Category Archives: Magic Wood 2012

Milestones: The Birthday Tradition

This is part five of a series of posts all about the turning points in my climbing career. From single moves to huge time spans, these are the events that shaped me into the climber and person i am today. 

I’ll be posting a new one every few days so keep an eye on the blog for the latest or, if not, they will appear in one beast of an article at the end of the series. Feel free to comment and let me know of some of your own highlights, i’d greatly enjoy hearing some of your own. 

The Birthday Tradition

The campsite of the inaugural birthday trip to Val Daone
The campsite of the inaugural birthday trip to Val Daone

In Spain, in September 2009, with Steffi and good friend Stu Goodfellow, we met two Italians. Now, if you’ve been on a climbing trip abroad, and met people, i would wager you’ve championed your home climbing areas while listen to others try and encourage you to visit theirs. It’s one of the nicest aspects to travelling like this. In this case, Super Paolo and his girlfriend Stef were from the North Eastern corner of Italy, and an area called Val Daone.

They convinced us (it wasn’t hard) to plan a trip to see them. The next question was when. Now, i can’t for the life of me remember how we came to the decision, and i think it took a lot of faffing with dates but somewhere down the line, we arranged to go for my 26th birthday, much to the dismay of my mother. (“But you won’t have anything to open on your birthday!” she remarked. My reply: “I’ll open the door of my tent to see a beautiful Alpine valley…”)

In Austria at Sundergrund on the day i turned 29
In Austria at Sundergrund on the day i turned 29

What began is a tradition that i have managed to keep going for the following six years and counting: to spend my birthday in a different country every year. To date, the list of birthday destinations reads Italy, Canada, France, Austria, Spain and Switzerland, with next year’s trip to Finland already in the pipeline.

It is now the highlight of my year and while everything else is very flexible, this summer fortnight is not. Finding places with suitable conditions in June is proving harder and harder, especially as flying to the Southern hemisphere where it’s mid-winter is currently out thanks to costs. I’m also running out of emergency i’ve-got-no-money-this-summer options, although Ireland still remains, as do a couple of others. Sooner or later, it’ll become “…in a foreign country” instead but for now, the tradition continues good and strong, with at least next year all good to go.

Turning 30 in Spain in the middle of June turned out to be a bit hotter than expected. Evening sessions were the way forward
Turning 30 in Spain in the middle of June turned out to be a bit hotter than expected. Evening sessions were the way forward

Back To It

So, originally we were supposed to be heading back on the Sunday but Simon was needed at a conference and so, after five days of fantastic ascents in beautiful conditions, we packed up and headed off on the second Sunday morning. A few goodbyes to some new good friends and we were heading North, at a snail’s pace but with a phenomenal mile-per-gallon for a Land Rover, for almost the entire length of Germany. Stops were infrequent, debates were vociferous and eventually, we rocked up at Simon’s house in Bonn.

It had been, as mentioned in my previous post, the best trip of my life and the best birthday i’ve ever had. At half past nine every morning, the sun would crest over the adjacent mountain and roast the tent forcing us out of bed. It turned out to be a blessing as we would then rise, socialise and get stoked for the day ahead. Topless and tea’d up, the weather was glorious every day bar one and often we would head up to the Edelweiss or head out for supplies. There was often someone on a rest day to bum around with and days that are so long that there’s no rush to get out.

And while it was hot and wonderful in the sunshine, get into the shade and the temperature plummeted to a much better level for hardcore bouldering; and that’s exactly what went down. My personal ticklist of 7s consists of a 7a flash and redpoint ascents at 7a+, 7b, 7b+ and 7c and every one is a stunning line. It’s unusual to get such a collection on a single trip and even Font, which i know very well, has never relented such as Magic Wood did. Is the venue soft? I would say so but that doesn’t mean it’s any less brilliant.

The Font portion of my trip was, admittedly, poor at best in terms of climbing but that really wasn’t the point of going and for once, i actually adjusted my activities to match the conditions. The point was to get out of town, spend some time alone, enjoy being abroad again and for that, it worked a treat. And i got a load of easier climbs done so not a complete bust.

