Sunday, 31 January 2010

A Quick Pyramid Gully Blast

Well, we hit the Ladders, and yes, we got on Pyramid gully IV,5.!!
At 4.30am the unwelcomed sound of my alarm awoke me to find a fresh dusting of snow on the roads outside. I had my doubts about even being able to get over to Snowdonia today, i thought the roads could well be a nightmare, fortunatley the gritters did a sterling job and we arrived in Gerlan in good time.

The walk in was as tedious as ever, even more so as the crag was covered with the low cloud base. It took as longer than expected to locate the route as the visibility was very poor and extreamley persistant.

We approached from the right of Pyramid Buttress, passing Central gully where the inital ice pitch i climbed a few weeks ago was a hell of a lot thinner, probably not even climbable in its current state.

So, I got underway with the first steep pitch of Pyramid Gully which I found to be the crux. 5 or 6 moves were tricky where the ice steepend to pretty much vertical. Straight from the off, we had to be very careful with the ice, it was of the hard, brittle, dinner plating sort, the sort which is difficult to get a good placement as it constantly breaks away, and the sort which could also knock out your belayer!!!!

After bringing Dan up, i got going on the second pitch as Dan fell a bit ill and feeling lethargic, didnt have the strength to take the lead. The second pitch again had a nice ice pitch at the start, which was easier than the ice section on the first pitch, and made for good climbing, although i did have to battle through the huge ammounts of spindrift avalanches pouring down! The top of the ice section brought me to a ledge, a right turn and up a neve gully with a couple of ice steps to a belay on the right hand side. Here we de-geared and soloed the last 100m of grade 1 ground, on fantastic neve which brought us up to the plateau.

We heared a few other teams out, but couldnt tell what was being climbed as the visibility didnt break above 700m all morning. We spoke to a team who made a quick ascent of Eastern Gully who reported good neve, and spoke to a team who opted for Central Gully, though that was pre climb.
All in all, still lots to go at on the Ladders, and things seem to be improving by the day. Still a good ammount of ice knocking about, although as above, what we found was very britle, and if the low temps remain things could fatten up. Neve was brilliant although was topped with a few inches of graupel and powder which has recently fell, so an eye should be kept on the day to day snowfall as avalanche conditions could well build.

A good short day, and a route thats been on the tick list finally got climbed.
If you fancy a low in the grade IV,5 then Pyramid Gully is for you!!

Lets hope it continues.................

Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Ladders are ON....

Cant wait for tomorrow. Heading over to the Black Ladders, hopefully will get on Pyramid Gully which i have wanted to climb for a while now, fingers crossed it will be free!
The winter conditions in Snowdonia have got progressively better throughout the latter part of the week, and with last night and tonights colder temps, things should be looking pretty good.
I would think many of the higher crags, e.g the Trinity face will be busy tomorrow, thats where the best conditions will be found as they will be least effected by the recent thaw.

The ladders look a bit thinner than when we last were there climbing Gallipoli, but still plenty to go at, and Baggy  reports 14 teams were out today!

Weather wise, its not looking as good a day as today, but still, its not too bad!
Some snow showers are expected during the morning, a bit of wind and some brief spells of poor visibility, but nothing too harsh is due.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Ueli Steck - Speed solo of the Ginat on the Droites

There's not too much info on this at the moment, but it has happened!
Sometime in the last fortnight Ueli Steck took to the Ginat for another one of his ridiculous speed solo's and as ever, John Griffith was there to do the shoot.

Read more on his website here:

Heres a unbelievable photo from John Griffith's website of Ueli soloing the Ginat. You may have to click the image to enlarge it, as he is dwarfed by the huge face!! Spot him if you can!!

Cant wait for his time on this one!!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Follow The Dog

At the weekend, we made a very last minute decision to head down to Cannock Chase mountain bike center for a quick blast and a breakfast!
We were going to go over to Llandegla but that could have been a struggle on the bikes as its still blanketed with deep snow.
Anyway, down at Cannock Chase myself, Mike Warhurst, Mr lawley, Malc and Craig rode the well known, 'Follow The Dog' trail, which on a dry day would be a fairly easy trail for experienced riders, but, we didnt have a dry day!
The trail was pretty wet, and the mud was everywhere, quite a bit of skilled riding was needed to prevent the bikes wheels slipping away from under you.
The trail itself i thought was very good, and made the most of quite a flat landscape. The downhill sections were relitively short but good, and the trail as a whole flowed nicely from one sectoin to another.

Il definatley be heading back here to check out some of the other trails which Cannock has to offer!

The breakfast wasnt bad either, as can be seen above!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Iban Larrion - Psikoterapia (9a).

Heres a brilliantly published movie  featuring Iban Larrion on the route Psikoterapia (9a).

He made the second ascend (FA by Patxi Usobiaga), and this video really shows how small some of the holds are and how technical some of the moves are on a 9a route.

Una de Navarros,9a.**** from urko on Vimeo.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

The Friday night video on UKC has this week chose my recent video of our day enjoying the ice over in Cwm Idwal as their Friday night video of the week!
Its always the way aint it, my video in question was slapped together in 30 mins after the days climbing, and id be the first to say it isnt one of my better productions!
The video can be viewed on UKC's website here , on the video wall or below.

Dry tooling at Blackpool Towers

The rapid deteriroation in the winter conditions throught the uk these last few days, left Dan & I in limbo and  without a plan for what to get on this weekend. I didnt fancy getting avalanched or tackling dripping ice, and the recent rain put a stop to any action on the rock. It looked like an indoor session was inevitable, that was until i came up with a plan! Kepping the winter action alive with a spot of dry tooling!

We headed over to to the Blackpool Towers, where they hold regular 2hr sessions for £10pp, not bad, especially as your kit is included if you need it!

Its the first time we have climbed at the Towers, and on arrival they appear massive!
Dan and I got on 4 routes each, starting easy we eventualy tackled a couple of tricky lines, including the overhanging inside of one of the towers which was massivley pumpy!
The final route we took to involved constant technical moves, often balancing the pick on the slightest of edges, lots of hand swaps, matching the same tool, and using the body position to keep the axes pulled the way you want them to be. These towers are a relentless 20m high and as the body tires the precarious moves just kept on coming, not forgetting the serious exposure that the Towers throw at you!

Friday, 15 January 2010

The future is bright for Allterrain MBC....

With the arrival of 2010, and a popular growing club, Allterrain MBC is now a firmly established mountain bike club.
With Wayne at the helm, the club was launched in March 2009, and as there wasnt a Warrington specific club out there Wayne had the idea to bring Mountain biking to the people.
I joined shortly afterwards and the club has continued to grow steadily ever since. Allterrain MBC now has around 20 riders from the Warrington area and is open to all ages and abilities, male or female. The club is already affiliated to MJ Cycles in Latchford, Warrington,  which offers great discouts to club members.

Allterrain MBC have a twice weekly ride on a Tuesday & Thursday, on a local off-road circuit which is around 16 miles in length, this year we have also planned to ride a trail center or other off-road mountain bike trail on the 2nd weekend of each month. The location and difficulty of the planned outings will differ from month to month enableing something to be had for everyone.
With the club increasing by the month, Allterrain MBC decided at a recent meeting to fully establish itself by introducing a committee, club accounts, club jerseys and looking at ways of funding to enable the club to continue growing into the future.

If anyone is interested in the club, get in contact with Wayne via Allterrain MBC's website which is above.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Austrians put up new WI7+ & Dave Macleod puts up 2 new routes in Glen Coe

Austrian guide duo Albert Leichtfried and Benedikt Purner, made the first ascent of the 300m "Centercourt" in the Gasteinertal.

Photo by arch Leichtfried

                              Photo by Benedikt Purner
Also Dave Macleod has been at it again in Glen Coe with two new routes. Frozen Assets VII,7 and also, Liquidation VI,6, tackle some amazing looking ice fangs!

Sunday, 10 January 2010

A quick Mam tor blast....& lost camera.........

Again making the most of the conditions right now, Dan & I arrived at the car park below Mam Tor crag early yesterday morning. Our intention was a quick romp up Blue John Rib, but on arrival there were 2 other cars already parked, talk about keen!
The walk in is the shortest ever here, ive walked for longer to go cragging in the summer,  and it revealed a couple of partys gearing up at the base of the crag. Speaking with the chaps one was heading for the blue John rib and the other to Mam tor gully. A quick look at the old guide book, courtesy of one of the climbers at the crag revealed a route to the right of BJR in a scoop, then there was another prominent rib with no apparent route on it, followed by a second scoop with a line up it.
With all the grades of the routes on this crag being very similar at around II/III, Dan and I decided to have a romp up the central rib. It was holding more snow than BJR and as it still left us a few grades to play with until we'd be out of our league. Im sure the central rib has been climbed winter style before, as the guide hasnt been updated for years, but we broke the trail over to the base of the rib and got going.
We found roughly 3, 30m pitches of III,4 climbing, sticking on the rib all the way. It makes a good, quick, easy accesed climb, and even though in the summer the rock is chossy and fragile here, after a good freeze it firms up rather well and good gear and bomber belays are easily found.

Id imagine the route and the climbing to be pretty much identical to BJR, the length, angle and rock seems almost identical, not to mention the routes are all easily escapable by ledges either side.
Back home i checked on UKC of the routes existance, where it seems the whole face other than BJR is a route called Central Face. Its described as,' the face, right of BJR has a couple of scoops and ribs, climb anywhere'! I believe a clear route for the central rib should be added, and il put it forward to the crag moderator as the route makes a good line, worthy of a *, plus there are already established routes in either scoop.

On the downside to today, it appears i lost my Panasonic Lumix digital camera somewhere between the car and the first belay on the central rib. If anyone has any info on this, id be hugely greatful if you could contact me by email on, cheers.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Crib goch Traverse & Yr Wyddfa

Myself, David Hooper and 2 of Davids friends, Dave and Jeff, made the most of todays stunning conditions in Snowdonia. We first encountered Moel Siabod as we passed on the A5, which like most of the other hills in Snowdonia, Clwyds, Moelwyns, has an unbelievable ammount of snow at present, (great for touring!)

We attempted to park at the Pen Y Pass car park, which today was shut, and remained shut all day for some reason. Im unsure if they will be opening it for tommorrow, as the chaps deemed it too icy today!! Hmmm!!

We set off for Yr Wyddfa, David, Jeff and Dave took the Pig track to the summit, while i traversed Crib Goch and on to the summit. Crib Goch was amazing, not a cloud in the sky, clean rock and basked in sun made today feel like a true alpine route. also my first winter traverse of the ridge which truely is deserved of its 3*.

Approaching the summit, there was 2 teams out on the Trinity face which was absolutley plastered! The day was still gorgeous and the rime formations on the cafe, signs, trig point etc were also huge.

We encountered some fantstic examples of raised footprint snow formatins also on the return from the summit.

We returned via the Pyg track, where i dug a quick pit on a south facing lee slope to have a look at the snow pack. A couple of pretty stiff tugs with my hands revealed a 5-6 inch area of windslab. It didnt budge easily, and not much slab was breaking off under foot as we decended in untouched snow, but the danger is still there, and on larger open areas, avalanches or slides could occur.

 A breathtaking sunset with soft colours of purples, lilacs and coppers reflected off the snow covered hills to cap a truely stunning day!

Thanks to David, Dave and Jeff for a great day!!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


A nightmare morning yesterday, involving helping a women get her car out of the snow, getting our own car in a bit of a mess and to top it all a confrontation with a crazy guy at a petrol station all led to us getting a late start on Gallipoli on the Black Ladders. For those who dont know the Black Ladders, a late start here isnt the best. Most of the routes are long, serious, often involve difficult route finding and we also encountered lots of soft, deep, powder, making things pretty slow going.

We finaly got on the route, Gallipoli (V,5). The route can be accessed by either taking the start for central gully, or taking a start a touch further right. We opted for the cental gully start as the first pitch was a brilliantly formed ice funnel that needed to be climbed. From here the route takes easy ground to a groove on the right which is set in a snow bay. This is climbed via ice, turf and vegitation to a peg belay above. It turned out to be a tricky pitch with a doddgy leftward step mid height to get off the thinning ice which was also hollow and breaking away under my feet, to reach a steep slope of turf and vegitation.
Dan led the next pitch which traversed left, then a tight squeeze between the buttress and an isolated arete led to a thin ice slab which was virtualy un-protectable until some 20m above. Dan setup a belay for the next pitch which i led, taking the easy slope, brought me to a steep, short wall which was infact overhanging  with vegitation. This i climbed on the left, in the slightist of grooves, hooking and torquing my way up, a final big move onto a ledge was needed to reach a good belay, thankfully the axes held! Dan took the honours and pulled back right to get over the lip of the overhanging wall, a difficult couple of moves, this wasnt the place to be digging around in the powder for an axe placement, but there really wasnt much scope. Dan soon passed his difficulties and an easyish groove ahead found a good belay spike. At this point the remainder of the route would have to be climbed by headtorch, as always, darkness seemed to arrive suddenly!! I arrived at Dans belay, a quick rack swap and i was off. the groove continued for another 20m, then an easy snow slope led us out without any problems.

Conditions wise, the ice was fantastic, where it was thick enough. Brilliant plastic ice where the axe would stick at the first swing. Turf was frozen solid, taking a bomber warthog, although some of the other larger clumps of vegitation didnt seem to want to freeze, care needed to be taken to stick on the turf at these points.
Obviously the whole area was banked with deep powder which made things difficult, and there were patches of windslab in central gully, so other sheltered aspects could be similar. We didnt encounter any neve really, not until the wind scoured upper slope, more time and consolidation needed their i think, but unsure when that will happen as it just keeps on snowing!!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Idwal Cwm Ice.....

With the current conditions in Snowdonia, i wasted no time in getting back in the groove and took the axes over to Idwal cwm to get a couple of routes in, as i previously heard things were lookin well. Dan and i got an earlyish start as we knew today was going to be pretty busy. We plodded into the Cwm, where as most areas in Snowdonia, has a huge ammount of snow at preseent, our aim was to head for one of the steeper lines, but more importantly, one that didnt have a queue at the bottom!
We headeed for a look in the Devils Kitchen, but after reaching the rear of the Kitchen it was apparent this was one of the few routes that isnt yet in condition. Far too thin, and far too much water for my liking!
We moved round to the Devils Pasteure which was in good shape, Dan took the honours on the 1st steep pitch and dispatched that without any problems, I then led the 2nd chimney pitch which brought us to the top of the crag.

Time for a quick coffee, then round to have a look at the Devils Cellar (IV). On arrival, teams were on both the left and right hand lines, and after a short wait we opted for the right hand line, which was much less of a bowling alley of ice from the above climbers. I took the sharp end for the first steep pitch, which was brilliantly steep and sustaining, then Dan took the lead for the second pitch which was in stonking condition, with a pretty tricky finnish.

That wrapped a fantastic day for us, a bit surreal for me, having been relaxing in 30 degree heat 2 days ago, and today i was getting plastered, mid pitch, with lengthy bursts of spindrift!

I really dont know which i prefer!!

Friday, 1 January 2010

Caribbean escape and Bathsheba surf......

Im just back from a break out in the Caribean, and it seems ive missed alot of fun!! Whilst i have been enjoying the 30 degree sunshine, you guys have had some of the biggest ammounts of snow for a while! This with the sustained cold temperatures looks like lots of people have been having lots of fun!!

Anyway, over in the Caribbean, i visited the stunning, Baths of Gorda in the British Virgin Islands, where i hoped to get a few hours of bouldering in on the massive granite boulders. On arrival it became clear that this wouldnt be the case, well not unless the holiday makers didnt mind me landing on them, the baths where teaming with people!! Most of the huge boulders where scatteded around on top of each other, so bouldering alone, with no pad was out of the question, as the landings would have been pretty nasty. The more popular boulders which people tend to visit, have perfect landings on soft white pristine sand, hence a great spot for people to grab a spot of shade in the blistering sun. I spent the day exploring and wandering around the strewn boulders, caves and grotto's which are truely stunning, its difficult to believe how big some of the boulders are, some could easily handle full on routes!

After watching Sperm whales in Dominica, visiting the cricket grounds of Antigua and snorkeling in St lucia, i arrived in Barbados. Here i heard there was some good surf to be had, and found out that, 'The Soup Bowl' or Bathsheba was the place to be. An hours drive took us down to one of the most amazing places beech locations i have seen. Away from the usual tourist traps was beautiful Bathsheba, a rugged costal line where surfers rode the waves, and the locals hung out drinking and relaxing!
An interesting chat with some local guys revield an oppertunity to hire a board and get in on some of the action. The surf was massive, well for me anyway,  full on barrels and everything! Im not the best of surfers by a long shot, but do enjoy giving it a go, hence i was pretty apprehensive about what was to come. I generally stayed with the smaller waves, but did latch a couple of larger ones to the end of the day!

And heres how its done properly: