Friday, 28 March 2014

The Next Step

I've fallen into a little pattern over the last few weeks. I've been out most days - cleaning, shunting and soloing. The focus has been good lines, with interesting sequences and the result has been a lot of decent routes in the mid-grades.

Some New Routes Of 2014:
Midnight Sun E5 6b **
Ivanhoe E5 6b **
Franziskaner E7 7a **
Top Wizard E6 7a *
GnedelMaedl E6 6a*
Kingmaker E2 5c
Present Perfect E7 7a ***
Arete And Wall E4 6b
Hawthorn Roof E5 6a
Foxy Groove E7 6c *
Jugendstil E5 6b *
Herring Lung E2 5c
The Basstard E7 7a **
Turbot Charger E5 6b *
Turbulent Casade E6 6a
Dominion E5 6c **
Archaeopteryx E6 6c **

Each crag in the Moors has its own little style - it's a bit different to somewhere like the peak in that respect. The rock is different, the size and formations are different, the routes are different. If you compare Billet The Kid, to Archaeopteryx, to Pasketti Alpinist, to Time Captain, to A Reach Too Far, then they're all very different. So climbing new routes is interesting, as you're adding to the cannon of Moors climbing styles. I like that idea, but there's just one little niggle - Difficulty!
The Warm-Up For The Futuristic Herring Gull Project

Aye, it's getting to that time when something a bit trickier is in order. Over the years, I've learnt to follow the swell - when you're feeling relaxed then just have little day trips, gradually ticking away good lines, but then when the psyche gets high, you find the right route and you feel like you really want to do something outrageous, then it's time for a slightly longer headpoint. I still haven't found a project that really captivates me at H10+, but I have found a good range of things at H8/9 that I think I'll be able to do quite quickly and are really really cool.

There are four lines that are pretty close to the lead/solo and they're fairly different in style. At the ultra-technical slab end of the spectrum is the "Futuristic Herring Gull Project". It's basically English 7a from bottom to top, body-positiony, painful crimping. It's the least wired of all the four, but its only the lower boulder moves that need figuring out. Second least worked out is the other H8 - the Tormented Sole arete in its entirety. The original Sole waddles up the arete fairly boldly. This thing solos those same top moves, after reaching them via a 6c/7a heel move through a roof. The crux is quite well protected, but not a romp.
Direct Start To The Tormented Sole
Strangely enough, it is the hardest two routes that I have most wired. "The Rump De Stump Project" (so named because if you fell you'd get skewered by a tree stump) is steady and bold. Physical, bouldery, insecure and blind, H8/9 is the headpoint grade, but it would likely be about E11 to ground-up solo - Bonkers! I like the climbing on this though - it's not really my style, but you do this slab move to get onto good holds on an arete, before messing around with holds held upside down and then a bizarre heel and compression move. There's an arete slap that produces what must be one of the best noises produced by any route. The landing is even worse than Psykovsky's Sequins mind.
Short And Nails  - The Jesus Project Takes the Blunt Rib
And then, the beauty that is "The Jesus Project". Phwaarrr, what a move. I won't bang on about this one too much, but there's going to be a unbelievable photo of this one when it's climbed I reckon. The top move is futuristic and fairly high. It's a good lesson in the English grading system actually, as the move is a full tech grade harder than the crux on Rump De Stump, but due to it being a touch safer, it would probably end up being of a similar difficulty. Hard to know with this one, it would be good to have a second opinion on the landing - one can delude oneself with things like this.

Monday, 24 March 2014

The Jesus Project Linked

I was back to walking again today, which meant an 8ish mile walk to the Jesus Project. It's a bit much, but it has to be done - you can't be wasting days like today.

It feels weird to be even on the Jesus Project - so named, because "you would have to be able to walk on water to be able to use those footholds". It was the impossible line, the route with a crimp so small, it ripped your tip every time you pulled on it - and pull on it you had to, with the steepest smear you could imagine, just a vertical wall.

So trying it seriously was not something I ever thought I'd do. When I managed to do the crux in isolation the other day, I couldn't believe it. Small sidepull with the right, razor with the left, horrendous smear with the right and then up for the top. It's a simple sequence really that should be a bit boring, but you really get a feeling of flying on it. There is something a little other-worldly about yarding your entire body up a cliff, powered only by the smallest of crimps and some congering smearing.

Today I got back and just stared at the holds - for about an hour. You have to get to know the holds. With these BEYOND THE BUBBLE style routes, you have to really dial the line. It may well be too hard to know you will do it on the solo, but you have to know, when you set out on the crux, that you are giving yourself the best possible chance of doing it. You decide that you want to climb it - that you wont be content until you do climb it. Then you get to know the holds and have a bash! Micro cleaning. Micro Observation. It's a bit weird, but it opens up another world - a world where these bizarre things are possible.

And then onto the philosophical. For doing this is going to be something special. It was not just something that I thought was nails, but something I really thought was not going to be possible, ever. Open mindedness is so important and is possibly the reason why people climb well at their limit in the Moors. There's an attitude of 'why not?' and none of this calculated stuff about "well, I boulder 8b, so soloing a font 7b+ is probably my limit". Just go for it - try and solo above your normal boulder limit! Yes!

Video: Sheffield Climbers Spend A Weekend In The Moors

Escaping The Rains - Into The Moors from Franco Cookson on Vimeo.
So here we have it. The longest Moors trad video to date perhaps? 11 minutes of unbridled Moors action! Well, sort of... Enjoy.

Visitors, Repeats And A New Line At Maiden's Bluff

Billet The Kid (E5 6a*) - Second Ascent
I haven't posted for a few days, as I've been on a bit of a mission with development and work. Neil Furniss and Mark Rankine were up from the Peak for a couple of days, so I showed them a snippet of what was on offer. It's always tricky to know where to take people, but they were mainly keen for the coastal cragging and Danby Crag, so that's where we ended up. It's a shame not to take them to the Moorland crags, but I'm sure they'll be back - keen to get out here when the weather isn't very good in Sheffield. The highlight for me was probably hearing them describe the Tormented Sole (E7 6b ***) as 'one of the best lines they've ever been on'. I'm mega-manic about the Smuggler's Terrace now, people are raving about it already and there's still so much more to do. Stoved!

The choice of crag for Saturday was Maiden's Bluff. It's another bag full of potential and they rather effortlessly cruised up a line we put up a week or so ago - Jugendstil. It was interesting to watch them figure it out ground up and they found the sequence fairly swiftly. Troubles with the topout as always, but with a rope hanging, it's no biggy. Everyone toproped everything after this. All the projects got a good shunt and beta, difficulty and quality were all discussed at great length. The basic upshot was - very good climbing all over the wall, with some of it being pretty brick-hard. Highball bouldering or soloing? Well, it depends how you fall - the two main lines left are certainly a notch more dangerous than the two now done.

After this shunting interlude, I decided to solo one of the mid-difficulty things - the second route at the crag. Really wicked slab climbing, which is fairly safe with a lot of pads. The top is a tad pokey, but you just have to hope you stay on and bear down. This whole slab is so cool, you just feel like you're floating on all the moves.
Neil On Ivanhoe (E5 6b**)
Saturday afternoon was spent at Danby. Nothing got led, but people got excited about Die By The Sword after a quick toppers. Both Mark and Neil bouldered out Chocolate Moose, which is now becoming a semi-popular highball at font 6c/+. We laughed at the fall on Howl Psyche and I dabbed some chalk on holds of various things. I think "good lines, with a terrible crag bottom" summed up their thoughts on Danby - you sure have to learn your way around the myriad of caverns. 

So after a night on the lash (for them, I was working), we had a leisurely 8am departure for the coast once more. I was trying to talk them round to exploring Blakey Ridge - nearer and with the possibility of meeting up with Jack and Sam Marks, but the lure of the Terrace gets them all. There was only time to dip in to the climbs there, with ascents of a couple of short aretes and then the 2nd and 3rd ascents of Billet The Kid. They really raved about this line, which was nice to see. We'd given it a lone star, which in hindsight was a little bit stingey, but it was pleasant to watch them romp up it and to re-live the experience. Perhaps it was even better though when they swung a top rope down the Tormented Sole. They looked really rather chuffed that such a feature existed and I'm confident they'll be back to lead it. I had a ganda at the direct through the roof on a top rope. Harder than I thought it was going to be. 7a move through the roof probably. That should be class too.
Corsair - E1 or E4? Who knows?

So, with a bit of ecstasy at the ENORMOUS FUN everyone was having, we thought we'd dodge the evening chills with a bit of a trip to Glaisdale Rigg. This is another new venue, which is hardly a brilliant venue, but it does what it's good at very well - highballing in mid-grades. By now people were getting a little tired, but they both still managed an ascent of Ivanhoe (E5 6b **) - the main wall of the central bay that we put up a couple of weeks ago. It was a pretty good cherry on the top of a splendid weekend I think, lets hope to see them again.

Our biggest video yet is to come - hopefully later on today.  Now just to decide what crag to go to next..

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Beauty Of Rain

Well the exceptional dry-spell we've had has finally come to an end. Out on the Jesus Project today, enjoying the last of the good weather before the heavens opened. Despite bracing winds and driving rain, even the walk back was fairly enjoyable and the crag was pleasant as ever. Hanging from the line, just as I had done the crux for the first time ever, it was strange how the wind seemed to become quieter as the branches began to be pattered by droplets. A very pleasant experience, made all the better by the unlocking of the crux.

The Jesus Project lies in the alcove section of the crag, with the now popular (well kind of..) highball climb of 'The Chocolate Moose' just to the right and lots of old trad routes dotted here and there. The project starts off easily, with lapping layback flakes, before a steady 6a move to gain the crux holds. It's quite incredible how many massive holds there are on the crux, considering how hard the route is. It turns out that the crux sequence basically boils down to cleaning this one tiny hold really well and bearing down on it really hard with very little for the feet - and then jumping for the top. It's hardly the most refined piece of climbing ever, but it sure is fun and requires a fair bit of the old finger strength.  I reckon this wont actually take many sessions to get ready for a shot at the solo/lead.

With a slightly damaged left tip, the rain is actually a bit of a welcomed break. A nice cup of tea, looking down the valley at all the cloud and rain - it's pretty nice in its own little way. With rain comes layoff and with layoff comes time to think. After three weeks of solid action, a dozen new routes and a lot of minor niggles, a bit of a rest and a think is just what's needed. The first step of establishing some safe and hard testpieces has been achieved, next up is waggling about in the sky on some harder things. Exciting, exciting!

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Mad for it!

Thorgill is pretty cool. Some nice moves to be had. This is a particular favourite. Tricky and high.

Video: Thorgill And Tripsdale Action

  Tripsdale - worthy of a guidebook of its own from Dave Warburton on Vimeo.
Quite a lot is occurring at the moment. Below is a video of a new E6 at Thorgill. Very bold, easy climbing. Not a particularly fine line, but with some alright moves. Then the video above documents a pretty big day out we had in Tripsdale. High Crag has a lot of very hard and steep projects - the last bit of the video is me top roping an circa E7 6c thing, which has a very hard start. If there are any really strong boulderers out there with about 10 pads, this could be wizard.

We also found a massive boulder field (has this been found before?!) and climbed a new (stiff) E5 6c, which was top notch, taking the left-line of the brilliant Tarn Hole buttress. It's great to put stuff up at Tarn Hole. The main line there, A Reach Too Far, is a stonking highball problem and this new line offers a similarly-veined route at a harder grade.  

Turbulent Cascade E6 6a* - Thorgill from Dave Warburton on Vimeo.

Saturday, 15 March 2014

An Unbelievable Start To Spring - Where Dreams Come True

Coming Soon: The Moors' First 7b?
The horrors of the Winter wetness are slowly becoming a distant memory, with our traditional late February sunny period being really rather excellent and extended. With the good weather has come a stack of new routes. In three weeks we've been to Glaisdale Rigg, Hillhouse Nab, Fox Ghyll, Maiden's Bluff, The Smuggler's Terrace and Thorgill. Out of all of these, only Thorgill was an established venue a couple of years ago, so (especially considering the quality of the routes being put up at the moment) these new crags popping up is a fairly mind-blowing event.

We've always had this niggling doubt about the quality of the Moors. Since 2007, there have been odd routes we climbed that you could imagine people from other areas enjoying - decent lines, with sustained interest and good rock. But what there hasn't been is the large swathes of finds that would be necessary to give the Moors anywhere near as much stuff to go at as somewhere like Northumberland or the Lakes. This has started to happen recently however. At Glaisdale we've seen highball bouldering and trad in the font 7s on uncompromising, bullet-hard quartz. I had a conversation with Dave about the route Franziskaner (E7 7a**) and its quality. We both agreed that the climbing was unbeatable, but we were trying to see the quality of line from an objective standpoint - it's not an eliminate, but it's just a line up a wall. Is it that good? When you're climbing lines of that quality and trying to find ways to give them fewer stars, you know you've struck it lucky with finds. Everytime we go out at the moment, we seem to be unwrapping endless christmas pressies.

The two hours I spent up at Hillhouse Nab should have been the highlight of my year. A god-sent window of opportunity, with sun blasting down onto the lapping beige waves of rock. This is another line that I just couldn't avoid giving three stars. Then there was our little walk across Farndale west, which, despite relatively poor rock features, provided a top-draw day out with a lot of really nice climbing. That was almost a calibrating day, where crags with 0 star or 1 star lines act as a reference point on how good the other routes that appeared were.

 Perhaps the crown of it all has been the coast though? Smuggler's Terrace now has a trio of E5s, which are without doubt the best in the area. Maiden's Bluff is looking like it's going to be fairly similar, but in a totally new style, unlike anywhere else. There's a bit of skill in finding these areas, but mainly we've just been incredibly lucky that somehow these wonders have formed. We're still on the tip of the iceberg, which is what is probably sending everyone crazy with excitement.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

The Basstard First Ascent

Thousand Yard Lobster & Harlem Hake - Smugglers Terrace Additions from Dave Warburton on Vimeo.

The Smuggler's Terrace is getting fairly worked out now. Discovered a couple of years ago, the huge potential at this cliff has gradually come to be realised. There is a fair bit sub extreme, including an Excellent Severe and a few descent HVSs. There are also a good handful of routes at E1,2 and 3, three at E5 and a couple of E7s.

Most of these climbs are focused around the left-hand buttresses, but there is still a lot to do on the Evasion and Illusion Buttri (Evasion Buttress only has 1 recorded route at the moment). It was here that we chose to work on today. It's tall by Moors standards (about 14 metres) and the climbing is fairly sustained and pumpy. Pockets and crimps as always, on good solid sandstone.

Dave has worked out a lot of the easier routes on Illusion Buttress, but there was still one gaping gap - that of the central wall, which takes a line of small holds in an otherwise featureless wall. It gets progressively harder all the way up, starting off at 6a and ending up with a  gigantic move to reach a ledge. The footholds are poor and the tendon reflexing is massive. With a total lack of route fitness at the moment, I felt myself peeling on the crux move, a good lob above my gear, but, determined not to have to come back, I summoned a bit more gusto and latched it. The top crack was also pretty nice and interesting.

I thought the crux was English 6c, but after some discussion, including Dave not being able to span the gap, the tech grade might be hovering slightly higher. Good gear with a fair fall, pumpy and with a few hard moves on the way to the crux. Hard E6 6c? E7 7a? Who knows?

We also added another couple of things at E1,4 and 5. The E5 was Dave's take on The Basstard, which had a great runout to the right, traversing wildly to avoid the crux. The other stuff was highballesque soloing on the buttress by the descent.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Maiden's Wall FA (E6 6c**)

I've been working a lot on the walls at the Maiden's Bluff at the moment. There's a big slab, about 8 metres high, with around 6 lines on. The routes are fairly indistinct, with few features, other than a wonderfully fine pattern of ancient working. The climbing is bizarre and bold - few large features and no gear on most of the routes.

I think the easiest move anywhere on the slab is 6a or b and there aren't many of them. A lot of the sequences are great 6c, 7a and harder things, with delicate feet and very subtle body positioning. The rounded nature of the climbing makes it highly marginal and quite scary at the top (where all the cruxes are). It can be very interesting and convoluted for slab climbing, with a lot more than just padding and crimping - heal hooks, cross overs, sprags, catches of monos, toe pointing and dynoing.

Today we worked on a few of the routes and picked off the entry route to the slab. It goes at about E6 6c. A good line of pockets that glides up the slab and a true line of weakness. It's hard to know how good the lines are, as you can basically climb anywhere on the slab, but considering the relative lack of features either side of this, it feels like quite a good route. There's gear for the top crux too on this one, even though we decided to just solo it. The rock is at its softest on this left side, but it's fine. Very enjoyable.

I also had a go at perhaps the best line on the wall. I'd shunted the top of this and it seemed like a goer at bold English 7a. I managed to flash the start, which was also in the English 7a range - spectacular move, with a heel lock in a flake and then some rancid crimping that led out to a toe stab into a pocket and a throw for a poor mono gaston. This propels you into the heart of the wall and then onto the crux. A few of the routes end at a big break and gaining this can be pretty heart-in-the-mouth stuff. On this particular line, you end up with a rubbish rounded gaston and a very high foot. I got to this point and chickened out, managing to retreat and then jump off. Falling of this top move would not be pleasant I don't think and it's really quite hard!

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Video - New Fox Ghyll E7 6c*

Cool little route, following the serious scoop. Nice climbing, demonstrating there are weird little routes hidden in a lot of the nooks and crannies about. 

Farndale West - A New E7 And Some New Crags

Farndale West is one of the most stunning locations in the Moors. It catches a lot of sun and is exceptionally quiet. Whilst well-known for its daffodils, the amount of rock in the area is rather less figured out.  It has to be one of the top areas for new routing - both boulders and routes. That was the choice of destination for yesterday. The valley is long and stretches from Petersgate in the far south, to Middlehead at the head. Both these two extremes have seen a bit of attention, but what lies between is the focus of a few people's interests at the moment.

We started off at Low Mill and wandered up a little side-valley to check out Hawthorn Crag. We found a small selection of decent-looking boulders and a Buttress that provided some routes. It was really pleasant and sunny, with not a lick of wind. Quality wise? Nice rock and compact lines, but they're quite small and certainly not a destination for more than an hour or so. We climbed a VS, an E1 and an E5. The E1 was perhaps the best, following an arete to the right of a roof and the E5 climbed directly through it on the left. Typical Moors climbing, with some pokeyish moves above a not-that-great landing. We then carried on to meet Jack and Sam at the newly discovered Fox Ghyll.

Fox Ghyll is an interesting one, as it's quite expansive, but a lot of the expanse is rubbish. The entire centre of the crag is a bit dank and broken, with only the Buttresses at either end offering any lines to inspire. The right side of the right Buttress seems to go at E4 6b*, although we didn't top it out. A nice boulder problem up to a pocket, with another few difficult moves to top out. The left buttress was altogether more interesting.

The main line is a scoop, which is undercut at its base. You wriggles on to this and then perform some flexible moves to get the feet up near the hands. Luckily the holds at the base of the scoop are quite good and so you can reflex really hard off of these and span a long way to a poor crimp. After this its some serious balance stuff, with intricate foot beta, some blind reaches and a bit of hope you stay lodged in the groove. It's a bit like a Moorland Gaia, although totally without gear. Even with three spotters, the fall would be very messy and very far down the hill (even from the start move). I'm glad there were no hitches on the solo.

There are still a couple of lines left, but they need a bit of drying out.Video of the E7 to come.