So, after such a success and a very long drive, we pulled up at Simon’s house and within five minutes were heading out again; bound for a party down on the banks of the Rhine with some of his friends. It was a great night (including for Tess who had a whale of a time playing in the warm river) and a fitting end to our week together. Next day was spent driving through the Netherlands and a (thankfully uneventful) drive through dreaded Belgium before a twitchy time in Calais amongst immigrant unrest. Unsurprisingly reluctant to stay in the car (or worse, a tent) in the middle of rather substantial problems, i paid the extra and by evening, had turned up at my folks in Birmingham.

Another hidden bonus was my shoes. Ages ago i’d bought a pair of La Sportiva Futuras, as the leather was so amazingly soft and supple i couldn’t resist. I’d tried them a few times and found i couldn’t stick to anything in them, and had given up. At one point, i even had them up for sale but with no takers, and my trusty old Solutions at the end of their life span, i dug them out and took them with me. On the first day, Simon, in need of new shoes himself, tried my old Solutions and opted to buy them off me. This left me with the Futuras. By the end of the week, i was so sold on them, they almost became my only shoe choice (the Solutions still having pride of place with their superior heel). It’s a small plus but an important one – nearly £100 worth of important, and symbolic of how well the week went.

The downside, and it’s a slightly familiar one: a mild injury. My right knee was sore and an impromtu football match once back home did nothing to help. Some rest was needed so the idea of heading straight out on the Welsh rock would have to wait. Instead, it was back on the training wall. After a couple of sessions dangling by my fingertips and pulling up on my arms, i tried sticking my shoes on and it felt pretty good.

Meanwhile, my friend Karen had entered the British Bouldering Championships in Sheffield and Saturday gone, made it through the qualifying to get into the semi-finals. Knowing what it’s like to compete at something like that completely alone, i drove over after work to support and watched the following day. Cliffhanger was great, a fantastic event and thoroughly recommended – next year you should go. Karen finished very respectfully inside the top 20 and we decided that Stanage wins over watching the finals.

The obvious crag won over and before long, we were walking into Plantation for an afternoon session. We had a blast on the Business Boulder and ticked off a  few V4s before heading up to the Green Traverse 7a. Admittedly, i’ve done it before, two different times, but the full traverse Dope On A Slope 7a+ hadn’t had a look in yet. It went, very quickly and once again, i returned home, a beaming smile on my face.

The knee is holding up and i have a appointment at the doctors this afternoon. Meanwhile, it’s time to ride the wave of success from Swizzy and work on the ticklist.

Swiss Conclusions

Magic Wood, like Zillertal, and as the name would suggest, is situated in a crozzly wood. While the trails are much better than my first visit in 2012, they are still rough, rugged and a bit trying. Through between 15-20kg on your back and trudge through this talus daily and it takes it’s toll. By the last day, the ligaments (i think) in my right knee are starting to complain and hyper extending the knee is causing major problems.

I think this is worth stressing for somewhere like here: a rest day is not simply a rest for your fingers or your skin, it’s a rest for your whole body. We didn’t really take a rest day, i had a day doing next to nothing but still walked in with my kit and in hindsight, this really took it’s toll. Everything about Magic Wood can be quite punishing (except Tomasz that is) and it’s worth bearing this in mind when you’re there for a while. I don’t normally take rest days on week long trips but next time, it’s going to be scheduled, definitely. [Incidentally, today i’m heading down to the local walk-in minor injuries hospital to get the knee checked out]

Nevertheless, by this time it was Friday and our last climbing day – not one we were going to take sitting down! Knee notwithstanding, we were both feeling pretty good and pretty strong so it was one last push for a tick or two. Typically, we started slowly, although in this case we had little choice; our schedule dictated by a 1:30 appointment with Tess at the vet. Formalities done with (by an excellent and friendly vet) and before we could hit the problems proper, there was a photo that i was super keen for. From the road, on the opposite side of the river, there’s a superb view of one of the boulders. The plan was to have me climbing a problem and Simon across the way catching snaps. While it wasn’t exactly what i had in mind, it did give a different and unusual perspective and once again, i’m indebted to Simon for the effort of doubling his walk in.

