Sunday, 12 September 2021

Gabba Gabba Hey! Or how everything is better when Listening to the Ramones

 "Punks not a product, its zest for life" 

-Milky Wimpshake "Barcode Punk


Once more I find myself poured utterly into a project. Riffing on training ideas an Macgyver-ing myself any advantage I can scavenge. It all sounds very romantic, but it's mainly blood and sweat and dribble.. However, there are worse situations to be in than sitting on my favourite beach in the drizzle. 

The following was written live from the trenches, as it were... 



Once more I lounged below the roof of the Idiot Kings, watching the drizzle turn the grey beach into a riot of colour as the pebbles gloss and shine. For a moment it was like a Kevin Lowery painting. It's never a chore at Porth Howel, although getting out the car into drizzle was an exercise in will power. However, there was beautiful sun over Trefor, and it was dry in Pistyll. Yr Eifl was just toying with the clouds that's all. As I write this the birds shrill out and the drizzle clears. Hope springs eternal.



The rake works well on the smaller pebbles, but it's length (breadth?) means big pebbles can dislodge it from its path. A change in grip and some close work soon deals with this. The traverse is excavated, all is required now is the connies.

I was very close to packing it in, in fact I'd packed up and was just noseying around the other side of the bay which I'd yet to focus on. Walking back to the bag I saw the pebbles were starting to grey again.. Let's not jinx it, time for lunch.


The drizzle returned. I packed it in.



Next visit I returned rake in hand to be greeted by a lack of rain and unfortunately a lack of breeze. 

My previous work with rake (my Macgyver-ing outside the box) seems to have stuck. 

I still set about improving the crater around the lowest foothold, chuckling that by Christmas it would be 2 foot up the wall. The traverse project on the Wall of Something Dead is something I'd toyed with for years, always trying left to right. The moves through the alcove were nails and I never really got that far. It wasn't until earlier this year that I tried it right to left and the moves unlocked.

The subsequent burying of the footholds by the summer migration of the beach was something that I had initially reconciled myself to had niggle at me following success with the Tosheroon. Hence my purchase of the uber Rake. It was soon altered to my needs; chopped to fit better in a pad, and a rubber foot so it could be used as a walking pole /crutch.

This first dry visit back was a bit of an eye opener, as it all felt loads harder. Basically I'd spent the intervening months climbing on my fists, and I now had to remember how to use my fingers. It wasn't a complete waste though, as I was able to throw myself repeatedly at the crux and work out exactly what was required for success.

The traverse is about 23 hand moves long, with a jug one third in. Past this I've never really been able to Chalk up, so took my bag of at this shake point. Leaving the jug the moves get steadily more dynamic and powerful switching from crimps to pinches to fat slopey layaways. The key was positioning your body to enter the next move, and that meant foot work. Footholds required attention. 


Brushing off the sand, Washing off the salt crystals, squeaking the hell out of them. Triaging their value, and marking the important ones, tactics and tricks, trying really hard.

Having exhausted my time there I trudged back to the car, past some walkers with a dog, who started barking excitedly. I commented that he must have loved the cows further up. The owner replied it was fine with livestock, it was that I was walking up the hill with a massive rake..

The following week and a half I bouldered lots at the wall, crimping and pulling and throwing myself around. Of course this hurt, and I overdid it, causing various old man issues. However, it did leave me feeling a bit more prepared. 

When the next session opportunity presented itself, I decided to instead take a small hand fork.. It was very effective, and could be hidden from canines. The opportunity was more driven by availability than conditions, as it was still unseasonably hot, and the tide was large and swiftly encroaching.

Confident that the actual traverse would be non tidal I set out to have a play, give my fingers a workout, and continue my footwork on its journey from pantomime horse to primo ballerina.

The waves were gently lapping over the Seaward wall as I did my little pilates session. The beating I'd given my body during the week was proving to have been positive as I flowed through my little crimpy  set pieces. Although after these preparations I still took 8 or 9 goes to latch the crux.

I changed the foot positions for an earlier hard bit on a whim and found it made it much less dropable. After this I had exhausted all my little bits of noodling prep, and it was time to set up the camera, stare at the sea for a bit, an then have a proper go.

Dab.

