Saturday, 24 November 2012

Video: Physical Graffiti FA

Hardly the best line ever, but I had fun.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Obsessing on Monos

A mono to the waist- fully locked down and a back-breaker calling you in below. That's the dream. There's a lot of training needed to get to that point though.

At the moment I'm on the weight-gain crusade. I need to get fat so that training in spring is hard. I've managed to get quite a lot on and have been working on pure pull-up ability. I'm still incredibly weak, but a lot stronger than I was.

I'm a bit ignorant of all things training and in my usual 'arrogant' manner, I've declined any help from sports science. In the place of this knowledge I'm entrusting the fulfilment of my dream to chance, common sense and passion.

On the crux of the mono wall I know where my weaknesses lie- mainly in my arm and finger strength, but also in by core strength in being able to use the incredibly high and useless footholds. So there are two things to train: (1) core (2) mono pulling.

Core is a massive weakness of mine, but is easy enough to train for. It needs to be useful core and versatile through the odd moves the mono wall demands. Bouldering should help.

The mono issues are the key issue. My fingers are strong, but my arms are weak. The mono becomes quite slippy just before the hold is latched on the crux move; at the point when the mono is becoming very reflexy. So it's important to develop not only incredibly precise beta for sideways movement on the mono, but also massive reflex strength to bear-down on a slippy mono.

I'm going quite insane with this route now. The micro matters though and the great passion for the intricacies of a unique mono are a further definition of climbing. I need to get stronger.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

A Weekend Back in the Moors

A lot's changing in the moors. Dave's got a job, Sam and Mathew are getting ready to leave the moors for University and even the amount of time I'm spending here's fairly limited.  It was good to get back this weekend though for a get together. It was the Cleveland MC annual dinner, which is always a good laugh and the weekend offered a couple of really good day's weather.

The only problem was that we're all climbing terribly. We've all been doing other things rather than climbing and are all pretty out of practice. We were mainly bouldering down at the duck boulders and getting trampled on by easy problems, but I had a look at a new line through a roof as well. Dave wasn't keen as it was really high and he didn't want to jigger his knee falling off and nor were the other two chaps. With four mats it was feeling alright, but not the sort of thing you want to fall off.

You climb about 6 metres up to a roof, with an ok, but pretty uneven landing. From here a rather scary span through the roof reached some ok incut crimps. It was about this point when I got quite scared, I wasn't really bricking it, but certainly wasn't the epitome of calm. I got a few moves up through the crux and onto some massive flat holds. From here you just need to wack your feet high up on the lip of the overhang and pull up to the top holds, but after playing with this I decided against it and took probably my biggest jump off a problem. A good bit of airtime certainly, and not the sort of fall you want to take onto your back- which you'd be doing if you fell rather than jumped.

It will be a really tip top route when it's done and I don't want to say it 'wasn't to be today', as it probably was, I just didn't want to take the risk.  I felt happy with that though- safe, in control, nearly climbing a great line in decent style. Will be up there with the other classic Moors highballs I reckon and it's great to think there are these new routes still up for grabs.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

For Me The Moors Season Is At An End

This summer has been somewhat of a brief flirtation between myself and the moors. I had so many things earmarked for a look, but found little time to do any of it. A more logical being would be saddened at the apparent failing in completing any of the 'objectives' that I had set myself for the summer, but to luck logic curses not my every move. Far more important than achieving whatever hollow targets I had set myself, was to explore the moors and understand those climbers who have climbed here over the years.

This summer I climbed many great lines, of mixed origins and in a mixture of styles. Dave Paul featured as many of the FAs. I have great respect for this man. He evisiged and first-trod that line of utter beauty Moonflower and went on to dance through some of the hardest rock on the moors. Ingham was another; his lines are legendary, his legacy is that of his style- balance and fingers cast from the strongest steel. Then those others- Dixon and Ian Dunn. Dunn is the only one I have met, although at the time I did not know who he was. His vibrant locks still shine brightly from Slip and Fly, whilst his peg whithers.

Another peg was dispensed from No Expectations- a noble line in need of repeats up at Landslip. Then there are Monty, brown and Parker, with lines that always impress; a whole host of spirits that still fly around the moors. The future looks just as good- the young guns are still improving at a rapid rate and me (now in my elder state)still delude myself that new increments of improvement can be made. The new routes this year are good; nothing hard, but many great lines. The arete at the Smuggler's Terrace in particular seems to dominate with exquision.

September is the end of the Moors' calender and last year saw the beginning of training. Next year promises far more training, pain and realised vision. After all, without delusion we only sink.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Dynamo- Park Nab- HVS 7a?

Park Nab was always the nearest popular crag to us in Castleton and I see it as a sort of local venue. It was always the place where I broke through new barriers- the first 'Severe', the first 5c etc.. I worked my way through the short routes and testing problems one by one, but there was always one problem that stared at me and looked totally impossible- that of Dynamo.

It was climbed back in the 1960s by Johnny Adams and was way ahead of its time, offering a '6a/b' move after a 'charge' at the wall. In the 50ish years since it was put up, Park Nab has apparently seen a lot of ground erosion and this wall has therefore become much harder. The old line of the ground can still be seen by the perfect change in types of oxidation on the crag surface. There's now a good few feet of new climbing. This all sounds fairly petty, but the result is that the upper wall can no longer be gained by a 'charge', but an utterly desperate move has to be negotiated. Well we popped up the other night to try a few things, also managing some of the Steve Brown highballs on the left of the crag, and actually managed to get up this.

I wasn't having much luck until Matt Ferrier found some incredibly natural beta that allowed a lot of height to be gained before a throw to a small edge. It had become dark and I had already narrowly missed injuring myself on a rock, but this wall meant a lot, so I went for it. I just about scraped through the move and scarily jumped my way further into the dark.

I think it was likely unclimbed in its current state, which is really cool as it's effectively a new route at Park Nab. I'd like to go back in the light and repeat it to be sure, but judging by the other day it seemed like one of the hardest moves in the moors. It would be really nice if there was an english 7a at Park Nab.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

The Tormented Sole- A New Three Star Classic

The Tormented Sole takes the stonking central arete up the pensive face.
Well after promising myself that I wasn't going to do any bold and steady routes this summer I found myself on just that today. At the Smuggler's Terrace with Dave Warbs belaying and Dan Lane taking some snaps. The line is that of the Kraken- a jutting fin of rock about 50 feet high, with a rounded and steep lower arete capped by a monsterous and elegant sweep of perfect moors sandstone.

When we first inspected this undocumented crag, this was the line that stuck out. It's enormous, sweeping, outrageous and beautiful. A brilliant line and it had to be climbed.

Mike Adams did a boulder problem climbing the lower arete from sit until the arete. This can be climbed to the cave, or instead the wall on the right can be taken. Either way there's a good bit of highball interest to get established. From here you're on the left wall of the arete, and some gear can be placed here along with a knife-blade peg to protect the next 8 metres of climbing.

The traverse rightwards from the gear is good- intricate gastons and sloping crimps with good feet take you onto a good smear on the arete. The tech crux now pops in an appearance with a crucial lowering of body weight enabling a pop into a poorish sidepull and a reach to a decent sidepull.

 From here another move that could perhaps be cruxy for those who can't smear too well. A lot of weight is taken on the arms so that an improbable foothold can be utilised to get a very high left foot. Another glorious reach to a big hold then follows. After this a bit of a foot throw out right to an ok undercut and a rearrange of the left hand to an arete layback. A rearrange of feet and some arete slapping lead to a spectacular position.

You're now high on the arete, with the finish not far off and on some beautiful rock. You become completely dependent on the arete for hands before a very small foothold allows a reach of faith out to a good crimp. Another poor left foot up and in balance; you're ready for the top. Staring you in the face, you just have to grab it. At this point the world rushed back, in that fabled climbing state, and I really enjoyed it.

It's the first headpoint I've really enjoyed. It was tense before, but I did everything right. I didn't rush it, I got it sorted in my head and didn't make any mistakes. I've not done a tricky route of this length before and it felt good, really good; even more so because of the line. There's a lot more pressure when you have to remember hundreds, rather than tens of body movements. Chuffed though and I'm sure this will get repeats when Dan's photos of it get out. It's a bit of a mammoth pitch and truly exquisite.

Grade.. tech 6b is the easy bit. Fairly sure of that- It's very sequencey but I don't think there's any 6c.  Danger? well I don't know. Number one question is "would the gear hold?". I think it probably would. Number two question is "Would you hit the deck with the gear where it is?". I think you'd probably just miss it from 14 metres with a good belayer. If the answers to either of those questions were that you'd deck then it would be E8, if both were certain then it's E6. I'd punt at H7 6b for the headpoint, pointing out that the line isn't even obvious onsight, never mind how to do the moves. I know Jordan Buys has been in the area around the Smuggler's Terrace though, so maybe he could have a good burn on it. Itdefinitely would be excellent to see someone onsight or flash one of these routes.

The right-hand start still waits, which will be bolder and will offer a lot of new climbing. This was the way that I originally invisiged the line, but once I found the gear on the left of the arete I reckoned a sort of 'traverse and go' line of weakness seemed like the most fun. There's loads more to do at the Smugglers at every grade (apart from E9+ I think..), but we've had our fill I think. Other people are already taking an interest, so that's good.  These moors days are ace!

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

No Expectations (E5/6 6b**) and Wainstones Highballing

Dan Lane is up getting some shots of the Moors at the moment and the weather has been superb. The weather is always pretty good up here, but at the moment it's really something super. As a result everyone's been out- Sam, Matt, Me, Dave, Dan, Lee, Steve- even some chap called Craig turned up today. So we boshed up to the Wainstones to get a couple of shots as it was really too hot to climb.  Despite this I had a bash at the West Face of the Needle.

The West Face gets E4 6b, which puts it in the 'Wainstones E4 club'- a strange club full of total sandbags! Peel out is perhaps the easiest of the trio- and perhaps even E4 6b- but the other two, Psycho Sindicate and The West Face are abominable.

It's been a long-held ambition of mine to climb all of these lines, but it was always a bit of a dream as I knew how hard they were. I knew Richard Waterton had done all of them, but he was the only person who I knew had climbed them.

I managed the west face today, but only just. I'm really blown away by the skill of Dave Paul climbing this back in 1980 without any pads. I had a couple of pads today and I was still absolutely bricking it. Admittedly I was onsight and he probably inspected it, but nonetheless, the move getting off the ground is really rather hard. It's certainly made me respect these climbers of the late '70s and early '80s a lot more, even if a couple of holds have snapped off.

As for the details of the route... Well, I've heard the boulder grade of font 7b brandished around and It's not too far off I don't think. I do think if you're climbing it ground up that a trad grade is more appropriate. Like I say, I was terrified- a lot more so than on Psycho, that is more or less totally safe, albeit with a big fall. I'd say E5 6c** is about right. Without pads and onsight this would be even harder and a bit bonkers, even for the starting crux moves, which are really slippable.  A grand old line though, I think 2 stars is correct for an objective guide, but for my experience I'd give it 4!

After a gentle reacquaintance with West Sphinx Direct, we blasted over to Landslip to try the now peg-less Nick Dixon and Ian Dunn Route of No Expectations. We'd had a chilled out top rope session with sam, Phlepps and Richard Waterton the other week, but I don't think either of us felt particularly in the zone that day. Today was far more productive- a quick rehearse and off we went. Dave Cruised it and that I believe, is the first ascent without the pegs. It's a great route, wonderful, sustained climbing and Dave even managed to top it out. Rad!

The young Sam Marks is on splendid form at the moment, having climbed Moonflower, Stargazer, Scarecrow, Mongol, Gehenna, Feverpitch, Ali Baba and Dangle, along with a handful of Park Nab solos, in the last three days. Best three days possible perchance? Great form in any case. I'm sure he'll be giving us a run for our money in no time!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Yet Another New Route Down On Yon Coast.

Down on the Smuggler's Terrace today, to celebrate the young squire dooge's birthday. Well, the Smuggler's Terrace is quite far for us, so we reckoned that we're just going to do another couple of lines like. Just the best pierces ya know...

Well Dooge did find his line fairly amenable I'd say. Needed but a moment o' cleanin' before he was ready for the lead. E5 6a* was the verdict and 'Billet The Kid' he were christened. A fine line of 14 metres, good rock and fine climbing. Fairly cruxy and with the weeest slither of boldness- I wouldn't like to chance a fall, I wouldn't.

To put the icing on the cake, or the badger in the taxidermy collection, was to climb the line to the right. That stonking arete aforementioned in my post-previous. Well I gave it a toppers and it felt dead amenable like. But fancy it on lead I did not. Another sesh, no rush I thought.

One stonker a day, keeps the Billets at bay.

Tranmire Highballs

The Age Of Obsession (E4 6a?*)
We got thoroughly rained on up at Tranmire today. The crag seeps a fair bit, so we got to work on trying to improve the drainage situation a bit before managing to climb three new routes on a dryish bit of wall.

We climbed above pads and managed a wall that I had jumped off the other day without them. Not sure how hard they were, but sort of english 6a/6b type stuff. They could end up feeling a lot better in dry conditions and with a little more concentration I reckon. There could also be some gear in the top break, but it doesn't really matter? They're up there and they're worth-while additions.

The one I jumped off turned out to be tarnished a little by the arete on the right, whereas the one in the picture was actually pretty good. It maintained interest that one- with a tricky bit of footwork getting into the break just out of shot.

Unfortunately the 4 slab routes we had our eye on were dripping. We'll be back for them after our drainage has taken effect. Some good bouldering below the crag too, as myself, Lee and Phleppy found out.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Wangledoodle Wall- A ground-upable E9

A servant to the weather as always today. Dry rock seemed unlikely, but a freak dry spell and high winds this afternoon allowed me to get out to Danby Crag. O Danby Crag! What a crazy place. I feel very at home here, with what was once a terrifying and strangely forboding crag seeming fairly pleasant these days.

I know what's there now. Well, mostly at least. Never has a crag been so well designed to offer hard routes. It's all either compact buttresses with only the very occasional iron pocket imperfection, or strong cracklines that split the walls vertically straight down. There are no mid-height breaks offering cams, nor any little fissures offering RPs. The lines are strong and the aretes are bold.

 It is mainly aretes too. The Hypocrisy of Moose,  Howl Psyche... Even the mono wall ends up an arete. I'm not sure what Danby seems like to the outside world- perhaps a strange venue with a couple of decent hard lines? In reality though it's just mind boggling. There are hard lines everywhere. A lot are crap- often a few metres of desperately hard climbing above a certain death fall. This kind of climbing isn't very inspiring.

 There are a good handful of really hard routes that are worth doing though. The kind of difficulty that would mean they are 'lifetime projects'. The Mono Wall is one of these, but even harder than this (although a fair bit safer) is the Impossible arete.

This is what I was on today. I gave up on the impossible arete as it was ludicrously hard and certain death, but I then found out that it was approachable from the left; a sort of line of weakness up the blankest bit of rock in the Moors. You climb up the hairline crack, which is hard- really hard. This then becomes nigh-on impossible and from here you span out to the arete. Reaching out into the impossible with a couple of pegs from the hairline crack I reckon. I'm usually against pegs, but something is just telling me to wack em in on this line. A ground-upable E9 in the moors would just be mega!

So the line is safe. Once you can touch the arete you have to control the barndoor. This is the best move on the route and what I managed to do today. As soon as I felt this move I knew it was special. Its hard to describe, but you sort of totally tense up and then flow under your arm. Right hand on the arete, left foot on the arete really stretched out, clamp the right foot round the arete and flow and then snatch at the left side of the arete- first 7a move done!

Now you're on the impossible arete. What a place to be! There is a small edge by your face now and you have to mantel this. I don't really like this move. It's a bit too conventional - the old 'lob ya foot up and pull on tiny gastons'. A bit boring. Anyway, at Stanage or somewhere I'm sure that would be a classic crux move. Then you're on the edge. Now it's time for some 'leggery' as I like to call it. You basically wack your foot on this perfect nubbin really high. If you slap up and then push straight off this you can jump to the top on a top rope, but you'd have to be a bit labotomised to try that on lead. Far better is this intense intricate sequence where you first move your left foot up a touch, so that you can slap your right hand up the arete, and then gain a terrible crimp with the left hand. The next move is another stonker and you bring your left foot through to stand on it rather clumsily. You end up in a rather daft-looking maneuver,  but from here the top can be reached with some dynamics.

What a route! I mean the crux of the Mono Wall is good, but it's only really 3 moves, with two of those being 6c. I like to have something really hard to top rope, as this keeps me in good nick and really excites me. Even if I can't ever climb this, I've now done all the moves. If someone good came along- perhaps a future Marks or Ferrier; someone who had had that apprenticeship I never had, then maybe this could be climbed. I'm keen to see how close I can get to this; not for the grade,  as it being so safe stops it being any harder than H9, but because it really is the next level.

People have stopped climbing on outcrops. You just don't hear of hard new routes being put up on sub 15 metre walls and that's for a reason. Hard bouldering above dangerous falls. Hard boulder problems one after another- it's just hard! People prefer to just get F9a fitness and then compete against climbers of the '80s who didn't have that fitness. The grades will have to be recalibrated one day and then they will all be coming back to Danby Crag. She sure has plenty of lines and this thing is just excellent.  I really hope I can get to do the wangledoodle.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

New E6 up at Otterhill- Weasel Arete

The Weasel takes the left arete of the buttress
After a week of weirdness, with long walks to kay nest and badger rock, and a productive session on the Mono Wall, it was good to get out 'properly' today with Dave. The day started pretty badly on an attempt to climb a new line right of Time Captain. I got beyond my point last time and it all felt fairly steady, but i was just too unfit and pumped after the start and so jumped off. This will definitely go, but I might have to wait until I've got some route fitness. Dave found that his direct finish to Elise's Eliminate was a bit crap and so we left the crag. It was incredibly windy, so that probably effected our decision as well.

I was pretty fearful that the day was going to be lost. I've only got 2 weeks left in the Moors now and really feel like I haven't done anything yet, so wasted days aren't really acceptable. So I had a kind of negative psyche to do this arete we knew was still left to do.

The sister route of 'Otterhill Eliminate' (E2 5a)
It's a good line and we've tried to climb it twice before. Both times we've been rained off it, so today we took no chances and lobbed a top rope down it to get it quickly done.  It was fairly tricky to figure out and had a little bit of sandy rock at the bottom, so it was probably a good plan to give it a really good clean and check all the holds were bomber. There aren't any moves harder than english 6a I don't think, but the gear is not great and pretty spaced. E5? E6? Something like that. Pretty similar to No Expectations in a way, but would certainly be hard to onsight- or dangerous at least. Great line and good climbing, but the unreliability in the first 3 metres limit it to one star for me. 
New line in red, otterhill eliminate in blue

Sunday, 19 August 2012

The Sphinx's Insane Brother

This is going to be a bit of a classic I think. It starts up a three star Font 7a+ boulder problem, to a lie-down break. Poor tricams can be placed here to protect you for one steady move to a couple of pegs and another poor tricam and poor cam. From here you blast off up the arete on the technical crux ( hard to figure out 6b) and undercut the 'eye' of the long-faced man whilst placing a crap RP. It then gets even better with wildly committing slaps up the upper arete on balance moves. Seems to be fairly delicate up top- you're facing a 14 metre ground-scraping whipper if it goes wrong!

Rather excited, it's like the Sphinx on acid.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Landslip- Classic Bequeathed

Many a weighed-down climber hath gazed up from the Wainstones track to that curious precipice, named rather ominously 'Landslip'. The name alone is enough to scare off the majority of folk and the lethal slides of Moss caressing its flanks kill those who remain. Or so the imagination would have us think. In reality though this crag aint half-bad. Perhaps it was indeed formed by some Landslide long ago, but now 40 or 50 feet of good Sandstone perch and poke out with audacious confidence. This confidence, bordering on arrogance, mirrors my climbing quite well. So it's no surprise that me and Landslip get on most capitally.

Scrappy bits and bobs adorn the flanks, with some decent crack lines to be had (A fair few have been climbed by Chris Woodall and Dave Richards over the years as winter climbs in fact), but the main event is the massive central Arete.

As with most of the Moors, it's unclimbed, but it's definitely possible. One of the best lines around for sure and it looks fairly interesting. Ian Dunn visited in 1982 and climbed a stonking-looking pitch to the left of the arete at E3 5c*. He then returned with Nick Dixon, who climbed No Expectations. This is as close to climbing up this impressive arete as you can get, without having to actually climb the arete- it's about 5/10 metres further right than it and follows a strong blind flake up the wall. It's down in the guide as E4 6b with 2 pegs that 'may or may not be there'. Well, that basically meant we knew they wouldn't be there and as we reckoned there wasn't much else for gear on it- just from our casual looks over from the Cleveland Way- we thought it might well be hovering around E6 now.

Well as I shunted the arete, Dooge had a look at No Expectations on a shunt. He was making a fair few grunts, suggesting it was really quite hard and kept laughing. I had to have a look, so we rigged up a top rope. With not being on shunt we managed to find a better way to climb it that wasn't quite as desperate as Dave thought it was going to be. We also found a cluster of gear that isn't great, but could hold a fall perhaps. It's sustained though, maybe F7a+ and really excellent.

It was fairly dirty before Dave abed down it and he did a good job of cleaning it, which is perhaps why it hasn't seen many repeats, but it definitely deserves them.  The line is top draw; galloping up a plumb-vertical wall, with every move being 6a or 6b. It's really ace, certainly one of the better routes in the area and far better than Stargazer Super Direct, which was surprisingly given 3 stars also by Dixon- It's strange what floats different peoples' boats. Anyway, a 2/3 star E6 6b I reckon- just need to clean the top out. God knows how good the E3 must be if they reckoned it better than No Expectations!

The arete looks like a whole different ball-game though- an all together less comfortable outing. Very similar gear to Dixon and Dunn's Groove, with lots of shallow cams that could hold, but no single piece that makes you very happy. It's extremely thin and it took me a while to find a sensible sequence. I'm still very much in the early stages, but I managed to do the crux 4 times in a row which is promising. The crux is (as always) the last move, which involves a very thin setup  on an arete and an utterly turd eighth-pad two finger pocket, before jumping for the juggy end ledge. It looked nigh-on impossible at the start, but some unlikely smears make it feasible. A fairly long series of moves above and around the jutting arete above the gear- it should end up also being up there with two stars I think- perhaps even three.

So it's the first time I've been really excited for a while. The arete is the perfect project for me at the moment- looking like it will be a real step up from the Moose and Die By The Sword, but actually quickly headpointable or at least plausible, and No Expectations looks like it's going to be another brilliant route to add to the moors, at that very rare Moors Grade of E6 most likely. Finding out that these fairly road-side crags offer very worth-while climbing is always really nice.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Grand Master Flash, Humbug and Monty's Leap

Grand Master Flash
The air is changing in the moors today- the closeness of early august is leaving and for the first time this summer a wee nugual of breeze wafts through my window. This is exciting.

Alas yesterday was not so fresh- extremely warm up at Scugdale in fact. We ventured out with our sights firmly set on Grand Master Flash. As with all moors routes, a certain air of mystery surrounds this Dave Paul E5 6b. It had an onsight ascent from Steve Ramsden when he was active in the area a couple of years ago, but there's not that much info on it kicking about. I think Ben Heason said he'd done it about 10 years ago too?

With the warm weather we realised it was going to be very grim trying something fairly long like Grand Master, so we bouldered out Humbug. It gets E4 7a in the guide, which is a funny grade, but it's a grade that explains it quite well. Dave swears blind that it has been chipped since we last went, but I can't remember for the life of me what the hold looked like before. It definitely looks very square and chiseled and it felt easier than doing it the undercut way, so I wouldn't be surprised.

The route/problem is good. It's a nice move and can be done with a mooch over to the left arete at font 7aish I think- i think I'm correct in saying that this is the way Richard Waterton did it?  I'm not sure what grade the direct/original is as the conditions were so bad today. It felt font 7a+/b, but I reckon it might feel more like font 6c+ if conditions were really good. Worth doing certainly and a good highball- the top's quite interesting! I can understand why the chap gave it english 7a when he did the FA if he undercutted it- that's really quite hard and just one move basically.
Trying Humbug as a youth

After this it cooled just a tad and we went over to a very warm Grand Master Flash.  I abed it to get that o-so-common scugdale dust off the holds and because I reckoned I needed a bit of an advantage in all this heat. The crucial crimp was rather sandy, so I was pretty chuffed that I did. Respect to Steve Ramsden for soloing it onsight after it hadn't been done for years.

Dave went first and looked like he was going to onsight it, but unfortunately slipped off fairly high up.  He then fell off the same point again and decided to ab down it to check the hold he was going for. Just after this I managed to flash it, which was pretty goey.

A nice picture of Cosy Corner at Ingleby I've just found
It starts off on a very steep wall on good holds. Technical sequences go through this to a crimpy rail. From here you enter the technical crux which is on a vertical wall, but your feet are still below the lip- so very much on your arms. You can get a bit sideways here and that allows you to reach through and get an OK hold. I fumbled my way through all that and was conscious of how high I was. Really rather scary. I managed to get through though and got to this sloping break. It's now quite slabby, but in the baking heat and now in the no-fall zone I got very gripped indeed. I'd definitely wait for a cool day if you want to go and do it, that wasn't fun. So I actually found the reach off the break the trad crux and it felt very much like E5 6b. I know RamMan thought it might be E4 6a, but I think he's just very strong (or it really was too hot). Three stars without a shadow of a doubt.

Dave then romped up the line once he had the same confidence in the holds that I had and we then warmed down on Monty's Leap, which is a really good eliminate.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Psycho Syndicate Ground Up

Top Move of Psycho (Betaguides)
I'd been up to the Wainstones last week with Dave to have a bash at a few things, one of which was Psycho Syndicate. Psycho is a rather hard line and I've had a fair few goes on it over the years. What I've never had though is a go at it when it's been clean. It's a sustained line and cleaning on route is rather hard. I abed off Dave today though and gave it a proper clean, which it really needed. It made such a difference that I did it first go today, which was excellent.
It's amazing what a difference a bit of a clean makes. Moves that I was wondering whether they were even possible felt fairly steady after a clean and it was actually enjoyable. I got some beta on my last blog post which I must thank Martin Parker and Richard Waterton for. Unfortunately it didn't seem to work for me, but I managed to get the mono undercut with my right and then get a good right foot up underneath me, so that I could layback off this and then build my left foot up and reach the small crimp below the top. I'm fairly confident this is the best sequence as it means that you don't have to pull on the horrible one finger thing. Perhaps I was just weary of doing that though as I'd ripped a tip at Danby a few days before? Who knows?
Footless Crowe E3 6b** (Betaguides)
Having a look at the main Overhang- will be pretty hard. (Lee R)
Great route and really quite knacky. I reckon it deserves a star or two and agree that it's about E5 6c. It should become a popular highball, it's really rather excellent. After this me, Lee and Dave went over and did some new routes above pads on Cold Moor/Mt. Vittoria North Buttress.

First up was a Tony Marr route that relied on some aid. Steve Crowe had already freed it with a sidepull in the adjacent route, but we reckoned it was worth doing without that. It offered a decent sharp dyno that was good. E2 6b?  Nice move. The E3 6b was almost identical, but a notch harder and its own line bridging up a scoop. A few boulder problems on the right were also good. If you turn up with 4 or more pads at Cold Moor North you can have a really good time at font 6b+-font 7a.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

The Magical Scoop Project At Highcliffe

Pretty Scoop
A big problem with moors climbing is how nice the rocks are. There's lots I want to do, but I always end up just manically cleaning things instead of actually climbing anything as all the unclimbed stuff looks so foreign and interesting- it sort of makes a good rest day activity anyway.

I was up at Highcliffe today and got back on the scoop near flange crack. It's fairly magical and a bit of an enigma. Brilliant climbing once you're stood up on the bottom of it, but getting there is either a desperate boulder problem into it or a desperate traverse onto it.  Hopefully this will get worked out, but it might end up being quite hard. There's plenty of chalk on it improving the conditions anyway now, so hopefully this could be one of the first routes in the new wave. Pretty exciting if it's possible.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Hasty Repeats- Ch-Ching (E6/7 6c), Peel Out (E5 6b)

Trying Alum Hinkes As A Wee Nipper
An interesting day up on Hasty Bank today. We started out at Raven's Scar, which is a brill crag. Our objective was the Monty classic Ch-Ching, which ascends the bottom half of the mega arete to the big ledge. From here you can either finish up Stratagem, which is a bit contrived, or just slink off to the right.

It got repeated by Steve Ramsden when he was active a couple of years ago and I think before that Richard Waterton had headpointed it too. Whether Steve's mate Andy Reeve climbed it ground up I can't remember, but it's only seen a handful of repeats in any case, so getting up it was a pretty exciting prospect.

It's routes like this and Esmerelda at Highcliffe (E7/8 6c) that I like to keep for the ground-up/onsight as there aren't many pre-existing routes at this grade about and even fewer people to climb get them done without headpointing. Steve's video of the route offered a bit of beta, so we set to work with pads. We had a big sea of them and Dave took a few fairly nasty falls off- one scraping down the block to the right, which looked really bad. Badly ripped trousers, a few huge gashes ect. It was fairly grim.

 It's the perfect route for a flash as you can see all the holds from a near-by block and this aided me in my flash. Dave had sorted out an energy-saving start to the line and then I managed to onsight through the section he had fallen off by crafty use of a heel. Watching back Steve's video and it appears he did it rather differently. I reckon the line is pretty good. It's a good boulder problem to a flat hold from which you can escape right fairly easily and then another move after this. Without this escape it would be 3 stars for sure and even with it, it's bloody brilliant. I reckon 2 stars.

The grade is tricky. It's not E7 6c for my money. It could be E6, but with pads these days and the general font 7c strength everyone has, it's going to be too soft even at E6 I think? I don't think there's a 6c move on it, or if there is, then the Parochial Dream and all those other highballs we've been doing recently are also 6c. Respect to Monty and Parker for doing it in the style they did (I imagine without pads) but if this ends up at E6, then a lot of other stuff is going to need re-grading.

After this we got beaten off the west face of the Needle. I know Richard and our chum Sam Dewhurst have done this, which mad us wonder whether the large snapped hold mark is from a good snapped hold. We only had a few goes, but it seemed pretty hard. We'll be back. Psycho Syndicate gave us some doubts too. No one seems to know where it goes. We did the start, which is about english 6c, but then up high the holds seem to run out. There are some utterly abysmal mono crimps, but no feet. Did it go left? I know Ingham was good, but I don't think he was that good- felt like it was going to be a very high-ball english 7a move, but it was very green... How odd moors climbing is.

We did manage Peel Out (E5 6b) though, which was grand.  A bit of a dark horse- looking a bit turd, but actually exceptionally fine climbing. It was effectively 2nd go ground up, but i had some goes on this about 3 years ago or something. It felt like it was going to be nails, but a little nifty foot sequence makes it feel rather steady. We wondered whether it was in fact 6a rather than 6b, but I think that was bordering on the realms of daft sand-bagging. A solid highball, or E4 6b without pads I reckon.

I also slayed an old nemesis too. I had tried to solo the unclimbed direct to Chop Yat Ridge some years ago, but found that it was rather committing. Today me and Dave both soloed it onsight, naming it Alum Hinkes. Named of course after the north east's premiere high-altitude mountaineer and watch-salesman. Alas we returned to find that our glorious HVS 5b was in fact already a route. Climbed last September by the formidable duo of Tony Marr and Mike Tooke. O well, you can't have 'em all. 

oo, and nearly forgot. Went to Garfit Quarry after that. It's really good- well worth a trip over from the Wainstones.  The 'E2' is best approached as a highball. We did everything there apart from a hard wall and it was all good stuff.

Monday, 30 July 2012

Shoulder Manipulation- Re-dislocation

Shoulders have got too big
climbing is all about trade-offs: Strength vs. Endurance; Sport fitness vs. Boldness; Style vs. getting things done etc. etc... One trade-off that I hadn't come across though is flexibility vs. strength. I aint no scientist me- far from it, I'm a bit of a fool when it come to all things-technical, but i reckon it has something to do with tendon elasticity and strength. You'd have to ask one of those new scientific-type chappies.

If you're plonking about on english 6b/6c moves, then you don't really need to worry about this. Perhaps you'd have to lift your leg a bit to do the odd move, or even gaston if you're really feeling expressive. A recent thing up at thorgill though needs you to come onto an undercut with a couple of fingers and then spin round on your shoulder. Last year I probably wouldn't have been able to get to the undercut, but I would have had no problem twisting my shoulder out of its socket to match the hold.

When I tried it this week though I just couldn't do it. Too many fibers, too many tendons, just too ripped. O dear... So now I'm training. I've got a wooden broom and am trying to do those weird twisting things that dislocate your shoulder. I'm pretty psyched for this route.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

New Highball Route At Thorgill

The boulder problem start is then followed by a bit of a traverse
 Back up to Thorgill today with Sophie and Dave. Sam Mark's info on the crag came in useful again and we climbed a nice new highball wall at E5 6cish after warming up on some of Mike Adams' excellent bouldering there. Nearly managed a direct on the E5, but that will have to wait.

Thorgill highball from Dave Warburton on Vimeo.

Dave working out slightly different beta

The direct revolves around intricate moves matching thumb under-spraggs
We used five pads to pad out the landing, which is not the best- pointy rocks etc. With the 5 pads it became fairly pleasant, with a totally safe technical crux start, then followed by a traverse that was pretty pumpy and on big pockets. I managed to fingure out a reachy sequence across this wall, which added another hard move, but made it a lot less pumpy. After this there is a really high rockover and more delicate climbing above. With the sea of pads it was all protectable apart from that last rockover, which would have been a nasty fall. The holds are big and positive though, so you'd probably not fall off. Without pads it would be serious.

 Grading is tricky as always. I found it fairly steady, but I was conscious I was reaching through a lot of moves that would be hard for shorties. Dave had a lot of trouble with the start move at 5 foot 11', which made it seem 6c, considering there really is nothing to be worried about falling off that move. E5 6b could be right. Without pads it could feel pretty out there, so who knows? Even the font grade is a tricky one, could be anywhere from font 6c to font 7b for the whole sequence. Good long set of boulder moves in any case.

I'm really rather keen to get up the direct. It's close to this line, but the moves are feeling really good, if not a bit agonisingly painful.

Monday, 23 July 2012

Classic New Testpiece Down On The Coast

We've been fairly busy recently; lots of abseiling, walking, top roping and swimming through various types of foliage. My legs are fairly knackered like! Most of the prospecting has returned either stuff that's a bit crap or stuff that's too hard. We bivied over on the coast Sunday evening, which allowed us to get two days solid new routing in.

Me and Dave Teamed up with Sam Marks and Mathew Ferrier to get the development going on Sunday, choosing the largely unclimbed crag of 'The Smuggler's Terrace' for an explore. A good day, lots got done. Sam and Mathew proved to be a formidable duo after a false start on an unclimbed arete that I was sure was only VS, but turned out to be E3. Next they climbed a classy bit of wall to the left of that arete at about HVS 5b, followed by a proud crack line joining Steven Phellp's route 'Aurora Crack' on Aurora Buttresses. This looked good and got a star or two, reaching a fair old height.

And they say there's nowt left worth doing?
 Me and Dave were slightly less productive, but did managed to climb a crack line to the right of Contraband Crack (HVS), which was utterly brilliant! I had a fair old battle onsight, and eventually slumped. This enabled me to clean the crux and after climbing, resting and cleaning the rest of the route I managed to strip and climb the route clean.

Dave Managed an impressive flash on my gear and then also re-lead it placing the gear. It's a fiddly route at the beginning, with small wires and RPs. After a tricky sequence you get into the crux, which is tricky again until you find some sinker nuts. It keeps going and a vague rest higher up lets you get a little back before the final rock over and reach, which would be fairly hard if you'd had to hang about figuring it out. Grades are tricky as usual. The crux is hard, requiring old-school flared hand jams and modern-style thin crimping. It'll be E5.  Utterly no doubt it gets three stars. It's like an E5 Mongol or Regent Street.

And on we go through the moors' corridor of classic-searching.
We then moved onto Stoupe Brow for today. I cleaned another incredible-looking crack, which will be a notch harder and shunted and cleaned a few projects. Dave and Sam climbed a new E2 arete, to the left of 'Best of Both' and then repeated Fire Dance on the bolts. I think they seemed to think this was E3 6b/ f6c+ with the bolts. Central crack got a repeat from Sam as well, who agreed with Dave that it was E3 6a. I still think it's alright at E2 5c, but we'll see what the fourth ascentionist thinks!

Friday, 20 July 2012

An Emotional Return To Danby Crag- A New Discovery

The future, or just a dream?
With the recent weather we hadn't risked a trip to Danby. It's north-facing and in trees, so one would think that it was a pretty crap choice when it's raining every day. Today though I was without transport and the sun was making an appearance, so chanced it. I say 'chanced it', but I've actually been at Danby after some atrocious weather and it always seems pretty dry and clena. I really don't understand it, perhaps it's something to do with the way it drains or is exposed to the wind, or perhaps crags actually just dry fairly quickly anyway round here...

Anyway, Luke Hunt was about and after sending me a text "Franco, I want to come repeat/downgrade your routes. Are you about?" I thought a good day was in store. We met above the Mono Wall project after we had walked from different directions. It's just about worth walking there, being about 4 tough miles, but hardly a great idea if you're wanting to climb much towards your limit.

After a quick brush, we warmed up by top roping my long-term project- the Mono Wall. A pretty moronic choice, with the start revolving around a series of poor monos up an overhanging wall. We didn't get injured, but we probably deserved to. After a good finger stretch I felt like I was making some progress. The crux mono feels really good now, and it doesn't seem such a massive move to catch the sloping pocket. Working on my dynoing has definitely helped a lot, along with general strength increases. The idea of linking the crux moves together, or even doing the crux move most of the time is pretty distant I think.

 A key issue with these routes with an extremely fine balance between feeling possible and insane is that they really need to be clean. Chalk is essential in killing off tiny bits of greenery that destroy friction and it takes a while to take effect. I've been mooching about on the Mono wall for about a year now and as a result, the infrequent chalking has really improved the condition of the holds. I really explored the monos today and managed to evict a family of woodlice from the back of the crux hold, which should help matters, but climbing hard routes in the moors is a long and drawn-out process.

After our warm up Luke wanted to get back on the 'Moose'. He had been on it yesterday and sorted a lot of it out. This is another route that is getting in better and better nick. After I led it three years ago, Steve Ramsden and then Dave tried it over the years, along with James Oakes. With Luke's recent efforts as well the route is really in perfect condition. As with the others, Luke raved about the quality, which is obviously really good to hear. He's fairly close I reckon, just needs a bit more time on it. If you fancy the second ascent though, now's the time to try!

Whilst Luke was sorting himself out on the Moose I had an ab down the crack to the left of a project we called 'The Impossible Arete'. I originally wanted to leave the crack for an ground-up project, but it's hairline and has mini ferns all the way up it. It really needed a clean and I wanted 'closure' on whether it was actually a decent line or not. It looked alright, but I soon realised that from a point at about mid-height, it was possible to span and leap to the Impossible arete. This really excited me as I knew from my unsuccessful efforts on the impossible arete that the top of the arete was the easier section.

We threw the top rope down this and got to work trying to figure out a sequence. It starts off with three metres of reasonable crack climbing, followed by a desperate flared finger-crack move of english 6c. From here you come into part of the crack that you can use as a side-pull; opposed with poor feet. This made the lunge possible that I had noticed on ab, before a technical foot sequence and then a horrendous move controlling a barn-door. Some small, solid gear is afforded by the crack, but I'm not quite sure how you'd place it, as you'd be in the middle of a 6c move- perhaps pegs? Once on the arete, you're grapling with more desperate moves that we didn't get round to sorting out. That top bit will be the crux and above a big lob.

I was very excited about this route as it is two things: 1) possible but hard; and 2) safe. Those two things are fairly rare in the moors, especially the latter. If the top move goes it will mean that four really rather hard moves will be possible to link right after one another. I suppose it's a bit like a safe 'Mono Wall', which is exactly the practice I need for the Mono Wall; a route which just makes me tremble really...

Moors Nuggets- A Few New Discoveries.

Moors Nuggets from Franco Cookson on Vimeo.

I'm back from Poland and have finished uploading this. I spent a while making it, but as usual the software messed up and hence I had to delete a couple of things. The FA of Physical Graffiti is therefore not on it, but there are a few other worth-while things to have a go at.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Ingleby Incline Prospecting- Physical Graffiti (E5 6c)

Mightly Thin Moves On An Unclimbed Line
Well, I'm well an truly done-in after today. Ingleby always promises a beasting and today was no exception. We were weighed down massively with gear and mats and arrived at a slightly damp crag in good, but exhausted spirits.

First off was the unclimbed direct start to Pepsi (HVS 5b). It's an obvious gap and looked like it might be alright, so off we tootled. I got high onsight, surprised by the difficult intricacies' quality and fairly gripped. We had a couple of mats, but the fall was untested and the hillside fairly steep. After the highly fingery start I ended up mid-wall, inching my way up higher on small crimps and poor feet. I popped out right to join Pepsi in its pocket, but it was slopey and damp: I retreated. I told Dave to watch me and then tried an alternative jump out left. The pocket looked the same and I didn't get it right- I was off. Down the hillside and the fall seemed alright, rather miffed to have fallen off what was probably the easier moves though. Dave then stepped forward and after a bit of trouble with the first start moves he was onto the crux. He looked a lot more composed than I felt and calmly repositioned his feet. A crucial foot stab in a pocket and he was reaching his way to glory and a sloping top-out. After quickly repeating Dave's line I turned my attentions to the arete to the left. This was fairly hard and extremely fingery. We didn't manage it. Fairly chuffed with our Pepsi direct though. It actually turned out to be an independent line and hence thought it deserved the name 'Pepsi Max'. It deserves a star, with a pleasant flake and intricacies up to english 6b. E2 we thought for the good landing.

A slab to the left then caught my eye and over we tootled. Dave wanted to save his tips, so I set about ascending first a bulge with a flake and a pocket (about font 6b and good) and then to the left of that an arete 'wonder' on two unique nubbins and some seriously poor feet. Font 6cish and 3 stars for the arete. I really thought that was perfect.

After a ham sandwich and a drink it was time to attack Hunter's Buttress. Home to the classic HVS 'Top Gun', it is also flanked to the left by the intimidating line of 'Love or Confusion' (E4 6b). Dave was keen for this and he quickly set out on lead after I abed and cleaned it. He romped up it with impressive ease (I had struggled with this a while ago) and got to the crux mantle. From here he really looked a bit flummoxed and slinked a metre right to finish. It's a shame this escape right is possible as it basically means the direct finish is slightly contrived. I seconded and managed the direct, with small crimps and a massive heel rockover. I felt the move I did was English 6c, but it could perhaps be properly mantled out at 6b. A big maybe though and the fall would be GRIM. The gear is alright, but it's well under your feet and it would be a scraper. Monty and Parker were strong climbers by all accounts, so I wouldn't be surprised if they did finish direct. Their grade of E4 6b is a bit laughable though if they did.

Trying Physical Graffiti As A Youth
After a quick ab down a more straightforward new route that should be alright, I turned my attentions to a long term project of mine. The 'Physical Graffiti' wall as I named it at the time was always something I couldn't do at all. I had always tried it ground up and had always ended up rolling down the hill. It is effectively a boulder problem up this wall, that just about manages to not be eliminate. It was always the sort of thing I didn't really think I could do as it was just so hard. Today I got Dave to ab and clean it and this obviously (along with vast increases in strength) made all the difference. It still took a fair few goes, but eventually I latched the small finger pocket. From here I was totally onsight and on unclimbed ground. A match, re-arrangement of feet and a span to a sloper then led to a very happy top out. It's the happiest I've been for a while really. No stars of course, but a good set of moves, with a brilliant micro thumb-press on the crux. Just my style and really nice. Grade? E5 6c I reckon, perhaps even E4 6c.  About font 7bish, perhaps harder if you're small.

After another sandwich and finishing off the drink it was on with more fun. Dave wanted to lead Time Captain, but it was a bit damp so he set out on 'Elise's Eliminate' (E3 5c). It was a bit lichenous, so I went on cleaning duty again, using the opportunity to check out a wild unclimbed line through a roof. The hard bit was on the lip of this roof, which seemed another Ingleby razor route with no feet. English 7a for my money, but after breaking a foothold and thence mangling my hands behind the rope I didn't really try it.

Dave lead Elise's and I was happy to second. I missed a crucial hold whilst cleaning, so he ended up using the old Moors lichen strength before romping to the top. I was pretty tired and without chalk at this point and only just scraped the onsight second- fairly happy with that one ;). A few more abs and some speculation about an airy right-hand finish to Time Captain completed a fairly busy day. That last one is going to be a right line!

Videos and Pictures to come.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Camp Hill Project And A New Buttress- Freyr's Nab

The Project Climbs past the wavey wall right and above the fat bit of the lower break.
With rain a-forecast once more, into the safe hand of Camp Hill we bewandered. As a crag we knew exceptionally well, with each crinkled feature intricately explored long ago, we knew the only line left unclimbed is that wall left of Waves Within.

'The Waves' is a classic, put up by Steve Brown and Dave Pall in '79, it tackles the left side of an arch to a sloping blind break. The crux then follows with not much gear before a high rockover. Mine and Dave's objective today was the wall to the left. The expanse is plenty enough for a route, with several poor features between the first two breaks and some slightly larger holds between the 2nd and 3rd breaks.

A relaxed top rope made for a pleasant afternoon, with this style of approach becoming a lazy habit and fairly necessary for maintaining fingertips when climbing all the time. I find starting from the top and looking at all the holds very closely, feeling the positions and seeing how I can get to the hold is vital in not wildly jumping in ignorance and catching something wrong. These little things are what makes a wise activist I reckon...

Anyway.... The route itself is OK. For a brief moment I thought it was going to be really good and also really hard. Unfortunately the first sequence is relatively unnecessary. It's the classic problem with these sort of 'between the cracks' type of routes. There are several possible lines all the way up it. The best would be an almost impossible sequence left of the waves on absolutely minuscule holds. The next best would be an undercut and dyno sequence past a pea-pod, which is hard English 6c and the worst is climbing to the left of that, past a crimp, not so far away from the HVS to the left. The latter would be 6b.

 This starting move is at a height protectable with lots of boulder mats, albeit with a poor landing. This means that the creation of a route with a bit of an eliminate nature is more likely to be accepted. Perhaps there could be a few variations, with the 6c pea-pod one being the more common. The impossible/very hard thing on the right also has the worst fall, so that could be interesting.

We unlocked the central wall with use of a heel toe and a couple of knee bars, before the jump. It's fairly interesting how intricate the sequence became. I think in general our ability to interpret the rock is getting to a new level- it certainly seemed that way up at Roseberry the other day. These little steps and improvements is what is going to make the harder things in the moors possible me thinks- that and incredible amounts of core strength. I'm really looking forward to unleashing this wall on lead, it's going to feel so wild compared to top roping, despite being a little defined.

Once the 2nd (or mid) break is reached it becomes a bit less eliminate, you rock rightwards, pull on a small hold and then layback up a vague and blind flake feature. This is most excellent and English 6b. As a whole the route will end up E5 6c I reckon, with the right-hand thing being E7 7a or something. It's worth doing, especially for locals, but no stars I don't think, despite the super rock and moves.

It then absolutely down-poured, so we went crag hunting. There's been a lot of talk of a buttress on the opposite side of the tabletop hill Danby Crag inhabits for some time. It was most recently mentioned to us by John Price at the CMC meet last Tuesday and we thought it was about time we actually went.

We parked up and found a path, Dave reckoned there was no point taking rock boots, so we just wandered up. At first it looked like Park Nab and we got rather excited, but it then became clear it was a highball venue. What highballs though! We soloed a wall we reckoned to be about HVS 5b on the left, which was fun in wellies and then went about having a look at the other things.  A couple will need rock shoes and probably some pads, in particular an arete that will be a classic for certain- A sort of picturesque and independent Lion King on nicer rock. The rock generally was tip-top and it would be nice to return with a few people to develop the stuff. There are about 5 lines that will be V Diff- VS and a couple of other things.

 It's not a major find, but certainly worth visiting and it's only about 5 mins to walk in. I could see it becoming very popular for an evening solo.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Roseberry Topping Bouldering And A New E4 6a

Great Moves
The chance of finding something dry looked fairly remote yesterday, so we went for the most wind-swept sun trap in the moors- Roseberry. The hill of Odinsberg also gets minimal seepage, so it's a fair shout if one is cursed by wet weather. It turned out to be a fair choice, even though it was a totally still day.

The Wall font 7b+
Shelf one-handed
With Sam Marks joining me, Dave and Soph today, we got to work on some of Mike Adams' additions to the boulders bellow the face- repeating a pleasant font 7a+ arete, the sit to something we had done before and the wall to the right of the shelf that gets font7b+.  The sun then came out, which was surprising and conditions then deteriorated very quickly. This meant it was time to do some routes.

Dave Leading his unnamed route
We got to work cleaning a wall which we had had our eye on for a while. After some inspection and a lot of choss-removal we got it into a decent state for the lead. A highball wall then leads to a move not really at a highball height. Gear then follows in poor rock, before a traverse right on pockets, better gear and a high rock-overing topout. We all thought it was well worth doing, but fairly serious. The slightly snappy sections of rock stop it getting any stars, but could be a pleasant top rope for anyone fancying a testing outing in safety.

A pleasant day and I was impressed by the quality of the harder problems at Roseberry. Someone has been brushing the Mike's problems viscously though. If you go to repeat these lines, please only use nylon brushes and don't brush too hard- some of the problems are permanently damaged.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Thor's Axe E3 5c**

The Piercing Thorgill Arete- the Direct Start. - Photo: Sophie R
In the land of rain, it was back to shower dodging today. The showers were intermittent (as always) and the odd blast from the sun, when clouds a-parted, made for odd conditions. Sam Marks had done a fine job of sending us some pictures of Thorgill when he went to check out the place last month, with some of the pictures hinting at a real bag of potential.

So it was with excitement that we tootled along along the railway from blakey: full pace and accompanied by Miss Sophie from Germany.

Poorly dressed for the occasion, with flip-flops and no stick, we soon cursed having parked so far away, but the walk was still pleasant.

After passing an impressive hole (a 19th century iron mine apparently), we happened upon the crag. A bit tired, we feasted upon a sandwich before marveling at the wonders of Thorgill. I had previously slagged off the place, which makes me wonder if I had indeed been to the correct bit of crag. Who knows? But it looked quite nice anyway.

With surprising dryness, we had free choice of all the crag's outings. There were a large number of obvious new routes, with one axe-shaped arete looking extremely promising. Dave got to work cleaning that, whilst I fought with a holly bush to try and find a belay above a hard-looking wall. After first abing off Dave, then climbing a gully of reeds, I eventually managed to half-abseil down the line. It looked alright, but I couldn't really shunt it- even with some daft aid tactics.

Dave leading his left-hand start- more sustained and serious. Photo: Sophie R
So I retreated and looked at a wall to the right. That looked like it would offer a just-about highballable route of about E2 5c/6a- E5 6b if you ignore the arete on the right. With ignoring the arete it would have a real great final move. All rather eliminate and average though.

Dave was ready for his lead now anyway. He racked up and set off, placing a thread round a suspect block. The upper arete is plagued by a choss band at the bottom. It's not proper choss, but this sort of band of square sandstone blocks that look like they could fall off. Most seemed pretty solid, but the odd one did break off. This will get better with a bit of traffic, but it's not a massive deal anyway, with only the first move being affected and very easy anyway.
Third Crux
Dave hadn't practiced the moves and seemed to have a bit of a battle with the crux, looking rather confused on the topout. With that done, it was on with the right-hand start. I'd had a look across at it when seconding Dave, feeling the holds that I thought I'd use, but on lead I ended up just reaching straight into Dave's line and onto the arete.

This was better-protected than Dave's left-hand start, but perhaps with less pleasant climbing. Very similar lines anyway, with mine being easier because you get better gear earlier on. I fear that the Left-hand will one day become obsolete, with a serious move in from the left that is seemingly unnecessary. I tried to persuade Dave that it would be better to have two separate routes, so the interesting start sequence on his was not lost into the dark depths of forgotten variations. He rightfully said it was all hog-wash and they were both the same route. Fair enough like... So there we have it- one fine line with variation possible at the start- have a look at Dave's too if you go to do it, they're both nice.
We thought it better even that the Jungle Drum, with a long pitch and two or three sequences of difficult climbing- depending on which line you choose. My grading is well out at the moment, with the moves feeling very easy, but getting utterly terrified. Dave seems a lot more steady and happy leading above dubious threads, so his grade of E3 5c might be about right. He's on good form though. Certainly 2 stars though, only the poor band at the start detracting. If you turn up with a positive attitude and experience-enough to not be put off by the start, it will feel utterly brilliant. Certainly worth the long drive from the north for anyone in the area. There'll be a few more things here soon too me thinks.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Back In The Moors

'New' routes at a quarry on Castleton Rigg. Brown Hill Quarry/Sammy's Spring Quarry from Dave Warburton on Vimeo.

I'm finally back in the UK and the Moors! I've been really looking forward to getting back for months now and I've got so many plans and ambitions it's hard to know where to start. It was odd stepping off the plane in Manchester to be greeted by 15 deg. rain instead of 35 deg. sun, but it was a welcome change and Manchester was amazing.

There was certainly a focus on the Moors though in my mind and after a few hours back I made my way home.  First passing the guarding cliffs of Whitestone; then past Beacon Scar; and then Highcliffe Nab. I was getting really excited. It's such a great place to come home to- wild weather, bleak landscapes and all that. Most pleasant.

The weather has remained pretty bad the past couple of days, managing to just about stay OK on Tuesday for the Cleveland MC meet and a bit of new route prospecting early morning. We climbed 3 new routes at a new venue just east of Castleton Rigg quarry.

The walls don't offer that much. There are a couple of V diff type things on the right, which are clean and interesting and a couple of slightly more tricky cracks on the extreme left. The main event is the central wall though which, whilst not reaching a colossal height, does offer some very good highballs. The top is pretty chossy, which is a bit sad as there are three variations up the main wall which are alright.

I particularly enjoyed the central wall direct, which is about E3 6b and requires a good bit of technique and strength. It's sequences like this that make me happy I've made a few strength gains, with a lot of very strong body position holds. I'm not even going to guess at a grade as I haven't climbed anything for so long. A strong-at-the-moment Dooge suggested font 6c, which it could be. I'd expect to be getting a font 6c 1st, rather than 3rd go at the moment, but perhaps I need some readjusting to the sandstone?

It's all very un-rushed at the moment, getting used to the rock again and checking out what's left to do. Grades are going to remain very approximate I think, with rejigging at the end of the summer and all that. My technique is all over the place though and I'm getting pumped and terrified after 5 metres- need to work on this...

The forecast does not look good for the coming week. We'll get somewhere though. The unclimbed Camp Hill main wall dries quicker than a shaking badger. So that's always worth a bash if all else fails.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

"The Apprenticeship"

Some traditional Seconding at Highliffe
The North York Moors is a bit of a time warp, with a hugely active local climbing club, the nearest climbing wall 40 miles away and generally pretty archaic ethics. As a result it's a pretty special place to learn to climb.

I was first introduced to the idea of a climbing 'apprenticeship' by Luke Hunt and his dad Mike.  Luke had obviously had a good grounding on the crags, with a traditional approach being promoted from his dad.  At the time a few of my friends of the same age had also taken the step from wreckless adventure soloing in trainers, to an attempt to find some form of organised climbing. Vague bits of info on ropework, the odd grandparent-bought book on technique and perhaps the discovery of an old issue of 'Climb' somewhere would act as hints that we were not the only people who climbed in the world.
"Pushing the boat out" as a youth

So when we met with Luke, and later Ian Jackson and Rob Askew, it was really rather bizarre. We didn't really want to let on that we knew very little about anything, but what we did find amazing was that these people, only a little older than us, had such a good grounding. The Guisborough lads had benefited hugely from the wisdom of the school teacher Chris Woodall and they too spoke of 'the apprenticeship'.

The problem for us was that we were 16- we didn't like to accept help from those 18 year-olds who were better than us. And our parents, whilst very generous with lifts and huge enthusiasts of walking in the Lakes, knew very little about climbing. So we suffered a fair bit!

I was reminded of the idea of the "moors apprenticeship" my Sam Marks, who seems to be one of a breed of youth that is expanding in number these days- the wise youth (perhaps a recession-based need to adapt?). Anyway... He loved the idea that older climbers showed younger climbers their knowledge and tried to give them tips on how not to come a-cropper.  Needless to say that Sam's willingness to embrace this relationship will no-doubt help his climbing 'no-end'.
The wise youth having a crack at Mane Vision
So it's an interesting one; I'm sure this occurs in other areas as well, but mixed with the retrophilic ethics of the moors, the system really appears like a time-warp. Of course the 10 year-long apprenticeships of old are extremely different to the quasi-apprenticeships alive in the Moors today, with bouldering and new training ideas quickly percolating through the thin protective shell of the Moors time capsule. Who knows how things will progress, but with the rise of university clubs and climbing walls, they are bound to become pretty rare.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Exploring The Bavarian Forest

Trip two to the bavarian forest- this time for some bouldering. The weather was pretty bad, but we managed to climb around 25 boulder problems (mostly new) at the esoteric venue of 'Pirka'. This wooded paradise lies a little east of Viechtach (my chum Toby's hometown) and offers a fair few problems that can be climbed in the rain.
The 'AngloBär Block'
 Toby managed to link his mega-long project after a lot of time perfecting the hugely complex beta. There were a few other problems on this block and then others scattered all over the forest. Of particular interest is the unclimbed sit start to a crimp horror-show, that will be really hard. One to go back to one day- really inspiring. 
We didn't get that many photos as we were too busy climbing- but above is me trying a project that will be about font 7c/+. Couldn't do the crux at all- need to get stronger!
Moss FAs in the Rain (circa font 6c+)

Monday, 7 May 2012

A Couple of Days in the Bavarian Forest

My fellow lodger here in Innsbruck is from the east of Bavaria, a region called Niederbayern (lower Bavaria). He was enthusing about the climbing in his home region, so we decided to pay the area a visit. I was expecting a place very similar to the moors- esoteric and with a few good lines, but a lot of dross.

 It turned out that the area is actually pretty bare of rock, or climbable rock in any case, but the few crags that do exist are superb. I'd go as far to say that the first route I climbed there 'Schwein Im Weltraum' (pig in space) (f6a) was one of the best routes i've ever done. It was so good I led it twice! I was even tempted to solo it, but decided that some of the moves may not be a good plan.

The harder routes were nearly as good- at least matching up to general european sport climbing standards and on some brilliant Gneiss and Schist. I've only climbed on high-grade metamorphics twice before- once near Chamonix and once in the outer Hebrides, but I'd say that the rock here trumped either of them. It often looks rather brittle, but unlike the Hebrides these crags appear to get a reasonable amount of traffic, so you can be fairly confident holds aren't going to break on you.

Demonstrating my appalling overhang-technique on some steep and slopey F7b. This is not representative of the area, with only a couple of bolts of interest and a bit of a crap line- alas twas the only thing we filmed, as Toby's sister Susi brought a camera one day. I need to re-learn how to clip too...

My only qualm was the bolting, which was fairly moronic in places. There were a fair few moments when I was a bit scared- sometimes (as with the video above) it was my fault for clipping in silly places (oh, the errors of the inexperienced sport climber), but most of the time it was evidently first ascentionists wanting to use as few bolts as possible. It wasn't rare to be soloing 4-8 metres to the first bolt...

We were having a relaxed few days, so nothing too stressful, but we did get on about 8 routes from F7a-F7c+, with only one fall the whole trip (on the F7c+). I'd love to get back there and try the F8as and the other great-looking mid 7s.