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Monday, 25 August 2014

Raiders of the Dark Ark

Just under a month ago I blogged about a new project I'd bolted at the mighty Llanddulas Cave. I didn't really fancy my chances back then and redpoints seemed a mile off as I was struggling to work out the tricky finishing moves. I persevered and finally the moves came together with some beta tweaks. The first time I managed to link from the kneebar to the end I was totally in bulk and couldn't have done another move! In my mind it was still something to train for over winter for next year. From the next session onwards everything changed, I don't know why but it just felt a lot easier. The moves were solid and I managed a link from further back to the end. I then did it from the 3rd bolt to the end and that meant redpoints. After re-aquainting myself with the start of Temple (I hadn't been on it for 4 years) I soon made it to the kneebar but was totally boxed. Every session I made progress and I was bracing myself for the inevitable backwards session where you suddenly start falling off everywhere and the stress starts to kick in. On redpoint session 4 I found myself at the last move pulling into a good sidepull that marked the end of the hard climbing. It wasn't to be as my heel ripped off the small spike but I knew it was on from that point. One big problem I faced was that on every link I'd done to the end my hamstring had pulled on the heel move. When I did it one redpoint i could feel it from my calf up to my arse. I knew I couldn't keep pulling my leg and that if i got to that move again I really needed to top out. This created a bit of pressure and I thought about it a lot over the next week. A week later I returned with Luke Clarke, the conditions had been amazing for a few weeks and this day was no different. First redders I powered out on the last hard move. Then i dropped the start and the middle and on the 4th RP I found myself hanging off my heel rocking up to the sidepull. I got it and grabbed the big undercut and reached the jugs. As I was rocking over the finishing hold a big jug I'd been using started wobbling giving a heart in mouth moment. Luckily there was another one and i clipped the lower off ever so slightly chuffed. This roof really does give excellent hard climbing. It's like a non polished version of Parisellas with better rock and cooler holds. Raiders of the Dark Ark does the Font 7B start to Temple to the 3rd bolt then does a hard toe hook move right to a kneebar (I slipped off here quite a bit). The kneebar felt pretty good on the redpoints and was a decent rest for the arms if a bit sapping for the core. The route then busts straight through the roof with some cool foot beta and finishes at the ledge at the same height as Last Crusade. The end felt 7C when I was working it but more like 7B+ when I had it wired. I considered topping out up the 6b Lord Nibbler but after doing the route again I decided it wasn't really in keeping with the bottom as you end up chimneying up both walls. I'm pretty sure it's 8b+ but you never know, it's certainly a grade harder than Temple and didn't take long enough to warrant 8c. All in all a great surprise that I didn't even know existed until 6 weeks ago. Sometimes it does feel like the climbing gods are looking after you. It's not the end for this roof as the link project is still to go and you could do that into this finish too. It was the end of a great week for me in which I managed my hardest problem and hardest route in 3 days. The steroids are finally paying off.
Start of Temple:

The kneebar rest:

The crux sequence:

Footage of the FA:

