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For the last couple of years the Petzl Rock Trips have just been getting bigger and better. There was Mexico in 2010, that was incredible, and last year the trip to China was on a whole new level, shocking the climbing world not just with the scale of the event, but also with the venue they had discovered and developed for the climbing world. There didn’t seem much room to move after that, but somehow they pulled it out of the bag!
The area known as the Piedra Parada is in the Chubut region of Argentina, maybe 2000 km south west of Buenos Aires, well in land and basically in the middle of absolutely no where! From the east coast where I landed it took 12 hours by bus, passing through endless nothing as day faded into star studded blackness unlike any I’ve seen before. Waking up I was in a moonscape, a broad valley, and the Chubut river meandering through. Vast rocky plateaus spread upwards and off into the distance scored by deep canyons. Total silence except for the occasional bird call and the trickle of the river just yards from my tent, and an air so clear and sharp that every breath made me feel alive.
The Piedra Parada itself is actually a massive lump of rock sticking out of the ground from the valley floor. It’s about 260m high and maybe the same wide, rising up from the middle of nowhere and sticking out like a sore thumb. There is climbing on it, plenty, and some good multi-pitch trad adventures. But most of the climbing is in the Butrera Canyon that snakes its way northwards for around 5 km, with huge walls and pinnacles towering hundreds of meters into the crystal clear blue sky. There are a lot of routes, and scope for a hell of a lot more! In my few days climbing I barely scratched the surface.
But the 7 full days of travel were worth the 5 good days of climbing. I turned up with no expectations, out of shape and injured and with a dodgy knee from an operation just a few weeks ago. But it came good, with 3 8b, 4 8a+, 2 8a and an 8b/+ all onsight (except one 8a+ flash). The 8b/+ was the last route of the trip and will stand out above every route I climbed, and above every route I’ve climbed this year. Totally at my limit, it was one of those “Climbing Moments”. Johnny Dawes once said that he could climb all year for one of those moments, and he’s right! Maybe I get more than one per year, but its not many more. When you’ve really experienced them you know how rare they are, and how special. I can still remember most of the moves on this route, unusual for the onsight, but each move was so analysed and ingrained. For this route alone the entire trip was worth it, I’d have come all the way just for that!
Read more in the next CLIMB magazine due out soon.
A route with history comes full circle! Mecca is one of the most sought after hard sport routes in the Peak. 8b+ and a hard one, the first ascent by Basher in 1986 was done after a massive siege on his last day before emigrating! Now climbed with knee pad technology its bottom of the grade, though the old skool still leave the pad on the ground and slap they way up the groove the hard way.
But however you claw your way to the chains, they are still really in the middle of nowhere, and the extension still has to be done! I was somehow left with the first ascent back in 1998, soft 8c, a route 8a/8a+ after a bit of a rest at the Mecca chains still doesn’t push it up much in terms of grade – so long as you can recover!
But a few years later a good sidepull crumbled off in the middle of the extension, only to be ‘fixed’ with a rather generous replacement in the form of a random chunk from the floor. I wasn’t totally impressed, but it wasn’t much easier so it was left.
But then a new sequence was found using the glued block in a way that could never have been done before. But still, not much easier, so no stress. And finally, people realised you could now avoid the crux of Kabbah (my 8c+ that is to the right) by reaching across into the block. This took Kabbah down to 8c, which was a bit of a shame.
Fortunately the block fell off (and I didn’t knock it off before you ask). And I got the chance of making another ascent yesterday (Sunday 7th). Same grade as before, just a bit harder. So the route gets another little bit of history to add to its colourful past!
When Petzl put together their first Roc Trip I doubt they would know where it was going! The format may have changed a little, but the underlying principles remain intact; climbers like to climb, travel, meet people and party!
The Party has just got better and better. Mexico was wild, China immense, and this year, teaming up with The Natural Games again, the party was actually a festival! There must have been 15000 people there, three nights of awesome music, films and boulder competitions. No sleep was ever had till after 4am!
But it was on the crags in the morning, no lie-ins! Tarn, Jonte, Boffie. Hot, but who cares when the scenery is this good. Millau is as good as it gets. This year the climbers got to just climb, no ultimate route, no pressure. I like it!
Best route. Museli Monster, an awesome 8a, onsighted with a fluffy head and battling with sweat. Brilliant. Not had a good fight in a while.
So that’s 10 years. I missed the very first one in 2002, also in Millau, but was there for the 2002 Gunks trip a few months later, and since then I’ve been to pretty much all of them. So that’s Gunks (US), Millau (France), Cantobre (France), Peaks (UK), Squarmish (Canada), Kalymnos (Greece), Redriver (US), Zillertal (Switzerland), Mexico, China…. What a journey! Being part of this right at the start has been one of the biggest privileges of my life. I lucked out big time! BIG thanks to Petzl!
And it just gets better………..
And my hardest boulder problem too. Ironically it still needed a rope. Worlds first 8c+, Font 8b, way ahead of its time. The strong boys reckon Font 8b+! Nice little vid here made by Ben Pritchard a while back. And yes, I missed a bit by mistake, thats what happens when you cut it yourself!
About 10 feet away, but thats about as close as I'll get! This route is 'Slimline' 8a+. It may be 10 feet away, but in terms of climbing its about 10 light years away from me
There are two things that make The Frankenjura famous. Monos and cakes. These two things represent the extremes of my most feared and most loved things in the world. So I guessed a trip here would work out about even when combining the two, and I didn’t actually have to pull on monos as there is always an easier way round the back.
So game on! Spoon at the ready. Five days was going to be plenty. But day one started badly, flying in after lunch time and going direct to cliff but with the knowledge of a free evening BBQ to come. Great steak, but no cake!
Day 2 was off to a good start, as we entered a bog standard village bakery and were presented with a vast array of all things chocolate and creamy. This was what we were really here for. However, a momentary ‘performance’ blip came over me, this being the best chance of climbing hard today, and not wanting to blow it, I, quite amazingly, came out with a selection of granary rolls and some flapjacks. But this was no stress, as we’d seen the future, and the future was cake!
Day 3. As I should have guessed, not eating cake yesterday made no difference, I was still rubbish. So no need to hold back. We went direct to a recommended bakery only to find we could not find it. So the next hour was spent frantically hunting, only to find an under par fancy shop that had sold out, and a supermarket that was basically a bread shop with a few token chocolate doughnuts.
Day 4. No messing now. We drove straight back to Bakery from day 2. There would be no mistakes today! But hang on, its Sunday, and absolutely everything is shut! Not only no cakes, but nothing! So back to our doss to gather together various emergency supplies from England including a few flapjacks that had disintegrated, an energy bar with a date out of 2010, and a malt loaf that looked like it had been ran over by a steam roller and was thin enough to use as a book mark!
Day 5, flying home at 10pm, this gave us enough time to make up for all our bad luck! So we headed to apparently the best bakery in the area. And there it was, looking amazing, but looking shut! Bank Holiday, nothing open! Foiled again. Service station Pretzls had to do.
So on this trip the score was: Cakes – zero. Monos – 30.
Looks like I need to come back to settle the score!!
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?
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!
OK, so blog efforts have been poor for a while! But there are reasons for that, which I will go into later. But basically a combination of being too busy and too injured has meant that I have done nothing of interest for an eternity. But what exactly is interesting, and what is the point of writing a blog in the first place?
Anyway, faced with some time off the crimpy world a new direction was needed in order to find motivation. Maybe now was the time to crack the lifetimes ambition of the one-armer. Not that bent arm start or flicky cheat method, a proper 3 seconds hang and then gradual pull through all the way. Completely beyond me at first in January, but now steady on each arm. Next step will be two from an edge. Then I’ll be really strong, and have a new status down the wall. People will want to hang out with me, share circuits they have made up and girls will be impressed. I knew there was more to climbing than just going out on that rocky stuff. Thank God I found it before it was too late.
There has been a lot of talk recently about performance footwear, new models coming out from different brands. There are some sticky rubbers around now. However, without doubt I could not have managed this incredible benchmark without my blancos. The fine balance of support and sensitivity was essential when stepping off the floor, and then the precise fit was just enough whilst moving through the air. Undoubtedly the supper sticky Stealth helped massively creating upward lift against the air, and the secure lacing meant that at no point did I feel my feet were about to blow out. One arm pull-ups are just the same as rock climbing, its all in the feet!
The summit of Snowdon last week. While most of the country sat in drizzle including Llanberis, the tops were out for a sun tan!
Worth a run – up the railway path, then along the Snowdon Ranger Path, awesome descent, bit of a slog up with about 900m height gain but worth it.