Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Fontainebleau Oct 2009

Sylphide from Dave Ayton on Vimeo.

We went to Font - it was awesome!

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Easy Afternoon

Check out our local boulders...

Monument Boulders from Dave Ayton on Vimeo.

Monday, 12 October 2009


Hi all!
It's been a while and i've not been up to very much of note other than just getting by - without noticing it almost a year has gone by and i've totally neglected this waffle fest! A few thing lately have conspired to get me thinking about updating this blog...

  • I've gotten really psyched!!
  • There was mention on Climbing.ie about this yoke and i felt lazy
  • I've been back to Fairhead and touched the holy rock
  • Neal has moved to the UK... we're both in the same country and as usual - he's psyched and stronger them me!
  • I've finished a project that has absorbed all my time
  • Cragbaby has mentioned stoping her excellent blog

So Heres the highlights of 2009 so far...

I got out in the spring quite a bit and lead some sports climbs - felt good being able to lead 8a again after a bit of training - as ever - psyched for more!! A wet and workfilled summer came and i ended up getting no climbing done - AGAIN! But i did manage a chilled out week in Pembroke followed by a wet week in Scotland and a even wetter week in the lakes during which i passed my Mountain Leader assessment. I spent most of my evenings this year building a climbing wall across the road from where i now live - it's finally finished and i now have a custom built training facility to compliment the fringe board in the flat. I've been busy mopping up any outdoor qualifications going too... Mountain bike instructor Lv2, UKCC canoe/kayak coach, White water safety and rescue, Swift water rescue technician... really want my MIA now which would allow me to teach and deliver SPA training and ML.

Before i knew it September had arrived and i was back in school, only this time we had a new school day - finishing at a mighty 3:15!! By pure luck September also brought a spell of fine weather and i experimented with driving home from school via Llanberis - nice! Within a week i had worked and lead a possible new route in Llanberis pass. Inspired by the film Onsight and totally ignorant as to what i could climb on trad i took a wander up to Gravestones to look at Gravediggers E8. It looks awesome and i'm keen - however having only lead a handfull of routes in the pass i wanted to test the waters on something a little easier - i jumped on "Ring my Bell" E6... and jumped off it again quite quickly. Right - either it was harder than i was expecting or i was really shit. I end up throwing a rope down it and working the moves - lucky i did coz i was off the rock more than i was on it and the gear was best descrobed as dubious! After a while i frigged my way past the guidebook crux and landed on a slopey shelf at half height faced with a wobly spike, leaning headwall and some easy looking ground skirting off to the right i shouted down for directions. "It says finish direct but the topo curves rightwards!". OK, trying to avoid the E1/2 crack system to the right i got sucked out left and up the leaning headwall. On and off and on again - slopers, mono edge, using every inch of my full span from tip-toe to finger nail i unearthed a sequence i could repeat. Convinced it was a horrible sandbag i packed up and headed home no agenda. WRONG!! It was in my head and i hate leaving something unfinished. Next day i was out in the pass bouldering in the evening when two North Wales Wads turned up and started chatting - i asked the question "know anything about Ring my Bell up on Gravestones?" - Gets E7 - finished out right and the crux cam in the pod rips when fallen onto! Great! now i had a route in my head that i've been told is Choppy, very, very deck-offable and as hard as anything i've ever lead! Plus i had my sequence up that beautiful headwall!! That was that then! following evening i arrived after school to another perfect evening, abbed the route, rehearsed the cam placement, tied in and lead it. Honnestly the best feeling and best climbing i have ever been on - right at the top of the route, before mantling into a slabby groove looking down and seeing the rope swaying down to the last dodgy runner - wild! the first time i fould myself in a totally irreversable position and had to man up and climb hard or deck.

Is it a new line? Is it E7? Is it 6c? Havn't a clue - not done enough hard trad to guess - it was awesome!

Hot on the heels of this i booked a flight to Dublin and have 2 half days up at Fairhead with Kev Power! 5 years since my last visit there way back when i lead my first E6 - Primal scream. This time i was keen to check that it wasn't fluke - after a brief re-introduction with Hells Kitchen HVS i had abbed down and lead Hells Kitchen Arete E6 - 19 bits of pro and dirty rock made for an almighty pump and something that felt close to an onsight! Mega!!! The following morning Kev lead the pitch and we finished off with a quick look at Paralized Power and a swift lead of Main mast - both beautiful!

Back in North Wales i wanted to try something harder - something that would force me to spend some time on it to unlock it - a project. I decide i want to try Trauma in Llanberis but the weather turns so we retreat back east along the A5 and keep going to a dry Nesscliffe. An E7 and E8 are soom toproped and i manage a few clean laps on both routes - the plan is to return the following day and lead them - then it rains! I went out Thursday to try them again but they were still damp - too damp to lead and wet sandstone = breakable sandstone, not what you want. the plus side was that they both felt easier and safer than the route i lead in the pass! Sweet! anyway i ended up spending Thursday evening playing on Nick Dixon's latest addition to Nesscliffe - 1000 Setting Suns - E9 7a. Apparently a hold has broken off since it's first and second ascent making it harder. F8b to toprope and awesomely technical - I'm psyched!!!!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Holiday Boulders

I love new climbs... theres something really nice about finding a path up something thats never been done before. I was lucky enough a few years ago to stumble on a big block in Glendalough, the Hidden Groove, and blitz it of it's easier problems. Although nothing too hard, they were really nice and still attract a few boulders. This Christmas while out for a rest day's walk Caroline's little brother and i were playing the "spot me some big rocks to climb on" game and Hugh pointed out this:

I nipped across the river and took a look. Straight away the Awesome and Huge groove got me excited and before i knew it i had decided to spend the following day on a solo scrubbing and sending mission - i firured i could get 3 or 4 problems outa this bloc!

Within a few hours i had picked out and brushed 9 problems! and began to climb, aiming for the easier ones first as Sean and Kev Marnane were on there way and i wanted a spot and more pads for the higher ones! The 3rd problem i tried i underestimated... turned out to be a beautiful beast! Technical, steep, powerful. I eventually sent it after what felt like over an hour of trying moves, brushing more holds, chalking, brushing, pulling .... eventually the most lucky slap and throw for the break held and i could top out happy. Felt hard for me but i gave it 7b... half expecting it to be repeated and downgraded soon.... time will tell. I named it "Hugh" after the little man who pointed me at the rocks in the first place :)

Duncan on "Dolittle"

Kev being shut down by the modern classic SS Arete (Font 4)

Starting move of "Hugh"

The original (well only so far) crux method - right toe-hook, left heel-hook

Sean's video of "In the Moon" Font 5+


Getting my head round the fact that it’s alright to fail has been a long process. Learning to climb in Ireland is a unique experience and has left me (and maybe others) with some issues I needed to come to terms with before actually starting to climb near my limit (which I still don’t think I have done yet). Basically I always aimed to walk to the base of a route – rack up – and lead it onsight. Sometimes that worked and I’d be chuffed – sometimes I’d wimp out, get pumped, fall or rest on gear. If the latter happened I’d usually pull myself together and frigg my way to the top before my second would follow and we’d move on to another route, returning to the route a few weeks, months or years later to try and tidy up the loose end. The moves were never practiced or honed beyond the bare minimum it took to be able to pass them for the first time, whack in a wire above and continue to the top! Through sheer volume of miles on rock, this approach got me to the point where I had a string of E5’s and a few E6’s onsight under my belt – and every one was a cherished moment of luck and timing and I felt like I was climbing at my limit on each one. No bolts in Ireland meant that I approached sports climbing in the same mindset. No wonder clean 7a’s were such an achievement!

