Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Traverse Time!

My recent playtime on the bouldering traverse I uncovered got me thinking. I enjoyed following Pierre as he pieced together his Full Frontal traverse in Scotland. Also been reading about Chris Davies on his mission to dispatch an unrepeated 8B+ in a single trip – his story is an epic. The focus and drive he poured into training in North Wales with this one goal in mind. Really interesting to read and motivational too! I've also been just enjoying bouldering again. Being able to focus (obsess) on a single move or even on a single hold. It really shows how easy progress is to make once you begin to distil a sequence down into its base components. Below is a short video of my latest – Turmoil Traverse. Nice climbing and subtle too. Poor and often too low footholds and a combination of spaced and frictionless limestone slopers define the crux. Lovely…

Thursday, 27 October 2011

So Much To Do!

I love finding new stuff. The latest find has signs of abuse in the form of sloppy sika dotted around the crag but otherwise no signs of wear. No rubber marks, chalk or even cleaning of loose rock as far as I can see. I spent a visit with gloves and tools clearing all the vegetation away from the base of the wall and pruning back the larger bushes. Then I set to work on levelling the landings and moving the larger "back breaking" rocks from below potential lines. Eventually I ended up unearthing/clearing an entire band of rock at the far left of the crag that had been completely untouched. No sika. And best of all it is home to an awesome natural line taking a rising traverse up leftwards above an obvious sit start. There is another sit start that joins the traverse at half way too which went down pretty quickly after cleaning loose rock and chalking the holds, probably around 6C. The full line is hard though. The first sequence is a long reach to a half pad undercut and feels really powerful. After that things stay steep but the holds turn slopey and the foothold options are few and far between. I've managed all the moves through this section but one. Then the route drops down to join the 6C for a energy sapping finish. Brilliant! I have a project!

I've played on some of the more manufactured lines too. One of them is like a cellar dweller’s dream. Tiny and well-spaced crimps, poor and limited footers and all on an angle similar to a moonboard. Reminds me of Pool of Bethesda in Llanberris – but limestone. The crag traverse, not even including the new rock I uncovered at the left end, warrents a hefty sports grade beyond where I’m at currently. The perfect training ground.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Finding Rhythm Again

Well after a hefty three months off from almost all activity between June, July and August I've been spending the past two months recovering some sort of fitness and enjoying rock again. Things got really hot here in June so it brought our roped climbing to a standstill before we drove back home to Ireland for our wedding and what I thought would be a summer of Irish trad and bouldering. I totalled three days on rock. Two days out in Lough Dan trad climbing and 2 hours in Ayton’s Cave one afternoon when Caroline was at the hairdressers. Haa!!
Lough Dan is Awesome. It’s beautiful. Both the setting and the climbing. Probably ten years ago I was motivated to try and climb Surfs up there. Mainly due to the picture on the back cover of the old Wicklow guidebook. It raped me… dry. I resorted to fully aiding the line but swore to return. This summer was a different story. After a long season building mileage on sports routes I did a quick mental calculation and translated E4 6a into 6c sports, then adding in the sandbag factor upped it to 7a in my mind, and racked up for a retro flash without any warm-up. You want to know the sad part? I remembered all the gear – yep, every single wire and cam. I opted to just take the small wires and peanuts. Man it was intense. There is so much more going on while climbing a trad route. It is a classic for anyone climbing E4, brilliant! Solid keyhole wire placements, two pegs, great granite, amazing position, lovely movement and climbing. The top out on the other hand was grim. A filthy overgrown slab awaits. Lough Dan is a crag that would benefit from a belay station above the trad lines. Nemesis conquered we ticked all the other routes on the crag with the exception of Archaos. This route has apparently never had an onsight and the pegs would need replacing before I was willing to give it a go and possible fall off. It’ll have to wait.
My little session in the Cave highlighted something that I had suspected for some time. All this sports climbing makes you weak!! I expected to be able to warm up on the problems I had done before and leave with a few new ticks – wrong! Despite the holds being wet I still actually thought it would feel easy, familiar. Caroline’s traverse went as the warm up but then I had to orientate myself amongst the maze of chalked holds. Eventually I found my lanky sequence again and clung on to the end of Loco despite the wet holds. This time even Afterthought felt harder and I used my feet. I worked some of the other lines but my time was up and I had to run back to the car… wedding business.
After two weddings, a christening and 8 weeks meeting, eating with and drinking with family and friends I hadn’t spent enough time with in years I returned to Spain with an extra 6kgs and low energy levels. Within two weeks of eating right and getting out on rock and running I had shed the weight and ticked a few high 7’s and low 8’s. We’ve visited new locals only crags and the psyche is high.

Then we found a real treasure – a 50m long steeply overhanging bouldering wall with flat landings. It had been found by climbers before and they left plenty of sika holds but strangely no signs of wear that you’d expect to see. No rubber work footholds, chalk on undercuts, polish. The fact that the entire crag was lines with scrub and thorny bushes was another strange indicator that climbers hadn’t been here for a long time – or they just came and sika’ed a load of holds but never worked the lines? Either way, two sessions now has seen the crag cleared and tidy. The rock is perfect and there are problems aplenty. Everything from the MEGA 50m traverse of the Gods to vicious straight up problems. I’d love to get some V12 boulderers up there to check out some of the lines. I mean back in Wales I could work things like Mr. Fantastic on the cromlech in sections without too much problem but some of these features are NAILS! I still feel a bit restricted without any pads but I’ll sort that out soon enough :o) Training season has begun – hopefully with a bit of steep rock to play on the edge will come back on the harder sports routes – psyched!!

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Tying the knot

Clare Vale, Co. Wicklow, Éire - July 23rd 2011

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Boulder Hunting

Heres a quick vid of our recent bouldering finds. Can't really try too much of the harder stuff without a pad. Saying that I reckon some of the harder highballs we've already done would get E grades back home or in the UK. The harder lines look quality ... so much to go!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Bouldering... on actual boulders! Really!

Lets talk some numbers shall we? 1 half-day, 2 people, 35 degrees, 6 litres of water, 13 cairns built, 2 pairs of gloves, 1 saw, 2 secateurs, 1 hatchet, 1 block cleaned, 5 new boulder problems, 3 problems climbed, 2 projects remaining, 0 pads, 20 or more blocks left to tackle... hmmm.
The obligatory before shot. Our first target was the arete block that Caroline spotted a few weeks ago. Fist we had to negotiate the 3m or so of prickly shite to actually get up face to face with it.
And the after shot. A couple of hours worth of ripping, cutting throwing and stomping followed by a fair amount of brushing dirt and muck off the boulder and it sat ready to be climbed on.
Heres a more telling view of the main act - the arete. I'd describe it as feeling like a frictionless, harder, limestone version of Rhythm and stealth in Glendalough with an equally worrying landing. The ground below the arete falls away in a mess of rocks and (now) some bits of trees partially filling a hole. The smooth nature of the rock means you have to bear down on the edges or verdonesque closed pockets that are there and simply do the moves between them. The obvious horizontal break is slopey too leaving some burl for the finish. I couldn't do it. Not without pads or more spotters anyway. To me it's a classic line. Location, angle, obvious feature and the right difficulty for me to work on. Definitely the hardest 6a I've ever laid my eyes on.
Heres what we got done. Caroline got the ball rolling by climbing the first problem. She pulled on from sitting from a knee-height sidepull and then balanced her way up and left. It was cool with a real slopey top move. Problem two starts as for the first but follows features rightwards getting higher and higher above the deck before having to use some slopers and small but positive footers to reach for safety. Problem three pulls on using a steep crack and then moves left on slopers before balancing back right and up to finish. The yellow arete project is worth obsessing over. The green project is an obvious line breaking out left from problem three and finishing up problem two.
After that we hiked back to the car and went for an exploratory hill run. Oh my God! More quality rock and this time we found a trackside overhanging wall - ideal for bouldering/training - not the mention the miles and miles of undeveloped single and multipitch rock, crazy!!

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Bouldering potential

Went exploring a hillside today on a mission to scope out some potential bouldering spots for future development. Straight away we hit gold. Large clean blocks with obvious lines (although many look too hard for me at present). The combination of amazing setting and striking features on these blocks make me feel like we found somewhere special and bursting with potential. Some serious groundwork is needed to prepare a path up to the blocks and clear away some of the vegetation. I'm gonna have to invest in some bouldering pads. But before then it'll be cairn building and cutting steps - I'm psyched :o)
The first cluster while bushwacking up - four blocks with lots of lines
This overhanging arete stood out a mile! Steeper than it looks in this pic and with a good landing
The Motherload
Obvious highball arete
Overhanging face between 4 ans 6m in height
Profile view of the motherload :o)

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Looking back before moving on…

It’s the last week in school now and I suppose it’s as good a time as any to stop and take stock of where I’m at and what has been achieved in the past year. Like a macro navigation exercise through poor visibility. Taking a back bearing to check if any progress has actually been made in the direction you want. If it has - keep going. If you find you’ve not made much progress or have gone off in the wrong direction simply stop, get yourself together and try again.
I pinched this pick from Eamon (hope you don't mind!) as I reckon his devious 300 move sequence through Loco is about as different as humanly possible from my 7 move shoulder span fest.

I can’t believe it’s been only a year since I first climbed at Ayton’s cave in Howth. Heres the blog from June of 2010 with my original rant and topo etc. Reading Trish’s blog lately has been cool. She’s been visiting the cave and seems to be getting into it. It got me thinking about the one and only day I spent there and the manic rush I had to unlock the more obvious lines. Loco has settled at 7a and seems to be a popular one. I’m really happy that people are using the cave and more importantly that people actually like it and rate the problems. I've always liked seeing routes or problems I've done getting attention and ascents from others – theres nothing like it. And of course, Caroline is happy to hear about the high calibre of wad climbing on her line in the cave too. It does make me laugh though when I think about how shit I am at grading, especially boulder problems. Anyway, seems like a lifetime ago when we first explored that place and I’m psyched to get back into it and try and give some of John’s newer lines a go while back in Dublin before our wedding in July.

Back to the year in review. Back during March 2010 I had climbed a couple of 7C boulder problems in North Wales and was loving the bouldering and beginning to feel some strength gains from it. Before moving to Spain I gave away my bouldering pads to a good home and that was that. No bouldering or indoor training whatsoever during the past year and I must admit I’m missing it now.

We moved to Spain and have spent a year or so not really knowing what we would be doing in the future. Staying in Spain? Returning to Ireland? All completely up in the air. Add planning a wedding from a distance into the mix and taking responsibility for two subjects at A-level and GCSE and you have the ingredients for a somewhat stressed Dave. Not much has changed other than the fact that I've learned that often things other than climbing need to take priority in life, even if only for a brief time.

We climbed in Ceuse during August and then spent the autumn, winter and spring working various sports climbs and exploring new crags. Although I've not broken any new ground in terms of grades (unless my first ascent in Echo turns out to be an 8b) I feel that I've grown as a climber a lot. I’m learning more and more every trip to a crag. Strangely I consider myself the most unfit and weakest I've been in something like 5 years yet I’m climbing 7c’s and above every day. So much about climbing well can be unlocked through attitude and removing barriers. It’s given me a lot to think about and redefined my concept of possible.

I suppose taking all things into account I feel like this year has been a success and I've managed to prevent any major regression in terms of climbing while working hard on relocating to a new country, settling into a new job, learning a different style of climbing and of course planning our wedding. I’m pretty happy with all that.

Where would I like to take things in the year ahead? I’d like to travel more and do more bouldering during the weekends. I want to spend the darker winter evenings training. I need to focus on developing some raw power while continuing to project harder sports lines. I want to do some harder trad headpoints in Ireland. Boulder V11. That would be the triple 8 for me and represents something I feel would be worth working towards. Whatever happens being happy would be a good priority to have.

Enough of whats happened – now for what is happening! It’s getting HOT!! Mid thirties during the day is the norm now and it doesn’t make for ideal climbing conditions let me tell you! Dani Andrada, Tom Bolger, Roberto… every one living in Spain has accepted that the climate has called a stop to hard focused cragging. It’s the perfect seasonal spread in many ways for me. During school time when we’re tied here the conditions are mint for projecting September through to May. Then it heats up forcing you to take a step back and relax. Let the body recover from a hard and tiring season. Do some easy exploring or DWS along the coast until school finishes and we can migrate north to cooler climates in France or Germany or head back home to Ireland for a summer of coastal trad climbing built on a solid foundation of sports climbing fitness. Hmmmmm… me likey!

Anywho, the other day we took a run up around the mountain behind our house with the intention of seeking out a rumoured mega crag that is being developed. When people talk of a crag that dwarfs the Wildside and is covered in hard, pure tufa lines you have to give in to curiosity and go look for it. Impossible to find was the description.

Well we found it. Steered onwards at the end by the echoing sound of distant drilling and hammering. It was like finding Jurassic park or something! Huge. HUGE! Overhanging cliff face. At a complete guess I’d put it at something like 200m? HUGE! And full of projects and potential. And that’s just one 200m wide stretch of what looks like over a km of north facing rock. Jesus! If anyone out there wants free accommodation for life I’d like a drill with multiple spare battery packs and a couple of hundred bolts please. I mean wow!

Believe it or not you can actually see one of the guys bolting in the picture above but he looks like a dark dot near the base of the main face! I also scoped out what looks like potential bouldering high on a hillside near our house. A couple of house-sized limestone blocks with overhanging faces in an alpine’esque setting – muy wappa!

On a different note, we bought another rope. Edelweiss 70m 9.8mm. Feels really nice. We’re trashing ropes to beat the band over here! So far I've climbed on Beal, Roca, Sterling, Tendon, Mammut and now Edelweiss. I have to admit that to date my favourite rope has been the Sterling.

Oh, another thing – at the weekend we were feeling a bit rough after a couple of late nights so we headed to a shady little crag above the sea. I climbed two routes. One was a 7b+ that took a direct line through three boulder sections getting progressively easier before an easy finishing slab. The 7c+ beside it climbed up a couple of bolts worth of 7a climbing to a great shouldery opposition move between malnourished tufas leading into an upper wall on tiny pockets. Lowering off the routes the next step was obvious. Combine the most difficult parts of both routes by climbing the meat and veg of the 7b+ before moving right via a crossover using a 1st pad mono to join the 7c+ for the hard finish. I sent it first go without any working of the previously unclimbed link section. Sweet!! Stalking the Shogun, 7c was born – get on it!

Monday, 6 June 2011


In the past two weeks I've turned 29, climbed a few 7c's, a few 7c+'s, an 8a and an 8a+ all in single sessions of work (after work). I've fallen off my nemisis 8a at the Wildside a total of 18 times from above the same bolt, but thankfully, from progressively higher and higher holds. I have now accepted that it just doesn't suit me for lots of reasons but I'm sticking with it to the end - it's working me so hard that it has to be good for something, even just mental toughness. It's been raining here and heating up which is playing havoc with the rock conditions too. I also had confirmation that a route I climbed in October was in fact a first ascent and was considered a "hard eight" project - so 8a+? I want to activate some power again so I've started a bit of light fingerboarding after the crag. I've been doing more running lately too - keen to get fit before the summer. Thats about it, heres some cheese...

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

A Question of Style

On Sunday morning Caroline warmed up by sending her project at the Wildside. Cuestión de Estilo takes a powerful line up a single striking tufa through consistently steep terrain. It is famous (infamous) for it's wicked crux move that utilises a painful two finger pocket that has to be taken with the front two fingers as an undercut.

It winked at Caroline back in January but she resisted trying it until she had finished her other project. Caroline was inspired to keep trying this route after watching and talking with some members of the Ukrainian climbing team who were visiting and playing on it. One woman, who had to work it a fair bit before eventually redpointing it, was discussing and sharing beta with Caroline as they were of similar height. She reckoned it was closer to 7c+. Later that day her coach informed us that she usually onsights 8a's and had redpointed 8c+, hence her surprise at being spat off a 7c.
Caroline spent some time working on her own sequence through the crux but could never give it more than two goes a day as the sharp pockets would shred her fingers and the powerful style left her wiped out after only a few attempts anyway. Just when she seemed close to sending it the weather stopped play. It turns out that despite staying completely dry in even the heaviest downpour, the route seeps really badly for weeks after heavy rain making it impossible to climb. I suppose all those tufas have to come from somewhere! Sunday we got to the crag and it was the driest it had been in over 2 months. Opting not to take a warm up, Caroline jumped straight on the sharp end and put the project to bed once and for all. A brilliant lead and one I know Caroline is especially proud of for loads of reasons.
Heres the video...

Monday, 23 May 2011

Castellet de Calp

We've had a good weekend on the rock. I gave my project at the Wildside a good few goes on Sat before ripped skin and tired arms halted play. Ah well progress was made and i came away from it feeling psyched. It's so frustrating. I've climbed the pitch over 12 times now with either one foot slip or a badly caught hold resulting in a fall. It's not a strength issue. It's not stamina either. My sequence is solid. It's come down to tiny differences. Slight imperfections in foot placements or gripping positions on a scale I've never had to worry about before. In alot of ways I'm learning loads. Which is good because in other ways the route (and the fact that i haven't sent it yet) is doing my head in. Of course if I was mutant strong or feather light i wouldn't have to worry about it but I'm neither. Work your weaknesses and play to your strengths.
After Saturday's redpointing i felt tired so we decided to go explore a new crag recently developed close to our house. It was brilliant and home to probably 20 or so routes between 7a and 7c+. A great evening mileage crag and better still, it's north facing which is essential now with temps creeping higher into the 30's. I warmed up on a really nice 7a and then surprised myself by fighting up to the chains of a tough 7c called Chasing the dinosaur. Brilliant steep tufa climbing, big moves - even two impromptu dynos on redpoint. Not bad for a rest day. I'll get some pictures of the crag next visit - it's deffinately worth checking out

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Birthday Boy!

I’m another year older – but not much wiser. Did you know that 29 is the tenth prime number, and also the fourth primorial prime. It forms a twin prime pair with thirty-one, which is also a primorial prime. Twenty-nine is also the sixth Sophie Germain prime. It is also the sum of three consecutive squares, 22 + 32 + 42. It is a Lucas prime, a Pell prime, and a tetranacci number. It is an Eisenstein prime with no imaginary part and real part of the form 3n − 1. Since 18! + 1 is a multiple of 29 but 29 is not one more than a multiple 18, 29 is a Pillai prime. 29 is also the 10th supersingular prime.

Here are some number ones from Ireland back in 1982 (the year I was born) – representing perhaps the pinnacle of music video production – everything since then has just been cooling down

Ooooooh yeah! I know what you're thinking - Quality!

I've also being doing some climbing. The night before my birthday we went to our local cave. I was keen to try an 8a+ that always winked at me. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I hadn’t climbed on anything this style in a while, instead choosing to focus on developing some Sella stamina. This route was more my cup of tea. It played to my strengths. Technical, reach, cruxy. I gave it a decent onsight go but came off after misjudging a sloper as a decent hold. Conditions were not ideal – the rock seemed moist from the days rain and evaporation but the moves came together really quickly. Lowering off I indulged the thought that this would go this evening. Two redpoints later and a lot of chalk to dry the rounded edges and it did! It can’t be 8a+ though – Felt about right at 8a and possibly harder without my reach – but then again I’m sure the soapy two finger pockets would feel more secure to the smaller folk… yadda, yadda, yadda. So that’s 15 or so grade 8’s but not a single 8b (unless my Popcorn first ascent turns out to be one!) – time to pull the finger out! I Spent the free lessons I had in school on my birthday trawling for information on quality 8b’s on the Costa Blanca. Armed with this new ticklist and 10 new draws I am now on a mission – along with plugging away at all the other routes in Sella :o)

Some other stuff that has interested me of late includes:

Ricky’s new E8 at the Head

Cool Video of bouldering at the Head

New route in the Burren by Ron with a alternative start/second ascent by Colm:

Plus a load of desk jockeys typing about how evil bolts are and questions being raised about the past, reality, history and first ascents – Huh! There was me thinking that the person who actually climbed a line first was the first ascentionist. Go figure – perhaps historical accuracy is overrated?

Anyway… Happy cranking!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Lost in Translation

Sunday was awesome. Caroline had made commitments to help a friend with her business start up so I was sent off to the Wildside with a packed lunch and my Spanish phrasebook. It felt similar to that first day at school memory. I got there early and as usual there was no one around. I spend an hour updating my printed topo to include all the new lines and sorted out the grades to the best of my knowledge. Then just sat down and read till the locals arrived. It's a weird time of year here in Sella. With the season drawing to a close there are no tourists. Just the local scene in it's eclectic glory. Knowing everyone’s names and faces from the previous 3 months of frequenting this rock helps but its a different story when you go scrounging a belay with embarrassingly poor Spanish. Luckily everyone was keen to involve the new kid and unbelievably I never had to wait or even ask for a belay. They're all so sound! I got stuck in with the belaying duties too and also got the beta for a few years worth of projecting. Everyone had their own routes and it was surprising to find out that mine was not the easiest! Everything from 8c+ down to 7c+ was being worked and the psyche (not to mention work ethic!) was high. I gave my route a couple of redpoints - making little progress after a two week break. At one point i was tempted to strip my draws and working something else but then i thought about something i read recently. Work your weaknesses but play to your strengths. And it clicked. At this stage, these sessions are training for the summer's trad. The season is over here and it's not a mission for the next tick anymore. Plus if I can clock 4 laps of a 28m long overhanging crimpfest with one fall each time and then play on all the other equipped routes in the 8's then i'm obviously training for something! All good!

Heres a video from 4 crags all within 40 mins from our house. I was talking to the first ascentionist of the 8b at 2min50 called Clemencia. He was telling me that his original was static'ed through the roof a 8b+ and that the new dyno beta lowered the grade. He also said that it was class and would suit me, a real 3 star route! Oh and theres some shit hard bouldering in there too for any boulderers out there not feeling the love for the climbing with ropes :o)

Trad Summer

Click!! I don’t know why but all of a sudden I want to climb lots of trad… now! Don’t get me wrong, I’m still psyched as ever for the sports climbing but I'm mega psyched to get down to the Burren and up to Fair Head. Maybe it’s knowing that I’ll have a month in Ireland during the summer. Maybe it’s because I'm feeling a little stronger as a result of the recent mileage on the Spanish sports routes. Or maybe it’s just time I felt I needed to get on some of the best trad routes in Ireland. I think i'm quite seasonal regardless, switching between trad, boulder, sports and training buzz as and when. Either way it’s given my present climbing a serious burst of focus. Doing another pitch at the end of a session has now become a matter of building endurance before the return to Ireland and not purely to help the next redpoint.

I mean, just look through this:

Everything is quality and within my grade all of a sudden – maybe theres scope for more lines? Of course there is!!!
Writing this has got me thinking of my very last route I lead in the Burren. I think it was 3 or 4 years ago. Myself and Caroline had camped on top of the crag with Belgian Sean and his mate Tom. Our last day in Ireland before returning to Wales. Feeling that we were short on time I went straight down after breakfast to try Sharkbait without warming up - this was going to be my onsight attempt. It went perfectly - climbed smooth and felt easy. I left the Burren knowing that, for me, there was still everything to be done and enjoyed. In fact every crag in Ireland feels like that. I've done feck all before moving to Wales! Even while getting rained on in Glendalough the other week I couldn't help but be impressed with the amount still to do in the valley.
I can't wait!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Power Shortage vs Wingspan Wad

Last week Caroline and myself headed out to Sella one evening after work. We were due to fly back to Dublin on Friday for the weekend and this would be our last chance to try our projects before taking a week long break. Walking into the crag we could see my line in full sun while Caroline’s tufa stood out as a dark black drainage line, dripping from the heavy rain a few days earlier. What to do? The only other climbers at the crag were Agustin and Ivan who we knew to talk to but didn’t really know that well. They came over and suggested we join them at the VIP sector which was in the shade. Then we got the tour – first ascents, beta, stories of flashes or repeats of every route on the crag. Turns out Ivan and Agustin had climbed everything at Sella – EVERYTHING! Ivan even redpointed a new 9a link up at the Wildside just before Christmas. The weird thing was that I had never met a strong climber with Ivan’s build – he’s like a strong version of me. Over 6 foot and skinny and with not much in the arm department. If he can do it yadda, yadda, yadda. Agustin gave me the history of the unrepeated 8c+. Ivan climbed it years ago but since then his fingers have gotten fat so even fitting into the shallow monos is impossible. Apparently a lot of strong climbers have tried it over the years but Ivan’s huge reach on the crux prevents it from being repeated. Ivan then measured my wingspan and then gave me the sequence… as if! I warmed up on a 6c+ and then got stuck into Desert Storm 8a (pictured above and below).
Boulder problem crux on a mono and two finger pocket off the ground and then just jug hauling to a crimpy move at the chains. It’s nice to have a steep shady crag for the evening after work. Psyched!!! Agustin also told me that he had the first ascent of many of the routes at Cova Fuma and that my ascent of the 7c Impackto was probably the second ascent – sweet!
Back in Dublin we had loads of stuff to do but eventually I made it down to Glendalough… in the rain. I was soo psyched for some bouldering it was a but gutting to admit defeat at first. After a hour or more of wet boulder scrambling looking at wet problem after wet problem, crossing the river and back again we tried to dry off the cherry through sheer positivity and huge amounts of chalk. I had never seen this problem before but it was cool. Man I feel weak. No bouldering has left me with a huge power deficit. I just couldn’t hold the holds. Shocking! It’s kicked me into action regarding training though. Monday I hit the ground running – literally. Mountain run, finger board session and a core workout. This morning another hill run and this evening a session at the crag. Time to shake things up and make some progress. Al’s advise of working bouldering power through working hard sprots routes bolt to bolt makes sence – I know just the route!

Friday, 29 April 2011

Playing with Video

Heres a short vid of some of our recent climbing antics... well I should say of Caroline's recent climbing. I have been climbing, honest, but i keep sending routes when i'm not expecting to so i never bother setting the camera up! I'll change that tomorrow though... get some falling off and swearing footage of meself.
Been playing with different camera setups and video settings too... amazing what you can do without school work and marking to be done :o)
After 2 days on my current route I've fallen off the crux hold 5 times on redpoint, each time pulling back on and finishing it to the chains in one. Frustrating but fun. Enjoying the mileage it's giving me as it's a 13 cliper :o)

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Turtle power

I’m psyched! Two months ago we adopted Sella Wildside as our new crag. It has been the best period of learning for me in terms of climbing in a long long time. I don't consider myself a very strong climber, I never have. But I do acknowledge that I have some strengths. Figuring out sequences is one of them. Remembering sequences is another. Stamina is definitely not one of my strengths. But progress has been made. I've jumped on loads of routes at Sella over the past two months. I've dogged my way up an 8c, 8b+, 8b, 8a+ and a few 8a’s looking for something to work. Although I really enjoyed the challenge of working something beyond my level I was afraid that devoting a lot of time to hanging and falling while working desperate cruxs would result in little mileage on rock so in the end I decided to tackle my stamina issue head on – Ergometria 8a is one of the top 8a’s in Europe and the crag classic. 26 meters of perfect natural overhanging rock. Boulder problem start, tufas, pockets, cracks, slopers and a lactic infused redpoint crux right at the top by the chains! A full value three star classic and justifiably so. I worked my way up placing the draws and lowered off a sweaty mess. There are rests on the route but I find them uncomfortable and having long legs doesn’t help when trying to sink bomber kneebars so I ended up taking it as a full on stamina pitch only using quick shakeouts. Yesterday morning was my sixth attempt on the line. I knew every move I needed to make but had yet to make it from the deck past the central groove section in one go. After belaying Caroline on her warm up I got straight on it thinking that warming up on anything else would be pointless, I may as well warm up on it and check the holds. Making it through the boulder problem at the second bolt was nothing new but yesterday it felt different, easy. Right then, lets give the arms a proper warm up. The third, fourth and fifth clips passed in a blur of big moves on huge holds and I was at the central section. Moving up to and making the sixth clip I still felt fresh. This was weird, previous attempts saw me pumped out of my mind here before twisting into the ‘could be better’ three finger pocket and spanning out left to the sloper. Not this time. I paused, had a quick shake and chalk, shouted down to Caroline that “This feels strange, not pumped!” Twisted into position but instead of making the span, I made one more foot move higher and locked in the pocket. Now I could skip the first sloper and span to the second, re adjust the feet and stab again to the side of the crack and the dimple inside. The rest of the route just flowed like a perfect puzzle clicking together. Just like I imagined it would have to be climbed. Clipping the chains (without grabbing them of course!) I was chuffed! One of my all time favourite routes and my first stamina pitch. And as a warm up! Straight away I jumped back onto the 8b I had tried weeks ago and made it into and a few moves through the crux first go! Wow!! The stamina cometh!

Oh yeah… Caroline was given a pet turtle as a gift from one of her pupils. Meet Thor...

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Busy Dave

As is always the way - the busier i get the less i post. And i have been BUSY! Anyway, easier to just put soem pictures up of recent adventures - the climbing is great!

Exploring the Water Cave above the Sella valley

The Wildside off in the distance... so much rock!!

Caroline warming up

Afterwork sessions at the wildside...

The most enjoyable way of building stamina - warming up on 8a, redpointing 8a, cooling down on 8a. Keep doing it with one fall now but the fall point keeps creeping closer to the chains - no hard moves, just resistance climbing

Mambo the Wildside guard dog and Caroline

Exploring some of the lesser known crags in the area - this one is full of 7c's and 8a's - short steep and fingery.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Signs you’re a sports climber

  • You regularly fall off while leading

  • Finding a rock shoe with an aggressive last was a revelation of mind blowing proportions

  • You wear through more than two single ropes a year

  • Your redpoint rope is between 8 and 9mm in diameter

  • You know what a redpoint is!

  • You’ve dug out your trad rack only to strip the 16 or so camming devices of their karabiners so you can make 8 more quickdraws

  • Your harness only has one buckle and weights less than one rockshoe

  • When you boulder you say things like “Wow, that would be a class move 50m up a route!”

  • You convert the grades of any trad routes you do into French grades

  • Slabs hurt your calves

  • You own a clipstick

  • Good heelhooks and dropknees make you all warm and tingly inside

  • You can give and understand beta in 7 different languages

Anything else? :o)

Tuesday, 8 March 2011


So I've been climbing a bit lately. It's not enough. Really! I have this constant urge, constant pressure to climb more but things just keep stopping me from doing it. Weather, work, life in general - excuses could be found everywhere but at the end of the day that’s all they are, excuses. I've found my self in a strange place. A kind of limbo. I'm climbing more on harder lines than I’ve ever done in the past and yet I feel more weak and unfit than I have felt in the last 4 years or so. How can this be? Can being in the right frame of mind account for such a difference? Climbing once or twice a week on rock and never on plastic is just not enough. I miss the power. I miss being able to pull harder on holds and forget about feet for a while. That’s the dark side. Now the bright side. I'm climbing with more confidence. I'm using and finding new techniques, new footwork and adapting to this style of long steep limestone. I’m loving falling. What’s the point of this waffle? I'm climbing away at Sella like I said, once or twice a week. I'm warming up on the 7c's and I’ve tried a few 8's. The 8b I've tried is hard but I know I can do it - problem is it's always busy at the weekends with other locals projecting it. The 8as feel almost onsightable or at least like they'll go in a redpoint or two and that makes them less appealing to me in some way. I feel like a cheat if i'm not working something thats too hard for me. Conscious of the fact that my power levels are at an all time low I want to beast myself on the days I’m on rock. Soooo... do I climb a load of easier stuff and hope the power returns or do I thrash out a path up something fierce and way beyond my limit and shock my system into adapting and powering up? The latter option carries the risk of tweaking a finger or worse...hmmmm... decisions, decisions. I lowered down an 8c on Sat and put some draws in it to allow a quick top rope. All I can say is WOW! A grand total of six mono pockets (mostly drilled and chipped) taken in an assorted array of wide spanning throws or undercuts make up the bulk of the difficulty. The line is completely fabricated. Sculpted by the first ascentionist. Like an indoor climb but on a grand scale. The ethics that allowed such a line to be created and the visual impact of the work deter me from trying it but the movement, now the movement had me keen from the first step off the ground. Now I know how hard something like that is I know what I need to work on. After checking that line out I cooled down by giving an 8a with the draws in a quick go. One fall at the crux then a quick shake out and on to the chains. I should get on it again but do I really want to? No real point to all this - I know that in a few weeks the clocks change and I can climb everyday into the evening. I know that I just need to pick something that I enjoy working and get into battle mode. Once that happens I'll be full steam ahead. For now I'm just waffling because it's raining outside and I’ve work to do. Such is life.

Sunday, 27 February 2011


Nige has sent Monk Life, Font 8B+

I think this is class news and a landmark ascent (in my sphere of infulence anyways) - Legend!!

Monk Life, Font 8b+, Kyloe from Nigel Callender on Vimeo.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Something for the weekend

Well this week I feel like I well and truely need something to keep me going... Shit week on the work front and will probably have to do some over the weekend with a school inspection due to take place on Monday. After that it's full on battle mode and evening cragging can resume :o)

On the interweb this week - A really honest question and answer session between Pierre and Dave "the short span" Bouldering guide Ireland. Nice to see him getting some credit for his obsession and hard work and great to see Pierre taking the initiative and doing an article for the French mag Grimper.

And now the Psyche!!

The Stuff dreams are made of?

Who needs chocolate?

Better Than Chocolate // Trailer from Haroun Souirji on Vimeo.


Check this out... probably why he made Dreamcatcher look almost do-able :o)

Monday, 21 February 2011


Back to writing about what this blog was intended for! It’s been a good weekend. Firstly Jo and Steve arrived for a small bit of half term R & R in the sun. Straight away we hit Sella Wildside. Last week I put our draws in two 7c routes that were not my style. Steep tufas and slopers with a small amount of resistance climbing to the chains. Both felt hard at the time and I figured I’d need to work them quite a bit purely to build up enough stamina to redpoint them. Saturday morning I tied in at the base of the first one and swung my arms about – 10 times. Fully warmed up and with not enough quickdraws to lead anything else I started up “Keep the Faith” 7c. Moving into the crux my hands felt cold but I was calm and just shook them out a bit and kept going. The crux passed in a blur and before I knew it I was in a kneebar shaking out one clip below the chains. Relaxed and enjoying the unexpected progress I hung out for a minute or two and then climbed on to clip the chains. Lowering off from the warm up and stripping a project. Brilliant! Next up was Caroline’s turn on “Cuestion de Estilo” (Question of Style). This route has the reputation of being Sella’s hardest 7c. A tricky to unlock section through some steep tufas requiring the use of a two finger pocket and excessive drop knee’ing. Caroline lead up to the crux and began working the moves. Every attempt ending in a fall and slightly refining or eliminating a potential sequence. By the time she had finished the route was looking ready for a send and she was looking tired. I tied in to give it a bash but didn’t expect much. Fighting through the crux whilst making up a sequence got me to within a fingertip of the send but trying to unwind from a deep dropknee with my left foot too low left me hanging from the first pad of my middle finger. Basically mono’ing the base of a crack instead of sidepulling it. I cam off, lowered off and pulled the rope – left foot higher! Next go it sent without a problem! Two steep 7c ticks at the Wildside in a day was an unexpected and awesome start to my Sella climbing. Psyched!! Before leaving on Sat I tied in and tried an 8a+ with the draws in – brilliant climbing! Like Dinbren but 30 meters long and without much of a break. I lowered off before the top but loved the climbing on it so will be back for the send. Sunday morning and with only a little time available for rock, Caroline and myself returned to Sella and I warmed up by going bolt to bolt up a fantastic 8b, “La Criatura”. Superb!! My new project!

Caroline tied in and went for it on the 7c. This time making it into the two finger pocket at the end of the crux before slipping out of the drop knee position reaching for the crack above. Meanwhile in Echo Valley Jo and Steve were ticking away. I mentioned to Steve that in October I had redpointed a route I nicknamed “popcorn”. I forgot to mention to Steve that it took me 5 sessions to figure out the moves and redpoint it (more than any grade 8 I had tried in Spain). Despite having a name painted at its base I could find no record of it having been climbed before so without wanting to overgrade it I suggested 7c although I felt it may be harder. Steve kindly donated some time and finger skin to giving it blast and reckoned it’s an 8 alright and suggested that possibly even grading it 8a would be sandbagging. Steve also reckoned that it’s common place for the bolter to name the routes regardless of whether or not they have been climbed so mine may have been the first ascent – Cool! Very Morpho (reachy) and sharp but hard and I enjoyed doing it. After that Jo and Steve took a trip to Cova Fuma and Steve tried “Gran Fuma” 8a. Although I didn’t get to see him on the route it was cool to see someone else psyched about a route that I thought was quality – He’s keen to tick it before returning to the UK, fingers crossed he does!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Cyber Psyche

Fuel for the weekend... I'll post it early this week as some people (Neal) are off to Siurana for half term crushing - Raise the bar dude!!!!
News just in from Siurana - Adam Ondra has sent the project in La Capella at 9b!! I remember looking at this pitch. Really short. Really steep. Really close to the road. Looks nails! Don't know if I'd use the word nice... but nails seems to fit! (I know i've posted this before)

ADAM ONDRA - Working Golpe de Estado in Siurana from BERNARTWOOD on Vimeo.

Also this week I've been watching this... raw power, American comp style!!

The ABS 12 National Championships: Stop #1 of the 2011 UBC Pro Tour. Boulder, CO. from NE2C on Vimeo.

And of course, the wonder French Kid Enzo Oddo climbing a V11 highball in Bishop. Camped beside him and his family for a month this year in Ceuse while he worked and sent Realisation 9a+. Nice people and great sends!


Goings on in cyberspace

Wow! I think I miss timed my last post. It was just meant to be an expression of an observation I made about the Irish climbing scene. The up-side of all this has been the positive responses!

I’m going to try and bring a few threads together here...

Firstly Steve from replied with similar feelings to my own. He’s really behind praising any and all achievements on rock but he did make the very valid point that if people don’t make the effort to report their climbs than nothing will ever get said.

Then Pierre summed up the Irish catch 22 very succinctly in his post titled Achievement. Yes, I suppose it really is that simple – it could be down to a cultural mind set.

Meanwhile the grade debate raised its head on Trish’s blog but in a very good and positive way. It seems to me looking at the scene with an outsider’s perspective that the excellent work Dave F has done in producing and publishing his bouldering guide to Ireland is playing a crucial role in the evolution of Irish climbing. The first print edition of grades will no doubt motivate the masses to go forth and repeat all those lovely problems, talk about grades and things should settle – just like what happened with Mr. Pantons first printed guide to North Wales bouldering – Guide gets printed, people get psyched, crush, discuss and guide becomes out of date very quickly. Good news for guide writers :o) They get to work on version 2!

Then today I read Kev’s reply on Stone boulder. "I have heard no song, seen no dance and seen no article in the Mountain log or Outsider mag noting this achievement. People like Caroline, Michael Duffy, Nigel Calendar, Rob Hunter and several more are becoming legends in the ghostly sense - sometimes thought to have been seen out in the boulder fields and crags doing something amazing but how often does the ghost turn into vivid 3D in the climbing consciousness?" I had to smile when I read this. Aside from putting Caroline along side such wads as Michael, Nige and Rob, Kev picked a mental scab of mine. Living away from Ireland the past few years has meant I rarely get a chance to flick through Irish climbing media in its printed form. The last time I did was in Dublin Airport when returning to Spain after Christmas. One article interested me. One. A single grainy picture of Nige at a comp and a small write up about his recent success. Aside from that I couldn’t find much other mention of rock climbing in the issue. Not enough for me to warrant parting with cash to buy the mag anyway! Why? Is it like Steve said – are people hiding their achievements? Are they supposed to write an article and submit it incognito under cover of darkness and then cringe when they see it in print? I don’t know.

Anyway, it’s been interesting reading people’s views on the topic and ‘ve no doubts that with the strength of potential out there things will change in the near future and we’ll be fueling off Irish send psyche in cyber land soon enough. In the meantime and getting back to climbing, here is probably our last vid from the short and sharp Los Pinos crag. This is JogPat a link up of a soft 8a and a stiff 8a+ first climbed by Gaz Parry. It’s brilliant, technical and sustained.

JogPat from Dave Ayton on Vimeo.

Now that we’re working the bigger routes of the Sella Wildside it’ll be some time before the send train stops by I think. But trying hard on these lines is sooo much fun! Sheer climbing joy!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

For the record...

In the big picture of things the grades of what we climb don’t matter. Not beyond the personal scales of effort, satisfaction and reward. Definitely not in Irish climbing circles anyway. For some reason we don’t seem to remember or acknowledge notable ascents that much, not in any real sense other than the few among us with a good memory and an interest in collecting facts. A few weeks ago a friend sent me a message on Facebook saying well done to Caroline and asked what other Irish Women had climbed that hard. I realised that we don’t know. I mean I can only think of a few hard Irish female ascents in rock climbing that I’ve heard about. One is obviously Siobhan Coughlan’s ascent of the Sissy 8a in the Peak District. I’ve read more about that ascent through UK media than in Irish circles. If a climber does anything in the UK it seems to get noted. Female, young, old, foreign, solo, barefoot, hungover, on a cold day with the tale end of a flu… anything seems game to make climbing news and seems to get remembered. Maybe it’s still to come for Irish climbing (although hopefully without the bitchyness associated by some with the likes of the UK forums). Maybe part of the maturing of a climbing scene involves distilling all these great yarns from people’s memory. That’s why I like reading the history sections to the Irish climbing guides. Familiar names and routes. Impressive accounts of who did what when, how and first. At Christmas I was surprised to find out about a whole crop of good, strong climbers coming out of Dublin. Mostly bouldering but bouldering hard. I couldn’t believe that I’d not heard about such raw ability. All I‘d heard about was the odd first ascent. Granted I don’t venture onto the forums much but I do tend to keep an eye out for news that interests me. And for me interest is purely in climbing. What is being done.
Michael, Ricky, Eddie and co are good for the odd bit of news and I love reading it. Irish lads climbing E9 and 8b or harder – brilliant! Michael bouldering 8B in Wicklow – excellent! Nigel competing in the boulder world cup and winning the BBCs – amazing! But what is everyone else at? What standard are we at as a country? What are our highest levels across the disciplines? At a guess I’d say something like E9 hp, E7 os, 8b sports, 8B bloc, M8 mixed. And for the women E5 hp, E4 os, 8a sports and 7c+ bloc. These are just my educated guesses – please feel free to amend or comment. I really do enjoy knowing the ins and outs of our quirky climbing community and I think you have to know where you are before you can get to where you want to be!

Grade Whore seems to be the phrase of choice at the moment back home but I suppose that’s a good sign. The fact that the phrase is being used more often means that people are putting some effort it, meaning standards are being tested. Brilliant! Anyway, was there a point to this? Not really. I just felt like voicing something I thought about and in a way asking the question of “What have we done?”

Any ideas?

Happy climbing!

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Sella Wildside, Costa Blanca

Since Caroline managed to dispatch her project last week we've been free to visit any crags we want to. No choice really is there? It has to be the Wildside! This place is magic. An awesome fin of rock overhanging in it's entire length with heavily featured walls up to 40m in height. Tufas, crimps, pockets - it's got it. Located in a hidden valley and with access conditions that require climbers to have respect not only for the surroundings but also to limit the noise they make while climbing. It is a very special place indeed. It also represents the embodyment of everything I'm shit at. Stamina. Steep climbing on rounded holds and pinches. Nothing i can get my fingers behind or even stand on! Its like someone giftwrapped a crag to work on my weaknesses and put it around the corner from my house. I've so much to learn from this place. New types of footwork. New redpoint tactics. I'm so Psyched!! We've been a couple of thimes this week and I've been enjoying getting some mileage on the longer burly 7b's and 7c's. Full respect to Mr Barbour for his impressive list of Wildside sends! 8b in a day! Wow. I'm so far off the fittness needed for that type of climbing but I'm looking forward to working at it and seeing the improvements. All the routes are all so good that for now i'm going to enjoy doing some ticking. All the 7c's are the targets for now :o)

Our first visit to the Wildside this week we got chatting to the bloke in the picture above. He was a bit quite to start with but the reason became clear - he was redpointing the 8c+ pictured above. Awesome to watch. Every move dialed, he made it look effortless and then out of the blue his foot slipped and he took a huge lob from right at the top. Yesterday we were entertained by another super nice local redpoint Pinoreta 8c! Awesome fight. I saw him work this route on Tuesday evening and he looked miles away from the send but on Sat he made it through the crux and shook out before falling up the remainding 15m of sloping pinch tufas. at least twice the whole crag though he was off but he managed to keep squeezing, totally inspiring!! Venga!!

Heres the online Guide Wildside Topo

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Process

Before Christmas Caroline eyed up a line of bolts through a roof and decided she wanted a go. Initially even making the long reaches between holds around the second and third bolt seemed impossible. But she kept trying, something about the route took hold of her and she wanted it. I was happy to keep returning to the crag. I had routes of my own that I could work on but even watching the process of someone working a route like this was really inspiring to me. I’ve seen lots of routes projected in the past but I’ve never before seen a route really, truly worked! I think the most I’ve tried a route is nine or ten tries over a couple of days and i don't know how i'd react to taking on a challenge that kept smacking me down. Every move on this route seemed to challenge Caroline in one way or another. Some were scary. Some committing. Some out of her reach and others just plain hard.
There were a few more memorable hurdles though: finding the kneebar after the fourth clip and then the following sequence of toe hooks allowing Caroline to make the fifth clip. That sequence in itself took a whole session to perfect and even then it was still touch and go as to whether Caroline could stick it on redpoint. By far the hardest move on the route is immediately after the fifth clip. Caroline uses this horrible tufa with her left hand as an undercut and snatches for a right hand pinch before popping again to a sharp pocket. To be honest I couldn’t do that move despite trying it a number of times. There is a “Lanky” way of doing this route that moves left to good holds at the fifth clip and then rejoins the original route after Caroline’s dyno on the lip. The left Variant is closer to the 7c mark while the straight up method remains the true line and a much harder proposition. Caroline had no choice as to which way to go because she couldn’t reach any of the holds out left!

Day after day we returned and each day some form of progress was made. A new highpoint, an improved sequence or even just managing to give it 3 or 4 goes despite sore fingers. I think Caroline suffered from the typical trad climber syndrome of wanting to static every move. I’ve thought about this a lot and I’m not sure what causes it to be honest. Is it the serious nature of trad requiring you to make every effort to achieve every move in balance, meaning that if the hold you’re reaching for isn’t good you can feel around for a better one or even reverse to safety without falling? Or is it a lack of commitment? Dynamic moves are only really required to carry you to a point outside of your static reach bubble, aren’t they? Their very nature means commitment. You target, you sway, you kick and throw! If you miss, you’re off. I think Caroline’s height requires her to develop a more dynamic and aggressive style otherwise she won’t be able to reach things. On this route Caroline got a chance to work this… a lot! Once Caroline had exhausted every possible method for negotiating the lip of the roof it became clear that she would have to deadpoint. To throw for the hold. That one move took a session to figure out and many more to stick on lead.

The final spirit-breaker came the day Caroline finally stuck her dyno on redpoint. The final tricky sequence of turning the lip to easier ground spat me off the day I lead it for the first time and I knew it was going to cause trouble. Excited, Caroline made the sixth clip and got her high heel hook but didn’t milk the rest and ploughed on up. Matched on the flatty she completely powered out and came off below the top. Gutted. She had to wait another week before we could return and the previous highpoint and close fail made the difference. The mental barrier of sticking the lip had been removed and there was nothing to loose…