Thursday, 25 December 2014

Mindscape Extension In The Yule

"The mental myth of christmas", I think as I open the stocking, christmas morning of my 23rd year. There's the whole delusion that swamps the children and a hoard of adults who have rite passaged. They've come out of the other side, the linear voyage of discovery, now omniscient in land beyond naivety.
"collective arrogance" - it smashes my brain in epiphany. Imagine a single soul who acted thus, so convinced he smirked and patronised those of difference.
"you better not be so sure of yourself young Timmy" I hear an old Granny say, right before a sentence tumbles from the deep pharangenal - out in self-deconstructing contradiction. I see Timmy twitch and another little fire goes out.

That what spins in your head goes! - the fundamental statement of the sum of all fact. That, the design of the mind; rests the scape of reality and no depth of sophistication in the delusion, nor belonging in an unfounded community acts as evidence to the contrary.

The Moors crumble out of existence in the flesh and I see for the first time that spirit of the Moors never  was a "real" thing to be found; erfunden nicht entdeckt. It was there to be invented; a fantastical flare of the mind in genius. This is why I climb; for in the moment of perfection you invent a something only from the mind. In a mindscape and world where all must be cast in doubt, a mooring point of objectivism comes as a standing tree in a flood does. I know my mind twitches fact and that which I invent hangs an extension of it.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Redemption: The James Pearson Story

My first reaction on seeing the title of this film was one of hilarity. Basically everybody I talked to about it creased in fits of laughter at what has to be one of the most ridiculous titles ever to grace the box of a climbing film. With a title like that and James Pearson's history of ascents weighed down by heavy North Face stickers, my hopes weren't exactly high as I snuggled into my cinema seat - "This should be a laugh".

It seems to be the season for ultra-personal and uncomfortably revealing stories of climbers as flawed people. Call it negativity or realism, it doesn't really matter. It's a bit weird, but at least it's something a bit new I suppose. Did it work? I really think it did as an explanation of his motives. Personally, I totally agreed with James from the outset -  you should grade things what you think they are and don't worry too much if you inadvertently claim to be the best climber in the world, only later to be proved wrong. This film spelled that out for people who didn't already get it and I think James came across as someone you wanted to give a big hug, seemingly a chap with good motives very deep down, who somehow lost his way in the world of ego and confirmation.

There are some moments of fantastic comedy. Whether it's the revelation that the Pearsons' marriage is based on an error in translation, the hilarious contributions of UKC editor Jack Geldard, or a bizarre moment in which a gremlin-like Dave Macleod appears out of the bushes, there's plenty of comic relief in what is otherwise a fairly serious saga of regret.

Unfortunately for me, the main question surrounding all of this was the one of sponsorship. As the narrative of the film pointed out (with interest), sponsorship isn't cool. Overgrading routes and therefore receiving sponsorship as a result is really not cool and the film did nothing to remedy this. It wasn't the film's fault, but rather the fact that James continues to make money from having overgraded a series of routes - even if that exposure is now coupled with penance. As an armchair pundit it seems quite clear - if he cares enough to make a film about how sorry he is for all his past woes, surely he cares enough to reject his sponsors, putting a bit of soul before dosh.

I'd like to brush this fairly fundamental flaw to one side though. Redemption was really excellent. I think this was a sign that the model of climbing films is changing and the balance between action, humour and story was impeccable.  The story wasn't just about James, but about UK trad as a whole, exploring the motivations of other climbers in contrast to James and with some very funky cinematography to boot.  It would be a fab introduction to British trad for those not au fait with the weird grading and petty squabbles o so rife about and it doesn't bash you over the head with repetitive platitudes.

So aye, it's definitely worth a watch, particularly if you haven't seen all the other Pearson releases. Perhaps next year there could be a film of this build quality coupled with a story of passion - "Enlightenment: The James Pearson Story Of Dropping His Sponsors And Climbing A Death Route In The Moors" ?

Post of the Winter Coming

On the distant spring, I already see fine climbs pierced for the first time through the sharp Moors frost. The spring dew sinks only to burn off in the morning furnace and that fine balance of conditions holds the cold of winter scarce a touch on the skin-maluating summer warmth.

I see the fine eye piece right into the wired hold and a body of pure fragility bounce an inhuman float through the crux. I see the trail of a useless rope kink fore and back, fore and back; a bleak corner of peripheral vision in less focus than the fear raging at the front of my mind. And on that move, the friction alone in what holds you to this world, I feel the rubber peel and the skin roll.

Do you die or do you live? On the move it doesn't matter. As you set out it doesn't matter. The external observer (in this case yourself) sees only a man set out through the black box. Where the man is and whether the man is alive cannot be observed. You're a black cat both alive and dead and to make the decision to go in the black box takes faith.

The faith to step out on the line is the only way that the new wave can be born. There is no trick, no skill, no strength that can save or advance you. All you have is ambivalence.

Sometimes you get a feeling that something spectacular is coming. I feel as if the whole winter is leading up to a point in April time, when the North York Moors will finally get the unrepeatable line it so desperately craves. The Moors is a black sheep of peculiarity, it wants a route of morpho-weirdness to match. Spirit of the Moors comes from the person, not the place.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

The solitude of genius

Genius is the creation of new ides through new eyes. I'd always thought that there would be a certain type of person that would think the same as the Moors does, but even those who have climbed the boldest trad lines seem to still use the lexicon of the "acceptable risk". In the Moors the acceptability comes from the route and it makes any danger, any possibility of death acceptable, regardless of the chance of it happening.

This is not in the vocabulary of anyone outside of the Moors. This is not something that can be tricked or dodged. To climb the most Moors of routes, you have to be willing to die.

The pledge to death has been sniffed at in the past. It's been called naive and disingenuous. But this is real and one day there will be climbs that cannot be repeated by those who are not willing to give this part of themselves. There will be spirit of the Moors so strong that it commands a whole army of chop routes.

And it feeds off its self. For if there is the Moor where this is understood, there is no friendship or comprehension anywhere else. You try to small talk, but all there is is a screaming Moor in your head that nobody understands. It sounds sad, which it isn't really. It's lonely, but then in  lonely reality of purpose; a place of simplicity and beauty.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

How it spins in your hed goes

The world in your hed is the world tht you occupy. wy from the Moors, this mindscpe grows nd the physicl properties of the Moors tke  bck burner. This is how it goes in the Moors. The climbs re wht they re in your hed nd the unclimbed grow nd win in importnce. Tht wht spins in my mind flots to prominence nd routes tht lwys seemed insignificnt now tke centre stge. It is now tht I relise tht route tht I serched for, which I thought might not exist, I lredy know well. It ws merely ctlogued in the mind  wy tht stopped it from reching its pottentil.

The Ky Nest id Route. It ws lwys n H7+1 7 line, protected by uestionble bolts, but then, in  vision, it cme forth tht why not rip the bolts out nd hve n Hten?

The Moors for me hs now become lmost exclusively bout difficulty. The moves my not be the hrdest, but the boldest route in the world shll one dy be in the Moors, or we will die trying to mke tht  relity. Regrdless, the Ky Nest id wll hngs n unbreched pth of purity. It must be climbed.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

A New World For You: Between The Mind And The Fingertips

There's a mystical relationship between the immediate reality and the ultra-abstract. As you climb more and more bold routes; routes that tear a chunk out of your thinking and spin it back in unkiltered; all that space between the most micro of physical perceptions and the profoundest base emotions blurs to an indecipherable hue.

First, it happens with memories. You can remember aspects around the line, but you forget the details. And that 'real feeling' about the thoughts and movements you had numbs to approximation. It's scary; the single outcrops of memory that anchor yourself to 'real' time are those very moments when you turned your back on this reality. It's a strange paradox and it starts to drive you mad.

