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: