Tag Archives: LAke District

An Eventful Summer

I’ve sat down to write a blog so many times since the end of May and now we are nearly into August. It’s been a busy but fun time for me with lots of coaching and setting work mixed in with some cool trips so I thought I’d write a little about the highlights of the last 2 months.

First up for me was was a 2 week planned trip to Rodellar with Adam Hocking and Tiffany Soithongsuk; Will Sim also came and joined us for most of the trip and Will Hardy for our last couple of days. I think as much as anything with a trip its not all about the climbing it’s who your with and also who you meet that can make or break a trip, this trip turned out to be great and lots of fun was had. Rest days in Rodellar are beautiful too, playing table tennis in the sunshine at Kalandraka or swimming in the gorges, I think the swimming provided the most entertainment for the rest of our group as I am not a water baby and I would usually swim from one side to the other as quickly as possible. For me the best bits of the trip were watching Tiffany flash Toma Castanzo (7a+) on her first day, having previously redpointed 7c this was her first 7a+ flash. Tiffany also did a 7b 2nd go and put in a really good fight on L’any que ve Tambe (7c) at Gran Boveda. Watching Adam climb Acrabita (8a) after breaking his toe before the trip and also watching a new friend Amir also put in an amazing fight to climb Acrabita too for his first ever 8a. My personal highlights were: Acrabita; fourth go (8a), Gracias Fina; onsight (8a), Kings of Metal; third go (8a+), El Sepes; second go (7c+/8a), L’any que ve Tambe; onsight (7c). This time I knew it was going to be a good trip climbing wise; on the first day I climbed Made in Mascun (7c+) which I’d struggled with the previous year due to a bad neck. I also had a look at Geminis (8b+), a striking line in the Gran Boveda which I made good links on quickly. Unfortunately it got too hot and I had to make the tough decision to leave it for another time.

One of many beautiful pools in the gorge at Rodellar
One of many beautiful pools in the gorge at Rodellar
Adam Hocking trying and failing to control the wing on Acrabita
Adam Hocking trying and failing to control the wing on Acrabita
Adam successfully sending Acrabita
Adam successfully sending Acrabita
Tiffany putting her yoga flexibility to good use on L'any que ve Tambe
Tiffany putting her yoga flexibility to good use on L’any que ve Tambe
Me sending Kings of Metal
Me sending Kings of Metal
Trying hard on Geminis
Trying hard on Geminis
A beautiful place to have lunch
A beautiful place to have lunch
The A Team
The A Team

 

Shortly after Rodellar I was on another plane this time to do some summer Alpine climbing for a Rab photoshoot with Calum Muskett, Adrian Samarra and Ben Winston. I didn’t know what to expect from this trip as I’ve never really climbed on granite and I’ve only put crampons on once before. The first day up on the Cosmiques was a bit of a steep learning curve for me, climbing down the ladder from the station with big drops either side I felt like Bambi on ice. I was completely out of my comfort zone trying things like front pointing on rock, whilst I was scared by the lack of control I had I also absolutely loved it. The trip certainly had its eventful moments with Ben trying his best to mangle his fingers by grabbing the drone on the first day. I learnt that I’m definitely not a winter baby because as soon as the sun went I got cold but I also loved the experience more than I thought I would and it’s something I am keen to go back and do more of. I loved the unforgiving nature of the granite where you have to be climbing technically well, the altitude didn’t affect me which was a nice surprise too and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. We didn’t get to try our objective of the Voie Petit properly which was a little frustrating but the highlights for me were climbing the crux pitch of Linia Blange (7b) on the Chandelle du Tacul and a day at Bionassay with Jude sport climbing. I guess the thing that will stick with me the most from this trip is not so much the climbing but the whole experience, learning some new tricks and whilst Chamonix is incredibly touristy it’s easy to see why; the scenery is truly stunning.

Beautiful 6c arete on the Cosmiques
Beautiful 6c arete on the Cosmiques
Walking in to the Grand Capucin
Walking in to the Grand Capucin
Climbing one of the pitches on Voie Petit
Climbing one of the pitches on Voie Petit
Climbing on the Chandelle du Tacul
Climbing on the Chandelle du Tacul

After the Alps trip I still had unfinished business with Melancholie but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it after 2 weeks of not climbing much. I first tried this route in March and felt like it would go pretty quickly given the less than ideal conditions and my quick progress. However this turned out to not be the case due to continued bad conditions with the odd good one thrown in to taunt me. I could only try the route every now and again due to my busy schedule which was frustrating, I couldn’t just pick and choose the days I wanted to do it and on those free days I sometimes just couldn’t muster the psych that was needed. I had one day before the Alps trip where I went backwards on the route falling just above the boulder crux each time which was my worst attempts on the route bar the odd warm up go falling off the boulder crux. I was getting frustrated as my high point of falling off going into the jugs on Bad Bad Boy was one that I’d attained quickly.  I found on coming back from the Alps I wasn’t any weaker but I was a whole lot fitter and my motivation to do the route was renewed after a change of scenery, I was no longer getting pumped on the route so now it was just down to silly mistakes. On the day I did it I fell off going into the jugs on my first go (at this point Wiz suggested a slightly different foot beta sequence which worked out much better), second go was bad but my third go I made it through to the jugs not pumped – I was in as long as I managed to stay relaxed! For me the end of Bad Bad boy is still hard and I don’t do it by the usual method from the undercuts, instead I roll over with my left hand from the crimp rail which works better for me on consistency. I was so happy to clip the chains on this iconic hard route and to take a breather from redpointing.

The second crux of Melancholie
The second crux of Melancholie
Finally sending Melancholie with a great support team!
Finally sending Melancholie with a great support team!

In this time I also did Ring My Bell (E7 6b) ground up second go after watching Ollie Cain headpoint it to climb his first E7! My first attempt did not go smoothly and I couldn’t seem to get my head in the right place but after falling on to the cam on the crux I felt a bit more settled, I’d got the scary bit out of the way and my first fall on trad of the year. I found the crux hard and even on my second go from the ground I felt like I just about scraped my way through the moves with a different method to Ollie. Even though I was disappointed in myself to not flash the route I was still happy with my ground up style.

Ollie leading a tricky E5 at Cwm Glas Bach
Ollie leading a tricky E5 at Cwm Glas Bach
A fun time at Cwm Glas Bach on the trad with these two jokers!
A fun time at Cwm Glas Bach on the trad with these two jokers!
2015-07-01 14.45.45
Ollie on Ring my Bell

Next up for me was a bit of a planned/unplanned event. I was involved in the FRCC youth Lakes meet. Before I go into this a bit more Caff mentioned a pre-weekend hit on Impact Day something which was on my radar but not at the top of the to do list. This meant leaving at 7:00am from Wales so that we could give it a good go but be back down in time to meet the kids at the Rawhead hut in the evening.

My thoughts on Imapct Day, E8 6c:

I was pretty sleepy on the drive up having thrown everything in the car for 2 weeks on the road starting from now. I parked up in Langdale and realised after about 10 minutes that Caff had already headed up to Pavey (keen youth that he is!). I packed the kit I thought I’d need and started the trudge up the steps to Pavey in the baking heat, I was soon down to shorts and a sports bra. As you reach the top of the walk you hit a nice lake and the first sight of the climbing on Pavey Ark (a beautiful sight), I could also see a small dot above Impact Day so I started moving as quickly as possible. Once we were all sorted and ready to go Caff and I both top roped it a couple of times to check out the moves and gear. I felt like I had a good sequence but was not mega happy about the start. Caff tied on to the sharp end and cruised it in his usual calm style, he made it look as easy as he had done on top rope. Everything was in control and there was no doubt that he wasn’t going to do it. For me I’d had a quick check of the starting sequence again as my only doubts lay in this bit, I think this was due to it being a big move and badly protected at the start but also in Part due to knowing that Hazel had come a cropper on the start of this same route; as Caff put it I wouldn’t have had doubts if it was just the former issue. I spent about 20 minutes at the bottom post Caff’s send deciding on whether or not to pull the ropes, the doubt was niggling at me but at the same time this voice in my head was overriding this telling me that I could do it. In the end the latter voice won and I’d convinced myself that if I walked away without giving it a shot I’d be disappointed with myself. I pulled the rope and the nerves kicked in – was I doing the right thing? Even though I’d climbed the moves easily I don’t take a serious headpoint lightly; I started off nervously placing the first kit then into the “E5” sketch start, a long lock off move saw me through the start and I could breathe again. I was so nervous though I knew I was over gripping because I didn’t want to climb the start again. I laced the break with kit before the crux, I was more pumped than on top rope but I was going to give it my all, my arms started to chicken wing mid crux but I somehow managed to make it through to a crimp rail and the peg to breathe and get a quick shake out. For me the route wasn’t over after the crux and I still found the top moves hard,  I needed to get something back for the top out as I couldn’t do it the same way as Caff, I just about got enough to get the pocket right hand, little crimp left hand, then crimp right hand, big move into a left backhand and kick my right foot up to press it out and top out. I was so relieved I’d done the route and happy to have given it my all and won the battle. We even had time to have a quick celebratory drink before heading off to meet the keen youths for the weekend.

Pavey Ark!
Pavey Ark!

 

Caff cruising Impact Day!
Caff cruising Impact Day!

The main reason Caff and I were up in the Lakes was to help out with an FRCC Lakes youth meet which Ron Kenyon had done a stellar job of organising and without his efforts this weekend would not have gone ahead. There were 10 kids signed up for the weekend ranging from 12 – 17 years old, what surprised me the most was that 8 out of the 10 were girls which was great to see. I was teamed up with a young girl called Ellie Cox for the weekend and luckily the weather gods were mostly in our favour managing to hit the two Raven Crags over the weekend. Ellie impressed me with her climbing skills and composure on the trad routes we did and by the end of the second day I was happy to pass over the baton to do a multipitch Severe called Original Route, I think it’s important to teach the basics of placing kit and making belays in a non stressful environment and having done a couple of trad routes previously Ellie was pretty solid on her gear placements. The aim of this weekend was to inspire the future generation for trad climbing and I hope we did that and that this event will happen again next year fingers crossed!

Swiss Alps

After the lakes I had a few days setting at Big Rock and White Spider, between my setting dates I crazily decided to head out climbing in Switzerland. My climbing partner for the 5 days (Jonny Baker) had some good ideas lined up and on the drive to our first destination showed me the options. I was psyched for some sunshine and new territory to explore, Switzerland definitely didn’t disappoint on the stunning scenery and 5 days of glorious sunshine. First up we hit the impressive limestone crag Wendenstocke for some multipitch climbing, the plan was to go and try the 13 pitch 7a Patent Ochsner. We didn’t have the earliest of starts arriving at the crag at 2 in the afternoon I wasn’t optimistic that we would get to the top of this adventurous route. Luckily we moved quickly though another couple who were abseiling as we hit pitch 5 thought we were slightly mad. The climbing was beautiful and techy with lots of delicate crimpy moves, for me the hardest pitches felt like the 6b+ at the start and the 6a+ slab at then end with no proper holds, spaced bolts and lots of smearing after 12 pitches of climbing. We made it down just before dark, a perfect start to the trip. I could have spent 5 days here though the walk may have destroyed my knees. The next day we headed to a lovely little sports crag called Simplon Dorf; I was surprised to see how many people were there but this crag had lots of good routes in the mid 7’s. With nice little open handed crimps it suited my style and we ticked off three routes there, a lovely litte 6c+ called Tabu, then a beautiful technical 7a+ called Andre am Bolzen. We moved on to a lovely 7c called Ferdinand Purrligaager that had a bit of everything, I managed to onsight this route which I was pretty happy with and then Jonny pulled a flash out of the bag (I always enjoy watching people fight on a route, something that I am not so good at).  Our plan for the next day was to hop over the border to climb at Cadarese; on the way over I’m pretty sure the guys at the checkpoint were very bored when they pulled us over and were also extremely disappointed when they didn’t find any drugs in the van. Whilst Cadarese isn’t much to look at once you get through the trees the granite crags are pristine with perfect cracks all over the place, I was keen to try and improve my granite crack climbing skills on bolts (safety first). We started of warming up on a lovely 6a then moved onto a crack climb called Hannibal, I decided to try and learn to hand jam so clipped the bolts but still fell back into the comfort of lay backing, whereas Jonny decided to get his head better at trad climbing so cruised it placing kit and found “bomber” hand jams ….. hmmm something tells me I’ve got a long way to go! We then moved up the crag to the mid sector where some nice Austrian guys were trying the most striking line of the sector called C’era una Volta (7b+). After they were finished I decided to give it a go clipping the bolts again, luckily it was more finger locks this time so I managed to fight my way to the top for the onsight in the heat, it was a great full body work out with some pretty smeary footholds on the crux. The last couple of days were more chilled as my knee started to play up on the walk to the Petit Clocher (one for next time) and some bouldering at the Col du Montets, it was nice to chill out and enjoy the stunning scenery again finished off with a lovely quick swim in the lake at Servoz on the way to the airport. I was sad to leave the sunshine and views behind to head back to work but reality has to kick in at some point.

The awesome Wendenstocke!
The awesome Wendenstocke!
Jonny cruising one of the pitches on Patent Oschner.
Jonny cruising one of the pitches on Patent Oschner.
The sun setting on our walk down from Wendenstock.
The sun setting on our walk down from Wendenstock.

Finally, this weekend just gone I was involved in a weekend with 6 kids who won their categories in the Rocfest comp earlier this year. The prize of a weekend with myself and Caff was provided by DMM with Jim Mcormack representing from DMM and Ray Wood filming the weekend. This weekend wouldn’t have been a success without the enthusiasm and organisation from the guys at Rockover (Tom Stewart, Tom LLoyd and Melanie Jackson). We had one day at Robinhood stride/Cratcliffe and one day at Plantation then the Climbing Works when the rain came in. These kids impressed me with their displays of natural talent and lack of fear on the rock, they had limitless energy and there were many red tips by the end of two days. I guess my main thing for them to take away would be to not get too wrapped up in grades and my gold star for the weekend would have to go to & year old Fae who showed no fear and great technique (she reminded me of myself at that age).

The Rocfest/DMM team at Stanage.
The Rocfest/DMM team at Stanage.

Now I have a few weeks at home to catch up with good friends, enjoy the lovely sunny welsh weather (hopefully) and fix my hard worked body.

Working hard testing problems = broken body!
Working hard testing problems = broken body!

 

Late Bloomer

I’ve had a hard time sitting down to write a blog this year, I’ve written many and deleted them all due to sounding like I was feeling sorry for myself. I started off the year training well but picked up an inhibiting neck injury which prevented me from pushing myself on the rock, I found this very frustrating when Alex and I headed to Rodellar as there were a number of days I couldn’t climb, luckily it’s a stunning place to be and Alex tried to teach me how to juggle, we played frisbee and generally chilled out and had a holiday.

When I got back to the UK I decided to visit an Osteopath called Belinda Rae who has been absolutely amazing and is helping me get past my niggles, however I have also been doing my best to hinder her by having car crashes!

I also had one of my worst climbing experiences ever when I headed to Pabbay and Mingulay; it was no one else’s doing but my own. The group I headed out with were amazing and the location was idyllic but my head was just not in the right place for climbing and it was crazy how much it affected my climbing. I seconded Alex up an E4 5c on Mingualy called Ray of Light (which should have been an enjoyable experience, albeit the traverse pitch was slightly wet), needless to say I think I cried my way up most of the route on second and didn’t enjoy the climbing. At the time I was embarrassed and felt incredibly down about the whole experience.  I didn’t have many positive feelings to take away from the last few months.

Over the last couple of months I have realised more than ever that whilst it is important to have a good group of people to climb with the only person that can make a change is yourself. So I set about doing this in every aspect of my life as well as climbing; the change in attitude made a big difference almost immediately. I was having fun climbing again but without pushing myself hard unless I wanted to or felt ready to. This culminated in a flash of Yukan 2 E6/7 6b at Nesscliff, this route is so good and I’d love to do more at Nesscliff. I found this route really suited my style in that it was quite technical but you could also slip off at any point. The most inspiring part of the day was watching Alex Mason fight his way up this route second go with some incredible power screams; it made me feel like I wasn’t trying hard enough and I wanted to be giving it my all on a route.

Yukan 2 Beautiful sandstone line - Ollie Cain
Yukan 2 Beautiful sandstone line – Ollie Cain

A few weeks later I headed up to the Lakes with Caff getting prepared to be scared on some classic sandbag routes. One route he’d suggested for the start of the trip was an E7 on Dove Crag in the Lakes called Dusk til Dawn – nothing like a gentle warm up into the week.

I was keen to head back to Dove Crag as the last time I had been there was 11/12 years ago with Caff; at the time I had found this crag incredibly pumpy and intimidating with some steep trad climbing. I also got sandbagged by Caff telling me that the walk in was only 20 minutes, this time I was more prepared for the hour to hour and a half walk in.

Dove Crag a nice 20 min walk in right??
Dove Crag a nice 20 min walk in right??

We warmed up on a tasty E5 6b called Outside Edge and then Caff decided to ‘man up’ for the main event. Dusk til Dawn starts up another E7 called Bucket Dynasty (this route used to be given E6) which is known to be pretty fierce in its own right, this was proven to be true when Caff did not breeze up the start. It’s one of the few times I have seen Caff pumped and he made the decision to just do Bucket Dynasty first time up which was a fine onsight effort in its own right. I was keen but also apprehensive to try and flash this route placing the gear, I’d just seen Caff struggle and get pumped so I was there thinking that I could maybe do the route but if Caff had got pumped was I good enough to do the route?

The start did not go smoothly and I was up and down a couple of times before committing to the crux due to the fall being a bit more spicy than I would have liked but when I did commit it all came together, a moment of being in the zone until my leg started to shake placing the gear. One more move and I would be on jugs and into safe gear haven, but then it gets hard again. A little sting in the tail of this route which was burly almost saw me off, I don’t really know how I stayed on but I was fighting hard and enjoying that feeling of wanting to do a route badly. I was psyched to say the least when I got to the top of this route and for me that was the day done, for Caff he decided to have a look again at doing Dusk til Dawn now he knew the start of the route and with usual Caff prowess he dispatched another E7 onsight.

Psyching up for Bucket Dynasty with a nervous look - Caff
Psyching up for Bucket Dynasty with a nervous look – Caff

 

Caff cruising the stunning line of Dusk til Dawn.
Caff cruising the stunning line of Dusk til Dawn.

The rest of the week was a blast with a one day hit to Malham in the blazing sunshine and a first visit to Scafell. The hike up wasn’t as bad as I was expecting and we climbed a classic E3 called Nazgul in the evening to top off the day. The next morning we were up at 6 (thanks Caff) to go and climb the mega E4 Lost Horizons and have a look at another E7 called Borderline. I think Lost Horizons has to be one of the most stunning pitches of E4 6b climbing that I have ever done, the  gear is good and the climbing is sustained. Like an idiot I did try to make it into 6c climbing by exiting onto the arete too early and nearly coming off as everything was slopey and out of balance, luckily I managed to reverse it just in time and decided to go the 6b way.

Lost Horizons an immaculate line on one of the best mountain crags - Caff
Lost Horizons an immaculate line on one of the best mountain crags – Caff

It was time for borderline and Caff set off up first getting to the crux placing the gear and trying to figure out the sequence which wasn’t chalked or obvious, in the end he climbed back down and passed the ropes to me. I was still on a high from earlier in the week so I thought I’d have a look, I got to the crux but was having the same problem as Caff in that the sun kept peeking out. I unlocked a sequence but couldn’t quite get into the good crimp which was extremely frustrating so in the end I backed off and climbed back down. It was Caff’s turn again but this time he had my new sequence for the crux (I think that means I get half the credit) and he made it through only to fall higher up – close but no cigar. He worked out the higher moves he’d come off and then came back down to have a rest. Second time up he got it but still had to work hard, unfortunately I let him down on second by not being able to do the crux but also feeling satisfied that I’d made the right decision on lead. Maybe it was due to being tired by this point or maybe I needed to figure out a better sequence for myself in the end I had to be lowered off as I had swung into the midair of no mans land with this route being deceptively steep. With the climbing done we walked back down with my Dad and headed to Langdale for the fun Raven’s Pit event that had been organised by Claire Carter which involved some good Cumbrian Tales, a local band, good food and a bit too much wine plus walking into a fence.

 

Lakeland legends photo caption anyone? - Dom Bush
Lakeland legends photo caption anyone? – Dom Bush

The next morning the hangover had definitely kicked in and there were a few people milling about looking less than fresh. My parents had rocked up so I tried to put on a bright smile and failed miserably. The walk up to Pavey was gruelling and whilst Caff chilled out I climbed a classic E1 called Capella with my Dad and another guy. The hangover and other mishaps put paid to our plan of climbing Sixpence but as far as trips go this is one of the best I have ever had.

 

Unjustified

I know this is the part of my blog that most people will jump to and I’ve found it hard to write down my thoughts about the route as it has finally sunk in that I climbed it. This year it was one of my main goals to retry this route and get it done if I was good enough. I quickly realised that this would be achievable if I put my mind and some time to it but my visits were still pretty sporadic until the week I did it.

A week before I did the route I made it through the crux for the first time from the ground since I’d started trying it, this was a big mental breakthrough for me as I found the crux really hard. Not only did I make it through once I then made it through another two times but was falling high on the headwall due to having focused my attention on the crux and I was getting overexcited. I decided to head back up as soon as I could whilst everything was still fresh, on the Sunday morning I didn’t want to get out of bed. It was raining outside and everyone else was all snuggled up cosy and warm. I dragged myself up and got in my van to drive to Malham in the pouring rain; it took an immense amount of psych to persevere on, at Chester I almost called it quits and turned back. The rubbish weather did take the pressure off, after arriving and warming up I thought I had nothing to lose by giving it my best shot. I was psyched up and ready to go after seeing Toby put in an impressive first effort of the day getting high on the groove. I tied on not sure if this would be the go but hoping that I would get through the crux again to give myself a fighting chance.

I didn’t climb the start very well (at least not in my mind) but it was good enough to feel fresh once I hit the start of the crux. It’s funny when your redpointing because something that initially felt desperate and impossible becomes easy and you climb almost in a trance, the crux now felt easy on redpoint and I was through again this time determined not to mess up on the headwall. The move I had to fight the most on was hitting the pockets, I wasn’t really pumped but my fingers were starting to get a bit cold so I had to throw a bit more than I would have liked to. It was important to me to have to dig deep and really commit as too often I give up due to it not being perfect. Once I was in the pockets I knew I could do the route but I also had to stay focused as in true Malham style everything is still pretty sketchy. When I clipped the chains I couldn’t believe I’d done the route; after pouring my heart and soul into trying it I was so happy to have done the route but a slightly masochistic part of me was also going to miss trying the route.

I’m not going to give the route a grade, to me it felt like the hardest thing I have ever been on and done, I don’t hold the experience to pass comment on something that is subjective at best. I had to work hard to figure out the moves and do this route, the crux for me had to be nothing less than perfect due to the burly nature and being spanned out between the holds. Whilst it felt easy on redpoint I have to remind myself of the amount of work it took me to do the route and how the moves initially felt, I didn’t get the crux moves figured out the first time I went up the route and it was only through hard work, stubborness and determination that I won the battle with this route but I enjoyed every minute of the process this year.

Early attempt in 2011 - Toby Dunn
Early attempt in 2011 – Toby Dunn

 

Trying the crux moves - Ray Wood
Trying the crux moves – Ray Wood

 

A very happy face after doing the route - Toby Dunn
A very happy face after doing the route – Toby Dunn

As is always the case its onto the next project now and time to start planning some trips. I’m psyched to see how far I can push myself but also to have some fun. I would like to thank Rab for taking me on as one of their new athletes and also give a shout out to some friends (Will and Becky) for giving me some cosy Bob Hats – if you haven’t got one then order one now to keep your head snuggly and warm in the winter.

I hope everyone has had a fun summer on the crags and my next blog will be coming soon on DWS and facing fears.