Friday, 18 May 2012

Return to Gogarth...

The day started the night before for me, really. Mason had expressed his desire to do The Cad, meaning that Blue Peter was on the cards for me. All night I tried to sleep but could just feel my heart thumping in my chest as I imagined huge, gear-ripping lobs smashing me into the rocks below, I eventually got to sleep at about 4:30am and was awake by 7:30am. A half-eaten breakfast before packing and we were off on our way to the Holy Island and the adventure playground that is Gogarth. Luckily, we would first be swapping partners with some guy Al knew from Hull, meeting in Morrisons, I had a free round 2 with breakfast, and wolfed down a bacon buttie, thanks Martin. 

My partner for the morning was a vet called Andy, who weirdly had a son my age at Aber Uni. He said he was a bit rusty so wasn't keen for anything above 5b, as I had The Sind (E3 5c) in mind. Instead, we opted for The Savage, which gets given E2 5b, I was on rope-gun duty, so racked up and abbed in. The first pitch was ungraded, though the second got 5a it was tricky and not made easier by my partner's tight grip on the rope below me! After a bit of dustiness, I emerged into the light and bought Andy up. After a much less faff-free changeover than I envisaged, I stepped up into the 3-D funkiness that is Yellow Walls climbing. Expecting some sustained or bold 5b sequences I was pleasantly surprised to find a couple of fairly well protected 5b moves into an enjoyable finish. As we had gone quick, I imagined we would have been quicker than Al and Martin, so to enable Andy some leading mileage, we headed over to the busiest crag at the Big G, Castell Helen. We abbed in and Andy set off up pitch 1 of Rap, a nice, juggy, VS 4c. Secretly, I hoped for Andy to take a while so Al would go and do something else with Martin and I would escape Blue Peter. 

No such luck, as I got to the belay, Al popped his head over the top and said he was keen to go to North Stack Wall. Suddenly, the dormant butterflies in my stomach took some cocaine or something and went absolutely mental. I carried on up to the top of the crag and Al asked what I was keen for...

"Errrr whatever you are mate, I'm easy", I replied.

"So North Stack Wall then?" Al said, a mischievous glint in his eye as he revelled in his desire to climb The Cad, E6 6a.

"Err yeah, ok, I'm totally shitting it, but go on then, you gotta be in it to win it, eh?" Said I, my heart thumping in my throat. 

So we headed over to North Stack, sorted the rack and walked in. On arriving, the wall was out of the sun and the tide was too far in for Al to do The Cad first, so it was down to me to kick the crush off. We went over to the top of the huge Parliament House Cave to scope it out with the guide and I tried to justify it as looking slabby, although this didn't work so well I did spot a small ledge at 3/4 height. Something to aim for then.

Racked up, I soon found myself at the bottom staring up at the dark, looming, undercut 40m wall. The start blasted straight up through an overhang to a peg. I got a couple of good wires in below but was fair pumped once I clipped the peg. Trying to compose and sort a sequence by the peg, the pump increased before I committed to a brilliant technical traverse on small edges and side-pulls, all the while the peg got further and further away. Now the real boldness kicked in, I fiddled in some uninspiring gear and began trying to shake the lactic from my forearms. More tricky moves followed until a slight easing, I continued to fiddle in gear that you most likely wouldn't hang your jacket on. 

Before I knew it, the ledge was looming above me, reaching up it wasn't as positive as expected but I surprised myself by just open-handing it, getting my feet up and crossing into a jug. As has happened before, the quality of the move and my feeling of executing it well despite my anxiety and fear kicked me into in enjoyment mode, and I whooped at the top of my voice, to signify my joy at being 30m up a vertical wall with little in the way of bomber gear to stop a fall...

