Wednesday, 17 May 2023

Punch Drunk but Happy

Once I get the bit between my teeth, I tend to doggedly pull myself along towards death or glory. I will admit to being a little obsessive in that way. I was keen to get this crack done, I didn't want to distract myself with a myriad other projects. Get in, get the job done, then move on. First I had to get the crack clean, that meant cutting the log out. I borrowed an old pruning saw and went back with Ethan and Dave Fidler, a good man for boulder esoterica.

Ethan got a rope around it. It didn't pull out, the rope was a natural fibre fat hawser of shipping detritus. It got stuck.

We sent Ethan up with the saw. It was slow going. After we all had a go we stomped off to find something less frustrating to do.

Next month I was back with Dave, some large cams, a grigri and a shiny new pruning saw..

Unfortunately, the rope had been mashed by the tide into all sections of the crack. Cutting the log out was the easy bit. The rope was slow going, and I mashed my knuckles. Eventually it looked like we could tuck the worst of the rope out the way and have a go.

Buggrit, yet again the rope was found to be still in the way. One key jam was blocked. I was pretty cut up. Literally in fact. The blockage of jams meant my attempts were mainly leg driven, and the enevitable back and footing shredded my back. I checked the tides and gave myself a month's peace for psyche and skin to re grow.

May saw me furiously watching the forecasts. My supposed perfect tide day was at the end of a dry spell well enough. However, the rain was a-coming. It would be just my luck to put all that effort in only to be rained off. Taking inspiration from Caff, who'd managed a successful winter of first ascents by going to bed dead early, then sending in a series of weirdly dry dawn raids. I vowed to emulate this to get a tide window when the kids would be sleeping and easy for my wife to manage.

The rope was still a bugger, and the early morning dew had yet to completely evaporate, leaving the reversal of the down climb to set the cam a little eerie. The rope was hard to reach but I was able to remove almost all, and expose a key jam. I was on my own this time, and was a little perturbed that the pebbles had dropped again. Well, I'd brought all four of my pads, so I'd better make them count.

This was the first go. On reflection it was a good thing as since as far back as following my accident on what became the shard, I've been nervous about proper awkward lobs from height onto pads. Well this was that, and I coped. 
I was going to leave that as that. My analytical brain however chose to blame my left tape glove, which had gotten chunky through reuse and reapplication of tape. Out came the shears and I jointed and butchered it, and rebuilt something from its guts. I also realised I've fallen on my most squidgy highball, pad, so swapped it over, bringing the newest pads in my most likely fall zone. Comfy now eh?

Round two:

I called it Cherry Bomb, because it was fairly punk and rowdy. Also the beach is Porth Ceiriad. That, and Ethan is a big Guardians fan. 
I think 6C+ to fit in with other boulder cracks. It's easier than Tosheroon and requires less precision than Randy Roof, harder than Big Bad Bari and Maneater. Probably similar difficulty to Nefoedd Wideboy. Boulder crack grades seem so compressed with a world of difference between 6C and 7A. Maybe if there was more of them it would spread out a bit.
So happy and content, I can hobble away, wash away the blood, and look for my next fight. Probably a little closer to home.

There's Treasure Everywhere 

Sunday, 5 February 2023

Burying the previous year

 So another silent 6 months has passed, I've popped the odd thing on Instagram, but not really felt up to splurging on here. .

Rewind to October:

By this point I'm trusting my ankle, having good sessions at the wall, I even started to try this new crack project..

Then got carried away.

Basically, while I was dealing physically and mentally with my bust Achilles, I had stepped away from climbing.
This meant no maintenance, no conditioning, I needed to compartmentalize that away.
When I returned to climbing I was surprised by how little form I'd lost, possibly something to do with how long I'd been maintaining at a certain level of form. However what hadn't stayed the same was my connective tissue. 6 months of stress free living had made my pulleys soft.
Lesson learnt, a little maintenance goes a long way.

One finger max density hangs have been a real eye opener. I use bungies and a home made edge so I can just make myself uncomfortable. I consider these exercises key to my recovery. 10 seconds of pulling in half crimp, then rest a minute. Repeat 5 times.
I did this twice a week for two and a half months. Now I just do it once a week as conditioning and will do indefinitely.

