Friday, 24 April 2009

Last Arete - Trebanog, A Short Clip

Last Arete Solo from Jamie Maddison on Vimeo.

Castell Coch and Taffs Well

Andy Foster and I recently headed down to Castle Quarry, for him to check out my new route, Games of Ambivalence and me to do a bit more filming for Ryan's and my movie Playing Games. Stupidly, despite the blazing sunshine all week, the route was even seepier than when I originally climbed it! Nevertheless, Andy racked up, with my quickdraws + one nut to place on the top bolt that is still devoid a hanger, and got prepped for what we hoped would be the second ascent. Unfortunately Andy didn't get the route clean but with two or three rests; partly due to the still pretty messy holds and the seepage in the middle of the route but also because the route is hard! He reckoned Games would be about 6b if dry, thinking the crux was the powerful lunge between the second and third bolts. he also reckoned the technical sequence just after the third bolt was worthy of 6b as one would have to think quite fast on the onsight attempt to read it correctly.

Andy's assessment makes me feel happy with my grading at 6b+, I am also content with the hour and a bit films footage I've got of this route, hopefully I can make something out of it for my film now! We also had a few climbs at Taffs Well proper in which I dogged quite a lot of stuff but was still happy with the progress I am making into getting back into the whole outdoors scene.

DWS here I come!

Sandstone Bolt Clipping.

Tuesday saw the club go on its first outdoor weekday trip of the year. The destination; Tirpentwys, one of the best bolted crags in the area. I was climbing with Duncan who had hurt his foot but we were still well up for some hard climbing. Yet unfortunately all those days of sitting at my desk doing work and not climbing seemed to have taken a bit of a toll on me! The first climb Ledges and Braces was only a 5 but I still found it quite difficult, missing a bolt because it was to awkward to clip and then bolting to the top.

The next route was a 6a, something I would normally run up no problems at all, and took over 20 minutes to onsight and by the time I had got to the top I had the deepest pump I've had for ages! Not exactly inspiring stuff! The next route was 6b and I dogged 3 clips, much to my shame. I then got annoyed and went and finished off all the easy routes at the crag, meaning I have no completed over 50% of all the climbs at Tirpentwys! I think the reason for this poor performance may be attritubuted to my declined finger strength struggling on the small crimps that are so natural to quarried sandstone combined with a probable aversion to going above gear because I haven't in so long! Either that, or I just need to man up.

All in all though, a really fun trip. Its good to see the club outside and active again!

The Routes:
Shrew F5
Yank my Chain F4
Paw Me F4+
The Chimney Finish F6a *
Ledge and Braces F5
Twisted logic F6b

Thursday, 16 April 2009

DWS of Taffs Well

There has not been much to report recently, as I have only just got back to Cardiff after spending a week at home. Now to start climbing properly again! I went for a quick reconnoissance up behind Castell Coch to see if there was any possible bouldering problems in the caves up in the woods.  I found two caves, both just off the main path that leads up through the hills behind the castle. The first one was huge and there seemed like the possibility of a good, but hard route up the left hand side of the opening (picture below). It would also probably need a lower put in place as the top was pretty mud filled. It also seemed like a deep (well hardly) water solo could be worked traversing around and over the cave opening.  Luckily the highest point of the traverse corresponds with the deepest part of the water, probably a little over 2 meters. Any brave volunteers?

(Cave One)
The next cave was useless and I could see no possibility of working any routes there. It is a shame as I was hoping to find a difficult roof problem to start as a boulder project!  Nevermind.

(Cave Two)
Hopefully tomorrow I can start getting back into a regular climbing pattern, starting with some tries of hard sports routes at Taffs Well!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Circular Ethical Debates

I am sure that this is going to get picked up by the UKC forum in seconds and posted with an in-depth slagging off of everything I am going to say, but I feel that I should summarize my position clearly, rather than in bits and bobs sporadically replying to commentators on UKC. 

Firstly, South Wales is my local area and I love it to death, even though it may be hardly worth mentioning on the national list of great climbing areas. It also famous (well at least known) for its rich history of Sports Climbing with venues such as The Gap and Taffs well having a huge amount of brilliant routes for all levels of climbing. A lot of this work was done across the 1980's and early 1990's and by now the protection has become corroded and often dangerous. This has spawned movements such as South Wales Action Group and South Wales Bolt Fund, both with the full backing of the BMC, to try and deal with this decline of these once brilliant venues.

Just about to get out of University and off into the big wide world, I have found that climbing has been my sanctuary for nearly three years.  I have also gotten very much in new routing, firstly in bouldering and just recently having met and chatted with some active sports new-routing enthusiasts, into bolting itself. 

I wanted to bolt new routes (as sports climbing it is what I enjoy most of all) and I wanted to help replace the old rotten gear around the area, and after a bit of chatting, Dave Emanuel took me up to a quarry he was developing. He shows me a little line he has left for me and then goes through every aspect of bolting with me so that I do it safely and under control. The route is surrounded by other sports routes,  on quarried limestone in an area that has been decreed by the local community as acceptable to bolt on. The route itself is not brilliant, a bit loose, a bit seepy, a bit protectionless and with an impossible top out. It is all fairness a poor route. However it was the first hard route I have ever done a first ascent of and I was over the moon I've finally done something that is worthy (if only just) of the guidebook. A lot of people have said if it was such a poor line why would you bother bolting it in the first place?; just because a crap line has bolts in doesn't make it any better. I completely agree with this, but as I was new to the whole process, cutting my teeth in a poor line seem more logical than possibly hashing up an excellent line through my own inexperience. 

To the age old question of whether bolts are justifiable at all or should the routes be left for the next generation, I think there should also be an equal assertion of the right for beginners and the mid-graders. If South Wales was chopped all its bolts right now we would have nearly every quarry filled with E4s + but nowhere for our the vast majority of our climbers to go out for an evening cragging. Trebanog and Penallta would soon over flow! How long would these routes stay in shape if only an elite clique of climber were ever good enough to do them? 
Had it been announced that a new 6b had been put up in a backwater quarry in South Wales, I doubt whether anybody would have even bothered replying to the thread. Indeed most people never reply to my threads on UKC which may have accounted for my provocative forum title that has no doubt got quite a few people fired up. However, I think the biggest outcry has originated from my somewhat lurid description of the bolting process and the ascent of Games on this blog. For instance descriptions of hammering the fuck out of everything or chalking holds without fully explaining that it was small amount of chalk followed by a scrubbing from a brush and then a bar towel to clean seeping holds, has caused quite an outcry.

I have to say that looking back, I am sorry for the tone that the blog took. Having written for the best part of the year without any outside comment whatsoever my style has become exaggerative and tongue and cheeky; intended for a small group of local friend who find funny (or sad) all my crazy themes and outgoing writing ups. This blog was never intended for a UKC audience, my first question was concerned with bolting in general as I just fancied an interesting conversation on a question I had never seen discussed in the forums (hence the title to try and invoke people to have a look), It was only after my blog was found that the conversation became about my actions at all. 

As I have said, I think was a bit too blasé about my actions and about the forum post. However I will reiterate that the bolting was completely in line with the ethical guidelines set out by the local climbers in the areas, most of whom wish to see even more sports routes in the area. I like sports routes, the local community likes sports routes, we have a rich history and tradition of bolting in the area and the crags we are bolting are manmade quarried faces anyway. It was for these reasons that I did not see how outlandish my actions would appear to readers from more strongly traditional areas. It just didn't appear on the radar that on a national scale many people could be offended by such actions. 

In the end, all I can say is that I have declared my actions and intents as honestly as I thought possible and kept within the established ethics of my local community, even if I was a bit naive in the way that I chose to report it! So I guess, judge from this what you will. Obviously I am never going to win over the hard core trad enthusiasts, but for people who actually enjoy a bit of sports climbing, perhaps you will now be able to see some of the reasons behind my madness!

Cardiff University Mountaineering Club

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Project Completed!

(Jamie on the second failed attempt of Games  of Ambivalence) 

And so after nine attempts, three visits, two falls, one whipper and one 30-ft virtual deck, I have finally claimed the first ascent of my recent bolting project! It hard to tell if it was actually worth all the effort... and the blistered hands and cracked knuckles!

A few days after I bolted the route with Dave I returned in tow with Mark for a belayer and Harry as the cameraman for the (hoped) ascent. Whilst Mark occupied himself bolting his new line, Dissertation Distraction, I cleaned my route of all the loose debris and flaky bit whilst at the same time desperately attempting to dry the patches of seepage that were prominent on the route's midsection. After cleaning it, I jumared back up the rope pre-placed the quickdraws and (ethics aside) chalked up the holds I thought were vital for the first ascent. 

(Jamie taking a whipper on third failed attempt) 

The starting 5 metres is by far some of the most strenuous terrain on the entire route; I was findings myself launching over a fairly hefty overhang and then jumping to a brilliant jug just out of reach. The failure to get this sequence sorted quickly burned out my first attempt for the lead.  My second attempt fair much better as I thuggedly blitzed though the sequence only for a wet foothold to make me slip straight off and back down again. 

The third attempt of the day saw me pull out a full length of line to clip, only for my foot to slip on another wet hold, sending me plummeting back down to the first clip. One massive fall! The last attempt was pathetic; my arms a burning wreck of their fresh selves. 

(Mark drilling his first route, Dissertation Distraction)

Spurred on by my almost ascent, I returned a few days later, this time devoid of belayers to give significant practice time using a shunt. To put it bluntly, after two hours of constant use, during which I linked all the moves on the route and was beginning to find it quite doable, the shunt failed for some reason (I think the weight at the bottom must have been snagged and relieved of its heaviness by the rock) and I plummeted thirty foot until I was luckily caught on the clove hitch I had tied my weight on a metre of the floor! Lucky me!  With badly blistered hands and a suspect cracked knuckle I hobbled back home only to be told off (quite rightly) by Olly for not bringing anybody with me to the crag! I will never do that again! 

The next day, really spurred on to get the damn thing done and over with as well as something to take my mind of the crushing depressiveness of all my friends leaving for Fontainebleau and me not going, I texted Harry and off we went for an evenings climbing! Luckily there had been a few good days of dry weather and thee seepage had dried to a minimum. I abbed down, placed the quickdraws and nervously prepared myself for the lead, heart pumping quite a bit, namely because I knew I could do it now. It all went well and I despatched the route quite easily and in control, which for me is always a bonus! Wicked! My soaring happiness at finally getting it done has counter acted my depression at not going to font and now I'm at a bumbling normal! Yay!

(Jamie finally reaching the lower off on Games)

Harry had a go and reckoned the grading was at least 6b; Thus from this and my own experience I am going to give it a tentative grade of 6b+. For anybody who thinks that it looks pretty easy, I challenge you to go down there and on sight it without the pre-placed quickdraws as I reckon you'll find it every inch of the grade, perhaps harder. 

I also climbed today the first ascent of an easy slab I bolted; Harry claiming the second ascent. Harry also tried a 6b with 1 rest before we went home, What a weird and fulfilling day! 

(Harry playing around at the bottom of For Fonting Friends)
Games of Ambivalence 6b+ - The line of bolts on the far left of the crag. 
F.A Jamie Maddison, Harry Andrews 05/04/2008

For Fonting Friends  4+ The second to last line on the far right of the crag
F.A Jamie Maddison, Harry Andrews 05/04/2008

(Jamie standing underneath a now completed Games of Ambivalence)