29 August 2010


The Crack (V2).

I had a day off today and the weather was at its best, but instead of heading straight for the crag I spent 5 hours and 40 minutes on BBC iPlayer catching up with yesterday's live broadcast from Sron Ulladale where Dave MacLeod and Tim Emmett made the first ascent of The Usual Suspects (E9, 7a). It was an inspiring broadcast and once it had finished I was in the van, on my way into the Lake District, for a short bouldering session.

Making the big reach out to the jug on Matt's Roof (V5).

Unfortunately the bouldering session was not as productive as MacLeod's and Emmett's day on Sron Ulladale, but I did solo Truss Buttress (VD) before sending the problem, which appears on the front cover of the Lakes Bouldering Guide. I also worked a couple of steep, roof problems, but had little success; I seemed to be lacking finger strength. It could be time to have a serious rest before heading out to Kalymnos in eleven days.

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

27 August 2010


The full moon illuminating a cloud splattered sky on Wednesday evening.

Elizabeth Maua Taylor once said about August:
August rushes by like desert rainfall;
A flood of frenzied upheaval,
But still catching me unprepared.
Like a matchflame,
Bursting on the scene,
Heat and haze of crimson sunsets.
Like a dream
Of moon and dark barely recalled,
A moment,
Shadows caught in a blink.
Like a quick kiss;
One wishes for more
But it suddenly turns to leave,
Dragging summer away.
To be fair she isn't far off the mark either. August has been, without a doubt my favourite month this year; on many occasions the light, cast by the evening sun, has illuminated the Lakeland Fells in such a way that makes words redundant when describing nature's sheer beauty. This is not the only reason for August being the best month of the year however. It has been a busy month because of work and such like, but even during this I have managed to log a fair few climbs and boulder problems and many of these have been in an evening, after work, just as the sun starts to illuminate the fells and fall below the horizon.

The evening sun casts a glow over the Watendlath Valley this evening after work.

This does mean that climbing sessions are short lived and usually involve repeat ascents of familiar routes or problems, but that is of little importance to be honest. The climbing is more a means of enjoying the evening light and passing the time in ways which are enriching for the soul and mind. Tonight, and Wednesday for that matter, are prime examples of this. On Wednesday I popped down to Shepherds Crag for an hour and had a session, which mirrored the last evening session at Shepherds Crag, and then this evening saw us take in two routes at Reecastle Crag, which I have climbed previously.

Does that really matter? No it doesn't.

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

22 August 2010

Hanging around on some ropes

An atmospheric view down Derwent Water towards Keswick and Skiddaw.

After work yesterday I nipped down to Shepherds Crag for an hour or so before finding a quite spot to spend the night so that I could get up early the next day for work. I started off with a quick, solo ascent of Little Chamonix (VD) before rigging a rope down the left side of the Fisher's Folly Buttress.

Looking across the steep headwall of Little Chamonix (VD).

I shunted up the line, MGC (E2-, 5c), before having a rest and getting back on the shunt to climb the extremely bold Shanna (E2, 5c).

At the rest point on Shanna (E2, 5c).

Afterwards, feeling warm and strong, I got on the rope again and started to work the moves on a possible new route, which has an English 6a move at the end, after some very bold climbing, and is probably around the E4/5 mark. Finally, before heading for bed, in the back of the van, I made a top-roped ascent of a new route, Fragile Heart (E1, 5c), which is a bit of a contrived line up the centre of the Fisher's Folly Buttress.

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

18 August 2010

A Day Off

Today I had a day off, so instead of snatching the odd climb here and the odd climb there before or after work I had a whole day of climbing down on the sandstone blocks of St Bees' North Head.

Slanty (V3).

We ticked a couple of the problems, which appear in the excellent, but slightly out of date Lakes Bouldering Guide, before we turned to the mini-guide produced by Greg Chapman of Lakes Bloc fame.

Making the leap for the start hold, and the only hold for that matter, on Blue Touch (V6).

Many of the problems that appear in this mini-guide are of excellent quality, but are, with out a doubt, hard! This did mean that for the majority of the day we were getting shut down on individual moves time and time again, until something finally clicked and you pulled on through to come up against the same difficulties on the very next move.

