29 December 2011

Boulder Britain - Grimer's Fairytale

Fresh off Santa's Sleigh comes the much needed Boulder Britain by  the sometimes outspoken Niall Grimes.  I was worried this book would be about Grimer's ego as some of his writing has been and his Somewhat novel approach to international relations worried me yet further. That style got him noticed, more recently he is known for his guidebook work.

I need not have worried aside from the occasional personal touch this is a classically written guide. Grimer loves climbing and and this guide looks certain to do for bouldering what Classic Rock and Hard Rock did for trad climbing way back when.
The guide is a well conceived, finely crafted and encyclopaedic guide. It weighs in at a Kilo but its not a coffee table book, it will work just fine as a guide. It  includes many and for all I know, most of the best bouldering we have on this small but rocky Island. Actually despite the fact that Grimer always appeared to portrays himself in his writing as an idiot who hated people, what shone through was his knowledge of climbers and climbing. This book as much as anything is, a homage to bouldering as a wonderfully pointless and deeply satisfying way to spend some time before you die.
The book is easy to use, beautifully illustrated and feels like a brave attempt to fully document the state of the Bouldering nation. We are now  50 or so years after people first started climbing on small rocks and recording what they did.
There are more than a few nods to UK bouldering with a page offering Waddage to the worthy and a few of the high quality pictures being of DFBWGC. It also has a graded list which I'm sure will spark as much debate as ever.

Each crag or area is described briefly with coverage on the type of problems you can expect, when it gets the sun, what time of year it likely to be in peak condition and a description of the problems and the grade range. Inevitabley there is only room to describe a few of the problems at any particular venue. So there will be some people's favourites that are missing. Most of the classics and many of the modern desperates are in there though.
There is also what seems like a sensible attempt to settle on the more graduated Font grading system alone, rather than to combine it with V grades as some guides have in the past. I also like the idea of extending the grading downwards to include 3, 2 and 1 so that  beginners can feel included too. Even though we are poorly stocked with lower grade problems as a country compared to other parts of the world. This seems better than  "VB" which seemed not to cater for children or newcomers at all well.Some of the grades are wayward but your asking an enormous amount to get thousands right and grading boulder problems at a grade that you don't really operate at, is notoriously difficult as one man's 5+ is another's 6B.

There are what for many are the "main" venues in both Yorkshire, Northumberland and the Peak that I was pretty familiar with. As well as  the ones in the Pass and the Lakes that I have played on in the past.  Then there are hundreds of places that I had either never heard of, or never been to. Loads in the South West, Scotland, the Midlands, Southern Sandstone and the North West. Chuck this book in a bag with your boots and a chalk bag and there won't be many places in the UK where you won't be able to pull on a some small holds if you find yourself there.
I'm going to stop short of saying this is a must buy, but  at the very least get a mate to buy it and then borrow it on long term loan. Facts  have to be faced though this is a brilliant book and we are lucky too have it.

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24 December 2011

Well I have said it now

I had a good year last year. I led a few great routes and pushed the bouldering grade a bit. I only got about half my list but there were a few things that I was pretty pleased with and one or two where I surprised myself. I went to some beautiful places, with some great people and a had a few laughs and gained a few memories to keep me warm.

This coming year has to be about one thing really amongst all other diversions. Twenty years ago I stood and looked at Pebble Wall at the Cliff (the narrow, lighter streak on the right of this picture) and thought it looked impossible. I failed to see how any human had ever climbed it. I saw no holds and no way I would even be able to get off the ground.
It is now a classic, one of Al Manson's many strong fingered, high quality legacies. Perhaps the most famous problem at the Cliff in the middle grades. You rock over onto your right foot in the break and then use two small pebbles to stand up on your foot and gain the top. Word is it's all in the feet and you need strong fingers. So as I often say - It has my name all over it.

In the twenty years that have passed since I first looked at Pebble Wall. Bouldering standards have spiralled upwards wildly. What was once exceptional for a very small elite, is now if not mainstream, at least common place. Like the Pommel though, you see many try it and not so many climb it.

As boulderers now we have mats, super sticky rubber and communities devoted to sharing information (beta). I now see holds all over the wall and have the moves in my head. Both from watching people climb it in real life and on video. I have done similar problems on the bouldering walls I pretend to loathe, but which are responsible forkeeping me fitter than I have been for years. I too have a realistic chance of climbing it.

If I get up it I won't join the elite, bit I can get back to the cutting edge of my youth. This was the long term goal three years ago when I started taking my climbing a little more seriously. 2012 will be the year when my theories about improvement are put to the test. I still need to lose a few more pounds. I will need some good spotters and all the beta I can find but there is no reason not to start trying.
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19 December 2011

Worth every Penny

The Mountain rescue are all over the media at the moment saying their volunteers are struggling to raise funds to allow them to go on all the callouts they  are being asked too. Worth bearing in mind that if you ever come a cropper, more than a few hundred yards from a road. It's the rescue who will get you on your way to hospital. With this in mind and because they are volunteers. I have put a few quid in the pot via the giving link on their site.
They once came looking for me when I nearly got into bother on top of a moor, in some pretty iffy conditions. Despite mine and a few of my friends stupidity. They calmly came looking for us and didn't give us the earful we probably deserved. Even when we all turned up late, but safe. If you are careful you should never need them, but nice to know they are there.

Oh and on the continent in certain places. No insurance and they leave you where they find you and that seems barbaric.
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18 December 2011

Pommel Pumelled

David's handcare by Pomelle

It was cold as I got to Brimham. I  had the traction control going on the drive in and the sun was in a cloudless sky. Perfect conditions for bouldering. I could only claim the slightest of hangovers, my back was fine and the Pommel when I got to it, was bone dry. Getting warmed up was proving harder.  In the dip in which  the boulders sit there was a lot of freezing air. I think I traversed around for half an hour or so before I could feel my fingers warming through. Then with the sun on my back I was able to shed a few layers.
A couple arrived fresh from a Saturday on Stanage where it had been minus five at lunchtime and we started ticking off a few problems. I had a couple of goes at the Pommel got my hands on top but again no further. Then on go three I got the top, slapped for the "jug"and resorted to  a version of the Gritstone swim of terror to seem me over the top. Actually my style wasn't too bad in the end and as it's my first V4 I will let myself off.
By now a cast of thousands had arrived and the whole area had mats at the bottom and people were trying all sorts of things. Many tried the Pommel and a few hollow cheeked, hard types got it. Just as many got shrugged off. Perhaps it is quite tricky after all.
I polished off a few favourite problems and got a crimpy 6b wall I had done in the summer at full power with out too much drama. Then drove back home for lunch.
That may be the last session this year and if it is I'm happy. The list thing has meant I have improved probably a whole grade not bad for a man of 43. On to Tick Tock 2012 now.
Thanks to everyone who provided encouragement or spotting duties this year. Special thanks are owed to the following. Stu, Bryn, Karrie, Andy Crome, Andy Glasiter, Dean and Rob and my family for tolerating all those trips to Brimham to stand around watching me fail and chunter under my breath.
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7 December 2011

Tick Lists

Bryn Hoyle
Left Rib
South Cave crack
Lead some more VS routes, and second some HVS
Flapjack scoop (getting stressed just typing this!)
Other stuff:
Bike and boulder round Stainburn Forest
Boulder and bivvy
Get some Sunday picnic day trips in- Widdop, Round Hill etc.
Session and document Little Amscliff

Stuart Wetherell
Matterhorn Arete
Cubic Block Area, Unnamed Problem - Started 25.02.2012
Fag Slab (Solo) - Started 25.02.2012
Pommel Area Small Roof Side Wall - Ticked, Summer 2011
Pommel Area Easy Boulder - Ticked, Summer 2011

Chips - Ticked, Summer 2011
Flapjack Scoop - Ticked, Summer 2011
Roof of the World - Ticked, Summer 2011
Left Rib
South Cave crack
Lead some more VS routes, and second some HVS

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2 December 2011

On right and wrong

The stars and the planets were coming out of the blueblack now. You could see satellites going across amongst the planets. My fingers and toes were thobbing a bit. The company was good as the conversation flowed and rambled pleasantly. I could feel the stored warmth of the Cliff on my back radiating into me and on into the void of night.
This late September evening delivered this year's best moments on rock. Not the climbing which had been ok, but weirdly being here now. My arse, back and heels in contact with the grit. Lying there looking up feeling part of this all enveloping whole.
I was being self indulgant and romatic clearly. Yet once again I had enjoyed being outside in an Almscliff dusk. I was experiencing Joe Simpson's "head full of magic" and what Ofsted call "awe and wonder" when they inspect RE lessons.

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