Second, it happens with the emotions themselves; not the most base of feelings, which seem in some way bound to that soul that set off on those lines, but to ideas and romantic notions that grew up all around you and led you calmly to the cliffs that now rip them apart from you. This makes you feel understandably naked in the world and it leaves you with only the vaguest nuguals of certainty. There are ideas below this romanticism that lead the core of you to climb, but there are also torments and truths that come to the surface far less peacefully.

Thirdly, there is the interaction with area-ideas and what you feel right in front of you.  "The line is arbitrary", the holds cry; and they've never even seen the rest of the Moors. How do you accommodate a notion of a climbing area in a scape where the moves don't know each other? It's time to get away from the human-centric view my friend; as the old holds used to say. There are lateral connections in character between holds of the same region, but the move is a separate invented entity and the region incomprehensible.

So there are some ways that the inventions of the mind warp experience and ways that the souls of climbs can raise major questions as to whether you are nearer the routes or to distant ideas. The more you climb in the place of death the less middle ground there is; you are focused right in front of your face, or closed eye deep in the recesses. Wherever you end up, you've lost what everyone seems to think is real.

And what comes after this? In a time of enlightened loneliness, where the truths scratch a new web of confusion? There's an answer even deeper down in the bowls of the Moors, in the interpretation of lines that you can't even see yet. When I ab routes now, I'm starting to see the moves that are impossible for me, but that still exist. This was, perhaps, the original quest; to see what was possible. There is in fact something in the rocks that oozes climbing even if there is no one to climb them. How that quite works out I don't know.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

The End Of My Time

Coming to the end of living back in the Moors for the last seven months, you'd expect to feel an unwillingness to leave. In reality though, I feel utterly exhausted; as much mentally as anything else. The Moors always seems to be about the future and for the first time in a long time, I really can't see where this future is going to be. There are still loads of routes, more of the same, piles of unclimbed lines, but after all these years, you start to want something new. Where is the hard AND bold going to come from? Where is Moors H11 going to be? I still haven't found that holy grail. I still haven't found that crux of Fly Agaric in the position of the crux of Sky Burial; my most brilliant move on the wildest fringes of the mind.

On Tuesday I will leave the area for a long time. What's gone so far has been spectacular, of course. It hangs on my memories half as conquest, half as a philosophical journey, but the lines that remain in the Moors as my documented friends still bring a smile. The Tormented Sole (E7 6b), Psykovsky's Sequins (H8 7a), Fly Agaric (H8 7a), Sky Burial (H9 6c), The Waves of Inspiration (H7 6c), The Hypocrisy Of Moose (H8 6c), Present Perfect (H7 6c). These, as the latter name suggests, are the perfect moments of my life. Moments of such exquisite daydreaming that they actually came into being.
The rain patters on the windows again, but for me, for now, it doesn't matter. That pressure of what is to come next, what I should be doing, whether I dare do it, I am momentarily released from. I've survived another Moorland year and the haul has been brilliant. There are still unknowns in the Moors. There are whole cliffs like Eskdale Crag untouched and with immense promise. At every crag there are lines not led. But what is that carrot that keeps you marching through the rain to clean? Is it a 45th H7? Is it a 12,000th new route? Is it a 5th H9? For me the carrot is a new experience, or a new level. I've climbed as bold as is possible on English 6c. I've climbed about as wild as is possible on Moorland quartz. I've found lines that have both this boldness and difficulty together, but they're not for me, they don't fit my body. And it's partly the body that this quest is about.

Find the rock that makes your body express itself the most it can. Find moves that require no movement up or down, just subtle body extensions and retractions. This will force the experience into your mind and give you new vision. There's a route like that out there for me, but I didn't find it and that is my eternal regret.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

White Hill Arete - New Project Brewing

Not a hold for summer - crux left on Herring Gull
I had a bit of idea that the rest of my summer would be spent mopping up the last few really good routes I know of in the Moors, but I'd forgotten how warm summer is. A lot of the mid-grade stuff left over is hard and safe and really thin. There are things like The Futuristic Herring Gull project at Maiden's that I had dialed and quite fancied spending my free afternoons on, but I've been utterly thwarted in my attempts to even do the individual moves in this heat.
The crux right-hand on Herring Gull

So I was having my relaxed vision disassembled rather quickly before my very eyes. There's a moor full of great lines, their little heads out-poking like mushrooms, and most of them aren't going to go pleasantly. What's a hedonistic afternoon if it can't even be enjoyed?! It was at this point that I tried to think back to what I really want. What is going to make me content and what is really going to make the Moors the most cutting edge area on the planet?

It's strange how different lines come to prominence at different times. In the Moors, there are so many projects and you tend to have little plays on loads of different things at the same time. You end up with a brain full of rock features, moves and relationships with the crags. You're quite often in a state of not really knowing what the next thing to capitulate is going to be and this can lead to droughts and floods of new routes coming into existence, with all the anxiety and ecstasy associated with that. Post-project this only becomes more the case, which is the position I'm in now after The Unhinged at Maiden's.  This heat though has made me really think about what I want to do and I've decided that I should really be following my dreams and not day-to-day pleasures. This dream is a Moors full of hard routes and the number of suitable projects known to me at the moment is limited.

I have limited resources. At the vast majority of moves, I'm distinctly average. I'm weak. Most stuff I've inspected has turned out to be unfeasibly hard for me and some of the stuff that suits my style is either rubbish or too easy. When you're going after a particular window of difficulty, with only a very small selection of tools, you really have to get lucky. It's like trying to fashion a canoe out of a redwood with penknife.

There's only really one thing at the moment that is at about the right standard and that I reckon I could do. This route also has positive holds and is north east facing - ideal for the conditions at the moment. This route is the arete at White Hill (Landslip). We're talking pockets, small ones. The moves are big, full arm-flappers. Heels are high and wrestling with vague ripples. It's a stonking line and the gear is fairly good. I reckon, just maybe, it might be getting to the point of being possible. It'll be a great project for me, as it's going to make me get some strength back.

This route has been in my head for years, longer than the Mono Wall - much longer. I used to see it on my first trips to the Wainstones, in fact it might have been the first rock I saw as a climber. It's in the historic centre of Moors climbing, in my mind holding the whole area together with its pristine line from Hasty top to bottom. It was always talked about as an impossible feature at a terrifying crag. As with most things, the myth isn't real (except in the mind) and White Hill isn't actually that scary-a-place. The arete is fairly inviting and I couldn't see you getting a really serious injury from fluffing the crux up, unless you were unlucky and the gear didn't hold.

One of the main battles with a project is to be motivated. With the Hypocrisy of Moose or Psykovsky's Sequins this was never a problem, as at the time I couldn't believe how hard I was climbing. With the recent The Unhinged, the climbing was alright, so it was only the danger that was keeping you on-task. It would have been sad to die on something that easy, which isn't the kind of thing you want to be thinking. With this White Hill Arete, the line is good enough and the gear bomber enough to not have to worry about either of these aspects of it. I want to climb it.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

The Agony Of Choice!

So, there are still moors. Loads of moors in the Moors. A pile of rock. You end up doing nothing there is so much to do - it's really warm today. I've not done a list for a while and I think I'm in a really good position now to make a list of the best things left to do in the Moors. These lists always seem massively out of date very quickly, so be warned! - That's sort of the main reason for doing them. There's a great feeling of progress when you look at what you thought was impossible 3 months ago. Anyway.... I'm going to put these in quality order. quality of experience over route maybe... The ones I want to do first...

1) Sunrise Wall
Alright, I don't actually want to do this anytime soon, but it is probably the only real new wave route I know of that is likely to be possible. If Snap Back wasn't new wave, then this thing definitely is. There's no point trying to describe that headwall to you. Just ab it! The moves are hard and there's no gear. Certain death.

2) The Futuristic Herring Gull Project
Brilliant sharp slab climbing. Massive moves, enchanted.  Unlike anything else I know of on the Moors.

3) The Magic Scoop
I love that I nearly have this wired. It's the sort of thing that you don't think is possible when you're starting out. It's a really nice piece of rock.

4) The Landslip Arete
There's quite a good challenge on this one. The rock's not the best low down, but that's being a little mean. The move is one of those that feels a bit too hard, but I'm sure will be possible once the old fingers get a bit stronger - maybe one for spring of next year after a bit of winter training.

5) The Tormented Sole Direct
A lovely line of quite an old-fashioned nature. The crux is fairly stretchy, but it's nowt out of this world. It's going to be one of the best routes around like. 

6) The Wangledoodle Wall
This is really good, but it's going to take a good climber to climb it - one with muscles. There aren't a lot of 'holds' as such, but it is possible. 

6) Kay Nest Arete
This is going to have to wait until winter. Hard moves. Basically a very high boulder problem, but the feature is fantastic.

4 Other things:

7) The Possum
A really big pitch. It would be really good to put something modern up at Whitestone. This line is particularly good as it's seemingly ridiculous and climbs the largest part of the cliff. The protection isn't abysmal, but obviously you don't want to be falling off!

8) Rump De Stump
Bold. No prizes for line, but surely you can see past that and enjoy the climbing? There's something very homely about the way this route climbs.

9)Tranmire Wall
wooohooo! haha, if you catch it dry that top move is a real cool one. Scary.

10) Kay Nest Aid Line
Well, it's got to be on the list. The climbing is pretty nice. It's lost a few bolts now, so it's also fairly serious. Another one with a good last move!

There comes a time when all slots, deep lock feather tails of the dove. The sweeps and troughs of endless stories locked in the sandstone worlds, come to make sense. The Moors now hinge on new unstable walls. The world, the animals seem detached from what hangs. But surely it's not?

When the past is this good and one's not quite sure which way your times a-spinning, then what does the future even matter? What's gone is so great and that's maybe where we're heading. He, who was in the past, I that am now in the present and you, that occupy the future, something strange happened.

Sunrise, isn't really sunrise at all. I start to wonder what that name was about and what there even happened. He spoke such nonsense and did things you and I don't understand. What I do is nothing, for I'm not even a climber. You, the whole world rests on you, all focus in he and I is upon you, but you don't even exist, not yet. Or do you?

We're all living in the future. The past is dead to us, but it's also swamping our present all of the time.  Traumas and joys are nipping at us, steering us away into new things we never wanted to do. The future's stronger though. It drags you around and takes you to do things you don't even want to do.

You end up a vegetable. Everybody does. You end up as I, all the time, if you push the I enough. But then why would you want to? What is even going on?

Starting to look back at the arete at Maiden's Bluff and starting to try and think about what I was doing. I don't get it. I don't get what was going on. You can come out with all the platitudes you like, but you end up just roaring.

Snap Back H9 6c

The route doesn't exist if no one repeats it! Those moves aren't even climbing, but you need a noggin that slipped out through your ear for a bit, before ambling back through the dunes.  It sees the wall and sees you. Cup of tea for two - you and the wall.

It's a funny old world, when you're feeling normal. I'm going to have a really nice breakfast today. A bit of bacon, a fried egg. And when you've been on this route, you stare at your egg. You see a little puddle of oil on the surface of the white and your eyes, they don't stay a-far, they home, they zoom, deeper and deeper, further into the world that no one ever sees. You see, there in the oils, the line of Sunrise, Snap Back. You see the arete and that move. You see the way your body pivots across the air, all the dust in the wind pushing you back in, but the invisible force hauling you back out across to swing, wild into the skies. You see it all there in the egg, the yolk losing its steepness as it gets to the centre, the opposite of that wall. You see the yolk, the egg, your wall and all the other thing's you've seen - that hare at Maiden's Bluff, that one that stands and stares at you with no fear. Inquisitive, it stands. Has it climbed that wall? How do you know? That curve of wall, that arete, the way it dull shines and reflects things that aren't there. The way that smooth turns to sharp, the way it threatens your neck. I come back out of all of this and find myself still on the egg, the knee-deep yolk rich and thick and all over me. A full body cuddle twig says. Yes! Yes! That's just how it is. The egg is there, inside a cuddle and outside the same, but not here. The route roars raw here, but somewhere this isn't so, or so the hunch tells me. The hunch is just as real.

Monday, 7 July 2014

The Possum - Whitestone Cliffe

The line climbs somewhere up the right of the picture.

New phase = new cliff. Moors limestone is largely ignored in this weird little climbing scene, for a variety of reasons. It's big, it's scary, it can be quite loose and it's in the south west, so a fair drive away for most of the mooristas. It's the closest crag to the south of England however and can work out quite well for a quick pop-in on the way back from Leeds. That's exactly what I did today.

Since the traverse was freed a few years ago, there haven't been any new routes climbed at the crag, which is shocking considering how much rock there is. In reality, the number of lines could easily be trebled. There is a bit of a question about why you'd want to climb on most of this cliff though? Left of the stable Nightwatch area, the rock does have the tendency to crumble and gear can't really be trusted.  So it's adventurous. There are however some really good lines, exceptionally situated. The pitches get up to about 40 metres long as well, so you can get a real feeling of having 'an experience'.

So what's left to do? There are a lot of old aid routes still waiting for free ascents. Some of these are just odd moves that no one's quite managed yet and others are bolt ladders that were created through terrain seemingly impossible for free climbing. That great old word 'impossible' always makes my fingers twingle and the less freed the routes are, the dafter the experience is going to be.

Perhaps the most heavily aided pitch at the cliff was 'Possum'.  It takes an outrageous line to the right of the central arete, through several roofs and bulges, culminating in a very lonely and loose slab finale. I've wanted a look for a while and managed to get on a shunt today.

You start very low down, seemingly underground in a wooded alcove surrounded by enormous boulders. From here there's some unprotected moderate wall climbing aiming for a protruding peg at about 8 metres. I wasn't able to swing into this, but it looked somewhere in the English tech 6 category - low enough to be possible anyway. Once at the peg, there's also a small cam in a pocket, before a fairly loose bit of traversing up and left into the first roof. Here you could probably wangle a small nut in - you feel really exposed here, your footholds snap off, the gear isn't very good and if it rips you're already in very serious trouble. Then there's the crux. A big reach through the roof and then pulling through this on suspect small crimps. You're getting higher above the gear (that is now way off down under the roof and out to the right) and then you have to wack your feet onto some smears and try and slap into a sidepull. This would feel pretty exciting on lead. You then get to clip a terrible bolt.

What's great about the route is that when you ab down it, it looks like you'd be able to escape off right at this point (and maybe you could - still not sure about this yet), but it's at least as easy to keep going up a steep crack line directly above, which keeps throwing surprisingly physical moves at you and only the odd shite peg for gear. You'd end up on a loose moon-crack (at curbar) style crux, pumped from the main 6c crux and with only a poor peg and a rubbish bolt between you and a 20 metre ground fall. I reckon it would be a pretty harrowing lead, but a really good one. After this you're at about half-height and there's an E6 6a to the top, with some massive runouts and bad rock.

The old choss thing at Whitestone is an interesting one. This route certainly isn't solid, but it's also not the boring 'pulling so many massive blocks off that you just can't do moves' style choss. You sort of have islands of good rock in seas of filth. It makes you have to climb well, you have to join up the dots. You might be next to a huge jug, but if you pull on it then it will definitely come off, so you have to take the 6b sequence around it. Very complex, rewarding climbing. I'm interested to see how this thing progresses.

Recoup Regroup - Wizard's Ridge

 It's good to have a bit of a break after a project. Climbing-wise, I've been thinking about very little over the past two or three months and now there's obviously nothing left to think about. I could keep on trying to think about what happened on Wednesday, but I don't really think it's that productive and it will probably come back to me organically at some point anyway. I'm keen not to rush into the next big siege and I have a good selection of things I'd like to do before leaving the moors in 6 weeks, so hopefully the hottest months will still be productive.

First up though was a trip down south for an induction day, a party and moving some stuff into Sheffield. It was the perfect contrast to the isolated and unhinged world I've created up in the Moors and I even got out on some peak gritstone!

I've had a play on most of the hardest peak routes, but I've never had a look at any of the unclimbed things (apart from that highball wall at laurencefield a long time ago).  Wizard's Ridge always looked like a fantastic line, so I had a look.

I think first thing's first - the line has to be celebrated. It's crisp and it's class. Inspiring. The angle is pleasant and as I was sorting out the belay (nightmare and really quite hard to make safe!), I was getting pretty excited that if it turned out to be decent, then it might be the ideal project. The climbing is hard, very similar to the wangledoodle (in fact the whole route is) and the footholds are really small. I didn't do many of the moves, but holding the positions, you could tell that it would hang together as an absorbing sequence. It feels fantastic being on that arete, perched on such small holds.

So, brilliant line and interesting moves, but...... as a route? Crap! You do want to climb the line and with your blinkers on, it's great, but it's escapable in two locations. The holds that were brushed to traverse into the arete from the crack are only a couple of metres from the top of the crag, so you'd have to climb up the entire crag before rather pointlessly traversing right (with significant difficulty) to the arete. This kind of 'traverse needlessly into a decent line' can work, if the line you traverse into becomes pure, but the escapability after this first section just ruins the entire route. I understand now why no one has done it. It would be a hard and relatively safe route (bashing potential, but not too bad with a dynamic belay) and if you were good enough for it to be a couple of sessions' work, then it would be worthwhile climbing. But if you're not that good at this style of climbing, the amount of work involved to produce a route that would be a no star ~H8 7a just isn't worth it.  Perhaps the future lies in a direct start, but that's definitely too hard for me!

What a great pile of rock that bay has though.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Two Days On

Two days later and I'm still trying to unpick what exactly happened. The history I want to create, that I want to believe, is that there was a calm, logical philosophy that led me to set out on the route. All this theory that I was pedaling out before - if you set out with indifference to the possible outcomes, if you truly believe in what you're doing, then you'll be able to calmly climb stuff without zoning out, despite being really scared. If you can believe that, then it's flawless.

The fear surrounding a route peaks shortly before you know you're going to set off.  Particularly when the holds aren't trustworthy and the moves are completely out of balance, it gets to a point where it's really unbearable. You either need to say "I'm not doing this" or have a real belief that enables you to set out with all that risk that surrounds the climb. For the months, days, hours and VERY LONG seconds leading up to me setting off, I expected this to fall into place. I expected (and also believed) that I had the theory dialed and that I was happy with whatever happened. This worked, right until the point of commitment. Then, it became apparent that I just wanted to survive and I really wanted to do anything to avoid climbing it.

As I was climbing myself higher up the arete, further and further into trouble, I still didn't feel that committed. I had lied to myself. When I got on the crux, there was more doubt in my mind than I've ever had. It was wrong being there. I hadn't got to a point where what I was doing made sense. It was a mad thing to do. There's not even a romantic twist to it: it was wrong.

What did surprise me though, was that my brain didn't just abandon me. The moves on this thing are conscious. When things go wrong in dangerous situations, they can escalate and feed on themselves, or negative thoughts can be kind of cauterised, separated and prevented from making you spiral into a fall. This thing was going way wrong - there was no hope of rescue, I didn't know why I was doing it, I didn't even know for sure whether I was really doing it. It was like some kind of terrible nightmare. I say nightmare, but it was at this point that elements of joy did start to appear - or at least there are when I think back to it.

If this can be seen as any kind of positive experience (apart from a victory over rational thought), then it's this element of the climb that's going to provide that. This celebration of 'the outrageous'
did actually appear. There was, at least on one level, a kind of "look how barmy what I'm doing right now is! Look how little I'm attached to the world by! I'm by myself and the only thing that matters is this feeling in this moment!". This was the value of the experience. That one move, which you don't really know whether you're gonna make or not, hangs over you and it's still having effects on me now, even after (seemingly) surviving.  There must be realities where I'm dead though and I'm yet to come to a conclusion about what I think about that. It'll be some time I think before I fully understand that.

Who Owns Your Experience?

So it seems to happen all the time these days. Some new route or impressive feat is reported online and straight away there's a barrage of criticism. "Surely it's not that hard?", "How can THIS person have climbed this route?", "That looks rubbish!" "Why's he done it like this?". The quantity of negative comments is thankfully usually outweighed by positive ones, thanking the compiler for the report or even congratulating the person on the ascent. Whilst that's nice, it's not what the report is for. You don't climb really dangerous routes to be thanked - that would be insane, but you also really don't expect to be criticised for it not looking hard or good enough either. I'm not a restaurant, this isn't trip advisor. It may really surprise you, but I didn't climb this route to satisfy your ideas of what a hard route looks like or to roll out the same old cliches.

And whilst we're on the topic of conformity. What is it about "repeating the classics"? Why, why must a climber repeat routes in other areas if he is not to be slandered? What kind of dullardish, retrophillic, prescriptive nonsense is that. The UK trad scene is stuck in a rutt at the moment. Yeh, it might be a rut where great routes are still being climbed every year and there are more glossy photos and videos than ever before whizzing around, but it's not really going in a new direction. Maybe, just maybe, it's exactly that obsession with 'doing things the way we've always done them' that's holding us back. The salient fact is, and this may be a little chilling for you - trad routes up to this point haven't been that bold. There's a lot of trickery still going on in the climbing media, supported by the real actors of our sport, and suddenly everyone seems to believe that we can't go bolder. It's so ingrown into our sport that when people talk about climbing another way they're accused of spewing hyperbole. It's not hyperbole though. These routes, these incredible adventures really are like true love - they make seemingly the most platitudiness statements adopt new levels of the profound. Like it or not - just try the routes!

And then there was cameras. Not only have I climbed my route for the sole purpose of satisfying your ideas about what I should be doing, but I should also be filming it if I want to be believed. Is this some kind of backwards threat so that you have more to watch on your boring days at work, or is there such a level of distrust in climbing today that this is really the way it has to be? It's got to the point now where things are actually not being climbed because the right photographic team isn't there; or you set off on routes a bit prematurely because there is a good camera at the crag. What crack den did you slither out of? What a world away the real climbing experience feels - you know, that place where I stood below my project, the climb I've been working on for months, truly terrified, really not wanting to do it, but then having a moment of very calm direction in which I got on the route and humbly climbed it. That was fantastic, earth-shattering, one of the best things I've ever experienced, but that doesn't seem to count for anything if I can't give you some glossy shots. Maybe those Arabs in Laurence of Arabia were right - maybe the camera does steal the soul.

