Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 in pictures.

Climbing is a frustrating activity, no mater how good your year as been you always wish you'd done more. Looking back at 2013 whilst I've not done lots of the routes I'd wanted to I have done a lot routes that have been on my ticklist for a very long time and a heck of a lots of good climbing. As the reality of full time employments kicks in in 2014 I don't think I'll manage to do as much climbing.

Despite some of the best winter conditions in recent years I only managed a couple of days out. Here is me psyched out of my tree beneath Pillar Chimney on Clogwyn Du.

Being a poor time manager I spent much of my final year sat in the library procrastinating and eating cake. I did manage to sneak out occasionally - like this early season trip to Castell Helen with Mark Reeves.

Ollie seconding Merry Monk at the sadly banned Lazonby Crag. The Easter Holidays were frustrating. The Lakes was freezing cold and covered in snow, but there was no winter climbing to be had. Ollie and I retreated to Cumbria's best kept secret: the Eden Valley.
As if leading Armathwaite's the Exorcist wasn't enough Ollie stripped off and jumped in to cool down.

Climbing a deserted  Point Five Gully on perfect spring day. The day previously we'd failed miserably to climb the Cullin Ridge in winter. This wasn't a bad consolation. 

Sampling the local crag whilst on house hunting trips to Sheffield. Gwen Lancashire cruising Curbar's Insanity.

Doing ten routes at Tremadog during the 2013 Tremadog Festival. Ollie leading the improbably blank Harvey Proctor's Spanking Slap.

Ogmore - a crag for those who are weary of life. Ollie took me down to his local playground for an evening dose of fear on Exposure Explosion. We bailed due to rain and a lack of moral fibre on my part.
Climbing Great Wall on Cloggy in the evening sun. I got dragged up by Luke Hunt but it was still brilliant.

Luke biving beneath Cloggy around the summer solstice. The crag was bone dry for weeks on end this summer and I managed to climb many long held ambitions. The West Buttress Eliminate and Shrike did not disappoint.

The Lakes was also bone dry. Jimmy Marjot loving the top pitch of Astra. The next day we climbed Central Buttress and Saxon. The rock on Scafell is incomparable.

Getting engaged to Nikki on the Menai Bridge - psyched for our wedding next April.

Climbing five pitches on Dinas Mot after work with my Dad. The next day we climbed Longland's Climb and White Slab on Cloggy.

Family Holiday to Cornwall. Here is Nikki and Dad on a team ascent of Commando Ridge - undoubtedly on of the UK's best easy climbs.

The other highlight of the week was the Extreme Rock tick Astral Stroll - an E1 that thinks it's E3.

In August Nikki and I left North Wales and moved into our first home in Sheffield.

Evening cragging at Millstone - it's not bad this grit lark.
Ollie climbing Imaginary Voyage, the classic 5.8, White Punks on Dope goes up the slabs behind him. Our ten week trip to the States started with the Needles. The climbing was desperate, yet brilliant and the place was stunningly beautiful. It was a privilege to climb there.

The dream team on top of the Incredible Hulk after climbing the Red Dihedral. The rock quality wasn't great and we queued all the way but it was a good adventure.

A speedy day in Tuolumne with the Almadad. We climbed Great Pumpkin, Lucky Streaks and the Regular Route on Fairview Dome in the time it took Ollie and Duncan to queue up the Regular Route. I've we'd have been a bit slicker we might have overtaken them.

Finally we got to Yosemite and like kids in a sweet shop started ticking our way through the classics. Here Duncan loving one of the world's best Hard VSs: the Central Pillar of Frenzy

Ollie enjoying the pendulum on Royal Arches, the last route I did before getting kicked out of the park due to the US Government shutting down. 

Ollie climbing Dream of Wild Turkeys at Red Rocks. When the government shutdown we spent a week in Vegas enjoying  brilliant face climbing at Red Rocks.

Congress sorted themselves out and we were allowed back into Yosemite. We didn't manage El Cap, but we did climb the Leaning Tower instead, which was pretty damn cool.

Day two in Patagonia and we're climbing the Whillan's Ramp on Aguja Poincenot.

Later the week we climb Aguja Guillaumet. Sadly the rest of our trip was foiled by bad weather.

Back home in the Peak I was like kid in a sweet shop with a million and one routes and problems that I'd never climbed. Malcolm Scott climbing Crescent Arete, which I pleased to flash.

Mrs Claus taking a well earned rest and enjoying Christmas Crack on Christmas Day. 

 Here's to 2014 I'm sure it will be a good one.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Poincenot and Guillaumet

Phil and Ollie low down on the Whillans' Ramp at dawn.
We arrived in El Chalten, the small, thriving town nestled beneath the Fitzroy and Torre mountains exhausted after four days of traveling. It was cold and windy and there wasn't a mountain in sight. After four days of disjointed sleep on planes, buses and the floors of airports we decided to forgo frugality and treat ourselves to a night in a B and B.

Unfortuanately for us the Patagonian weather gods had decided to be kind for the next couple of days. Although we were still tired from traveling this was too good an opptunity let pass. We enlisted Phil Wesseler - an American spending the season down here, who we'd met in Yosemite - packed our bags and started the long slog to Paso Superior. After a freezing night of man spooning we awoke at four and headed towards Poincenot. We climbed the Whillans' Ramp, which I thought was a great alpine route and not quite as difficult as the guidebook suggests. We had the whole mountain to ourselves too, which was amazing. The views in Patagonia do not disappoint.

The descent took a while but was uneventful apart from a jammed rope and the large piece of bergshund I dislodged. Soon we were back at Paso Superior tired and dehydrated. We set off back towards town. Endless postholing lead us back to the snow line, where we donned trainers and kept slogging through the night. After twenty two hours on the go and with no food left the shelter next to the path was too great a temptation. We put our sleeping bags on the picnic table and dropped straight to sleep. The next morning we awoke to light rain and walked back into Chalten. It was longer than I remembered and I was glad we'd stopped for the night.

After two days of R and R a short weather window appeared in the forecast. Ollie, Phil and I packed up again and headed towards Piedra Negra our sights set on the Amy-Vidailhet on Agjuga Guillaumet. The route was great: a commiting bergshrund led to a fun ice gully, which was followed by a rocky ridge and then the summit snow slopes. On the summit we caught up with another pair climbers. We sat in the sunshine and melted some water, before descending. The descent was straightforward and we were soon back at our bivi. We got back to the road just after dark and managed to hitch back to El Chalten in the third car that passed us, which a relief as I was expecting to spend the night by the side of the road with no food. Cheers guys. Back in town Ollie and I rewarded ourselves with the best steak either of us have ever eaten.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Leaning Tower

As soon as the government reopened the national parks Ollie, Duncan and I drove straight into Yosemite, packed up our very heavy Haul Bag and got on The Nose. We gambled three days worth of food and water and jugged back up to our previous highpoint at Sickle Ledge. I lead and fixed the next two pitches as the sun set. I felt unstoppable.

It wasn't to be. The next morning we bailed from the Stovelegs. Basically we were moving too slowly for the short autumn days. Our lack of prior practice was also showing through: we didn't have our three climber system sorted and every belay was a total cluster.

Back on the ground my body was sore from the attempt and I was angry with myself for giving in too easily, even though I knew it was the right desicion. I also desperately didn't want to leave the Valley empty handed. We didn't have time for another go at the Nose, besides I didn't want to get back on it as a three.

I tried to bully, bribe and guilt trip Ollie into doing the Regular Route on Half Dome to no avial. Like me he also didn't want to leave empty handed, but our failure had deflated him - Half Dome was beyond our abilities. Instead he suggested the Leaning Tower, which I'd arrogantly dismissed as too easy, dispute barely knowing anything about the climb.

An afternoon at Cookie Cliff did little booster our confidence. We backed off a 5.9 chimney (If that is the best 5.9 at Cookie I hate to think what the bad ones are like!) and I hitched back to Camp 4 in a huff.

The next day we were planning on leaving the Valley and heading to Santa Cruz to relax by the beach for the remaining few days of our trip. I didn't want to do this. Instead I opened up the guidebook and read the description for The Leaning West Face - it actually sounded pretty damn good and it's a Warren Harding route.

Mentally and physically tired from nine weeks of climbing Duncan decided to sit this one out. On the first day I lead the first two pitches, a strenuous bolt ladder, before fixing our ropes and returning to Camp 4.

The next morning we returned to the base of the climb and jumared our free hanging ropes. Ollie then lead two more pitches, which lead to the palacial Ahwahnee Ledge. We fixed two more pitches in the afternoon sun, before descending back to the ledge for very well earned beer, dinner and sleep.

After a leisurely start we jugged our fixed lines and continued for three more steep pitches to the top of the Leaning Tower and our first big wall. Big wall climbing is not much like climbing really. It involves a strange mix of terror combined with some very well earned downtime in some very cool places. It is also very rewarding and I'm looking forward to doing more of it.
Harry Potter tries the Nose - I snapped my glasses at the bivi.

Little man sad to be bailing from the Big Stone.

Vertigo for breakfast anyone - Ollie jugs our fixed lines on the second day.

It's amazing where stuff grows.

Ollie aiding on the Leaning Tower.

Ollie ready to eat on Ahwahnee Ledge.

Totem Cams - if you are going big walling get a set of these, they go in anywhere and are always bomber.

Why Gri-gris were invented - for taking selfies whilst belaying.

Ollie experiencing brain meltdown, whilst cleaning the final pitch.

El Cap - still the dream.

Ollie abseiling with the pig.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

It might be back on...

We got expelled from the Valley and ended up in Las Vegas. After spending a night on the Strip we found ourselves a cheap hotel on the Red Rocks side of town. (All campsites were closed due to the government shutdown and the only free camping dangerously close to a methhead encampment.)

We spent an enjoyable week ticking our way though classics in Black Velvet Canyon. The climbing at Red Rocks is excellent: solid, multipitch sandstone with conviently bolted belays and protection bolts for when everything started to get scary! If you haven't been go there, it's ace.

After our week of extravagance it was back to a Spartan existence in Bishop. We stayed at the very pleasant free camping adjacent to the Buttermilks and visited the Happys, the Sads, the Buttermilks and the Pollengrains. As a mostly non boulderer (I'm just too weak and rubbish) I had a great time doing some of the very easy problems. They certainaly don't give the V grades out with sweeties - infact it is the only place I've climbed that makes the grades at the Indy Wall look soft!

Thankfully the US Government has sorted itself out and we are now on our way back into Yosemite. We've only got twelve days remaining in the states. If we pull our fingers out we should have enough time to climb the Nose and the Regular Route on Half Dome, but we are going to be cuting it fine.

Burrows seconding the crux of Dream of Wild Turkeys.

Ollie on Sourmash.

Black Velvet Canyon - not a shit crag.

Thank God for that...

King 'Ledge.

Burrows crushing at the Happy's.

Maddie crimping for Warrington on Mister Witty - V6.

Howard bellyflopping for Warrington on Pope's Prow.

Maddie on the Northwest ArĂȘte of Grandma Peabody.

Melted marshmallows the pudding of heros.

There wasn't much space on the drive to Yosemite.