Wednesday, 12 December 2012

More from the Archives

Back around the time I wrote Death dance, I was also hanging around a lot with John Redhead, He's one of my most colourful friends and always the trickster, seeking  and prodding peoples buttons. At this time  he was just finishing his poem/sound sculpture Soft Explosive, Hard Embrace. and was putting together some film to promote it with. John has a history of putting on lavish cinematic epics, and then loosing them, for them never again to see the light of day. His north stack clowning on the Cad only remains as a few photographs for instance (see the Chris Dale section in the new slate guide). Apparently his new book is very good.

John has allowed me to put up my section from the promo film. In this bit I solo Opening Gambit in Twll Mawr, enthuse a bit a la Death Dance, and appear young and slightly touched in the head.
The banana flake parted company a few months later.

I wish I still had those trousers.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Old Life, New Life

I read recently that a friend and fellow adventurer, Rob Greenwood was hanging up his axes, at least temporarily, for adventures on safer shores. This led me to contemplate the transition my life has taken since marriage, and the arrival of Logan, Ethan and Dylan. I recently after my Thursday experience have also forsworn the wilder shores, and I'm getting my head around what exactly that means. I've certainly changed as a person, Its not just the responsibility of fatherhood, maybe I've less to prove to myself, and others, Maybe I've learnt enough from death choss now..

I was Trawling the archives and found this essay I knocked out in the early days. I post it here in trepidation, but as awkward as it reads, it does give an interesting, if cloudy and warped, snapshot into my mindset back then.

"Death Dance"

"Keep it loose, and if you can't keep it loose, keep it stupid..." parting words upon leaving the safe cyber shores of rocktalk and moving all my possessions to the powerfully real surrounds of Llanberis.. Having managed to get into my new abode, despite having to fish the keys from the letterbox of an absent mate (long story) I soon felt totally out of my depth. Here was I, a low to mid grade adventure climber, attempting to join in with one of the most important climbing communities in the country.
With my few firm friends in Llanber' on holiday or keeping a low profile, I went through the motions, fixing up the house and wondering why I'm here.
Lounging lethargically round the house, watching the drizzle slide down the windows, I thought about going home.
Bollocks to that. I checked the weather forecast and this afternoon was going to be the only dry weather in ages. I packed a drink and boots and chalk bag and set off for the lake. My goal was upper Dinorwic, with only one Crook route up there, there must be some scope, and the walk will stop me feeling lazy. The Oil drum glacier was interesting, and I could easily imagine getting buried up there. Only Katie and Rob saw me go, I didn't tell them my plans, too easy to be dissuaded. No help there then.
Upper Australia, Dinorwic, whatever you call it is huge. And scary, don't forget scary. Can I forget?
Red slate that's all blocky and slopey, the purple havens and grey evilness that gives way to sheets like punk wood and shivering bands of mud and shale. Quartz filled dolerite that crumbles like salt and life saving sheets of brown sand paper. Memories of the place come unbidden like the passage of tunnels on an intercity train journey.
It would be too simplistic to say I was cocky. I knew that if I set out trying to prove something then I would die. However, I was feeling a spare part, unsure whether I had a right to be there in the first place. I needed an enema for the soul.
Suited and booted I immediately regretted not bringing a helmet, the occasional gust of wind bringing down tiny flakes like autumn leaves. Maybe if I had brought a helmet I wouldn't have come, too thought provoking a hell-met is. I attacked the most beautiful line, and retreated in fear. I found a solid arête and got fifteen feet up before pulling a huge block off that tried to propel me to the deck. I turned instead to an easy gully. My first encounter with the bands of vertical shale that insinuate themselves through the cliff, brought only anger. Especially as there was a possible, if sustained, crack above me that I would have relished if I had some gear, a rope and a partner. Too much uncertainty, but I couldn't turn back so early. Once I'd crossed it, I couldn't turn back. Grovelling, digging and knitting the solid patches together I was spat out onto the terrace. I could walk off here. Leaving what? a shitty shaley loose pitch going nowhere of merit? Arrogance forced me to seek a second pitch, one that flowed from the first.
A ledge system spotted from the ground gave hope, and I emerged shaken onto a platform containing a simple VS layback that had held so much promise from below. It ran with water and was capped by a loose wig of death blocks. Arse. A brief consultation with my maker left me a little calmer and I saw a series of ledges leading round the left arête of this niche. they were coated with brown crystals that rivalled grit in friction. Yummy. Unfortunately, as I strode forth, it became apparent that all I touched started to move. "Seek the easy path" became my mantra and I oscillated between oases of brown sandpaper, my fear rising like vomit. The doors had closed, the heavens were like brass; silent. Twenty minutes, half an hour must have elapsed in this tortured groove, pinned between a rotting miner's hut and my mortality. I gave up. I headed back knowing how dangerous retreat was on terrain such as this. You see when you go up, your hands pioneer the path, sensitively selecting the good nuts from the bad. My feet are pretty crap at this. Somehow, my path down differed from my path up, probably due to my paranoia over loose footholds. My fingers sank behind a solid flake. The doors opened again and choirs of angels sung a tentative chorus. One jug and some solid footholds do not equal an end to trouble. I commit and am immediately taken back to long repressed memories of past epics. A fragile rock over into the unknown, with death patrolling the depths below like a restless shark. Time shuffled its feet and so did I.
Romanticising aside, I made it to the next terrace. Took off my boots and prepared to bugger off. I was stopped by the notion that I was still alive, and before me lay a beautiful and most importantly safe looking corner. Short and perfectly formed, it succumbed to a struggle and I was back in the race. The worst was over. Steadily following the easiest path in the straightest line, two more interesting and non death-like pitches were dispatched. It was the end of festivities. A short scramble up moss and scree led to the final terrace, a walk to safety, and an ogle at Crook's Big Thursday. Smashing.

