28 February 2010


Sent. Micro-bouldering at Malham Cove in the early 90's.

After my brief visit to Preston I came away with the above photograph. Obviously this foray into micro-bouldering, at what is an internationally renowned sport climbing venue, laid the building blocks for what has now become one major obsession.

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

27 February 2010

University Work

I'm down in Preston at the moment, and have been since Thursday. However, the weather has not been too favourable during my stay, meaning that many of the rock gems that encircle Preston have been out of condition. This has not really been a problem; with one thing and another I've not really had the time to get out on the rock. I arrived on Thursday afternoon, and after an evening in the pub for Ribble Canoe Club's AGM, I didn't surface until 10am the following day. It was raining when I did surface so I headed over to Lytham to make use of the family sewing machine so that I could get some work done on an assignment, which is due in, in a couple of weeks.

I'm guessing your now wondering if I've transferred degrees from a BA (Hons) in Outdoor Leadership to a BA (Hons) in Fashion and Textiles. I have not. Don't worry, but as part of the elective module, Technology in Outdoor Education, we've got to design a new item, or improve an existing item, of outdoor adventure equipment. Hopefully you've deduced from the fact that I need a sewing machine for the assignment I am looking at improving a piece of clothing. To be precise it's a pair of trousers for climbing and today I was out testing the prototype at Craig y Longridge.

Orientating myself with the layout of the problems.

I've visited Craig y Longridge on one previous occasion and on that visit the crag was damp in places. On today's visit it was still damp, but there were enough lines to go at and what made the search for dry problems easier were the little numbers painted onto the rock, which corresponded to the numbers besides the problems in the guidebook. Maybe all bouldering venues should have such a system.

Psyching myself up to make the throw for the top-out on Like a Slug but Sucks (Font 6b).

The damp crag conditions were ideal for testing my prototype; it was very wet and muddy underfoot, which meant that I could see how effective the design concept was.

Getting some university work done in mid-session.

You might be able to work out what the design concept is from the above picture, but basically it combines two solutions for cleaning your climbing shoes - wiping them on a rag of towel; or your trousers - by attaching a patch of towel to the trousers so that you can clean your climbing shoes quickly and easily. The testing was conclusive; the idea has legs! I now just need to perfect the material to wipe your shoes on and make them a bit more aesthetically pleasing and I should be onto a winner.

I quickly dispatched two problems that I had worked during my previous visit and after one spectacular fall and some further testing of my prototype I set about one of Craig y Longridge's many power endurance traverses.

Trying to get some strength back on the Font 6a traverse, Gruts, with a cheeky toe hook.

I managed to get the whole problem wired and commit the moves to memory however I just didn't have enough puff to link it all together. I had to eventually walk away from the crag, with one simple move (matching the finish hold) left to get the tick.

Two moves from the finish of Gruts (Font 6a).

More pictures can be found here.

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

21 February 2010

Gambling with precipitation... Again

John Gaskin's on Violent New Breed (9a+).

I climb a lot at the Newton Rigg Climbing Centre. The main reason being that the wall is on campus and for this reason it allows me to train in between lecturers and on an evening all for a very reasonable price. I suppose "a very reasonable price" could be read as free as I give my time, free of charge, to manage the wall on a Friday evening. However, on one of the wall's is a poster, with the above picture being the main focus. The route is Violent New Breed (9a+), which is one of the hardest sport routes in the world, and for this reason you'd think it was in some far flung place. However, it isn't. It's down the road at Giggleswick South, which is about seventy miles away from me in Carlisle.

On Thursday I had the urge to get out on the rock and see what this bolt clipping was all about and I thought that as a destination Giggleswick would be one of the best. I'm not sure why I thought this, but I suppose seeing such an iconic route on the wall of my main training venue could be a major driving force behind my choice. All I now had to do was find a belayer/partner for Sunday (I was working on Saturday) and pray that the weather would be reasonable.

From the above picture, I am sure you can deduce that the weather was not favourable. I got as far as Sedbergh before I was thwarted by 'Road Closed' signs and the frozen precipitation. It was obvious that the gamble with the weather forecast had not paid off on this occasion and so I returned to Carlisle and hit the fingerboard instead. I've now got a week off from lectures and with this I am hoping that the weeks training schedule can incorporate a couple of outdoor sessions bouldering, leading or shunting, whilst also tapping countless words out on the keyboard all in the name of academia.

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

15 February 2010


Frozen ropes.

I don't think I have ever had two successive posts that have contrasted so much. It is strange to think that on Saturday I was climbing on dry, sun soaked rock, and two days later I was seven miles away ticking off a snow choked, grade I/II gully.

Crossing a snow slope on the approach to the gully.

Today's climb was part of a practical session run by the University and if I was being honest it was one of the best sessions I've had. We started out from the disused mines besides Glenridding Youth Hostel and beat our way up towards Red Tarn and Catstye Cam before contouring off to the base of Catstye Cam's central gully.

Bouldering on an ice fall at the base of the gully.

Once we were at the base of the gully and the small ice falls, which were near by, had been exhausted we sped off up the gully, running out 60m rope lengths at a time, before bringing our second up, who would then repeat the process until we eventually made it to the summit.

Looking down into the gully.

On the summit of Catstye Cam after a successful ascent of the gully.

Once at the summit we quickly packed the gear away before jogging down to Red Tarn and the tourist path, which follows Red Tarn Beck, back down to the Youth Hostel.

More pictures of the day can be found here.

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

13 February 2010

Gambling with precipitation

It seems like my life is one big gamble with the precipitation; when I have my kayaking head on I am always gambling on whether there has been enough precipitation and when my climbing head is on - which is, without a doubt, stuck on firmly right now - I am gambling on whether the precipitation has had an affect on the rock.

Yesterday, during a three hour break between lectures in Anatomy and Physiology and Technology for Outdoor Adventure, I had a cheeky visit to Armathwaite in the drizzle. I know I visited the crag less than a week ago, but I enjoy making moves on the sandstone even though I have made many of them time and time again. The rock was, on the most, bone dry because of the overhanging nature of the problems and this allowed me to get one move further up Problem 7, which has been somewhat of a metaphor for the success of my training programme.

Problem 7 (V6) at Armathwaite.

Today I took that gamble once again; I left Carlisle this morning with the windscreen wipers on intermittent and the roads mildly moist from precipitation that had fallen during the night, in the hope that Gimmer Crag, down in the South Lakes, would be in condition.

Looking up the Langdale Valley to Bow Fell and Crinkle Crags.

To be honest I was extremely doubtful and I was more than happy to sack the day off as a bad job and go for a stroll around the Langdales or even, at worst, Ambleside. However, even when the snow started to fall in the morning the rock remained dry and it did through out the day. In fact on more than one occasion we made comments about how "we were too warm." The weather was that perfect.

A long way down; belaying on Bracket and Slab Climb (S).

We managed to take in, to a degree, three Classic Rock routes in the form of Bracket and Slab Climb (S), Ash Tree Slabs (VD+) and 'C' Route (S+) and throughout the day, when you looked out from the crag to The Band you could make out Neckband Crag where Gillette Direct (E2, 5b) hides away waiting for me to begin work on it during the summer. If I am being honest I am even more excited by the prospect of getting on the crag now; the Langdales must be one of the finest settings in the Lakes, and maybe even the UK, in which to work a route that will test your abilities to the limit.

Confused; trying to find the start of Ash Tree Slabs.

We finished the last pitch of the last climb as the sun started to drop behind Pike o'Blisco, which was not a problem in the least; in fact it was a joy to be still out on the rock and the descent back to the van was made the better for the fact that a Light Emitting Demon guided you off the fell and back into the valley bottom.

Looking across to where my project route awaits from the final stance on 'C' Route (S+) as the sun goes down.
Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.

The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

- John Muir (1838-1914).
Good lines, stay safe and see you on the wet stuff...

06 February 2010


Since my last post, which was nearly a week ago, I feel like I have been winning in life. This is probably because I've ticked off a couple of assignments, which means the pressure of University has been relieved somewhat, and I've also got back into a routine when it comes to training for climbing, which feels really good and the current plan is not only enjoyable, but extremely beneficial to my climbing performance.

I had no real plans for this weekend, but I knew I wanted to get out on some real rock on one day and do some work towards another assignment, which I am really excited about (and I can imagine I'll blog about this at some point in the future), on the other day.

I studied the weather forecasts last night, and did the same this morning and decided that today was the day for climbing and with this I popped out to Carlisle to make a quick purchase of the Northumberland Bouldering Guide so that I could go and sample the delights of the sandstone found at Queen's Crag in the afternoon. This is a place I've wanted to visit since I saw this video almost nine months ago. Obviously this wasn't a like I wanted to try, but there looks to be a lot to go at when you flick through the pages of the guidebook.

Peel Crag rising out of the mist.

However the weather thwarted my plans. I left Carlisle around midday with blue skies and a warm sun overhead and headed east towards Northumberland. As I got closer to the border the visibility started to drop and the cloud started to close in, but I pressed on. I eventually pulled onto the private road, which leads to the crag, and on stopping and inspecting the dry stone wall, besides the van, I decided to pack it all in. The wall was soaking and I am guessing the crag was the same. I turned tale and started to head back east. I called in at Peel Crag and Crag Lough on the way to see them shrouded in mist, dripping with moisture and decided, at this point, that a visit to Armathwaite may just turn the productivity scale back in my favour.

Problem 10 (V4), Sandy Bay Area, Armathwaite, April '09.

Armathwaite didn't fail to deliver. It was very like St. Bees back in January; it felt like the summer and having stripped away the fleeces and hats I set to on the familiar problems of the Sandy Bay Area. I ticked the usual problems and then just enjoyed making moves on the steep sandstone, before getting seriously stuck into working the V6 problem, which goes straight up a prow and features in the new DVD from Posing Productions, The Asgard Project. Unfortunately I didn't top-out, like Leo does in the DVD, but I can see the moves and am sure I'll get there after a bit more training. When I first visited Armathwaite I couldn't even pull off the ground on that line, so there has definitely been some improvement. Anyhow I'll leave you with this video...

Since it was first uploaded to the net I think I've watched it at least once a day. Maybe it's because it was made and produced by four students studying for a degree in Adventure and Media at the University of Cumbria, maybe it's the music, or maybe its because it shows the Lake District at it's best. It makes me realise how privileged I am to be studying, working and playing in such an environment.

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