So where to start?
Its been such an amazing couple of months, packing in just about everything time and energy will permit.
It all started back in early september with a long awaited and much coveted 2 week trip to the Needles in California. I had wanted to go there for so so long. I'd heard so many stories about what a spectacularly beautiful place it was. I remember being blown away by the shots of Glowacz on Pyromania from the book 'Rocks Around The World' from when i first started climbing. In particular i wanted to experience a style of climbing that i had minimal experience of........granite cracks. They're infamous arn't they? Hard as nails no matter how strong you are, unless of course you climb them all the time, which.....errr....i dont.
So Garth, Andy, Rich and myself touched down in LA, hired the smallest massive gas guzzler we could find and sped off towards the Sierras. Everything was set: i was prepared for the massive walk in, we were armed with 2 new sexy lightweight Sterling ropes, stacks of new Dragon cams, practically our own body weight in finger tape and Climb On in preparation for the fiendish granite, but there was one thing i wasnt prepared for.......the altitude. Unfortunately my petit pois lungs decided they were not up to the task, at least not for quite a few days.
Over the 2 weeks, Garth and I climbing together ticked some of the true classics of American climbing including Don Juan 5.11b, Atlantis 5.11c and Davey Jones Locker 5.12a. Special highlights for me were Pyromania 5.13b, very nearly onsighting the mega classic Romantic Warrior 5.12b (1 fall on the crux pitch 8....boo), but the overriding memory that will stay with me longest will be onsighting the beautiful Sirrocco 5.12b. Its not the hardest route i did that trip nor the wildest, but the climbing on the top arete is a wonderfully delicate balancing act above brilliantly spaced bolts 25 feet apart to get the heart racing and intensify the experience - a sort of low calorie Master's Edge in the sky. Grand stuff.
Getting back to Blighty it was straight into work mode and a swift change of hat was needed. Suddenly i found myself in a warehouse in Watford shooting a Christmas commercial for Comet. 2 Panavision genesis HD cameras, Primo lenses, focal lengths, depth of field, and circles of confusion......bored yet?....OK i'll move on..
Next up was a Sainsbury's Christmas ad with Jamie Oliver. Very long days (19 hours) and night shooting meant the bank balance was gonna look way more healthy, but best of all......we were filming in Yorkshire.....only a few miles from Kilnsey....result! All week we took over a tiny little village and covered the whole place in fake snow and fairy lights, and filmed the super chef doing Christmas turkey like only a super chef can.....pukka.
My wife Gilly had been working for DMM up in Yorkshire that week too so when the weekend arrived we both stayed up for a couple of days tickin off a few Extreme Rock routes. Saturday we went to Almscliffe. The weather was a perfect autumnal day, hard sun with a crisp chill and very breezy. Needless to say it was pretty busy but it was fantastic to be back on the grit again. I used to climb on it practically all the time but rarely get the chance these days living in Bristol. I did a little gentle soloing and then jumped on the classic E3's Western Front and Wall Of Horrors. Perfect routes as a reintroduction to grit. Western Front is especially good. A local fella gave me the top tip of finishing rightwards at the top to continue the fun. Superb. Anyone who can climb E3 on grit should not miss out on doing this route.
On Sunday some mates from Sheffield were heading to Caley, but we resisted the peer pressure and headed to Ilkley. Good job too. in amongst a great day i finally got to go and do the brilliant Wellington Crack (proper E4 that one) and did a swift head point of Desperate Dan E6 on the recommendation of Andy Mitchell and Dave Birkett who we met at the crag that day. Proper giggle those two are.
On getting back to Bristol and after a day helping setting at The Climbing Academy for the first of their winter bouldering comps, i had a spare day off. It was a stunning blue bird day, chilly but not baltic. A perfect day for Cheddar. I only had a few hours before i had to drive to Cardiff on another job, so myself and Will Managhan set straight off for Spacehunter Buttress. 2 hours later the classic 8a Fornicator Simulator was in the bag. Happy Days.