Friday, December 30, 2011

A quick run up Gowbarrow

In an attempt to burn off some mince pies and christmas pud Dad and I went for a quick run up Gowbarrow. It took us about 40 minutes to the summit from home, which wasn't too bad.

The weather was warm and wet. It feels more like October than December, which doesn't bode well for winter climbing.

What can I say... He likes red!

On the top!

Thursday, December 29, 2011


As 2011 draws to a close here are a few words, with photos, about some of the more memorable days out I have had this year.

Roughly in chronological order...

Vanishing Gully
Welsh winter magically to disappeared shortly after the new guide book was published. Unfortunately I only managed one trip to Scotland with Dad. The best route we did was Vanishing Gully on the Ben. It's a short route with fun climbing and plenty of spindrift.

Boysen's Groove

Climbing Boysen's Groove in the Pass with a big group of mates on Duncan's Birthday. This was my first V4 and I had to try really hard, sticking the jug on my umpteenth attempt was well worth it. It made me realise that bouldering is great fun and makes you better at climbing. I should do more of it!

Green Light
There was a thread on UKC about the best VS routes in Britain. The problem is that there isn't a really good Gogarth VS. A few people suggested the likes of Rap and Pel, which are jolly good routes but aren't really comparable to the likes of Eliminate A. Some deranged individuals suggested the loose horror show Green Slab in Mousetrap Zawn. Another option Green Light, tucked away in Smurf Zawn, was also quietly suggested. Dave and I went to investigate and what a route. I've done twice since and still found it totally gripping.

Idwal Link Up
Back in April Livingstone and I ran from Ogwen Cottage to the base of the Slabs. We roped up and moved together/sort pitched our way up Tennis Shoe, Orginal Route and Groove Above. We then ran up and across to the base of the Grey Arete. We whizzed up that before finishing up Manx Wall. Just as we topped out on Glyder Fawr just as it started to rain. We then ran up and over Y Garn and  got back to the car soaked to the skin.
Pinched from Google!

Alex and I drove to Holyhead on a grey day with low expectations and no clue of what to do. We decided on Flytrap, a *** but quite obscure E2. Al lead the first easy pitch. Then I lead the cool traverse pitch into the cave. By this point it had started to rain, but thankfully Flytrap is an all weather route. Al lead up and then started traversing across the green wall. He stood there for an age, hanging on with his E5 arms puzzling it out the moves, he lowered on a loop of rope for more chalk and then committed. Soon I was struggling up the pitch, gripped silly on the green traverse. Al coaxed me across towards the belay. The final moves involve powerfully climbing onto the chockstone where Al was belayed. I gave it a good go, but ended up hanging in space. Wild and desperate for E2.

Pinched from Google!
The Pouce
Nikki and I had a trip to the Alps in June. The best route we did was the Voie De Dalles on the Pouce. I don't really the rate Aiguille Rouge but over the back and out of sight of the valley the Pouce is different. Nikki and I caught the first the lift up. We slogged up and over to the base. It was brilliant day climbing with fantastic climbing never much harder than VS. I managed to keep up with a guide, who showed us the way. The long walk back to Cham was well worth it.

Pinched from Google!
The highlight of year was making the first ascent of the South Face of Chichicapac in Cordillera Carabaya in Peru with Hamish. After our unsuccessful trip to Pakistan the year before it was great to be successful in the bigger mountains. We climbed the route in a long day from a high camp. The climbing wasn't too hard, but was sustained and loose. Getting to the top of the face and realizing that we were the first people to stand their ever was a pretty special feeling.

The line of our ascent.

Me low down on the face.

Hamish and I on the summit.
Death Road
After our climbing trip in the Cordillera Carabaya Hamish and I spent a couple of weeks traveling around South America. The highlight was definitely cycling the death road. Starting at a 4600m high mountain pass and finishing 61km down in the jungle at 1200m. If you are out in Boliva and fancy biking the death road we had a great time with the guys at Gravity.

Back in October DC and I had a quick trip to Devon. We managed the super classic Moonraker at Berry Head, which definitely deserves its Hard Rock status. 

The Lion's Face 
Nikki and I had a great trip to Morocco in November. The highlight was climbing the Lion's Face, the feature that dominates Tafraout. Although, the climbing is never desperate the two hour approach up a steep gully and the lack of protection due to compact rock made me certain that it was no place to fall off.

All in all a pretty good year. I've done nothing spectacular or super hard but I've had some good days out and done some good routes.

A few points for reflections:
  • As far as I can remember, I've only taken one fall this year. That's a pretty poor effort by anyone's standard. The number of routes that I've properly committed to this year is also pretty small. Next year I need to commit to more routes. This will probably result in more falls!
  • Carry my camera more often. That way I won't have to steal people's photos from Google!
  • Oh and don't set yourself on fire in the bathroom of a Peruvian hotel...


Thursday, December 22, 2011

First Winter Route of the Season: The Message

Ian and I have just come back from an abortive trip to the Caingorms. We had a great day out on Tuesday, but it warmed up on Wednesday so we headed home.
White crags and clear skies. Photo: Carter.
I’ve not climbed much in the Northern Corries, or anywhere in Scotland away from the Ben, so we had plenty to go at. The Mess of Pottage Buttress in Coire an t'Sneachda looked the safest bet with the crappy avalanche forecast.
We did the Message, four excellent pitches, with good hooks and runners. I felt a bit rusty at first, but the cobwebs felt well and truly blown away by the time we got back to the car.

Me bridging up a tricky corner. Photo: Carter.
Ian seconding pitch 2. Photo: Ripley.
Dan leading Pot of Gold pitch 3. Photo: Ripley

Me starting up the final groove. Photo: Carter.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


In November Nikki and I had a great trip cragging to Tafraout in Morocco. We flew from Manchester to Marrakesh and arrived just before dark. Soon we'd found our super cheap, super small hire car and were on the road. Eight hours later we arrived in Tafraout after a white knuckle ride involving a run in with the local gendarmerie, a chipped windscreen (the result of being undertaken by a Golf going over a hundred) and lots of narrow, winding mountain roads.

Nothing was open so we had a few hours kip in the car, before checking into a hotel and having a another few hours sleep.  We stayed in Hotel Salama, which is about £20 a night for a double room with en suite.  There were a number of other cheaper options, some better than others.

Nikki by Robin Hood Rock. Photo: Ripley.

We then headed to Robin Hood Rocks, one of the roadside crags in Steve Broadbent's guide.  We did a couple of nice VS routes. The routes were ok, but they weren't as good as they were hyped up to be in his guide. We headed back to Tafrout feeling pretty underwhelmed.

Nikki seconding a VS at Robin Hood Rocks. Photo: Ripley
The next day we headed to Tizgut armed with Claude Davies' guide. This guide is pretty minimalist. Route descriptions consist of: The route's name, approximate length, UK tech grade and first ascentionist. In addition to this there is small photo with the line of the routes drawn on them. This makes the climbing rather exciting and to my mind is much more adventurous than the over starred sanitation of the Broardbent guide.*

Me high up on Tizgut Arete. Photo: Sommers.
At Tizgut we warmed up on a 4c before climbing the brilliant Tizgut Arete. The rock around Tafroute is quartzite. It is pretty compact, meaning gear is either bomber or non existent.We found the rock to be high quality save for the occasional loose hold.

Me leading pitch one of Tizgut Buttress. Photo: Sommers.
We returned to Tizgut later in the week and climbed the fantastic rising girdle traverse Tizgut Buttress.  I wasn't brave enough to attempt Joe Brown's fearsome looking Tizgut Crack.

Tizgut Crag. Tizgut Arete takes the right hand arete of the big crag. Tizgut. Tizgut crack starts up the big corner in the shade. Photo: Ripley.
The highlight of the week was definitely the Lion Face. This feature dominates the valley and came highly recommended from my mate Dave, who described as similar to a TD rock route. I didn't tell Nikki that though!

Nikki on the Lion's Face. Photo: Ripley.
We got up early and scrambled up the long gully system to the base of the climb. This was hard work and committing.  Getting down with a broken ankle or similar would be rather interesting. Eventually after several hours and some dodgy short roping we arrived at the start of the climbing. I felt pretty committed.

Nikki belaying high up on the Lion's Face. Photo: Ripley.
Our postage stamp sized topo wasn't much help so I set off following my nose. The climbing was pretty easy, but very bold in places. Thankfully it wasn't super sustained and there were only a couple of pitches of 5a. Eight pitches later we were chuffed to be on the top. Back at the car, after the long scramble down we were both tired but happy after a great day in the hills.

We had a rest day the next day and visited the painted rocks. These granite boulders, a few miles south of Tafraout, were painted by some mental Belgian, who must have sampled more than his fair share of psychedelics!

