Search
 

BIFF - Beastmaker International Footless Festival

Posted on February 02, 2015 by Ned Feehally

For a long time here at Beastmaker we have discussed how much fun it could be to run an entirely footless climbing comp. There was a video floating around the internet a while ago of a French footless comp which looked like a load of fun and ever since seeing that we have pondered the idea from time to time. Each time we decided it was a stupid idea. Who'd want to do a footless comp, let along come and watch it?

 

Eventually we took the plunge and mentioned the idea to the Climbing Works. They jumped on board with more vigor than we ever expected and all of a sudden we had a date set.

The format was simple. A load of boulder problems, a pull up comp, a deadhang comp and a couple of other "problems" thrown into the mix for good measure. ALL climbed without feet. Competitors could try anything in any order with an unlimited number of attempts. The relaxed format meant the "climbers" could just get on with trying their hardest without worrying about falling off and as a result people were throwing themselves at the problems like lemmings off a cliff - impressive and daft in equal measure. The crowd got to see some real treats, both in terms of "oh my god he's defying gravity" and "look at that plonker opening and downing a can of Stellar mid problem" not to mention "there's Mallory in full 1950's Everest gear, check out his finger strength!".

The turn out for the competition blew us away. About 50 competitors and 200 spectators piled in to the wall to watch some ridiculous feats of strength, laugh at some ridiculous outfits and  drink a ridiculous amount of beer.

All proceeds from the evening (about £800) went straight to Climbers Against Cancer. We felt like we could get away with running such a stupid event if we just fobbed it off as a charity find raiser, which on reflection worked quite well!

 

As the long evening drew to a close and bodies were being scraped off the floor there was still time for one more (hastily organised) event. Featuring the never-seen-before never-to-be-seen-again highball deadhang death match, the grand final was a sight to behold. 

Competitors hung opposite each other, and armed with a foam noodle and failing limbs they battled it out in a last man/woman hanging contest. Fortunately no one was injured or killed, despite many near misses and one particularly worrying moment. You'll have to watch the video to see for yourselves...

 

Thanks to everybody that attended. Be it to watch, laugh, drink, show off, impress girls, impress boys, dress ridiculously, hang out, hang on, go on the pull (up), help out, catch up, eat pizza, look cool, make friends, shout, etc. We couldn't have done it without you.

A huge thanks also has to go to the Climbing Works - not only did they allow this event to be run (seemingly at the risk of having their lovely climbing centre closed down for good) but they really got on board to turn a stupid, whimsical idea into a functional but also totally stupid event.

We certainly had a great time and we hope that you lot did too. Anyone who couldn't make it (or missed it to sit in the pub and moan about how it isn't "real climbing") - you'll be able to watch a video of the event in the coming weeks...

See you next year? Well, we will have to see about that but we do hope so.         

                            

Results are posted below. Thanks to all those who attempted to add up their own scores - I understand that must have been rather testing in the haze of lactic acid.

 

Men

 

Louis Parkinson                                                                      529

Nathan Phillips                                                                        494

Dave Barrans                                                                          483

Matt Cousins                                                                           481

Joe Wilson                                                                              454

Dom Wragg                                                                             444

Stu Littlefair                                                                             440

Tom Newman                                                                          427

Mike Mullins                                                                             415

Euan McFadyn                                                                        399

Sven Whittaker                                                                        395

George Carmichael                                                                 392

Ash Wolsey-Heard                                                                  379

Rupert Davies                                                                         383

Joe Heeley                                                                              373

Sorle Haywood                                                                        354

Jack Ainscough                                                                       348

Joe Swales                                                                              325

Quiche Bradbury                                                                     309

Roddy Mackenzie                                                                    292

Dave Mason                                                                             245

Billy Ridal                                                                                 210

Daniel Turner                                                                           155

Jordan Hollins                                                                          152

Dan Waters                                                                              145

Toby Chan                                                                               109

 

Women

Michaela Tracey                                                                      431

Jule Wurm                                                                               385

Diane Merrick                                                                          268

Gliter Guns                                                                              200

Charlie Terrance                                                                     162

 

 

 

Continue reading →

Wrapping up

Posted on January 06, 2015 by Dan Varian

2014 was definitely peaks and troughs. It started really well with things like Capability Brawn 8B, and a trip to Ireland in February where I had loads of fun mucking around and climbing in every kind of weather. Glenn Ross 8A+/B was the highlight of this trip, it is one of the UK's nicest power problems. no messing around just big drop clutch board moves with a dabble of technique for one move. I climbed it on my first day there as the rain came in. The rest of the trip passed by with some great banter.

 

Katie and I headed to font the week after Ireland. Climbing at Fairhead couldn't be more different to font and the first day or so in font was a shock to the system. I had a brilliant trip though with there being some great days despite it being a little warm. It was the type of trip you get very rarely and it's one i'll remember for a long time. Made all the better by the company we kept out there.

After font things went pretty rubbish for a few weeks after getting the flu and something seemed to linger on for months meaning i needed lots of rest days throughout the summer to keep a half decent level up. Despite this i tried hard to keep things interesting and just made sure i stayed on reasonably subtle and finger friendly rock types. This was a tough time for me after climbing so well at the start of the year and i felt like it took quite a bit of resilience not to get really frustrated with what was happening at times. Luckily i'd found a few lines which were still possible for me and put some others on the back burner for a while. One of them was a line i'd tried last year but written off as too hard at height. I decided to work it on a rope quite a bit and see how it felt, some big links came quite quickly and i sorted out a strategy for committing to the top out. Highballing is something i like to push myself on every once in a while. Highballs can be deceptive though as it's often the height of the crux which determines the true difficulty of the boulder. Pushing the height of highball cruxes is something i've been sporadically keen on over the years, as well as ground upping highballs and trad routes in that style. Of all the UK hard highballs and short solos i've had a good bit of fun over the years. Things like superbloc GU 2nd ascent, careless torque GU, the prow, 2nd ascent, lanny bassham 2nd ascent, the darkside, GU 2nd ascent, Empty the bones of you FA, queen kong GU FA arc royal FA crack in the shadows FA, as well as easier climbs like The Young 2nd asc, Earthboots GU solo, Unfamiliar GU, toyboy GU, and many more 7B+,7C highballs and trad routes (living in oxford, navana and nefertiti all GU same day as voyager). There are still plenty of great 8's i'd love to do like Sampson, Pebbledash, high fidelity) etc.

With the crux of what became Hobbie Noble at 9m it was ultimately the hardest highball i'd ever approached (the crux of things like living in oxford and unfamiliar are 7B+ish with their cruxes at 3-4m and they are well protected near the top, Darkside and the prow are font8a ish with unprotected cruxes in the 5-6m zone, Empty the bones of you (8A+ish) has the crux in the 7m-ish zone for hands.) Hobbie felt like slopey font 7B+/C top out and 7m of font 8A/+ climbing to get to the start of that. It seems like people just assume that everything is safe with pads if it is given a highball grades when that's not truly the case, they just give a better impression of overall difficulty to the modern climber.

For example New satesman and Gerty Berwick both get E9 yet one is ~7B and one is ~8A/+ both have good landings with enough pads, (provided you are spotted off the block on NS) I've fielded a fall from ~9m off new statesman and he only landed on one pad and walked away with a bit of whiplash. The crux of NS is at 4m and the crux of Gerty is around 5m. By comparing these side by side routes to me a ground up ascent of Gerty would be a much better effort yet in E grades there is little way to tell that difference. I'm just trying to illustrate how things have moved on in highballing as on both climbs a groundfall is pretty much guaranteed up to 7m-ish

Anyway it's something to be aware of when ground upping a climb. As i learnt this year when i badly bruised my talus bone from only a 2m fall. If you're 100% guaranteed to hit the ground. At some point the odds of a perfect fall will stack against you and something will end up hurting for a good while. I was really glad to get Hobbie done safely on a really nice breezy day just hanging out up there with Micky and Dexter. It's in nowheres-ville but it might just be the most perfect problem i ever do. Hard, commiting, good rock and great moves from start to finish, good landing. Definitely the highlight of my year all in all. 

 

After doing Hobbie and things like Wilson at st Bees, along with Establishing and repeating some lovely 7&8's in Scotland. The highlight of which being Veinglorious 8A+ at Reiff, a close compression line of marginal pinches. I did some exploring around the Arrochar Area and Dumfries. I found some incredible projects which i'm dying to get back to. this one is all of 5 minutes from the road and the huge 55˚ front face has one perfect line snaking across it. I managed the moves on it whilst Katie was at the Womens symposium at TCA and am looking forward to heading back.

 

General round up/ discussion of UK bouldering this year (exclusive material! thanks to not a single sentence being mentioned about it in the BMC or UKCs wrap up of 2014s climbing highlights) i've squashed it into a paragraph.

