• http://t.co/zgkqetvo
    2012/10/01 20:53
  • Thanks to @citizenfishy and Patch for their tour of Brixham and Barter towers. Nice end to our tour of the devon coast.
    2012/09/29 20:46
  • Today I went car shopping @ Swindon Motor Park. Total criminals trying to scam: Avoid them like the plague
    2012/09/26 19:50
  • Check out SMS Backup + on Google Play! https://t.co/vMNu4GCK
    2012/09/25 09:14
  • Are you looking to adopt a dog? This one looks nice. (One teeny caveat). rofl been crying with laughter at this.
    2012/09/11 22:16

Wild Country Xenon Techwire Gate Quickdraws

Really when we are talking quickdraws it’s actually two bits of distinct kit, two karabiners and a fitted sling that permanently joins the two and I raise this point because with the Wild Country Xenon Techwire Quickdraws one of those pieces is flawed.

I actually purchased a set of 5 of these simply based on their weight and price. At around £12 a draw or even less when brought as a set of 5 for such lightweight kit they seem like a bargain. Each draw is only 83g which when compared to 5 of my more standard weight draws is significant and really does make the difference between a light and heavy feeling rack on trad. Yes there are plenty out there that are lighter still but not at such a good price.

The full spec can be found here Wild Country 

The actual karabiners are very slim and yet offer 24Kn of protection closed and when you handle them it’s very hard to believe that fact given their slim/light appearance. The wire gate seems well implemented and after plenty of use mine still feel snappy even after plenty of lead falls and rest stops. A little tooth that the gate clips over just seems to work well but I’d advise not looking at it for too long or doubts will start creeping in when you consider that little tooth is the difference between 7Kn and 24Kn but that is true of any modern kit and why it’s important to regularly check your kit still lines up like it did when you brought it.

Moving onto the sling things aren’t looking as good. To reduce weight the sling is thin and again gives the whole draw a small light feel and also reduces space needed on your rack.

However here a problem is created as to add rigidity to the rope end of the draw a rubber insert is sown into the sling and lines the inside of the ring which holds the karabiner in place. This rubber solution is very prone to breaking and out of my original 5 draws 3 have now broken free. While this isn’t a fatal flaw as such it does mean your rope end can suddenly become loose and even worse you can have a rubber ring moving around your karabiner which could cause serious problems should it get jammed up in your wire gate.

I’ve actually retired the broken draws now and am using the karabiners on their own as I still contend they are good bits of kit but I’m really disappointed with what Wild Country have done here. The solution they have used really isn’t up to much and long term its destined to fail which is a real shame because the karabiner is really good.

Tintern Quarry – Return of the Jedi

Good weather, spare afternoon, new harness……climb on!

This weekend it was back to Tintern Quarry and with only an afternoon to play with it’s a quick hop over the bridge into Wales onto the sports routes without any messing about. As we had been there before we knew the walk in while pleasant is quite long and very down hill so the way out is the ultimate hike of doom when weary from the climb and for the first time all year we slimmed our kit down.

I was determined to climb with a small rack and knowing the pain of hauling all my trad gear into that quarry only to find 2 trad routes I packed 10 quickdraws, 2 extra long ones for bolt clipping, a cow tail on screw gates, belay and clip stick. This really is all you need for 99% of sport routes and finialy I’ve figured that out and left all the other crap behind. Walking in my ruck sack is light and with neil taking a single rope rather than our normal selection of ropes we really were finially not making a meal of it. I guess knowing the location is the key here, you know what your going to find so you can pack accordingly.

Once on site we quickly make our way to the sunny side wall, aptly named today as the sun glares down on us and so our sherpa sets up probably the first ever sun bathing camp that has been seen 20 meters up a a quarry wall and tucks into the food supplies. Having learned from previous trips that food will not last I’ve eaten before hand and so all that can be done is get on with the climbing.

Taking on board leasons of the past we start easy, straight into a F4+ Windoze which we fly up and down the leads with nothing to report. This is basic stuff but we are following the rules and so we move onto a F5 Trilobite.  Yes this was how you do it, warm up easy…except this climb is no F5, its a hard start, horrible middle and the top sucks. Despite this myself and Neil do onsite leads of it withouth fault while cursing and once off its back to the guide book to confirm it was actually a F5. My head is now doubting if this is ever going to get easy, a F5 should not be hard for me at my grade. Later research suggests that most people seem to think this is seriously undergraded and UKClimbing has comments from people who have backed off this climb but we didn’t know this at the time.

Never mind there isn’t time for doubt and it straight on to Crow F6a and here the confidence flows back. Its a 6a in our guide (5+ on UKC??) but moves are technical although not tricky and again two onsite trouble free leads with no fuss and so now its onto F6b+, Deja Vu. This isn’t a walk in the park and now the real climbing starts with a complex balancy move up side pulls and then moves across a blank face using pinchey holds but it’s done, not clean but certiantly next time it will be.

Now I am buzzing, finally all this training indoors is paying off as I’m able to get past all the previous epics and really start climbing properly out doors. I’m finding the holds easier to see,  forgetting I’m above the clip and  moving better using the rock to my advantage. So when we move up to the Entry wall for Unkindest cut of all a F6a+ a long starred route I have no qualms about jumping on.

The first section up to the ledge is nothing probably a 5+ but after that the climb turns serious but that’s not going to stop me now and I’m up into the committed section were I find there is a smear into the unknown but I’ve got my feat up just under my arms automatically and making the move to a side cling that is do or die, not thinking just making the move knowing in my head that if that hold isn’t there or any good I’m done for with only a little bit of chalk giving away it’s location. Not stopping just moving…the hold is brilliant, a hidden gem, clip in and then straight into an over hung bulge and I’m there. I almost wish there was more but instead a traverse across to the lower off bolts across a 6c section (that looks horrible) and down to the bottom.

On the ground I let Neil know about the hold and later on as he reaches that section I hear him relive the brilliant feeling of committing through a section of climb that’s skill, balance, power and finally utter bliss hanging off the best side cling known to man. This truly is the return of the Jedi for me, all the training finally coming together in small moments like that, hanging above the world having climbed something that 2 years ago seemed impossible flat surfaces.

A warm down on the crappy Star ship troopers 5+ 17m and its day over for us as the suns setting and hell we have done some good climbs.

The force was strong in this one today ;)

Castle Rock – Testing faith in self and others

So with the weather holding a Sunday afternoon of light climbing was a must in the glorious sun shine. We had considered castle rock for a while as a possible evening destination given it’s only an hour from Swindon so it seemed like a good time to test it out as we had the whole afternoon to spare.

Geared up via the 15% off sale at gooutdoors with some new quick draws and a fine looking 1.5m sling I headed out with the crew to Cheltenham where the Cleeve Hill rock pokes out of the ground and its amazing views looking out to Cheltenham race course. At first look this little rock doesn’t seem like it can contain the 27 climbs listed for it but some how they are all packed in there.

You can park in the car park of the Sun Inn which is but a few minutes walk from the climbs although its plastered with signs threatening clamping for non-patrons so we felt a duty to have a quick drink before heading off. This slight distraction resulted in us leaving the guide book behind and so the short walk became a little longer for Neil who was forced to head back after dropping his gear off.

For myself and Rob without a guide we were left to tackle the rather funky traverse that runs around the base of the rock. This actually proved good fun as it’s low level means you can try the moves without fear of death and at 6a it’s a significant problem to work on, good fun if your not climbing.

With Neil’s return and the holly route guide in hand we quickly located Right Crack a VD according to the guide and I got straight into the lead. It quickly became apparent that these climbs were going to be polished and also that a lot of rock had come away over the winter leaving some quite serious route changes. Most people are now voting this climb a HVD and while it’s nothing to write home about it’s probably not a VD any more.

Once at the top I decided to leave the belay sling and screw gate in place as we would be using the same stake all afternoon and it would save a lot of hassle for who ever was on the lead. The walk off is so quick you can get down to the climbs in 30 seconds so it seemed like a good plan to keep the pace of the day up.

Next it was on the Black Wall a E1 5C with Neil leading a very bold climb. With parts missing and again slick holds this really was a very pumpy second climb that probably should have been warmed up to. Again it’s conjectured that the original climb no longer exists, but it’s still a climb and not an easy one at that.

Once at the top it became apparent that some thieving bastard had stolen our belay set-up, or more accurately they had taken my new sling and a screw gate which probably set me back £20 in total. Given we were mere feet from the gear most of the time and that to most people that gear is totally useless its doubly annoying. The worst part is we were fairly sure it was some guy with his two young daughters who did it, actually coming and waiting for us to walk off before grabbing the gear and running…nice example fuck bag.

Still moving on as one must we decided to back off the higher grade for a bit and do The Hand Jam a S4a with myself back on the lead. Again later research suggests this has been upgraded in the latest guide due to polish and holds missing and I quickly found myself on a fairly demanding climb. Some of the problems were of my own making as I think I managed 4 gear placements when really it should have been 2 max 3 and time spent trying to find slots would have been better spent pushing up but the polish makes one nervous.

At one point I was attempting to find a placement while in an overhung section, the constant drain on my arm while attempting to fit a stopper into a shiny crack getting to the point were I was losing the abilty to hold on. I had to abandon the attempt and use a slap to take the presure off my arm with energy draining from every point now I resumed my attempt to get gear in but I was just too tired and doubt was creeping in. The sudden thought that you can’t actually do this, the instant mind killer and any climber who has been there know what they have to do, man the hell up and start climbing. Leaving the safety of the placement point I move up through the moves and low and behold a thread to place a sling a bomber placement that will take any fall.

It’s all clear now, back out on trad from the sports climbs too much time spent putting in protection when really moving up and on is the better option, there is more safety in keeping fresh than all those bomb placements that you destroyed your strength getting in.

Still now it was time to really step up the grade. Dislocated a E2 6a was now in Neil’s sights and even from the first few moves on the ground this looked serious. Repeating my mistakes on a much lesser climb a lot of time was spent trying to get a bomb bit of gear in fairly low down but this climb was so polished it looked as if it had been in a geologists rock tumbler and so mentally it seemed we needed it.

It later proved that a few moves on a much better placement and balance point offered itself and all the energy spent down low was for nothing. A slip off the glass like rock shortly after that proved it’s quality as it saved Neil 1m from the ground and on the second I again found my self wondering how on earth Neil had managed to lead this. Two slips and enegery sapping gear removal found me practically crawl off the top of this beast of a climb. Neil really had to force his way through some truly horrible stuff.

Still we will go back as there is an E3 6a with some brilliant looking moves just asking for it but I won’t be leaving any gear lying around….. ;)



Tintern Quarry – Clip sticks and old sailors superstitions

Weekends have come and gone with rain hampering trips and resulting in Sundays spent at the climbing wall so the prospect of a heat wave this weekend was just too good to believe. Alarm set to wake us early the initial view out the window wasn’t good, clouds promised rain but the news was insisting it was going to be a great day so we geared up and headed out for the newly discovered Tintern Quarry.

Hidden in Wye Valley Guide Tintern Quarry was spotted by Neil as being a fully bolted Quarry just over the bridge into Wales with a good range of climbs and a quick look at the UKC crag guide backed this up. With a new Beta stick lying unused in my rack and the last sports climb now months in the past this really was game on. Earlier in the week I’d had an intensive session with a different climbing partner from normal  and was feeling good about having pushed myself beyond my normal limits to keep up with him so was feeling very keen to take that outside on a sports route.

After a short hike to the Quarry base and a quick recky of climbs on offer the sun finally shows it’s self, and by show it’s self I mean burns through to our very soul with it’s intensity. Climbing in direct sun would be killer with temperatures in the 30′s so we move to the side of the quarry in shade and pick a nice easy starting climb Feline Groovy a F4+.

Now was time to break out the clip stick for no other reason than I wanted to try it out having bought it a while ago. Now I’m sure there are climbers out there cringing but before the lambasting begins from all the hardcore trad climbers who believe that sports climbing is a crime against nature think of this, would you take all your nuts and cams off your rack?

A clip stick is safety device that helps us keep safe when pushing the grade. Getting that first clip in when onsiting a climb at the top of your grade makes it safer, end of story. Of course in this case I totally didn’t need to clip but I had to test this baby out and it performed exactly as advertised. This really is a great bit of kit that really takes the worry out of those first few tricky moves.

After we all warmed up on Feline Groovy which turned out to be a very lose climb of not much interest we moved down the wall to Home is where the URL is a F5+. Again not much of interest and further lose rock making for careful route finding and Puffed Daddy F4+ was really forgetable so it was time to move to the real climbing and Dinomania F6a+ was the focus of our grade jump.

Now was time to bring the clip stick into play again and this time for good reason. The starting moves here are committing and hard and the on-site is made so much less dangerous with that first clip secure. Watching Neil on the lead this is looking like a hard climb and when it comes to my turn I quickly confirm this fact and the climb certainty lives up to its dyno inspired name with big bold moves but it feels really good and still stands out as my climb of the day.

Moving on its food time and I suddenly discovered the possible source of the sailors fear of women being on board as bad luck. Having brought our Sherpa along for her normal photo duties we discover she has broken into the food bag and happily eaten her way though the days supplies like a plague of mice. Fortunately a pasty had managed to escape the eating rampage of a restless woman but as I tucked in I could imagine the horror befalling sailors, weeks at sea and a slowly dwindling food store at the mercy of bordome eating.

Fuelled up its now time to do the big one. There is a 6a dust devil (2) asking for it, except in the guide we thought it was 6b. Climbing up the 5+ Dust Devil (1) to reach pitch 1 the second pitch looked horrible and massively over hung and round the corner was what appeared to be a nice looking 6a. Little did we know it was in fact Ammonite a F6b and a whole other beast.

Once again our route finding skills were about to result in an epic. I took the lead and quickly ran into trouble heading around the wrong side of a boulder because the route looked better but finding the clip impossible to reach resulting in a climb down that really ate into the mental confidence. This was hard, I’d just climbed a whole section I had to un-climb way above clip and now the next move up to the clip was committed. I could do the move, I know I could but the mental edge was gone and so I backed off the climb and let Neil take the lead.

It quickly became epic and pure perseverance saw Neil force his way to the top in a drawn out and horrible climb that he commented ‘I’ve done it, I’m never doing it again’. As we made our way off the pitch to the ground and took on much needed water it became apparent we had been on a 6b and that the climb we bottled was only 6a.

A F4+  humboldt was picked next for Rob to perform his first ever outdoor lead and he climbed it without issue. Anyone looking on would not have known it was his first lead out door and thats always a good sign, hassle free climbing. He/We thought he was climbing a F3+ but as always it depends what guide you read and when I climbed up to clean the route it didn’t feel like a 3 and surly thats the lesson here.

It’s all in the mind, no matter how hard you train or how much you learn if you lose the confidence even for a second it all falls down around you. You can keep telling yourself you can do it but if you don’t believe it then you can’t. Time to train the mental element, I need some workouts of the mind now the body is starting to conform.

As a conclusion to the day we finished off on the stared route dinofeaver a tricky 6a+ and by this point my arms were falling off but this was a great route, again big bold moves. This is very much a venue I will return to with plenty of routes left to complete at all ends of the scale.

Next time I will believe more and hide my food better ;)

Avon Gorge Morpheus really is bullet time


Ticking the multi pitch box

It’s easy to look like you know what your doing a few meters off the ground messing around on some bouldering moves while warming up for the big climb of the day. It’s not quite so easy when your off route, traversing across a blank face that is probably in the E grades 60 meters up the longest climb of your life on a belay held in by a single micro wire.

Yes it was time to pop the multi pitch cherry and I very much had my sights set on Avon Gorge having previously investigated the area in my rock facts guide and hearing good things about it from friends. A Thursday night in the pub with the guide and some cider identified the Seawalls as the ideal place to start out with some good S & HVD climbs and while in dicks climbing on the way to the gorge the owner identified the climb Morpheus as a real classic and a good place to start. I was also forced to buy a clip stick for the return to Portland and the second  assult of the 6a+ The Treacle Factory and a nut, accursed shiny climbing gear shops.

Once at the seawall we realised why these climbs are so popular, you park the car step out and your at the climb. No scramble down perilous cliff paths through brambles risking life and limb before you have even made it to the climb and best of all no gear, food and days supplies to haul for miles. This was climbing in luxury but it did leave our sherpa without her normal function for the day.

So with little to do but remove all the supplies we didn’t need from our bags we headed to our climb, roped up and commenced the assent with minimal fuss as the route seemed fairly obvious. It would however become very apparent we had made one fatal mistake with regards to our plans to haul our approach shoes in a single ruck sack on a 3rd rope carried by the second. It’s seems obvious now looking back, but at the time it seemed like a totally sensible idea to put all our shoes in a single pack and haul it between pitches. A lightly geared team who had their shoes clipped into their harness next to us should have been the tip off here that we were making life hard for ourselves.

Ledge Life

Morpheus is actually a 4 pitch climb with pitches at 28m, 44m, 54m and 66m. After chatting to the guy in the climbing shop who suggest it could be done in 3 or even 2 it was very clear the challenge had been set, there was no way we where doing it in 4. With a 3 man team to get up there pitch changes would get complex and slow so attempting less pitches was clearly the way forward and it made us sound hard which really is all that matters.

Neil set off on the lead using a twin rope set-up on what looked like easy climbing, though the actual start was a significant move but nothing to really worry about. Not much gear went in initially as the climb started with near scrambles punctuated with moves up bolder like problems so spending a long time rigging gear in sparse cracks probably seemed a waste of time on the lead. As Neil headed out of sight past the first pitch and onwards the first problem of skipping pitches reared its head. With the road near us and some wind we couldn’t hear him any more. With 35 of rope out he had clearly stopped somewhere but we had no idea what he was up to and then it hit me that he had past the ropes halfway point, if he need to back off this climb for whatever reason he couldn’t.

In our quest to reduce time at pitches and prove ourselves worthy to some random bloke in a shop who postured it could be done we had added a lot of risk to the climb in the form of removing escape options and more importantly reduced communications. Still there was nothing to do now but man it up and get on with the job and besides I was getting twitchy to get on the rock. Fortunately our sherpa was able to step back from the rock and see the pitch where neil had setup so after some hand singals between us I was ready for the second.

The climbing wasn’t hard, at least at first but once past where the first pitch would have been we were heading into the vertical section. In fact the moves up to the belay ledge where Neil had setup were pumpy and polished in places. This was where the real climbing would start and once secured into some protection the true nature of the next two pitches could be seen, they were vertical and given what we had just done to reach this point some what ominous. A later look at the guide reveals the symbols ‘Pumpy’ ‘Techincal’. These really should be paid more attention as despite being a HVD  this was no easy climb.

However it was now time to haul our bags and belay Rob up to our ledge. Hauling bags is simple in theory but in practice if a bag can find something to get hung up on it will be magnetically attracted to it. Because we where hauling two pitches I couldn’t even see the damn thing and so Rob as the 3rd spent all his time climbing, unhooking bag, climbing unhooking bag. He even had to climb off route to get it unhitched at points.

Once all 3 of us had secured into the ledge it was time to take stock and more importantly have a 5 minute rest and consider the rest of the route. Also I’m on-call so I have to check my email and also take some shots on the work black berry, I hope no one needs technical support now. As we consulted the guide book on our ledge the leader from a two man team crossed above us and inquired if we were running some sort of competition for the maximum number of people on a single belay ledge. He was then forced to return and inquire if we could direct him on his route as he was scared of venturing onto the many E grade routes that surrounded us.

The comfort of chatting and laughing with fellow climbers when your dangling high above the ground helps calm the nerves and we’d been on the face for a few hours now so having others confirm routes is always a good thing. But it was time to move on and now we had two pitches of pure vertical climbing to do.

The big push

Neil was out of sight after the first big move so the belay was an hour of just waiting, the only sign of anything happening was the take on the rope. When that finiailly stopped on our ledge we can only assume he is safe. When the rope starts to take constantly I know it’s mine turn to climb, I shout the warning ‘climbing’ but know he won’t hear and just have to hope he starts taking in the slack.

The climb is hard, even getting out of our ledge requires a pumpy technical move and everything seems like an epic this high up, you fall up here and the gear doesn’t hold  and there is no hope of surviving it. Its not anywhere beyond my skill level but when your life depends on it then it’s harder, you grip tighter and you never risk that move you *think* you can make.

Finally I have where I think Neil is belaying from in sight but before me is a traverse and unknown to me I’ve ventured off route. Moving above the gear placement that I later find out was placed above before a climb down to protect the nasty traverse as there was no where to put it lower down, I’m now into an unrouted section of rock and it scary and sheer. The single piece of gear at the end of the traverse will send me spinning down into a rock wall and pain. Worse still unknown to me Neil is belaying off a single mirco wire, if I go now there are two micro wires between both of us and the ground.

Now I wonder what the hell I’m doing, what possess people to do this? This is serious, its always been serious but this is really serious. There is no way back here, no chance to fail if I pause my strength will give out, the only thing to do is move on, the mantra I’ve built into myself if all else fails keep moving. I make the moves, they stick, my balance holds and I walk into a belay pitch, the walk off a simple bolder away.

Once at the belay point I can secure Neils single micro wire belay with some slings around a tree further out. Neil is able to move to a hanging belay position and then guide Rob over the correct traverse. With him secured at the top as well and after more faffing with the bag haul we make our way to the ground to find we have been gone nearly 5 hours, it felt like an hour.

Once on the ground we all laugh and recant the adventure we just had, a brilliant one, all the fear gone now we know why we do it, why we will come back and do it again and do harder and harder routes, but I couldn’t possible explain it ;)

Climbing Portland West – Lessons and Seagull Diarrhoea

I love Portland, say what you will about sports climbing but you can’t fault an entire island with thousands of climbs running the entire coast and also island quarries. So I’ve been looking forward to a day trip since the end of the season last year. With an entire winter of training under my belt in which my base grade has moved to 6a with 6c/7a becoming possible I was also looking forward to trying some of the higher grade climbs at Portland.

Previous visits have seen the grade range start at 3+ and move to 5c on the Blacknor beech and Blacknor south so my sights were set on getting some 6a’s and maybe some 6b’s under my belt and also attempting some of the longer 20/30 meter climbs. The reality of situation as always makes me realise that I still have a lot to learn and that climbing real rock is a whole other sport from simple world of indoor.

Lesson 1 – Learn to read the map

Sitting in the camper van awaiting Neil, I planned our climbs for the day with my sights very much set on the Battleship cliffs & Blacknor far South. The theory behind these areas is that they have some good 5+ climbs to warm up on and some rated 6a climbs to move up to. Neil agreed and so we set off with GPS guiding us to the parking spots indicated in the rockfax guide.

Parking successfully aquired we set off down a foot path that looked like it went in the right direction and  then down the cliff path to the rock face, a mission in it’s self as always were the  path down is steep, lose and a wrong foot placement will send you tumbling into oblivion.

It quickly became clear after checking the map that we had in fact taken the wrong of 3 possible foot paths to the cliffs from our parking area and had in fact entered the Wallsend North Area. This area was devoid of climbers probably because the climbs here start at 6a (all one of them) and quickly move up in grade. They are also very long and sustained, its hardcore. With the prospect of having to scramble back up to the cliff tops and move along to Battleship even with our sherpa and photographer to haul the gear the decision was made to tackle the 20m 6a for our first climbs.

Lesson 2 – Warm up to big climbs and Seagulls are foul creatures

Neil steps up to onsite our first climb of the day  Cosa Nostra.  The guide says this 20m climb is 6a quite pumpy with good climbing on the second section. This translates to hugely sustained 6a with epic committing move though an over hung section in mine and Neil’s book. This is not a climb to warm up on for us but because I will now happily warm up on 6a at the wall this seems like a good start, how much harder can it be?

2/3 into the climb and Neil has just reached the over hung section without too much effort although its clearly not a cake walk all is looking good when a seagull swoops in and sprays a fine diaritick spray over both Neil and myself on belay, a feat of pure skill obviously honed by many years of climber bombing. It’s said by many that this is a sign of luck but as Neil climbed  and back climbed again and again at the overhung section trying to figure the moves luck didn’t seem to be on the cards.

Eventually powering through the overhang Neil arrives back on the ground pumped to hell and I’m feeling less than happy about the climb deciding to second it. As I make my way through the over hang after many failed attempts I know I would have probably backed off on lead due to the long run out and committing nature of the moves and I arrive back on the ground pumped and wondering if that 6a was under graded.

Once back on the ground a rest is called for and the seagull returns to examine it’s handy work, too tired to attempt stoning the filthy creature to death I decide it’s time to MTFU and pick out The Treacle Factory a 6a+ near by. I say pick out…it’s the only other 6a grade climb in this area and while a vertical 19m at least there was no over hang and the guide says ‘A much improved climb’.

Its hard, even the start is a nightmare, moving up over a crumbling bank of sand so Neil has to belay far from the foot of the cliff means a large run out to the first clip. Once climbing the moves are technical and sustained, there is no hope for rest here with pushing forward the only option hoping that the ledge near the last few moves offers some respite. This is the kind of climbing I wanted, its hard but I’m doing it, the training coming into play and then the plus move that makes the 6a+ is upon me.

First inspection reveals a blank section of wall but I have to step up there is nothing else to do, arms pumping I have to back off and rest on the clip. Several forays above the clip revel some marginal holds but nothing good so I make the moves and then I see it, once I have committed the left hand hold stares out at me marked with chalk and about 5 inches from my crappy hold which is fading fast so I adjust weight and go for the clearly better hold and ping as my balance fails. In my head I know I’m far out from the clip and I have enough time to realise I’m starting to spin after I manage to bounce myself away from the rock, the extra belay length adding to the fall hight.

That’s enough for me, the prospect of climbing all those moves again just to reach that point after such a massive fall are more than I want to consider at this point and so Neil takes over the climb retracing my steps. A combination of seeing my fall and shear pump after his massive 6a lead result in backing of at the same point, the hidden hold left untouched and a quick draw left hanging at the lower off point a shameful reminder of our retreat and some free gear for anyone who has the nuts to climb past it.

And so we leave the Wallsend and head to Battleship Edge having been thoroughly raped by two 6a’s only to stumble on the gem of the day the newly bolted Veranda.

Lesson 3 – Climbs don’t have to epic to be fun

We spot the veranda from above and as we scramble into the enclosed area of rock face the sun comes out and we are presented with climbs ranging from F3 all the way up to F6b+ all 7 or 8 meters. Starting in the 4′s we move along the rock face enjoying some really nice climbing.

As we climb and chat with some fellow climbers attempting the F6b+ When You Were Little You Dreamed You Were Big a cry is heard from their direction and a big lead fall taken. The only foot hold on the plus move has just come off possibly pushing the grade of the climb into the 6c’s so we re-assess our plan to complete it,

Finishing instead on the climb Hanging Out with Halo Jones a really nice 6a with huge finishing move the confidence is back, our muscles are properly warm and we are used to the rock again, now would be a good time to have done those epic 20m 6a’s but the day is quickly drawing to an end so we decide to make our way out and maybe pick up a last climb on the Battleship.

Lesson 4 – It’s all about the holds

Wandering into the Battleship there is a fallen slab that really stands out, it’s rock differs very much to the cliffs, appearing very smooth and something that would be more at home at an inland slate quarry. We find a 5 between some stupidly hard climbs that appears good Like a Drowning Man. Gearing quickly as the sun is going and it’s getting cold I get on the lead an it’s back to feeling like I’m out of my depth again, this can’t be a 5 can it?

The rock is slick and the moves are massive, each one feeling committed and scary but I move my way up and then that familiar feeling of looking at a blank face with no way forward. A few attempts past the clip reveal a single hold but it’s not enough, a single foot hold and the rest of the rock is so slick a smear is totally out of the question. Backing off again Neil does the

second thankfully confirming the horrible nature of this climb alaying my fears that I had forgotten how to climb and upon reaching the crux having the exact same issues.

Then he spots it, the hold I had missed and he is past the section. Once down I repeat the climb refusing to accept defeat by a 5 and this time its a breeze, the route is known and that last hold brings all those moves together and yes I’d grade it as a 5. It clarifies in my mind what I’ve started to realise all day, onsitting climbs that are above beginner grade requires time and practice and when you can’t do it it’s probably because your missing something.

Time to invest in a clip stick to figure out the moves on those tricky sections and also a gun for those damn seagulls!



Fairy Cave Trip

So here it was at last the long awaited first climbing trip of the year and return to Fairy Cave, written off last week due to flu the anticipation was almost too much to stand.

An early start meant we where on-site for 9:30 and with the weather looking good a whole day of climbing was ahead of us. A quick dash to Robs slab to repeat the 3 star climb Robs Crack revealed that the only other people in the quarry had also decided to make it their first climb of the day. After a long search of the guide book with it’s text only descriptions of the climbs we finally located the ‘shot blast hole’ that is the start of Who needs hair anyway?

From below there seemed to be lots of protection with a solid climb VD so I was happy to take the first lead of the day and on-site it. Just trying out the opening move saw the hold come off in my hand and resulted in the fortuitous donning of helmets by Neil and Rob on belay. A few moves into the climb and it was already becoming forgettable with the main focus being on avoiding the lose holds and chossy foot placements. Unknown to me my lower gear had fallen out and the rest was shall we say not bomb, the rock was just too crufty.

Once at the top and secured in belay Neil started his second with all going well until a shout of ‘below’ and a small rock shower. Then shouts to Rob to haul his ass away from the face as it became clear that Neil was holding a large section of the climb in place with his knee. From my belay I watched head sized rocks smash into the lower belay point now thankfully clear of Rob. Some how my black berry stashed in my kit bag which took a rock hit survived, my pasty was not so unscathed.

The rest of the climb was very forgettable although for Rob it was his first outdoors 3rd and Neil did alter the climb by leaving a nice blank section in his wake…probably for the better but I won’t be doing it again to find out.

After some faffing we finally decided to abseil from a large tree with abseil ring added using a retrievable abseil down the climb Balch’s Slide which we noted looked quite good for later assent.

Then it was on to Robs crack the 3 star climb in this quary. Neil took the lead here and quickly remembered that this brilliant climb has a gibber section on lead and really requires a mental push through. It’s VS 4c but that section is more HVS with the solid protection on the crack bring down the overall grade.

Once Neil is on belay I second the route carrying both a second 60m rope to setup a permanent abseil for the day and ruck sack with everyone’s shoes rather than setup a haul later on. Entering the gibber zone I remember that this climb is serious and regret taking huge amount of extra weight and really have to power through the sustained sections knowing delay with that weight will take it’s toll. Reaching the little shelf before the last section is pure bliss and I have time to reflect on just how good that section is and chat to Rob who is now losing confidence in doing the climb as we have just sworn and grumbled all the way up. Short hop to the top and it’s Rob turn to make his second outdoor assult and I’m at the top discussing lower down options with Neil as we both realize how tricky that climb actually is for Rob….as he just climbs the section and logs his second climb of the day without any fuss.

Next it’s on to Balch’s Slide for my second lead of the day. This is probably over graded but the huge run out without protection at the start makes it feel harder than it is and gear placement really is just for show. On a brave day I’d solo it but its still a nice little climb and could be made harder by staying away from the left where protection is possible.

Now it’s Neil’s lead and he wants to step up the grade with an E1 we have spotted to our left Odd Boots This actually turned out to be more of a bolder problem and not a serious one at that. With a single gear placement after the crux this really was not worth the horror of Neil having to haul 60m of dual ropes…only to have me walk off.

For the last climb of the day I picked The Socialist a vertical crack assent with routes either side offering lots of possibilities for a bit of make it up as you go. Half way up in my head this is working up to be the best climb of the day, nothing hard but big moves, lots of gear holes and with a few hex’s in place I’m feeling chuffed. 4 moves from the top the route turns bad as my hand finds the rock stack atop the climb to be less than secure but with the top and safety in sight I push through the last 2 big moves and make the top.

In the guide the top is described as a walk off with belay stakes further back from the climb. The reality is that the top is a ridge with a vertical drop to oblivion ‘further back’ and the walk off is the summit ridge I currently have my legs either side of. All feeling of safety from my earlier protection is now gone and the only placement I can find is a little hole someone has clearly dug into the rock to accept a cam, everything else is for show and the top is so loose I fear sending boulders crashing down.

Warning Neil of the less than adequate belay protection, loose rock and real possibility of being stuck up here  I can see he thinks from below I’m being a drama queen, right until the moment he makes the summit and has to stand up and face vertical drops in all directions. Now we are forced to literally crawl off the climbs  ridge on belays at each end a less than glamours end to the day.

A really good return to the quarry though and plenty of routes spotted for another visit but maybe we will stick to the slabs ;)

Installing 4store on Debian Lenny

Looks like today is mainly going to be figure out how to get 4store on debian ;)

Your main install notes for 4store can be found here: http://4store.org/trac/wiki/Install

There are various pre-built .debs but after trying a few and seeing various fails its become fairly apparent that its not going to be easy. The main issue seems to be the http://librdf.org/raptor/ and http://librdf.org/rasqal/ libs which are out of date in debian.

So going down the building from source path seems the best option here….

Get the latest sources

  • git clone https://github.com/garlik/4store.git
  • wget http://download.librdf.org/source/raptor2-2.0.2.tar.gz
  • wget http://download.librdf.org/source/rasqal-0.9.25.tar.gz

Do the installs

First Rasqal

  • tar -xjvf rasqal-0.9.25.tar.gz
  • cd rasqal-0.9.25
  • ./configure
  • make
  • sudo make install

Then Raptor

  • tar -xzvf raptor2-2.0.2.tar.gz
  • cd raptor2-2.0.2
  • ./configure
  • make
  • sudo make install

There are some debian libs via apt we can cheat with for now

  • sudo apt-get install libavahi-common-dev

And now 4store

  • sh autogen.sh # Because we are building from git
  • ./configure
  • make
  • make test
  • sudo make install

And your ready to roll