Thursday, 15 March 2012


Airtime, the antithesis of climbing, yet without the fall, looming or experienced, it would be a boring 2-dimensional exercise whereby half the fun would be taken away. If you aren't risking falling off then you aren't trying hard enough, but imagine if there was never the risk of falling? Top-roping classic routes in imperfect safety, just working out the moves and being fit and strong, except it wouldn't matter, you would just go for the most obvious sequence and if you couldn't do it, who cares?. Falling is a big part of climbing, and I like it that way. 

As with everyone, I find the thought of falling scary at the beginning of the season, but I enjoy climbing a lot more once I am comfortable with falling, and truth be told, I do quite enjoy falling. Big whippers, whilst scary are FUN!

A brilliant yet slightly naughty form of fall practice is bridge jumping. On a whim, and after we had exhausted our supplies of stale bread to throw at unsuspecting drunks, Livingbone, Bubbles, Ollie, Harry and I went and found a bridge, set up a suspect hauling system and a dynamic rope to jump on. Despite others' 100% psyche levels, no-one was keen to jump first, so I stepped up to the plate. I was apprehensive tying in, I knew the dynamic set up was fine, but the hauling system was unorthodox to say the least. Climbing over the railings, I was a bit scared but I knew I just had to commit. A split-second of control and it is out of your hands, you are falling, flying through the sky and suddenly, the rope catches and you swing around for a bit, as you are pulled up by your mates. 

This time was different, I jumped and fell; as usual, was caught; as usual but looking down, I grabbed the static but it was dangling underneath me, not above!? 

"What the F***!" 

Was my first thought, asking the guys above if it had snapped, they seemed to think it hadn't, though they weren't sure. In the end, they agreed with me so I asked them if they would be so kind as to lower down a new bit of rope? They obliged, and whilst I waited, I realised I had stopped swinging. Usually, whilst bridge jumping you are hauled back up before you stop swinging, but now I was dangling, hoping the hauling system would work and that I wouldn't have to be rescued (embarresing much?) Luckily, it worked and I was soon standing on solid bridge...phheww!

Jump psyche... Also putting on a brave face as I'm not sure if my pants are still clean...
(c) Tom Ripley
Seeing it safe, the rest of the crew jumped, without mishap, though Ollie and Harry did take a while to man up and jump, though Bubbles put in a commendable effort and went quick, unlike last time when he requested to be 'thrown overboard' as he couldn't bring himself to jump.

Remember kids; think carefully about eating that last biscuit cos' ropes snap sometimes...
(c) Tom Ripley 
After some amount of sleep, Eugene and I went to Penmaen Head on the A55, to go sport climbing. I wanted to get some early season mileage in, though was feeling ache-y from hauling people up and tired from the late night. First up we boshed a couple of Fr6a's; Helyg Crack and Red Handed, these went without mishap and so I decided to have a go at onsighting a 6c, Top Secret taking my fancy. I felt pretty good and confident, I was getting pumped, but I was working out the moves too. A tricky sequence to a bolt passed, I moved up and could taste success, spotting a good crimp rail, I grabbed it, unfortunately it was sloping, but I matched and tried to press on but fell. DAMN! De-pumping I carried on up to the top, chastising myself for not reading the sequence correctly. Eugene had a go but fell at the second and third bolts, came down and boshed it. After some lunch, I did the same, confidently flowing through moves I had been much more static and slow on before. Getting to the crux, a quick shake and I boshed the right sequence right to the top, Woopa! Next up, Eugene had a go at The Gimp Crimp, 7a after a slip low down, he boshed on to the top but came to a hault at the last bolt, unable to foresee a way to the chains he passed over to me. It looked desperate, so I didn't hold out much hope, but I went up and tried my very best, passing the lower crux, I rested well in the middle, got up and committed to the laybacks and slapped for the finishing jug! As I held it, I realised I'd left the quickdraws on the ground, so fumbled with my belay device and screwgate, getting a bit pumped and gripped, but psyched to have got it first go.

On Wednesday, I got the call from Mason that he was going for an evening Parisella's Cave hit, and did I want to join him and Laura? Yes I did, despite having had an Indy session the night before I desperately wanted to close my account on Left Wall Traverse (V8/Fr7c+). We got there and after a short warm up in Split Infinity (I always feel like such a punter not being able to warm up in the cave), I boshed Flake start to be sure I knew I could do the end of the full thing. Anyway, there were loads of beasts there trying some hard shit, and Mason added himself to that mix with some really brilliant links on Lou Ferrino, a powerful, steep, V10. Anyway, I had a load of mediocre efforts including one stupid one where I slightly messed up with my feet and let go thinking it not worth it! That last stupid little fail did not sit well with me, and I found myself in a very determined mindset. After a short rest and a banana (Thanks to Al and Laura for that one) I was pandered to by Laura who kindly brushed all the holds and got chalk ready at the halfway rest while I got focussed and booted up. This time up everything fell into place and I just focussed on getting the next hold, then the next etc, any mistake and I just kept going, trying to eak another move out of the attempt. Suddenly I found myself through the crux and starting the last tricky sequence down to the rest. My right foot wasn't quite correctly seated but I pressed on, all of a sudden my left hand popped (I didn't let go) and I found myself trying to grab a handhold whilst lying on the pad. One move away from the rest I had fallen, although it is not totally in the bag at that point, it is a hands-off rest so I could have rested until I felt fresh enough to finish. However, a brilliant triumph for tenacity! After this effort I could barely pull the starting moves so called it a day, but a great bit of training! Thanks to Al, Laura (espesh) and all the cave beasts for being so supportive!

Here's what I've learnt recently;

Give everything you have to give, and you will be rewarded with a fulfilling experience. Oh and don't fear the airtime ... just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride...

Tuesday, 6 March 2012


I was BUZZING! For days after! Last saturday, me and Al headed out to the Slate, with an ambitious day planned; first we would head to Serengheti where he would redpoint The Medium (8a), I would flash Heading the Shot (7a+), then we would head down to the Rainbow slab, I would onsight Poetry Pink (E5) and he Ground-up Rainbow of Recalcitrance (E6). Upon arrival we both had a head-sorting solo of the Quarries' classic Seamstress (VS), then Mason abbed and put the draws in his project, and all but the first draws in my target. After a quick toprope each and a lead attempt on The Medium by Al, I was up... Like a substitute being called on to the pitch I felt excited and yet unsure whether I would be able to step up to the plate and put in the required performance.

"54-46 was my number, ohh yeeaaah"

I was bricking it, I've heard a lot of 'E5' being bandied around, despite this I set off knowing the first bit from previous ground-up efforts to be scary but easy. First bolt clipped, I began my mantra "I am Johnny Dawes' illegitimate love-child, I will cruise this". I startled myself moving past the first bolt, how could I be so chilled onsighting way above my ability?

"Right now someone has that number, ohh yeaaahh"

Up above the second bolt now, I falter. I know how to get into the crux but it's a little tricky. A quick foot swap and I am immersed, all small feet and thin side-pulls. I grab a good crimp at my full reach 'You forgot the number 1 rule of slate; don't overstretch!!'. Paddling my feet up, I match left foot and hand, rocking up into good holds and the next clip, a few strenuous moves and the next bolt is clipped, rushing I almost fall but nope, I'm into the jugs yarding my way up the final run-out, looking out over Moel Eilio, over Bangor and onto Anglesey, I'm BUZZING! I did it, I tried hard and did it!

Heading the Shot: THIN!
(c) Nikki off UKC
(stolen photo as I cleverly forgot my camera)
Before long, Gwen and her friend Anna turn up, and Gwen (total technical crusher) cruises the crux without my flapping, only to fall off the traverse! Nightmare! Anna begins to re-work it (and later sent it, bon effort!), as Mason has some more burns at the, not so moderate, Medium. But no such luck, with each attempt I see his psyche diminish (not something I witness all that often with Al), Ballsford then turns up and we decide to go down to Rainbow Area. With diminishing time, we hit up Taken Over By Department C (7a/+), Al puts on a stylish onsight, and Ballsford puts on a stylish repeat ascent. Which left me to make a frumpy dogged ascent. It went so well up to the last bolt, reachy powerful moves, but I did them, then I failed to find the correct sequence and was well and truly taken over by fatigue. Still, a great route so get on it!