Pete Robins put up lots of great looking new 8's in wales, Jemma Powell putting up the hardest UK boulder problem FA by a woman and becoming the third to climb 8A in the UK (http://northwalesbouldering.com/index.asp) Mike adams as ever putting up some great looking things in the east peak, scotland (https://vimeo.com/user7044532) and NYM. Dan Turner's really cool looking new 8B in the North York Moors looks to be a stand out line (http://instagram.com/p/txxwCXkQZA/?modal=true), Ned, Tyler and Tom Newman putting up great looking grade 8's in the peak (beastmaker blog and toms vimeo https://vimeo.com/user17752633, http://tv.thebmc.co.uk/video/tyler-landman-first-ascent-of-smiling-buttress-curbar), Alex Gorham getting out and exploring hard lines in Scotland (http://stonecountry.blogspot.co.uk/2014/09/driest-september-2014.html). James Squire putting up a brace of great looking 8's on Dartmoor granite (picking up where Mike left off after a flying visit). Peckitt finding some classic grade 8 lines in yorkshire right under everyones noses (http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=69238) Lakes hard developments (lakesbloc.com)

After looking at all those I'm left thinking, bloody hell this has been an impressive year for hard bouldering development and repeats in the UK, and i've missed out quite a few ascents there i'm sure. One thing which is obvious is that there has been a really noticeable ground swell of ascents in the 8A-B area.

It seems to me there has been a decent amount of bouldering development in the UK this year in all corners. new 8Bs in Northumberland, Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Wales and many interesting repeats. Really cool new 8's in the peak. 2 new guidebooks to North york Moors and Lancashire. Maybe it's because 8B isn't news outside the UK anymore with people flashing them and kids climbing them. To maybe put things in perspective i've done a little numbers exercise below.

There are currently 50 independent straight up grade 8's in my home climbing area of Northumberland, of which i did my first one in 2005. This year it'll have taken me 10 years to hopefully tick those 50 and maybe a few more can be added (~thirty of them are my doing already so i'm not doing myself any favours by saving the last 3 repeats for years) In a twenty day climbing trip to font this year i climbed 21 8's from 8A-8B which going by some very crude calculations, in a perfect world, that really means that in those last 10 years i could potentially have climbed 3832 grade 8 climbs! In reality in the UK i've climbed over 150, v few of which are link ups or traverses, a figure which looks quite crap next to the theoretical one yet it looks to be the most in the UK of all time on paper. Obviously the calculation is a totally flawed number but maybe it gives some sense of theoretical potential given endless rock, good weather and full time climbing and the actual effort it can end up taking to repeat and establish things sometimes.

 Something else tells me that if the Big Orange had been given E9/10 and Hobbie Noble had been given E9/10 they'd be seen as more of a big event. Smiling Buttress a grit LGP of the highest quality is a real stand out point in the year too. To me this is maybe one illustration of how much of bouldering is lost in the translation of general news reporting. Things like the Big Orange and Smiling Buttress getting given 8A mean it is all to easy for people to overlook them by not fully understanding what that grade means at height or in a single move at the top of a problem. Hopefully this quick few paragraphs can give a better sense of how active and diverse our climbing population has been this year.

Continue reading →

Chasing geese

Posted on September 13, 2014 by Dan Varian

 

I’ve been wondering whether it’s just me and if my own tastes have been becoming more esoteric. In some respects it’s definitely true but i’d like to thing its because that’s where some real quality climbing is. If there’s one thing in climbing i love it’s being first on the scene in an area with classic boulders and experiencing it whilst it’s sleeping. When it comes to visiting unkown venues or places that don’t have any hard climbing established i never question myself anymore. 10 years ago i didn’t ask myself those questions either, it was always worth it even if it’s just to go somewhere different. That latter point is something which has been snowballing more and more with recent climbs. It’s been utterly brilliant climbing loads of new problems over the last 10 years, its also been just as fun repeating those of others. I guess this is my point in a way, i hope the development scene can weather the pressure of the way climbing media operates nowadays, much of local development is a slow process and finding classics can take years, yet inevitably these things end up sharing the same 5 seconds of fame as the rest of the internet now just to be forgotten. The consoling fact is that they exist and they’re amazing things to climb on when you find them nearby.

 

It’s a real privilege to have been born in the “bouldering generation”, we didn’t have the climbing walls that are about now, but like the generation before us with 90's sport and 80's trad. Pretty much all the best 8th grade lines in the UK have been put up post 2000, save for one or two. I would argue this is also a reason why bouldering has been popular in the last decade, as much of the excitement has come from many people riding on the back of a wave of interesting development. The fact that the golden goose is still turning them up in strange places just goes to show how rewarding it can be living in a country with such great little crags on our doorstep. Rock is a limited resource however and the days of new climbs will dwindle one day. All i will say is that it is an incredibly rewarding thing to get good at whilst it lasts. The last unknowns in a niche of a niche sport. It’s a bit weird but there aren’t many better rushes than walking round the corner and seeing that dream line, sat there like a sleeping leviathan. Difficult, intimidating, but possible. Waiting to breathe further life to the sport. I’d argue It’s even better when it’s somewhere you’ve been brought up as you have a more intimate connection with the landscape and the local nuances, a connection i always lose on holidays. On holiday i feel nothing other than a consumer of nice rocks most of the time, but i can certainly appreciate what it’s like for the locals there and the scene they have.

 

 

For two years now i’ve been engaging with a sporadic wild goose chase around my favourite stomping ground of northumberland looking for a mythical mega prow thanks to a teasing tip off from Steve Blake. Last week, at a particular low point physically (two black toes and a racked but light body. I caught a nasty gastroenteritis after competing in the best stagnant bogwater lowball girdling championship in history) i finally guessed it’s location. Dan Brown could write another crap novel with all the places Katie and I have been looking for this flipping prow (we’ve had a lot of fun on the way too). All i’ve had to go on was a photo which Mark’d got hold of on the NMC black market. luckily i could tell the sandstone type and a rough aspect and plants which hinted at a few locations. Sufficed to say expectations were high. What if the side i couldn’t see was covered in choss, or even worse, Jugs! Luckily the hype was pitched at a decent level, i’d say in the end it’s one of the coolest sets of moves on one of the best lines in the county, and northumberland isn’t short of massive lines. I got the stand last session and i’m calling it Star Slinger the stand goes at 8Aish but there’s more still to go below and around it, so in the great tradition of the one-upmanship of knowledge we wont be telling the internet where it is anytime soon, but you’re welcome to go hunting and find it in the real world.

 

 

Sometimes classic line’s are just waiting for their time, be it a nearby tree falling or the sea giving a helping hand.

 

Wilson 8Aish was one such line i’ve crossed my fingers for 5 years over. i first cleaned the upper section in 2009 but at the time it was almost impossible to start and had a death landing. The storms this winter pushed the massive block at its base to the best place it could possibly be and straight away i was on it, these things only happen once in a blue moon. I knew it was the best line on the coast. Its on the best st bees rock and the moves have a great blend of power and fear suppression. It will make a really satisfying ground up challenge to the best boulderers. Hurting yourself in the infra littoral zone with no phone signal is fairly ill advised though.

 

On another development thought experiment we decided to act upon some enticing pics John Watson put of some coastal bouldering in Dumfries, it’s pretty near where we live in Carlisle (in the grand scheme of things) and Micky, Katie and I have had 2 trips there recently and i can see myself going back for years to that coastline, The greywacke and raised beaches offer a huge variety of angles and holds on great clean rock and it’s a lovely peaceful setting. A real developers playground. We’ve put up quite a few problems there now but there are 3 classics that’d be brilliant anywhere. There’s a 7A+ish hanging scoop that has the best scoopy power palming i’ve ever done on a problem, really unique stuff which you hardly ever see, arete’s are ten a penny in this world but hanging scoopy bowls are somewhat rarer. More on this in the future i guess.

 


This blog is dedicated to “left of Ivan” a project i ripped a key hold off recently, which was going to be well fun.

Continue reading →

Hobbie Noble

Posted on July 04, 2014 by Dan Varian

In my mind I approach bouldering development like a giant easter egg hunt, whereby 300,000 to 3 billion years ago nature ran round and hid loads of the best bouldering lines in the UK into bizarre little nooks and crannies with very little logic behind it.

 

The other day i managed to climb a total dream line of mine. The type of line i always hoped would exist but never expected to find. Expectations can be disappointing in that even in the best areas in the world its rare to find something that ticks all the boxes for what i imagine is the perfect problem. For me its things like, hard and varied moves from start to finish, nice rock with a flat landing. All too often a minging hold, lumpy landing or filler moves section creeps in. Even lines like Lanny Bassham (sharp pockets and palm gouging pebbles detract from the experience) and Partage (samey moves) can be nit picked. Until last year i’d say the best problem i’ve ever done in the UK is Lanny as it ticks all the boxes for me. It has fantastic moves and is reasonably varied, employing heels and toe hooks, pockets and slopers, the location is stunning and its still tricky after the crux. 

 

Highballs are a funny thing in that they often embody the zeitgeist of bouldering over the generations (Mandala, Careless Torque, high fidelity, evilution, partage, merveille, livin’ large etc) For me a true highball should embody the bouldering spirit of it being really hard to take a hand off, whilst not quite being a solo. Lines like Lanny, Superbloc and Londinium fit this ilk well, you just keep heading upwards until you’re on top. Movement wise IMO these are a class above lines like Careless torque which has a no hands rest after the bottom section and is escapable. Of course strength and fitness can render most moves “chalkable” 

 

Last year I decided to pay another visit to the “waste of cumberland” -a rather cruel historical name for what is a beautiful forgotten part of the county. As there is a crag out there which crowns the hilltop in splendid isolation. Once a landmark for the borders it now sports one of the most overgrown footpaths in the UK. A place people seem to only visit to carve their names for the last 400 years. Its nearly a scottish crag but for a mile and a northumberland crag but for 500 meters. Such is the history of the area it feels a little bit like all three; Scottish standards of isolation, Northumberland’s rock and Cumbria’s views.

 

Of course the downside of that for most people is that its in the arse end of nowhere, then again most crags are. Last year on a summers day when it was in the high 20s in carlisle i realized this wasn’t just a fantastic crag, it also enjoys great conditions in summer as i battled with the top out in a light thermal. It took me 30minutes just to figure out the top out on a rope that day so i wasn’t overly optimistic about taking huge falls from the last moves. Everytime i shockloaded the gri gri i just thought, splat, splat, splat and a long crawl back to the car. It is the type of slopey top out where every sequence is a dead end except one, which involves about four foot moves and four hand moves to move 50cm upwards. I was thinking i’d prefer to have rataplat up there than something so specific as at least on rataplat there is a point where you can just keep mauling the top. I gradually pieced together the lower moves and it just kept being an unrelenting bit of climbing, super varied, pockets crimps and slopers, and all powerful, there is one hold on the whole problem where you could chalk a hand ok but it tends to tire your fingers out for the font top out so i felt it was better to just climb fast through it.

 

Its certainly the hardest crux i’ve ever done at height and i feel i have a decent record to draw from on highballs. What kept me going was that it was too fun, working the moves on a rope i was left grinning each session from the quality, i was constantly having little chuckles to myself as to why the best highball in font had turned up 30mins from my house in Cumbria, such is the brilliant randomness of life. Combined with the fact that the crag doesn’t really exist save for a page in the eden valley guide. It was a much needed boost to the part of me that says “keep looking, they are out there”. A rhetoric which is hard to positively reinforce sometimes especially in the eighth grades.

 

So following some serious pad logistics and a good amount of help from Micky Stainthorpe  and my Dad we had enough pads up there for me to fail miserably from high up and take some big falls. The next week, and some forethought with regards to rest days, saw me struggling to get warm in June! luckily i did get fired up enough and after a scaredy jump off i carried on through the keyhole on autopilot. Watching my ring finger pop out the tiny pock (leaving me mono crimp hugging a very slopey top) just before my foot landed on the slopey lip is a moment i can only be thankful went the right way.

 

It was a beautiful experience putting up this one, a complete package and everything i could wish to find in a highball. The grade is on the soft side if you get it wired on a rope (i only ever abbed the top section, so never top roped the whole thing as that always takes away a bit of the magic for me). I do think the grade may be on the hard side to anyone who steps up to ground up it as that would be an incredible effort, as ground up climbing always is, far superior and far harder.

 

Hobbie Noble is named after a local reiver who was a bit of a rogue with morals who divided the locals depending on whether he was raiding your Bastle or rescuing your nephew from the Law, his is a great story and worth a read , The abridged version is that he grew up pretty much at the base of Christianbury and would have passed through it on his way to bust Jack o’ side out of Newcastle’s gaol. Jack o’ side was a Scottish armstrong and Hobbie was loyal to that clan, famously solving the Armstrongs Dilemma of what to do about Jack getting locked up by saying “give me 5 good men and i’ll sort it”. He was later tricked by an english armstrong clan who’d betrayed him for gold and as a result he was captured and hung in Carlisle, most likely on Harrabee hill, which is pretty much where Eden Rock is today. The guy who betrayed him; Sim of the Mains, got his comeuppance when the Scottish Armstrongs found out and tracked him down and hung him in Carlisle too.

 

Proper history rather than fannying about on rocks. You can still feel a bit of the Reiver feel in the borders in a few places and wondering round the timeless stone corridors of christianbury is certainly one of them, its nice to be born out of their world and to still feel what those bleak times might have been like sometimes in these days of blogs, tweets and likes. 

 

Climbing takes me into these landscapes and knowing a bit about the history of them all adds to the experience.

 

Hobbie was immortalised in Walter Scott’s ‘Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border’

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continue reading →

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.


Continue reading →

 
Scroll to top