Monday, 9 December 2013

Keeping An Eye On The Prize - The Future Of The Moors

What is the prize? - A stonking line is one sort of prize. There are two types of new routes: the hedonistic and the scarring.

The former type is pictured above. A place where you can switch off, enjoy the rock and moves before and after the ascent; with embellishment and recreation occurring in the mind, moulding the experience.

The latter type is something that just scares you: before, after and (most importantly) during the ascent. These are the lines that hang like a carrot nudging you along to improve and to covet. They drive you a bit crazy, sequences spin in the head.

The hedonistic type of route can still be scary, with "fluffable moves" in dangerous settings. They're a bit easier than your max bouldering capabilities, but in a setting where you're really jiggered if you mess it up.

In the other world lies a place where the rawness of the experience has had a lasting, deranging effect on the being. If we assume that hard outcrop climbing is always going to be dangerous, then the main variable that affects the difficulty of the overall route is the difficulty of the moves themselves.  In this land beyond the bubble, the difficulty is at it's highest: as hard as you can boulder. Here the carrot helps again. You might even be able to climb harder moves than you can on boulder problems, due to being stoked off your face.
Beautiful Blank Wall
So where does that leave us? We need carrots. We need those routes that inspire us and are at the perfect level of difficulty: just possible. People have often talked about routes that are 'just possible', but what they meant were routes that were 'just possible for soloing'.  The new wave does not discriminate between maximums on boulders and maximums soloing. If you can do the moves, you can take the chance.

So when you're away, thinking about the Moors and the next step, you need a route. I don't really have one at the moment. The Mono Wall turned out not to be that hard, even without the protection.  H9, H10 maybe, but the moves were not at the total limit. The bubble had started to dissolve, but it wasn't corroded enough to spot all the answers we need.
Right now in the Moors is a very exciting time for those who like to get agitated about numbers.  There'll certainly be loads of E7s, 8s and 9s in the next few years. But for those who are really interested in the new wave, there needs to be a new carrot born; a notch harder than Psykovsky's Sequins. It's at this point that the hedonistic may help: a bit of therapy with some pleasant E8 plods to have another explore, another think, about what the next step in the Moors could be.

Friday, 18 October 2013

90% Of The Moors Is In Your Mind. BEYOND THE BUBBLE.

Perhaps the Moors is the mind - they sure have a lot in common. Boundless possibilities, dark corners scarcely fathomable, A scape where all can be invented... To most, climbing is just that - climbing. A sport, riddled with facets and nuances, but still just a sport.

In my time in Germany I've come across the refined nugual at the centre of this idea. Climbing here is schick, people wear bright stylish trousers and have shiny gear. The idea is a singularity, with different strands, but all of them leading in the same dimension - difficulty lies in the moves and them alone. The brain is an unfortunate parasite that must be subdued, so that 'performance' can be maximised. How terrible!

The UK is going a little this way, which is kind of necessary for the NU WAVE (to get the strength in there ya know..), but I believe we've actually chanced on a cocktail that's gonna blast us straight through to enlightenment.

At this point you may be starting to think 'what the hell is he on about', perhaps you just think I'm being weird to build some kind of crappy reputation in the British climbing scene, but no, listen to the words, they make sense.

The North York Moors is the very essence of British climbing. Short routes, ultra bold, totally weird, a bit crap and massively sequency.  There is no climbing wall, there are no sport routes, there are hardly any climbers. Some of this stuff is pretty crap for the future (particularly the climbing wall), but people move and the interaction between this time warp of the insane and mainstream sport-side is gonna produce a mutant.

You might now be thinking 'this has already happened' - look at Dave Macleod, he's taken F9a fitness to trad routes. Sort of true I suppose, but then you have to ask the question 'just quite how insane is Dave Macleod?' The answer is... Not very! He stays in 'the bubble'. The bubble is that fabled climbing state in which the climber is flowing through moves, so well rehearsed and dialed, that he can 'switch off', escaping his brain. Sometimes the bubble pops and this is largely interpreted as a mistake.

The NU WAVE forms though and we're seeing people like Nathan Lee talking about 'the bubble' slightly differently. See video from Guy:
Unknown Stones, E9 from Guy Van Greuning on Vimeo.

BEYOND THE BUBBLE is a concept based on the idea that you can't be in the bubble if you're really pushing yourself to the limit. Gone are the days where you toproped a 6c move 300 times until it felt like lobbin ya dog a stick. Now it's raw, roar, roar. This happened on Psykovsky's Sequins. Push yourself past calculation, that's what the NU WAVE is about - the start of the Megatrad. Thinking about the move en route, en move. This is of course really scary, as you can't hide behind your body - the mind is at the front.

Hopefully someone who is actually good at climbing will see this and bring us into outcrop H11.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The Kepwick Groove Is Climbed - E8 7a - 'Gold'

Richard on the scrittly 7a crux (Photo: Jo Banner)
I always say that I don't mind who climbs routes in the Moors, as long as they just get climbed. It's easy to say that, but it's difficult to control the envy when you're stuck in Munich, training for the Wangledoodle Wall for the next few months, whilst Richard Waterton is waltzing his way up classic Moorland last great problems. But yes, I'm fairly ecstactic that this thing has been climbed. I mean wow! The Kepwick Groove!

The wall is scary. It's small of course (big for the Moors, at about 10-12 metres), but it's fairly overwhelming when you first see it and if your gear rips, you're gonna die. To know it's now been climbed is really cool. It's like another addition to the small Moors family of routes above E6 and a good one at that.

This is the start of 'Gold', combined with the left-hand finish. (E8ish, with one skyhook for gear)

Link of the Kepwick Groove from Dave Warburton on Vimeo.

He climbed it with side-runners, which actually fit quite well with the route. I'm not one to support side-runners, but if ever side-runners made sense, it's here. Of course the potential there to climb the line without the side-runners is appealing, but we'll have to see what happens. I think the left-hand with just the skyhook would be a good outing at about E8 6c, but the right-hand is proper deathy. Perhaps it would be a good project when I live outside of the Moors, as its so far away from Castleton, whilst being very approachable from the south.

Let's hope it's the start of a load of new routes from Richard.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

NY Moors Trad Report - Summer 2013

Good Rock
And as the lost chalk balls begin to rot and bemushen themselves in the soggy soil of the forgotten corners of the Moors, we look back at what pieces of rock gave themselves to be ravaged by moorland developers.
Sunny Stoupe and its massive pottential

The numbers of people climbing on the Moors increase. The desperate hands clasp in greater numbers. So what happened this year?
I can still feel the cold in this picture. Spring ey, feels long ago..
After a spring of the usual boudlering discoveries, Sam Marks kicked off the new routes with some bilge additions to Duck Crag in April. Duck was discovered last year by Marks and his team of southern Moorers and they've been gradually working things out down there. After this development sloped off, with more bouldering, injuries and everyone being a bit busy.
New routing at its best - onsight on Stuck In The Sky (E7 6c**)
It wasn't untill the end of June really that things started to happen on the trad front. Rare things got repeated, like the Tarn Hole classic 'A reach too far', 'Chocolate Moose' at Danby and 'Rock Bottom' at Raven's Scar. Mixed in with these were a couple of new routes like 'The Breaking Wheel' (E5 6c) and 'Five Years On' (E4 7a). Whilst these were effectively glorified boulder problems, it was an important phase in the Moors, with this style of hard and safe being a rare thing.

It was then that Pyskovsky's sequins was climbed, bringing Danby once again to national attentions. People are getting more and more interested in Danby, but it's still yet to really see a lot of visits. It doesn't even look like it's going to be that long until it's fully worked out with about another 10 lines between E5 and H11. Exciting stuff! The handful of stuff at the lower end of this range didn't quite get climbed, which was a little disappointing and surprising.
New Moves, Ferrier flys high.

Straight after this was the flirtation with the coast. It was almost as if all the pain of the Moors had to be compensated for by a trip to the seaside. A few things got climbed, which has helped to further establish the coast as a prime resort for the mid-extreme climber. Panda to the Masses (E6 6c) was a particular gem, born out of a rock structure that looked a bit naff. Surprises like this are really pleasant.

After the recoup it was back into the heart of the Moors, with Tranmire exploding in a maze of opportunity. New lines on brill rock bubbled up left, right and centre, giving that spectacular climax that so often happens towardes the end of the Moors season.
Nothing Changes
After my own departure, things have continued to evolve. Ferrier, Warburton and Marks have been racing around the high dales finding new crags. Rock that looks superb!
It's become a cliche now, but oway, how did I never find this?
Another ascent worth mentioning is Steve Ramsden's recent addition to Stoupe Brow. His route 'Ram-Raid' takes the proud central scoop of Walrus Buttress, with runners in Central crack. Oft-eyed and a bit of a cracker at E6 6c.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Gear Review: OMM Jirishanca 35

The Last Thing I Stepped On Before Psykovsky's Sequins
The Original Mountain Marathon is a company whose heritage is based in ultra-lightweight running. Their bags are well-known for being good for running, but recently they've been developing a bag designed for climbers. The Jirishanca is 35 litres and according to the spiel "carries skis for ski touring, is tough enough for the ice routes and cleans off for rock routes in summer. Yet it’s just big enough to do short weekend Ultra light backpacking trips and light enough to do the OMM in October".

Well I gave it a proper good testing, smashing it around on the North York Moors, The Frankenjura and a few other places. Number one point is: It's tough, really tough. It's made out of this dynema fabric, which basically means that you can use it as a haul-bag for quite a while before it breaks. I reckon I shunted about 40 times with it, each for about an hour or more and there isn't a single bit of damage.  The only bit that is weak is a small orange toggle used for attaching ice axes. I managed to pull one of these off of another bag, but I think they've improved the strength of these since.
The Jirishanca Fully Loaded Up
Carrying weight? Average. It's a lightweight bag, made for carrying light-weight things. I found it quite uncomfortable when loaded with gear, a boulder mat and a sledge hammer. I think you want to keep the weight below about 10-15kg and it will be alright, but otherwise it's not too good. I found it really comfortable when using it with small weights. A small rope, water, harness and a bit of gear really felt like nothing. I always thought the weight of a bag made very little difference to the feel of it, but this bag showed me that that was obviously wrong.  I forgot it was on a lot of the time - it only weighs 670 grams...

This brings me onto the stability of the bag. It's ludicrous. I did a lot of running, cycling and walking with it and it's without a doubt the most stable bag I've ever used. OMM have developed some strange yolk system designed for running, that actually works very well for basically any high-activity sport. It's brilliant for climbing. As you often have a partially empty bag when climbing, it's necessary to be able to compress it right up and for the bag to not feel like it's flopping around. This did that well Quite impressed there.

Now to the negatives. There's no rope-holding strap. This is daft on a climbing bag and when the bag is not fully loaded, carrying a rope is annoying. Similarly, the whole concept of 'lean-weight' means that the bag has no compression straps or basically anything for gear to be attached to. I'm lead to believe that when you buy the bag, then you get a set of elastic and toggles to customise it yourself and there are copious attachment points there already. They leave it like this so that the OMM-produced MSC can be attached, that compresses and enables a helmet to be attached to the exterior.  I'm not sure if I'm convinced by this. I like the idea that I can have a completely stripped-down bag to use, but I also like a built-in compression strap here and there. Maybe I just need to get with the times?
Looking For Boulders
What's really great about this bag then? Well, there are a few things. The easy-access pockets for water bottles are great. I used these a lot and I think people will like that. Other bags have exterior pockets for water bottles, but these are highly accessible. It doesn't matter if you're not running an ultra, sometimes you just want a drink without taking off your pack. It also means that a bottle doesn't have to be shoved in your bag. I thought this was great. Similarly the OMM-style zip pocket on the waist belt. Great for keys and nuggets of food - you could probably get away with just one, rather than two, though.

Another ingenious design is the opening system, it's bloody fantastic. You'd think that quick-release opening would be a needless faff, but it actually works really well, especially when on a cliff when you don't want to open your bag fully for everything to drop out. For shunting and multi-pitching this is a great feature. 

As touched on before, the back system is lightweight, but nevertheless integrates a small sleeping mat, that would be an absolute bonus for alpine climbing. It's not a thermarest, but it certainly would make a massive difference in an epic or in alpine climbing.

Verdict? A bag full of ideas and tough as nails. You can see that the guys producing this really care about making a clever bag. Some of the inventions are questionable and it's down to personal preference a lot of the time whether you'll like them, but some of the ideas are just down-right brilliant. It's so adaptable that it doesn't actually matter if you don't like a feature, you can just chop it off and change it.

Gear Review: The Alpine Up

Now and then people give me bits of gear to test. I climb quite a lot, so it gets a good bit of abuse. The chaps at CT climbing gave me their new belay plate at ISPO 2013 back in winter and since then I've messed about with it. My verdict in short: a great plate that does everything and is going to revolutionise certain styles of climbing, but is a bit on the pricey side.
In long:

What it does: Imagine a black diamond guide mixed with a gri-gri, and that's effectively the alpine up! It's an 'assisted'-locking plate with no moving parts. It works on double as well as single ropes, although it can't really be used on fat singles (more than 10.5mm), as feeding rope out becomes really hard. As an auto-locking double rope device, it's a pretty rare thing, similar to the Mammut Smart alpine, but with a few subtle differences.

It works in guide-plate mode, for bringing up seconds hands-free. It auto-locks on abseil, eliminating the need for prussics. It works like a gri-gri, with automatically locking on a single rope. Although they don't recommend this use, it locks up on double rope lead belaying, meaning you can run back hands free if the climber is going to deck out otherwise. It also has a setting for traditional non-locking belaying, which is far smoother than a normal plate, as the plate stays in one place, rather than bobbing up and down on the carabiner. This is best used when someone's leading something on shite gear when dynamic belaying is a must. In my eyes, this is the best plate in the world for this.

So, as you can see, it's pretty damn complicated. This is draw-back number one. You really need to get used to this plate, it's not the sort of thing you'd give your kid and let them go off climbing with it. There's no way that you could set it up dangerously I don't think, but even so, you want to know what you're doing with it.

Draw-back number two is the cost. You'll be lucky to get it for under £70, which is a stack of cash for a belay plate. With this you do get a free carabiner, which is essential for the plate (other crabs don't work so well with it. Even so, it's £30 more than it's competitor the Mammut smart alpine.  So, the real question is, is it better? The short answer is yes. It's a better shape and does more stuff better, crucially taking a broader-range of ropes, thus being usable for sport redpointing as well as alpine climbing. This could easily be your only belay plate, which would save you money.

There's a question whether either of these modern plates are really necessary however, considering the weight. Yes, they remove prussics and the associated faff when alpine climbing, but they're also a lot heavier and bulkier than a normal plate. You can now eat your cake whilst you lead belay, but you have to decide for yourself whether these plates are worth taking for that privilege.

Is it better than a gri-gri? Definitely. The Gri-Gri is heavier, requires a thumb on it to stop the locking mechanism from deploying  and only works on single ropes. The Alpine Up works just like a normal belay device, meaning the traditional and potentially dangerous practices associated with a Gri-Gri are not required.

The reason I really love this plate we'll come to now: trad headpoints. Some may have seen how belay devices effected the perceived grade of 'the Groove' at Cratcliffe. An auto-locking plate meant that the fall was safe. That was with a Gri-Gri on a single rope - imagine the same situation but on halves. With that you're going to get the same quick take-in rate, but with added equalisation. This is almost an accidental design from the guys at CT, but it's going to really change a few routes.

So, there we go: The Alpine Up. A great piece of kit, ingeniously designed and very useful when used properly.

Here's a more lengthy video if you want to see it in action:

Monday, 26 August 2013

Video: Solo Exploration In The North York Moors

Solo Exploration In The North York Moors from Franco Cookson on Vimeo.

A typical day out exploring the Moors by myself.
Routes include:
The Golden Nugget (font 6b) (new venue)
Spawn Of The Hunt (E5 5c) (new route)
Unnamed Prow (font 6b+) (new venue)

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

New E5-E7s Flashed at Tranmire

Flashing 'Stuck In The Sky' (E7 6c**)
Hard slabs in the Moors are pretty rare. One of the few places that offers potential for them is Tranmire - a nice crag, with a beautifully-crafted central amphitheatre offering piles of lovely lines between Mod and HVS. What's unusual about the place is the way that pleasant plods are positioned right next to totally blank-looking desperates. It makes for a good venue with a mixed party, which is exactly what we had.

A friend from Sheffield came up for the day and wanted to sample Moors climbing at HVS and below. We had a sunny day for it, which made for a nice time on the classics. In addition to this, a huge amount of new routes got climbed.  Matt Ferrier and Sam Marks were on form, first climbing a new E1 5b* in the central bay, before tackling an oft-eyed arete that went at E3 6a**.  The former is an interesting wall protected by a small thread and cam, demanding a large span, or utterly desperate intricacies.  The latter was a well-protected arete that just seemed to keep going a bit too long. A few falls were had on that.

These all looked like real good fun, but the lads quickly moved onto try a new slab to the left. Sam managed to effectively onsight it, with just a little bit of info on which holds were good (I'd cleaned it). Ferrier got o so close as well, but ended up taking a pretty serious fall down the slab. Unscathed and still keen for another battle! They called it Swift-Tuttle, after the recent meteor activity. I had thought this line would be E6 6a/b, but they seemed happy with the gear.. Interesting one anyway, and substantially harder for the short.
Sam Onsight, On The First Ascent Of  'Swift Tuttle' E5 6b**
Electric Moon (E5 6a*)
In the meantime I had quickly shunted and soloed another bold E5. I should have really tried it ground up, but it had no gear and I wanted to get some other stuff done.  It starts out very pleasantly, before a double layback move leads to some crimps. From here you just move around a bit and get some quite big and negative holds, a high foot and onto the top. Very good climbing, albeit a bit short and serious.
Matt going for the FA of  'Parseids' E3 6a**
Eventually I got on a line I'd cleaned the other day. It makes a tricky move onto a large shelf, before a step up allows some suspect gear to be placed. It's a sideways nut and 00 cam in a less than ideal pocket, but seemed pretty bomber. From here you blast up to a terrible sloping ledge and try and surmount it.  I ended up fully reflexed on a thumb, with my right foot at the same height. The crimp was awful and throwing my left foot up to the same height took everything I had in the sweltering sun. I really thought I was off, but I stuck. I pulled really hard on the awful crimp and managed to just slap into a sidepull undercut. It was all rather balancey, but eventually I managed to pop for a nubbin after this that I knew was alright. There's a big difference between onsight and flash! From here a further sketchy move on a terrible smear gains the top. I think it's about soft E7, depending on how good the gear is. Certainly a very good 6c move to try and onsight, hoping the gear holds...

The day was rounded off by me trying to flash another thing that looked about E7. I backed off. It was solo and revolved around a very large flat undercut, some smeary feet, long reaches and one brilliant two finger nubbin crimp. The wall is quite steep, perhaps overhanging slightly and it feels really exposed. It's one of those lines you almost miss, right in the centre of the amphitheatre, but once you ab down it, it all makes sense. It's actually one of the things in the Moors that is interesting me the most at the moment, just for the quality of the moves. It will have to wait anyway now, I'm officially a Munich resident!

Monday, 12 August 2013

Another Trove Of New Routes - Botton Head Hasn't Fallen Down!

Geared Up
 The Moors are big and in a land so vast, sometimes, things go under the radar. Some such things, like The Smuggler's Terrace, are understandably missed. But when there's a large mass of missed rock, visible from the Wainstones, you do start to wonder just quite how blind we all are. Indeed, someone, long ago, didn't miss it. They recorded 22 routes up to HVS. Later, another chap apparently went for a look and declared the whole place collapsed. We're not quite sure how he came to this conclusions - perhaps he went to the wrong Botton?!
Apparently a nice E1... I'm not even gonna debate this. 2 stars anyway.

Anyway, I went for a mammoth exploratory walk the other day. I started off in Westerdale and had a look at the rocks at the top of the head. I had been to a rockface up here on the way back from Kay Nest once and fancied a boulder about on this. With time being a bit of an issue I quickly climbed the best-looking line there, a fine arete from sit, that was basically a Severe with a font 6b sit start to it. Brilliant rock, I called it 'The Golden Nugget'.
Not a bad line like!
I was now in the heat of exploration, psyched off my face and listening to some very fast psychedelic trance.  I blasted over the moor, enjoying the blazing sun in my skimpy shorts and taking in the spectacular views down Farndale, Bransdale, Tripsdale and Billsdale.
The Moorenjura (E2 6b *)
Next up was Tranmire, home to a load of poorly protected unclimbed slab climbs. I had only taken a 30 metre rope unfortunately and the stake we put in demanded a little more. I tied everything I had together so that it just reached half way down the cliff. I inspected the top bit of the slab and then went for the solo. 1 o'clock, new E5 5c ascended. I was now keen to try the main event  - a brill looking slab to the left, but my rope really wasn't going to stretch that far. I was still psyched and tried to tie off a terrible fence post at a very jaunty angle to the route, but this didn't really work. I spoke to a dessicated stoat for a while and then left.

Pot Of Gold...
Now Medd crag - crap, move on. I now looked at my map, I had a couple of hours left till I needed to return. I'd brought a midge net for Kay Nest, keen to have a top rope of the unfreed aidline there, but I'd already been there and it's not the greatest of lines. It was now that Botton Head started staring from the sheet.  A huge expanse of mapped rock, thought to be lost, but surely not?

