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!