Sunday, 21 December 2014

Letting go

I've been trying to gather some thoughts together in my head for a blog update for a good few weeks now. Each time I came to type up the collection of ideas and jumble of words, I would sit staring at the blank white page on my laptop, without a clue of where to start or if it would even end up being remotely interesting to anyone. Eventually I'd give in and go make another pot of tea.

The end of the season didn't bring what I was hoping for and despite all the efforts and time invested, I had to walk away empty handed for probably the first time in my climbing life. This is what abject failure feels like is it?

Without wanting to sound big headed, what frustrates me more than anything is the fact that I know deep down that I should have nailed this thing. Yes it is hard, yes it would have been the hardest graded route I've ever done, but what was stopping me was not the fact I was too weak or just simply not fit enough. I think if that was the case I'd have been able to accept the whole situation much more freely and easier. It was simply down to factors that were completely outside of my control.

I tried everything in the book to keep the blood flowing through my little digits. My many belayers and partners will testify to how much time I spent experimenting with different methods. Laps, of Ben's Roof, dogging up to the crux, countless sprinting up and down the road, Pound Land hand warmers stuffed in my chalk bag. Even laps up Mecca before the red point go! Nothing seemed to work.
Luck would definitely play a part sometimes, maybe the sun would poke its face out and lift the air temp slightly or gently warm those tiny holds just as you approached the headwall, but in the end the weather or whatever you want to call it, soundly beat me.

After a couple of big breakthroughs and as I started to realise more and more that the route was actually a possibility I knew it was just going to be a case, as these things always are, of just getting everything to align perfectly together.
The first time the thought of the season ending and walking away with nothing entered my head, I started to panic and that is when the stress of it all really began to kick in. Nerves became a bigger issue with each session. Uncertainty and doubt can play havoc with your psyche. I wanted this thing so badly. I kept comparing it to where I was at last year when I was embroiled in another redpoint battle on the extension.

Time flew by at a crazy rate of knots, unlike anything I've known before, and even as November arrived and the first frosts started to appear, I still had faith that maybe, just maybe it would still go.
However I had to start to admit to myself that it might not happen this time and as the days flew past, at their crazy speeds, I gradually came to accept it. The route is going no where, it'll be there ready and waiting for me in the spring. Which when you think about it is only a few months away!

So even though I came away with no big tick, and occasionally it still hurts that it didn't happen I no longer view it as a failure in any way. I learnt so much about myself, about my climbing and what I am actually capable of. As well as gaining a whole new perspective and outlook on climbing in general. This sport is extremely addictive and despite the stress and the bad days it was still a hella lot of fun!
I hope that the whole experience has made me a better climber and that I'm wiser for it...
The stand out lesson for me though has to be learning to accept that sometimes, you really do just have suck it up and let go.

It has all been said before by various rock gurus but climbing isn't all about the send. You can argue that the majority of the time it is but it is also about the journey we take to get to that point of pure heaven when we finally tick our projects. It's about the mental battles, the physical battles, the breakthrough days as well as the days where nothing seems to be going right. In the end you'll more than likely remember the journey you took to reach that finish line, rather than the actual moment of success.

A huge shoutout and thank you has to go out to all the folk that encouraged and helped me during the last few months. You all know who you are and I really appreciate each one that supported me on my quest!

It was so close I could virtually taste success, but if it wasn't a battle then it wouldn't be hard. And that is what I strive for in my climbing. To push myself to my absolute limits. Not just physically but mentally too. Kaabah certainly did that.

Right now it is all about Christmas for me. Enjoying some time chilling out, relaxing, hanging out with friends and eating lots of good food. The weather has been pretty shoddy for any full blown grit ventures just yet, although I did manage to squeeze in a quick ascent of Ben Moon's 'Full Power' (V11) a week or so back. Definitely feeling the bouldering vibe at the moment. It is a pleasant change of scene from the rigours of the red point. I have my eye on a couple things but we'll see how stuff goes and if the weather gods are kind to us...
In the mean time I'm slowly getting stuck into some training, keeping the fitness levels up before full training kicks in at the start of the New Year. Ready for a couple of trips that are in the pipeline and another all out assault on the Tor in the spring.
We've also been working on a couple of really cool video projects over the last few months which I hope to be able to share real soon. Pretty excited to see the final edits so keep an eye out for those.

I have to admit that I'm loving having some actual time off. I think it could be good for me! Waking up with no real plan in place for the day ahead has been pretty nice.

Anyway, thanks for checking in and for once again sticking with my ramblings for another year. Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

See you at the crag :)

Oh and lastly... It appears my blog has been shortlisted for some kind of an award. It'd be great if you could follow the link below and give me a quick vote. :)

Cheers ya'll


Monday, 10 November 2014

FBO Returns for 2015!



Following on from the big success of The Foundry Bouldering Open that ran back in February, it is once again returning in the New Year! Last time out was a huge amount of fun for all involved and I know that it definitely got me psyched on the whole comp scene again.

Next years event, to be held on the 7th February, promises to be bigger and better and hopefully it'll be another good weekend for The Foundry crew!

Check out the link below for everything you need to know about the day.

And to get you even more psyched and for a taster of what to expect take a look at the video below from Ben Pritchard that gives the low down on last time out!

Big thanks to The Foundry for hosting this great event again and to all the sponsors involved for their support. A full report of what went down at FBO-14 can be found here:

 Get ready for the weird and whacky

Hope to see as many of you there as possible!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The projecting game

Where has this month gone?? The autumn seems to be disappearing at an alarming rate and once again we are on the home straight to finishing off another year.

There is a reason the blog has been quiet these past weeks. I have been focusing all my time and energy into a single project. While in some respects, it is probably the hardest route I've ever tried, it has been immensely frustrating doing battle with this one. I'm not going to rant on about 'conditions' and the reasons of how climbing in the UK can be so tricky, but for me it is a route that requires everything to be so absolutely perfect in order to execute properly. Anything remotely out of cater can make the tenuous crux sequence go from feeling pretty solid to suddenly core busting hard!
The main issue we've been experiencing is freaking numb digits. The minute you bite down on those knife blades at the crux, every ounce of life and every drop of blood you had in them is instantly drained. The ability to feel the intricate rocks details beneath your finger ends becomes an impossible task. And there is nothing you can do about it.

If you could guarantee the right temperature and conditions every time you set off up the wall I am pretty confident that it might have gone by now and we'd be rolling in fish n chips and Bakewell tarts till Christmas!

Normally by this point in the year my attention has switched to the grit. Spending the short days pulling down on fat slopers, balancing up aretes and fiddling in crappy gear into marginal and dubious breaks. However we have been blessed with a longer sport season than usual this time around and the crags are still dry, offering those of us still keen to get our projects done. It isn't everyone's cup of tea, I realise that, but I want this one bad. I'm determined to keep throwing myself at it until it either goes or we find ourselves 6ft under in snow!

It has been a pretty testing time these last weeks. I have to admit that the daily commute to the crag,
the usual warmup and having to deal with constantly changing weather, not to mention the countless lobs down the face after another failed redpoint, have definitely started to affect me mentally. One day it will seem within my grasp and then the next it'll go back to feeling a million miles away.
That being said my psyche is at an all time high for it. Small progress and micro gains continue with each day on the route. Even just getting up to my highpoint and feeling less pumped and more focused but yet still falling on the same section feels like another step forward on the road to those chains.
Climbing with Ryan Pasquill has been a huge benefit and he has taught me to not beat myself up too much and how to reduce the stress levels when things don't seem to be going my way. We are both on the same wagon. The redpoint wagon. Going through the same problems and emotions. Having someone to share that with is a good feeling and super encouraging!

I find what helps when things don't seem to be going well is to remind myself that this route is 8c+. It is up there with one of the hardest routes in the UK and I'm sure would make some 9a's in Europe seem a relative stroll in comparison... Sometimes it is all too easy to blame yourself and think that you are simply not good enough. When in actual fact these routes are bloody hard and we are pushing our bodies to the very limits of what they are capable of doing.
I want to try hard, climb the hardest routes and to be the best that I can be, and that is what keeps me coming back time after time and continues to drive me forward.

I have no doubt that it WILL go, eventually. To have something so hard and at your maximum limit to try and beast yourself on is hugely motivating for me. Getting home with your body totally, utterly wasted and beat up, knowing you gave it your all is a great feeling.
Today was a good day. Despite the freezing temperatures. Every burn now my body is stronger on the moves. One of these times everything will just slot into place. Just gotta be patient!

Man I love this game.

Monday, 22 September 2014

We've been duped!

The good early autumn temperatures that were upon throughout August very quickly gave way to an Indian summer and so far this month hasn't been all we'd hoped for. However plenty of stuff has still been happening and I'm learning to be patient and wait it out. The one positive is that the Cornice is still in prime condition. It's been fun finishing off the last few remaining routes I had to do down here, although there are still a couple left... but they'll probably end up staying that way! Desperate!
Anyway I've thrown together a collection of photos from the last few weeks that give a snapshot of what we've been up to. Time for a brew!

Three points on 'Four Door Dostoyevsky'

Monumental Armblaster (8a+)

Finding the love amongst the butterflies...

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Learning to try hard again

What does it mean to try hard. To really try hard I mean. To try so hard and give the absolute maximum amount of effort.

There have been a number of articles written on the subject and not just climbing related ones but across all sports and life in general.
We all have the ability to dig deep and find that extra bit of effort from somewhere that enables us to push boundaries and achieve our goals. How do we harness this ability though and how can we turn it on more often?

Within our sport there are obviously different types of climbing that require different approaches and different levels of trying hard. During the spring I had tapped into the ability to fully commit every single ounce of my strength and being into pulling through hard moves and bouldery sequences. I'm talking about the type of 'try hard' were we bust our guts on that one individual move, or scream like Ondra as we fight to cling onto those final few holds before the top.
It wasn't just having the physical strength but I also think the mental strength to train my mind into totally believing that the body was capable of pulling off that particular move and nothing was about to get in the way of that. If you can master this art of belief in yourself then you'll be surprised at what the body can actually accomplish.

Out in Ceuse you tend to have to adapt a different type of 'try hard'. The routes are long, pumpy and can be mentally challenging. It's a test of endurance rather than how hard you can crank down. Not that some routes don't require any pure boulder power at all, there are plenty that do. But in general, its all about how long you can keep on pulling before the dreaded lactic acid floods every single inch of fiber in your forearms!

So coming back to the Peak where the majority of routes are less than 20 meters and often built around short bouldery and powerful crimpy sequences, was going to be a slight shock to the system at first...
On returning home I took a couple of days to relax, recover and to just enjoy doing absolutely nothing. I caught up with friends, family and all that had been happening in the world over the last month and ate plenty of tasty home cooked food! Waking up in my own bed has never felt so good.
However the weekend came around and I started to get the itch to pull down on some rock. I needed my fix and the Chee Dale cornice was calling. Within 15minutes of leaving the car we were at the crag and already warming up. A pleasant change from the Ceuse routine!

32 is a short 8b+ and another tough offering from local and ever keen new route activist, Kristian Clemmow. It bascially takes a direct line into the top of the 8a+ testpiece 'R n P' involving some powerful and bouldery climbing through the lower bulges. The rain had beat me to it on this one last year so it was at the top of my list to finish off!
It is safe to say that I felt all a bit hungover to be honest, although at least I had managed to get myself reacquainted with the moves. My arms felt weak and it was obvious I needed my body to remember how to pull down on Peak lime again!
I spent a day trying to re-engage my brain into a 'bouldering on a rope' mindset. I knew that pure power was still there somewhere, but how to coax it back out again was proving difficult. Patience was the key...

Another couple of days resting I felt ready and refreshed for another go. The crux is rumoured to be around a V9/10 bloc and requires pulling off two low undercuts to a high sloper using possibly the biggest drop knee you can possibly imagine. It was still feeling dam hard and I sensed the frustration starting to build. Then suddenly an intermediate crimper sprang into view, opening the whole thing up and within a couple of efforts I was pulling through the final hard moves and clipping the belay feeling pretty stoked and slightly shocked. I'd got my boulder power back!

While writing this post I was reminded of an article written by Mina Leslie-Wujastyk last year for Summit Magazine, were she discussed the art of trying. After reading her thoughts on the subject again and her experiences, it was nice to see that we are both on the same wave length.

"...that split-second moment when you should be falling off but you dig deep – somewhere hidden and not often called upon – and for a moment you think nothing, see nothing, experience nothing. But you’re still on the rock."
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk, 2013

You can check the full article out here over on her blog:

Quite often we will lay awake at night going over the moves of our projects again and again in our minds. We can virtually feel the holds under our fingertips and visulise ourselves climbing every move to absolute perfection. You find yourself totally buzzing and feeling like a kid on Christmas Eve, hardly able to contain your excitement for the morning to arrive.
Then sometimes we'll rock up at the crag the next day and nerves and doubt will start to set in as you look up at the blank canvas of rock before you. If only we could keep the mind in that state of psyche from the previous evening...

"Improving at this sport is an input-output system—the effort you put into climbing directly correlates to success.... we need to take that next fall, and then fall again and again … until we send."
Sasha DiGiulian, 2013

While it can be easier said than done, the next time you are struggling to get that breakthrough you are so desperately craving on that particular project, take a step back and attempt to engage your mind into that 'try hard' state of thinking. Maybe it'll only yield one more move further, or maybe it'll get you all the way to the top. Either way you've made progress right?
Find that self belief to keep on pushing even when the pull of gravity starts to get stronger, your fingers begin to uncurl from their grip and your head begins to scream out for you to shout 'take'. You just never know where that extra bit of effort will get you....

For some mid-week inspiration in trying hard have a quick watch of this:


Friday, 8 August 2014

A Summer in Paradise

The Final Roundup

After a month living at the foot of arguably one of the greatest and most majestic sport climbing destinations worldwide, I am finally back home and enjoying spending a day or two relaxing and catching up with family and all that's been happening in the world while we've been away.
I started to write a final post as the end of my trip approached, so below is an extract from that, along with a selection of photos with some more words and thoughts put together since getting back.
Put the kettle on yo!


So my time out here is swiftly drawing to a close. It is hard to believe that it is the eve of my last day before I start making my way back home Tuesday morning. It's one of those cliches but it barely seems 5 minutes ago that we rocked up at the campsite raring to go with a months worth of climbing to look forward to. 

At the start it feels like the time to leave will never arrive but unfortunately everything has to come to an end at some point, and I could not be more psyched with how this whole trip has progressed. Even though I'm sad to be leaving, at the same time I'm looking forward to heading back home to a hopefully dry Peak... and chilling out with a few home comforts for a day or two. 
This place, while totally awesome, definitely starts to take its toll on you after a while. Maybe not physically, more in a mental fashion. Each day I feel fitter and fitter but anyone who has spent a month or more out here will understand and know where I'm coming when I say this I'm sure.

While getting to climb here each day is on another level, one of my favourite times of day out here has to be waking up each morning, sticking on the stove for a brew, munching down on some cereal while mulling over and getting fired up for the days climbing ahead. Equally satisfying is crashing into your tent after a long hot day at the crag, cooking up a beast of a meal to refuel before writing up your ticklist and thinking over the session you've just had. Then to finish, sitting around till bedtime with friends and exchanging stories from everyone's day to then finally letting your head hit the pillow. All ready to repeat again the next day!

 The perfect route? Sending L'Ami de tout le Monde (8b) as the clouds and mountain rain start to roll on in.
Photo | Sophie Whyte

Without a doubt this has been the best climbing trip I've been on yet. Not only for the shear quality and quantity of routes I managed to get done compared to my previous visit, but for the countless memorable experiences along the way.
From those simple rest days where the only things you do all day long is lay in the sun, eating, reading and topping up the tan to those moments at the crag that you've been training for.
By the end of week two I flashed my first 'proper' 8a (L'Ami Caouette) shortly followed by a flash of probably one of the most famous (and scariest) routes in Ceuse. The super technical, slabby and much sort after 3 star 8a+ that is 'La Femme Blanche'. On a personal level achieving this is one of my proudest moments in my climbing and one I certainly will not be forgetting in a hurry. The trad head definitely kicked into gear as the slabby section began to get more and more run out. Scary gritstone trad must be good for something right...

 The perfect rest day activity. Breakfast in Gap eating fresh French pastries!

Sam Hamer back in 2011, weaves his way through the perfect limestone pockets that form the upper headwall 'L'Ami Caouette' (8a)
Photo | Dirk Smith

With L'Ami Caouette I set off with the flash in mind, figuring I'd just see how things felt, but on Femme Blanche I had no real plan and basically started climbing to check what all the fuss was about. Then slowly as I got gradually higher and higher up the wall I began to suddenly realise that maybe, just maybe I could reach the belay. One super scary moment, high above my last bolt, clinging onto a poor pinch before having to shuffle delicately back leftwards on tiny slippy smears for your feet, marked the turning point when I really started to believe I could reach the chain. Thankfully I had expert guidance constantly being shouted up from below by both Lena and Marco! Without their beta and help I can guarantee I would have never made it to the sanctuary of the belay! A huge relief. Cheers guys! Big respect especially to Lena for also sending, particularly as it was so soon after recovering from badly damaging her ankle out in Magic Wood 2 weeks prior. Strong!

It has been said time and time again that quite often with most sport routes we'll forget the feeling of sending, they just never quite stick with you the same as a hard scary trad line. This ascent however I will remember for a long time.

 The view that never gets old

Fitness wise I was just constantly left amazed at the difference from 3 years ago. Routes I fell off a million times, pumped out of my brains, veins screaming, succumbed as virtual warm-ups. Others that I could only dream of sending before went down within a couple of tries. It was just mind blowing and I'm incredibly psyched that all the training and hard work have paid off. Just as an example, on my previous visit, in the space of 4 weeks I ticked something like 3 decent routes... The hardest being a bouldery 7c+ at Cascade. This time, I've come home with just shy of a 50 route tick list up to 8b with whole host of onsights and flashes.

The thought did cross my mind to maybe get on something a little harder, yet while very tempting there was far too much to keep us occupied and in the end I opted to just try and tick as many routes as possible, regardless of grade. There will always be another trip for the harder lines, and this one has got me fully fired up to return again in the future to give them a go. There are just sooo many!


It would be a total nightmare to have to choose a list of favourites, virtually impossible, but below is a small selection of one of two that seem to slightly stand out from the others for me. Everyone of them a classic and an absolute joy to climb!

  • Radote Jolie Pépère - 8b                                   
  • L'Ami de tout le Monde - 8b
  • La Femme Blanche - 8a+ (Flash)
  • Face de Rat - 8a+ (2nd go)
  • Mirage - 7c+ (Onsight)
  • Tout n'es pas si Facile - 7c+ (Onsight)
  • Encore - 8a+ (2nd go)
  • Les Colonnettes - 8a (2nd go)
  • Rosanna - 8a (2nd go)
  • Makach Walou - 7c+ (Onsight)
  •  L'Ami Caouette - 8a (Flash)
  • Sueurs Froides - 8a+
  • Violente Illusion - 8b
  • Berlin - 7c (Onsight)
  • Cent Patates - 7b+ (Onsight)

I went out to Ceuse with a vague plan, a fairly rough idea of what I wanted to achieve. Which was basically, climb as much as possible and better than my first visit! So I am beyond thrilled that it all worked out and to not only accomplish what I originally set out to do, but so much more at the same time. It may sound slightly 'cheesy' but if you really want something and it means that much to you, then nothing can stop you from reaching your goals. Whatever they may be, big or small. Get out there and make your plans happen and your dreams a reality.

Huge thanks to everyone that contributed to making this trip so special, old friends and new friends from around the world. It isn't all about the climbing on these kind of ventures, that is only half the fun, but it is equally about the people you meet along the way and the new friendships you form. Once again we managed to hook up with a whole host of international guys and gals ranging from the USA to Denmark. Hope to see you all again sometime soon!

Big shoutout to Arthur and Alize for putting on an incredible surprise BBQ for us the other night. Totally out the blue and very much appreciated! Another example of how great and generous the climbing community really is.

Finally another huge thankyou to all my sponsors for all their support. They truly are the best in the business! Mammut, 5.10, ProBalm, Nakd & Trek Bars, Scheckters Organic Energy.

Special mention has to go to the folk at Natural Balance Foods and Scheckters Energy for sending me out enough bars and energy drinks for the whole trip. They certainly did their job in getting me through the hike to the crag each day and up all the rad routes we've managed to tick! If you've never checked these two companies out before then you are missing out! Click onto their websites and judge for yourselves :)

A thumbs up for Scheckters from Lena after sending her project!

The only problem with spending a chunk of the summer months away is that you arrive back home and it suddenly dawns on you that 'summer' is nearly over! Hard to believe August is upon us already, but that is the way it goes I guess. Time moves swiftly on.

My plans now are to hopefully take advantage of a dry Cornice...? Maybe try to finish off one or two things down there, alongside making some more trips up to Kilnsey. Soooo uber keen for this crag! Excited to put some of this Euro fitness to the test there...
Then it'll be time for my first trip to Font in September, which I am pretty dam psyched about. Embarrassing I've never been before I know, so definitely looking forward to it. After that my thoughts and training will turn to a trip to Spain for New Years. Missed out on all the action out here the last few years, so this time it is GAME ON! Get me to Siurana!

Cheers for reading and following me on my short French adventure over the last month.

Onto the next!

 Until next time Céüse...

Sunday, 27 July 2014

French life, Part 2...

Ceuse|Part 2

Since writing this post the weather has improved a heck of a lot and we've finally been able to string together a few days of back to back climbing. Currently sat enjoying scrambled eggs and fresh French bread under clear blue skies. All is well in the world.


The rain is once again lashing it down outside, bouncing off my tent as  I lay warm and dry tucked up inside, wrapped in my down sleeping bag. Just another summer moutain storm passing through the valley, that seems to last a lifetime.

Today however it has fallen on a rest day for us so we can't complain and it should hopefully cool things down to make good conditions tomorrow at the crag. Hard to believe just a few hours ago we were chilling in the hot french sunshine, eating a leisurely lunch, drinking coffee and reading. Letting our aching bodies recover from the previous few days of climbing and walking. The perfect way to spend a rest day out here.

The days are flying by however, as they usually do on these kind of ventures. When there is nothing to think or worry about other than getting up each morning to go climbing, they very soon begin to blend into one and no sooner than you realise, that thing we call time has eaten into well into the halfway point of your trip. It is an inevitable thing that we have to put up with but when all said and done we cannot have any complaints really. We are in the south of France after all, climbing on some of the best limestone around!

My time here has continued in the same vein as it started and I could not be happier with how things are going. I only wish we were staying longer so that it would be possible to really get stuck into some of the harder routes. There are sooo many it boggles my mind! For now I'm quite content to keep ticking my way through the crag classics, and maybe by next week it might be time to check out something a notch harder...

Yesterday was a pretty special day. We awoke slightly earlier, had the usual breakfast and set off up the hill to Cascade, hoping for cooler tempertures. It was certainly much better up there than the previous visit and our psyche quickly shot up a gear. On the agenda  today was the uber bouldery 8b 'Violente Illusion'. The route is a game of two halves. A super sharp and powerful V9 boulder problem guards a brilliant 7b+ route above, on big buckets and perfect scollops of limestone. I tried without success a few days previous, in less than ideal conditions, which very quickly sped up the process of destroying my skin. After a warmup on the upper section I set off for a burn on the lower boulder but after 2 or 3 failed attempts decided to change things up. Sometimes you just know something isn't going to work so I reverted to another method, and with this my foot positions automatically found footholds that before seemed impossible to use. I stuck the crux slap into the groove virtually static. It was such a breakthrough for me I could barely contain my excitement. I lowered down for a brief rest and within a few minutes found myself climbing through the boulder problem and hanging out on the biggest bucket of a hold you can possibly imagine. From here I was left to enjoy the upper wall just as the warm midday sun started to sneak its way onto the crag.

The send train continued later on when my South African friend, Jamie, managed to send his route too. 'Face de Rat' one of the best 8a+'s at the crag, featuring perfectly sculptured holds, perfect moves with one or two typical spicey Ceuse runouts to keep things even more interesting along the way. I came so desperately close to flashing this thing a few days prior, falling at the final hurdle where with a little more luck on my side things may have been different... However it succumbed with ease on my second go and while slightly dissapointed it was just great to feel that fitness again and clip the anchor on another fantastic route. Big thanks to Michelle for guiding us up the wall with inch perfect beta!

We finished the day over at the Berlin sector and just as we were preparing to make our way down to the campsite for dinner we were lucky enough to witness Ondra take down Realisation. Very inspiring to see such an awesome feat of climbing from someone so crazy strong and dedicated. The perfect way to end the day!

The King shakes out after nailing the final boulder problem crux of Chris Sharma's world famous route 'Realisation' (9a+) 

With a little luck this rain will stop soon and we'll be able to climb again tomorrow. For now though there is not much else to do other than get fired up for the next routes on the list, play some Candy Crush and read Sherlock Holmes!

Cheers for checkin in :)

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Ceuse | The Return

It feels amazing to be out here with so much fitness in the tank. All the training and preparation have already been worth it, yet as I write this it is only the end of the third day of climbing. Even the BIG walk is feeling good, much to my surprise!

Each morning so far we are awake early and buzzing to set off up to the crag. This place really is one of the best climbing destinations on earth and its great to finally be able to truly appreciate it. The routes are incredible, the setting a thing of beauty. The campsite is full of life as usual, packed with super friendly people from all over the world. It's been fun to get back into the scene and simple lifestyle here and again meet bunches of new and cool people.

I can totally understand now why the last time I was here the others were so keen to get up the hill each morning. When you are sending and climbing well you almost forget its often tedious nature and as you spend the time thinking about your next project the 40-50 minutes that the hike takes quickly flies by. But if things are maybe not going your way then it can become a real drag every day and your motivation quickly dissapears, which was exactly my experience on the previous visit.

The weather so far has been questionable... In fact I have only just dried out after getting totally drenched on the walk down earlier. It is certainly not as hot as 3 years ago when we wore nothing but shorts and vests for nearly a month, but conditions in general have been decent, just super cold at times. Down jackets and beanies are a must!
The clouds roll in...

Once again there are a whole host of international WADS out here including Alex Megos, who has been on fire this last week on his first ever visit to Ceuse. Unfortuntately we missed his ascent of Realisation a couple of days ago by 5 minutes! But then saw him cruise up one of the crags more recent routes, Mr Hyde (8c+) in absolutely baltic conditions. Very inspiring for sure to see people so strong!

Waiting for shade to arrive with the German crew

The amount of quality routes here can sometimes be overwhelming. Every sector has classic after classic all within a few meters of each other. So far the goal has been to just try to get through as much of the routes I failed on last time out, and then we'll maybe see about trying something a little harder after.

Favourites so far have got to be L'ami de tout le Monde (8b) and Les Colennettes (8a)! Both are world class lines and so much fun! Clipping the chain on L'ami was surreal as the mist was so thick you could barely make out your belayer on the ground! Climbing in the clouds! It was also pretty special on a personal level being my 100th 8th, nothing significant really but a nice landmark to reach.

Today is a rest day but tomorrow if the weather holds then it'll be back up the hill and hopefully carry on the send train. Off to rustle up a power curry now for dinner after a quick hitch down to Gap earlier to pick up fresh veggies! Rollin'

Cheers for checking in!


Friday, 20 June 2014

The highs and lows of summer.

Well it seems to have taken a little while to get here but summer finally seems to be kicking off, just about anyway. It has been a strange last month or so in the Peak, conditions have been constantly up and down. One minute things seem dry, the next they're soaked again. The usual frustrations emerge.

©Rainer Eder

However, right now I am in full training mode as my trip to Ceuse is rapidly approaching. My original plan for this summer was to hit up Rocklands to try and test this new found boulder power on some real world class problems. Afterward I'd make a stop in France on the way home to tie into a rope for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately our plans don't always work out exactly how we'd like, so South Africa is going to have to wait until next year now. It does mean though that now I'll be heading to Ceuse for an extended trip. Flights are booked, we leave for round 2 at one of the best crags in the world on 7th July for a whole month. I cannot wait to get stuck into the routes here and once again settle into the chilled out campsite scene below, as well as hooking up with some old friends from around the globe. I am even looking forward to the walk-in, although I'm sure that will soon fade after a couple of days! Anyway with a bit of luck I'll have a slightly better trip than my previous visit 3 years ago...

In between making sure my fitness is as good as can be before my trip, we have had a cool few days up in Yorkshire along with the usual pottering about the Peak looking for new bits of rock and new moves to keep motivated.
Kilnsey is brilliant. I wish it was closer because for me (and I'm sure many others) it is the best sport climbing crag in the UK. I think I was even more impressed the first time I saw it than I was with Malham. Shamefully though last week was only my 3rd ever visit to this place. There is so so much to do here and it was awesome to be on fresh rock with countless routes to try, as well as provide a good means of fitness testing.

To my surprise my arms held out longer than expected with the classic route Let them eat Jellybeans ticked on my second try and an onsight of probably the best 7c in the UK, Dominatrix. A year ago trying something like this would have absolutely terrified me. This time I could not wait to tie in and set off up that perfect steep wall. It was a lot of fun all the way to the belay and lived up to its reputation of being a true classic.

Boobs (8a) on Chee Tor
Photo: Jon Clark 

Just one of the cool routes we have sought out of late. A small lesson in your technical ability, in a tranquil setting by the river. I do love it down Chee Dale. It has to be my favourite place in the Peak to climb, and I was pleased to get up a couple of hard test pieces under my belt last month. Both Rupert Davies lines: Kali Yuga (8b) and his newer companion to this Flow (8a+). The rock quality is bullet hard on perfect crimps and dishes and while short n sweet they offer some quality moves, that sum up what climbing in this part of the country is all about.

Right, its time to go out and enjoy the June sunshine! Have a good weekend everyone!

Counting down the days... Le Massif de Céüse

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

The definition of hard.

Mammut presents six 'rock classics' -- milestones in the history of sports climbing. And the people who climbed them for the first time, revisiting their own routes accompanied by top climbers from the Mammut Pro Team.

Two weeks back I hooked up with a bunch of Swiss guys and Sean Mccoll for a week of filming in the Peak. Mammut have this really cool campaign currently running that is showcasing some of the most famous routes throughout the world. Hubble is one of them, being the very first 8c+ to ever be climbed and a route that has still only seen a handfull of successful repeats in the 20 odd years since the first ascent. All of these repeats have been by British climbers. Not that foreigners haven't tried, plenty of the worlds best have, albeit on very short flying visits, but so far it has eluded them all. Even Ondra, who had this to say after his first acquaintance with the route a few years back...  

"The world's first 8c+, which could be easily even 9a in my opinion. It is not the most inspiring line, it seems more like a boulder problem with a rope and easier topout, but one must admit that it is of revolutionary difficulty for its time and I believe that it isn't by any means easier than Action Directe, the world's first 9a established a year later..."

Anyway I had been getting myself psyched up for their visit ever since first hearing about the film project and was keen to get involved. It was fingers crossed the weather and conditions would hold out.

After spending a day belaying and getting super inspired by Sean on the route I started to get more fired up to take a look myself. Hubble is a route that has always been, and still is, completely out of this stratosphere for me. I almost felt a little embarrassed tying in to try it. A route of so much reputation and history.
But I figured it'd be fun to just check out the moves and see just exactly how hard it felt.
The answer... Bloody nails. The holds turned out to be much smaller than I imagined and the moves super intense and incredibly powerful. It was a pretty humbling experience but I was really glad to have taken a peek at what truly hard climbing is all about. As well as get a small glimpse at being able to comprehend just what it would take to do a line of this caliber. It is still crazy to think Ben climbed this way back in 1990 and makes you appreciate even more just how good he really was.

Maybe I'll try again in the future, I'd certainly like to, but first I need to get a little stronger... It is a dream route. Maybe not in an aesthetic sense, because on a whole it is nothing much to look at, but because it is HUBBLE.

It was great to hang out with Sean and the rest of the crew for the week. Keep an eye out for all the video which will be released later in the year. In the mean time you can follow the campaign over on the Mammut website:

And it you haven't already then take a look at the latest video in the series featuring Jan Hojer on Action Directe! Some seriously impressive footage and climbing!

A special thanks to Rainer Eder for the great photos. This guy has a very impressive photography resume. You can see more of his work over on his website here:

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Dovedale Developments...

Around 8 years ago my Dad came home from one of his treks around Derbyshire, raving about a brand new, untouched bouldering cave he'd come across buried in the heart of Dovedale. Not long after he took me down and sure enough it seemed quite impressive and we shortly returned with pads and a scrubbing brush in hand.
There was obviously a bunch of various lines to be had, but one in particular stood out from the rest. Starting virtually at the back end of the cave, a line of weakness ran out through the roof that eventually lead you into a big juggy hole at the center of the cave. This seemed like a good a place as any to finish but there was clearly an opportunity to carry on from here and take the line even further.

I decided to share the place with a couple of friends, Matt Fry and Mark Evans. Together we spent a number of sessions working out some of the various problems and things started to come together little by little. It was clear however I was no where near strong enough for this place and a combination of that and the audious walk-in lead to it being put on the back burner for a long while.
Mark however ended up making the first ascent of the main line, calling it Future Proof and confirmed it to be somewhere around the V10 region.

Fast forward to the start of the limestone season this year and I vowed to really make an effort to get back down and get the place sorted out, before spreading the word. Over the years rumours had started to circulate of this hidden secret venue somewhere in Dovedale and I figured it was about time to put some effort in and open the place up.

My first session back we were surprised to find the place dry and after brushing up the main line I set about piecing it all together, trying to remember the intricate beta we had previously figured out. By the end of the afternoon however it was done and I could not have been happier!
Immediately afterward my mind started to think about the original plan of extending it all the way out around the lip of the cave....

Yesterday I headed back and managed to realise this idea, giving a really fun boulder problem, which packs in a lot of cool climbing and that actually feels more like a route!
I've dubbed the thing 'Bury My Heart' and figured it could well be around the 8A region as the extra moves around the lip definitely add a little on, but only time will tell I guess...
Regardless of this I feel it is a great addition to the dale and hopefully people will get psyched to check the place out for themselves and let us know what they think!


Like previously mentioned, this place is seriously hidden away so listen closely...

Approaching from Milldale the venue is around a 30 minute walk down the dale. Walk past Ilam Rock and carry on along the main path until reaching the wooden 'boardwalks' that skirt alongside the river. Immediately after the second boardwalk a small scree slope on the left appears with one of those 'money trees' lying at the bottom. Head up here and follow the small sheep track up and round until you see a large fir tree up on the left. The cave is situated directly behind this tree, but not visible until you are virtually stood on top of it!


Apologies for the quality but below is a super quick topo I've thrown together showing just three of the main lines. I'll do my best to get a better one sorted at some point that shows more of the other established problems but for now...

Future Proof, 7C+...

The main line of weakness from the back of the cave. Using a funky sequence of techy and 3D climbing work your way out to finish at the big jug in the middle.

Red: Bury My Heart, 8A

The full line of the cave, start as for Future Proof to its finish at the main central jug. From here bust on out to the block in the roof and make a big move up around the lip to better holds. Finish on a big flatty. Take care of the loose blocks!

Green: Black Heels, 7B+C

Start from a square cutout piece of rock and fire out to the big block. Use cunning/trickery to match before finishing up Bury My Heart.

Blue: 6C+ ish

The original problem. A standard lip traverse that finishes halfway along the mouth of the cave. Start low down on the left from the good juggy ledges.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Enter the Badger

It has been another crazy busy week, with so much stuff happening. Today is the first time in what seems like ages where I've had time to actually just sit down and chill a little.

So, to kick things off:

I took a trip to the secluded venue of Badger Cove over the Easter weekend to see what it was all about. I had actually been up there a few times before, many moons ago, with my Dad on various camping trips that we used to take together. But I wasn't able to remember much as we're talking somewhere around 15 years ago, so it was slightly surreal to be back and see the crag in a whole new light.
The cove itself sits high up on the valley side with a full on view of the impressive prehistoric Thirst House Cave. The dale feels like it has long been forgotten by the general public, who instead opt for the more well known destinations such as Chee Dale and Millers Dale. However it is a super nice setting and made a change climbing away from the hustle and bustle of the usual spots.

In recent years Badger Cove has become the home to a small collection of some of the hardest boulder problems in the Peak. This has all been down to the dedication and hard work of Dan Varian. His problems Dandelion Mind and Bewilderness, both given V14, sit side by side and climb through some incredibly steep and hard terrain on immaculate rock.
Check out the video below of Dan's quest in making the FA!

It was Dandelion that interested me the most so we met up with a friend who was currently trying the problem and he quickly walked us through all the beta. It is a very basic, short boulder. You could almost describe it as a typical 'board' style problem. The crux involves a hard deadpoint slap to a small but fairly positive side-pull before another big lunge left again to a decent sized sloper.

I pulled on for my first try and within seconds found myself on this last crux move, which blew me off and I landed back on the mats. It felt brilliant to have gotten so close though. The psyche instantly flowed through me, it certainly was not a million miles away...
Feeling pretty wasted I didn't make any further progress that day and left with a smile on my face and stoked to return ASAP! First though a couple days off was needed.

I found myself back down here after just the one rest day. I had taken Sam down to show him the layout and figured on giving the thing a quick try. Mason and James arrived not long after us and the psyche started to build. The next thing I knew I was power screaming my way through those final moves, up to the glory jugs! Again, another crazy feeling that is hard to describe other than just sheer unbelief. 
Having a bunch of mates behind me, shouting encouragement was a massive help and I do feel that was a BIG factor in me maybe trying that little bit harder and giving it that extra couple of percent on the final moves.
The next day we woke up to it hammering it down with rain. But it no longer mattered, for once I could not care less. :)

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Beast.

Belly of the Beast never even entered my radar as something I could ever conceive of doing. Even when I managed to climb Keen Roof a couple of weeks ago, the thought of actually being able to climb a problem that Chris Webb Parson had given V15/8C, never actually crossed my mind.

Just to clear a couple of things up here is a quick run down on the problem itself. If you hate 'waffle' look away now.

For those that don't know this line, it basically starts right back in the cave at Raven Tor and climbs the extension start of Ben's Roof before breaking out and finishing up Keen. It's a fair amount of hard climbing, and virtually feels like a route in some respects. Yes, grovelling around in the back of a dirty, dark cave definitely is not everyone's cup of tea, and I know for certainty what some people think of the idea, but it's hard! And that is the point. The challenge. You have to look past the filthy surrounds of Gollums hideout and focus on the moves, which are actually fairly cool.

One of the visiting Italians, Stefano Ghisolfi grabbed the second ascent of it last month and downgraded it to around 8B+ or V14. Stefano chose to climb the line using the two knee bars that are available along the way, hence the downgrade and which I have to admit, definitely makes a difference to the overall difficulty.
Chris Webb however chose to climb the thing without, creating a much harder all round challenge.
Personally if a knee bar can be found on a route/problem I'll use it, to me it makes no sense not to and ends up causing the problem to become an eliminate.
Regardless of this, massive and utmost respect to Chris for preserving with it last year, when he had to deal with some pretty wet conditions to get it done. At the end of the day it is your own choice how you climb something and as long as you're happy with the style and having fun, who the hell cares.

Anyway it suddenly occurred to me after chatting with Dave Mason that it could be worth giving the thing a bash sometime. I'd done the start before, and was feeling fairly fit. So with this in mind I gave it a go. 1st try from the back I hit the lip of the roof. I was once again shocked. This is possible, this is actually going to go, I told myself. And by the feel of things, pretty dam soon!

However it didn't go that session, or the next, or the next unfortunately. I suddenly developed a mental block on the crux slap to the lip. My head would lose focus or I wouldn't place my feet right, or my fingers would numb up. It started to get super frustrating. I just wanted to get the thing done. Not for the grade, that was a bonus. But because it was such a long and hard piece of climbing.

Check out this funky short clip from JC of one of my previous attempts at the thing!

A week after first trying it, I suddenly realised I'd probably had around 4/5 sessions on the thing. There was no wonder it was starting to feel like a siege! A proper proper rest was in order. Some time to let the body fully recover and re-focus my brain on what needed to be done, so I took a couple days off.

Driving over last Thursday, the temps felt right and I was feeling well rested. We rocked up at the crag only to discover the holds were soaked. Unbelievable. The Tor can be a weird place at times.
Within an hour or two they had dried back slightly, so figured I'd give it a burn and see what happened.

It was feeling solid, I stuck the lip, screaming as I came into the match, heel went up, another power scream to latch the next hold and then another even louder than the last. It felt the hardest I have ever ever tried on a climb. One move from the finish though and it all came to an abrupt end. Every ounce of my power and strength squeezed from my body. Annoyed but buzzing at the same time, it did the world of good for my confidence. I knew it was game time.
Within 20 minutes it was in the bag on my second try of the day. Still a huge fight towards the end, but being more warmed up and with the extra confidence in myself, it made those final moves feel a little more steady. It was still probably the hardest I have ever had to fight on something.
Sitting on the mats afterward I tried to digest another big moment in my climbing. It was a nice feeling for sure.

Without a doubt I am feeling in best shape of my life right now, and I'm incredibly excited for whatever is next! 

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Keen Roof

So Tuesday marked another BIG step forward in my climbing. It is still taking time to properly sink in as I have been super busy this week with various things and barely had chance to sit down, let alone properly process what happened.

Keen Roof is a boulder problem first done by James Pearson a number of years ago and given the grade 8B/V13. It climbs straight through the roof of the cave down at Raven Tor, and has had a number of repeats of the years. In fact I believe it might be the most repeated 8B in the Peak/UK...

Anyway I had put it at the top of my list of projects for the coming season. I strive to excel at all disciplines of climbing, (bar ice climbing, but maybe in the future...) and while last year I managed to break into the next level with my sport climbing, by doing 8c and then E9 on trad, my bouldering was something I really wanted to try and push further this time around.

Last week I got a message off of Mina seeing if I was keen to head down the Tor, and after hearing how dry the place was I got psyched to get stuck in on the first limestone session of the year. I figured it'd be a good opportunity to give the fingers a good burn and reacquaint myself with the other big goal for this year. It was a freezing cold day, baltic in fact. But all the regulars were there and the place had the usual busy busy atmosphere.
I gave my project a couple of tries and was pleased to find out I could still remember all the intricate sequences and beta. It is going to be hard I'm sure, but if it was too easy then were would the fun be right!
There was a bunch of pads all laid out in cave, with one of the visiting Italians Stefano Ghisolfi, putting in some efforts on the monster problem 'Belly of the Beast'. A line were you virtually start lying in the dirt at the back of the cave before climbing out into Keen Roof. Chris Webb Parsons grabbed the FA of this thing a few months ago and it was cool to see somebody actually trying it.

Around 5 years ago I dabbled on Keen Roof, having no idea what I was doing at the time and knowing that in reality it was something way way beyond what I was currently capable of. Since then I've fondled the holds on occasions but never mustered the psyche to pull on and get involved.
So Saturday I took advantage of all the pads and had a quick 10 minute play with Stu. I decided to try the crux move out to the lip first and totally surprised myself in sticking it and climbing on through to the top. I was in state of slight shock at how straight forward it felt and quickly realised that I might actually be strong enough to pull this off. All I needed to do was link in a handful of starting moves and it'd be in the bag.
My skin was wrecked however and my whole body was a little shattered. But I felt super encouraged and full of excitement at what I'd just managed to do and quickly my thoughts turned to planning what day to return during the week. First though a rest day was needed to grow skin and recuperate!

My rest day was great, and I woke up Tuesday morning feeling much refreshed and rearing to go! Opening the curtains though over breakfast and we were greeted by mist and horrible drizzle and the forecast didn't look like it'd improve much. We figured we'd drive out anyway and take a look. Surprisingly the crag had held up fine, although conditions were not the best. Warming up my fingers felt strong and pretty soon I started to pull onto the different positions along the problem.
My first proper attempt from the start I slapped the lip, just missing the good hold. Second try, a while later, I stuck the lip move but fell coming around to match! It was close, I could sense that this thing was fully on now. The skin on my fingers felt super cold, to the point were I wasn't getting much purchase with the rock. I took 10 minutes to allow the blood to return and recharge myself.
The next try I instantly knew everything felt 100% better, pulling through the roof moves, sticking the lip slap with ease and coming around into the match felt bomber. Throwing the heel up I focused in and fired up to the finishing jug! Job done. It almost seemed a bit of an anti-climax. I hung there for a second or two to enable my brain to try and process what had just happened.
I had just climbed my first V13.

Unfortunately we didn't manage to get the actual send on video but luckily I had something still left in reserve for another round shortly afterward, this time in front of the camera. Here is my quick, and quite poor attempt, at stringing a short edit together. Thanks to my Dad for shooting this!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Winter deluge

Since the start of December the winter, to put it bluntly, has been nothing short of depressing. We have all been in the same boat, in some cases quite literally... But while we get annoyed about not being able to get outside on dry rock, there are people down south that have had their lives turned upside down, with crazy scenes of flooding. So I guess in that respect we cannot complain too much. We have definitely gotten away with the worst of it up around here. I can't possibly imagine having water half way up your front door!

People say always look for the silver lining and one positive to pull from the last couple of months deluge of rain has been training. With nothing to do but climb indoors it has meant I have really been able to focus all my energy into some proper training. Without a doubt I feel much stronger than even just 6months ago, maybe no way near quite as fit but with a bit of luck that won't take very long to get back...
I have to admit though at times it has been a struggle to maintain motivation. Obviously I have goals in mind but ultimately we all want to be outdoors and it can be a struggle waking up every day with the rain lashing down on the skylight.
I think now I've just come to accept it and understand that its important to not let it bother you too much. The days now are getting longer, surprisingly fast, spring is just around the corner and with a bit of luck it'll bring some more settled weather.

When it has come good, on the odd occasion, we have tried to make the most of it and managed one or two fun ticks. Routes have really been out of the question, so I started getting back into my bouldering. Heading out on my own, laden down with a tonne of pads and trying various problems around the Peak.

Huffy's Roof - 7C+
300 Pound of Musclin Man - 7C+
Ben's Wall (Curbar) - 7C
Great White - 7C
Ben's Wall (RHS) - 7C

It has however slowly been drying up since the start of February and it felt brilliant to get back in among the routes at the weekend. The wind was horrific so after a failed attempt to climb at Curbar we decided on seeking out shelter within Froggatt woods.
There is a route here I've known about for ages, Dick Van Dyke Goes Ballistic. I finally went to take a brief look at it with Sam Hamer a few weeks ago and while it was verging on a waterfall we figured it was worth coming back for during a dry spell. But with an armoury of brushes, as it was pretty filthy from top to bottom! It had probably only had a maximum of 2/3 ascents since first being put up by Dave Pegg 20 years ago!

Anyway I won't go into too much detail about it, but if you like something different, away from the main events then go seek it out. No doubt it'll have a flurry of ascents now, with the ground up gang queuing half way down the beck! Have fun.
Indoor Fisherman by the way, situated immediately to the right of this, is probably among one of the best E4's you'll find in the Peak, in a quaint little setting. So if you're looking for slightly easier/safer challenge, then I'd highly recommend it. :)