Saturday, 24 December 2011

Three hundred and sixty five, maaan...

Soon, another year will be submitted to time immemorial and, for better or worse, richer or poorer, every single one of the 6.9 billion people alive in the world today have grown, changed, breathed in and experienced the world we live in and live to continue to do so... 

For me and my climbing it has been a year full of learning, highs, lows and realisation (Not the 9a+ super route at Ceuse, next year maybe?) . At times I have looked back at the year and thought "I've done barely anything to be proud of this year" which felt quite depressing, wondering if I had stagnated or worse, regressed as a climber and as a person. Luckily, once the cold, hard figures and the warm, fuzzy logics are analysed properly, it has been another good year, and actually probably better than the last! 

So lets get some real number crunching done:

On the face of the cold hard facts alone, I have bettered or matched 2010's grades in every discipline and done more climbing despite injury, Hooray! However, I can hear you saying, "But you've done loads more climbing this year Dunc, surely you should have smashed your previous bests!?" Well yep, maybe but 2011 has been about creating a stable base upon which to progress, rather than shakily trying to stack blocks ever higher in 2010's areas of success, I have broadened my choice of routes, and begun moving towards the style I aspire to: steeper, more sustained routes. 

On top of the above figures I have; onsighted more E3's than last year, but unlike last year they weren't all slabs; I climbed overhung walls, aretes, corners, slabs, all sorts! The only E3/E4 I did, actually felt harder than the E4s I did last year, as it was a lot more dangerous, but it was also SO much better! I have also had some good failures both physically and mentally; 

  • Stroll On E3 6a - didn't quite have the guns, or the commitment level to stick the laybacks, lesson learnt.
  • The Big Groove E3 5c - reachy crux above a nasty ledge, good call backing off as I barely made it on second!
  • Cream E4 6a - Missed the crux hold, wrong size cam in the crack didn't help the chattering in the back of my head! What a route though, WOW!
  • Poisoned Arrow - End of a hard day, got absolutely boxed putting good kit in, and just couldn't rest it out! 

Sport climbing was however an area of good improvement, the trip to El Chorro at Easter was a real boost to my fitness and my confidence at tackling steep, pumpy ground, on-sight. RP-ed my first 7a then on-sighted my second, yeeeha! This came about through accepting failure as a possibilty but turning it into a success as I tried to learn something from the failure and relish the fact that it simply got my mind and body more used to the higher difficulty.

In bouldering, I have not yet upped my RP grade, though have flashed a couple of problems around the V6 mark, and have been working hard to crack the V8 (Fr7c+) Left Wall Traverse, which features a powerful V6 into a longer, sustained V6. I'm getting there, but there is a lot of uncertainty still.

I also learnt some new climbing techniques during what turned out to be a wet month in North Wales; I flew off to Squamish, Canada and learnt the dark art of hand and finger jamming, something I felt to be a major weakness of mine. I now try to find jams wherever possible and am certain this will have a positive effect on my climbing in pumpy situations as I'll be able to rest effectively if there is a good crack going!

Mastering the art of good heel use feels like a sneaky bonus and one I felt pride in when I used it to flash Parisella's Original, and one night bouldering at the Barn, getting good heel positioning on a Font 6c+ crimpy rail, allowing an effortless crossover. I'm keen to use this to good effect also!

Personally, I have felt that I have become a more negative and slightly less tolerant person for some of this year, this realisation coming in Autumn time for me, these are two Character traits I wish to have nothing to do with. Luckily I saw this, and have made an effort to be more tolerant and nicer once again, lets hope its working :-). As my graduation draws ever closer, excitement and dread grow in equal measure, I know the sort of lifestyle I want to lead, but it will require bold actions to achieve, and a thick skin to ignore the nay-sayers. I have also discovered another semi-passion, running in the mountains, a great way to keep fit and just be outside on days you wouldn't like to be climbing!

Climbing highlights of this year include:
  • Capital Punishment - A brilliant day, Suicide Wall Route 1, Al's new(ish) route, then this, my ascent of the year.
  • Glass Arete - After my Squamish month I felt doubtful at whether I could still ride the pump, some brilliant sustained moves stretched a grin upon my face.
  • La Novia - Perfect mixture of control, focus and aggression, and physically my hardest on-sight.
  • E3's - Geireagle, Colossus, Astoroth, Stimulator...
  • Pembroke trip in March - an E1 in the rain, The Butcher, and just nice weather and good routes.
  • Squamish trip - Angel's Crest, Squamish Buttress, Seasoned in the Sun, Exasperator, Dirt-bagging!
  • Failures - Cream, Poisoned Arrow, Stroll On, Hand-Jive...
  • Boulder - Flashing Parisella's Original was brilliant! Chaos Emerald Crack and my Birthday boulder bash were good too.

Overall, I have felt that I have pushed myself a lot this year, failing on some hard routes, but mainly I have broadened my skill set and become a more rounded climber, from which I can push onto the next level knowing I am a fairly solid E3 leader, and have become more confident at two climbing styles I would have been very uncomfortable with in 2010. Injury has also reared its ugly head, but luckily I had found my positivity, and the 'rest' has allowed me to come out feeling just as good as before! 

I have realised that I'm a pretty good all-rounder; I'm good technically, getting fitter, and can occasionally crank out some hard moves. Yet I still feel I have plenty of improvement left, both physically and mentally, and I'm psyched to push into new ground on my newly acquired stable base.

In other news a few notable mentions;

  • Chris Carroll flashing 7a+... BEAST! 
  • Owain crushing his first E3's and Axle Attack in December!
  • Mason doing what he thought was a new E6 on Suicide Walls and flashing 7c.
  • Mikey doing a new E6 at tremadog, and still ticking Fr8a DWS and Font 8a after breaking his ankle!
  • Bubbles actually getting up a new route in Peru, Alpine stylee.
  • Morsey crushing Fay, Pacemaker and Break On Through in 2 days...
  • Pezza soloing Oh man I gotta have a wildebeest, at E1... NICE!
Nice one guys!

2011: It's a thumbs up from me!

Stay tuned for my hopes, dreams and goals for 2012...

Friday, 25 November 2011

Out of the woods??

The woods of injury were dark and scary; wondering how long I would be out for, whether I would tweak my finger again, how much I had set myself back if I want to improve and reach new (so far unset) targets? On top of this, everyone was keen to get out but I either couldn't as they wanted to climb hard or just plain and simply didn't want to! This time of year always sees a slight drop in trad climbing psyche, the dropping temperatures and rain meaning you have to pick your crag carefully and risk getting wet halfway through a route. I absolutely love trad climbing, but once autumn sets in, I begin to feel the psyche for bouldering grow, warm and fuzzy inside me.

However, the woods weren't all dark, scary and depressing; they gave me another view into my mountainous world through fell-running. I doubt fell-running will ever be as strong a passion as rock climbing is for me, but nevertheless it is always good to keep cardiovascular fitness up, and it allows you to go into the mountains when injured or its wet and keep in touch, maybe even check out new crags you've never been to before but normally wouldn't risk wasting a good, dry day on... Plus its just good, plain fun pelting it down hills and staggering back up the other side! By no means am I the best rock climber in the world, but with fell-running I am probably far worse! Still, maybe one day I will do the Paddy Buckley Round in the beautiful Northern Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park... A tough round, with roughly 100km of distance to run, and 8,500m of ascent taking in a lot of summits along the way, all in 24 hours if you can!

Check out the stats here:

The PBR makes up the Welsh contingent of the UK's big 3: The Lake district offering the Bob Graham Round, and The Scottish Highlands offering the Charley Ramsay Round. All of a similar distance and ascent. Some nutter called Mike Hartley did all 3 back to back in 3 days, 14 hours and 20 mins... RESPECT!

However, I have been doing some climbing recently, and some of it I'm even quite chuffed with! The last weekend of October I spent most of my time working, but on the Sunday after planning a wall session it brightened up beautifully over in Ogwen Valley so housemate Ollie, Rich "McLovin" Kemble and I went for a quick session at the Milestone buttress boulders. Not much actually ticked but I tried a few things, getting close on an unnamed V6 that Kemble crushed with an almost unavoidable 'dab' on the pad. I did manage Jez's Arete a highball yet shortlived crimpy V4, which got a bit gripping on the topout! Tried a few other bits but a nice afternoon out nonetheless.

Once the week ended the weather brightened up and I headed off to the Orme with Mason, Drew and Owain. We were destined for Pill-Box Wall, a short overhanging wall on the Northern edge of the headland. However, on arrival we were greeted by shade and a very cold wind, still we warmed up and started trying Pill-Box original, V6. Drew showed us the beta, Mason managed a quick repeat, whilst Owain and I had a slightly tougher time. After Mason and Owain valiantly tried Mr Olympia, whilst me and Drew played on Pillbox Original, we decided to head down to Parisella's due to some fabled warmth...

After running down to warm up, we set up our pads below Parisella's Original, a V6 first put up by Jerry Moffatt and Ben Moon back in the day. I had wanted to try this problem for a while, so suddenly got keen, especially with the amount of pads on offer! Mason stepped up and having done it before, despatched it first go, effortlessly revealing the moves for me. As nobody else had their shoes on, I thought I would have a go, expecting it to be a lot harder than Al made it look I grabbed the starting jug with both hands and jumped my feet into position. Moving my hands the way Mason had, involving a tricky crossover, I placed my right heel perfectly and stretched for the next hold... everything felt totally rubbish, but luckily I was directed into the good hold before I committed to one of the poorer ones. A hard cut-loose and a few more goey moves later, I was eye-balling the finishing jug, but could feel my strength dropping... I lunged and grabbed it, hanging there for a second to make sure I had actually finished and dropped off. Flashed! My first proper tick in the Cave and its a bloody flash! Apparently it's V6/7 but I don't believe that for a second, V5/6 more like, the holds are all good, and if you get the heel right and know where your hand is going it doesn't have many hard moves. Mason sent a V8 and a few of us had a play on the start to Left Wall Traverse, which is proper hard!

Sunday dawned bright once again, and Ollie Burrows, an Ogwen Cottage CA picked me up for a Roscolyn hit. As niether of us had been there before, it took a while to find it, but when we did it was totally sheltered from the wind and bathed in sunlight! To start we did Icarus a 2 pitch HVS, I led the easy first and Ollie the steeper 2nd pitch. We then went back in and I led Wild Rover, a brilliant little E1 5a slabby wall climb. The start was a bit bold, but the climbing was positive and open and soon enough the gear got good, and I began enjoying it. I dropped the ropes and walked back round to belay Ollie on it. Soon enough it was my turn to climb it again, it was just as good second time round! Despite racking up for Savage Sunbird, I totally wussed out and we pottered up a wet VS topping out as the sun set, so maybe lucky we didn't do the E2.

It looks like I am nearly out of the woods of injury, though looking back on it, it has given me another interesting and healthy aspect to my life, given me some rest from climbing and allowed me to crack on with some of my 3rd year work...

Then there was the BUMS Peak trip! First thing Saturday morning, Rich K picked me and Jess up from Glossop and we headed to Stanage Plantation. Rich and I then spent the rest of the day looking for dry rock, heading to Curbar, then "Burbage South" (Millstone). A few good easy problems were done but Trackside and Gorrilla Warfare were both damp/totally wet. So we headed off to somewhere new...

"Excuse me, nice lady, which bit of Burbage are we at?"

"You aren't at Burbage, you are above Millstone at Owler Tor..."

"Oh, right, woops! Thanks"

So yeah... but it all worked out good because we ended up at the Mother Cap, where Rich got on better with the Font 7b than Conan the Librarian, a tricky V4 (What the flip!?!). I got super inspired by Conan, getting pretty close to ticking it but alas it wasn't to be... I just couldn't quite latch the sloper after the small slopey crimp rail! Rich then put in a mint effort on a V6 sitter at Mother's pet but couldn't quite do the top out! We left the crag super psyched to return the next day, send our problems and then head on to Curbar for some trad...

Unfortunately after having a tame night out, we awoke to thick fog in Sheffield, so headed to the Climbing Works and bouldered our little hearts out. Not the perfect trip but not a bad one either, always good to get a good spanking!

So here endeth the lesson:

Don't rush through the woods of injury, but take the time to stop and admire the flowers and those cute little squirrels and rabbits along the way, just be careful not to rush out, as you may find yourself in deeper, darker woods... Sometimes you burn all the brighter in the sun having strolled through the woods a while...

Thursday, 27 October 2011


Not much extreme rock to report since Rub A Dub-Dub, I'm afraid...

I had an enforced week off of climbing to let the inflammation go down, me and Bubbles went on another fell run, intending to run the Nantlle ridge, but got totally lost in Beddgelert forest. We eventually found our way to the bottom of the ridge, but niether of us could be bothered to go up into the wind and cloud, so we decided to find the most direct route back to the car for a future run.

Spent one weekend at home, in which Bubbles and I did the uber-classic HVS adventure route, Moonraker at Berry Head, Brixham. Situated in The Old Redoubt Sea-cave, the traverse through the dark depths of the cave makes the approach to Gogarth's Main Cliff look like the walk in to Stanage. Unfortunately we arrived after low-tide due to England losing the Rugby, but instead of abbing in we thought we'd chance the traverse. With the water not high enough for the higher traverse but just over the low one, we waded across. I got totally soaked by some swell, which wasn't cool. 
Traversing through the back of the Cave at an inconveniant tide!
(c) Tom Ripley
Anyway, we eventually got to the belay, and after some obligatory faffing, Tom set off up the steep, juggy 1st pitch. After much gear placing, he was at the belay, and I squelched my way up, looking along the traverse of the classic E3, Dreadnought as I passed. Next up was my 4c pitch, a bit of a corner crack followed by some traversing along the guano covered bands of rock before reaching the belay ledge I had reached on my first sea cliff route, Goddess of Gloom in September 2009. Sitting down on the palatial belay, Bubbles followed me up and got stuck into the last pitch, a steep, cornery affair, but at least the rock got less pooey the higher he got. A brilliant route, slightly marred for me by my moistness, but definitely good for the finger. I think until I feel my finger is back to health, I'll try and get the odd adventure route in every week, allowing me my fix but also to do some classics that I would normally dismiss as too easy, or esoteric.
Seconding pitch one, Dreadnought traverses out to my right.
(c) Tom Ripley

AT THE TOP! (c) Tom Ripley
For the rest of the week I spent a lot of time trying to write about a massive subject in just 600 words, eventually cutting the subject matter down, and therefore finishing the essay!

Due to a good forecast for the weekend but people wanting to climb hard; not good for finger, I went for a run in the mountains; not good for legs! I was dropped off at around 10:15 at Pen-y-Pass by Bubbles and Nikki on their way to Tremadog, and was soon dodging the hordes on the track up to Crib Goch, eventually the angle got too much for me to handle along with the rocky track, so I slowed to a quick walk, passing as many walkers as my legs would allow. Soon I was on Crib Goch's ridge for the first time, lots of people up there were looking quite gripped, so I tried to hide my haste and only pass at appropriate points, though many let me pass of their own accord, thanks to them. Lots of tomfoolery occurred, with a group using slings on spikes to allow 'spotting' (!?!?!) and a rescue by the RAF Sea King. I carried on over Crib y Ddysgl and up to the summit of Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) for a quick sit-down and an energy gel. I also finished my water and re-filled in the Cafe, though didn't need to steal any sugar this time! The time was 11:58 exactly when I stopped, but after my break I set off down the Snowdon Ranger's Path which goes over the top of Clogwyn D'ur Arddu. I was now reversing the first run I did with Bubbles, so I went up Moel Cyngorhion, after a snickers break, back up over Foel Goch, Foel Goen and then extended it up and over Moel Eilio. Going down Moel Eilio's ridge my legs were really feeling it, and it turned out to be far steeper and difficult to run than it looks from Llanberis. I almost slipped ass over tit a few times due to my trainers being pretty well worn and it being exceedingly boggy! I eventually found my way into Llanberis and onto the high street at 14:18, so it took me around 4 hours to complete the 9.7 mile circuit.

Although not great, I haven't done much fell-running or any running really! Especially after feeling pretty ill for about a week and a half. Depressingly, I just worked out that to do the Paddy Buckley Round, a 61 mile, 24 hour fell-run around Snowdonia, I would have to slightly improve my speed as at my pace I would have completed it in around 25 hours! I need to seriously step up my hill-fitness, though I think it may be a pacing thing and complacency as I was alone. Especially if I want to do the Paddy Buckley at some point, which I think I do. However, I'm sure I can show rapid improvements if I can drag my arse out for runs around Bangor...

On Monday, after expecting a huge mass of rain to hit North Wales, I awoke to a lot of missed calls from Bubbles about going to Gogarth. I grabbed my stuff and Bubbles, Pete Graham, Matt (??) and I headed to the Holy Island in search of good times! On arrival, the wind was absolutely blasting in from the South West, rocking the car and preventing any of us from wanting to leave. All I could think was; 'I gave up a warm bed and sex for this!?'. Despite this we decided that Main Cliff might be worth a look so we shouldered bags and headed off, propelled by the winds! On arrival at the racking up spot, we looked down to see massive waves pounding into the bottom of the crag, with spray probably hitting at least 5 or 6 metres up the first pitches. With the wind still hitting the crag, the options were simple; go inside the Upper Tier on Bloody Chimney, HVS 4c, or traverse over the wildness on Cordon Bleu, HVS 5b. A wild card was introduced by Bubbles also; "Well, we could go do 'Dream' it would be wild!". As we were at the crag we decided a team ascent of Bloody Chimney would be fine sport for the day, and so racked up and headed off. Matt and I were to follow Pete and Bubbles' ascent as Bubs had done the route before. I led the first pitch which started off with jug-hauling but soon I was offwidth-ing up to the chimney entrance before "going in", which luckily offered a calmer environment than outside. A short cruxy squirm through a hole and I was with Bubbles at the belay. Matt scootled up and set off up the chimney above, whereby short crux sections led to huge chockstone ledges. Soon enough he emerged back into the wind, and I thrutched towards the light...
"Cooooeeee!" Making the final crux squirm to the belay of pitch 1.
(c) Tom Ripley

Pete chimneying towards the light...
(c) Tom Ripley

Upon resurfacing one thing became clear to me; there was a massive rain-cloud approaching over South Stack... quickly sorting the rack, I set off hoping to beat the rain. With the biggest bit of gear placed in the smallest bit of crack, the rain struck, hard and wet. Unfortunately this pitch seemed devoid of holds and so after placing a wire behind a loose flake, I committed to some thrutching, soon enough my inadequacies in this technique were shown up by the sopping rock, and I slid down to the semi-rest. I began to feel the fear rising in me as I realised I wouldn't be getting any more gear in until easier ground tantalisingly close... Luckily the rain stopped enough for the rock to not get any wetter, allowing me to evaluate my situation and utilise a different sequence and I was up! After boshing another piece of gear in, I raced to the top and bought a cold, wet Matt up. We raced to the top and back down to the racking up spot, almost being blown over, many times. Brilliant, although a warm bed and sex would have been nice, Bloody Chimney was a brilliant adventure and I'm sure we were the only people at Gogarth to do a route that day... NICE!

Returning home via Indy, I felt decidedly weak and crap, nothing new there then! The rest of the week went by with another Indy session, where I felt less shit, and trying to start new essays...

But by Thursday, a plan was hatched for Bubbles, Tom Livingstone and me to go for another fell-run. After faffing about where to run we settled on the Carneddau, and what a run it was...

One little man "running" over the Carneddau.
(c) Tom Livingstone
First we went up on to Pen yr Olen, across to Carnedd Dafydd, carried on up to Carnedd Dafydd, (which was dusted in snow!!!) and back down to Ogwen valley, via Pen y Helgi Du and a whole lot of bog! A good run of about 8.5 miles and it took us just under 3 hours thanks to Tom's pace setting, the boy is fit and has long legs!

Bubbles himself, atop Carnedd Dafydd.
(c) Tom Livingstone
Another cool thing about the run apart from the snow was getting an up-close look at the Black Ladders, one of North Wales' primo winter crags, from what I saw yesterday it would be a horrible summer crag!

The Trumphant Three!
(c) Tom Livingstone
The weather looks pretty bad for the next few days so I will be making headway into various essays...

** Cheers to Tom Ripley for the Moonraker and Bloody Chimney photos, and to Tom Livingstone for the Fell-running photos, HEROES. **

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Ups, Downs and Silver-Linings.

So I am now back in Bangor, in a new house, with 2 different housemates, and apparently 300 hours of work to do for just one module...

I have been out climbing a bit though... Before Florence upped and left us for the bright lights of Chamonix, we avoided the hurricane-force winds and did a bit of  evening slate climbing; I led Plastic Soldier, a brilliant, long 6a with plastic soldiers hidden a long the way...

The next day we did A Dream of White Horses, HVS 5a... Brilliant, although being distracted when tying in, and then finding you aren't properly tied in on the rope all your gear is clipped to, isn't the best start to a route. However, the 4th pitch is absolutely sensational, big hand and foot holds, good gear and super position!

After Florence left the weather got bad for a bit and a bit of drinking was done, but it eventually dried out and I went back to Gogarth with Owain. The original plan of Aardvark into Achilles was binned for a go at The Big Groove, E3 5c. A coin toss for the crux and I win! We scramble across the base of the crag just above a wild sea, into a nice little belay position above the wild sea... Owain set's off and the sea immediately seems to start rising, and becomes more rough! Luckily I have a bit of a barrier, until a massive wave comes crashing in soaking the whole of my right leg!!! Trying to dry my right boot before the crux, I hang both boots to the belay and stand back, willing Owain to the belay... Eventually I am up with him and off onto the next pitch. Tricky moves onto a ledge above the belay see me trying to reach a big slopey hold, the only way I can reach I can't do anything with it as I'm in totally the wrong position and just above a ledge... I hand over to Owain feeling stupid. Owain gets to the belay, and I am called back to the world of the vertical and away from mesmerisation by the waves crashing into the bottom of Main Cliff. I just about do the crux moves I struggled with before, and blast up the next groove throwing a few jams in to rest on. Next up a lovely sustained 5b groove pitch, I try and climb as quickly as possible, revelling in the position... Once Owain tops out he scrambles up to the top and we coil the ropes and race up and along the top of the crag whilst being battered by the wind... Arriving back at the car as the sun sets, we headed back to bangor.

The next day, me and Mason headed to the little Orme, and more specifically, The Diamond. This is one of the best sport crags in the UK, apparently rivalling Kilnsey, Malham, Raven Tor and LPT. Me and Mase had headed down this time last year but climbed diddly squat due to rain and greasiness on the overhanging rock. This time the weather looked fair and we were surprised to find we were the first ones down there!

First off Mason onsighted Rub a Dub-Dub F7a, but took surprisingly long to work out the crux sequence! On his way down he beta-d me up for the flash, and chalked the moist holds for me. I headed up in flash mode, managing to remember the sequence quite well, which is an achievement for me! I felt a bit 'fish out of water. however, I got into it and was soon at the crux, remembering Mason's 'crossover on the slopey crimp rail' I went for it but was too pumped to get into it! I pulled back up and had a few goes but it wasn't working for me and I was fed up of flailing in front of all the Wads who had turned up so I lowered off. Up went Emma Twyford who sorted some new beta for the crux, it was also pathed by DMM reps Alex and Rob, and some other dude. However there were wads all over the shop, Caff, Gus Hudgins, Callum Muskett Jim McCormack, Pete Harrison and Tommy Channings, who was a total legend and was super sound to me, introducing himself and not making me feel like a total punter which was nice. Mase was being indecisive so he did RADD again to re-warm up and I had a Top-rope burn and managed to get the crux with the new beta. We then went to try 'Wall of the Evening Light' F7b+ but after ripping 2 holds off and it still being a total greasefest, Mase sacked it in. I got back on RADD and managed to just stay on through the crux, and rode the pump up the technically sustained wall above to a gripping clip of the chains! Wooopeee! We monkeyed up and out of the crag along the fixed lines and headed off on a night out!

Unfortunately on waking I had real bad pain in my finger and swelling in the knuckle! So definately no climbing for a week at least! :-( So instead I went to all my lectures in my first week, I have been set a lot of work this semester! After a semi-mental Rubix Cube, I headed out on a fell-run with my good mate Bubbles. Fearing absolute humiliation I was worried, but in actual fact I really enjoyed the 13 odd km run, up onto Foel Goen, across to Foel Goch and Moel Cynghorian, down and then up the ridge above Cloggy to Snowdon's summit and then down. Unfortunately, taking 20 Jelly babies isn't really enough food and so we both hit a big brick wall. With no money or food we resorted to stealing water from the disabled toilets and packets of sugar for the run down to Llanberis. We planned on going further but had absolutely no energy left. However, I'm mega keen on the fell-running especially through my injury and as a bad weather activity, definitely a silver lining to my injury cloud!! Its a good way to enjoy the mountains in a different perspective! I'm pretty psyched!

That's all Folks, keep psyched!! DC

Monday, 12 September 2011

Tears and tantrums...

Not much has been going on in my life since I left Pembroke a few weeks ago, due to my fingers feeling a bit tweeky, starting work, revision for my re-sit and feeling like a rest would do me good, I didn't climb for over a week... but instead of sitting around doing nothing I did some CV exercise interested to see what it did for my climbing. I mainly went swimming as my Dad kept going and offered to pay me in...DEAL! Now then swimming isn't my bag, in fact I feel really out of place in the water, first time in I was coughing and spluttering and only just maintaining the right to swim in the middle lane. But the next few swims, I began to feel a lot more comfortable, and even dare I say it quicker than a few others in the pool, despite my awful technique!

I also hung out with a few old friends, had a couple of BBQ's got drunk, and spent a chilled day in Exeter trying to feel less hungover... This was in fact brilliant and exactly what I wanted to do on coming home, in the past year or so, whenever I come home climbing takes a back seat for me and I focus on other things instead. Partly due to less people who are psyched to get out, also I have less time, and usually because it is either freezing cold, I'm about to go on a climbing trip, or I have just spent a load of time on a climbing bonanza.

Once a week was over I managed to convince my original partner in climb, Mr Rob Steer to accompany me to our original crag, Torbryan Quarry. On arriving, we found a party already there with quickdraws in the two routes I wanted to do! Woopee! Last year I came here and managed to flash Boogie on Down, F6c but floundered on Barney Rubble, F7a+. This year was very similar, though slightly better, I retroflashed Boogie despite being very pumped at the top, phew!

Next go up I was back on Barney, I sorted the moves with a few rests in-between and then went for the send. I felt a bit jittery but got through to the final move on the lower crux but didn't catch the hold right! Damn! But got further than last year, managed to also mess the sequence up around the penultimate bolt! Back on and I got up to the top and past the last tricky sequence! One to come back to, I feel fairly confident that a warm-up on Boogie in which I focused on getting warm not to the top, and then another go at this and it should be in the bag!

Next on the exercise agenda was a run, with my dad who runs all the time and me, who has run maybe twice in the last year? He wanted to test a 9 miler as he was 'leading' his running club on a monday evening run... "Right, ok, nine miles you say?" When he explained where we were going it didn't sound too bad and actually ran us close to home 3/4 of the way round so I could always slink off home if I wanted. The laps of Decoy Park depressed me, but despite being pitifully low on the mileage and high on the feeling of death upon entering the park, once we left I felt better and we had racked up a lot of mileage. Unfortunately a mile or so later I hit a wall, the worse thing is I couldn't see the damn thing... it was at this point my legs started screaming "STOP YOU MENTAL B*STARD!!! GO INFLICT PAIN ON YOUR FOREARMS YOU DID ENOUGH TO US ON TEN TORS PISS OFF!!!!". Fortunately dad pushed me on and I collapsed into the car, proud I had (just) kept up with my dad in his own sport, but a broken man. After 3 days of walking the 4 miles there and back to work and standing up all day my legs finally stopped screaming at me, so upon the arrival of the August Monsoon I went to the wall...

"£6.00 for bouldering entry? You are bloody kidding me!" I thought as I handed over the dollar to the wall I hate the most in a quiet little village in South Devon. (Not naming names) The poor setting and limited size meant I neglected my normal slow and steady warm-up, after a couple of hours we left dissapointed as I always am after going to that wall. In the morning I woke up to my greatest fear, pain in my fingers. I desperately searched the internet so I could self diagnose. After a good bit of reading, I reckoned on a torn pulley... it didn't seem too bad so I rested it the rest of the day, while I revised. Then the next day began icing it followed immediately by the hottest water i could stand twice a day. This was secretly a blessing in disguise as I had revision to be doing for my exam which loomed ever closer...

Exam taken, I taped up and hit the Indy as I had been told that light climbing will stimulate recovery... with nothing harder than V3 climbed and all those V3s being slopey or juggy I woke up the next day to no pain! PHEEEW!! This stimulated me to try  and begin training again on my fingerboard, endurance work so just hanging in there on different holds without touching down. Then discovered the Metolius workouts.

Another day off for my partner in climb, Rob led us on an iffy day to Meadfoot Quarry, Rob crushed the 'jugs on a slab' Diamond Rib, HS 4a. Then I got on Median Lucky a low in the grade E1 5b. Quite bold up to the crux but a reasonable peg protects the short 5b sequence. Not wishing to push my finger too hard and with Rob losing interest, we headed off for an afternoon of slack-lining, I am definately getting better, I think...

I have also kept up the running regime, though mediated it to just over 6 miles by basically losing the laps of the park... I have got my time to dead on an hour, and look forward to carrying it on in North Wales, though swimming I won't be, going round in circles is so dumb...

I ventured outside with Henry up to Dartmoor where, without a pad, we decided a session back on the 'Hidden Traverse' at Saddle Tor* would be good. At V4, I should be capable of flashing this or at least getting it in a session, but I have never done it. Perhaps when I was more in tune with Dartmoor granite I wasn't fit enough and now I am my hands get cut to pieces. Anyway the first bit isn't too hard about V2 but pumpy, all on your arms, slopers with a couple of heel-hooks. Then comes the crux, its a hard couple of moves in its own right V3(??) then a few easy moves to the end. I worked the crux a few times noting exact foot positions (often something I neglect on Redpoint), and went for the send. Got to the crux pumped rested it out for a bit but touched the hold that marks the middle of the crux. But couldn't stick it! Henry had a go and almost got the hold but couldn't quite reach! I had a few more goes arriving at the crux fairly fresh on one but couldn't quite stick it without a foot popping off! With rain and darkness closing in, we bailed. On arriving home my forearms were cooked, good training then!

Now I'm back in North Wales and a fairly hard session at the Indy and my finger still feels good, lets see what  happens... however we are currently being hit by gail force winds, it would be pretty epic on the crags of North Wales right now!

* I recently found out this is where my old Ten Tors trainer, Ivor died of a heart attack, he was a real nice guy and its a tragedy he died, RIP Ivor you are sorely missed.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Roll-up! Roll-up!

Got a few things for sale in an attempt to de-clutter...

Montane Tee gone pending payment.

5.10 Anasazi Velcro's UK 5 1/2 potentially sold.

Lowe Alpine Wicking Baselayers. Size Small, one red, one blue. Worn a bit but not much, good condition£7.50 posted each.

Blue Lowe Alpine Wicking Tee. Small. £7.50 posted

Red Lowe Alpine Wicking Tee. Small £7.50 posted.

The North Face 'Never Stop Exploring' Cotton Tee. £6 posted. Never worn. Size Small but seems more like a Medium.

TNF 'Never Stop Exploring' Tee. £6 posted. Small/Medium.

Detail on TNF Tee.

The North Face Expedition Hat. Worn a few times a few years ago... good condition and sun protection. £8. posted.

TNF Expedition Hat. £8 posted

Petzl Elios, White. Size 2. Been used but not much, some cosmetic scratches and marks, still in very good condition. Good beginner/winter Helmet. £30 posted.

Petzl Elios. Size 2. £30 posted.
Petzl Elios. Size 2. £30 posted.
That's all for now folks!

Monday, 8 August 2011

GREAT British Cragging: Part II

The next day we were up and out the door earlier than the previous two days and headed for Llanberis. We drove as far as we could up the road towards Snowdon, then shouldered our packs and yomped up to Clogwyn d'ur Arddu, or as it is more commonly known; Cloggy. A crag almost permanently in the shade due to it's Northern aspect, a visit there requires a hot day, however Cloggy also has a fairly long walk in up the track adjacent to the Snowdon Railway, which isn't so much fun in aforementioned heat. However, as long as you wear shorts and bring spare clothes it's fine. As you walk up to Snowdon, Cloggy sits, waiting, right in front of you, the East Buttress with the arete of The Axe jutting into the sky, the Great Wall smaller but more cunning and deadly with it's Indian Face watching you approach. Then there is the hulking mass of the West Buttress, looking as though it has been tipped over, revealing slabs and corners but also steepness too. This was where we headed; to do West Buttress Eliminate an Extreme Rock tick (my third of the week). At E3 5c, this was the E3 that last year was to break me into the grade proper, fortunately the weather was never good enough. I would have floundered on this last year for sure, the first pitch bold and tricky, the second pitch which was my lead - given 5b but it looks as though it has lost a large chunk of rock - solid 5c climbing above a ledge and an RP2. Then Walsh's Groove, the party-piece, only tech 5b but sustained and in this case wet, thankfully I now know how to jam, I would have struggled like hell on this last year, just jamming your body into the groove isn't enough! An absolutely brilliant route but after this I was more than ready to rest as I was totally knackered, both mentally and physically...

Thankfully the next day I had promised to meet Jess in Chester before heading to Capel Curig that evening. Jess and I spent a perfect day just chilling out on patches of grass together, messing around and just generally being silly before we had to spend the next month apart again. The day didn't last nearly long enough but before I knew it I was off back to North Wales and on my way Capel Curig. After a dinner consisting of; a chicken mayo sandwich, a banana, a chocolate flapjack and a bottle of Lilt, I was met by Davey Morse and we sped off South in the Chariot... it's last journey before being taken off the road... a sad time for us all.

The next morning dawned overcast and still with showers forecasted we set off in good spirits to Mother Carey's Kitchen. 1st route up was my lead to get us both warmed up ready for some meatier routes, I chose Rock Idol E1 5a, rumoured to be one of the best E1s in the country! Abbing down I looked across at a steep, hungry, wide crack, uh oh this could be harder than E1 I thought. Once I got down though, Dave explained that the route follows the crack but climbs on the right-hand wall... phew! As I pulled on I realised what the main difficulty of the route would be; the greasiness. This is a problem on all sea cliffs; moisture from the sea makes the rock wet, requiring a good bit of sun or a stiff breeze to dry it off, unfortunately today was very still, and it was overcast... luckily the holds are absolutely massive and there are two really good rests! A really good route, I had to run it out to prevent running out of draws but the run-outs are enjoyable on big holds and if you wanted you could take more gear and stitch the thing up! Definately recommended but one of the best E1s in Britain?? I'm not so sure... Next up Dave was keen for Star Gate E3 5c, despite the wet start and getting lost, Dave hung in there with endurance rival to Nigerian marathon runners and made it to the top. On second I found the fact that the route traversed over the sea and a fall would leave me in space with just one prussik (I leant one to Ballsford... chopper), I took a couple of hangs on some gear to keep the pump at a minimum. A brilliant route and an awesome effort by Dave. On account of the Grease and the big intimidating nature of the Kitchen - I never have liked cooking or washing up! - we busted out and onto St Govan's.

After a quick coke and a coffee to refuel we headed to the crag and Dave convinced me to get on Poisoned Arrow E3/4 6a. I racked up, we dropped in and watched some old dude cruise it on second! Up I went but as I moved into the crux sequence it became apparent that this was going to be a big ask. I got some kit in as high as I could and reversed back to the ledge at the beginning of the difficulties. Back up and I managed another move or two, got some more gear in but was already pumping out! This really knocked me mentally as I still had a good way to go before it eased and I was worried I wouldn't be able to even get the kit in. I fell/slumped, put some gear up higher and tried to make some more moves but fell again. I still felt knackered and Dave offered to have a go. A few falls later and he was at the top of the crag, luckily this route was alot straighter so I could just give it my all until I fell, perfect training. Even on second I still fell off a few times proving either I really was knackered or that I'm not even good enough to second Pembroke E4 at the moment. On getting to the top of the crag we agreed it was time to call it a day, you need to be climbing fit to do a lot of routes at Pembroke for sure. We went home and ate, A LOT but it was good wholesome food and it allowed me to feel semi-ok the next day.

Luckily the Friday was only going to be a short day, so we headed to Carreg-y-Barcud, a nice big slab next to the sea. Once again I was on lead first and I chose the Barcud classic Sinecure E1 5b to start. It was a nice, with good moves, though again maybe not as good as I expected but maybe that's because I associate quality with achievement... Next up Morsey fancied trying to finally lead Mean Feat, an E5 6a he has toproped a number of times over a number of years. After another top-rope session the lead was on and I abbed in. Looking a bit shakey, he got up to good gear, unfortunately getting into the crux he didn't feel secure so came down. He soloed out of the crag by an easy corner and I seconded out removing his gear. The climbing was great, thin, steep slab climbing with a lot of looong moves. After sorting the gear we left and I headed home.

An absolutely brilliant week of climbing, I did some amazing routes, both that I have wanted to experience for a while and a few I hadn't considered myself ready for. I think it helped me build a bit of fitness back up but also let me gauge my current standard, I feel like I am as bold and technical as I ever have been, but am slightly lacking the standard of fitness I had earlier in the year, and I can bloody well jam now! I know that the thing I need to work on most whilst I have less intense period of climbing during August is my fitness. Luckily South Devon has some cracking European style sport venues!


GREAT British Cragging: Part I

No sooner was I back from Squamish but I was off to sunny West Penwith, Cornwall, with Jess, Mark, Tom and Flo (Not her again!). A quick overnight stop at mine and we arrived at Sennen!

Some brilliant routes were done; Monday Face VS 4c, Hayloft VS 4c - brilliant varied climbing finished by a good ol' thrutch, and The Arete VS 4b and oh-so-juggy. Next up after a rainy start was Carn Barra, a crag that had caught my eye a while ago with the sustained Glass Arete. Keen to test my fitness and climbing ability were up to scratch on the opposite style to crack climbing, I abbed down and jumped on! The greasy start immediately turned the pump on as did the fact I couldn't reach a good wire placement... I made do with what I could and got onto the arete proper. After a few moves up I was still feeling a bit up-tight and intimidated. All of a sudden a double-slap move up the arete smacked me in the face and a smile spread from cheek to cheek! What a move! Feeling a bit more in the groove I moved up between good rests and gear. Eventually I found myself at the wide break below the final arete section... after placing a load of kit I set about trying to work out the moves eventually just managing a stiff pull out and into a beautiful layback... I still had it E3!! Looking back it was soft for E3 but fairly sustained, more so than I would expect to get on an E2 without being able to slot in gear whenever I wanted, whereas on Glass Arete although there was plenty of gear, you had to leave it behind on some sections and forge on to the next piece. A low in the grade E3 but what does it matter, the climbing is superb! The rest of the day was spent seconding mark on a VS and HS.

Next up was Bosigran, me and Jess headed down to do Ding a VS carving straight up through an overhang and grooves in 2 pitches. I completely lose sight of where I am going once I finish the first pitch and end up belaying two thirds through the second! Still a nice little bit of climbing and totally possible to do in a one-er if you look after your ropes. After lazing around on a ledge in the sun by the sea we headed up to Anvil Chorus another VS 4c with a meaty 3rd pitch up a layback corner followed by an awesome traverse and grovel onto a ledge! Anvil Chorus is a brilliant top-end VS that has a good amount of variation between its pitches... a must do! On our final day, we headed to Chair Ladder and South Face Direct, yet another VS 4c. A team ascent was made by Mark, Jess and myself. SFD is a brilliant route and had some lovely jams ;-)

Heading back to Devon, Jess and I spent much of the rest of the week and a half lazing around eating chocolate, though two trips to the beach were made, and I managed to get a couple of cheeky wall sessions in! Eventually it was time for Jess to go home, so selflessly, I escorted her home and jumped onto a train for North Wales!!

The first day of the trip was designed to break me down and fully prevent me from climbing anything hard for the rest of the trip... A crack team of Yorkshire crushers (Steve Ramsden and Billy Lawrence) recruited me for a boulder sesh at Angel Bay on the Little Orme. Having never been there the offer was snapped up and a late start was planned! First we got lost, then we arrived... HEAVILY dissapointed, however dear reader this is a lesson for you: never judge a bouldering area by its cover and first few problems. We decided that warming up on a slightly highball set of V2s would be agreeable, and adding to this a V3 we found the problems were alright but nothing to rave about... Aha Letterbox Wall, Al said this was good and he only likes good problems! However it turned out to be either rediculously easy using the block to start on with hands or desperate if you sat on it! We moved on to Ren-Arete the V5 next to it, Steve crushed it, but me and Billy found it a little bit more tricky... I found that to do one of the moves my feet had to leave the block and I wasn't strong enough to do it footless and not good enough to get a heel on... Balls! Steve turned his attention to The Limpet, a highball V6 around the corner while Billy rested... this looked more my style! Crimpy wall climbing! Or not... being a midget thwarted me once again, however this is not an excuse but not only was I too midget-ey, I was also too weak! Billy managed to get Ren-Arete and then almost The Limpet too... The boy is strong!

After laughing at some sea kayakers stacking it onto the beach, we moved on to Chaos Emerald Crack the thrutchiest boulder problem I have ever undertaken. The perfectly smooth rock was formed into an overhanging layback flake with a high top-out. Every muscle was required to keep the pressure from your feet constant as you moved your hands higher and higher. Every one seemed to have a different method each time, I almost got up it before the other two but slapped to nothing and plummeted back to earth! However I knew the sequence now and after Billy and Steve dispatched it I went for glory and tussled my way upwards! After failing miserably on a V4 arete with no feet, that was flashed by Billy and Steve, I was all but ready to go. Steve did a nice looking problem called Pocket Wall, V4 again, but this one had feet and small crimpy, pockety holds! Having seen Steve do all the moves I managed to pull a flash out the bag! We were all feeling it by now, and wanting to remain (relatively) fresh for the rest of the week, I took my boots off and chilled whilst Billy and Steve had a last couple of goes.

Once again, the day dawned bright and warm, after another chilled start Max, Chris, Mason and I headed off to Cwm Idwal, and up to the Suicide Walls area. Mason had a new line cleaned and chalked and was hungry for the send, despite not feeling overly psyched for anything up there, I still hadn't done Suicide Wall Route 1 yet, which is a fairly historic line as it was climbed in 1945!! This was an incredible achievement at the time as at E2 5c it has technical moves on it, and is bold even with modern protection, but to climb it in '45 would have been exceptionally bold.... RESPECT! The ascent went without too much drama, I didn't place any gear up to the mid-height ledge to allow Mason a top-rope on the crux of his new route. Then the top section wasn't too bad and there were runners here and there. I abbed down and Mason began cleaning the rest of the line and practising the crux a few more times. Once on the ground he racked up, tied on and set off, placing the first runner he committed to the crux and floated his way up to the mid-height ledge. Suddenly, it began to rain, luckily it never got too heavy and then stopped after a while, allowing Mason to climb the top half of his route, having seen the holds but not practised the moves, he was surprised at the amenity of this climbing. Boom! A new route, Decomposed E6 6b, it really is excellent on second I found the bottom crux tricky but do-able with some info from Alex. The top wall fully blew me away, absolutely amazing climbing, with technical moves but regular good holds and feet to allow you to chill out and savour the movement.

Abbing back down we had time for one route, and my lead, with Chris and Max going for Suicide Groove, E1 I was left with Capital Punishment E3 5c or nothing... but, I was scared knowing full well that everyone on UKC had voted E4 for this one, coupled with Suicide Wall's lack of good gear. I got on with it and soon found myself with a good micro-wire and the first run-out beckoning. All I could think about was getting too far and falling off, but with Mason's encouragement I moved up the first slab with an irreversible move to get stood on a good finger-ledge. After a few more tricky moves, I was at a good hold and fiddling in 2 RPs. Not 100% confident they would hold I moved up into the crux, finding it difficult I stepped back down and tried to re-assess the moves. "Nope, only one way to do it matey, you've gotta stretch and pray that hold is good", 'OK, right come on then Dunc turn it on' going for it I went for the hold, heart in mouth, "Phew it's good enough!" As the world rushes back, I quickly clip the threads and take a deep breath. Next up was the best part of the route lovely juggy pockets up a vertical wall. The rest of the route went without drama and I topped out with a woop of joy! Without a doubt my hardest route this year, and probably harder than the two E4s I did last year, certainly more dangerous on the hard bits...

Friday, 29 July 2011

Squamish Select

OK, so I've not posted for ages AND I've been back from Squamish and been on TWO climbing trips in the UK!!! In this post I'll do a bit of a Squamish write-up and then crack on with UK blogging when I begin revision tomorrow...

30 days, 110 pitches of climbing, 100's of metres of cracks and a good dose of rain. Trip outcome: Success all round!

The main aim of the trip had been to learn to hand jam and not rely on face holds of any kind whilst doing so, I started out struggling on 5.9's (HVS), even falling off one, St. Vitus' Dance! I then moved on to falling off 5.10b (bottom-end E2). This, I feel is Squamish's sandbag grade, with routes such as Seasoned in the Sun, Centrefold, Caboose, and Hand Jive all being harder than many 10c's I did. In fact I fell off all of the above except Seasoned in the Sun, which I feel was the hardest pure crack I climbed, with steep, thin hands jamming with no foot holds outside the crack, with it being to thin to jam with your feet! Again I found myself finding a normal-width handjam as good as a jug!

On the routes front, the top ten include (in order of granite-ey goodness):

1. The Angel's Crest 5.10b - an amazing adventure and the biggest route I have done to date, almost every pitch is 3 stars!
2. The Exasporator 5.10c - wanted to do it as soon as I saw it, way before I even thought about going to Squamish.
3. Squamish Buttress 5.10c - the first route to the top of the Chief, the crux pitch is an amazing corner very reminiscent of the Grasper at Bwlch y Moch.
4. Peasent's Route 5.10c - Done on my last day in Squamish with Loz, a fellow West Country bey! Brilliant climbing despite being soaking wet!
5. Hand Jive 5.10b - Got pretty shut-down by this one... fell off the start when I climbed it the wrong way, managed to do the vertical hand-crack fine until a fall on the last hard move to the chains! A good spanking!
6. Seasoned in the Sun 5.10b - My finest moment of crack climbing, I felt like a real crack climber after this!
7. Karen's Math 5.10a - An amazing varied pitch at the top of the Apron; steep crack, massive layback flake then a tricky face traverse to finish... I felt like Leo Houlding!
8. Flying Circus 5.10a - Just brilliant finger-locks up a slabby wall, the first hard crack I did in Squamish!
9. St. Vitus' Dance 5.9 - A brilliant route up the Apron with 3 contrasting 5.9 pitches in a row!
10. Banana Peel 5.7 - Me and Flo ran up this one afternoon, just so much friction slab fun!

I also did some awesome bouldering and sport climbing, highlights of these include 3 classic V4s in an afternoon; Superfly, Easy in an Easy Chair and Sloppy Poppy. The bouldering in Squamish is awesome, and I wish I had done more, but it felt like a cop-out when the Chief just screams to be climbed!

On the Sport climbing front the highlights have to be; Dark Don't Lie 5.11a (6b+) A brilliant flowing route that would be an amazing E3 with trad gear! The Neutered Bovine, 5.11c (6c+) 1st Redpoint as the first route of the day, super-powerful but brilliant moves! Face the Music, 5.12a (7a+) Didn't get it clean, but a brilliant crux sequence!! Cheakamus Canyon was great when the rain fell as it stayed dry, the only problem was getting there, however I would have loved to get to the Petrifying Wall at Murrin Park, but only went there one evening for a bear (beaver) hunt with Will Stanhope... Yep the guy who broke the Parthian flake!

This nicely brings us on to the next highlight of the trip.... THE BEAR IN CAMP!!!! Unfortunately there is no photographic evidence, as one grey morning, Heather got out the tent, I decided to have a bit of a lie-in, as I'm a lazy bugger! Until suddenly Heather ran back shouting "If you want to see a bear come quick!" Quickly, I dressed and ran out of the tent to find a bear trying to get into the bear boxes. Suddenly it turned and began to walk in our direction... luckily it was small and there were a lot of us! Eventually it left but what an amazing thing to see!

Despite having an amazing trip there are a few hints and tips for Squamish:

1. Don't be intimidated by the Chief, by the time I left I had completely changed my outlook towards it and given another week or two would have got on the Grand Wall.
2. Squamish is a prime place to learn how to jam and crack climb, HOWEVER you will have a much more productive trip if you know how to jam and crack climb and will be able to get on harder routes!
3. Go to Zephyr's Cafe and have a Chicken and Avacado Burger EVERY rest day... it makes you stronger.
4. Only wash ONCE a week in the Rec. Centre, and spend as much time as possible dicking around on the toys the swimming pool has i.e monkey bars (perfect for climbers!), Tarzan swing (perfect for belly-flopping) also watch the rain fall from the toasty warm jacuzzi.
5. Try not to forget your swimming trunks, especially on the day(s) you were wearing Union Jack boxer shorts... Laughter from your 'friend' and the lifeguards echoes around the swimming pool.
6. Buy a pair of crack-climbing shoes. These must allow your toes to be pretty much flat, not like face climbing shoes. They must also be made from something durable.
7. If you can afford it, get a car/van/truck... it means you can drive to dry climbing places/fun non-dry weather dependant places, and sleep on something that isn't gravel... yes, yes I know I should buy a thermarest... they just seem a little gay!
8. Go and get used to finding routes at Tremadog... Squamish is just Tremadog on crack!
9. Don't get stressed, just roll with whatever happens.
10. Enjoy it! Try and tick as many of the 'Ultimate Squamish Routes' as possible :-)
11. Go with a girl who will be fancied by Will Stanhope, he'll do anything to win favour and you might meet Sonnie Trotter... a proper legend! In fairness, it was pretty cool hanging out with these guys, and we got lifts to places! But seriously now... never go on a Bear hunt with Stanhope... he'll be secretly hunting for Beaver!

All in all, we had an awesome trip, and although some face climbing fitness was lost, a completely new set of skills were developed, going from barely being able to jam to feeling confident at relatively steep pure cracks, without tape. Hopefully, this will eventually improve my UK rock-climbing! Squamish is a really cool place, I would whole-heartedly recommend it as a first North American venue, as I hear the grades in places such as Yosemite are a bit stiff, they seem fair in Squamish.

Get on it!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Squamish Update...

Just a brief one here, had a really good couple of weeks here so far, done loads of awesome routes including Hairpin 5.10a, Karen's Math 5.10a, Slap and Tickle 5.10b, Paul's Crack 5.10a, Squamish Buttress 5.10c (PUMPY!), and Angel's Crest 14-pitch 5.10b/c yesterday! even topped out on the crest with enough time to go bouldering! Looks like the rain is set in for afew days so unsure of what to do, but should get better 5 days before we leave!!! Could be an intense 5 days!!!

See y'all soon, peace out.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Karate Kid and the Canadian Crack Addiction...

Last time I psoted, I was about to head up Helvellyn to sell Tea, Coffee and Bacon butties to unwitting punters at the top of the Mountain. It was a lucrative couple of days seeing a haul of 400 squid each after expenses... I bought a pair of trainers for squamish and headed to Liverpool to meet Jess and Heather, after a meal in the Egg, we headed back to chill at Heather's house. A teary goodbye to Jess and a hurried pack, and it was 3 hours till we had to leave for the airport. A short flight to London and we are off to Vancouver, witht he pressing issue of whether to try and sleep or to take advantage of the free movies... free movies it is. Upon landing in Vancouver we are interrogated by border control about how we know each other and how much money we have... a skytrain into the centre and we decide to go straight to Squamish rather than chill in a hostel, in the bus station we meet two Canadians who are heading out to boulder for the summer, Liam and Doug.

We arrive at Squamish and all I can see is the Chief rearing up above me... holy shiiit! That thing is BIG! the rest of the day I am too tired to do anything and all I can think about is the Chief... intimidated is a word you could use to describe the feelings going through my head... We head to bed early as we have been up for over 24 hours and are knackered.

The next day we went and got food and then headed out to the Smoke Bluffs to try our hand at crack climbing. We crush an unknown 5.7 and find that taping your hands makes a big difference, then a 5.9 is cruised, feeling cocky I get on a 5.10b, but the gear is poor, I make do with the best I can and sketch my way through to jams and a cruise to the top, after finishing with a 5.7 we head back to the camp-site.

Thursday dawns and we head to the Upper Malamute, a sort of sea cliff crag in which you have to ab in. Heather cruises a 5.8 layback corner, which means I get the lead on a 5 star 5.8+, High Mountain Woody. A tricky section off the ground leads to stead climbing and regular rests, I'm not entirely convinced its 5 star but it was awesome nonetheless. We head back for lunch and then head back to the Smoke Bluffs, we both crush an awkward 5.8, the Quarryman, and then Heather crushes Penny Lane, a tricky 5.9. Walking on to Neat and Cool crag, Flying Circus, a just off-vertical fingercrack at 5.10a catches my eye. TThe guide says it's polished from topropers, and the people before us have just toproped it, hmmm, I go for it anyway, and feel confident with sinker finger-locks and not terrible feet either. Suddenly, the fingerlocks open up and the feet diminish, a foot slips, but I manage to keep it together, make another move and I'm inot jugs and real footholds. The best route of the trip so far!!!

Friday is overcast again, but we planned to go and do our first Squamish multipitch today and the weather isn't bad enough to not do this. 'Hiking' (as the Canadians say) out to the Apron, we choose St. Victus; Dance, a 6 pitch 5.9. The first 2 pitches are steady, a bit of rock climbing, and then pullin on trees. The third pitch, only rated 5.8 is a massive 50m crack that widens as it gets steeper. I gear up ready for the fight and go at it, karate-chopping jams and fist jams in, whilst torquing my feet into the crack... Suddenly, it starts drizzling, I push on and squirm up the final offwidth to the belay ledge...phew!!! Florence's next pitch is a super cool 5.9 pitch that involves switching crack systems and then a wide crack to finish. Now the final hard pitch, involving an overhanging section of crack!! I go up, fix some gear and throw a fist jam in, pulling up, I stuggle to torque my feet in as the rope is in the way, first fall of the trip... taken. I lower down to the slab at the bottom, and engineer the rope so it runs deep in the crack, go again, and manage to haul myself over the top! It was only a body and a half length of crack but it was hard!, I carry on up to the belay and we top out, and walk back to camp.

I still feel like I have a long way to go before I feel totally comfortable at Jamming, and cracks, and long multipitches here, but hey we have had 3 days climbing and have still done some fairly hard stuff (for us).

Stay tuned...

Friday, 3 June 2011


Ok, so this time last week I had finished my exams but was desperately trying to finish my dissertation project proposal for 5:00pm... Thankfully, I finished it on time and plans were made to go climbing at Gogarth the next day. However, on awaking to heavy rain we decided to chill out and watched Shutter Island, a mega spinney film about a high-security mental institute for the criminally insane!! After this we went and got lunch at the Blue Sky cafe in Bangor, which, whilst expensive is pretty tasty!! Finally it was time to climb, but with threats of rain later on in the afternoon at gogarth, we headed to the slate quarries.

I used to go to the slate quarries a lot in my first year at uni, it was a place I felt comfortable... big slabs of smooth rock, big run-outs, but simply a case of trusting your feet and standing up until you were at the top or the next piece of gear, I even managed to go from onsighting E1's to onsighting 2 E4's on slate during first year, and so it became sort of a comfortable place to go. However, in almost every other aspect of my climbing I could only get up E2's, highlighting a major specialism in slabs and weakness everywhere else. Due to this and a couple of trips to Lower Sharpnose in North Devon and getting completely shutdown by the sustained vertical wall climbing, I made a conscious decision to get better at steeper rock, as after all that inspires me most... Despite my heavy addiction to the slate, I never got round to doing Fool's Gold, E1 5c. So on arrival at Bus Stop Quarry, I headed straight for it...

BAM!! "Now then Mr Duncan, where have you been all this time?" the slate teased as I grappled with the first easy moves. "Just away, you know on other rock-types, steeper angles, trying to become a more rounded climber" I reply balancing to get some gear in as high as I can for the crux sequence. "But we used to be such good friends, why should I let you up this when you have neglected me?" The slate angers, I misread a hold sequence, going for a poor slopey crimp, my right foot swinging round to the left to keep my centre of gravity constant. "Yes why should I indeed... hahahahaha!" Collecting myself, there is only one way to do the next move, use a small, polished foothold. I'm wearing brand new Anasazi whites and havn't got the sensitivity for polish, I commit, slap for the ledge and it's ok, just the odd tricky move in the upper crack. Wow, nearly spat off by something I would have walked up last year... Florence cruises up behind me, but team psyche is low, we have all spent a lot of time in the quarries and have almost run out of things to do in North Wales Rock.

But Mikey Goldthorp is back up for a couple of days, and is keen to go see Mason at the Indy on his first day! It was awesome to see Mikey, he is as positive as ever and strong as an ox, flashing a V4 I can't even touch, campusing in complete control so as not to fall and hurt his ankle... I have another burn at the now regraded full traverse which goes at Fr7a+ though I have heard people talk about 7b/+. I managed to redpoint this on one of the many Indy trips during exams, but never repeated it.

Sunday was a rest day but also the day Jess left Bangor for the summer so I helped her pack and said goodbye :( unsure of whether we would see each other again before I left for Squamish.

Monday saw more rain in the morning but team psyche was high for Gogarth and after a (un)healthy sized fry up, a massive team headed out; Me and Jez, Mark and Tom, Florence and Livvers, and Fingers and Lyndsay! On getting to the Main Cliff racking up spot, I noticed something was different from the other times I had been to Main Cliff, there were LOADS of rucksacks... I had my sights set firmly on Stimulator, a 2 pitch E3 5c to the left of a classic and strenuous E1, Emulator. The bold 5c starting groove felt greasy, but the holds were just positive enough for me to chalk up and go for it, soon reaching good holds and the top of the pitch. Unsure of whether to carry on and link the 2 pitches together, I belayed so I could keep an eye on Jez. After a good effort trying his best, he managed to haul himself up the pitch more than a bit boxed. Feeling guilty for the sand bag, I set off on the 5b 2nd pitch, which starts with a bold teeter around an arete until good finger ledges are gained. A party having a slight epic on Emulator were just starting the '2nd' pitch, and I tried to offer words of encouragement. The last piece of the route is a brilliant little handcrack, so I became quite gripped then! Suddenly, I realised a problem, the 2 routes share a topout sequence. Seeing the other guy flapping, I let him go first though suddenly regret it, he is right above me and his feet are sketching, I am on 2 hand-jams, a foot-jam and a small edge. I place a cam inbetween my hands and hope he doesn't fall off. He doesn't and I race to the top, sharing belay anchors we chat as we bring our second's up.

The next day a crack team of crushers (Mason, Steve Ramsden, and Jake Cook) recruit me for a hit on Clogwyn Yr Eryr, in the Crafnant Valley. This esoteric little crag is an absolute gem, though known for having stout E2's! After yesterday's exploits I feel tired, but on arriving at the crag, I take a look at Astoroth, E2 5c in NWR but hinted at harder on UKC... I gear up and prepare for a battle... going up into the 2nd groove is tricky and it keeps coming until a small sloping shelp is reached below the final quarrman-esque groove. I place some high gear, but am tired from the awkward placement and retreat to the ledge. Looking up I see a peg on the right wall, where I am heading. Upwards, I squirm, back and footing, using every part of my body to stay in contact with the rock. I stretch, clip the peg, a disco leg rising in my right leg threatening to part me from the rock. Bridging out over 20 metres of space I see the peg, rotting, and sticking out further than it should, my brain goes back into red alert, the next peg is crap too, damn! I'm scared now, tiring, I wiggle a wire in above the pegs clip it and fight on to the top, shaking all over as I clip the belay! What a route!! Everybody else does it and consensus says E3 6a... wow what a battle, what a route! Jake crushes an E5 6b but I can't even get off the ground... the sun has gone so we all opt for a boulder in the Ogwen on the way home... a fine couple of day's cragging if you ask me, and my last in North Wales for a while.

I headed to the lakes on Wednesday and on Thursday me and Bubbles went cragging in Borrowdale. We headed to Black Crag, the home of Prana E3 5c, but after a warm-up solo of Troutdale Pinnacle, a brilliant Severe, we find it wet in its bottom half. Not wishing to fight a stream we opted for Raindrop, an E1 5b very reminiscent of overlapping wall on Carreg Wasted in the Pass. Afterwards, we head to Quayfoot buttress and Bubbles leads Crypt Direct, a tricky and bold E1. We are going to be selling Bacon Butties, Tea and Coffee on the top of Helvellyn this weekend, and then I am off to Squamish on Tuesday!

I'll try and keep blogging whilst I'm in Squamish, so keep an eye out!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Failure... and Inspiration

“Remember, there are no mistakes, only lessons. Love yourself, trust your choices, and everything is possible.” - Cherie-Carter Scotts

Ok so here is a bit of an abstract blog that can be applied to all aspects of life I guess, but for me is mainly climbing focussed.  

Failure. It's a word that has some big connotations, pretty much exclusively bad ones, in all aspects of life. For example; I didn't get the job, I couldn't climb the route, I didn't match my target time for my marathon, I failed my exam/driving test, I just broke up with my partner, etc, etc. All these are aspects of failure that are encountered in life, and usually looked upon negatively, and can sometimes even illicit negative feelings in the person for varying time periods afterwards.

For me the failures that I focus in on mostly come down to my climbing performance (I haven't applied for any jobs recently, I don't run, I am passing my exams* and am luckily still with my girlfriend) But I often fail in my climbing life... This leads to a lot of self-examination and soul-searching, often keeping me up for hours or distracting me from uni work. Looking back on my UKC log (, I have failed a lot since 2011 began; Cream, Sai Dancing, Poema de Roca, Yogur de Coca, Pilier Dorada, Stroll On, Bulling-747, just to name a few but I never try and hide my failures and always try to remain honest about them. However, in the past I have been guilty of not being positive or honest with myself about my reasons for failure. 

Since reading the Rock Warriors Way my outlook on failure has changed immensely. Whereas before I would blame coldness or whatever now I will try and look at what I did, the choices I made and work out where I went wrong and where I was just unlucky... This I think is a major breakthrough in my climbing, and one I have found has helped already. I went to the Orme this Thursday with Dave and he had a crack at Gritstone Gorrila, despite the freezing wind! After taking 2 lobs on the crux he got it 3rd go ground up. I had to second with the numbest hands ever, and knowing the crux was a stiff layback I was nervous to say the least. However, on getting to it I remembered why I failed to onsight the laybacks on Stroll On, got my feet high and kept the commitment up. I soon found myself holding the good hold at the end of the crux, though at this point I had to rest as I could no longer feel my hands! We quickly bailed round the orme and back to Mayfair wall for my first taste of Upper Pen Trwyn sport climbing. I chose Julio Juvenito, F7a for its sexual crimpyness. Psyched up for the onsight, I was cautious not to misread the sequence. However once I got into the meat of the climbing, coupled with Al Mason's shouts of; "Come on Dunc, Turn it on", I had to start moving quickly and was unceremoniously spat off. Realising the error of my way and that I had to do an unlikely looking boulder problem to gain good holds more direct, I was at the top and on the way down giving Dave the beta. He consequently crushed it... brilliant! Back up, I blasted on, threw the throw, then completely changed my original poor sequence for a more direct one, and it was done. Another F7a in the bag! I have decided that every time I go sport climbing I will try something of F7a or above, as this will be the way to improve and enable me to onsight F6c (and above) trad routes. I then tried to second Mason on King Krank, E5 6b and found out that english 6b is tres hard! With rain drops falling I pulled through the crux and got the gear out before a massive band of rain passed over! Phew!

Now back to revision I am beginning to gain inspiration from routes and people. Rob Greenwood being one of them, he does everything well, is mad for it and totally chilled in scary environments. Mikey G's positivity is also inspirational, and seems to be seeing him recover exceedingly quickly (along with the amount of sleep he partakes in). I'm beginning to see a trend of 'positivity gets you through sticky situations', which I have realised and put to use in a recent exam and it seemed to work... I am mega keen to put it to use on some hard (for me) trad, but at the moment with poor weather and exams in North Wales, I am focussing on maintaining my current level, so that once I finish exams I can have a couple of weeks of crushing before I head off to Squamish! Luckily the weather is absolutely rubbish in North Wales at the moment, so I hit the Indy yesterday in search of a good workout and some more training. The Indy, is a brilliant way of learning through failure as you can and will fail on V2s!! Unfortunately there was a lack of failure, so maybe no learning? Managed to bosh out my 3rd Indy V5 (albeit a soft one) thanks to some beta from Mr Carroll! I then set to work on what drew me here in the first place... FITNESS! A new circuit set at Fr7a+/b with a potentially 7c extension! After a rest I got on the 7a+/b and flashed it, I had looked at the moves and knew there would be a sting in the tail but once I got there, despite being mega boxed I kept pulling! It's probably more like 6c/+. Now the 7c? ext. This adds a hard, short bouldery section onto the 7a that I reckon might even be V3/4....uh oh. Unfortunately I failed time and time again pulling around onto the last section. I then ran (stumbled) home... today I feel broken and have eaten A LOT! But endeavor to keep doing a bit more than just wall sessions during exams and maybe beyond!

A few blogs to get you inspired: 

Scotch-wad Greg Boswell:

Brenin-wad Davey Morse:

So go forth and don't be afraid of failure, there is no other way to learn and become better at climbing/life/whatever you want to excel at... Dunc

*bar one which I will have to return to North Wales... DAMN... to retake :/

Thursday, 5 May 2011

The rain in Spain falls mainly in El Chorro....

Hey guys, it has been a while since I splurged my life onto the internet for a number of reasons... firstly there was a lack of climbing and time, then there was a lack of internet and time... now I have both, or do I? I apologise in advance for the monster post... lots to fit in you see!

So the last instalment saw tales of crushing lovely trad routes on the beautiful Pembrokeshire coastline, after this I had work to do and no climbing was done :( Once handed in, I managed to get out for a sneaky boulder in the Llanberis Pass on Saturday morning. First I headed up to the Barrel under Dinas Mot as it was shady. I decided after a quick warm-up to try a V6 called Bulling-747. A powerful problem starting from 2 undercuts and powering up to match two small, slopey crimps and then a lunge for a jug. I didn't quite get that far unfortunately, it is evident that what bouldering power I had in the winter, when I sent two Porth Ysgo V6s in a session each, is now well and truly gone. I managed to hold the holds but could not hang them to match at all.... a sign of the times that endurance is in and power is out... as the tradding season is well and truly dawning. I then went down to the Cromlech boulders for a bit of a potter before heading back to Bangor to miss my train home by literally minutes.

However, most mere mortals would have resigned themselves to not getting home the next day in time for the one day I would be able to go cragging whist at home, but me? Oh no, I am a seasoned public transportee, me lad, I'll find a way to get home this eve or at least get into Newton Abbot early enough  for a quick snooze before the scheduled afternoon crushfest with my good matey Henry. And this is what I tried; I got on the next train to Chester, changed at Crewe, got to Birmingham, all the time texting and ringing my bro for updates on the next train further South in my quest to beat National Rail Enquiries. No more trains from birmingham once you get there bro, ho ho ho I'll find a way me ol' mucker! says I, there must be a way...

Birmingham 10:20 pm no more trains southward bound AT ALL. Woops, looks like for once confidence won't blindly see you through... I know I'll kip in the loos, dozing in a cubicle on my trusty rucksack, eventually I am turfed out into the wait surprisingly mild saturday night in Birmingham. People fired up for a night out of drinking, dancing and laughing... I am an outcast, no-one knows where a hostel is, but Subway is open to 3:30am perfect, and all for the price of a bottle of coke. Turfed out at 2:30am, damn, ok lets take a stroll my boy, wait the people you want to avoid by curling up in a dark corner will be avoiding the rozzers in the same places... hmmm could kip in the middle of the flower and hedge arrangement? No. Back to the train station, where Ron Fawcett keeps me company with stories of his crushing around the world, then music until at 7:00 am when the cold is gnawing at my bones, I am interviewed by Sheree. A brummie woman with elaphantitis in one leg... she talks to me about life and her woes and asks me mine.... I don't really have any I guess, I'm pretty lucky, I have my health, a slightly disjointed family, loads of good mates a sweet girlfriend, enough money in my pocket to feed me and allow me to partake in my passion, to push myself mentally and physically on bits of rock... Thanks Sheree for reminding me :) I hope your life is taking a turn for the better wherever you are...

Eventually I am back home and my body aches all over from huddling over myself all night, no climbing for me today, I fall asleep in the garden... Damn. Then began a week at work, moody customers, boring stuff to sell (pots, pans, bedding anyone?), being reminded that whatever you decide to devote your life to is pointless in someones eyes, you just gotta do what inspires YOU...

Finally Monday, and I fly at 2:00pm, so hot at Exeter airport, how hot will it be in Spain? Answer: raining, sleep in the airport once Heather and Mason land, wake, hunt out gas and stove to cook on in the caves and train to El Chorro. Get to the caves and then only one thing: CLIMBING.

It took a couple of days to get back into the sport vibe and El Polvorin being a harsh master, I began to see my goals and aims slip away, but managed to try and learn from the failure and put a positive light on it, the Rock Warriors Way, see. Poema de Roca, a classic 7a, you can tell by the polish (Mr Sheen not Eastern Europe), brushed me off tantalisingly close to the chains.Then an attempt on La Orejazo 7a saw me at the chains putting the draws in! This victory was quickly revoked when I was told I had done the 7c to the chains on aforementioned route and it was about F6c+ (Coincidence?). For these days we were mostly dodging heavy rain showers, and were therefore restricted to steepness or those routes with steepness above. Whilst you lucky lot were basking in Spanish weather!

Finally we got some Spanish sun, and Cono Paco was the route chosen to be a new potential first is just over vertical and pumpy....yummy. After a couple of nice warm-up routes, I got on it, thirsty for the onsight. Up down like a yo-yo hell bent on not being thrown in the bin, I eventually was as every yo-yo has been. After some grub, and now knowing how to do every move, except I forgot how to do the crux, I got on it and it went like a dream... ahhh finally just above the average sport climber? After this we scuttled round to a different crag and I started up Makita Power a 6c that I was told was hard by both Gwen and Mason, eek! I just about managed the powerful and technical crux, and then managed to race to the top as the first big drops of a rainshower began to drop. Luckily we found a 6b in the rainshadow, and there went my most productive day of sport climbing, 6a+, 2 6bs, a 6c onsight and a 7a redpoint.... nooice..

Next day, semi chill, Florence heads back to conquer the route that scared her yesterday, and I head up a lovely 6b+ cos its in the shade and it is HOT! Back to the campsite for a bit of a chill whilst it is hottest... then up to Encatadas once a bit of cloud comes in. Get on the boulderiest, pockety 6c, and fall literally going for the finishing jug! Boooo.

The final full day, Eugene was coerced into taking us to a crag the other side of the gorge, that is in the shade... Desplomilandia. We start at Buenos Sombres, a crag with a bouldery style to it that I find hard, but Florence is crushing today, we both do the 6a+ and the 6b+ (she cruises, I flail), then I put the clips in on the 6c but mess up the crux :( Florence flashes it! Awesome effort.... It's so easy on redpoint I'm angry... We head round the corner to the reassuring 'pump' symbol in the guide... La Novia 7a, chosen, the guide says its a bit runout... it is aswell. I was lucky and got the sequence right first or at worst second go. Got the aggression and focus perfect and just kept moving, even when I wanted to chill out I knew I had just had to go. On the upper section a big move to a diagonal rail from a horizontal juggy break was too far, but I realised this early and managed to switch to an undercut, get my feet high and exploded onto the rail, in one of the coolest sequences I have onsighted to date!!

After we left the caves we stayed at The Olive Branch, a brilliant little place where there is a range of accommodation from tents to bunkhouses to private rooms... check it out here;

Another night in Malaga airport and a flight home whilst Will and Kate got all tied up and I was back in the UK, crashing at Jess' in Glossop. After less than a day my hands were itching so we popped up to Stanage for a few VS's, borrowing Jess' dad's old rack... and with Jess forgetting chalk I went old school and almost fell off Fern Crack which at VS 4c, no chalk on a hot, sunny day and precious few bits of gear that would fit, I see now how gnarly people used to be...

Another day was spent chilling in Derbyshire before I boarded the train back to Bangor, thankfully no train stations were slept in.

The next day as it was a Bank holiday, I decided to give myself a break and went cragging in the Pass with Fingers, our third house dosser this year... We first went up to Scimitar Ridge, potentially the windiest place in christendom. Chreon E2 5b was crushed first by fingeroo, then I got on Sparta an E3 5c. However, under the dirt and the no. 1 and 2 RPs was easy climbing warrenting E2 5b at the most, and a soft one at that. I guess I took the worng line. The plan had been for fingers to crush Roc-nest Monster E4 6a, then we would go to the Cromlech and I would do Memory Lane, E3 5c and he would do resurrection E4 6a. But the wind made us feel that maybe the Grochan at the opposite end of the Pass and low down would be better. It wasn't but we climbed anyway, Fingers crushed Stroll On, E3 6a which he had been on last year but not got clean, making it look easy I stepped up to the plate and barn-doored off early on, woops! I lowered down and went back up, this time not choppering the moves up as before! Getting to the rest under the roof, I was pumping but not too badly. placed a couple of bits of gear then set about resting. (It really is quite a good rest). However the next bit was hard and much yoyo-ing was done before I committed to the hard laybacks. Access denied, not enough commitment to the laybacks given, I was spat off. Back up to the rest, next time up I had it, placed some gear a way above and carried on. Another hard layback and I was pumping trying to figure it out, nope not enough commitment, off again. Next time up, just enough juice to pull into the final groove section. Luckily the one cam left fits. Squirming up I get another 2 small RPs in before the final section to sthe the belay and I'm there pumped, panting, petrified. Abbing off into the wind to clean the route I finally reach the ground, spanked but relatively happy.

Now it is on with the revision, until freedom on the 26th May. I am determined to keep climbing, and at worst maintain my current level, so that I can explode back onto the crags once I am free before I head off to Squamish!

Peas out, DC