BBC - Weather Centre - Forecast for Llandudno, United Kingdom

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.

Friday, 4 October 2013

What a year!

I spent the start of the year on a gas plant wondering if my project down Pigeon's Cave would dry out. Now I'm there again with the route in the bag and I've been pondering those emotions we go through when trying to finish up these new routes. Most redpoint seiges are stressful but it always seems more heightened to me when the route in question is a new line. I personally always feel extra pressure with a new route, it feels part of your local legacy that you really want to get finished especially with new guidebooks coming out! It occurred to me that quality new routes on British limestone are scarce resources that are inevitably going to dry up at some point and it's important to try and enjoy them even when the going gets tough. Pete Robins said to me after doing Dark Energy: "you spend most of the time worrying about not doing them". So true! When you're in that moment of stress and despondency on a project you crave closure. But i think its important to try and cherish the whole experience. It can be a rollercoaster but ultimately the lows make the highs.

The sport season is winding down and what a season it has been. After the washout of 2012 we really needed a year of good weather and boy did we get it. The amazing first ascents kept on coming. Pigeon's Cave got the shortest 8c in the country and one of the most impressive, unique hard routes in Dark Energy. Ben Bransby completed The Beast, probably the best 8c in the UK and also a hard 8b+ to its right. A list of the new grade 8's so far:

Pump Up the Jam 8c, Pigeon's Cave. (Pete Robins)
Follow Your Heart 8a+, Pigeon's Cave (Ben Bransby)
Dark Energy 8c+, Pigeon's Cave (Pete Robins)
Speckled Jim 8b, Pigeon's Cave (Chris Doyle)
The Beast 8c, The Diamond (Ben Bransby)
The Pink Panther 8b+, The Diamond (Pete Robins)
The Tide is High 8a+ (dws) , The Little Orme (Pete Robins)
Cherry 8a+, The Diamond (Tommy Chamings)
Beauty 8b+, The Diamond (Ben Bransby)
Hades 8a+, Devils Gorge (Owen Davies)
Cerberus 8a, Devils Gorge (Ally Smith)

That's 11, a couple shy of 2011 which was the most frenetic year of new routing ever. More importantly every route is 2 or 3 stars. Cerberus is the only link up and it's a pretty good one. The Beast and Dark Energy are nationally significant hard routes.

My own climbing has had a bit of a disappointing end. I felt really good in early September but i hurt my finger doing Moonwalk down LPT. It felt better a few times but always stiffened up again after getting on something hard. I was very close on Insomnia at Dinbren in quick time and Masterclass on the Orme but work and injury have put an end to them for now. I checked out Owen's route Hades last weekend, its very cool and the should become popular. The first half is a 7c called Undwerworld and that is excellent in itself.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

The Newies Keep on Coming

Significant new routes are showing no sign of drying up as yet in North Wales lime land. Ben Bransby returned to the Diamond to make use of his 'Beast fitness' and completed another mega line. This one also starts up The Brute but breaks out right before the Brute curves left. Hard moves lead to a ledge(8b+ to here) before a staminafest 7c+/8a to the top. The top section has lots of rests so apparently the sum total is still 8b+. It goes to the top of the crag- another 30 metre affair. Ben's provisional name is The Beauty but i don't think this is set in stone.

A bit further inland at Devil's Gorge near Mold a keen bunch have been joining in with the dedicated locals to continue the development of this impressive wall. Pete Harrison completed a superb old project - the immaculate cleancut wall to the left of the crag classic Grand Canyon. Underworld goes to a finishing point halfway up the crag at 7c but the extension was an obvious challenge and as an open project it was fair game. Owen Davies got involved and started putting the time in and together with Pete they worked out the top section which added another 7c on top of Underworld. Pete was held back with chronic back pain but Owen got his seige on and started to inch higher and higher up the wall. Yesterday he finished the line to give North Wales another 3 star classic which is comparable in quality to those big soaring wall climbs in Yorkshire. Owen said he hadn't done a route where it was so easy to fall off so many moves, it goes without saying he was relieved to finish it off. He's unsure as to whether is is 8a or 8a+. Ally Smith also got into the action linking the line into Canyon at 7c+. The link has some nice independent moves and is called Born Slippy.
Owen on the first section of his mega line Hades (photo - Luke Clarke):

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Tide is High

Pete Robins has done the natural extension to the deep water solo Heel Hook Look on the Little Orme.  Pete first tried the extension moves last month as he believed it was the line of Heel Hook Look.  He watched the vid of Rob Lamey's first ascent and that confirmed that HHL went directly up from the point that he was falling.  After finishing HHL Pete was keen to return and finish the extension.  He did so yesterday adding a significant amount of hard climbing and bumping the grade to 8a+.  The route is called The Tide is High. Pete Harrison has a vid of the ascent which should pop up soon.  Here is Pete doing The Heel Hook Look last month:

Friday, 16 August 2013


The historic month on North Wales lime is showing no signs of slowing down.  Tommy Chamings has got in on the action at the Diamond now.  Shortly after the ban was lifted Tommy rebolted the old extension project to Never Get Out of The Boat, a classic 8a.  The extension takes the route from a good rest at the belay to the top of the crag.  To his surprise it only took him 4 sessions.  He's called the route Cherry and given it 8a+.  It could prove to be quite a stiff one. Who's next???
Photo of Tommy bolting the route:

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

New fb 8a+ on Orme

Ned Feehally has climbed the big roof arete to the right of Flashpoint down Sea View Walls. Ned finished at an obvious point 3/4 along but did the moves on a possible extension that he reckoned was about 8a in its own right.  A meaty link project for someone! He reckoned it was about 8a+ to his finish (no name as yet). Effort pal!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

More 3 Star Routes on the Diamond

It's funny to think that when climbers started re-visiting the Diamond back in 2009 the hardest route was 8a+.  Considering it was one of the biggest, steepest, most impressive bits of rock in the UK the years of hibernation had ceased development despite the obvious soaring project lines.  The amount of unclimbed rock was gobsmacking, the lines of the future were there staring us in the face.  After a couple of years of consolidation Neil Dyer struck first (after two failed seasons by yours truly).  The Brute was an old project and the stand out hard line that the crag had been waiting for and deserved.  Despite this it was still only 8b (albeit a hard one), which is a fairly modest level in this day and age.  This crag had to have some high 8's/low 9's, it was too impending and impressive not to.  In 2012 Pete Robins struck to give the crag its first super hard route.  Diamond Dogs features some immaculate hard climbing, Pete battled through terrible conditions to get it done.  It still has an extension that will take it to the top (it got wet so Pete couldn't couldn't finish where he had initially intended to).  Two years ago Ben Bransby, one of the best climbers in the UK came over for a piece of the action.  He took the bull by the horns and along with Sam Whittaker bolted an extension to The Brute.  Steve Mayers had planned to take The Brute higher up the crag just below Diamond Dogs extension lower off.  Ben saw the potential for a more direct extension that had some amazing rock and was considerably harder that the extension to the left.  A super project was born, climb The Brute, one of the best 8bs in the country and then continue direct to the top of the crag with another 8a+/b pitch on top.  The extension was different in style to The Brute but was equally amazing.  The rock changed from the slick rock of The Brute to rougher and more grease resistant stone.  Also whereas the Brute was in essence a sustained power endurance romp the top extension had shake out jugs but with hard boulder problems in between.  The first job however was to tick The Brute and Ben managed this with minimum fuss in 2012.  He knew the challenge that awaited him and the fitness levels that he would have to acquire to clip the lower off of this 30 metre monster.  Ben recognised that with the crag having such a short season, with it being away from home and with it having somewhat fickle conditions he would have to return prepared and be clinical when Diamond season came.  He went away and in winter started to build up the massive fitness needed.  He did a lot of circuits on his home garage and did plenty of shaking out practice, he knew that would be key - if he could could recover on the top shake outs he'd be in with a shout.  On his first session he was surprised to link it from the top from the 3rd bolt, it seemed all his hard work had paid off and he knew it was on. The next day was greasy to begin with but he got through The Brute on his 2nd redpoint.  This is where he needed those rests to count.  I was hanging from Diamond Dogs filming, the shakeouts were a god send for me as it meant i could jug up as Ben was shaking out.  It was incredible to watch, Ben grunted his way through the hard moves and he soon found himself a couple of metres below the top on a big hold but still on very steep ground.  After all that effort it would be heartbreaking to drop the finish now, he came to 50/50 moment as he eyed up the top of the crag but made no mistake and with another grunt pulled up the rope and clipped the belay.  The route (currently unnamed) is without doubt one of the best routes in the UK and i don't think it would be out of place at any classic crag in the world - it's that good!

The line:

 Ben was a little unsure about the grade as it had gone down so quickly but 8c/+ seems likely (read probably 8c+ !)     The footage is some of my favourite ever, here are some stills but they don't really do it justice:

Pete Robins also got in on the action by despatching a project that Chris Webb Parsons had tried a couple of times last year.  Chris was thrwarted by shit conditions and seepage but this year the crag is dry and mint.  The line in question does the first few juggy moves of The Waiting Game then blasts straight up a perfect 45 degree overhang - amazing board climbing!  It then joins the top diagonal crack project and climbs this to the end.  Pete put a lower off in above the crack at the end.  The last move of the route is a big powerful move which isn't too bad on its own but heartbreaking from the start.  The line may not be a big soaring line like Ben's new route but it is 3 star climbing in its own right.  The moves and holds are amazing and its a draining power endurance romp.  Pete kept dropping the last move but it went down soon enough- The Pink Panther 8b+!
Film trailer:

Fresh Meat Trailer from Chris Doyle on Vimeo.

Saturday, 3 August 2013

Speckled Jim

I reckon 2011 was my most fulfilling climbing year ever.  I bolted 26 routes and managed to climb 24 of them.  One that got away was a line down Pigeon's Cave just right of Stark.  Dyer had spotted a cool diagonal rail above some big undercuts and there was a possible finish up a cool groove feature up and left.  I abbed in and bolted it, initial efforts felt very hard indeed. I could see a sequence but it was super fingery and powerful.  On one go i pushed my knee against a slopey ramp and as i felt it take some of my weight i could see some light at the end of the tunnel.  2012 came and went in the splash of a massive ugly raindrop.  One of the downsides of the route was that it did seep so needed some dry weather.  It dried out in September and armed with the new 5.10 kneepad i fell near the top after 5 or so sessions.  The next day it got wet and stayed wet and i spent the winter fantasising about getting back on it.  It had me captivated, when i first linked it to the top from the half height undercuts it became my favourite thing in the world.  The moves were really funky and unique and there were some great features and big slopey holds.  After slapping out to small positive part of a slopey ramp you did 4 foot moves with youtr hands in the same place to walk your feet into the kneebar.  The kneebar had to stick for 4 more hand moves before a shouldery and tensiony finish using one of the nicest holds I'd used on a route - a waterworn slopey pinch.  I resumed my efforts in spring this year and managed to do it in two with a short rest straight away.  Getting the job done would prove problematic however and i fell a lot coming out of the kneebar and tensioning to the last hold.  I packed the sessions in and started to get tired, then i got some strange forearm injuries and had to stop climbing for 4 weeks.  I started climbing again but Pigeon's was a no go in 25 degree heat, the holds are like butter in these conditions.  I really wanted to get the route done for the guide, it could be one of the last hard FAs i might do and it would be special to do another hard one on the Orme.  My first session back on the route was a disaster, i couldn't even do it from halfway and i broke a piece of the undercut off.  Everything seemed stacked against me on this one.  I glued the hold back on and then finally on the day Pete did Dark Energy i fell off the top again.  I've never been so happy to fall off something  but was dismayed at finding a foot move hard on the new highpoint.  I knew getting out the car today that the conditions would be good.  It's a bit of a nightmare crag and getting it mint is half the battle.  I warmed up on Pill Box then headed down.  There were some big numbers present- Barrows, Shauna and Ned.  I felt mutant on the dog and knew this was the time.  It went down first redpoint, the last move was proper 50/50 but i ran my fingers up the wall to the final crimp and got the jugs.  The route is called Speckled Jim (Genereal Melchetts Pigeons in Blackadder Goes Forth) and it's 8b.  The one man who i was worried might think its totally piss is Alex Barrows as he's taller than me and has some pretty nifty kneebarring skills.  To my relief he confirmed it wasn't and reckoned it was harder than Kali Yuga and La Connection,two 8bs he'd done earlier in the year. Phew!
Photo: Jack Geldard
The beasts were taking advantage of the good conditions.  Stiff Upper Lip got flashed 3 times by James Noble, Barrows and Ned and they all reckoned 7c+ and probably easier than Follow the Prof (also flashed by James).  Weirdly they reckoned Koo Koo was the hardest of the bunch!

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Best Roof Climb in the UK?

Today Pete Robins  completed his latest project and this one is potentially the best yet.  Pete's latest creation is the first (and likely last) breach of the massive flat roof down Pigeon's Cave.  Pete (and everyone else) had always gazed up and wondered about the big unclimbed roof above Cat Amongst the Pigeons/Felaltio Nelson.  It looked amazing but would it be possible? On a miserable February day Pete abbed off the top and started cleaning and bolting the line. 
It looked ridiculous, had he bitten off more than he could chew this time?  He had a few dabbles on it but got stuck into Pump up the Jam which went down after a mini seige.  Pete's attention then turned to his mega roof project, he soon got all the moves and was pulling out some good links.  He was starting the route up Stiff Upper Lip which was higher quality and added more amazing roof climbing.  Just before the crux of Stiff, the route branches off left and follows a rampline all the way to the lip. It was immediately apparent that this route fitted Pete like a glove- whereas in years gone by he was a vert slatemaster these days he is definitely king of the roof.  Lots of heel hooks and heel clamps played to his strengths perfectly and he made fast progress.  Last week he made it to the final moves but fell moving his feet round the lip.  Today the conditions were amazing and he despatched first redpoint.  The route tops out onto a ledge so has a satisfying finish.  It certainly is a unique route, it is a roof for 15 metres or so and the holds and moves are amazing.  Certainly one of the best hard routes in the UK. The route is called Dark Energy and he's given it 8c+, i got the ascent on camera so hopefully when the footage is released it will inspire some beasts to give it a go.

Some video stills:

Monday, 29 July 2013

The Heel Hook Look 2nd ascent

Pete Robins has made the 2nd ascent of Rob Lamey's super deep water solo on The Little Orme.  Rob climbed his route (after plenty of splashdowns) in 2007 and it hasn't really been on anyones radar since then.  Pete had the route in the back of his mind and the warm dry conditions made the proposition even more tempting.  Heel Hook Look is accessed by the beach from Craig-y-Don.  The route starts on the last ledge systems and requires a high tide.  Because it's a traverse (well up until the last few moves) it stays at a friendly height above the sea.  Pete raced along to a resting position on his first sesh just over a week ago but didn't realise that the route went up from there and was falling trying to make some desperate moves left.  He returned on Saturday and with the knowledge of where the route topped out he managed to avoid the dip into the briney.  He raved about the route, the DWS crowd should check it out.  There is a 6c/+ which tops out from the last jugs on HHL.

Here is the vid of the FA from a few years ago:

Pic of Pete Harrison on the start:

I got some nice footage of Pete doing it, i'll probably stick it in my film.
My problem Flashpoint filmed during the dry spell:

Some Clwyd footage including Mule on his dinbren 8b:

There hasn't been much of a scene on the sport crags yet this year.  It's been pretty shit conditions during the heatwave but the crowds have been strangely absent this year.  Diamond season is just round the corner so maybe they're all training for that!

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Follow Your Heart

Pigeon's is the IN crag of the year.  New projects are appearing every week and plenty of people are getting down to the beach.  Since ticking the S crack Pete has teamed up with Ben Bransby and the pair have been helping the crag dry up with a shovel and bolting.  Pete has two new projects, one will be phenomenal when it goes and the other is pretty amazing too.  Ben got in on the act by bolting a project that we'd all seen the potential for.  It looked like you could get into Follow the Prof (an amazing steep 7c+) by starting up Stiff Upper Lip and traversing right past some slots.  Ben put in a hard shift and bolted it up giving it an independent start in the process.  Today was pretty wet and horrible and hence the conditions were even shitter than normal down there.  First redpoint Ben made it through the crux move but made an error by clipping the next bolt and powering himself out in the process.  Next go he made it into Prof and as he shook out before the mega last move me and Pete thought it was a formality as he had onsighted Prof recently.  He set up for the move and it didn't feel right so back down to the jugs he came.  After more shakes he slapped a crimp below the top but it was wet and the elbows came out.  He had the top of the crag in his hand but it wasn't quite over.  Sure enough he clipped the chain and we all let out a sigh of relief.  He's called it Follow your Heart (Follow Prof link, heart shaped jug on prof) and he reckons 8a+.  It's a good job it wasn't much harder given the horrendous conditions but then again the guys a rockstar so it probably wouldn't have mattered.

Film grabs:

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Pump up The Jam

Pete Robins has cleaned up another old project- this time down Pigeon's Cave. The 'S Crack' project is located on the right hand side of the crag and is essentially a 3 bolt boulder route. Think right hand side of Raven Tor but amazing. We don't know who bolted it originally but Kristian Clemmow had a few goes in the late 90s and i pulled a good hold off it about 8 years ago. The route involves a hard (font 7c+) move to gain the base of the prominent curving crack then some burly manoeuvres up the crack lead to a big slap the gain the lip and a few more tenuous but slightly easier moves to top out. We started our Pigeons campaign in mid May. Pete sorted out the moves and was quickly on redpoint. He was soon nailing the hard crux, a slap of a small slopey crimp and a trademark Robins magic heel. The following font 7b+ sequence to the top proved to be tricksome on the redpoint but he managed to get the lip only to be spat off bringing his left hand out the crack with incredibly tenuous footholds. He persevered but struggled with this move time and again. After a backwards session or two Pete made the breakthrough two days ago and managed to get both hands above the lip. To his dismay and disgust he fell off pretty much the last move just before the jugs arrived. It looked like today would be the day and after more frustration he finally topped out. The route is called Pump up the Jam and he's given it 8c as it took a fair bit of effort. It is pretty much as good as it gets for such a short route. The sequence is really good and the crack gives it a nice feature. I got it on camera and hopefully will be able to wrap up my little film soon!

Video still:

I was hoping to make it a super Sunday by finishing off my project but what i felt was going to be relatively straightforward is rapidly turning into an epic. On a good day i tickle the hold before the top but those days are becoming few and fair between for some reason. The starts often greasy and it does get wet so i don't really feel like i can relax too much.

We then headed off to a often wet but seriously impressive George Smith E5 by Crinkle Crags called Primeval. It was a bit damp in places and the tide was on its way out so not ideal for DWS. Pete's a bold twat however and didn't let that stop him. When in condition and at high tide it's one of the best Deep Water Solo's in the UK.

Some recent footage of Caff at Pigeons:

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Mental Warfare - The Redpoint Game

Last night i asked myself a simple question. Which of these is the most fun:

a) Crusing up a big cliff with the sun on your back in a beautiful place. Stopping on a ledge every now and again taking your boots off bringing up your mate. Gaining a glorious summit high off the ground and finishing off with a couple of pints and a big fat dinner.


b) Spending multiple days on the same route, constantly tiring your skin and muscles whilst battling factors that are out of your control. Suffering stress, despondency and mental anguish all in the hope that one day the torment will come to an end and you'll be free to go and do the same thing again on a route 6 metres to the left/right.

Sounds like a no brainer on paper doesn't it. Then why oh why do so many of us put ourselves through the mental torture of trying routes that are so hard for us? Redpointing can be fun but i'm sure for the majority the fun days are vastly outweighed by the stressful, torturous days. And when it goes to 10 days+ you're on a one way street to a mental breakdown. I definitely struggled with the mental aspects of redpointing early on in my redpoint career. I remember being on the Catwalk at Malham in 2003, i was just about to have a redpoint of Raindogs and the self doubt in my mind was overwhelming. I was literally telling myself i was going to fall off. Ten years on i guess i'm a seasoned redpointer and have become quite resilient mentally. However it still only takes one bad day or even one go when you grease off and you can literally feel the doubt creeping in. It's so so hard to keep the perfect frame of mind. You need to be relaxed but also aggressive at the right times. You have to know within yourself that the end will come (this part is obviously easier the more you've done). Pete Robins (no stranger to the seige) says: "you've just got to keep going, through all the shit days where everything's wrong just keep trying. So when that good day comes you're ready to finish it". I'd love to know Mark Leach's state of mind after 45 days on Cry Freedom. He must have thought the end would never come. I guess the answer to my question is who wants an easy life? If we did we'd all be single and working in McDonalds. Most obsessives want to see what they're capable of and is there a better feeling than sticking a big number on your scorecard? Of course not. The epic ticks are ultimately more memorable, more rewarding. I can't remember much about The Cad or Lord of the Flies but i can still remember how i felt when i clipped the lower off on Melanchollie. It's a long hard slog with little rewards along the way but it's pure motivation and obsession. And that's what many of us need to get us going.

Neil Dyer after cliiping the lower off on his epic seige FA, Megalopa, LPT.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Blood Lust

It seems like Winter has finally gone. It was a brutal affair spanning 6 months and while the ice freaks were having the time of their lives putting up amazing new routes keen rock jocks like myself were dreaming of cragging in a T shirt. Most years, sport season kicks off in March but this year the Marine Drive was temporarily shut as massive snow drift blocked the road. I had been climbing inside all winter with some forays outside and on the fingerboard. Weighted deadhangs were getting me strong but strangely enough my elbows didn't seem to like me hanging 30kg off them. I tried repeaters but they hurt my skin! So i spent the majority of the time pissing about on the board. A couple of weeks ago i had my first day on a rope for 6 months and got very pumped on everything. It was so nice to be out though, I've always preferred climbing continuously up a cliff to spending most of the day stood on a bouldering mat. I decided to try and tick Llanddulas to make myself do some mileage. I had 9 6's to do and Tony's route Tenacious T, 7b+ on the Tower. Tenacious T turned out to be a cracking route. It starts up Resist the Race then breaks left via some tenuous sidepull and backhand moves. Halfway up you get good footholds and can lean in and get a no hands rest. Then there is another tricky link to the top which felt hard on first acquaintance. I managed to get it first redpoint to tick the crag (72 routes). It is one of the better routes on the Tower along with Resist the Race and Vegas Nights. Most people still can't be arsed to walk any further than the Upper Cave though. I also went to Mayfair Wall in an attempt to do some mileage and ended up getting on Oyster which I'd dabbled on previously. I felt strong on the moves and started redpointing as it basically boils down to a few moves. It follows Bearded Clam (7a+) to a good shake then tackles a super burly crack. The key moment was a beta suggestion from Dave Evans which meant it was on. You know when you're working something and your belayer is shouting up beta suggestions despite never trying the route and it never works - well this time it did! It's crazy to think Jerry gave it E4 6b 30 years ago. Today it's 8a and rarely climbed. Moffatt was ahead of his time! I only need to Masterclass now to complete the Triple Crown. I've got a feeling it's going to be a battle. I had planned in winter to try and tick these two routes and make them a priority. You can't think of them as quick 8a ticks (unless you're really good!). They are old school and a lot tougher propositions for most than the modern style routes down LPT. I put another bolt in Masterclass today after the ledge belay. Last year i pulled the big flake jug off Masterclass with a metal bar. I also pulled off the big flake left of Contusion. I looked at the possibility of doing a new route there but couldn't really see it. It was a big gap between The Bloods and Oyster but i guess no one had bothered because of the flake. When lowering off Contusion the other day it looked like a worthy proposition. There were some cool crimpers in the white rock and there were a couple of holds on the left edge of the scar. The rock wasn't great on these holds but they were big enough for it to be ok. After doing Oyster i stuck 4 bolts in the new section. The route would start up The Bloods and rejoin it at it's last bolt at the top. I returned today with Pete Harrison to give it a go. The moves were really good and there were some mean little crimps and quite sequency feet. I was pro and made sure i had a good sequence dialled and managed to bust it out on redpoint. It was touch and go though and cold fingers didn't help. Difficulty wise i think it's at least as hard as Body Torque Direct which gets 7c but it really needs another opinion as it could be 7b+. The name is Blood Lust keeping with the Blood theme and also my mangled thumb from Oyster. Anyway it's one of the best walls on North Wales lime so any new route there is special. We have the greenlight to bolt the old extensions to Axle, The Bloods and Mayfair. This will turn already 3 star routes in 30 metre monsters. It just needs someone motivated to get stuck in, hopefully i'll get the time to do a bit.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Curse or a Blessing?

Sometimes i question the merits of having an all consuming obsession like climbing in your life. For myself and many people i know it is apparent that once climbing became something far beyond what you would simply class as a 'hobby' then inevitably it would be to the detriment of other aspects of life. I'm 30, have little in the way of financial security;I don't own my own house, have no pension or significant savings. Of course getting the balance right is key to having a fulfilling life. To achieve your sporting dreams and aspirations whilst furthering your life by more standard parameters is a tricky ask for the majority. Dream climbing ticks for the average human won't sustain you in later life or provide you with a good standard of living. So obviously the key is balance and plenty of people manage to get the balance right. I think humans who have been 'lucky' enough to find something that they find truly exhilarating are in a way cursed. The mind will be dependent on a repeated buzz to truly feel alive. The mind drudging monotony of a normal boring routine will be a proverbial vampire for the soul. So many people i meet just want to 'get ahead'. Work, work, work, achieve financial security, retire, die. The latter option befalls so many and it is this i want to avoid. Anyway onto some climbing!

North Wales has many superb boulder problems spread amongst its diverse array of crags. There are significantly less that i would class as exceptional i.e. they would hold their own at some of the global top areas. Recently the exceptional list has been bolstered. Pete Robins has put up several pearlers in Ogwen including a recent new 8b extension to Danny Le Rue. There are IMO half a dozen or so problems that deserve this classification but one of the best i've seen is Nodder's new problem Roof of Baby Buddha 7c+ just outside Betws-y-Coed. There are a fair few famous problems that i've seen in Swizzy that aren't as good as this. The problem takes a big roof with a perfect start on big jug. Tensiony slaps up perfect edges lead to a satisfying top out. The rock is great, the line is as pure as they come and the climbing is equally fantastic. I hope i can get it done before it gets wet or it warms up and i get tempted by routes. The boulder is up a private road and it is pretty tempting to drive up and park near it. It has become apparent that if people do this access issues are inevitable and so park at the bottom people. It's only a ten minute walk anyway and just not worth jeapordising such a classic .

Photo of me on it by Craig 'Ducko' Davies:

And the man himself crushing it:

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Denbigh Quarry

Over the last year or so Ryan Mcconnell, Luke Owens and friends have been developing a sweet little crag near the castle in Denbigh. Like the Dyserth crags this has been climbed on before on trad and top rope but the boys have been putting up some very nice bolted routes. The rock is interesting and featured and quite slopey in places. Last week Luke topped developments with a great looking new 7b:

Force Majeure - 7b - First Ascent from Luke Owens on Vimeo.

The crag will feature in the forthcoming North Wales Lime guide but for a few more details check out Lukes blog.

As sport season (hopefully) approaches here's one from last year. Some phone camera footage of Pete Robins repeating Corinthian Groove (8b) on the Orme:

Below average temperatures are forecast until mid April so unless you catch Malham or Dinbren on a sunny day there's not much fun to be had on a rope for the wimps.

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Pilgrimage 2nd Ascent

Alex Barrows has made quick work of Malc Smiths Pilgrimage in Parisellas. Pilgrimage (or The Big Link as it was always referred to) is a historic piece of Welsh climbing. In the early 90s long before the Cave was a popular and recognised bouldering destination an in-form Ben Moon got close to making the FA. The problem was written up in the first Northern Soul despite being a project and its legend grew in Cave circles. In 2004 legendary strong man Malcolm Smith invested considerable time and money (1000 pounds worth of fuel driving down from Scotland) and made the first ascent of the link at 8b+ or F9a. Over the years it has repelled would be repeaters such as Danny Cattell, Mark Katz, Gaz Parry and even Pete Robins who has done most of the links in there. Although all the moves are achievable for many the main undercut crux section is hideous after climbing the first half. Barrows has put the time into the Cave recently and has found kneebars on most of the links he has done. The rubber pads have resulted in the most minor of knee scums being utilised to bypass otherwise pretty burly moves. His sequence on Pilgrimage is quite something. He knees down on the arch to get into RA. At the start of RA he shakes out with a kneebar. The first serious move on Pilgrimage is getting your left hand into the penultimate pocket on Rocka. Here Barrows walks his feet round, gets a knee in and shuffles his left hand into the pocket. Then he rolls over to the Trigger Cut starting hold a la Malc and at the undercuts crux he walks his right knee into a knee bar and here he can get a almost no hands rest before the finish up Beaver Cleaver . Barrows reckons his sequence is worth 8c+. I think most people who have a affinity to the harder problems in the Cave will feel slightly saddened about these classic hard links being made easier. They've always been such meaty, inspiring challenges. It's not quite the same seeing them climbed with shakeouts at various points. Having said that they are still meaty bits of climbing and i for one still don't think the majority will take their kneepads to the Cave. The kneebars on Trigger Cut have been known about for years and still most try it without. Barrows kneebars in particular are so leg length specific and tricky that they will never be popular. All of this creates a nightmare for guidebook editors (poor Mr P). Anyway Spring has nearly sprung, its almost time to get the rope out!

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Training Life

I haven't blogged much of late - i haven't been climbing outside much and there has been nothing newsworthy to report. I'm pretty pleased with myself however as i've finally managed to get in the training groove. I always doubted whether i could curtail my rock obsession in the short term to get some bigger gains in the long term. The weather was terrible in December so there wasn't much of a decision to be made. My form hit a big low - a combination of not doing much and hitting the dreaded 12 stone mark- over half a stone up on Summer. Some people panic when they get over there fighting weight and immediately act to do something about it. At this time of year i couldn't care less and the sensible strategy for me seemed to be train heavy then slim down in route season. I wasn't climbing on rock much anyway so didn't need to be on top form and if i could get strong at this weight the eventual weight loss would surely have a greater impact. After a few demoralising board sessions my form started to improve. Ben Pritch had been raving about a weighted deadhang regime he had done in summer so i thought i might aswell give it a go. It only takes 30 minutes twice a week and is fairly painless. I did get stronger after a few weeks and was back up to doing some of the usual's on the board despite my obscene waistline. I'm working away now but Kendal Wall is only 45 minutes away. The training room has a 30 degree board full of wood and resin nubbins for feet. At first i was a bit dismissive of it but after climbing on it i reckon it's perfect training for British lime. So my immediate future looks to be an indoor one while i sit the winter out and hopefully get some spondoolees in. As long as injuries keep away i should be in form come the Spring. I have been outside a few times ticking a 7b+ and 7c link on the Box that i'd never done. Today we glued the Rockatrocity foothold back on so if the resin does it's job it should be there for many moons to come.

So i doubt they'll be much acitivity on the blog until warmer times when we can go all down to this amazing place:

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Ten of The Best

Bouldering on the Great Orme has been made famous by the often maligned Parisellas Cave. The Cave is an important and popular venue (people don't travel hours to get here for nothing) but there are plenty of gems on the Orme that i think are often overlooked. Most of these have better rock and are more aesthetically pleasing than Parisellas. I went out to the high sunny walls crag yesterday to try this - A superb old school wall on brilliant limestone that has never seen any attention. I thought it would be good to do a ten of the best list of none Cave problems to hopefully inspire people to broaden their horizons!

Tramps Tea Party, 7c+, Elephants Cave
I've blogged about this quite a bit recently so won't say too much. A good, funky addition. Had two repeats already and a downgrade!

Swing of Fire, 7b, Breck Road
A superb and radical limestone boulder problem. A massive roof is crossed using an undercut at the back before the frustrating and brilliant 'swing' move. Seems unlikely for the grade:

Bellpig, 7c, Split Infinity
Unlikely and very satisfying when you hit every slap. There's more to limestone than just pulling down!
At 1:19:

Snout,7c,Norman's Wisdom
A powerful line through a steep roof that still hasn't seen many repeats. When Danny C was still a rock climber.

Ain't No Party Like a Pill Box Party,7a+,Pill Box Wall
Jump start then lovely limestone holds direct up the steep wall. Climb up to easy ground and jumpy onto the box for the full tick. Good fun from the links too.
At 1:28:

Where's My Hippo?,7a,Pill Box Area
A really satisfying 7a that was rediscovered by rediscoverer Ben Farley. Some lovely holds.

Fourteen Years Later, 7c?, Pigeons Beach
A true board style problem with some great powerful climbing and a top out to boot. Worth the effort! Conditions dependent and tidal.


Flashpoint,7b+, Sea View Walls
Probably the best new problem i've done. High overhanging wall with jug, tufa and committing finish. Would have a permanent queue if was roadside and perma dry. Major flaw - needs a dry spell. Perhaps the best problem on the Orme?

The Spray,8a,West Shore
Really THE grade 8 bloc of the Orme. Impressive short, pure line on a freestanding boulder. Extremely tensiony and burly first move. FA by the Mule when he was going really well and potentially 8a+. Proper bouldering, 3 moves. Really deserves the attention of some beasts:

Silence of The Trams,7b, High West Shore
Located on the sunny walls above the road on the back of the Orme this was recently put up by Ben Farley. Different from the other problems on the list as it is slightly on the other side of vertical and old school in style. Essentially one move off a piss poor (but sublime) sloper. Perhaps 7a+ (?) but would undoubtedly feel harder in summer.

Nicest hold?

Thanks to NWB for some of the pics.