Knot For Climbing

The hills have smells

March 29th, 2010


Climbing outdoors has always embodied elements that I revel in, principally because it’s so much bloody fun, even before the climbing begins. It’s the little things for me and it usually kicks in as I start the countdown in my head. The simple act of using a key in a door will trigger the thought of placing gear in the rock. “3 more days to go” I’ll hear myself say as I fumble with my keys, more and more anticipating the coming escape from the daily trappings of normality.

Taking the time to sort out your rucksack is a personal pleasure, clearing out last times muddy slings and gear, giving it a clean and a count, ensuring that you have all you’ll need and nothing more. “ backup belay.. check, hmm could my rack be smaller, lighter, faster?”

I admit to having had a packed bag sitting in the hallway looking rather forlorn, a week before a trip. Though the reverse is also true, having pulling a knotted mess of muddy slings, gear and ropes out at the base of a route. But always with a smile.

Another thing I find can be both a real joy and an absolute bugger is route finding, particularly on multipitch or when locating little used crags. Sure topos exist but now and again (depending on your guide) it’s just the description to work from and one bad interpretation of trend right or left and you’re off route. Many a pitch has commenced with that nagging doubt that perhaps the next flake is where you should have began and many a down climb has confirmed those same thoughts. Orientation is one thing on the rock but other simpler errors can be made on the road. I recall recently bombing up the motorway with the Prof, gear in boot, guide in hand, both happy to be leaving the city behind and enthusing so much about the Welsh rock ahead that we missed our turnoff and found ourselves in Derbyshire.

It maybe a cliché but its also true that a climbing trip provides a welcome sanity break from the urban malaise, lugging some metal up a hill with a mate seems the best way to get away from the everyday and the feeling of escaping every other bastard on the planet. Even if you’re belaying amidst a dozen top roping Scouts at Stanage.

This passing winter has had a rather long grasp on this crampon-less climber. Sure indoor climbing has been there but my enthusiasm low as I honestly can’t equate it with the experience I have with my mates outdoors. I admit the gym is convenient for a few colour coded routes or a spot of bouldering and obviously keeps you in shape but later down the pub as we hatch climbing plans over a pint, I can smell the chalk and sweat under my nails and I know that soon will be replaced by the welcoming aroma of moss and sheep dip.

It’s a tiny Gobie, and it’s a rock climber…

November 2nd, 2009
A gobie attempts a 7c+

I am watching an episode of the brilliant BBC nature documentary Life and having just been mesmerised by the wonders of our gilled ancestors, the problem solving and evolutional leaps of the mudskipper, his distant cousin the Hawiian Gobie fish appears.

“It’s a tiny Gobie, and it’s a rock climber…”, speaks the wonderful David Attenborough. Well this little sucker, and he is a lil’ sucker, manages to climb up a waterfall with his mouth and fins. Incredible stuff!

Have a look at the video on the BBC website.

15 Most Spectacular Rock Climbs

October 29th, 2009

Shiprock, New Mexico


Was just forwarded this link from Ed. He’s not a climber but he knows great photography when he sees it and this has that and more. And a lot of climbs I have never heard about.

The Shoreditch Boulder

June 11th, 2009
Image by Ian Mulvery

Image by Ian Mulvany

I was following a twitter conversation today between @philsheard and @IanMulvany and discovered there is a huge boulder in Shoreditch Park. The big old lump of granite was part of a regeneration scheme of Shoreditch and created by artist/climber John Franklin. A second boulder exists on Mabely Green.

It’s bloody huge and looks like a whole lot of bouldering fun. It’s been fully conquered and there is a write up of routes on the UKC website.

Ian has a flickr set including the boulders’ installation and some route tips. I hope to get my ass down there soon for some bouldering action.

do love to be beside the seaside

May 15th, 2009

The Love Below - raging sea below the crag Nigel accending Curved Crack

Up to this point of the year I’d been working way too many hours on the computer and doing bugger all climbing. Thankfully, The Climber Guy was wise enough to collar me in February to book a weekend in Swanage for a spot of Trad climbing. And how grateful I was when we managed to pick one of the sunniest spring weekends this year.

We cruised down the Friday night and stayed at the very nice Tom’s Field campsite. We were joined by fellow climbers Nigel and Hugh for a mini-ender (a one night, one day weekend trip).

We parked ourselves at Subliminal. Subliminal and The Cattle Troughs are good places to get started with Trad climbing, there is a good selection of grades and given it had been such a long time since I last placed gear, I was keen to get some practice in.

The coastline at Swanage is part of the Jurassic Coastline and how amazing it was to descend my abseil beside some million year old ammonite fossil. Well, The Climber Guy got stuck in and headed straight for Suspension (S 4a). It was a good climb, tricky start but bomber placement for gear. I had real problems getting one bit of gear out and took my time trying to sort it out. With the wind blowing and the sea crashing in hearing each others calls was a trick. After that I had a crack at Curving Crack (S 4a) on top rope. Not much to say really, it was top rope.

After a period of faffing about with luggage and looking for routes we ended up settling down on a new patch were all the climbs were just too tricky for me. I had to settle for some top roping while our colleagues went in search of an ellusive route. It was a good day but much too much time was spent faffing about looking for routes. { Moral: plan your routes the day before and stick to them! }

Another beautiful day and an early start was welcomed as we wanted to make up for our lack of lead climbing on Saturday. We decided to go to The Cattle Troughs and had eyed up 3 or 4 routes.

I started off with The Chimney (VD) which was a pretty straight forward “ladder” climb. It was a good starting point for me to get reacquainted with placing gear again. And with good reason too as some of my early pieces weren’t set properly. As I moved on I got back into the groove and the placement was more secure. It was my first lead in about a year and it felt great to be placing some gear again.

The route has two finishes, direct for a VS and to the right for the VD. Next time I’ll go for the VS, it looks like a fun and more challenging finish.

Consolation (S 4a) was next up. I seconded for Climber Guy and it was a good climb, nice holds. Don’t really remember much about it to be honest.

Most enjoyable climb for me was Chockney (VD 4a). As with most of the climbs I tried at Swanage, getting started is often the trickiest. This was no different with a rather trixie Egyptian start and my lack of match fitness was beginning to tell. By the time I got to the top I was taxed but it was all made worth while sitting atop the crag watching the sailing ships cruise by and the sun reflecting off the water.

I was spent by this time but Climber Guy was amped and really keen to attempt Bunney’s Wall (S 5a). The start is really bold, with no gear for about 3 metres. At one point I thought I was going to have to catch him as disco leg, then arm started creeping in. With a few words of encouragement he composed himself, regained his focus and found some good feet. Once that first piece was in he was able to rest then move on. Good character building climb I thought, and when I tried to second it I realised how hard the start was, and how little energy I had left in the tank.

As the sun started setting I sat atop the crag again and watching Climber Guy, tug, pull, push, grapple, kick, hack, get angry at the cam that had somehow overloaded and wedged itself midway on the route. He may have ticked the route but the crag claimed a cam for his trouble.

View our photos of the trip on flickr

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