Chainmail Part… unknown.

Blame a Scotsman. Not any Scotsman of course and certainly not one wandering aimlessly down the high street in Alloa on a Saturday afternoon. Nope, blame that Michael Thompson, him of scottishmountaineer.com fame. Sic.

I’ve not been motivated to write for a while, running across England had been the motivation before and that was done and dusted a long time ago. Climbing has taken over my life, owning me like my forehead owns my hair-line of late. There’s a million blogs which focus on rock, plastic, sport and trad… what realistically can I add?

Then Mike tagged me on faceache. Some sort of chain mail thingy. Respond or die. Actually, that may be ptc’s new record.

Git.

His ‘elevenish’ questions fought for attention and the answers give a clue as to their origin. I’ve had a Bulmers, life feels comfortable yet fast as it travels towards my future. So I knuckled down and hammered the keys but who wants to hear? Mr Thompson does, maybe a few mates too and I need to write more. I need to write period. Keats did and I should…

Stanage

1 – Action Man. The Polar Explorer and the Mountaineer. Maybe the Astronaut too, after all, is that not the greatest adventure? It certainly seemed it in the sixties and all of my dreams and aspirations emanate from those plastic dummies…

2 – I’ve taken a PHD down jacket with me in the summer. Down jackets make the evening bliss instead of bearable, when all is going to hell. I like them a lot, especially some ridiculous -26c Haglofs thing I bought as a sample. I love that jacket. I even sent it on holiday with a mate to Denali.

3 – I wanted to write popping to the shop after a fat line of ket but that’s not very inspiring. Mainly because the toughest thing I’ve managed, was getting to the top of Ben Nevis two weeks after brain surgery and a year after a major accident. I couldn’t walk well, everything was hurting and by the time I hit the pub, I needed those two pints and the morphine. Tough, incredibly.

5 – Waking up and already being there. Unzip the fly and it’s there. Every wild camper knows that feeling.

6 – Going home. There’s always a point on the drive home when I become morose and ponder the point of my life. It happens to others too I’ve noted. Should we go home? That’s the key question and I’ve decided no. So in October 2015, I’m heading to northern Spain to climb full-time and live in a van. I’m psyched. I’ll have little money, be mentally and physically challenged every day and I won’t have to go home at the end of the week. I cannae wait!

7 – The outdoors means so many different things to every person who takes a step from the beaten path. Forge your own way. Ignore advice and do what feels right on that day and in that place. My advice is talk to strangers and be open to suggestion. Smile because you can and eat peanuts. Oat cakes too.

Bela Lugosi is Dead

8 – Age is irrelevant. I’ve had my feet a while and they keep on going. What more do I need?

9 – Music on the mountain is not for me… nah, not for me at all. I tried and it was awful as I couldn’t hear nature’s whispering ways. The wind has it’s own beauty if you allow it to speak to you, I’d sooner not miss it’s song. Turn off all the tech gear in the mountains, be there. Get lost even and enjoy that freedom.

10 – If I had to climb one mountain once and then never climb again… it would have to be a solo of the North Face of the Eiger. I’ve scrambled up the start to have a nose and it’s just overwhelming. If I could keep on climbing but only in one area, then the Snowdon massive would be it. Yeah there’s far better but Crib Goch, Cloggy, the Trinity Face in winter? Brilliant. Home is the UK and North Wales just rocks.

Crib Goch leading to Snowdon

11 – I’ve three days in North Wales next week but on the 23rd – I’m heading to Switzerland for six weeks. Salbit South Ridge, some bouldering in Engelberg, the Eiger. No fixed agenda, just good weather to find and myself to push. Top company at times but plenty of soloing to cleanse the soul. I’m a fortunate man.

Words don’t convey how I feel, nor tell the tale that leaps from my lips when conversing over a brew, alcoholic or not. I’m so psyched for the outdoors at the moment and work has been full on, encompassing. Too much and every day almost. The trip is almost here and yet now the decision has been made to jack it all in and head to Spain… this six week alpine adventure has almost become a dress rehearsal for the BIG adventure.

Thank you Action Man. Without you, I’d have not had dreams big enough.

 

 

 

Sunshine summer shots.

No doubting – it’s been a fine summer in the UK. It wasn’t hard to find blue skies most weekends and even tho I somehow contrived to work too many of them… when I did get out, I was happy to be in Britain.

Lunch time!

The Aonach Eagach on Saturday was followed by Curved Ridge on Sunday. Perhaps one of the best trips to Scotland I’ve experienced. Even the midges stayed calm.

Curved Ridge

Pembroke

Wales played it’s usual large part in my life with a first trip to Pembroke and of course the Ogwen Valley enjoyed some serious heat at times. I even fled to the sea mists of Tremadog one weekend, as the Pass was just far too hot. Who’d have thought eh?

Ogwen Valley

A road trip through France and Spain this last couple of weeks cemented the idea in my head – when it’s dry on this small island, I want to be nowhere else.

It’s been emotional.

Since the year started, the proverbial rollercoaster that people often talk about to describe their life left the tracks and ran me over. Twice. The emotional state of existence has, if I’m honest, been more akin to having the head thrown in a wash cycle of 90deg and a 1600rpm spin. Add 2 hours in a tumble dryer and scalding with a steam iron after and you’ll see why I’ve not been blogging much of late. I can’t even say it’s settled down now as my head’s just been used as a hex in love’s game of chance. I lost.

Thing is, my life ain’t that bad. Work has been busy, I’ve been away lots, the weather has been amazing at times and even that constant work of failure called climbing has been progressing well. I’m still crap but I’m now comfortable with that and lately it’s been a heady mixture of frustration, failure and fun. Like the above mentioned lovelife.

I managed my first VS route back at the start of May. Onsight and only at St Govans… insert here all those americanisms of radical speak to make you feel like climbing. I then backed off the next five. What a loser. I spat the dummy. Had an hour with a coach, seconded for a while and then cheated and got on a soft E1. Then happily banged out the next three VS routes. The head’s a funny thing and mine seems to respond to a smidgeon of recklessness, a pinch of stupidity and a spoonful of the superficial. Yeah, I wanted the grades. Again, a loser but an ambitious one. A politician in the making maybe.

Yep, well and truly shafted this year and even the Atlantic Ocean got in on the act and pulled my pants down.

Easter? This was North Wales

The start of Crib Goch

We somehow managed to squeeze in more than just the one season – climbing season that is. From an alpine-like Crib Goch, Ladies Gully and Idwal Stream, we hit the coast for some bouldering at Port Ysgo and on the way home, a trad route and some sport at Penmaen Head.

Truth - Port Ysgo

Idwal Stream

 

The weekend couldn’t have been improved on to be honest. Those who were there happened upon calm winds, blue skies above and a warm sun. Mountain Rescue were busy due to people being unprepared in one way or another for the high reaches, a shame, as they could have been out enjoying the conditions themselves. NLMC had a big turnout and lots was done, just how it should be.

Chris on Chris' Corner

Liz at Penmaen Head

I fell off…

Finally fulfilled a dream the other week and found myself wandering up Trinity Face, you know, the big hideous pile of rubble that masquerades as a cliff face on Snowdon – every winter, when it freezes up and gets a coating of snow, it somehow garners an attraction that’s not there in summer. The snow working somewhat like beer goggles I guess.

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It had been a cracking weekend, tootling up along Seargent’s Gully with Liz and George and after a solo up some Grade II pitches of ice we’d headed up Parsley Fern past an unseen dead badger that had it’s ten minutes of fame in the next few days.

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Megan joined us on the Sunday for the trip into the Snowdon massive and she and Liz headed off to our right – George and I having decided that RH Trinity was our goal for the day. We’d never climbed together before and whilst I’ve soloed bits of Grade IV, neither of us had led a III – we were slightly excited. Beaten to the start by a rope of three, we hung around on the belay for a while and enjoyed some stunning views. I managed to slip off the crux due to my frozen gloves having less grip than discarded chewing gum and George found the ropes slightly short for the next pitch, which necessitated a hurried belay as I had to strip mine and move on up after him. We had a decent climb, it all went well enough and hopefully there’ll be more routes like that in the future. Of interest to some may be the fact that my Black Diamond spinner leash caught my fall and just on the one strand too.

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I had a bit of an epic as we headed over Crib Goch – dehydrated over the weekend, I kept getting incredibly dizzy and irritated. It took a few hours to get down and pretty much wasted me out for a few days. I was sick all that night and when I finally went to the docs three days later, it turned out I had blood pressure of 84/55. No wonder I was slightly light headed. A good lesson learnt for me, as I quite often push the boat on matters of food and drink. George was a star and I need to apologise for being grumpy up high.

An unexpected weekend after me thinking my winter season was over. Grand, just grand.

Attitude, approach and effort.

Three words stolen from a UKC article, written by Dave MacLeod some five years back.

On Friday evening I managed to pull, swing, hook and push my way up a V3 boulder problem for the first time at Pinnacle. I came away full of beans, really chuffed with the accomplishment and thankful for the great bunch of climbers who had offered advice, compliments and criticism in equal measure and shouted encouragement when needed.

It wasn’t a hard problem in the end, I guess once you can do them they never are but Dave Mac’s three key words drove me to the finish line. Dale told me a few months back to work on small crimps and this was easy enough at the time on the 15deg boulder wall – lots of options for movement and it was going well until… a reset. I looked around and the 30deg panel had the right holds moving across it down low on a V3, way beyond my level but I was happy to practice getting sideways.

Now, I struggle with V2 problems and when I started hanging from the lowest of the V3 holds, I wasn’t managing half of the V1s, including the one on the same panel that had massive jugs. As such, I didn’t ever dare to imagine that the V3 would be doable for me before the room was reset. After a couple of weeks I had the bottom sequence quite neat and decided to make a slap for the hideous looking three tiered terminator of a hold that held residence above a volume, a volume that looked likely to bash a man where it hurts. It felt awful, I felt weak and it was apparent that I needed to be able to pull up with my right arm better, then hold that position for a split second.

Approach.

I went away and worked on what was needed for me to be able to make the big lunge upwards. I did some 4x4s, got on the fingerboard and held the holds with my elbows at 90deg and it was about this time that I managed my first ever pull-up! An overhand one from what I’ve been reading this evening. A few days later and I managed five, next evening I managed to touch the hold before dropping to the floor. A few times. Finally I held it but I was out of balance and couldn’t hold on long enough to sort my feet. Back to the fingerboard after a session on the wall and work the fingers till I couldn’t hold on any longer. This approach to a problem was new for me, normally I’d have just kept trying the problem but that hasn’t been getting me anywhere.

Effort

On Monday evening, everyone mentioned how tired I looked. I’d worked all day after a couple of hours sleep and a working weekend but Alex (the route setter at Pinnacle) had mentioned that day, that the boulder room would be reset on the 11th Nov. If I wanted to do the V3, I had to get my butt in gear and engage effort unlike before. Tired or not, it was time to apply myself and by the end of the evening I was managing to hold the three tiered terminator but it felt fragile and I was out of balance. Tom offered some advice and showed me a way to get to it that he said “looks unlikely, it does work tho”. I had one go and whilst it did feel better for me, I was far too pumped and tired by that point to pursue it.

Approach

Tuesday, I rested after work and ate well. I even went to bed early enough to get some decent sleep. Err, not true as it happens and I went to my lad’s to help him with his decorating till 10pm but when I finally made home, it was decent grub and sleep. Diet and rest is a major part of any training program and this V3 deserved some respect. Wednesday evening I decided to try it just twice using Tom’s tactic and it felt good. My left foot was already in the right position before I even made a grab for ‘that’ hold and I stood for a while just looking at the final three holds for the first time, picturing where my feet would have to be to make use of them properly. I then walked away and tried some other stuff, the reason being that my mind that evening was firmly with my daughter many miles away. I rested properly on Thursday evening, a night out with Tony, a decent curry and just two pints of lager. I was on a mission.

Attitude

In the end, it was a matter of just going for the last holds and forgetting about the fall risk. I fell. It went and Tom, who was there watching, said it looked comfortable and in control. It was but only because I’d put in the effort, sorted my approach and had a change of attitude. No longer was I looking at the problem and dismissing it as too hard – I’d spent most of the afternoon shopping for trousers, a bow tie and some evening style for the NLMC dinner, yet, I’d been psyching myself up for nailing ‘that damned V3’ as it had become known. ‘The hold’ wasn’t an issue. On my first go past it, I’d gotten scared due to faffing around with my feet and dropped off the panel. Sort the attitude, up again and go for the hold. Second go and oops, too far and I grabbed the hold too far left and off I peeled. Next go I held it but got scared, feet again. Then I managed to cross my right hand over my left and there was only the last hold to go, my arms pumped and I dropped down.

Coffee

Rest a while, chat to Stuart who was in the boulder room for his first ever indoor climb and watch some geezer playing on a V8. Straight up to the top I went, focused on the final hold and went for it… I made it and instantly peeled off! Hahaha. Funny as it was, I was gutted but everyone was encouraging as usual. So I rested a while, longer this time and watched Tom, who’d come in to work on the V8 I’d just seen blitzed.

When the V3 went down, only Tom and the chap who’d done the V8 were there but the small words of encouragement to “sort feet” and “go on” were enough to get me to the top and in control. It felt good.

Dave MacLeod had a point – Attitude, approach and effort.