Sunday, 21 October 2012

Taxis, Clubs and Self-Indulgence

Hot sticky eyelids try to claw themselves open. A shrill screeching pierces the clammy dullness of a drunken stupor.

Rushing around with far too little sleep and far too much beer sloshing about in your stomach is never conducive to effective packing. Assorted kit thrown into a sack. But remember the bog roll. Never, ever forget the bog roll.

You swore you wouldn't do this again. And yet another Saturday (well technically its sunday) has rolled around; finding you out of your mind stumbling, lost through the cities maze. Crawling into bed at 5. Last ditch attempts to cleanse yourself of your self indulgence. A pint of water. And another. Shit that was a bit much. Gunna need a piss now. Bollocks.

Soon enough you make it to the meet point. Sunglasses hide bleary eyes from passing motorists but this lot can get close enough to smell the Tequila on your breath. Fuck. No excuses made, and a long day of suffering begins.

Walking to the crag the alco-sweats start. A shiny veneer of last nights consumables layer your neck and face. Spreading like a rash across laden shoulders.

Finally it begins. The climbing. The only reason you've put yourself through all this shit. Well its not for your good health that's for sure. And it can go either way from here on in. It could all go to shit. Quite literally at times (but that's another story involving famous 80's climbers, human shit, and my harness). Or it could go swimmingly. Regardless though these occasions are always marred by trepidation and fear. Not fear of falling and hurting yourself. That is pushed firmly to the back of your mind. But the fear comes with the booze-poos. That elusive enemy of hungover climbers the world over. The enemy that strikes at moments of extremis. At your most fragile. Your moment of weakness.

As the sun finally makes its slow retreat below the horizon you are able to make a dignified exit from the scene. The slow pounding headache, like a fat kid sat on your face has begun to recede. Instead a gnawing hunger has enveloped your inner voice. Haribo and chocolate are rammed down a parched throat. A  dry mouth calls out for fluid.

As you step back into the car a distant buzzing hums its way into your concience.

'Pub later? x'

Why not? This phobia you have developed is tugging at you again. What will the doctor say when you tell him you have a morbid fear of dehydration. Im not sure but I do need to stop going out and climbing the day after. My god its painful.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Alpine Dreaming Video

Here's a video Tom put together about our alpine holiday from the summer. Enjoy.

Alpine Dreaming - A Woodland Odyssey from Tom Livingstone on Vimeo.

Monday, 3 September 2012

One Summer

How do you describe the most enjoyable and varied 6 weeks you’ve probably ever had. On the last night sat around the brew pan chatting we tried to think of a single bad thing that had happened during our time travelling across France. Not one came to our minds.

We’d spent 4 weeks in Chamonix climbing some brilliant alpine rock routes, suffering a fair amount (mostly due to my sleeping bag being rated to 11degC when it was –2degC) and living in the woods near Snells field just outside the town centre.

 Catching the coach in late July I had no idea what we would get upto. Would I enjoy it all, would I shit myself and get too intimidated by the scale and the reputations of the classic routes I so wanted to do. But I needn’t have worried, yes there were times when I shat myself, times when all I wanted to do was go cragging on a British mountain crag or sea cliff then go to a pub and eat chips and drink beer. But there were other moments where it all came together. The Grand Capucin day, linking 2 really cool routes and then doing it all lift-to-lift made for a knackering but brilliant day out. Seeing the image of the Gervasutti Pillar in my own eyes not just in the Rebuffat book. Doing the Frendo rock section in 3 hours (the ice was very shitty and I had bendy boots on so that took a long time and lots of pain, see the picture below).

Then the set-back of getting upto the Eccles Bivvi Hut in late August to do the Freney Pillar but after following others advice we only had one rope. You needed 2 this year. But despite this we walked back down, still friends, still alive and still keen for one more route. We picked Frendo as it would be something that we could race up in theory and be back down quickly so as to catch a lift with another friend to Font and then home!

 All in all this summer trip to the Alps was amazing, thinking back to all the things I’ve seen and done. Alpine routes, swimming in Lake Annecy, watching clouds vanish above me in blue evening skies, watching the light fade on the faces of massive rock spires, seeing a tree fall down (with no one pushing it), travelling across France in a classic English gentlemans transit van, climbing on sandstone blocs in Font and visiting Paris for the first time (ran across the Arc d’Triumph roundabout!). Life felt good, and we lived for the moment.

 Below is a selection of pictures Tom Livingstone and Rob Richardson took (my camera drowned in Annecy Lake) that I hope sum up our trip and the fun we had this one summer.

“Life is about love, last minutes and lost evenings. About fire in our bellies and furtive little feelings” – Frank Turner
Summit of the Grand Capucin - A Grand Day Out

The Dream Team in Font (the pool made us wear Budgie smugglers - we looked like paedo's)

Moving Right on shitty ice at the top of the Frendo spur

Straddling Papillon Arete - First Route of the Season

Last Alpine Camp of the season - Beautiful

Im not sure what we were looking at but it sums up the partnership - Pessimistic vs. Eternal Optimist

Climbing near the top of La Marchand de Sables

Gervasutti Pillar - Birthday Route!

We spent a week in font and this is my favourite picture - my white tshirt still shows up

Transit travel across France - we got bored at one traffic jam so surfed on the roof for a bit

A woodland Paradise - Moss included

Snickers and a Candle - one way to wake up at 3am on your birthday! - we look fucked already!
Sid the watermelon 22-24 Aug 2012 - he gave us stomach cramps so we threw him in the river

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Beginnings of Spring

So what with work, climbing and general busyness I've neglected posting. Ah well

More groups are coming in thick and fast in work now so I've got less time to get out for myself especially when the weather is constantly refusing to play along with my scheming. However I have managed a good few days out on the hills and crags up and down the country.

The first was half term where I drove over to Sheffield for a bit of Grit climbing and some drinking too! After getting some routes in we packed the car and headed north to a grim looking forecast on the Ben. 2 half decent days on the hill and the weather was due to turn properly shit so after a 12hour day I drove back down to Sheffield. Ended up being pretty wasted and spent a wet day the following day watching shitty films and getting drunk! Yay for cosmopolitan life!

Dragging myself out of this funk , we went to Stanage for a gorgeous day on the grit again! Ticking Telli and some other classic routes. Then jumping back in the car for another drive back to the Cott. Basically I did a lot of driving around during the half term but i guess it was worth it, the weather in North Wales being even more shocking I was told! Below is a short video of our 'adventures'. Its not particularly good but shows what we got upto in a more detailed way.

So back into work and a good week with a different group of kids I managed to get to the wall but nothing else. It rained a lot that week! But am thoroughly enjoying this 'teaching' stuff and am applying for related jobs next year in part to help fund travels and also to build on my experience for a future career path (shock horror!). No worries though that wont be for a while, living to climb and travel will come first for a good few years yet!

The weekend forecast was good for a change so plans were hatched and partners found. The saturday was a classic, going to the Big-G and getting straight on Resolution Direct then Park Lane/Doomsville both brilliant E2s on a brilliant crag.

Me on P1 of Doomsville (Photo: T.Livingstone)

The following day on the Sunday I got out again with the infamous Tom Ripley and headed to Tremadog. Pant Ifan proved to be a bit moist so we stomped over to Craig y Castell, but because of Ripleys inability to climb popular routes we ended up on stuff no one else has heard of. And I'm glad we did! It was class! The rock was a bit friable at times but superb friction and no one else to fight off ab points! Quality day! We got a good few routes in; Pwyll for me was the highlight as it was excellent climbing but with not loads of gear for a bit of added spiceyness. Fun times!

Me post physco-crux on Pwyll with the best climbing still to come! (Photo: T.Ripley)

Back in work on the monday with a steaming hangover (Balsfords birthday drinks ended in 10cans...) and plans were hatched for the following afternoon. But with initial ideas put to rest by the weather (again), Livingstone and me armed in just our trainers ran up Grooved Arete in search of crag swag! Got a good haul of a few wires and a quickdraw (who leaves those!?). The rock was pretty damp and greasy which only added to the lunacy of racing the dark with no headtorches. Good craic all round!