In the meantime I was going for the odd adventure with the kids, like exploring the woods 

I even got an opportunity to walk up a mountain looking for cracks 

They're a bit tall, not sure if they will be highballs or trad. I've not really tradded for 5 year's or more, so that might be interesting.

Finally this weekend Ethan and I returned to the crack

Unfortunately, it was a bit wet and the tools I'd brought to remove the stuck log were insufficient. Even our make shift swing didn't pull it out.
Still, I had a good play, and was reassured that my fingers were back up to this sort of shenanigans.
Something for another visit.

I'm really enjoying these adventures with the kids though. They have very little filter so are quite forthright and refreshing.

Adventure awaits 

Friday, 5 August 2022

Back in the Saddle

 So six months (ish) have passed. Lots of baby steps in physio, lots of little exercises. Walks and wanders, dreaming and scheming.

However, today I have returned to my love. Our of the asylum and back to the wilderness; boot and pad in hand.

Mr Fidler ( soon to be Dr no doubt) joined me in returning to a tentative loose end, found while on Deep Recon on the A487. The dolerite dominoes of Llyn Cymystradlyn may well be sandstone (I'm sure a geologist will tell us), but semantics aside, I can assure you of there provision of quality entertainment.

The approach for starters, takes in an inordinate array of bracken and bog. It wasn't until our retreat that the local fishermen imparted the arcane knowledge that boulder hopping the shoreline was a lot drier and ultimately swifter then balancing hummock to hummock across the sprawling bogs.

Once there, Dave got stuck into the big prize while I tentatively pulled on my comfy boots and looked for a lowball to toy with:

I was amazed how much I had to fight on the lowball, so low it probably deserved a ¡ After its lowly 6A¡.

Dave fought hard to make links on the giant roof, but settled on its soaring arete, which jutted proudly over a jumble of distant death blocks, definitely a !!

We had only taken a pad each, as we both had aspects of crippled on. These we placed under the bits where they could actually make a difference, leaving the void to take care of itself. Fortunately the finish was fairly straightforward. So he tells me. I didn't even attempt to pull on.

This became Brithyll Saithliw 6C!!

All the while I kept flailing on my slopey ground hugging traverse, eventually it relented to give the Inconsequential Traverse 6A¡

Amazed at the heady heights I had achieved after only 6 months of semi-recumbant woodlice husbandry, Dave had a go:

Both flushed with this success, we retired to the lower tier, where I quickly scored another prize.

This time it was Slopey Topscrittle; a lurchy F5

I then spent some time trying to be a wad, by brushing the holds to its right. This was mainly in vain. Although it did help to spur Dave onto furthering his efforts to cross the horizontal steepness:

Long video, but Well worth it for the banter.

In between banter, I jolly well got another first ascent- This ones called Moby Dick (there's a whale..) another 5 probably.


Laughter. That's what characterized this trip, that and joy, and bog. Plus a bit of choss.

At this point Dave pulled himself together and climbed this:

He called it Throwing Sheeps, due to my mistaking a herd of sheep for seagulls, and claimed it was 7B. I suspect he was being modest.

We finished up a delightful afternoon by hunting for signs of the mysterious G Mawr, and stumbled on this rather pretty boulder that shows signs of cleaning:

 If it hasn't been done before, you can call it Eog and it's about 6Bish ( the jumble of dominoes is in the background). It was too high for me to risk, and has a bum puncher block at its base. Shame really, if it was dug out it would be 3 stars good.

A great first return, I still have to be careful, lower my expectations, as well as the risk and the height. However, I'm reassured that by keeping a steady pace I can be back to being a loon by next spring.

A happy place.

Friday, 1 July 2022

I (still) Ate'nt Dead

 I'm just over 4 months into my recovery from a ruptured Achilles tendon. I think I will be able to safely return to climbing in August, maybe.

It's been a bit of an emotional journey with lots of dips. I thought I'd be able to return sooner, once I could fully weight my toes. However there's more strengthening to do and a rerupture would be back to the beginning again.

Well reasoned words. What actually happened was I tried to climb, I even sneakily pulled on some holds outside 

Nothing serious, just a damp visit to Porth Howel. All excited I went to my physio the next day.

"Returning to climbing would be a bad idea"

What does he know. . I'll text a bouldering physio..

"Not yet"

Next climbing physio.

"Keep strengthening "

Begrudgingly I aquiesced.

