Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Training! (Mina)

The last few months have been training, training, training. I come from a background of not really training at all, just climbing lots and the occasional pull I have been surprised by how much I am enjoying it! I have done bits and bobs – 6 weeks here and there – in the past, but nothing as full on as this. Part of my decision to immerse myself in training was because I am now a student again. I am studying part time for an MSc in Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy and it is a lot easier to do training sessions around uni work than it is to go out climbing for the day and the course also means I am at home in Sheffield, not gallivanting around Europe. The other part of the decision came from a desire to do better in the Bouldering World Cup circuit this year. I have done a few events in the last three years but I have always competed in them off the back of long outdoor trips – which isn't necessarily bad – but isn't the perfect preparation..... Thirdly, after the comps are pretty much over (after the Vail event) I am going to stay in Colorado for a couple of months to get my outside climbing fix for 2012. So, all in all, lots of reasons to get psyched and get better.

So the training. Essentially I have been a pupil of David Mason who has been helping me out with a training programme. It all began in September with 8 weeks of conditioning. This was a bit of a trial and error phase and I was a guinea pig for ideas. The guinea pig expired. I overdid it and began to fatigue. I have never experienced real fatigue before and it was an odd experience for me. I was tired all the time but the oddest thing was that I began to cry randomly for no reason (quite often during or after any kind of training). I had nothing to cry about so this began to ring alarm bells and I cut the training down. At this point I began to look more closely at my nutrition. The British Team trainings were just beginning and through the team I received a lot of help from Rebecca Dent (the team nutritionist) who has been brilliant. I also got in touch with Optimum Nutrition and Nick and Sara have been really supportive too, providing me with supplements so that I can recover better and get the most out of my training. The crying stopped! Now I have moved onto my strength phase which is more my kind of thing and I am really enjoying it. At the moment I am doing two fingerboard sessions a week (which are made up of assisted one arm pull ups, weighted pull up pyramids and pull downs), two weights sessions a week (exercises like bench press, bicep curls, squats, roll outs and flies), two or three climbing sessions a week and three runs a week to help my fitness. One thing I can really recommend for training is keeping a diary; it helps you stay organised and (more importantly) keeps you psyched as it shows your progress right there on the page in front of you (even if it's minute).

I'm looking forward to a bit of a break over Christmas in London with a couple of WestWay sessions, New Year in Fontainebleau (!!) and then into a power phase in January......

Saturday, 26 November 2011

A Film Of Do You Know Where You're Children Are? E8 6c (Charlie)

A friend of mine Liam Cook, was on hand last August to record my ascent of 'Do You Know Where You're Children Are?" E8 6c. Its always nice to have some kind of record of an ascent but this is a particularly well made film in my opinion. He opted to do away with the usual format of music and fast edits in favour of a more accurate portrayal of the mood of the day: stillness, birdsong, the echo of Huntsman's Leap and encouragement from Gilly mu wife who did a large portion of the camera work.
I like the pace of the film, again leaning towards showing how these routes take a little while to climb whilst at the same time cutting out most of the long winded shaking out time.

Anyway, here's a link to the film on Vimeo. Many thanks to Liam for taking the time to put this together. And thanks also to Neil and Paul Gresham for the belaying and extra camera work, as well as, of course, Gilly.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Indoor Scenes & A Quick Look Back (Charlie)

Very little of interest has been happening on the climbing front this last month except i've been indoors pulling on wood and resin in an attempt to get up to speed for a couple of lines that are filling my waking moments with excitement.

A fine weekend out with old chum Ken Palmer was one highlight, where he did his usual trick of announcing how terribly weak he was after his shoulder operation earlier this year and then proceeded to dance effortlessly up all vertical obstacles in his path.

We had a day at Anstey's Cove for old time's sake and then a day at Lower Sharpnose Point. Bit a sport, bit a trad for the symmetry. Ken eased his way up Fay E4 5c, we both had a play on Monk's Satanic Verses E8 6c (one desperate move sandwiched between jug pulling - not psyched) and I onsighted Culm To Mother E5 6b just keep my eye in.

In the mean time I've put together the footage of my ascent of Walk Of Life from almost a year ago. I have done this more as a personal record of the ascent for myself rather than a jazzy MTV style bonanza of quick cuts and slick tunes. As such it wont be to everyone's tastes as it quite long and it's only shot from one angle so cutting is a problem anyway. Bearing in mind that it took over an hour to climb on the actual ascent, this edit is quite swift......its a long route! Its a shame that neither of my falls were caught on camera, and even more of a shame that the camera card runs out before the top out. C'est la vie. As i said before its just good to have some kind of a record at all.

Check it out here:

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

From Cressbrook to Roacklands to Training (MINA)

I haven’t written a blog entry for sometime now. This is partly due to being busy and partly due to not quite knowing where to start!
 I guess I will begin at Cressbrook in May this year.  Cressbrook is a small limestone crag in the peak district, a stone’s throw from Rubicon. The crag has no topo and is fairly quiet because, similar to areas such as Brione in Switzerland, it is only found through word of mouth. The weather was pretty warm in May and so I started going in the evening and climbing by lamplight to get good conditions. My project was The Hulk, a very basic 7C+ boulder problem. I don’t know if this is just the difference between UK grades and European grades or a style that doesn’t suit me, but this was by far the hardest 7C+ I have ever done! Climbing by lamplight is great; very eerie, quiet and of course cooler temperatures. As my sessions went on I made progress bit by bit and, not having been able to do all the moves on my first session, I gradually pieced it together. The send came as a bit of a surprise, earlier than anticipated! I got a lot of satisfaction from this problem, a real example of how something that feels super hard at the start can in fact be achievable.
So, the next chapter of this blog takes place in South Africa. This is the most remote place that I have been to go climbing and it felt like a complete adventure from the start. We flew into Capetown and then got the bus out to Clanwilliam (the nearest town to the climbing). Here we were picked up by friends and we drove out to Traveller’s rest where we were staying. This drive we did in the dark so it was only in the morning that we woke up to experience the amazing views, the vast landscape absolutely littered with reddy-orange rock. The place I can liken it to is Hampi; in terms of the vast expanse of rock (I cannot compare the climbing as I only passed through Hampi when travelling and have not climbed there). We had seven weeks and it was like being a kid in a sweet shop. I could talk forever about this trip but I guess the most important point is to say that it is worth it!! Go there if you get the chance, especially if you like steep climbing and enjoy friendly temperatures! While we were there one of my aims was to step up my climbing achievements and climb V12, a grade that has thus far eluded me. I put a lot of time into one bloc in particular: Black Shadow. This climb is brilliant fun, steep and gymnastic. I really enjoyed trying it and could manage it in two sections but alas I was not quite strong enough to pull it out of the bag. It did however give me the confidence that with a little work this grade of climbing was achievable for me, just not quite yet...Whilst working away at Black Shadow in vein I also had some successes completing Nutsa (8A), a few 7C+s and 7Cs (including my first 7C flash – Last Day in Paradise).So all in all a happy successful holiday, I’m already trying to plan a return trip!
Now I’m back in Sheffield and the hours and days are whizzing past at an alarming rate. I am training as much as I can, trying to up my game for the World Cup circuit next year. I have always entered the international events off the back of outdoor trips, which isn’t bad preparation but certainly isn’t ideal. Now that I am studying for an MSc, it seems the perfect opportunity to train in a more structured way....hopefully I will see some changes! 


Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Kalymnos & Swanage Indian Summer

After the recent spate of bolt clipping in Cheddar, I headed to Kalymnos with Gilly for Neil Gresham's 40th celebrations. A flippin great team of mates of all shapes and sizes came along and we all had proper giggle. Conditions weren't the best for hard climbing as it's still pretty hot & humid there in September, but amongst the swimming, snorkeling, moped racing and G 'n T drinking I did manage to squeeze in a few routes.

I'd hoped to get on some less steep and more crimpy routes that suit my style more but the conditions were too crap, so i ended up focusing on the more obvious Kalymnian style of tufas and massive jugs in an upside down wonderland. Highlights included onsights of Lactic Shock 7c, Adam 7c+, Super Lolita 8a and Fun De Chichune 8a. The latter route now firmly entrenched in climbing folklore as possibly the worlds most comfortably soft 8a. grades.

Another highlight was going to the new sector ET where Neil has been busy putting up some new hard classics. I managed the 2nd ascent of his route Tyrant 8a+ and can confirm its absolutely brilliant.

Kalymnos Guardian

Beach Life

Rest day essentials

On getting home we were greeted with the fabulous Indian summer we've all just been revelling in. It almost felt like we hadnt come home and so the best place to continue the endlessly overhanging Kalymnos theme was Blacker's Hole in Swanage. The 45m 45 degree overhanging Infinite Gravity 8a+ has had a spate of ascents of late and since Bob Hickish did his new 8c down there the clips have been in too. Andy Long very generously has left his very long QD's in the route and as there are 23 bolts and its so steep, this was the perfect opportunity to go and get it done.

I 1st went down with Ben West from Bristol but, fell rom the top crux near the top, so went back a couple of days later with Tim Emmett. We only had an hour or so of time this day so i (foolishly) decided to just get on it without warming up and go for it. Needless to say i dropped it on the lip by the last bolt boxed out of me mind. We both came back the next day and did the route fine before enjoying an amazing sunset and a swim in the calm warm sea. It was 2 October. Unbelievable.

On the never ending pumpfest of Infinite Gravity 8a+
Photo: Andy Long 

The perfect time of day for red pointing - Infinite Gravity 8a+
Photo: Tim Emmett

Jumping off the top after topping out - 2 October!
Photo: Tim Emmett

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

From Trad to Sport.

Its been a pretty good year for head pointing so far with some quick satisfying ascents of Apophenia, Once Upon A Time In The South West & Do You Know Where Your Children Are? And so it feels a bit lately that I’ve needed to mix it up again and do some on sighting and a bit of sport climbing to get the strength up again.

 Recently this is exactly what I’ve been doing and what better way to start than with wild man Nick Bullock on the wonderfully soft and fragile Red Walls at Gogarth. Now I've climbed a fair bit at Gogarth and it really is one of the most magical places in Britain to seek adventure, but I’d never climbed at Red Walls before and with the bird ban finally lifted we were both keen to get involved.

We warmed up on the Joe Brown classic Left Hand Red Wall E3 5c, 5c. Nick lead the 1st pitch, cackling and chatting his way up the soft loose bands of cheese between the hard red quartzite – a man truly in his natural habitat, dancing his way up the brittle flakes and keyed in blocks with ease. I then took the controls for the top pitch. A Gogarth beauty laced with jugs that you never really want to pull on that hard, and consequently just end up squeezing as an out let for the nerves. Yeah its always good to do a warm up for the head rather than the arms on rock like this, just to re-familiarise yourself with what you can pull on and what you cant, to coax out the relaxed frame of mind. By the time I reached the top I was fully into the swing of things and it was time to step it up a notch.

The obvious choices next were either Schittlegruber, a Paul Pritchard E5 6b or the classic Heart Of Gold E4 6a, 6a. We decided on Schittlegruber, abed back into the belay ledge on Left Hand Red Wall and I took the lead. It was a very windy, blustery and showery day, and we had waited for some time before abing in for a shower to clear. Now as I was setting off from the belay, another down pour came along and made progress tricky with soaking wet holds. It reminded me of Skye Wall back in June when I had launched out on the big pitch I the rain only to retreat. This time however, the climbing was much easier and the shower passed quite quickly and by the time I reached the crux, the rock was quite dry again. It was such a change from the recent climbing I had been doing, hanging about looking for gear and holds, checking for looseness. Although the climbing is easy, it was still a satisfying route to do. Just the right difficulty having never climbed on Red Wall before and not on sighted for quite a while.

Nick had brought along photographer Lukas Warzecha to get some shots, and after getting some snaps of me in the top groove of Schittlegruber, Nick decided that he wanted shots of the same route for his blog. So after doing it once……we abed back in and did it all again. Doing laps on a Red Wall E5, brilliant. Its always an unconventional day climbing with Nick Bullock.

As always, just as it starts to get good it was time to leave north wales. 1 day at Gogarth just isn’t enough to get into the flow properly and start to test yourself on some of the harder classics…but this is what keeps you psyched, and itching to get back for more.

More recently I’ve been indulging in the novel concept of actually being at home and climbing at my local crags. Cheddar south side has been closed for the 2-month summer tourist invasion and so north side has been the only option. Lion Rock and The Remnant boast some short hard sporty routes about as opposite to Red Walls as you can get. Strong fingers are the order of the day here, and as my 10 little digits are in need of some serious bolstering for a couple of trad projects further affield, this is where I’ve been lurking. A quick 1 day ascent of Homegrown 8a+ put a smile on my face. This route was made famous as the hardest on sight 1st ascent in Britain by Ian Vickers in 1997. Wad.

Next day I popped out to Avon gorge with Dick Hall (of Dick’s Climbing renown) to enjoy the delights of a runout E6 6b Pink Ginsane. This is a classic of the gorge and although it gets a trad grade, it’s really a sport route with a mighty runout on it, weighing in at about 7b+. If you fall from the top of the runout you’re looking at a 60 footer. A safe 60 footer, but its still enough to get the pulse racing! I’ve been on this route before last December with the late great Jonathan Woods (it was the last time I climbed with him), and actually on sighted past the runout crux and then got tunnel vision and went the wrong way and blew it a couple of feet from the top. Dick too has ‘previous’ with this route so there were a couple of accounts that needed closing. Avon gorge in the summer heat is not an easy place to adhere to rock. It’s a greasy ming fest. And so like true Englishmen, Dick and I went for it, without warming up, on a ridiculously hot summer evening and frankly got our comeuppance. An hour or so later however, when it had gone into the shade, it was a totally different story and I polished off the route, remembering good times with the Woodster all the way. A South West classic.

Pink Ginsane - Dec 2010
Photo: Ged Desforges

Pink Ginsane - Dec 2010
Photo: Ged Desforges

Pink Ginsane - Dec 2010
Photo: Ged Desforges

A couple of days later I went to have a look at Matt Cox’s Shadow Walker 8a+ at Lion rock in Cheddar. On paper this route should suit me, being not too steep and very fingery and technical. 1st go on it I struggled with a couple of the moves up high, but came back the next day and suddenly found myself at the last move on red point only to blow. I went back a couple of days later and sent it. I could get into this bolt clippin malarkey.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Kjerag & Pembroke Antics

As a freelancer, by far the best way to ensure an influx of work is to book a trip away. Last July, true to form I had a spate of busy calls from productions all over the country wanting to book me up, but alas I had to turn them all down as I had 10 days in Norway locked down in the diary.
The plan for the trip was to go to Kjerag and do it in a long day. The team was Steve McClure, Neil Mawson, Liam Halsey and yours truly. The double whammy after turning down all the  work was that after the 1st 2 day of sunshine the forecast was utter pish for 9 consecutive days. As such the journey over was pretty rushed and we had a bit of a scramble getting ourselves sorted in order to get on the wall straight away. No chilling out and getting used to the style of climbing it was a bit of a kick bollock. Got the boat over that 1st evening and bivvied at the base of the vast crag. None of us had ever climbed anything this big in a day before and we were all excited and apprehensive at the same time. After a 4.30am start Liam and I set off up ‘North West Passage’. A gentle introduction to big wall climbing. 800m, 23 pitches up to about E3 and much of it wet. I was surprised at how knackered I was when we topped out at 7.00pm. Apart from us there were no climbers there at all. The place is firm favourite for BASE jumpers and as we were climbing they kept wizzing past our heads as they tested Newtons gravitational laws to the max.
After topping out, Liam and I had assumed that it was an hour and a half walk back to the road where we could hitch back to the campsite. However as we were marching back we went straight into the decending mist and then spent some time trying to find the right way back. 4 hours later we were at the road, tired and hungry. Thankfully we got a lift down the last 8km of road back to the car. Steve and Neil however, topped out 3 ½ hours after us in the dark and got totally lost in the fog. Thankfully Steve had his mobile phone with him and we managed to direct them via text and then went to pick them up in the car. The full team was back in the campsite by 2am, totally knackered!

Team Wad, and errr me..L-R Liam Halsey, Me, Steve McClure, Neil Mawson

The Bivvy spot below Kjerag

Half way up Kjerag

The Famous boulder choke on the mist on the decent

Sadly the rest of the trip was spent sport climbing in steep caves away from the rain, with me trying and failing to keep up with team 8c. The steepness was actually exactly what I needed to be doing for fitness after my long injury, but it wasn’t really what we had all come to experience in Norway.

So sadly the weather was a big dissapoinment but it was great to go climbing with some new characters in a new country, and we all spotted a truck load of new routes to go back for. Happy days.

On my return to the UK it was straight back to work in Black Island Studios shooting a Blackberry commercial. This was just what I needed, as it would keep me away from the crags for a couple of weeks and meant I could get stuck into some indoor training for a bit and get some much needed fitness. Now that my shoulder was totally better, I wanted to try a hard route less slabby than the trad stuff I’d been concentrating on earlier this year. I’d had a look at James Pearson’s recent addition to Huntsmans Leap in Pembroke when Neil Mawson did the second ascent back in May, and thought it was brilliant. Great climbing, not too bold and not totally desperate, but still pretty hard – it was the perfect route to get on next. Now I’m not exactly sure what this route is called. It seems as though James has changed its name, chamged it back again, put it to the vote and eventually got bored and shuffled off back to Austria. I think it was something like ‘Do You Know Where Your Children Are?’, or ‘Drop Your Kids Off At The Pool’ perhaps? The next weekend I headed over to Pembroke with Neil Mawson. I gave it a quick work on a top rope again and rechecked the gear. The route starts up an established E6/7 called Black Lagoon before breaking left and climbing the beautiful pink wall to join Dusk Till Dawn.
Bizarrely the boldest part of the route is in this bottom section of Black Lagoon, which I had flippantly assumed would be pretty easy….wrong! Its quite hard and has lost a peg and a thread making it bolder.
In the back of my mind I thought I might not yet be fit enough to do this route but as its not very bold it seemed like a good idea to just get on it and see……and I fell off. Off the 2nd crux and on to the peg. No sweat, another week of indoor pulling in London and I’d be back next weekend.

The next day Neil and I had had enough of head pointing and went to find some adventure in the form of the 2nd ascent of Crispin Waddy’s superb Free Masonry, on the outside of the Cauldron. This route has been unrepeated since 1997. It took Crispin 2 years, 2 climbing partners and 2 abseil retreats into the sea to do the 1st ascent. Any route with a reputation like that has got to get the pulse racing and so off we went to get stuck in. Its 4 pitches long, E6 6b, 6a, 6b, 6b and winds its way along the lip of the huge through cave left of Flimston Ridge. After a quick warm up doing 'Friend Of The Devil' E4 6a and an exciting and eccentric approach traversing and crawling through narrow caves we emerged at the base of the route. Neil took the 1st lead and battled hard in the steep grooves, going slightly the wrong way at one stage and getting savagely pumped. Pitch 2 was a bizarre down climb to a hanging stance right on the lip of the cave with the bubbling sea frothing below. Pitch 3 again proved slightly difficult to navigate and by the time Neil had arrived in the cave at the end of the pitch he was totally exhausted. I then had the simple job of following him, but then it was my turn…. Unsure about exactly how pitch 4 emerges from the big roof at its start I decided to head left (lookin in) and spotted an anchient stuck wire. Thinking this must be the way since the route was unrepeated I pushed on into horrendous choss and damp softness. It seemed way too close to the main fragile groove  of the buttress and not the way the new topo indicated, but we had been told to take the topo line with a pinch of salt. Eventually after pulling off various blocks and not being happy with my gear I retreated back to the cave. I then tried another line straight out but didn’t want to commit to going the wrong way and end up lowering into the sea. We decided to retreat as it was getting late and it was now pouring with rain. Leaving a couple of bits of gear we aid reversed the way we had come and avoided the infamous swim out. I’ve now spoken to Crispin about which way it goes and the answer is straight out away from the choss and through some serious pumpy steepness…..a rematch beckons!

Warming up onsighting Friend Of The Devil E4 6a
Photo: Tim Skinner

Neil on 1st pitch of Free Masonry E6 6b, 6a, 6b, 6b

Hanging Belay on Free Masonry E6 6b, 6a, 6b, 6b

After another week of work,  I went back the following weekend to finish off the job on ‘Drop Your Kids Off’/’Do You Know Where’ blah blah…In my view it weighs in at about E8 6c or runout 7c+ in new money. Its an excellent bit of climbing. I cant believe, as a relative local, I missed that one as a new route, and good effort to James for grabbing the 1st ascent on his 1st visit to Pembroke. I need to get my eyes tested!

1st go on 'Do You Know Where Your Children Are?' E8 6c
Photo: Emma Alsford

Monday, 1 August 2011

Skye Wall, Once Upon A Time In The South West & Old Man Of Hoy

Been a long time since i got around to putting down a few words here and its been a busy few months.

After doing Apophenia and hanging out in Arisaig, Tim Emmett and i headed over to Skye to have a look at Dave Birkett's Skye Wall. It was a fun few days and we very nearly got the route done but as usual with this part of the country, the weather had the final word. We spent a day walking in, finding the line and sorting out the moves and gear. That night it rained heavily and so we had to wait most of the next day for it to dry out.Eventually Tim led the 1st pitch (a sandbag at E5 - we thought it more like a bouldery E6 6c) and as he reached the belay it was starting to rain again. I followed up as it was getting harder and by the time i was ready to take on the main pitch it was properly pissing it down. I set off anyway and then found myself about to embark on the crux of an E7/8 in the soaking wet a long way from anywhere and funnily enough had a change of heart. A very very wet retreat ensued and we headed back to civilization to regroup and have a weather check. There was no point in heading back, the forecast was shocking! This route will have to wait....hopefully later this year when the midges have calmed down a bit.

A couple of weekends later, there was a big party down in St Ives in Cornwall in memory of Woody, dubbed 'Woodstock'. A big team assembled and had a great day at Bosigran, a bit of surfing etc before a briliantly messy night in field with some dirty dance music. Goodtimes.
The next day i was feeling pretty rare. But the weather was good and i was keen to climb. Hazel Findlay was keen too and we decided to drive half way home and stop off at Dyers Lookout and have a play on another of Dave Birkett's routes, 'Once Upon a Time In The South West'. Hami had been on it before a few weeks previously and had done all the moves. Her Dad Steve cane along to hekle us for using chalk, and top roping ;-)
Amazingly we both did all the moves on the route that day and got some good links too. I felt sure we would both do it pretty quick considering we had only had a few hours sleep and had had a skin full the night before.

A week later i had some time off work, Hami had finished her degree and the forecast looked ok. I persuaded Hami that it would be best to go down for a 5 or so day and try and get the route done there and then rather than go back and forth a few times. She agreed.
Having had the experience of doing The Walk Of Life the previous November i came prepared. 100m static rope, micro cams, ball nuts, and the super lightweight Sterling Photon ropes which had made such a big difference before.
The 1st day went well. Conditions were good. We did all the moves again, made some great links, sussed the gear placements and where we were gonna place from etc. The top of the route kept shedding holds and gradually kept getting a little harder. This was more of an issue for hazel than it was for me cos she's only marginally taller than a Lilliputian.
We were all set to get on the sharp end the next day, but then of course the rain came.....It pissed it down the next day from start to finish and then the day after it not only rained but the sea mist came in and we sat in a dewy cloud all day. The rock soaked up all moisture into the cracks and all of our beautiful chalked holds and tick marks vanished. (at least Steve F would have been happy ;-))
Then on the 4th day the weaether went to the other extreme and it got hot hot hot! The rock was soaked and we had to wait most of the day for it to dry out, and after that it was just too hot to climb E2 let alone a thin 50m 8a+ slab on marginal gear. Finally at about 8pm we headed down to the wall and had a top rope go each. It didnt go too well. The conditions were terrible. I managed to top rope it clean but shredded my soft tips in the process and Hami was not psyched at all! I finally decided to go for the lead as the sun was setting behind the horizon and it cooled down slightly. It was 9.30pm. I set off and duly slipped off one of the 1st moves onto a tiny cam. this was beginning to get ridiculous. I pulled the ropes and had 1 last go and to my astonishment did the route. It was a fine battle. The top groove was climbed in almost total darkness. Only the white tick marks for the gear placements keeping me on track. An HB1 and an HB2 both fell out because it was too dark to see which way round to put them in and i nearly blew it on a hard rock over in the groove.
The sense of satisfaction though at the top was doubled by the experience. This really is one of the best bits of rock in the country.

Next up was Hami. We returned the next day but surprise surprise it started to rain again. She was under a bit of pressure as she was leaving the country in a week until Oct so she needed to get it done soon. Unfortunately i had to leave that eve to get to London for work, but her dad came down to take over the belaying and she sent it the next day. A truely amazing performance from the lady - The 1st E9 by a British woman. I'm gutted i didnt get to see her ascent, but her dad confessed he'd been rain dancing all week to prevent her from doing it so as he could come down and belay her for her ascent. Swine.

After that it was stint of work and the shoulder was getting better and better. Gilly and I then went up to Orkney for a wedding and took the opportunity to do the Old Man Of Hoy. What a giggle that was. Gilly was 2 1/2 months pregnant and styled her way up it. I can remember watching the televised ascent with Joe & Zoe Brown together with Pete Whillance and Murray Hamilton back in 1986. Ever since then its been something i wanted to do and its a real right of passage for any UK trad climber. The fulmars played their part in the show and dutifully honked their fishy goo all over Gilly's front. It was a grand day out indeed. The locals were so amazed that we had done it we even got a mention in the wedding speech. I would have thought that they would have been bored senseless by the Old Man and the climbers that come and go on their pilgrimage. Surely this would been tedious old news for them? But amazingly we were treated like celebrities at the wedding. And this only a week after dave Macleod had just freed the Long Hope Route on St John's Head....funny old world innit.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Charlie - Bonnie Scotland

The week up to the end of May bank holiday, Gilly, myself and a bunch of other mates went for a week of chilling out in Scotland. The venue was Borrodale House in Arisaig, courtesy of Will and Mandi Dodson, who generally know how to organise a good time and once again they didnt dissapoint. The week was spent soaking up all that the area had to offer, of which there was much. Beach strolling, fishing, Munro bagging, speed boat wizzing and of course climbing. Its also a special place for Gilly and I, we got married on Camusdarach beach last year and i have spent the last 10 years going up to Glen Finnan to work on the Harry Potter films, so we were excited about going back to relive some good times.

