Sunday, 24 February 2008


Was due to hook up with some friends for some easy trad cragging at a local limestone spot today but they backed out due to dodgey weather... no biggy. We are just back from Lostock, Bolton (north of Manchester) where we just competed in a good 10km race. Caroline and myself ran each other round to an almost half decent 36 mins and Caroline even picked up 3rd place in the female category in the process and a 30 quid voucher. Not a bad day at the office :) The 8b is well and truly in my brain! Arraagghhh! I love it! :)

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Sleepless Nights

Well as you can see i'm back in work after the half term week off and as a result of which my blogging has slumped from that recent active high to my usual occasional post... ah well. It's been a busy week - lots going on in school, and at home with training and organising finances. Yesterday we got out to Dinbren for the first time this year... Yeah!! It was the wildest i've ever seen the crag with a full on gale blowing directly at the rockface from across the valley - it was like being in a wind tunnel and i even got blown over a couple of times while just standing at the base of routes which has never happened before! after a 6b windy warm up i decided to jump onto something hard, you know just to remind myself what it feels like to have to crank - i narowed things down to a choice between a 8a/+ that Lee and Guy had tried or the Crags 8b - easy choice really isn't it! So i roped up and began to work Insomnia, 8b.
Despite the wind, conditions were perfect! the route really took some figuring out and having not climbed at Dinbren since before Siurana in October i was having to readjust to yarding off small sharp sidepulls and underclings again! Only this time they were smaller and sharper than any i'd tried to use before coz of the grade! after some time working the route the 2 distinct crux sections became clear and were the only sequences causing me any troubleThe problem with working a route at this time of year is that you risk loosing your belayer to hpyothermia! Caroline was frozen belaying in that wind so on reaching the top i lowered off straight away - letting the holds and moves seep into my sub-consious. i can now understand where the route gets it's name!
There it is... the line, one crux between the 2nd and 3rd bolt with the final redpoint crux being getting to and past the 6th bolt below the capping roof which is a walk compared to the rest. Like all good routes but unlike many typical sports lines this route gives the full tick with a required top-out over the capping roof involving some deft pulling on loose jugs! Great! Hmmmmm.... really got me thinking.
You know when a route has inspired or enticed you when you do a session on your board after getting home from trying it.... it had and i did. now i just need to be able to hold those 2 non-crimp ripples at the top... weighted fingertip hangs it is then! A good start to cragging for the year

Thursday, 14 February 2008


I'm going climbing with some friends again today - nothing too testing just trying to find some nice beginner routes for everyone to climb and have fun on :) (i need a rest anyway)

Aside from going climbing soon, this morning i just found out that H.A.P. has moved her blog to Go check it out - this is a super psyched climber, runner, person who is excellent at setting goals and manages to mix climbing updates with lots of interesting news about everything from culture to family via eco-issues!

Unexpected progress

Well i'm just back from Pantymwyn after a lonely session trying to concieve a way to link the meager holds on offer on any of the remaining problems that i have still to do. It was bitter cold this morning and i was even contemplating just not even putting my shoes on and walking back up to the car without trying anything at all but i'm really glad i didn't. It seems that the V7 in the guide that i thought i had flashed a few weeks back is now settling nearer the V6 mark but the guide also mentioned a V8 alternative finish that prolongs the difficulties somewhat by traversing into the finish holds of the neighbouring V10/11. After warming up on the V6 (or 7) a couple of times i decided to try launching out left after the crux. It felt really contorted, as alot of these lines can, because there was no footholds of much use so i ended up bunching my hands and feet all near the problem's one and only jug and swinging out left for a sharp crimp. Once secure on this it was just a case of heelhooking the right hand jug, sucking it in to move the right hand to a crimp and throwing for the finishing jug with the left again - Nice! V8 in the bag? Hmmm... i have my doubts because it sent so quickly but it was a great alternative finish and a good bit harder all the same - i don't do enough bouldering to know about grades anymore - i give up!
With that done and still being hesitant to move (i was partially frozen!) i began to inspect the holds on Sparks V10 (although Adam Hocking suggested it should be V11 and he's a sandbagger in the extreme so i don't know!). This is a nasty piece of work - and totally against the grain for me. It's basicially alot of very powerful footless snatching between well spaced edges leading up to a big enough campus move to a chalked piece of vertical limestone that seems to enjoy playing along with the dillusion that it's actually a hold... and then one final campus move from said non-hold to a sloper. Without expecting to pass the move where Sparks deviates from Firestarter i chalked up and pulled off the deck through the familiar first 2 moves and then felt comfortable enough to keep going! Left hand reaches 3, then right hand into the letterbox 4, shuffle feet at back of cave, left hand out again to the three finger tip crack 5, right hand drops into the better slot 6... i just managed to hold that move! Now what? What did he do in that video? Cut loose - right - done, paste right foot onto 3 and throw further left catching 7 with my left and leaving me hanging... and thats it for now. The hanging campus move that gets your right hand into 8 is appaling! but i can to the final campus moves, although pulling them off after doing all that will be a different story. So there it is! 1 move seems to be blocking my way on something i never even thought i would be contemplating - excellent!

Heres a close up of hold 9 that i mentioned earlier - don't ask! I know theres nothing there - it just works! Anyway after that session i began to work the crux of another problem that goes directly up from holds 5 and 6 to hold 10 - this is a recent addition and has begun it's to-date unrepeated life as a sandbagged V8+. As i could do all the moves to 5 and 6 in one i figured it would be worth working. But man what a move! A full on campus heave and throw for a crimper from two tiny slots that you're forced to openhand! After probably 20 tries from a standing start i began to stick it and could finish it to the last hold but didn't have the energy to link the two overlapping sections! It's a beast of a move and felt harder than the crux of Jerry's Roof for sure!

Well time to go... or was it? I still had not looked at the V9 traverse, Thug Mentality. Last visit i managed to work the start sequence and bagged a V7 in the process but totally failed to make any headway on the first move along the lip of the cave - pathetic! Well i couldn't resist trying it and out of the blue things started to click.

I knew from the start that i'd have to find my own beta for this as the video of Sam campusing through these huge horizontal spans was of no use to me at all! Today i found a great combination of a right toehook in the starting cave along with a left heel-toe lock on a crimper near the lip that let me cross-over with my left hand from hold 2 to hold 3 (momentarily) before moving onto 4, the big sloper! From that position reaching hold 5 was easy and a high foot in hold 2 let me cross over with my left again to hold 6! I had just linked the middle half of the route! Awesome! Although i think i ripped an oblique in the process though!! Oooowwwww!!! Anyway, with my right side splitting i kept trying the final sequence... Right hand on 5, left on 6, pull up the legs to get my left foot beside my right hand and throw with my right hand to the big fatty pinch 7. From this position i could actually use the finishing sequence from Sams video and heelhool the finishing jug before dropping onto and swinging out of it with both hands. And there it waits - nicely in 3 sections and requiring way more stamina than i currently have but no move is stopper! I am soooo psyched!!! There is now a V8+, V9 and V10/11 for me to just keep working on till i send them or die trying - It's good to have goals :)

Web digest - What i've been interested in!

I read this morning on (one of my favourite sites) that Adam Ondra, pictured above, has just made short work of La Rambla, 9a+ and he's still only 15!

"On his second day and fifth try Adam Ondra walked up La Rambla, 9a(+). Dani Andrada and Edu Marin could only watch in amazement." (

Also of note on is the mention of Dani Andrada's constant string of new routes - just yesterday establishing a new 8c+ and today extending it to result in another 9a route! The site is really at the forefront of the cutting edge sport climbing scene and has even began to reward the top climbers like Andrada and Ondra with Shares in the website itself! Plus with the increasing use of phone blogging - you are literally reading aboput and looking at pictures of hard first ascents 15mins after they've been fired!