So it's been quiet on here, quiet on my Instagram too, just pictures of my distraction hobby; isopod breeding.

It's the invertebrate enthusiast equivalent of pigeon fancying, very geeky.

Other than that I've been trying to score parenting points, took one of my boys for a wild camp.

We got wet.

Other than that, micro-exploration continues. I have even made a second cleaning visit to This 

I was surprised to find some of the holds still clean

Has anybody done the second ascent? I'd love to know, I've never been sure of the grade.

Ho hum. Hopefully more news next month 

Friday, 8 April 2022

Here be Really Tiny Dragons

 Well I'm now free of the boot and hobbling free. It's still early days, I'm certainly miles away from actually climbing again. However, I have discovered it's all in pretty good shape considering. 

I took it for a test drive.

Turns out with appropriate footwear I can get around a bit.
Yep I also used a walking pole, and had to sit down occasionally, but with care and caution..

I even coped with a little wilderness terrain.

So early days, but the joy of going somewhere I haven't been before, (especially as it felt like somewhere people didn't go often ) Well. It made me feel myself again.

The same time I was filling in the blanks on my personal map, a good friend and wind up merchant James Caff McHaffie was polishing off the original Giveaway Project of the Month from 2009.

I was incredibly made up, as I'd been banging on about the Superprow for, well, 13years. I'd even tried it myself ( too scary) and was building a patio for future highballers. Caff of course added a couple of token stones and cracked on regardless.

Since lockdown Caff has polished off four of my "Too much for Hosey" projects.
It's been really gratifying passing them on and seeing other people catch the vision I had.

This got me thinking about how much I've explored versus either finding anything, or if I do, actually getting round to climbing these lumps.

From the new perspective of temporary crippledom I'm realising that the hunt is as valuable (sometimes more so?) Than the capture.

A bit of a Google search found I was not alone. Micro exploration has been coined to describe these events. In the past adventurers were drawn to the blank bits of the map. In the modern world, the blank bits are still there. You just have to zoom in a bit, basic chaos theory innit?

All this is weighing on my mind, as climbing seems a long way off ( my gimpy toes only can take about 30% bodyweight). I'm coping with this by concentrating on being an explorer.

My project book is all full of ticks ( mine and other people's) and some unclimbed rock has to be discovered to refill it.
Today I went here:

Random woods on the edges of the map. Not so much a blank bit, as a bit that's been doodled on, had some tea spilt on it and then dropped down the back of the bookcase.
It's these forgotten places that occasionally turn up treasure.

So the gimpy foot generally behaved, apart from when a hidden stick snapping under my heel and shocking the system a tad.  I can keep exploring and finding new happy places.

There's treasure everywhere

Thursday, 3 March 2022

Das Boot

 Well last blog post I was exiting a low patch and combating the trials of a Welsh winter.. Spring is on its way and I'd started trawling through the memory sticks and phone caches for this year's motivation. Turns out I've got a few reasonable projects squirrelled away.

Unfortunately on a family day out I managed to perform a complete rupture of my right Achilles tendon while showing off to the kids.

So I'm now in a bit of a pickle.
Given my recent low patch, you'd think I'd be circling the drain right now, but I'm somehow feeling quite chipper.
Ok this year is written off for bouldering. I think I maybe have climbed my last highball.
This is a pretty good challenge...
As someone who has always been drawn to the adventure and challenges of climbing rather than the difficulty or max gainz, my immediate worry was that my drug of choice was cut off and I was going to fall down a toilet like Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting.

But adventure is in the eyes of the beholder. I'm known for the esoteric side of adventure as it is, so exploring over nice level ground and sea cliff reconnaissance in my dinghy on very calm seas should provide suitable methadone adventures.

Rehab, the process and what's ahead.

I'm 2 and a bit weeks in, I was fortunate to be seen straight away in Ysbyty Gwynedd by one of their very experienced nurse practitioner's whose expert lining up of the ducks meant I saw the specialist the next morning and was straight into a vacuped boot rather than an Equinus cast. The first 2 week's were rough with self injecting the anticoagulant meds and enforced rest.
I'm now beginning a very tentative transition to weight bearing and leaving the confines of the crutches. I'm thinking this process will take 2-3 weeks. The coach in me has established I can currently support without pain about 3 stone of my body weight so pretty early days.

