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Friday, 20 July 2012

Dads of Steel??

Well I certainly don't feel like a dad of steel after a couple of nights of very disrupted sleep. But the daddy daycare video has caught the attention of notabaddad.com


Thursday, 7 June 2012

Manx Rock - Groudle

1) - The Pump E6 6b (80ft)
From the start moves on desire trend left into a small alcove. Go straight up on steep moves to a crack in the overhang. Climb the crack then continue up a slight groove in the headwall to finish left of Full Tilt.

2) - Desire E4 6a (80ft)
The left trending roof line left of Full Tilt. Climb up to the in-situ thread then continue up to the roof. Follow the break at the back of the roof leftwards to some blocky rock. The climb over the roof using cracks to finish up some slightly exciting feeling rock.

3) - Full Tilt E5 6b (80ft)
The hanging groove left of the mystery bolt. Undercling past an in-situ thread to get into the groove. Pull onto the face and head directly up easier ground to a ledge. Arrange some gear then climb straight up to an obvious diagonal break. follow this rightwards to the top.

4) - DeJa Vu E2 5b (80ft)
Start as for True Blue, arrange some gear then move left onto the face and take a rising traverse line to  an obvious niche. Arrange some more gear then head back right and up to top out.

5) - True Blue HVS 5a (80ft)
The obvious crack, rib, groove feature is followed all the way up.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Spain, so good I went there twice...

A couple of weeks ago I got back from week of coaching in Spain. This was the second week I'd run over there in the last two months or so and both trips have been excellent (but I would say that). I'll not give you a blow by blow account of the two weeks. Instead I'll just say that everybody either attained or exceeded (in some cases massively exceeded) their targets for the week and everybody seemed to have a lot of fun on the way.

Here's a few quotes and comments from the trips:

"For me, the main benefit of the coaching was that it demonstrated what I was capable of under optimum conditions. Good venues, route beta, and the cultivation of a general enthusiasm for pushing red-points, led to my best ever haul of routes. Specific criticisms of my technique were (brutally) accurate and useful. Nik's porridge making skills might also have played a vital role! I left the coaching with useful advice on technique and tactics and a genuine expectation of making significant progress in the year ahead."
- Luke W

" I got the confidence to push myself as hard as I possibly could. I got the rewards due to the encouragement and advice I received especially when my confidence started to drop. Since the coaching trip I am climbing with more belief in my self and the rewards have been huge. I climbed my third 6b+ onsight, however this was a overhanging pumpy route not a slab. I also flashed my first font 6B and climbed my first font 6C plus put a lot of long term projects to bed."
- Luke D

"A distinct improvement in grade Let's face it....7a redpoint - enough said!"
- Peter

"You taught me how to climb! To my mind, the benefits from the coaching were primarily in instilling confidence. As the week progressed that meant I started to enjoy the movement involved in climbing outdoors as much as I like the mental battle (and as you’ve seen, it is a battle sometimes). So while I fought my way to a near 6c onsight, the redpoint was more satisfying in a way, because it felt like I really climbed it. When I onsighted the 6b+, it almost felt relaxed and that felt brilliant. I thought I understood the importance of feet, but I think you took my knowledge of how to use them to another level. By doing so I became considerably more assured in the use of smaller holds, the revelation being that using them for balance will often suffice where they can’t be gripped. From that, the confidence really started to flow. Ultimately, you gave me an understanding of how to climb harder routes. Prior to that it seemed to me that the only way to unlock them was to get stronger. I’m not sure how you could have improved the week - I had a terrific time."
- Tom

"The best four days of my life!"
- Rachel (on day four of the second trip)

"It was fantastic holiday, really enjoyable not only for the climbing (which was ace) but also because it was a good laugh."
- Rachel

And a couple of photos:
 Tom having just red-pointed 6c (previous best 6a+)
Tom on-sighting 6b+ (previous best 6a)
Peter red-pointing 7a (previous best 6a+)

If you're reading this and thinking "that sounds like fun", rest assured it is. And I'll be doing it all again in Autumn. There are two coaching weeks planned, 13th-20th Oct and 20th - 27th Oct. If you fancy booking a place or would like further details just get in touch.


Monday, 26 March 2012

Could'a Would'a Should'a

I'd negotiated a morning pass out with the lads for Sunday hoping to take advantage of the early day coolness. The plan was a quick Burbage South raid. The cool(ish) temperatures were in evidence, unfortunately they brought with them a degree of dampness to the rock probably due to the overnight mist/haze. The ground was certainly pretty wet and the rock felt moist as soon as you touched it.
Anyway the hastily conceived target for the day was Nosferatu. After a brief warm-up with a spot of bouldering I got on the route, and then shortly after got off it in brisk style. A particularly damp feeling hold putting pay to my onsight plans. Half an hour of sitting around and the second go went easily. The rock still felt a bit mosit but the combination of a bit of time and a bit of chalk probably made the difference. A little frustrating really as it should have gone first attempt. Oh well, the tight scheduling of family life means hitting the right conditions window can be a bit of a gamble.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

We're From The Isle of Man...

As it was half-term and the in-laws wanted an opportunity to goo-goo gaa-gaa at number two son a trip to the Isle of Man was scheduled. Now much as I like the in-laws I fairly clearly expressed the opinion that I wanted to "get out climbing", "quite a bit"...


So with a series of passes in place I was keen to explore some mroe of the trad on the island. There is an online guide to the Isle of Man (HERE) but it max's out at E2. Beyond that there is a pretty extensive collection of routes, mainly the work of Dougie Hall. And the majority of them await repeats.

Travel over on the ferry with the boy lard, the dog and (critically) the car. It takes ages, borrrrrring. The wife and number two son fly, cunning. Speak to Doug, he's heading to the (new) wall tomorrow evening, I arrange to see him there hang up and then realise that its Feb 14th tomorrow, uh-oh. The mother-in-laws birthday, cry off from the wall, but agree an afternoon pass with the boss.

Morning child herding. As one of them can't walk yet and the other is mesmerised by Scooby-Doo this is less testing than might be imagined, don't tell the wife though...
Afternoon I head out with a rope and shunt. I have in mind a project line that I saw last time I was over. I get to it and it's as I remember, vertical (maybe ever so slightly over hanging) small holds, no gear, 14 metres high. I sort out a rope on it and get to work. The sequence comes together pretty quickly, it's thin balancy moves, lovely. Then a hands off rest before the last move which is a really spooky high-step outside edge with a poor right hand undercut, full stretch to a good left hand sidepull jug. The reach is just far enough to make you think your foot will slip, creepy. The whole route is pretty sustained difficulty without being pumpy as you can get a lot on your feet (if your not over-gripping and gibbering like something gibberey). Anyway at the end of the session I shunt it in a oner. It all feels steady apart from one move which is a right hand foot match on a positive edge then a big rock up with a slightly unconvincing left hand to a positive right hand which is a looooong way away. I almost lose momentum and stop before I reach the hold, not a problem on a shunt. But if you tightened up on the sharp (solo) end you'd be off, 7 metres down to a ankle snapping boulder before carrying on down the steep boulder strewn grass slope to the boulder choked sea a couple of hundred feet down. Hmmmm, time to go out for a pizza...

Another morning of Scooby Doo then..
Out alone again. Shunt the route cleanly straight off, brush it on the way down, shunt it again, brush it again. It's feeling steadier but it's still thin with an unpleasant dismount. Hmmm, have a slice of malt loaf. Another brush and check the solidity of the holds on the crux. Another piece of malt loaf, a drink of water. Helmet on, boots squeaked, off we go. It flows, I'm climbing smoothly and well and I quickly find myself at the hands off rest. Don't hang around getting spooked and freaked, chalk, left hand poor slopey edge, right undercut, it's too high so feels rubbish, left foot steps through and up to high smear outside edge, stand up weight on foot, move hips across to the right and flag right leg out for balance, reach up left hand, keep reaching, keep reaching, fingers on side of the sidepull now but still not round onto the hold, feel solid, raise the heel slightly for the final inch of reach, god that's scary, fingers curl, feet up high, pull, top. Breathe.
Tenaya E7 6b but probably hard at both..

Wall in the evening to meet Doug. New wall first visit. It's OK, given the limits of the building there's no point bitching about wall height, just go up and down until you get pumped... There are a couple of things that need sorting though. The bouldering wall needs proper mats, the lead wall needs some dense rubber flooring under it (several people "decked out" on rope stretch while I was there, it's inevitable given the length of the wall, nobody was hurt but...) and the music was too loud. Maybe I'm an old fuddy-duddy but I had a sore throat for the next two days as I spent the whole evening shouting conversations with people, it was like been in a party pub. Communication from the top of the wall to belayer was sign language only. Anyway I'd go back, can't say fairer than that.

A day of rest (and cream teas, yummm)

Out with Dougie and Beef. Dougie knows the routes so I let him lead the way. He suggests top roping a couple of lines, fine by me. First off an E4 to warm-up. It's a bit pumpy but steady away, nice warm-up. Then there's an adjacent route called Mansard an E6 of Dougies that's unrepeated, I have a top-rope, pull the rope, have a piece of flapjack then lead it. Feel very steady, which is nice as it's overhanging and probably 16 metres, the kind of route I would have probably avoided in years gone by. A bit of sport fittness crossover training for trad?
Then Dougie poionted me at another E6, I briefly toyed with the idea of trying to on-sight it but as he'd already placed a top-rope on the line I didn't. Thank god, t'was filthy. Dougie went up first to show me the numbers and give it a bit of a brush then I had a pop. It was still really dirty, the rock on the Isle of Man seems to get covered in this fine powder which feels like graphite powder, really slippy and means you massively over-grip even on big holds. This route was a bit more sustained and combined with the dirt I just pumped out on the easier headwall, glad I didn't go for the lead it wouldn't have been fun.
Finally we went to have a look at a great looking line, another E6 of Dougies only this one has had a repeat. It's pretty long (25/30 metres?) and overhanging all the way. Apparently it's E2 to about half height then it kicks in with a crux last move. All sounds very sustained and pumpy and pretty much my anti-route. However it was catching the wind something chronic so we decided to leave it, I'll be back to try it though as it looks mega.
To finish off we tried a steep un-named E5 of Dougies. It was really steep but on good holds. I managed to drag myself up it but was almost caught out by a tricky last move just when you think it's all over. Hence the new name, "Scorpion" beware the sting in the tale...

Another day out with Dougie, and Squib this time. After yesterday I was keen to try some on-sighting. A couple of routes in particular appealed. But first the warm-up. I started off with Hut Circle Middle, a nice E1 up a slab then a corner with a steep move to get established in the corner.
Then I felt warmed up, it was a lovely day, blue sky, light breeze, I felt confident and like I was climbing pretty well so decided to go for my main target of the day. Levitation (it's called Hut Circle Mid-right on UKC) is another unrepeated E6 of Dougies and it looked pretty basic and bouldery from the ground, Obvious gear and then head for the top. So that's what I did.

A great fun route that went without a hitch, excellent.

Then Dougie lead Hut Circle Right (E4), then Squib had a lead and finally I got on the sharp end.

Then onto the other route that appealed. At the right end of Hut Circle Buttress there is a big roof which makes an obvious target. The nature of the handholds means the route (The Roof E5 6a) doesn't actually climb over the widest point of the roof, rather it attacks it from the right-hand side. It's still plenty steep though. Again I was keen to on-sight this so tied on and headed up. It all felt fine, the hold at the back of the roof felt ever so slightly damp but nothing to fret about. Anyway up onto the lip of the roof, then reach over and look for holds to top out and aaaaargh I'm blind. Serious sun in the eyes, a bit of groping finds a couple of holds and over I go. Would have been nice to be able to see things though. Dougie and Squib then both lead it.
(sorry about the poor video quality, I had to film pretty much directly into the sun)

Finally Squib and then I finish off with a lead each of Mandatory Scuttle, an E3 up the left sidewall of the roof. This is a vertical route with easy climbing to gear, then a spooky step out onto the sidewall of the roof, exposure, then one thin pull to the top. Then Dougie insists on a "mandatory scuttle" rightwards before topping out because "it's nicer". What a lovely day.

I had a great week in the Isle of Man, I really got my head round the climbing this time and was very pleased with the ticks I came away with, I'm absolutely certain that Levitation is my first non-grit E6 on-sight (which is nice) and I was pleased with the other on-sights/flashes. The new route is excellent, and when compared to the other routes I did on the island is probably right at the top-end of E7 6b, and the headpoint was pleasingly rapid (it's easy to feel disappointed and that I should have gone for the on-sight but I'll take the positive that I didn't "work" the route, I just did it on a toprope then led it). I was pleased with the confident way I was climbing, I honestly felt like I just wasn't going to fall off, even on the spooky bit at the top of the new route. I read the Jerry book just before going over, is that connected??

Anyway, here's some (not great, sorry) photo's, you deserve them if you've read all this...
The Roof 1
The Roof 2
Isle of Man
Hut Circle Right 1
Hut Circle Right 2
Hut Circle Right 3

Monday, 2 January 2012

Climbing? The Isle of Man? Really??

I spent the latter half of August 2011 on the Isle of Man, I regularly find myself visiting this rocky protrusion in the middle of the Irish Sea to spend quality time with the in-laws, which is nice. Luckily Doug Hall (yes, the Doug Hall) is now resident on the Isle of Man so the opportunity for climbing is plentiful. For this particular trip I was in sport mode so was keen to clip some bolts. Fortuitously Doug has been quietly developing a sport crag on the island. Of course this been the Isle of Man and this been Doug Hall it was hardly going to be a roadside easy access crag of steady 6's and 7's oh no...
The Walk-In:
From the parking a brisk 10 minute walk uphill gets the blood pumping...
This gets you to the top of the "descent path", which is a grass slope which is I'd guess between 60 and 70 degrees and long, very long, I'd guess 400ft. Ok that doesn't sound that long but bear in mind, as you carefully make your way down this slippery glass slope with a laden pack on your back, that this is also the way out...
At the base of the grass descent is a small rocky bay from which a spot of precarious coasteering on wave splashed rocks eventually leads to the belay platform...
Ok platform is a generous term. It's actually a narrow shelf (say 20cm wide or so) about 15ft above the sea.

The Climbing:
The climbing is based around two sea caves in the cliff. The belay shelf is on a side wall and the main wall with the climbing runs perpendicular to it.
The warm up problem starts up the side wall before heading across and up the headwall of the main face to a lower off. It goes at about 6b+, so a nice warm up right? Well yes but as it traverses the lip of a large sea cave and the bolting is on the sparse side it would be perfectly possible to fall off into air leaving you the option of lower into the sea or prussick.
There are two other routes that start from the belay shelf, a 7c and a 7c+. Again they both traverse above the sea with plenty of falling into air sea-dip/prussick type potential.
And finally there's the 8a+. Which starts between the two caves. There are two options to get there:
(1) If the tide is at it's lowest point you can coasteer round the back of the first cave then climb a 7b+ first pitch which is seldom dry and even when it is dry feels damp. Or...
(2) Climb one of the other three routes (they all share the same lower off) then make a tensioned traversing down-climb to a bolt at the mid-point of the 8a+. From this you can then lower down the overhanging face clipping the bolts to take a hanging belay at the start of the route.
And once you've worked/climbed the route you need to get back which means getting back to the mid height bolt then climbing back up the tensioned traverse line (with no gear) to the lower off at the top of the other routes before lowering off down the rope that you tied off to the belay shelf, you did tie the rope off to the belay shelf didn't you??

The Walk Out:
By the time you leave the tide will have come in so the wave splashed rocks will be soaked for the coasteering, the hill will have grown from 400ft to 800ft and someone will have filled your pack with bricks. The downhill stumble back to the car is nice though...

Sounds epic doesn't it? Well it is, and certainly more committing than your standard day out bolt clipping, but it's also brilliant. I loved every minute of it.

The routes all finish up fantastic headwalls eighty-odd feet up with nothing below you feet but the crashing sea. The lower walls of the the harder routes are steep and great fun. It's certainly not to everyones tastes but if you like that sort of thing then you'll like this sort of thing.

Here's a photo topo:
From Left to Right:
Lime Green - Warm Up (6b+)
Red - Inbetweeners (7c)
Blue - The Groove (7c+)
Orange - The Shield (8a+) first pitch dashed line 7b+

If anybody finds this enticing or interesting then give me a shout, I'll give you more details. And if you fancy making a trip over there I can give you contact details for Doug, he'll happily act as guide for any keen climbers.

Of course if sport doesn't ring your bell and you'd rather a spot of adventure trad then here's a brief(ish) selection of some of the new trad that Doug has established on the island over the last few years:

Marine Drive, Douglas

The Big Bend - E6/7
Snake Eyes E5 6b

Santon Pinnacle Area
Voodoo Child E2 5c
Black Magic E4 6a
Witch Doctor E3 5c
Quartz Icicle E5 6a
Slap Happy E4 6b
Migrant Worker E3 5b

Santon Gully
The Left Hand Flake E1 5a
The Flake Just Right E2 5b
Pushing Daisies E3 6a
Wall Left Of Groove E3 6a
No Going Back E3 6b
Flight Plan E3 6a
Feel The Pain E4 6c

The Chasms
The Tooth Area

Sabre E5 6b
The Incisor E6 6b/c
Molar E5 6b

Primeval Wall
Omen E6 6b
Driven E6 6a
Manta E6/7 6c
Predator E6 6c
Horoscope E4 6a
Toother System E5 6b
Mansard E6 6b
Flawless E6 6c
Hang Dog E4 6a
Finite E3 5c

The Prow Area
Dynamite E4 6a
The Prow E5 6b
Elephants Ear E6 6b
Stainless Steel E5 6b

Railing Wall Area
The Quest E5 6b
Edge Of Reason E7 6b
One Life E4 6b
Forever Young E5 6b

This is just a selection of what Doug estimates at the 100+ routes he's done on the Isle of Man over the last few years, the majority E4+. And there is potential for plently more if you're willing to put the effort in. So enough for a weekend away I guess...

Again if anybody wants more information about climbing on the Isle of Man get in touch.