Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Looking back at 13'

It barely seems like 5 minutes since the start of the year. 12 months have disappeared in a flash and we are once again on the verge of a New Year. Looking back, so much has happened over this time it is hard to comprehend. I thought I'd just upload a brief recap with a few of my favourite images before the partying starts...
I'm sure of writing something similar towards the end of 2012 but this year has been a huge one for me and my climbing. Last year was brilliant, and another big step up in terms of climbing, but 2013 has blown it out of the water.

Taking advantage of some of the late season snowfall, in APRIL!

For the last few years I've spent a fair amount of the time traveling and climbing abroad. It is crazy fun spending endless weeks at a sun kissed European crag, without a care in the world, other than your current project. This year however I made a decision to stay at home and climb local, with the hope that we might just get a decent summer. However we did make one brief trip back out the Frankenjura in April. Myself and Ted had a brilliant time out there last year and this time our aim was to stay for longer. In the end it was hardly the best of times and we found ourselves back home rather early, but we still got some great routes done and it was a good learning curve.


Back on home soil it was time to get stuck into the sport season for real. The weather came good and stayed good for most of the summer months. Crags dried out, even the Chee Dale Cornice again, and lots of stuff got done by everyone. I love it down the Dale, there are so many routes to go at and all under the shade of the trees and right next to the cool river. Perfect.


It would be impossible to go through all of my favourite routes of the season but a couple stick out to me in particular. Routes that marked a significant step forward in my climbing and routes that I really had to fight for. One of these has to be Mecca. It was a major major milestone for me and made all the winters training and hard work in the gym worthwhile. Not only was it my first of the grade it is also a route of huge historical significance and one I had been looking up at since a young lad, when I could not even begin to possibly imagine ever being able to it.

Once this was done it was time to escape the heat and head into the depths of Chee Dale. The Cornice is a classic crag with a tonne of classic routes. I had missed climbing down here and it was dam good to be back! Some stand out routes from our trips here include the old school line of 'Devonshire Arms' and the new school testpiece 'Techno Prisoners'. I had also forgotten how good it was a few years ago to head to this crag on rest days and do a bunch of the easier routes the place has to offer.

 One of the best new routes in the Dale. Gran Techo | 8b

I also had a couple of brilliant short trips with my Dad to both Yorkshire and Wales. We spent an awesome week camping at Gordale and climbing at the local crags. Malham especially is such a cool place and I always look forward to climbing there. We also got to check out Giggleswick for the first time, and spent a couple of sessions here, away from the crowds and heat. The weather was perfect, climbing early in the morning to beat the sun, relaxing on the campsite and enjoying being somewhere different. 

Jerry's Roof, V9 | Llanberis Pass

By the time the autumn arrived and temperatures started to cool off it was time to think of the main project that I had been mulling over for most of the summer. This was of course the extension to Mecca and I could barely wait to get stuck into something really hard, test myself and put everything I had learned over the last few months into practice.
It took a fair few sessions but eventually it went down. My first 8c. I loved every moment of the whole process, even the days when things didn't go entirely to plan. In some ways I was sad to see it all end, but it was another huge personal moment for me and one I won't forget in a hurry! Thanks again to all the support I received from everyone and to my Dad for the hours he put in belaying.


The grit season has been going amazingly well and as its all still fresh in the memory I won't go on about it, but again there have been some stand out moments over the last month or so and more major milestones reached. Lets just hope that the season continues at its current rate and the New Year brings more good conditions and top days out on the brown stone!

Happy New year to you all and thanks for ya'll continuing to check in. I'd also just like to thank all my sponsors, Mammut, 5.10, NakdWholefoods, ProBalm and GUEnergyUK for their continued support. They are all a terrific bunch and I am super grateful and to be working with them all.



Tuesday, 17 December 2013

...Happy Christmas!

For this post I thought just uploading a few photos from our recent days out would be best. I do love to read about peoples ascents and thoughts but I equally love sometimes to just browse through pictures. Enjoy!
I should have some cool video to share with you all soon too, so keep an eye out for that!

Thanks to everyone that checks in and reads my blog. I really do appreciate it and all of your support really means a lot. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!! :) ☃❆❆☃

Unfamiliar | E7/8 6c, Font7C

The End of the Affair | E8 6b

Clippity Clop, Clippity Clop, Clippity Clop | E7 6c

 Dave bearing down on Unfamiliar

A green and slimey Balance it is... | Burbage South

Electric Slime...

Friday, 6 December 2013

Getting into The Zone

It is hard to know where to start with this one as it seems so much has happened in such a short space of time. For that reason I'll try to break up the latest news into a couple of posts and hope ya'll don't get too bored!
Cold days and top conditions in abundance have continued to arrive each week, which has allowed us to get out there and work our way steadily through the grit hit list. 
I've gotten into the habbit this last couple of years of writing out a list of routes to try over the approaching season. Some are dreamy, some maybe more realistic but I just find it not only maintains motivation, working through a list, it also means there are no days spent wasted trying to decide what you want to climb. All you do is check your list and pick one that takes your fancy. Simple.

I had hoped to try The Zone last winter but in the end time ran out and the winter was over, so this year it was one of the routes at the forefront of my mind. I knew that after a summer of crimping and climbing things much much harder it would in theory feel okay, as long as my head was in the right place and I swatted up on my skyhook knowledge...
I also wanted to do something where you actually had to pull a bit harder, and not just keep it together on another 'steady plod' above a big scary run out.

The route was first climbed back in 1998 by the legend that is John Arran. What this guy hasn't done is not really worth knowing about. He was one of a small collection of guys who were at the front of the gritstone revival back in the 90's, with numerous hard and bold ascents up and down the edges. To put into perspective just how good this guy was, one of these routes was 'Dr Dolittle' at Curbar. Thought it be somewhere in the region of E10 7a, it remains unrepeated to this day.

Just over a week ago I got a brief opportunity to jump on The Zone and check out the climbing. It is one of those routes that you look up at and all you see is just a blank canvas of rock. No matter how hard you gaze upwards it still appears to be virtually holdless. Only when you get up close and personal with it, you begin to see that actually there are holds there and the majority are fairly good. Flat, positive edges.
Anyway the sun was baking, people were walking around in t-shirts and the smaller holds felt disgustingly hot and sweaty. I understood now why it needed to be really cold for this route. Regardless of this I still figured out I could do all the moves and it was obvious that in crisp cold conditions everything would feel so much better.

The protection for the route to most would seem farcical and an utter joke. Carefully placed pieces of metal hooked over small edges, situated at just over halfway up the almost featureless wall. In the past I too thought this was completely bizarre and that you'd have to be a mad as a hatter to put your faith in something that seemed so 'marginal'. However they had been tested, most recently by Oli Grounsell last winter, and rumored to be as solid as a bolt...
I managed to borrow a collection of skyhooks and all I needed now was the right day to come along so I could head back up to try again. Tuesday arrived, it was cold, freezing in fact and I had manage to persuade Jon and Pete to meet me at the crag mid morning. I arrived with no real intention of going for the lead but knew in the back of my mind that it could potentially be something worth considering if everything went according to plan. I just treated it like any other climbing day I've had recently, with the attitude of not caring too much and just having fun out with friends.

 The Collection, weighted down with a couple of heavy bags.

After jumping around for about 30 odd minutes and trying to force the hotaches I jumped on and eventually the blood very slowly started to make its way to my frozen fingertips. I could at least now feel the holds! The sequence quickly came together, the crux holds felt like different holds to the ones I'd been pulling on in the heat a few days previous. The crux was linked, it felt solid, my mind started to contemplate the lead, but ideally I really wanted to link it all in one go which I managed fairly smoothly after a brief rest. This was it then really, it was possible and all I needed to worry about now, beside the suspect protection, was whether I could keep my fingers from numbing up...

Most of my ascents of late have followed a similar pattern. Once I know something is doable and tying into the sharp end is inevitable, I've gone through a certain mini routine. This generally involves, checking out the gear, fetching my skinny rope from the car, cleaning my boots and all the while trying not to focus too much on fully commiting yourself to the line until the last second, right before pulling onto the first holds.
It was really interesting to read what Katy Whittaker had to say recently about her ascent of Knockin' on Heavens Door. How she slowly talked herself into it by taking small steps towards tying in for the lead "just in case" she fancied giving it a try. It is a brilliant tactic that works incredibly well to calm any nerves, take away the pressure and just keep things nice and casual for as long as possible.

The nest of skyhooks actually seemed to be quite decent and one in particular looked as bomber as a nut placement, which did wonders for my confidence. I managed to fiddle 4 of them over two reasonable sized edges. Surely together they would hold a fall...? They obviously had before but so had the Parthian Shot flake and look what happened there...
I was confident however they would not need to be tested so the helmet went on, the boots tied up and off I set. Smoothly arriving at the gear, I clipped in the rope and quickly blew on my hands to give them a boost. The next bit went fine, and still going strong I took the little left handed pinch. By this point it must have been too much for my little fingers to bear as they seemed to instantly numb up, the last drops of blood squeezed out leaving them verging on lifeless. I could almost feel myself falling backwards in slow motion. It was either jump off here or give it an almighty lunge and risk falling off anyway. I took the latter option and thankfully made it to the good holds and easier climbing. SAFE.

 The moment of truth...
©Jon Clark

Another huge relief and such a privilege to climb. It is hard to comment on the grade and I have a limited amount of experience in these things. French grade wise, 7c/+ ish seems fair, definitely no harder. I will say though that in no way should the route be taken at all lightly but if the gear is solid and you could absolutely guarantee it holding, then in some ways it climbs like a pretty bold, slightly sketchy but brilliant, sport route... Maybe that's taking things too far. Just try to keep in mind what happened with the shipwreck flake and Will Stanhope.

Check back soon for a short video of the day as JC was again on hand to capture all the action and I'd just like to thank Pete once more for his encouragement and patient belaying.  Cheers!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

The earth goddess and a moment of madness

Higher you go, closer to the morgue you are

There are some routes, particularly on gritstone, that have legendary status and a special aura about them. The very name of some of these routes is enough to send shivers down your spine and the thought of ever being on the sharp end is incomprehensible.

Two of the arguably most famous of these so called routes can be found at Black Rocks. Johnny Dawes 80's masterpiece Gaia, and Seb Grieves ground breaking line, Meshuga.
Gaia stands proud on the west face, the line so pure and distinguishable running straight up one of the best blocks of grit around. Your eyes are instantly drawn to it the minute you come up the hill.
Meshuga however lurks around on the dark side, barely seeing the light of day, guarded by the permanent shade that the front face of this classic crag casts. It is quite possibly one of the most intimidating lines you'll ever see. They are both iconic and are firmly cemented at the top of British climbing history.

Both these routes shot to fame and became 'immortalised' in the film Hard Grit back in the 90's. I'm sure we can all relate to how it felt watching this movie for the first time. The horrifying sound of Jean-Minh Trin-Thieu smashing into the lower arete as he loses all control on Gaia, and then the classic running commentary as Seb attempts to calm the nerves on his ascent of Meshuga.

Seb Grieves featured on the cover of HARD GRIT, making the First Ascent of Meshuga

Black Rocks is my home crag and where I first went climbing around 18 years ago. Gaia in particular is a route that I have always, for as long as I can remember, looked up at and dreamed of one day being able to climb. Virtually everybody within the climbing world has heard of this testpiece and it is a much sort after tick. I have to admit though, it would always scare the living daylights out of me, and I never imagined I was good enough to do it, let alone have the right mindset something like this requires. 
So it sort of got put on the back burner. Friends came along and did it and yet I still couldn't find the psyche needed to get stuck in. This season though my attitude towards these hard routes changed, to the point where I could not wait for the temperature to drop and grit season fully kick in. Thankfully it finally did a couple weeks ago and I felt more fired up for the coming season than I had been in a long while. Maybe it was due to knowing how much stronger I've been feeling from a summer of sport climbing, as well as realising I had a half decent amount of fitness in me.

It has been a truly incredible start to the grit season already. Probably up there with one of the best anyone has ever heard of, and its only mid November! E9's and E8's have been falling down and tamed left, right and center. It has been pretty inspiring reading daily reports of peoples successes, and it does beg the question, what in the world has happened!?! I have my own thoughts but will leave them for now.


About a week ago I took an opportunity to hit up Black Rocks and throw a rope down Gaia. It was unbelievably hot and sweaty with zero wind. We waited until the sun dropped a little lower and almost instantly things started to feel a million times better, and I managed to link the thing in one go. Time was starting to get the better of us though so we packed up and decided to leave it till later in the week. 
Wednesday came around and I'd arranged to meet up with Jon and Pete. There was a frost, the sun was out and it looked like being a perfect winters day. However I'd woken up with a grim cold, and sore throat but decided to head out anyway and see what happened. The moves felt fine, my sequenced was fully drilled into my mind, I knew what needed to be done and was 100% certain I'd be able to execute. It was hotting up a little though but luckily just as I was about to set off a cloud bank came over that made your fingers grip to the crystals of grit like glue. 
Clipping the gear I pulled onto the face and set up for the crux pull into the groove. It all went like clockwork, suddenly I was above the cams, this was it, now or never. I padded my way to the top of the groove and delicately reached out left to the sloping shelf, making sure to keep my mind from wandering astray and firmly on the prize. The next few tricky foot swaps went well until I was all set up for the final lunge. I chalked up, took a quick breath, ran my feet up the wall, kicked my toe out right and locked on up to the bomb proof arete hold with a massive sign of relief and unexplainable joy. A big big moment for me and my climbing career.


The sense of relief and satisfaction it gave straddling that top arete is hard to describe and a moment I've often found myself trying to imagine how it would feel. It is so different to the feeling of clipping the belay of a hard sport climb. Probably because you've come out of an extremely dangerous situation and certain ground fall, alive and well!


I'd had this idea a few days before of being able to climb both Gaia and Meshuga in the same day. The Americans did it a few years ago and it'd be a pretty cool achievement. In order to do so it was paramount I made sure all images of Jean-Minh and Mawson smashing into the ground were well out of my head. 
I was already half way there and already knew what to do on Meshuga from taking a look a couple weeks previous. Both Pete and Jon were keen so we packed up and headed around onto the front face. Conditions were minted, the rock was bone dry and I ended up top roping it at the first time of asking. It was more than possible. The route is totally my style all the way, with its compression slapping and big moves. I did it a few more times, gave the holds a good scrubbing and firmly went over the sequence in the my mind again. For some bizarre reason I still wasn't sure about it though. But I started to get prepared to go for the lead. I tied in, pulled on my shoes, and tightened up the helmet. I stood at the base of the route, hands chalked and placed on the starting holds. Then all of a sudden my state of mind seemed to change and various thoughts started to emerge. Climbing Gaia seemed like a lifetime ago and I didn't want to go for this one just for the sole purpose of being able to say I'd done both in a day. I knew I'd regret walking away, but I also equally knew I'd regret it even more if I screwed things up and got hurt. But the conditions were mind blowing, that perfect velcro like grip had arrived and everything was prepped! 

I took the decision to back down and promised to come back the day after. I wasn't prepared to risk, at any price, ruining the feeling of such a special day by getting greedy and potentially messing up.

Here is what can happen with a route like this...

The next day my mind felt renewed and back in the game. The sun was out again but the wind was raging like a bull! Hardly ideal on something as serious as this, when a moment lapse in concentration could mean you shattering your bones on the boulders below... After warming up on the route again I took a walk around into the sunshine and sat and ate a chocolate flapjack I'd been saving as a celebration treat. My body felt like it needed a little comfort! All that was bothering me was the distraction of the wind. But then I just suddenly decided to go for it and before I had chance to changed my mind, ran back round to tie in. 
Everything went as planned, no hickups, although I admit to feeling a little more nervous than I usually do! Within seconds I was at the break and the welcome sight of a solid 0.5 cam. It was a strange feeling topping out on this one. Without the wind, I'm positive it would have made the whole experience so much more enjoyable but it didn't matter anymore. A route that even in my wildest dreams I'd never imagine being able to do, was suddenly done, over in a matter of seconds. Standing in the light of the setting sun, on top of the crag, just made it all the more special. I was left to reflect and gather my thoughts on what had truly been a whirlwind couple of days.


Massive thanks go out to team Clark yet again, for all their support and patience standing in the cold for me. I am very grateful. Enjoy the videos and pics!

Friday, 1 November 2013

Chillin, relaxin and the GRIT is back...

It has been so nice these past two weeks to be able to relax a little, chill with friends and have none of the pressures of redpointing weighing on my mind, as well as indulge in some incredible tasting bread! I absolutely love being in project mode and cannot wait to get back in that vein of thought next season but its great when you can just head to the crag stress free and not have to worry about the weather, conditions, skin and queues etc etc. I've spent my time checking out next years project, this one is significantly harder and definitely a big step up from the Extension, but I've made massive inroads within just two short sessions and it has fully fired me up to get training over the winter.
Take a look at the cool pics below I had sent through from JC of a quick shoot we did on Mecca Extension a few days ago.

©Jon Clark

©Jon Clark

I am also immensely psyched for the grit and while it might not be fully here just yet it is getting there and yesterday saw us kick off the season with a bang. Our good friend Andre was up visiting from London, keen as mustard to get stuck into some sketchy trad! We all headed over to Shining Cliff with Ed and Dave both wanting to get Gecko Blaster done. Sam had already took down this slightly scary solo the previous weekend and I'd first managed it back in February. However there was still the second ascent of the direct start up for grabs... Something Tom Randall had put up last winter which he had given E8 6c. http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=67790

Andre committing to the final tricky move on his send of Gecko Blaster, E7 6c
©Ed Hamer

Ed went first on Gecko and smoothly climbed to the top, Dave got the flash and then Andre suddenly decided to go for it and also managed to get it done. Top effort from those lads.
After completing spotting duties I pulled on the boots, eager to try the tricky boulder problem that guards the direct start. I had tried it briefly before, and found it to be awkward, not too pleasant and abit of a skin trasher... My fingertips felt good though, toughened from 3 days off and the sharp crimpers felt perfect from the moment of pulling on. Within seconds I found myself on the top wall committing to the final sketchy pull to the good edges and then it was all over.
It is a quality bit of wall, always dry and sheltered from the wind, super solid rock throughout. It is definitely not your average grit route however, and climbs kind of like a sport route would. Think crimps, gastons and powerful undercutting. With something like this it is incredibly hard to commit to a grade. Overall I felt the difficulty of 'My Kai' be somewhere between french 7c/7c+, maybe a tad harder, I don't know. Basically, go try it and see for yourself!
Good skills from Tom making the FA of this old project! You can check out his blog with his own thoughts on the route here.

I've caught the grit bug again in a massive way and cannot wait to see what this winter brings. It is currently hammering it down with rain outside, lets hope those cold and crisp mornings that we all love so much, are not far around the corner... Hope you all have a good weekend!

Tea and cake to finish off a successful day back amongst it on on the grit!

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The road to 8c

Since the last post, just over a month ago, I have been focusing all of my energy on one particular project, Steve Mcclure's Mecca Extension. Since climbing Mecca back in June I had the idea to maybe take a look at the upper section, but at the time it was still something I felt was way way above and beyond anything I'd ever be able to manage.

Mecca Extension:
The full version is an incredible stamina test which packs an 8a+ on top of the already desperate 8b+. There is a rest at the Mecca flake and a breather higher up before the upper crux.

I've belayed friends on this in the past and would often try to put myself in their shoes and state of mind as they set off up Mecca on each redpoint. How does it feel knowing you have to repeat an iconic 8b+ before you can even think of carrying on up the technical wall above? And how do you deal with the obvious mental pressure weighing you down. It was just something I could not get my head around at all.
I've watched many people attempt it, all extremely talented and fully capable climbers, each cruising on up the bottom section only to drop it from the last few moves countless times. How do you prepare yourself for something like this? All these questions kept going through my mind over the summer.
People would keep asking me if I was thinking of maybe trying it come the autumn and as the summer months went on and I was able to tick off a bunch of hard routes I got more and more psyched to check it out, once it was cool enough for the Tor season to kick back in again.

 Jon Clark high up on the Extension back in 2010
©Robbie Shone

So once September hit I found myself back at the crag and took an opportunity to pull up to the head wall and take a look at the moves, see how it felt and more importantly how I felt about getting stuck in and giving it some proper efforts.
The first time up I just thought I wasn't physically tall enough to make any of the moves and felt as if I needed to be strung out on a medieval stretch rack to give me the height and reach to shift my body between the marginal holds. However I quickly found out I could just about do all the individual moves and all that was needed was for my body to adjust to the different positions and let muscle memory do the rest! It is the same with anything that is at your limit, as we've all experienced at some point during our climbing lives. Things that feel impossible suddenly become possible etc etc. It is hard to fathom how this bizarre phenomenon works, but man does it work. 
The route really is a game of two halves. With the bouldery and powerful bottom section giving way to a nice big rest on a chunky flake. Once you've shook the latic acid out of your aching forearms (and pumped some blood back into your lifeless fingers) you launch into some sustained, technical and extremely delicate face climbing, on gastons, sidepulls and crimpy blades. Holds that take absolute delight at eating into the skin of your fingertips. It's safe to say its all pretty intense and complex up there. Sounds lovely right?

©Robbie Shone

That first session finished and I was totally hooked. It had gotten my full attention and I was super excited to get back again. Each session got better and better and I quickly started to make some big links on the top half. I knew what was coming next. If I was serious about giving this some proper burns I needed to jump back on Mecca and start to remind myself of what to do. So I tied in and set off and completely surprised myself by repeating it at the first time of asking. I was chuffed to bits and decided to carry on to see how far I could get. I shook the arms out, feeling pretty boxed and tried to put myself into the mind set of what it would take to recover here and then have enough left in the tank to climb the second half. I eventually ended up screaming my way to within around 8 moves from the finish! This opened my eyes massively and turned the whole thing and idea of climbing this route into something that was actually possible.

I still hadn't managed to link the top half yet, from the Mecca belay to the finish but I'd gotten so far up the top wall on my attempt from the ground that I imagined it would just get easier and easier. Which it did, but at the same time I admit I got slightly carried away with myself and very quickly realised that the need to make that link was pretty critical, just for my own confidence if nothing else.
Eventually I found that I could do the link with a fair amount of ease and made sure that it was incorporated into my warm up every time. Those small little edges for your feet still had the tendency to scare the life out of me every now and then. I like how Ted describes them as "timebomb smears". It really paints an accurate mental picture of just how on-off it is up there. However, even those in the end started to feel good and my confidence grew and grew with each attempt. I found myself getting higher and higher, inch by inch and each session I left feeling more motivated for the next one.

Mecca felt easier and easier each time, to the point where I was barely out of breath at the belay, but then my arms would suddenly die on me on the final few tense moves. I blew it from the last couple of moves about 4/5 times, taking some big falls in the process.
Neil Mawson was at the crag for one of these attempts and we talked after about the stresses that go along with hard redpointing and that when you fail on a particular move that many times, you should start to re-access and think about changing up your sequence. So I did just that. All it took was the changing of one foothold at the top and the whole sequence felt 110% better. I knew that this new beta was without a doubt going to mean the difference between getting to the top and falling countless more times at the same hurdle.

Thursday morning I set the alarm for 7am and picked on old climbing friend up from the station. The weather seemed perfect and I knew it'd be prime conditions. I also knew that Ben Moon, who had also been trying the route with me, had managed to get the it done a couple days before, so it was going to be dry!

My first attempt went like toss, dropping a move that normally goes fairly smooth. My fingers were numb, I couldn't get the blood back into them and I fell feeling pretty disappointed in myself.
I took an hours rest and began to get nervous as the sun slowly began to accelerate around onto the face, knowing from past experience it'd soon be way too hot for another attempt. However maybe climbing in the sun today would be a bonus and at the very least my fingers would have to be warmer?
I set off for another burn and sure enough arrived at the belay with much warmer digits and feeling a million times better all around. I kept it together all the way up to my highpoint, heard the shouts of encouragement from friends on the ground, telling me to just breathe and relax. I took a breath, placed my left boot on the new found foothold, pulled on up into the final two gastons and cranked on through to the jug! It was shear joy, a crazy mix of emotions and like a total dream. The battle was over. It was won.

The mental pressure of climbing something like this, and something at your personal limit is crazy and if you're not careful it can blow you away and seriously start to effect your performance. I tried to limit myself to two big efforts a session to keep this pressure at bay and maintain motivation and it seemed to work. I did my best to maintain focus and concentrated on enjoying every moment of it all, and not get sucked into the ticking pressure cooker that I've witnessed others get dragged into.
The whole process from start to finish was an incredible journey, I learnt many things and I can honestly say it was the best experience of my climbing life.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Gotta light?

Around three weeks ago I suddenly remembered a route that I'd talked about trying in the past but never got to the point where I felt fully keen to go check out. It was partly due to the fact it is situated half way up one of the biggest crags in Derbyshire, rumoured to be 8b with a desperate move and since being climbed 6 years ago it hadn't had a second ascent...
I don't know what it was that got me psyched but all of sudden I said, right I really want to head up to try Limelight and see what its all about. So I called up the first ascentionist, Jon Clark, who was equally psyched to head up there with me and excited to finally see someone on his route.
The last time I climbed on High Tor was around 6 or 7 years ago, still a youth doing my GCSE's. I felt super excited to be climbing somewhere new, and the thought of pulling hard moves high up off the deck with all that exposure behind you made my palms sweat!

The route isn't actually all that long, tackling the big roof immediately to the left of the famous E5, Castellan. It had been a project of Malc Taylors back in 1992, but one move shut him down and he never got to complete the line, and said it could potentially be 8c!! In 2007 JC made the first ascent and not really knowing how hard it felt he gave it a grade somewhere roughly between 8a+ and 8b...
It is one of those lines where I'm sure it'd feel much easier for someone 6ft odd with a huge ape index, as the crux involves one desperate span off a deep undercut pocket to get around the bulging roof before a sustained but steady headwall. But for anyone else its a biggie!

 Jon throwing the crux on the FA

So I gave it a good clean and worked out what needed to be done before the holes in my hands (and left arm!) meant I'd have to come back another day. Which we did a few days later but after a bunch more tries and refining beta for the move it shut me down again. However I'd made a big link through the crux to the top which gave my confidence a massive boost as I was beginning to wonder if it was even going to physically possible for me. All that needed to be done was to add the four starting moves and it'd be done...

The next session started off well with all the moves feeling steady on the warm up burn, but then as soon as I'd try from the floor the span move would just spit me off. I got a little frustrated with myself as Jon and Pete had put the time in to come up and support me and it didn't look like it'd be going down that day. Then suddenly I changed the way I was holding the undercut ever so slightly and straight away made the move and thankfully managed to keep it together on the easier post crux moves all the way up to the belay. Relief!

 Crux span!

Thanks go out again to Team Clark for coming out with me on this one, I really appreciate the time they put in to get me up it! We got some awesome video footage too so keep an eye out for that being released sometime soon. I hope it inspires people to head up there to try the line as it is really unique and in an amazing position above the valley.


Friday, 23 August 2013

Wales, new places, new people and cake!

The last few weeks have all been a bit of a whirlwind for me. They seem to have passed by so quickly its hard to believe it'll be September next week! I am psyched for the coming season and a return to the brown stuff but it'd be nice to just hang onto the long summer days all the chillin in shorts and t-shirts and clipping those bolts for just a little longer.

I mentioned in the last post about our trip over to Wales just over a week ago to hook up with the Mammut team and a bunch of shop reps from all over the country. The idea was to get everyone together to learn about and test some of next years range of hardware and basically squeeze as much climbing in as possible!

I'd not been to Wales in probably over 5 years and never even set foot on the Orme! So I was obviously pretty excited to check it out and hopefully get some time to climb there. We managed a session in the cave of power, Parisella's, a place I've wanted to get to for a long time! I thought Stoney was badly polished but this place takes it to a different level.... Still, it has some mind boggling problems and linkups and I can finally say that I've been. Rock Attrocity got done quickly on our first day and we'll be eager to return in the future for more.

There is so much to do in North Wales and I can see that next year I'm going to have to make a tonne more trips over. On the way back to The Brenin one evening I persuaded the guys to make a quick stop at Jerry's Roof in the Pass. Extremely glad we did as it lived up to everything I'd heard and a nice way to finish the day. Then it was back to base for tea and cake!

 Jerry's Roof, V9 | Llanberis Pass
© Ollie Berkin

 © Ollie Berkin

 We also fancied taking a look at Pigeons Cave which has seen a massive amount attention of late and on the last day we got the chance to head down. Its a stunning venue, in a sweet little cove right next to the ocean with a really different style of rock. Unfortunately it was all soggy and wet but we were too syked to care and while we left Nathan to go wading through the incoming tide in search of a boulder, both Cailean and myself got in on the action with an ascent of Stiff Upper Lip. A real smash and grab job!

The impressive and super steep Pigeons Cave

Livin' it large on Pill Box wall....

The trip definitely opened my eyes some more as to how much Wales has to offer. Very refreshing to be at totally new crags and in a breathtaking part of the country. And we didn't even managed to make it down to one of the best spots, LPT! Something that we need to sort out for next year its just another place where there is soooo much to go at.
Thanks again to Mammut for putting together a fun week for us all, looking forward to the next one!

Swiss style gear demo
© Ollie Berkin

In news a little closer to home I've been spending a lot of my time down at Two Tier, ticking our way through the classics, stuff I've never really got round to checking out before. I think one week I spent about 5 days here! Pretty keen yes and I'm sure some of you will laugh, but with so much to do and not knowing when the weather might take a turn for the worse I decided to get stuck in.
Conditions down here have been top drawer and its been the place to go since the cornice died the death and for those not quite wanting to sulk back to the Tor just yet.

 The Simon Nadin classic 'Gonads' 8a+

Secteur Nadin is brilliant with a whole bunch of those classic limestone routes that should be high on peoples lists. Abberation, Celebration, Minos and Gonads are all quality and it was great fun working our way along the crag. For some reason Gonads was another one that always put me off and could never get massively inspired for it. When it reality it ain't all that bad with some funky moves from start to finish and has a slightly different feel to it than other routes in the dale of a similar grade. Its all about mixing things up with your climbing and keeping things fresh and as long as you're motivated and having fun, its all plain sailing.

Have a good bank holiday guyz


Monday, 19 August 2013

Gran Techo video edit:

If you've not seen this already then I'm pretty stoked to be able to share another cool video edit from Jon Clark. Featuring my ascent of Gran Techo down the Chee Dale Cornice last month. He's done up another slick looking job on this and I hope it gets people keen to go check it out next year.

It's a massive shame the whole crag is now totally soaked, we really did have a hella lot of rain in such a short space of time a few weeks back. But it was great while it lasted and at least we still have plenty of dry rock to keep us going! Time is flying by, its literally insane how fast it goes. I don't know if its the same for everyone but I really struggle sometimes to get my head around it. Just where has the summer gone??? Anyway here it is!

I had a awesome time in Wales last week with the Mammut team, climbing on The Orme for the first time, testing out a bunch of shiny new gear that's due out next year (there is some seriously snazzy stuff on its way) and consuming a large amount of extremely good cake. I'll get round to writing up something for that later but big thanks to the guys at head office for sorting it all out and to the Plas y Brenin staff for putting up with us all!

Currently on a rest day and gearing up for a mini adventure tomorrow... Buzzing for something a little different!

Hope you guys enjoy the video, I'm off to cook up a tasty chicken casserole!


Friday, 19 July 2013

A Muerte!

Chee Dale is where its at right now. Even more so if you want to escape the infernal heat that has appeared out of nowhere and is now providing those endless summer days many of us had forgotten about or even knew were possible this side of the channel!

I signed off my Tor season a couple weeks back with a tick of Revelations, 8b and I'm quite content now to leave the place till the autumn arrives and with it the cold temps needed to climb well down there.

I had two main routes in mind down at the Chee Dale cornice at the start of the season. One I had tried the last time it was dry 2/3 years ago, Kristian's big roof masterpiece Gran Techo, 8b and an uber bouldery 8a+, Devonshire Arms.
With all the hot weather they both quickly came into condition and I was really fired up to get stuck into climbing here again. That summer of 2010 seemed a long time ago and its just fantastic to see the whole scene reappearing, see everyone syked and have everything dry once more.