At last the shoulders were on the mend, and it hadn't gone unnoticed that the slab that Dave Macleod put up 2 hard new routes last year was only 10 minuites away from where we were staying. Another hard slab? It seemed apropriate to ease the healing shoulders back into climbing hard on something not too steep and the 2 routes Die By The Drop and Apophenia were exactly what i had in mind.

On the drive up Gilly and I stopped off for the eve in Helensborough to visit our good friend Garth. The forecast was looking great throughout the whole UK with the exception of the north west of Scotland. Reports from the rest of the crew already up there was that it was pissing it down, and so the next day the 3 of us decided to take a detour via Dunkeld where the forecast looked better. I'd not been before and was keen to check it out. We were rewarded with a beautiful day of sunshine. Garth cruised his way up the classic sport routes he'd done hundreds of times before, Gilly got back on the trad sharp end after nearly a year with a gutsy ascent of Coffin Corner HVS 5a, and i had a brilliant time doing the classics Corpse E2 5c, the bold Warfarin E2 5c and the Extreme Rock route Rat Race E4 6a (always nice to get another one under the belt).

The next day we were in Arisaig and the weather was terrible, but i made a quick visit over to the slab to have a look at the routes. It stopped raining enough for me to get my boots on a have a quick tinker on Apophenia. I worked out a sequence pretty fast and then top roped it clean. The gear was tiny (3 RP 0's and an HB 3) but the climbing didnt seen too bad. I just needed it to stop raining long enough to have a proper go.

Needless to say it didn't stop raining for a while and as well as that there weren't too many takers on trudging up the hill to belay in the cold when there were so many other activities going on. I couldn't really complain, it was such a beautiful place to be hanging out in, and so many other things to be doing with all our close friends around. I'd just have to bide my time. And what better way to burn off some energy than a bit of old school Munro bagging in torrential rain and force 8 wind. I went to Glen Finnan where i have spent so much time over the years working on the Harry Potter films, and walked up Sgurr Thulim in the most atrocious weather i think ive ever experienced on the Scottish summits, and followed it with a well earned dram in the Glen Finnan House hotel.

The next day the waether was finnally looking like playing ball and Dave 'Noddy' Noddings said he was psyched to get involved. A quick top rope again and a recheck of the gear and i set off. I havnt climbed anything particularly hard for quite a while and i felt more tense than usual. It was hard to commit to the crux step through, and then near the top i couldnt make up my mind whether or not to stop and place the top gear. In the process my right foot slipped slightly and i decided to push on rather than hang around on the small crimps. All in all though it went fine and it felt good to have a bit of a struggle. Dave graded the route E8 7a, but i'm not so sure it warrants such big numbers. My foot sequence is different to the one he used and i think E7 6c seems more appropriate.

It would have been good to have time to look at the E10 Die By The Drop as well but maybe next time. Besides Tim Emmett was coming up to join me the next day. We had a much bigger plan over in Skye.....but that's a whole different story.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Every Dark Cloud..........

Its been a very long time since i posted on the team blog, but that's because I've not been climbing, and that's because I've been injured. The rotator cuff of both shoulders has been giving me trouble since last year and for a while i opted to take the usual climbers option of ignoring it and continuing to climb as hard as i could. The good side of that was that i ended up doing 'The Walk Of Life' but then the harsh reality of a serious injury caught up with me and i had to take some serious time off.

Gilly and i escaped the UK winter for January and February and went to Oz and New Zealand. This was the perfect way to get away from the perpetual climbing psyche surrounding me and experience new things. Spectacular sights were seen, old friends were visited, new friends were made and life was lead to the full. I dutifully rested the dodgy shoulders hoping that the extended lay off would do the trick.

On our return Bristol it was the beginning of spring and i felt refreshed and ready to get back into my climbing. A gentle visit to the wall however left me feeling gutted. The shoulders were still bad and i realised what i had actually known for months - it was physio time.

Typically my response to this was to get pissed off and rebel, so i went up to the Peak for a weekend on my own, stealth style. I didn't tell any mates up there that i was coming and decided to go soloing on some easy grit. It was a great weekend, great weather, not too busy with 2 brilliant days at Stanage. I quietly pottered my way up all the usual easy classics: Old Salt, Surgeon's Saunter, Rugosity Crack, Grotto Wall, Manchester Buttress, Yosemite Wall, Queersville, Hargreaves Original Route, Cave Arete and loads more. Keeping it gentle, and avoiding any epics. It was brilliant, and reminded me that its not all about climbing as hard as you can in order to have a great time.

Then suddenly from out of nowhere tragedy struck. My close friend Johnny 'Woody' Woods was killed by a falling block at Pembroke and all went dark. Woody was one of the most loved characters i have ever known. He was a personality of epic proportions, and the Bristol scene were struck by a collective pain from the accident. His memorial afterwards was a testament to how much he meant to so many people. Friends and colleagues from all over the world gathered to pay tribute to the man, including climbers from Bristol, Sheffield, North Wales, Pembroke, Devon & Cornwall, London, Scotland and even France and Bermuda.

Since that time i have begun to start climbing again and it feels sooo good. I was unsure about how it would feel after what happened with Woody, but i have found that in spite of the agonising tragedy of what happened, climbing is what makes me and so many other people tick. I need it. We accept the risk, we do everything possible to minimise it and then we revel in the environment of adventure. There can be no adventure without risk.

Recently the shoulders have been improving. I have had some great days, slowly bringing up the difficulty of the routes during the spell of amazing weather. The highlight have been:

Climbing with Emma Alsford, Paul Donnithorne & Trev Messiah getting shots for the forthcoming Stackpole & Lydstep Pembroke Guide and did brilliant routes like Splendour E3 5c, Wet Threat E3 5c and Star Shot E3 5c

Climbing in Avon and the Wye Valley with Ged Desforges and Noddy doing Amanita Muscarina E4 5c, 6a, 5c, Hocus Pocus E4 6a, and Flytrap E2 5b

Back in Pembroke doing Wishful Thinking E1 5b, Over The Hill E4 6a, Beat Surrender E5 6b & Undertone E5 6a.

And best of all finding a stunning unclimbed line at the Castle in Pembroke and grabbing the 1st ascent. I'm calling it Time Signature E4 6a partly because rhythm of the sea and tides all around, but mostly because of the timelessness of our legendary friend Woody.

In the meantime, whilst i have been slowly working my way back to form. Some hard repeats have been going on. My route San Simian E8 6c has seen 2 repeats in the last few weeks, from Neil Mawson and Hazel Findlay. Fine efforts both, especially as Hazel took the ride on her first attempt. I'm now psyched out of my mind to get back doing some hard stuff, better stop writing this blog and get back to the physio exercises then.....


Sunday, 13 March 2011

Injury and a Lucky Week

We have just arrived back in Sheffield and our 6 month long trip has come to an end. The last couple of weeks in Font were brilliant – the weather really picked up and it was dry and windy for almost two weeks which is pretty rare in the forest. No rain at all meant that the conditions were perfect, it didn't even need to be that cold because everything was so completely dry.

Around the time the weather picked up I managed to injure myself a bit. I was trying a problem called Pancras that involves (with my beta) doing a pretty burly move on a two finger pocket and when I went for it something when rip in the region of my forearm (nearer my wrist) and I felt it into my ring finger of that hand. Rubbish. I didn't climb for a few days and then began to slowly test it out on some easier climbs. I was surprised (and happy) to find that it wasn't too bad. It is an open hand injury so as long as I keep four fingers on (preferably at least half crimped) then it is fine and I can pull as normal. The things I couldn't do without pain were holding a pocket (two or three fingers) and random things like opening the van door (!). I took it easy for a bit and had to make some changes -like not competing in the CWIF. This was a tricky decision as it now forms part of the selection process for the British Team and I have already been away for almost all the trainings this year. My finger may have been okay but in a competition situation, with the adrenalin and the atmosphere, one always pulls a bit harder and I decided it wasn't worth the risk. So, decision made, I stayed in Font.

This turned out to be a huge blessing. I had basically given up on my remaining projects as I thought I wouldn't be able to try them any more but as my finger improved I thought maybe I could have a little go at some of them. We had six days left of the trip and day one after some rest I revisited Hotline (7C). This is a beautiful high block that is technical and burly at the same time, with a committing throw at the top. I had tried it earlier in the trip and Kook had successfully done it when the conditions were a lot worse. I had not yet made it to the last move and was a bit nervous about it -it is big and committing and you are pretty high. So this time, mindful of being a bit injured, I took a rope to have a little go at the top in safety. The moves were surprisingly okay and after a short practice on the rope I came down and did it first go from the ground -very pleased!

Day two of the last six I went back to Vague Patatras (8A). I had had one previous session on this and was feeling really positive about it, the only problem was whether my finger would be okay on one particular key hold. I went to join two friends Scott and Micky who were trying it and getting very close. My first go was just a tester to see if I could hold the hold still but it felt fine and I got further than I expected. Psyched now, with all three of us getting close, we took it in turns. On my fourth go I found myself at the last move and then topping out the boulder, very surprised! The others didn't quite make it that session but Micky went back and finished it on his next session. Here is a video: 

Vague Patatras, Fontainebleau 8A from mina leslie-wujastyk on Vimeo.

Day three we went to Petit Bois. This is a lovely little crag but it is often damp so this dry spell was a great opportunity to go there. I climbed La Baleine which I have never done before and is a brilliant 7a! I then went to try a problem called Paddy. This is a stunning block, font in a nutshell with a very slopey top out! It was originally climbed by Dave Graham and he gave it 8A but it has since been downgraded by a few people to 7C+/7C. It is a crimpy start followed by lots of slopers and blind foot movements. I think I was lucky to find a good sequence and surprised myself by doing it in four goes, I my mind it can be no harder than 7C.

On day four we went back to the Eclipse roof at Cul de Chien. Kook has been trying Total Eclispe and getting very close but this time he decided to try the low sit into Nouvelle Vague. He pulled it out of the bag very quickly and it got me psyched to try to do Nouvelle Vague (7C). I had tried it before and found it very hard to hold the slopers but this day the conditions were so good that it was like climbing a different problem. It took me quite a few goes but eventually I managed to finish it (with a very undignified grovel at the end!).
Photograph by Antoine Veillard

On day five I returned to Megalithe (7C) at Rocher Greau. I have tried this on previous trips and had no luck but this trip I had tried it once and managed to get past the crux (to the break) and then bailed off because it is high and scary and I didn't know what to do! So this time I was determined. I knew I could do the crux and that the top wasn't very hard – just scary and committing. When I got there I switched my brain off and just climbed without thinking about the potential fall and luckily I topped it out!

On day six, our last day, we went to Rocher Canon and bumbled about in the sunshine, although Kook did some crushing by sending La Baleine (different one) (7C) and another 7C climb there too.

After probably my best week ever in Fontainebleau we set off home, back to reality and to friends!

Monday, 21 February 2011

Some Highballs...

We have been in Fontainebleau for another month since I last wrote. It has been a slightly mixed bag in terms of weather but has definitely been fun. There is a line in Fontainebleau that I have always wanted to climb: Misericorde. It is a stunning, high arete at Cuisiniere that I have always stopped and looked at in awe on previous trips; it is, for me, quite an intimidating line. I had played on the start a year or two ago with a friend but this trip I was determined to make a real effort to climb it. It is very high and, despite the good landing, I was nervous having recently hurt my ankle quite badly. I decided to go down it on a rope to give the holds a clean and some chalk and to try out the top moves. This really helped me confidence wise as I didn't find the top too hard and knew that if I could keep it together mentally, I could do it. The crux for me was a move about half way up where you go for a good crimp with your left hand (before setting up for the high rock up) and I knew in my mind that if I held this move then I could finish it if I kept my cool. After this session we had a bout of rain but next time it was dry I headed back over to try it. It took a good few attempts for me to warm into my sequence for the first couple of moves and then a few more to hold that left hold half way up. When I got that hold I switched my brain off and just climbed! For those of you that have done it you will know that the top hold is a massive jug and it is a great feeling getting that.... even better feeling when you are safe on top though!

Another line I have been keen to do is a 7C called Appartenance at Buthiers. Is is a beautiful arete with very technical climbing and a high finish. I don't know why but I seem to be attracted to highballs at the moment – I think because in Fontainebleau the are just so stunning! I tried Appartenance once earlier in the trip and was able to play on the start for a little bit but then it rained. So I was keen to get back to it and have another go. Yesterday, Kook and I set off in search of dry had rained all day on Saturday and are hopes were getting dashed as each problem we went to was wet. We regrouped by drinking a commiserative coffee in Milly and then picked up a friend and went to check out one last block : Appartenance. It was a bit damp. But closer to dry than anything we had seen and I decided to apply some drying techniques and have a go. The wind picked up and it just got better and better and Kook eventually joined in climbing too. The climb is very technical all the way up with a low and a high section separated by a big move. I had a good sequence (lent to me by Mickey Stainthorpe) and eventually stuck the big move that leads into the high section. Now I was on new ground but managed to find a method to get my heel, then toe, really high and rock up to the good crimp and then over the top. A bit out of the blue and very pleased! Very soon after Kook also topped out! The day was a success after all :)

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Mojo Lost and Found

It has been a while since I last wrote, partly because of weather and party due to lack of psyche. We had a really fun new year with friends in Fontainebleau but most of that was inside playing games while it was rainy and foggy outside. So our psyche took a bit of a hammering at the start of our time in Font. I then went back to the UK for a long weekend to see family and to take part in the British Bouldering Championships that was held at the London Excel centre this year as part of the Outdoor Show. I was quite psyched for the competition and was feeling pretty strong on the rock after some recent successes in Ticino. I was hoping that this would transfer to climbing on plastic (as I hadn't climbed indoors for nearly 4 months), but it really didn't. I didn't feel awful but I felt like I didn't have the raw body power that you get from indoor climbing and also I didn't have the fitness to go with it. Indoor climbing can feel so different and be such a different style to climbing outdoors. I made it to the final and came in 5th place which wasn't bad but wasn't what I had wanted from the day. A real highlight from the day was Shauna Coxey. She flashed all the problems in the competition and was just brilliant. Very strong and powerful, very natural and definitely the rightful winner! 

So with my psyche and confidence a bit damaged I returned to Fontainebleau where the forecast was looking up.

However, back in the forest I was struggling. I was feeling pretty homesick after seeing friends, I had a cold and I was climbing rubbish. I had completely lost my mojo. I was trying a problem in the forest called Les Beaux Quartiers (on the Gecko block) and before my trip to the UK I had done it without the first two moves but when I got back I was getting nowhere near despite the good conditions. I felt very despondent for a few days and even considered cutting my trip short and just going home. I thought that, despite all the climbing outside, perhaps four months with no training meant that I was just getting weak.

 I decided to stop trying any of my projects and just climb things that I could do quickly to get some confidence back and rediscover my love for simply climbing with no self inflicted pressure. It worked a treat. I didn't do anything hard but I had a good time and I tried some things I had never seen before. My wish list grew as I saw more things I would like to try and do, and this in turn took the pressure off my desire to finish Beaux Quartiers.

Here is a little video of a soft 7C at Gorge Du Houx:

So, a week or two later with my mojo back in toe, I decided to try again on Beaux Quartiers. It was a perfect day, 0 degrees. I warmed up on a fingerboard at Maisonbleau and headed out with Kook. I was struggling with doing the first crux move on the link (a move I could do in isolation) but eventually I managed to hold the top of the shield from the start and then I knew it was on. A bit of a rest and I managed to pull it out of the bag. Very surprised – it could easily have taken longer!

Here is the video of how it went:

And some pics:

So now psyche is back and the conditions and forecast are perfect.... :)