So why is it that a third party, entirely removed from the action, the climber, the cliff and possibly even the area in which the climb took place, feels the need and as if he has the right to criticise? I think we've forgotten that routes are reported to inform the climbing public of what is going on, excite, ignite passion and spread the interest. It's a fabulously productive, cohesive and interesting roll of the climbing forums that are otherwise just swamped with dross. Attack real foul play - lying, chipping, loutish behaviour, but don't just get upset cause someone can't be bothered to walk up End of the Affair, prior to pandering to ideas of how a real climber sounds and looks.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Mind Zapped - FA of Sky Burial (H9 6c ***)

I finally climbed my project today. In the end I was the only one at the crag, with two tiny pads and a huge catastrophe in front of me. I've had trouble getting into the right frame of mind for this and the experience was really intense. I'll try and work my way through what happened as it comes back to me.

There was a feeling on the crux of 'let me back in the bubble!, I want to zone out, I want to zone out!", but I was thinking loads, super fast and the enormity of everything disappeared in incomprehensibility. At the same time everything felt sharp, really vibrant. I wonder how long it was that I was in that crux. It felt like an eternity: there was no beginning and there was no end in sight. Each move was going backwards as well as forwards, making you feel like you had already done moves, whilst also being in wild terror.

Setting out on it when no one was there has it's benefits. There's a point just below the crux you could be rescued from, which makes committing to the moves even harder. With no pal, you're committed from the off. There's also no one to be scared, which is nice. I spent a long time at the bottom, thinking, justifying and watching. I set out in my own time and climbed it. There was so much rationalising going on, trying to understand why I wanted to do this. In the end I just followed a feeling and knew that this climb wouldn't hurt me. Strange.

 The start was magical and it really drew me in. The climb wants to be climbed! Fully spread out on reflex fingers in a crucifix position with only a finger at either end holding you in. But you feel bomber. When you don't fear the fall, because you're already at your destination, you can climb like you're flying.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Getting In The Right Frame Of Mind

How are you going to feel when you break out into the crux? Guilty? There's no place for guilt. You have to be thoroughly self-absorbed. You have to be thinking about the things you want to do and why you do them. You have to think about why this climb is so important and why this move is going to define you, regardless of whether you manage it or not. You have to envisage a future where you do it and a future where you fall off. You have to be happy in both those futures and then you have to go for it full-pelt.

Technical blankness envelopes the starting climber. You straight away get a feeling of 'perchedness' and you're already at a considerable height. The beginning's effects are two-fold. You feel incredibly vulnerable, but also like you're flying. It gears you up and sends you floating into the heart of the arete. 
Above it starts to get serious. You're high and the climbing is loose and kind of old-fashioned.  This introduces another level of uncertainty and then you look above. It looks impenetrable, steep and terrifying. You're in space now. Below you is a sizable drop and the wall is overhanging. As you break out onto the crux, there's only one path to chose. It climbs backwards and you end up with all your limbs in a big knot. If you get through it, you might just get out onto the upper wall on some more suspect rock

You need to be damn sure you're not going to regret getting on this route. Fooling yourself that you're going to do it every time is irresponsible. You don't need to be sure you're going to do it, if you're happy with all possible outcomes. To embark on the route is to fulfill the dream: the dream is outrageousness. To get on the route is to have been on that wave. Whether you die, are crippled, or do it, you have explored your own mind, you have explored the thing that you thought most important and you've created your own kingdom. The arete at Maiden's Bluff is a fairy line that allows physicallities to be left behind and the rawest part of the human psyche to be explored.

As we're approaching the time for the solo, it's these thoughts that I'm convincing myself of. Such a looming challenge creates a massive presence in your life that really starts to dominate day-to-day thoughts. It's similar to a traditional headpoint in many ways, but more fractious in its effects on your mind.  Eventually, you've thought about it so much and know it so well that you think it's time to go for it and you can no longer just stay in the present. If you can't create certainty of outcomes, you can create certainty of motive. If I fall off this thing, I hope people approach my actions with an open mind and try and understand. I hope that one day someone will take up the baton of Moors new wave climbing and we'll all have to stop hiding behind gimmicks. There's a new level of risk that we've shied away from, hiding behind the normalising repertoire of the climbing media. Raw Moors smashes this to pieces.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Big Clouds Of Doubt

It's getting pretty close now. The separate parts of the route are all coming together and it's finally starting to seem like a single thing. Conditions are bad and the moves still feel wild. What to do? I'm starting to wonder if I'll ever get in the right mental state to go for it. You need to have a manic energetic kind of insanity for this route. You'd need to feel invincible and thoroughly convinced by the value of the climb.I'm sort of there, but need a bit more desire I reckon.

I'm trying it with Matt quite a lot, which adds a bit of a different feel to the route. We normally tend to have our own projects, which maximizes the amount of routes put up, but also adds a sense of loneliness to the whole process. It's a good loneliness mind you, as you really get to know the route. I'd normally stop trying a line once someone else was also working it, but with this thing it's not entirely clear that Matt is going to go for the solo and I've already spent a lot of hours on it, so have quite a rapport.  

It's quite scary to see Matt climbing it actually. He's a fair bit smaller than me and so has to use an even dodgeyier sequence that looks even more mad than the usual method. It will be interesting to see how he gets on with it once he gets all the moves sorted.

What kind of personality does the old arete have then? You could summarise with "fairly easy moves that scare the life out of you". The climbing is knacky and a lot of it is irreversible - so fairly hard to commit to when you have zero gear. There are 'no-hands' moves, there are very high smears, there are wild reverse barndoor moves. It's cheeky and mischievous. It's also loose and bloody dangerous.

It's been a funny old project. The climbing is right at the upper limits of the old-wave style routes put up in the 80s and 90s, but it's taking that philosophy to the extreme. Big holds and outrageously bold. It's the kind of line that will never be tamed. It's fitted in brilliantly with work and hanging around with friends. I'm out of shape, my fingers aren't even that strong, but I can just go there whenever I want. It's an excursion into the mind and the fact that the climbing is so easy allows you to fully loose touch with your body. The solo might still be a way off if this high humidity warmth continues, but I reckon, just maybe, when the time comes, I might just enjoy it! Me and the little arete on a pleasant morning stroll together...

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Being Proud Of Your Routes

Is it even okay? I went to Danby Crag last night with the Cleveland MC. I walk around in a daze, finding the summer foliage a bit tough to get through. It's like a mausoleum to North York Moors climbing. There are so many memories here, splattered across the walls with big smiles. I didn't even climb, I just looked.

I felt really happy, in a way that I don't think I've ever felt. It's not a self-indulgent flare of joy, nor even a sense of vindication, it's just ecstasy at the routes and the place.

Whaaaa, the forest. I mean, what an incredible woodland. The oaks twist in perfect circles and the roots out-poke in a jungle to themselves. There are so many creatures. I saw an owl, which flapped away in flight and joined the pigeons. Fungi are starting to poke through and they make their own little world too.

The routes have such personality there, interacting perfectly with their settings in glades and alcoves so well-known to me now that they are likely my true home. Colours spin in vibrancy, twisting and weaving to form a backdrop more notable than what's in focus. It's a fabulous place.

So is it okay to be proud of your routes? To be proud of our routes? Absolutely! There's a celebratory, carnival vibe to Danby Crag now. It's not about us, it's about the hundreds of wonders and ludicrous adventures.

At the extreme left-hand side you have the polish jungle. There's King of the Swingers, The Jungle Drum and The Polish Diplomat. Three tiny routes completely irrelevant to the world, yet utterly absorbing.

There are then unclimbed buttresses, with bold steady wall and groove climbing and a small bulge. The crag continues to the mighty Osiris buttress, with nuggets of unclimbed stuff still all around. Across the way is the high hanging gardens of Roosevelt, Stalin guarding the bay.

