peace descended,  and I vomited out a gargantuan burp of air and seawater.  I think I stayed behind this boulder in the surf for a good 5 minutes,  utterly spent.  The next half hour was spent picking our way up the cliff. A couple of steps at a time,  this fisherman's path felt like the end of an untrained for marathon. I felt utterly guilty for risking our lives like that.  I didn't see the danger until I was in it.
I'm alive!  I've learnt lots of useful stuff ( like not coasteering on Cilan head unless the sea is glass). My adventure partnership with Ben is a little deeper too.
All good.
Not many pics. This is the beach at T'yn Towyn quarries during our mental warm down. 

Sunday, 15 July 2018

Before the Word, there was the Tube(s)

So in my quest for retro pleasures, and to escape the heat, I enticed Phil and Emma down to the Tubes. This esoteric, frankly hardcore esoteric,  venue is situated just upstream from Betws y Coed.  developed in the 90's by the great and good of "the scene " it has mouldered in relative obscurity,  banished to the meirionedd guide and a brief mention in Boulder Britain.
The Upper Tubes are the ultimate gentlemens venue,  it only comes in to season when everything else is too hot, and lends itself to intellectual top roping,  and splashing about.
The first issue was remembering how I last got to it 13 or so years ago. Then convincing the others that it was "straightforward ".
However,  a small pine forest appears to have grown making pathfinding interesting.  Suffice to say, my premature attempts to enter the gorge were fairly exciting.  It's also probably a good point to suggest a new approach from a third of the way up the crash barrier is equally "easy".
 The team safely down the awkward ramp. This was the only pic I took, Emma's waterproof camera went into action after this. After using her non waterproof phone for our first ( and only successful)  challenge ; Inner Tube- a Paul Pritchard T1 (no normal grades here). However,  she has since dropped that one in the sea, so no awesome pictures of climbing fully enclosed Tubes, here. Or the Monkey Skull. Inner Tube involves a downclimb,  a traverse,  and ascending an enclosed tube. This makes top roping logistics really fun.
The Tubes are water polished slate, and therefore everything is about directional pressure.  That and falling off.
Exploring downstream.  At this stage we were quite keen to stay dry, and thus progress was slow. 

Phil staying dry. Our target was the Barbara Hepworth area, which has a dooable T2. However,  we got sucked into trying Original Route,  a Crispin Waddy T1. My rigging ability was sorely tested with my blinkered approach leading me up an xs style approach rather than the way round the back they all tell you about. The results was an offset and friction full top rope.  I trusted my belayer to adapt and set off..

Moss, undercuts and really directional foot holds.

My belayer made a slight misjudgement of slack, however it was warm enough to at least dry the rubber on my shoes for subsequent attempts.

Once we had our fill of gentlemanly pursuits,  we took to the water. More hilarity ensued,  as the tanin stained waters hid all obstacles.  Combined with subriverine Tubes meant that the water randomly changed depth from 2cm to 5m. 

Eels trying to climb around the cascades. I can't recommend the Tubes highly enough.  However, like the eel, don't expect to win much,  but enjoy the struggle.