Meanwhile on one of my other favourite sites, Dave MacLeod has been writing about his recent new Mixed routes on the mountains and boulder projects in the glens - It seems he has an uber project on the go but is still finding the time to force new lines up to font 7c as demonstrated in the latest video he posted of him sending on the Heather Hat boulder. Check it out!

Back home in Ireland i see Neal is injured but blogging away happily - Keep the faith Dude! He has made the short list of a blogging award so fingers crossed that turns out well!

and On Irish Climbing Coaching the lads are still working towards enlightening the masses - this time with a nice piece on the drugs aspect to sports - worth a read!

And finally on North Wales Bouldering the usual suspects keep the hard lines comming on the Ormes and at the local Pantymwyn crag

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Gadget post

I normally don't post about gadgets (mainly because i never can justify the expense to but any in the first place!) but i figured this deserves a mention. Just before Christmas i made the leap from having a pay-as-you-go phone to owning a contract phone. Ever since beginning University i had been lucky enough never to have bought a phone.... i've always relied on other peoples hand-me-downs or freebies (some might say i'm cheap but i like to think of myself as an active recyclier) - the latest fad never usually appeals to me so i've always been more than happy to just have some ancient brick that i can make and recieve calls from and send the occasional text. Well the new teching job had kinda snookered me into a corner - there was loads of work i could be doing with regards to sorting out personal finances or organising school visits or helping with the school's Eco Council or organising the Duke of Edinburgh scheme - but i needed a phone that i could make calls from (never having any credit on my pay as you go phone had worn a little thin over the years). So i took a monthly contract phone with 5 hours of free calls and loads of texts and at the same time changed my landline and broadband provider and ended up SAVING money! So technicially i'm making money each month by getting a new phone! Anyway - the whole point of this post is to give credit where it's due - every picture i've taken since before Christmas, including the panoramas and the action sequence on Jerry's Roof, was taken with this little baby! It's effectively retired my digital camera to the shelf in the spare room :)
It's the Sony Ericsson K800i and so far i've no complaints - but then again i'm not up to speed with the latest trends, plus i'm generally easy to please... I just like the fact that i now always have a camera to hand! Plus i've copied some of my favourite climbing clips onto it - like Sharma on Dreamcatcher, Dave Graham on some 9a in Rodellar etc... Great for killing a few minutes waiting on somebody...

Oh, Happy Valentines Day to ye all too! Resist the lure of the cheesy Hallmark mass produced rubbish! .... but still enjoy it all the same :)

Something new

Well i had my first taste of Sailing yesterday in complete calm conditions - and under expert tutiledge i could just about stay on board the tiny Toppa and even make it move and turn and everything - i now know what a boom is and everything! Great Day out and very funny to see things from a complete beginners point of view again - Fun, Fun, Fun!

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Dusty Ropes

Well as i mentioned yesterday while posting random clips of climbing - i was going to a crag yesterday. Not for real climbing, more just to give some friends their first taste of climbing on rock. A Friend from work and her boyfriend. He had just been and bought himself some rock shoes and a harness and was hooked on climbing ever since he took a trip to the local climbing wall last week. It's wierd going climbing with total beginners after so long just climbing with Caroline or the lads from home - you kinda forget just how excited you were to be at the bottom of a seemingly sheer rock-face for the first time. You could taste the excitement! It was a perfect day, blue skies, dry rock, warm and calm. I think everyone enjoyed the couple of hours and i enjoyed just dusting off the trad rack and harness after so long and getting out into the sunshine. I think my last trad lead was Sharkbait in the burren way back in August! The climbing at Pothole quarry has never really challenged me but i think the recent focus on training and sports climbing had totally shifted my "sence of hard". We did a couple of routes, all the classics, and although i had racked up i ended up soloing most (just as well as Nath had never even seen leading before never mind belaying!). Even the E2's felt like less than a warm up and over before they began. After a slap up feed of Bacon Butties, thanks to Mez, we moved crag to the nearby Maeshafn quarry to finish up for the day. Now i like this place. Very quiet and home to some much nicer routes (including 2 very worthwhile E6's). I hadn't been back here since i sent the harder lines, probably a year and a half ago at this stage, but felt a nice familiarity walking in all the same. We just did two of the more popular vs's and called it a day - I hope they enjoyed their taste of climbing coz it was fun for me - they're repaying the favour today by taking me sailing - Gulp! or should i type Glug!? I'm not afraid of watersports but it's just not rock now is it? lets be honnest :)
It's 7:50 am right now and i've been for a run, had a shower, breckfast, Caroline has gone to work, I've tones of marking to do, a couple of Bio's to write as a favour and i'm going Sailing at 10 - Whats that i hear you thinking through the misty haze of time and distance? Go climbing? What? Where? Panytmwyn? What and work those roofs? Surley not! Alright! OK! I'll do it! Quit pressuring me! (Thanks folks - i really needed that :)) - Adios!

Did someone say Trad?

Look, i know this doesn't count as blogging but again, i saw this and thought of you Guys out there - just look at the position he places the two cams from below the crux!! I gotta admit... i'm torn now between starting my route projecting early or doing some bouldering...hmmmm

...and more (they better arrive soon coz i'm bursting to climb!!!!)

Ondra sending a 9a (Martin Krpan)

This isn't exactly news but God Damn! this is some sick climbing! - 9a ....Buuuhhh??? Just came across it while waiting to hit a crag and thought i'd share :)

Sunday, 10 February 2008

For the record

Just a few points about the previous post and the pictures. The first few of Jerry's Roof, V9 were actually taken at the end of the day - wrecked. I had tried this problem a couple of times over the years but could never even pull any one move on the bleedin thing! Well yesterday I pulled on and linked every move (even the dyno in the picture sequence!) right up to the last move before turning the lip. Then I was pumped, suffering from lack of skin and lost... I’d never had reason to scope out the holds above this point and had no clue as where I was to go. But most importantly I was very, very pleased - that dyno sequence alone was enough for me - pure bouldering perfection! I'll be back as soon as I can to dispatch it.

The other pics are from earlier on in the day. Ultimate Retro Party is a V8 that I had looked at before but I couldn't even pull on (noticing a pattern?). This time I began by working the final 2 thirds of the problem from a stand up. Pulling on from a shallow scar with my left and the undercut crack with my right, I spanned out right to the lip, used some toe clamping and all the meagre body tension I had to lock the position and cross-over with my left to a small rail then on to the finishing jug - probably worth V6/7 in it's own right. Then surprised at that, I began to work the start - despite expecting it to be more difficult than it was I dug in and soon had a sequence that overlapped my first couple of attempts nicely and I began to work the complete thing. This is where I think I need to find more focus - I just kept trying and trying it - always falling tantalising close to the finishing jug. I felt like I just wanted to send it quick and move on so we could both try more problems. I guess that’s the wrong attitude to have, as I was just getting more and more fatigued with each try. A problem like that should be wanted and waited for - making each attempt count and resting in between. Ah well, impatience won and we moved on leaving me with URP's sweet heel hooks, and balancy undercut snatching moves lodged firmly in my psyche! Again, another sequence that I was both happy to have figured out and surprised to be able to pull!

This was Caroline’s first time on rock since Spain in October! Well she didn't waste any time, after warming up with a few laps of the roof crack in the slideshow below she went on to try URP and the cramlech roof crack V7 (my one decent send for the day). We were both feeling the lack of bouldering but saying that we were getting up some things that we probably would not have sent before - Caroline had a great run of sends on the cromlech roadside face, flashing most of the lines up to V4 and getting over her initial fear of top outs :) All of a sudden things were looking possible - a great day out!

Playing in the Pass

A picture paints a thousand words... Something good has happened over the winter... i couldn't hold those holds before - never mind pull the moves!