The crag twists and turns in insignificance until the Wangledoodle Wall just blasts out of nowhere. What is this thing? Why is it here? Well, it is there and trying to comprehend it doesn't really work. It was just to the right here that the crag collapsed to bare new fruits. There's a fab new VS crack and a terrifying E7 arete here that little old dooge led.

It's now that the twin aretes buttress blasts into view and there is a good handful of moderately difficult climbs:  Tripoli, Howl Psyche, Otter Wilderness, The Moose and Die By The Sword. It's a big mass of rock and the lines are lovely. Intricate, intricate.

Beyond pops up the really insane. Dance of The Trance and the big brother Psykovsky's Sequins - tamed by sliders, but still roaring with its real character. Monos hanging in the canopy invite and kill.

More unclimbed lines lie around in relaxation until the alcove, with it's Breaking Wheel, pretty little slab, Palma Ham, Vulcan Arete and Chocolate Moose. And look what else is there - Fly Agaric!

The incredible thing about these routes is that you can walk around the wood and see people on them, in your mind. When you've climbed them, been on them, you can see people mid-crux all the time. It's not necessarily you, but a spirit of perpetual enjoyment, if enjoyment is the right word. The routes are full of life. The rock has movement, which I find fantastically rare.

There are more things left to do at Danby Crag, but I stand there and only really see the drive for The Wangledoodle Wall. I don't want to do it quite yet. It's a bit to physical for my emaciated body at the moment, but it's nice to see it there. In the main part, Danby is finished for me, which is not sad at all. I thought it would be full of mixed emotions to be in a time where there were no new levels of difficulty there, but it's not. I'm content with that crag and our place there.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Nearing The End

There's a point at which things start to click. I blindfolded myself today and felt my way through the crux of the Maiden's Bluff project on a shunt. At this point it all starts being about perceptions. There are in-built errors in the sequence that get ironed in with repetition, trying to climb it a certain way. Safety comes from new eyes, or in some cases, no eyes at all.

Then you can have a play around with other feelings. I leaned right in on the no hands rest and felt my face against the wall. I like to zoom in a little, see the ocean of wall and the infinitesimal deluge of raining micro pockets. The wall's awash, and I span past them all. They look at me like a set of little sea cucumbers and chuckle with me. It's a funny place. It raptures and roars, this arete. It clunks; with even a slightest of taps and the brittle thud reverberates around to shake the bones of you. I then played a little game to get me a bit nearer the solo. I hung from the start of the crux, closed my eyes and imagined the worst injuries possible from a fall. At the point at which I was most revolted by the idea, I let go and dropped onto the shunt. It was pretty hard to let go, especially when I got to the stage of really believing it was going to happen that time. Bizarre and fascinating. I suppose the lesson is that even trying to live out the most basic of philosophies requires high levels of the unhinged.

The climb itself is starting to feel easy, creating a bit of uncertainty. Is it still hard? It certainly seems to be a bit too simple to be new wave. But maybe the obscene levels of danger make it still so? It's a very strange position I'm in at the moment. When I look down from the crux my eyes go all blurry and I can't focus in on the ground. I'm trying to imagine what it would be like with gear: If it had bomber gear; if it had illusionary gear.. I can't quite figure it out though.

Mark Rankine and Neil came up from Sheffield the other day and managed to headpoint the Tormented Sole. It's the first H7 of mine to be repeated and it's probably the best one. They seemed like they enjoyed it, which is grand, but the memory of climbing that made me wonder even more about recent projects. The big question on my mind is how far away is the climbing on the Maiden's Arete from the other stuff I've done. How does it connect? It's easier climbing (as in, just the moves) than Psykovsky's Sequins or Fly Agaric, harder than the Hypocrisy of Moose and The Waves Of Inspiration, but it's BOLD. A proper solo is quite a rare thing and it's making a sequence that would probably be around H8 with some alright gear feel well into H9 or 10 terrain. Add in the fact that the rock is unreliable and it's desperately insecure and you start to get to a point where it seems properly hard.

I'm incredibly weak and light at the moment, which is a fantastic feeling. It's like I'm a fly on the wall - ultimate amateur trad climbing I suppose, where it's all about weird moves and the mind and nothing at all about being an 'athlete'. The rain has set in now and I feel even more distant from the grunting climbing gyms. I like the rain, fat leaves weighed down and birds chirping in extremis. There's no better feeling than finding your path again, excited at what's to come.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Mental Designs At Maiden's Bluff

There's been a long quest for the right route and now we're there. The arete at Maiden's Bluff is still unclimbed and still exquisitely insane. It's a weird place up there, the seld-trod slopes lashed with rhododendrons and sweeping bushes, the distant swashing sea. It's a very peaceful place, especially when the tide is out like today. 

The arete itself is also fairly peaceful. You can tell that the line is content with itself. It's never had any attention. No one's ever tried it. But it knows that it is classy. It knows that it would scare off basically everyone in the world. Developing a relationship with a piece of rock like this is therefore extra special. 

I still don't know for sure whether I'm going to go for the solo. There needs to be some philosophizing that gets me to a point where the risk is not only worth it, but the experience on the solo is something I crave. The first step has been to turn the shunting sessions from a horror to a tea-party. This has started to happen and I've started to feel good on the crux.

The rock is solid where it needs to be, but the easier sections of climbing have some disgusting holds that really cannot be trusted and often fall off completely unexpectedly. I suppose the crux itself is the pinnacle of choss climbing, with hard, totally unprotected moves on crumbling smears. The barndoor crux is out of this world, which is also probably where the mind needs to be.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Horror In The Moors - Homing In On A Project

The Terrifying Future Of The Moors
The Hypocrisy Of  Moose, Psykovsky's Sequins, Gold, Fly Agaric - in all these cases, the danger can be comprehended and justified. This means the lines are sane and mere mortals can actually climb them. There's a new breed of line in the Moors however - a type of route that is simply 'roaring horror'. At the Maiden's Bluff today, I got my first sight of the coming tide: It's pretty scary.

I've had a few weeks off from climbing, with absolutely piles of work. It's meant that I've been able to buy a car, which is excellent (driving around, listening to really loud trance), but obviously no new routes have been climbed. It's settled down a little this week, with only about 70 hours penciled in, so I've started trying to get out.

Time off always changes things in the mind. I was in a bit of a hedonist rut before, where I was enjoying day to day climbing, climbing routes that the rest of the world seems to think that I should be climbing, but not actually making any headway with the far nobler task of 'reinventing the Moors'. This is set to change I think. At Maiden's today I started to really feel a drive to climb the arete. It's the sort of thing that is always going to be ludicrously dangerous; it's the epitome of the New Wave.

I'd struggled before, finding a way around the arete that was at least partially secure. There seems to be three types of security in climbing: bomber almost all the time; doable quite a lot of the time, but things rip and sometimes it doesn't work; and then just daft, utterly low percentage moves. I think the definition of old wave routes is that they are somewhere between the first two types of security. New wave is between the second and third, which is why it was important for the move to feel closer to the middle type. If it's too ridiculous, you don't even have a chance.

So the crux is now getting to a position where I could solo it (that's 'could', not solo it every time). And when we say solo, we mean a REAL solo. No gear, not a nugget. Chance of surviving a fall? Low.  It's exciting. I'm interested to see how this one will go. The sequence is so daft, on outside edges of the shoe and so ludicrously barndoory I think a successful ascentionist can happily commit themselves to the asylum.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Finding Peace

Sometimes you have to take a little time out... I've been enjoying the Moors over the last week. This outcrop appears to be unrecorded as a climbing venue, but certainly visited historically.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

New Thorgill Highballs - An English 7b Move?

