Saturday, 1 December 2007

MacLeod sends 9a!

Just when you needed a little extra Umph! to keep you on that training board during those dark, wet nights - he goes and posts this lot!


Monday, 19 November 2007

Dear God!

Just when things are beginning to take shape and you allow yourself enjoy a glimpse of hope that some day you'll actually be strong.... someone comes along with camcorder and shows you what strong really is! - This is my closest bouldering crag - 10 mins by car from my house. Without trying to sound cocky or anything - i've not been to many crags where there just isn't enough holds for me to pull on! I can only do 2 or 3 problems here! This is how it should be done - i feel some new projects are in the pipeline :) Thug Mentality looks insanely powerful - bring it on!

I feel weak!

Check out the excellent for all the latest bouldering news in the area!

Thursday, 15 November 2007

Frodsham Bouldering

Some pics from our recent attempt to awaken the power needed for the winter's bouldering ahead...

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Spain Part II

The conditions for climbing at Siurana at this time of year are perfect. Cloudless skies, 20 degrees, plenty of sun but not too hot – ideal! Caroline and myself started every morning with an hours running around the numerous dirt tracks interlaced around the village and it’s surrounding hills – even from a running perspective this place kicks ass! After our run we showered and grabbed breakfast with the lads either back at our cabin or in the restaurant on the campsite with Toni’s mum providing the grub. Not forgetting the now legandary "Hornimans" Tea! Then decision time – where to climb? With dozens of huge crags all within walking distance from the campsite this decision can make or break the day’s climbing!

Crags visited include:

Can Marges
Recommended routes:
The famous 6b+ “Extremoduro” and the 6c+ “No dans bolsa”.

Grau Corral nou
Recommended routes:
Any of the golden wall routes – over a dozen to choose from between 7a+ and 8a+. The lads enjoyed onsighting the steep, long 7b+ crack in the middle of the crag. But be warned some of the 7a’s felt harder!

Siurannella North
Recommended routes:
Everything! Apparently this place is home to one of the areas nicest (softest?) 7a’s. Plenty to go at here at all grades but really opens up to the conpentent 7th grade climber.

Reserva India
Recommended routes:
Any of the longer routes are excellent and will usually be in full shade for most of the day – brong your down parker and at least a 60m rope! “Jeronimo”, 7a, provides a welcome respite from the powerful steepness characterising the areas routes with beautiful, technical groove climbing after a face climbing start. The easier, shorter routes to the left of this sector are probably better left to yer mates :)

Grau dels Masets
Recommended routes:
This is really a cluster of 3 crags – all worthwhile! Kev got on and enjoyed “La muerte del sponsor”, 7b+. This route is fast becoming the new 7b+ of the area, overtaking the famous and sadly now polished “Mandragora” as the testpiece of the grade. Also of worth here is “Pluja de padres”, 7a+ and “Kebreales”, 7c+.

Recommended routes:
Everything!!!! This place must be ticked! Caroline especially liked onsighting “Guate, aqui hay tomate” 7a. Even more after I nearly came off the top reachey move and Toni told us that Jerry Moffat had famously said after leading that route – “Now THAT’S a 7a!”. Apparently Toni reckons many of the 7’s in Siurana could be seen as ‘gifts’ but not this one! We’ve been on most routes here up to 7c – from the intensely fingery, mono-cranking 7a’s to the short steep power pieces like “Bistec” and “ya os vale” – they’re all great!

Can Toni Gros
Recommended routes:
This is the suntrap of the area – yes! It’s even hotter than the rest of the place!! Don’t be fooled by the topo – the short 6th grade routes pack a punch! They are not easy ticks! Be prepared to pull through short sections of 7a climbing on these wee beasties! And Toni’s new 8a/+ is no exception to the standard here. I tried it on Toni’s recommendation. An intense, dynamic, precise and beautiful boulder problem to the 2nd bolt will leave you shaking out on a sloper before launching into 3 bolts of delicate face climbing leading straight into a horizontal roof linked by 2 pockets and some fancy back-stepping off a dihedral. WOW! I’ll be back for more of this one!

Can Piqui Pugui
Recommended routes:
….wkefhjnoiuolkremg…. Sorry! Let me just clear up that drool! Oh My God! Do em all!! This is deservingly one of the areas showpiece crags and home of countless legendary routes up to 9a, including “Anabolica” 8a. All I can recommend are “Cruela de vil”, 7b, “Gamba Gamba”, 7b, “Rodriguez & Rodriguez”, 7b+ (Worth a 4th star! Literally has everything! Knee bars, monos, two-finger pockets, toe hooks, crimps, deadpoints, undercuts, jugs, fingerlocks – awesome!) and of course… the king, “Anabolica” 8a. Very much a defined crux route with the crux arriving at the 4th bolt in the roof. Precise footwork required and good conditions. I spent one day working on it including one trip to the chains to try all the moves and 4 redpoint attempts – all ending in frustration at the crux. All I can say is that it was my 5th day climbing and Toni’s 8a had trashed my skin the day before. Man I want this route! Ah well next time...

If you’ve never been here before – go! Just go! The place is great and constantly developing. During our brief visit, Toni bolted and lead a new 60m 8b, Sharma lead a new 8c+ and was working another unclimbed project around the 8c+ mark and loads of other climbers, both male and female were working their own respective projects around the 8b mark! If like me you’re a human sponge for motivation, you’ll be guaranteed to go home topped up for the coming months of hard training.

On personal level I learned a lot this trip – I confirmed in my mind that the routes I had lead in the UK were indeed deserving of their 8a grades when compared to the routes I tried in Spain and France. I learned that I can’t give up on a route just because I think it’s “not my style” – I better feckin MAKE it my style then! I had a stark reminder of the difference between my first exploration of a hard route and my subsequent attempts. It’s such a huge difference! Don’t be put off by a difficult first attempt! That’s the whole beauty of redpointing – a previously impossible combination of holds soon become usable and even easy to climb through! It’s soooo satisfying! I also realised that I need to adapt my training to a more power-building, bouldering format if I want to progress further – I’ve stamina enough for what I need – I need more power to pull the moves of harder Lines... I'm feeling a new Goals Post is needed ala Wasatch Girl's Style. Watch this space

Monday, 5 November 2007

Siurana, Spain - Part 1

The mission: to try and get on some decent Spanish sports routes to keep the motivation high before ploughing headfirst into the winter training. Caroline, Neal, Kev and myself were all wanting to climb as many hard routes as possible in a very short space of time.

Siurana is a climbing heaven. We climbed there for nearly two weeks last August and fell in love with the place. The tiny stone-built village sits on top of a limestone ridge overlooking a reservoir and it’s nearest town, Cornudella. The village is surrounded on 3 sides by sheer sports climbing perfection in the form of vast amounts of terraced limestone steepness! Looking west from Siurana village you are faced with it’s considerable valley crags – home of the famous La Rambla, 9a+. The village has a refugio and campsite which are both owned and maintained by the Arbones Family. Toni Arbones (Jnr) is a famous climber in his own right having climbed in the high 8’s and established numerous bigwall routes all over the world and is still the areas most prolific new router. During our previous visit to the area both Caroline and myself became friends with Toni through our running and enjoyed being shown around the beautiful surrounding valleys by Toni on numerous, torturous, multi-terrain runs. The mans a beast! This trip to Siurana was to prove no less inspirational and motivating.

Siuranella North as seen from sector L'Olla

The first night set the standard for the trip. While driving up the hairpins to the village I had to brake suddenly to allow a family of wild boars to cross the road infront of our rental car! Toni had told us of the areas wildlife before but we hadn’t expected to encounter them like this… it was great to see. Less then 5 minutes later we had pulled into the familiar car park of the campsite bar and restaurant. As usual it was fairly busy but we squeezed in and seeing Toni at a table full of people I decided not to disturb him and to go to the bar to try and check in while the others waited near the door. My pigeon Spanish didn’t get very far with the barmaid who quickly shouted over to Toni for help. Toni turns around, recognises Caroline and myself and comes over with hugs, kisses and slaps on the back as if we had known him years – it’s such a friendly, genuine place – you gotta love it! Only then did it strike me who was at Toni’s table! None other than Chris Sharma and Daila Ojeda. Having watched and read all about Sharma’s exploits ever since taking up climbing it was weird to see the guy in the flesh. Toni lashes straight into catching up with us, talking about running, climbing, races, new routes, wild Boars – everything! Before long Sharma and a few others are gathered around us before they leave, chopping and changing between English and Spanish while telling us about the nasty stomach bug running rampant through the area. Weird! Eventually things settle down and we get treated to a substantial dish of Toni’s Mams Paella before getting the key to our home for the next few days, the cabin. I could tell from everybody’s grins that evening that it was going to be a good trip.

More to come…

Saturday, 3 November 2007


Back form Spain today after some much needed sun and pocket pulling - Lots to type about... catching up with Friends, being inspired, being smacked down on routes, succeeding on routes, meeting hero's, breaking mental barriers, sunsets, wild boars, missing ropes, new routes, beautiful chicken, running, climbing, breathing, being...

I'm off to bed!

Soooooo much to type about!

Siurana is a special place

Me above all the hard climbing on Anabolica, 8a, while working the route before going for the redpoint.... I came off the crux move 4 times on the final day (my only day trying it)..... Neal stayed in Spain to finish it off (He'll of redpointed this classic by monday for sure!)

Thursday, 25 October 2007


I know this is a bit overdue but here it is anyway.... the view from my side :)
Picking Neal up from Manchester airport on Friday night was surreal - hadn't seen ot climbed with the fella in a year and a half and then he comes strolling along through the arrivals gate with the air of someone whos been through a couple of dozen airport terminals too many in his time - as he says "dont talk to me about my Carbon footprint!"
Saterday morning after a chilled breckfast and a few climbing clips on the box we hit the road to Malham in fairly poor conditions. Having been there only once before during the summer it was a stark contrast to be driving through the yourshire countryside in these bleak conditions.
Once at the crag we gear up and jump on a dryish looking 7a - at first the style of climbing takes a bit of getting used to but before long we're all playing on a nice 7b and then finish up by checking out the crags mega-classic "Raindogs" 8a. From the ground it looks fairly blank but once on it the moves suck you in - They're still in my head 2 weeks later!
Funniest moments of the day? Me comming off the 7b just below the chain and eventually being caught by Caroline around the first bolt! A VERY dynamic Belay! and also the Butt Trumpet inncodent after the sandwiches on the 7b at the end of the day - my 1st lead fall where i was actually laughing from the moment i left contact with the rock!
Back to Flintshire for the night and some kip before repeating the journey north again the following morning. Sunday turned out to be much nicer and as a result much more busy at the crag. We decided to start up on the middle tier and enjoyed some faceclimbing on a zero star 7b before a manakin was thrown from the top of the crag and landed a couple of meteres to our right as i was belaying Neal. It fooled us all! we thought someone had fallen! After the initial rush to check out the scene the anger set in at someones stupidity at pulling a stunt like that without notifing people - we were just seconds away form having the mountain rescue being sent out! All the while some plonker was filming the show from below... Jeeze!
Anyway - back to Raindogs - or not. Someone literally had a rope on it the whole day! seems to be the accepted ethic at the crag. we were the only wierdos actually leading routes onsight! we occupied ourselves with some more 7a's and a nails 7b before packing up with tired arms (mostly form saterdays exploits) and headed back to the airport with Neal
Great weekend - first of many Malham weekends i would think!

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Catch up

Been a bust few weeks!
Neal (aka Usual Suspect) has been over clipping bolts with Caroline and meself at the jewel in the crown of uk sports climbing... Malham (more from me on that soon)
I've been keeping up with work (just about!)
and i've been trying to work on a load of reviews and crag articles to post up on Team Geared after being invited to start posting there (Who'd have thunk people would actually ASK me to waffle!?)
Plus theres been education and cross-curricular courses for me to attend and more marking than can be healthy!
The Joys!
less than 2 weeks to Siurana!

Saturday, 6 October 2007


It's dark in the mornings now, theres a frost when we go for our AM runs before work... comming home i change into shorts and trainers and race to try and finish our evening sessions on the cannal path before the light fades and we retreat back to the warmth of number 5. The wall training is going well. Fingers are adapting to the regular wear. The regular routine of climb, chalk, sweat, hang, blister and sanding off the lumps of hard skin while scrubbing away the ground in chalk. Theres a goal behind all this... Siurana in 3 weeks!

