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Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Spray 2nd Ascent

3 years ago Sam Cattell developed a little area on the West Shore side of the Orme down on the beach. He put up some decent problems but by far the best and most significant was a burly roof affair which he christened The Spray. The Spray is a really pure hard bloc and has received little attention since the FA. Globetrotter Dave Mason is keen on seeking out the esoteric gems as well as crushing global classics and this problem had long been on his radar. On his first day in Wales he popped to Craig Pont-y-Pant (aka Rhiw Goch) and made a casual flash of Lightweight(8A) and Badgers in The Mist(7C). It's worth noting that Ride the Wild Smurf is at least the same grade as Lightweight if not harder so probably deserves 8A too. He then dashed over to Maes Newyddion and did the first flash of Roof of a Baby Buddha (7C+). Next day we headed down to West Shore to try The Spray. Floppy Chris had been down recently and reckoned the starting holds may have suffered some storm damage. It certainly wasn't how I remembered it and Mule's right hand first sequence seemed unfeasible. We won't know for sure unless the man himself goes down for a look. Anyway for Dave it was obvious that going left hand first would be the way. After some huffing and puffing to even get off the ground he started slapping for a slopey edge just before the jug. He busted it out eventually and kept it together on the next tricky moves and topped out. He reckoned 8a+ for pure burl factor and I think he's on the money. Just getting off the ground is desperate.

Dave finished off his trip with Sway On (8A), Mr Fantastic (8A) and 14 Years Later and Fish Pie (both 7C+). Not a bad few days work!

I've had a productive couple of weeks ticking some good boulders and opening my routes account with Simon Says (8a) and Meaty Madness (8a+). Meaty Madness at Dyserth Waterfall is a link up but it's a bloody brilliant bit of climbing. The first roof on Meatsville Arizona is harder and even better since the juggy break fell off. I also managed In Hell which is my hardest bouldering tick, definitely harder than In Life. Hard 7C+ into hard 7C with no breather. Some vids of other stuff:


Lizard King, a gem of the Llanberis Pass:

Friday, 14 March 2014

New Robins Routes and a bit of Gop

Pete Robins has hit the ground running this year with a couple of tasty new routes on the Little Orme. First he climbed a new 8a+ at the Allotment just before the bird ban kicked in. This crag has some impressive projects but is bird banned March til August and then most head to the Diamond. On Craig-y-Don Upper he climbed a new line through the impressive roof at 8b. "Funky, cruxy with great holds and moves" was his assessment. Bit gutted I didn't check that one out myself.
Some photos by Paula Roberts:

I had a good sesh at the Gop with Danny C. He's looking on top form at the mo. He despatched the 2nd ascent of Dan Knights nails 8A link from Blokesmoker SS into Smoke a Bloke. You won't see many harder 8As than this. He very nearly did Dan's other nails testpiece Paper Birds 8A+ but had to rush off to work. The crag classic Push the Button is considered 7C+ these days but you can still get an 8A tick by doing it from a sitter.

Harder Gop problems:

Paper Birds 8A+ (Dan Knight)
Blokesmoker SS/Smoke a Bloke 8A (Dan Knight)
Smoke a Bloke SS 8A (Dan Knight)
Blokesmoker SS 8A (Danny Cattell)
Push the Button SS 8A (Dan Knight)
Danny's Smoke a Bloke Eliminate 7C+ (Danny Cattell)
Push the Button 7C+ (Mule Cattell)
Smoke a Bloke 7B+ (Danny Cattell)

Friday, 28 February 2014

Enter The Sweetcorn

2014 has pretty much been an abject washout so far. I had plans to get into the hills bouldering but record levels of precipitation put pay to that. All is not lost in these times in North Wales however. The much maligned Parisella's Cave really comes into its own in wet periods (whilst the naysayers are stuck indoors). It wasn't perfect, i couldn't try The Wire which i thought would be my next project in there. Instead i was forced right into the back trying In Hell/Life start which I'd never had much luck on in the past. With not much else going on i stuck with it and eventually started to make progress. It's 7c+/8a just to get to the Rocka jug and then you have a choice of 7c's- Rockatrocity or the Cave Life arch. On one magic go i finally got through the start and fell kicking onto left wall. This happened one more time before I went back after a bit of a rest and despatched. It's probably my hardest problem, vid here:

The weather has been on the up and it's starting to feel nice enough to get the rope out. I went out to Dyserth Waterfall to do some easy's and ended up playing on the arete between Rhubarb Wall and Strawberries Man. The crux round the base of the arete climbed really well and the top arete was easy but nice. It looks a bit squeezed in but climbs independently as Rhubarb Wall climbs to the left of the bolts and you're locked in on the arete anyway. I went back the next day to bolt it then went back again today to lead it. I forgot how new routes can make you feel excited, it doesn't need to be a major line. The name is Sweetcorn Man (some people will know what this refers too) and i reckon 7b+ish. Waterfall is a great crag if the temps are a bit low as it is sheltered and gets the sun.

I then went on to Tremeirchion to film Danny C on his lastest project. I had spotted the potential for a right hand sitter to 22 Chambers and tipped Danny off. He worked it out and had about 5 sessions redpointing on it. The crux is a slap out left to the flatty on 22 but then you're straight into the two crux moves of 22. I knew he had been close and so was hoping to capture it on camera. After one go to get him going Danny grabbed the crux move and stretched his fingers into the backhand. The horrendous 'piano match' followed and a sketchy top out to a high jug on the arete. The problem is called Enter the Dragon(8a+) and is a great companion to 36 Sit. It's cool to think of all the stuff that's been going on on the Lleyn and comparing it to stuff like this. I think diversity is what makes North Wales bouldering special. Hurry up with that guide Panton!


Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Happy New Year!

With work, rain and injury I haven't had much chance to get out on the Welsh boulders recently but I did manage the 3rd ascent of this neo-classic at Tremeirchion:

The sitter to 36 Chambers is in my opinion one of the finest limestone problems in the country. It starts on a big chunky tufa and about four long moves lead into the stand up. The rock is bullet proof high quality limestone, the holds are lovely and it is very involved and continuous. It finishes on a jug at about 5/6 metres, the only thing it lacks is a top out. Danny Cattell made the first ascent of both the stand and the sit. He gave both 7c+(!) at the time but the stand has settled at 7c and most people think the sit is worth 8a. Strong long man Tom Newberry made the 2nd ascent of the sit in a fleeting visit in 2012. I'd always had aspirations to do the sit start but always struggled to repeat the stand let alone get it wired. The breakthrough came through sheer persistence and working out a more secure way of doing the last hard move. For most this move is slappy and accurate and you could fall there forever but I managed to put my long legs to good use and get them on the only positive foothold about. I started to feel pretty good and getting through the start consistently meant it was soon in the bag. The new beta on the top made me think it could be 7c+ for me but it is likely still 8a for the average sized man. James Noble made the 4th ascent last week and reckoned it was similar in difficulty and quality to Alphane Moon (an 8a problem in Chironico). I haven't had much chance to get out since and on Boxing Day I was scraping my windscreen when something went twang in my back. My whole middle was knackered and I couldn't even take deep breaths. So now I'm playing the waiting game praying it sorts itself out soon. I find it more than ironic that you can spend your life clinging to steep rock with little problem but can fuck yourself standing still moving your arm in a straight line!

Only a few months to go until we can dust off the ropes again and get back on the main meat. There's still at least 8 more 8cs and above for the bumpy boys to go at on the North Wales lime. I'm pretty excited about the arrival (hopefully!) of two new long awaited guidebooks to my favourite areas. Pete Harrison is coming to the end of 3 and a half years glued to his laptop putting all the passion and energy of recent times into a new North Wales lime guide. Knowing what a perfectionist he is I expect it will not disappoint. He's been going out his way to get specific photos and old areas re-equipped to make the guide the best it can possibly be. A lot has gone on in the last 4 years and this will be showcased in the new guide.
Also on the horizon is the second edition of the North Wales Bouldering guide. Panton has really mastered his craft now so expect a beautiful piece of work showcasing 8 more years of development. In fact the release date is probably dependent on him drawing a line under continued development cos as the old saying goes 'it never ends'....

Hope we get another classic summer and the crags are bustling with hangdoggers doing their thing.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Bouldering Season

Bouldering season is here. Here are some videos:

Old Welsh bouldering footage:

Some problems at Porth Ysgo and Talfarach:

An amazing gabbro project:

First tick of bouldering season:

doylo on lotus from Ducko1988 on Vimeo.

Ed Hamer crushing Last Malteser 8a on the Box:

Monday, 11 November 2013

Mayfair Extensions

A year or two ago the council gave us the go ahead to climb on the top section of Mayfair wall above the belays of The Bloods through to Mayfair. There were two old pitches up there from the 80s, both climbed as 2nd pitches to The Bloods. Both were Andy Pollitt routes, the 2nd pitch of The Bloods traversed right and went up a slabby wall at E5 6a. The Senile Penile Extension went up a groove to the left at E5 6b. We needed to sort these out for the guide as this would create 28 metre pitches on what was already one of the best walls in the area. I was keen to start it off so in July I missioned it through neck high bracken to the top of the crag to gain access to the upper pitches. I stuck a bolt in completely the wrong place but managed to deviate off the old belays when i got to the top of the crag. Pete Harrison was on groundsman duty as there would undoubtedly be some loose rock coming down. I bolted the old 2nd pitch to The Bloods which would actually be an extension to Mayfair as it was right above it. I also bolted Senile Penile Extension. I gazed across to the left and there was another line, this time with rusty old expansion bolts all the way up it. I had no clue as to what it was as there was only mention of two extensions in the old guides. I got excited and repositioned my rope. It looked a lot harder and really good; I got most of the bolts in but would have to come back to finish it. I also bolted the old Julio Juvenito extension that climbs from the normal lower off of the 7a up to the Mayfair belay. The extensions turned out to be quality - the wall above Mayfair didn't affect the grade but was quality slabby climbing and now takes it to the top of the wall. Tony Shelmerdine managed to find a way to the top of the crag at 6c+. He added a couple of new bolts breaking right from just above the Contusion belay into the new Mayfair extension. This is a great expedition for a 6 and should prove popular. Senile Penile turned out to be excellent also and goes at soft 7b+. It is directly above Contusion so that gives it a nice start. Julio extension is fun steep climbing and bumps the grade to 7a+. I finished bolting my new project and started trying it, I had asked about it a bit and it turns out it was a forgotten project of 90's projectmeister Phil Smith. I struggled with the crux initially then one day I just climbed it. It felt bloody brilliant, The Bloods is a great route to start up, then you can chill before the powerful crux moves. It is really nice climbing involving a fantastic thin pinch and a small undercut. After the crux you rock up the groove before easy climbing takes you to the top of the wall. It felt great to do a long new route even though it's not really a pumpy route. I called it Cold Blood and although it felt 8a when i was working it, it felt steady on the lead and thus I am unsure as to whether it's 8a or 7c+. I'm desperate to get it right for the guide so really need a 2nd opinion. I am offering a £15 reward for someone who knows the difference between 7c+ and 8a to try it and give me an opinion! :-) It's easier than Masterclass but then so is every 8a I've ever been on. There was another decent line in between my project and Senile Penile which Pete Harrison stuck some bolts in. He only gave it a quick go as he was off climbing with a back problem. Ally Smith had gone to try my route and had managed it second go pretty comfortably - or so we thought! I was there a few weeks later with his belayer Luke Owens and it turns out he had done Pete's project by mistake! Talk about kicking a man when he's down. Ally reckoned the route was hard 7c but it is very morpho so most people will probably find it to be 7c+. Bad Blood seems an appropriate name for this one!
Me on Senile Penile 7b+:

Dave Evans on Bad Blood 7c/+:

A nice trundle just above The Bloods belay

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Fresh Meat

Back in 2011 during the new route boom on the lime I was filming Sam Cattell on his project at Dinbren and thought it would be cool to go back to some of the new routes to get some footage and make a little video for the web. I thought it would be good to showcase them in a 10/15 minute short and would give me a little project. I started taking my camera out to the crag to document what was happening. The new routes came thick and fast that year, development was frantic on the A55 crags and the Ormes alike. One project in particular would be quite a coup and I spent a month filming Pete Robins and Neil Dyer on the project direct finish to Walking Mussel. I filmed countless attempts and progress was slow. Filming FA's takes such a big investment as you have to film every single go, sods law means the one time you're not up there the climber will do the route. As it dragged on I couldn't continue going down there for every attempt, i had some climbs of my own to do! Another month past and the route was still not finished. One day I was working the finger crack of Over The Moon which is just to the left of the project headwall. Dyer was having a redpoint so I clipped into a bolt and pulled up my camera. Low and behold despite not filming for weeks that was the succesful redpoint and I'd got it on film! All of a sudden I had a showpiece hard route for my film. I kept on filming bits and bobs but as time past I struggled for inspiration and ideas and my film lacked a plan or any structure. 2012 was a washout and not too many new routes occurred. I'd edited bits and bobs such as Megalopa but my Adobe Premiere timeline was not advancing too much. 2013 brought with it some better weather and the new routes started to pick up again. I was out filming a lot, I wanted to do justice to the lower grade stuff too as those boys are just as much part of the scene as the harder climbers. Pete Robins did the best roof climb in the country down Pigeon's Cave and Ben Bransby climbed his Diamond project - The Beast, one of the best routes in the UK. Capturing Ben's ascent was one of the higlights of the whole process. It was amazing being up next to him on such a significant FA and on such a stunning route. All of a sudden I was glad the film had taken so long, I wouldn't have captured these stellar FAs otherwise. The structure started to come together and i had a definite plan to finish it. It was surreal getting to the finishing point but very satisfying. Nowadays so many people are producing beautiful slick films for free. I would like to say my production values have moved on this my early stuff but it's not really the case. There is plenty of crappy audio, and shaky camera going on like my other vids but hopefully there is enough good stuff in there to make up for it. Some of the older footage is not as sharp as the newer stuff as I got a new camera halfway through and had to mix Mini DV and AVCHD on the same timeline. My main aims with the film were to showcase the routes and to give myself a 'little' project and I think I've achieved that. It's been a labour of love, taken 1000s of hours but its there as a historical record of perhaps the last big wave of development on these crags. The final 'locals' version was 1 hour 28 which I realised was a bit long for the masses but even with some ruthless editing I only managed to knock 10 minutes off it, oh well! North Wales is back on the Sport climbing map, the new hard testpieces coupled with the easier crags give enough good climbing to last people a very long time. It's fucking amazing!!!!

Fresh Meat:

Fresh Meat from Chris Doyle on Vimeo.