Maybe there's a life for me here after all. Better find a climb partner effing quick though. Life's too precious.

Why I am here again? Alone in the shattered heart of Dinorwic. I'm booted and suiting at the bottom of a chaotic fissure gaping like a festering wound. This is actually serious. a grade I haven't attempted on a real and proven route. Its not my imagination, its someone else's. I hope they aren't ill humoured. A helmet this time, There's no fooling myself of this crucibles potential. Peace sits uneasily on my heart while my head cycles through what little beta I scraped. A solo to prevent a seconds death. First pitch hard to reverse. Don't do in an earthquake. Check. Why am I here? The threshing floor awaits, I'm off to meet myself.

Section one twists up like a Crag Lough corner. A niche is entered via a soft fist jam. looseness abounds but in a unthreatening curious way. I'm moving through but not part of it all. Until a big lump come off in my hand that is. Shit. Still I was in balance and, therefore not dead. I lob it into the abyss, cursing as I'm forced to digest the reality of the depths. All the effing way to the bottom. Eff. Must remember not to fall off, that's all. Mantling out to the arete I find the move Ray talked about; reversible but not in a pretty way. Never mind, I'll walk off the easy way. Now Ray said the first pitch was the hard one. The gorge rises out of the rubble like a stage set from star trek meets Bram Stoker. Its a lot wider than I thought, and carpeted with shit and surfboards. I pause to take in the scenery, you must pop up for the view of the rest of Australia, its quite a pleasant perspective. I stick to the walls of the gorge, at least once I confirm the status of the flooring. The dolerite makes it feel unlike any of the other experiences I've had out here. as does the thick coat of mud everything has. More like Cheddar than North Wales. The gorge ends. A chimney huh? More like a huge boulder choke that caps the gorge with choss and sludge. No bloody roof in the description! Here I face the crucible. Here I see myself clearly. here I hope the obviously loose rock will gain gravity and immobility, bolt themselves down. I clean the sludge off the few holds, a rock comes away and hits me in the bollocks. pulling on shite I insinuate myself onto the horizontal. Weirdness, all is stupidity. Fun though, and it feeds my head.

The smell from smashing slate is like standing too close to fireworks. a smell of danger, a warning of the place you have brought yourself into. It screams "Get out! Mine!" There are treasures in the darkness that it protects. but they are slid between the borders of life and death. I doubt I will ever see them, not for long anyway. When a Jewish priest entered the holy of holies, the other of otherness, the sacred heart of the temple, the other priests tied a rope to his leg, so that if he was overcome by the power of God and died, they could drag him out without endangering themselves. I'm getting worried, I'm beginning to get excited by slate's vaporisation. Its real, a sentry to a more real place.

I'm not afraid of death, but I don't want to die, please believe that. I've made peace with my maker and there is much to be done. But I believe in an otherness; a yearning for a different life. I feel a need to place my self in a crucible of my own making, parameters of my choosing rather than the fashions of the day. I yearn for a place for chivalry within climbing. Indeed it may be its last refuge in this fearful, controlled and contrived "safe" society. The heroes are stretched thin as paper and extrapolated far from their templates and their root form. A knight is known by their deeds. this is not their works, their calculated actions, but the spontaneous actions driven by who they are and who they are made to be. Climbing for yourself, striving towards a point where this is a soul drive, just for you, and maybe your climbing partner, but no one else. That should be our goal. The arena of testing is dispassionate and the earth does not feel our passing. It is on the surface that life passes; like condensation on a mirror. There are, however, guides to the threshing floor. I listen for the quiet voice that made me, and the smell of combat.

Having said the crucible of Dinorwic is a cold and impartial to our passing, it seems strange to now turn to the moods of the quarries. During a buzzing, crackling summer, with ropes coiled like snakes in the grass, all may be good in the world. Meanwhile, out in the badlands under leeched grey skies, with shattered battlements tipping their hand, Death might be your belayer. A single location may charge through the full spectrum of emotion like a bull in a psyche ward. It is in truth a lot like the dark side's dwelling place on Dagobar, found in “The Empire Strikes Back”. Here is an arena where spirits may dwell, and all that is with you is just what you have taken in your self, or have attracted to yourself. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld has the dungeon dimensions which strive to pierce through reality into the world, in places where the boundary between the two realm’s are stretched thin. Maybe the quarries are a nexus in a similar vein. No matter.

Adorning the sterile substrate of slate like a rainbow on a soap bubble, life clings and shadows roam; projected, trespassing, or otherwise. These stirrings impinge on us in differing ways. While below the surface dirt and rock and worms and water dwell, the surface is a slick of grass and heather and gorse and goats. This in turn is punctured by monoliths of man's failings, hopes and natures solutions. These connect with us through our wiring and baggage. They trigger the positive and the negative, the constructive and the destructive within us. Whether we are conscious of this or not is depends on our tuning. When in a group we are insulated by the projections from our comrades. Like a lake in the rain; patterns are dispersed to an even murmur. When numbers are reduced the ripples are more discernible. And alone there is just you and the residents; bouncing off the quarry walls, oinking crows, wailing goats and the bowels of the hill humming a melody that's manmade. There is something reassuring about the generator hum. It tells you that you are not alone, Sometimes a whisper sometimes a roar. Where is doesn't tread, these seem to be the dark places. Wind fights generator. Man against anti-man. For wind, and the rain for that matter, can tip you off the threshing floor into the machinery. The dark places in the quarries are found where the anti-man elements gain a stronghold. Twilight seems reinforce this, long regarded as a time where worlds meet, maybe its merely the leaving of the light, taking away a point of security. Try to take the light with you, that's what I reckon.

What is anti man? Things that are destructive and negative. A mild breeze stimulates the upturned cheek as you contemplate your next rockover, A sudden gust takes you off and down the hole. I feel that all aspects of life must be split to one camp or the other to a certain degree, if something is truly neutral then it is of no use and therefore a hindrance. Characteristics and quirks can be expressed for good or evil also. Nothing is irredeemable, it is how it is applied; anger or passion, fussing or caring, moody or contemplative.
All that is up there is what you take with you, fed by what is for us, and what is against. This is my experience of the quarries.

There you go. I'm not sure I'm that person any more, but I can just about trace the journey.

Giveaway Project of the Month - December

Having compiled the index, I realised I haven't given away anything foreign for a while, meaning of course outside North Wales. Having just completed my first decade of Llanberis living, my previous existence as a weekend warrior seems a dim and distant memory. The never ending quest for adventure, a warm pub and an appropriate doss.
A favourite haunt was the Roaches, Staying in the hut with a old uni crowd, there were squeezes, cracks and Japes galore. Raven rock gully seemed to draw me more than most (that and Lucas Chimney), Left and Right and of course the Crack of Gloom... Which although obviously lovely I have yet to travel, as partners always put their foot down. now as the years have gone by and my abilities condensed, thoughts go back to the space between left and right.

The central pillar with nice monkey on a stick climbing and adequate gear would eventually lead into the horror-zontal of boulders and flared cracks, bouldering in the sky with runners and clean air..

Possible? Possibly I never got around to trying it.
Please do.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A Giveaway Index

Now this blog has been running for a while, I'm beginning to lose track of which projects are out there in the public domain of what. To help me avoid replication, and you find the project of your dreams, I've compiled this list:


Super Prow of Cwm Ffynnon

Craig y Llam
trad crack

Mount Doom
sport project, turned out too loose (see May & June 2010)

Porthmissen bridge
cornish adventure trad

mynydd drws y coed
virgin crag

Darwin level
quarry icefall


January & February
Haldrine Cove
cornish trad

dyffryn mymbyr

Glyn Rhonwy
virgin slate pit

May & June
mount doom
repeated offering of sport projects, left hand one is best offering

offwidth bouldering

Clegir bouldering

Llanberis Pass
trad crack

Twll Mawr arete
became part of an Ian Lloyd Jones Sport route

Snowdon Lady Copper Mine
adventure in trad or Ice

Glynn Rhonwy
Ice Fall


Crystal Chasm
virgin quarry level, boulder and adventure

February & March
Craig y llam
offwidth trad

Virgin boulders

Suncharm ledge
Dolerite bouldering

Lost world
sport project

Mancer quarry
adventure trad offwidth

Twll Mawr
Adventure trad

Virgin boulder cluster

Vilca bamba
Through trip

Upper dinorwig arete
adventure trad/ sport project

Fachwen Arete
sport project


Cwm Elidir

Isles of Scilly

Isles of Scilly

Cwm Ffynnon

Nant Peris

Lost World
Sport project

Twll Mawr
Adventure trad

Llyn Peris

Cefn Du
Equipped Sport Project

G'Day Level
Sport Project / Highball

Twll Mawr
adventure trad

The Roaches
Adventure trad on Grit?

I'll do a yearly summary from now on, then hopefully I won't repeat myself again...

Monday, 26 November 2012

Giveaway Project of the Month - November

While Flicking through my photo bank I came across this piccy from the 1st ascent of Taith Mawr:
 This is on pitch 3 which is the 1st pitch of proper new territory. to get to this point I'd placed one folded nut in a shothole and 2 sky hooks. The traverse just kept shuffling on all spacey spacey, I was getting a bit concerned, and then I arrived at a curious phenomenon. A perfect splitter running vertically up the wall, through the traverse line and off into the distance. It may have only been RP2-3, but the gear was bomber once I'd fired a few in.

I got thinking, this could be the key to unlocking this shield of rock. You can see on the topo on Page 168 of the guide that this is a significant patch of line free space, and there's an obvious finger of rock stabbing upward into the middle of it. This less obvious piccy below shows some of the points.

the pink dot is where the 1st picture is taken from, the greeny dot is the thrusting faultline of hamadryad, and the blue dot is the lefthand fringe of the finger. This Giveway is a opportunity for an awesome onsight adventure, avoiding most of the bushes on the back wall. The Finger would lead at some point to the splitter, which would allow safe passage to the ledges at the top of the shield and a shuffle to the summit. The possible challenges are that you would probably have to split this section into 2 pitches, and you may run out of RP's...

Incidentally, during my trawl I happened across this:

A better piccy of Giveaway August 2011..


Friday, 16 November 2012

The Beast Is Caged..

On an exceptionally sunny day, I found myself set free by my better half, plied with big drills and lashings of static rope. Thus equipped I was off to the quarries. Arriving at Bus Stop I was greeted by Carlos himself, off for a spot of slacklining. Spurred on by this fortuitious meeting, we walked in together, him under a load of wide tape and rigging ropes, myself under about 25kg of spaff.
Unfortunately, I'd forgotten my hammer..
Fortunately, I was only 100 yards from the car when I realised this, and as I got back to vehicle, Ian Lloyd Jones appeared and presented me with one. The Slateheads were smiling down....
As was the sun, water, sweating and panting breaks were required, but I eventually staggered to the weighing hut at the top of the yellow wall steps. It was here I promptly got lost and staggered up and down the scree like a numpty, trying to find the Razor's notch. This col is one I frequented and owned godamit, back in my freer days, a calling point on many of my wanderings. However, I turned up eventually and sought my solution to getting all the gear to the Twll Mawr Summit. After tossing Ian's hammer repeatedly into the void (tied to the static) I bit the bullet, paid out lots of slack and lashed myself to the rigging. Its a fairly simple solo to the summit, But negotiating it dragging a rope, which in turn needs to run free enough to allow me to get it back to the hauling point meant some thoughtful moments.
Still I got to my sunbed eventually....