After reacquainting myself with Gran Techo (which literally means 'big/great roof' in Spanish) it went down fairly quickly, and I had brief thoughts of trying Bob Hickish's harder direct finish, Techno Prisoners which he gave 8b+. I remember him doing this a couple of years ago and it was just something on another planet to me at the time and never imagined trying it. I knew I had the roof dialled up well so started to wonder how hard it'd be to carry on for a few extra moves, even though I'd heard rumours of a HUGE span on the head wall.
Before that though I had a date with Devonshire. Nige had given us all the beta for this very short lived and burly product of the 90's, a couple days previous and I almost sent the morning after climbing Techo! But it wasn't to be so we came back on what turned out to be one of the hottest days of the year, hardly ideal at all for this route... Much to my relief I made it through the powerful sequence of undercuts, chalking way more than usual to keep the grime and sweat at bay and suddenly the chain was staring me in the face and it was laid to rest.
I think a lot of people are put off by this one after hearing how hard it is and how it should really be 8b. Maybe it should... I don't know, but it isn't as bad as its made out, you just have to be prepared to pull a bit harder! So get to it and ENJOYYYY!

 Gran Techo | Screenshot from an upcoming video short...

I've had to try enormously hard on routes many a time, but yesterdays efforts on Techno Prisoners seem to eclipse previous endeavours. It literally felt like the fight of my life! I could have dropped every move after the crux so easily, spat into the waiting void behind me. Maybe the next try would have gone better, if I had blown it, and quite often I prefer to climb something with the feeling of being in total cruise control on every move. But to have tried so hard and succeed makes it all the more sweeter.
Most sport routes pass us by and we generally forget what it all felt like to get to the top. I've read a lot lately from folk about how it is the 'process' that we all crave and enjoy, rather than the eventual send. With this, yes I enjoyed the whole process immensely but I equally enjoyed, if not more so, the actual feeling of redpoint success. It was a close one, and an experience I won't be forgetting in a hurry.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Karma Killin'

There is a route down in Water Cum Jolly that waited over 10 years for a second ascent. Karma Killer was first put up in 1997 by Tony Coutts and given 8b. Although I'm lead to believe it has been tried by a fair few since, it was Jon Clark that grabbed the long awaited repeat of this neglected 90's testpiece a couple of years ago.

"A chequered history. It's the route that mentally broke Tony Coutts (he gave up climbing having done it & emigrated to Australia) & physically broke Steve Fearne & Robin Barker (that mono)."
Andy Harris

It has been on my ever growing 'wishlist' for some time and I finally went to give it a serious look sometime back in May but then it got wet so my attention turned to other things. I like the way Rupert described one of the holds to me when I was quizzed him for beta, calling it a "cornflake". You couldn't describe this tiny undercut better. It's thin, small, and as if someone has got creative with a box of Kellogs and tube of sika. This is what the crux revolves around, oh and a one pad mono thrown in there too. It is a pretty unique rig and wouldn't look too out of place buried in the forests of the Frankenjura.

 Jura pulling dream!
© Jon Clark

I was incredibly pleased and slightly bewildered to get this done early Saturday morning and make the 4th? ascent... It's firmly up there with one of my favourite ticks without a doubt and I'd highly recommend it. Just make sure those tendons are fully warmed up first ya'll!!!

The day after I was keen to look at another route on this wall, Agent Provocatuer, a fierce 8a+ to the right of Karma. The photo below of Jon on the head wall of this always put me off... So I was pleased to find out from someone that Ryan Pasquill had found some new way for these final moves. Basically a huge span... With some heel/toe trickery and a final big dyno to a glory jug. An absolutely brilliant move if you like that sort of thing. The skin felt shredded and bruised so we left to go home, but it was all dialed up for the next time.

 © Pete Clark

Yesterday, fully rested and with nice fresh skin on the tips I went back with the young and keen George Carmichael and JC in tow and pulled my way to the belay. The start is technical, and tenuous on the feet but not too bad and you'd have to say it beats routes like The Inch Test and Caviar for quality... Get to it people, its clean, chalked and waiting!

Jon has been following us around over the last week collecting some cool looking footage of various routes and he managed to get yesterdays send on camera too, so keep an eye out for that. I'll post it up as soon as he's finished doing his thing with it!


Wednesday, 26 June 2013

The Big One

Where to start. Its been another crazy few weeks since my last update. The summer weather we've all been wanting has continued, crags are drying out again and sending conditions have been in abundance.

The Cornice in Chee Dale sounds as if it is approaching something of the state we all enjoyed over that famous summer a couple of years ago... However I've been biding my time a little before venturing back down here, mainly down to the fact I've had other projects on the go.

Yesterday marked a big step forward in my climbing and a major dream realised that I've had for as long as I can remember. Mecca at Raven Tor is probably one of the most famous routes in the country and lusted after by many. My Dad can remember it as an old aid route back in the day and the majority of UK climbers will know of its history.
I've had a fair few friends over the years take down this short, power endurance test piece and I even gave it a try myself a year or two ago but the madding crowd waiting in the blocks behind me, rearing for there turn, always put me off and I decided to leave it.

My psyche returned for it though a few weeks ago after knocking out an ascent of the long 8b Waddage, amongst a few other endurance fests. While its hard to compare the two routes, as one is pure endurance with no totally desperate hard move and the other a short bouldery rig, it suddenly dawned on me that I might actually have the fitness required to have a good go at Mecca. So about a week ago I decided to jump on and see how it felt. The moves came back to me fairly quickly and after various beta from folk I had done the main big 'pocket link'. I was buzzing as all that was required now was to add around 4/5 extra moves and it could be game on... So I went away stoked on the rapid progress and spent the next few days barely being able to contain my excitement for the next session.

One thing about this route is that it can destroy your skin, particular the left hand so I took a few days rest and waited for the temps to cool down. Saturday came around and I ventured back, hoping the extra couple days rest had done me some good. Conditions felt prime when we arrived at around 8.30am and there was a good breeze. I was fairly confident of being in with a chance of pushing on through to the top, using my new found fitness and ability to recover, if I could just get established in the base of the groove. I tied in, pulled through the start fine, set myself up for the crux and before I knew what was happening, found myself at the top of the groove. However the fatigue quickly set in as I attempted to free myself from the tangle of knee bars and egyptians and I peeled off into space.
But I was on the home straight. This was it, the feeling we all know when we suddenly realise something is within our grasp. Four redpoints later and I had gradually increased my highpoint inch by inch, with my last try proving to be the closest yet. A simple foot pop prevented me from reaching the final hold you use to rock over into the finishing flake. Gutted but psyched out of my head at the same time I decided to call it a day and I'd take a couple days off to fully recover and grow some much needed skin!

Driving over early yesterday morning I felt a mix of excitement and nerves clashing together but I was fully confident in myself and knew that in theory it should all be a formality... I met up with the crew and after a good warm up I fancied giving it a try. The bottom moves felt totally solid, skin felt good flicking between the crimps then all of a sudden POP and my right foot slid off. That certainly wasn't in the script to happen, at all. It did throw me for a split second and I felt a tiny sliver of doubt suddenly creep its way into the back of my mind. But back on the ground I tried to focus in, put it down to a false start and keep my eye firmly on the task in hand. After a brief rest I was back up there in the same position but my foot popped again! Only this time I crimped up hard, readjusted and fired up to the horn. Clip, clip, shake, undercut, crimp, drop knee, crimp and I was back at my highpoint, the last hold staring in my face. This time I made sure my foot was solid, tensed my core, boned down on the crimp like no tomorrow and it was there. I stabbed my feet over, reached into the flake and clipped the belay.

A lifetime dream, a route I've looked up at and wondered about since I first visted the Tor as a kid, was complete and it felt dam good! But now I'm hungrier than ever for more and we'll be back out in the next few days and onto the next project. That's how the wagon rolls, and how we progress!

Thanks a lot for reading and checking in folks. Have fun out there!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Yorkshire Trip Trippin

Last week we headed up to Yorkshire for a few days, camping at the brilliant little campsite at the mouth of Gordale. I've not been to Malham in about 2 years so I was mega keen to get back there and change things up a bit. It turned out to be one of the best weeks camping we've ever had. The weather was incredible! Waking up to clear blue skies and bright sunshine every morning gets you really psyched and sets you up good for the day ahead. Nothing is worse than hearing the rain hammering down on your tent as you wake up!

Waking up to this every morning!

I wanted to try and get to as many crags as possible and seek out some of the classics I've never done. So first up was Raindogs at Malham, a must do and probably the most popular and sort after 8a in the UK? Definitely in Yorkshire anyway. We were at the crag for about 8.00am, in a bid to beat the heat, which was building by the minute, and the dreaded midges!
 It was a bit of a race as the sun was moving around fast and our window was small but fortunately it went down without too much trouble and it was time to bail and find some shade!

It may surprise some people but I've only ever been to Kilnsey once, about 3/4 years ago for a very brief visit. It is incredibly impressive and I'm still amazed at its length and size. We spent an afternoon here ticking our way through a few of the classic lines including , Comedy, Pantomime and Tragedy. Then it was back to chill in Gordale and eat a tonne of food ready for more the next day.

I'd heard a lot about Giggleswick and one of its sectors in particular caught my eye flicking through the guidebook. The Hollywood Bowl. Its a very unusual sort of crag for the UK, and something you'd more expect to find on the continent somewhere. Its dripping in tufa's of all shapes and sizes. Big, fat, thin it seems to have them all. While its nothing compared to places like The Loup it made a huge changed from boning down on rat crimps. Along with this and the warm breeze you could easily lose yourself for a second and think you were chillin' at some crag in the South of France.

 The Hollywood Bowl

There are a lot of hard routes here with many a FA from Steve Dunning and recently Jordan Buys, that tackle the tufa on the lower walls and then launch through the big roof above. Kleptomania stood out to me, as I'm sure it does to many. An extremely short route that is more like an extended boulder problem up a perfectly formed thin tufa. Apparently some kind of knee bar makes this easier....? I found it to be pretty dam tough and clipping the belay felt like the absolute living end! Anyone who jumps to the chain on this is a douchebag!
I'd love to come back to this awesome crag soon to get on more of the routes here. There is a hella lot to do!
Tufa heaven! 

After this I decided to go search out the famous G-Spot sector. Home to probably one of the hardest routes in the world. John Gaskins unrepeated 9a+ Violent New Breed. While I'd already decided to save this one for laters the line to the right, Militia, is a popular 8a+ and after wandering around searching for the crag, which is probably the smallest crag I've ever been to, we eventually stumbled upon it. As soon as I saw it I was syked immediately and quickly set to work brushing the holds and figuring out a sequence. From a distance it looks super short, which in reality it is, but then you realise it starts way down in the cave at the bottom and actually packs quite a few moves in. It suited my style perfectly. Steep, small edges, big moves and even some sneaky toe hooks that unlocked the starting moves. A slight change of foot beta through the crux proved the difference and I was yarding my way to the top on my 3rd try. It must be one of the few sport crags around that you can actually top out on.  I'd highly recommend this rig to anyone, go check it out. It is class!

 Post send Creme Egg

It was a perfect finish to a brilliant few days of hanging out with my Dad, chillin in the sun and getting a bunch of cool ticks. Looking forward to heading back up very soon!