- Climbing - Dan Varian
- Climbing - David Mason
- Climbing - Katy Whittaker
- Climbing - Mina Leslie-Wujastyk
- Climbing - Ned Feehally
- Climbing - Neil Mawson
- Climbing - Pete Whittaker
- Climbing - Ryan Pasquill
- Climbing - Steve McClure
- Climbing - Tom Randall
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On Friday night Paul Smitton and I are setting off to go to the Frankenjura in Germany. We are going to stay there for nearly a month. The plan is to drive through the night so that we arrive at Gasthof Eicher or to us brits Martha’s campsite at around midday. I hope she remembers me and gives me a free slice of one of her amazing cakes!
I think when we get there first thing first after the long journey will be to reacquaint ourselves with some of the region’s world class beers. The Germans really know how to make a good beer and the kellerbeers around there are just amazing. If you ever find yourself in the Jura make sure you try some of the dunkles (dark beer) they are tip-top and it’s great way to finish the day.
So I have one main goal for the trip and for me it’s a big one. I’m going to try Action Direct. Action needs little introduction as it’s one of the most famous sport routes in the world and its creator Wolfgang Gullich is one of the biggest legends in climbing. I’m not really sure why I first got involved with this route, when I first tried it three years ago I was a total punter on it. I did manage all the moves eventually but each move was so close to my limit that I would be powered out just doing one on its own. I just want to say thank you to Katy for belaying me on that trip, she’s got a lot of patience!
The style of climbing that epitomises Action isn’t usually my cup of tea, my natural style and strengths are more geared towards easy angled technical crimping. This year could be different, I feel that I’ve done some pretty solid training and I’ve tried to work my weaknesses. I feel as strong as I ever have done which probably doesn’t mean much but either way I’m ready to give it my best shot. All I need now is a strong head, good conditions and a copious amount of luck….
Ps: Muel if you’re reading this you can be the hardest while I’m gone ;)
Contributed by: Ryan Pasquill
Some thoughts for small rocks:
I’ve had loads of porcelain epiphanies lately but when its actually come to penning them down they’ve bunged themselves up and i’ve left them to flush away with all the other crap memes i have throughout the day.
Moving back home has been really interesting due to the reacquaintance of my current form with the me from 7 years ago. A 17 year old me who’d just learnt to drive in the Morris Traveller. Bursting with fresh psyche for all the new venues around me and many possible new lines. Chapman, Kershaw and Gaskins were my inspiration for the lakes problems! Some inspiration that! you can either look at it as a bunch of visionary Lancastrians with twinkle toes, or a mixture of gel, ponytails and bald/ponytail combos raving about this and that new rockfall/ escarpment which looks a bit like a boulder. I’d been using my new freedom to climb things like Eyes of Silence, Carlisle Slappers (i was 16 then, you can tell by the name, and was learning to drive on the waterworks road as it was private) And i wanted to climb every half decent problem in sight. The guide was all about climbing everything, nice clean consecutive ticks, aah the neatness.
I left a lot of my Scotland Lakes and Northumberland guides at home through Uni and they stayed dormant, the inky circles of desire slowly seeping into the pages to become a relic of past whimsies. Re-clambering through these routes and problems on the sofa, what were once my dreams now rasp against my current ideologies. Belittled by my older self. That is not to say that the routes are worse, they still look incredible. Just that Prana on Black Crag Borrowdale, Wheels of Fire on Bowderstone Crag, Crystal Vision Knapdale (http://www.ukclimbing.com/logbook/c.php?i=147046) and many more old guide book inspired dreams, no longer represent where I'm bursting to get to when the weathers good.
Something went horribly wrong over the last 7 years in terms of my aspirations, its not like i achieved and surpassed them, i simply bypassed many of them completely!
Carrock was another venue I last frequented aged 17, until last week. I remember doing punks life and briefly pretending i was somewhere exotic, Knight Rider with a massive flapper from a crystal (one of the straws that broke the carrocks back for me with this venue) Cave LH. My finest hour, repeating a Gaskins problem the day after he did it! aah joy, his chalk was on it and everything. I even had to tie a strap round my V10s to keep my heel on, i bet Gaskins didn’t have to use a heel.
Shortly after this i fell in love with the county and Carrock seemed little more than a good place to rasp some skin off in a bogged out midge ridden talus field. In the last fortnight though i’ve grown curious about the old me, the one who went there and had fun. So whilst picking up some wood with Katie to make more holds we decided to swing by on an iffy afternoon for a trip down memory lane. In particular to look at Greg’s sterling work on the back of Boardman’s boulder and Hocks new one move power explosion, Super Yum Yum. The latter was unfortunately piss wrapped so that’ll have to wait for another day.
Metronome (Greg’s new 8A) was fortunately dry.
The stand to this was a funny problem of mine. I remember doing it whilst being really pissed off with myself for doing it. It was sharp (i had some right baby skin then). I only had one pad and my ankles kept disappearing in bouts of unfettered exploration down the holes in the horrible talus landing (i didn’t know to patio landings like this then) There was a big pissing block looming in the way of the direct exit behind me and my left exit kept rasping more skin off. I wanted to leave it but i knew in theory there was a decent problem there, i just didn’t know how to produce it. I eventually did the stand and then drove 3 miles of the drive home with the handbrake still on (only twigging when the burning smell caught me up on a hill) in the Morris (like i said i was learning to drive too) Fast forward 7 years and all is revealed. Greg Patio’d the landing sorting the exit and the ankle swallowing falls in one. Even opening up the true line, with great moves. Literally sorting the men from the boys. reclaiming the stand was bizarre, physical nostalgia. I set about the sit but with no print out guide i got a bit lost and started with the wrong limbs on all the right holds. The other main difference nowadays was that it felt like my skin was indifferent to its sharpness, and i can squeeze the crap out the holds. With my slightly easier sit sequence i managed it after snapping a bit of the crux LH undercling slightly on my first attempt. How things change with the arrow of time.
So the point of all this is that i’ve been consciously trying to imagine where i might be if life carries on this way and finding not just short term projects in the lakes but long term possibilities for people (not just me) too. As disillusionment in an area is not something i hope to enjoy until my more curmudgeonly years. Either that or i’ll have to start traveling!
A quick (with the usual dodgy omissions) summary of the above for people who prefer to keep/peruse scorecards rather than guidebooks
Metronome, 2nd go
poor quality vid (mostly iphone) of some random stuff from the last 10days here:
On a side note if anyone is looking for a Morris Traveller my dad is selling one of ours for £1500ish
it looks a bit like this.
only without the v8, and 2 tone paint job, rally seats and roll cage.
Contributed by: Dan Varian
Chocolate and climbing. My two big passions. Perhaps best kept separate, but I couldn’t resist a chance of combing the two!
Actually I always combine the two, with some kind of chocolate always in the bag of essential climbing kit, but when I got asked to come and climb a tower made of chocolate with a chocolate waterfall I wasn’t going to refuse! The latest attraction at Alton Towers was a climbing tower modelled on the famous Rocky Bar, if you know these you’ll know they are pretty nice! The wall has real chocolate in its paint, and a real chocolate waterfall, though, unfortunately, for health and safety reasons it’s not recommended to have it pour directly into your mouth!
So I went down to hang around, clamber about, and taste the chocolate experience. Though I didn’t actually fancy a lick of the wall, I did get to leap off the top when health and safety weren’t looking, and as a reward I got 500 rocky bars. So the question is, after these 500 bars.
1/will I be able to climb harder than 6b+?
2/will I still have rocky bars on my list of chocolate favourites?
Contributed by: Steve McClure
But don’t get too excited, unless you are five years old and live in S10!
I built a traversing wall at Westways Primary School over the Easter holidays. Entreprise gave me a great deal on their holds and I set about creating a few traverse routes on their natural stone outdoor wall. Routes tested by my daughter.
Four challenges 1/rainbow. 2/yellow. 3/blue and purple. 4/brick edge only. The brick edge traverse is nails. If any of you kids manage it then I’m well impressed!
So to all you parents, or future parents, now you have a reason to move from S7 to S10!
Contributed by: Steve McClure
This is my first proper blog. It's a total ramble but I just want to say thanks to FiveTen, Arcteryx and the Bigstone crew.
I have been receiving free shoes off FiveTen for years now and i've never really done anything for them. Ok I may have been caught out by 'a man with a camera' a couple times at the crag and the photo's may have ended up in the mags but that's it. No effort on my part, just going climbing!
