Thursday, 30 October 2008

I got the yellow traverse!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Sandstone and the faults of the English grading system.

This is just a theoretical piece concerning how soft sandstone is graded currently in the English grading system in regard to my possible trip to High Rocks (Tunbridge Wells) this weekend. The problem with soft sandstone is that it is well on impossible to place any meaningful gear in the rock, thus disposing every route to the two extremes of top-roping or soloing. The Climbing Club has recently made, quite bravely, an attempt to move away from the traditional climber elitism by describing the sandstone routes purely by an English tech grade. 

This has created the discourse that routes on sandstone are always open to top-roping above soloing; by disregarding the adjective grade (VS, HVS, E1 etc) the routes become mere technical feats, the style of the ascent becomes unimportant. On the positive side, this grading has helped bring the climbs of the snobbish elite acceptably into the realm of your average climber who can just 'have a go' without worrying he is going to die at every route of the quarry. The obvious drawback of this, is that all the routes are top-ropes! All the joy and fear of the lead are quelled and the crag basically becomes an open-air indoor wall. 

The Sandstone Outcrops of the Forest of Dean guide has tried to avoid this lack of seriousness, by not only giving these solos technical grades, but also an E grade which is largely based around the height of the route, where the crux is and how far the climber is likely to deck from. Personally, I think this is a better system as it allows space for the top-ropers to do there thing, but also gives credit where credits due, to the climbers who actually have the balls to solo these routes.

 There are still some remaining ethical problems. E grades are given for the onsight grade of the climb; but the ethic of such solos ensures that most routes will be headpointed first. Should headpointed routes be given an onsight grade? This is a debate that is already raging around the climbing world at the moment, with many arguments flairing between different camps. Personally, I am inclined to agree with Neil Gresham article; ethical style should not be brought into route descriptions. There are enough problems already without imposing ethical perfections onto the vast majority of unassuming climbers. It will always be obvious that an E8 onsight carrys as much standing as a E9 headpoint.

 Instead a hybrid system should be adopted, keeping the E grade but getting rid of the English tech and replacing it with the much better French grading combined with a letter symbolizing the nature of the route. It would look like thus: E2 (6b - R). I feel this should ideally be adopted for all future guidebooks as it provides a much more comprehensive description of what the climber is in for. In reality its not a big or urgent change I feel- having very little bearing on my level of climbing- but in the end it can only enrich our collective climbing experiences.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Back at the Wall

First off apologies for how boring my blog has been in recent days, I have been incredibly busy with all sorts of seemingly minors bit and bobs that all add up and completely swamp all the free time I have to write on here! But I had such a climbing session tonight that I felt I had to get myself in gear and start writing a bit more! And so, on with the story... It was an amazing night! Initially though, I thought it was going to be a rubbish one as it seemed nobody was free to climb but lanky John came to the rescue and so started a night of hard, hard climbing! We dispatched a 5 and 6a with ease and then moved on to the new slab leading areas. The two 6b on here are easy! Least for 6bs. Encouraged by this, I went on to destroy myself on three 7as; one  I could almost do, one I got to the third clip on, and the last 7a I could barely make the first clip. But It was really encouraging as they all seemed possible for a not-to-distant future me! We finished the night on an overhanging, stubborn 6c; it was bastard hard! Then some bouldering on the 6c traverse, I fell on the last hold! The last hold! ahhhhhhhhhhhh! There is something like 25 different moves on that stupid traverse and I did them all linked, got past the crux right at the end still going strong and one move before the red carpet of the bouldering room and I pump out, ahhhhhhhhhhh! So annoyed. It will go though, just wait till thursday. 

Friday, 24 October 2008

A failed first ascent(?) attempt. The Gap

This week saw a few mates and I head down to the Gap for a hand at some outdoor sports climbing, for once! I'm not entirely sure what to make of the whole experience. After constantly training indoors and really feeling my technique and endurance progress by leaps and bounds, I just assumed progress outdoors would fall into place naturally as well.  I turned out to be a bit wrong. The first route I did was Marlin on the Wall (6a+) and it was knackering, all the technique was fine and I felt quite strong but still the route chewed me up a little bit more than I was expecting for a 6a! Next on the list was Land of the Dinosaurs (6b), which much to my dismay wouldn't even let me past the second clip due to flash pump! To not get disheartened Tom and I went on a bit of a new routing look out; over the hill of the Gap and found the buttress shown in the below video. Not sure whether this truly is a new route or is Eagle (VS 4c)  at Abercynon High Buttress, which is described in the guidebook as being somewhere in this area. I am inclined to think we found a new route; purely because I tried the moves on the buttress on top rope and it involved a pumpy 5 metre (French) 6a solo before any gear could be found, which for my experience, I wouldn't classify as a VS. I wanted to go for the lead, really wanted to, but the holds were snappy and a flake burst in my hands on first attempt, leading to a metre fall straight onto Tom! Combined with rock fall from the top rope, whizzing past our heads, we decided 'not today!'. Armed with a bouldering mat and some spare time I would really like to go back and do the first ascent. Soon! 

Many apologies for the quality of the film footage as it truly is rubbish!

Valkyrie: A Photo Essay

Monday, 20 October 2008

Hoody Designs

Every year Cardiff University Mountaineering Club open up the floor for one of our members to create a graphic design to go on the back of our hoodies for that year; here is my attempt! It is a blatant parody of Dave McLeod's E11 design, using a figure falling around some clever word art. Instead of Rhaspody, the climb is Mansuko in Pembrokeshire and the figure falling is my friend Mark. The word art is taken from funny quotes by club members that have been recorded on The last line is a very 'climber' joke, as McLeod's art says word for word the same phrase except he's referring to an e11 not an e2 (how very sad non-climbers must think that!)  I really like it, and will be making up a T-shirt with it on, even if it doesn't make it onto the hoodies!

Thursday, 16 October 2008


The heights that I so wish to climb:
And the lines that I find so sublime,
but damn!
For the moment, its all in my mind!
That right-
My silly body cannot cope,
This stupid cold in all its scope.
And so I'm here, on the bed,
nursing my poor and aching head;
Till this illness goes away
And I can go once more and play!


Monday, 13 October 2008

Boulders Photography

As all you regular readers of my blog should know, Hannah and I recently did a photo shoot for Boulders Indoor Wall. I thought you would all like to see the final result that Rob was kind enough to pass onto us, so here they are below! 

(Probably best to note that all the photos shown above remain the property of Boulders Indoor Wall and should not be replicated or used without their express permission and consent)

As you can see Hannah has become the new face for Boulders, whereas poor ol' me is left in the background :( Nevermind, it wasn't like I needed my ego boosting any more anyway! I am looking forward to seeing some of the film footage they shot of us though. Especially the shots of me cutting loose on the big overhang- that will be a funny site! Will keep you posted if the footage does turn up! Overall, I am impressed with the photos though and glad we had a chance to model for them! A fitting memory to another fun day had at our local indoor wall. 

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Three Cliffs Bay - The Gower

Another day, another fresher trip. The weather was nice and sunny. The routes were easy. Nothing really of note can be said about today. Maybe I've just had enough of freshers trips... Or sea cliffs! I did however, manage to throw up a really interesting little bouldering problem, traversing through the cave just round the corner from Scavenger. It involved a brilliant long bridging crux right in the middle of the cave, amongst the muck and seepage; trying desperately not to slip off the slimy, rounded holds. It was a gorgeous problem: esoteric through and through. Thats about all I've got to say for today; having climbed pretty much every day this week I'm going to make sure this post (at least) is short, sweet and to the point. Ciao x

Filthy Radiance - V3 - * -A right to left traverse through the cave just round the corner from Scavenger; the crux being at the deepest, darkest and slimiest point of the cave. Gorgeously esoteric and definitely worth a try if ever in the Three Cliffs Area.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Three Tors - The trip that actually worked, against all expectations!

Uploaded by Bunchuk

(The photo of me on Scout Crack was taken by Ian, and the photo of Ian seconding Scout Crack was courtesy of Olly.)

Friday, 10 October 2008

An interesting night at Boulders.

What a fun and bizarre time this afternoon was! As mentioned in my previous post, Hannah and I had been asked to model for a promotional movie/photography for Boulder Indoor Climbing Wall. And so we poodled down at 5 with the promise of free entry into the wall, a free staff t-shirt and the chance to have a go at the brand new routes set by famous climber Tim Emmett for the bouldering competition that was being held that evening; with all this going on how could we say no! And It was such a good, interesting and funny time the whole afternoon! To start, I had to lead the 6a jug-fest surmounting the biggest overhang in the place, whilst being filmed by two different cameramen. Conscious of lots of lenses zoomed in on me, technique seemed of paramount importance; unfortunately I still managed to cut loose (luckily in a controlled fashion) twice going over the lip of the overhang. The roof was lots of fun but highlighted my weakness in my upper body strength when it comes to listing roofs. I think I will have to get on them on lead more in the future; as Rob said today 'train your weaknesses' - its sound advice and if I do train on them, maybe it will help push up my outdoor grade into the much sought after - at least by me- E1 status. Hannah then lead a nifty 5+ just under the person filming for some interesting shooting; Hannah is getting a good climber and it was a pleasure to watch her lead. Next came some quality acting, if I do say so myself, rainbow-ing up a corner system but throwing as many layback, pivots, egyptians and slow motions movements into the routine as possible, making it look more like poncey ballet than real climbing. The cameraman seemed impressed though, so hopefully it was all worth it! Hannah then actually had a play with the camera! having completed her last route the guy gave her the film camera so she could record her being lowered down by me; interesting idea, wonder if it will actually look good? We then got passed on to the team's photographer, who liked to complain a lot about the lack of light in the room. One of the instructors hoisted him halfway up the wall and then Hannah spent the next 40 minutes (or so it seemed) hanging onto the wall on lead pulling all sorts of different poses whilst her arms got more and more pumped. Looks like she will be the new face of Boulders! All the photos taken of me, involve me being in the background, illuminated by a halogen lamp straight into my eyes, belaying Hannah. Im not convinced that they are going to be my best climbing pictures!

Then just like that, we were done!

We stayed a little bit longer, had a play on the boulder problems, which were interesting enough, but I think I was a little too tired to fully appreciate how good they are. I also got my 6b+ that I failed on yesterday. Whats' more, apart from the very top crux it all seemed very easy to me; it must mean I'm getting better! What I have noticed about my climbing recently is that my technique has improved significantly. Alongside this, my ability to shake out on not very big, but quite positive holds, has really lead to me shooting through grades all of a sudden. Hopefully within a few weeks I will be able to redpoint 6c! If this happens, then bring on the outdoors because a lot of new routes will suddenly be open to me. Yes!

To sum up; a really fun, interesting and esoteric day! Wonderful!

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Wednesday, 8 October 2008


What an inspiring night! Got a 'V6' Boulder problem in the Bouldering room and managed my technical one move wonder top rope project, which has improved my confidence no end for some hard leading Ill by doing when I next come back (having paid for four month unlimited entry). All this with still time to teach, eat a panini, have a coffee and take one hundred and fifty photographs! Here is a selection of some of the photo's taken last night; sorry there isn't more but I'm running out the door for a nine o'clock lecture as we speak! Ciao x  

Monday, 6 October 2008

Indoor Climbing Photography

Photos' courtesy of Olly

Thursday, 2 October 2008