Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Chamonix Hit

After having only been back at home for 2 days after a school trip I headed back out of the door for Chamonix. Ive been going back and forth for nearly 10 years now which is a massive shock but in the last 5 years Ive only been once much to my own sadness but I am changing that habit now.

After getting to the Shack (see video below) we headed straight up the Grand Montet lift and climbed the Chevalier Coulior and Pepite on the Aig. Caree which is a subsiduary ridge of the Aig. Verte. Spending a few hours trying to hide in the lift we then discovered the lifties there actually didnt give a shit and so we spread out in the rather warm and luxurious toilets. A night spent sweating in our bags left us poised to try the Couturier Couloir on the Aig Verte proper. Unfortunately after spending a good hour wading toward the bergshrund getting hit by lots of mid size snow sloughs we decided to turn around, if this wind continued to push snow down the couloir and we continued to wade we'd be knackered out pretty quick. So we bumslid our way out of there. As always happens a few friends were up there a few days later when the wind had changed direction and found entirely different conditions. Ah well, all's well in love and climbing.

A day spent "shopping" for the cheapest post-season ski's with a better forecast and a lift ticket up the Midi. We got a rather leisurely start and headed toward the Petite Frounet on the left side of the Tacul Triangle. Hard grey ice and a bitter wind made the going slightly less pleasant than other experiences of this enjoyable little playground Ive had, however a route was ticked and we walked back across the Midi Col in a pea-soup which had me wandering down the Vallee Blanche until Joe noticed our mistake and directed us toward the lift again. A less welcome lifty greeted us at the door and said we could be terrorists or something but seemed to see sense and left us to get reacquainted with another lift toilet and a much warmer sleep.

A final day was spent cragging up on the Cherserys above Argentiere, a very pleasant way to end a reasonably productive few days in Chamtown. We didnt get everything we wanted done but that never happens. Psyce for the summer is at an all time high! Well buzzing wicked mate.

Joe approaching Pepite

Joe experiencing his first toilet bivvi.

Helmet bowl - it was a bit frozen as the lifties put the bag outside....

Last day. Psyce buzz!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Spring time cragging

Every year or so a few friends write a list of routes. Now these can be any route we choose, however the other people writing their own lists can veto them if they think you're selling yourself short or will complete your list too easily (and of course win the coveted and seemingly unattainable prize money of ~£20). My list last year got off to a good start but a lack of motivation and life events conspired to put me out of the game with only 50% of my list completed.

This year seems to be a better bet. The routes on the list will push me, hence some training over the winter rather than the normal running, and are a little far flung from sheltered South Wales but so far I have had a great time chasing these lines around the crags of the country. Starting with Chullila down at Brean and yesterday getting Propaganda done at Cwmaman. The routes between these two (all 5 of them) have all been ambitions for a while.

The biggest of which was the Assassin down at Gogarth. This route used to intimidate me somewhat, the picture of Lee Roberts in the Ground Up guide making it look "way out there" and above my pay grade at the time when I lived there. Years passed and that ember to climb it and the shadows that scared me were still present but on a glorious weekend in late March I had a brilliant couple of days mincing my way up various routes with good friends both old and new. I finally got on the Assassin. It was amazing, both the climbing and the situation in the middle of Main cliff with the sun on the sea and hunger in my belly adding to the atmosphere of a great day. So here's to more brilliant days this year and the years to come.

Me seconding the Strand as our warm up before heading over to the Main event (© Tom Ripley)

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Do the small things well.

"Do the small things well".

I really like this quote having only heard it for the first time on Monday as it can be applied to almost anything or anytime. When you plan or execute a trip, a climb, a run, a piece of work, a video, you need to ensure you do every little thing as well as you can to stack the odds in your favour of a positive or desirable outcome. You want to make sure you do your laces up well before that 30km run; that you have chalk in the bag for that redpoint attempt; that your kit list for a trip is as comprehensive as you can make it. All the little things- the minor decisions and tasks- add up to a sum. And as some cleverer person than me (potentially Steve House) said "We are all the sum of our past decisions".

I want to take this idea forward more, to bring it's ideology back into my life. To make better use of all of my time. To make the little steps so that the bigger ones will be easier to take.

St David or Dewi Sant, was a saint of the Celtic Church. He was a real person, the son of Sandde (Santhe), Prince of Powys and Non, daughter of a Chieftain of Menevia in West Wales. St David is thought to have been born near the present day town of St David's. Today is St.David's Day, the Welsh patron Saint. 

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

The Lost Years

It's been nearly 4 years since I last put anything on this blog. Looking back I can see why. Not because I haven't done anything but because I didn't feel as if it was worth it. For the last 4 months of 2013 I was in Patagonia and the USA, when I came home I had a full intention of writing down what had gone on but all the excuses came into play life, a girlfriend, work, seeing neglected friends, training etc etc etc. But I don't think this was the real reason, I was ashamed and disappointed in myself. I had dragged my heels, complained, let the little things get in the way of the pure joy of the experience I was living at that moment. I was a fool and let a great opportunity to pass me by. And that is what I now know is the real reason I couldn't put it down.

It's been long enough now and I've started to try and take more control of where my own life goes. I have been in some dark places mentally for large parts of the last 4 years, wondered why to bother; to keep trudging the same path. Not going where I wanted to be going, not living what I believed was the life I should have. But I was unwilling- and to some extent still am- to give what was/is required to get there. I am now starting to get there and take those steps (2 year plan). This isn't a miserable post of self pity; it is a full stop on that period in my life. I am now working full time, my free time to live out the rhetoric I spoke of in my older posts has dwindled to 1 day in 7, maybe an evening or two. Yet despite that in the last 12 months I have climbed harder than ever before, I have run 2 ultra marathons and come in the top 10. I have made new friends and tried to keep good ties with the old.  I have bought a house, a van, a bicycle. I have travelled to new countries, and returned to others. It is scary how life is moving forward at such a pace these days (I definitely sound old and apologise, Im not but might be mentally) it takes events around you for you to realise what is going on and see how far you have come from those youth filled idealistic days.

A week ago I went out with some friends, we drank, some smoked, others took drugs. We stayed out late, chatted drivel and watched the sun rise and our eyelids close. As the hours moved on the conversation inevitably turned to our childhood and then where we are now. Little nuances in conversation concerned me, they worried me. Worried for my friends, for my generation. We went to a decent state comprehensive, got a good set of grades, worked hard in college, went to university and got decent results. We got decent jobs and paid into bank accounts to get on the housing ladder as the rents were so high we couldn't eat at the end of the month. But my friends- the same people who followed these steps much like I have- are lost. They are drinking a bottle of vodka on their own on a Friday night because they don't know what else to do. They take cocaine on their lunch break just to splinter the monotony of the working week. What has happened to us. And yet as I look around bars, coffee shops, music gigs, the same look of loneliness and abandon that has settled in my friends eyes, is in other's. But my friends aren't alone, they aren't abandoned but the sentiment of being lonely amongst a crowd is building. We are becoming a generation of lost boys with no future and no understanding of how to escape the cycle without help: economic help.

This blog is going to be my way of communicating a path through this system and my attempts to get myself out of it. I am not rich, I am not poor. I work hard but never get enough done. I want to be something better than I currently am, and will try my hardest not to be disappointed in myself again.

I came 8th in the Gower Ultra (50miles in 9hours something)

Fitzroy under incredible clouds.

Dave on the top pitch of Yellow Wall ( I went back and did both pitches of this great route yesterday).

Lost Boys

Saturday, 13 April 2013

A Big Bubbly Easter

Just like in those cheesy American High-School film, we all watched the clock tick its final tick. Swinging the hands, aligning them properly, letting 2 weeks holiday start! Racing out of the door, past the droves of kids. I got on the road quick enough and headed north.

Meeting Bubbles at Warrington, we would continue onwards hitting the Lakes late that night. The journey was a pretty mundane affair of traffic jam games with other trapped road users, and what with the snow a zombie-like-apocalypse occurred on the A6, with cars up turned and strewn across the snow covered lanes (the drifts the next morning were higher than the car windows....) But we made it through unscathed...I'm just that good at driving.

What with the snow, our initial plans to profiteer from punters on Lakeland fells got binned and instead we tried to get our winter climbing heads on. We should have got our skiing brains on, they would have had a much better time! Unfortunately the quick freeze had meant the icefalls had formed quickly and so were as brittle as our nerve, at least at this early stage of the week (later in the week, some freeze-thaw meant good ice was in the lakes).

Thwack. I had tried to go up but my balls had done a runner. Bubbles also had a crack but when he pulled of a big chunk of probably quite key ice, we decided to run away and call it a day.

Bubbles running up the gully to escape the aptly named Innaccessible Gully

With our tails firmly between our wintry legs we spent the best part of the next 4 days hiding in the Eden Valley. This place was a really good solution with easy access, some semblance of warmth, nice setting by the river, and to top it off not bad climbing. Spending the first few days at Armathwaite we managed to tick off the vast majority of the starred routes at the crag. 

The Thursday came and it felt about time to get on something hard after soloing a few of the E3s the day before. Getting to the crag a gang of trainee squaddie's were camped in the sand pit that the Exorcist rises out of. So not wanting to perform to an audience we carried on walking, ticking a few more of the crags good routes and generally warming up for the main event. After an hour or two and with little chance of them going any time soon, I sacked up and got the ropes uncoiled under the route. Going up and down a couple of times to put in the clip for the peg and a small wire a little higher I was trying to psyce myself up, to little avail. Eventually I had climbed up past the point of return and so just had to plough on. The climbing although never desperate but reasonably sustained meant the ledge before the final bulge- and the lie down it provided- was very welcome! The dirty as shit top out (there was some shit- only bird shit mind you) added a final bit of spice to a good 4 days of cragging on the Lakes esoterica. 

Pre-final dirty bulge on the Exorcsit (E4 5c)
What with the gang of squaddies thinking we were already a bit loopy for doing this big steep route, I thought I'd give them a better idea of just how many screws were loose. Stripping off, and soloing the VD on the river side of the overhanging wall was a straight forward ascent. The jump off into the icy water less so. With the crowd counting down, iphones out and recording there could be no backing down. So off I jumped. It might have been 10 metres high, but that wasn't the problem, the cold was. Clawing my way out of the river bollock naked infront of 15 blokes wasnt ideal, especially as the gentleman vegetables had been evacuated to warmer climes further north. 'Your fucking nuts mate'. The feeling was mutual, at least I wasn't contractually obliged to be shot at by the Taliban. (There are pictures of this on Bubbles' blog)

The Easter weekend when winter conditions were prime, I was occupied profiteering so unfortunately did nothing productive aside make a bit of money and make a few walkers smile.

With Scotland holding every ephemeral ice line in condition we felt spoilt for choice, Bubbles was eager to drive up on the Monday night but after over 1000 miles already driven I couldn't handle it and postponed him until the following day. Waking up feeling excited by the prospects of spending 2 full days on the Ben crushing. I was a little sad to find Bubbles fully wired on coffee and rambling on about doing the Cuillin.... in a day...in winter. Bollocks. So after a brew and being shown hundreds of pictures of the amazing ridge (it really does look amazing!) we started the drive north.

Ill cut out the vast majority of the story as its pretty dull and a little embarrasing. But ultimately we didn't do it. We got lost on the walk in at 3am and took a rising traverse to early onto the ridge proper, ending up at the TD gap at about 7am. Deciding to try and keep going I led up the TD gap, but dropped my axe in the process (it was tied to a sling over my shoulder and came untangled falling down the wrong side of the ridge). With axe rescue and abseiling extraordinarie Bubbles deployed, the axe was shortly retrieved but too much time had been wasted so we headed down.
Bubbles after TD-gate

On the walk down to the car I was once again convinced (see a pattern emerging...Im a sucker for peer pressure and Toms mad-cap schemes - although they do provide some good fun) that driving quickly back to Fort William, buying some rock shoes (we forgot ours) and then going cragging in Glen Nevis was the best shout. Then doing a route on the Ben the next day. Driving home and 'working' hard to recoup all costs. That was the master plan. And it sort of worked. We got a 4* HVS done in Glen Nevis...maybe not worth the price of a pair of rock shoes but they went into the budget, and then Point 5 the next day was immaculate. With hooked out ice and little spindrift we raced up the route in 2.5hours. Being back down at the CIC by 11. Not bad really.

Tom leaving the belay on P2 of Point 5

La Sommet. Top of the Ben

A Big Colourful Bubbly Bear

The long drive back to the lakes then commenced. At this point the spaz wagon was taking a fair beating, with the drivers door hanging off the hinges- forcing all entries to be made through the passenger door or windows- added another angle to the adventure. 
All the chauffeur driven miles finally got to Tom

We then went profiteering and had a final evening at Reecastle (brilliant crimpy crag- the route we did was pretty wet, which didn't help the tiny crimps get anymore useful but still good climbing)

Ei Ho, Ei ho Its off to 'work' we go.

And that was the end of my Easter break. Driving south with Bubbles so he could go to a wedding in Devon and I could put the shirt and tie back on for work the next day was all a bit sad. I had thoroughly enjoyed my Easter funsies. I think looking back we should have done the 2 days on the Ben, it would have provided more climbing and less driving but I wouldn't have learnt anything about Skye (Its gorgeous!) so swings and roundabouts! I also found out that when Tom and I get back from our travels later in the year we are going to be well and truly unhinged. Not  mad at each other, just completely off our tits nuts. It should provide a wealth of entertaining stories.

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Is it finally coming together?

So with the Spanish power still fresh in my arms and mind I managed a good few weekend hits to the Wye ticking through North wall leaving only the very hardest (or the really shitty routes) left for me to get on. Looking back at my climbing standards  for the past few years it becomes apparent that I haven't been going this well ever, not even for this time of year - which considering its March is pretty sweet!

I think going to the wall and bouldering a lot over the winter has helped, as has the week hit to Siurana. But most of all my mental state has definately taken a leap forward. Im more willing to 'go for it', to trust that my gear is good and have confidence in myself as a climber to pull on through the hard moves instead of having a   sandy vagina and bailing. Its a good feeling, and especially considering what I have in store over the next 18months it is probably a very needed thing. So 2013 here we fucking come!

Strange Little Girl (E4) - 2nd of the year but a good one!

Suicide is Dangerous (E3) - Brilliant face climbing at an amenable grade (should be E2)

Monday, 18 February 2013

Justified Vagrancy

As I work in a school and have half term off I had ideas of going to Scotland. That was until someone mentioned Siurana and a Spanish bolt clipping holiday.

Ive only been on one sport climbing holiday before to Frankenjura and it had been an enjoyable and beneficial (I was rock fit on my return) so I took the jump and booked flights to Reus for a few bob.

I wasnt sure what to expect or what to do really. How warm will it be? Mileage vs. Redpointing? How much will this cost me? In the end though with it being pretty chilly the first few days and wanting to just climb lots after a mediocre winter of plastic pulling we got on with it and put in the mileage. Getting 41routes in over 6days (Fr5+ - Fr6c+; mostly Fr6a/6b) was pretty cool and made for a tired little boy at the end of the holiday.

Sleeping in lay-bys and under overhangs at the crag made our weight loss plan work out pretty well, losing over half a stone in the time we spent there. Although more could have been shed had it not been for the 6 euros for 28 can beers in the supermarket!! An abandoned building provided ample shelter from the continual winds for the early part of the holiday and made us feel like refugees - which I guess we were, climate refugees.

Flying home on the sat night I felt good and with a partner sorted for the sunday in the Wye, psyce was high. Well it was until I woke up at 6am on sunday wide awake. So using up my time sorting pictures, unpacking, making lunch, tidying kit and repacking for a days trad it was time to head off (not before dropping mike at the train station).

Warming up on a pleasant VS I got it in my head that this would be an easy day getting used to placing gear again and loosening the muscles. Alas it was not to come true. Dave had big ideas for me and suggested I lead both pitches of Tower Route (a route I had previously seconded). With this dispatched and me smiling at the top, I thought I was safe. One hardish route a day, thats about right surely. But after chatting to some other mates at the crag (There were other people at wintours for the first time since November!!) they suggested I get straight on White Feather, a steep 37m E3 the other end of North Wall. So after a tough start (definately stick a wire in the bottom, its much harder than it looks!! - NB: I didnt fall onto the wire but its proper grovelly) the route flowed past and with a handy pull using some new found Siurana strength I reached the top of another quality route that's on my S.Wales ticklist for the year.

Cheers to everyone that belayed me the last week (Sam, Mike, Dave, Random Aussie Guy) made it a quality week that I am definately going to reorganise for next Feb.... If i have any money. As in other news Ive booked flights to California and Argentina for an 18week crush-fest at the end of this year! Let the good times roll!

The Living-Dining-Kitchen Area

Siurana Sunset

Mike happy as ever to wake up at the crag...no walk-ins!!

Spanish weather followed me all the way to the Wye