Finally a morning at the Big-G saw us get on Emulator and Bezel, an ok day but the weather had decided to flee and we were in the clag most of the time. Fucking weather!!! 

You can probably tell a theme running through my life at the moment! Whenever I try to organise something the weather has other ideas, but I guess its just a test of motivation! Gotta keep on going or I'll end up crushed and miserable!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Late Starts, Early Starts

The plan for Thursday was to get upto Pen-y-Pass and race up Crib Goch and be stood under Reades Route at about 2. In reality we left the car park at 2 as Toms lecture had dragged a bit, so going at a reasonable pace meant we were under the route at about 4, not ideal really. 30mins a pitch...for leader and second.....shit.

Uber-Alpinist Tom showing how to carry bags for light and fast ascents

After dispatching the first pitch without too much huffing and puffing. Tom had the lead, which from where I was sat (yes it was a sitting belay overlooking the Pass....Fricking amazing!) looked- and later felt- desperate! Hats off for that one! When he finally reached the top and the ropes went tight on the belay it was most definately dark. So head torch switched on I started up. Now climbing in the dark is all well and good if your head torch lights stuff up enough for it to look like daylight, mine however is less bright than a lunar eclipse, and so finding edges for the feet and hooks proved to be quite tricky at times but none the less I managed to haul my carcass up the route! Stellar!

Tom after eating a shit load of mental-mint cake

Rock and roll.....lads on tour

So after finishing the route to screams of 'Run Ueli, Run' we kept going heading over Crib y Drysgl and Snowdon. According to a wandering soul (who we did escourt off the hill safely...ML practice) who had a thermometer but no idea, it was -8 on the top, probably a bit more in the wind....Cool.

So getting back to the Cott at 10.30 I was pretty tired but had a note off another instructor (Poppy) about going open boating at 8am the next day. Who was I to say no, and it would be a good excuse for a rest day! Getting up shattered and feeling increasingly ill the next morning I crawled to the kitchen, and had a shed full of coffee and weetabix. Buzzing!

Heading to the Dee river we got waylaid but some old fisherman person (fucking hell they're uptight!) so had to move on and get on a bit further along. Ah well. Paddling these tank boats is not to bad really, aside getting freezing cold feet its ok, you can wear Dachstein mitts for a start and look like a proper hero. Because obviously its all about the image of paddling. As we floated down - well I was mostly floating and trying hard to avoid rocks whilst the other 2 stylishly went around on the river - we saw what has been called 'the most scenic and beautiful river in North Wales'. It may well be in autumn but in winter its just a river with loads of dead trees on the banks....

It has been  a pretty full on week to say the least so I think some beer drinking and rugby watching is the next port of call for this wayfaring jippo.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

First Welsh Winter Routes – Ironic

So after catching up on some much needed sleep Monday night and a swift Indy session on Tuesday plans were hatched to head up to the East face of Bristly ridge on Wednesday and prospect for some new stuff. With Gaz leading the way we got upto the routes at 930… this welsh winter stuff is pretty laid back! We went straight for the Giants steps route, well I say straight it took a sliht detour as Baggy was sat under the route Gaz had first had in mind. But we got the better route in the end.

Climbing the first pitch quickly and smoothly it was no time until I was shoved onto the sharp end or my first welsh winter route with the prospect of it becoming a new route at the same time! So with some bomber hooks and half frozen turf I swung out onto the side of the pinnacle, a high step later I was crouched in a small cave contemplating the next few moves. Leaning further and further out on a shit hand jam, I managed to scrabble together a hook for both axes. Lurching my feet higher in the cave now and pulling up to lock off the axes to bring my feet up again onto a small edge and a smear out left. I was up and over. Bit overhangy that!