Following that I had a bit of a digging session. I was feeling OK, and keen not to loiter too much at the jug. Rather than dragging my chalkbag to this point, I just put a little pile on the jug itself. Tadah!

Flushed with innovation I rubbed some into my trousers like the cool kids.

Next go.. 

Barcode Punk 7A 

I'd deliberated over the name as most of the wall was Ramones themed, and I was initially keen on R.A.M.O.N.E.S. for the songs energy. In the end it was Milky Wimpshake's word smithery that won out. I'd also convinced myself that it would be 7A+, but no way I could have done that grade in these connies with this body. 

Another tick on my post lockdown To Do list. Might have it finished by Christmas. 

There's Treasure Everywhere. 



Wednesday, 25 August 2021

The Tosheroon

 

This is my phone. I've had this wall paper for about 7 years, passing from phone to phone.

The picture was taken on this trip in 2015, however, my first discovery of this special sea cave was in 2010, I think on new years day, when a man mate took me out for some Anglesey sport climbing. The climbing turned out to be a little too chilly to be enjoyable, but a gentle wander at low tide with a much needed flask of coffee led to its fortuitous discovery.



Put off by... Well everything really, it took 4 years almost to the day for a return inspection. That first trip I had campused the entrance to the cave and looked at the exit. I was sufficiently excited to return that I talked some friends into returning later that month. The climbing deep in the cave turned out to be really interesting, possibly fun even. Accepting the nature of the challenge was key, it was never going to dry out, chalk was pointless. Barnacles added to the 'fun' adding much needed friction, until you applied too much pressure and they dissolved to slippy paste. The high point of this initial session turned out to be a familiar one. Boxed and flailing at the end of the constricted section.



Some time in 2014 two things were decided.. 

Firstly, that trips should be undertook in the warmer months, as the cold trip meant major gashes off the barnacles due to lack of sensitivity in the hands. This also led to myself almost breaking my hand squeezing the life out of a jam I couldn't feel for fear it would slip.

Denizens of the Tosheroon cave.. 

Secondly, the name of this project. As a keen new router, I often find a name presents itself well before eventual success. Furthermore, it often helps to spur me on to greater efforts. The Tosheroon was a term appropriated by Terry Pratchett in his

 book 'The Truth'. Officially an old English name for a half crown, in the Pratchett universe it is defined as:

"a lump of debris and rubbish made of the mud and gunk found clogged in drains. While they appear worthless, tosheroons can contain valuable items, such as old coins, lost rings and alike." 

It seemed fitting, as while this project on first appearence should on paper be everything we run away from, it contains treasure.



So first trip back after that was in April 2015 during an unfavourable tide. I took the opportunity to scare myself and SWS down the crack reversing the (thankfully dry) HVS ground deep into the wider squeeze section. This left me with only 2m of uncovered ground.

Looking back, I was still doing a lot of bold trad at the time (I'd climbed Twll Love, a bold E5 in Twll Mawr the previous autumn) and attempts this year to repeat this feat resulted in whimpering retreat.

Next proper attempt was that May. Once more I failed to clear the constriction. That September Seren my daughter was born and thoughts of offwidth fitness were put to bed for a while. I visited in 2016, but only to shoot some beta footage. 

Fast forward to Father's day 2019, and one of my son's Ethan, having flicked through the pics on my phone, decided I should go back to Benllech. It got me re-energised for the project, especially as the pebble level had risen and evened out making it feel more boulder and less intimidating.

Returning at the end of the month, it was the old team again. Back with some form of fitness, and having a couple of years of digesting tactics and possible options off all the previous decades footage, I felt hopeful. However, the crux exit of the constriction still eluded me, as the previous 4m was knackering me too much to try a whole lot of things before I plopped off. Another issue was the narrow tide window which only allowed 3-4 goes before retreat became necessary.



Another year and covid came along, the Mountain volume of NWB took my time and attention and The Tosheroon bubbled away at the back of my mind. It had been suggested that my ground up approach might be supplemented by a step ladder, that opened my eyes a bit. With the coming of the summer and the coastal NWB looming, I was keen to put this monster to bed, and with a favourable tide window for 16th July 2021 it was scribbled on the calendar. Post covid, the old team had gone their separate ways and I was given the challenge of enticing new faces to the project.