Friday, 8 February 2008

Oh yeah... Trad

Ooppps! Well what can I say? My lifestyle seems to be so erratic and un-planable lately that I didn't want to commit to any specific trad goals this year - I’m not giving up on Trad but I think I’m seeing it more in perspective or something. Basically I want to climb harder, more often - that involves Sport climbing, bouldering and training and lots of it... when I get a few weeks or weekends at trad crags I plan on using any gains I’ve experienced from sport climbing to improve my trad, obviously. So if I was to list my trad goals they would be to lead (preferably onsight) an E7 or headpoint E8 - but as for which routes and when I'm gonna do them, I can't say. Ethics don't come into it really - I’ve always not really had any problems dealing with the usual limiting factor in Trad - Head Games. In fact I usually push myself beyond my physical limits on trad due to a lack of head games, or my controlling of them. Instead I find what has always held me back was my strength, fitness and weight. Last year I onsighted some E6's (one in less than ideal conditions...Rain!) and managed to onsight some fairly challenging stamina cracks and powerful E5 6b's. But they didn't feel as hard as they used to... not by a long shot! I was doing laps on a route in Dalkey that I couldn't even begin to work a few years ago (and that was seeping through it's crux holds too!) and I had finally sent the remaining line in the burren that I had failed to lead cleanly (that one as a warm up!) - basically people who still spout on about ethics (or lack of) are being a bit short sighted - only with sufficient experience of hard climbing on any medium can true, pure ethics be displayed on the hardest trad lines. That means an onsight, ground-up ascent with full rack and no beta... thats the goal, but to achieve it im gonna clip a exceedingly large amount of shiny bolts! :)

Goals 2008

Well it's been a while in the shaping - the years in the title are irrelevant as it's not a purely annual thing - it's just time. I began 2007 with some fairly hefty challenges, namely:

climb 7c at Dinbren - Try an E8 this year- Run a sub 2min 800m this summer- Run a 16min splash 5km this summer- Try an 8a - Take more pictures- Phone a friend

Now it's time to review things...

  • I managed to redpoint 2 8a's (one at Dinbren)
  • I lead routes of 7c both here and in France (2 of which 2nd go, narrowly missing the OS)
  • I played on a total of 6 different routes up to 8a+ in both Spain and France and could lead them in sections fairly quickly, although I never redpointed them.
  • I onsighted up to 7b+
  • I flashed a V8 and a V7 boulder problem
  • I've onsighted E6 and toproped an E8
  • I have maintained a weekly running mileage above 55 mpw since August

What does all this translate to? Well firstly I can see I have progressed a bit but I really have to work on my redpointing tactics if I am going to get the most out of myself. Spain was a prize example - I was trashed from the sheer volume of climbing 7's that I’d no skin or energy left to redpoint an 8! Although I could lead it in two sections within a days work. I need some projects, and I need the time and stability to afford me the chance to work them - hard! Regarding running I’m taking a different approach - volume of miles and focusing on middle distance road races - I just want to get fitter and faster - simple.

So now, what do I want to try and achieve this time around?

  • Redpoint 3 more 8a's
  • work an 8b
  • boulder V10
  • build up to 15 finger tip pull-ups on my board
  • Increase the weekly mileage to at least 70 mpw and maintain it there

This may not sound too concise or well thought-out but it's all I’ve got. I just need to get my teeth into something and then plough away at it till I send it... I’ll update as and when I feel the need but for now I’ve made my mark in the sand as it were :)


The other day I got a text from a friend about a slide show happening on Wednesday night at a local pub - I’d been feeling the lack of anything resembling a social life for a while now so jumped at the opportunity! We arrived late to the back of a darkened and packed function room with half the people standing, staring at the slides on show - the speaker? John Dunne.

I like his style - his talk and show was nicely pitched and didn't sound like a string of ego-massaging stories and he seemed all-to quick to put his achievements in place but he came across as just very, very sound and down to earth! With pictures from everywhere from Grit, Mournes, North Wales, Pembroke, France, Spain, all over the States, China, Himalayas - John recapped on a career full of climbing. He loves to make a joke of the controversy surrounding his hard trad leads - my favourite line running something like this...
"well it was definitely hard, and I’d spent longer on this than on anything else I’d ever climbed so once it was done I had to give it a cool name and a grade.... well I have never struggled with the name part but the grade, well lets just say that the 1st assentionist can never exactly get the grade right because you've always got the fact looming over you that this has never been done before, once you've done it others KNOW it's possible... so I could have given it 8c+ or 9a... no competition then really is there?!" he quipped with a laugh "That'll get there tongues flappin'!".
He took that stance with all of his new routes, why not encourage interest and repeats by putting the highest grade on a route and have the grade settle after a few repeats? Surprisingly he estimated only around 100 new routes - and his perspective on his reasons and motivation for new routing was refreshing. He had climbed all the existing lines at his local crag and there were beautiful features and definite lines just waiting to be lead. He established new routes out of necessity! Although he never made any real effort to defend any of his route grades, he made no bones about his belief in the high quality of all his routes (except Deitrius, E8, 6c choss pile on the little Orme, Llandudno). He talked openly about the recent repeats and subsequent downgrading of some of his lines like Divided Years and Breathless by Birkett and MacLeod and seemed more pleased that all climbers involved remarked on the exceptional quality of the lines and felt the grade a secondary issue.
His pictures and stories covered all types of climbing - bouldering, sport, trad, big wall, alpine.... but it was interesting to hear his opinions of how his focus has shifted between the different aspects throughout the years. Initially he began on Grit but soon focused on Yorkshire Limestone - This he attributes all of his hard trad climbing to. If you can climb 8b or higher on limestone you can prepare for and lead a necky 8a (referring to Parthian shot, E9 7a). now he is finding himself wanting to push his sport climbing again and with a property in France he finished with a slide of Ceuse - he never mentioned the name but he just said to the audience that he was at a point where he wanted to push his physical limits safely and when you have crags like this in France with a lifetime of climbing on them why look further.... indeed

Anyway - it was a brilliant show and another valuable top up in motivation (as if I need any more!).

Have a look at some of the pictures at the link below....

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Filters and fool rooms

I like to think of myself as being fairly open minded and kinda aware of whats possible... but of course we are all the results of our lifes up to this point and as such have been programmed into various levels of responses, expectations, perceptions, ambitions etc... this is a fairly long way of talking about one of my "definitions", if you will being shattered and the alteration of one of my mental filters. When people talk about their home wall or training board i have come to picture some sort of lovingly crafted piece of steepness stuck in some garage, shed or spare room and sparsely dotted with a variety of home-made and free holds that can paint a picture of the ergonomic developments of climbing hold manufacture through the ages (or inversly the ammount of indoor induced tendon injuries! think of all the old, circa late 80's, sharp pockets and crimpers!). Plywood kickboards dirtied by 1000's of foot placements over the years etc... But not this! No way would i consider THIS a home wall! Now way a private wall! It's bigger than most IBL venues fer christs sake!! A friend emailed me this link to a video of a strong local couples home training facility, built in their barn. I was stunned and it has altered my perceptions of what can be done. Oh... and it explains how they climb so hard! Alison alone has ticked numerous 8a's or maybe even harder!

Check this out!

Saturday, 2 February 2008

This weekend

Well it's snowing here and i've a 5 mile road race tomorrow near Crew. Er.... other than a tonne of work and training that has to get done thats about the sum of all my plans for this weekend :) Not bad really. Theres loads going on in school that i think i'll blog about in more detail in another post (coz it's worth it!) and the running training has resumed with gusto after the rocky start we've had between illness and weather this year - last week saw us clocking up a considerable mileage between 5am 6/7 mile runs and some grueling pm fartlec or threshold 10 milers! I'm tired but feeling good coz i'm back training! It is a drug. I'm finding everything in my life seems to be strongly connected with my ammount of focus at the time - I'm really trying to get things done and it's showing through my running, climbing training, work, finances, sence of well being, everything! Lets hope it lasts...
Still gotta write about some goal setting...hmmmm
Oh, and almost a year to the day since i began this blog thing..... made some interesting viewing to skim back through some of the older posts - can't believe all that was in a year!!! and over 4000 visits to the blog since i added the counter - don't know if thats a good or bad statistic but it's supprising all the same :)