Me on the crux pitch of Dwarf Steps Variation

Chucking in some gear for good measure it was a pleasant mixed romp for another 20 metres to the ridge proper and the end of our route….Dwarf Steps Variation (IV,5).

Gaz heading back to the East face for more climbing

Heading down the ridge we decided it was too early to head back so abbed off the ridge back onto the grassy eastern slopes and belayed under a summer VDiff rib. It was Gaz’s lead and so he racked up and hooked and smeared his was up another new IV,5 Grooved Buttress (it follows the summer route), a good little route! Baggy joined us on this last route as his partner was ill so had left after finishing their route.

Gaz starting up Grooved Buttress

All in all not a bad intro to Welsh winter with the first routes ive done being new ones, ironic really. Theres so much potential for new lines it’s a bit crazy really. Keen to become normal tomorrow and head to the more classic lines that people actually know what they are. 

A wee Scottish Jaunt

So after work on Friday I raced over to the illustrious Ripleys house to get a lift up north with some unscrupulous characters. Cramming into the car we began our pilgrimage across the border to bonnie Scotland. For me it was the first of the season and shaking off cobwebs was swirling around in my head as the miles sped by.

Detouring slightly to pick up a way-laid Monypenny in Preston we carried on going. Not after a quick visit to one of Ripleys mates houses- who wasn’t in I may add- to have a brew. As he wasn’t about nor were his house mates we managed to get in through an open patio door and helped ourselves to a nice cuppa. Despite the place looking like a murder scene we thankfully found no bodies and could continue our journey north.

Hitting Penrith and mummy Ripleys house at 11 we shovelled some good grub (Thanks again Toms mum) and got 3hours kip before squeezing back into the car and making our way to Lochnagar. Not after considerable deliberation may I add, as we had originally intended to go to the Ben but avalanche predictions didn’t look to chummy so we fled like scared kittens to the safer southern corrie.

After the pleasantly flat walk in with patches of ice spread across it (good signs!) the crag reared up in front of us! But it looked so small from the car park!

Racing up the initial slopes and onto a roomy flat ledge we racked up and proceeded to head toward Polyphemus Gully. This I found was a mistake as after climbing the thin and poorly protected first pitch (its meant to be stellar and easy in good nick) I abed off and Monypenny ran up the first pitch of Moonshadow instead. It became quite amusing as we weaved our way further up the route as flailings and knees became Indy campus strength and the power of Andy Nisbet. Oh how I love winter!

Topping out just as the sun was going down in glorious sunshine it became apparent how lucky me and Monypenny appear to be with weather in Scotland. We should definitely climb together more!

Getting back to the car and our nature reserve visitors centre ‘bivvi’ was a delightful surprise! Not only were we treated to a stuffed animal nativity scene but we had a TV (it only played animals mutilating each other but I’d taken it any day!) and a three course meal (cereal, pasta and bacon and cheese cake!) Fucking bang on as the yoofs say!

A pleasant sleep was had for the first time since Wednesday and after repeated snooze button hits we dragged our warm bodies into the cold morning air. As we had to be back earlier to get petrol for the journey home we decided to have an easier rambly day which meant only one thing. TEAM ASCENT!! So with all four of us puntering up Shadow Buttress A having a jolly old time we managed to get back to the car for 4 and head on back to Bangor! With Radio 4 and the world service holding our sanity at bay for a few more hours.

Off extreme birdwatching with Tom Ripley 

Lochnagar walk in

The luxury bivvi and our mess

Monypenny go(in) Pro at being a Hero

Me after the P2 crux of Moonshadow

On an aside during the journey up north we discussed continuing to the north-west. But it never happened as its fucking miles away but it put it into more perspective how much of a hero Mick Fowler is! Legend!! 

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Praying to the Weather Gods

As usual the weather pretty much dictates everything! Over the last week or so its gone from clag and mingingness, to glorious sunshine, to ming again. But in that time funsies were had!

During the first week of ming, I managed to get out walking and scrambling everyday and also had a good root around in the hills for aircraft wrecks, of which there is a list here. Some I found others had apparently been cleared in the 80's something I found after spending time looking for them...D'oh.

With the weather promising to pick up dramatically over the weekend, eager Friday night plans were hatched and rehashed according to who was free and who had remembered that they had work. So finally I ended up at the bottom of Yellow walls on South stack with someone to climb with. It all looked promising! And it was! For a change! We did 2 brilliant routes The Savage and Creeping Leema. The exposure on both is unbelievable, with a drop of 100ft from the heels of your feet to the sea straight down, the hanging slabs on these routes made them and both had very apt names in my opinion. There is a photo on the link above of the pitch 2 crux of CL where a lurch leftwards results in you hanging off a jug feet dangling in space with the sea crashing a good way below you. Brilliant route!

The evening wasn't too shabby either, with a mates birthday and buffet curry organised a good night was had, culminating in a Greek Taverna playing reggae music.....they assure me this is normal in Bangor, aye.

Hungover bouldering the next day was enjoyed by few but the bitter temps at the Cromlech made it all to easy to slink off back to the Cott....only after flashing a V5 might I add. Getting back home and feeling ashamded at being so lazy I headed off to Tryfan to do the Wrinkled slab, a decent SCG3/Mod route up the west face leading to the summit. Was a tad icey and frozen on the ascent and descent, but was worth it as no one else was around (something that's pretty rare on a clear day) and felt satisfied with my weekend for the first time in a while.

Back to the ming weather now though. Hopefully a weekend in Scotland and some more paddling will do the trick and keep my levels of motivation up! Im sure they will!

Some pictures for your perusal.
Rhoscolyn with weather how it should be!

Carnedd Dafydd aircraft wreck from 1944 

Sunset off Tryfan on an icy evening scrambling 

Duncan mid-way down off Snowdon during our pleasant 2hour jaunt

Monday, 9 January 2012

All I Wanted for Christmas was Winter....Fuck you Santa.

Taking a trainee instructors role in North Wales I hoped that the last two years snow fall and freezing temperatures would continue and give me at least a couple of Welsh winter routes in the bag by the time I headed home for Christmas. But alas it wasn’t to be with driving rain and high winds characterising our winter through December. So planning ahead I got myself and a friend organised for a trip up north to Scotland for some education on becoming squalor proof following on from last winters trips.

It wasn’t to be however with the early Scottish conditions disappearing with sky rocketing temperatures across Scotland and as only 2 days possible climbing would be gained I stay home and did battle with the shite weather, mostly by drinking and seeing old friends.

Managing to get only 4 days out climbing in 3 weeks if fucking shocking especially as they were all rock days- no ice to speak of! Unheard of for me- particularly in the last few years. Its pretty depressing really and the only thin making me not top myself is…. Laziness probably because this ‘winter’ is actually looking that bad!

Driving back north to the Cott today I was surprised at how down I was feeling, Ive had a few phases of being very down just before Christmas but that was to do with feeling useless and lost mostly. And I guess it’s the same now, if I cant go climbing and often go for days without seeing friends or speaking to anyone but myself what the fuck am I doing here. Im here to work my balls off and get as much personal and leader experience as I can over the next few months. So my New years resolution is to firstly GO BIG or GO HOME! And secondly to treat this opportunity as I did when I first got to North Wales and do everything I possibly can to have fun and go to bed at the end of everyday tired from exertion not essay writing.

Boom. So Happy New Year everyone and hopefully the next posts you read will be of adventures come what my regarding the bollocks British Weather. Either that or ill divulge some of my Christmas antics involving golf.

For now enjoy some pictures from the festive period and a video a friend made of our trip to Frankenjura in the summer.

On Khartoum (E2 5a - but could have been F9a for all it mattered as none of the rock where i am in this picture was stuck to anything else, it was like trying to swim up overhanging weetabix....not ideal)

Ian abseiling into Ogmore for his first fun times experience

Rob on a F6a+ at Portland (Consumme)

Frankenjura from Michael Bamford on Vimeo.