Saturday, 20 December 2014

Senior World Cup Kranj by Connor Byrne

I was worried how I would perform as my hectic life has made doing all the training I want difficult.  However at least this was well timed for a few days away as it was reading week, so I would not miss too many lectures.  I gave Luke a lift to Stanstead on the Thursday night, to fly out on the Friday.  Friday night the running orders were announced and I was to be first up, with the difference in time I was to be competing at 8am UK time.

Senior qualifiers
I had a good read of what would be my first route (2nd qualifier), the plan was to go from the orange pocket, crossing left onto the crimp, then going right out to a sloper, then turning the left crimp to an undercut and finally crossing right to another sloper in the roof.  I was such an idiot, when I got to the first sloper I tried to left shoulder to the sloper in the roof – this was really stupid, it was too hard to undo my mistake and I fell.  How often do I make silly mistakes!  I was really disappointed; I passed the beta onto the rest of the team. I just had to focus on my other route.  This went much better, I stuck to my route reading and I could give useful beta to a decent height to the rest of the team.  I ended up 33rd on this route, but 49th overall.  It’s so frustrating knowing I have the fitness (so better nutrition is working), it’s just getting the brain to work.  Hopefully next year I will put two decent performances together at one of these comps.

For a lead climber I have been busy taking part in the Northern University Boulder Series (NUBS), I have done two of these rounds so far, my second round was an improvement on my first, (better route reading).

This weekend I took part in the Plywood Masters Bouldering Competition, and completely shocked myself by making the finals.  I was really worried about how hard the problems would be in the final, however I surprised myself again and finished 5th overall.

Two lives in One by Connor Byrne

Since my summer blog I have started at Sheffield University.  I was somewhat shocked to find my timetable had 30 hours of contact time, before I even start any own study.  On top of this there is finding time for cooking – or at least eating (and washing) – welcome to the real world!  Somehow I also need to fit in training, why else am I at Sheffield.

3 weeks after entering the real world it’s time for the BLCC, a nice 10 min drive to the wall (sometime things work ok), picking a few  mates up on the way.  Day one was the junior comp.  The day went pretty well, resulting in retaining my BLCC title.  This is now the 4th time in a row I have won my category in the British Lead Climbing Championship!

Junior final route
Junior podium
Back to student digs for the night.  Sunday dawned and I felt rubbish, I had just not recovered.  Three weeks of poor nutrition had finally taken its toll.  I was up 4th and was not ready- great photo from Pete Wuesche you can just see I feel grim.  

Photo: Pete Wuensche
I was feeling much better a couple of hours later for my second route (making 7th place) but my result of the first qualifier dragged me out of the final.  I was really disappointed not to make the finals, but learnt a huge lesson on nutrition.  It is very hard to be fully committed to two hugely time consuming lives – and trying to cram them in one life – and then remembering to eat properly.  I am pleased to say I am more sorted now.

Friday, 19 December 2014

2014 Success - Flo Tilley

2014, how quick has it gone! It's been year of pretty amazing firsts, red pointing my first 7c biological need at Kilnsey, competing in the first ever deep water solo competition in the UK at Exeter, and wining my last ever YCS.
DWS competition at Exeter

This year the first round of the Junior Lead Cup for 2015 was held at Awesome Walls, Sheffield in late November (previously called Open youth). The day, for me went well, although I didn’t actually reach the top of any of my routes I felt like I was fully involved, enjoying them, climbing them like I would like to, not letting the competition nerves throw me of course.

I qualified into finals in 3rd, to Molly and Tara. The route was long, working its way round the right of the comp wall. I felt strong as I started climbing, with what felt like good technique, climbing efficiently. However not even half way I went wrong handed , realised, reversed, then did it again, got my hand on the next undercut then came flying down; I felt like I could have got some much further but made a fundamental error. However this still finished me in 3rd (only with the skin of my teeth. The judge missed my final move). To me a successful day, I might not have got the highest I could but I enjoyed it. Personally I felt my actual climbing went well, with my head in its right place.

The following Sunday the Climbing Unit at Derby held the first boulder ‘youth cup’; catering amazingly for the number of competitors and the comp wall giving a great final to watch. However for me this day wasn't so successful... My strength was drained; months of training had finally caught up with me. I managed 3 tops in 3 attempts in my qualifiers (out of 8 climbs).  This unsurprisingly did not see me through to the finals! Although I knew, and accepted my peak was over I was still gutted; I love boulder finals.

In the middle of all this I had my grade 8 piano exam to fit in. Typical that all the stress comes at once. It was, as an understatement, a hard time in the run up to it all.

These youth cups were also used as team trials for the GB team. I was hoping to get re-selected for the last 2 years, however it didn’t happen. I am frustrated but recognize that my climbing, although I feel like has developed still isn't at the right standard to compete in an international field. And to me I feel like I'm only at the start of a long journey, I know I have a long way to go but I’m psyched to train and want to carry on competing internationally past juniors comps- I love it, they can’t get rid of me yet!
DWS competition at Exeter

So 2014 a successful year, 4th in the senior category of the first deep water solo comp at Exeter, 4th in the junior BLCC, 6th in the senior BLCC, 3rd in my first comp in the junior category, managing hard redpoints outside and a merit in my grade 8 piano. Not too shabby!

I'm excited to what next year will hold. And my main aim? Get stronger!

Have a good Christmas X

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Made in China - Tom Newberry

Made in China - Yangshuo

A coach, a plane, a minibus and a sleeper bus took us on the 36hour journey from Exeter to Yangshuo, China. I'm completely blown away. Yangshuo is a very unique place, unlike anywhere I've ever been. The city itself is buzzing and has become a booming tourist attraction for Chinese travellers; hotels, touring services and restaurants number in the hundreds, 95% of them targeting the Chinese traveller, given that the number of westerners visiting is still relatively low. The city has built up in and around a totally surreal landscape of karst towers that stretch as far as that day’s air pollution index will allow the eye to see. Beautiful, limestone pinnacles are a dime-a-dozen around here, ranging from slabs to dramatically overhanging and single pitch to 5 pitch monster outings. Rock climbing in here was first put on the international map in the early 90s when Todd Skinner, Sam Lightner and Mike Tupper established some of the still-standing mega classics, routes like Over the Moon 7c which climb out the incredible Moon Hill formation. Since then the area has seen a number of rebirths and cycles of popularity- most recently influenced by a segment in Dosage 5, visits by Chris Sharma on the Evolv tour and more recently a stop on the Marmot Lead Now Tour. While Yangshuo is an incredible adventure for any level of climber, the amount of difficult climbing here has increased rapidly in the last few years, with a good number of routes in the eighth grade to go at.

Climbing/travelling outside of your zone always takes a little adjustment. Climbing on the other side of the world can take some serious adjustment. The comforts around Yangshuo for a western traveler are fairly well established, but still, this is definitely China. Being aware of this fact and also traveling on a strict budget, I gave myself a couple days to try and get settled in before I aspired to really push myself. The first week saw me sorting accommodation (apartment for £30/month!), getting to know town, finding proper cheap food joints (damn, proper stir fry is so good and for £1 who can go wrong!) crag snacks were a little trickier. I also learned the rules of the road (that there aren’t any) and therefore how to stay alive whilst driving a moped with no lights, brakes, exhausts or working dashboards. It took a while to get used to the lack of enforced traffic laws, and even though doom seemed ever present, there weren’t too many close calls. We did however seem to have to visit the garage a lot, but the bill usually was in pence rather than pounds.

Our arrival saw unseasonable hot and humid weather more akin to that of southern Thailand, so to kick off our try hard in Yangshuo we headed to the shaded Riverside which features a nice collection across many grades. After a warm up, I moved my rope below the start of Flaming Hornets 8a+, managing a send on my second try of this incredible crimp and compression test-piece; a good confidence boost and great way to get stoked to try some harder lines. Over the next few days, I continued to work through the many classic 7’s and low 8s. Red Dragon 8a+/b stands out as one of the best lines. The mad moves and crazy rests through the steepest part of the Moon Hill arch were simply amazing to climb, unfortunately I failed to get this redpointed as Moon hill is now banned and the police (whom were more than likely fairly pissed off that again they have had to walk 45 minutes uphill to kick climbers off who again have ignored the numerous no climbing signs) made it known that climbing here is not an option.

Lei Pei Shan, one of the big three crags in Yangshuo, (and my personal favourite) is an immaculate 40m wall with the perfect mix of little in-cut crimpers, tufas and hueco pockets. Despite some still tropical weather, my impatience got the better of me and after ticking the first of the big routes that tackles the high headwall, No Guaranty 8a/+ (incredible route!), I was psyched.  So I headed out to try one of my aims for the trip China's first 8b+ and one of the truly world class routes that Yangshuo has to offer, Thunder. The routes begins with an incredible 7c to a good rest before passing through a series of super technical cruxes involving a balancey sequence followed by a huge dyno off tiny crimpers into a sinker hueco. Having mostly been doing ~15m routes in the South West, I knew I would have to step up my fitness game to send this 40 meter beast. But, after 4 goes working the moves and tweaking beta, I happily clipped chains on my first redpoint go, managing my endurance at every opportunity and not taking any rest for granted. Back again after a day off and the neighbouring route, Lightning 8b/+ was the next obvious challenge. This beast goes on forever with little rest bite, technical climbing on crimps, pinches and pockets continue up the headwall after the anchors of a challenging 8a. Again, I clipped chains on my 5th try total, after frustratingly dropping the last hard move on my first redpoint. I finished the day with a few more classic routes and looked forward to a well-earned rest day complete with traditional Chinese massage. 

Half way through the second week saw the arrival of rain and a welcome drop to the previously boiling temps. This meant I finally got to check out White Mountain - which is unquestionably the area’s best crag. Set in ‘Rural China’ this beautiful wall rises above a sea of orange trees.. no road noise.. little pollution to speak of.. routes from 6b to 9a… amazing. I warmed up on a couple awesome 7b+s and quickly followed with a second go tick of Gin and Tonic 8a/+. The slick slopers were a dream on my worn tips as a teched my way up the golden 30+ meter wall. Next day, Karate a muerte en Torremolinos 8b, a bouldery number, had worked its way to top of the to-do list. 3rd day on and tired I wasn’t optimistic, but the moves suited me well.  A foot slip ended my second go but I managed to pull an ascent out the bag on my next try, waiting till almost dark for optimal conditions. I left feeling psyched and inspired. After a rest day maybe it was time to try hard and get a project.

Week 3 was projecting week, and after sending Axeman 8a/+ I noticed its awesome looking neighbour China Climb 8c - this was the one to go for. This test-piece features a wickedly crimpy crux and powerful ~V9 moves. It's burly, it’s ferocious, it’s awesome. The only down side was the rather sharp holds that took some careful skin management to keep my chances up. The crux took some working, but after a few sessions tweaking the beta, I managed to fight through to the chains skipping the final 3 draws (I took the full 20+ meter lob too, as my arms ground to a halt on the penultimate move). Woop, woop my second 8c of the year, and a world class one too!

The fourth and final week saw me finally get to Bayan Tree to do the Dosage classic and China’s first 8b, 9 deep, 1 shallow. Another stunning route hosting some brilliant moves on unusual features; one I won’t be forgetting any time soon. I then wound it down a little with some on-sighting mileage, eager to experience as many Yangshuo classics as my tired muscles and sore skin would allow for. The funky chicken 8a, Smackdown 7c, Over the Moon 7b+, Yangshuo Hotel 7b, Tod Skinner Line 7b, Lily 7b, Dragonfly 7a+ are all highly recommended and worth seeking out. 
I’m now sat in the airport killing time before the 11hour flight home super motivated by my success here in China and plotting my next adventure – Hmmmmmm…. Mexico, Chile, Cuba??? Too many choices…

PS. My Nexxos worked a treat on the steep rock here! Love these shoes! Review and more thoughts on these soon…

Thursday, 27 November 2014

The Waiting Game – By Jen Wilby

Sat in the forest at Apremont, having a conversation with some locals about British Climbing. We expressed excitement, how quality the gritstone is and how awesome the lines are. The recipients of this excitement, at first, appeared shocked at how we described it, then they began to get intrigued and eventually keen to visit. It wasn’t long before the word “weather” was mentioned…excitement soon evaporated. British weather is a huge topic and there was a fantastic article in this months “Climb” magazine about the weekend warrior and that by Wednesday, the forecasts and being checked and the discussion begin.
It’s very true, British climbers have a very small window of opportunity to get decent conditions to be able to climb in, especially on the Gritstone.

Finishing off Westside Story at Burbage West
In 2012 we spent a significant amount of time in Font and managed to climb for about 14 of those days (Here’s a link to the last Font Blog It was time to put those daemons to rest. Our two weeks in Font was booked very last minute, based on the weather forecast and it paid off. We had about 1.5 days of rain, which meant we had about 1.5 days of forced rest. It was fantastic to go to the forest with no training or expectations. It was stunning and a good break! Although Font is very close to civilization, it is a truly magical place and offers something different every time you go. I’ve been lucky enough to preview Out of Sight 2 where Jackie discusses the fact that the climbing in Font is a turning wheel. You discover boulders which may have been first climbed over twenty years ago…but lay untouched for years. So next time you are in the forest, go for a wonder, go and get lost…you’ll uncover some gems!
Here is a short video of our trip:

Watching Out of Sight 2 also got my heart racing about climbing again, and I could not help but smile all the way through! I know in the last blog I said I was back…but I really am J I had a lot of positive response to the last blog, so thank you to those who persevered and read it. Since then I’ve become a supporter of Climb Out. Climb Out is a medium to help people discover that anyone can climb or enjoy the outdoors, anyone can make their dreams a reality”. If you want to read a little more about it, check out their facebook page here:

The weather since we have been back in the UK, has been less than ideal.

Cow & Calf should be up there somewhere
I’d like to say we are lucky to live where we do, however it was a conscious choice based on crag locations. So we are so close to many amazing places. Including the Lake District. So with a forecast of fog filled, damp weekends, we got away back to Carrock Fell and managed to pull these two of out the bag:

With the forecast not looking to improve in Yorkshire, I expect we’ll be looking to explore bouldering around the Lake District some more.

Whilst I’m not training as much – taking a “pick n mix” / “take it or leave” it approach to climbing – which is amazing, sitting here, curled up with the dogs, eating jaffa’s totally guilt free. I’m still keen to aid my recovery (no mention of the jaffa’s!). I tried out the Whey Protein before, which Marco also tried. He’s since stopped taking it for the next month to see what the difference is and he’s noticed a significant different in that he is not recovering as quick. I finished my stash of the Whey so I decided to try the Collagen Protein.

I chose this protein as not only do I want to recover quicker, I also have some serious skin issues. I’ll do a day of climbing and my skin just flakes away. The Collagen protein is designed, among other things, to revitalize skin, so I’m looking to see how this promotes skin repair. So watch this space!  (PS if you want 10% discount to give some of the stuff a try use discount code “jenwilby” … cringe!)

Now it’s time to wait.
Happy Climbing!

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Evolv Nexxo review by Tom Williams

With a glove like fit the Evolv Nexxo provides infinite precision and power, the notorious love bump giving comfort, yet an enormous amount of control and sensitivity. In short this is a shoe which gives an amazing amount of feedback but is still comfortable enough that you don’t want to take it off after every attempt of a problem.

This has become my ‘go to’ shoe on overhanging terrain, the power in the toe box means you can really pull with your feet. They fare well on vertical wall problems as well, not suffering with rounded knuckle box of the Shamans quite as much! The only time I’ve recently switched to my Geshidos is when it all got a bit slabby. There is ample rubber over the top of the toe making toe hooks feel incredibly easy; even the most precarious ones.

As the shoe lends itself to a lower profile foot I've found the heel has a lack of security that was found with the Shamans, this doesn't mean the heel is bad, it’s just not the same as the Shamans. This been said it never feels like it’s going to peel off, however this being said, I've spoken to other people who have absolutely no trouble with the heel. As ever, it really is a case of if the shoe fits your foot.

Ultimately the Nexxo is ‘the’ shoe in the Evolv range for me.

To see them in action check out the video below: