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: