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Thursday, 29 December 2011

Xmas Bouldering

The weather has been pretty terrible in these parts. You make big plans to boulder all winter but of course it rains all winter! So it's a case of grabbing those nice days and getting out when you can. Myself and Pete Harrison went on probably the most optimistic mission ever on Boxing Day as we drove through the wet hills to check out the new Craig-y-Lyn boulders. The left hand side of the face was wet but we managed to dry the holds so we could dispatch Voie Normale. This is a really cool powerful 7a+:

I got close on Abnormale which is a 7b+ variant but had to stop due to skin:

It is very similar in style and grade to Jack Daniels Connection on the box. I guess that probably is 7b+ after all. It was quite shocking how my skin was peeling off on both problems. I guess that's what you get for climbing outdoors twice in 6 weeks. The next day i hit Tremeirchion with a crew (Mr P, Pete R, Pete H and Owen). Everyone was suitably impressed and got stuck in. Pete R ticked 36 Chambers and got close on 22 Chambers (7c to the right):

This has a tricky finish using a shit pocket with an annoying twig in it and the low moves are really powerful. Probably a hard 7c which Pete didn't have enough steam to complete. Both really classic 7c's. Mr P did a traverse of the top wall at about 7a which was pretty cool:

Yesterday Danny C took me out to check out a sweet little project he's found. It is indeed pretty classic and there's another one to the left. Surely it's time for a comeback DC!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Best New Routes of the Year

It's been perhaps the most frenzied year for new route activity on the North Wales Limestone for the best part of 20 years. From show stopping high 8's to diddy 5's there's been a lot going on throughout the region. The A55 guide has almost doubled in size, Lee Proctor and friends have been busy at Pantymywn and Ruthin and the Ormes have continued to provide routes as good as any in the UK. There were 11 new grade 8's on the coast, i don't think this has ever happened before in a year! Anyway here are my top ten, argue away at will, they're not in order of quality. couldn't be ringed with that! When i told Pete Robins and Pete Harrison i was doing the list i jokingly said 9 out of the 10 routes were my routes. It is probably indicative of how vain and deluded people think i am as they actually believed me!

Megalopa,8c+, LPT, Neil Dyer
The most significant Welsh line of the year! This incredible route was a surprise to many who hadn't even spotted the potential for a direct finish to Walking Mussel up that gleaming white headwall. Pete Robins and Neil bolted it together and tried it together. Initial forays soon accelerated into full blown redpoints and a race to the top ensued that provided much excitement and entertainment for the regular LPT goers. We hadn't seen a situation like this before (had Britain on anything near this hard??!), both climbers had a long way to go. It was a case of placing your bets, popping on you 3D specs, pulling out a deck chair and watching the action. Neil was the darhorse but despite him not having done the Walking Mussel he took the early advantage being more consistent on that middle crux sequence. We thought he had it in him but did he? Pete was the current king of the crag but was not up to full speed yet and he would have to get used to breathing in Dyer's Miura dust. Dyer soon made it through the first crux on the headwall. Pete had made it to the move but was in bulk and not close. Everyone expected a quick conclusion but it wasn't to be as Dyer came up short on the next big move. Weeks passed and Robins started to gather momentum. How would Dyer cope with this new situation. He wanted it, he felt he deserved it but would he get it! The prospect of Robin's latching that first crux and then shooting to the top like a rat up a drainpipe was omnipresent. He kept it chill, he continued not to warm up and one day in mid August he stuck that twatting move. I watched with baited breath from the Over The Moon crack as he negotiated the finishing moves. Nervously but solidly he topped out and shrieked: "Is it happening" (wait for the footage to hear this delightful quip). A brilliant well deserved achievement and a fantastic route that will hopefully receive the attention it deserves. To his credit Pete kept plugging away and a few weeks later got his topout to assure his place as an LPT great and becoming the first to tick the 8c+ trilogy.

Red Meat,7b,Craig Pen Gogarth,Pete Harrison
Pete Harrison must have racked up the most ab time yet again this year. Exploring the Orme researching for the bolt fund guide helped him unearth a few plum lines. The most significant of these was Red Meat on the leaning wall opposite 'Dave Lyon' crag. This 30 metre line took much effort to bolt and clean and was pretty unique for the area. The first 2/3 or so was relatively steady with pumpy climbing but some good rests. This let to a sustained finishing crux sequence where decison making was of the essence as your forearms waned. The route became a popular tick with many intrigued parties heading down for the new Orme pump experience.

The Madness Reigns,8a,Dyserth Waterfall, Chris Doyle
Probably the best new route on a excellent new sector. Worthy of inclusion for the crux sequence along which features some pathetic grips. Good fun. The two 7c's are also excellent and the 8b will float some people's boats.
Pic: Ray Wood:

Release The Hounds,7c,Craigiau Gigfran,Gav Foster
Finally Gav got round to climbing his project (hence the name)! This curving overhanging prow above Penmaenmawr was one of the worst kept secrets in North Wales. Gav realised the time had come and put a few sessions in in order to bag it. The first half of the route is the prow feature. It is climbed with compression and heels, you really feel like you're fighting to stop yourself slipping off the frictionless rock. After the crux better holds and easier climbing are waiting and a nervy romp to the top via some excellent wall climbing. Release the Hounds became an instant classic and propelled itself to near the top of the 7c quality list. For me it was brilliant to do something unique for the area that wasn't just another overhanging piece of limestone.

The Empire State,8a,The Diamond,Tommy Chamings
Diamond season really captured the imagination this year. Pete Harrison and Neil Dyer were all over the massive walls in exploration mode. There were ropes hanging everywhere. More curious visitors landed on the beach and more quality routes went up. One of the coolest lines was Tommy's project from 2009 which followed a yellow streak of rough grease free Diamond rock. The first 2 bolts featured desperate bouldery climbing but from there the route was 8a and went right to the top of the crag. It had jugs, shakeouts and runouts and was unlike most of the 8's in the area. With this route and Pete Robin's excellent The Black Pearl just to the right it made sense to start them initially with aid starts from the jugs. Why deny ourselves 25 metres of 3 star climbing for the sake of a boulder problem! If it's good enough for Ceuse! Anyway Tommy satched it up quicktime and Dyer did the deed on the flash. Supersmashinggreat
Pic by Mark Reeves:

The Brute,8b,The Diamond,Neil Dyer
The Diamond super route of the year and right near the top of the best of it's grade in the country. For me it isn't the amazing line, movement and rock that make this route so special-it's the style. Bouldery routes are too short, stamina routes are too long. Power endurance is the most interesting style for me and this route epitomises the best of it even though it is a lot of moves for PE. From leaving the amazing juggy flake at the 2nd bolt it's a weaving, sustained, hold onto your hats sprint to the top with barely a chance to catch breath. In 32 moves you only really stop once and it's not a good rest as the right hand is on a sloper. You cling to the barrelled steepness trying to execute each move as well as possible to preserve strength. Speed is important but not to the detriment of precision. Basically it just flows like perfection and the difficulties are largely dispersed on amazing holds. The climbing let's up a bit towards the chain but you need to keep crimping when the crimp is fading. A 20 year old project; props to Steve Mayers for his early efforts and to Neil for making it a reality. Jordan and Caff nipped in for repeats and seemed to agree with the hard 8b tag. Mega

The Last Crusade,8a+,Llanddulas Cave,Chris Doyle
Last year when i was redpointing on what would become Temple of Gloom i spent a lot of time staring at this line trying to imagine what you would pull on and how it climbed. Unlike Temple it had never been inspected before. Early this year i pestered Tony to lug his ladder up there and we got the thing bolted. Sessions of hanging on the bolts trying to figure out shapes, positions and moves followed. On both those roof routes i have been amazed how steady the sections have become after a bit of time playing around. I soon had the sections wired enough to try some redpoints although it was a bit of a memory test on the complex sea of slopey sidepulls at the end. Just as i was about to seal the deal i tore my oblique warming up on it resulting in a month out and severe pain when sneezing. I was soon back in the groove and pulled out a memorable ascent with a near skipping bolts deck out scene. If you like PE and you like roof climbing get on it!

Alberta Rose, 7c,Detritus Wall,Pete Harrison
Pete's little community project for the year was installing a handline across the top of Detritus Wall on the Little Orme to allow safe access to classic but neglected routes like Ocean of Emotion. These routes were glorified in the guidebooks but the carrot was still a little untempting. Pete's handline was a brilliant piece of craftsmanship and he regarded it as his biggest achievement in the area. As word started to get out he knew he had to strike quick on what Dave Lyon had tipped him off as being 'the line of the Orme'. He started working out the line to the left of Ocean on top rope and soon had it bolted and prepped for a redpoint. With the seasons fitness slightly on the wane all was not a formality but he topped out quicktime much to his delight. His belayer Calum Muskett got the 2nd ascent confirming the grade and quality. The route is equal in quality to its neighbour Ocean. When i checked the place out to get some footage i thought it was reminiscent of Ceuse's famous sector Demi Lune with Orange rock and amazing wall climbing. Unfortunately the season ran out before the masses could descend but it should be high on everyones list having some of th e best routes of their grade in the UK.

Stff Upper Lip Extension,8b,Pigeons Cave,Pete Robins
Pete brought George Smith's original vision of this line to its inevitable concluson by giving it the top out and a proper finish. The original route is amazing but the but the finish was somewhat abitary and unsatisfactory. Above an awkward clip off a man made slot was a superb boulder problem on amazing pinches and edges. This gave access to the top of the crag and was the full line. Pete found himself in a bit of a race for the FA with Lancashireman Jordan Buys. Pete got there but Jordan was hot on his heels for the 2nd ascent. SUPE is certainly one of the best 8b's in the area. I would rank it in the top 3 with The Brute and Melanchollie. The jury's still out on whether the original is 7c+ or 8a (its 7c+).

Dumpster Divers,8a+,The Diamond,Neil Dyer
Another old project that many a beast must have gazed at in the Rockfax. It wasn't going to hold out this year with man on a mission Neil Dyer on the warpath. Worthy of inclusion for the crux alone which is a massive dyno. This section of wall is not quite as awe inspiring as the meat to the right but it is still pretty damn impressive and like all the Diamond routes the climbing is sustained and amazing. Pete got the 2nd ascent shortly afterwards. Roll on next year!

For those who have noticed that this list is a bit elitist well it is but there were some excellent 6's put up also. Check out Chilly T 6c (Ty Newydd, Tony Shelmerdine), Vegas Nights 6c+ (The Tower,Dulas, Chris Doyle) and The Hunt 6c/+ (Craigiau Gigfran, Jon Ratcliffe)

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Winter is Wank

I've just been reminded today of how Winter is an abysmal time of year. You can't get your fingers warm, it's so rainy and wet, it snows - stopping you going places, it gets dark at 3 o clock, its so flippin muddy. It is just generally shite. For the stuff i like to climb it doesn't need to be -10 so it's no use to me. I've been ill this week, i even thought i might have meningitis at one point. I don't luckily but still feel wonky. Being a sensible person i sacked off recuperation indoors and went on top of the freezing Little Orme for 2 days to piss about. Mr P, Robins and Dan came up yesterday. We were huddled under Cave wall trying to warm up. Dan and Pete were both trying Caveman Low 7c+. Neither managed it and Mr P bailed on Caveman too. I went back with Dan today and he romped it. He then started trying Mule's '7c+' Batman to the right. Now if most people would have done this problem they would have thought to themselves 'well Caveman Low is soft 7c+ and this is 2 grades harder so i should probably give it hard 8a'. Mule's line of thinking was 'it can't be 8a, 8a is a grade reserved for the God's and even though i can do one armer's on pinches and am insanely strong i will give it 7c+ to be on the safe side'. I asked Mule and he said 'it's quite a bit harder than the low start but i'm scared to give things 8a'. Those boys, those boys! Dan said it would get 8a+ in Hueco. We walked round to bulging wall and the heavens opened, grim grim grim. I had a play on Weirdo when it stopped but it remains my ultimate Nemesis. I couldn't re-warm my fingers at all so sacked it. Sack.
Pete trying Caveman Low:

DK on Batman 8a:

Dan repeated the variant start to Drink Driving, Jack the Drunk last week.
Last night i had a dream that Vechio Lione in Brione was made of limestone and that the 3rd hold had snapped off and been replaced with a ugly resin edge. Weird.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Norm Rescued by Future King

Norman Clacher caned himself at a new crag x yesterday. My old king was belaying and tells the tale
He had just started up a new route and was pulling over the initial overhang pulled off 2 large slabs of rock one on top of the other. I couldn't believe it - they were'nt jutting out so you could get some leverage on them but on a flat ledge and the whole thing seemed to defy the laws of physics. Norm and the slabs were coming towards me and I nearly crapped myself. I ducked under the overhang, locked off the rope but Norm seemed to hit the deck at the same time as the blocks. The edge of one landed on his pelvis and he was in a lot of pain. He got choppered out and I went down to casualty at Glan Clwyd. He has a fractured pelvic socket. Lucky as hell - it so easily could have been curtains for both of us.

I reckon Prince William was flying the chopper. Get well soon Norm and easy on those nurses!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Back to The Craft

Unbelievably it's been 9 years since those first bouldering forays at Craftnant and the FA's of Wonderwall, Cruella and Grasswind (think the latter two were in 2003). The crag has reached maturity in recent times and has been in vogue this year. I went up yesterday with Dan to give Nodder's neo classic Special K a blast. Time conspired against us and we got distracted so didn't get on it. I will be back! It was a bit dampy on arrival but just about climbable. We warmed up pissing about on Katzy's Cruella. It's funny as at the time we didn't think much about this problem but now i'm of the opinion that it's brilliant. The moves are really cool and the holds are so lush. Really nice rough mountain slopes. Dan got it quickstyle, i found myself having a bit of a battle in the end as i kept homming it up. I manned up in the end and finished it. Dan was checking out Floppy's 8b to the right. I remember taking Chris up there, when he first spotted the line i disregarded his interest. Fair play it's a cracker and one of the better hard problem's in North Wales. Really pure, short and hard. Dude's got the vision! Dan's quite keen for it, would be cool for it to get repeated. He's got decent pedigree, he did 8b in Rocklands this year and has climbed numerous 8a+'s around the place including a 30 minute ascent of Jim Holloways Trice 8a+ at Flagstaff, Colorado. With fading light we jumped ship to DC's 7c Grasswind which has had a few ascent's this year. I really didn't think this one was for me but i perservered. I tried to get the heel to work for ages but it just wasn't having it so i abandoned all finesse and got the move laying one on. This was actually ok and the set up was easier. It was getting dark however so i needed to act fast. Dan ticked it with a mad toe hook power screaming his way through. I got the good hold on the lip from the start but my foot slipped off matching. I gritted my teeth, got into the 'board' mentality and satched it up. Mega, a fantastic problem, as good as Cruella with also a beautiful visual line. These problems are some of the better ones of their grade in NWales. Consensus seems to be soft 7c for Grasswind but i didn't find Cruella to be 2 grades easier so perhaps that is 7b+. I still think Wonderwall's too brutal for 7b especially now it's lost a hold. When i was trying to make the cruxes of these problem's i found myself thinking back to how hard i try and how ferocious i get on the board. Why is it so hard to replicate this effort outside! I do stuff inside that seconds before i thought i had no chance on by conjuring up pure psyche from within and just forcing myself to do a move that feels improbable. I need to tap into this on rock and i'll pull stuff out the bag a lot quicker.
Top Craftnant tips
- take wellies or get piss wet feet ( slid down the hill all the way on my arse getting soaked)
- don't park on muddy downwards slopes. The fucking car got stuck and we had to piss about sticking pebbles and bracken under the wheels. Slightly epic.

Old pic of Floppy on Grasswind:

Now i'm off to this magnificent place!:

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

I got the book!

I picked up a copy of the A55 2nd edition today from the old king. It is twice as big as the first edition and looks really good. Nice one to Mikey and to Pesda Press, the world's fastest climbing guide publisher (unbelievable). I'm really excited to see my babies and the new stuff documented. There's quite a few pics of me but before anyone starts throwing charges of nepotism just remember you can choose your friends.....

Monday, 5 December 2011

The Tower and Golf Ball Wall

I reported a new mini sector at Llanddulas in the summer. Further on from KO Wall two other sectors have been developed. The Tower/Turret is quite a significant new crag. Most people driving along the A55 will have spotted the tower on the wooded hillside before Colwyn Bay. Myself, Tony and Norman put up 9 routes there this year. The crag must be 18 metres or so and the climbing is very good on most the routes. Norman did a 6b+ and a couple of 7a's. Tony put up a 6a+ and a 6c+ and bolted a project (which he will be doing next year, stay off please. I put up a 7c, 7b and the route of the crag Vegas Nights which goes at 6c+. It is a nice line and is nice and sustained all the way without a noticeable crux section. The crag was quite loose when we first abbed it and hasn't had much traffic yet so take care.
Me on vegas Nights:

Spidey high on Vegas:

Between the Main cave and the Turret is a little craglet above the path hidden in the trees. I found the crag and myself and Tony gave it a quick blitz to give 9 short but pleasant routes. The routes are all in the 6's apart from one 7a+ of mine. It won't be denting Ceuse's popularity next summer but i'm sure people will go there.
We called the crag Golf Ball Wall after the finding driving range gold balls all over the hillside in strange positions. Must be the crows!

Spidey on Off With Their Heads 7a+:

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Drink Driving 3rd Ascent

We have a new beast living on the coast. Dan Knight has moved over from Yorkshire and he's already made the 3rd ascent of Drink Driving confirming mine and Ed Hamer's assessment of bottom end 8a+. A few beasts have been snooty about the grade of this problem over the years without even trying it. Tommy told me Mick Adams downgraded it with his eyes which isn't a bad effort. I guess it doesn't look that hard and the moves are ok on their own but that's not the problem is it. He played around on Jack the Drunk too which he reckoned was higher up the grade. Dan thought it was really good and comparable to 8a+s he'd encountered on his travels. I haven't had chance to get on rock as i've been engaging in the strange practice of work. It's a bit of a shock really. It's too dark to go out after work and it rains all weekend so you're a bit stuffed really. I popped into Tremeirchion the other day to play on Danny's low start to 36 Chambers. I'm surprised this hasn't really seen much attention by the people who've done the stand. In my mind its one of the best hard problems in these parts. The limestone is really good, it starts on a massive blob tufa, is sustained and has great moves and is a good length, about 13 moves. I think maybe the low is slightly unobvious as there are only a couple of holds and they're quite spaced. Apparently some folk thought the sitter went from the left which wouldn't be anything special. Anyway i still felt ok on the stand if a little heavier (8 pounds to be precise!). I figured out a sequence on the low moves but didn't quite manage them. It is a pretty hard link for 7c+, it could potentially be 8a, time will tell. It must be 7b+ or so just to get into the stand up and then that would be a real battle. Awesome! Training's been going better than i expected, i've got up to top form on the board in 6/7 sessions despite being a fat cunt. I don't mind one bit being heavy, there's no point being a stick insect all year. So much of my top end climbing relies on that weight loss impact and the bigger the impact the better next June! If i can get den 7b+ like this i should be crusing.
The board:

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Dyserth Castle Slab (aka Ghost Canyon)

The final part of the Dyserth jigsaw is the big slab above the Dyserth-Prestatyn walkway. This has been messed about on for years by locals but my old king took it upon himself to bolt the place up this year to give a fine new crag that is pretty unique for the area. There aren't many big limestone slabs around here! The slab took a lot of cleaning but is now in pretty good shape. There are 6 routes with the hardest and best being an old Andy Pollitt route Genesis which went at E3 with a old bolt or two. It's is now a excellent 6b+. The crag gets mucho sun and is close to the car park. So Dyserth now has 3 great crags. The Waterfall with its easy walls and meaty roof routes. Ty Newydd, longer more technical challenges and some shorties and the sunny slab to keep the punts happy. The gop bouldering cave is also up the road and Meliden Quarry has a few old sport routes and a neat little bouldering wall. Both these places will feature in the guide.

Mikey D at work: