Tuesday, 27 April 2010



This evening after one rest day Caroline redpointed her first 7b in over 3 years!! Walking up to the crag, conditions were perfect. Gentle breeze and warm evening light. Warming up on the crag 6b Caroline felt good, taking her time and chalking up on the smaller holds. I went up the project and placed the draws and noticed the improvement. The friction on the undercuts was waaay better than it was on Sunday and even with just the one days rest my skin was feeling better. Caroline had been suffering sleepless nights due to the 7b… she was becoming obsessed! It’s class! With a extremely powerful crux low down Caroline took a warm-up go to remember the sequence and then lowered off. Unfortunately taking a chunk out of her little finger. It was pumping blood but determined to continue we just taped it up as best I could and Caroline readied herself. Shaking out and chalking up, Caroline looked focused but happy. Styling through the low roof, she arrived at the high undercuts – just below her previous highpoints. Clip, left sidepull, hike the feet, right crimp, right high sidepull, clip – progress! High right crimp, edging the feet up on tinies… at this point Caroline was pumped and this was an on – off move! I remember falling from this point when redpointing this route for the first time AND belaying Nige Calendar during his early attempts on the route when he came off at this move. Caroline adjusted her left hand on the small crimp and then slapped for the high jug, latching it just as one of her feet popped! By this stage interest in the ascent had built at the crag and 5 or 6 people were watching and cheering… finishing the route Caroline was beaming! That was a landmark route and although she had lead 7b once before in France, this is her hardest route to date by far – Awesome!!


Caroline is breaking new ground up at Dinbren lately. During all the years that we’ve been climbing on Clwyd Limestone, Dinbren was one crag that just kept shutting Caroline down. She’d never lead a single pitch up there before a fourth night ago and now she’s lead 6b, 6b+, 6c, 6c+, 7a and 7a+. All these leads were dispatched pretty swiftly too! One onsight effort followed by working a route to the chains and then Caroline has managed to send every route on her first redpoint effort. Unsurprisingly 7b is next on her list and with a range of powerful 7b’s and b+’s to try Caroline had spent a few session just testing a couple of the better know classics to see if they’d suit her style… who am I kidding?!?! She was testing to see if she could reach all the bloody holds – forget style! First up was Bandits. Originally this was graded 7c+ and now is 7b+ in the guide – people give it whatever they feel it justifies. Caroline managed to do every move pretty quickly but the long burly lurches between undercuts through the lower overhangs left her zap’ed for the thin and technical middle section. A big ask but a worthy project… Caroline is keeping Bandits for a longer term project.

For now she was looking for something that would push her but also allow progress. Fire was next on the list – originally I put Caroline off trying this due to the really reachy starting moves – they’re brutal! Vince had figured out a different sequence to mine for the start and once Caroline had watched him redpoint it she was keen. No top-roping this time, Caroline choose to work it on lead… before long she was clipping the chains and had the rough outline of a sequence – but unsurprisingly it was pumpy. 3 redpoint efforts that day saw Caroline further refine her moves and she was now falling off the upper wall well above the crux out of sheer pump – her carrots were cooked! The following day Caroline felt like she had been run over by a bus – shoulders, biceps and back were all aching. But desperate for the tick she went up again – the route was on her brain and she was wanting it bad. Again, falling off the 5th clip out of fatigue but further refining her sequence. A few rest days are on the cards for us both and it’ll be interesting to see what difference it makes to us both. It’s really interesting to see someone else go through the process of working something, making breakthroughs and having setbacks… from an outside perspective it’s clear to see that they’ll get it any go given the right conditions, rest etc… but from inside their heads it’s this daunting task, this huge obstacle. I wonder do people think I’m such a good bet to send my projects, do I look as close to redpointing every go… I doubt it! I’ll keep posting with Caroline’s progress as and when :o)

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Know yourself

Last week I tried a 7c+ up at the crag…. I couldn’t make head nor tale of the crux – no holds I could use. I felt I gave it an honest go too – tried every combination of handholds, footholds, intermediates, undercuts, crossovers, deadpoints, slaps – nothing worked! Shut down! Some fresh scars on the rock let me know the route had changed lately and the guide description of a good hold by the second bolt was way off – all that was there was an epoxy stain where a glued on hold had once been. Was it still 7c+ or was it now an 8? I lowered off and crossed it from the list of routes to do at the crag – for me this was impossible.