Fortunately for this opening salvo the reliable Mark Reeves was willing to come and heckle. We were also joined at short notice by that lover of all things niche; the Fiend. Needless to say the session was banter heavy, and I somehow managed to get out of the construction into the wider squeeze. However, in my 1000 yard stare state I'd become fixated on the right wall of the cave (possibly due to the extensive examination of it from the step ladder - didn't bring it again). The video is a bit long, but worth it for the running commentary :


At about midnight that same evening I came to the realisation that I should have switched to face the other way. Picture Dr Emmet Brown exclaiming "Great Scott!" and you get the idea.

Next visit (25th July) was with a mutual acquaintance  of Fiend and myself, who Mr F thought would be keen. He wasn't wrong - Rafe turned out to be a power house of enthusiasm and encouragement. The ladder was left at home, and instead a rather large stack of pads was bundled to the beach. Once more I'd cleared the constriction, but by then the barnacles had managed to rip both my tape gloves off:


Rafe giving it some 


For the next trip (10th August) I was to be joined by both Fiend and Rafe, and I set about retiring my old foamies and traced some new 2mm foam rubber templates. I've been building my tape gloves around these foam pads for about 18 months now and I'm finding they give a good compromise between the efficiency of a pure tape and the convenience, and let's face it bulk, of a jamming glove (I have small fists).





Once again Fiend bought the banter, but I was still unsure of the exact sequence of circus tricks required to establish me firmly on the left wall. I also prevented an early ejection from the roof with a dyno-bar of my right knee.

The aftermath 


After that I was running somewhat on fumes. Good laugh though:



The next available tide window was the 23rd of August. Unfortunately nobody could come with me that date. I felt quite nervous about this as the tide window is narrow. A low spring tide is needed which gives about 3 hours of access before completely submerging the cave again. Not somewhere to have an accident. However with only about 2 tide windows a month being available to me, and winter looming, I needed every session. 



I set about finding as many things that could provide an edge as possible. MMA knee sleeves under my trousers, a slimmer £3 headtorch off ebay to stop it catching. Hell, I even bought an led dog collar (not useful in actual action unfortunately). I also flicked through P-Widdy's crack book and set about converting my foamies to a vedauwoo wrap. 

I had some kind words of encouragement from fellow jam heads and general deviants, and although still nervous, I stumbled onto the beach to find a lone fisherman toying with his rod. Although I left him to his practice and scuttled into my cave. Knowing that he was there had a calming effect. 

Once the four pads I managed to Sherpa down were in place, I did a bit of pilates and a couple of pull ups, and set about the rigmarole of taping up. After this I did a bit more pilates and reacquainted myself with the technicalities. This basically meant bashing a few bits with a towel and adding some tick marks with a fat stick of Chalk I'd nicked off of Seren.

First go. First meter felt really good, once into the kneebar pivot from feet first to burying myself head first horizontal in the roof.. Well the pump and scrabble kicked in a bit. However, I got to the crux and had a bash until the wheels came off and I dabbed while suspended by a solitary teacup jam.

The first go had done its job and the blood was pumping into all the nooks and crannies. I lay on the pads and thought about all the peeps who believed I could do this. I waited for the heavy breathing to subside, and then waited some more. 

This is an unabridged video of the second go. It's very long, and there is no Fiend to liven it with commentary. Also the lighting was a bit poor so you can't make out loads of the initial bit. However, here it is :


Arghh it's not embedding, the link is here



I wasn't smooth in starting and almost lost my kneebars getting into the roof. The jams through this bit are hard won and I kept slithering onward, expecting them to rip. Getting to the end of the constriction I was on two teacups bumping my left kneebar forward and it slid out. 

Slight wolverine moment, primal driving rage. Not sure how but next thing I know my right kneebar is buried in the roof and I feel solid. I can bump the right teacup to a high fist and twist out onto the left wall. 

My foot is on the first tick mark. Please don't skid off the barnacles. Next thing I'm extending into the rafters, open barring and feeling for help. Holds appear, I can pull into an upright squeeze position. The balcony at the end of the horizon is near. Slowly deliberately, I slide on a bum cheek. I'm there. 



Having a moment just to be happy I took in my surroundings. It was a still and humid day, the crag above was still wet from sea spray, not the dry hvs I soloed 6 years before. I could just plop of the ledge and call it done. The Tosheroon I had envisioned was a crack climb, pulling off the deck and climbing until at the top of the crack, or at least the crag. I probed out, up and further outwards trying to breach the soggy defences. A stretch off a fist gave a dry jug and I swam back into the crack where I could bridge and get some more jams (best weapons against the sogg).



A whimper and a grunt and it was over. The memories remain. 




The Tosheroon 7A+! 

(could be MXS 6b, might be easier although my support team scoff at this. Let's just say Hard Very Marvellous) 

Benllech hidden wall beach, around the corner. Needs a tide window based around a sub 2m low tide. No Chalk required, maximum skin protection advised. 

Start 8m in at a chockstone in the roof. Leave the ground and battle bravely to the light and the jutting balcony. If you get here, pat yourself on the back and feel free to hop down. Those mad enough may, like the first ascentionist, want to battle to the top of the crack, but unlike him, please have someone to rearrange your pads. 

Mark Dicken (23/8/21)


Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Broken Hallelujah

 So intention versus reality. Life and work have once again conspired against me, as well as an unhelpful dose of apathy. I'm still down on my offwidth training, hard to motivate myself to boot the kids out the way after a late shift.

Instead I've been focusing my attention on Porth Howel, sprucing it up for the forthcoming Coastal volume of North Wales Bouldering.



I am deeply smitten with this tucked away quarried cove. Despite the fact its at the bottom of a big hill, and the height of the pebble beach varies seasonally by over 2 metres! At least it is vaguely predictable.



First port of call was the Seaward wall, and having another go at a highball arete that scared me off last time, as I could not work out how to top out, and had to reverse to ground. Having scoped out the top and decided that discretion was the better part of valour, I scoped out a flying ramp of footholds leading into the top of paradise groove. This proved to be key, but still very scary, and The Dread Pirate Roberts was born (at about 6A+!) 


The pebble level had risen on the Seaward wall. One move less required on Seams Dynamic, and 2 Jugs was now a sitter. I had intended to try the lower seam traverse, but it had become too bumshuffly. However, the upper seam gave a lovely traverse I dubbed Bird is the Word as the tide was coming in, and couldn't risk a mat. 



I then started working the low level traverse of the wall of something dead early this May. I'd always been unable to work out how to cross the alcove below Blitzkrieg Bop, and a bit of a seige was taking place.

A eureka moment occurred when I stopped trying left to right and switched direction. A series of big dynamic throws between pebble smoothed side pulls deposited me at the starting jug of 53rd and 3rd - the game was afoot!

Starting jug of 53rd and 3rd 

However 2 weeks later when I could next visit the pebbles had begun their inevitable march towards summer height. The crux section was unchanged, but a berm of pebbles had swiped the footholds of the easy section. Even worse, I couldn't repeat the crux. Like the enthusiastic beta hound I am, I dove into unlocking the new challenges, and surprised myself by linking to the start of the crux. I was however now out of beans.

Key pinch #holdnerd

Next session I found all was as before, and I buckled up for the red point. Starting with a proper core and flexibility warm up I moved onto nailing the crux a couple of times. Then it was rest, rest, try, rest.

It was not to be, however I was made up that on my last go I made it as far as blowing the last hard move of the final crux. I was sure it would go next session.


Next session the pebbles has swallowed the footholds of the alcove. End of play until they recede in the autumn.

Having made the journey all the way here I was somewhat disappointed. I was determined to turn these lemons into lemonade. The higher pebbles meant the line over the alcove was less scary than usual. The natural higher line over the alcove would lead into The Rail (down to a nice 5C with this pebble height). After looking at right to left, I decided it would flow better as a natural extension to The Rail starting at the 53rd and 3rd jug. This still necessitated me to dig out a starting foothold, luckily not too deep.


 The moves into the launch crimps of Blitzkrieg Bop were quite strung out for me, but a cunning foot jam (and a bit more digging after a pebble dab) led to:
Overarched 6C 


Satisfied, I retired to return once the summer pebbles sucked away.

Next is Tosheroon. The imminent arrival of a guide is always a double edged sword; Excitement at a chance to be documented is tempered by the anxiety that your house is not in order. 
Despite my troubles in motivating the necessary training ethic, I intend to role the dice and hold things lightly.

Do or do not, there is no try. 


Sunday, 30 May 2021

Training montage

 With the Tosheroon clearly in my sights for this year, the month of May heralded a special little trip. I had, during lockdown, identified a series of crack boulders I hadn't tried. With 3 of them all being down the end of the Lleyn, I had hatched a plan to try and get them all done in a day. A suitable tide was found at the end of May and duly written on the calendar..

Well blow me if the weather actually played ball and all the green lights flashed. Of course all the suplimentary training I had planned leading to the event failed to materialise, but this could be a benchmarking exercise instead. I wasn't going to waste the weather!


Porth Ysgo looking lovely, however my first target was Maneater at Talfarach. This venue is not the easiest to negotiate on your Todd, but once the big orange was located and its spongy patio made base of operations, I could get taped up and crack on.

Not posing (honest) but identifying feet. I was very pleased to get this onsight (it's about 6C) although once committed above a typical talfarach landing I wasn't planning to come off. It played well to my strengths as it was basically fists and bars. The low crux being leaving/ mantling the fists into the bar /squirming section. The vid is below for geeks and insomniacs, although it took 5 minutes to to cover a little over 6m so you've been warned. 

Chuffed by my initial success, I scrambled back to the cliff path and quested round to Porth Nefoedd. This turned out to be a drudge, and I fell in a bog. Fortunately it was hot, so I crusted off quickly. Nefoedd is a lot tamer underfoot than talfarach, however the approach is a fair bit sketcher. It's also hedged in by a maze of brambles and gorse. 

I located Nefoedd Wideboy and quickly got stuck in working out a plan of attack. This stretched into a prolonged head scratching exercise as its far from a standard block. Once tucked under the initial constriction you can stand into a narrow triangular slot between the boulders. At the back of this is the starting point (a jammed boulder). Once off the deck, you have to dive under the constriction. Needless to say a variety of strength sapping options were applied before the award of "most likely to succeed" was claimed. Unfortunately by this point, I was knackered. I took this to be a benchmarking success and noted the requirement to get better core endurance. 
This is my highpoint. 


The next venue was on the North Coast, so leaving the tape on (got some funny looks driving) I sought out what I thought was a direct path back to the car. 

Never do this. 

First rule of Rhiw bouldering : never leave the described path! 

The resulting hour of psychological warfare as I negotiated 100m of dense brambles (no sleeping beauty was worth this) reinforced the first rule, and my cunning idea of bridge building out of my pads meant I'm still picking spines out of them.. 

So anyway next venue. 

This was the fabled Jellybowl cave, old school and rarely in condition. It was a bit damp, but I was here and keen for Jellybowl Crack

This was definitely an old school V6, and I was spent. Short and brutal, it was a bit damp, but really had I been fresher, it probably would have been a different story. 

There’s loads of untapped potential in jellybowl cave if you have industrial fans to get it dry.. 

My well planned tide window was coming to a close. The sea lapped at the ceiliog's feet and work beckoned. 




Moving forward, I've identified some good tide windows for the Tosheroon in July, so June is to be mostly about core endurance and maximising beans. Hopefully I'll have some fun too. 

Watch this space 


Saturday, 1 May 2021

Purple Patch

 Things are going pretty well lately. Firstly finally surmounting George's Crack, then putting The Shard to rest. I've been using the progressive psyche like Spengler's proton pack, hosing down neglected projects.


First up was a trip to the hidden valley. There was this rather massive boulder there by the river. Landing wasn't great, but the rock was rather cool; a mass of grit like slopes with an undercut base:


There was a cool cave at the left end with some flat ground and a well defined start. I made this my goal for my first foray.. 

The result (after many many attempts) was Bumshuffler, a high F6/7A. So many attempts in deed, that my camera ran out of memory as I topped out (and I was slightly late for the school run). 


Spurred on by this my next adventure was up to Marchlyn, as I was well keen to push forward on some of the projects there.. 

On reaching the dam, I saw the water level unusually high... 
Oops, the landing for the Super boulder was under water! First time in seven years I've encountered this. After some research I had found that the moving away from nuclear power has meant that its not always the best economy for them to pump up at night, and sometimes (especially when green energy, solar and the like, is doing well), they keep it up top to get the best price... 
Some further sleuthing has shown that you can predict the up top Connie's by looking by fishskin wall (a drive rather than a long walk). It's a closed system, so if it's empty down here it's full up there and vica versa. 
As a rule of thumb, this boulder here is a good marker, if the level is so low that it is linked to the promentary behind, it probably not worth walking in. 

This screen shot shows the same boulder on Google earth. The level here is still good for the super boulder, so lower than this is bad... 

So back to a peed off Mark at the Dam.. I had remembered some unfinished business at a boulder on Elidir Fach, on the same contour as the dam. Some time in 2011 I had done this :

I had given away the full traverse as a project in 2012, then in 2013 Big G named it The Biscuit Tin of Marchlyn Bach and highlighted it as the Boulder of the Month. I'd assumed he'd climbed it and promptly let it fall behind the bookcase of my mind.. 

So a decade after doing the short version, I returned for the complete slopes. 
Turned out he hadn't climbed it, but I liked the name so.. 

Biscuit Tin of Marchlyn Bach (might be 7A)


So man made tidal systems are a little tricky, but good old lunar tides sometimes bless you with a perfect meeting of wind, time and tide..

I'd been intrigued by the seaward wall at Porth Howel, but on previous visits it was either in the sea, or wet and Teflon.. 

Not so today. Bone dry! 
The main wall was at its spring level and that made it high... Even Richie Crouch's 6C sitter on the far right; What a difference a wave makes, was exposed and climbable. 
Peering round the corner to the seaward wall. 

In all its glory! 

Bashed by waves an pebbles, it was as smooth as the Tubes; that Beddgelert Esoteric gem. As usual I was drawn to the highballs, and the groove looked awesome and Jammy. 
This became Paradise Groove 5+!
A mix of slippery slabbyness, Jams and udgeness. Oh and slopers! This wall has class/impossible slopers, flatties are the jugs here.. 

Next easiest thing to try was at the other end of the wall, thankfully the lower end. 
Here lay the two biggest flatties in the insipid lower seam that slashes across the wall. They weren't actually that big but to me they were.. 


 Two Jugs 6B


Now I had a style I turned my attention to the other end of the seam. The last holdable edges that I could reach from the ground. This dyno was a little bit bigger and the upper break was not disclosing where I could actually hold it. Finally spotted a less slopey bit.. 


This is Seams Dynamic, might be 6C. 


I also spent some time failing on other stuff, but that just made me more keen to return. All I need is my skin to grow back.. 

What this space.. 




Wednesday, 14 April 2021

Business Time

 So today I have dealt with a few issues..


About 9 months ago I tried a project on a whim, on my lonesome, with two pads. The result was a bust ankle and is documented here.  

The project in question was nicknamed The Shard and I had first latched onto it in 2016, and actually started the process of considering actually climbing it in 2017

However I soon stalled, as it was scary, and I didn't feel up to it. Shortly after that Max Dickens, Mark Lynden, and Noel Craine started developing things in cwmffynnon, Max had tried The Shard and got as far as the shelf. I sort of let it drift to the back of the cutlery drawer. 

Come forward to 2020, and the new guide is in the works, and expanding to cover many of the wilder mountain blocks, including Cwmfynnon. It seemed like a strong stimulus to get my affairs into order, and complete my dormant projects before someone else did, and claim that ego buffing reward of getting it in the guide.. 

So I bust my ankle. 

It still made it in the guide though, page 442, the project marked 8...

I was resigned to letting it go, I was not up to the task. Some kind people persuaded me otherwise, and 9 months passed as first I healed, then painstakingly got my head back in the right place. 


The issue with predominantly bouldering on your own, is that:

a) you can only lug so many pads, and b) there isn't anybody to give encouragement/a spot/a note of caution.

Highballs need these, and I'm certainly going to be more of a team player in this regard from now on. 

