Tag Archives: Sport Climbing

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!

 

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!  🙂