Monday, 21 April 2014

Finding Peace

Sometimes you have to take a little time out... I've been enjoying the Moors over the last week. This outcrop appears to be unrecorded as a climbing venue, but certainly visited historically.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

New Thorgill Highballs - An English 7b Move?

Finally Latching The Pocket Once The Sprags  Are Turned
Thorgill crag is wonderfully located and home to a good bit of bouldering. Its routes are less good, with only a couple of things sub-extreme of much interest. The highballing circuit is coming along nicely now, with a bit in the E5-7 range. We started off the day by climbing a line right of Parochial Dream that went at H6 6c with a few pads (would be a lot bolder without them). It's a great highball, very technical and reasonably sustained.
A Unique Move?
The real niggle in my mind though was the direct start. It's something I've been trying for nearly a year now, with about 20 goes at it above pads. It starts off up a slab next to some rocks, before rearing out across the bulge on undercuts. After this you go up to a small down-ward pointing spike with first your left thumb and then your right. A double thumb undersprag! What a bizarre move! As a bit of a connoisseur of weird finger moves, it was something that was really top of my list. The start is basically just a boulder problem and then it finishes up the 6c crux of Wheat From The Chaff. It's no great line, but it is a great move.
Wheat From The Chaff (H6 6c) from Franco Cookson on Vimeo.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Lounging In The Sun At Glaisdale



I got a couple of shots today that show the Glaisdale quarries quite well. I bought a decent phone and it turns out it's not that bad at taking photos. I'd love an SLR like, but I'll have to wait till I have some money.  The route above is Franziskaner (E6 6cish), named after the very good Bavarian wheat beer (available in Sainsbury's). The lower picture 'Gnedl Maedl' (dumpling girl in Lower Bavarian) - a bit of a freighter at E6 6a.

It was perhaps the first day in a long time where I have made no progress. Dave had insisted on going to a south-facing sheltered crag and it was ridiculously warm, so I sat around for a long time. I had a go at shunting an unclimbed arete, but it was just eliminate and rubbish, so I sacked that off. I then worked an unclimbed wall, which was a bit touch and go. I tried to solo this as it got a bit cooler, feeling surprisingly solid on it, only to rip the crux hold off and fly down the bad landing. Falling on my broken ankle was exactly what I didn't want to do, but luckily I managed to fall over in a funny way and it was alright. I tried it again, brushing the new stump of the hold so that it was a bit clean. I felt solid again and was chuffed that the move had become a bit harder. And then BANG, it ripped again. Luckily landing okay for a second time, I sacked it off. Better to preserve the tips than climb this thing, I thought. It's rare for holds to snap like that in the moors, but then I suppose one should expect it on rock that has never been climbed on. I enjoyed sitting around and drinking tea though - was a good reward for yesterday's wildness.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Video: Fly Agaric (H8 7a) And Chalkpoint (H6 6a)

Nu Wave I from Franco Cookson on Vimeo.

Fly Agaric - A New Level Of Difficulty In The Moors


When the tacky sap goes tack the other way, you know that you're in trouble. You see bubbles in the mist, sand out-breaking from its matrix. You know it's time to levitate out of there, but there aren't any holds. Devil-placed razors slash at the fingertips and whatever rubber you have on your feet shears and skids to leave an undulating flare of sketch. And ride the crest my son, for you are on Jesus's penguin tails and if you should let go, you're gonna go miles. If yon belayer fails to run, you'll be digging up rocks and turf. Bear down on the jelly wild surf and propel to paradise regained. 

A razor dish leaves an imprint on the soul. You go through life as a balloon, with tethers slowly growing that bind you to normality. Arbitrary. In a dangerous place, the smaller the hold, the more it cuts through these ties and you end up floating off in somewhere slightly less subjective. It's only a hold in this reality - in other worlds it's a friend or good time or whatever. And so you can use the physical here, to deconstruct what some people see as the real world. One man's backwater is the centre of the universe, one man's impossible is a runway. You can make up your own world.

Today was a fine day. I'd declared this blunt rib too hard for me and had it in the back of my mind as the preserve of the lunatic. But there I was - mid-crux and flying. Fly Agaric is the polkadot mushroom that makes the soul fly - to be a giant or a dwarf is the choice it lays at our feet. It's hard to not get over the top. Thorough enjoyment was how I'd describe it. I had originally thought this would be safe and hard, but we measured the fall today and you'd definitely hit the deck from the crux (only 6 metres mind). With a running belayer you probably wouldn't, which puts it in the midish bracket of safety. I've sort of lost track of how hard the move is. Certainly at least English 7a, but I think the original 7b I gave it might be a bit over the top now the holds have cleaned up - but maybe I've just got stronger? I'm certainly crimping ridiculously at the moment - it's wizard! Circa H8 7a I'd have thought.

It wasn't the end of the day either. Dave climbed the mighty 'Death Arete' to give a trouser-browning E7 6a. Top line that like.

Friday, 11 April 2014

The Never-Ending Flood Of Unclimbed Lines

What a whirl-wind the last few weeks have been. So many routes and venues have been worked out and explored. But for every route you tick off the list, two more seem to appear out of nowhere. The coast is now getting to a position where it is comprehensible. There are only a couple of hard routes left at Smugglers, a couple more at Stoupe and Maiden's is the same. There are other satellite crags, but let's not think about them.. (my head might explode).

Further inland, the bouldering has exploded again and there is so much to document it's ridiculous. But crags like Danby are getting to a point near completion in terms of routes. Likewise, Blakey Ridge and the dales either side really are drying up - you would expect it, being only 5-10 miles from where we all live, but there's so much there that it's taken a while. We're probably down to the last 20 quality lines in that area, although Sam Marks found a new crag there yesterday (so let's not proclaim that too loudly..). But just as all this comes into focus, Tripsdale and crags around Urra Moor overflow with potential. There's even some talk of more crags in Billsdale, which would be quite surprising.

There's an obvious question (and it's one that we ask ourselves a lot): when will there simply be no more new crags and unclimbed lines left? The remoteness and unexplored nature of the Moors is a big part of the area and it's something we're keen to prolong - so there's an obvious worry that there will be a day when there is simply nothing left. If experience has taught us anything though, then it's that there really wont be a time without new routes. I remember when I freed the aid route on the face of Roseberry Topping that I made sure I really enjoyed it as I couldn't imagine I'd ever climb a new route of that quality again. At every stage I thought that - after The Hypocrisy Of Moose a year later, after The Waves Of Inspiration a year after that, and after The Tormented Sole (another year on). But each time I found another line, so that there were more known unclimbed projects than when I had started looking for them.

On the one hand there's a sadness to this, as it means when I climb a new route like Present Perfect I'm no longer thinking "that must be the best experience I'm ever going to have", instead I'm already thinking about the next line. But it gives a glow that is a lot greater than these single moments alone. Instead of a bowl of porridge with a couple of sultanas in, climbing in the Moors has become a bramble crumble drenched in clotted cream. So as counter-intuitive as it might seem, I reckon that the more you climb here, the more the place is going to become unknown and the more all our lives are going to be impregnated with sweet creamy goodness.

P.s. Not far off climbing that bad boy above.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

"The Holy Grail Of Moors Unclimbed Lines"

The Tripstaler, the pronged pronged prong of a valley, the lush wilderness, the jewel of east Billsdale, perhaps the remotest-feeling part of the Moors - this is Tripsdale. There's a weird feel to the area, with a mixture of devilishness and warmth. The valley is mostly sheltered, plastered in sun and there are boulders everywhere. It's a fast 30 minute walk in, which keeps away the boulders, but there is effectively endless possibilities. The home of dreams? Well, there is at least one dream line..

As a person ravaged by goals and with a large list of things to do preying on my mind, it takes something pretty special to crumble my logic and turn me into a blabbering, mindless hedonist. That's what happened today. I didn't mind that it was not much more than a highball boulder problem and that it was going to take a lot more effort than the other H7/8s around. No, the main thing was that the line is perfect - utterly outstanding, the moves are nails and that it's so idyllicly located.

 We put up a new thing up a hanging prow too. 
It campuses a bit and then boldly finishes up an arete (out of shot) 
'Harbinger' (soft E5 6c*)

So, what is this line? It's something that we've known is there for a good few years and other people have looked at from the ground (I'm not sure if anyone's lobbed a rope down, but judging by some of the holds I wouldn't have thought so..). It's a cauterised arete, similar to The Waves Of Inspiration in terms of rock type. There are big holds at the bottom and then no obvious holds above. It starts on easy moves, with a steady 7a path to a good foothold. From here there is magic, pure raw magic. If you were really tall, as in 6ft 5' armspan, then you could bypass this crux, with another few moves of 7a, but (luckily?) for me I'm just a little too short to use that sequence. The result is a zero gravity move. You use a lot of core on it and then you're onto a 6c/7a romp and dyno, which would be a bit spicy.
Harbinger - Kay Nest, North Yorkshire Moors from Dave Warburton on Vimeo.
The main thing that attracts me to this route is the difficulty of the moves. You could probably roll the fall out down the steep hillside, which would hurt, but you'd be so psyched I'm not sure you'd even notice. So it's hard and safe. But, it's right at my limit and uses a lot of muscles that I don't yet have. It should be a real 'project', where I learn something. When you strike that exact point where you can't do a sequence, but you know you will be able to do it next time when fresh, then  that's a really powerful thing that just makes you drop all your other hard-graded route ambitions. That's where I am now, stoved off my box.

O, and the foot is still jiggered, but Moors gods stove us on. 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Liquid Forms - New Routes And Broken Bones

Plasticman (Grade not really known - quite bold)
This is pretty much where it's at, at the moment. Big moves between poor holds can give you the feeling of flying and if you get it wrong, you can be really flying. The Pex Wall at Maiden's Bluff is gradually getting worked out, but not without interest. I got right up to the top today on the unclimbed 'Flake Project' - named so because it starts up a short flake. Entering the crux, with a good few metres of air below me, I doubted myself, just for a second. It was enough to make me stuck mid-crux, I quickly decided to try and jump and ended up lowering my weight down the slab until I was hurtling towards the massive pad stack. Even with 8 pads, the ankles weren't saved and it was fairly painful.

After a two minute rest I decided that it was only going to get more painful as the day went on and that I really wanted to climb this route. So I set off again, with some agonising moments low down trying to twist my ankle. Before I knew it, I was back at the top and ready for the crux. Pirouetting on my toes, the warm ache turned pretty sharp and it was probably the fear of landing on it again that pushed me on to dyno for the top. Perhaps the stupidest ascent to date, but it seemed to work. I really hope this gets better soon!
The warm up at Pex Wall, Maidens Bluff from Dave Warburton on Vimeo.

We didn't let this dampen our day though. Dave made fast work of Archaeopteryx and then also added a new E5 on the left wall. I really want to get someone on Aerchy onsight, just to see if it's possible. It's just so blind to read.

I used my (broken?) ankle as an excuse to do a lot of cleaning and have a look at the megadeath arete. It's so outrageous, so bold, so ludicrous - O MY GOD! I mean really. With a couple of OK wires, or more trustworthy holds, or secure climbing, this could be an H8 or 9 or something. As it is, it's English 6c/7a, ludicrously wild and dynamic, smeary and all of this above a terrible fall. The flake that I thought would never hold a fall came off in my hands today, to leave utterly no gear. It's New Wave for sure. Total death. A brilliant place to be though!

Saturday, 5 April 2014

New Blakey Testpieces Ground Up - The Duck Roof Goes!

Well, I never thought I'd see a time when there wasn't much left to be done on Blakey Ridge, but we're getting there. Our early April Lull seemed to not really exist today, with a couple of new additions to Hillhouse Nab (now more or less totally worked out) and the Unclimbed Duck Roof also getting climbed (Duck Crag is also fairly worked out now).

So first up was Hillhouse. Lethargic, grumpy and weighed down with mats, both me and Dave were pretty unpsyched as we rolled around in the wind. I feel ludicrously light at the moment, with effectively zero body mass - this works wonders on bizarre levitation moves, but you end up just totally without energy sometimes. I ate a load of biscuits and then we managed to climb the line between the three star E7 7a I climbed a couple of weeks ago (Present Perfect) and Dave's original E4. The landing was massively irritating and the moves ludicrously thin. I got up it eventually, but I wasn't really feeling it. It finishes up the top 6c move of Present Perfect, which makes it bold, but otherwise it's basically a highball English 7a move. Lovely rock like. Dave also climbed a higher quality E7 6c, which tackled a really cool scoop. That was pretty nice like. Anyway, we were both pretty tired, so we chose a new crag - Duck Crag!

On the way back we met up with Mr. Marks and his chums, who had been down at Gill Wath. It looked like it was all coming together for an ascent of Duck Roof, with the extra pad they had and a few more spotters. Sam Tuned in his radio to listen to the grand national...


The Duck Roof has been a real drain on me over the last year, trying it ground up. We never had enough pads, or enough people, or the right conditions, or chickened out. It's a solo through an overlap that feels ludicrously exposed, despite being on large holds. The footholds are poor and you feel like you're going to ping off at any point. A ping would be very serious, although a jump off from low down onto mats is okay. Despite the dampness and my weakness today, I was determined to finally get this thing done. After a couple of ups and downs I committed, which was a bit interesting.

Hillhouse Nabbb from Dave Warburton on Vimeo.

The reach through the roof is totally blind and you end up with your hands in the top groove. From here there are seemingly no footholds and I ended up just heel hooking a blank wall - scraping on through to the top slabs. Pretty high and very cool. It's an unlikely line of weakness that is satisfyingly totally uneliminate. It feels very strange to be in an age post-the duck roof project.

The next week is quite up in the air - is it going to be top wizard first class, or are we going to die of lethargy? 

Friday, 4 April 2014

A Bit More Of An Explore - Kaynest

On The FA Of Triptonite - Tarn Hole
The early April lull is in full swing. A bit of work, a bit of a relax, a funeral and visiting some friends. A big cloud has firmly sat on the UK and drizzle has set in. We're coming to the end of it now I reckon and I'm feeling light and psyched.

I haven't led or soloed anything in the last couple of weeks, but I have been out on the shunt a lot and am getting a few things fairly wired. In my last post, I talked of four projects that I could see getting climbed fairly soon. Instead of being sensible and trying to get these climbed, we've gone out hunting for other things with some good finds. I say finds, we already knew about them before, but now they're dialed and ready to add to this list of H8s ready for the lead

We've been out in Tripsdale a lot recently and climbed a stonking line coming out of the Tarnhole cave on the left a few weeks ago. That was really a lot of fun. More recently I was further west at Kaynest. There is a tonne of stuff to do here, with THE talked about line being the unfreed aid route. On a shunt the climbing is fairly straightforward. Typical Moors wall climbing on big holds protected by a line of old aid bolts. I'm terrible at french grades, but this should probably have one as it's so long - F7something reasonably high(?) No idea really. The problem is that I can bend the bolts with my hands, so I'm not optimistic that a fall would be arrested. The last move is either a 7a stable razor hold and gaston balance, or a 6c dyno- hard to know which one to go for given the gear. Anyway, there's a lot to do there and still a few things left at Tranmire (just over the hill).

 Further to this, we've been getting more local projects dialed. The Jesus and Rump De Stump lines are getting really close to being soloable, which is just pure excitement. Dave is back now as well, for about a week I think, so if the weather just eases a touch it'll mean we can get 8 pads to the crag, which will enable a lot of stuff to get climbed - especially the last few routes at Thorgill and Hillhouse. It's a world of opportunity at the moment and as long as we don't get injured the Moors may have half a dozen new H8s in a month or so. How wild!