More MacLeod Motivation

Within the last 2 or 3 weeks Dave's blog has been packed with a string of very impressive, very fast, very hard trad repeats in the lake district. Not content with his own ground breaking first ascents he has gone about repeating any and all hard trad lines he can travel to this year... it's been truely inspirational to follow. He takes on routes of all styles and rock types from Grit E10 (down grading to E7 or 8), North Wales E9 (Trauma), Mournes E10 (Divided Years down graded to MacLeod E8!) and now repeating A rake of Dave Birketts testpieces including Impact Day E8 6c, Caution E8 6c, Dawes Rides a Shovelhead E8 6c and If Six Was Nine, E9 6c. Also Dave has announced the launch of the new committed DVD.... I have to admitt that recently i've gone off following the whole climbing mags and media rubbish but i'm keen to check this one out.

Awesome interview

This week i stumbled on an interview with Chris Sharma about his climbing and life in general - not having much other than a car in europe and a car in the states with a rack of draws, harness and rope in each and loads of mates around the world where he can crash for a while while he passes through en-route to his next project.... makes for some great reading

"There is something both graceful and barbaric in Sharma's climbing. He couples a child-like playfulness with ferocious grit that leaves even his peers in awe and the rest of us inspired to reach a little higher and hang on a little longer.

When you do hard routes, you have to try hard. They’re not easy routes. You have to give everything you have. You have to get totally animalistic. When you’re super pumped, I have to yell to bear down."

Saturday, 29 September 2007


This is a bit of a weird one but while driving to and from work I tune into Radio One. The last couple of weeks they’ve been celebrating 40 years of broadcasting by getting modern artists to come in and cover a famous track from each year between now and 1967. I never bothered with many of them until I heard the Foo Fighters cover McCartney’s “Band on the Run”! Class!! Check it out! These guys can do no wrong as far as I’m concerned!

List of Covers


WOW! All I can type is wow! The other night after having a webcam and skype on my computer for over a year I was trawling through the web trying to find some good examples of GCSE maths exams for one of my classes when I get this weird phone noise coming from my speakers… Eh? I click something and up pops Neal! My first video conference call from home! Class! (Lucky I was wearing clothes! Haa!) It was the business, being able to talk to and look at your mate for free! It’s the way of the future people! I cant believe I never tried it before!

Friday, 28 September 2007


Well again i'm late in writing anything as a result of adjusting to the new schedule of work and training but thats not to say we've not been getting up to anything. After the success on Highway we headed back to Dinbren, this time to try a neighbouring 8a+... on arriving to the crag, the locals in the form of Lee (the guidebook writer), Guy (Lee's Nephew) and their strong friend Mark were set up camp on what we had come for.

After catching up with Lee and hearing his Beta for Elite Syncopations i decide it's worth getting on again and seeing if it feels any more doo-able. This is another 8a at the crag and has a wicked hard crux at the second bolt. The frustrating thing is that aside from this section, the rest of the route is fine and dandy! I had tried it a few months ago and decided that it didn't suit me and left it at that. With Lee's new sequence it seemed possible.

Sunday we return and after watching Lee's successful ascent on youtube the night before i was psyched to give it a propper working! Man i got spanked! if you look at the video it looks like a path! it just highlights how tall Lee actually is! I've never before been outreached by anyone but he manages to do it! It's a git of a move but workable all the same - Very powerful lock with the left shoulder on a crimp with only a very low right foothold while you reach for a distant sloper with your right

Heres Guy's video of Lee's ascent... the third hand movement is the crux! He styles through it!

Meanwhile Caroline continues her training by working the harder 7's at the crag. The line pictured above is a brilliant 7a+ but a bit reachy! I can honestly say that i reckon the sequence Caroline has crafted out of the meager holds on offer to her looks more desperate then the 8a crux i was on.... reach huh?! Not the fairest thing in the world but makes for great grading debates!

Saturday, 15 September 2007


A while back, one of my Blog posts had a comment on it from a guy called Steve who said something to the effect that he was motivated to train as a result reading my waffle… then he went and wrote some inspiring waffle of his own about his recent few days climbing with Séan in Fair Head and I got Psyched meself! I had to get out on rock and prove to myself that I could climb something decent and do it fast!

Today we headed out to Dinbren again, a week after my last skin trashing session with “Highway”. Well it marks the end of the first two weeks of our intensive winter running and climbing training schedule and I feel like a different climber again! Only two weeks of training on my board and the 8a felt like a path! I really wanted to redpoint it today so after two laps on the crag 6b warm up I abbed down the route, cleaning the holds and placing the quickdraws – the sharp nature of the crux monos means that I usually only get 3 good burns on this route so I didn’t want to waste any time (or skin).

The temps were perfect, sunshine, dry rock and a nice breeze. Someone must have been working the route lately and there were a few massive chalk lines indicating someone’s choice of footholds… They weren’t much use to me and looked gank so I brushed them off aswell on my abb down before starting. While I was abbing an impressively large owl did a fly by of the entire crag. A father and son team on a trad route further down alerted me to it first with shouts of “ Oh WOW!” and I turned around just in time to get an awesome aerial view of it’s bright golden plumage gliding by. Caroline was fairly chuffed with her close up too; apparently it practically flew past her face! As a side note, the Clwydian crags are generally good for wildlife, so far we’ve regularly seen Foxes, hawks, falcons, Owl’s, Rabbits, mice and even a Poll cat or something up at worlds end (Like a giant squirrel with a massive cigar shaped tail with a black ring on it).

Anyway, I pull the rope down and tie in… the route begins with a boulder problem involving a shallow mono and a slopey matchbox pinch that has to be deadpointed from to a sharp two-finger pocket that you have to catch as an undercut at full stretch. From there a few non-descript moves lead to a good hold and a rest before a long crux sequence out under and through a blank-looking bulge. Left crimp, high right gaston, left to intermediate thumb-catch, foot up, left again out to wide, beefy pinch, right toehook in the good hold allows me to release the gaston and catch a high undercut below the crux bulge without swinging off. Then the scary clip from way above the last bolt.