Mark Reeves and Dave Fiddler graciously agreed to pad Haul and stomp into cwmffynnon with me. I was fairly anxious, not sleeping well in the previous nights, and I abbed to chalked it in a poorly warmed up state. For me the pulls of the ledge to the top were the crux, certainly psychologically. I rehearsed these on the abb, but my left forearm was still tight, and the moves were creaky and sore through my elbow. Determined not to ruin our efforts, I switched to warm up overdrive. 

The chalked up Shard. 

When it came time for the first go, I was still anxious. I knew my fingers were not as strong as last time. First go I fell off at the big crossover. However, this was where I fell on my first go 9 months previous, and the extra pads and guiding hands (5 pads and a spot pad rather than a lone wolf's 2) gave me a boost. 
Next go I latched the crossover, but the stretch for the bootstrap pocket above eluded me. I was climbing in my miura's as I thought the solution's contributed to my bust ankle, and the miura's were flatter and less turned in. Dave suggested I put a solution on the foot I didn't bust, and that gained me some form through the moves. 
The boys took a break to climb The Goodie, and I had a proper rest and studied the foot options. 

A slightly higher nubbin and this happened :

The Shard 7A! (I think..) 

Sorry for the swearing, I was a little emotional. Dave repeated it afterwards to the ledge (as Max & co did) and agreed it was 6C to there. So it depends on how much those last moves are worth. It may be a soft 7A or a hard 6C+. I reckon it's better approaching it as a 7A as the tough moves at the top need beans in reserve. 

So I've got over the hurdle of asking for help, and I've got my fighting head back in gear. Hopefully this will lead to good things this year. 

Watch this space.. 


Monday, 5 April 2021

The Awkward Shuffle

 So when you're a self confessed North Wales based offwidth climber, you do tend to get asked a lot about one climb..

I first tried George's Crack probably about the first time I owned a bouldering mat (bought 2nd hand off Ray Kay of all people). Actually if memory serves me I had also acquired a stunt mat from the 'set' of Clash of the Titans by that time. So that puts it as around 2009/2010. I remember lugging them both up with the stunt pad (spot pad thickness, but size of a single mattress) protecting the along, and my little battered Holdz pad protecting the up.

First session I think I got about 2 feet.

Second session was a year or so later with a pair of wide boyz who were touring the UK cracks on their road to free the chocolate starfish. They had repeated Liquid Armbar which made me happy, and proceeded to lap George's in a weight vest. I'd tweaked my ankle trying to repeat ToeBar, and was unable to emulate their fabled fix-all "the wide pony". Still made a foot of progress. 

Session three was 2015, and is documented here. I'd sacked off wide pony in favour of leading heals first and following with the stack; known as Trench foot. However I was convinced that I needed to emulate other www ascents; hang lower and be more flexible to reach into the crack.. 

I've really struggled with my flexibility over the years, and blamed my inability to fix it for my perceived general crapness. Some of it is left over niggles from my groundfall accident in 2004, some of it is age and motivation.

However, as babies and life got in the way, I sort of believed it was just beyond me. I moved onto fixating about the Tosheroon project instead.

First significant kick off the bench was getting the first ascent of Randy Roof. It's totally my style, flared with fun invert footwork, and while tricky I didn't think existentially at the time, but fast forward to 2020 and getting involved with the NWB3 feedback team. Kick off the bench number two was that Randy roof was supposed to be harder than George's Crack, and lots of arguing about my desire to see GC in the guide as 7A (it is, yipee!). I also was being asked opinion on other bouldering cracks I hadn't done yet..

Basically I had to stop the moping and get crack climbing!

Black County Crack went first (pics on my Instagram) and I knew I had to get my finger out and put George's to bed.

Trip number one (session four) was last Thursday, I was on my own and struggled up with three mats. I was going to stay trench foot and keep as close to the crack as possible.

Here's the fail vid..


I was psyched, as I had battered all the tech into submission. I knew where not to Jam and what to try at various points to Wedge my mitts in..


Enter the bouncing ball of Welsh Crack Psyche ; Eben! (you may remember him from Pinnochio Crack). So he sacked off a family day to be my wingman and pad assistant.

And Fifth session, second go, I dry heaved over the top..






Definitely indebted to Eben (topping up his account with session 2) on this frabulous day. 



So this milestone marks the start of a new road, gaining in confidence, bagging some more cracks, and ultimately leading to the Tosheroon.



Watch this space