Thursday, 16 December 2010


Falling off the same move over and over again... progress is being made but it's slow, very slow. Skin fluctuating between translucent, ripped and seeping beads of blood to being fresh and tough, solid on the rock. Climbing by headtorch last night after work i warmed up by leading a roof climb that i had redpointed a few weeks earlier. My hardest ever warm up. Felt strong, even messed up the foot sequence at the crux causing me to cut loose but held it and continued on. Getting excited and want to climb more. So happy to be able to climb on rock after work. 30 min drive and it's dark and cold but it's rock. Caroline is close. Soooo close. It's exciting belaying her now. Last night was a new redpoint high. literally one hold away from the send - it's been epic. I want to try something that is as hard as my one move every move! That would be awesome.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010


I've never been so happy with a fail. Today i had my first go at redpointing Bloque. I got into the crux. One crimp from the hold that marks the end of the difficulties. It will be mine, oh yes, it will be mine :o)
I'm still having fun playing with my phones camera too...

Playing on Bloque from Dave Ayton on Vimeo.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Day Two - Progress?

Caroline's project from Dave Ayton on Vimeo.

I think the key to making progress is constantly telling yourself that you are getting better. Maybe not better at achieving you goal but actively looking for things to acknowledge as having improved. For example, yesterday was our second day on and we felt trashed from a heavy day one. With sore skin and heavy arms we made our way to the crag. Although there were no sends i came home feeling like i had progressed. I was trying harder. I held that hold well. I read that move perfectly. I fought to control that swing and made the next clip etc...

Caroline picked a fight with a roof. All the moves have been worked and she has lead from the ground to half way through the crux section before falling. From hanging there she makes it to the chains every time. Time, thats all it's a matter of now. Her project (one of them) is at the point now where she knows it's doable any go - it's a frustrating period of working a route. You know there are no shortcuts, no hidden beta to unlock. The route has been distilled into a precise sequence of holds - your unique path through it's difficulties. Its at this phase in my experience that a few key elements come into play. Fight, preparation, rest and luck. If you can ensure fresh arms, good skin, a good nights sleep and are prepared to really fight then any go could result in a send. At the end of yesterdays climbing i tried recording a video on my phones camera. Don't know why i hadn't tried this before. Anyway, the video above shows the result... not Caroline's highpoint but a great effort at the end of two days on.

Inspired by Carolines drive on her route (and eager to keep some grades between our projects) i tried Gaz Parry's hardest addition to the crag, Bloque 8b. It blasts a direct line through the biggest roof on the crag. I tied in and began working - within 20 mins i was at the chains having done all the moves. It's brilliant! It's like doing 3 or 4 moonboard problems on top of each other with no rests or foot faggotry. The first 6 bolts climb like a powerful 7c+ or 8a in their own right and lead into the crux which feels about V9. After the start you cross over into a pocket with your right and span up to a kind of shoulder press sloper for your left. Hooking your left foot on a spike beside your right hand and squeezing everything lets you reach up to a right hand edge (the praying mantis move!). Cut loose to uncurl. After matching this it's a full on coil and dyno to another high right hand edge. I can keep my left hand on but the feet are well and truely off here. Cut loose and match. Hike feet up and deadpoint to a right hand crimp-pinch thing. Match left foot to hand and bring your right toe onto a mini edge. By this time you're horizontal. Dab left hand on mini intermediate crimp and snatch again to crux crimp (nasty). Adjust feet and spring sideways to a flatty hand hold, again with the left. Swing, match, heelkook, clip and pull to the lip and chains. Wow! I guess I've a project :o)

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Day One - Test flight

Today was the first day of our 5 day weekend and we hit Los Pinos. It had been 4 weeks since i had tried anything hard and i was packing a new pair of Sportivas that i was eager to test out on the kind of terrain they were designed for - steep! Warming up i placed the draws on Caroline's project and went for a go on Jordan Buy's Ex-Jog 8a. Things were going great till i crossed over to a pinch and spun off, footless but hanging on i clamped a tufa blob between my feet and moved up to the next pinch. Now pumped and onsighting; i hesitated, threw and fell. Right! This will go. I lowered off and started from scratch but this time ripping a crucial hold off the start... flying again. After belaying Caroline and having a cup of tea i tied in again. This time i wanted it. Moving through the new start sequence i felt strong, no longer onsighting, it went by in a dynamic blur of drop knees, cross overs and throws. Another 8a in a session and possibly the 2nd ascent! A great fun climb and very bouldery. The sportivas are awesome! I'm converted.

After that we explored a hidden valley with a big roof. Must of been a dry river bed because the whole valley floor was covered in clover and lavender. Saw the biggest Owl i've ever seen too, less than 20m away - Huge!

A brilliant day out!

Friday, 3 December 2010

The Best Bouldering In Wicklow

What is it? Where is it?
I've been looking through Dave F's last great PDF topo for Irish Bouldering in advance of coming home for Christmas and I realised I left Ireland just as things really kicked off. I've not been to half of these places. I'm home for 2 weeks and hope to get at least 5 days out on rock. Every christmas I go home I end up bouldering in Glendalough, doing the same problems - sometimes new ones. This time I would love to explore somewhere different - somewhere new (to me at least). I'll be honest, I'd like somewhere with scope for further development or with lots of projects - that really motivates me. I've bouldered at Glendalough, Lough Bray, the Scalp and once or twice in Glenmacnass.
Where would you suggest?
Obviously I've a mental wish list of problems that inspire me back home. Leftism, the Big Squeeze and the Groove project on the Holiday boulders - Glendalough. All strike me as being things I aspire to climb - Leftism is probably the best problem in the Valley in my opinion - great work Michael! Leviathan in Portrane. Everything up at the Head - those blocks look Epic!
Neal, Tim, Pierre, Dave, Trish - help me out here!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Spanish Bouldering Info - Hoya Moros & Albarracin

Hoya Moros

Check this out!!!I came across the topo for Hoya Moros near Madrid yesterday and was blown away by the scale of the blocks and the beauty of the valley. Huge scope for development and a deffinate destination for boulderers looking to try somewhere new. I love bouldering on granite so am already planing my first trip here. The topo is excellent too so i thought i'd share it with everyone!

Download the 40 page topo here:


Located about 1.5 hours drive inland from Valencia, Albarracin seems to be the sandstone mecca of Spanish bouldering! I'm psyched to go! Lots of everything from thuggy roofs to Font style slopers... check out Dosage V.

Find out all the info here:

Interesting facilities include:

  • 4 person cabins complete with kitchen, shower, toilet and TV: 69 Euros per night (17.25 each)
  • 6 person cabins complete with kitchen, shower, toilet and TV: 95 Euros per night (15.80 each)
  • Boulder mat rental only 5 euro per day
  • I can do pick ups from both Valencia and Alicante airports (Ryanair flights from Dublin) if people want to share a cabin for a weekend!!! Get thinking...

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Boulder hunting - Google Maps style!

Today i went on a solo boulder hunt. Fueled on too many months without bouldering, too many bouldering videos on my laptop and too many blog posts about you guessed it.... bouldering. All internet trawls for info on Costa Blanca Bouldering result in minimal finds. The best seem to be found on a Beach near Denia (one hours drive north), at a crag called Montesa (50 mins drive north) and in a dry river bed at Castell de Castells (45 mins inland). After scanning the coastline near our house on Google Maps i thought i hit on something worth a look. Two dark grey limestone blocks - bungalo sized on a beach 10 minutes away.

Unfortunately the tide was in and i've no bouldering pads in Spain. BUT at least i know they're there! I think i'll just have to accept that the White Coast of Spain is sports climbing central and not a prime bouldering spot, ah well. 3 hours gets us to Albarracin so i guess we can't complain. Gonna have to get a pad soon though... any suggestions? I'm thinking a simple and cheap Alpkit Phud again (or maybe two)

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Oh yeah, Climbing!

We’ve been doing a bit. Found out that we can get 10 or so routes in each after work at the local crag if we climb by headtorch – guaranteed pump! Great for stamina training and skin conditioning although I’m aware that repeatedly climbing the same routes will yield limited results strength-wise. Still beats going indoors and it’s fun. Oh, and Caroline has found a project… kneebar tastic! Steeeeeeeeeeeeep!!

The BeastMaker cometh…

It’s only bleedin brilliant! Looks nice, feels great, has a catchy name… whats not to like? I’ve never really trained on a fingerboard before but with the dark evenings and tonnes of hard sports routes to go at on my doorstep I have just begun to apply myself (cautiously) to the board. Grrrrrr…
Anyone out there got any advise? Golden dos or don'ts? Name for the board of righteousness?

Time for a change?

After 11 years climbing in 5.10 Anasazi lace ups I’ve bought my first pair of La Sportivas. After trying on the Miura Velcros I figured I’d give them a go. All I can say is Wow! My last pair of 5.10 have been used a lot since Easter but are now trashed and useless on small edges. The other evenings climbing in the Sportivas was eye-opening. I can actually let my feet take a noticeably higher share of the load on edges. They’re also the first aggressive pair of shoes I’ve worn. I can’t wait to try them out on the steeper stuff. The heel fits perfectly and theres no empty space. I’ll always have a soft spot for the 5.10 Anasazi but for now and for the routes I’m climbing and want to climb I have to say the Sportivas seem to provide the goods. For Font and trad I think I’d prefer the 5.10s. Anyway, I’ll write more as and when I use them more.

Puig Campana 1408m, Costa Blanca

Thats the name and height of the mountain in our back garden. Last weekend while my brother Robbie was over chilling out after his graduation we walked up it. Class! Brilliant views over the coast and so much rock in the hidden valleys to the north and west (between Sella and Echo valleys). Anywho, heres the altitude profile and a few pictures. Seeing as how the running is going well now it's looking ripe for a weekend run :o)

Check out all that rock! Not a single bolt or route on the entire ridge... yet!

Coronas at the top... nice!

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Ireland Weekend Break - Exploring

Well I´ve been home to Dublin for a suprise Birthday party for my parents last weekend. After all the fun and craic on Friday night we went out for a stroll on Sunday morning along the North Dublin coastline. My Dad Brought us to one of his favourite dog walking venues; Loughshinny between Skerries and Lusk. It always gets me keen exploring new places and looking for climbing potential! Loughshinny´s rock didn´t yield too much in the way of Portrane-esque steepness but it was a fun ramble and might provide a fun day out for some other local climber eager to find something new. There is a hell of alot of coastline up there and it only takes finding a 10m wide span of good quality steepness to add another venue to Irish climbing. Perhaps with more time a local could really explore that stretch and turn up something good. Happy Hunting!

Dave senior on the lookout for climbing spots!

Lots of steep looking corners I never got to explore

Mini roof with a sloping lip traverse?

Worth any effort?

Nice looking overhanging corner... eliminates?

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Getting Worked

It´s not all wine and roses. After last weeks success on the rock I was eager to step things up a notch and put my money where my mouth is so to speak. I went out looking for something that would stop me dead in my tracks and force me to work hard and get better. Highlighting personal weakness and improving is the name of the game! Well today I found something. In my 2005 guide it´s down as an unclimbed project with a proposed grade of 8b+. In the online topo from 2009 it´s recorded as a work in progress at 8b. But after trawling the web i found out that it had been climbed by Mr Parry at a reasonable 8a+. Score, I´ll give that a go! After 3 efforts working the moves from ground to chain I have come to the conclusion that it´s brick hard! It blasts a line straight through a 60 degree overhang with absolutely no rests. The largest hold on it takes three fingers just past the first joint. There is a depressing sparcity of foot faggotry to be found meaning i´ve spent a considerable ammount of time today clinging to two finger, first joint pockets while trying to maintain tension from toe clamping rounded mini-tufas! I´ve tried finding magic kneebars, heelhooks, even tried perfecting a toehook bathang to make a high clip but to no avail. I can say with no doubt that it feels harder than anything I´ve done... Leaving the crag today there remained only one move yet to be completed requiring a lock off a sloping two pad pocket with a sharp lip to reach a three tip (rest) pocket. The lack of decent feet beat me down off that move time and time again. But i´ll return stronger next visit. Before leaving to pay pennance for my pewney arms i trashed myself by doing some laps on one of last weeks 7c+/8a´s till i couldn´t hold on anymore. 3 laps and then i had to dog to the chains to strip it.
Right now I feel demolished. My skin is sore. My back is aching and my forearms feel like hollow lead weights filled with battery acid.
I am happy :o)

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Training for Climbing: Fingerboard, Bachar Ladder and Campus Boards

Right then. The clocks have changed and now there is just not enough daylight after work to hit the crags ( at least not without floodlight technology! We tried this week and i ended having to top out a route in the pitch black!!). And instantly my mindset changes into winter training mode. Without any consious thought process I find myself wanting to train. Regular, recorded and with sufficient rest training baby! Last year marked my most successful training (first?) winter ever. I didn´t do anything very impressive, i just made a commitment to do SOMETHING regularly and stay injury free till spring. The results speak for themselves. I managed 20 routes 7c or harder and 10 8a´s this year. Now lets get this clear, I´m no Eddie Barbour or Ricky Bell or Al Sarhan :o)! I´m weak and lanky. I´m not ripped. And these kinds of grades were always out of my reach. This winter, spured on by this years success i want to continue to train and see more improvements. Living in Spain has resulted in some differences though. Firstly there are NO climbing walls within 40mins drive! None. So any and all training has to be done at home. Secondly and more importantly i have access to quality sports climbing each and every weekend! Projects i hear you say!

Now, we have a Bachar ladder already set up out in the back garden and it´s showing up my basic power weakness. Arms. Guns. Biceps (or lack thereof!). But it´s not working the fingers. Que payday. I´ve decided to bring on the Beastmaker 2000 AND build a campus board. I think finally after what must be a 7 year break i´m at a level in my climbing where i can use a board again and see some positive results without aches and pains. Bring it on! I'll post about the building and design and any training as and when it happens.

During my psyche scavanging forrays on the interweb i came across these... learn and enjoy!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Grades in climbing

I read Pierre´s blog post which mentioned his views on grades and then more recently Neals post briefly mentioned the same topic and both made me smile. Pierre divides the field into two distinct halves. Those that climb purely for the beauty and freedom offered by seeking out and executing a perfect move on an aesthetic line regardless of grade… and those who use grades and numbers to gauge their progress and measure their manhood. Is it that simple? I must come across as a number obsessed monster because I must admit I find grades and what they represent very motivating… and sure I write about them enough! Just check out my blog’s latest Wordle!

There is no point in me trying to say that I climb without care of grades because it´s just not true. But at the same time my most proud climbing moments are the ones when everything felt good and there was the perfect balance of movement and tension… grades don´t linger in my memories, it´s the colours, the air, the sounds and the feeling of climbing something well that stays. I know it´s the moves that appeal to me and the feeling of progress that comes with figuring out a path through a poor selection of holds. I know this. But yet grades motivate me in a very real and open way. Experience has taught me that the best movement has been found on the harder lines. I love the feeling of being just on. That on off moment when you´ve latched an edge and don´t know if you´re still on or about to fly. Every second after a move like that is a gift of chance and should be enjoyed. Fighting to the top would be like the cherry on the cake. But as personal standards progress it stands to reason that moments like these only exist at or near your personal limit. It´s inescapable. Another side of my personality could be described as competitive or maybe it´s just a failing in me that I feel I need to prove myself in some way. A byproduct of being the fat kid? Who knows! But honestly I just don´t feel good about my climbing if I’m not giving 100% (as good or as bad as that may be!) and whats the point in doing anything if you don´t feel good as a result? However when I try hard and dig deep (either physically or mentally) I feel great – regardless of success or failure. It psyches the shit out of me to have to fight! And when success arrives it´s a great personal achievement but also it represents something I’ve put a lot of myself into. Thought, effort, training… always on your mind. And it then becomes more and more like something that I want to share. And in that respect grades are useful because I can say “Hey guess what grade I just sent” instead of giving a blow by blow account of every inch of hold and the indescribable tension between each move. Whats the harm in grades? There seems to be such a stigma attached to using them as a tool to measure personal progress. I don´t see why? If the grades weren’t there I’d still be on the same routes and trying just as hard. I suppose I’d just compare routes to each other on a personal scale to see improvement or consistency in effort. Forget it! Keep climbing whatever way makes you happy and I’ll promise to do the same! Theres a lot of rock out there and so far I’ve not found two routes the same. That’s a lot of moves to be experienced and not much time to do it in. Happy climbing!

Monday, 1 November 2010

A Muerte!

Today we went for a nice run (have a look at the Garmin profile) and then hit the crag. Los Pinos again. After yesterdays success i was keen to try the other dubious 8a, Jog jog. This is an essential piece of climbing if you want to climb Gaz's Ex Jog 8a and Jordon's Jog Pat 8a link ups. And if they can be done I'll have climbed all the moves on Gaz's Ex Pat 8a+. Got it? Didn't think so. Anyway after warming up by placing the draws, i toped it out again to work the crux hand match. After a short break spent belaying Caroline i gave it another go only to realise that i hadn't thought about the clips. Unsuccessful but i learnt something. Last go of the day i made no mistakes and redpointed it. Thrid 8a in a week! Again, this one has had 10 ascents on and 5 give it 8a while 5 grade it 7c+. I suppose the bouldery nature of this ones distinct crux section acts to split opinion. Felt harder than all the 7c's i've done at Dinbren but again, maybe thats just as a result of my style. Of the 3 this week i reckon Gran Fuma at sombre del Leon was the hardest but with each route I try i'm noticing something new in my climbing. I'm bouldering with a rope on at last! I don't think about or even notice the rope anymore and that lets me give every move of every attempt 100%... something i've never really managed before. There is something to be said for having access to sports climbing on your doorstep...

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Wierd and Waffle

Friday i fell ill. Sat i was sick, bedbound. Food poisoning we think. Today i woke up feeling shakey but generally better bar a lingering headache. We took a spin to a local crag called Los Pinos and after working a route i redpointed it. Having not really worked all the moves i was throwing, cutting loose, matching hands and feet, heelhooking, toehooking... anything to try and get the load off my arms so that i could get something back and clip the chains. It was another 8a! The Destroyer. In the guide it's 8a and the font of all knowledge ( shows a mixed bag of opinions. It seems in vouge to downgrade things so it could be 7c+ although apparently according to the local beta I used the harder direct sequence (Haa! I must of missed that bit in between chucking for the best looking hold within reach!). All good in the hood. that was arguably my 9th route in the 8th grade. Personally being a climber more at home on a techy face i felt it was hard enough to warrent 8a but only just. If you're a boulderer then the 6m roof wouldn't pose much of a problem i suppose. Either way, numbers are numbers and will always be used argued over. Today was a fun surprise and the crag deffinately warrents another visit soon. Gaz Parry has put up an 8a, 8a+ and 8b there recently and Jordon Buys an 8a. they are all in a similar style so i've plenty to get on!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Keeping it Fresh!

Well Caroline did say she wanted to try something harder! Good to watch... this one might make her work for a while at least (although she has gotten all the moves already!)

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Being wrong and totally psyched

Er... so you know all that excited rant about having a anti-style project 8a that would work me for a long time but ultimately make me a stronger climber? Well i sent it first go this evening after warming up on a 6c+. It was probably the single piece of climbing that i´m most proud of to date. It was like climbing in a trance. Everything made sence. I had unlocked and pieced together countless subtlities under the surface of my rest day conscious thought and they all played out today perfectly. Cutting loose in the roof after latching the crux deadpoint i swung my feet back on, twisted my hips in and continued past my previous highpoint, skipping a clip. Now, having achieved the sessions target point on the route i had nothing to loose. Shaking out between holds i hiked my feet and threw into the big crossover move. It was hit or miss... i felt my tips skim over a few cm of useless smoth limestone before they found the edge and locked. This is it, my chance to take it unawares... twisting into another egyption i match the intermediate and throw for the good sidepull marking the end of the crux section. After that to the chain was just plain fun! So there it is, 8a, 3rd redpoint, eye-openeing! Happy out!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Doing battle and routes of anti-style

Today was a good day. We got out to two local crags and have both made what feels like progress in the right direction. So far since moving to Spain i feel like we´ve not really began to get our teeth into the climbing. Partly due to temps and conditions, partly due to having guests and partly due to work pressures. This weekend marked the beginning of something different... i can feel it. To date i´ve managed to pick off a few choice routes here and there... always going for ones that play to my strengths (even the 8a+ a few weeks ago was right up my street). Today i began work on what could become a nemisis. Although it´s only 8a, it´s in no way technical and in a very real way feckin steep and powerful! It crosses a 6m roof and then blasts up a beautiful barreling head wall via dynamic climbing on sloping holds and pinches. Absoloutly fantastic!
Cova Fuma

Me taking in what i know will be an ass kicking - Gran Fuma, 8a

Today i gave it two full on redpoints. The first one i was placing the draw but still fought through the crux move, only to fall off above the next bolt. Eager to punish my body into getting fit i tied in quickly with little rest to try again, A Muerte! This time i made it one foot move higher but was soo pumped once i fell off that i couldn´t even pull back on to top out. After a few minutes on the rope i hiked to the chains. Deciding that it would be easier to top rope it to remove the draws in the roof section i got another good workout! but this time came off directly above the crux. Brilliant! This thing will make me strong - i love it!

Even better this evening was Caroline´s performance on her 7b+ project in Echo Valley. During the past few years Caroline has developed a healthy bias towards climbing routes on positive edges. Standing or God forbid pulling on sloping holds was a definate no no and hence avoided. Climbing at Ceuse this summer helped Caroline to get to grips with this style and after ticking a couple of lower grade 7´s near by in Spain she began working a extremely thin and technical 7b+. This was equal in grade to her previous best route but completely against her style. To make things more difficult the meager holds on offer were always just out of her reach. From my perspective Caroline couldn´t have chosen a better route to push herself on. As i keep reminding Caroline, if she wants to climb harder routes she must learn her own techniques for dealing with reach. In this case it involved Caroline literally dancing up the vertical face, coiling, springing and standing full stretch on one tippey-toe to reach a mono edge while the other leg kicks back. A brilliant lead and a flying pass on her "leading thin, technical limestone" lesson. Now... time to find her something that will work her hard...