Thursday, 4 March 2021

Lockdown Diaries: SparkleHunt

 This has been a good week. While this lockdown has been generally rubbish, this week has provided gifts of happiness; those given (NWB Mountain blocs is out!) as well as those actively sought and captured.

I have come to the conclusion through all this that rather than waiting for good things in these dreak times, I need to be actively mining out positivity like an oletimer panning for specks of gold is the way.

For every base unit of fun (joie?) we can scrape together, our life has to be enriched. Every nanojoie generated contributes to our reserves, building towards gigajoie goals..

The week started with an visit to an old project, one I thought was at risk of discovery with the arrival of the new guide. This has unfortunately added to my distant circling pack of black hounds, so it was important for me to draw a line under it, as it were.

I'm sure I will report further at a later date, but suffice to say I succeeded by trying very hard, and was now happy, sore and creaky.

Tuesday marked the arrival of the new guide. It is truly a work of great love. For myself personally I was so proud of of how the author delved into the zeitgeist, as well as embracing the distant and wilderness venues, which while always out of fashion, are forever bursting with passion for me (a megajoie top up guaranteed). The guide is also dedicated to making bouldering accessible, with clear directions, GPS coordinates and really helpful lists and comparison charts to steer your choices. It's giving me loads of Psyche to visit even the classic areas with new eyes.

Wednesday I dragged myself out to hang out with an old friend. Mark and I met years ago in Llanberis and have both worked in the climbing world for almost two decades. We were both having a low energy day, and were keen for an easy day away from the socially distanced crowds. I elected to take us on a tour of the more obscure venues from Clegir's already Esoteric selection.

Judicious use of my new loppers cleared a path to the Crackhouse (coords in the new guide). This was a spot I tinkered in when the twins were little. A bit of a playhouse, it has few strong lines but loads of options to muck about with eliminates.

Today I was nowhere near matching the performance of my younger self, but enjoyed being schooled by these fun problems (and by Mark whose footwork was much better than mine that day).


I was particularly chastised by Barred to the Bone, a blue collar offwidth I could hardly start. Something to come back to for a rematch. 

Having tired ourselves in the crackhouse I thought I'd show Mark an easy slab I'd discovered about the same time as I was hiding from the kids in the crackhouse. 

Indeed, you can see it from the Crackhouse, just down hill. I hadn't even rock boots when I found it, and fooled by its easy angle, woke up near its top in my trainers. An inelegant lunge secured the day, and I reckoned our return visit in rockshoes should be a relaxing jaunt.

Still got scared..

But it's highly recommended

A Friction Romance 4+!



On our way back we stopped at the Bunker, another "shed" venue (coords in the guide). Rock is variable, but the right prow (huggy bear) is good value and a mid 6ish. For those slight enough, the through trip behind it is coolio (however I got temporarily stuck this time..)




All in all, much fun was had, and this week has certainly recharged me (although I feel a little battered) I'm looking forward to some more fun mining out some fun from these gems of obscurity. Enjoying the play, rather than trying to produce any product.

On that note I really enjoyed Jude Spancken's interview on Jam Crack. A proper breath of fresh air and a reminder as to why we all do this.

Finally, it has not escaped my notice that the blog has been getting a few more visitors than usual of late. Whether this is just robots, people searching for obscure places to play, or just relieving lockdown boredom, you're all very welcome. 

There's treasure everywhere! 


Thursday, 4 February 2021

Lockdown Diaries : Dementor's Kiss

 So the last blog was November, Lockdown number three kicked in and it all got a bit rubbish. I don't mean Christmas and all that, but this lockdown certainly feels more oppressive and negative than those before it. Fear and self doubt are well known adversaries of the climber, and since lobbing off of the Shard I've struggled to rediscover my confidence at height.

With the Lockdown reducing where I could play, I found myself returning to some local venues that also happened to be high... 

Obviously this involved me getting rather scared and gibbery, but it also provided the opportunity for me to expecto petronum their ass and claw back some confidence.

First spot was Ponc Yr Haul Coll; new name for an old school highball venue. Blooming scary for solo visitors, but could be tamed by a pad party. However it's lockdown, so scary it is. Great climbing though. 


Climbs in order are:

Flock of Flying Butt Monkeys 5C!

Best line here, in escapable and delicate with a pop at the top. 

The Groove of Smooth 6B!

Baffling and sadly escapable (although you can't return once gone chicken). Still very satisfying to complete. 

Maurice Chevalier 6A+! 

Very aesthetic line although fizzles a little after the crux. 

Got very scared here, but ultimately it was a very rewarding experience, and I'm looking forward to a return visit with a post lockdown pad party. 


Following this I got the opportunity to revisit Ymyl Gwyn, and take an appropriate number of pads. Unfortunately it started spitting on the walk in. The long walk in wearing wellies. Carrying a couple of pads. 

Maintaining happy face I slogged on and arrived dripping (abet mainly sweat) at the boulder. Apart from a bit of damp lichen it was climbable so fun was had.


I gibbed last time here on the niche nose project. An extra pad meant I  didn't worry about jumping off this time. This became Buster Crabbe 6A+ and is a little balancey with higgar like crimps.

The next problem right was Death by Monkeys 6B! It has a cool move to the upper arete, however, on the first ascent the top was wet and I quivered into the offwidth at the top rather than elegantly styling it out. This turned out to be just as hard as a dry regular top out would be, and was proper brown trousers. 

