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!