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 


Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Lockdown Diaries: Dusting the corners

 So with travel restrictions relaxing and the awesome new guidebook is sending everybody out on their own personal SparkleHunt's for all this new shiny treasure. This has left me with the opportunity to poke around some old corners, those briefly mentioned and and dimly lit, and revel in their obscurities. 

First though, was a visit to quack crack, as there were a couple of lines I still desired. With the relocation of a block at the end of the crag, a bunch of sits that I've been coveting the last decade became available. 

First off (pre kerfuffle) was the Niche Problem at about 5B:

The remaining two lines had to wait until things quietened down. Ball's Groove was a stand I did way back when, and was a standard bit of my warm up here. Unfortunately the right hand starting hold broke off, which meant that you either had to start too high, or too similar to the adjacent problems. The route was lost until the new sds gave it a clear line into the original. 

Here is the all new Ball's Groove 6C+:

The last one up at Quack Crack is the Love Battery sds, its about 7A and I'm very happy with it :

So back I scurried to that dustiest of corners, and star of last posts SparkleHunt; The Clegir Crackhouse. 

Having realised I couldn't follow the footsteps of my youth, I put some effort into repeating some of these Esoteric blocks. If you wish to do the same it's mentioned on page 89 of North Wales Bouldering : Mountain Crags. 

It's the localist of venues, and due its strong lines all packed in on each other, it has few proper "use everything" lines. It's strength is in the vast amount of options and eliminates it provides. 

First thing we initially couldn't get off the ground is Shed Party 6B fairly non eliminate as long as you don't resort to chimneying:

Opposite Shed party is an ace eliminates wall that I gave a spring clean to, should stay clean ish till next winter. Here are a couple of examples of the sort of eliminates that you can do :

The entrance to the "shed" is one of the highest blocks here. Doorway 5C! uses all aretes, face holds and chimney-able surfaces to struggle to the top. More elegant eliminates are possible, but the pure thin slab still awaits an ascent. 

The purest line is that of its offwidth Barred to the Bone 6B+

I did do an eliminate up the right wall which was quite hard, however it was also a bit contrived. 

The keel of the crackhouse boasts its hardest current line. I originally gave the central sds Toe Bar 6B.  At the time I was doing a lot of inverted offwidth; either Happy Feet at Feidr Fw (p.444 in NWB3. 1) or working on Big Bad Bari or George's crack. Consequently, I had overdeveloped ankles and literally levered myself through the first move (hence the name). It's probably 7B in reality, and I haven't been able to repeat it. (luckily Simon Panton witnessed a repeat for a news article at the time). Here's the stand at 6A+ish:

All this journeying down memory lane gave me a new appreciation of the place, and with a little more landscaping, a new line was unearthed :

Exhausted 6B takes the left arete and gives some nicely squeezed slopers. Like Toe Bar it uses the break below the boulder for feet to get off the deck, unlike Toe Bar it may be possible without. Something to work on.

There's Treasure Everywhere!

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.