In 2007 I got seriously motivated to try and push myself on sports and set the target of redpointing an 8a. My previous best was 7b+ I think…. Maybe one or two dodgey 7c’s. It was only after I began to work something that I realised just how little time I had ever spent working moves on routes in the past! I tried an 8a – it felt impossible… impassable! I had to pull through whole sections of apparently holdless rock using the draws before eventually getting to the top, a pumped and useless wreck. Smack down! A few days later I returned to the crag to do a neighbouring E5 but after doing it and abseiling down the face the impossible 8a caught my eye again… it’s spell had been broken, it was familiar, I wanted to try it again,,,, just to get a second opinion. This time I managed all the moves but one! Such progress! Wow! 2 more visits and I had redpointed something that I genuinely thought was impossible – I was amazed! And I felt I could climb harder! On a trad parallel, earlier this year I began looking for a line that I could try and work before leading – something harder than E6. I picked Yukon II at Nesscliffe and E7 6b that just doesn’t stop till you top out – easiest move is probably 5c/6a and it was safe(ish). Same scenario again… first try felt desperate. Couldn’t imagine getting to a point of being able to lead it. Next visit I strung it together in two overlapping halves. Next visit I lead it as a warm-up with one fall. A few weeks later without planning it I lead it clean without any need for re-familiarising myself with it’s holds – I just knew I could! Then the summer of work and wet day’s off and doing nothing was followed by a winter of bouldering indoors and outside – all of a sudden I am thinking about Gritstone. The internet is full of reports of visiting Americans cleaning up all the grit testpieces. Compared against the prospect of bouldering on freezing cold crimps – big fat grit slopers just win every time! I’ve had one day out on them and have given in to my selfish impulses and given some time to what I want to do – try some classic E8’s and E7’s on a rope instead of onsighting a load of easier grade stuff (what is expected by my Irish trad beginnings). Surprising myself by linking 2 6c tech routes really quickly and man; the moves were sweet! Like bouldering on a rope but really, really good bouldering! Slopers, tension, gymnastic, dynamic…. Beautiful!

And now this… before christmas I read the following on Dave MacLeod’s blog:

“Committing yourself to climbing a route you cannot touch at present is a special experience that can change your life. Sure you, can dismiss this potential for an adventure because ‘it’s not an onsight’ or whatever you like. Some people will do this because they respond differently to the stimulus climbing gives, others because they are actually frightened they do not have the commitment but won’t admit this to themselves and others because they don’t follow the two rules of this type of adventure.The two rules are1. The chosen challenge has to be genuinely impossible at the time of choosing. If it’s too easy, it will leave you cold. Need numbers? Add four grades to your onsight level.2. Committing yourself means committing yourself. Not trying it and seeing how you get on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for quitting when it’s the correct conditions for doing so (see The Dip by S. Godin for advice on this), but most people just quit because they gave up. To underline this, feeling like you might not be able to do it is a necessary part of the plan, not the reason to abandon it. You must do the route, whatever it takes (bar cheating).”

He managed to re-confirm what I am beginning to feel myself. Everything I’ve tried so far (with the exception of the 8b at Dinbren, which I love and will need to invest some serious time into) has come together really quickly. So now I’m gonna bite the bullet and try and project something proper hard (for me at least). Going by Dave’s guideline of adding 4 grades onto your onsight means I should be looking at the E9 or E10 routes… Hmmm! By a coincidence I did find myself looking at a couple in Curbar the other week. “The Zone” E9 looks Awesome! As does “Knockin on heavens door” and obviously theres “Soul Doubt”, “Parthian shot” and “New Statesman” which I’ve always wanted to try ever since watching Neil Bently lead it in Hard Grit! Back home theres the Awesome work by Ricky to inspire… Tolerance, Divided Years, MushroomBoyz, Crystal Methods and the Complete Scream. In Dublin theres Ron’s Indecent Assault in Dalkey. Knowing how much easier routes feel after some invested time I’d like to try Ron’s again and see if it becomes feasible all of a sudden.
Anyway, I’m totally psyched to just try lots of hard routes and become a top-roping bastard for a while (well of anything E7 or harder…

While home for Christmas I managed an incredible 5 days out in Glendalough and one in the Mournes. I got to see what is the nicest piece of climbing I think I’ve ever seen come together in the form of “Leftism” on Big Jane. I tried all the moves but being fat and weak couldn’t link them… but they’re brilliant! It’s got me really psyched for bouldering! I want to apply the same project approach to something and beautiful as the climbing on that bloc… I just have to find something

Anyways, ramble over.... Happy New Year and heres to 2009… an awesome year ahead!