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...