Friday, 20 March 2015

The three eights

The Three Eights

Over the past two years my vague goal has been to complete the three eights, that is E8 (any tech grade), French 8a and Font 8a. Just because I think its worth while being an all round climber and each discipline aids the other two, also 8 seems to be a good bench mark of ability. I say vague because I had big doubts for my bouldering and focusing too much on a goal can be a little stressful, and despite mainly being a trad climber I handle stress quite badly...

I managed E8 a good while before the other 8's. Dawes rides a shovel head was my first E8 (blog: http://climbersblogs.blogspot.co.uk/2014/10/dawes-rides-shovel-head-alex-moore.html).
I never planed to do E8 first, to be honest Id rather have done it last so that I knew I had the strength to do the moves, aw well, the route seemed to good to put of, a bit like half a cheesecake that you know wouldn't be the same after a night in the fridge, so you "pig-out" while its fresh.. Moving on

Next up was French 8a, there were a few problems with this, I live in the middle of the lake district now and have access to four sport routes, and I broke the crux hold to the 8a+, needless to say, it was not going well. However, a quick check on UKC revealed good news, there happens to be an 8a link up in thrang quarry. The three eight plan is back on track.. I returned to the quarry/ big damp hole in the side of a hill.
The route is called "kept woman" and climbs brilliantly, probably due to the drilled holds. I did all the moves on lead first go, taking rests at each bolt. After a while of resting it began to rain, the rain forced me to make a hasty attempt at the route, only by pushing through horrible flash pump did I make it through, slight episodes of power scream toward the end, and happily on to the worlds dodgiest looking chains.

Nexxo's warming by the fire at thrang crag,
 nice sticky rubber for the send 
 2 down, one to go.

So, Bouldering. I actually really like bouldering,but I've just found it really quite hard to get any better.. Id been climbing 7b+ for a whole year prior to the past month, despite a fair amount of indoor training. Happily I finally broke the grade by sending Brad pit at Stanage, a well deserved classic 7c, although my experience of it may have been slightly tainted by 3 inches of snow and ice on the top out and jug. In the end it only took a few goes as it really suited me.

Brad pit, at around 12pm 

Bouldering was looking up now, so on to the 8a. Myself and the manic fingerboardist Eli Cartwright decided to aim out efforts at the much sought after "Tourniquet" witch went at 7c+ till a hold broke, now it settles at a hard 8a, The moves are nothing but mad, the problem is more or less centred around one hold, which cripples your wrist into place. To get a feel of how to hold it, try twisting your wrist till you can go no further, then get someone to twist it more, then hang off it with your feet above your head.. and if your loving that, get on down to kentmere! Besides this hold the problem is amazing, and flows well.

We worked out the beta in the first session, which is no simple feat, a bit like sudoku really. By the time we had a good sequence we were burnt out, but still put in good attempts. The second session saw good progress and badly split tips for me and a send for Eli.

Eli, walking the crux of Tourniquet 
               
After a day of rest and rubbing pure vitamin E into my fingers, I headed back for another go before the rain came. I made the walk in (just) with four pads, but the toe hook was soaking wet due to rain the day before. Not to worry, like a boy scout, Im always prepared. Out came the beer towel and I got down to some serious drying activity, followed by star jumps, partly to warm up, partly for fun..
My first attempt was surprisingly good, I got passed the crux and slapped for the last hold, but fell all the same as before. More similar attempts followed, including an attempt that caused a slight chip in one of the holds (no change to he difficulty though, damn it). I went for a walk around the area to calm down and think a little. Once I got in the zone/a bit bored of walking aimlessly in a small copse of trees, I got back to the problem. More star jumps and drying activity followed before, finally I sent it, feeling stronger than ever.

I finished my two year goal.

Working on Tourniquet, Kentmere 
On to the 9's!... or a few more eights or something    

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

SquarePants By Daragh O'Connor


Well. Its been a while. For me this year has already rocketed by, ever since taking some time off after the world championships in Munich last summer everything has been a bit of a blur... I'm in my final year in school and June is going to be the month the earth stands still for me. 13 days of 7 subjects of exams... But sure thinking about it wont do anybody any good will it?
So climbing wise (only 'wise' that is important) things have been going great, i don't know why it feels like a surprise but its nice to know i can continue to stay on form and keep on top of everything else all at once.

So, CWIF went well you could say, I qualified in 12th after doing all bar 2 problems (one of which i should have done) and was psyched beyond belief to be making it into Semi's the next day. Semi's is always where the real fun starts. My warm up went perfectly, I took extra care in making sure my shoulders and back were loose so when i pulled on the wall in iso things were smooth from the get go. By the time i was called out I had entered that glorious low gravity state which we all seek.


Its hard to describe the actual climbing because you don't really know whats going on at the time anyway so i wont even bother trying. My score came out with enough tops to make it into finals (only 1) but a silly rushed attempt and not getting bonus's cost me my place. I'd say go watch the replays of the semi's but the cameras were not interested in my ugly mug so not much of my climbing was gotten and who can blame em?


Oh yeh, almost forgot! IM GOING TO THE ROCKLANDS!!!!!! Flights booked from the 8th on July to the 12th of August! This trip kinda comes with the year, with my exams and all (even being on form at the moment) i have decided to take the summer season of the European and World Circuit. It was a hard choice to make but i would want to be at 130% going at the Worlds and i worry i wont be at that. But i think it will be good, and it eaves 2016 as the year im going to go at the worlds ready to fight it it out!

Major results as of my last update : 
G Force Open - 2nd Place, Irish Bouldering League - 1st (joint), CWIF - 13th.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Find Your Inspiration - By Jen Wilby

Put your heart, mind, and soul into even your smallest acts. This is the secret of success.Swami Sivananda


Sunset at Almsciff - Always worth the wait
This month has been all about inspiration and inspiration can come in many forms. This month has been a very hard month. The first week I was so psyched for climbing. I began taking Friday’s off and had a whole three days of climbing outside each weekend. A whole three days of grit stone made me realise how unfit I am! This got me thinking about the trip, how we tried to climb something, somewhere every day…for the love of it. To be back in the UK, fogged out and being forced to be as far away from climbing as you could get totally sucked.

To make every minute of your life count towards climbing, to then have something occur which takes you away from training and climbing is the type of situation which can trigger a life change. What occurred meant I couldn't train or climb at all for a week. Some might see this as a week’s rest, and rest is good because that’s when you get repair and get stronger, but when you don’t sleep for the full week, the week was totally wiped out and it took me another week to recover add the fact the weather was good and I didn't know when I would get chance to get out again - was a test of sanity!  During this time, hours were spent watching old climbing video’s, looking through old photo’s, looking at what other's were out doing…looking for that inspiration. Often when you stop something the hardest part is getting back. I found the inspiration. My other half spends most evening’s looking at climbing videos or guidebooks and this has always bored me, but at the start of this month it gave me some light and inspiration to reset and get back on it.

The one certainty in life is that we are all going to leave this version of it at some point. So why spend our hours (or most of us) doing something that at the end of the day does not really matter? It’s important we put our all our effort and focus in to what we are doing at any given minute of the day, whether its talking to a friend, out shopping or climbing. Put 100% effort into it – no dwelling on the past or the future – only then can you be truly free. This is especially relevant in the UK with the climate. As climbers, we are unable to plan for anything, you have to live each day relying on forecasts. Which you can argue is totally rubbish compared to somewhere like Bishop where you are guaranteed good weather for the season. However, at the same time, you have to give 100% to what you do there an then and this is the main lesson I have learnt this month and something which I would urge you all to think about. It doesn't have to relate to climbing, but your life in general. Do what inspires you.

Don’t be half focused on many things, be fully focused on one thing at one point in time and you will reap the rewards.
Up at the crag for 0930 to avoid the crowds - fantastic!  
Once I woke up and realised I was only being half committed to many things, I've gone out whenever the weather had been good this month and got on my projects. We've had a really good spell at Caley recently, which has been fantastic and it was a good decision to move down the road. With the 100% commitment headset, I've got on my projects and walked away having made progress every time, which is an awesome feeling. It’s only a matter of time J
Here are some video’s of some problems we've been on over the last couple of weeks:

Red Barron Roof:  https://vimeo.com/116002052
Millstone Grit: https://vimeo.com/118423648
Dolphin Belly Slap: https://vimeo.com/119011793
Streaky's Traverse: https://vimeo.com/119012889
Crucifix Arete Eliminate: https://vimeo.com/119014214

I’m also lucky enough to have had the opportunity to test out the new Metolius Session Pad

New Metolius Session Pad
You will probably say I am biased, however, I do really rate this pad. The thing that stood out first was the corner “flap” which covers the corner of the pad to stop everything from falling out. It’s really durable but also it’s elasticated. So no more time is spent ramming the thing around the corner of the pad and trying to pull it into place. It fits really snugly so I am now able to throw things in it without the fear of everything falling out the bottom. Which makes it fantastic for circuiting.

Using the pad on a warm up at Almscliff
The other feature which I noticed was the catch and how smooth it is. Even on some of my other pads, when I’m packing or unpacking it, the lip always catches and I the cord is really rough, so I have to really pull to get the pad closed tight. Not with the session pad, the catch is really smooth as is the cord material, which makes it really quick and effortless to un-catch and tighten. No more fiddling!



The other thing is the foam, I have total confidence in falling on it, I’d take a back slam on it no worries. That’s got the thumbs up from me – I love it!

Session pad underneath the stunning Flying Arete at Almscliff
As always I am fuelled by BulletProof Coffee and their Collagen protein. These are the two products out of many I have tested and will choose to stick my, I totally love them. The coffee keeps me fuelled for days at the crag and the protein is light enough for me to take with any meal and even during climbing as I often add it to my coffee. You can find details of how to get it from the USA here: www.optimalstate.co.uk and can use the discount code “jenwilby” to get 10% off your order! Bargin!

Another awesome time which was had this month was a visit to The Lab MMA Gym (http://www.thelabmmagym.com/) – Lanch Green tested my strength and fitness with one of her Tuff classes and it was awesome, again another point in time where I put in 100% to every second and walked away feeling awesome!

One of Lanch's promo shots

February has been full of up’s and down’s but a lot has been taken away from it.


Happy Climbing! 

Friday, 27 February 2015

Big-walling in Yosemite by Madeleine Cope

Big-walling in Yosemite by Madeleine Cope

Despite being tired from travelling I felt giddy with excitement when I arrived in Yosemite Valley. Even the arduous task of queuing to get a campsite in camp 4 did not dampen my spirits. I hadn’t climbed for about 7 weeks due to a shoulder injury so I was eager to get climbing. Feeling heavy limbed from 30 hours of travelling we decided to go and climb an easy route. After struggling our way up 3 awkward pitches of 5.9 we rapped down. We decided not to try any more 5.9’s.
One morning, as I walked past the typical camp 4 queue I spotted the Scandinavian duo that we had met on our travels in the States last year. The pair were going to climb a route called Romulan Warbird (5.12c) on Fifi Buttress the following day and prompted us to join them. Fifi Buttress is a welcome island of featured, grippy, shaded rock in the sea of slippy, sunny cracks that is Yosemite. We declined their offer, deciding that it would probably we wise to have a rest day before trying what would be the hardest granite multi-pitch we had climbed.
Fifi Buttress
Two days later we woke at 5.30 am to give ourselves the best chance of climbing Romulan Warbird (12b, 11d, 11c, 12b, 11c, 12c, 11a, 10d, 10d) in the light, taking into account the fact that red-pointing pitches was inevitable. I don't particularly enjoy waking up early to go climbing: its dark, cold and the morning toilet routine is broken, leaving me squirming in my harness later in the day when faced with my crux pitch. However, the sight of the first pitch made the early morning slog all worthwhile.
Looking down the first pitch of Romulan
 
The initial steep pulls felt a bit harsh on my half-asleep muscles and the pumpy groove required a little grunting but before I knew it I had reached the point where the (slightly OTT) route description said ‘ninja moves’ were required. I started stemming, taking my feet wider, until I felt I had enough height to commit to the long reach leftwards to a side-pull. At the last moment my left foot slipped. Unfortunately, my gear had shifted out of position as I climbed leftwards and I took an exciting fall down the shallow groove. I lowered down, slightly disappointed that I had slipped off the last move, and took a few minutes break before setting off again. I was amazed (and relieved) at how much easier the pitch felt second go. The next couple of pitches flowed really nicely: the granite was steep and the positions wild, but ultimately, all the holds were jugs. The fourth pitch was a stunning 5.12b. This time it was Howard’s lead.
 
The route description stated that “granite voodoo and Houdini” was required to negotiate the boulder problem start. Next the description told of a pumpy crack and thrutchy exit to reach the belay. The boulder problem was tricky but both Howard and I got through without much trouble (and probably without “granite voodoo and Houdini”). I was pleasantly surprised that when the top of the crack was less than 2 metres away I didn’t really feel that pumped. Then came the thrutch. The top of the crack was in an awkward pod that was hard to exit without simply falling out of it. With Howard half encouraging me half laughing at me (it is always amusing watching someone struggling on awkward granite!), I tried to untangle an arm to reach for the jug. Just as my feet slipped my hand latched onto the jug. Whilst scrabbling my way up to the belay, I thought: “Thank god I don’t have to do that pitch again”.
Having felt the chill of the wind as we set off that morning we decided to take a jacket to belay in. For the first four pitches we enjoyed the leisure of belaying in warmth so I was pretty annoyed when I watched the stuff sack containing the jacket fall a couple of hundred metres to the ground. To make matters worse it was my fault! The remaining belays were less leisurely. The topo we were using went down with the jacket. We worried whether we would be able to make it to the top without the in-depth pitch descriptions: maybe we would forget to use our granite voodoo and Houdini! Luckily, we managed.
Me seconding the crux pitch

After a bit of easier ground came the crux pitch (12c). From looking at the pitch we could tell the difficulties were going to be short and sharp. Howard managed to lead the pitch second go and I managed to second the pitch first go. The three remaining pitches were easier, but being tired from the previous 7 pitches they still required us to dig deep. As we rapped down the light dwindled, as did the chances of finding the dropped jacket. After a few minutes searching in the dark we decided the jacket could wait until the next day... it was pizza time!
Given the grade, we both thought the route would be too hard for us to free first try so climbing Romulan Warbird felt like a big step up for us in granite climbing. Not only was this a great day climbing, it also gave us the confidence to get on harder routes in Yosemite. El cap started to look inviting.
Bouldering in Yosemite poses a wonderful distraction from climbing big routes. The trees surrounding the boulders even politely block the big granite monoliths from view so the sense of guilt is minimal. When faced with a 4:30 am alarm the prospect of being guided around Yosemite’s bouldering playground by James Lucas is extremely appealing and we gave in to this temptation more than once! However, after a while I started to feel a bit like I was drifting: maybe a greater satisfaction lay lurking behind some hardship.

Bouldering in Yosemite


Ever since climbing Romulan Warbird we had been toying with the idea of trying Freerider and we steadily began preparing for the hard labour of big-walling. With the flu virus rampant throughout camp, I started to think we should get on El Cap before we got too ill to climb it. I could hear the sniffs and coughing fits emanating from Hazel and Peter’s tent as we lay there anxiously hoping that the ‘Walmart Special’ was better at keeping out viruses than the rain! We decided to hold out for the cooler weather and after sitting out a few rainy days in Yosemite Lodge canteen, drinking the gratuity coffee, our gamble paid off and the forecast showed five days of cool, dry weather.

Whilst we were holding out for cooler conditions in the valley my mind swayed between being really excited for climbing on El Cap and being anxious about how I was going to manage the big-wall faffs, such as hauling, rope tangles and going to the toilet in a bag! I found the best way for me to keep the worries at bay was to simply start packing and enjoy this first step for what it was (mainly I enjoyed deciding what treats to take for the evenings). Before I really had time to think about being anxious we were climbing. This mental attitude is summed up well in a quote from one of Hazel Findlay's articles, in which a friend of hers says that you just have to “take the gear for a walk”.
Starting the 11d downclimb on Freerider
 

One of the pitches I was most concerned about was ‘The Monster’, which is an 11a offwidth. Knowing that our offwidth skills were pretty much non-existent, Howard and I decided it would be a good idea to practice the techniques before getting on Freerider. After gaining 3 inches of height on Ahab in 30 minutes, losing about 3 litres of water in sweat and ripping my trousers I had to admit to myself that I needed 3 more years of offwidth practice, not 3 more hours. I was not surprised to find myself aiding past ‘The Monster’ a couple of days later. We spent our first night on the wall at ‘The Alcove’, drinking hot chocolate and joking about our pathetic attempt on The Monster. I think we had known all along that this ascent would be about getting to know the route for a future attempt.
The next day we gave the ‘Boulder Problem’ a go. This pitch is cool and it was fun to be swinging around on a top-rope with lots of air beneath my feet but the labour of the hauling and climbing had taken its toll on my arms and skin I didn’t manage to do all the moves. After a couple of goes each we pushed on to ‘The Block’: our next bivy. We got as comfortable as possible on this small sloping ledge and fell asleep. We woke up in the dark hoping that it was nearly time to start climbing again but we were disappointed, it was only midnight!
The disadvantage of climbing El Cap in November was the short days. The next day Howard linked to two ‘Endurance Corners’ to save time, which meant I had  good chance to check out the climbing on top-rope. Out of the difficult pitches on Freerider these were the two that I enjoyed most. The climbing is more technical than the name suggests and there is a nice variety of jamming, laybacking and stemming. Then it was my turn to lead a pumpy 12a traverse that takes you away from the Salathe headwall. Up until this point I had felt the exposure most on the chimneys which, since they are never harder than 5.9, was not too overwhelming. When I traversed around the corner suddenly about 800 m of air lay between my feet, which were scraping around for footholds in the steep terrain, and the ground. My arms faded rapidly and, guessing that it wasn’t going to be long before I would be dangling in mid-air of the edge of El Cap, I mustered my remaining energy and shouted “TAKE” to Howard, who was belaying out of sight. Not exactly a heroic turn of events but having to jumar back up the rope would have wasted valuable time.
Now only four pitches remained: surely we would be at the top soon. However, as I started up the Scotty Burke I realised that this pitch could take me a while to lead. The 11d start required a bit of grunting but was short lived. Unfortunately, the 10d offwidth section was more demanding. For every inch of progress I made I slide back down half. Eventually I was back where I started! I just had to laugh. Once I had adopted the cams as hand holds progress was much quicker (although still not as easy as I wanted it to be). It went dark just as I set out to second the last pitch. After a bit of battling to get the haulbag onto the summit it was nice to lie down without a harness on and go to sleep. 
After much tugging we got the haul bag onto the summit, although hauling was hard work we couldn't have done it without one!

The beautiful dawn light over Yosemite Valley

Enjoying the morning sun after bivying on the top of El Cap

My hands felt a bit battered after Freerider, but not too bad considering we didn't wear tape gloves!
 
Although I felt about a million miles away from freeing Freerider I had actually only aided 3 pitches (The Monster, The Boulder Problem and The Scotty Burke) and rested on 3 pitches. Just getting to the top of El Cap was a big step in climbing for me and a learnt a lot. It took some time for me to realise that getting to the top of El Cap was an achievement but when the realisation hit I felt a giddy urge to return to the valley for round two with Freerider.
After Yosemite it was time to relax in the beautiful hot springs near Bishop

Chasing the sun we spent a few days in Joshua Tree (Scar Face, highball V3)
 
Before we knew it we were lightening our load ready to go surfing in Costa Rica. We packed our cams into a cardboard box in a little post office in Joshua Tree, rushing to fill out all the paper work for customs and checking at least 4 times with the lady at the desk to make sure they were correct. This cardboard box contained the most valuable things that I own and I really wanted it to get home. The fact that the lady did not seem to share my interest in the safe return of the box of dirty looking metal to England made me slightly anxious, but with only 10 hours until our flight and an 8 hour drive to San Francisco ahead of us we had no choice but to hand over the box and cross our fingers.

Monday, 16 February 2015

SOUTH WEST PSYCHE by Tom Newberry









PHOTO: Emma Taylor
 For many, a trip to the beaches of Devon and Cornwall involves big granite sea cliffs and maybe a spot of surfing. However, there is another reason to fill your tanks and make the drive down. The North coastline of the Southwest provides one on the most spectacular bouldering locations in the country. Publicity of recent developments across the south west has put the region on the map, and it’s no surprise that more people are planning trips down to sample some of the gems on offer. 

Hartland Quay, Devon
PHOTO: Emma Taylor
Hartland, the first port of call for most, is home to the harder test pieces in the area.  But it’s not just the climbing that makes this seaside venue an exceptional place to boulder, the atmosphere is unique. You’ve tried hard, dug deep and finally sent your project, now sitting on top you finally realise how stunning this place is: the thunderous sound of the waves crashing below a majestic skyline, the sun hovering above the horizon and the rugged landscape full of caves and gullies where the project lies.  

On arrival at the Hotel car park, head North down the boat slip-way towards The Trench. This is a superb wall of compact rock which offers a good range of problems and obvious eliminates to get your fingers warmed up and ready for the classics. The Crack V0, Jas’ Wall V1 and Trenchfoot V5 should get you going. When sufficiently warmed up, continue down the beach and to the Clinical Edge bloc. This boulder is well equipped with four V8s. Clinical Edge is the best and takes the arête from a low sitter. If compression isn’t your thing then Egg Nishna is a worthy crimpy alternative to its right. If these go down quickly then retrace your steps back to the large cave which you may have noticed near The Trench. This is home to the original North Coast test-piece, Ache Ball. Originally graded V11 it has settled at V9 after some abuse from winter storms.  Starting on a blocky undercut, five burly moves lead to a slotty jug in the roof above. If the beach is low enough the strong may wish to try James Pearson’s low start, Aching Balls V11, which adds a further 6 moves into the original draining.


PHOTO: Mike Adams
Now, moving through the grades quickly, you need to head back to the hotel and this time scramble down to the beach on the south side of the car park. Here lies the best wall in the south! It’s steep, burly and unrelenting. First up is Carnage V8, which most will agree is a suitable candidate for the best of its grade in the UK and a problem that should be on everyone’s tick list. To the right, Supercede V11 has everything you want in a hard rig; subtle, sequencey and gymnastic all the way to the final heartbreak move, making it another contender for the best of its grade,. Corridors of Power V9 is a justifiably popular link of the previous two problems.  Just around the corner lies Freddie Freeloader V5, an enjoyable climb and worthwhile stop on the way to the next beach and The Rhinoceros Bloc. Here you will find some brilliant problems from V3 to V7. Full Power V6, takes the steep prow from low and is the stand-out problem. Finally, those willing to boulder hop another 700m down the coast will be rewarded with one the most inspiring features on the south west coast. The Speke’s Mill roof hosts two stupendously steep problems, End is Nigh V11 and the unrepeated Revolution is Coming V11. Bring plenty of pads though; they are both a tad fluttery!

For more details check out Dave Westlake’s comprehensive free online guide available at javu.co.uk which covers the whole crag in detail. 

Lynmouth, Devon
The bouldering on this quiet stretch of the Exmoor coast probably takes the prize for being the most esoteric area covered in this article. However, over the last couple of years the wave washed blocs have begun to attract the attention of those from further afield and traces of chalk are now a common sight when walking along the beach. The unique style, along with the slick frictionless holds, means that many find a first visit to the Lynmouth area a frustrating and sometimes unrewarding experience. However, with perseverance, the unusual style offers some brilliant and interesting climbing across the grades. 
 
PHOTO: Tom Hargreaves
On arrival at the beach take a right and after a two minute walk you will arrive at the first collection of boulders. This offers plenty in the V0 to V4 range and is the ideal place to start your session. Amongst these boulders is the obvious Slopey Traverse. Don’t confuse this for a nice warm-up to shuffle along. Despite looking like a typical V2 lip traverse the slickness of the holds make this quite a challenge. Starting at the lowest point on the corner and traversing in either direction is V8 and a good intro to the smooth, frictionless rock found here. So, on to the classics, 30m past the initial collection of boulders high up on the beach is the Bum Cheeks Boulder. Easily found by spotting the obvious Big Diagonal Crack, V1, which splits the boulder. The clean scoop on the right hand side is the local rite of passage, Joker and the Thief V5. This tricky number has seen V10 boulderers leaving empty handed, needless to say it’s a bit of sandbag! Don’t let this put you off though; this techy test piece is pure class. Next up, the steep left arête is Face Off V6 requiring more straight-forward pulling to suit the thugs among us. The spicy thin crack that breaks through the steepest part of the boulder is Twister V3 or a burly V8 from sitting. Behind Enemy Lines V10 is a full traverse of the bloc from R – L and as yet unrepeated. Moving further down the beach, the next stop is Monster Tide V6. A classic pebble wrestler and contender for Lynmouth’s finest. The extension, Mikey’s Problem V9, coming in from the left adds more quality, pump and frustration. Drag your pad a few metres around the corner and are collection of caves provide some gymnastic entertainment. If you are lucky enough to have a strong northerly wind and dry conditions the stand out problems include Chimpanzee Achne V6, Seventh Wave Traverse V7, No More Nails V8 and Time and Tide V8. For those who enjoy a bit of exploration and adventure, keep walking east to Sillery. Little here is recorded, but this is the venue of choice for most locals. The caves, boulders and mini crags here offer some splendid problems in a remote and peaceful location including one of the finest wall climbs in the county; the immaculate, bullet hard wall which is host to the hardest problem in the south-west, Pipeline V12. For more details check out Grant Edwards’s comprehensive free online topo available at javu.co.uk which covers the whole beach in more detail. 

Tintagel, Cornwall
PHOTO: Tom Hargreaves
Set amongst some of the Atlantic Coast’s most prized adventure trad is Tintagel. These newly discovered boulders provide possibly the best mix of low and high-grade problems on the coast. The Athurian legacy surrounding the area only adds to the dramatic setting and mystical atmosphere. The setting along with steep hike in means the bouldering has a distinctively adventurous feel, and therefore will never be destined for everyone. But those who do venture down will not only earn their pasties but also discover some prized jewels from V0 to V10, including some of the finest lines in the region. Tintagel was hit hard by the winter storms, which moved mansion sized blocks! However, the reset has opened up more new problems than it has affected and has given the place a revived popularity.  



PHOTO: Tom Hargreaves
After leaving the coast path and descending the steep, grassy slope towards the sea you arrive at the heavily featured Sharmajection Boulder, named after the epic V8 traverse that tackles the three accessible sides of this giant bloc. The low groove Orange Crush V1, Scooped Roof V2, and hanging arête Salad Cream V2 all offer pleasant climbing on generous holds. As you skirt around the house sized bloc several more amenable problems reveal themselves. The jumble of rock provides the perfect playground of arch ways, caves and caverns to explore. The obvious steep face of Purple Haze V6 is a good place to relocate your mat once warmed up. This was one of the first problems to be established but quickly after the flood gates opened to its right with All Along the Watch Tower V8, Purple Pants V8 and the two appealing diagonal seems of The Apprentice V6 and Hurler V5, both of which have recently received superb sit starts at V9. If you’re looking for something a little less steep, walk through the low arch and boulder hop 40 metres North. Here you will find a small boulderfield containing a brilliant circuit of problems from V0 to V4 - the best of which is the stand out Black Crack V2 which dissects the large square cut boulder nearest the sea. Finally, Tintagel’s fiercest are found lurking in the back corner to the rear of the Purple Haze Bloc. A large roof which hosted two of the most sought after hard problems on the coast - the explosive Kids V9 which, unfortunately, has been temporally buried by boulders moved around in the storms, and the stunning flake line of Colorado Dreaming V10 requiring finesse, tension and commitment.

Clodgy Cornwall
PHOTO: Barney Carver
The popular tourist town of St Ives, named 'Best UK Seaside Town' by the British Travel Awards in both 2010 and 2011, is also home to some of Cornwall’s finest boulders. Infact, surrounding the prized seaside town you have not one, not two but three bouldering spots. The best and most popular area, Clodgy Point, offers top quality problems throughout the grades with everything from lowball traverses to highball scare-fests. Even the well-travelled likes of Dan Varian have noted that the bouldering around the St Ives area is “undersold”. What’s more, you will more than likely share the day with the local dolphins and some curious seals. Unlike Tintagel, these seaside blocs are very accessible, unaffected by tides and, courtesy of local Barney Carver, are well documented in a free online guide available at www.javu.co.uk. The only stress here is parking, which is both limited and expensive during the high season. 

With over 50 problems in the V0 to V2 range warming up won’t be an issue: Climax wall V0, Camel’s Arete SDS V1 Camel’s Wall V2 and J.R.A (John Redhead’s Arete) V2 are all worth seeking out. Sticking with the J.R.A boulder, Bloodlust V6, which takes the adjacent arête, is a regional classic and a must do. Traversing the wall between the arêtes is the unimaginatively named Bloodlust Traverse V6, and on the back of the block is a powerful one mover, Barrel of Laughs V8. Another eye catching boulder you may have noticed is the Australia Boulder. This steep sided bloc is home to many classics, most notably the steep Boomerang V7. However, neighbouring problems Walkabout V3, Victoria V5, Northern Track V5, Uluru V6 and Salad Fingers V8 are equally unmissable. These problems are very basic, suiting the strong. The super fit may want to attempt the full traverse of the boulder Circumnavigation V9. If these go down without too much of a fight then the exceptional Groove is in the Heart V10 is the next challenge. This aesthetic highball groove requires a bit of everything: strength, flexibility and nerve. A successful day working your way through these 3 star lines will be more than worth the arduous drive to western most tip of the UK.

Dartmoor
PHOTO: Tom Hargreaves
It is no secret that Dartmoor plays host to a plentiful supply of superb granite bouldering and so a South West bouldering article wouldn’t be complete without a mention. Over recent years bouldering on Dartmoor has become a popular pastime with traces of chalk a common sight when out on the moors.  The wide variety of settings, from open woodland to moorland, offers thousands of quality blocs across a number of stunning venues. The sculptured features yields some of the best low to mid-grade (V0-V7) bouldering I have sampled. Dartmoor played big part in my climbing apprenticeship and, despite the slight detraction of the improbably sharp holds, I still love it over a decade later. Yet, it must be said the bouldering here does come at a price, Granite isn’t merciful and will tear and shred skin at every opportunity, you have been warned!



The Haytor area is the most established climbing area on the moor; probably due to the easy access, reliable conditions and quantity of blocs. As you approach the boulder capped tors along the winding rural road, your hands begin to sweat and mind race at the sheer number of boulders on offer. Several hundred recorded problems ranging from V0 to V12 make for a classy excursion. Saddle Tor, Hound Tor and Bonehill are the 3 main venues, however small less frequented crags such as Smallcombe Rocks, Easdon, Bell Tor and Turnhill are equally brilliant and worth seeking out, especially to those who enjoy a bit of exploration. 

PHOTO: Tom Hargreaves
So, where do you start and which of the many lines on offer are the classics? My recommendations for a first port of call would be Bonehill. The approach offers a tame introduction into bouldering on Dartmoor, being a merciful 30 second walk from the car. Wondering around, it doesn’t take long to discover the jumble of rock provides the perfect playground of grooves, overhangs and arêtes. Beta is key for many of the problems and a powerful approach may not necessarily lead to success. Nonetheless, the proud lines of Bonehill are on impeccable rock and most agree should be on ever aspiring boulders’ tick list.

Saturday, 31 January 2015

Winter Wonderland… By Jen Wilby


Burbage North


We’ve been up North for just over a year now and the time has flown by, it’s been awesome. However, over the last few months we’ve noticed out lifestyles have changed dramatically. Whilst that sounds obvious, it wasn’t and it took some months of being inactive and waiting for the weather to understand what was going on. 

When we lived down South, if we saw the weather was poor for some outside climbing we would head to The Castle. Which is an awesome climbing center in London with floors of bouldering – enough to keep us entertained for hours and hours and hours. So on wet day’s we would still come away from a day’s climbing feeling totally exhausted…a good exhausted. 

Up here, no plans are made until the day, watching the weather then spending some time driving around to see what’s dry and climbable. We might climbing for a couple of hours, not really doing anything and battling with poor conditions. That can be frustrating and after a month or so of doing this – in my case, you begin in feel lost and not fit to climb. However, you believe that that is the life style and what comes with moving up North. It’s all about the outside climbing. 

It’s not though is it? 

I read a very good blog recently by James McHaffie (http://www.jamesmchaffie.com/caffs-blog/the-pro-climber) and it got me thinking. We have a choice and recently I’ve been choosing to try and climb outside as much as possible, even if I know I’d be better off doing something else. 
Marco at Superbloc

Sunset at Almscliff

A cold Burbage North

Today is a Saturday, the sun is shining, the snow glistening…sounds like perfect grit stone conditions right? Maybe…but not for me. That’s a lesson I have learnt from, sometimes cold is too cold. I’ve spent the last few weeks trying to climb being unable to feel my extremities. So today, I checked the weather and decided to do something more productive and catch up on all the back log of stuff I’ve left untouched. Do you know what? It feels good! 

Tomorrow, with the winds still forecast to be high, I’ll head to a wall somewhere, a new one and try to find something which can make me feel how the Castle made me feel after a session and stop sitting on my backside looking outside the window. 

It’s time to reset the ideals and goals to reflect this new life style. Climb Out is a group of people who are getting out and enjoying the outdoors. For 2015, they set the “Climb Out Challenge”

check them out here and get involved if you want to!

I’ll be adding some new goals for this year, just need to sit down and go through them and not let another 12 months go by just seeing what happens. 
Some of my challenges

It’s been two months since my last blog and we’ve managed to get out a check out some new crags (new to us!) and finish off some blocs, check out the vids if you want to:


Red Barron Roof: https://vimeo.com/116002052
Parker Sit Start: https://vimeo.com/116000888
Rachael’s Box: https://vimeo.com/115869908
Sulkly Little Boys: https://vimeo.com/115484325
Parra Rapper the Rapper: https://vimeo.com/114441467



That’s all for now.

Happy Climbing!