More trance and more pace, blasting over the Moor. The wind was up and the Ronhills were on, onto the highest point of the Moors. I stood a moment in thought, figured out the best approach and then gently walked down. It looked good! Three bays, with a range of different types of climbing - 12 metre jutting aretes, with a lot of exposure and big holds; 8 metre super-highball slappy E6/7 6cs on jutting prows; 6 metre technical walls and grooves.

About as psyched as a Herring
After a little more bouldering I walked back to Blakey to meet Dave. We returned yesterday to climb a few things in the low to mid E-grades. Pleasant venue, with much more to do.
Moors Light!
I think Dave needs a pad sponsor

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Video: Panda To The Masses (E6 6c) - A New Route Ground Up

Why Moors new-routing is so fun: Go to the crag, rap and clean a line, lie around in the sun, try and boulder it out for ages, declare it too hard for you, manage to do the bottom boulder problem, freak out on the top and take a fun jump, get too tired to climb any more, still manage to scrape up it before you get eaten by midges.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

The Mono Wall Is Climbed!

The Wall - I'm indebted to Jake for these photos.

I can now die a happy man. 5 years of Moors development finally came to a head today, as I set out on the Mono Wall, with only a pair of shorts, a helmet, chalk and some shoes.  Conditions were terrible, with the heat evaporating the last 2 days' worth of rain and sun beaming right down upon us, but it was Yorkshire day and we were all there.  Matt and Jake got some shots and Sam boldly stood below the wall, with some strange intention of trying to spot.  Mania swept forth and the excitement bubbled around. Today could be the day we climb this wall....
Enjoying the sun
Ferrier getting some pads in
A nice comfy landing
In a zone, not quite sure which one

Starting out

And as you set out on the wall, it waves up and looks like it's about to break right upon you. Psy mon says you're about to die. A slippidy sloppidy smear, through overhanging fear. When the foul foot slips, then off your finger rips - for tis but a pinky, deep and wedged in a hole! When the pinkies remain, then all you gain is more death. Stood, no hanging on a bulge, not made for mortal man.
Fighting hard on the lower wall

Glad I lost all that weight to hang on little fingers!
The well-trained clasp knows every intricacy, but still you look at real death. Twisted, crumpled, battered and brambled - a corpse would look a right marmalade mess. All that stands in the way is one pad of one finger and a foot so high it ceases to be a part of you. Into the corridor we go, hanging in a thought experiment. Hedonistic indulgence has no place in the unhinged world of the Megatrad. But now the unhinged had really become as blank as the mind and the smooth cheek scarce brought friction to the bastion of toppling terror that was the mono wall.
Team Success

The sun got hot. I was there, terrified, above the scythe of Danby, sweating. Here is the total risk, free from the fluffy calculated deception of the well-staged poster. A new world has begun. A world of Moors.

Monday, 29 July 2013

Waiting For Conditions

I love the table top hill at Danby. Fairy Cross Plane is a strange detached bit of moor, surrounded by craglets and boulders. There's a wild feel to it, wild moor horses, lonely trees and spectacular views. You've got to get a feel for where the project lies in relation to the area you're trying to develop and at Danby this is really easy.

I walked over there tother day with my Dad, mainly for a summer's evening stroll, but I managed to get 15 mins on the Mono Wall. The stone walls are really well built, lots of them and they pen the paths in. The bracken is cleared where the horses have walked and the path is the perfect gradient.

The Mono Wall itself is crisp-enough, dry completely and looking beautiful. I'd had worries that my fingers were starting to hurt, with a lot of time pulling on the crux monos without proper warming up. You can warm up on the exit E8ish bit, as that's mainly balancey and on largish holds, but there isn't a great way to warm into the mono cruxes. Today was important to see how they were feeling. I've had two rest days just bouldering at other venues, with the idea to let my skin repair on the mono fingers. This seems to have worked.

The last thing I was unsure about - the foot sequence at the bottom - is nearly perfected. So it's nearly time!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

George Gap Rocks - A New Bouldering Venue In Fryup

Fryup Dale is a right barer of gifts when it comes to bouldering. There's Mark Nab, Raven Hill Clemmitt's in, Clemmitt's North, Freyr's Nab, The Fairy Cross Boulders,  The Finklestones and Danby Crag.  There are a fair few different styles of climbing across these venues, with block-based powerful stuff at the Finklestones, Danby and Clemmitt's and buttress-based stuff at Freyr's and Fairy Cross.

