30 April 2010

Making the most of a Damp Afternoon

Making the first move on The Crack Super Direct (V6).

Since my last post, little has happened, apart from the weather thwarting my plans to get out on the rock. This forced me to head back indoors for an afternoon and crank out some circuits all in the name of training and also hang off the fingerboard for an hour or so. However, I'd had enough of being indoors today, so I made the familiar drive south, to the Borrowdale Valley, and the awaiting Bowderstone.

Making the initial moves of On the Rebound (V7).

This little block stays dry in all but the heaviest of rain, which is good as it was drizzling this afternoon. This is because the overhanging, forty-five degree face acts as a natural umbrella, but this also means the bouldering is really hard. However, after a winter of training I reckoned I'd be able to pull off the floor and work some moves on a handful of the problems.

Latching the jug on Picnic Sarcastic (V7).

It turned out I was right. I dispatched the classic, The Crack (V4), which I have worked on two previous occasions, and then after watching some other climbers, I made the moves on both the direct (V5) and super direct (V6) link ups with The Crack.

The Crack Direct (V5) and Picnic Sarcastic (V7)

After this, my arms were feeling a bit weak, but I had enough juice to work all, but the last move of Picnic Sarcastic (V7) and work out the majority of the moves of On the Rebound (V7) before heading for home.

I'm back in work for the next two days, and I am sure I'll get a cheeky climbing session in after work at some point during the weekend.

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

27 April 2010

Queen and Castle

The Northumberland locals looking on as I walk to the crag.

I suppose I've had a leisurely couple of days. I was working on Sunday, and the weather thwarted our after work climbing plans. Monday saw me have a relaxed day. However, I headed out east, at around 5pm, to Northumberland, to take in the new kid on the bouldering scene, Queens Crag, and today I was back at Reecastle, but more on that later.

NW Wall (Font 5+) as the sun goes down over the Northumberland Moors.

Queens Crag, as described in the Northumberland Bouldering Guide, is the new kid on the block and it's an impressive little venue. It faces north-west and looks over the bleak Northumberland Moors. The rock is a hybrid, it is a fine grained, metamorphosed dolerite and sandstone combination, which meant that many of the holds had a dusty feel to them last night. This was a bit detrimental to the session as many of the problems were made up solely of sloping holds and the dusty nature meant that it was hard to stick the moves. Nevertheless I got a fair few problems ticked before it went dark, and I also eyed up some of the highball problems, which the crag is famous for, and probably best left for later visits when I have more pads and a couple of spotters.

Spring Loaded Camming Devices: the saviour on many a poorly protected route.

And now for today, like I said I was at Reecastle on a quest to tick off some more of the routes so that I am closer to achieving my summer project. I had a quick blast up Ador (VS, 4c). I called it a warm up, and then set out on the route I worked on my previous visit, Thumbscrew (E3, 5c).

Trying to get it back on Thumbscrew (E3, 5c), after all of the hard climbing, in preparation for the final push to the top.

It went well. The moves, which I hadn't quite committed to memory on my previous visit, quickly came back to me when I was on the rock and after pulling through the two apparent cruxes and getting a little nervous when I fumbled a couple of gear placements, I was at the top, getting ready to lower off and strip the route.

Placing protection on Rack Direct (E2, 5b) before pulling over onto The Rack (HVS, 5a).

After this I felt that my day was complete, but Rack Direct (E2, 5b) was calling me. I had backed off this route on a previous visit, because it felt a bit bold to begin with, but since then I have taken order of some extremely small DMM 4CU's, which protected the start, and gave me the confidence to climb through the hard section and link up with the final part of The Rack (HVS, 5a). Not bad for an afternoon I suppose.

I think I'm out tomorrow, but I am not too sure on the exact location. There's talk of heading up Bowfell Buttress (VD), but this may change depending on the weather.

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

24 April 2010

A rest day?

As promised, the video from yesterday's session at St Bees.

I was back at work today, in Whinlatter Forest Park, and I thought it would provide the ideal opportunity to have a day off from climbing so that my muscles could have some respite and my skin could have time to heal. However, it didn't quite work out; after work I found myself at Carrock Fell, warming up on a couple of problems I have sent in the past, before working the moves on some of the classic problems of the fell and the Lake District for that matter.

It was nice to get a cheeky session in, after working an eight-and-a-half hour day, and what was even better was the fact that the positivity generated during yesterday's session continued in to today's unexpected session meaning that after trying the initial moves once, and getting some beta on the sequence, I had Sing a Rainbow (V6) in the bag in no time at all.

Things are certainly looking good and tomorrow's post-work plans are revolving around some trad action on the crags of Borrowdale.

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

23 April 2010

As planned...

Checking out the steep line of Dreaming of Red Rocks (7a+).

I spent the majority of my afternoon at St. Bees North Head, however the bolt's were not calling: the boulders were. I tried to silence the shout of the boulders, but after two rather poor, uninspiring leads on the bolted sandstone cliffs I packed away my harness, pulled out my bouldering bucket, and set to work on repeating some old problems and getting some new ones ticked off.

At the top of Problem 25 (V1, 5c) on Boulder 7 of the Apiary Wall Area.

I didn't actually repeat that many problems; I think I only sent two that I have sent on previous visits. The majority of my time was spent ticking off problems I had dismissed as too hard on my previous visits. Obviously all the training has paid dividends and I am now sending V4 and V5 problems after only working the moves for five or ten minutes.

Making the awkward moves to get off the floor on Problem 24 (V2) on Boulder 6 of the Apiary Wall Area.

Couple this with yesterday's session on the shunt at Reecastle, and ignoring the poor sport climbing performance from today, I am feeling really positive about my climbing and what I can hopefully achieve this summer. I suppose what would cap all of this off would be a holiday to a nice warm country, before knuckling down to my final year of my BA (Hons) in Outdoor Leadership.

Setting out on the elegant hanging ramp of Problem 21 (V5) on Boulder 6 of the Apiary Wall Area.

As it happens, that's what is on the cards. We've paid for the majority of a two week sport climbing break to the Greek island of Kalymnos and I bought the guidebook for the island yesterday. I spent all of last night flicking through the pages and I now wish the trip was not in September, but only a week away.

Looking out to sea on the walk up through the sandstone buttresses, to the cliff top path.

More pictures can be found here and before anything is said: yes, my hair is tied up; the wind was blowing it into my face and preventing me from seeing the holds. There could also be a video of the bouldering session put up if I can get the motivation to stitch the clips together into a half decent production.

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

22 April 2010

Karma... Of sorts

"Karma is a concept in Hinduism which explains causality through a system where beneficial effects are derived from past beneficial actions and harmful effects from past harmful actions, creating a system of actions and reactions throughout a person's reincarnated lives."

I mentioned, at the end of yesterday's post, that I was considering taking in Reecastle Crag today, with my shunt, so that I could start working some of the harder routes. This is all in the name of making further inroads on my new summer project; leading all of the routes up to and including Penil Servitude (E5, 6b).

The sentinel of Reecastle.

The great thing about the day - apart from being back in the Watendlath Valley, with blue skies overhead and nice dry rock beneath my hands and feet - was a little find, whilst racking up at the base of the crag, in preparation for fixing a line down Thumbscrew (E3, 5c). It was a Wild Country Rockcentric and as is the norm with crag swag, I clipped it to my snapgate of large passive pro and carried on with my day. Obviously I'll return it to the owner if they ever come forward, but it just seems so strange that I lost gear yesterday, and then today, I found gear.

Cal Reid of Needle Sports on the headpoint of Daylight Robbery (E6, 6c).

Back to my day. I worked Thumbscrew (E3, 5c) for the majority of the afternoon and now feel I've got the moves wired ready for the headpoint attempt once I find someone to hold the ropes. I also began work on Inquisition (E4, 6a) and after one and a half attempts I threw the towel in and headed for home. It's going to take me some time to get to a point which mirrors the point I am now at with Thumbscrew and was with, with MGC (E2-, 5c), before I went for the headpoint in March. I managed all the moves today, but I had to rest on the rope on several occasions, and when you couple this with the fact that the only decent protection was about two thirds of the way up the route, after the first crux, I need to be feeling absolutely solid when I go for the headpoint.

Michael Norbury - Seathwaite local, MIA holder, AMI member and all round nice guy - on The Torture Board (E7, 6c).

The final thing that made the day was the company I had at the crag; there were two other climbers, Cal Reid and Michael Norbury, and one dog. I met Michael on my previous Reecastle visit; he was 'getting strong' on Squashed Racket (E5, 6a) by doing reps on his shunt, and I'm sure Cal has served me on several occasions in Needle Sports. Cal was going for the headpoint of Daylight Robbery and Michael was beginning to work the moves of The Torture Board. It was nice that, in between sessions on the shunt, I could rest on a nice slab of sun soaked rhyolite, whilst watching some of the best Borrowdale climbers perform on some of the best rock in Borrowdale.

The boulders and bolts of St. Bees North Head are calling for tomorrow.

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

21 April 2010

I'm fed up...

of the Lake District, but in a good way.

Looking across Watendlath Valley to the central fells.

Even now, after spending nearly two years in Carlisle, and grabbing every available minute known to man in order to head south, into the Lake District National Park, my breath is taken away by what lies beneath my feet and in front of my eyes. I don't think I could ever get bored of sitting on a fell side, on a clear day, and looking out across the gullies, buttresses, valleys and crags of Lakeland. There is something magical about this place.

Jamming up Son of Oz (S).

Today's viewing seat was from Goats Crag in the Watendlath Valley, which is probably one of the top valleys on my list of favourite Lake District valleys. We took in six of the routes on this short buttress of rhyolite and all of them were enjoyable experiences, but what was even more delightful was when you could turn your head away from the rock and out to the horizon where Glaramara, Esk Pike, Great End, Dale Head, Cat Bells and High Spy, to name a few, sat majestically in the spring sunshine under the most beautiful of blue skies.

The ropes in a tangled mess after dropping them from Emma Line (HVS, 5a).

The only downside to the day was the loss of a Wild Country Rock. It may only be a small wedge of metal, but it was like loosing a close friend. It's been with me from the start of my outdoor climbing career, which began properly little more than a year ago. It has been with me on many memorable adventures into the hills and has been excellent company on many a route when I've started to get slightly worried by the run out; it's come to hand and lodged itself firmly in a crack, happy to take my weight if need be.

Looking across to the western fells.

We can't look to the past however: I'm out again tomorrow, but I think I'll be accompanied by my Petzl Shunt this time. It looks like Reecastle Crag is calling once again so I can start working the moves on some of the harder lines I want to get done this summer.

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

20 April 2010

A typical Robinson plan

I had a plan yesterday that could have been classed as masterful if it actually went to plan. The plan was to head over the Honister Pass, take in Moss Crag, which I visited earlier in the year, in the afternoon and then the roadside boulders in the evening, before curling up in the back of the van and then getting up super early for a session at Dalt Quarry, Borrowdale's premier sport climbing venue.

Considering the options.

The conditions could have been described as perfect, however there was a howling wind whipping through Honister Pass, which chilled us to the bone as soon as we stopped to catch our breath after making the steep climb up to Moss Crag. We mulled over our options. I looked at the lines printed in the guidebook, and was psyched to get on the sharp end and tick off the 3 Star Flake Out (E1+, 5c) and maybe even Arrest Arete (E2, 5b), which we had shunted on our visit back in January.

Working Arrest Arete (E2, 5b) back in January.

We decided that enough was enough and that attempting to climb in such conditions would have been unbearable. New plans were made and we skipped off down the hillside, back to the comfort of the van, and back up the pass towards the boulders so that a start on the bouldering session could begin earlier than planned.

The impressive South Boulder of Honister Pass.

About to top out on South Boulder Flake (V1, 5c).

Making the first moves of Problem 10 (V2, 6a) on the North Boulder.

Trying to make progress on Problem 12 (V5) on the North Boulder.

I ticked off the majority of the problems on the two boulders, which lie besides the road, and worked out the moves for the remaining few problems. I'll have to return with fresh muscles to get them sent as they were a little bit pumpy. Once the session was over, because of the demoralising start, motivation for sleeping in the van was lacking so instead we headed back for Carlisle, with the knowledge that early tomorrow morning we'll be making the familiar drive back south into the Borrowdale Valley for some trad action.

More pictures can be found here.

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

17 April 2010

Familiar Places

Making the initial moves on the V6 Traverse (V6) on the Top Boulder.

I've been back in the Langdale Valley today, sampling the delights of the Langdale Boulders once again, and if I thought my previous visit was productive, this one was even more so; I ticked off thirteen problems and nearly half of these were in the V3-V6 bracket. This isn't a regular occurrence and it just proves that the winter's dedicated training has paid off; I am now bouldering much harder than I have previously done and more importantly it's on a regular basis as well.

Pressing it out whilst trying to find the sweet spot on the pocket of the aptly named Pocket Problem (V5).

Bearing down on the sloping edge of the pocket on the Pocket Problem (V5).

I can't really think of much else to say so I won't waffle on anymore than I need to. I suppose today should have been a day spent tied in on the sharp end, but I found it difficult to find anyone willing to belay me; I found plenty of people willing to go bouldering though. I'm now off in search of a belayer for tomorrow so I can don my rack and head up some traditional climbs.

At full extension whilst trying to reach the poor hold on Problem 7 (V6).

More pictures of the day and a couple from the session at Reecastle can be found here.

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

14 April 2010

Starting summer early

The view from the top of Reecastle Crag.

I spent the majority of the day at Reecastle Crag in the Borrowdale Valley, which is what I said I would be doing in yesterday post, taking in the delightful routes that are on offer at this steep crag. We didn't get massive amounts done, but what we did do was enjoy ourselves, and this was made better by not only the quality of the routes, but also the amazing weather we've had of late.

Starting out on The Rack (HVS, 5a).

However, I have made inroads into my summer project, I didn't begin working Penil Servitude, but instead ticked off the two HVS's and one of the E1's, all onsight, which means that I am now three routes closer to achieving my objective; leading all of the routes up to and including Penil Servitude (E5, 6b). I suppose the only thing left to do is to show you a couple of pictures taken during the day's activities. Good times.

Looking to make moves on The Rack Direct (E2, 5c).

Getting some respite after some hard climbing on The Gibbet Direct (E2, 5c).

Making the last of the hard moves on Guillotine (E3, 5c).

I'm back in work tomorrow, and Friday I have a research conference, but then the weekend is my own and I am getting the impression climbing may feature quite heavily in the weekend's shenanigans.

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

13 April 2010

Who is Robin Proctor?

Pondering over the answer to the question?

And after a quick Internet search we have the answer (courtesy of Ingleborough Hall Outdoor Education Centre):
"The story of Robin Proctor is not a particularly happy one. He was a farmer who lived in a Crummackdale farm with his wife and two small sons. He was a good farmer and his business was quite successful. Every night he would take his horse out of the stable and ride down the valley to the local hostelry. These nights of drinking and laughter became longer and longer and sometimes it would be well into the early hours before Robin was ready to make the long ride back up the dale to his house. He would often be so tired and drunk he would climb on his horse and fall asleep.

Is Robin Proctor up there? Trying to match the routes in the guidebook with the bolts on the rock.
"It was fortunate for him that the horse was old and clever and knew the way back to the farmhouse with Robin Proctor asleep in the saddle. Sometimes he would fall off and wake up with a start as he hit the ground, but often he was still asleep when the horse arrived back at the stable. Being a clever horse it found a way of dropping Robin Proctor into the straw where he would sleep until morning.

Tombstone Blues (F6a).
"One night however the weather was very bad and the wind and the rain were awful. Robin's wife told him not to go out with the weather so terrible but he would not listen and put on his greatcoat and took out the horse and rode off to the inn. He was not a bad man and before he started drinking he put his horse in the stable behind the inn for some shelter, as had some of his friends. The evening was a very merry one and after lots of beer Robin Proctor had become quite drunk. He did however remember that his horse was in the stable. He went to the stable behind the inn, brought out a horse and set off back home. Unfortunately he was so drunk that he hadn't realised that he had taken the wrong horse! It was too late. He set out riding the horse back towards his farmhouse and quickly fell asleep. This horse had no idea where it was going but being a good horse it kept on going up the lanes and was soon in the middle of the moors in the terrible storm, walking in the dark with Robin Proctor asleep on its back. The poor horse continued until it arrived at the top of a cliff and, not knowing any better, it kept on going, plummeting over the edge and falling on to the rocks at the bottom! They were both killed instantly and ever since the cliff has been known as Robin Proctor's Scar. It is said that on wild and windy nights the sound of horses hoofs can still be heard around the cliff!"

At the top of Subterranean Homesick Blues (F6a+).

I'm going to guess that, by now, you've come to the conclusion that I spent the day sport climbing at Robin Proctor's Scar over in the Yorkshire Dales, just outside Clapham, and you are right in thinking that. It was a nice day and a good warm up for tomorrow's visit to Reecastle to start work on my summer project.

More pictures can be found here.

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

10 April 2010


I've come to the conclusion that there are three certainties in life. Two of these have been known for a long time; they were quoted by Benjamin Franklin in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy in 1789: "the only certainties in life are death and taxes" and the third certainty has to be that paid employment prevents efficient, fun training for climbing.

I've been working for the past few days for Go Ape at Whinlatter Forest Park and this has prevented me from getting out climbing during the day or to the wall to train. This has meant that I have spent a lot of time on the fingerboard in an evening, which in itself does get you strong, but only strong on the fingerboard. This strength needs to be applied to a climbing situation to prove useful and to do this you need to climb.

Evening entertainment.

I tried to remedy this problem last night by sacrificing the comfort of a warm house and comfy bed for the night, so that I could take in the excellent Langdale Boulders after work, without racking up a ridiculous number of miles and depriving myself of sleep.

Problem 17 (V1, 5c) on the Top Boulder.

This meant that once I had finished work at 6pm I was in the van, heading south to the Langdales and the awaiting rhyolite monoliths. I ticked off all of the problems I sent on my previous visit and then added a couple of extra problems to my list of Langdale conquests before getting back in the van and heading north.

Reaching for the first of the excruciating crimps on the excellent Problem 20 (V5) on the Top Boulder.

I could have headed north for a long time and eventually got back to Carlisle at a ridiculous time so instead I stopped on the shores of Thirlmere, which is half way between work and the Langdales, for a bite to eat before curling up in my sleeping bag, in the back of the van, on one of my bouldering pads to rejuvenate the batteries for the next day's work. This might not have been ideal, but when you open the back doors of the van the view certainly makes it worthwhile.

The morning view.

Then whilst eating your eight Weetabix to replenish the batteries a bit more inspiration comes to you to remain motivated for training, and keep on sacrificing certain luxuries, as the towering gullies and buttresses of Raven Crag loom overhead.

Morning inspiration; Raven Crag, which towers above Thirlmere Reservoir.

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

07 April 2010

A spot of Sport...

I've engaged in most disciplines of climbing now - bouldering, indoor, trad. and winter - but I've never entertained the idea of heading outside to clip bolts, which is a fundamental aspect of sport climbing. It's a shame really because if this afternoon's showing was anything to go by I've been missing out.

Working the moves on a Chip off the Old Block (F6a+).

Since the Knoydart expedition and my previous post I've had a days work followed by two days off. Today was the last of these days off, before a four day stint up in the forest with Go Ape, so I made the most of the day. The weather forecast was hinting that the afternoon was going to be a good one and so I left Carlisle relatively late with the intention of calling in at University to get some work printed, before heading on down south to the delights of the bolted Yorkshire limestone of Giggleswick.

Seconding Cygneture Tune (F5+).

We based ourselves at the Sector Swans area of Giggleswick South, which seemed to have the biggest cluster of routes graded around 6a; I have climbed harder sport routes, but those have been inside. For my first sport climbing experience I thought I would set the barrier low with the idea that it can only get better. This turned out to be a good idea because I was shaky as hell on the first few routes, but after getting a redpoint in on a F6a+ I felt settled, and started to onsight a couple of F6a's.

Like I mentioned at the beginning, it's such a shame that it has taken me this long to turn to sport climbing, as I thoroughly enjoyed the sheer simpleness of it all: there is little route finding to be done and there is no thought needed as to how to protect the climb; instead it's all about the moves, which is climbing in its simplest form. I suppose it's a good job I enjoyed the afternoon; in little under five months I'll be in Kalymnos for two weeks hitting up their bolted climbs.

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

04 April 2010

Back to the Routine

I've been back no more than 36 hours, which incidentally is the length of time I sat in a tent whilst on the Knoydart expedition, and I'm back into the routine of training for climbing. Yesterday I hit the fingerboard for an hour in the evening after being away from any climbing specific training for seven days. To be honest I needed the change in routine and the Knoydart expedition gave me that and it also allowed my body to recover from the two months of intensive training I had been forcing on it.

I was out this afternoon, after finishing off an assignment, shredding my skin on the Gabbro boulders of Carrock Fell. I didn't get much done: I just repeated a couple of lines and started to work some of the problems higher up the fell, which I haven't visited before, but I can feel the rewards of the seven days rest after such a long bout of training

Trying to find the hold to see me over the lip of Lean-To (V2, 6a).

Pulling off the floor on Undercut Arete (V5) before campusing the next three moves.

Making the powerful move out to the three finger open crimp on Fangtastic (V3).

Fighting the urge to cut loose whilst battling with the roof of Badger Attack (V6).

When I arrived the weather wasn't anything to write home about, but when I had packed the van up and started out on the short drive back to Carlisle it struck me that we've turned a corner in the year and are certainly on our way to summer. As I type now there is the odd wisp of cloud in the sky, the slightest of breezes and the chirp of the local sparrows and still there is no sign of nightfall.

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