The painted rocks - weird! Photo: Ripley.
On the last day we did another nice VS, before driving back to Marrakesh and flying back to wet old blightly.

It didn't rain once in our week in Morocco and I'd thoroughly recommend it to anyone who fancies an autumn cragging holiday that doesn't involve Spain or bolts, not that there is anything wrong with either of those things!

What to take:
  • 60 metre half ropes
  • A standard UK trad rack including hexes and a big cam.
  • Suncream and Sun hat.
  • Abseil Tat
  • Helmet
What not to miss:
  • The painted rocks.
  • Breakfast at Hotel Les Armadiers.
  • A visit to Maison Troc - the local carpet sellers are very persuasive; we came back with a rug!
  • Restaurant La Kasbah owned by the above carpet sellers.
  • Post cragging beers at Les Armadiers.

*I should point out that the two guide books cover adjacent areas and there is little overlap between them. If you want to climb on the North side of Jebel El Kest you need the Steve Broadbent guide. However the minmalist style of original guide book is much more adventurous and it is a shame that Broardbent didn't follow suit with his newer book. (Instead he focused on over starring his own routes!)

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Purile Ticking: Moonraker

In October Duncan and I headed down to Devon for the weekend. Climbing wasn't the main aim of the weekend, but we were both keen to climb the mega classic Moonraker at Berry Head.

I've wanted to do Moonraker for ages. First it is in Hard Rock and secondly it was Pat Littlejohn's first big new route. Legend has it that his partner Pete Biven liked it so much that he went back and did the second, third, fourth and fifth ascents as well!

 Duncan traversing out of the cave and about to get wet legs. Photo: Ripley.

After a late start, because of the Rugby World Cup, and we were found ourselves looking across at the vast, overhanging cave that dominates the Old Redoubt. Gulp!

The traverse into the crag is quite involved - it makes the traverse to the Main Cliff look like walking to Stanage. It starts with some interesting down climbing before crossing the big cave, after which the fun starts. You have to get the tides just right or you'll end up traversing on steep 5b ground. Unfortunately, we got them just wrong and ended wadding for a few metres, before getting established on some steep rock. A few moves later and I was perched on a small ledge, with wet legs, making room for Dunc, more than a little bit intimidated by what was to come.

Duncan seconding pitch ones. Photo: Ripley.

As with most routes of its time Moonraker follows a line of least resistance. However Berry Head is a big steep cliff and its easiest route still puts up quite a lot of resistance. It was with some trepidation that I left the belay, climbing rightwards, hands and feet in a horizontal break. The rock's steep and my arms are weak from the summer in Peru. I'm pretty pumped by the end of the pitch, which was pure class and exceeded my, very high, expectations.

Me starting up the large corner crack. Photo: Campbell.

Dunc dances up the next Pitch and it's my turn again. The long corner crack looks quite tricky, but it goes ok and soon I'm on the top, strapped to the flag pole, looking out to sea.

Carneddau runnings

In September I decided to take up fell running to get a bit fitter and to see the mountains in a new way. I'm not a great runner and never will be but I've really enjoyed getting out and seeing some new places in Snowdonia. Also running is much more fun than trad climbing in the cold. I know I should drive out to the Orme, but it just not me. Besides I could do with shedding a pound or four first ;-) One of the best runs out was back in October. Tom 'Big Hair - Bigger Psyche' Livingstone, Dunc 'the Hunk' Campbell and I left Bangor psyched for a run and some fun.

Duncan early on. Tryfan behind. Photo: Livingstone.

The initial plan was the Snowdon Horseshoe, but we forgot about the Pen Y Pas parking charges. Does anyone know if they can actually enforce their fines?

Me and Duncan running over to Carnedd Dafydd from Pen yr Ole Wen. Photo: Livingstone.

We drove on and parked up in Ogwen. We ran up into Cwm Lloer and up onto the top of Pen yr Ole Wen. Well Tom ran while Duncan and I, ever efficent, walked five metres behind. Once on top we continued over Carnedd Dafydd to the top of Carnedd Llewelyn. A quick stop in the Summit Shelter and we were off again. Down past Craig yr Ysfa onto Pen yr Helgi Du, down the ridge through the bog and back to the car. I tried a sprint finish but I stood was no chance against Livingstone. I swear he's half Kenyan!
Back at the car. Left to right: Hunk, Kenyan, Fatty. Photo: Livingstone.