The next day, everyone was paired up and Al had to work, so I followed Ballsford to Parisella's Cave so that we could both send Left Wall Traverse (V8), neither of us did, but we both made better links and got some shweeet beta for the start! Also was reet good training!

Having felt smothered by the rain in North Wales, Jess and I headed to Glossop to visit her Dad, their awesome new puppy, Woody and so that I could pull some moves on the fabled Gritstone.

Thursday dawned bright and clear, so 'Team North Wales' consisting of Dave Morse, Josh Marshall and I headed to Curbar, or 'Sandbag crag' as it shall now be known. Having not climbed on grit much, or for a while I declined the offer of first lead, which was valiantly taken up by Josh. He fought the good fight with Maupassant (HVS 5a) for a while before declaring man-down and sending me up into the jaws of the layback flake!

Josh fighting the good fight on Maupassant.
(c) Dave Morse
Next, Morsey went a bit crazy on Insanity (E2 5c), a horrendously steep, pumpy, thin, awkward layback flake. After two good efforts, the rope ends were once again handed over to me (why me!?!), I fought the fight, but I got a good kicking this time, and was sent packing. A quick Top-rope effort from Josh and we decided to move on. Avalanche Wall (HVS 5a) being the next on the list upon recommendation by Jess' Dad. After some faffing at the bottom, I got stuck into the great movement between twin cracks, before jamming myself into the niche. After a bit of a flail, I got into the jugs and topped out triumphant, glad not to have to tell Jess' Dad the bad news that his daughter was indeed, dating a pansy.

Dave on Insanity
Dave then wanted to return to a previous spanking on The Toy (E1 5c), after getting all the gear in he fell off, returned to the ground and sent it, like a true hero! Looking forward to being on the blunt end of the rope for the first time all day, I was alarmed to see him drop the ropes saying, "You'll flash that Dunky!". Without question I tied on, squeaked me boots and set on up the longest 6 metres of my life. Nearing the top crack, I used my rat fingers to simply climb the crack instead of using Dave's sequence, just about managing to haul my sorry ass over the edge and to terra firma! Cheers for the gear and the numbers Dave!

Dave, happy topping out on The Toy, E1 5c
After lingering in the Gritstone evening, we headed home, with Josh psyched for a quick boulder hit to plantation the next day we chatted about problems we wanted to try, hushed hopes of Not To Be Taken Away for Dave and I, with Josh being keen for the Green Traverse, something I hoped to have a play on.

Friday turned out to be slightly colder than the day before and we hurriedly got warmed up on a couple of moderate problems, a flakey throw for a flat hold and a lovely little arete with a slopey, horrible top-out. After some spankings on a few other problems, Chris Todd headed over to Zippy's traverse (Font 7b), we all had a go, Chris got close, but no send! Josh headed up to the Green Traverse (Font 7a) to get the beta from Big Ron Fawcett, with the rest of us close behind. I felt that being fairly competant at the grade it should go for me, but no luck for any of us, and so we were sent packing with our tails between our legs once more! So we headed over to the Grand Hotel block, home to Not To Be Taken Away (Font 6c), the start felt a bit greasy, but after a few false starts, Dave was up on the ramp, faltering around the tricky high move he took the fall. I had a few goes but was really struggling with the start. Luckily, after failing on the first moves a few times, I got properly established and clicked into that focussed mind-set, concentrated on my feet and cruised to the top!

Not To Be Taken Away; Classic.
(c) Dave Morse
We then went and had a play on Silk Start (Font 7a/+) and Help the Aged (Font 7a/+), I could do niether but Chris put in a mint effort and nearly stuck the move on HtA. Running out of time, we headed down to D.I.Y an E3 6a solo with a cruxy move to start but trickyness up high and despite a good drop-zone the ground slopes away behind this, giving a feeling of exposure. Dave and Josh put in a brilliant effort but felt uneasy at committing to the tricky high move, I struggled on the start move partly due to fear of falling off the top.

Josh putting in a great effort on D.I.Y.
All in all, it's been a brilliant week or so of climbing, with both sides of the coin, failure and success experienced. After playing with Jess' new puppy, Woody, all weekend I really should be cracking on with my dissertation...

Woody and Jess watching the rabbits...N'awww