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a new year, same old me.

Posted on March 06, 2013 by Dan Varian

Brocken Spectre whilst finding new pebbles

It sounds silly but i hadn’t really planned what to do as this year came about. Everything was 2012 this and 2012 that.  I blame the olympics personally 2013 started to feel like a bit of an afterthought. I joked in January that it should be the year of the drought (draught) after the year of the flood last year. Like Chinese animal years but adapted for our new climate. So far so good anyhow. Except i haven’t really done anything that i really wanted to do yet. I also seem to be getting busier as i get older and finding time to write anything worthwhile on the web is getting harder. As such this is a bit of a mish mash of stuff from the first 2 months or so this year, easy reading, lots of buffer just like a good trash novel. The abysmal end to last year and bad january this year really killed the motivation in me and at one point i had “nothing new to do- complete bollocks as ever” I then found a bunch of one mover projects but i find it hard to prioritize those over the bigger lines. And as such i’ve had a dabble on each but done none. The big lines have been spitting me off and i’ve been struggling to get in the closing things out mindset. Everyone needs a rest once in a while i guess, mine just got forced on me. So with a bit of trundling here and there to keep me busy as well as being a good all round workout to keep the strength up. (moving 300KG blocks for over an hour does wonders for your lower back) I’ve started to find a bit more March motivation.

January and February have passed by in a mess of split tips, wrong crags on the wrong days and the odd new problem from 7C to 8A+ but nothing great just average stuff or variations, some were great fun or great moves with good company but none were the big stuff that really keeps me training hard, after all there are enough good VS-E5s in the lakes to last anyone a lifetime of days out and you dont need to maintain a base level of 8A/+ bouldering to do them. 

Katie's lovely pic of the Lakes winter on Dad's Birthday, Later on i tried some optimistic bum boarding, sufficed to say the classic descents weren't in condition despite being white.

I’m gradually getting back on form though. Before Christmas i was about 68KG and found it hard to keep warm when outside so i ate and ate and ate over December and January and now i’m still under 70kgs! although i have felt a bit warmer whilst out of late. The best thing about the eating is that i’ve got the squeeze back and it is the funnest part of climbing for me. Unfortunately i’ve only really felt the benefit on one project outdoors so far and on the board (that and one armering the 45’s and pinky mono front levering as a dick about at the end of a session, (i’d never one armed the 45s before but had a spate of doing full repeaters on one arm on the 35s in 2010). Luckily Rob Fielding and Dave Birkett were on hand as witnesses to such silly feats (I dont think Dave was impressed at all, he's seen it all before; atleast my woodwork in the wall got a nice nod of approval though). The 55 board (or Beak Master as i've named it) is where i’ve made the best gains, just to wind up Eden Rock customers as its still shut to the public! It feels like i’ve only just got the measure of it after 2 months though so it might not be the most user friendly board ever. I’m hoping to use it a lot this year to find that elusive next level of technical incapability, that and its really really fun.

Micky cruising the 55 (its got a lot more holds on now)

The biggest visual change of 2013 is my move from Bigstone to Mountainboot company. It made sense to me after a long think over. I live in the "Scarpa North" now and was a lone 5.10 raider up here. Geordies always looked upon my shoes like a bad smell, how dare i wear those on this rock! Nearly all the hard first ascents up here got done wearing Scarpa’s whether its Dunne, Dunning or Katz’s routes and problems in Yorkshire, Birketts routes in the lakes or Andy and Malcs ascents in The County. Macleod and Malc dominate the hard FA’s in Scotland too in most disciplines. With Ricky Bell in Northern Ireland it really is the Scarpa North (In the interests of fairness there is a fairly large Boreal Gaskins and 5.10 Mcclure limestone history there, a Peckitt lead evolv yorks grit development surge and Hocking's fingers are currently pulling red chili's up behind him on hard trad and boulders). 

It was a bit funny adapting to different shoes for a week or two (i’ve worn 5.10s for over 7 years) but after a couple of sessions in the Instinct Vs’s it felt like i’d gained more than i’d lost in terms of a shoe that does nearly everything well (which considering the price of rock shoes nowadays for most non jammy people is a very good thing!). That combined with a very cool custom made pair of Vapour Vario's Thanks to Heinz Mariacher and i couldn’t be happier with what i’ve got under me. To be honest if i hadn’t been bouldering for so long that i can be arsed to exploit the difference between a linear, catch and friction heel (total nerd) then i would probably just wear the instincts all the time but there are some heel hooks which are best in a certain shoe and the instinct heel is amazing for friction heels but not catch. Sometimes that makes the difference between doing something in a session or in several. Which over the course of the year adds up. Anyway i’m looking forward to putting up some classics in them.

Classics are going to be the attempted theme of this year for me (esoteric might come a close second) if i can help it. I’m partial to the odd filler in/ blinkered problem from time to time but i’m hoping to keep the standards high this year (last year i almost managed but a few lines lead me astray) if i can get going well enough, I’ve certainly found the projects to work on, they are just getting further away with more conditionsy and harder moves on. A stressful thing at times!

Still i can always go on Holiday...

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2012 wrap up

Posted on January 02, 2013 by Dan Varian

 A busy year:

Thanks to everyone who bought something off beastmaker this year, we hope you're all happy with your purchases and that they are helping you in your various walks of life.

 This year has turned out fantastically in many ways for me, at times its been very stressful and i’ve definitely had my fair share of bad luck too. Its been a good year for changing my mindset and approaching climbing differently. I am seeing it more as an engaging hobby rather than something to spend all my time on, i don’t have the time, money nor conscience at the moment to jetset worldwide month after month. Part of this is getting older and gaining responsibilities but part of it is the clarity that i now see in my motivations, i know what i like in climbing and what i want to do and it doesn’t need my whole life orientated towards it with colossal holidays (im not saying the odd one wouldn’t be nice though), i’ve also found enough challenges in the UK this year to keep me more than busy and i can see 2013 filling up already if the UK was good enough for all our previous greats to push standards it is still that way for me. yes the weather’s been pretty crap but so’s reality sometimes, our weather will get crapper and more extreme the more we pump it full of energy. I reckon i’m happy with dabbling in this droughty/flooded isle, putting up 4 new 8B’S & 13 8A/+s and dozens of high 7’s (90% of which are independent blocs) is an alright tick list for a rainy year (i even had time to do some trad and a days sport). It was a funny year for repeating things. I did all my other 8’s in 1-2hrs or under, except second coming, which is my hardest ever repeat & problem i think and took more time to do than... well grannies have made patchwork quilts a lot faster.

  Its been the first year i’ve not climbed out the UK and it might have been the worst year for a loong time to do so. That said i’ve progressed more this year as a climber than i have since i started i think. Part of that has been the weather putting my back to the wall or at least creating the illusion of pressure. Being back on my board in my garage for most of the year really forced me to focus and follow my own rhythm, which is basically resting when i don’t feel close to 90% of my best but training really hard when i do. Its been a nail biting strategy as i’ve been trusting my guts rather than the formula of train though the pain and keep pushing. Much of this strategy has come from needing to switch my plans round the weather, there’s no point knackering out the pony only to find out its race day tomorrow. Either way everything which i found pretty hard at the start of the year on my board i now do at the end of my warm ups. The reason for this is the gathering of the crimp. in the start of 2011 i was much weaker on crimps than i am now, i needed 9kgs assistance to hang the campus rung on the 2000 half crimped for a set on one arm. That was about the time i did voyager, cypher, BOP, stanton deliver, nth power, primitive notion, the pessimist, dandelion mind and Bewilderness etc etc. I was also heavier then too. I tried second coming that year with Ned, neither of us got anywhere near to pulling on near the start but we figured out an easier way to do the very end, it was so fun and unlikely that it sparked up the idea that i would love to be able to do it one day. I’ve been going to goldsborough since i was 16. I had a great evening there once with Ry, Gangle, Katzy and Dunning. It really is a favourite crag of mine, with mostly immaculate rock, the crag is so barren and timeless from one vista but surprisingly near habitation if you look south east. Second coming always fascinated me, when Steve chatted me through it i could never get my head round smearing in a roof. But thats what you do, to pull on you step up to the right foot smear and tense like Mr Universe, the first holds are un-holdable without the smear, otherwise you’d just campus from them, the RH is a decent cresent crimp the left is simply a two finger half pad crimp which i stack my other fingers near and pinch. I’ve never tried a problem before where its been so hard to pull on (once you pull on its roughly a single move 8A+ into a soft 8A). Even on things like Traci Lords sit or ATHOIA, all the pull ons are quite easy (although on the latter the moves between are horrendous). This is what is brilliant hey? working the pull ons, i only know of a few dedicated boulderers (who’ve already got a good protfolio of ascents) who work the pull ons on projects for long time scales. Maybe its taking the bar too far on, bouldering becoming too niche and unapproachable? i don’t think so, mainly because of the simple fact that by November this year not only was it relatively easy for me to pull on, no more lower leg tapping to get off the floor, but i could work the holds to do what i wanted with them, and i wanted to move in a way that was perpendicular not opposing to them, which needed more power and a different left foot. It really was a fantastic effort in 2001 by Steve and a great find. Shortly after doing second coming i went back on the beastmaker to check how i was doing and i could now hang the littlest outer rung on 1 arm half crimped for 7 seconds no problem and 1 arm it at the same time, with no assistance, which for 12 months work is a ridiculous change, interestingly last year i could hold 1 pad pinky monos for at least 8 seconds and now i cant hold them at all at the moment. My drag strength has dropped from easily doing a full set on the same arm on the rh eye to needing 3kg assistance to. Mind you thats not a bad rate of decline over 12 months of relative neglect.  

