Friday, 31 August 2007
Tuesday, 14 August 2007
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!!
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!
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…
Sunday, 12 August 2007
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)
Wednesday, 8 August 2007
Tuesday, 7 August 2007
Still desperate to keep the momentum from the holiday we hit the local crags in search of something hard to project. An isolated 8a with few repeats and a lot of history takes my eye and we go and check it out. Originally the line was graded E7 6c and was the hardest line in the Valley back in 1988. It took a direct line up a steep, blank wall past one peg and two home made bolts before traversing right into the easy finishing crack of a neighbouring E5. Then in 2002 Nick Dixon (of Indian Face Fame) stuck one final bolt in the overhung, capping, headwall – straightened the line out and gave the crag it’s only 8a. Typically he graded it accurately but modestly added low in the grade (sandbagger!). Online opinions on the route’s grade vary from 8a+ to 7c+ but no-one debated it’s quality or difficulty. I dog and frigg my way to the top and decide to never go near it again – there were whole sections that I could not imagine climbing cleanly – or at all! We pack up and head to Dinbren for some 7b’s to refresh our memory of how fingery the climbing here really is.
Caroline and Rocky at Worlds End
Day two – Friday
While I was working the 8a on Wednesday Caroline’s eye was caught by a neighbouring E5 so we headed back that direction to try it out. I manage to onsight it and Caroline seconds it, all the while thinking about leading it herself. Then the strangest thing happens – while abbing down from the E5, the 8a takes my eye again and I do the stupidest thing – I want to try it again! This time I lead up to the 3rd bolt with only one fall and no frigging! Wow! I thought that section was impossible! Then the bizarre moves below the overlap keep spitting me off before finally I give in and pull on the draw to frigg to the next bolt and work the previously impossible finishing sequence on powerful, painful finger locks and pinches – eventually after many attempts a sequence emerges through the expletives that proves to work time and time again – I now had the route cut into two doable sections separated by the impossible middle move. Hmmm… time to pack up again…. We’ll see…
Caroline Redpointing at Ruthin
Day three – Sunday
Today we had two objectives – Caroline was kinda sceptical of her 7a+ and 7b leads in France so wanted to do another route here in the UK to confirm it – 30 minutes later Caroline had redpointed another 7a – Summer Time Blues – Ruthin. Wow… that was quick. Now onto “Worlds End” crag again for another attempt at the 8a. I ab down the route, putting the draws in and brushing the holds and then tie in and go for my first redpoint attempt – I shock myself by sketching my way up to the final bolt, clipping it and then setting off into the redpoint crux sequence through the overhang – I lock the left hand on the crimp, reach up and sink the pinkie finger lock and squeeze with the thumb catch – paste both feet on the choosen blank patches and snatch my left hand up to the open pinch – I’m on – I’m off – totally pumped – shaking, out of breath – that was sooooo close but soooo hard!! Two more redpoint attempts that day and I was falling off ever so slightly lower each attempt. By the end of the day my fingers were reduced to shreds but I was surprised at how a previously impossible sequence could open up after a bit of practice. On the drive home I realised I had lead the original route, Rudolph Hess, E7 6c cleanly 3 times that day – get those thoughts outa your head slacker! The Jobs not done and anyway that’s a dead route – the big link’s 8a and that’s what you’re trying!!
The Final Solution, 8a
Day Four – Tuesday
After a days recovery of my fingers and their tips are still looking and feeling paper thin. The begin to sweat even at the thought of the route… the day begins overcast and theres even the odd bit of rain but we hedge our bets and go out for another batch of attempts. I put the draws in on abseil and then tie in for the lead – this time I wear the new Anazasi Verdes (previously trying the route in the velcros) and cruise through all the impossible sections right up to the overhang sequence, reach up to the finger lock but it doesn’t fit right and the thumb catch wasn’t much help either, I slap for the pinch but I’m already falling. No gasps, no roars, just slumping onto the rope and lowering off to the ground. Whats going on? What will this take? For Feck’s Sake!! I sit and mope for a while than Caroline stands up and puts her GriGri on the rope, “Right, It’s time – C’mon” she says. Eh… I’m still pumped but I’ve learned to listen. I tie in and execute the lover Brittish 6c moves like clockwork, crimp, lay away, palm, foot, intermediate, crimp, deadpoint, flatty etc… Then im at the impossible move below the overhang – this felt easy last try but I struggle this time and brush my specs off the rope as I contort myself into staying on – they almost fall off my face but hang on one ear as I reach up to the opposition hold with the thumb hook on the lip of the roof – I don’t need to see the holds at this stage, the moves are ingrained. Undercut, crimp, clip, fix specs… Now the crux – my right pinkie slots into the finger lock like the perfectly sized wire – thumb on the catch, it’s solid, I let out a burst as I stick the left pinch and cut loose on the overhang before sucking it in and getting my feet back on, now just two more stabs up the wannabe crack with the right hand and I can grab the finishing hold – another burst as I stab outa the pinkie lock to a slopey undercut in the vague crack – it’s just a transitory hold, on again, this time I’m shouting as i latch the finger lock, twist the hips, match feet and step the right out onto the face to the marked edge, Jug! Clip! 8a, 5.13b Done! We round the day off with an E5 6b onsight and a classic E3 6a finger crack… What a day!
Saturday, 4 August 2007
High up on "le bug de l’an debile", 7c
The next hard line I try was le bug de l’an debile, 7c, in the Foetus sector. Caroline picked this one for me to have a go at. An immaculate face climb on resin bolts capped with an overhanging prow. It’s funny – I had always assumed my style of route was something a bit steep and powerful and not too sustained at all – oh, and big holds far apart were a pre-requisite. I had always placed vertical sports climbs in the impossible, not to be tried, compartment of my mental guidebooks. I was wrong. I cruised up the technical face and only fell off near the top where the wall steepened and the holds ran out. I hung around for a bit choosing to ignore to line of chalked up jugs leading left to the neighbouring 7a, up a bolt and back across right to the next bolt on the 7c above the blank section. That’s not right… I eventually think I’ve figured a way around the blockage by using my full span to reach a pathetic ripple on the blankness by undercutting the top of the last jug with my left. From this position of facial intimacy with the unchalked and probably untouched limestone I moved my feet up (feeling a bit daft – must have looked pathetic, totally spread out flat against this blank face) and then swung my left hand up towards a distant potential hold. The problem being that once I let go of the undercut I was beginning to peel off – only my left foot was having any effect in slowing my fall off backwards, and the right hand ripple was useless other than as a balancing aid. A few tries later I stuck a crimp on a sloper and sketched up to the jugs above and on to the chains. A local then informs us that the 7c takes the cheat loop around the blank section – they didn’t know what the direct sequence was graded. Hmmmm…
Next route was another 8a, this time a well known one in sector de que fas aqui called moules frites. It was early in the day and the sun was on the crag but I didn’t expect more than to just try the moves – after 7 clips I had onsighted to the final crux before finally falling off a warm, chalked mono dimple – figured the crux out and made it past the scary slopers, through the tiny overlap and to the chains – at this stage of the trip my skin was holding out but wearing quite quickly when I was on hard routes so I decided to come back another day and give the route a redpoint attempt – this one suited me down to the ground.
Moules Frites, 8a
Thursday, 2 August 2007
Click HERE to listen to their sounds...
Then this 11km stretch of the Tarn is the most … interesting…
11km of kayaking through rapids full of nasty pointed rocks looming out of the boiling froth like the flesh ripping fangs of some ancient wild beast is not the most ideal way to spend a rest day but it was fun all the same. We only capsized one time and I’ll take the blame for it. Brilliant experience – totally recommended!Also of interest in and around Le Rozier are the numerous trail walks up the sides of the gorges and onto the Moors. Another rest day and another adventure – this time we took on the Tour Noir. Set out from Le Rozier up la Jaunte before zigzagging steeply up the gorge, through forest, eventually arriving at the Hermitage of St. Michael. We got the picture that thisis not one of the more popular treks due to the unused path and untouched ruins. Truly impressive – arriving at the top of the rock, as a group of Rare Griffin Vultures glide noiselessly past… They’re HUGE! Close enough to see their feathers catching the thermal drafts as they glided by. Apparently they have been reintroduced into the area and are now unique in Europe to the two gorges – awesome! And they’re thriving here due to the sheep farms on the highland moors above the gorges – hey, a birds gotta eat! I forgot to mention, we first stumbled across this spot two years ago while out for a morning run – without knowing about it we just ran through the forrest – although we had only set out for a 50 min run we just kept on going up through the forest – it was very special. This time we knew where we were headed and had planned a route back down to take in some more natural sites. A combination of tiredness and heat resulted in jelly legs and the giggles before stumbling back to the town and diving into the river at out favourite spot. Now is a good time to mention our typical daily routine. Get up, go for a 8 mile run, back to campsite, shower and stroll through village for baguettes and croissants – by the end of our visit the bakers family knew me well enough to have the craic, classic – free goodies!
And then back to the campsite for a leisurely breakfast. All ready for a few hours climbing while our secret beach comes into the sun. Then we would typically go climbing for a while somewhere shady if possible and retreat to the beach on the river for some rays and lunch (baguette, cherry tomatoes and whatever local cheese the shopkeeper recommended that day).
... For the record i DID eventually get a tan...
Half a dozen swims and naps later we’d pack up and go try routes that had just come into shade in the more south facing sectors. Before returning to the campsite for an early dinner and some TLC for out skin before the next days climbing. Evenings are great for just exploring the surroundings of the village – beautiful! Another advantage of staying in Le Rozier is that it catches the most Sun and stays lighter for longer than the campsites in the gorge itself.
Caroline on the 7a+
The next day I lead a 7a+ and before I was lowered off Caroline shouts up that she wanted to try it on lead… Eh? Grand! Two distinct crux sequences, one at the second bolt with a long move to an edge and then a rest below a small roof near the top and a stiff sequence on shallow pockets over the lip to the chains. Caroline leads up it and makes it to the chains after a few falls, working a sequence through the roof. The next day she lead it first try cleanly to the chains – Caroline’s first 7a+. Chuffed!
I was seriously impressed! (plus there was the little alarm bell somewhere in the back of my brain shouting “Get the finger out! She’s catching up!!”). The next day while walking away from a crag I stop and turn around to see Caroline stood, staring up at a 7b I had lead the day before… it was next on the list. This one was different. I remember the reachy, pumpy crux moves off slopey sidepulls through a bulging wall. I was confident that Caroline could do every individual move but to link them all cleanly on lead would be a major ask considering Caroline’s limited experience. 3rd attempt on lead and Caroline was clipping the Chains after a successful Redpoint! Buuuhhh?? 7b!!
Chuffed at the chains - not many make it to 7b at all - never mind so quickly!
We tried to work out just how many leads Caroline had ever done and it’s coming out as less than 20 sports leads EVER! With results like this from just some casual hanging and no climbing during the past year I’m getting freaked! Well the end result of these routes is that Caroline is seriously motivated for some training and some winter redpoint trips back into Europe mainland to push her limits … 7c, 8a?