Now the strange bit, previously I had been sketching by this stage due to the pump and nerves but this time I’m solid enough to relax and chalk up my left before reaching over the bulge to the slopey two finger scoop… normally this feels desperate and I have to snatch out to the right hand mono sidepull but today I can actually lock-off and chalk my right hand (I actually thought to myself “Why are you chalking up for a feckin mono?”) and then wipe the excess chalk off on my trousers before holding the mono. Next I’m adjusting my feet, ready for the deadpoint to the Killer mono with the flapper-ripping tooth. From here on things get a bit Vocal as I know I’m fresh and I really want to stick this sequence. I reach high to the mono and it feels good as I stack my thumb and index finger onto my middle (just like I practiced on the board during the week) and step up my feet. The slap to the sloper happens perfectly and I’m on the bulge and further than I’ve ever been on this route.

The footholds are rubbish at this point. Basically I’m standing on a quarter of your little fingernail with my right and a rough patch of vertical rock with my left. The handholds are slopers. The higher you stand up, the more likely your feet are to skid off and theres a bolt to clip infront of my face but I cant let go of either hand! I hop my left up high and have one of those on-off moments where I’m a gnats left testie from peeling off backwards. I’m on, stand up to the undercut above and the final easy bulge after skipping the last draw. Clipping the lower off I’m shocked. 2 weeks of board work and the route felt like a path compared to how it felt before our trip to Ireland. After stripping the draws I was at a loss as to what to do next… I was all set for a full days battle and I sent it in one! We kept busy – no shortage of bolts to clip

My second 8a …

Sunday, 9 September 2007

The Storm

I've been quiet lately....
My first week of Teaching in my new school is just over and i'm enjoying it there!
But i'm taking a beating adjusting to the hard winter training and working routine again and adapting to being generally fatigued every day as a result... We're upping the weekly mileage to around the 60 miles mark and cranking up the climbing training intensity too... must be paying off, went out yesterday to Dinbren to tie in and try clipping some bolts for the first time in over a month... after a warm up i managed to get past my previous highpoint on my new 8a project before fluffing the sequence and comming off at the top crux mono (the one with the sharp tooth!). I realised something important though... I've always had a good head for remembering sequences, what hand and footholds to use and in which order, but this requires more than just the black and white pattern. The holds themselves are not enough for me to stay on, they have to be used and squeezed in the right way, tensing and contorting my core in just the right way and at the right time to allow me to pass. I gave it one other good redpoint effort before the 3 right-hand monos on the route took their toll on my skin and i called it a day. But i learnt something up there that i can use on every route in future...
Today (Sunday) Caroline had a 10km race in Manchester so we made our way there for half eight. Then the Coach springs a race number with my name on it on me without warning and i end up running my first 10km road race on the spur of the moment! I feel shite having not raced since June but jog around in 40mins (with my 5km times around 17mins i should be able to knock out a 35min 10km!!) Ah well, it was a nice morning and i got some training out of it - most importantly i didn't kill myself trying to race it and risk my fitness for the comming months hard training.

Complete Scream, E8

Sean boy goes and picks up the second ascent of this cracker! Well done man! Ah well, plenty of More rock at the head... I'll have to content myself with some hardcore training for now before a lenghty trip back to Fairhead sometime in the future...

Séan had this to say to me about it all:

Without the Peg and without duck tape... I think duck tape is unethical! don't you think? :)Awsome route... though the skyhooks are pretty bommer... You'll love it, big moves on small face holds...excelent technical face climbing
Also did Bad skin day, not as scary but really nice route too. and this route called Men of kerow, nice stemming and jamming.
Was climbing in Freyr today with Tom and the lads...feels funny to clip bolts again but Freyr is really good climbing.


Sunday, 2 September 2007

Sean's Expedition website

Check it out!!!

The Burren and back again… Via Glendalough!

Tom Enjoying his first steps on Trad (E6)
Eh? Well things got a bit messy after the Aran Islands… Kev had to go back to Dublin for work on Monday and Sean needed to get to Doolin to meet up with the happiest Belgian on Earth, Tom (Who I had met last year in Ceuse), who was coming over to meet up with Sean for an introduction to Traditional climbing. These two guys have been mates since they were kids and Tom was keen to visit Ireland and catch up with Sean after his crazy year of big walling. Sean was just back from 3 months in Patagonia followed by 2 months in Pakistan establishing new, free big wall routes in an underdeveloped valley – 2 routes were in excess of 1200m! We had a day to kill before our ferry back to Wales so decided to give Sean a lift to Doolin and stay the night and get some routes in on Monday before splitting for Dublin ourselves. We camped on top of the cliffs at Alladie – perfect!

Sean and his Whistle

Monday morning we woke to some sort of demi-hell – millions of the nastiest, most ferocious midge seemed set on devouring us piece by piece so we packed up out tents in a flurry of arms and curses and speed towards Fanore beach for a swim to steady our nerves and clear the midge from our skin. After the swim it was time to climb… as I mentioned earlier, I got hit with some sort of bug just before we made it to the Aran Islands causing me to loose my voice and leaving me totally wasted – I know when I’m sick as my shoulders just feel like lead weights! I really wanted to jump on loads of the lines I had on my tick list but didn’t want to waste them if I wasn’t feeling right. I end up trying ‘Quicksilver’ E5 6a on the far end of Mirror wall. Now I’ve heard someone say that they reckoned this was a soft E5 or maybe even a hard E4, Well I have always had a hard time on this one, well just one move to be honest but it just pumps me silly! This time I cruise it clean as a warm up and Sean seconds me and reinforces my opinion on it’s grade, Its an E5 alright – Phew! I’m not that soft yet!

Me and Sean on Quicksilver, E5

Sean seconding Quicksilver

Next up I point Sean at ‘Ice Queen’ E5 6a and he romps up it with shouts of Brilliant! Amazing! Perfect Face climbing! I second it and then Caroline climbs it. Up to this point Caroline had been taking a back seat on the climbing front, chilling out with her sister who had come with us for the weekend. Caroline manages to climb ‘Ice Queen’ clean on a slack top rope and frankly stunned the hell out of meself and Sean. It was a real fight and she won…. It’s on her list of leads to do now (watch this space!).

After that we had to pack up and split if we were going to catch our ferry but just had time to drop Sean to Doolin where he could wait for Tom to Arrive. We dropped Caroline’s sister home in Offaly on our way back to Dublin but the motivation to catch the ferry seemed to evaporate the closer we got… I’d had a taste of the Burren Rock and I needed more!

Tuesday morning and we’ve missed our ferry and are still in Ireland – Damn! Off to Glendalough! Sean had been filling our heads with talk of Big Walls and Caroline wanted to do some multipitch climbing. We end up climbing on of Glendalough’s most celebrated lines, ‘Spilikin Ridge’, 85m of E3 5c crack climbing in spectacular positions. This was only Caroline’s second ever multi pitch and she loved it! Stopping for lunch at the base of the crag we hatch a cunning plan to miss tonight’s ferry and head to the Burren for a couple more days!

Wednesday morning we hit the road to Galway again and make it to Alladie for mid afternoon. Walking into the crag and seeing Sean and Tom on top of a route was priceless – They were gobsmacked! Sean had just topped out on an E7 to the left of ‘Very Big Springs’ and Tom was loving Ireland and Trad climbing. We catch up briefly and explain ourselves then jump on some routes – Sunstone, Route 32, Eliminator, and Desolation Row – All feeling easy! I must be shaking this bug! That night we set up camp on top of the Jokerman Wall and head into Doolin for some live music and a session that just kept on going into the night.

Room with a view - Notice Toms makeshift bivi shelter to the right of Seans silver tent!

The next morning I woke up first and chilled out in the light breeze that kept the midge at bay. Eventually everyone rises and after a prolonged breakfast we all head to Fanore for another Swim, Tom is sceptical at first about swimming in the some what less than tropical conditions but we convert him to our ways and we have great craic body surfing the waves. Funny seeing the horrified looks of the onlooking wetsuit wearing surfers! Right then, What to Lead?

Gearing up - This felt very heavy after all our recent sports climbing!

Everyone is feeling a bit tired at this stage but we gotta do something! I set an Ab up and we go down to try ‘Sharkbait’ E5 6b – this is an awesome line but I had seen some very strong crack climbers get spat off this one over the years and stories of a pumpy, goey, 6b crux had put me off trying it before now. I tie in and cruise to the top – nothing stands out as being too difficult. Was that really E5 6b? I must be feeling good. Meanwhile Tom leads ‘Black Barron’ E2 and Sean belays while watching me on Sharkbait. Caroline seconds me and realises where the route got its name (See pic below). Caroline in typical stubborn form refuses to leave any of the gear in place and cleaned the line while seconding - before this Caroline had bee struggling to get to grips with pure crack climbing, well something clicked! Caroline seconded the route cleanly to the 6b crux before comming off due to a foot slipping and a reachy move. Once past the crux Caroline cruises to the belay - After finishing her crash course in crack climbing! Tom makes it to the top of the Black Barron and looks like he needs a drink. “I Nearly Shat Myself!” he says… bit of a contrast to sports climbing alright!

Caroline became Sharkbait after seconding the E5 6b

Sean gets psyched and goes for ‘Jokerman’ E6 6b and gets it onsight (possibly only the second onsight ever of this line).

Jokerman E6 6b

Then before leaving Sean wants to try Sharkbait – afterwards he tells me that I made it look too easy – he thought it was going to be easier – infact both himself and Tom said that it was as hard as Jokerman! Tom even thought it was harder – They reckon I should get on the E7’s...

The Lads starting up the awesome line of Sharkbait, E5 6b

Their encouragement is much appreciated and now I feel psyched for some hard training and confident that anything is possible if I want it! Alas we have to get going and end up driving the Lads to Andy’s gaff back in Dublin (Andy, I know you don’t read blogs but Cheers for the Tea!! And your Gaff and Pooch are both Class!)

And that’s a wrap!

Back in Wales now after an awesome trip home! I didn’t get to meet up with half the people I wanted to but nothing new there, haa! I recharged my flow and had a great time with the few family and friends we actually did catch up with.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Aran Islands

We eventually made it over to Inis Mor on Saturday morning and met Kev and Belgian Sean at the Dun Aengus Coffee shop in light Drizzle… yuk! We hop on our bikes and explore Poll na b’Peist… the lines I had lead 5 years ago look so pathetic now… Jeeze! We explore some new cliffs and unearth two great lines, a New E3 6a and an E5 6a. The next day however we went exploring Scalp na platti and it’s considerable 70 – 80m cliffs. The outcome was ‘Tom agus Mick’, E4 in beautiful sunshine on perfect rock up steep cracks with bomb proof protection. 2 pitches and a 10m scramble up a groove to top out. Bliss! Now theres only the other 1000 or so other unclimbed lines to be done on the island and we’ll have a mega crag on our hands! Pictures are on Kev’s Camera… I’ll post them as soon as I get them!

Dalkey’s Crack Attack round

Our last day in the quarry before my granddads 80th birthday and we head off to the Aran Islands and we’ve had our fill of trying the hard lines. We’ve 4 hours to climb before having to leave for the festivities and I realise that Caroline has never climbed the classic E2 cracks. Can we do all 5 before leaving? Damn straight!
Tower Ridge Direct, E2 5c
Heres the challenge:
The Shield
Smouldering stirrups
Blazing Saddles
Tower Ridge Direct
The Gnasher
2 climbers
1 rack
1 rope
0 falls
0 rests
All belays must be set up and dismantled
All 5 routes must be seconded and cleaned
Clock starts on entering the quarry
Clock stops on leaving

Blazing Saddles, E2

Our time 2:34 (But we stopped for lunch and did one or two other side lines as solos)

I reckon some local out there could probably tidy them off in under an hour but it would be interesting to see…

Give em a go! They’re a great few lines!

Imagine the pitch if they were all stacked one ontop of each other!


Our first climbing stop in Ireland was Dalkey Quarry in south Dublin. This is an awesome venue and should be high on the list of places to visit for all climbers coming to Ireland. A sizable granite quarry originally used to provide rock for the nearby Dun Laoirigh harbour, the quarry now holds over 300 traditional lines from Easy to E7 with potential for much more. This is where I took my first climbing steps and I have spent probably far too much time on its lower grade classics throughout my years living in Dublin. Once I began to climb at other locations the quarry lost it’s appeal for a while as I had effectively climbed it out – there were no routes left for me at my grade. A few years later I spent some time working with youth groups in the quarry just before moving to North Wales and I began to see the quarry in a new light again – there was loads to go at! Now I see the quarry as a venue to go and spend some time on something hard. Unfortunately many of the better lines have seemed to fallen into a state of disrepair with vegetation reclaiming many of the less trafficked lines at an alarming rate. It is a sad situation but there are just not enough people climbing these lines to keep them in good nick.