In two weeks I get to adjust the boot to allow a heady 15° of movement in my ankle.

I'm hoping to start driving again early April
Physio will start around this time.

Easy walks are tentatively pencilled in to start around May refilling the project folder.

Refilling as I've started giving away the higher or awkward to access ones.

Summer I get the dinghy out.

So yes. Chipper. New kinds of adventure, I'm even tentatively returning to my childhood hobby of exotic invert collecting, wife allowing.

There's treasure everywhere..

Friday, 3 December 2021

Dark Autumn

 Well it rained a lot. And the family got Covid (all except me bizarrely)

To be Frank, my motivation took a bit of a nose dive, I went back to Porth Howel, which was nice..

The autumn storms had brought winter pebble levels. I was pleased to confirm that it didn't really make Barcode Punk easier, and I got to repeat What a Difference a Wave Makes, which again was nice.

I also followed up a hunch and checked the prow project at the old Trefor pier.

So the big prow project is back on... There is a niggle in the back of my brain, and at this point I think the seeds of discontent were sewn. 

I'll explain. 

I've had a great year. Properly Stonking. The motivational boost provided by the new bouldering guide has meant that I've ticked a humongous amount of long term projects this year. 

The shard

George's crack

The Tosheroon 

Barcode Punk... 

But there is still so much to do, and the wave of success has to reach the beach at some point. Fear of Failure has been a long-term foe, one I have repeatedly defeated only for it to jet off like The Claw. 

Throw in some external stress, and it's quickly becoming a bit black. 

Feeling burnt out is OK, feeling incapable and vulnerable is OK. Withdrawing a bit is not bad... But I'll be damned if I relinquish control.

So to try and break this low patch I went back to exploring. 

A bit of Google Swooping* found me a wood with a cliff in it and an adjacent public footpath.
*flying round Google Earth with help from Geograph.Org.Uk

Path was closed due to an exciting bridge (well I enjoyed it).
Turns out the interesting path wasn't exactly public.. 

Proper mushroom circle 

Slightly too small boulder. 
There was a massive and inaccessible cliff in the wood, but by that point I'd had enough, and diverted myself along a contour to check out a dark roof in a cwm. 

English Sheepdog Sheep! 

Turned out to be a slatey hole.. 

All in all a tad disappointing. I was lucky enough to get an actually sunny day, but with little psyche I diverted to more Google Swooping and a hunt for Tone's Golden Boulder. I found it, was underwhelmed, and quested on to see these reprobates:

Not rubbish, but not enough to pull me out of my slump. 

Driven by a unhelpful desire to add to the forthcoming Nwb3.2 idid a last bit of Google Swooping and decided to check out Carreg Lefain. I'd seen on ukc that the parking described in the Llyn guide was no longer welcomed by the land owner. Fortunately, the excellent work on the Mynydd Nefyn footpath network had meant easy access via a carpark just south of the crag. 

The crag itself looked ace, almost tempting me to dust off my rack and revisit in the Spring ;

Slight digital photobomb.. A couple of boulder bits at the bottom, but no pot of gold. 

In nearby mynydd nefyn quarry I found a cool looking crack.. 

And a too small but perfectly formed microgranite boulder. 

So yet another disappointing ramble, at this point I swore off further Llyn exploration.. 

(though I might come back for Gwylwyr quarry). 
What finally snapped me out of the doldrums was an indoor climbing session with my wife. I hadn't lead climbed apart for when I was setting for months, and it was fun just trying stuff and getting pumped.

It's OK to fail if you're having fun.
Find your own fun, this may not be the same as other people's fun. 
That's OK too (within the usual societal boundaries ofc). 

Thus I found myself going to an old venue, in an unfashionable out of the way spot. I'd told myself that I'd try some of the easy stuff I'd scoped out. However, I soon got sucked into old projects. 

So I'm now looking forward to trying, Failing and maybe succeeding on random things that I find fun. I'm putting aside tick lists for a bit (save some for next year). 
I hope the rest of the winter will be a bit drier, but I won't base my happiness on it. 
Finally I probably wouldn't have exited this wallow quite so speedily without the support and heckling of my wife and kids, and the shadowy network of professional banter merchants known as the Pebble Helms (cheers lads). 
Keep me posted on any virgin offwidth sightings.. 
I'll try not to leave it so long between blogs, but there's always the Instagram.

Forward Always