28 December 2009


The Petzle Shunt all set up ready to go.

I hadn't planned on going climbing today, but because of the freezing fog in the morning and the poor road conditions, plans were changed as my guests for the day felt it unwise to make the 100mile journey north with the current road conditions. I mopped around the house for a while, my eyes kept looking out to the clear blue skies and my brain kept telling me that I should be outside enjoying the beautiful day.

A beautiful day: looking west towards the Northern Lakes.

However, I didn't fancy walking; it was a bit late in the day to get anywhere of interest. Boating isn't really on the cards at the moment; not only are the rivers empty and the water cold, but I just feel like I need a break from it all so I can get some of my motivation back for the sport. I was therefore left with climbing, but then that could be tricky; the snow would be a problem on all but the steepest pieces of Cumbrian rock. This obviously limits your options; your either left with the Bowderstone or Armathwaite's Sandy Bay area for bouldering or some of the steeper Lakeland routes. I didn't fancy either option, and the lack of a partner would obviously prove problematic for any roped climbing.

Some of the locals checking me out on the walk-in.

I eventually decided upon an afternoon session at Cumrew Crag, but the lack of a belayer was still a problem. However, I had my Shunt so it was possible to do some soloing, or shunting as some call it, but I like to think of it as more roped-bouldering; once the rope's fixed down a line and your clipped in you can work the moves to your heart's content and enjoy the simplicity of moving on the rock.

A slightly damp and frozen, in places, Main Wall at Cumrew Crag.

However, this simplicity comes at a price; to get to this point there is a fair bit of faffing needed in order to fix the rope down the required line. Luckily I enjoy this kind of thing: playing with ropes, knots and such like, so I soon had the rope fastened off to three anchors and trailing down the required line. The crag in some ways lent itself to shunting as the routes are fairly straight up and down and once you've fixed the rope you don't need to worry about re-belays and such like to prevent rope wear; just a simple rope protector was needed.

An equalised and tensioned three point anchor for the fixed rope.

I started out on The Croglin Vampire (VS, 4c), a route I have onsighted before, but I found it hard as the snow at the top of the crag was melting down parts of the route meaning some of the vital footholds were a bit damp and others were frozen, but I soldiered on and eventually topped out. I walked back around to the bottom and had another quick blast before moving the rope over to the left, down Black Cat (E1, 5b).

The Croglin Vampire (VS, 4c) ready to go on a Shunt.

Black Cat was probably the driest route at the crag, however the light began to fade as I started up the final third of the route where the crux was. I had no choice other than to abandon ship. I prussiked to the top of the crag and began stripping the fixed rope. This, however, did mean I got to see a lovely sunset over the top of Blencathra from the top and on the walk back down to the van.

The sun setting in the west with Blencathra just to the right of the glowing aubade.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

25 December 2009

Christmas Day: Bouldering Time

The view from the top of the Bowderstone: Low Scawdel and Nitting Haws.

I've just got back from an afternoon of bouldering at what has been described as the premier single boulder in the northern hemisphere, The Bowderstone. I think this might be a slight exaggeration, but don't get me wrong, it's an impressive piece of rock and the problems are some of the best around, but if your off form, or not feeling that strong, you won't be able to pull hard enough to make the moves, and you'll come away feeling demotivated and unenthusiastic about your climbing.

The south face of the Bowderstone.

This was the case for me today. I worked three problems - The Rib (V4), Picnic Sarcastic (V7) and The Crack (V4) - and to be honest I didn't get any further than the first move on each of them and I've visited the boulder on one previous occasion and very nearly completed The Crack. I wasn't very happy, to say the least, and as I walked back down the snowy path, to the van, I wondered whether all this training of late has been in vain.

On reflection, it cannot have been; I am climbing better than I have ever climbed inside and there it is, the most important word of all, inside. All of this training has been inside and as
Dave MacLeod says: "if you are training to climb real rock, training on something as close to it as possible is a rather good idea" and therefore I need to address this problem in my next phase of training, which I plan to start in January, when the new semester at University begins.

Latching the two finger pocket on The Rib (V4).

Anyhow, less of the deep analysis, lets look at today for what it was. One single day of the year. Yes it was Christmas Day, but still it was only a day where one bad performance doesn't mean one wasted week, month or year. It's just a day and today's afternoon was probably one of the better ways to spend Christmas Day when her in doors is, at work, on a twenty-four hour shift.

Establishing my feet in the hope of making one more move on Picnic Sarcastic (V7).

What surprised me the most about today was how many cars were on the roads, but more importantly how all the main car parks, which serve classic Lake District routes, like Sharp Edge for example, were as full as they normally are. Obviously many people enjoy spending Christmas outside in the hills, away from the crowds[!], and the usually predictable Christmas Day TV and to be honest who can blame them.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

24 December 2009

Christmas Eve: Winter Wonderland

I did something I've not done in a while today. I went walking. Ok, for the astute out there obviously I do a lot of walking, as do all of us, but I went walking in the Lake District for the first time since, looking back over logbooks and such like, October it seems. The Lake District, like Carlisle on Tuesday, and the entire UK, has been covered with a blanket of snow and on this basis I decided on a very short walk, with little ascent and descent, which started just off the aorta of the North Lakes, the A66.

Looking back to Blencathra as we cross farmland to Shundraw.

The walk crossed farmland before making a short climb to the top of Low Rigg. We dropped down to the col between Low and High Rigg - where St. John's in the Vale church sat, content with a white topping - before climbing up to the 357m high summit of High Rigg.

A sign pointing us on our way, with High Rigg in the background.

We did eventually descend off High Rigg to the west and by crossing farmland, once again, were able to take in the stone circle at Castle Rigg. The views from here weren't as impressive as I had hoped for as the cloud had started rolling in off the higher fells, which surround the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age monument and all that was required was a short walk back along the roads to get back to the start.

Looking out west over a section of the stone circle.

More pictures of the day can be found here.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

22 December 2009

Wishing you a Merry Christmas...

... with a couple of pictures of a snow covered Carlisle. Like many places up and down the UK, Carlisle is covered in a blanket of white snow. I've got very little to do today, I am suppose to be finishing an assignment, but I am trying to put that off (it is the holidays for Pete's sake) so to waste some time I went for a walk along the banks of the River Eden to capture Carlisle's winter wonderland.

The Swifts Gold Course, which was closed.

The War Memorial in Rickerby Park.

The River Eden, which was out of it's bank a little over a month ago.

A random sledger in Rickerby Park.

More pictures can be found here.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

21 December 2009

A quick session...

Slipping into a cold pair of climbing shoes beneath the Shelter Stone.

I've just got back from a weekend down south in Preston where I did the Christmas thing and called in on family to deposit presents and general Christmas cheer. On the way south I made use of the cold, crisp Friday afternoon with a quick stop at Trowbarrow for some bouldering delights. I've visited Trowbarrow before, but didn't get a lot done as it was late in the day and it was horribly wet, but on this occasion this was certainly not the case.

Trying the first few moves on the Ramp Traverse (Font 6c+), Shelter Stone.

I started out on the Shelter Stone, but soon gave it up as a bad job; I couldn't work the moves as I had little warmth in my fingers and toes. I moved onto the sheltered Red Wall, where I was able to bring the all important digits back to life and start working a handful of problems at the base of the Limestone wall.

About to rock-over on the Classic Rock-over (Font 4), Red Wall.

The problems on the Red Wall, which I sent, seemed to force you to adopt a slow and controlled climbing style and this meant that moving on the rock felt really nice. I suppose this style was forced somewhat by the frictional qualities of the rock; the hand and foot holds were very polished, but it did mean that I could see the strength and power training of the last few months in action; I was able to lock-off with ease and move between holds statically. This meant that when I walked away from the crag, even though I had only sent five problems, I was extremely happy as the session had been so enjoyable and rewarding.

Getting balanced to make another move on The Crack (Font 5).

We eventually had to give up as the light began to fade around 4pm, and even with the aid of a head torch I couldn't really see the moves required for some of the harder problems at the Red Wall. This meant that we packed up and continued on south to Preston for the weekend.

Trying Nick's Problem (Font 6c), Red Wall with the aid of a head torch as the light begins to fade.

I did attempt to call in on Trowbarrow this morning, on the way back up to Carlisle, to try sending some of the other problems on the Red Wall and I was even considering fixing a rope down some of the lines, so that I could get the Shunt out and get some more climbing in. However, the snow that fell over night put an end to that as the roads around Silverdale were pretty interesting so I limped back to the M6 and Carlisle with my tail between my legs.

Not a common occurrence on here, but here's a video of the session for a change.

More pictures can be found here.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

17 December 2009

A recurring theme...

A slightly moist, but in the most dry, Sandy Bay Area at Armathwaite.

It seems like my Thursday's have become devoted to scratching around on moist rock in the hope of finding something dry enough to climb. Again, I failed, which is very similar to the Thursday of last week, but I did boulder out the starting moves to The Exorcist (E4, 5c), which I have done on many other visits to Armathwaite's Sandy Bay Area, before dismissing the holds as slightly too moist. I then spent some time fixing a rope down the line of Glenwillie Grooves (HS, 4b) in the hope of using my new toy to solo the route, but again I dismissed this as a lost cause as the crux of the route was one wet, greasy mess of Permian Age, red desert Penrith Sandstone.

Some delicate sandstone features around Ituna (S) and Flasherman (VS, 4b, 5a).

Today's failure was even more demoralising than last week's damp rock at Carrock Fell as I was hoping to get in a long day on the crag 'shunting' up some E1's and E2's and call it training. If this had come off, it would have been the first time that I had trained outside, since starting training back in the middle of October, and would have probably been the most beneficial training session of them all; I would eventually be able to see what E1 and E2 climbing is really like and therefore be better prepared mentally for my project route I aim to send in the summer of 2010.

I'm not that strong yet, but it's an aim (Picture: James Pearson's blog).

All the training I have done to date has focused on stamina, power endurance and limit strength, and yes I have seen an improvement, but there is the other side of training: the tactics and the head game, which I was going to focus on today alongside some limit strength stuff. I am more than confident that my physical skills and attributes are now ready for climbing in the E grades, but it is the two things I previously mentioned, which are now holding me back.

I suppose its back to putting my head in some books to research these points and implement them in the next phase of my training plan, which is scheduled to begin when the second semester of lectures begin in January. However, I think I'll get some limit strength stuff done at home today and try again tomorrow, with training outside, otherwise I might just reside myself to one final wall session, before a weeks rest, and then three weeks of 'performance' climbing to test the rewards reaped from the first phase of training.

Obviously that's all weather dependant!

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

12 December 2009

A tribute to Ciaran O'Frighil...

I imagine your all wondering who Ciaran O'Frighil is? Well to be perfectly honest I don't know and neither does that great academic source[!] Wikipedia, but Google tells me he once wrote a poem:
"I don't like gravity.
It gets me down."
- A Short poem about gravity by Ciaran O'Frighil

I must admit it seems that his poetic work is rather limited, but don't worry I haven't gone crazy; this poem, and the featured picture, both have a connection and a purpose.

If it was possible to make the picture rewind ten minutes you would be looking at a climber making moves on Faulds (S) at Caldbeck Moor Quarry and they would be about a meter above a piece of protection, with another piece about three meters below that. Fast forward some minutes and you'd see the climber reaching up for a hold near the top of the route. A couple of milliseconds would pass and you'd see the hold breaking off in the climbers hand. A couple more milliseconds would pass and the climber would be in free fall as gravity takes charge. Another millisecond would pass and you'd see the piece of protection, which was a meter below the climber, ripping out of the delicate limestone. A millisecond or so later and you'd see the ropes coming tight on the next piece of protection, about three meters below the piece that had just ripped, just as the climbers feet connect with the grassy mound at the bottom of the route. One or two more milliseconds would pass and you'd see the climber in a crumpled heap as their feet slide out from beneath them.

And now your back at the picture.

The ropes have been pulled through and left in a pile at the bottom of the route; the injured climber and their partner sort out the remaining gear and strip themselves of harnesses and climbing shoes. The ropes are eventually coiled and the pair hobble and walk, respectively, back to the vehicle that transported them to the crag and would now see them safely to the hospital in Penrith.

As you have probably now gathered I went climbing today at Caldbeck Moor Quarry. It was a lovely December morning, but on the first route a loose hold proved problematic for my partner, which resulted in a fall to the ground, and an end to the days climbing. Luckily the hospital diagnosis was soft tissue damage and the prescribed treatment was rest, ice, compression and elevation. Some might view this as a wasted day, but was it? Personally, I'd say no, and for now I'll leave it at that.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

10 December 2009

Winter sunshine

Looking across to Carrock Fell's eastern flanks on a clear December morning.

Eventually the weather has become a bit more conducive to climbing outdoors, which I am hugely thankful for because the only climbing I have done of late has been indoors on plastic and resin. This isn't a bad thing, but training four times a week indoors does get you longing for fresh air, real rock and natural light after a while. This favourable weather window also enabled me to brake up a five-and-a-three-quarter hour break between lectures and tutorials with something of interest; climbing.

Looking across Carrock Fell's scree slopes to Low Boulder, Mushroom Boulder and Boardman's Boulder.

When the discussion on Social Class in the Outdoors was over this morning I was almost running back to the van so I could make the quick dash west to Carrock Fell to sample its delights. Unfortunately only a couple of lines were dry after a heavy downpour last night but they still required some effort, thought and skill to send. However it was just good to get outside for a change and relax on a mountain side, enjoying the December sunshine; the climbing was almost a secondary, rather than a primary, element to the break in between classes.

The starting hold of Sitting Block Direct (V3).

As you can see from the pictures featured there are few of me climbing today, in fact their were none of the climbing action, as I was unable to set the camera up for any half decent self-portraits. The rock architecture surrounding the dry problems wasn't conducive to good self-portrait photography if I was being honest.

Looking out from Carrock Fell across to Greystoke Forest.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

02 December 2009

An afternoon jaunt...

Looking down Ullswater towards Helvellyn and an angry sky.

Today was supposed to be the second coaching session that I would deliver to a group of first year students from the University of Cumbria for my Level 2 Certificate in Coaching Paddlesport. However, not all the group could make it, so instead I joined the ones that could on a journey along the western shore, before crossing over and returning up the eastern shore.

It wasn't anything amazing by any stretch of the imagination, but I still enjoyed it. It just proved that even though I wasn't paddling the hardest white water, or paddling with the usual crowd, I can still have a fantastic time in a kayak. I suppose the setting goes along way in helping though.

Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...