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…