Fruits de Mer (V8).

This was enjoyable however; you felt like you really had achieved something when you finally pulled over the top and with such perfect conditions down on the boulder littered wave cut notch you couldn't complain as you rested in between attempts in the sun, under a picturesque cloud dotted blue sky.

Dynoing for the good hold on Bow Wow Prow (V8).

However it is back to work tomorrow, which means that I can have a much needed rest from climbing; my elbows are starting to feel the strain from so many short, sharp intense sessions early in the morning before work or late in the evening after work.

More pictures can be found here.

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

17 August 2010

Some more juggling...

Skiddaw, poking out of the cloud, from the viewpoint on Whinlatter Pass.

My previous two days have been very like my previous post about juggling driving, sleeping, eating and working. However, the weather has at times been much more favourable. I drove into work on Monday under perfectly clear blue skies, but on reaching the flanks of Skiddaw a thick blanket of fog covered the road and surrounding fields. I was soon above this as I ascended Whinlatter Pass and this allowed for views of a beautiful cloud inversion.

A lone paraglider high above Keswick on a beautiful evening.

The weather stayed the same throughout the day and it seemed rude not to make use of this. So after finishing work, just before 6pm, I headed down to Shepherd's Crag for a quick climb and it seemed like many others had similar ideas. We only got two routes in, Cream (HVS, 5a) and MGC (E2-, 5c), but it was still a beautiful way to spend such a peaceful evening.

Placing gear on Cream (HVS, 5a).

Looking up Borrowdale whilst belaying on Cream (HVS, 5a).

Even though we only climbed two routes we still finished late in the evening and so, instead of driving back north to Carlisle, I spent the night in the van, which meant I could get up early and get a quick session in at the Bowderstone before starting work at 10:30am.

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

13 August 2010


I mentioned in my last post that I would be juggling climbing with driving, sleeping, eating and working on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and to be honest that is how it has been. I suppose you could also add that I had to fit this in around the unpredictable Cumbria weather.

A drip forming on the seeping Langdale Boulder.

I worked in a dry Whinlatter Forest Park on Wednesday before heading in the general direction of Coniston Water for Thursday's work with Summitreks. To fill the evening I was going to call in on the Langdale Boulder's for a quick session. However, on arriving at the boulder it was apparent that the previous days rain had, had an effect. The boulder was still climbable, but the odd sodden hold caused some problems from time to time, and this started to worsen as it decided to start spitting.

The Langdale Sessions.

A calm and tranquil Coniston Water.

I worked on Coniston Water under a blue sky for the majority of Thursday, but on finishing the day's work the heavens opened for what was only twenty minutes leaving the roads and rocks dripping. I started to head back north in preparation for Friday's work back up at Whinlatter Forest Park, but I called in at Tilberthwaite first to take a look at the Virtual Crag.

The view over the Central Fells from Virtual Crag in Tilberthwaite.

By the time I had got up to the Virtual Crag the sun had been shining strongly for about an hour and on the whole the rock was dry, however there were several lines of seepage from vegetation on the top of the crag, which made the crag unclimbable. I walked back down to the van and carried on north. I called in at the Thirlmere Boulder's on the way, but these were wet, and so I retired to the van to eat and sleep before Friday's work began.

High Rigg, illuminated in the evening sun, with a cloud topped Helvellyn Massif behind.

Looking south along Thirlmere as the sun goes down.

I worked in a dry Whinlatter Forest Park today and after finishing work I headed into Borrowdale for a quick session on the Bowderstone seen as I missed out on Thursday. I repeated the usual problems: The Crack (V4), The Crack Direct (V5), The Crack Super Direct (V6) and On the Rebound (V7) and I also topped out on Bowderiser (V6), which I have worked on many of the previous Bowderstone sessions with little success.

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

10 August 2010

A Wild Sea

Timing the descent from the Scabby Back area into the Apiary Wall area in order to avoid a soaking.

I don't think I've had such a memorable day on the rock before, which contained so many failures, but today was certainly one of those days. The venue was St Bees North Head, which was amazingly dry considering the drive over from Carlisle was plagued with extremely heavy showers. However, the state of the sea made the soft sandstone cliffs and boulders a formidable place to be and I think this was why the day was so memorable.