View from the Quarry

One of the main problems with attempting some of the harder lines in the quarry is the fact that many rely on some element of fixed protection, usually in the form of pegs placed where no other protection will fit. The problem with this is that unlike bolts, the pegs are often placed in very thin cracks which act as drainage lines, exposing the pegs to more then their fair share of water – throw in the close proximity of the sea and you’ve got a recipe for corrosion. As many of the harder lines were first equipped over 15 years ago their protection is currently incomparable to its original state… yet the grades remain unchanged. Lets get one thing straight, Dalkey is not an ego-massaging venue, with a few exceptions it’s not home to many soft ticks.

One such line that I had tried over 3 years ago was CHOMOLUNGMA Sans Oxygen, which goes at something like E6/7 6c. Originally the line was vigorously cleaned and equipped with 5 pegs, some of which were cemented in place to add extra protection. The route forces a direct line up Dalkey’s largest expanse of overhanging rock and is a contender for the best line in the quarry in my opinion. Currently only 3 of the routes 5 original pegs remain and two of those can be bent by hand. Without the time or equipment to invest into overhauling the route I contented myself with toproping the route to act as a gauge for how I had progressed over the previous few years. Surprisingly the route felt great and not too difficult. After a few clean ascents on a very slack rope I began to lust after the lead and the tick – it could be lead entirely on natural pro but all of it would have to be placed below you as you climbed, as the gear would obscure the crucial hand holds needed. A lead on completely natural pro is a worthy goal for this line, removing the last 3 pegs. Unfortunately such an ascent will have to wait as 3 of the crux fingerlocks simply refused to dry out despite me spending 4 days out in the quarry waiting! No amount of chalking or sponging would pause the drip, drip, drip long enough for me to consider leading the route in it’s current state so I contented myself with the fact that it provided some good training and that I had repeatedly climbed it clean on a safety line despite the seepage.

The Rest before the final 6c sequence on CHOMOLUNGMA SANS O2

Another interesting hard line that I spent some time on while in the quarry was bitter aftertaste. This route has an interesting history… originally bolted, it breached the overhang left of tower ridge. Causing considerable interest, then controversy the bolts were eventually removed and it’s first ascentionist placed a single peg and then lead the route traditional style at E6 6a. Firstly, it’s not 6a… Infact it couldn’t even pretend to be 6a with powerful moves on small but positive crimps up an overhang with it’s only protection a fair bit below and some nasty looking angular ledges not to much further below that! This is a serious route, made more serious due to the fact that originally there was a thread near the lip of the overhang, which has now crumbled and disappeared – does this add to the difficulty? Maybe not, but the route has still to receive a repeat and I’m at the point where I may step out of the queue for it. In all honesty I think the bolts belonged in it. It is not a traditional climb, the style of the climbing the terrain it goes through… had the bolts remained it would have added something unique to the quarry and probably gone a considerable way towards removing the glass ceiling currently putting a cap on Irish climbing standards. Some lines should remain as hard trad testpieces – and some should be opened as sports lines allowing Irish people to experience hard SAFE climbing on home turf… The deciding factor should be the style of the climbing and the natural protection available. Currently the route remains there with it’s one peg and empty boltholes – seldom touched and wasted. After spending 4 days out in the quarry I came away from it wondering what the MCI or the climbers put back into the place? Is there money available for replacing fixed protection? If it was replaced would it spark interest in the great lines again? Who would be willing to put the time into doing it? I would and probably will once we move back home in the future. As it stands, climbing one of these hard lines in Dalkey requires a lot of time, effort and preparation… factors that actually add to the experience and make every hard ascent something special.

Friday, 31 August 2007

Back at Last!

Well our trip home ended up being extended due to good weather and great Rock conditions - Now we're home and wrecked and have begun sifting through all the pictures before posting a load up here
So many stories!

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Dave MacLeod

I’ve always had a link to probably the most inspiring of the climbing sites on the web at the right of my blog… Dave MacLeod’s Blog. Well recently it’s been buzzing with news of his planned first ascent on live TV for the BBC. He’s got at least 3 new lines inspected and cleaned in Hells Lum in preparation for the big day ranging from E8 to a choppy E10.

Probably 6 years ago at this stage I had the luck to climb with this guy at an international meet held in Fairhead to promote new routing in Ireland and really showcase Irelands potential for hard trad climbing. Both Dave MacLeod and Cubby attended and as luck would have it … so did I. At the Time Dave was just beginning to make headlines over in Ireland. In a weird quirk I ended up sharing a dorm with both himself and Cubby (3 Daves), neither of which I knew anything about other than the fact that they were sound blokes and as keen as myself to climb at Fairhead. At the time although I had climbed some mid E-grades at my local crag I was basically a fat, weak HVS climber. During the course of the weekend I watched Dave Lead the Classic E5 of the Crag – Wall of Prey. This was the first time I had seen anyone climb an E5 and it stuck in my brain. Next he methodically abbed and inspected the line next to it – Above and beyond, E6 - before deciding it needed more cleaning than he had time to put into it and decided to try some other lines. It was great to see someone using a sensible approach to these lines and I think it left a mark on my climbing to this day.

Before the end of the visit Dave explored some of the impressive boulders at the base of the crag and I joined him – Curious. The first instinctive reaction of the Irish climbers with their Trad-or-Dead ethos would be to mock such ‘pebbling’ below the immaculate, multi-pitch cliffs – but in the company of a proven climber I guess I sensed I could get away with a bit of bouldering. Dave was sound – we had no pads so just took turns spotting and climbing – Dave sent some quality crimpy lines and I even made it up one or two aswell – what was obvious straight away was his love of the sport, something that he puts across very well on his blog. Since then I’ve grown as a climber and even returned to the head and climbed E6 myself – adopting a very similar approach to Dave’s during that meet. Without being reckless, inspecting the line and weighing the risks.

More recently I’ve taken inspiration from Dave’s training tips, articles and advice – He really does know his stuff and has an impressive string of ascents to prove what he says works. Since dedicating myself to loosing weight, running and finger boarding religiously I’ve seen huge gains even since February! 7b to 8a in 5 months! And I’m not stopping there… It’s just the beginning. I’m going back to the Emerald Isle for a couple of weeks and hope to visit and climb on all the Trad Crags that I learned to climb on years ago and I’m sure I’ll end up wanting some new line or other (there being at least half a dozen E6’s and 7’s permanently lodged in my brain, ripe for the reaping) I’m sure I’ll be giddy with excitement at leading some awesome route and will have to weight up the odds – hopefully realising where I’m at and where I want to be in a month, a year, 2 years... Whether or not I commit to any big leads will depend on how much within my current ability the route actually is. Thoughts that I’m sure MacLeod will be thinking this weekend before his live Climb Broadcast. All I can say is Best of Luck man!!

The Aran Islands, Co. Galway, West of Ireland

Heres a couple of Pictures from Kev’s recent trip to the Aran Islands – here pictured climbing a new variation to the Roof, E4 6a. This is a bit of a novelty route… the original line climbs a 6m crack that splits the centre of this diving board roof 70m above the Atlantic ocean. The line is protected by pre-placed slings draped down the crack from above and has a wild finishing sequence at the lip. It’s basically an 8m sports route that you do for the pictures! Here Kev pioneers a lip traverse variation using the same style of protection… Fun, fun, fun! For any climbers out there in Internet land, the Aran Islands had over 9 miles of cliff coastline and only less than 100 recorded lines… I put up about 30 or so a few years back during a productive summers new routing… but there be some mega lines there ripe for the taking!! Now that I can climb I cant wait to go back!

5.10 Anasazi Verde Review

Well I said ages ago that I’d write something about these once I had given them a going over – well I’ve used them in anger now and heres the verdict… There is no perfect shoe but these come as close as I’ve ever seen. I originally bought them for a planned trip to Fairhead when I was planning on needing a decent edging shoe but have been wearing them mostly on sports limestone. When it comes to Edging they are fantastic! The heel is snug, the fit is tight but comfortable and the rubber is stickier than shit on a blanket! The only failing I’ve noticed so far is for foot smearing – maybe it’s because I’ve sized them quite tight or maybe it’s because they’re still very new, but either way I’ve found myself reverting to my 5.10 Anasazi Velcros (Onyx) for routes requiring broad smears as they feel more flexible and worn in. A big thumbs up for the Verdes though – Cant wait to try them on Dalkey Granite or Head Dolerite!

Salute to the MSR

I’ve been using MSR stoves ever since I began climbing and camping around at crags. I love em! Heres my trusty dragonfly – not the quietest wee beastie around but will boil your water using anything even remotely flammable – I’ve always run mine on unleaded petrol.

I’ve had this in the alps, at altitude, in thunder storms, on beaches… hell, I’ve even driven over it accidentally two years ago while driving the length of France and it still works without a bother… MSR, I Salute you!

Rock Update

Well I’ve not been idle since sending the final solution last Tuesday. Sticking to a one day on, one day off approach meant the next days climbing was Thursday and we hit Dinbren. Dinbren in Clwyd is a strange crag… we’ve been visiting the place on and off for the last two years but until recently I had only ever climbed a handful of routes up to 7b. It tests me… Its like you have to go there and stare down the routes before they let you lead them. It felt like I was banging my head off a wall – I just could not make any progress on the steep, crimpy, powerful lines. The climbs here are all overhanging – usually beginning with some form of roof and often finishing with a bulge or capping roof. The Limestone is compact and all the routes utilise a variety of undercuts, edges and pinches to contort a path upwards – there are very few holds resembling our understanding of a jug. All this goes towards explaining why we usually have the entire crag to ourselves! It’s the Anti-Dave of crags and probably just what I need to be working.
After the confidence boost from France I decided to keep working Dinbren until either I broke through the barrier or it broke me – either way I’d be stronger next time I went to France. Thursday we went there with the goal of proving to myself that the 8a was not a fluke – I had two in mind – One was a John Dunne addition from 2002 called Highway and took a direct line up a clean overhang to a protruding bulge that is tackled on small slopey pockets. The other 8a is a 3 star line that has seen a lot of attention lately from one of the guidebook writers, Lee – Elite syncopations blasts a powerful path up some steep ground to join and finish up a 7b+ after the 3rd bolt.
Thursday I jump on Highway to begin working the moves and see if it’s a go’er. The first 6m or so are basically a stiff little boulder problem finishing with a deadpoint from a two finger tip crimp to a sharp inverted pocket with your right before moving up to a jug, a bolt and a little rest before the long, precise crux sequence through the steepening ground. This took some working out – try after try I was being spit off – first trying to catch a poor undercut without swinging off, then trying to move off the shallow two-finger pocket on the bulge, then trying to stick the sharp half-pad mono, then the deadpoint from the mono to the “Bassa” – that’s what I’ve ended up nicknaming the nasty sharp mono-and-a-half divot with the sadistically placed rock-tooth! I always end up growling “Yeh Bassa!” (or words sounding quite similar) when I stab my right middle and ring finger tips onto it’s tooth and weight it before hiking my feet up awkwardly under the bulge and launching for the grit-style sloper with my left! Thwack!! A font-style top out later and you’re at the chains. After my first inspection on Thursday I had unearthed a sequence fairly quickly that worked for me but had serious doubts if I could string it together without falls – it was complicated, and Steep! We finish the day off with a load of easier routes in the 7’s and Head home to regrow some skin.