Finally Latching The Pocket Once The Sprags  Are Turned
Thorgill crag is wonderfully located and home to a good bit of bouldering. Its routes are less good, with only a couple of things sub-extreme of much interest. The highballing circuit is coming along nicely now, with a bit in the E5-7 range. We started off the day by climbing a line right of Parochial Dream that went at H6 6c with a few pads (would be a lot bolder without them). It's a great highball, very technical and reasonably sustained.
A Unique Move?
The real niggle in my mind though was the direct start. It's something I've been trying for nearly a year now, with about 20 goes at it above pads. It starts off up a slab next to some rocks, before rearing out across the bulge on undercuts. After this you go up to a small down-ward pointing spike with first your left thumb and then your right. A double thumb undersprag! What a bizarre move! As a bit of a connoisseur of weird finger moves, it was something that was really top of my list. The start is basically just a boulder problem and then it finishes up the 6c crux of Wheat From The Chaff. It's no great line, but it is a great move.
Wheat From The Chaff (H6 6c) from Franco Cookson on Vimeo.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Lounging In The Sun At Glaisdale

I got a couple of shots today that show the Glaisdale quarries quite well. I bought a decent phone and it turns out it's not that bad at taking photos. I'd love an SLR like, but I'll have to wait till I have some money.  The route above is Franziskaner (E6 6cish), named after the very good Bavarian wheat beer (available in Sainsbury's). The lower picture 'Gnedl Maedl' (dumpling girl in Lower Bavarian) - a bit of a freighter at E6 6a.

It was perhaps the first day in a long time where I have made no progress. Dave had insisted on going to a south-facing sheltered crag and it was ridiculously warm, so I sat around for a long time. I had a go at shunting an unclimbed arete, but it was just eliminate and rubbish, so I sacked that off. I then worked an unclimbed wall, which was a bit touch and go. I tried to solo this as it got a bit cooler, feeling surprisingly solid on it, only to rip the crux hold off and fly down the bad landing. Falling on my broken ankle was exactly what I didn't want to do, but luckily I managed to fall over in a funny way and it was alright. I tried it again, brushing the new stump of the hold so that it was a bit clean. I felt solid again and was chuffed that the move had become a bit harder. And then BANG, it ripped again. Luckily landing okay for a second time, I sacked it off. Better to preserve the tips than climb this thing, I thought. It's rare for holds to snap like that in the moors, but then I suppose one should expect it on rock that has never been climbed on. I enjoyed sitting around and drinking tea though - was a good reward for yesterday's wildness.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Video: Fly Agaric (H8 7a) And Chalkpoint (H6 6a)

Nu Wave I from Franco Cookson on Vimeo.

Fly Agaric - A New Level Of Difficulty In The Moors

When the tacky sap goes tack the other way, you know that you're in trouble. You see bubbles in the mist, sand out-breaking from its matrix. You know it's time to levitate out of there, but there aren't any holds. Devil-placed razors slash at the fingertips and whatever rubber you have on your feet shears and skids to leave an undulating flare of sketch. And ride the crest my son, for you are on Jesus's penguin tails and if you should let go, you're gonna go miles. If yon belayer fails to run, you'll be digging up rocks and turf. Bear down on the jelly wild surf and propel to paradise regained. 

A razor dish leaves an imprint on the soul. You go through life as a balloon, with tethers slowly growing that bind you to normality. Arbitrary. In a dangerous place, the smaller the hold, the more it cuts through these ties and you end up floating off in somewhere slightly less subjective. It's only a hold in this reality - in other worlds it's a friend or good time or whatever. And so you can use the physical here, to deconstruct what some people see as the real world. One man's backwater is the centre of the universe, one man's impossible is a runway. You can make up your own world.

Today was a fine day. I'd declared this blunt rib too hard for me and had it in the back of my mind as the preserve of the lunatic. But there I was - mid-crux and flying. Fly Agaric is the polkadot mushroom that makes the soul fly - to be a giant or a dwarf is the choice it lays at our feet. It's hard to not get over the top. Thorough enjoyment was how I'd describe it. I had originally thought this would be safe and hard, but we measured the fall today and you'd definitely hit the deck from the crux (only 6 metres mind). With a running belayer you probably wouldn't, which puts it in the midish bracket of safety. I've sort of lost track of how hard the move is. Certainly at least English 7a, but I think the original 7b I gave it might be a bit over the top now the holds have cleaned up - but maybe I've just got stronger? I'm certainly crimping ridiculously at the moment - it's wizard! Circa H8 7a I'd have thought.

It wasn't the end of the day either. Dave climbed the mighty 'Death Arete' to give a trouser-browning E7 6a. Top line that like.

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Never-Ending Flood Of Unclimbed Lines

What a whirl-wind the last few weeks have been. So many routes and venues have been worked out and explored. But for every route you tick off the list, two more seem to appear out of nowhere. The coast is now getting to a position where it is comprehensible. There are only a couple of hard routes left at Smugglers, a couple more at Stoupe and Maiden's is the same. There are other satellite crags, but let's not think about them.. (my head might explode).

Further inland, the bouldering has exploded again and there is so much to document it's ridiculous. But crags like Danby are getting to a point near completion in terms of routes. Likewise, Blakey Ridge and the dales either side really are drying up - you would expect it, being only 5-10 miles from where we all live, but there's so much there that it's taken a while. We're probably down to the last 20 quality lines in that area, although Sam Marks found a new crag there yesterday (so let's not proclaim that too loudly..). But just as all this comes into focus, Tripsdale and crags around Urra Moor overflow with potential. There's even some talk of more crags in Billsdale, which would be quite surprising.

There's an obvious question (and it's one that we ask ourselves a lot): when will there simply be no more new crags and unclimbed lines left? The remoteness and unexplored nature of the Moors is a big part of the area and it's something we're keen to prolong - so there's an obvious worry that there will be a day when there is simply nothing left. If experience has taught us anything though, then it's that there really wont be a time without new routes. I remember when I freed the aid route on the face of Roseberry Topping that I made sure I really enjoyed it as I couldn't imagine I'd ever climb a new route of that quality again. At every stage I thought that - after The Hypocrisy Of Moose a year later, after The Waves Of Inspiration a year after that, and after The Tormented Sole (another year on). But each time I found another line, so that there were more known unclimbed projects than when I had started looking for them.

On the one hand there's a sadness to this, as it means when I climb a new route like Present Perfect I'm no longer thinking "that must be the best experience I'm ever going to have", instead I'm already thinking about the next line. But it gives a glow that is a lot greater than these single moments alone. Instead of a bowl of porridge with a couple of sultanas in, climbing in the Moors has become a bramble crumble drenched in clotted cream. So as counter-intuitive as it might seem, I reckon that the more you climb here, the more the place is going to become unknown and the more all our lives are going to be impregnated with sweet creamy goodness.

P.s. Not far off climbing that bad boy above.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

"The Holy Grail Of Moors Unclimbed Lines"

The Tripstaler, the pronged pronged prong of a valley, the lush wilderness, the jewel of east Billsdale, perhaps the remotest-feeling part of the Moors - this is Tripsdale. There's a weird feel to the area, with a mixture of devilishness and warmth. The valley is mostly sheltered, plastered in sun and there are boulders everywhere. It's a fast 30 minute walk in, which keeps away the boulders, but there is effectively endless possibilities. The home of dreams? Well, there is at least one dream line..

As a person ravaged by goals and with a large list of things to do preying on my mind, it takes something pretty special to crumble my logic and turn me into a blabbering, mindless hedonist. That's what happened today. I didn't mind that it was not much more than a highball boulder problem and that it was going to take a lot more effort than the other H7/8s around. No, the main thing was that the line is perfect - utterly outstanding, the moves are nails and that it's so idyllicly located.

 We put up a new thing up a hanging prow too. 
It campuses a bit and then boldly finishes up an arete (out of shot) 
'Harbinger' (soft E5 6c*)

So, what is this line? It's something that we've known is there for a good few years and other people have looked at from the ground (I'm not sure if anyone's lobbed a rope down, but judging by some of the holds I wouldn't have thought so..). It's a cauterised arete, similar to The Waves Of Inspiration in terms of rock type. There are big holds at the bottom and then no obvious holds above. It starts on easy moves, with a steady 7a path to a good foothold. From here there is magic, pure raw magic. If you were really tall, as in 6ft 5' armspan, then you could bypass this crux, with another few moves of 7a, but (luckily?) for me I'm just a little too short to use that sequence. The result is a zero gravity move. You use a lot of core on it and then you're onto a 6c/7a romp and dyno, which would be a bit spicy.
Harbinger - Kay Nest, North Yorkshire Moors from Dave Warburton on Vimeo.
The main thing that attracts me to this route is the difficulty of the moves. You could probably roll the fall out down the steep hillside, which would hurt, but you'd be so psyched I'm not sure you'd even notice. So it's hard and safe. But, it's right at my limit and uses a lot of muscles that I don't yet have. It should be a real 'project', where I learn something. When you strike that exact point where you can't do a sequence, but you know you will be able to do it next time when fresh, then  that's a really powerful thing that just makes you drop all your other hard-graded route ambitions. That's where I am now, stoved off my box.

O, and the foot is still jiggered, but Moors gods stove us on. 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Liquid Forms - New Routes And Broken Bones

Plasticman (Grade not really known - quite bold)
This is pretty much where it's at, at the moment. Big moves between poor holds can give you the feeling of flying and if you get it wrong, you can be really flying. The Pex Wall at Maiden's Bluff is gradually getting worked out, but not without interest. I got right up to the top today on the unclimbed 'Flake Project' - named so because it starts up a short flake. Entering the crux, with a good few metres of air below me, I doubted myself, just for a second. It was enough to make me stuck mid-crux, I quickly decided to try and jump and ended up lowering my weight down the slab until I was hurtling towards the massive pad stack. Even with 8 pads, the ankles weren't saved and it was fairly painful.

After a two minute rest I decided that it was only going to get more painful as the day went on and that I really wanted to climb this route. So I set off again, with some agonising moments low down trying to twist my ankle. Before I knew it, I was back at the top and ready for the crux. Pirouetting on my toes, the warm ache turned pretty sharp and it was probably the fear of landing on it again that pushed me on to dyno for the top. Perhaps the stupidest ascent to date, but it seemed to work. I really hope this gets better soon!
The warm up at Pex Wall, Maidens Bluff from Dave Warburton on Vimeo.

We didn't let this dampen our day though. Dave made fast work of Archaeopteryx and then also added a new E5 on the left wall. I really want to get someone on Aerchy onsight, just to see if it's possible. It's just so blind to read.

I used my (broken?) ankle as an excuse to do a lot of cleaning and have a look at the megadeath arete. It's so outrageous, so bold, so ludicrous - O MY GOD! I mean really. With a couple of OK wires, or more trustworthy holds, or secure climbing, this could be an H8 or 9 or something. As it is, it's English 6c/7a, ludicrously wild and dynamic, smeary and all of this above a terrible fall. The flake that I thought would never hold a fall came off in my hands today, to leave utterly no gear. It's New Wave for sure. Total death. A brilliant place to be though!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

New Blakey Testpieces Ground Up - The Duck Roof Goes!

Well, I never thought I'd see a time when there wasn't much left to be done on Blakey Ridge, but we're getting there. Our early April Lull seemed to not really exist today, with a couple of new additions to Hillhouse Nab (now more or less totally worked out) and the Unclimbed Duck Roof also getting climbed (Duck Crag is also fairly worked out now).

So first up was Hillhouse. Lethargic, grumpy and weighed down with mats, both me and Dave were pretty unpsyched as we rolled around in the wind. I feel ludicrously light at the moment, with effectively zero body mass - this works wonders on bizarre levitation moves, but you end up just totally without energy sometimes. I ate a load of biscuits and then we managed to climb the line between the three star E7 7a I climbed a couple of weeks ago (Present Perfect) and Dave's original E4. The landing was massively irritating and the moves ludicrously thin. I got up it eventually, but I wasn't really feeling it. It finishes up the top 6c move of Present Perfect, which makes it bold, but otherwise it's basically a highball English 7a move. Lovely rock like. Dave also climbed a higher quality E7 6c, which tackled a really cool scoop. That was pretty nice like. Anyway, we were both pretty tired, so we chose a new crag - Duck Crag!

On the way back we met up with Mr. Marks and his chums, who had been down at Gill Wath. It looked like it was all coming together for an ascent of Duck Roof, with the extra pad they had and a few more spotters. Sam Tuned in his radio to listen to the grand national...

The Duck Roof has been a real drain on me over the last year, trying it ground up. We never had enough pads, or enough people, or the right conditions, or chickened out. It's a solo through an overlap that feels ludicrously exposed, despite being on large holds. The footholds are poor and you feel like you're going to ping off at any point. A ping would be very serious, although a jump off from low down onto mats is okay. Despite the dampness and my weakness today, I was determined to finally get this thing done. After a couple of ups and downs I committed, which was a bit interesting.

Hillhouse Nabbb from Dave Warburton on Vimeo.

The reach through the roof is totally blind and you end up with your hands in the top groove. From here there are seemingly no footholds and I ended up just heel hooking a blank wall - scraping on through to the top slabs. Pretty high and very cool. It's an unlikely line of weakness that is satisfyingly totally uneliminate. It feels very strange to be in an age post-the duck roof project.

The next week is quite up in the air - is it going to be top wizard first class, or are we going to die of lethargy? 

Friday, 4 April 2014

A Bit More Of An Explore - Kaynest

On The FA Of Triptonite - Tarn Hole
The early April lull is in full swing. A bit of work, a bit of a relax, a funeral and visiting some friends. A big cloud has firmly sat on the UK and drizzle has set in. We're coming to the end of it now I reckon and I'm feeling light and psyched.

I haven't led or soloed anything in the last couple of weeks, but I have been out on the shunt a lot and am getting a few things fairly wired. In my last post, I talked of four projects that I could see getting climbed fairly soon. Instead of being sensible and trying to get these climbed, we've gone out hunting for other things with some good finds. I say finds, we already knew about them before, but now they're dialed and ready to add to this list of H8s ready for the lead

We've been out in Tripsdale a lot recently and climbed a stonking line coming out of the Tarnhole cave on the left a few weeks ago. That was really a lot of fun. More recently I was further west at Kaynest. There is a tonne of stuff to do here, with THE talked about line being the unfreed aid route. On a shunt the climbing is fairly straightforward. Typical Moors wall climbing on big holds protected by a line of old aid bolts. I'm terrible at french grades, but this should probably have one as it's so long - F7something reasonably high(?) No idea really. The problem is that I can bend the bolts with my hands, so I'm not optimistic that a fall would be arrested. The last move is either a 7a stable razor hold and gaston balance, or a 6c dyno- hard to know which one to go for given the gear. Anyway, there's a lot to do there and still a few things left at Tranmire (just over the hill).

 Further to this, we've been getting more local projects dialed. The Jesus and Rump De Stump lines are getting really close to being soloable, which is just pure excitement. Dave is back now as well, for about a week I think, so if the weather just eases a touch it'll mean we can get 8 pads to the crag, which will enable a lot of stuff to get climbed - especially the last few routes at Thorgill and Hillhouse. It's a world of opportunity at the moment and as long as we don't get injured the Moors may have half a dozen new H8s in a month or so. How wild!