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Last few months

Posted on August 29, 2014 by Ned Feehally

It feels like Autumn is drawing slowly in now so I thought i would summarize my recent spring/summery goings on.

Back in April I managed to cash in on the last of the cold weather over in North Wales:

Compact Culture from Ned Feehally on Vimeo.

I had tried this years ago and failed, so it was nice to go back up there and get it boshed off. Partly to get a quality problem ticked off and partly to see the progress in my climbing (ability to crimp really hard) that this represented.

 

After this I played around on a few projects in the peak. First up was Big Willy Attitude at Stanage: 

big willy attitude from Ned Feehally on Vimeo.

 

 

I spent a bit of time at Eastwood with Jon Fullwood as it began to warm up. Jon has put in a huge amount of effort tidying up the crag and removing a load of rubble from the landings. Many of the problems now climb better as a result. Jon is a real hero of the Peak district - always out searching and developing, constantly tinkering and adding problems for everyone else to enjoy. Jon is also very generous with handing over projects to others as well - I owe many of my first ascents to him and his keen eyes. 

Anyway, enough of that. We spied a new one at Eastwood - basically a high level start to the Eastwood traverse. After much head scratching, crimping and double knee barring we cobbled a brilliant sequence together. It is probably font 8a, but maybe french 8b+reflects the difficulty a bit better as it is pretty long. It's called Bone Machine

 

After this it was off to Magic Wood. I have been a couple of times before and always came back feeling like I had been ripped off in thinking that it is a summer venue. Yeah, certain problems are coolish and the holds are generally positive so you can climb some bits, but if you don't get on with the heat then it just isn't fun! I got up some things but mainly got frustrated with the heat and humidity:

I was pleased to flash Jack's Broken Heart tho. I had always told myself I would "save it for the flash" on previous trips and it was good to finally step up to the plate and get it done, and not save it for another 3 years!

 

Since returning home I have mainly been training but I managed to nip up a project at Ramshaw one blustery day between showers. It is a great line on a lovely tall wall (just below Ramshaw Crack). It's a real treat to find something of this quality, at a reasonably popular crag that is still unclimbed (the photo doesn't really do it justice)...

 

It is pretty highball with the crux move right near the top - slapping from the thin crimp rail up to the chalked jug above. It felt round about font 7c. I top roped it and then climbed it above 2 mats (there isn't any gear) but now it is clean it is prime for a ground up ascent - get to it! 

As usual, finding a good name is often harder than climbing the problem. I'll come up with something soon...

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Fun in the north.

Posted on June 05, 2014 by Dan Varian

Climbing for me seems to have a way of aggregating aims from seemingly chance events as time passes, a quick flick in an old magazine here or a flick through a guide book there. A conversation with friends about some crag i haven’t even thought of for years. Sometimes the aims build to become a solid one or sometimes they just drift by in the background. Slow burners. One such project for me was a line of veiny rock at Reiffs bouldering cliffs. Last year i spotted this incredibly obvious line the day i climbed helicoidal flow and Rubha Dubh Dubh. I felt the holds and suspected it’d go. Quite why nature felt like producing a wall with all these perfect holds i don’t know but in my eyes they are some of the best lines in the uk because they exploit incredibly subtle features that hardly ever occur on overhangs. I didn’t know if i’d get back there to try it but i logged it in the back of my mind, ready for serendipity to build it into a reality if everything conspired.

 

 

Reiff was a lovely breath of fresh air that comes from ranging further afield, out of my local crag comfort zone.

As i’ve got older i’ve got fussier as to what to spend my free time on. I still love bouldering on hard lines more than ever but as i climb more and more, i’m inevitably left with those 2 choices that face you in local areas. Change tack and climb different lines/ styles or get stronger for the bigger gaps. A number of projects in Northumberland are currently that bit too testing for me and they are of radically different styles which aren’t necessarily what i’m great at, one involves at least 8B slab skills and mono pock crimping and the other involves wild compression on slopers and obtuse angles. Interestingly the UK’s hardest proven slabs are in the 7C+ region on boulders and there are few of those about. True compression wise our hardest problems max out at 8A+. Font has loads of compression climbing upto 8C so why are we so far behind? well partly its the rock but mostly it is our history, Compression has never really been in vogue in the UK, it was all about crushing small holds 10 years ago and in many respects it still is now. The same goes for slabs, in Font there’d be far fewer hard slabs without the LeDenmats passion for the mighty Dalle.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/beastmaker/14027745607/

Its with this in mind that makes me really happy to go out developing with other climbers. Everyone is looking for something different that inspires them when the rock is a blank canvas. Tom “Gangle” Newman has turned his hand to putting up new problems in the peak since moving to Nottingham with much success. He’s been hoovering up old projects all over the spot.

Tom was my raiding partner for a quick trip north of the border in May and upon arriving at Reiff he immediately spotted a line between the obvious ones i’d seen. Wide moves off few holds. At first i was a tad sceptical that it’d go as it’s a line i would never have spotted immediately, its the type of thing i’d have ended up playing on after being at the crag for ages. Yet it ended up climbing superbly, taking a line through the blankness that was super impressive in it’s board style and pureness. Tom got very close on our day trip but the rub of the green wasn’t with him for the full send. It’s always the way in climbing. I can say this smugly as i was fortunate to just be on the other side of the coin on my chosen project. Just scraping out an ascent which felt much like chucking a dart through an open letterbox from 20yards away. Mainly because i’d been off form for close to 3 weeks with a bad flu bug and cold which i was only just coming out the other side from.

All in all it was a brilliant day at one of the best bits of bouldering crags in the UK for side by side quality 7’s & 8’s.

 

On a tangent the other day some people i know were miffed when Jemma Powells new sandbag 7B+ was reported on UKC the other day, because of its "lowly grade” (and yes UKC’s ultra basic reporting didn’t help convey the overall important message here). Yet i was really chuffed to see that getting reported for a few reasons. The main one being that to my knowledge that it is one of the hardest boulder problems ever put up in the UK by a woman, something which is well worth drawing attention to (Nia Fletcher put up a 7B in the lakes recently and there are quite a few other female developers who have put up many a classic in the uk, Karin Magog Tess Fryer and Veronica Hunter to name a few. For some reason bouldering development in the UK is a very androcentric past time. Even though Trad and Sport climbing in the UK has had more female FA’s close to the cutting edge for their time (granted sport climbing has abated a bit since Ruth Jenkins and Karin Magog's 8’s) Yet at the minute we have many of the worlds most famous female boulderers operating in the UK. Obviously there are oodles of reasons for this, but it’s fantastic to see development reporting on the rise in the UK by Women (Leah and Shauna have put up harder boulders abroad) . But that isn’t the main reason to be out putting up new climbs, the main one is that its really fun, you don’t have to have climbed everything to develop new climbs, you simply need the desire to go into the unknown and find roughly what you’re looking for. It takes a different skillset and mindset to do this and i think it's very commendable when it happens. whether people share it with the world or not is up to them, but i am always glad when they do. There is a huge onus on international development at the cutting edge of the male sport right now, mainly because they warm up on last years test pieces nowadays and the more that development equals out between the sexes the better in my eyes. 


Anyhow, back to me. there’s a fantastic project near me at the minute that i am pretty sure is one of the problems i’ve been looking for my whole life without knowing it. It’s bizzare where they can turn up and i was smiling from limb to limb doing the moves on it the other day. 9m high 8Bish and everything on it, crimps, slopers, a pocket and subtlety with a 7B+ slopey font top out. Middle of nowhere, yet only a short drive from my house. A slightly harder, sandstone Lanny Bassham is a good summation, with a similarly involved approach. This is what gets me excited to be fettling away as a boulderer. Sometimes i develop things for both myself and the community and sometimes its for myself, this is a me line. That for me is why it’s worth heading out and sifting through all the crap crags that can be nearby. Once you’ve done the classics it’s worth trying to find more lines which are as good if not better. Of course a day has to come when they run out, but when you take places like Scotland into consideration that time is a long way off. It had seven new font 8’s added to it last year (possibly more if Mike Adam’s ascents on Skye get graded, i think Venom Jag had been done by Dave Mac before but Darken down is new). More than Wales and they roped Megos in for the best one... , it looks like it was the most new 8’s added in one year ever in the history of Scottish bouldering and it’s main (pretty much only) native hard bouldering developer was injured most of the year. Dave Macleod has put up some amazing problems in Scotland over the years. Triangulation is just one example of a benchmark classic power problem three star climbing and situation and 10 mins walk from the road and basically perma dry.

Here’s Gangle on the second ascent four years after it was put up. He uses pretty different beta but i couldn’t image two more contrasting climbing physiques. I got up it after tom with slightly different beta again.

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North of the wall

Posted on May 24, 2013 by Dan Varian


Cowal

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. 


Stand

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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Beastmaking...

Posted on March 18, 2013 by Ned Feehally

We have a new machine! It's a laser cutter/engraver. It's very exciting. We are now engraving our fingerboards with it, the finish is great and it is much faster than the engraving process we used to use, leaving us more time to make more fingerboards.

The laser is great for loads of other stuff too - we have been fiddling around with it and making a few new bits and bobs. Our latest product isn't exactly ground breaking but it should be pretty handy to most climbers... 

     

The Beast Maintainer is a little sanding board you can use to keep your skin in fine fettle as you climb. Smooth, even skin is important for getting maximum friction out of the rock and avoiding nasty splits, tears and holes.

Apart from this, we have been very busy making fingerboards for everyone as well as tinkering with some other new products - which should be more exciting but no less pretty than the Beast Maintainers. 

          

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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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