Everyone knows that there are new things to be done in Fryup, perhaps even new venues, but these are starting to dry up. One last gift is a crag hidden by one of the largest waterfalls in the moors- right at the head of Fryupdale itself.

On the old 19th century maps this place is called George Gap Spa or Chalybeate. There's a large dirty buttress that we left untouched, probably with some highly esoteric trad on them and a couple of sit-down style blocks that Fryup Dale certainly already has enough of!

What was a bit new and good quality were a couple of vertical and clean buttresses that rose about 5 metres up. After a light brushing a decent few problems in the font 6s appeared, which all come highly recommended.

Perhaps this is to be the future of Moors bouldering, with small pockets of high quality still out there for the skillful explorer!

Video: The Breaking Wheel FA

Danby Dyno from Dave Warburton on Vimeo.

Another comic route...

Monday, 22 July 2013

Nearly There.... And the FA of 'The Breaking Wheel' (E5 6c)

Marks on 'The Chocolate Moose' font 6c**
We're getting into the dangerous part of prospecting at the moment- the period just before the lead. The Mono Wall is clean, it's wild and it's wired. More than two years of cleaning and perfecting: two years of bad weather, other commitments, physical and mental weakness. But now, we're almost there. I've spent a lot of time on the moves over the last few weeks and at last it's started to feel inviting and beautiful, albeit still bloody lethal!

The whole junior section of Moors activism was at the crag yesterday, with a few unclimbed things in mind. Samuel 'Karl' Marks and Matthew Ferrier had their eye on an interesting highball slab in the ravine, which was rumoured to be around E5 6b. It turned out to still be a bit damp after the cleaning though, so that one wasn't to be. It could have probably still been climbed, but it wasn't going to be enjoyable. Spirits were still high however, with Matt and Sam then quickly dispatching the established 'The Chocolate Moose' (E4 6b).

This whole time, Dave had been cleaning a  repulsive - looking hairline crack. It's an obvious line and after most of the filth was removed it looked to be most inviting. Sam reckoned it looked about E1, which most of the rest of us thought was a wild underestimation of the difficulties. It turned out that we were right and Sam was wrong (for a change) and it was actually a real bastard of a crack. We all had some goes and we all failed to finger-lock our way up to the big ledge.

With desperation kicking in, eventually someone had the idea to jump off some lower holds for the ledge - which was to be a large dyno. This also proved unfruitful, with effort after effort resulting in a hilarious belayer-smashing fall.  After a particularly painful fall that resulted in some whiplash, a more determined air took over and the ledge was latched ground-up. A fine team success at a grade of English 6c. The whole team thought the route was deserved of E4 6c - Even the better part of my own judgement thought thus, but as we all know, E4 6c doesn't exist, so it had to be E5. Could be E3 6c I suppose!

So after an unexpected new E5 6c addition to Danby crag, later called 'The Breaking Wheel', we set about rather tired, on trying to top rope the Mono Wall. Whilst having shunted it a lot, we're yet to try it on top rope, which is a huge benefit for the lower wall which overhangs quite a lot. It felt easy, disturbingly easy. Bottom to top, bottom to top, over and over, link after link. I felt ready for the solo, steady on most of the moves, strong. All agreed that the crux is hard, how hard we don't quite know - perhaps a couple of boulder grades harder than 'the finger' at the Wainstones, which puts it anywhere above font 7c+.

It was really useful to get the chaps' opinions on the danger of it however. I've been on it so much I'd started to convince myself that a fall could potentially be rolled out and then the rocks and trees at the bottom could form a kind of brake. This was debated a little, with the upshot being that when the time for the solo comes, it's best not to fall off. It's really starting to sound quite hard in my head. This is quite important to me I think. I climb best and boldest when I really believe that what I'm doing is hard, when I pull the moves and feel invincible.  If I'm just going through the motions of 'another mid-difficulty sequence', I get complacent and absent. On the Mono Wall there's no place for absence: you have to be there and you have to look at the tip of your finger dragging your body through some of the most ridiculous moves anyone's ever tried at height. There's competition and spirituality all mangled together in some awful cocktail of self-doubt.