Feeling Groovy (F6c).

The rationale behind the trip over to the west coast was to get some more bolt climbs under the belt before the Kalmynos trip in September. However, this panned out slightly different. I dogged my way up an F6c, and then blew the onsight attempt of an F7a+, but this was partly due to the sea conditions.

I reached the rest point on the route, Dreaming of Red Rocks, and whilst I was shaking out my belayer was nearly washed off the wave cut platform by a freak wave. This caused me to loose focus and after failing to read the next couple of moves up to and through the crux I lowered off, pulled the rope, stashed my harness, and took out my bouldering mats instead.

Dreaming of Red Rocks (F7a+).

The bouldering session was short lived though. I ticked a V4, which shot me down on a previous visit, and then ticked two V6's remarkably quickly, before getting shot down on a V5 I have sent on a previous visit. I tried linking some of the moves on Yellow Desert Scream (V8/9) before giving up the game and returning to Carlisle.

I've got a busy couple of days ahead with work at both Go Ape and Summitreks, but the plan is to get some bouldering in at a couple of the South Lakes venues in between driving, sleeping, eating and working.

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

03 August 2010

A Bouldering Session and a bit more Trad

I said in my previous post that I would be getting up early on Monday so that I could get a bouldering session in at the Bowderstone before starting work at 11:30am and that's what I did. See I even made a video to prove that I did...

Why do we climb?

This is the question that arose from today's climbing activities. The venue was Gouther Crag once again, and one of the routes, Hernia (HVS+, 5a), was climbed on my previous visit. However, it was the ascent of the bold Bloodhound (E2-, 5b) which made me think about what my response to such a question would be.

Gouther Crag with some farming machinery belonging to Truss Gap Farm in the foreground.

I suppose the answer to such a question could be hypothesised for countless years, but what struck me as I belayed my partner on Bloodhound was the very obvious dangers he was putting himself through as he made countless moves about very poor, and spaced, protection, but why did he, and many other's before him, do such a thing?

On the first pitch of Truss Buttress' Truss Buttres (VD).

One climber mentions, in the trailer for the DVD, Crackoholic, which appeared on Dave MacLeod's blog on Monday: "... It's kind of a paradox, you approach death in order to feel alive." This may be the very reason why we do such a dangerous thing, but how can this be justified to others?

Trying to get some gear in after some bold climbing on Bloodhound (E2-, 5b).

This also came to mind whilst belaying on Bloodhound. On several occasions, when my partner was complaining about the lack of good, quality gear, I played through, in my head, the many different scenarios that could occur if the climber's foot slipped, or a move was misread, or a hold broke. I could run downhill in the hope of taking in enough rope to prevent them hitting the floor if they fell, but if that wasn't good enough, what would I do?

I could administer first aid if they did deck out, but there was no phone signal at the crag so how would I raise further help if needed? It struck me at that point that at times climbing can be a selfish past time; you might be able to justify to yourself the dangers of climbing, but how can these be justified to others who may be responsible for you on that one occasion when you came that bit too close to approaching death?

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

01 August 2010

Back on the Trad

This time last week I was at the Bowderstone cranking on it's polished holds in the hope of getting up some of the super steep problems after a day's work in the forest with Go Ape at Whinlatter Forest Park.

Truss Buttress, Gouther Crags.

Since then I've not been out on the rock so today, with a day off from both Go Ape and freelance work, I managed to get an afternoon on Gouther Crags in Swindale.

Hernia (HVS+, 5a) on Gouther Crag's Truss Buttress.

This was my first session of trad climbing in a long while and it was nice to be back on the rock dealing with the complexities of English trad climbing. We only ticked two routes in the session, which was quite good considering we'd sacked the day off as a bad job at 9:30am, but by 11am the weather had picked up so we took the gamble on the crag being dry.

Looking across to the back of Fang Buttress from Truss Buttress.

I'm back at work tomorrow, but I don't start until late in the morning so I'm hoping to get an early morning Bowderstone session in before heading back into the trees for Go Ape.

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