Earthworm Jim 8A/+ (hope this gets some attention as is near the road and great fun)

I like this game, its tricky to play and like snakes and ladders there’s always the threat of injury to take you back down a few notches but i’ve learned this year that by simply waiting 18 months (and guessing the training well) you can prove how short sighted the minds eye is. which begs the question where is the end of the line? I’d love to try traci lords sit next year if i get the fortune. Plus Gaskins did it in a session which makes me think i can possibly do it. He also flashed the stand, again a phenomenal effort and possibly the UK’s hardest ever flash in terms of doing a single 8a move first go.

So thats what i’ve realized this year. I’ve also realized i’d like to go on holiday somewhere abroad, bouldering next year, Fairhead counts right? I’ve realized Scotland has some incredible boulder projects just 2 hrs from my house in Carlisle. I’ve also realized i can both fart and burp at the same time. I’ve realized that no matter how hard you try some projects will always be a victim to the weather, the only thing i haven’t done this year that i really wanted to is the ultimate in seeping frustration. I’ve realized i’ve said the r word too many times now.

some rubbish uk projects for 2013 if the weather holds out!

So some highlights?

Everything i did in the county is special to me but End Sequence really was great fun and it was a pleasure getting to do Chris’s Launch sequence many times over. The county as a whole is where i feel most at home, even more so now thanks to Katie and her family, whether having a barefoot jog along bamburgh, hanging out in Pilgrims on holy island before heading to bowden for some soloing.

I felt my best performances this year have to be when success and failure were a hairs breadth apart. I did Traci lords in about 30 minutes in July (just after turning 25, Greg is still the youngest ascender!!) and it took everything to break the move down that quickly and hold the swing in control. 

Rhythm was great, the feeling of hitting all the dimples right was great. It’d been shady when we arrived but just as i sat down to try the sit the sun came out and i had to wait, Then as it got lower i started trying it, i messed up the top twice and calmed down a bit then hit the perfect go, body working overdrive stuff. 

Fat Lady was the other ascent that i had to wind up the gears on, its just like a board problem and after finally sticking the long move well i had to finish it off there and then. A great day out with Micky and Katie on a busy month.

The other thing i’ve helped with this year is building Eden Rock. Aside from being 3 months of graft we’ve finally started work on the training room. Which is good as i’m keen to get back on a steep board and pulling beaks. The aim is to make the nicest/ most effective board in the world for 8th grade climbers. After 3 sessions it definitely feels a lot harder than any other board i’ve used. I hope by the time it feels easy and i can use all the holds a few more obvious gaps will appear from the blankness outside.

Where the Wild things are SS-7C+?

A Bigger Berry

Some nice new ones in the county in 2012 (well ones i have nice pics of anyway)

As an aside i have witnesses or unedited video (or both) for all my problems i’ve put up this year (as i’m aware i’ve put up more new blocs this year than si o' connor ever did and he churned them out! which might flag up the bullshit radar) End Sequence is the only exception as the camera was left in Katie's car and she had a meeting in Newcastle. I do however have the footage from the session before with Katie and Ben when i dropped the very last hard move on the out swing and i’d be more than happy to head up there again if it was an issue. Lying makes no sense to me unless you’re weak and have alot to prove. Strong climbers are strong fact. Strong developers cherish undone lines alot more than done ones as they are bloody hard to find.Thankfully bouldering seems to be moving in the direction of it not being taboo to ask for proof. 

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Darker Days

Posted on November 19, 2012 by Dan Varian

Home 8B: Floated up this on a great day out with Dave and Elsie, weightless movement on small grippy holds.

Autumns great hey? There’s something about the trees gilding their leaves that feels like a convivial rustling of a years work well spent. New growth and strength achieved and offerings of those lovely crispy leaves before winter sets in. Watching the wretched bracken die back you cant help but celebrate. I love the first day out when a cold wind barges through the space between you and the rock. I had a good October this year, something clicked, i got fired up on a line i’ve not yet done but a window opened just slightly, not big enough for that yet but it had a knock on effect and 3 other lines fell with relative ease, it felt like all i had to do was show up and pull on and my body would handle the rest. Then something very British happened, i thought oh fuck i cant go on like this, i’ve only got 2 things left which mean a lot to me, if i do them this month then i’ll be lost in a world of pointless shuffling, doing moves just for the sake of them but without being all there in my head. Like a once talented pianist tapping away in a deserted hotel bar. What’s the point really in any bouldering? Dawkins is prattling on about the pointlessness of everything on channel 4 at the minute, He’s right of course (until proven wrong), and there is solace in the miracle of us consciously floating through this brief blip in time when almost everything is possible which we set our faustian minds to, and we have so much free time for minds to wonder. I’m staring at rock nowadays and seeing it eat up life with the flicker of an idea, “i want to climb that” well thats a year gone “and that” another 3 months “and that” well that you may never do, but you probably will because you think you can” 

Nature's Angry 7B+ (stand start in the near the right of the patina shield and head straight up) Pic: by mark Savage (horizon by me not straightening it)

I am a bit lost in it all to be honest, too many projects this year and too many things undone, if it looks like i’ve done a lot, in my mind i haven't (i’m tricky to please) the weathers been great for wild plants but shite for bouldering at many venues. Bowden and St Bees are oozing green lichen that i’ve never seen before and it may well be a sign of crags beginning to be adapted by a changing climate. Also my body has changed so much throughout the year from lots of hard work/ stress/ training that its bizarre, i’ve never been so light and good on little crimps, which is great for some stuff but most climbers i know of this ilk are one trick ponies. Its time to change again, force exertion is what i have ultimate respect for in bouldering and i’ve got a bit worse at the backy side of it in the past few months. Hanging on with strong fingers only gets you so far on projects (watch the difference between Jan Hojer and Dave Graham climbing Sky to see an example of this). sometimes you’ve got to squash the angles to get the holds out of them and that means having the crush to both squeeze and hang on. If i lived in another country with loads of rock in 1 style i’d maybe just wriggle away on little edges but the joy of being here, where i am and will live for a while is that there are almost all the worlds major rock types within 2.5 hours of my house. So i may as well play on them all. But what to do when you begin to run out of things to play on? Crags are more developed now and optimism for new lines is logically waning in a sea of established classics. My mind is a powerful but short sighted thing. Within a week of it massively bumming me out and convincing me the end was nigh then i was back on some great new things. If i want to do everything i set out to then i’ve either got to reign in my expectations or meet them with a bigger window for success. I want to make that window bigger now and not try things so far out of it that it closes up to a size thats hard to deal with day after day. Real gains can be made through proper training, its not just some shallow thing for inflexible gonks to do to look strong, real training creates a base level of pure and mechanical strength for the brain and nerves to fine tune, Climbing is one of those tricky sports in that the hardest things can only be achieved when the mind truly wants them, the processes of doing a hard problem are so complex that not a single thought can interrupt the process, absolute focus propogating though to each limb, if it doesn’t then success hasn’t been hard enough earned for me. I love discovering new challenges, geology and weathering set problems that resin can never achieve. Perhaps i’m taking it all a bit too seriously?  but its hard not to keep trying to better myself with a personality like mine, the conflict is only between my expectations and reality. My climbing summed up on a billboard. Expectations vs Reality. Reality always wins but only for a moment before my expectations whisp me off again into a future that may never exist. Where i’m great and can climb whatever i’d like. There have been two moments this year of this being the case. I’m not the best climber in the world, i’m not the most powerful or the most impressive. But non of that is the reason i try so hard on some climbs. Its so that in those moments i feel what i’m pretty sure is true happiness. Struggling so hard to become better at something which will never happen unless i struggle. Schrodingers cat turning out to be a perfect pet instead of landfill. sisyphus with a happy ending, sisyphus but learning on each roll of the boulder what was going wrong, and finding that perfect spot where the boulder will sit forever, so you can always look back upon the achievement and draw upon it. As pointless as the achievement is, for me it beats anything else i can think to come up with.

Sometimes I do moves on projects that even i find ridiculous, but if they work; they work. Believe it or not this is currently the best (least power sapping) solution i’ve found on a project i’ve just managed to do all the moves (and a few decent links) on on my first session but it took all my past history of technical nous and power to combine into a sequence which worked, it can be refined next session anyhow. There’s always the possibility of a next session, whether or not there’ll ever be another one i don’t know.

Here’s a nice quote from Tom Paine, talking about something much more serious ( i was listening to a folk tune on youtube and it cropped up)

“Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. T’is dearness only that gives everything its value”

short summation of all the above:

Basically if you do it in a session its piss but you’ll never be as happy as if you really try on something. (if its been a few years you might start going mad).

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End Sequence

Posted on June 09, 2012 by Dan Varian

I Finally managed the Sitter to Launch Sequence this week , my last 2 sessions were within touching distance of it and i could feel it coming together. Its also hardly a sitter as the holds of Launch sequence start about 9feet up so by sitting at the jug at the back of the roof you really are knackered by the time your 8m up at the top of the mighty Launch. This has been one of the funnest project experiences of my life, with pleasant progressive sessions and decent conditions whenever i went. The only down side is that i needed time between sessions for my heel skin to stop hurting (its a bit heel hooky on the right leg) and the sequence has so much micro beta it was nails to remember it all. 

After a bad, totally random, bike accident in the capital a fortnight ago and a really bad wrist sprain i thought my year really was going down the pan and i was sick of reality getting in the way of expectations (along with a good dose of bad luck), but after a fretful week of rest and non climbing i managed to get it working well enough to climb hard on straight wrist moves. I did a few things like antihydral (basically flash) and sitter to honeycomb (8A+?) to get the confidence up. With other commitments I thought i was going to have to wait  to get on it, but a surprise window came up when Katie had a meeting in Newcastle the morning of us leaving for a short holiday to Scotland so i blasted in for a few quick attempts. The barefoot run (my first since last year) along the beach the day before seemed to pay off despite a large blister coming along for the ride. Anyway i managed not to cock up enough to finally get up it.

I'd like to call it End Sequence, and it  roughly seemed hard 8B? to me in relation to all other things considered in the county but who knows as per usual i feel it could be a lot easier if you could leave your heel on for the last move and utterly nails if your short. I'll wait for someone else to give it a good bash before i really commit to thinking of it as hard as its been purely myself working it so i may well have missed a trick or two.

Its one of the two things i really wanted to get done in the county this year anyhow and its taken a load off getting it done. Its almost a perfect problem, start jug, great landing, totally non eliminate obvious line, engaging all the way and lovely holds.

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Some thoughts for small rocks:

Posted on April 25, 2012 by Dan Varian

I’ve had loads of porcelain epiphanies lately but when its actually come to penning them down they’ve bunged themselves up and i’ve left them to flush away with all the other crap memes i have throughout the day.

 Moving back home has been really interesting due to the reacquaintance of my current form with the me from 7 years ago. A 17 year old me who’d just learnt to drive in the Morris Traveller. Bursting with fresh psyche for all the new venues around me and many possible new lines. Chapman, Kershaw and Gaskins were my inspiration for the lakes problems! Some inspiration that! you can either look at it as a bunch of visionary Lancastrians with twinkle toes, or a mixture of gel, ponytails and bald/ponytail combos raving about this and that new rockfall/ escarpment which looks a bit like a boulder. I’d been using my new freedom to climb things like Eyes of Silence, Carlisle Slappers (i was 16 then, you can tell by the name, and was learning to drive on the waterworks road as it was private) And i wanted to climb every half decent problem in sight. The guide was all about climbing everything, nice clean consecutive ticks, aah the neatness. 

I left a lot of my Scotland Lakes and Northumberland guides at home through Uni and they stayed dormant, the inky circles of desire slowly seeping into the pages to become a relic of past whimsies. Re-clambering through these routes and problems on the sofa, what were once my dreams now rasp against my current ideologies. Belittled by my older self. That is not to say that the routes are worse, they still look incredible. Just that Prana on Black Crag Borrowdale, Wheels of Fire on Bowderstone Crag, Crystal Vision Knapdale ( and many more old guide book inspired dreams, no longer represent where I'm bursting to get to when the weathers good.

Something went horribly wrong over the last 7 years in terms of my aspirations, its not like i achieved and surpassed them, i simply bypassed many of them completely! 

Carrock was another venue I last frequented aged 17, until last week. I remember doing punks life and briefly pretending i was somewhere exotic, Knight Rider with a massive flapper from a crystal (one of the straws that broke the carrocks back for me with this venue) Cave LH. My finest hour, repeating a Gaskins problem the day after he did it! aah joy, his chalk was on it and everything. I even had to tie a strap round my V10s to keep my heel on, i bet Gaskins didn’t have to use a heel. 

Shortly after this i fell in love with the county and Carrock seemed little more than a good place to rasp some skin off in a bogged out midge ridden talus field. In the last fortnight though i’ve grown curious about the old me, the one who went there and had fun. So whilst picking up some wood with Katie to make more holds we decided to swing by on an iffy afternoon for a trip down memory lane. In particular to look at Greg’s sterling work on the back of Boardman’s boulder and Hocks new one move power explosion, Super Yum Yum. The latter was unfortunately piss wrapped so that’ll have to wait for another day.

Metronome (Greg’s new problem) was fortunately dry. 

The stand to this was a funny problem of mine. I remember doing it whilst being really pissed off with myself for doing it. It was sharp (i had some right baby skin then). I only had one pad and my ankles kept disappearing in bouts of unfettered exploration down the holes in the horrible talus landing (i didn’t know to patio landings like this then) There was a big pissing block looming in the way of the direct exit behind me and my left exit kept rasping more skin off. I wanted to leave it but i knew in theory there was a decent problem there, i just didn’t know how to produce it. I eventually did the stand and then drove 3 miles of the drive home with the handbrake still on (only twigging when the burning smell caught me up on a hill) in the Morris (like i said i was learning to drive too) Fast forward 7 years and all is revealed. Greg Patio’d the landing sorting the exit and the ankle swallowing falls in one. Even opening up the true line, with great moves. Literally sorting the men from the boys. reclimbing the stand was bizarre, physical nostalgia. I set about the sit but with no print out guide i got a bit lost and started with the wrong limbs on all the right holds. The other main difference nowadays was that it felt like my skin was indifferent to its sharpness, and i can squeeze the crap out the holds. With my slightly easier sit sequence i managed it after snapping a bit of the crux LH undercling slightly on my first attempt. How things change with the arrow of time.

So the point of all this is that i’ve been consciously trying to imagine where i might be if life carries on this way and finding not just short term projects in the lakes but long term possibilities for people (not just me) too. As disillusionment in an area is not something i hope to enjoy until my more curmudgeonly years. Either that or i’ll have to start traveling!

A quick (with the usual dodgy omissions) summary of the above for people who prefer to keep/peruse scorecards rather than guidebooks


Metronome, 2nd go

poor quality vid (mostly iphone) of some random stuff from the last 10days here:

On a side note if anyone is looking for a Morris Traveller my dad is selling one of ours for £1500ish

it looks a bit like this.

only without the v8, and 2 tone paint job, rally seats and roll cage.

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