It's tough being away from the crag at the moment, doing a bit of DIY and hearing reports of others' successes around the UK. It makes me feel a little hasty, like I should go to Danby right now and solo it, but the right time has to be chosen. Perhaps this is the hardest part of headpointing? It's meant to rain tomorrow, so tonight will probably be the last session for a few days. Hopefully I'll stay fit and everything with align just nicely for an ascent.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Rock Bottom - Onsight

There are many routes in the Moors that, despite fairly low grades, offer a decidedly tricky outing. One such route is the Shorter and Redhead route Rock Bottom. It looks like a bit of an eliminate, climbing the surprisingly steep wall a few metres left of Ahab. It was rumoured not to have seen an onsight ascent, and so we got on it.

There were a fair few people at the crag, with a party of well-weathered climbers gently knocking off the classics of the crag, ourselves, the Middlesborough contingent and eventually even Marks and Ferrier putting in an appearance. There was a good atmosphere and after a bit of up and down soloing to have a look at the crux, we went for it.

It turned out to be a great little number. The start is a bit of a dyno, or an awkward reach into a pod, a move that takes a bit of faith to down climb. Here some poorish cams can be placed to protect the crux. We used a boulder mat here, with the idea that if the cams ripped they'd slow you down enough to deposit you gently onto the mat. I think this would work.

The crux move itself is top notch. A really good crimp is taken with the right hand and then an outside edge smear enables a left foot to be placed in the pocket. The sequence was obvious from the ground, but looked really hard. Luckily though it turned out not to be that bad and on lead the whole thing felt very secure.

We'd been in contact with Chris Shorter who reckoned it may well be E5. The crux is certainly 6b and the fall is not ideal without a mat. With a mat though, the whole thing feels a lot fluffier and E4 6b seemed about right. It's a fab route whatever the grade, with some really absorbing climbing. There's certainly this strange genre of mid-extreme 70s and 80s routes that are largely ignored in the moors. As with this one, they often turn out to be really rather good.

Friday, 28 June 2013

New Route At Highcliffe - Five Years On (E4 7a)

So we've been back at highcliffe with a couple of pads. Of primary interest was Nick Dixons stonking line of 'Up A Creek Without A Paddle'. A great name for a prominent feature. It gets E3 in the guide, although I'd be surprised if it had seen an ascent since the 80s, so the E3 tag didn't mean a lot. So with similar feelings of trepidation that we'd had the day before on gluon, Dave set out for a look. With some high feet and moving round the arete he finally made it to just below the big ledge at the top. He kept his feet low and popped for the ledge in a move that looked fairly gripping. He made it though! Instead of cleaning the horrible easy top out he elected to jump off to the left, where the ground was higher.  Then it was my turn and I quickly copied his method up to the same final move. Here I paused and tried to be clever by getting a much higher foot than Dave, which would keep me in balance for the last move. Unfortunately the foothold promptly broke and I came flying back down to the ground. The fall was fine though and I got up it on the next go with a slightly different high foot. It was quite pleasant and the scary-looking fall isn't actually where you'd fall, so it's perfectly protected with a pad or two.  It should get a bit more traffic.
The Magic Scoop

I had another look at 'The Magic Scoop' on a shunt as well, figuring out how one would start it, but still struggling with the move getting established into the scoop. It's very powerful and compression, which is everything I'm bad at. The top is incredible though - this thing needs to be climbed.
The New Line Climbs To The Right Of Desperate Den Up The Blanker Section

It was getting a bit too midgey by this time and we retreated to the popular end of Highcliffe: Dave trying Desperate Den again and me trying the unclimbed wall to the right. The wall is interesting and of personal importance, being where the inscription to the late Ian Jackson is. It's nearly five years since his death now and what better way to pay one's respects than climbing something abominably difficult right next to where his ashes were scattered?  I've tried it a lot and haven't managed it. One starts off with very thin and blind feet before setting up for a jump for the jug on Stargazer direct. It's not a long way to the jug, but the holds are terrible and one is already fully extended. I'd touch the jug over and over again, but it was only when I just totally forgot about the fall and embraced the lightness of the whole route that I got it. One really has to feel light, like one is capable of holding the swing with one arm. It happened anyway and it was quite a shock.

It's no great line, but it's a pretty hard sequence slap bang in the middle of Highcliffe Nab, which is the home of hard Moors climbing. It felt pretty good. E4 7a was the grade.