26 May 2011

Woo Hoo

 After a few weeks on tour it was back to the Cliff (other crags are available). It was grey and sombre and the threatened rain was definately starting now and then. We played around on Morell's wall for a  bit with Bryn and Stu getting to grips with it, if not cracking the code.

Three years ago when my limited bouldering renaisance began the target was Matterhorn Arete. With a big pile of mats under it it was still high but it was pretty straightforward and very high quality with a big adrenaline rush thrown in to boot.

With confidence riding high it seemed rude not bother Crucifix Arete which was this spring's project. It went first go and seemed easy but I think the 20 or so goes I have had on it recently helped.

 So a bit of application and the list is looking like it might be more realistic than it looked a few weeks ago and a good chunk of the year remains.
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20 May 2011

Playing away

One of the joys of climbing is discovering the vast array of rocks out there, and the last few weeks have seen us leaving the comfort zone of Almscliff to pastures new. Well I say new, but this has largely focussed on Caley Crag, which is probably one of the more established bouldering venues in the North. Indeed the sense of history, and the experience of many of the climbers met there, make me feel quite humble. However, I also managed to check out Norwood (and meet some its developers)- one of the more recent additions to the bouldering catalogue.

Unfortunately, the other recent theme has been aches and pains, and struggling to up my grades. Not sure when this started, but have a feeling that a scary 5 minutes spent at the top of a rock at Spofforth, trying to shake out and reverse back to safety, can't have helped. However, being philosophical, I reckon that climbing ebbs and flows and am looking forward to things picking back up again. In the meantime, its been great watching others progress and get some ticks in. And our visits to Caley have lined up some acheivable projects to add to the tick list- Smear Arete, Roof of the World, Scone slab direct and rockover, and a very elusive Flapjack scoop.

In the meantime, I'm looking forward to getting back into the warm embrace of Almscliff- with a month left til Summer Solstice we've got some long summer evenings ahead, and there is no finer place to watch the sun go down.
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19 May 2011

beyond the bracken monster's grasp

Another Wednesday evening  at Caley.  The bracken is above the knee now and the leaves have filled in overhead.  With vegetation and the leaf canopy comes an increase in humidity levels, everything gets that little bit more slippy and that little bit harder.

To counter the conditions, your a few weeks fitter and you have now tried the problems a few more times and you think you  know the sequence. Maybe tonight will be  one of those you wait all year for.

Stuart got the elegant Flapjack scoop by stuffing his fingers into that pocket, that feels like it will grab on to your fingers and snap them off  if your foot slips off.  He didn't slip, but eased up it smoothly.
Bryn returned to something like form and made short work of the aretes on the Scone.

I got a mantel on the back of the Scone that was a little bit odd or maybe not really my style, it went anyway although I was a tad wet at the top.

Stu and Bryn got a  mini tour of some of the other great boulders hiding in the woods. Before we ran in to a couple who were both on top form and  knew were all the holds were.

I next removed a layer of palm skin on the Horn but got a little further and it feels a little more likely after every session.

 A  vintage session? For me no, it was pleasing repeating some of my favourite problems, I climbed pretty well but never quite hit top gear.  The company was good and the woods were a great place to be. I guess I will have to go again next week. Just to see if there is yet more fun to be had and if that crock of gold materialises.
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18 May 2011

Brimham with enthusiasm

Okay, this is backwards, since my last post trailed off with the prospect of updates on the progression of the outdoor season. Almscliffe came first in that reckoning, being the closest of the crags and thus the one that would give the most time as the nights crept out. But now that there is enough light to venture further afield, I wanted to capture last Wednesday's Brimham trip while it was still relatively fresh.

Arriving early after visiting a friend in Ripon, I took the opportunity to park for free in a layby overlooking Harrogate, and to ride my unicycle some of the way to the rocks. 'Some' being a very small proportion of the path across the moor, walking the rest of the way while pondering how much harder unicycling on moorland and such-like was! When I reached the agreed meeting spot of the Pommel area, I still seemed to be early. Also, I was exhausted after my trek/unicycle, so I simply laid on my bouldering mat in the sun until the others arrived, first Bryn and Dave, later Rob and Flea. The Pommel area started slowly for me, my frustration with the boulder we have referred to as 'the easy boulder' continuing - although I did complete one problem on its face, I suspect some of the others may require significant piles of mats to convince me to tackle. Still, I would call it a tick, in the sense that it was something that I had made 'tactically concluded' (ie. failed) efforts to climb in the past. That, I think, is my true and personal definition of a tick, so for me a problem isn't really even a potential tick until it has been attempted (note that first attempts can coincide with ticks). After some excellent collaborative work on the nearby small roof side wall (including my tick captured on film by Bryn, later disposed of by a glitch in the matrix when Bryn attempted to upload, for shame!), we moved on from the Pommel.

Finding ourselves at the back (front?) of the Cubic Block, Rob proceeded to introduce Dave to the problem immediately to its left. Near the tree. Next to the easy block. This one, I think. And Dave seemed to take to it quite well, though I don't believe he managed to top it out yet. Bryn, having mysteriously tweaked his shoulder, concentrated on some scrambling, while Flea and I tackled some of the lighter problems in the area. But it was Flea's boundless enthusiasm and willingness to give things a go which transformed the evening somewhat. Eyeing up the Cubic Block, Flea threw his long limbs, his cheating magic tattoos, and his aforementioned enthusiasm at a bold solo attempt. Now, although Flea's raw natural talent and physical stature exceed my own, seeing this spurred me into giving it a go. Causing Dave to avert his gaze, and Rob to advise caution (through the medium of warning about no spotters and piling all the mats up below a big move), I followed Flea's route up the block. And it was fine. Granted, this means I can hardly have been testing my skill level, but it certainly had one or two points of interest, and was certainly worth doing.

Moving on once again, I soloed another climb, one that I had moments earlier stated I would need to see someone else climb first. I suppose this is a defence mechanism of some kind, one that would allow me to choose not to climb. Note to self, Stu: it's good to try things, and you can always not climb. Anyway, ending up at the Cyclops as the light started to fade, Rob and Dave took on the arete of the boulder to the left, Flea and I explored the variety that the Cyclops offered, and Bryn scrambled some more - darn shoulder! To cap what had started slowly but turned into a very productive and enjoyable evening, I too ticked the arete that Rob and Dave had set the benchmark for.

And then I unicycled back to the car park with my bouldering mat on my back.
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15 May 2011

March(ish) rocks!

With March, the climbing year began in earnest. Birthday time off work, the final fling of a friend's company car, unwittingly good work timetabling, "spring forward" - all these things led to some great opportunities to climb.

I've always been one to avoid work on my birthday, and since Bryn shared that position and birthday weekend, we took to the rock. Bryn suggested Lord's Seat on Barden Moor/Fell, and with a suitably intrepid walk-in we were more or less warmed up on our arrival at the crag. So what did we start with? Lunch. Bread and humous in honour of the vegan's birthday! Set to a surprisingly fine view back across towards Harrogate. When that was polished off, we set about investigating the crag, starting with a walled off area at the far end. It was damp underfoot, though this took a while to notice - so grippy was the coarse (and seemingly rarely used compared to Almscliffe) grit that it served as a kind of inverse tread on our shoes. Two climbs in this area really pushed my buttons - a hi-ball series of flakes and a crack with some puzzling lay-offs. If I'd known of these last year, they certainly could have been considered tick targets, and they were very pleasing to work through with Bryn.

High flakes at the left, puzzling crack at the right. Bryn in the middle.

After this, we moved onto the more open section of crag, where we played on a geologically interesting slab and soloed a small route nearby. At this point the rain came, which coincided well with ideas we'd had about when to set off back for the car. Overall, Lord's Seat would be well worth investigating again, as amazing grit and a fine setting would make for a great day out with a larger party.

Next up, Ellie was unfortunate enough to lose her job when her company hit difficult times (don't worry, she has since gained new employment, yay!). Wanting to give her company car a last run out, she decided to take me and work colleague Dan (who also lost his job; who has also been employed again since!) to her old stomping grounds on the North Yorkshire Moors, specifically the Bridestones in Dalby Forest (not the other Bridestones in West Yorkshire). Meeting Craig and Lisa there, with Craig leading the way. A well photographed small overhang was an early highlight, needing some power moves from myself, some heel-hook grace from Ellie, and some campusing piss-taking from Craig.

This angle makes the climb look very good.

As we moved along the ridge on which the Bridestones sit, Craig chose to depart in order to get some surfing in, not wanting to miss a notable swell - who would have thought Big Wednesday would be on a Sunday? - but he left us with word of a solo at the far end of the area. Finding this, I took it on with vigour, surprising some walkers picnicking nearby. The others were less keen to give this a try, not wanting to get into a situation they would struggle with. A shame, because I'm sure it would have been within their capability.

More or less finally for this post, it turned out that an idle decision I made back in October when planning the timetable for the reopening of my refurbished place of work, Harrogate Library, would have positive implications on the climbing schedule. We tend to do a fair bit of our climbing (not to mention chip van visits) on a Wednesday evening, and for no particular reason back in October I decided to give myself Wednesday off one week, Wednesday afternoon the next week. Go me! It has been generally helpful in getting set for the evening's climb, but it was of particular use the week before the clocks went forward, when a five o'clock work finish would pretty much have ruled out a climb. Instead, Bryn and I took to The Crag (note: if not otherwise specified 'The Crag' or 'the crag' will likely refer to Almscliffe, local stalwart that it is). We focused our energies on 'the project', a hi-ball problem near the wall at Almscliffe's north end, with some twitchy holds and breaks, albeit with a handy scoop in which one can sit half-way up! Some progress was made, but being a move or two from the top of a problem this high is of little consolation when risk/reward stakes are stacked towards the former. An investigation into the potential top-out turned into a scramble onto the top of the crag to view the sunset, knowing that, from the coming weekend, we would have more time to climb before we stopped to admire the fading light.

A coda: this post was going to continue into further tales of the return to Almscliffe, but since I've taken so long to get this posted, I feel an Almscliffe summary is best suited to a post of its own. Which hopefully won't take as long to produce!
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12 May 2011


Nice evening at Brimham last night. Rain threatened but never materialized. I got a couple of problems that were simply to hard last year and a crimpy wall that reckons to be 6b and felt like it was.
Then half an hour trying an overhanging  prow, leap for a sloper kind of  problem that would probably have been a goer before the crimpy wall but made my forearms burn as I misssed the sloper by 2 inches again.

Meanwhile Flea and Stu continued their soloing careers as everyone else looked on. Everyone else that is  except me, who looked away. Still don't like watching  people solo. I can't justify the risk myself  anymore, at least not very often. Easy to say that when you have done your share I guess.
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5 May 2011

How was it for you?

Wednesday night saw the loose collective that is Wednesday night bouldering swell in number to nine. Bothering Caley Crag boulders on another sun dappled evening I think pretty much everyone got something from the session. Hostilities commenced under the wonderfully named Roof of the World with many people finding a way to get up some steep ground with big holds, Ellie seems likely to remember her ascent for a while yet.

I had been looking at the aptly named Smear Arete over the weekend but didn't fancy the landing with a single pad. With another pad thown under it though it was actually pretty straight forward and of top quality as long as you like smearing.
Finally after a few other diversions everyone ended up at the lovely Flapjack boulder trying all kinds of things.  People then  either gaining a smile from padding up  the excellent scoop problem or nashing their teeth trying to stand up in that pocket "just one more time". Stuart seemed more determined than most and a sideways dismount left him with a bruised shoulder as he missed the mat and hit a good size lump of grit.  Leeds import Andy then proving he didn't need his fingers to do it just good foot work and belief.

So a couple of problems that snook onto my list at the weekend are now ticked off and  after  many false starts I finally get some progress. More importantly it was a lovely evening.
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