Could someone please then explain to me why on Saturday (my fifth day of climbing straight this week!) when I tied in at the base of the same route (for some unknown reason) I pulled some sick, devious sequence out of nowhere and managed to redpoint it 3rd go?!? I was totally confused! I had really considered this thing impossible and Vince (the Belgian) was surprised too. He had belayed my failed attempts when I first tried it and was there on Saturday to see the redpoint.

I need to realise the HUGE difference working a route makes. Impossible to enjoyable. What was to blame for this drastic turn around? Stronger? Nope! More holds? Deffinately not! Better conditions? Nope – if anything slightly too hot. So it must be my head. I think once I know I have a sequence and something to aim for I’m quite good and just taking a deep breath and blasting through things that really I shouldn’t be able to. If that is a trait of mine i really should learn to take account of it more often and use it to my advantage intentionally. Reminded me of my first 8a. That was another one I had walked away from after having to resort to aiding on bolts to get to the lower off… something pulled me back onto it though and eventually I sent it.

Morale of the story? Keep trying hard – it’ll pay off!

I’ve now sent three 7c’s and two 7c+’s within a session or two - three tries max. This evening (Sunday) I even cooled down by clipping up Friday’s 7c for Vincent to try – no falls, no rests, no hassle! I need to try something harder…

And on the 28th day….

The smallest things can make the biggest difference. Out of the last 27 days, I’ve spent 23 climbing on rock. That’s 4 rest days out of 27 and one of those I did a board session on the fringe! And somehow my skin is holding out fairly well! I’ve taken to looking after my skin a bit better at the end of a session. Washing the chalk straight off, sanding down any broken or thick skin and then getting some moisture back into them. All I can say is that it’s paying off… and I’ve been climbing on some fingery, sharp and snatchy routes!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Evening light

Last Saturday we made the 120 mile pilgrimage to Malham – it was a scorcher and the place was full of tourists and climbers. First up I jumped straight onto Raindogs , 8a, to get the draws in and try the moves. Finger friendly holds and nice moves all the way but every one burly and every move relies on specific body positions – everything is a undercut or sidepull and all the footers are polished to the point of looking shiny in the dead heat. I gave it one go in the midday heat and then lowered off cleaning the draws – not today! The rest of the day was spent onsighting lower grade 7’s – 4 7a pitches and a 7b finished off the trip. This week the Dinbren fun continues. We’ve been up and climbing tue, wed, thurs and Fri – sweet! This weeks haul of new sends include a 6b+, 6c and 6c+ for Caroline and a 7B+ and 7c for meself, happy days!! It’s been great to be able to get out almost every day just for a few routes and I’m feeling the benefit of the mileage on rock. I love the movement and flow you get to experience on the routes outside – nothing even comes close indoors! This is where I want to be, this is why I climb.

Tuesday was freezing and unsurprisingly we had the crag to ourselves. I was still feeling tired after the weekends climbfest so it was all Caroline this time. First on her list was a short and steep 6c+ with a definite crux move over an overlap. 1st go Caroline got into the crux but due to numb hands hung on the rope. lowering off and pulling the rope Caroline was rubbing some heat and life back into her hands – warm now – send it! Sweet! Second up was a neighbouring 6c which due to a long reach makes it feel much harder to most climbers shorter than 5’10. This used to be Caroline’s nemesis and she never ever managed to climb it in the past. This evening however, the recent mileage on rock and confidence on lead made the difference and Caroline lead it first go – no working and probably a good 2 years since trying it last – very impressive.
Wednesday I was feeling like I wanted more routes under my belt so decided to drop the target grades and aim for some quick ticks – first up was Bolt the Blue Sky Direct – a burley and steep 7b+ with a crux dyno to a jug and a steady top section (if a little run-out). The onsight went well but the prospect of dyno’ing to an unknown hold wasn’t that appealing. I fell off due to hesitating then clipped it up to the chains. 1st redpoint I sent it – happy with that!

