Friday, 25 June 2010

Psyche live…

During the past few weeks I’ve been getting out more and climbing with Neal again. I reckon we’ve not climbed this much since out Euro road trip over 6 years ago. It’s funny that we still tackle routes in a very similar way despite having wildly different climbing experiences during the last few years – it all stems back to the DCU wall and Dalkey. Neal has just finished his teacher training year and is emerging out from under the immense pile of assignments, reports, observations, deadlines and standards files back out into the world of climbing and he’s picking up pace fast! Last weekend was an awesome pick n’ mix of climbing. We started off by working an 8a sports route on Saturday morning down at LPT, then a V10 boulder problem in Parasella’s Cave when the tide stopped play on the sports crag, Sunday morning we spent a few sunny hours bouldering on some easy problems up at Monument boulders and finished the weekend off by working an E7 face climb on Nesscliffe sandstone! Brilliant!

Caroline has been taking a break from projecting for a couple of weeks after working her first 7b+. She decided to make a few quick ticks of some 7a’s and build up some stamina by doing laps of one of Dinbren’s more sustained 6c+’s. Well last week Caroline seemed up for a challenge again and began working Walking with Barrence. Originally graded 7b but currently up-graded to 7b+ with the loss of an undercut, this route redefines sustained in the 7b+ grade. Thin and technical with a butch and pumpy finish. Caroline made quick work of all the moves and on her second session managed to link the whole route on a top rope – swift progress! Watch this space…

Meanwhile I went through a period of feeling slightly at a loss at Dinbren. That dark, dark time lasted all of about 37 seconds before I decided to throw myself at working Gwennan till we pack up and leave. At 8a+ and having a very distinct one move crux it’s going to be hard. Hard on the skin to be more precise! Two tiny and sharp two pad crimps need to be boned down upon and dyno’ed from, through a roof, to a jug. A further 7b+ sequence above this and the climbing eases considerably to the chains. If I send this I’ll keep working Insomnia the 8b.

Alongside the Dinbren ambitions I’ve been getting more and more psyched for LPT. Before going down to the crag the other week I showed Neal and Naomi a clip from the Welsh Connections DVD. Pete Robbins crushing Liquid Amber, 8c/+. It always motivated me to hear and see the reactions of Pete’s mates on that DVD trying to articulate their views on his climbing. “He’s applied himself… you mean he lost a stone and a half and trained like fuck!” After watching him redpoint 8c/+ and boulder V13 I can’t help but think I want to do the same – really apply some will power and see some results. It was funny to be down at LPT a few evenings later with Caroline and her sister Joanne – dogging my way up Statement of youth for the first time to feel the holds when Pete turns up and puts his draws in the route beside me. Such a sound bloke – giving advice and much needed beta while working Infanticide an unrepeated 8c himself. As we left the crag I watched as Pete gave the route a full on redpoint attempt… the only other time I’ve watched climbing at this level happening was when Caroline and myself cheered on Chris Sharma redpointing his 9b in Siurana. Pete had it dialled and the climbing looked awesome! He fell off high at the top bolt… it wouldn’t be tonight but he’d have it next visit, I was sure of that and was happy for him. He has now sent it and I have been well and truly motivated to improve my game. I am in school now but will be at LPT by 4:15 this afternoon… game on!

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

... and on the 6th day

This evening was my 6th day on. Thurs was spent working Insomnia, Friday on Insomnia, Saterday climbing with Caroline, Neal and Steve at Dinbren playing on Rob's new 8a, Sunday in Parasella's cave and LPT, Monday up at Dinbren and today (you guessed it!) - Dinbren.
Caroline had tried Technicolour Yawn briefly on Saterday and gave it a quick speed ascent on monday while being attacked by Midges and was keen to get back on it in better conditions. I was eager to keep working the tricky traverse of Rob's new and as yet unnamed 8a. At this point it seemed like a possible but distant goal. Caroline was first up and got on her 7a+ without warming up as we arrived late and felt tired. Falling off at the mid height crux due to flash pump and a wrong foot placement. No worries - i was sure she'd send it next go no problem. Lee Proctor (author of the local guidebook and hardworking crag developer) was up at the crag and had checked out Rob's new line before we got there. He was keen to see my sequence and egged me on to try it. So without much of a warmup and with the sun still on the crux holds i tied in and went for the redpoint. The holds felt warm to the touch but for some reason i felt strong on them and made it across the traverse and even made the tricky 4th clip before falling off the warm high sidepull - grrrrrr!
Caroline tied in again and began to climb. This time it was obvious the difference warming up had made. Every move flowed and seemed effortless from the ground. Reaching the crux, Caroline moved her feet up high and latched the right hand pinch, then the left crimp. With her feet high she eyeballed the distant tickmarked edge - the crux deadpoint. But she hesitated. Oh No!!!! Don't blow it here! you've got it!! But then something different happened - Caroline chalked up, crossed over to a previously un-used edge, built her feet up and fell into the ticked jug! Wow! talk about thinking on your feet! From here to the top i knew Caroline would be safe - it was a crack afterall, Caroline's speciality :o)

To most people that send would just be another 7a+ and no big deal but to Caroline it was a bit more. It wasn't by accident that she came back to this route AFTER leading 7b and 7b+ at the crag - for her this 7a+ represented her nemisis! She was rightly chuffed to bits - it was a brilliant and quick send and really worked her weaknesses.

Back to my project. It would be brilliant to send it this evening but it would require pulling out the stops if i wanted to send it without a solid sequence for the traverse - it still felt like i was winging it. I Tied in and pulled on. By this stage the route had been in the shade for about 20 mins and the difference was just what i needed to get me into redpoint mode. No excuses now, perfect conditions! I move along the initial powerful lip moves and sink the high heel-toe lock. Swaying to get the momentum required for the crossover to the left hand edge, it feels good. Psyched, i dab my right hand on an intermediate sloper and spot my target - a slopey footer. Focused on the foothold i release the heel-toe and cut loose. Unlike the attempts at the weekend though i quickly paste the right foot on and span across to the right hand edge. Myself and Neal had discussed skipping the tough 4th bolt and just launching into the tricky redpoint crux sequence above - risking the lob. Feeling fresh and having climbed with pace to this point i looked and the awkward clip and decided. Move on! Reaching up to the high left sidepull, i hike my feet up onto the smears and reach up for the right sidepull. Gripped, I manage to get my left foot onto the crucial edge just as my fingers slip a little on the warm edge. Solid now i make the moves up to the jugs marking the end of the hard climbing. A bit run-out but onto easier ground. Pulling over the capping roof felt amazing! Chuffed! Another 8a in the bag - progress!
Now theres a good evening! Chocolate and homemade flapjacks were had - good times!

Monday, 14 June 2010

Recent Pics from Dinbren

The technical crux of El Rincon, Dinbren
Moving through the energy saping bulge on El Rincon, Dinbren
El Rincon, Dinbren
Neal "butching" his way through the bouldery lower roof of Rob Mirfin's latest Dinbren addition
Me finally giving in to Neals beta and using the sweet high heel-toe to cross over on the trav
The redpoint crux traverse - crimpy with no footers!
Route weighs in around the 8a mark - feels harder than Gwennan, Elite Syncopations and the other 7c+'s at the crag (... to me at least)
A huge thanks to Rob Mirfin for his work bolting and cleaning all these great lines
... and for the photos!!

Thursday, 3 June 2010

El Rincon

Lats night i went up to Dinbren and met up with Vince. Rob and his girlfriend were already there brewing up in the car park and everything felt very chilled out. It was warm and sunny and there was no breeze. After Fridays attempts and relative success on El Rincon i was keen to try again but would happily accept more baby steps of improvements - fine tuning a sequence here, fighting a bit more there - i knew this route was going to take some time and i was enjoying the process because it felt so damn impossible in the first place. By the time we had warmed up the sun was just leaving the route but the holds still felt warm. I went up it placing the draws and repeating the big link from Friday evening - sweet! Now if the setting sun would only create that familiar cool breeze i reckon I'd have a really good stab at the redpoint today. Vince went off and he worked and then redpointed Lulaby a nice 7b and then we returned to El Rincon. I tied in and gave it a redpoint attempt with my foot full on the gas! everything felt at my limit and i was grunting and shouting my way up through the crux and then through the traverse... locking off on the split finger side pull crimp i pulled my body in close to the rock, built up my feet and crossed over to the undercut and mini rest but i didn't have it in the tank and my fingers just tickled the good hold as i sailed off, coming to a halt around the first bolt. More progress!! Woohoo!! We moved along the crag once more, this time Vince wanted a go at Lee's Extreme Ways, 7c. Working the climb bolt to bolt Vince echoed my first impressions of this climb - Pumpy! Lowering off Vince asked how many goes do i seriously think i can have on El Rincon in an evening? I didn't know but my fingertips were feeling fairly raw at this stage and things were getting cold - this was going to be the last effort. I tied in and stuck the initial deadpoint crux with ease, no more awkward had faffing, every hold was taken correctly and my new foot sequence executed correctly and quickly. This time i was aware i was climbing quietly, instead of grunting, i sealed my lips and breathed through my nose, keeping tension. At the end of the crux i made a snap decision to clip with my right foot on a higher and far worse hold, allowing me to clip and continue straight into the next tricky traverse sequence without having to reposition my feet. Crossover, gaston, shouldery lock, pinch, snap to undercut, tense, span to split finger side crimp, build the feet, lock it down, huge crossover into the undercut, stand up onto edges and control the barndoor while matching. Relax - it's in the bag! Clip, chalk, breath, side crimps, layaway, high right foot, sloper, backstep, bump the left hand up onto higher edge, smear left foot high and rockover onto it, dab the left hand intermediate, go again with the left to the high sloper, high smear with the right foot and reach to the pinch! Yes!! After that the finishing roof passed in a blur - it had never felt so easy or controlled! 8a+ or nails 8a i don't care. Current consensus at the crag from the Yorkshire wads is that they've been on easier 8b's and i'm happy to give it the 8a+ for now which it was originally graded and get on the current online database. Chuffed and once again my eyes have been open to whats possible with a bit of effort! After that we returned to the 7c and Vince dispatched it no worries, opting as i did to skip the last bolt and run to the chains. A perfect evening!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

How to get there?

Howth, North Dublin.

Drive along the coast road from clontarf until you get to the Sutton junction. Turn right onto the R105. As you crest a hill past the graveyard you’ll notice a railing and public footpath access through the wall on the right of the road. Park beyond this point on the left. Take the footpath through farmland onto the coastal path near Red Rock. Follow the coastal path towards Drumleck point, passing a small beach. The path begins to follow the great wall of Howth. Made from strange shell cement. At one point there will be wall sections on both sides of the path. Jump the wall here and follow the steps down into a secluded inlet with a small sea arch/tunnel on it’s left. Walk out of the inlet and turn left. You’ll be staring at Ayton’s Cave – now get in and start bearing down!

Cave Topo

  1. Caroline’s Traverse, V4/5 ***
    Start at the obvious head height jug and traverse out of the cave. Finish by rocking over onto the slab.

  2. Loco Total, V8 ***
    Hanging start by clamping the obvious beach ball tufa feature in the middle of the cave with hands and feet. Blast along the tufa line using pinches, pockets, crimps and slopers to a deadpoint into a slot followed by a cut-loose and swing to join Caroline’s traverse. Finish along this and onto the slab outside the cave.

  3. The Kracken Project, V8 (unfinished) *
    I’ve done all the moves on this in two big overlapping sections but didn’t climb it in one go due to fatigue. Start as for Loco Total but snatch rightwards from the two finger pocket to the lip of the giant roof crack (possible kneebar rest). Blind slapping and inventive footwork will let you fight your way to the cave lip. Has been completed to the lip after starting from the kneebar at V7.

  4. The Daylight project, V? (unfinished) ***
    Match the big bucket jug on Loco before launching to join Caroline’s Traverse and continue straight through the roof to finish on the lip. Brilliant sequence using an undercut for your right hand and snatching to a positive left hand slot. All moves done but not from the start of Loco. Starting from Loco jug to lip felt V8 in itself!

  5. The Destroyer Project, V7? (unfinished) *
    Essentially a brutal, energy draining extension start to any of the 3 previous problems. Start at the back of the cave and begin heelhooking and undercutting your way to eventually reach the starting position of Loco Total! Felt V7 in it’s own right but hard to grade as feels awkward for the tall plus one section was damp so it wasn’t climbed in one push. Pumpy!

  6. The Albatross, V? (unfinished)
    Sit start on an obvious double handed jug. Reach up and left to a sidepull in a crack, build your feet up and finish rightwards into the roof crack. Perfect bouldering angle, 45degree. Start and finish done separately at end of session – jacked!

  7. Afterthought, V1
    Sit start and move up to two massive sidepull bucket jugs. From here jump/reach backwards to a jug on the hanging shelf and campus to the cave lip. May be harder for the tall/short/fat/weak.

  8. The Opposition Party Project, V? (unfinished)
    Sit start on good holds, move up until a span to oppose an undercut is possible. Match this and finish in or around the kneebar (or finish along the line of the Kracken!).

For me the line of the cave must be to link Destroyer into Loco and finish up Daylight giving Daylight Destroyer! Something like 16m of roof climbing with no rests and the hardest sequence at the end… Drool!! Also Destroyer into Kracken would be awesome too (with or without kneebar). Starting as for Carolines traverse and reversing a section of loco to finish up Daylight would be class aswell!

Parting Gift - Ayton's Cave

Typical! Just as we get ready to move to Spain we find an awesome bouldering cave in Ireland that I’d love to put time and effort into developing! But as it doesn’t look like I’ll have enough time or money to get back to Ireland much before we head across to Europe I want to spread the word and ensure this venue gets the attention it deserves. Personally, after only having one afternoon exploring it, I think it is exactly what we were missing back home – long sustained lines through steep territory requiring shoulders, stamina and plenty of burl! We were forced into spending a weekend back home mainly to renew our passports before our move abroad and to catch up with family. However, Saturday morning my dad mentioned that he was keen to show us some rock that he came across while doing one of his training walks before his Kilimanjaro charity climb last year. He wanted our opinion on the climbing potential – he thought we’d like it. Well we did! The rock was solid and of better quality than I expected and it got me thinking… there must be more around here. Sure enough, on a whim I explored a bit along the coast line and came across this beauty! I’d like to call the cave Ayton’s Cave as a thank you to my Dad but get the feeling that this name won’t sit too well with the powers that be – people would rather call it something far less personal or meaningful (to me at least). Sunday after dinner my Dad agreed to drop Caroline and myself off near the cave equipped with picnic blanket, chalk, rock shoes, a wire brush and hammer. We wanted to at least test its quality before ranting and raving all about it. The cave is literally covered with climbable features! And amazingly they’re all really solid so we’d no need for the hammer or wire brush. One thing I will say is that the tufa features have a texture like holding 1000 needles when they’re first used but with some traffic they soon lose their edge and become very ergonomic. It was like bouldering at the Climbing Works in Shef! The first problem was deciding on which line to try! I got straight into working the central lines through the roof while Caroline worked the left wall traverse. Caroline’s Traverse, V4/5 – Starts in a obvious head height jug and traverses left out of the cave – the finish provides the crux. You end up wedges below the roof trying to rock out onto the slab into the daylight. Quality line and well worth the effort. It’s nice to actually feel like you’ve topped out on a cave problem. Too many in my mind just finish on a Jug in space. Loco Total, V8 – Starts clamping the obvious beach ball tufa feature in the middle of the cave with hands and feet and then blasts along the tufa line using pinches, pockets, crimps and slopers to a final deadpoint into a slot followed by a cut-loose and swing to join Caroline’s traverse and finish up this. The full link makes the end of the traverse feel desperate! What a place to blow it!!
At this point I feel I need to justify where I’m at and where I get my idea of grades from. I’ve recently been doing lots of sports climbing – high 7’s and low 8’s most days and am warming up / cooling down on the crag 7b+’s so I suppose you could say I’ve built up a bit of stamina. During the last few months I’ve bouldered over a dozen or so V7’s first try. I’ve bouldered in Font, the Peak and mostly in North Wales. Left wall traverse V7, Beaver Cleaver V8, Cleaver Beaver V8 in Llandudno. Ultimate retro party V8, Bus Stop V9 and Jerry’s Roof V9 in Llanberris. Pantys down V7, Firestarter V7 and Thug Mental V8 at devils gorge.
I figure Loco Toal is harder than all the V8’s I’ve done and as hard as Jerry's Roof and of a similar style i.e. Long! 8m of pure roof before joining and finishing up Caroline’s Trav. No moves as hard as Rock Atrocity though but it is way longer. It could be Font 7c or Font 7a - I'm feeling good at the minute and can do Jerry’s most visits. This is steeper and longer and both problems have no real desperate moves. Anyway, anything I climb seems to get arbitrarily downgraded before people even look at it so I guess I’ll try and beat 'em to it this time and grade it Font 7b (V8) to begin with.

Which brings me to why I’m hesitant to just throw out the Caves location just yet. I feel I’ve been stung a few times by a combination of my ignorance, eagerness to share and by not being one of the “boulderers”. Let me explain. Way back in 1999 I took few trips to Portrane with a few friends to go bouldering. I took some pictures and we did some lines and I stuck them up on a shitty website I had in DCU. Steve McMullan took notice and emailed me suggesting that I should publicise it but being new to bouldering and climbing I didn’t realise the potential and didn’t make much of it. Later that year the foot and mouth crisis lead to Kev Cooper spending a lot of time out there developing the area. He put a lot of time and effort into climbing, exploring and documenting the place and got credited with it’s discovery… Ah well, you live and learn – Full respect to Kev for his efforts.

Fast forward to a few years ago. We come home from the UK for Christmas and took Caroline’s younger brother and sisters for a walk around Glendalough. Hugh spots a hidden block and we cross the river to check it out, I get psyched and return to spend a full day scraping, cleaning, brushing, falling and eventually climbing something like 9 problems in total. The hardest problem being “Hugh” which I graded Font 7b. I named the cluster of boulders “the Holiday boulders” as a reminder of when and how they were developed and also as they represented (to me at least) a holiday or break away from the constantly trafficked problems along the path in Glendalough. I submitted the info, keen to encourage repeats and more traffic. I even documented the stunning project groove line that I gave a cursory cleaning to but didn’t have the time, skin or ability to complete at the time. Without any repeats to my knowledge Hugh was down-graded to Font 7a+ without explanation… it must just be me. Heres the write up in the Guide:
Van Diemen’s Land was the name given by the miners to the valley above the zigzags in Glendalough – so-called after the barren lands in Tasmania where convicts were being sent at the time. There are a few boulders, but seeing as it’s a fifteen minutes walk past the best bouldering in Ireland, it will not appeal to many people. On the south side of the stream beside the first spoil heap is the Holiday Boulder which was cleaned and climbed on by Dave Ayton over Christmas ’08.
If a 15 minute walk along a nice path is enough to put off Irish boulderers then I can suddenly understand why I seem to be lucky enough to keep finding unclimbed rock! Jaysus lads! Before that there was the Hidden groove block blitz – when I graded King Cobra Font 6a people gave out stink insisting it was harder! I’m open to criticism about my grades but would take such grade changes easier if it came from repeat ascentionists who also offered comments on the lines quality and or worth. First ascents take a good deal more time and effort than subsequent ascents and quite often people discover new beta and sequences and grades settle – I know this. Plus I’m aware that I have a bigger reach than most. Combine that with me being way weaker than most and I realise I’m going to be shit at grading!

Anyway – I hope this cave gets known as Ayton’s Cave as I’ll not be around Ireland much and my Dad was out there thinking of us Irish climber types and gave up his time so that this place could be explored. I honestly feel that the potential for hard bouldering in this cave is massive! Enjoy Folks! Topo, maps and a list of whats been done and cleaned or worked to come.