The CWIF 2014

Last weekend saw the return of the annual Climbing Works International Festival. The CWIF is probably the most anticipated indoor climbing event in the UK and this year was no different. There are 350 places made available for competitors and the competition was fully booked within  two day of opening registration.

I have had a very busy few months of work so I was looking forward to getting away and attending the event. It is always a very social affair with much of the climbing community attending. This year there were also a large number of forign competitiors with the likes of the Dutch, Slovenian and French national teams there.

The competition has two parts; on the Saturday all 350 competitors do a 30 bloc qualification tour then on Sunday the top climbers go through to a Semi final and final.

This year the qualification round suited me perfectly, lots of technical, balancy and droppable problems, just my style. I managed to climb 29 out of the 30 problems and scored 275 out of 300 points, a score good enough to see me through to the semi finals on Sunday in 12th position.

Sunday morning arrived. By 11 am there were 40 competitors (20 male and 20 female) locked away in isolation. I really enjoyed the Isolationas I got to observe how some of the best climbers in the world warm up and prepare themselves to climb hard.

The semi finals ran in reverse order of Qualification, I was out 9th. The format was onsight with 5 minutes on each problem. The first problem was hard, a really brutal affair through a roof. I struggled. The second problem was dynamic with big moves and flying legs. The third was similar and the fourth and final problem was a slab.

I ended my round with no tops but 3 bonuses in 3 attempts. I feel Like I could have done 2 of the problems, dropping the last move of both on my flash attempt but unable to finish them off as tiredness kicked in. The problems were hard, but they had to be to split weak outdoor climbing punters like me from the worlds elite!

 

Overall I finished 18th which I feel is a pretty respectable position. Full results and replays of the semi final and final are available here http://www.climbingworks.com/the-beta/events/cwif-2014/

I really enjoyed the competition.

We finished the weekend off with a relaxed trip to Cratcliffe for some sunny bouldering.

I would like to thank Mammut for supporting my climbing and for renewing my contract for another year. Thanks also go to La Sportiva for the amazing climbing shoes that they make.

 

The Joker

After headlining as one of the hardest boulder problems in the iconic film Hard Grit The Joker has always been a climb that has inspired me. One move, pure difficulty, absolutely not my style. I am more suited to grovelling, thrutching and cheating my way up rocks using sneaky heels and toes. The Joker doesn’t allow for any of this trickery; or so it would first appear.

The Joker
Photo Hannah Brading

On closer inspection, when you start to really break down the move you realise just how technical one “pure power” move can be.

Ben Moon famously stated that “technique is no substitute for power”, but I beg to differ. Obviously you need power to drag yourself up pieces of rock, especially rocks as short as this, but the amount of power you need is directly proportional to the amount of technique you possess.

When/if you watch the video below notice the body swing as I step off the boulder. Get your timing right on the back swing and surprisingly little power is needed to reach for the top:

Technique in “full swing”?

Once I had mastered the technique of this move I could repeat it almost every time.

Admittedly just holding the holds is fairly difficult so some finger strength is required.

Anyway as I was saying this climb inspired me, in fact it still does although now I am trying it from one hold lower. It sits in such a majestic position overlooking all of the problems below. The Joker also signifies great improvements for my climbing, to do something which you would never have thought possible for you really is a great feeling. I walked down from the plantation that day with a massive grin on my face, and I wore it all the way home.

My Climbing Year in Pictures

I have put together a few photographs to sum up my year. Sort of a photo Diary I suppose.

The Terrace

 

Western Eyes

Eclipse

Controle Technique

Jungle VIP

The Prince

Fat Cat Roof
Blue Planet

Christine
Cutlass
Photo Ramon Marin

BLCC’s

Careless Torque

Careless Torque
Photo Mike Hutton

The Joker

Happy New Year Everyone!! Here’s to an even better 2014.

 

 

Careless Torque

I have visited Stanage Plantation countless times over the years and on every visit I have gazed up in awe at the amazing line that is Careless Torque.This huge boulder stands proud and dominant away from the rest of the cliff. Climbers, walkers and mountain bikers revel in its imposing glory as they pass beneath it on the path.

Ever since my first visit I have dreamt of climbing this incredible line, but I never believed it would be possible.

Over the years I have ticked off many of the other classic problems at Stanage: Cresent Arete, Green Traverse, Deliverance and Brad Pit to name a few. After climbing Brad Pit I thought (until this winter) that I had climbed all the problems that were possible for me at the Plantation. Gritstone has always suited my style but pure strength has always been a weakness, this year I set myself the challenge of  increasing my power.

Careless Torque was to be the problem I would test my new found power on, and it would give me an excuse to revisit the Plantation. I intended Careless to be a long term winter project and had resigned myself to many trips to the Peak to attempt it. Two weeks ago I drove North to open the account.

The first session went incredibly well. I was shocked to find myself standing high on the arete after just a few goes. The bottom of the problem is massively undercut, and thought, by many, to be the crux but once I had sussed the body positions for this bottom section I seemed to be able to do it almost every go and the top became the main challenge. On that first session I fell from the very top twice, unfortunately sore muscles and split tips stopped play that day.

Split tips stop play

This weekend I made the trip again. I was nervous,I knew it was possible and this weighed on my mind. I hated the pressure I now placed on myself to climb the route quickly, only a few weeks ago I didn’t even believe it possible.

We arrived at the crag with a big group of friends, and an even bigger number of pads. Game on! My first proper go went well, I tickled the top hold, chickened out and fell Southwards. A few goes later and I was back just below the top on the last hard move, my foot fell into place and I reached the top hold with relative ease and pulled over the top on the most beautiful glory jugs available.

Careless Torque

Careless Torque

On the actual go the climbing felt easy, everything fell into place and Careless Torque was done.

After climbing the route I felt happy to have done it, but I wasn’t over come with glee. For me definitely the process was more enjoyable than the completion, the anticipation to try the route outweighed the final success. That said I am over the moon to have climbed Careless Torque, possibly the greatest line I have ever seen!

What’s next?

On a side note. It has occurred to me  how much Highballing is like DWSing. You get the social aspect of Bouldering, the adventurous adrenaline rush of Traditional climbing and relative safety on a big fall.

Happy days… I LOVE CLIMBING!

Summer Round Up

The Deep Water Soloing season came to an end in style. The weekend after the ban was lifted at Berry Head a huge party of climbers assembled to celebrate Rob Greenwood’s birthday and to reincarnate the (unofficial) DWS festival. Routes were being climbed all over the place. Every where you looked along the cliff there were sun bronzed human beings interacting with the most wonderful coloured rock to be found anywhere.

My aim for the weekend was route called Cutlass. This route was first climbed by Ken Palmer on a top rope before Neil Gresham climbed it ground up on the first solo ascent.

The route climbs directly out of the most beautiful orange, black and gold streaked section of the rainbow bridge traverse. There was a couple of really strong climbers about that day who were also interested in trying this route. Me, believing myself to be the weakest of the bunch decided to go first so I could provide some beta for the strong boys to go for the flash. You start the route by climbing along Rainbow bridge before attacking the blankest looking section of the wall. A few deep locks lead you to a large move to a big pinch, here you set your feet and lay one on for a flat hold near the top, hold the swing, grab some jugs and top out easily. On my onsight go I didn’t commit properly to the big move from the pinch and dropped it trying to hold the swing. I blame my saggy core (note to self, something to work on over the winter). On my second go I set my right hand on the pinch properly, drove my feet into the smears and held the move by really engaging the core to kill the swing. I had achieved the route I had come to climb, and all before coffee time.

Cutlass
Photo Ramon

Later that day Ryan Pasquil and Neil Mawson flashed the route with relative ease (and good beta ;) ). I was so psyched watching these boys in action that I decided to have another go on the route. Climbing this route for the second time really topped a great day.

Cutlass was originally graded 8a+ as it was tried many times by Neil with beta that turned out to be harder, after several discussions I believe the grade to be on the friendly side of 8a. Boulder grade wise perhaps it would break down as a 6C into a dynamic 7A+.

Grades aside, this route is fantastic and pretty low so go and get on it people, although perhaps best to wait for the summer to return now.

That evening we had a great BBQ in the car park to celebrate.

The following weekend I was down at Lulworth cove. Lulworth cove is my favourite DWS venue for this summer. The routes are characterized by steep and juggy climbing which generally requires a fairly dynamic style. Especially the route I was there to try, Adrenochrome. Gav was getting much further on the route than me and I was getting frustrated, the sea was getting colder and this would be the last opportunity to do this route before the summer was over. I was being shut down by a big dynamic throw where the usual beta is to “tag” into this grim undercut before latching a jug. Try as I might I could just not generate the required momentum for the move. I blame my short arms, but I am just making excuses. Anyway, instead of just tagging the undercut with the left had I decided to use it as a hold and go more statically to the jug with the right. Not the usual method, but it worked for me.

Adrenochrome is probably the best route I have ever climbed in any genre, every move is amazing and the climbing just flows together into one amazing journey through this wonderful feature.

Since the end of the summer weather I have been reminiscing about sunny days passed, gone are the times of just waking up in the morning and going to the crag to climb. Now the first thing I do is check the weather forecast.

To keep myself motivated to train on plastic I registered to compete in the British Lead climbing championships, some of the boys that I coach were also competing. I went down the wall and did lap after lap after lap on the pink spots then the green spots then the black spots….

When the sun did come out I went climbing. Some memorable days were had at Cheddar, many routes were climbed between 7c and 8a+. Generally I tried to flash or onsight every route, if this didn’t work then second go it was.

Last weekend we travelled to the cool new Awesome Walls Sheffield, where the BLCC’s were being held. On the Saturday the juniors competed and the lads all climbed well and had a great day. On Sunday the seniors were up. The qualification involved climbing two routes. These routes had very contrasting styles. My first route was very bouldery, I regretted doing all those laps on the aformentioned spoted routes at UCR and wished I had just gone bouldering. Nearly every one fell at the same boulder problem with a hold or two separating the majority of the field.

The second route was a bit more to my liking, it was about 10 degrees overhanging and had the most disgusting little rat crimps imaginable, just my style. I topped the route with what felt like relative easy. Later talking to Mike Langley, one of the setters, he congratulated me on completing a hard route, commenting that it was graded 7c+. I had to disagree with him on the grade.

In the end I was one hold away from making it into the final and I finished in 12th position. I am fairly happy with the way I climbed, although I definitely didn’t climb my best, which is good as it means I will have more to give next year.

The following day I dragged Hannah around the Peak district looking for a particular boulder problem. Like a numpty I had got too carried away setting boulder problems the Friday before at TCA, when I was supposed to be packing for the weekend, and  had forgotten the guide books.

I found the boulder problem, climbed it and then went home.

Mossatrocity

Mossatrocity

 

Christine 8a Deep Water Solo

After returning from Long Quarry point last week I had only one thing on my mind.

Christine!

I just had to go back to her.

An unsuccessful attempt on Christine
Photo Hannah Brading

Christine and I came excruciatingly close last week but I fell on my last go, from the final move of the crux. Unfortunately I was already running late as I had to be back in Gloucester to run a coaching session in 2 hours so did not have time to finish her off.

On Monday I drove back down for my second date with Christine. This time I was sure something would happen.

On my first go of the day I climbed clinically through to my previous high point, reached for the next hold but could not hold the wild cut loose. Christine spat me off once again. This time I took a wild fall landing fully side on, and got a real ear full. A few minutes spent drying of and shaking sea water from my ears and I was ready to go again.

A creating waves

The route breaks down into 3 distinct sections, first up is a board style boulder problem to a no hands back and foot rest, next you have amazingly steep 3D climbing which culminates in this wild cut loose right at the lip, you then join and climb the crux of Blue Planet 7b+ and follow this route to the top.

The lower wall
Photo Hannah Brading

I climbed the now dialled lower wall to the rest. The rest on this route is special, hard climbing to it and hard climbing after it, but while resting you are on your own in this hanging full body bridge above the sea. The sound of crashing waves are in your ears and you can see small fishes darting around in the sea below, all very restful until you anticipate the climbing that you cannot see but is still to come. After the rest you lower yourself down, around and through bulges and ceilings, toe hooks are de rigueur. The final hard moves revolve around the afore mentioned cut loose on small crimps. This time I released one leg first to reduce the swing, dropped my final toe hook and engage the core. I stayed on. Whipping my feet back to the wall I made the final move before joining Blue Planet and enjoying this route to the top.

Finally holding the crux swing on Christine 8a
Photo Ben Norman

Relief after the crux

Climbing the top wall of Christine and Blue Planet
Photo Ben Norman

Overall this is one of my most satisfying climbing experiences as when climbing ground up on every go you are climbing into the unknown right up until you unlock the finishing sequence.

Christine, you are mine.

Deep water soloing never ceases to amazing me and give me joy. I think the main reason I love it so much is that even if you do not climb your desired route you still have a massive amount of fun trying. Falling into the warm blue sea is nothing but pure pleasure (most of the time).

Deep Water Soloing

Is Deep Water Soloing the greatest form of climbing? For me days spent deep water soloing are definitely up there with the best climbing days I ever have.

Mike Goldthorp on Arapiles oh Arapiles

Spring and early summer are by far the busiest time of year for me, as this time of year is when much of the work I do is in full swing, but fortunately this year I have had some great days out climbing above the water in between work. It is these days that have inspired me to to write a few words on my current favourite genre of climbing.

Mike on Arapiles

So why is deep water soloing so good? In my opinion this form of climbing incorporates all of the best bit from its neighbouring disciplines, and none of the worst bits.

Cailean Harker on Once a Dogger

First of all you have the adventurous feeling that you experience whilst Trad climbing, perhaps it is the apprehension of the unknown, feeling the fear and adrenaline of being way above your protection or the great sense that you must keep climbing despite the uncertainty of a mighty fall, and all this without the faff of ropes and gear.

Ben Norman on Blue Planet

When you do fall you realise that DWS’ing has much in common with sport climbing. It allows you the freedom to flow with the climbing whilst pushing your physical limits to the max in relative safety, you don’t even have to stop to clip a bolt.

About to get a face full… SPLASHDOWN!!!

This form of climbing has a really close connection with the vibe that you get when bouldering with a group of like minded people. There is a hugely social element and the feeling of comradery and mutual support are the real reasons that I like DWS so much. Participants whoop and cheer with joy at any opportunity, especially when they see their friends take huge splashdowns into the sea.

Mike on Blue Planet

Last month I had a trip down Lulworth, on arrival we were greeted by a large group of super strong climbers from all over the country. The conditions were amazing and the atmosphere was even better. The group moved from route to route ticking classics such as Animal Magnetism 7a+, Gates of Grey Skull 7b+ and Mark of the Beast 7c.

The dyno on Adrenochrome

Animal Magnetism is a cool route which starts already way above the sea and climbs to the top of the wall with a brilliant sequence on cool holds. Gates of Grey skull is a spectacular route, climbing a super steep wall on good holds to a final exciting dynamic slap for the top. Mark of the Beast is as fine an example of a DWS as can be found anywhere. It climbs a super steep wall on big pumpy holds to a final move which requires precision and strength of body and mind, way above the water. In total that day Mark of the Beast was climbed 8 times with 6 of those ascents being flashed (perhaps the most ascents this route has had in one day). I finished of the day with an onsight of Skullthuggery, a super steep and 3D start to Gates of Grey Skull. Super Stuff!!

Other must visit destinations include Berry Head, Long quarry point, Swanage, Pembroke and of course Mallorca. Get out there people and enjoy the sunny weather!

One thing to bear in mind is the safety of Deep water soloing, it is a great idea to take someone experienced in this form of climbing on your first trip. Always check the tides and landing zones before you set off and practice your falling technique before you start getting high.

Getting high and scared on The Lobster Mallorca

 

Mammut Realisation Shorts

image

You may or may not have heard or seen the Mammut Realisation Shorts.  For those of you who are unaware, they are a pair of shorts and a climbing harness built into one.

On ordering my pair I was slightly dubious about both how good the functionality would be and how they might look when being used as a harness. As soon as they came out of the box I loved then. They look great, especially in the fairly out there ginger colour, and they feel really comfortable as a pair of shorts too.

We headed down to UCR Bristol to try them out in harness mode. I was slightly unnerved at first by the freedom of movement that they offer, the comfort is so great that it almost feels like soloing! Once you get used to this sensation they feel amazing. Little things pleased me like how when you are being lowered the shorts don’t come tight and just look like a regular pair of shorts. As an indoor climbing harness I would highly recommend them.

The following day I did a few routes at cheddar to see how they performed on the sports routes. They did the job well and it was nice to wear shorts for the first time this year. They performed well outside too. I will have to do a few trad routes in them to see how that goes.

You tie into two small loops at the front of the shorts. These loops are small and unobtrusive. I did find re threading at the top of routes a little fiddly and when attaching a belay device you have to clip through two loops as opposed to the conventional one, but I am sure I will get used to it. It may also be tricky on multi pitch and trad routes. But I dont think this is what they have really been designed for.

I think the Realisation Shorts are a great peice of kit and apart from the obvious draw backs (such as them being shorts and us enjoying the lovely British weather) I already love them and I am sure I will continue to wear them regularly. Let us just pray for more Sunshine!

Spring round up

The second week of March was spent in the wonderful forest of Fontainebleau. We left home with a strong group of 10 Gloucestershire based wads and wadesses. The weather for the week looked bad and on the evening before we left all of the Ferries and the tunnel were closed due to severe weather in Northern France. The advise was not to travel unless absolutely necessary. We deemed a week  of bouldering on the finest rock in the world absolutely necessary so we set off. The journey on the English side was smooth, the ferry went by without a hitch but arriving in France all was not as it should be. There were huge snow banks on the road side and abandoned vehicles everywhere. whilst driving south on the A1 we observed a 200km traffic jam going the other way. There must have been over 50000 lorries nose to tail in a stand still jam. They must have been there for days.

With regards to the climbing; I have been primarily bouldering for the last month or so and am feeling pretty good, I was hopeful of some good results. The climbing project I have spent the most time on in my entirelife is Eclipse at Cul de Chein. With over 300 goes over the last 7 years I was keen to finally see this demon off. This boulder problem embodies my three weaknesses in climbing. The first move is steep, the second move is footless and the last move is dynamic. On the first day it went down quickly in fairly poor conditions. (A good sign of things to come.) I was over joyed to climb this problem and I believe it heralds a new era in my climbing ability.

I had probably my best day of bouldering ever at Bas Cuvier. It started with Hypothese in a few quick goes. This is another problem that I have dreamed about climbing but never got on before. The rest of the day included ascents of La Gaule, Controle Technique and L’Aerodynamite. An absolute dream of a day.

Also at Bas Cuvier Phil Rose and I had ascents of Neverland 8A. This is a really funky problem involving knees, heels, compression and power. The real joy in climbing this problem was that we had no knowledge of the moves. We spent some time sussing the beta. The problem went from feeling holdless and nearly impossible to fairly do able in about an hour. After climbing this boulder I felt a deep satisfaction in going through the whole process of the ascent which is sometimes lacking when you are just given the beta and dispatch the problem with relative ease. Neverland was also my first boulder graded 8A and, although grades aren’t everything they certainly help me to measure my progression and to push my self that one step further.

On a side note: Neverland was the last piece I needed to complete the climbing triple eight challenge (having climbed E8, 8a before and no finally 8A). A future goal for me is to achieve this in a single day.

Colour coded on Noir Desir

I returned from Fontainebleau very happy, with by far my most successful week of bouldering under my belt. I cannot wait to get back out there. There should also be a video of our trip knocking about at some point too, so keep your eyes peeled.

After returning I was straight down to Plymouth to set the Plymouth climbing centres First Birthday boulder competition. This was an event organised and sponsored by Mammut. I drove down on Friday morning and arrived at Midday to be greeted by a totally blank boulder room, a canvas for our setting imagination to run wild. The Saturday was filled with many different competitions including boulder, speed and dyno. The Mammut team were also busy all day running coaching Master-classes and trying to impart some knowledge. The day was pretty full on and great fun for all. The highlight for me was the boulder competition finals set by myself and Ethan Walker. We had a good variety of funky and challenging boulders for the top climbers to go at. Hannah had an amazing day and qualified for the finals with an amazing effort on the final three challenging blocs she came second.

Womens problem 3

Hannah climbing her way to 2nd on womens problem 3

On Sunday the weather looked ominous but myself and the other Mammut boys were keen to get out on some local stone. We headed to Burrator  reservoir to try Mikey Clevedon’s mini classic; Jungle VIP. The problem we had come to climb was the only thing dry, luckily. A bit of arm waving to warm up and we were ready. The easier version or this problem is called King of the Swingers and was dispatched in quick style by all involved including a flash from Ethan (nice work!). Next up Jungle VIP. It is a brilliant problem with one cut loose move proving most of the difficulty and some funky feet first toe hooks to top out. Ethan Oli and I climbed the problem quickly with each of us just taking a couple of goes. The collective team psych must have done the trick. I do have a little bit of video from this and will get it out soon.

Ethan Flashing Kind of the Swingers

Topping out feet first on Jungle VIP

Back home I have done a bit of climbing locally (despite a little finger tweak). The Prince  is a micro route at Avon which was put up in the 90s by Ian Vickers and is something I have wanted to try for a while. On a lovely sunny but cold day I got on it expecting it to feel nails, but despite having to use your nails on the tiny little holds I managed all of the moves first go.I lowered to the ground, had a tactical shoe change and with the no edge technology managed to climb the route second go. I was well chuffed.

The Prince 8a+/b

The route starts with a big rock over/mantle on a long but thin rail and is followed by three moves on very small holds before easier climbing is reached. On UKC it is described as having three British 7a moves in a row, I am afraid I do not quite agree, but then this style seems to suit me down to the ground.

A week or so later a group of us went back to the Prince with about ten pads. I managed to climb it second go of the day, just before the sun stopped play. It is a great little route/problem to do if you have enough pads and a steady head for the top.

The Prince above pads 7C?

Max obviously thinks this is too high to bother spotting.

 

Over all it has been a good month or so and I cannot wait for this finger to heal so that I can get crimping on some lovely limestone sports routes!

A weekend away

Last weekend beckoned the arrival of the much anticipated and famed CWIF (climbing works international festival). I have be specifically training my bouldering since the return of our trip. The CWIF was to be a platform for me to test my improvements. Unfortunately one week before the competition Ben West and I travelled down to Ansteys cove for the first route session in a while, (to cut a short story even shorter), we arrived, it was cold, couldn’t warm up and placing the first clip on the first route I tweaked my ring finger A2 pulley. 45 minutes later we were in the car on the way home after a very short and very unsuccessful session.

The CWIF qualifying sessions had an amazing set of problems with many vertical or slabby blocs. This suited my injured finger well and I came away not feeling to bad about my performance. Next year I will be fit for it.

The CWIF

The weather was gorgeous so in the afternoon we headed to Robin Hoods Stride for a relaxing session. Robin Hoods Stride is an amazing place, the rock features are spectacular and fairly unique looking and the whole place has a wonderful feel to it. I managed to haul myself up a few high quality boulders. Jerry’s arete 7a is a great problem on  quality rock.

Well happy after a flash of Jerry’s arete

Next up was Big Al Qaeda, a highball arete with some funky toe hook moves.

Big Al Qaeda 7B Flash

I finished off the day with my hardest flash to date on Ben’s wall 7C. This problem is an undercut slab, with a tricky move of an undercut to the top. After watching Phil on a few goes at the start I had a bash and found the who problem pretty steady with just the one move to the top requiring some effort. Either I had a stellar day or this problem is pretty soft. Happy to flash it non the less.

Sunday was a bit of a rest/not achieving very much day but on the Monday it all went down. I have been wanting to climb Western Eyes 7C+ at Burbage West for a while now, after several working goes it went pretty quickly. I used some beta that  I haven’t seen before, it involved using the right heal and right arete and getting my feet high on smears before going to the first break. Getting to the final break was a really challenge, but once sorted it felt pretty steady.

Western Eyes

Western Eyes

The first break on Western Eyes 

The rest of the day went by in a happy haze. We climbed a few classics including The Terrace 7C, Boyager 7A+ and Velvet Crab 7A+. The conditions on The Terrace were pretty shoddy but after getting the first move the rest followed quickly. Boyager is an amazing problem and world class in my opinion. It is a huge hanging fridge like prow which you horizontally hug to glory and is a must for anyone operating in the grade range and who has plenty of pads. I really struggled with Velvet Crab, which made me laugh as it took more goes and effort than The Terrace.

The Terrace

Gav Symonds Flashing Boyager

Velvet Crab

Overall We had a great weekend and I cannot wait for Fontainebleau next week.

Bring it on (weather permitting)!

Ps on Friday 22nd of March myself and some of the others Mammut team members will be setting a competition For High Sports in Plymouth and on Satureday 23rd we will be around for coaching and advice. If you are in the area please pop by.