After a days rest we found ourselves back at Dinbren again on Saturday. This time the curiosity gets the better of me and I jump on the other 8a, Elite syncopations. Totally not my style. I spend what seem like hours working out the moves and making sure I’ve tried every possible sequence and found every single nubbin and edge on the route. I get to the top and lower off and we go and do some miles on other lines before I come back for round two and work the line some more. After the second session I am sure I’ve not missed anything and know whats needed. The route is basically a 2 move desperate to get off the ground and then a 7b+ to the chains. But what a powerful 2 moves they are! I can do the moves but they come with a high risk of injury as they are dynamic and involve deadpointing through a roof to a crimpy pocket from a knee level undercut, bearing down on the pocket and basically doing a one-armer from it to a pinch above the second bolt – after that it’s fine to the chains. Right – I can do this but it’s not a route that will crack simply by spending time on it – I can train that kind of specific strength at home on the board and come back to it ready… that’s made my mind up for me anyway – Highway, the John Dunne 8a is my current project…
Monday and we’re back. This time we waste no time and after clearing a wild rose bust from the starting holds I find myself linking huge sections of the route 1st attempt while putting the draws on. I get to the top and come down – the “Bassa” has already made a nice little incision across my two finger tips but not quite cut through the tough layer of skin yet… we go off and do some 6c’s and 7a’s that Caroline really enjoys (Caroline has the extra difficulty of having to overcome the often reach dependant nature of some of the routes – but she’s adapting to it much like meself – moving through the myriad of emotions from depression, anger, determination, to joy once you crack a move!). It’s time to give the 8a it’s first real redpoint effort. I tie in and blast through the boulder problem, shake out at the rest hold and move under the bulge… Crimp, high gaston, thumb-sprag as an intermediate, onto the wide pinch, toehook in the rest jug locks me into position and I can reach up to the undercut in control, feet up, clip, left over the bulge to the two-finger, adjust feet, mono, adjust feet, stab to “Bassa” (Ouch!), feet under the bulge and slap! Some airtime follows…
That was the last hold and the end of the difficulties – I didn’t get it, but it’s all of a sudden very close to being in the bag! Next Day! Unfortunately the mono and the “Bassa” left their mark and I’ve a flapper – How ironic after just blogging about skincare! Haa! Time for some TLC before my next redpoint attempt but the relief of knowing that there are two more 8a’s that I can do is indescribable – At least it wasn’t fluke – and more importantly I’ve some more short term goals before looking at the crags 3 8b’s…

Sunday, 12 August 2007

Lots of Climbing

Since getting back from France we've been doing more hard climbing than i reckon i have ever done before. We're climbing every second day and it seems to be working quite well. In addition to the climbing we're still doing our usual running every day and trying to get done all the other stuff that seems to crop up. One of the main improvements i've noticed is in the condition of my tips... normally after any amount of sustained cranking (especially in Clwyd with it's tiny crimps and steep, compacted limestone) my skin is blown after a couple of days. Well while training on the board at home i began to apply something i've known for years but never did anything about... Have a read...

Dave's Tips for Climbing Skin Care
1 - Get the chalk off your mits as soon as possible once you've finished your climbing! Whether its at a wall or out at a crag - Wash your hands! If i'm out at a crag i'll use a stream or the left overs from the days supply of bottled water. Using some sand or grit mixed in it helps too. At home i use any kind of soapy hand scrub. The idea being you're skin needs moisture to heal and regrow - chalk is there to DE-MOISTURISE your skin and it does it very well. if you can get it off your hands asap - you;ll start healing quicker

2 - File or sand off any lumps, tears, flappers. use whatever you got - even a abrasive piece of stone

3 - Moisturise. During Summer thats easy - aftersun works just as well on your tips as it does on your sunburn. ClimbOn cream i've found is great too for the drive home or in the evening time when you've finished cooking and dont have to do anything dexterous and can just let it soak in.

(if you've an extreme flapper and want it to heal as fast as possible - full a cup with water - and Cary it around with you all day with the offending digit submerged in the water - it works)
A bit of a weird post this – Before going to France I got a Mail from the usual suspect, Neal, something along the lines of “… so whats the plan for this trip? Going to go for loads of onsights or try something different and work something hard for a change?”. By the second day in the tarn after some 7b onsights those words were bouncing around my head like alarm bells! The Git! It wasn’t until we got back to North Wales that I eventually listened and hey presto – I ticked an awesome route and opened the gates for loads more like it – I have finally begun to learn how to redpoint and am supprised as to how rewarding it feels. Anyway – not the point of this post – Neal, the git, aka the usual suspect – he trained, by himself mostly, for a good year before heading south and sending his first 8a+. He took the initiative and got some rewards and all the while was sewing seeds of similar goals in my mind through conversations or emails – whatever! He’s a legend!

Got me to thinking about how much we’ve bounced off each others motivation over the years – it’s been cool. Before I went to Uni a friend introduced me to rock climbing out in Dalkey Quarry. One Day while out on our usual pilgrimage to the sunny side of the quarry be happened across this skinny half naked climber guy – catching some rays while waiting for his mates to arrive – he showed us how to do some impossible looking move at the beginning of a bouldery HVS (Ex-Ivy Wall), we try it, don’t have the co-ordination, fail and move on … that was McQuaid (Still hasn’t got a tan to this day!). A few weeks later I go to buy my first ever harness and rock shoes from the great outdoors in Dublin and who sells me them but… Neal. At this stage, me being an impressionable youth, he seems to know his stuff – he even knows about E2’s!!

Later that year I join DCU and straight away, it’s climbing club – who’s there only Neal and Rob and Andy – these 3 guys had been fueling each others climbing for the past year since they all joined the club together. Before long I was trying to keep up with the guys on rock and then there was 4 people bouncing off each others flow – it was a fairly rapid learning curve – I can still remember Andy’s face when I dogged my first E1 – He literally jumped up with Rack in hand and ran over to do it! Within a year of ever seeing rock I had soloed E4 6b and the lads had all been over to Spain and lead 7a! The guys were always stronger than me indoors and I was always a case of “no brains no headaches” outdoors so we were a good match.

Then for my first real taste of climbing Neal drove me around Europe for what seemed like years in 2003. Neal drove us to Ceuse, Verdon, Ailfroide, Font, Switzerland and Frankenjura. We hooked up with some Brilliant people and climbed our brains out. I don’t think we ever really came back… Now He’s still getting me in gear from feckin New Zealand! Legend! Now theres the little matter of trying to beat him to 8b… before we get the finger out and REALLY train :)

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Suicide Crack - E3 6a

Some pictures from one of the Trad lines we did yesterday - This little gem is a 3 star classic - and provides a great little test of finger stamina and footwork, Plus it's protected by perfect wires all the way (providing of course you can hang around to place them :))