Friday, 22 August 2014

One For The Road

Back in 2008 I was sat under a snowy 8B Swiss boulder problem with Keith Bradbury and we were talking about big numbers. I remember telling Keith about a project link up on Pill Box Wall that would be 'my 8B'. That year I'd done a new up line in front of the Box, the second i topped it the big challenge was laid down. It was so obvious, straight after the crux of Drink Driving launch straight into the 7B+ with no rest to create a crimpy power endurance beast. The years past and although I didn't really try the last link the challenge was omnipresent and always niggled away at the back of my mind. It was looking unlikely that I'd ever have the tools for this one. The first breakthrough came in 2012 when for the first time i managed to get through the original traverse more than once or twice. I even managed to finish up Last Orders, a 7A right at the end of the box. I returned with the hard link in mind but never managed the first move of Last Rites, in truth it was still miles away. Roll forward to 2014 and after a intense Cave campaign I managed to do the first move of Last Rites from the start for the first time. 3 sessions later I was still getting through Drink Driving and on my best go greased off just as I was getting my foot up for the last move. Climbing can be a cruel sport and I've been on the rollercoaster long enough to know that every time you think you've cracked it there's a bumpy descent back to earth just around the corner. I returned for another 4 sessions and sure enough the window of opportunity had closed. Unlike most the stuff I've done I couldn't seige this one, it just didn't work. Normal level was falling on the cross under of DD. Elevated level was needed to have any kind of chance and even then it probably wouldn't be enough. Frustrated I walked away and continued with my summer trying to forget how close I had been. After seiging a new line in Llanddulas i had suspected i might be finding form again so returned to the Box to have a look. Straight away I felt light and floaty - essential conditions to have any kind of chance. I got through DD 3 times that sesh but only made it past the first move of LR once. I knew I had to return quick before the window closed again. After a rest day I returned, I didn't feel quite as floaty but made it through DD, this time I nailed the slap off the pinch. I got my feet up stretched to the crimp, my foot popped but I moved quickly and got rocked over for the last hard move to the good pocket. It felt like I was eyeing it up for an eternity, I slapped expecting everything to pop but somehow I landed it perfectly. The last move was fine and I jumped onto the box and that was that. It's only another link up on the Pill Box but for me it's been there taunting me for fucking years and has always been a bit too hard. One for The Road could be the hardest thing I ever do so I'm going to savour it even if it is a link up in front of a toilet. Compared to the 4 8A+'s I did in the Cave this year it feels like hard 8A+ (or 8c if you think such things should be given route grades). IIRC Ben Freeman, Ed Hamer and Dan Knight all thought Drink Driving sneaked in at 8A+ (Barrows thought 8A but he could keep his feet on a good low foot on the two crux moves). I would say it feels 8A/+ to me now (I struggle to believe i can lap 8A+). Last Rites is pretty soft for 7B+ too but its short and the last hold is a pretty small crimp (plus the feet are small which feels hard when the tensions gone). Time to start going there and back now ;) (well if it's good enough for the Bleausards.......)


Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Pink Star

It was inevitable that the constant stream of new grade 8's on the North Wales lime would slow down eventually. After a steady stream of big numbers since 2009 (many of which nationally significant) there comes a time where the do-able lines start to run out. There are still some ripe plums out there but perhaps not enough keen beasts to step up to the plate. If there's one man you can always rely on though it's Pete Robins-North Wales master crusher of hard new lines. After 5 years of hard seiging though even Pete's resilience had to wane at some point. He picked off a couple of grade 8's at the Allotment and Craig y Don earlier in the year and then had some sessions on The Big Crunch project down LPT. This could provide the potential step up he'd been looking for although after several sessions it proved to be too much of a step up for now. Bransby made it look doable but he didn't return and Pete sacked it off. Pete climbed himself into form by establishing Ropes of Maui in the Pass and he knew he had some unfinished business come Diamond season. Back in the first year of the Diamond renaissance, Pete Harrison bolted (along with a load of re-equipping) a big diagonal crack feature on the right hand side of the crag. It was a striking and unique line that had future classic written all over it. The following year Johnny Ratcliffe climbed the lower diagonal at 8a and last year Pete Robin's did an obvious connection between the two at 8b+. The Pink Panther joined the top crack about halfway along but the obvious challenge was the feature in it's entirety and Pete immediately set about working on it. As the nights drew in and the conditions deteriorated he knew his time was up for that year but the route was top of the agenda for August 2014. As soon as the birds had vacated the crag Pete got back on the crack and soon picked up where he left off last year. After some beta refinements he was back at his previous highpoint and with time on his side the first ascent seemed inevitable. Today he finished it off to give The Pink Star (8c+), another quality hard route which unfortunately just missed the guidebook cut off point. It is an amazing route and is the sixth 8c+ in the area.

Pete checking out the holds in 2009:

Recent shots:

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Dulas Big Numbers

A few months ago i blogged about the big link project up at Llanddulas. I had a few more sessions but never made much progress and the greasy slots prevented much linkage. My attempts to stop the water by filling the back with resin made one of them smaller so i had to drill it back out to return it to its former depth. I've lost count of the number of days i've spent hanging in this roof on my own doing little 'jobs'. There always seems to be something that needs doing. Climbers can be a miserable bunch, as the masses rejoice in the hot weather the sport climbers and boulderers grumble about humidity and conditions. Options are limited for hard climbing when it is so bloody warm. The main cave at Dulas is pretty much heatproof and so a great option in the stifling temps. I was lowering down from Zoidberg in the Cave when i spotted a couple of holds between the finish of Temple and Last Crusade. I got a rope down the line and there was indeed another potential finish- there looked to be enough holds. I bolted it up and got on it, straight away a crucial hold fell off so i had to come back with glue. After using some shitty old resin that didn't set i finally got the hold sorted and returned with Pete Robins. I worked out some of the moves and he sorted some good foot beta for the crux. The finish comes straight out the roof from the kneebar on the link project and you could start up either Temple or Last Crusade.
Pete working out the heel/toehook combination for the powerful crux:

I've had about 4 sessions working the end now and it still feels pretty tough. It's fiddly to sort your feet out coming out of the shit kneebar and then the powerful crux feels desperate. I had a nice sequence with a wide undercut pinch but the rock is so slick and smooth by the time i've pulled up on it i'm greasing off so i had to figure out another way using a heel on a small spike. This finish is about fb7C and starting up Temple is about f8a/+ to get there. It feels like a really hard sequence to have at the end of a big roof. Hopefully i'll link the end soon but the thought of linking it all seems unfeasible for now. The moves aren't as hard as the link project but you've done much more to get there. Still it's nearly always decent conditions and is 10 minutes from my house so i have to look at the positives! If i get to having good redpoints this year i think i'll be satisfied. This style suits me but my best ascents in Parisella's were years in the making and to transfer that level to a new bit of rock and having to clip bolts is going to take some doing. Everything is magnified when you get a rope on, it's a much harder proposition than bouldering just off the deck. It's cool that the Dulas has a few potential big numbers now. Doing the new finish from Last Crusade could be 8c+, who would have thought it! And there's still the main aid line out the front if Ondra ever pops in (highly unlikely).

I thought i'd better give potential belayers another reason to go there so i bolted up an obvious alternative start to Zoidberg traversing into the end of Temple. It proved to be a fun addition with a crux slap to the black boss at the end of Temple before climbing to the ledge and finishing up the 6c. It's called Catch the Pigeon and is 7b.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The One That Got Away

Most link ups are just an excuse to keep climbing on a bit of rock that you like. Sometimes they appeal because they present a hard physical challenge that has always seemed beyond your abilities. On the Pill Box the last link up has been staring me in the face for the last 6 years, something that should be attainable but at the same time feels like the next level. Straight after the crux of Drink Driving is a 4 move 7B+ up line with a crux last move off a wee crimper. I've never really felt in good enough shape to seige this link, in 2012 when i did the finish up Last Orders i had a few goes at finishing up Last Rites but never even managed the first move off a wide pinch. Fast forward to April this year and i was on a bit of ticking spree, i knew had to go and try the link. Sure enough i got through DD first go and for the first time managed the first move of Last Rites. I fell off tickling the crimp in amazement, this meant it was possible. For a couple more sessions i still had the magic on it, on my best day i greased off the last move and told myself i'd come back after a rest. I returned and just didn't feel as good and never have again since. For this thing i need to feel like a feather, it isn't a problem that's going to succomb to my usual siege tactic, if i feel really good i can get through DD but i need to feel amazing to have a chance on the whole link. So now i know it's possible but need to wait for another window of elevated form, pretty frustrating but i've learned one thing - always have another go!

Vid of my best attempt:

One that did go down, The Wire (great climbing):

A couple of other problems on the Box:

Sunday, 11 May 2014

More Gop Goodness

I love the Gop! In a world of technical wizadry, kneebars, cheeky heels and toes there is something refreshing about this hardcore little cave where tension and fingers are king. There's no getting around these problems, if your feet can't stick to the slopey feet and your fingers can't handle the small slopey crimps then move on! The occasional minimal toe hook is the only aid in progressing through this roof. Back in 2012 Dan Knight gave the crag its hardest problem. Paper Birds (8A+) was a hybrid line but with 3 nails moves it repelled all would be repeaters - until yesterday! Tom Newman had made a few recent visits and on his best attempts dropped the last hard move. Danny Cattell had also dropped this move a few times so it seemed like a repeat was finally on the cards. Tom returned yesterday to finish it off then a few hours later i went up with Danny and he did it too. The boys reckoned hard 8A+ for this beast. I'd recently spotted a few projects and i pointed Danny at the one on the right. This had a obvious start right on the back wall and came out through almost the widest part of the roof. He quickly worked out some beta and then much to our surprise he managed to pull it out the bag. He was a bit unsure about the grade but he was obviously having a strong day and was growling a fair bit so reckoned it was probably 8A. The name is Ken Masters (another streefighter reference) and is the Gops 6th grade 8. I did the moves on the other project, a low start to E Honda but both starting undercuts pulled off so that was that, gutted. The left hand undercut was also the starting toe hook on Blokesmoker Low. It makes it slightly more tensiony for tall people but adds a fair bit for shorties. Still no luck for me on Push the Button sit despite doing the original 3 times yesterday. I just can't do the crux climbing into it. E Honda 7B is excellent and well worth doing. The 7B to the right Streetfighter has lost holds so is an unknown quantity now. Long live the Gop!

Film of Paper Birds, ken Masters and others:

Some old news from Trem - Ned Feehally linked Enter the Dragon into 36 sitter. Enter the Chamber is still 8A+ because you get a resting kneebar on the starting tufa of 36. He also climbed into 22 Chambers from the sit position of Iron Flag to give 7th Chamber 7C+.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Last Proj's

Warmer times have arrived and it's all steam ahead on the sport crags. I don't think there will be as many new routes as previous years this time around but there are still plums out there for the lucky ones. I've been lucky enough over the last few years to do every route i've bolted bar two. The Big Crunch will quite possibly be the hardest route in Wales so i see that one more as my gift to the Orme rather than something i'd have chance on. Pete Robins is making good progress however and with a bit of luck he might get it this year. My other project is a link up at Llanddulas that i bolted in 2011. It is a link up of Last Crusade and Temple of Gloom but the hard bit is a new section in the middle of the roof of about 7/8 moves. I'd figured out the first hard move but couldn't suss the rest and only had a couple of attempts over the next few years. My seige of Parisellas culminated in In Hell and In Heaven, the two hardest bits of climbing i'd done so it seemed like a good time to get back on the roof. I started to figure out a sequence and was it definitely felt more feasible this year. It was still damn hard however and i still couldn't link the crux moves. One day i'd had a quick go on Liquid Ambar in the morning then headed to the proj with Tommy and Sausage. I may have had a sequence but i still couldn't do it. Liquid Ambar genuinely felt like a more feasible proposition. I was on the verge of giving up again. I couldn't link the new section on it's own and it was in the middle of the roof with the redpoint crux of Temple still to come at the end. Pete Robins asked to have a go and i thought it would be a good idea to get some help with it. Pete came up with some wacky contorted sequence which he reckoned was Font 7C+. It lit my fire a bit and i returned with fresh ideas and motivation. The next few sessions i made great progress. I found a crucial kneebar rest before Temple which would mean the fitness aspect was not quite as obscene. It's a bomber knee with a pad but your toe is on a smear in the roof so it's quite intense and you can't chill for as long as you'd like. The crucial moment came when i tried some madcap beta for the crux and hey presto it worked. It amazes me how often this happens on a new bit or rock. You think you've tried everything, can't find a nice way to do it then some amazing method that fits you well comes from nowhere. Now i could link from the first hard move after Last Crusade through to the kneebar. This was getting exciting! The obvious thing to do would be to do that link to the end of the route so i sussed out the end of Temple again and found more efficient beta than 4 years ago when i did the FA. This is a perfect hard project for me- my style, 10 minutes from home, an FA, all but for one little detail which has really dampened my sprits. Two of the slots on Temple seem to be perma-wet these days. I know it's only April but i have little optimism about their drying prospects as they were wet in July last year when Tommy did Temple. They are greasy, minging little bastards and they're really spoiling my fun at the moment. Add to that the fact that two more holds have become weirdly greasy and i'm struggling to know what to do for the best. I can only hope things improve as i'm going to need a lot of sessions to have a chance on this thing this year and i can't hold wet grips. Despite the adversity i'm obsessed my this thing, it's fuckin meaty and amazing. I love looking back from Temple at this cool groove line dissecting the big roof.