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!