I’ve just finished a nice christmas present from Katie. (Tears of the dawn) Julian Lines’s autobiographical account of the fallibility of man in scenarios which inevitably become life and death experiences. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it as it was never an i did this i'm so great read. It was more an account of a mans battle with his inner desires in life, with varying results of success and pain. I feel sorry for his ankles that's for sure! I would recommend it to anyone who's got a basic knowledge of rock climbing. I really enjoyed how the book recreates the experience of soloing in your minds eye in some of the chapters, reminding you why you should never solo and why you should solo in equal measure with every passing sentence and it even gets across a bit of what it means to sit on a giant ball of orbiting rock for the short time we’re here. Much better than Joyce's Ulysses, it's current main effects on myself "the reader" have been handily sending me off to sleep within 3 pages of literary flagellation. I'm only 3 chapters in however, so i may well get it if i persevere. I just hope it's not the literary equivalent of obscure IDM or noisecore whereby getting it means suffering though something which is incomprehensibly crap to most people but to people who understand how its been made come to the result that it is incredible as it manages to almost make sense whilst referencing loads of other obscure things at the same time. Time will tell on that one. feel free to tweet ulysses thoughts, good and bad to @beastmakers
If there’s one thing Julian's book has really done it’s got me keen for more trips to Scotland again. (interestingly this has just been voted one of the worlds best countries by lonely planet, i can only guess they meant the landscape and not the culture as Antarctica is above them). Even after 2 trips to font and lots of black stars consumed from the 7+8s guide ranging from 7A-8B+ i would still say the few perfect climbing days i had this year were up in the North West. I can’t ask for a better bouldering day than my day at Reiff with Katie. This year i've been in pursuit of climbing as an experience of movement and what you feel under the paws and sometimes as being somewhere and part of something much bigger than yourself. In a few places in Scotland you can get both of these, for a few months a year, and it's just a few hours from my house.
Surprisingly, I’ve actually managed to climb outside once so far this year and it was at Shaftoe. I visited a few times last year, as a chance encounter awoke a bit of a very dusty old desire to climb a barrel i first spotted circa 2003 on one of my first visits to Shaftoe. Shaftoe is a funny venue for the county really. The scrittly gritstone usually reminds me why i prefer the much finer grained sandstone found pretty much everywhere else in the county (basically it’s not my favourite crag). The good part of Shaftoe is that it is a nice enough place and the highly featured nature of the grit makes for some great holds when they’re solid and as a result you get some nice problems if you know where to look. Unlike the rest of northumberland you don’t have to try as hard to hold on when its cold so its a good winter venue too
Not the best beta! photo courtesy of Mark DIY Savage
Anyway i ended up fettling on with and climbing said barrel and it ended up being particularly enjoyable due to the intricacy of the pinches on the wall, particularly the crux pinch which requires a fast powerful move to it, but with the flutes being inset you pretty much have to hit the hold bang on to use it well enough for the next moves. It was one of those moves where if you try to hard you never do it well and its better to just try to switch off and let the body sort it out (like SLOT at Queens). MMM pinches second only to a good sandstone sloper in the world's bestest holds competition, photo courtesy of Mark DIY Savage
The main drawback of the line is that the arete of slim shady is out for hands as otherwise you may as well just do slim shady rather than climb a lovely pinchy barrel, if it got climbed without holds on or left of the arete for feet too this’d be a good logical progression of difficulty for the line but for now this seemed a bit tricky and best left to someone to cruise it rather than for myself to put time into a stricter eliminate, which is more a concept than proven! It was good fun anyhow and nice to see off a 16year olds whimsy about what might be possible. I called it Capability Brawn in a homage to a famous local landscaper who no doubt visited Shaftoe a lot in his youth (having been born only a few miles away). Rumour has it his ghost still walks shaftoe, Landscaping and improving landings at his whim by removing large dabby back scraping boulders, from otherwise good problems, what a prick of a ghost!
Capability Brawn: 8A+/8B photo courtesy of Mark DIY Savage
I’ve also re climbed Roadside wall stand which seems hard 7C now, i should get a chance to stabilize this soon to hopefully prevent any further chossing of the grit on this bloc. It’s nice to know that one of Andy (sit)/ Paul Smith’s (stand) classics still climbs nicely anyhow as it was a great set of moves pre breakage.
I’ve not really made too many plans for 2014 (other than not swearing at the crag as a new years resolution), i played last year by ear and easily had the most enjoyable/ successful climbing year of my life. So hopefully this year can follow suit with some new adventures and maybe even the odd rope. For now it’s back on the fingerboard and onto my long term projects on there.
Bits and bobs from beastmaker.co.uk on Vimeo.
I made a bit of a video, with a few odd bits of footage from August-now . It's got Capability Brawn in at the end too.