The offwidth is The Pig of Happiness 5. It's great fun and yields to good technique in its lower half and determination to fight through the top out.

So from dark times new resilience grows and perhaps a little self confidence. I'm looking forward the next step, whatever that is. 

Saturday, 28 November 2020

Brief Moments Throttled

 So the last couple of months have been pretty dry in terms of adventure, mainly due to being wet in terms of weather.

However, enough brief windows of opportunity have occurred to slap together into a report.. 

So here it goes:

Ymyl Gwyn (not it's real name) 

I discovered this little cluster of gritstone during lockdown, and have been meaning to return. October afforded a morning so I got my stomp on. First highball mission since the Shard debacle and I picked this one.. 


Turns out it needed more than a single pad, and once committed, it was impossible to fall on the one I had. Beautiful arete though, called it "Arrietty" after the studio Ghibli version of the borrowers, as it initially felt small, then I felt very small.. About 6B!

This is Wellington Drudgery, about 6A+. I'm seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on long boggy walk ins. Fortunately it occasionally pays off. 



An attempt on the niche to the left, a decent side pull that just happened to be on the edge of a hollow pocket.. 


Crack ambition! 
I've decided to spend the next few months ticking off and mopping up the last of the major North Wales crack based boulder problems. I'd forgotten how much I loved crack climbing. This little puppy did a 
good job of reminding me. 



Crack Ahoy! Black Country Crack in Parc Dudley

I'd also been having some thoughts about taping up, and happened across a big sheet of 2mm foam rubber.. 

While it is too delicate to form a glove by itself, I was able to fashion templates to build a tape glove over.. 

Boom! 

Unfortunately, while the bottom 2 thirds of BCC were dry and lovely, the top third was not... 
However, it made a lovely excuse to revisit this three star fist crack at a drier date. 

I also foolishly attempted a through trip behind it... 

Foolishness continued as I forgot shears to get the gloves off. I ended up driving home in them (via the Spar to get milk). 


Came off lovely though.. Hand hair intact. 


Finally, revisiting Craig yr ecs (surprisingly also not its real name) 

So a year blighted by restricted travel has past, and yey! I've started revisiting some of these scattered play areas. First job was sorting the landing adjacent to Dutch Trance.  I was keen to play on another line on the same block, but it was blighted by a big spike and a jumble of smaller boulders. 

Firstly move and roll the small boulders and level the ground.. 
Then build up between the Spike and the boulder behind to platform it a bit and soften its pointy ness. 
It'll need two pads at least but safe enough now, just need to get somewhat stronger... 


First go. 


Sharp holds, soft skin. There's work to do. 


Finally tried a project from previous visits. The sit I tried before was still too hard, but I found it had a logical stand, with a tricky dyno.. 

First time I got it, my wife decided to call (that's my ringtone) and I kinda went to pieces. Happily I topped it 2 or 3 goes later. 
Slanted Enchanted, 6C or there abouts. The sit adds 2 moves, but probably bumps it to 7A+ ish. 

So there you go, a few snatched moments, I'm looking forward to a future meeting up with others, getting some pads down. However, for now I'm just loving getting out. 
There's treasure everywhere! 


Monday, 28 September 2020

Testing, Testing!

 Well it had been 10 weeks to the day that I spannered my ankle. It had been settling down nicely, and was usable to climb. Indeed, I had even accidentally fallen on it with no serious repercussions.

Therefore, I decided it was time to rescue my spare pad from Marchlyn. It had been skulking up there for several months, and I was sure it would need some tlc. Furthermore, I'd need it as part of my pad stack when I revisit the Shard.


I made it up OK, the ankle felt a little stiff, but certainly wasn't shouting at me. The gully was interesting, but OK.. 
The path had been washed somewhat by the rain since my last visit. 
The pad was still there! Visitors subsequent to my accident failed to spot it, so I was a little worried. It looked a little damp, and as I pulled it out, I got a bit of a surprise.. 
I don't know if that was just rain, or if the hydro scheme had maximised their cheap electricity and boon of rainfall, and got the level of the storage reservoir over my little stash spot.. 
Needless to say, there was much wringing out, even then it still weighed a ton. 

Keen to play, I had brought another pad up, and also my posher camera (ie not my phone). It had a 10sec timer, so I got to set up some vignettes and scamper into frame. 

These are Erodeo 5C
Tumbleweed 6B
Seamus 6C

These are Trev's Last Wave 7A 


Following that, and being a little warmed up, I turned my attention to the easiest of the remaining projects. To get the juices flowing so to speak. 
This was one attempt of many many. Some falls more controlled, a lot less. However, the tumbles down the hill didn't result in too much ignominy or injury. I just didn't seem to be able to keep the weight on my heel, and this led to a little heel scrapage and blood letting. Next time I'll bring one of my solutions up (I'm still weary of putting one on my wonky foot).

The walk down was slow due to all the excess water my stash pad was carrying. I didn't fancy risking coming off my scooter. It's the next day now and the ankle is complaining a bit. I think this was mainly due to heavy porterage on the descent. Something to avoid I think. 

Hope you're all overcoming your personal challenges, it's all part of the game. Psyched for the next episode. 

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).