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2015 (Dan)

Posted on January 06, 2016 by Dan Varian

Well it’s now or never on the blog front i think. I’ve left it for as long as i can but like peoples tax return it is starting to become a thing i really should’ve gotten round to by now, but it’s been pretty busy in the work and personal life in 2015. Regardless Its nice to glance back at what has certainly been the best year of my life both on and off the rocks.


On the rocks i’ve been pretty busy locally this year just getting out lots and getting stuff done, there’s been loads of great things keeping me entertained this year and its only now, in january after 3 months of the BBC “storm personality of the year” contest that i’m finally beginning to feel the weight of all this rain. On the whole the weather in 2015 was fantastic, it just really, REALLY, let itself down in October. Thanks a lot El Nino, you meanie. This was supposed to be a blog about another nonsense number. Establishing my hunderedth UK 8A-8B+ but thanks to the abysmal weather i’m stuck on 95 straight ups (no traveses no link ups) and am into another year. For some relation, there are 126 straight up 8’s in the latest 7 and 8’s guidebook for all of font (although many more exist now). Thats a decent amount to try and catch up to for any hobbyist i think.


Photo4 (61)


What keeps me inspired, and actually blogging, is seeing others getting out and pushing standards in new areas of bouldering. To me pushing standards will always be completing new gaps that have never been managed before as it poses a much different question of is it possible? rather than can i do it? I put up 26 grade 8’s in the UK this year but i reckon i failed on just as many projects (see above for just one example), those are what keep me interested and wanting to improve in climbing. And whilst i repeated over thirty "8’s" too (i think a balance between FAs and repeats is really good for ones climbing. If you look at the best globe trotting boulderers they do this well on a world stage) Its mostly the new stuff that sticks in the old scrap book for me this year. Here’s a few highlights from my year on the rocks.

One of my favourites


Font: I’d had a jittery start to the year and was questioning my form when i went out. I’d been getting shut down on the prow at high crag as well as a project on the bowderstone and was definitely losing perception of how i was climbing and some confidence. Confidence is often key to getting things done and trusting oneself in a sequence. After two weeks in font i came away with a very healthy ticklist, but more importantly i was confident in how i was moving on rock again and what i can do. It was also made all the more special as Katie and i got to catch up with some great friends as well as meet some new ones.

Magic Circus 8A


April: This was a month i’ll never forget, If its the best i ever do then that’s fine. Establishing twelve straight up 8s (8A-8B+) in the UK in just over 30 days would be a good run by anyones standards (its more than a lot of good boulderers in this country have done in their entire lifetimes, a pointess comparison but some context nevertheless) but when i look at the problems i got to climb on and the dots i got to join there were some crackers in there. I even felt moved to blog about it at the time, so theres more there if you’ve somehow missed that being on our webpage all year!

 Pics: Mark Savage

Fairhead. The trip that broke me!



I went out to fairhead on my last holiday before being a dad. I was in good form and was really looking forward to trying loads of projects. On my first day i got massively side tracked deadlifting huge boulders and trundling bigger ones. By the end of the week my back was properly knackered, Ricky had almost mushed his finger and there were some tired legs about but we had successfully turned some leg eating talus into nice places to be forever. https://vimeo.com/133606931 6:43 onwards for the size of some of the things we shifted (you’ll have to visit to see where it ended up). Ultimately this was a really nice get away, kicking about with some of the nicest people i’ve met in climbing and what to me is the best scene in the UK, really grade A banter and try hard scenes. I managed a few new things that week, almost none of which were on my project list from last time, but they were great fun. On the first day i almost did a really fingery hard thing that might have been desperate. Fairhead is full of basic hard moves on the boulders, a refreshing change from the beauty and subtleness of font. Its a place for pulling and squeezing really flipping hard on stuff, often with leg break potential if you miss the pads. It was very satisfying to do things like the Clangers after sorting the landing (left sit to hyper moon) as the quality of the moves and sequence reminded me why its a great venue to travel to if you want to boulder at your limit. The trad is still better though, I always feel like a sneaky little pad rat scuttling about down there, cowering when i look up, the Irony is that the boulder field has most of the most serious trad routes nowadays! Thanks to Ricky, Michelle, John, Paul, colm, lolo and Dave for a great trip, i’ll try and pop back next year with ma' pal Jimmy for some more rock wrestling

Clangers FA 8A+/8A Pic: Rob Hunter

Brimham: Somehow it’d escaped and i hadn’t visited until September this year. It was pretty warm and still but on my first visit. I ran round like a nutter in between holding the baby. Time was short as we didn’t have our routine ironed out so i actually tried to flash things for a change. I managed the excellent slapstick 3rd go i think and topped it out. Flashed the fonze 8A and to you too (7C) amongst other easier problems and got a better sense of the place. two more visits after and i had done most of the established lines at or above 7C+ and many below and was getting the feel for it so i started looking at the odd gap and did the two below.

Nanny StateKittens Galore


It’s been great fun climbing at Brimham and i’ve never been so perplexed by a major venue. There are amazing 8’s left totally ignored like Pinky SDS. and over graded eliminates like To You Too which get lots of attention. Scrittly lowballs get hammered and one of the best 7B’s i’ve done in yorkshire (Belly Porkers Progress) seems relatively ignored for how many people operate at that grade nowadays. It might be because they are a little further from the car but it seems more like many peoples only way to make sense of the jumble of rocks is to find whats popular and try that as its clean and a certainty. Regardless of the disparity its my favourite venue in yorkshire at the minute, although i think much of that is because i like to solo the trad routes there in combination with bouldering as they lie side by side. One minute i’m having a memorable time on an E3 top out and the next i can be fiddling about on a hard problem, great fun.

Pinky SDS


Torridon. With Storm Abigail on the Radar this five day trip looked like a washout. If we’d ben going in the van i reckon we’d have bailed. We’d booked a cottage though and, regardless of the weather, it was a nice place to read a book by the window. In terms of climbing it was pretty all over the shop as i didn’t know whether i was coming or going with the rain squalls. We had to pick steep stuff that faced the right way and bez to the pub or cafe when things got a bit much.


wave arete ss 7B

On the first day i managed to lift my heaviest ever rock before i restrained myself and got back to the climbing. Help and hindrance came on the third day with the arrival of Richie and Bronwen respectively. Richie sent me up a rock whilst Bronwen set to work on my socks. A cunning double act which has left many a cold foot in the Gairloch area and beyond. Richies project was Phoenix Nights, and as luck would have it mine was the weatherproof sit. The day before i’d sorted the upper landing so we needed less pads, but we didnt think to put one down the bottom as a fall down there was unthinkable. I got through the sit fast, cocky in that i’d remember the stand from 5 years before (as you do) well i did until the last move where upon belting for the top i found myself at least six metres below. I’d flown off backwards, straight over the mezzanine and straight onto my back. This has got to be one of my luckiest ever falls as i narrowly missed a back breaking rock and landed on a squidgy bilberry patch. after about 45 minutes of regaining my wits and massaging some whiplash, as well as actually sussing the top again i blew its bleeding doors off. It was rather good comeback after a big KO. Phoenix fights, 8A+Richie was close to phoenix and was just ripping off the drop in at the last minute. Alas it wasn’t to be that day but he turned up with Gaz on Saturday to make himself feel better about sieging it. Gaz was trying Malc's. I’d last seen Gaz 3 years earlier; when he was trying Malc's… I think Richie thought he was safe amongst disconsolate friends by accompanying a tried and tested siege weapon along. but Gaz was packing something in the trebuchet that no one saw coming that day. The big fat rock of Success. In a few swift tries he’d whisked his way to the top, stepping through a massive glass ceiling and onto the top floor, awesome. No one knew what to do except congratulate him with a well done. Richie must have felt the pressure of his excuses crumble from below him and the next thing I knew he was on top too on the second known ascent of the stand.

local hotshot crushing his proj


To me this was a brilliant sight and really what climbing is about. It was incredibly inspiring to see these guys getting out and getting things done despite busy lives and bad weather. It’s thanks to people like them and others in Ullapool that the scene in the north west is really exciting to me. They have excellent rock up there and are getting out amongst it and finding some brilliant challenges.

The Lakes: For much of my life i’ve had the dirty little secret that despite being a Marra, born and bred, I’ve not really put much time into the Lakes. I’ve done quite a bit of trad, but when it comes to bouldering i was pretty bad for just going to St bees, the Stone and Kentmere. This year i started setting this to rights and pulled my finger out a little. It was only my small mindedness that had it pegged as being limited.

The limbic system 8A+/B

 The Limbic System 8A+/8B best without sound!

Much of that attitude comes from when i was 17 and looking for the Mandala but not finding it. Looking back i didn’t even know where to look. Now that i’m 28 and a bit more grounded i decided to look for what was there and try to climb it. Some of the projects i found this year in the lakes were lucky finds. And before half of it washed away in December it was the place i was most keen for in the UK. If it dries out in 2016 i’ll be cracking on looking for stuff in a really active local scene, lots of people bouldering in the 8’s. It’s been nice to see just how popular the lambrini boulder has become thanks to Greg’s efforts, we had a great afternoon putting those up.


 Aidan getting close on Flow Motion 8A+, the sit to this is a really inspiring project for the next generation. Or maybe the next next generation...


 I’d like to put an addendum in a few links to some new stuff other people have put up this year that i think are inspiring. Whilst globally its easy to pick projects and book a flight its always nice to know there are new projects in the UK after work or on the weekend or for those who want a project closer to home.

so heres just a snapshot of what really inspired me this year.

The Cunninghams, Two young lads from ullapool found what looks to be one of the best quality, wall style, bouldering crags in the uk. Knowing how good sea washed Torridonian sandstone is i am really inspired to go and check out their hard work sometime. 

Ned and Jon Boy put up a bunch of new classics in the peak with Heavy Sky 8A+ being the hardest, but stuff like Crich On a Bike look equally good additions, if the peak isnt climbed out, then everywhere else has a long way to go. 

Liam Fyfe and Alex Mannion have been developing a steep limestone cave that looks like it should be in spain, but its in the UK, their other additions look good too. 

Ricky Bell put up the incredible Gentlemans arete and added a sitter to john 3:16 along with a clutch of great new sevens at the head, Northern Irelands first 8B and a world class one at that. 

2015 FA’s

8A: Stretch and Glide, Lotus Feet, Northern Territory Direct, Atilla SDS, endless rain, Kittens Galore, prow direct, space jam, grimfangdangle, an honist man, the cashmere cat, downstairs mix up, bing pot, The beast of succoth, notorious BLP

8A+: Call me david, Phoenix fights, The Clangers (in retrospect i think could be 8A+), second fiddle, officer peabody, Tsar pushka, flip flopera, Sideshow (8B?)

8B: The limbic system (8A+?) Northern Time?

8B+: Star power (8B)

All the above was made much more fun thanks to these two this year.

Many many thanks to MBC. Scarpa, organic and friction labs and Eden Rock for the support this year and of course to anyone who bought a beastmaker.

good luck on the projects.

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Posted on January 03, 2016 by Ned Feehally

Last year I hit a good run of form. However, the year started badly with a dislocated ankle and a torn pulley in America last December (worst trip ever) but as is often the case with injuries, I came back stronger. It’s probably as much about regaining motivation after a slump as it is about actually getting strong again but the time off climbing day after day sets you up well for having a good spell.

Here are a few highlights from the year:

Jour du Chasse

My climbing year started with a week in Font in February where I surprised myself by climbing Jour du Chasse and Mechanique Elemintaire fairly fast. It was good to feel like things were finally coming together after a frustrating winter.

Mecanique Elementaire. Photo: Martin Smith 

Throughout the Spring I was able to put up some quality new problems in the Peak (Black Asteroid, Heavy Sky, Thick End of the Wedge) while staying pretty focussed on training for Rocklands.

The Thick End of the Wedge. Photo: Martin Smith

I was feeling stronger than ever on my board, ticking off a few projects (including my Sky simulator!) and left for rocklands feeling dead keen to get stuck in. It was a productive trip in terms of doing loads of volume. I didn’t get round to trying anything really hard as we had less than 3 weeks there, but I managed to get everything on my tick list done and successfully narrowed down my options - next time I’ll have to try the harder stuff! And it turns out my Sky simulator is a lot harder than the actual problem! Although given the choice of being in a damp cellar or sat in the desert under a glowing orange sunset I think climbing Sky was a more enjoyable experience than training for it, on the whole.

Monkey Business. Photo: Lucasz Warzecha

Power of One from Ned Feehally on Vimeo.


I spent the rest of the summer/autumn not training but trying to maintain form. I lost loads of fitness, but I did managed to tick my way through some tough UK problems. I felt like I was in shape to be able to do these things fairly fast, so I thought I’d cash in on my run of form and get out as much as I could.


Malc’s Start
Malc first climbed this back in 2002. It was the first 8b in wales, and one of only a handfull in  the UK at the time (I think). It’s even more impressive that he climbed it in the middle of summer in a single session! It’s always been on my mind as a hard problem I’d really like to do. However I’m not too sure why - it’s not the prettiest bit of rock or line and I always found the lurching crux of Pools of Bethesda (the stand start to this problem) a bit of an awkward and unpleasant move. I did however manage to climb the stand start in 2010 and every so often since then I’ve got all keen on the sitter again, but ultimately this keeness always waned after a couple of flaccid throws at the porthole.

This year I decided to give it another go and within a session I had found a workable sequence that avoided the low percentage lurch move. It’s mighty powerful tho and tires the shoulders fast so it took another couple of visits to finish it off.

I was strangely pleased to finish off Superman. Certainly not because of the quality of the “problem”! However it’s something that I had always dabbled with and got nowhere on. Finally I went there specifically to try it, rather than just ending up there and having a go, and within a few goes I had done it. Strange that.

The sit start remained unrepeated (as far as I know, although I have a feeling that everyone’s favourite 90’s climber John Welford may have done it back in the day?) Although it’s nothing like the original problem now, having shed holds over the years it’s still a pretty tough power endurance test. After climbing the stand start my friend said “that looked easy, why not do it from the sit”. So I sat down and did it.

Superman Sit. Photo: Andy Banks

After climbing the stand start to this in 2009(ish) I had returned most years for a go on the sit start and always got shut down. It adds a desperate move to the beginning of the problem, which revolves around pulling up into a terrible undercut from a long way below it.

I found myself back there this year, feeling strong and confident. Until I tried it, and found that I couldn’t even pull on! The conditions were grimy and dank with moisture hanging in the air like a bad smell... or that might have been the bad smell in the air - the crag is opposite a sewage works afterall.

Suddenly I figured out the way. Nothing subtle, nothing clever but simply try harder. It’s a brutal move and you just have to bite down and do it.  Now I knew that if the conditions were decent I’d stand a chance of linking it. However the window of conditions was well and truly closed.

But no - I was there and I had done the moves. I should try my best to make the most of what I had learned. A few goes later I was climbing the end on some sort of semi autopilot - that weird thing where you know exactly what to do but you have to focus on not scuppering yourself by getting excited or thinking about what you’re doing.

Serendipity. Photo: Martin Smith 

More recently I went back there and finished off Mike Adams’ slightly harder finish which he called Serenata and also his extended finish to Apache, called Tomahawk completing all the hard link ups on that bit of crag.

The Big Island
So after an autumn scrabbling around in the UK I made it to Font. It was warm but I managed to get the moves on The Island figured out fairly fast. I knew it was going to be possible for me, but only if I had perfect conditions - cold and windy. It wasn’t to be on that trip.

I went back at the end of November. The forecast was slightly better with some storms bringing in a cold wind every few days. After a few sessions I hit the jackpot and managed to make it up to The Island just as the wind picked up and the temps dropped. It felt great to piece The Island together and I was relieved to have climbed it, but not totally content. The Big Island was always the obvious one for me.

I knew I could do it, but it all came down to the weather. On the last evening of our trip we walked up so I could have a last ditch effort. I felt pretty relaxed. I enjoyed climbing on the problem so much, and I was already fairly pleased to have done The Island so I was able to distance myself from the idea of success. The evening was drawing to a close, the lamps running out of batteries and my spotters probably getting fed up of being there (again). Finally for 1 tiny moment it was all there. Everything perfectly aligned and in tune. It felt easy. They always do!

With everything closing in (time, temperature, skin, arms, legs, torn shoes, hungry spotters...) I had one small opportunity to make it work and against the odds I managed it. That was satisfying. Climbing The Big Island is one of my favourite climbing memories.

Since then it’s been all about resting, making fingerboards and organising this years BIFF. It’s going to be a night to remember. Get yourselves down!

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