Sunday, 18 October 2015

Baggy Point

Last time I went to Baggy Point I dismissed it as 'the chossiest pile of wank I've ever seen'. Two years later I'm still haunted by nightmares of the second pitch of the route 'Kinkyboots', where I didn't just find myself thinking I'd die, I actually wished for it. Just to end the vegetated guillotine flake horror of the final slab. 

Against my better judgement I recently went back there to do a couple routes on the massive Long Rock Slab, and actually ended up having an awesome time. Here's a few photos of the day...

Sketchy approach 'path' to the Long Rock

The rope was just short enough to not quite reach past the really scary bit

More bloody slabs

The awesome Long Rock

45m abseil to the ledge

Funky ab in

Me leading Shangri-la

Looking back down the route from the belay

Pat seconding the fluffy but still brilliant upper crack

Posing on the finishing blocks

The mega crack line of Lost Horizon

Pat psyched for the big lead

Pat shitting himself

Pat shitting himself

Pat shitting himself

Finally at the top (but still probably shitting himself)

Long old pitch

Me seconding just before the sustained foot wedge section

Spike belay at the top

Looking back towards the promontory from Woolacombe

Wednesday, 30 September 2015


Three tired, grumpy blokes bickering and moaning their way up the biggest mountain face in Wales...

The north face of LLiwedd

Shit hot climbing team

Staples, Rich and I all slept in our cars the night before, then wearily slogged up the road from the Cromlech layby to Pen-y-Pass. Because fuck paying a tenner for parking. We then briefly joined the masses swarming up the Miner's Track before cutting off round the other side of the lake and wading through bogs and scree slopes towards the bottom of the crag.

The start of 300m of rambling, vegetated choss

I led the first pitch. It was soaking wet, utterly miserable, and I wondered if it was going to be like this all the way to the summit. If so the other bastards could lead the rest of it. I'd already done this route a couple years ago, although my memory of it proved to be slightly less than completely useless.

Gardening my way up pitch 1

Only 11 pitches more to go, then we can just drink whiskey in the layby...

Staples led the next pitch, a vague rising traverse with bugger all gear, and belayed in the wrong place. We think. The route finding was very confusing, everything looked the same. We hung off a spike of rock, squinting at the guidebook, arguing about where to go next. Rich was next to lead so we just shoved the gear at him and told him it was his bloody problem.

Pitch 2

Fat Git Morris goes the wrong way on pitch 3

Rich climbed up to a band of quartzy rock, where we told him to go right. So he went left. Apparently the rock was loose the way the guidebook said. It was loose his way as well, but at least the climbing was harder and the protection worse.

Hanging belay god knows where

Looking back down the approach valley

The face was now more broken above us. Our target was a big ledge system about halfway up, and as long as we reached this it didn't really matter how we got there. So I ran out a full 60m rope length up easy climbing and belayed below the start of a section called the Red Wall. Here the climbing would get harder and harder all the way to the top. Wonderful.

Belay at the base of Red Wall

Staples led the next bit, which was probably the second hardest section of the whole route. We followed a series of small foot edges up a slabby rib, hands clutching ineffectively at the absence of holds. I slipped off like the sack of shit I am, and only just managed to catch myself on a crappy hold, much to the other pricks amusement. We regrouped on a very constricted ledge, encouraging each other with a never ending stream of childish, sarcastic abuse. The team behind us probably thought us a right pack of obnoxious twats.

Staples leading Red Wall

Making a moderately tricky move look completely nails

Rich led the next bit, then I took off up this slabby arĂȘte, running out another 60m pitch to reach a belay below the final, hardest part of the whole climb, a tricky slab with lots of tiny little edges and not much gear.

Me following Rich's final lead

Fun slab pitch near the top

Staples once again set off on lead, Rich and I being a pair of weak, spineless cowards, and soon he found himself perched on some disconcertingly small footholds some way above his last runner. Some final insecure moves led him to the top, us bastards on the ledge taking the piss the whole time. I'm surprised he didn't just untie the ropes, chuck them down, and leave us to it. I probably would've done.

Just as Staples reaches the hard bit, we strike up a jolly discussion about his sister

Looking towards the summit of Snowdon from the top of LLiwedd

Soon enough we were all on top, stuffing our gear back into packs and beginning the long trudge back to the car. At one point Rich became so overwhelmed with laughter he had to sit down for several minutes, wheezing and slobbering like an old dog being put down. I can't even remember what we were talking about. Wanking I think.

Thank fuck that's over, now where's the nearest pub?


And on that note....

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Re-writing Yorkshire Climbing History

A couple of quick highlights from my recent Yorkshire road trip. In each case I found the guidebook descriptions to be completely wrong, and have made the relevant adjustments below. You're welcome.

Great Western HVS 5a - Almscliff

One of the all-time classic routes of the country. The guidebook will tell you to climb the obvious corner crack, hand traverse the horizontal break into a niche, then finish up the exposed right hand crack to the top. This is wrong. What you must actually do is this;

Climb the corner crack, as per the guide, then at it's top place a nut. Fail to adequately extend this runner because rope drag is fun. Then, commit to the hand traverse and get pumped fiddling around with a cam placement. Continue scuttling sideways to where an obvious line of huge jugs lead up into the beckoning niche. Ignore this unsporting cop out. Instead you must continue traversing leftwards, on ever-worsening holds and foot smears, into the horrendously overhanging jamming crack of Western Front (E3).

Gaze rightward in horror at the now distant cam that is your last piece of protection. Note the ground crunching pendulum fall you will take when your knackered arms eventually give up and let go. Shriek hysterically at your belayer. This is his fault. It's the guidebooks fault. It's everyone's fault but yours. With the very last bit of strength you have, wedge in a cam, any cam, and slump onto it. By now your bitter tears should be cascading nicely down the rock to the ground below. Lower off, sulk, then climb the route correctly. Belly flop onto the summit a broken shell of a man. Congratulations, you've just ticked a classic!

The Diedre E2 5b - Kilnsey

A compelling and traditional route, tackling the striking corner line. The easiest climb on the crag. The guidebook will tell you it is soft for the grade. In the same way that water is technically 'soft', right up to the moment you fall hundreds of feet onto it, and explode into lots of little red pieces.

Pitch 1, 5a. Climb the corner via a series of hollow blocks that have no visible attachment to the cliff itself. Protection is placed behind these blocks. Falling off will inevitably cause the whole lot to come tumbling down with you underneath. Every hold that looks good from below will be terrible, and every hold that looks terrible in fact does not exist. When the corner steepens, make irreversible moves onto the vegetated right hand wall. Spend a long time getting desperately pumped gardening for holds you will never find. The various flowers and tufts of grass will poke you repeatedly in the face until your every orifice is dribbling mucus. Blinded by hayfeaver make the final grovelling moves to what the guidebook hilariously refers to as 'a ledge'.

Discover that the ledge in question is an inch wide foot rail on an otherwise vertical rock face. Here you must build a hanging belay. Spend a good hour poking wires into flared seams and cracks behind loose blocks, resisting the growing urge to get your belayer to phone for a helicopter. When you eventually find something vaguely solid you will have no choice but to trust your full weight upon it. Should this fail, see the previous comment regarding an avalanche of plummeting rock with in-situ climber.

You are now dangling helplessly from an equalised cluster of directional pieces. Bring up your second into this unfolding nightmare. 

Pitch 2, 5b. The hard bit. You will not be able to see the leader once he has cleared the initial bulge. Blindly feed out rope and hope he doesn't fall off. Once he reaches the top it is your turn. Dismantle the belay and climb up to a steep corner. Ignore the obvious stack of juggy blocks because they all move, and will all detach from the cliff and hit you in the face should you so much as breathe upon them. Instead burrow upwards on the absence of holds into a hanging tree. Get scratched to ribbons as you prune your way higher. Here a steep crack leads around an overhang, the first of many cruxes. Commit to a desperate layback sequence, get stuck, pull every muscle in your left arm, then fall off. Dangle in space kicking the rock and saying the word 'cunt' over and over again.

Eventually pull through to a good hold, and contemplate a desperate rising traverse left to reach a tree. Execute the hardest boulder problem known to man to reach said tree, and discover the final and most evil test of them all. You must now traverse back right to regain the corner. However there is no protection against a pendulum fall, thus cocking it up will result in you catapulting into the right hand wall of the corner and probably breaking all your ribs. Burrow deeper into the foliage of your haven. Consider starting a new life as a tree dwelling creature, living off rainwater and bark.

Here your climbing partner must either mollycoddle or shame you into committing to the traverse. A series of nerve-shattering moves on holds that will never be good enough may lead you at last to the sanctuary of the corner. Finish easily to finally reach the top, beset with agony and mental trauma. Give up climbing and/or kill yourself. 

Every single fucking route on the crag - Malham Cove

Polished to buggery, upside-down holds, and it's all way too fucking difficult anyway. Go to the pub instead you useless fat shit.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Roaches

I'm going to fucking smash it this trip. Yeah I was climbing like a sack of shite in Wales last weekend, but that was then, and when has anything good ever happened in Wales anyway? Nah this is going to be awesome, it's gritstone. I'm great on gritstone. I only fell off Flying Buttress Direct once.

International Climbing Superstars

Crawling down the M6 in heavy rain and traffic, god I wish all these pricks would just fuck off and let us get to the crag already. Pat's driving, I'm knocking back the beers. Finally we arrive at the Roaches. After bunging all the gear in the hut and meeting all the others we hike round the crag to check out some routes by headtorch. Elegy. Commander Energy. E2s. I was a million miles away from E2 in Wales, but like I said, who gives a shit about that? Raining all the fucking time. It never rains in the Peak District does it? I'm a bit pissed now. I tell everyone that I'll be leading all these nails hard routes tomorrow, I'm sure they're well impressed, and rightly so. 

Back to the hut, more beers, fucking hell I can't wait...

Pat leading Black and Tans

Bright and early next morning, I'm not hungover, result! Quick brew, pack the kit and off we go to the Upper Tier, because Lower still looks like a giant sneezed all over it. But Christ all these hard routes look really steep now. It must be a trick of the light, I'm still going to fucking own them all. But maybe I should just warm up on a few easy ones first. Because, you know. We fly up a couple of Severes and I feel alright, so I raise the game, step it up to Hard Severe. It actually feels a bit tricky but I get there in the end. Nothing's gonna stop me today.

Now it's Pats turn. He wants to lead the Sloth, that massive roof crack that I did last year. With my totally non-selective memory I tell him it was completely piss, I basically could've soloed the bloody thing if I was that bothered about it.

Sorting the gear before committing to flakey overhanging madness

So he climbs up to the roof and chucks a sling around that big block, down to the resting ledge, up down up down, I'm falling asleep down here on the deck. I could've done it 10 times by now. Finally Pat mans up and commits to the roof, cranks round to the lip, places a hex. He tries to get a hand jam, fails, and then falls off. 

Pat searches in vain for the 'massive fucking jug' I sort of remember being there

There's the bastard

But he nuts up, eventually sinks the jam and pulls through, and at last it's my turn to climb. I might do it no feet just for a laugh, seeing as I'm seconding and all that. But when I get under the roof it's actually really fucking scary, I'm shitting myself. So I keep my feet well on, swinging desperately from hold to hold. Jolly up to the lip, quick hand jam, reach up and bang, it's in the bag. That's what I told Pat but I CAN'T GET THE FUCKING HAND JAM RIGHT. I'm hanging upside down, strength leaking away, weakly slapping at the rock and slobbering everywhere. I sort of manage it in the end but still, fuck me, that was horrible. 

It's my turn to lead an HVS now so I do Saul's Crack. I find this one fucking hard work as well. It's obvious that I need a full days climbing before I can lead some E2s, so tomorrow I will get straight on them and show everyone how it's done. Tomorrow.

Some lump of rock called Valkyrie, apparently

It's early evening now and Pat wants to do Valkyrie. I've already done this one as well but seeing as I'm just training for tomorrow I think why the fuck not, be generous, and so off we go. I decide to lead pitch 1 because don't tell anyone but I led the second pitch last time and it was actually really hard, a proper brown trouser job, so...

The horrible awkward crack of pitch 1

Hand traverse higher up. I climb in this pose all the time, and you never see me move, you just blink and I'm somewhere else...

I struggle up the smeggy initial crack. It's because this route is too easy for me to properly engage with, it's not worth applying my talent to. Hand traverse some flakes into a trench belay by a massive tooth of rock, up comes Pat. He doesn't look too happy with what is still to come.

Guess who's about to lead the scary pitch

Well that's his problem isn't it. This route is kind of unique I suppose, in that the hardest bit is downclimbing, not up. Pat grovels up to the top of the tooth and starts going back down the other side. I don't think he's enjoying himself very much. I know this because he's shrieking hysterically every step of the way. I pay out the ropes and just enjoy the view.

Looking out from the ledge, flailing leader just out of shot

Pat reaches the bottom of the tooth and says he can't find the hidden foothold that makes it piss. What the hell. I found it easily when I did it. Still, he manages to do the tricky rockover move onto the front face of the buttress, and then finishes up the easy slab to the summit. Now it's my turn. I strip the belay and gain the top of the tooth, then start the downclimbing. God it's actually really fucking hard. I wedge the left side of my body into the crack, right side hanging uselessly. My feet scrabble in vain for purchase. There's claret everywhere. I'm in agony. This isn't VS, it's E5, it's all gone tits up...I cannot, for the fucking life of me, find the hidden foothold.

I bet it's fallen off. That must be what's happened. My foot thrashes around in space, finding nothing. I scream to Pat for a tight rope. A crowd of people watch in amusement, I wish they would all drop dead. I eventually find the hidden bloody foothold and burst into tears.

Found the fucking stupid fucker

The well protected final slab

I mince up the rest of the pitch leaving a nice trail of blood all over the route. At the summit Pat and I just sit there shivering and muttering, comparing battle scars. I tell him we must've gone the wrong way and done an E5 instead. We fuck off to the pub and more beer. I reckon I'll be fine for some really hard stuff tomorrow though, it's not like you have to downclimb hidden footholds on every fucking route here, right? I'll be a new man in the morning. Now whose round is it?

Pat leading in the freezing wind

Tomorrow comes. I'm not feeling so good now. But I have to try something hard anyway, it's what I'm here for. The forecast is wank so we get started early, knocking out a couple of easy routes, ominous clouds rolling in across the moors. The wind blows, it's freezing cold now. I read through the guidebook, hands numb, Elegy or Commander Energy. Fucking hell, I've got to do at least one of them, I've got to try-

It starts pissing it down. 

Thank fuck for that.