Thursday I moved focus onto Dyperspace 7c – this takes a direct line through probably the steepest terrain at the crag. The first 3 bolts see you climb through a 2m horizontal roof, finishing with a deadpoint out of an egyptian to a jug and cutloose. There then follows a redpoint crux on crimps and poor footers leading into another roof with a crack. 1st redpoint I surprised myself by making it through the roof to the redpoint crux but blew off by ripping off an undercut – awesome fall! Now I needed a new sequence for the top – no problem. 3 more redpoint attempts gave me the best burn I had in weeks – leaving the crag I was sated. I knew it was in the bag and I was happy with the session. Friday. With aching shoulders and after a week at school I was wrecked. Caroline wanted to tick off a 6b+ that she’d never lead before so we went up to the crag. The minute I walked under the roof of the 7c I wanted to get the draws in it – Caroline reckoned it was on tonight so I warmed up by swinging my arms around a few times (both directions mind!) and then went up to put the draws in – but it was feeling so good that I just kept going to the chains – Ticked! And I think I have a new favourite route at Dinbren and warm-up :o) Caroline did the same, tied in and flowed up her 6b+ to the chains first go. Happy with that we packed up and went home.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Dinbren Sessions

In the last 7 days we’ve been climbing up at the crag of justice no less than 6 times… Result! Determined to keep some momentum in out climbing after Siurana we’ve been putting in the hours after work. Sunday after Siurana we headed up with the Doozers to soak up some Dinbren sun and start picking projects. Caroline began by getting stuck into Hot Stuff, 7a. Her Flash attempt went well but route finding and pumped arms forced her to rest above the crux. I went off and had a play on When Saturday Comes, 7c. I had been on this before but it was just too fingery for me back then. This time I got the draws in and worked the moves pretty quickly. Caroline went back for her redpoint attempt on the 7a and dispatched it in one – power roars and all. Awesome! With a steep powerful roof to start and a off balance layback above I reckoned this was probably Caroline’s most impressive lead – despite not having the biggest grade. Well rested from working the 7c it was time for my redpoint – first go I failed on the high crux deadpoint to a tiny edge – after lowering and pulling the rope through I jumped straight on and dialled each move – this time pausing to shake and chalk each hand twice off the undercuts below the deadpoint – pulling into the launch position I felt more in control and latched the edge no problem – feet up on shit footers, clip – sent! Monday evening Caroline moved onto her next project – Fat Boys, 7a+. I hate this route! I had lead 7b+ at Dinbren before I could redpoint this mother – it’s one of those rare routes with a height dependant crux that favours the short! I knew Caroline would nail the crux but on the other hand I knew she would have to fight through the long reaches through the starting roof and upper wall. I got on Insomnia, 8b. The loss of a crucial hold between the 1st and 2nd bolt has made the start of this route impossible for me at the minute – it remains unrepeated.
Wednesday we return and Caroline began the redpoint of Fat Boys. First redpoint Caroline surprised herself by cruising the lower roof and crux section but came off the tricky transition into the upper layback. Lowering off and taking 10 mins rest Caroline was ready for round 2 – Again, the lower roof and crux presented not much by way of difficulties but left Caroline feeling pumped – too pumped to pull the move she had worked into the layback – Fighting on, Caroline just invented a new sequence, more, smaller and harder moves and a hell of a lot of fight got her high up above the bolt and crossing over to the flat hold and a rest – Sent! 7a+ at Dinbren! Thursday evening it was just me and the doozers – while they were working a 6c I went off and clipped my way up a 7c+ I had never tried before, The Rivals. As luck would have it I met a Belgian bloke, Vincent, who was at the crag for the first time and whos partner had to cancel last minute – well I was happy to show him around and he gave me a belay on the 7c+. Another route showing the signs of hold loss – epoxy stains where a hold had been glued on and come off and lots of orange scars of recent broken holds – one move was absolutely NAILS! Everything else felt easy – so one to come back to methinks. To get some mileage in I did a 7b+ and 7a+.
Friday I start checking out El Rincon, 8a+. For me the hardest move is definitely between the 1st and 2nd bolt but I’d imagine on redpoint the top move is killer. Anywho, after a good bit of work I got a sequence for the lower wall and then made a snap decision to try and onsight the left variant, finishing up Orgasmatron with a grade of 7c+. It was a fight to keep it together after the 8a start but with the top 4 bolts only being 7a I managed to keep it together to the chains – nice!! El Rincon is next on the list. After this I lead The Bandits – originally graded 7c+ and 7b+ in the current guide it’s one of those routes whos grade can be argued about for hours. When I first tried it last year I though it was desperate – now it seems I can lead it anytime, placing the draws so maybe for me the 7b+ grade is becoming appropriate. Anyway, I was happy with leading it and now it was time for Caroline to begin to dissect the route into it’s 3 component parts – Burley start through some steepness leads to a fingery middle wall and finally into an energy sapping capping overhang. This is going to be a worthwhile project… watch this space.

Thursday, 15 April 2010


Right so… lets lay the cards out on the table. October’s trip to Font marked our re-introduction to climbing – we’d been doing feck all before this and Font marked the starting point. After Font we made a decision to start doing a little and often through the winter. Training indoors and making as many forays out onto real rock as possible to keep the psyche high through the dark months. Around Christmas we decided a trip to Siurana was well overdue so we booked flights of Easter and began making our weekly trips to Awesome walls in Liverpool to get some leads in. All this time I wouldn’t say our training was hard, it was just a gentle way of letting our body’s know they were in for a lot more climbing this year. So Siurana was always intended to act as a kind of introduction to sports climbing and give us a benchmark of where we stood in the scheme of things. Once we had this information we could work on some goals for the summer and really keep the pressure on for making progress. 3 years since out last sports climbing trip! Jeeze!!

Anyway, we arrived in Siurana late on the Tuesday evening exhausted after finishing up a busy term in school and travelling to Spain. It was great to be back and catching up with Toni while flicking through his new guidebook and being shown his latest mountain running trophies. We hit the hay and had what felt like the best sleep in months – the holiday had begun!
Eager to get out on rock, we got up early and headed straight down to L’Olla in the valley to warm up. I jumped on a fingery 6c and due to the early morning chill I was numb by the top – but saying that I couldn’t remember ever finding it that easy before – Caroline followed by leading it but without any sports climbing like this in the last three years or so she took a while to get into the required mind set to climb above the bolts and took a rest above the crux before leading on to clip the chains. I felt curious so just tied in and tried a neighbouring 7c, Ya Os Vale – a few minutes later I was at the top, having totally missed the last bolt in my sprint for the chains! Sweet!! Before long Caroline was in full sports climbing mode and had lead a rake of 6’s onsight and felt ready to tackle a few 7’s. First to fall was an epic long 7a in El Flaco. With a low technical crux and long runouts at the top it wasn’t a route I would have expected Caroline to onsight but before long she was near the top and stuck in a layback position. Out to her right was a large hole but it was out of reach and footholds were sparse – I hadn’t even noticed the reach but it stopped her dead in her tracks! I was thinking about shouting up to try and reverse the layback to a rest nearer the low bolt but before I could say anything Caroline just swung and dyno’ed across to the large pocket, feet swinging out! The locals erupt with “Venga, Venga!!” as Caroline finds something for her feet and clips the draw – the rest of the route was a plod by comparison and Caroline had onsighted her first 7a in 3 years – super nice! A few hours later we headed back to L’Olla and Caroline, fresh from the onsight, wanted a go at a shorter and harder 7a – the fingery and technical “Cargol true banya” was on the hit list – dispatched 1st redpoint. After my early success on the 7c I began to play on Anabolica, 8a. I had played on this with McQuaid 3 years earlier and knew I could do every move but also knew that it was at my limit. Well this time if felt cruisey! The crux under the roof felt solid – But throughout 9 straight days of climbing and with failing skin and strength I just couldn’t do the bleedin thing in one go! The best was two overlapping halves – psyched! Stubbornly I decided not to try another 8 in that sector before I send the classic. Every morning we got up, I had 3 redpoints on Anabolica, we had breckfast and went onsighting, back for lunch and a siesta and out again in the evening for more climbing. I kept to my aim of trying an 8 a day – some 8a+’s and an 8b but I never committed time into any – this was just testing the water for later in the year. Somewhere in there we managed to fit in some running again too. It felt brilliant to be running again such a relief after something like 6 months off due to my back injury. It was also the first trip ever where I never fell of a 7 – altogether I lead over 20 pitches from 7a to 7c, some onsight, some repeats but zero falls or rests! Awesome!
One major landmark for me was a rematch with an old nemisis - 8 or 9 years ago I had my first trip to Siurana and was full of stories of this awesome 7b+, Bistec de Biceps. I couldn't even dog it! I basicially had to Aid up the bolts just to retrieve the draws - it was horrible! People were laughing, my harness was leaving fleshwounds, an English bloke even filmed it and played in back at the restraunt - oh the shame! As a result of those non-to-minor mental scars i had avoided the route ever since - well this time Caroline fancied a go and i duely tied in to clip up the draws - And a Flash! Whats more, it felt EASY!! Whoop! Caroline began working it and really enjoyed the steep powerful style - similar to some of the north Wales bouldering. One for next visit!
And ontop of all the climbing we had our lovely little room, Toni’s Mam’s cooking, Ciabatta bread, fresh fruit, Sunshine, chilling out by the river, reading the backlog of books and just finding some space and time away from life back home – perfect!
Leaving Spain never felt so wrong…