The picture shows all the gear I pack horsed up:
36v drill + 2 batteries
40 bolts
100 of Static Rope
Lunch and water
assorted climbing and bolting spaff.

The view down the beast.
As usual things didn't go to plan, the hollow bit took a hammering, wouldn't fall off, but merely wobbled. I was concious that the bolting should prevent the rope running over the sharp fins on the upper section, or bringing the rope / protection in the firing line if it did shed. The solution was one bolt in the closed out upper section, keeping it bold but safe. The upper groove remained Cam #2 protected, keeping the rope away from danger, but you never get far above them, before getting to the bolt.

The Lower section is bolted well out the way, and is pretty overhanging anyway (the rope here is hanging plumb vertical) and the belayer is in a tunnel.
Everybody safe.
That done, I proceeded to the main event. Rebolting Journey to the centre of the earth. a F6a+/E1 that gets three stars and ends 30m up an 80m wall (hence 100m of static).

As you can see the daylight was beginning to go at this point. With the old rusty bolts being imperial and slightly under drilled, I soon abandoned thoughts of removal, and pushed on. 7 bolts in 30m looks pretty spacey, but at least they're good ones now. At the bottom I started to prepare to rebolt Full metal jack off. Basically I dumped all the kit below it and tied it to the bottom of the rope.

Up I Shunted until a pendulum into the belay was possible without slicing the line. It was proper dark now. I abandoned optimism, replaced the belay, and fixed a handline to the lost world ladders. Once I'd stashed the gear on the ladders, I set about shunting back up, stripping the rebelays and getting back to my head torch.
Proper Dark, Proper tired. I stacked the rope back in the bag and packed everything I could see. Rebolting Full metal and the porphory chair will have to wait until I get another bolting window (or someone else is inspired). They can be done with a less bulky kit list however, as both belays are accessible off the Mordor ring path. I'll probably put in a belay for the middle earth ladder too, so the nervous can rope out to escape the pit.

So the Beast is now ready for me, Caged but not fully tamed (the hollow jaws..) a sport grade or a sporting tradish? My heart tells me it'll be HVM  (f7ish)

Watch this Space

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Hat Report

Hat wearing commenced on the 30th Of October.
Comparable to last year's winter (which was rubbish) and 3 weeks earlier than the previous one (which was good)

not sure of the forecasting value of warm head gear, will see how this winter pans out..

Friday, 26 October 2012

Giveaway Project of the Month - October

I feel like I'm out of the game, with only two of my projects in my back pocket, I'm needing a flash light to scour the vaults for more treasure. Its not all gloom and doom, however, and there are a few virgin lines that I have caressed that I have not already thrown over to you. Once these last titbits have been offered, if I have not been out gathering more, I'll just have to give someone else's projects away (any offers?).
Anyway, here's today's offering. Back in the slate quarries where most of my wandering and tinkering has occurred. This item is on one of my wet day circuits; pen garret, oildrum glacier, braich ladders, upper dinorwic and back to the car..

The Item of my interest is found on G'day level and is spied on page 91 of the current guide, glinting in the sunshine just left of the rust red climbing frame. This blunt curving arête is slight, maybe only 8-9m, but a bolt or two would make it more attractive than a patio as its a long way to drag a pad stack. A little play a year or two ago certainly revealed its technicality, a nice little mover.


Back on the Beast

As you have probably noticed, life has mainly been about earning money and looking after the family rather than wobbling up 400ft of virgin horror show. I got out twice in August, and this Tuesday was my first day out since then.
Acting on some stiff words from chief Wideboi Messr Randall, I stopped fooling myself with the pursuit of well trod classics, and got out on a damp day to revisit the Beast. The plan was to wander up via the fox steps, across the slipped shelf and drop down to Kyber Pass. A short shimmy later and I was at the top hut retrieving the carpet to protect the ab rope. I had in mind a thorough reccie, place all the necessary gear on the way down, give it a spring clean (it'd been a year and a half) and suit up and shunt my way back up.
With the lay off from this kind of silliness I wasn't sure I'd even get over the edge. However, the fear didn't come and I was able to absorb myself in the minutiae of project prep. Once I'd reached the ledge that separated the scary finish from the meat of the overhanging flare, I was able to assess things so far. This 9m section was harder than I remembered, the two clusters of gear, one of three rp's, one of four cam #2's. Both of questionable quality; the rp's shallow, the cams shallow and a bit hollow. I'd forgotten the first 5m of dirty baggy shallow hand jams / shape throwing, that made this bit more E5/6 6a than the E4 5c I had in my brain.
I swung into the lower section an immediately felt amongst the sharks. A lot of the gear I'd placed for the initial clean was just not feasible to place on lead, and mostly not worth more than an aid piece. My initial swing gained the rest niche and I confidently placed a key slider into the 7-8mm parallel crack that provides all the gear bottom to top of this section.
It ripped under less than body weight. Five or six attempts followed, eventually much lower down a cam #00 held enough to pull in on and continue down.
The game had changed, there was only a few spots in this 9m section where protection worth more than aid would stay, and it still would probably rip if I fell in anger. I arrived at the base a bit narked, with the groove having had a barely adequate clean. This section stays out of the rain, but being dark and enclosed sucks in and holds all the mist and condensation. Once damp, the algae turns to pure lubricant. Properly clean, I reckon this section is somewhere between f7b-7c+, so I wasn't expecting a lot today. I did at least establish some technique ideas, and identify some nicks that could be imagined to provide some purchase for the left foot.
The meat of the Beast is this undercut section of v groove; tighter and less featured than the quarryman, once inside (a brain masher in itself) the right hand does some finger barring, the right foot does some sloppy torques, left arm snakes into ineffective bars, and left legs swims for its life.

I'm totally sold on the Beast, but Its needs about 10 bolts. None of the available protection after 5m guarantees you'll survive, combine that with hard f7 climbing where you can fall off any move, and it indicates a level of commitment that is completely unjustified by the experience of the route.
As a sport route, you'll be able to clean it well before climbing, and you won't need 5 sliders, 4 cam #00's, 4 cam #2's and an array of RP's. Hardly standard rack.
The climbing is good enough to encourage repeats, the hollow section by the cam#2 cluster is going to fall off someday, so as standard sport route prep has got to go.
One Winter day I'll get it sorted so I can condition myself for the spring.
One last Hurrah?

Friday, 28 September 2012

Giveaway Project of the Month - September

Clearing out the Shed, this ones now a Open Project.

4 bolts to a lower off, 10m overhanging by 1.5m
 V4/5 into V5/6 into V7
3 good shakes
Prone to seepage, but nothing some Vaz couldn't solve.
I don't expect this one to go unclaimed.
Bottom of Chwarel Fawr, round from Way Down in the Hole, see Ground up Guide


Friday, 24 August 2012

Giveaway Project of the month - August

Ok, once again a bit rushed and no pics. Life continues to be busy and adventure seems very laborious to uncover. One recent ramble led me to the Shores of Llyn Peris; in between Dolbadarn castle and Fishskin Wall.a chance glance over the wall from the road while walking to Nant Peris spotted a rock. Further inspection allowed a nice heelhook like traverse to be performed on a remarkably clean and quite sizeable boulder that has obviously been used as a doss. Repeat ascentionists may like to look below the 30 mph signs. I continued to meander towards fishskin wall, past the egg with the crack and rather tasty DWS potential, and just before the bay of FSW itself..

This Months giveaway. A little inlet with a couple of sizeable dolorite boulders, I even made one a rudimentary terrace, but not carrying a mat I walked on and filed it for later. Don't wait for me, go and do something.


Monday, 13 August 2012

Birthday Climb!

With another lap soon to be notched up on the "Its a Knockout" of life, a weather window was spotted and duly sanctioned by the boss (missus HoseyB). A climbing partner was a bit more problematic but at the close of play the night before, the pub provided. Ali volunteered his services and a table of encourager's and dispeptics suggested Cloggy as a target.
Ali is fairly new to the adventure game, so a gentle classic was selected for kick off, Great Bow a HVS combination of the best of two routes, weaving up the big slabby bit of the cliff. Our table of peers concluded the evening by drawing attention to my lack of walk in expertise and dislike of sensible climbing. Ali could not be put off, however, and by 10am the next morning espresso's were downed and the game was afoot. I'd like to think I didn't disgrace myself on the walk in; I carried half the gear, a handful of pauses to my amble occurred, with only one significant collapse at the first rail crossing for water and sustenance with a lean against the halfway cafe to regain composure.
We shared Cloggy with 3 other parties, Stanage popular this isn't, despite the greater value found at this lofty height. I've only managed a handful of visits to the black ruby of Yr Wyddfa, only one of those being normal. (Black Cleft and belay duties on Authentic Desire don't count) and I felt my own shame as it rose majestically around us. There isn't really a better mountain crag in North Wales (just more convenient ones).
The route was Ace. An obvious line, yet one intricately linked. The rock was full of character and gravitas, solid and accommodatingly featured, apart from the unexpectedly truculent or wobbly bits.
The belays all seemed to be perched on the edge of an abyss, and with Ali not yet at the trad leading stage of his apprenticeship, all quite thoughtful. Its been an age since I've led multipitch, let alone taking all the leads, so a system of gear sorting and re-stacking the ropes was hurriedly botched together. I managed at least one textbook belay to show what it should look like, and 4 makeshift ones that were enough to prevent utter disaster. Apart from a slight lag on the last pitch, where unable to banter due to distance and wind, there was an awkward pause (I set up belay, belayed in as he belayed out, and kept the rope tight until he got the idea), we went well and fun was had.
Having never bothered to summit at the Cafe, the view across to Nantlle was refreshingly stunning. It was unfortunately 7 o'clock, so another route was not really going to happen, but all in all, one of the best days out I've had as a Dad.

Thankyou Ali and Happy Birthday Me.

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Giveaway Project of in the Month - July

Apologies for the lack of posts this month, probably due to weather and a certain new climbing wall opening that has filled any spare moment I have had.
With the Summer dissolving to sunshine and showers, Thoughts continue to linger in the Slate Quarries and the possibilities highlighted by the new guide. This one is a bit less well highlighted...
Taith Mawr was an adventure from my younger years, and probably my high water mark in adventure climbing. An epic girdle, it covered a lot of new territory and exposed a few lies of excitement as yet untapped. Here is a short clip accidentally shot during the 1st ascent by Jon Byrne, my partner for this voyage:

This was taken from after the campus move on the last pitch of meat. The hanging arête is by the belay in the middle of the epic 2 pitch crux (the triangle shield gives the belay). With the topo in the Guide lighting the way, the possibilities of a vertical trip through this land is certain to get a sweat on..


Friday, 29 June 2012

Giveaway Project of the Month - June

With all this rain, thoughts once again turn to slate and its quick drying properties..

And speaking of Props, major props due to Tim Neill for restarting the re-equipping program in the quarries with some quality additions. I'll echo Simon's thoughts and point you at the to-do list as there are still 3 star routes with manky bolts.
Speaking of 3 star routes, here's one waiting to be born..

This impressive shield of rock is hidden away in the Lost world, and has, as they say, "nay grips". Well, some teeny tiny slopey ones. It doesn't go full height, as Rosen the Chosen canters overhead from the left, but there is an obvious spot for a lower off. I've never seen it seeping and its very clean for a wall in the hole.


Wednesday, 6 June 2012

you are here..

Its that time of year where you take a frank look at where your at, and where you want to be.
Kind of MJ's man in the mirror, only in your socks..

The last week in May saw two great opportunities; a Day's climbing in Cwm Glas Bach, and my First proper Bouldering competition.

The cragging was mid week, perfect conditions, with young gun Calum Muskett. We weren't out to tear it all down, but got two particularly fun Climbing experiences. Calum led Pretty Girls Make Graves, a well protected and fiercely powerful E6 6b. He got it second go from the deck ( would have been onsight bar a failed slap..) I then had the oportunity to second it and suprised myself by doing all the moves. I chose however to get copious rests and fully dog it, as the comp was in a couple of days. I probably would have still dropped off it if I had given it full guns, but at a cost to me being able to move for the next few days.
Next was finally stepping up to the plate and getting on the sharp end for Fear of Infection. This is a classic E4 offwidth and Welsh testpeice, that I should have tried years ago. My first proper lead since the twins were born really, and it showed, with many gibber rests when the size six tipped out a bit or a foot skated. This was not a clean lead, but I was very happy to top out and will return to clean up a bit.

Basically my climbing at the moment is sporadic and depends on demonstrating during coaching sessions or during route setting (currently fishing for more Freelance setting if anyone needs owt..). At the moment this probably averages at about 2-3 hours effective training a week. This translates to maintaining a reasonable power to weight as I'm skinny, but zilch stamina. I'm ok for 20 moves to a shake, 40 to a rest, but on a squeeze chimney like Fear, thats only about 4 metres!

The Comp was at Rockover in Manchester, great atmosphere and a heathly prize fund, which meant a very strong field. The qualifiers were 30 problems from font 5 to hard, and 3 hours to flash them in. There weren't any points for  more than three goes so it was an onsight test. We'd brought the North Wales Youth Climbing Academy for some comp practise, and some of us coaches entered the adult open for some fun. It was certainly fun, and hot, very hot. I managed 183 points which means I flashed 18 of the 30 problems, got to the bonus holds on 3 further problems, and couldn't do any better on the remaining 9. A massive blood blister on my middle finger stopped play, so I know I was trying hard. I ended up 26th out of 50 so I was well made up. I may even get a chance to train for next year...

All taken into account, Bouldering is going ok, with a few Font 7a+'s going on the wish list, but if I want to make any gains on the ropes, I'm going to need to devise some cunning endurance training ploy. Whilst looking after 3 toddlers. Could be tricky.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Giveaway Project of the Month - May

Having spent a fair amount of time (during those few instances when in climbing mode anyway) on highball projects lately, I thought I'd pass some on..

This baby is a suitable height with an okay landing and a reasonable short walk-in.The, ah, obvious seepage issues shouldn't effect a summer ascent (this was taken in November). You could lead on it as there are cracks,   but pads would make it nicely exciting. Its located on the old miners path into the quarries from Nant Peris, the high one, not the tourist drive through, and is visible from the car as you're treking off to the pass. Nowt too tricky, but a slopey topout.


Sunday, 13 May 2012

Hosey's Crack?

Now I know. I'm supposed to be laying off the projects, doing more classics, finishing off the Beast, sending the Shed f8 project*


Its great to be hanging by my feet again, and bouldering projects are a bit like glue sniffing, easily accessable and highly addictive. Although so far, I haven't got all spotty or choked on my own vomit.

It probably isn't going to be cutting edge, but Damn its fun.

watch this space

*keeping it clean, dragging the kit all the way up the hill, watching conditions, getting proper fit, like really proper fit. Or taking out a brush and a pad......

Friday, 4 May 2012

Return to Mymbyr

All this reminiscing led me on Thursday  to don wellies and stomp back up the hill to photo some stuff and try something new. It was really good to feel unfit (the stomp) and also to see these problems were still pretty cool.
Mighty 'Tashe From Left

Mighty 'Tashe From Right

 Front View with Pad for Comparison

The Central Arete (The Snip F6A) went as a sitter with hands in the crack and gives some nifty finger locks, Imhotep F6B+ starts from a sitter on a side pull and a sloper on the ramp at the back of the roof (where dark meets light).

I Then went to revisit an area I explored with Fraser in 2009. This undisclosed location was due for some joint development between Team Ball and Myself. However the kids have yet to embrace the slog up the hill yet.

I couldn't resist pulling my boots on:

This is Man like Me, about F6B and goes from a sitter with feet on the block on the bottom, and hands clamping, more clamping proceeds until a lunge for the sloping lip leads to a big swing and a top out.

More details to come in the future.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Giveaway Project of the Month - April

This kind of follows on from the Dyffryn Mymbyr post really. With my new found interest in the convenience of  classic bouldering, various back burner project are being neglected. With a new bouldering guide on the horizon, its always fun to through some new areas in the mix and see if anyone can establish some quality.

This time its Cwm Ffynnon, source of the first ever Giveaway back in 2009. Now, on the ramble to get to the Super Prow (still unclimbed folks!) I passed this wall.

To help location, contour in round the lake from turtle rock, rising towards a wizard's hat of easy angled slab (seen in the background). Its a shortish wall with a slopey top out and lots of very small directional holds.
Continuing the contour to the super prow, you cross a obvious stream. Now on google maps around this point you see a circle of lighter grass within the heather with a dark dot within the circle. This isn't the next boulder but its in that vicinity (its another 100m or so to the Super Prow). This is the next boulder:

Looking back on these pic's I'm amazed I didn't even pull on. Back in 2009 I was a bit injured and concentrating on cracks, as my pulleys were fairly knackered. I'm actually keen to revisit these bad boys if I get a chance, but that may mean this year or the next. So rather than being greedy and secretive, consider them open projects and get them done (if you want to) less brushing for me....


Friday, 20 April 2012

Looking back at Dyffryn Mymbyr

I've been getting excited lately. I've been climbing outside twice already this month, and I may get out even more before we hit May. I've also been riding the buzz of the forthcoming North Wales Bouldering Guide. Since Llanberis Slate came out I've got excited about sport climbing, something I never thought I'd do, and the bouldering guide is also getting me thinking. I've indulging in atypical behaviour, like ticking classic boulder problems rather than scratching for something new, and thinking about what makes something good..

Ages ago I spent a lot of time scratching around Dyffryn Mymbyr, first seeking cracks, then just looking for fun. A lot of what I played on probably doesn't deserve to clutter up the forthcoming guide, However, due to unfinished projects and what-have-you, it never got recorded. Rather than let it fall down the back of the cupboard of history, I thought I'd record some stuff here.

I'd nicknamed the place Feidr fw as a homage to Vedauwoo a fat crack honeypot in Wyoming. My first foray located a collection of boulders between the pen y grwyd and plas y brenin at SH671 568. These are a long way from the road (gasp! 400m) and to get to them park in the first lay-by on the right after the chicane from pyg. Then go through the gate on the other side of the road and quest up the hill along the wire fence to the stone wall. Feidr fw is visible a little further up the hill.

The rock in this area is good quality and often Dartmoor rough. It has to be said they're diminutive in size, but they gave a good struggle from a sitter..

  1. The Heel Keel F6C. start with a hoof in the adjacent offwidth which is..
  2. Hug it and Squeeze it and call it George F5. heave in and swim up. Block below is in.
  3. Weaklings Arete F5+. Start with toes cammed in block below, finish as for Hug it..
  4. Rib and Slab F4.
  5. The Kingspan Traverse F6A. An eliminate eschewing the edge of the slab, spanning from undercuts to a series of layaways to arrive at the Sterling Mantle block.
  6. The Foot locker F6A+. a counter diagonal to King span, starting with hoofs jammed in the chockstone.
  7. Happy Feet F6B+. start at the back of the cave facing out. Kick feet up into the wideness, and struggle out onto the Sterling mantle block.7a. Happy Feet Lefthand F6B. Start facing in and jam around the chockstone to exit above.7b. Widefetish Eliminate F5+. Tackle the wideness direct from the right.
  1. The Sterling Mantle F7A. Slopes and nubbins provide the way to pull onto this hanging block. Start facing out. FA. Joe Sterling
This was just a groovy place to chill in the sun and hang by my heels really. Happy feet was the star, although Big G visited and didn't get his boots on, probably due to dwarfing the boulders and having too big a chest to swing under the suspended boulder i.e
Yes that is a carry mat, or otherwise its back dab central. However it does allow you to make moves like these without recourse to a spotter..
Invert elevator off flared heel toes anyone?

50m further up the hill is the glory boulder, so named because of the widefetish motto "Glory starts at 4 inches" as does the back of this crack. Again the inverts are hair scrapers but a lot of fun and even allows a kick through.

 Glory F6A. Has a lying start facing out in the utter bowels off the fissure, with off two handjams in a chockstone in the cave to the left. This provides good inversion and some sweet hanging jams. Further interest include Lumpy Arete F5+ (the right arete of the fissure) and the Trio Traverse F6B, Which started on the third boulder just in shot right, followed the horizontal seam, and continued all the way along the slopey boulder no.3.

Just East of feidr fw is Giveaway project March 2010 .Over the stream to the West are some lost gems, Paul Higginson's mega F7a traverse and Julien Lines Highball slab.
I stumbled over the 30ft of slopey boulder shortly after Feidr Fw, and not knowing its history, christened it The Mighty 'Tashe, as it looks like Zebedee's face fuzz.

 As well as Higg's traverse I did the central arete from a sitter (about F6A) and broke out from the concave lefthand section from a sitter giving Imhotep F6B+ which features an evil egyptian. Behind the 'Tashe is the highball
 I have to return to try this..

Lastly, those of you who've delved into the bowels of this blog may remember Quack Crack F6C, which is by the wall, a little further west.

There's more to find in these hills, some of which I'm sworn to secrecy (although is bound to have been done by Mallory or summit) others are below Craig y Haul


Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Giveaway Project of the Month - March

Things are looking up in North Wales, The sun is shining and the clocks have gone forward. The winter's seepage is slowing and the summer's seepage has yet to begin. Not been out much yet but I managed twice in a month which is a 100 percent improvement. Local giveaway's are in the pipeline, but for today we're back on St Mary's in the shadows of the twin otters.
This is Runway Buttress, predictably at the end of the islands airport runway. Its about 15 meters high and has some evil jamming traverses. Only one route so far; "Just like Jackie Chan" an HVS that bounces up the left arete. The Project in question is the central arete which I top roped back in the day to the flared break. It involves a cool 6a dyno and felt about E2 to the break. With a brush it should then push through the bulge via the rounded flake. Really class line.


Monday, 19 March 2012

Once were young

A younger hairier more naive version of myself on the first ascent of the Excoriator. This was one of the first handful of new routes I'd done In the Isles of Scilly. It was here I was bitten by the new routing bug, and here that I learnt that long sleeve tops were useful for off widths.
Its basically a highball on a large marble shapped 30ft boulder between the lighthouse and the giants castle at Peninnis. The ear shaped flake starts at shoulder height and requires tenuous laybacking until the flake fats up to sloper hell and a rockover onto scissored armbars begins the squirming. I think being unaware of bouldering nuance at the time I just reckoned it HVS 5c.
The thing that makes St Mary's special is the rock is so scoured by the elements that the lines are often laid bare and glaring at you. relegating you to the position of a slightly sticky kid in a sweet shop.
That's not to say that the lichen and occasional scrattly patina doesn't lend spice to the ground up experience..

New Shed

A successful Mothers day led to a chance to get out before work today, and a new shed has been discovered.
Although firmly in the wilds, its not quite on lovely CROW land. As such I'll guess I'll have to keep it to myself, which is a shame as it catches the sun, and doesn't require cleaning at all. Pure plug and play.

Another day another highball, and true to form, It veered off and got tricky at the top. No Problem with your attentive spotter to readjust the copious matting. Slight problem when your on your todd.

More probably to come from this shed, so for the moment I shall assign it the name Kerplunk.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Back in the game

After what seems like an eternity of poorly shoulder and no free time to play, another project goes down.

A trip to the bends brought me to Moose's wall and my old Nemesis the main wall highball. I'd been trying this since getting not the years done, but was having to wait for cooler conditions, then I kicked a hold off, then rain and injury set in.
Happy Days.
Something something Darkside is about F7A and will appear on NWB shortly no doubt.

now the Beast..

Monday, 27 February 2012

Giveaway Project of The Month - February

It was with  warm fuzzy feelings of reminiscence that I saw that Climber ran an article on the Isles of Scilly. Between 98 and 2002 I spent quite a lot of time out there, as my main climbing partner at the time got the job of Island bobby. Much fun was had, and with so few established routes, you could pretty much new route all day. We eventually recorded this info in the black folder mentioned in the article. This was when Mat was busy and at a loose end, I photo'd all the rocks on St Mary's, and printed a double copy, one for the island, one for me.

As its a bit wet at the moment, and I certainly am longing for spring, I thought I'd do a few giveaway's and posts involving the remarkable rocks of St Mary's.

Today's Giveaway; This is the inlet side of Peninnis head. The massive overhang is the unclimbed Monks Cowl. This is a fairly well known LGP that, due to the access to the Island remains just that.There's also the fact that if you fall off, you'd be choppered back to the mainland, and all your stuff would be stuck out on the island....

However, this months giveaway refers to the top left rocks that look like the dragon from Neverending story. I attempted to climb this and protected it by lassoing the nose with a rope, anchoring it down either side with Cam's and tensioning the rope with a alpine butterfly on the ledge as a runner. I got this Idea from a photo of Ben Bransby in some mag, doing the same thing. Thus preserving my onsight ethic I boasted at the time. I made it direct to the ledge, clipped the butterfly and pushed on up the right arete to try to gain the offwidth runnel above. Unfortunately, due to my ground up approach, I hadn't scrubbed the scrattle off the rock (these weird shapes are due to salt water and wind erosion of the granite) The feeling of bearhugging marbles above a boingy runner on a sloping ledge was not pleasant, and I retreated back to the nose. From here I climbed up a bit of the diff chimney to the right, placed gear, and traversed back into the offwidth runnel to finish.
A bodge basically.
So anyone visiting and climbing on the Island is very welcome to put things right. I suggest an abb and scrub first though.


Saturday, 11 February 2012

Holiday time!

Yep finally took a break from work, and this meant getting away as well for a bit of me time. Wolf was captured and a full day at Porth Ysgo was had. Having temporarily mislaid my bouldering guide (not having required it lately I guess....) we used Wolf's, however, this meant that this blog may lack some detail. We missed the blue sky and scrambled down barely thawed turf below a cloud laden sky. Fortunately we must of just missed the sun, because the black boulders had retained just enough warmth to offset the hot aches. Fun was the intention, and after warming up around the ysgo flange, we moved onto the higginson scar, both topping out with minimum fuss, wolf with an albertross technique and myself with happy feet. Next boulder over, the beaches hardest V2 and V3 got fearfully and desporately attacked and some victory was obtained. Next Fast cars. Now i know the beach shifts, but I distinctly remember being able to start without being on tip toe. No matter, It was dispatched with minimum terror. Lacking more motivation and demanding cake, we retired to driftwood collection, sausages cooked on a fencing wire grill, walking back in the dark to retire to a pub....
I am now recharged and back into daddy mode, having looked after Ethan and Dylan solo while Sam and Logan visit her Dad. But watch this space, I'm in my happy place and even planning a rematch with the Beast!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Giveaway Project of the Month - January

Given the weather its a shame I can't give away any projects in more temperate countries (although I may scan in some of my Scillonian projects at some point..) However as a lot of old slate has been proferred lately I thought I'd give out some more aesthetic rock.
With my interests turning once more to just getting climbing rather than specifically seeking virgin geology here is a reluctant offering from my stash.
 The Marchlyn slopes (sh608 621)

Would suit a pair of fell runners as a good spot is more important than a pad. I succeeded on the left arête from a sitter to top out(F6C?). However, the full traverse is up for grabs. Likewise did a number of standing straight ups (upto F6B?), but the sitters are all nails. Really nice piece of rock, and would already be a classic if near the road.


Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Touching rock

Got out for a attempt at adventure last week to Moose's wall, firstly I forgot My chalk bag, so no real attempts at climbing were made, but mooching occurred. A few scraps of moss were peeled to ho hum over unclimbed boulders (mostly too pretty as the are to desecrate with average problems) and the project was abbed to remember the sequence and try and solve the problem of the kicked off jug (still working on it..). Then it resumed raining, and I retired for Coffee and Terry Pratchett.

not the best of starts, but  a start it is. Just got to fix this shoulder now.