Saturday, 21 August 2010

Headpointing highs and impressive flashes.

(Video's now present )

My last post was about 'making the step up', my chance to finally climbing something perseived as being 'hard'. The day finally came, in rather poorly planned circumstances.
Franco and I arranged to head to Round Crag, as Franco had a few jobs to do and i didn't have access to a car, but could get a lift nearby from the parents as they went to Rosedale show.
I arrived and shunted 'Fresh Arete' (an E5 with siderunners in a nearby E3) and got a text from Franco saying he was behind in his schedule.
I lazed around, listening to music and sleeping on my bouldering mat as it was still early.
I occasionally got up, when i was chilly, to work the line again - i felt pretty ok on it, but the whole thing felt sketchy, sketchier than my previous morning on it, but i reckoned that was just because i knew the occasion was fast approaching, i knew it wasn't just Top roping for fun, it was top roping for a solo.
Franco arrived and we each had a couple of goes at the line. Franco admitted that he was less stoked for this particular FA, but we both knew he could easily do it.
I decided that even though i felt a bit psyched out by the prospect of a ground fall solo, i should probably do it as i certainly had it wired in my 10 or 15 top ropes.
I liquid chalked up, this beautiful invention helps with my sweating ailment, for that i am most grateful.
Anyhow, as the video coming will show i climbed it quickly, leading the line with low runners at the break/ledge where you start 2 metres off the deck. At the top block are good nuts to protect the top out. Infact, i climbed the line so quickly i totally forgot to chalk up at my chalking points which was quite funny as i'd spent a few TR's deciding where i could and couldn't chalk up!
Awesome feeling when i pulled over the capping block and stood up looking back to Farndale. Sweet.

Round Headpointing from Ram Man on Vimeo.
Above, Steve Ramsden climbing the Arete (with a good angle of video) and showing the side runners and moves from directly behind. The Fresh Arete sequence is after the starting route which is the impressively bold Pippi longstocking.

"Round Crag New Routes"

Round Crag New Routes- from Franco Cookson on Vimeo.

Climbing, is F7a+ we reckon, with unpredictable, slappy, compression moves. The climbing itself is fairly staightforward to headpoint/beta, as i had previously climbed the arete with Siderunners 2nd go, but onsight would be pretty hard and ultimately from the higher moves you'd almost certainly hit the floor, despite everything Franco would have done in regards to running belaying.
I'm not out to sandbag folk, so i've decided to stick with E7 6b rather than E6 6b, as even though it sticks out like a sore thumb at this sandbagged crag, it's what you'd want to be climbing to try and ONSIGHT it! Ultimately it should get H7, but i think i'll just stick with giving it a big phat E grade as it makes me happy :)
I can't rename it, but i would have liked to have called it Choados or Choadasaurus Rex. Partly because it's funny to me and it describes the Round Crag Pinnacle well (being wider than it is tall) but also it kind of keeps up the tradition of odd route names (Hypocrasy of Moose, The Otter Wilderness Route, Welcomed Back to the Beaver Pack, Pasghetti Alpinist for ours and then Three Screaming Popes, Primate Wardrobe Superviser to name some previous era FA's)

Being very slightly less self orientated, we wandered to the north wall of the Round Crag Pinnacle and made a start on the FA of the blunt arete to the right of Honey Arete.
The moves looked good, on undercuts and largish edges. It was very dirty though and happy from my headpoint i said i'd clean the line on abseil and sort the moves on toprope.
I quickly found a sequence but the last move kept me guessing for some time. Eventually, i figured it out, a beautiful wide pinch.
I cleaned all the nessisary holds well and then shunted the line again. I then set to work filming Franco's Flash. He asked what i thought the grade was, i didn't know, maybe E5? Before i found the move i thought it was going to be E7 or worse but if the runner at the starting undercut were good, then the first few moves would be protected.
Franco and I, in our haste however didn't have any gear that would fit such as crack as we only brought gear for Fresh Arete, so Franco just soloed the line. I watched, heart in mouth.
Pretty solid flash from Franco who exclaimed E6 at the top and said it was certainly one of the harder flashes he'd done! It certainly felt like a good series of moves when i shunted it to clean it, i will have to head back up sometime and do it, shame i can't ground up it really

some afterthoughts by Franco...

Post-Vampiric Obsession Fear from Franco Cookson on Vimeo.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Time to make the step up?

Fresh Arete has seen a lot of activity recently. Steve's FA then a few repeats, it's well worth climbing in it's current state, but the goal for myself and Franco, as locals, is a solo.
The climbing is around F7a+, not particularly hard but with no runners and hard to onsight slappy moves and a difficult to read hold, then the resulting solo may well be E7.
I've climbed Fresh Arete with the side runners second go ground up and felt pretty bomber on it then, only failing first time due to sweaty hands and being unable to chalk up. My second go i found a chalking point and the ascent went with no real issue.

Anyway, the climbing is good and suprisingly secure considering how it is climbed with slaps. The two moves i dislike, are both easy but just sketchy. Firstly a reach up left to a positive sidepull, i have to lock and then slightly dynamically reach which feels horrible. Then higher up is the crux, a tenuous smear which has always felt fine, but it's a smear.

I've since shunted the line 5 or 6 times and felt pretty bomber on it. My last two attempts utilising liquid chalk which seemed to help with my ailment of over sweating on the crux.
E7 6b, F7a+ solo? with a protectable topout, perhaps this is the time i make the step up to easyish headpointing, with their impressive looking grades...

On a similar note, i met up with Steve Ramsden for the first time at Round Crag. We sort of managed a half decent couple of hours at the crag, in between heavy rain, with me sort of half cleaning 'Honey Arete E5 6b***' and then after failing to find a sequence on TR, Steve then managed the line in damp conditions, with little effort!.
It's probably worth a clean and TR every time i head up there, it will get cleaner every time but it won't stay clean, on the north face of the pinnacle. Climbing didn't look all that 3* either, but the landing is soft into the bog!

Monday, 9 August 2010

FA's and Repeats - Moors!

Returning to the Moors, i had a couple of days off climbing but we soon were back to our usual antics of FA hunting. The weather was showery and i didn't have a car so Twig from Ayton drove over and with only 2 hours before he had to be back home, we quickly ran to Clemmit's Crag. A poor crag even for the moors, but the finger crack there was yet to be climbed and we did so in a team Ground up. Funny times in the rain. The harder moves are low down, but its fairly sustained, fiddly wires and an old peg for gear, at around E4 6b.

However, far more importantly was a return to Round Crag up near Blakey. I'd been here lots before but usually got shut down by the place and it wasn't my favourite crag. WE had always been torn between using hte crag as a training venue or, getting strong elsewhere and then Onsighting/Flash/Ground Upping these short, bold test pieces...Well, fit and light from sport i was quite psyched.

Steve Ramsden had recently put up a new E5, climbing the arete left of Scut di Scun ai, he called it 'Fresh Arete', apparently due to the conditions at the time. Franco had mentioned this FA before but his goal was a solo, Steve on the other hand climbed the line on Side runners in Time Out, which are placed from the ledge they both start on.
Franco said that he was up for working the line for the solo and that it was a great route to try and flash.

Franco TR'ed the line again, i watched for BETA! Then placed the Rps in the crack to the left and had a look at the slappy, compression climbing. The runners make the climbing seem quite safe, but i was far from convinced by their quality. I must say it would be a hard, pure onsight.
I reached the crux and on two undercut/sidepulls i was unable to move my hands. Sweating but unable to chalk i couldn't pop for the next hold. I was off, one move from success.
A smallish swing to the left and that was it, my flash attempt was gone, i didn't even end up that near the ledge, like i thought i might! Funnily on llowering me down Franco said he thought that was it. He didn't rate the RP's either!

Disappointed that a very flashable E5 had gone, i lowered and chalked up LOTS. Then boshed up again, this time finding a right hand chalk up point just before gaining the awkward right hand sidepull/undercut. This was enough, a tenuous smear and reach and i was slotting a cam into the crack at the top and then i grovelled over the top. Not a Flash, but my first E5 ground up.

Below is a video of Steve Ramsden first climbing the HARD E5 'Pippi Longstocking' then after, is the FA of 'Fresh Arete'.

Round Headpointing from Ram Man on Vimeo.

Copyright Steve Ramsden.

All this sport climbing has it's benefits, eh.

2 weeks of Alpine Sport...

My knee began to give me trouble and the weather turned shite. This added to me being uninspired by the hills as all they do is cause my knee pain, meant that valley cragging became my main exploit for the last two weeks of our month in the Alps.
The weather being poor, meant we moved from the poor quality shack we had made, to a better known one elsewhere.
Me in the Bath and Chris at the Shack
This is where Chris was staying too and Franco and Chris had already teamed up to 'send' the American Direct on the Dru, in icy conditions!
I, unable to venture to the hills got in touch with my mate from Uni, Huw and we climbed some pretty poor sport at La Joux. This psyched me up to head back to the hills, for a rematch with Dimanche Noir (VIII).
Myself, Sam Dewhurt, Franco and Chris made one last foray into the hills armed with huge supplies, a tent and lots of gear. The weather was meant to be awful and we decided to sit it out and seige anything going in order to save our last 10 days!
We managed to get on Dimanche Noir, after an evening of heavy rain. It looked seepy but there was no option - we were both stoked for the apparently amazing second pitch, pure friction climbing on perfect Chamonix Granite.
Franco lead the second pitch, a 'F7a' slab pitch with 'unavoidable, bold climbing'. Chris and Sam elected to try an unknown route to the left as it was chilly and hanging around to climb Dimanche as a 4. The following  2 hours was ridiculous.
Franco, slowly but steadily made his way up the damp, cold slab in what can only be described as an odds game for success. Chris meanwhile was taking whippers and french freeing this blank, hard looking thing to the left.
I eventually seconded franco up the slab, the moves were utterly brilliant but the climbing was so smeary or non holds that when i eventually arrived at the belay after a couple of falls on 'hard points' franco and I laughed at how desperate it was for F7a! Amazing effort onsighting the pitch it must be said.
We rapped from here as the weather closed in, rescuing Chris on the way! Then, spent the next 2 days sat in a tent as the Aiguilles got snowed on, eventually admitting defeat when it dried up and ran back to the valley, via 4 different descents! Chris running down in the rain the night before to meet a friend (taking no gear as we hadn't decided to come down then), leaving me, Franco and Sam with a shit load of kit. Sam happily got the Tele down, taking two HUGE rucksacks with him. Franco ran down with a rucksack full of gear and 4 helmets on the outside and i, without a rucksack, had a few drybags on a piece of sling around my shoulder. Funny looks from walkers on the way down!
Down in the valley, I however found myself feeling light and strong on the local sport crags and i got a huge confidence boost with a flash of a F6c+ at 'Church Crag', when Will Sim and Oscar showed us this quality crag, that isn't in the guides. With this confidence, I quickly RP'ed my first F7a at Monolith and then towards the end of the holiday, a double O/S of F7a at Gaillands. The photo below is of 'Le Plague' F7c. This was good bouldery fun, which non of us managed. However, the same route with use of the arete is F7a, this was my first flash (before we tried the F7c!)

Me gurning on 'Le Plague'

The highpoint of the sport for me, was a near-flash of 'In Absentia' F7b at Gietroz. We weren't sure of the grade but the climbing looked superb. As it was, it was better than superb and my fall from the last bolt was not annoying, as Franco and Sam reckoned it was F7a+/F7b (Sam originally thought it looked F8c!!!!) and we later discovered it was F7b***. Go do it - It's amazing.

Franco on the brilliant 'In Absentia' F7b

Anyway, currently much more psyched for Sport climbing now, i actually enjoyed it in France/Switzerland.

Chamonix Aiguilles

This was my first 'alpine season', that said the season didn't amount to much 'alpine' climbing. The first week was spent warming up and getting fit walking up to the chamonix Aiguilles.
The First day was spent finding a place to doss, not the campsite at Argentiere - instead we decided to 'have a bit of fun' and look for a woodland bivi site, rumoured to exist. We found it, thanks to Franco's somewhat limited knowledge of the area and we spent the day finding supplies to make our 'Favella'. The skeleton of the structure was still in place, with some repair work, obviously being obliterated by the winter months? Anyhow, this was home for the first fortnight.

The second day in Chamonix, we racked up and walked up to the Aig. de L'M. Arriving in the afternoon we had a sleep on the bivi ledge below the cliff and then, with no forecast of showers, we go on my first route in the Alps, The Menegaux Route - TD/VI+. This was a good intro, we ended up climbing at like 3pm til 5ish i think - totally opposite to normal but it was ok, the descent (sans boots) was interesting down the deep snow couloir on the left of the L'M.

Returning to the Valley, to rest and eat our next 'hit' was the Pillar Rouge on the Blatiere. This great crag, gave us a good few days climbing over the next 10-14days or so. The Majorette Thatcher TD/VII/Font 6b crux! was a tricky little number with a cruxy pull through a roof then glorious jamming above. We had to rap a pitch early, as the sun came around in the afternoon, not a bad effort walking up from the valley that morning!

Me on the first pitch of Majorette Thatcher, on the Pillar Rouge.
Les Diamants Du President, TD, climbs a large chimney/diedre system to the left of the Majorette and we elected to 'run' up this climb. The climbing was good lower down, with a brilliant twin crack jamming crux pitch. Above, the climbing was diedre based with some amazing, but totally sketchy (for me being fat) offwidth/chimney climbing some of which was totally run out as we didnt have big gear.
We then had a 3 day rest in the Valley, refuelling and then hit the next Aiguille along, the Peigne.
The Peigne has a beautiful slab, facing Chamonix and this is full of classy, slab pitches.
We woke early and walked up to get on 'Le Ticket, Le Carre, Le Rond et la lune' TD+/VII+. Unfortunately, the weather was damp in the morning and we loited around at the base of the Peigne making Cairns.

Me and Franco with one of Franco's Cairns.

We finally did get on 'Le Ticket' and cruised it, racing a standard, fast, french guide. Nice chap.
Franco ran down to the Valley that night to get food for an extended stay and returning in late, we had a bit of a sleep in. Still stoked to climb, we ran up to the Blatiere again and jumped on the 'Crook-Penning' TD/VI+. We intended to run up it, quickly for practice. We did, good climbing.

Franco leading 'Plus Lourd Que L'Air' ED/F7a+
Our final action on the Aiguilles, was to climb 'Verdon Memories' ED/VIII-. This is a harder version of 'Le Ticket' with a F6c crux slab pitch. The climbing is brilliant with micro holds and perfect friction on the rock. We were on the route super early, making our rubber shoes feel hard in the cold but we climbed the route without issue and elected to 'run' up the 'Voie Normal' - AD all the way up the Peigne. However we ended up on the West Arete? as we were simuling territory overtaking parties, the climbing felt V+/VI but it was probably slightly harder line than usual as we were going around parties.
We ended up at what we think was the Lepiney Crack. Nice finale to the Peigne!

Me seconding 'Verdon Memories'

Slabby brilliance on Verdon Memories, Aig. du Peigne.
We intended to climb the Super hard, super classic 'Dimanche Noir' ED3/VIII/7a slab. Unfortunately, my knee made an appearance on the walk down from the Peigne so i sacked it off back to the valley, as i was not prepared to hurt my knee as i'd be unable to get myself down to Cham, if it did 'go'.
The Chamonix Aiguilles for me were fantastic. I've never done multipitch over 3 or 4 pitches really, especially not 35-50metre pitches sustained at a grade! The routes we climbed, on paper, were towards my limit as well which i was delighted about.
Certainly amazing climbing, on amazing rock in stunning surroundings!

Sponsored by Marmot

I think this was our last forray up to the Aiguilles during the 'hot weather' and we ended up spending a couple of days in the shack. It was dry enough, but the area was littered with holes when we arrived. These were undoubtedly mouse holes and our suspicions were realised when they became ballsy enough to walk on us at night and such like. We caught sight of a few and tried to make our belongings mouseproof but eventually, after a night in the shack alone, when Franco went up to Les Dru with Chris, I couldn't do it anymore. I was worried sleeping in the woods on my own anyway and that hightened awareness meant i heard every squeak, every mouse running over my sleeping bag and i eventually snapped, catching two and swiftly killing them. I don't know why i did it as it wasn't their fault, but it made me feel better and i was totally 'in-tune' with my aggressive, hunter side - which allowed me to catch bloody mice with a plastic bag, a stick and rocks. Ah well, enough was enough we searched for a home more suited...