Anchor Management

Posted on November 24, 2014 by Ned Feehally

After another tip off from Jon I headed to Birchen, mainly to fight my way through the throngs of top ropers but also to have a look at a project. Jon tells me that everyone he had mentioned it to had dismissed it as impossible, but there seemed to be a few holds dotted about so I thought it was worth a look.


The problem is in between the arête of Lowside and Mark Katz's "boulder problem" The Brigand. It sounds squeezed in and the photo makes it look squeezed in, but it is a great independent line up some pretty poor holds. Start on undercuts, reach around to a right hand ripple then ride a heel and crab up a few more ripples to a pocket, and an easy finish.


(Photo: Ben Morton)

I had a session on it with Tom (Newman) where we both got reasonably close, but the sun came out and started to warm things up - not ideal when you are trying to stick to tiny nano ripples. We were both dead keen to return, but unfortunately for Tom his free days never quite coincided with cold, dry weather. I lucked out and found myself back there early one chilly morning and managed to finish it off just before the sun crept round onto the holds.


Sticking with the nautical theme of the crag, the frustrating nature of the on/off heel hook (and a love of bad puns) I've called it "Anchor Management". It felt like it might be font 8a+ ish.


A couple of weeks later Tom nipped back for a quick repeat - he used a different sequence as his gangly limbs didn't fit into the bunched heel hook, but they could reach a toe hook out on the arête. Either way it's hard, good work Gangle!

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Posted on April 16, 2014 by Ned Feehally

I always find it easier to train if I have a definite goal. Motivation doesn't come as easily as it used to now but the one of the more exciting things for me is to visit a totally new area with loads of new problems to go at. Especially if it's a sandstone area! After booking a trip to Albarracin I suddenly kept finding myself climbing on the board and hanging off fingerboards again.

I didn't really know what to expect as I didn't know much about the area and hadn't done much research but it ended up being a great trip to a lovely venue. For the first few days the conditions were perfect and I got loads done. Then it started to warm up and I toned down my climbing and enjoyed being on holiday for the last couple of days (i.e. eating too much).

A meaty mantle



Quimera has an amazing thumbdercut crux maneuver  



Pinturas buldestres - beauty!


Quite a lot of Albarracin is out of bounds at this time of year - for bird nesting I think, but maybe also to protect the place a bit from people. It struck me that considering how beautiful and unique the landscape is, people didn't seem to take much care of it. It's impossible to say weather the locals or the visitors (or both) are to blame but  there was a lot of rubbish, poo and toilet paper scattered all over the woods. And on top of that the rock really seemed to be suffering. The sandstone is pretty soft and erosion is starting to noticeably set in on some problems. Also the popular problems are often caked in chalk - not just a light dusting but a thick, chunky layer. Maybe this is because the popular problems tend to be the steep ones (quite right too as they are brilliant and very unique for Europe) so don't get washed by the rain so much. It just seemed such a shame that people didn't care about the rocks and forest as much as they could/should.  These rocks are pretty special but they won't last forever - lets try our best to look after them as we enjoy them and prolong their lifespan as much as we can.


Zombie nation 


The grading is all over the shop in Albarracin.. Although as usual conditions, and the generally simple nature of the climbing plays a big factor and the soft rock and hold breakage must change problems quite regularly.  I can't be bothered to disagree or argue about any specific problems here.


El borreguito - prow!


Cosmos - a total classic


Bindu - crazy legs


The conditions there were perfect for me there. It was very low humidity, very windy and way below 10 degrees on the good days. For me conditions play a huge part in weather I can climb anything. In fact it is one of the most important factors for me. Usually my hands are hot and sweaty so as soon as they are cold and dry the rock feels totally different and I can climb more slowly and carefully and not slip off.


A nice arete


Esperanza - really cool  font style squeezing


I have no idea how hard any of the problems are there, partly due to actually training before going there and partly due to the freakish conditions. If only Font had weather like that! Although I suppose the attraction of Font is that you never actually get anything done (unless you're Dan) so you have to keep going back!
All photos: Shauna Coxsey

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Some bits

Posted on April 05, 2014 by Ned Feehally

Here is a couple of photos from recent climbing jaunts:

Enter the Dragon (8a+) 
Classic British bouldering - the crag is small and the landing is pooey but the climbing is on tiny holds and great fun (not to mention hard). I had done the stand start ages ago (which was called 22 chambers as Ben Thompson climbed it on my 22nd birthday) so it was nice to go back and with a bit of huffing and puffing, climb it from the sit start. Good work Danny Cattell for putting this up.


Surplomb de la mee (8b)
After a damp and warm trip to Font over the new year I was desperate to return for some unfinished business. So I did, and I managed to climb this bad boy. It used to be 8a until the only real hold fell off it, now its got a fair bit harder. 

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North of the wall

Posted on May 24, 2013 by Dan Varian


Pic: Katie Mundy

I’ve had two more 2 day trips up to Scotland this year on my days off from Beastmaker and setting problems at Eden Rock when i’ve spotted good weather up there and i thought i’d share a little about what we’ve been up to. Katie and I have bought a T5 after being woo’ed by Jonesy’s T4 on trips up there and its already proving to be a great wingman. Scotland is a fantastic place to use vans and many a winter climber and tradder has known it for years. It’s been the coldest may since 1979 (met office data) and that hasn’t gone un noticed, i’ve had some fantastic conditions lately and i’ve only had one midge sighting which came on my last trip and it was with great satisfaction that it morphed into a little black smudge on my arm. 


Pic: Katie Mundy

Interestingly i’ve pretty much only climbed on one boulder up there when i’ve been fresh but it’s a cracker. I first heard it get mentioned when chatting to local developer Tom Charles Edwards about venues in the Arrochar alps area. A bit of web searching revealed a pic of a huge roll of turf flying off the top of said boulder but nothing more. Then i found a pic of Macleod staring up at a very steep face and so i thought; worth a look. so on a wet december day i took a look with Katie for something to do and was pretty amazed. You can see why good lines get talked about before they are done because they are so striking to whoever sees them. The boulder has two total classics on. The uniquest line is an incredible rising traverse that comes out of a square notch in the boulder and the only other holds on the entire 10m wide face force you leftwards and up towards the arete. A true face problem. I think a certain strong Scot had a look back in 2008ish but wrote it off as it didn’t quite go at the end. This was a bit worrying initially and there were old ticks when i got there. I thought it could be another classic, not quite there boulder, as is so often the case on many great features. I’ve always been one to let the rock decide though rather than reputations of things and upon getting there all the holds looked quite big to me, albeit undercuts with no feet and slopers and flatties on a 60 degree overhang. But at least there was stuff to work with. After years of climbing with Ned his bonkers beta has rubbed off on me over the years, i’ve had so many basic power sequences heeled and drop knee’d into submission that it becomes obvious that if there is a way of getting the feet to do the work then let them do it, save the arms for when feet aren’t there to help. So on my first session i let my arms and legs run wild. I thought i could spot the mythical blank impasse and sure enough after looking at the likely 50 megatonne power beta to do just that move the thought of climbing into it via more horrendous moves seemed like i’d have to move house and become a scottish hermit to get it done. So my sincere apologies to the incredible last great power project. 

pic: Nick Brown video still.

I long to find problems where i don’t have to resort to kneebars, heels and in this case, drop heels, double spag heels, double toes, leg threads and possibly a level 5 heel. God that looks bad on paper, its like a confessions list of crimes against power. The thing is they are awesome fun when it all works and comes together. I did all the moves on my first session with this cloud cuckoo land beta. Next session saw me drop the very last move from a logical stand halfway along the boulder. I had duff beta for the last few moves and i was disgusted to drop it there, especially when i found easier beta at the end. I had tried so hard i felt like a heavy horse seriously in need of a watering hole, it was well past 9pm and my last go just confirmed that my bolt was shot. Katie and I had a gorgeous dinner down by the castle. I felt a lot better with some food in me in such a tranquil place, i couldn’t agree more with the late Don Whillan’s sentiments when he says that climbing for him was about an excuse for getting into the mountains more than anything. To have dinner by such an ancient monument surrounded by the Cowal Glens is something i don’t want to forget. Its not hard to imagine the comings and goings of the last few hundred years whilst glancing from the castle northwards into the wind. As it licks up the water on the loch into a series of riffled swells; life must of been truly memorable for the people living there. Clarity hit me and this all seemed like a nice opportunity to come back. I knew the midge clock was ticking so i didn’t wait long. 

