Category Archives: Bouldering

My year so far part 1

Apologies for the delay on writing any blogs this year, my website has been a work in progress so here is an incredibly late blog that will be in two halves.

I wanted to write about the South African trad exchange which now seems like a distant memory from the beginning of the year. For me this has been one of two highlights of an incredibly mixed year for me. I decided to do as much route training as possible before heading but even sneaked in some January sessions at Red Wall, Gogarth. The excitement was building for heading somewhere completely new and meeting the South African team.

The hospitality and friendliness of the South African climber’s was incredible with a huge amount of organisational skills from Julia Wakeling. After skimming over the itinerary and just being psyched to go climbing for 3 weeks I completely underestimated how much we were going to be packing in, I’m also pretty certain their tactic was to wear us out with the walk ins and copious amounts of alcohol.

On arrival, and straight off the plane, myself, Pete and Mikey headed up to the majestic table mountain with Snort (one of the colourful characters of the group). Table mountain towers above Cape Town with some amazing views and impressive exposure I did my first climb of the trip weighing in at a hefty E4 it was great and just the right level after a long flight.

 

Out to Lunch - 24/E4
Out to Lunch – 24/E4
Stocking up on the important camping bits
Stocking up on the important camping bits

The next morning we got up super early to join the rest of the team at Wolfberg. On the trip over we realised that Snort had left half his climbing kit and I couldn’t find some of my trad rack which I was pretty sure I’d left safely at the climbing wall (eventually got it back). Instead of telling the real story Snort decided to concoct a ridiculous one that involved partying, drinking and orgies in the van. What’s more ridiculous is that everyone believed this story for a couple of days, when Julia brought it up on the way back to Cape Town I couldn’t stop laughing and eventually told her the truth.

Wolfberg Features
Wolfberg Features

 

Incredible exposure on Wolfgang - 22/E2
Incredible exposure on Wolfgang – 22/E2

 

 

Fighting hard on Red Rain - 26/E6
Fighting hard on Red Rain – 26/E6
Pancake rest day scenes
Pancake rest day scenes

 

I was too scared but most of the team had a good cool off
I was too scared but most of the team had a good c

To me there are so many fond memories of this trad trip; the great bbq’s, drinking wine and socialising, pancake breakfasts, incredible rock to climb on. For me the highlights include:

Climbing at Tafelberg; even with a 3 hour hike-in carrying water and suffering in the heat this crag stood out for so many reasons. Every climb was five stars, and I had a great day with my climbing partner Jimbo ticking off numerous E4’s and 5’s. The route that stands out for me here is Blue Mountain Direct which was given 25 or E5 put up by Steve Meyers and Tiny, this felt like the biggest sandbag I’ve been on. I had to dig deep and try really hard finding ways to attain the breaks on small holds and placing more cams than I needed to. But the climbing and the exposure on this route were five stars. To me it was also pretty magical bivvying out under the bright starry sky. I didn’t sleep much but for once I wasn’t complaining.

 

A great bivvy spot
A great bivv

 

Crouching Tiger Hidden Giraffe - 24/E4
Crouching Tiger Hidden Giraffe – 24/E4
Echoes and Shadows - 25/E5
Echoes and Shadows – 25/E5
Tafelberg Spaceship
Tafelberg Spaceship

Watching Steve Mclure flash Double Jeopardy (E8) on Table Mountain, I mean we all know he’s a pretty good climber right!? It was great to see everyone get their silly side out with 80’s style themed get up. Myself, Pete and Steve decided to have a look at triple jeopardy with local heroes Jimbo and Clinton. It was pretty roasting up there and Pete and myself both fell off at varying stages on the crux. Pete gave up but I had a look at the rest of the route. I though it was hard but what is more impressive Steve went first and with some vague information he cruised up this route managing to recover and make the holds look better than they actually were.

Dodgy 80's attire
Dodgy 80’s attire
Attempting Double Jeopardy - 30/E8
Steve Flashing Double Jeopardy – 30/E8
NO Longer at Ease one of the best 25's/E5 on Table Mountain
NO Longer at Ease one of the best 25’s/E5 on Table Mountain

Climbing with Snort at Yellowwood, although this was a ridiculously early start (got up at 3am) and by about 1 we were baking in the sun and I had blisters on my toes. But climbing here on one of Snort’s first ascents called Fantastic Time felt like a real adventure. The rock quality wasn’t as good but I’m glad I didn’t miss out on going to this incredible place. It was very different to most of the places we climbed at the climbing on each pitch was serious, engaging and enjoyable. I did however disappoint snort by lay backing the bit where I was told the only way to do it would be to jam.

The last part of the trip was at a place called Blouberg with another 5 hour epic walk in and bivvy overnight. I was teamed up with Richard Halsey to climb an E5 called Once in a Blue Moon (aptly named because it had taken Hector a long time to complete the route for the first ascent). To me a lot of this was now type 2 fun, I could barely put my climbing shoes on without them being painful let alone climb in them. The lunch breaks were great but I was apprehensive about climbing the crux pitch when I couldn’t stand on big footholds. I don’t know why and luckily it played into my court but I was actually in less pain standing on small holds which the crux had plenty of, with minimal gear and a couple of hard to reach bolts I found this pretty committing, maybe more like E6. I was pretty terrified of taking a big lob onto small cams but somehow I managed to make up a random sequence of moves to clip the bolt and carry on to safety, much to my relief and the climbers around us. I thought we’d been making good progress on the pitches and topped out just before sunset, but little did I know we still had the maze to come and we hit it just as it went dark. This wasn’t where you wanted to be getting lost, but there were a few of us stuck up there. We were managing to make our way down at a slow rate of progress in a group when Mikey and Garvin found us, as it turns out we weren’t even the last people. Snort was against more rescues as it would be character building to bivvy for the night at the top for anyone else who was stuck. Luckily mikey and a couple of others headed out again to gather up the stragglers. Although this was mostly type 2 fun for me with my feet being in so much pain by this point I learnt some valuable lessons and it is probably one of the days that I still remember clearly and with an element of fondness. Even the descent from blouberg the next day was a bit of a mission with some of us nearly getting very lost. We had various stories from Saffers about 12 hour walks to get to or from the crag.

The grand scale of Blouberg
The grand scale of Blouberg
Cool dude at Blouberg
Cool dude at Blouberg

It was time for some of our hosts to go their separate ways and the rest of us carried on to Waterval Boven.
For me the second half of the trip to Waterval Boven was a bit of an anticlimax, don’t get me wrong it was great fun and the climbing was good but it’s not what I would travel half way across the world for when we have such good sports climbing already in Europe. However, this is only my opinion and I have heard rave reports so don’t be put off by my thoughts. The rock quality on the classics is stunning and there are many world class lines but I was spoiled by the sublime trad climbing beforehand.  I will give you my highlights of this part and if you are climbing out there hopefully some of the quality lines that Boven has to offer. The rock has a beautiful orange hue and there are some spectacular features but I feel it is a risk for any climber going here. With stories of people being robbed, held at knife point and Candice giving us her mace spray for the last few days it didn’t feel like a safe town to be in, however if you do visit the couple who run roc n rope are lovely and my recommendation would be to stay up at the beautiful tranquilitas, even though the road up is slightly sketchy the best climbing is up at this accommodation.
Luckily it was only on the penultimate day we had any incidents but it wasn’t very pleasant when Becca got bitten by dogs as we were walking out from the Restaurant crag. It was pretty nerve wracking on the drive in, there are buildings here that used to be accommodation mostly for visiting climbers but they are now abandoned and squatters from a political faction seem to have taken over. When we drove in we pretended we knew this guy to be able to climb there. Ben and Candice had to leave to get to the airport, so when a thunderstorm started brewing myself, Sophie and Becca walked out. As we approached the buildings three dogs started running out barking and baring their teeth, what is strange is that they went round myself and Sophie and started biting Becca who had been the furthest away. Luckily the guys managed to call the dogs off but not before they had done considerable damage. I’m not sure I could’ve remained as calm as Becca did, I’m pretty sure I’d have started crying if it had been me. Luckily the guys on the site were decent enough and one of them walked us to the gate to make sure we were ok, it was the first time this had happened so we decided it wasn’t worth reporting it to the police.