FiveTen have always been my favourite shoes and I can't see that changing. I really like the smell when you open a new box and you get the sent of new rubber and glue. Mmmmm! Don't get my wrong I was a bit of a scally growing up in Bolton but I never got into glue sniffing. It's the combination of the glue and rubber that smell nice and it's the rubber that for me really makes FiveTen special. You just cannot beat Stealth rubber when it comes to friction and smears. I know I wouldn't be able to trust any other shoe on a scary grit route. Also I think for british limestone routes it would be hard to beat the Anasazi Whites, they are a class shoe.
As for the Arcteryx kit I know what my mate Twinny would say about it using his best Bolton accent....'smart'. It's also super light and keeps you toasty. For me the best bit is that you can go to the pub straight from climbing and look like you have dressed for the occasion. :)
Right first real blog done, maybe it's time to join facebook . . . .
Contributed by: Ryan Pasquill
Now its warming up I though it would be a good time to reflect on this winter's gritstone season. I really enjoyed going big this year, here are my highball highlights:
I tried to do this ground up but got a bit stuck. Rather than banging my head on a pebbly wall I decided to check out the top on a rope. I immediately found a sequence that worked (albeit very different to the sequence I was expecting/trying) and fell from the very top on my next go.
We returned a few days later with a mountain of pads and I did it.
It is a great effort by John Welford who did this above minimal pads a good number of years ago. His ascent was way ahead of its time – respect.
Lip of fools
Jon Fullwood climbed this route at Eastwood a couple of years ago. He protected it with “baby bouncers” using gear in gear in a crack on the right and a tree on the left, making for a pretty physical and exciting, but totally safe E7. He had recommended it as a potential highball and after the weather had taken a turn for the worse it seemed like the perfect perma-dry option.
After some begging and borrowing of pads from pretty much everyone at the crag (thanks) we had a decent landing zone. The route traverses a lip on crimps at about 15 feet before busting straight up the head wall. The gear tree that protects the lead actually makes the landing worse for a highball ascent. Oh well, your on jugs by then.
After some initial wobbly goes getting used to the fall I committed to the last of the hard moves and gingerly shuffled through the top section in a sea of greenness. It felt good to be reasonably relaxed at such a height (although I am sure I didn’t look it).
A couple of days later things had dried out considerably. One of my main goals for this winter was Miles Gibsons’ Superboc at Moorside. This was climbed as an E8 above 2 small pads (and seemingly in the height of the summer, in a pair of tiny shorts) many years ago. Nowadays it qualifies as a mere highball. The crux is pretty low down but the top out is far from easy or obvious. I had been to Moorside many times before but things had never quite aligned. Either bad conditions, bad skin or weak arms had let me down time and time again.
This time a freezing wind was whistling down the crag keeping the crucial pockets in prime condition and I was feeling well rested. After a quick brush and a couple of goes I surprised myself by getting right to the top only to explode off in a cloud of gritty dirt. My keenness had got the better of me and the dirty top out spat me off without even a whisper of warning.
After another (proper) clean and the obligatory rubbish second last go I found myself flopping onto the top. Brilliant. How things change. I remember the first time I went to superboc (3 or 4 years ago?) I saw it as a huge and very intimidating highball and got totally shut down. This visit it felt relatively small and I didn’t think twice about committing to the top out. Maybe that’s foolish…
I first tried this about 3 years ago with Gaz Parry and Tony Musslebrook. I remember being terrified above a few pads and not really making any progress. I went back again this year and had more luck,. After a few big falls I got through the crux only to find myself stranded. I didn’t have the holds well enough to push on, and I couldn’t reverse. All that was left to do was shakily jump off. Oof! The fall wasn’t actually that bad but I was lacking the commitment to really go for the moves.
The next session was with Michele Caminati, the visiting Italian beast. This time we had even more pads (about 10) and committing was slightly easier. Michele cruised up it 2nd go and this inspired me to pull my finger out and do it. Not exactly ground breaking stuff but I am really pleased to have finished this off as it was my last highball goal for the winter.
All these were caught on camera and have been included in a new film called Life on Hold (http://www.outcropfilms.com/). You get to see Dan and I, and many others making fools of ourselves and trying to climb. You should buy it!
Contributed by: Ned Feehally
After all if he was to make the perfect climbing conglomerate why would he put great big pebbles and small lines of crystals that supposedly make holds in the mix?! Torn skin anyone?! OOO yes please! Me first, me first!
This year I have discovered the bouldering in Northumberland and I have to say I much prefer it to the grit. It’s as close to Fontainebleau as I can imagine and for me that makes it pretty damn good. Last weekend I managed to climb 4 days in a row, my tips was onion skin thin each night but with a generous application of Elizabeth Arden I was ready to go the following day.
The other thing I love about Northumberland is the solitude, it appears to be much quieter at the crag, and life seems to slow down upon reaching the undulating farm land around Belford.
My climbing recently hasn’t been quite up to scratch but there were a few climbs I really wanted to get done or at least try. My psyche was high as we left a sunny Sheffield, it was a beautiful spring day and my optimism of it cooling down as the sun fell kept me buoyant. Our first destination was Hepburn. I hadn’t been here before but I had heard a lot about one bloc in particular, Preparation H. People had said it wouldn’t be out of place nestled in between the ‘Big 4’ at Cuvier Rempart! A big accolade indeed!
Preparation H, 8a: Courtesy of Andy Jennings
Arriving at Hepburn it was still hotter than hell and time for a bit of sunbathing whilst we waited for Andy. It is a beautiful spot looking out over Chillington Castle and the small villages nestled between rolling green pastures. For me we can cut the climbing day short and so reduce the blog length dramatically at this point-Preparation H is outstanding and so is Northern Soul to its left, this bloc would be 5 stars anywhere in Fontainebleau. The rock is of the highest quality, the lines are of good height and the climbing is varied and technical. However the day never materialised pour moi; it was too hot, I lost skin and bitched and moaned. Mina did everything! Her first 8a in Britain and in a session (rumours of it being soft, rhubarb, rhubarb), it’s definitely not a stereotypical ‘girl’ climb-beef, burl and a pair of big shoulders are required here.
I slunk back to the van with my tail between my legs like a scolded puppy dog, Mina obviously in a very jubilant mood! The next morning we woke up to rain! Brilliant, this wasn’t forecast. However a stout breeze was blowing which meant that after cereal and bagels, tea and coffee the rock was dry and luckily for me it was quite a bit cooler. Mina dumped me with Andy, Rob and Lee and headed for Team training at Teesside University.
Objective of the day-Preparation H, followed by a trip to Back Bowden to try County Ethics. Arriving at Hepburn conditions felt good but the sun was slowly edging its way onto the sloping sandstone of Preparation H. A few windmills of the arms and I jumped on, after a few flails yesterday I knew what to do and first time up I was past my previous high point, the next few goes I got a little higher each time until my fourth go where before I knew it I was standing on top of the bloc! This really is high up there with the best things I have climbed not just in the UK but worldwide. I then managed to tick a great little bloc of Varian’s called Trivial Pursuit followed by a team tick of the fantastic Northern Soul.
Northern Soul, 7a+: Courtesy of Rob Lonsdale
Off to Back Bowden to try County Ethics. I had never laid eyes on this stretch of crag before but the photos and video footage I had seen made it look awesome, I wasn’t disappointed! The rock is of a board type angle with lots of small slopey crimp rails and pockets, sounding good?! It also is of a good height ranging from 7-10 metres (guesstimation there). County Ethics is at the smaller end of the buttress but is still pretty high, basic board climbing leads to a big throw at a slightly scary height. Upon arrival I thought a good flash attempt could bring sweet success and a need to not test the mats and my knees. First go up I got to the big throw but after not climbing for a while flash pump coursed through my veins and I dropped off. However they weren’t delusions of grandeur, I should have flashed it. Now it was a battle of the mind, I should do it on my next attempt but would I?! Plus skin preservation was important. After a rest I jumped on, arrived at the throw and stuck the sloping edge, don’t mess it up now. Heel to hand and up to more sloping but big ledges and I quested on up to the top. I was happy, really happy! My weekend ticks were complete with 2 days still to go. I conserved skin for the rest of day and spotted, brushed and gave beta at Bowden. As the sun sank low in the sky and a chill filled the air my mind was filled with content, a fun and successful day in truly stunning surroundings.
County Ethics, 7c+: Courtesy of Rob Lonsdale.
The next day we had decided to brave the long arduous walk up to Ravenshugh, a north facing crag in the Simonside Hills near Rothbury. An hour’s slog later and one very sweaty t-shirt we reached our destination. The walk up had been warm but a gale was blowing at the crag making for pretty good conditions. I was awe struck by the size of the rocks here; large grey hunks of windswept sandstone nestled into the side of the remote moorlands gave Ravenshugh a dark, eerie feeling; a place that time had forgotten.
There were two reasons for our hike; Reiver voiced to be one of the finest 7b+’s in the country and the Magician, a tall prow climbed by Andy Earl back in 2007. A brief look around and I wasn’t disappointed-the lines were tall on impeccable looking sandstone. We set to work on Octopus, a 7a next to Reiver-a fairly easy plod up a groove lead to a scary throw to the top, one that was definitely easier for the tall, hence the name! It was time to move rightwards and start working out Reiver. No chalk and the rock was dirty after a winter of little attention (Ravenshugh is a spring/summer crag, winter must be miserable up here). After numerous attempts I finally worked out how to get to a good slopey ramp about ¾ of the way up the wall. A few goes later with a little less scrittle beneath my sweaty palms I managed to hoist my leg onto a bad smear and reach up to a good but small and dirty break, not wanting to fall I went into crimp over drive and lunged for the sloping top, thank god it was a good sloper! This definitely is a classic boulder problem and putting the lichenous scrittle aside must be up there with West Side Story; it requires delicate and subtle movement with a bit of gunnage to reach the top. When it’s clean it must be bliss!
As the sun was dipping low in the sky we headed over to the Magician, on our way, a brief stop to run up the Duergar; a stunning arête that protrudes out of the hillside, watch out for the sloping top!
The Duergar, 7a+: Courtesy of Mark Savage.
So to the Magician-well it’s pretty big, although by today’s standards I am not sure what big is anymore. However I knew that the difficult climbing was quite low down and the landing was a flat grassy meadow amongst the heather and boulders, what more could one want?! I had made the decision to put a rope down it to clean the holds near the top, I didn’t know the last time it had seen attention and I didn’t know when I would be back. I wasn’t keen on doing all the hard part and then coming unstuck because I didn’t know where a hold was. A brief chalk and inspection later I was back on the floor and ready to go. The rock still felt really warm on the first two goes but the short foray’s had allowed me to work out what to do, I knew I could do it but my skin was thin and we were losing light, would the rock cool before darkness engulfed us?! I rested and decided to take my tape off, next go and I found a key bit of beta for me, turning the right heel into a toe before throwing out to the left side of the prow. Time for another short rest to cool my weeping, bleeding tips. As the darkness crept in, I chalked my hands and pulled on. Through the first few moves I turned my heel to a toe and unexpectedly managed to reach out nice and slow to left arête, I had found the balance point. One right hand movement and I was in, I hesitated almost to the point of falling off, heaven knows why and then lurched for the right hand slopey rail. Tagging it a small grunt of exertion escaped my lips; I matched up and started cautiously up the rest of the problem. I was filled with a mixture of fear and adrenaline, and this brought on the pump, the end of the 3rd day and my body was tired. However I managed to drag myself up and over the top needless to say I was very, very happy!
The Magician, 7c+: Courtesy of Mark Savage.
A long but worthwhile walk down in the dark, we retreated to the bunkhouse to fill our empty stomachs with curry and beer! The next day was a wash out; mist and rain filled the air and snow was coming, we headed south to North Yorkshire to meet my Mum and Sister in Wensleydale; that evening a hot tub and a glass of wine brought much needed relief to our aching, weary bodies.
I hadn’t known how this weekend would pan out, my confidence has been really low recently but I was extremely psyched to be heading to the county and to visit some new crags. After the first sweltering day my psyche was lost along with a lot of my skin but the change in the weather brought me good fortunes and I not only managed to achieve my goals but I surpassed them by climbing the Magician. It wasn’t the difficulty of any of these problems but more the circumstances that made me feel good inside and served to raise my motivation for climbing again. A great weekend with good people in a beautiful place, the only down side was Mina not finishing off County Ethics but she will be back!
Contributed by: Neil Mawson