28 August 2012

Hello my name is Karrie and I'm a part time climber....

Okay... So I may have agreed to do some blogging about climbing. This can only go well. I'm being serious!

There are two (possible) benefits to this...

1. I will have a reference point with dates for when my memory fails me and I can't remember things so well (this happens sursprisingly often, I argue I'm not to old and decrepit I just have way to much to remember all at one!)

2. To Dave's delight I may actually formulate a plan, a clear pathway of ticks "that'll go" because "they have my name on them"...

Worst case I get to ramble on here.

So, from this day on I pledge to climb more scary things outside... I will in the course of the next few outdoor sessions (if the rain will hold off long enough!) formulate a tick list to work towards. I am assuming that after all the summer rain we will have an amazingly dry winter with lovely friction.

Tomorrows climb night will be spent biking instead - forecast is rubbish and poor Mr P has so had enough of indoor climbing!

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24 August 2012

Why climbing indoors is rubbish but not a waste of time

...The snow was turning icy now, I needed a second ice axe out. I cut a ledge and faffed about, my youthful inexperience making me drop a mitten, it quickly rolled out of sight into the mist, at least I had a spare in my sack. Eventually I got sorted and set off up my first bit of steep snow-ice with twin tools. 

Andy had gone off ahead into the murk his boundless optimism and natural athleticism beating my caution hands down. I started swinging the axes and worked my way up a steep ramp that headed left as far as I could see. The axes made a satisfying thwack as they bit into the ice, like hitting a nail well with a hammer, this was fun. I was on Boomerang on Stob Corrie Nan Lochan high above Glen Coe passing the time between Christmas and New Year. I was 23 and mad for climbing. As I gained the ridge the angle eased and I was back to more of a snow plod than proper climbing. Best of all I had climbed above the cloud and the sun was blinding me. The all enveloping mist of the morning gone, just 50m of the snow covered summit cone was out of the cloud inversion and you could see maybe a dozen mountain tops peeping out from the cloud, it was some view. I joined Andy on the summit and as we looked back where we had come from we saw our shadows on the clouds below with circular rainbows round them. We waved at our Brocken Spectres and knew we were seeing something many climbers never see. My luck was in and on my first proper ice climb to boot. 

The sun was losing its power rapidly the day was short and we needed to get down. We made rapid tracks down Broad Gully which was in the same fantastic condition as Boomerang had been. in less than an hour we were back at the car as night fell. Another hour later we were in the Clachaig engaged in the vital but ultimately futile task of drinking our way across all the Malts above the bar to provide central heating before our Arctic night in the tent in the swamp at the back of the pub...

Wednesday night and I'm in the cafe at Harrogate Climbing Centre Its raining again and I'm pulling on plastic. Karrie gets persuaded into joining the blog, It will be good to have a women's voice amongst all these men I think. I say she can write about whatever she likes as long as it not climbing indoors I say I'll delete these posts.

...Last nights half bottle of whisky is leaving me feeling dehydrated and vague as we climb down to the rocky beach at the start of Wreckers slab. We look up at 350 ft of  slab starting steeply and then curving away out of sight. The first pitch is easy maybe Severe, good job its loose as hell every other hold wobbles every sixth comes away and gets tossed down onto the beach. I stand to one side as football sized lumps rain down. I think there is maybe one decent runner in the first 100ft. I lead the next pitch the alleged crux the climbing more VS then on pitch one. The moves  are all the same after a tricky shuffle left at 40ft where I get my first runner, a good cam that sits in rock unlike the pegs on the belay which seem to be driven into soil for the most part. Each move is a high step and rock-over each move taking me further from that cam. I try and focus on just the next move forgetting the run-out above the gear figuring there will be another runner soon. The moves stay the same as does the lack of gear and when I get to the belay below a short wall I have run out 65ft of rope. Pitch three starts with a jamming crack of all things and as we are grit savvy its soon despatched and we even get runners in it. After that the angle eases and we are soon talking about what a great route it was.

 Stuart starts to defend indoor climbing and I rapidly get into one of my rants about indoor climbing doing nothing for me and well its better than going to the gym but it leaves me cold inside. I talk about how the outside is more real and than my mind overheats and I can't remember what I say but I want to explain why climbing outside is better and I can't explain it in one concise sentence. I remember saying that I sort of wished that indoor walls had never been invented. In the past when it rained you had no choice you either went out in the rain or went to the pub. This led to some adventures and a few fat heads when the easy option was taken.

...I get a good runner in the corner and make the awkward  traverse left out to the arete on Brown's Eliminate, A Joe Brown special from the fifties that modern gear has done little to tame. As I stand on the ledge on the arete there is gear at my feet and then I'm looking up at 20 feet of unprotected slab at 5b in old money. That's why it gets E1 I tell myself. I take a moment to get my head together and then set off up the crux sequence, it flows thin edges but in-cut secure, a few more high steps and I'm on the rib at the top placing a runner, my first Extreme in the bag. 

I get to thinking about how we have courses now to teach people who have only ever climbed indoors how to climb outdoors. I'm relieved I took my kids outside climbing before I took them to a wall. I think about Dave Barrans's the UK leading and bouldering champion, a fantastic climber  but who seems to have no great first accents outdoors. Where are his Indians Face, his Cypher, His Careless Torque? does chasing results mean there is no time for pushing the boundaries in the sunshine?

....It had been a nice day in the valley but Cryn Las faces north and its cold this early in the year. We solo up the easy first rocks and then rope up for the first pitch. Its wet but climbable and we are soon belayed  and committed on Main Wall one of the UK's finest mountaineering routes. Pitch two is wetter yet, running with water in places but we push on, the pitches flow until I'm belayed below a 30ft pinnacle of rock partially detached from the main face in the shade and sombre. Ben climbs up the outside and drops a sling over the pinnacle's top and clips it as a runner. He needs to fall over from the top onto the main face to regain the gently overhanging wall. As he stands on the pinnacle's top the sling lifts up round his knees. Scared that his runner is now useless he climbs back down a move, I shout encouragement though I can't help  laughing inside despite the cold and our predicament. He tries this two or three times, each time the sling rides up round his knees. In the end he just gives in and falls over the gap, grabs the greasy holds on the wall and does the move with no gear, brave. I get the famous exposed slab pitch which I scamper up not really savouring it as I should as Ben is complaining how cold he is and his feet do seem to have gone quite blue. We head back to the valley having finished this most classic of routes and spend the evening playing pool.

You see you can take a handful of super sized midget gems and wine gums throw them at some plywood and you have a climbing wall. With its unrelenting flat fluorescent lighting, its climbable in all weathers, skin friendly, clinical blandness all walls are basically the same.

All the routes I have just written about happened 15 to 20 years ago, I have could have written about dozens and I remember them all like they just happened. I can remember the quality of the light, the conversation, the moves even the runners I placed and what I had for tea. This heightened reality doesn't happen to me when I'm on an indoor wall its just practice. Useful but pointless at the same time. I don't think I will remember Wednesday night's tricky green in 15 days let alone15 years.

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12 August 2012

Almscliffe All-nighter

So, me, Bryn, Cosmo and Louis finally consummated our love affairs with Almscliffe by sleeping with her.

As noted in my last post, a bivvy was on the cards. I'd loved being outdoors this week, with the two climbs complemented by a twilight walk on Thursday night. A few other weekend plans shifted around and fell through, so Saturday night looked good. I suggested it to Bryn, then accidentally phoned Louis whilst on my mobile to someone else. He put the word out in the Facebook group we use to coordinate our climbs, and it all came together. Supplies (ie. booze) were purchased and we met at the crag at around 8.

It didn't feel like it would be too intense a session. We warmed up on Boulder 10 - me in my walking boots - before taking up residence at The Crucifix. We dabbled with the rock - Louis ascending The Crucifix in the pitch black being a highlight - and with the booze, threw some juggling props around, as well as a glow-frisbee which turned us all into warriors from Tron, albeit it slightly less graceful. We were joined by Chris for a while, his arrival heralded by the piercing eyes of his hound, Stella, emeralds in my torchlight, skittering through the grass around the crag. She had a good time with the frisbee too, and it was amusing to see it land and then appear to pick itself up and float back to us.

War of the Worlds?

Our beds began to beckon. Bouldering mat mattresses, rock headboards and sleeping bag duvets. Bryn and Cosmo took a spot below Demon Wall Roof, whilst Louis and I braved the open air nearby. A fairly uniform blanket of cloud meant it wasn't as enchanting a night as it might have been - stars and meteor showers alike were hidden from view - and our sleeps were naturally somewhat broken up. I found that my bivvy bag was surprisingly damp, so slept most of the night with my head protruding from it. Hat, hood and buff kept me warm, and this allowed me to see the sky - it may not have been its best, but I'd still rather feel that I was under it. Louis had no buff, and improvised a solution by putting his shorts on his face - apparently surprisingly effective!

Sunday morning haze

Bryn was up first, before the rest of us were disturbed at around 930 by the arrival of another climber. I put my shoes on for the first time this visit and surprised myself by putting The Crucifix to bed with little trouble. A splendid Sunday morning tick, given how achy I was from climbs earlier in the week and from the less than luxurious sleeping conditions.

Sunday morning daze

We gathered our belongings and made our way back to our vehicles. Bryn entertained us at his place with a very welcome cup of tea, and we resigned ourselves to a return to reality. We may have left sweet Almscliffe behind for the day, but we know she'll be waiting for us, and she knows we'll be back.
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11 August 2012

Pumping Grit - Brimham and Almscliffe, August 2012

Between Bryn and myself, you're looking at around eight years of bouldering experience. You would not have guessed it from the way Monday night's session at Brimham commenced. Starting as we so often do in the Pommel area, I approached the left hand end of the gloriously named Easy Boulder, the first bit of rock I ever approached with a mind to real climbing, and scampered up. All good so far, but when I returned to ground level Bryn was having difficulty following in my footsteps. Knowing how different a climb is to watch, I figured I should climb the problem again to help Bryn through. Nope. Couldn't do it. Hang on, hadn't I just climbed this problem? That didn't seem to matter, as I fell off from halfway up. So we moved along the boulder, to the group of problems with the large jam. Surely this would get us into the swing of things? Nope. Couldn't do it. What was going on? For my part, my arms had quickly become very pumped, and I think my warm-up for the night was perhaps a little lacking. Still, we weren't going to be put off and, somehow, pretty much the full width of Easy Boulder fell to our assaults.

We didn't look at the Pommel, or the little quad with the nice arête, but had a play on the slab and roof nearby. I spotted the move for the slab - a high foot, unusual for me to try such a move ahead of Bryn - but Bryn was in the ascendance for the side of the roof, gaining the key moves in imperious fashion. For my part, I threw myself at the problem enough times to get it, with good guidance from Bryn and despite feeling like it might be out of reach for the night.

The Cubic Block area held the main problem I wanted to work on, but I was distracted first by the mantle problem on the slab opposite, the one that leaves he climber pressed against the face of the slab with a ledge to traverse out, and next by the solo up the Cubic Block itself. It hadn't been on mind to do, but the sky seemed to be begging for a better viewing. I enjoyed flowing up the rock - you may not be pushing yourself on a solo, but that doesn't mean it's without merit - and the top-out exposed me to the edge of Brimham, to Nidderdale, and to the sky. The sky... I'm struggling here, but I felt like the sky was washing over me and through me. I didn't really want to climb down.

Still, what other choice did I have? So down I came and had a look at the sit-start to the left of the Cubic Block. I didn't make any progress, and returned to the mantle on the slab face to knock down a bird's wing for Cosmo to look at. On the whole it had been a good session, and the lack of progress was mitigated by glorious twilight seen from on high.

Progress was order of the day on Wednesday at Almscliffe, with Morrell's Wall and The Crucifix being targeted for special attention. Karrie collected me, and then Bryn and Cosmo, and we found Rob and Louis at Morrell's. I felt that I didn't want to tire myself for Morrell's, but Rob advocated a good warm-up on something easier. I tried to take this on board and headed for a favourite old problem of mine at the end of Three Swings traverse. Whilst I did indeed warm up on it, I was quickly diverted into a genuine challenge immediately to the right. Another climber was trying his hand at a problem I'd last seen done a couple of years ago, a few small polished holds and then a slight traverse - still polished underfoot, and with crimpy hand-holds - to the same finish as the arête I'd just done. I'd never done this one myself, and I thought what I needed was someone to show me how. It turns out that what I needed was someone to show it to, as my attempts to find moves for this other climber and explain them to him led me further towards the solution myself. Attempt one and my hand was around the corner, one move off the last move, but my feet failed to find purchase as they attempted to follow lower down. They'd done enough to lay the foundation for the second attempt though, as my hands were more sure of themselves and my legs carried my weight around smoothly enough for my feet to stick to the rock. My hand went to the top (which, from that point, was more around than up) and polished it off, and called first tick of the night.

Back to Morrell's, and one move further than previous efforts. Pleased with this progress, but it was still very challenging, and I didn't feel that this put me on the home straight for the problem, still much work to be done.

At least I could still work - Rob departed after a twinge in his wrist couldn't be remedied by a good taping. Sorry to see him leave, but it was the wise thing to do. The rest of us aimed for Bryn's project of MK Wall, stopping off at the Matterhorn on the way, initially for a play at the low end - a full mantle variation for myself setting the tone - but Matterhorn Arête beckoned when Bryn realised that I hadn't yet climbed it. I'd tried a few weeks ago, in the wake of Louis momentously flashing it, to little and less avail than even on my first attempt last year. This time was different. I powered through the starting moves that had recently given me so much trouble and, once I found my feet above he break, there was no stopping me. I thought I'd heard a piece of advice about getting my hand over to the left side just below the top, so when I found myself sticking to the right and going instead for the top itself I did wonder if I was making a mistake. Not so, as a few adjustments of my hands made the top solid, my left foot went to the hold where I'd been advised to place my hand, and over the top I went with an exultant shout. It had been a long time coming, albeit with only a few attempts, and thanks to all present for their encouragements and celebrations.

Something of a play on either side of MK wall and The Egg left us fairly drained, so The Crucifix was off the menu. We moseyed back down the crag, dabbling with Boulder 10 and Three Swings as we went. As with Monday at Brimham, a gorgeous twilight sky made me want to linger - if I hadn't been due to work the next day, I could quite easily have gone to fetch my bivvy bag. I'd say a bivvy at our place of wonder could be on the cards very soon.
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3 August 2012

Sea bouldering in Kefalonia

Skala boulders

When I last went to Kefalonia I was 17 years younger and had two wee kiddies in tow. I can vaguely recollect that we spent a few days on the beach at a small place called Skala, shading from the late summer sun under some rocks, and enjoying the 'au naturel' dress code as you moved further away from the resort. Returning to the island this summer one of my main concerns wasn't getting an all-over suntan but rather finding somewhere to get a bit of climbing in. This time the kids I had with me were bigger and had started join me in the joys of clambering on rocks. I found we had the chance to head back to Skala after we had booked into the neighbouring village of Katelios, the quiet fishing village we had stayed in last time. From all accounts this had grown into more of a resort, and we found some nice apartments with a pool. In turned out that Skala had got bigger as well since I had been back, and walking down onto the beach there were deck chairs and sun loungers as far as the eye could see. Turn right, though, and within 5 minutes things quieten down considerably- the wide sandy beach narrows and boulders begin to jumble at the base of the cliff. And whilst Skala may be bigger the beach had shrunk- several of the largest boulders were no longer on the beach but instead surrounded by the clear, turquoise water of the Ionian Sea. It turns out that throughout the year the sea shifts the sands around significantly so that the shoreline can vary by up to 20m. Not surprising given that the area was the epicentre of a massive earthquake in 1953 that raised the ground by 60cm. As a result, my initial thoughts of bouldering on the beach needed some rethinking. There were a few options on the beach and I tried a couple of traverses. But I quickly got very hot- it was about 34'c- and walking about meant sand in my shoes, not pleasant. The real fun lay out in the sea- that was where the big boulders lay, I could stay cool in the sea, and falling off should be a lot more fun. First job was checking out the depth of the landings so we got our masks and snorkels on and had an explore.
Keir snorkel bouldering

A few nice easy climbs out of the sea got us warmed up and gave us the chance to do some jumping in as well. Moving around the rocks, I found some more challenging climbs and got used to the Swim Start- much like a Sit Start in that you could get your hands and feet on but stay sat in the water.You sway about, then when the swell comes use it to rock onto your feet. Despite the water, and the polished look of the lower holds, I rarely slipped off, and once up on the rock the pointy nature of the rock meant the water wasn't too much of a disadvantage. Out and drying off a bit I did some more traverses, swinging around one arete onto a sharp, overhanging top- I managed a few metres before the pain in my hands was too much and I took a plunge into the sea.

Heading out of the water at the big hole and heading right
My favourite face was the beachside of the largest boulder, where you could climb onto the face from a dry rock. This had some good looking climbs up a steep face, but was a bit highball and the landing was very shallow. I traversed out right on some beautiful holds, some big handles you only normally see indoors, but only got half way before the overhang did for me. Climbing back on as the water got deeper I pulled into a big hole and worked a lovely rising line trending right, up to the arete. Soon I found myself topping out, tenderly on some friable volcanic peaks, and was king of the castle. I hung about long enough to enjoy the view, and get sunburned on my back, then picked my way down the other side until I was low enough to jump back in- something the boys had been busy concentrating on- before retiring to the shade of a rock on the beach.

 A fun descent
Kefalonia may not be thought of as a climbing destination at the moment, especially in comparison to sports meccas like Kalymnos, but it's definitely worth thinking about. I spotted lots of other rocks around Kefalonia, and even tried to walk into some from Katelios, but the heat and the impenetrable scrub got the better of me.  I have heard that something sounding like a via ferrata is being set up somewhere in the south of the island. I also spotted some nice stuff in less accessible coastline during an amazing day out sea kayaking with seakayakingkefalonia, highly recommended. It's a beautiful island and this is a great way to explore it. You may find some Deep Water Soloing, but otherwise head to Skala and try some Shallow Water Bouldering instead.

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1 August 2012

Out and Proud

Icky forecast, might rain, did rain, stopped sun out. Nothing for it got to go to the Cliff. All the others headed for the Depot, I headed out, almost ran with belief. As I finished warming up a shower blew in you could see it coming, the fields disappearing  into the murk one by one. I had time for one more go on that thing on the far left edge of DWR that Rob flashed and I can't do. I took my chances quickly but no joy.

As the rain came I sort shelter under a lump of Gods finest and waited for the wet to pass. A rainbow came out, that meant the sun was out somewhere. Then it was sunny and windy and drying. So I waited and got back on the problem. Pull, slap, peel. They were the sounds in my head, I kept hearing them. Then I sorted my feet and threw in a half mantle and press move. Then it went, the slap stuck, worth coming.

I tried the Crucifx traverse again, trying a different sequence on that thin pumpy bit that beats me up. I got it eventually its probably a better way, didn't seem that much easier though. And finally I sat and watched the sunset as the clouds rolled away.
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