Tuesday saw me back up with Nick who is keen to film some development of areas. He’d had a relaxing weekend in Austria filming proper world cup celebs and what they eat for breakfast lunch and dinner so i thought i’d better sweeten the deal by offering him a bunk up in Van Diesel, the idea of a 2 day mini break appealed. We set off back up the road on tuesday and arrived to some rather good temps and a nice golden eagle sighting. Nicks little legs got a bit tired on the walk in but like all good camera chaps nowadays he likes to carry really heavy bits of metal about with him. I had an objective in mind, one hold to glory. Luckily i’ve been feeling quite good of late on the rocks and i did the stand at the end of my warm up with the new last move beta. I don’t know how hard it is exactly as the beta is so bonkers, to me it felt like an 8A/+ but who knows, it’s so steep it doesn’t compare to many blocks except for the bowderstone and some stuff at dumby/ glen nevis. Time will tell anyhow. Thanks to doing it from stand quick i had time to refine the sit into it a little bit. This is certainly the most obvious start but at over 30moves i thought it was worth splitting the problem up into a stand and sit and its easy to pull on where i did the stand from. The sit adds some truly whacky and powerful moves into the stand up and it’ll be a formidable challenge once done. It’s not traditionally my style of boulder as i’ve grown up in England where the boulders tend to be smaller and the the holds too on many of the boulders (because they are less steep). So i feel a bit like a 2-10move climber attempting a route. I managed a pretty good link from sit though so if i can get my fitness up then i’ll be keen. 

pic: Nick Brown video still.

But for now feel free to make the effort and take a look if you fancy a massive power endurance 8B+ish boulder. Its nice to share projects like this as it was never mine to begin with, lots of other great Scottish climbers helped put the effort in to getting it climbable and solid. The line deserves to be done rather than get forgotten as it was certainly going that way and it’d be fantastic to see Scotland with more amazing hard boulders as it is certainly one of the finest places to boulder in the UK in my opinion. Dumby has even been cleaned up now, which is a genuinely inspiring thing to see in terms of strength of community.

sit proj

Pic: Dan Varian

After working the traverse i thought i’d see if i could do the arete to the right from sit as it’d been bugging me after doing it from crouch the week before (if you used 2 pads you could sit i guess). Dave Jones climbed the stand with me a few weeks before after a days skiing in fort william and we both ran out of gas from crouch, Dave had an awesome go where he crushed his way up to the stand holds but the fumes evaporated and we both left wanting more. We wrote off the sit that day as it seemed unfathomable compared to the obvious crouch. After a bit of brain crunching again i found a possible solution and then much to my mutual disgust and pleasure figured it out. Disgust because i’d just usurped my previous efforts on a classic boulder, but pleasure because there is an obvious start sidepull “jug” and it feels right starting from there. By this time i was feeling the few hours of climbing on the traverse but i thought i saw a possible window of success there. 2 strong goes left me on the ground at the stand up due to a messed up body position. One more go saw me get to the very last move of the stand before it relents totally gassed with my hand opening up on the crimp. My number was up and deja vu from the week before hit me. Another castle dinner was called for to make up for the crippling failure which had tainted the success of the day.

pic: Nick Brown video still.

A tranquil night by the loch brought round a new day. We decided to change tune. I’d never been to precious or Turbinal Nose in Glen Croe and i thought it’d be a nice relaxing day out on some classics! We headed straight up to Precious after a brew at Loch Goilhead what a fantastic boulder. There weren’t many warm ups but i pretty much felt warm from the day before still. upon topping it out i noticed the top of the line to the left was clean. Clean schist shimmers in the sun as its metallic flakes catch the light and its a pretty thing to look at. I had a quick play on the upper wall above semi precious which’d give it a great independent finish, it’ll definitely go. My mind was elsewhere though, the sun was pinning me to the shade but shimmering round the corner was a fantastic highball line. At first i thought it looked pretty easy but the boulder overhangs a lot more than the eyes suggest from front on. As the clouds came i ran round, did battle, sun came back out, ran away. I gradually broke it down ground up like this for about an hour, getting more and more frustrated by the testing weather and an infuriating foothold (by this point some showers and hail had popped by too) but like a bad itch it’d got under my skin. I was tired, skin sore and being hammered by sun and rain but that just added to the challenge. I appreciate scenarios like this now, whereas in the past i may have walked away. I wanted to find that window of success and it was all over the place. As the afternoon drew in i began to wake up more. I got through the bottom crux only to find another one high up and dirty holds. I’ve done a lot of new problems in the last 12 years and even as a lowly 25year old i feel pretty wizened now as to how to do battle with a project. Basically if i wanted to stand a chance of doing it in a day i had to throw the true ground up ascent out the window and change tac. The abseil rope was retrieved from the van and i got the top cleaned and sorted the moves. I’d long pushed past my comfort zone and my skin was sore but i knew that was all just a test. In the back of my mind i knew there was a chance if i could just hit all the holds and positions right, somehow all that happened. I pulled it out the bag and it felt good. Its a fantastic problem, crimping up some 25degree overhanging schist on off kilter edges and really dicky feet. you could possibly add a sit into it from the precious start too which would make it harder. Sit starts to highballs aren’t something i usually go for but it looks like it could be a good one. Its start holds are on a leftwards trending rail which would also make a brilliant problem.

pic: Nick Brown video still.

I’d like to call it Stronghold as its on the hideaway boulder and i think its soft 8Aish? its a good bit harder than precious anyhow. Many thanks to Alex Gorham for doing the majority of cleaning on the line its inspiring to see the glens getting some attention.

pic: Nick Brown video still.

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A Breath of Fresh Air:

Posted on March 26, 2013 by Dan Varian

 Sometimes i worry i’m becoming a bit of a hermit climber, not traveling much and working a lot, yes i do work a lot nowadays! But its more that i’ve been a busy bee in the last 2 years sorting many things out. So when Katie and I got a nice little gift of a few days in Torridon from my folks for crimbo we planned a bit of a mini trip around it. I never get bored of the feeling of time grinding to a holt when your on holiday, days passing by at half their normal speed. This trip was only 6 days but it felt like a month. Much of this can be blamed on Scotland itself being so pretty and so varied it feels like you’ve travelled the world between places only a few hours apart, especially when its fully raining at A and sunny with a light breeze at B. Of course non of this is new to anyone north of the Clyde. Not that there are many people north of the Clyde. On the map of UK people it barely exists!

Which is good because being Cumbrian i’m not inordinately fond of lots of people. Wildlife yes, Sheep all the better. Massive sprawling conurbations, not so much. It also leaves space for lots of nice things which are really hard to be angry at like mountains, lochs, lochy mountains, fjords, hills, inlets, munros. a hugely diverse landscape of anything you can imagine, so long as its watery or pointy. It was also before Scotland turns into Nature’s little hell park in May. Upon trying to book a nice b&B before the trip i got a lovely email back from the lady saying, are you sure you meant march not April? its just that the weather in March is so unreliable we don’t accept bookings! A good omen indeed. Ah well we could always sit in Torridon YHA drink brews on tap and catch up with a good book. As it turned out our B&B lady was well informed, we had everything under the sun thrown at us on the holiday except for the really bad wet stuff that scotland is so good at.

The ponies know the score, west facing aspect is a winner!

Our first day in Torridon we were greeted by 40mph winds and the locals Richie, Gaz, Ann Nigel and the beast of Bronwen. but not much else. Well at least it wasnt raining! we had a decent enough day out if a little short due to the wind battering us about incessantly. Richie complained about being fit but weak whilst kindly warming up all over Gaz's project. Bronwen stole my socks after demolishing the 2 decoy balls. I finally figured out the start of a project i’ve tried the last 2 times i’ve been to Torridon (albeit climbing in a balaclava and down jacket this time), only to snap a pebble off the top in a moment of wind induced stupidity, oh well back to square one. Stupid gets what Stupid does. After we'd all had enough we retreated back to the excellent Torridon cafe and I atoned for my sins with a massive bacon and egg bap. I forgot to mention that our Hostel had been engulfed by a mostly silver topped tai chi weekend; Katie must have trodden on the instructors Chi (qi for scrabble fans) as when she smiled and said hello she was simply greeted with contempt. Lovely. Although when they left on monday they did leave us with enough food for the rest of the holiday thanks to their friendly chef.

Liathach on Sunday.

Annat on sunday.

Sunday Greeted us not only with 40mph gusts but the quickest snow flurries i’ve ever seen. It was like the flurries were a tube train wizzing by Torridon station, I was simply a bystander getting in the way. The morning was just about ok as the sun was out a bit but when Katie finished and i put my boots on it was like someone flicked a switch. We hid in a cave for a bit, got out, hid in another cave again 5 mins later, made it to the cool project prow in Annat. Hid there whilst another one blasted through. Snow stops bust a bit of warm up dance out like i’ve just heard Axel F for the first time. try a few moves then get blasted by snow. Blow my top and produce a tirade about how crap life is. go back to the car to warm up. Snow stops, Ben Moon did black lung when the snow stopped, maybe i can do this because life is that cliche’d. We jog back to the prow. I Do it. Leave for the pub, massive blizzard hits us just as we get to the pub. To be honest i was more relieved than happy after this. It must have looked bizzare to the house whose rear window's face the prow. Its sometimes conditions like this that really test your mettle though, i wanted to just give up and head to the pub but there would forever have been a gnawing at my conscious that technically it wasn’t raining and that i could’ve climbed and got it done, making sure that gnawing didn’t happen was more important than actually having fun it seems. The most important thing this did was free up our itinerary for Reiff or Applecross the next day where i had more exciting things to play on.

Monday dawned perfectly azure with a dusting on the Beinns. I made concrete my overwhelming urge to drive nearly 2 hours to try a problem i’d seen in October. Katie was happy to see a beautiful new place but not so happy to see a very cold shady cliff on such a gorgeous day, somehow she still managed to be nice to me which must be some sort of inherent but very endearing flaw in her personality. Whilst the day before had physically and mentally drained me, from a climbing perspective i’d done very little. So all the ATP reserves were there but i don’t think there was much behind it to back it up. Sometimes in life you get these weird days and it kind of feels like you’ve come through alot to make them happen, i imagine its like big wallers pushing up to a final crux pitch then going to bed knowing that tomorrow you need to be firing. Except bouldering is much easier than that and all you have to do is walk out the car and up to the problem you want to try, the hard part is having the right skin, conditions, arms, core and most importantly mind to actually get up something which has tried its best to be blank. This isn't a huge problem if the problem is nearby but for places you know you’ll be spending very few hours of your life in it somewhat adds to the atmosphere. Here’s some inner rhetoric from my warm up.

Do i feel good? shit i feel ok, or do i, hmm im a bit monged out, naah i feel strong look (crimps a hold). and i’ve got pads and i haven’t been violated by a massive wave this time round, better try another climb (does scooped arete) ok well if that feels ok then you stand a chance, but is that enough, hmm lets try this other thing coming right out of leaning meanie, hmm that felt hard, i dont know if its been done before though, .. ooh i’m all excited. it was bloody good that, well i guess its been a good day no matter what then, Katie looks cold but keeps smiling at me, cubby must be short if he had to use a bucket to reach those holds, i bet its called romancing the stone because its got a Va JJ made of rock in it, thats pretty funny...

It felt like a heady mix of first night nerves and holiday excitement. The project was as amazing as i’d remembered it to be, chalkless it took me a while to remember the holds as they aren’t easy to see, this is why i like it so much. Yes the arete looks stunning to the left but i need to give everything i’ve got to this first. Nature has pulled a blinder here and i for one intend to appreciate its work by clambering all over it and covering it in chalk. There’s a vid of me doing what became Helicoidal Flow along with the annat prow and reiff arete, sufficed to say it felt just about easy enough from stand and i remembered my beta from last time straight away, the stand is a vague non line to a world class sitter though, which really put the pressure on. I would say that i did the sit thanks to a combination of luck and experience, i was starting to feel the squeeze go and my skin get cold and i’d dropped the catch once already, it felt like my chances were going and that it’d have to wait for another day. After a big rest and a brew i told my brain to shut up and put everything into it, no skin preservation no worries about picking up a tweak just try really hard. I dont know how but i hit the holds all pretty well and i caught the catch spot on. The catch hold is subtle and intricate, like every hold on the problem. You don’t know whether the catch is right or not until your feet come out and the extra momentum comes onto the hold. 

such a cool pinch.

To me this is perfect bouldering. A serene setting and some incredible rock, a line that defines bouldering. It starts from a perfect sit start and heads up to jugs to finish (its only drawback is its lack of topout) The moves are fantastic and the holds only work when used with loads of tension through the feet and are some of the most unique i’ve ever used, not a single hold until the catch hold is easily holdable with feet off. Its called Helicoidal flow due to the rock on this wall mimicking water with its strata and features. Like undertow its also a flow process. It also seems to sum up the dynamics of my legs swirling about nicely.

Sticking the crux

Normally that’d have been one of my best days ever, but to top it off there was a line as proud as misericorde or partage just to the left on older & harder rock, in the sun, with an amazing looking set of features on it including a fang like rooflet that you can pinch. Now by this stage i was feeling pretty knackered but I had half a chance if i spotted the beta fast. I stared it out and pretended that i knew what i was doing, like when comp climbers look at finals problems. I figured it out by going, i’ll try this crazy heel that’ll work. it did! then i though well you’ve got to be able to kneebar this thing, you could! Bizzarre  under guppy to get LH high. No problem. Toehook the roof? Nope your crap at toehooking remember. dynamic heel above shoulder into scoopy pod? kerching! Thanks to the sun coming heating me up by this time i was using less energy just keeping warm and got up it on fumes and by cheating with heels and knees. I topped it out up leaning meanie’s upper squeeze chimney for full points. Sometimes Aretes can be pretty monotonous, eg careless torque, arcangel, ulysees and white wand are pretty much 3star repetitive laybacking, which is great because they’re one big layback up a mega lines but its hardly varied climbing. To get an arete with so much variety move to move is pretty special. I find as i see more and more lines nowadays less and less gets that childish excitement going like i used to feel when out on the rocks. The bouldering cliff at Reiff was a real breath of fresh air in that sense as it seems to solely consist of 100%, billion year old, single malts. I guess thats why it even gets called a bouldering cliff in one of Scotlands great single pitch trad destinations. One bit of useful advice is that it can seep a bit so don’t turn up there on a wet day in a big swell as you might not get the same experience i’ve been selling. We dined out on the tai chi soup we’d been given on the beach at Reiff looking at the sun setting on the summer Isles and hills behind, free food in a setting grander than the savoy!

That was only the first 3 days of 6, i think i’ve written enough now though and i dont want to waffle on too much. I can save it for another time. Katie was the star of the latter part of the trip by doing loads of classics even after a feather filled night in the car at -5. I mostly scoffed our free food and had fun bouldering with Dave Mac. I also experienced the crappest cafe i’ve ever visited in Fort William, mainly because it built itself up to be good. (called sugar and spice or something; cant wait until i hit them with my truthful trip advisor review). And we found an artist we really like so we bought some paintings for our house 

ruining a fort william artwork, i thought it was a game until i read the sign!

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