I also sort of thought it would be all over by now, and that I'd get some bomber gear in. I managed to get some semi-good gear but not quite as good as expected, though now I found that all the good foot holds were in the wrong place! Some more tricky moves ensued, by-passing possible gear placements until it eased off a bit. Right at the end of the flake-crack I placed an absolutely bomber Rock 3 and knew it was in the bag! Proclaiming it's solid nature to the world, I clipped in and eye-balled the end of the route; the angle kicked back again, but I could see a line of brilliant jugs leading up the prow to the top, I set off, placing a cam (just in case) and romped up to the top, savouring the moment before pulling over and screaming at the top of my voice! After setting up a slightly dodgy belay I bought Al up.

Hansjorg Auer on the final juggy romp of Blue Peter, E4 5c.
(c) Hot Aches Productions, (cheekily nicked this off their facebook!)
Al got to the top, still had cold hands, and had stubbed his toe low down, I could imagine how cold he had got out of the sun and in the wind as I was cooling down fast and I was in the sun and had been physically active for the last 45mins or so. In addition to this, the tide was still not far enough out for Al to do The Cad, and by the time it was we would be cold and would only have time for the one route. Graciously, Al said he wouldn't make me second the Cad as he thought it would be an onsightable E6 for me in the future (gulp!) He racked up for 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, but we stumbled across a bird ban sign. 

For a complete change, Al was at a loss as to what to do, I said I'd belay him on whatever, but lacking in inspiration, we headed home. I was sort of relieved as I felt pretty beat up from climbing Blue Peter in total control, with some real brutal bicep, forearm and calf ache. I have been buzzing ever since, I know I say this every time, but Blue Peter must be my hardest route to date, in which I had to draw upon all the skills I have developed throughout my climbing career: Boldness, confidence, pacing, efficient placement of gear and fitness/ability to deal with steep and sustained climbing. I am now mega psyched to gain the ability to climb the other test-piece routes on this wall, and am supremely inspired by The Cad most of all at the moment I think, so I best get better, fitter and bolder!

The Cad... One of the most inspirational E6 testpieces in the UK?
(c) Mike Miller
In case you haven't already guessed I'm pretty chuffed with myself  though am fully expecting to get spanked on an E1 next time I go climbing... Having got away with climbing a bold, solid E4 the climbing Gods will want repayment I imagine...

I also managed a quick evening's bouldering in the Ogwen valley, the highlight being Red Sky Wall which gets V5 now but I think it is closer to it's old V4 grade, I surprised myself by managing it first go. Here's a picture of Livingstone on it.

Red Sky Wall V4/5, Clogwyn y Tarw.
I have now finished university, having done my last exam (potentially ever!!!), I have had my first driving lesson and am soon to be heading to Pabbay and Mingulay, and I have a potential job for the winter... in short life is good and I feel well blessed by the Gods. Hope wherever you are, whatever you are doing, life is going your way too...

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Variety is the spice of life...

Due to the intense amount of university work I have had of late, I have neglected from posting. Since I tried What a Difference a Day Makes, I've been getting out every now and then and there has been some considerable variety to my activities, which is always good! I'll try and keep waffle low on this post, and instead illustrate what I have been up to using pictures (not always mine) with a bit of chat on each photo. 

Iron Crag, Thirlmere, The Lake District.

The day dawned bright and sunny, after Bubbles and I had sorted some stuff for the weekend's work we boshed off to Thirlmere, and on up to Iron Crag after a quick drink and weasel through a tube.

Bubbles stuck in a tube!
 I kicked the day off with Solidarity, E1 5b, a route with a stiff, dusty section low down followed by bold, airy, but positive climbing up a corner and rib higher up. Very nice!

Solidarity, E1 5b (c) Tom Ripley

Bubbles then strapped his cock on and went for a route high on his tick list; Hiddenite, E2 5c. After some upping and downing, fiddling kit in he showed excellent form by blasting to the top stopping only to slot a wire in. Great effort Booblar!!

Seconding Hiddenite, E2 5c. (c) Tom Ripley
Next up it was my lead once again. I had, had my eye on one of the E4's of the crag but was secretly wishing for something a bit less taxing that I would have a higher chance of success on; something in the order of E3. No such luck, I set off up a new E4 6a; Amaballite, but after struggling up the overhanging starting groove, I found my self having to commit to a ledge above two reasonable runners, though in my wimpish state I wasn't sure how much I trusted them considering I couldn't see a runner coming for a looong way. After much pussy-footing around I backed off. SOFT. On abbing down Bubbles said he had found a runner a few moves off the ledge and declared my runners good enough. Get on it, it looks ace.

Strenuous starting groove of Amaballite, E4 6a. (c) Tom Ripley

Great Scotch Road-Trip; Skye, Torridon, Cairngorms

After working for the weekend, we risked the dodgy forecast and blasted up North of the border, took a lovely, scenic detour through Glasgow to pick up the beautiful, Jimmy 'Fingers' Marjot. We carried on up North, stopping to buy food in Fort Bill and eventually arrived at Glenbrittle, Skye at 8pm in pouring rain. Apparently it was due to stop at 4:00am, so we set our alarms for 4:30am and tried to get to sleep.

Road Trippin' (c) Tom Ripley

Upon waking up, we found it was still raining, albeit gently at 4:30, and heavier again at 6:30. Eventually we awoke to sunlight at 8:30am to find our objective; the Cuillin Ridge coated in snow. It was already too late to do it, but it looked as though we might not do it on this trip either.

The Cuillin Ridge, Skye, coated in fresh snow

Instead we headed to Kilt Rock and Bubbles lead his first Extreme Rock route; Grey Panther, E1 5b. It's a real ace route, but right in the wind so we bailed to the cafe and planned the next day.

Bubbles crushing Grey Panther, E1 5b.

My first driving lesson didn't go too well... (c) Tom Ripley
The snow was not forecast to melt so we headed over to Diabaig, Torridon. This is one of THE most beautiful places I have ever been fortunate enough to visit. We arrived at last light, pitched our tent and had dinner washed down by a fine ale each and fell asleep once more. The morning wasn't as bright as yesterday but we soldiered on.

Torridon... B-E-A-Utiful.

First up I led the Pillar; E2 5b which at 45m with numb hands and feet and small, spaced gear was fun! A brilliant route!

On The Pillar, E2 5b. (c) Tom Ripley

Next up Jimmy cruised Route Two; HVS 5a, and after trying Northumberland Wall, E2 5c, Bubbles did Route Three; E1 5b with a top pitch very reminiscent of St Victus' Dance in Squamish.

Fingers on Route Two, HVS 5a (c)Tom Ripley

Diabaig. (c)Tom Ripley

We then headed over to Aviemore in the hope of getting a quick route in at Creag Dubh before picking up some skis in Edinburgh for Bubbles' Alaska expedition. However, we had forgotten the larger amount of snow-fall on the East coast and how much colder this meant it was. After a cold night's shivering we drove straight to Glasgow to drop Fingers off before heading to Edinburgh, where the nice man at Anatom gave me four free pairs of Teko socks and some insoles for my boots! (I fervently suggest you get some Teko socks, they are great and for me, women's size medium are the best fitting sock I have ever had!)

Euro-sport in the English Riviera, Empire of the Sun f7b

After a very successful hitch from the Lakes to Exeter in just two lifts, with ne'er more than 5mins spent at the side of the road, I knew I had to crack on with the dissertation. However, after a few days of remembering how much of an uphill struggle it felt like, I gave an old climbing friend, Jerome, a text to see if he fancied a catch up.

Luckily he did, and I surprised him by requesting we go to the very un-traditionally angled Empire wall. I finally felt like I was ready for 7b and I knew Empire of the Sun was a solid tick at the grade and also very European in style; pumpy, with good holds all the way, and therefore good fitness training for my trad goals of the year.

After a quick traverse along the bottom of the wall to warm-up, Jerome whizzed up and put the draws in for me, deciding that going all out and trying to flash this would be unwise given the short day, I dogged it bolt to bolt getting the sequence sorted for a clean ascent. Jerome then put the clips in Avenged (F7c+), now the weather reared its ugly head in the form of a massive hail-storm! The top of the route began to get wet but after sitting it out for a bit it seemed to dry up enough for me to consider going for a redpoint attempt. I surprised myself by getting past the crux, but forgot a foot placement on the next hard throw and dropped it! After a quick rest, I pulled back on and got to the last hard move, off of a poor pocket only to slip off! The water had run-down into the back of it! Gutted, that I could have done the route in two halves, I did the move and carried on to the chains.

After Jerome cruised a lap on Avenged, the weather came in again!!!! Jerome offered to go up and dry the pocket out for me, but even after doing that, the weather knew and rained again! The water was now running in streaks down the top of the route, so a redpoint was almost out of the question. However, I had another go for some fitness training and despite messing up the crux, I got a move higher before running out of juice! I carried on to the top with a rest or two and cleaned the route as Jerome had work soon.

What a route! One of the best sport routes I have been on in the UK without doubt, and one I am keen to get back on when I'm back home!

Trem-fest, Bwlch y Moch

For a quick break from dissertation work, and due to the promise of a good prize draw, Bubbles, Ollie Burrows, Gwen and I headed to Tremadog for the clean-up festival. We arrived early and helped put the tent up before me and Bubbles opted to clean Grotto, an esoteric VS on the Christmas Curry Buttress. Donning water-proofs, we expected light drizzle, but on arriving at the first belay, the rain was coming in thick and fast. Abandoning the idea of climbing Grotto, Bubbles put in a commendable effort climbing the original Christmas Curry top pitch in a total waterfall. I seconded and cleaned as I went, and then lowered Bubbles into Grotto so he could clean it as he went down. Luckily, the sun had come out by now, and the crag was drying quickly. We walked down having carried out our duties and tried to decide what to do that would be dry and that Bubbles hadn't done already. We managed to postpone the raffle and after finding the Neb still under heavy cleaning activity, we remembered that neither of us had done the Daddy Cool/The Sting combination on Merlin Buttress. I set off up the main Daddy Cool (E2 5c) pitch and really enjoyed the positive, burly start which then gave way to less secure, technical in balance climbing up top.

Pulling the overlap on Daddycool, E2 5c. (c) Tom Ripley

Bubbles joined me and scooted across the 5a pitch to the bottom of his pitch, the Sting (E2 5c). I struggled on this pitch for some unknown reason, height maybe? But was soon chilling at the belay ready to race up Ths Sting after Tom as the call for "Raffle in 45 minutes" had been given! Bubbles up and downed a bit before slipping off, so I instructed him to aid out and promptly raced up after him, clean but only just. It is a very well protected pitch but very tough 5c in my opinion.

We raced over to the beer house, grabbed a pint each and started rubbing our lucky charms, it worked out for me as I got a Petzl Bug rucksack (flogged for £30) and a Beanie. We then got Fish and Chips from Porthmadog and got pissed!

Awaking to rain, I cashed in my agreement with Burrows; I bought him dinner the night before and was treated to a lovely breakfast! We left and chilled in Bangor for a bit before deciding a quick boulder at Braichmelyn was in order. Bubbles and Ollie flashed The V1 arete and the V2 ramp, Mike turned up and crushed Central Wall V5 after a surprising amount goes considering he has flashed V7 - it's not easy!

Boulder scenes (c) Tom Ripley

A Righteous Day at the Promised Land, Gogarth 

With my dissertation handed in, Bubbles asked if I wanted to go climbing, to which I unsurprisingly answered, yes! We originally planned to head to Rhoscolyn, but with the recent rain we thought Fallen Block Zawn may be wet so despite Bubbles' epic the previous day on The Moon, we headed to Gogarth.

The offending item.

On arrival, we were soon joined by Mason and Jon Ratcliffe who were heading for Rat Race, an E3 I have wanted to do for a while. Upon arriving at the racking up spot I was still unsure what I was keen for, then remembered I hadn't done Aardvark, E2 6a. I racked up and we set off down the approach path.

Aardvark, E2 6a. (c) Tom Ripley

I found the bottom of Aardvark harder and bolder than expected, with in my opinion, a 5c sequence around 2 poor RPs well above the last kit. I got a bit freaked out as I knew the top was supposed to be a lot harder than the bottom. However, I carried on and managed to get a load of good runners before sprinting the top. I'd say there wasn't any 6a on it, so it felt more E3 5c to me, though maybe if you are tall with fat fingers it feels different.
Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to know - Tom Ripley

Bubbles put in a good effort, seconding it clean, then had a crack at Fail Safe, E2 5b. But wasn't feeling it so suggested Cordon Bleu, HVS 5b. I agreed, and got the gear out for him. We headed over and started off the sight-seeing trip that it is. Along the way, we bumped into Al and Jon and Rat Race, and Bubbles began to complain at how crap our route was, though he perked up once he had climbed the tricky crux. Although the climbing isn't hard for the most part, I was simply enjoying being out in the sunshine and cruising along halfway up the Main Cliff.

We topped out and returned to the gearing up area along with Al and Jon. After sitting around, eating sandwiches and chatting, it was time for some more routes. Al and Jon headed for Run Fast, Run Free (E5 6a), whilst I headed for Snakebite Wall, a tough E4 6a at Holyhead Mountain. Snakebite Wall is a really great route, with good hard sustained climbing up a vertical wall into the top of Penny (E4 6a). I felt like I climbed well and kept going despite being savagely pumped, but I made the mistake of placing too much gear in the Penny crack, and fell just a few moves away from the end of the hard climbing - Gutted!!

Snakebitten (c) Tom Ripley
Bubbes then made a clean ascent of the hard King Bee Crack, HVS 5a (sandbag), a route he had dogged late last year. I seconded it, though found it very tricky due to high fatigue levels, it isn't very positive and is very burly! After abbing to get my gear back, we packed up and bumped into Jon and Al walking back, having done Run Fast, Run Free, and were greeted by a brilliant sunset as we got back to the cars! A great day, which was a great reward for all my slaving over my dissertation.

A good end to a righteous day at the Big G

An Afternoon of Faffing, Fiendish Beamish f7a+/b

On the Sunday, I had told Al that I'd be keen for a half day, enabling me to getsome climbing and revison done. Aiming to meet him about 2, he soon texted back asking to go early but be back early, unfortunately his idea of early was about 3 hours later than mine, and after a small textual argument, we ended up going out at 12. Choosing the Orme, we sped off only to be stuck in bank holiday parade traffic for a good hour or so. After extrapolating ourselves we sped over to the Lighthouse Crags to try Red Meat, a new 7b addition to the Orme. However, upon abbing down I found the route wet and covered in birds, we bailed and by this time had lost a good 3 hours!!

Notice Board Crag,
Fiendish Beamish goes up the centre of the crag from the 'V' at the base.
Luckily, plan B was a simple one, go to Notice Board Crag. We warmed up on Leaning Jowler, a really great, steep F6b, and Al put the clips in Fiendish Beamish F7a+/b as he lowered off. After I stripped Leaning Jowler, Al set off up Fiendish, but stalled above the 4th bolt, after upping and downing a few times, he downclimbed to the deck and offered me the rope ends!! Nervously, I tied on and blasted upwards, stopping to take in beta from Al on the moves. Soon I found myself at Al's highpoint, a quick rearrangement of my right hand in the pocket to facilitate a match, and a quick slap out right found me totally committed, eye-balling the 5th clip. I pulled up an armful of slack but was so pumped I fumbled the clip and grabbed the draw, as I nearly took a massive whipper! Clipping in, I rested and then climbed to the top, trying a different sequence on the way down and beta-ing Al up. He duly cruised it this go, and it was soon my turn... I again felt apprehensive as the pump from the last go was still present in my forearms, but I strapped it on and got to it. Once into the crux, I moved quickly and aggressively, slapping my way between the holds, and before I knew it, I had done the crux and after a tricky couple of last moves was clipping the chains, chuffed at my hardest redpoint to date!