Becca's War Wounds
Becca’s War Wounds

Boven highlights:

Urisk the Rustic Brownie – given a grade of 23 the climbing is not a walkover but it is also at an amenable grade. The best bit about this route is that it is in an exceptionally photogenic location right by the waterfall.

Freak On (24/7a) – the first route I did at Waterval Boven and what a cracker it is with some really funky moves near the top of the route.

Lotter’s Desire (27/7b+) – this has to be one of the most beautiful pieces of red/orange rock with some intricate climbing. It has a real sting in the tail.

Bikini Red (27/7b+) – another stunning line with a sting in the tail.

Snapdragon (29/7c+) – Dastardly tricky moves all over the place from start to finish, I found the mid section to be my crux with many of the holds never being quite as good as you would like them to be.

Monster (29/7c+) – one mega long pumpfest, make sure your arms are in full working order before you set off on this one. What a beauty!

Jack of all Trades (30/8a) – like its name says you really have to be good at a bit of everything for this route. It starts off pretty steady but gradually gets harder the higher you get until you’re all out fighting not to drop it at the top.

Urisk the Rustic Brownie - 23/6c+
Urisk the Rustic Brownie – 23/6c+
Lotter's Desire - 27/7b+
Lotter’s Desire – 27/7b+
Mikey chicken winging to glory on Monster 29/7c+
Mikey chicken winging to glory on Monster 29/7c+

The non climbing highlight of the trip for me was heading to Kruger on Safari for a rest day after climbing at Waterval Boven, it’s something I would definitely recommend to anyone visiting South Africa. I wasn’t sure if we would spot the big five, even if we didn’t it was a great laugh heading there with Ben, Sophie and Becca. I think half the fun is looking for the animals, I don’t think I’ve concentrated on anything for that amount of time in a while. We caught a quick glimpse of a Leopard which was the most exciting but for me, I love Leopards and if I could be one animal I would like to be a Leopard for their graceful speed and agility. We saw Lion’s from a distance, plenty of Elephant’s, Giraffe’s, Hippoptamus and Zebra’s. I could’ve spent more time there, I think there is something magical about seeing creatures in their natural habitat hunting and exploring.

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On my return from South Africa after an incredible trip I was riding a wave of psych; the day after I got off the plane,on a pretty cold March day, Pete robins and I headed to check out Caff’s new route Gravity Wave (E8 6c).
When we first abseiled into the route I had this feeling of being intimidated by the route with no chalk it looked impossible and scary with the sea lapping beneath us. Pete set off along the start, having been on it before with Caff he decided to check the moves out. The start looked tricky with not much gear and there is a bouldery crux in the steepest part of the route. Then it’s just a case of keeping your pump under control with shallow cam placements.
As Pete put chalk on the route it started to look more possible and I decided that it wouldn’t hurt to attempt a flash of this route. Pete stripped most of the gear except the blind wires that protect the crux (the same kit Caff had in for the first ascent) and the starting gear just before it as they would have been a nightmare to get out.
I set off along the bold starting traverse with some trepidation trying not to think about what would happen if I fell off at this point, breaking it down into baby steps in my head. I thought get to the starting gear and the pre-crux wires first, then if I feel good I should just go for it. I tugged on the wires to make sure they were seated properly and went for it. Surprisingly I made it through the crux boulder with help from Pete on the moves and I was soon into the shake out on Chicama. Ok now it was just a case of making it through some big moves on reasonable holds in steep terrain. As I moved along I placed the cams I’d been given, pulling up high to view the placements and wishing I hadn’t as they were all so shallow. all I had to do was keep breathing, stay calm and try not to question if they would hold on a fall. In a certain amount of disbelief I made it to the top and then stripped the same amount of gear for Pete to grab the 4th ascent of Caff’s new route. Did I do it in the best possible style? Absolutely not, I think I could’ve done it in better placing all the gear but I did it in a style that I felt comfortable with and placed as much of the gear as possible. Is it E8 6c? I’m not sure of the grade, some bits felt pretty out there to me and without chalk or beta I think it would’ve felt hard on the crux, but the route suited my style after the crux in that I just had to stay calm and manage any developing pump.

Stripping the gear out of Gravity Wave
Stripping the gear out of Gravity Wave

Part 2 of my blog to follow soon……….

The Fine Line Between Success and Failure

After my last blog I have quite a bit to write about.

Starting with the week of awesome weather we had a couple of weeks ago! I had such a brilliant week doing things I have wanted to do for ages.

I started by trying my project at the orme but it was too hot, I thought I would be tactical and leave my draws in for later on in the week.

The next day I was setting routes in the Beacon but by the end of it I was tired and my back was spasming, (route setting is definitely not a rest day!) this did not bode well for the next day as I had agreed to go bouldering in the pass at Jerry’s roof with some of the girls. I was anxious that I would not be able to climb but still keen to head out and support Jemma and Sophie in their attempts on Bus Stop after work. We all warmed up on the Cromlech boulders, it wasn’t a great start for me but I felt a bit more loose than earlier on in the day so decided to have a bash at Bus Stop too. My first go on the flash attempt went pretty well but my foot slipped out of a very irritating heel hook – this happened quite a few times. Jemma and Sophie were also cruising through the start but decided to look at the finish (we had decided to finish up Jerry’s having been told it was nicer) but I decided ignorance was bliss and hoped that if I got there I wouldn’t fall off.On my last go of the day with skin wearing thin having pretty much gone through on one finger I fought my way through to the Jerry’s finish regretting not having checked it out and desperately not wanting to blow it. For once I was lucky and I managed to push through to the finishing jug. I was a very happy lady to do this v8+/9 in a session as it is very burly plus there was a bit of blood on my thin skinned finger after the attempt so it as just in the nick of time!

Sending Bus Stop V8+/9 - Sophie Wilmes
Sending Bus Stop V8+/9
– Sophie Wilmes
Sore Skin After a few attempts, done just in time!
Sore Skin After a few attempts, done just in time!

On the Thursday I went to the Orme again to try my project. I thought it would be perfect with the afternoon low tide. Unfortunately there was no breeze which made it hot and humid. I was also a bit stiff from the last couple of days but decided to give it a bash. I was pleased to make my highpoint feeling fitter and stronger so it bodes well for future attempts.

The next day I went to meet Ollie up at the Cromlech in the afternoon by now feeling pretty jaded and thinking I should have been on the shady side of the pass and not the sunny side! I was on a mission though to try Right Wall (E5 6a), this is a route I have wanted to do since the first time I visited the Cromlech when I was 16. I was going to second Ollie up True Grip to warm up but he backed off so I decided to just get on with it.

This route did not disappoint me, I loved every minute of climbing it and being in such an amazing position on such a sunny day. It is definitely a route I will remember for a long time.

Finally on the Saturday Alex and I headed up to Cloggy with what seemed to be half the UK trad climbing population. We ended up queuing for a classing E4 6a called Great Wall, on the walk up I was tired and my knees were sore to the point we almost headed back down. For the climb we decided I would lead the first pitch and Alex would take the second. I climbed ok to the crux not too far from the end of the first pitch but my head wasn’t really psyched. I’m not ashamed to say that after consideration I down climbed from the crux to the bottom of the route knowing I didn’t really feel up to going for it. In the end I had a very pleasant day seconding Alex up both pitches and just enjoying the climbing.

This week has been a bit of an eye opener after 10 days straight of work I was keen to chill out but also psyched to climb and make the most of some half decent weather.

On Monday I headed to Tremadog with Dave Evans, the initial plan was to do Weaver into Bananas (E5 6b) but there were wet patches on the route including the crux so I decided to head up The Croaker (E3 5c) to finish which was a cool route in its own right. After that we did Void (E4 6a) where I was lucky to get the final pitch – it was so good but felt like a bit of fight. I never felt like I was off and I could place good gear but I still got a bit pumped. This route was safe but made the climbing on Right Wall feel like a path in comparison, I guess I’m just not used to thrutchy climbing!

On Tuesday Calum and I headed up to Glyder Fach for Calum to try his new route, I was also keen to have a look at a route called Kaya (E7 6b). After a couple of top ropes on Calum’s new route he cruised to victory making the crux climbing look easy. I seconded him up it cleanly but had no inclination to try and lead it. Next up it was my turn – Calum kindly chalked the holds ad gave me a bit of beta before setting off. I was nervous about falling of the first bit into the ground but seemed to climb quickly and in a confident manner to clip the first peg (phew)!  The climbing then eases off but there were a couple of burly and sketchy moves to make with sidepulls and smeary footholds. I got anxious about blowing this bit, the friction on the rock was amazing but the sun was out, I waited for a while to get some a shade from cloud cover but it wasn’t long enough. In the end I went for it, I made it into the big sidepull with only a couple more moves to go, but I relaxed and tried to get my foot high on the good foothold too quickly. My right foot slipped and I was off. Disappointed I pulled back on and went to the top with ease kicking myself for coming off where I did.

The committing part before clipping the peg on Kaya - Calum Muskett
The committing part before clipping the peg on Kaya – Calum Muskett
A good rest before some final tricky moves - Calum Muskett
A good rest before some final tricky moves – Calum Muskett
On the top after falling off :(
On the top after falling off 🙁

On reflection I learnt some valuable lessons from that route.

Was it a failure? I don’t think so. I have consolidated at E5 this year, I haven’t onsighted E6 yet either. Its nearly 3 or 4 years ago since I last did an E7 (Monopoly) whilst I was living in Sheffield, but I did that route as a headpoint. I guess I have been pretty focused on sport climbing so my fitness is pretty good. I don’t feel like my head let me down though, I committed to the moves and definitely went for it, I think this will hold me in good stead for future E7 attempts. I was a bit gutted not to do the route on my flash attempt but happy to have put in a good effort at the same time, hopefully I can go back to finish it off.

Yesterday Calum, Ed Booth and I went up to try Ogwen Crack (E7 6c/7a) we all found it ok up to the crux just above the peg but then found the crux absolutely desperate and a bit unpleasant on small painful holds. We decided to try and work out the moves on top rope, I managed all the moves but one. By this point none of us were psyched to continue though I may go back for it one day if I run out of things to do. We decided to move on to try another E7 6c called Daisy World (Calum had already climbed it before). On the way over being the massive klutz that I am I went over on my foot and bashed my knee badly but was lucky it wasn’t worse than that. We continued anyway and had a play on Daisy World, the climbing is pretty tricky and off balance to the pegs but the crux of the climbing then kicks in. I managed to climb the route in two halves and with the exception of one time I made it to the pegs clean. My reservations with this route are that the landing is terrible and there is no gear till the pegs. I am keen to head back to try it when the sun is not on the route and when I don’t feel stiff and sore to see if I feel differently about trying the route on the sharp end.

Attempting the desperate crux on Ogwen Crack - Calum Muskett
Attempting the desperate crux on Ogwen Crack – Calum Muskett

I am starting to find a new passion for trad climbing. I love the diversity in North Wales where I can go bouldering one day, sport climbing the next and then trad climbing in the mountains the next day. I enjoy bouldering and sport climbing but trad climbing and getting pumped trying hard is giving me a new sense of satisfaction. It has given me a new level of psych in recent months, I feel very lucky to live where I do.

I hope everyone is making the most of the amazing dry rock the UK has to offer!  🙂

Swiss bouldering fun and More!

Where to begin……..

I’ve been wondering about writing my first blog of the year for a few months now but I’ve often wondered where to start and what to write.

Being blunt the end of last year was not a good time for me, I went through some personal tough times and didn’t really climb much apart from a couple of days in Morocco whilst on a trip with Mountain Hardwear. I managed to surprise myself by flashing a 7c+ whilst climbing with Tim showing that some element of my climbing was still there. It was difficult to accept that last year was a bit of a step backwards but I hope I can push forwards again this year, sometimes things don’t always work out the way you plan them.

Whilst my psych for climbing was low I did my Mountain Leader qualification through Phill George (for anyone doing any qualifications along these lines I can’t recommend him enough. I had a great time and learnt so much from him, Mick Jones and Sam Leary). I spent many windy days out on the mountain and committed to going out at night to navigate with Ollie Cain, it felt good to be productive in another way.

So this year came and I was still finding it tough to get motivated to climb until Alex and I started talking about a 2 week bouldering trip. Bouldering isn’t my forte but I was psyched to try and get stronger so we set each other training programmes and decided to enter the CWIf comp.

I had a lot of fun at CWIF climbing with Tanya who climbed amazingly well. I also surprised myself by coming 7th in my first competition in a long time. I held my own but still felt like there was room for improvement.

Unfortunately 2 weeks before we went away there was an extremely sad event for Alex that came as a complete shock. Neither of us was sure as to what was happening or whether we would still go away but in the end we managed to get to Switzerland for 11 days of climbing.

The weekend before I headed to Pembroke for some trad fun climbing with a group of friends. I climbed with a mate called Dougie on this very windy trip (we were pretty surprised at how quiet it was for a bank holiday) I will not recount the whole trip but the first day was definitely an adventure of the wet variety! I have learnt the valuable lesson never to The Rob Greenwood about sea cliff tides and karma for laughing at Ollie Cain as the tide was coming in came back to bite me when we abseiled back in with Rob and Duncan only to get soaked by spring tide waves on belay duty – plus the wimpy side of me got a bit scared!

Team wrap up warm with Dougie, Ollie and Helena
Team wrap up warm with Dougie, Ollie and Helena

Highlights of Pembroke included:

Butcher E3 5c                            Get Some in E5 6a

The Fascist and Me E4 6a

John Wayne E5 6a

Finally it was Swizzy time – yeah baby! I was so excited about heading out and looking through the guidebooks on a daily basis for the best problems in a very geeky way.

We climbed at Cresciano on the first day but it was so hot and I lost a bit of skin, the higlight of the day was a 7a traverse that was cool. We did want to have a look at le boule but it was in the sunshine for the best part of the day!

After meeting up with Ben West and his wife Heather in the evening we decided to head to Chrionico but the next day it rained heavily. We were itching to climb and the next day was overcast with light showers but we managed to get out  🙂

I really loved climbing at Chironico and Magic Wood even though problems were wet at Magic from snow melt. I am psyched to go back which is a first for me when it comes to bouldering! I was pleased to tick some powerful problems and frustrated to come so close on others in particular Jack the Chipper (7c) at Magic Wood where I slipped off the top. I was pleased to come away a bit stronger though I would have liked to do better, still that’s all part of the game.

I was also very proud to watch Alex smash in Never Ending Story Part 2 (8a) a problem he has wanted to do for ages and came very close to last time .

I also learnt that I can survive more than two days without a shower even if I did get a bit narky towards the end plus I did brave washing my hair under the cold river water!

The tables are turning for the next trip in August when we head to Ceuse for some roped climbing – psyched!!

Highlights of this trip included:

Powerstrips 7c

Autopilot 7a+/b

Slooper Attack 6c+/7a

Chads Bulge 7a

Autopilot 7a+/b - Alex Haslehurst
Autopilot 7a+/b – Alex Haslehurst
Autopilot 7a+/b - Alex Haslehurst
Autopilot 7a+/b – Alex Haslehurst
Autopilot 7a+/b - Alex Haslehurst
Autopilot 7a+/b – Alex Haslehurst
Autopilot 7a+/b - Alex Haslehurst
Autopilot 7a+/b – Alex Haslehurst
Brushing sweaty holds on Le Pilier 8a - Alex Haslehurst
Brushing sweaty holds on Le Pilier 8a – Alex Haslehurst
Trying Le Pilier 8a - Alex Haslehurst
Trying Le Pilier 8a – Alex Haslehurst
Sore skin from hot humid attempts - Alex Haslehurst
Sore skin from hot humid attempts – Alex Haslehurst
Powerstrips 7c - Alex Haslehurst
Powerstrips 7c – Alex Haslehurst
Powerstrips 7c - Alex Haslehurst
Powerstrips 7c – Alex Haslehurst
Powerstrips 7c - Alex Haslehurst
Powerstrips 7c – Alex Haslehurst
Close but no cigar on Jack the Chipper 7c - Alex Haslehurst
Close but no cigar on Jack the Chipper 7c – Alex Haslehurst
Close but no cigar on Jack the Chipper 7c - Alex Haslehurst
Close but no cigar on Jack the Chipper 7c – Alex Haslehurst