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We’d agreed to meet Jaako and Raul, our two Finnish friends, and with AJ along as well, we already had a good amount of pads and spotters for the hard rising traverse of Schneebrett 7c but when we arrived, there were already some Brits from Yorkshire and another Finnish couple, giving us more pads than we could use. Even when the Brits left, they left us with their pads and four Germans arrived to give us an even softer landing. AJ succeeded, the rest persevered valiantly and i complained about my knee, now hurting quite substantially.

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Eventually we succumbed to it’s difficulties and moved on, returning to Dropzone 7a but instead to try the traverse in, Hohenzone 7c. It exchanges the first tricksome moves of Dropzone with a techy and thuggy initial section, with a slightly dodgy landing in the middle thrown in. AJ and Simon battled away, Simon struggling with the initial dynamic thrutch. Meanwhile, i got onto a large adjacent block and clutched the camera.

The video of AJ came out beautifully, and is shown below, spliced together with my ascent of Dinos Don’t Dyno. It’s called Contrast at Magic Wood for various reasons: the two climbs, while similar in grade, at wildly different, one long and smooth and elegant, the other one massive move, flying through the air. Everything about these problems is different and hopefully the accompanying music supports this.

[Aside: editing the video has given me the impetus to crack on with a local showcase film on North Wales bouldering, I’ll come back to this in the next few posts]

By this point, i hadn’t actually climbed anything – a poor show for a last day, even if nursing a mild injury. Nearby, Bosna Genial 7a was mentioned at the very beginning of the guidebook section as a stand out line and i was keen to give it a bash. Two small crimps and, as it turns out, two toe hooks around a prow lead into a jug and a series of good slopers to top out. I looked at this from the floor, someone else having ticked to slopers and didn’t think the first move that far, or the starting holds too small. Pads down, sit on the floor, pull up and boom! First move campused and the rest fairly easy. A 7a flash to top off the best trip i’ve ever had.

 

Dinos Wish They Could Dyno

Dinos may not dyno, but if they could try this problem, they’d wish they could. As mentioned in the previous post, this was the one problem on my to-do list, even though when i found it in my guidebook, there was a note simply saying “brutal!”

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We finally walked up there, and i took a look at the leap. It looked huge and the first five minutes contained the repeated anouncement “fuck me, it’s a long way”. It starts low, on a good crimp, moving up into a finger jug on a flake. Then paste your feet on and jump as high as you can. The hold you’re going to couldn’t be bigger – so much so that it often rapes climbers of the skin from the fingers and palms.

The right foot is obvious, both from chalk and the size of the hold. It’s also polished as can be, so there’s no missing it but it is out right and you can’t go off that alone. My theory was to try and rock onto the right hold and do the dyno in two stages but reality soon kicked in.

DSC05150Almost as quickly, though, i found a crucial left foot. From then on it was just practising to get the distance. In truth, it didn’t take long and the landing is excellent (despite rolling off the pad on the first effort and into the dirt). Within long, i’d leaped and latched the ledge, even keeping my left hand on to kill any swing whatsoever. It was more than i could’ve hoped for and sums up the week beautifully.

Sadly, Simon didn’t manage it but did make huge progress. As we arrived, he anounced he didn’t like dynos, predominantly because he couldn’t do them. His first effort (and i hope he won’t mind me saying this) was abject; but, with a touch of coaching and some looking through photos, by the end he was tickling the edge – an outstanding achievement to gain about two feet of height in such a short time. Especially given our height differences too!

DSC05175Our Russian friend from camp, Vadim, also appeared and gave it a quick go, nailing it in an entirely different stlye to me. Where my left hand gave me some stability, Vadim went all points off and was well worthy of his tick given how much he was spinning out of control!

Eventually, Simon decided enough was enough and we moved on. Jenny 6c succumbed to us both on the second go, the flash proving elusive. Resonable moves but not the most aesthetic of lines and sadly, where at some crags it would probably warrant some stars, here the abundance of alternatives diminishes it quality. Simon’s quick send of Oliver Kante 7a i think was similar.

Now, i am home now but will continue to post as if i were there. This truly was the best trip i’ve had and the best birthday i’ve had and to wrap it all up quickly just wouldn’t do it justice. So another post or two is required. Hopefully i won’t get distracted by Welsh sunshine!

Best Birthday EVER

What a fucking day. My 31st is now officially the best birthday i have ever had (beating my 27th on the technicality that i met my family on the 24th of the month) and my love of Magic Wood has risen exponentially since i have arrived. The scene is amazing, the rock unbelieveable, and the success unprecedented.

The place to be when not at the crag
The place to be when not at the crag

It didn’t start that well, in truth, as we awoke to rain and obscure drizzle from cloudless skies. A morning in the Edelweiss, umming and ahing as to whether to head out at all. Two days of bouldering had taken it’s toll and a rest day was a tempting prospect… but how could i not get out on rock on this day of the trip?

So we went, thumping up the path with a view to having a look and not really trying much. We arrived to find three Finnish guys already on Intermezzo, one of whom seemed to flash it. (One thing to note here is that no matter how hard you’re climbing, chances are there’ll be someone else who can turn up and flash your project).

DSC04916It took two goes. It would’ve taken one but i made the mistake of changing successful beta with a toe hook and stalled on the last move. Topping out, i couldn’t believe it: only my third 7c after a meagre two sessions. And on my birthday too. The rest of the climbing day didn’t involve much, any other attempts eclipsed by the success. Instead, a fantastic evening was had, chilling at the Edelweiss with good company and many happy smiles.

Granted, yesterday was significantly less successful, for me at least. Simon did manage Dropzone 7a, and solid at the grade, along with two different Finnish friends but other than that, the need for a rest day played heavy, meaning personally i managed a sum total of three moves, spread over two problems.

The evening made up for the lack of climbing, as, with the edelweiss closed for the day, there must have been some 30 people sat around the fire, all chilling, laughing and chatting until the early hours. Utterly exhausted, i positioned myself in a convenient spot at around 8pm, started the fire and sat down. I didn’t rise again for another five-and-a-half hours, thanks to Canadian kindness (which seems endless) and tactical bartering (“If you go fetch my beers, you can have one…”). I’m classing it as a tick.

So today is a “rest morning”. The days are so long that you can afford to head out late, which is exactly the plan, and i now that i feel fresh and refreshed (not to mention clean again after my second shower of the week) i am massively stoked for Dinos Don’t Dyno. It is the only problem i knew i wanted to try before coming and we haven’t been yet. Watch this space.

Magic Trips

So, a quick catch up: Thursday evening involved a trip to 91.1 and backing off Flipper assis 7a+ for want of a spotter, a handful of easier problems ticked but again, nothing hard. Friday and i didn’t pack quickly enough, missed the office by 20 minutes and went to Gorge aux Chats and ticked off some more 4s, 5s and easy 6s to kill an hour and a half. After that was a slow and laborious drive to Bonn to collect Simon and a night on his couch, as it was getting a bit late to search for a campsite – once again, Ettringen would have to wait.

Tess enjoying 91.1 in her usual fashion
Tess enjoying 91.1 in her usual fashion

Saturday and we left at around midday, with poor Tess now spending more time than she would like in the car. We quickly realised that if we sat the needle of the speedometer at 60mph (which is actually 50mph) then the fuel economy went from 31mpg to nearly 40mpg. 11 hours and a meagre tank-and-a-bit of diesel later and we rocked up in Magic Wood, having driven through another beasty European storm.

But it meant that we were here: opening the tent door on Sunday morning to a beautiful mountain vista and stonking conditions. The campsite heaving and the crag equally so, we headed out to find that my estimation of Magic Wood last time was well off. Granted, i would still suggest that if you’re not climbing in the 7a area, this is not the place for you but if you are, this is heaven. On day one, Traversatta 7a+ fell to Simon and almost to me, Haze 7b did the opposite and we both arrived back at the site beaming smiles and making friends around the camp fire.

On the first session, i was milimetres away from Intermezzo 7c. Hopefully back up today to finish it off
On the first session, i was milimetres away from Intermezzo 7c. Hopefully back up today to finish it off

Yesterday wasn’t as successful but may yet prove crucial, as i was millimetres away from an unexpected 7c tick, Intermezzo. We hadn’t even gone to try that, and i was more psyched by Dinos Don’t Dyno 7b+ – a huge dyno i had looked at on my last trip – but Simon had become tempted by Intermezzo by the talk around the site. I’m very glad he was and the hope is to go finish it off this afternoon.

So today is my birthday; the sixth in the tradition of being in a different country every year. A year older than i arrived, i am thrilled to be back again, excorsizing the demons from that ill-advised tip in November 2012. Tomasz is as friendly as i remembered, the scene here is infinitely more appealing (we were the only idiots stupid enough to be here last time) and the climbing substantially better than i remembered. Success seems much more forgiving than either last week or last time, although the grades seem a little soft to me.

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So an update to the Magic Wood is now due. After some climbing. Actually, after tea, then climbing.

Optimism

I mentioned to someone the other day that when my climbing career eventually comes to an end, whenever that may be, Prowess will undoubtedly be one of the highlights. What i’m now hoping, after the briefest of glances at my blog the other day, is that is hasn’t trumped everything else so much that it’s left me nothing else to say!

In truth, i have been rather busy of late, with North Wales enjoying a customary early-summer spell of good weather and the subsequent evenings out and about. The long days lend themselves to long sessions, leaving little time for eating and general life stuff, let alone blogging.

Nevertheless, i’m still here and right now, here is sitting in a hammock at La Musadiere (that old faithful campsite near Mily la Foret, Fontainebleau) being eaten alive by blackfly. I arrived early this morning following the customary driving-through-the-night that makes negotiating London and Paris significantly easier. Currently alone but for my faithful canine companion, i’m here until Friday (today is Tuesday) before heading to Germany and on to Switzerland with my old Canadian friend, Simon.

Now, for none of this is history on my side: my last Font trip in March was a complete write off, my last trip to Magic Wood a disaster and the last solo trip of this nature was the worst trip of my entire life (albeit two years later giving the best story of my life but that’s not the point). As the usual stress grew in the build up, this did not help.

Things are very different this time around. Gone is the Freelander, with it’s seemingly endless list of issues and in it’s place is my trusty Defender – recently renovated with almost an entire drive train. New clutch, gearbox, transfer box, rear diff and, fitted personally during a long pit stop yesterday, a new rear prop shaft. While i can easily be reminded that issues still remain, i know exactly what they are and how to manage them. I think.

The German trip of 2013 did have the added complication of a huge lack of local knowledge of the Frankenjura during that first, tumultuous week. Not so, here, as this is a site and a forest i know only too well. If anything, i can’t decide which of my existing projects to explore this evening, as the list is as large as my ticklist at home.

Of course, last time here was blighted by illness but today i feel fit and strong. I even took heed of the issues in March by pitching camp and going straight to bed on my arrival; much to the sanguine of Tess after many hours locked in the car. Recent ticks have fallen as they had in the Spring, with Ultimate Retro Party V8 under my belt and strong progress on The Witch V7 after a session with new bouldering partner Karen and another with Ryan and Owain. Karen also accompanied me on a successful evening blast to the Braichmelyn, including a repeat of the V5 line (whose name escapes me) and the V6 variant. I’ve even managed all the moves on Original Traverse V8 – the last remaining line on the convenient Brenin boulder. In short, i am in good form and feeling fresh.

As for Magic Wood, last time was a distinct lack of psyche due to poor research. High in the mountains, the temperature is not forgiving in the steep sided valley and following last summer’s sweat-fest in Spain, i suddenly realised maybe the cold places would be better in June, and the hot ones in November, rather than the other way around as i have done before…

And there is the factor of personnel. With no disrespect at all to my great friend, Mad Jim, who accompanied me on that frozen voyage, a lack of amenable and achievable grades did add to the misery somewhat, sapping psyche and making a bad situation slightly worse. Simon was working projects here with me in March, as well as climbs in North Wales and Canada so sitting under the same piece of rock should keep us both happy. Granted i’m not there yet but there is certainly cause for optimism this time around.

Of course, this is merely day one: not yet the time to crack open the bubbly and announce a successful trip. Nevertheless, other ill fated voyages have often had little hints at the beginning – the car trouble with the Freelander actually started in Oxford! The Defender is running beautifully, the best it has since it’s acquisition and i certainly feel in fine fettle. Apart from the black flies. Really hope they’re not poisonous…

Midnight in Calais

C’est inévitable, je suis en Fontainebleau encore. Well, i’m not right now, i’m in the port of Calais, (after a cheeky, “oh, are we not on the ferry till tomorrow morning?” with the guy at the check in desk) but i was when that phrase went through my head first thing this morning. It does seem i can’t successfully avoid the place, this time using it as a convenient stop-off on the way North again, but i did get a wonderful sense of being half-home last night when we arrived in the familiar town and i was able to order a pizza from a pizzeria i knew well, in near-fluent French. (Okay, near-fluent may be a gross over exaggeration, but no English was spoken, and compared to floundering with 13 year old, poor at best German all week, i’d say that was close enough to classify!)

So, after eventually running off South for the day on Friday in search of sun, we’d said our goodbyes at the edelweiss and such and awoke to only feint rain and mild delight at such. It was forecast to rain all day, so we’d designated Saturday as “travelling day” with the added bonus we could stop en route with time to spare. As it turned out, there wasn’t much time to spare as we turned up at the campsite with half an hour to spare before they locked the gate, but you get the point.

In hindsight, Magic Wood hadn’t turned out to be that magic in terms of climbing, so a quick days bouldering at Curvier was quite appealing, only to wake this morning to more wetness. On to the town, and la Taverne, my latest Font hotspot, thanks to good food, good atmosphere and mostly, free WiFi… After an hour and a half, we figured we might as well see if the rock was dry, and much to my surprise, Bas Curvier was not only bone dry but quite busy too.

Regular readers (or “strange people” as they should probably be known) won’t be surprised to find that after a token warm up i left Jim to continue his fight with Marie Rose and headed for Carnage. Three hours later, i’d come to the conclusion i’m just not strong enough right now, and some actual training may be needed before a possible three-day weekend with flight, gîte and hire car. Watch this space for yet another Font blog post…

So here i am, homeward bound as Paul Simon might say, after another foreign foray. Midnight in Calais is possibly becoming a good way of describing me these last few years and that looks in no danger of subsiding next year. While 2012 hasn’t been quite as exciting as it’s immediate predecessor, it’s still been an interesting one. We’ll see what next year has store in due course i guess!

Laura

I’d heard about Laura so i thought i’d go visit. Selma was just up the road, but Laura just seemed a better option; more convenient, closer to the road, just generally more appealing. I drove for an hour, through Alpine vistas and through mountain passes, it was worth it.
At first, Laura just seemed a bit rough but i guess that was probably because of the lack of visitors. With time, who knows. A nice sunny day, balmy temperatures, soon i was stripping off layers quickly, keen to make the most of it. Laura was, and probably still is i guess, a bit dirty if i’m honest; part of the appeal for some i guess. I’m not sure i liked it but after all that way, i was happy to go along with it, happy to make the most of the short time i’d got.
After about an hour, i was in need of a rest. I was still surprisingly close to the road, laid out on the bouldering pads, occasionally listening out to see if any passers by would come see what i was up to. I got up, went back to the car, and headed down to the river for a change of scenery.
This is where Laura really showed me what quality was really to be had. It was spectacular, the river really adding something to it, the water clear as the sky, running down past my feet. It was bliss and i’d rather be nowhere else at that moment.
Still, i hadn’t really got as much done as i’d hoped, and Laura hadn’t shown me all there was an offer, so i headed deep into the forest. It was there that i got really excited, as after a week of near-abstinence, the treasures on show were more than i could imagine. Pure quality in abundance and enough to keep even the keenest occupied for months on end. I had expected so much from Laura, yet despite a few flaws, those expectations had been met with ease. Beautiful lines, sumptuous shapes, all in a setting where no mortal man could refrain from being moved, i was pleased beyond delight. I played until sunset, fumbling in the dark towards the end, before heading back.
Laura may not as yet be well known (not nearly as much as should!) but i left feeling more than satisfied. A return journey is not just within the realms of possibility, it is most likely judging from Laura’s charms, especially as time will only allow this flower to blossom if the reputation spreads. Bless you Laura, after a tough week, you were the perfect remedy.

Swiss Analysis

Friday morning and it’s our last day climbing in Switzerland. What may surprise you (if you’ve been here) is that we’ve been debating where to go.

The boulders here are a five to ten minute walk from the tent and yet once Jim gets up, our plan is to drive down the valley do Val Calanca. See, i’ve been trying to decide whether this has been a successful trip or not. On the whole, most definitely: i can’t emphasise enough how stunning it is here, with beautiful snow covered mountains. Other than the cold, the weather has been fantastic, with nothing more than a tiny snow flurry since we got here and i cannot argue that it’s been great to get away and go somewhere new. But this has been a climbing trip and in that respect it has disappointed more than a little. This may seem a justification for coming but it’s me trying to answer the question that’s been going through my head for the last couple of days: would i come back?

As i mentioned in a previous post, going somewhere new requires something different, namely information ad therein lies our first problem. Normally, you can gleam this from either books or people and we’ve come to realise our guidebook isn’t great. It’s got enough for us to get a feel for the place but is by no means comprehensive and can be tough to find problems. I know there is a better guide out there somewhere and for anyone visiting, i would strongly suggest trying to find it. As for people, there aren’t any. With the boulderer’s obsession with “conditions”, i was expecting it to be fairly busy, with at least a handful of climbers around the campsite. There are none, or close to none, and even the Greek George, who came and shared a beer with us last night, hasn’t been out much, leaving us with no-one to ask questions or explore with.

There’s also the standard of climbing. Magic Wood has an abundance of problems for an experienced boulderer climbing in the 7s and 8s but sadly (through no fault of his own) jim does not fall into this category. I did know this but didn’t quite realise how few lower-grade problems there would be for him. This makes a big difference, as i haven’t wanted to run off and leave him working a 6a/b in order to go and do something else on my own and there really isn’t anyone else to tag along with.

And of course the timing. You get time off when you can, so you go away when you can but November in the Alps? I think i’d pick somewhere else next time. I can adjust to climbing in sub-zero temperatures easily enough but as Jim rightly said last night, it makes living very tough. Right now my hands and fingers are hurting as i can’t type with gloves on and just camping in these conditions for a week is hard. We’d have possibly coped better staying in a hotel or the edelweiss, but still, Spain has much more appeal right now. Oh, and while the weather has been glorious, Magic Wood is in a steep valley and once in the forest, you won’t see sunshine for much of the day.

I would also warn prospective visitors, this is a tough venue in other ways; its a mountain crag with rocky landings, steep approaches and more often than not, thuggy steep climbing that as mentioned before, can be hard to find. It’s a quality crag, i have no doubt, but for quality climbers; those doing hard grades with a few years under their belts and while i (just about) fit into that category, couple it with the other issues we’ve had and i can understand why i haven’t got much done.

So would i come back? I think so but only under very different circumstances. Have i enjoyed myself and am i glad to have come? Hell yeah! Still, if you don’t analyse these things, you don’t learn and the big lesson is this: friction may be great at 0C but camping is not. Think we’ll leave it at that.