A Good Return

It’s coming up at about eighteen months since i bought my house, and just over two years since i moved to North Wales. In that short time, I’ve managed a total of five foreign climbing trips, with at least two more planned this year, and yet three of them seem to be to the same place…

Yet there is something quite pleasing about returning to somewhere that feels homely. Even in the forest i am growing to know so well, i still find myself visiting the same old haunts. The day following my previous entry I continued my recuperation, including a lot of tape, and climbing on large holds, very rarely. I took our little international multi-lingual band of climbers, sadly without Frederik and Karin (many apologies for not remembering your names sooner!) to what i called a real “locals crag” within walking distance of our site. The small and undervalued Gorge aux Chats has some tremendous lines, and a stunning aspect, and has to be one of my favourite crags in the world. Sadly, my rest had to continue, and Mike suggested a half day to stem the pain in his fingertips.

However, even the half day couldn’t prevent the inevitable, and after cries of “is this crag in my guidebook” we decided to be controversial and head to a new venue for me: Cuisiniere. The first problems we saw took my breathe away; the aspect to the forest too good to be true and my Facebook status reading “possibly one of the best areas in Font, how have i never been here?!” The ungraded slab climbs we warmed up on were simple but elegant and i managed possibly the best 6b and best arete problem i have ever seen. Sadly this was one climb too many for poor Mike, and as he reached for the crux hold, which turned out to have a sharp edge, his skin finally gave in and he tore a huge flapper in his right hand middle finger. More tape meant he could continue, but our day continued on it’s downward trajectory, and the further problems we searched out didn’t quite meet the standards of those first few boulders, nor the expectations of mine for the forest, if we were able to find them at all… That said, i may have to return to find out the dyno of Halle Bopp.

That takes us to Saturday, and thankfully Mike’s project didn’t need much finger strength or substantial skin, and mine just needed me to pull really hard, so we returned once more to the popular Bas Curvier. Unfortunately, sheer force of will was not enough for either of us, and another foreign project was resigned to a mark in a guidebook. The next day, the car was packed early, the pads buried under a mound of camping equipment, and an earlier ferry beckoned for a relaxed journey home , a welcome change to a very familiar story. These projects will have to wait, more exotic places lie in wait, although a return is never far away from the realms of possibility. In the mean time, a change in philosophy is needed, and it is possible that my approach to training, or the lack there of, may require some revision.

Tomorrow is the final of the Beacon’s bouldering aggregate competition, after claiming joint fifth place in 140-odd climbers. I’m hoping that my Font trip will have made for good training, but if not, it is possible i may have to install a fingerboard, and start trawling the internet for schedules of pull ups. Canada lies ahead in June, with another foreign voyage in the Autumn. Watch this space!


La Plage sans la Mer

There are some places in the world where I am desperate to go; most of which have been mentioned previously on this blog. It’s becoming obvious (even in my most optimistic moods) that I’m never going to have the time to go and visit even half of the destinations I have in mind, with a list that continues to grow with every passing magazine article, foreign climber and climbing film that I come across. Yet even with this blatant fact imprinted deep into my conscious mind, I still have no regrets when it comes to returning to Fontainebleau.

This is now my eighth trip to the Promised Land, and although the trip was originally to Switzerland, to exorcise the demons I have hanging over my head from the trip in 2006, I’d rather be nowhere than la plage sans le mer. I’m currently sat at L’Elephant, a crag that really does nothing for me, but in truth my companion on this trip has not seen the famous Elephant boulder before, and I am taking an enforced rest day due to injury. Repeated attempts on Carnage 7b yesterday, with the finest of lines resting delicately between failure and success have forced the tendons in my left hand to contract and wince, either at the prospect of having to repeat the same hard moves the following day, or as a stubborn protest at my succeeding on such a classic hard problem.

The week has followed a similar pattern as so many previously, but the old adage of “if it ain’t broke” speaks volumes. An early finish at work on Saturday and a heinous night of driving (including an hours sleep in front of the car in a service station: I was woken by some local 20-somethings saying, “C’est dangeroux” and thinking “it wouldn’t be if you’d left me alone!”) took us to my personal favourite campsite: La Musadiere. It is more expensive than other campsites around the area, but I think it is more convenient, and the petrol saved almost makes up the shortfall.

Sunday, once I woke up again! was spent at Cul de Chien where we ran into some local Candians. A couple known as Steve and MC (the latter of which has literally just topped out on a boulder less than 30ft from me) are from Squamish, BC, and are the third people I’m hooking up with this June. We’ve subsequently climbed with them every day, along with a Swedish couple from Goteborg, whose names I sadly forget but who will also probably receive a visit in the not-too-distant-future, at Bas Curvier on Monday and Tuesday, and despite the departure of our Swedish friends, now at l’Elephant today.

Immense effort

The weather has also been somewhat unusual considering what I am used to. Our first real night’s sleep was interrupted by the cold, and yet the days have been spent in flip-flops and t-shirt, even to the extent I spent several hours this afternoon trying to get rid of the pasty white covering that I seem to have. Conditions on the website yr.nu were supposed to be perfect and the website has proven itself to me with stunning accuracy.

The ticks have not been many, as on this trip I’ve been searching for quality rather than quantity, but it has still been rejuvenating to return to my most visited foreign crag, and somewhere that always fills me with joy. Plans for tomorrow have yet to be made, although they will no doubt involve climbing around the Trois Pignons area, with probably a trip to 95.2 on Friday and a final resurgence to Bas Curvier on Saturday with a desperate attempt to tick the uber-classic Carnage. Mike, who again is just topping out, also has aspirations for Helicopter 7a although my history with the problem has left me too nervous to participate. Hopefully he’ll get it, preferably sans injury, and hopefully I’ll heal enough to get my project. Although, to be honest, even if not, there is little doubt that I will return.

And the rain it raineth…

Today, i’m sat in a house (for which i’m eternally grateful) in Sheffield, and i’ve been pretty much sat here for three days; i am again plagued by bad weather. I’ve taken a total of five days off work, and decided to try hitting the grit again, only this time for a bit longer in an attempt to get some good grit-ticks under my belt. Saturday was stunning everywhere, and i spent most of the day staring out the door of the shop contemplating how nice this week was going to be, doing my usual trick of not checking the forecast, and deciding to go come-what-may. Yet Sunday, i awoke to the now familiar sound of cars driving in the wet.

Yesterday wasn’t so bad to begin, although everything was still  wet from the day before, so i chose to have a nice relaxed start, wait for Kela (one of the lads i’m staying with) and head out in the afternoon. We did manage to ascend the Buckstone at Stanage, albeit in trainers by the descent route, before seeing the storm coming through, and sacking it off. Glad we did really, as the heavens opened shortly after, and we were about 2 minutes from getting drowned from above…

Last weekend was spent in Bristol, helping my cousin move house. An extra day off work meant some extra time for some climbing, although the lack of quality bouldering in the area certainly reared it’s ugly head, and the Monday culminated in a trip to the Climbing Academy, again due to bad weather. Yesterday evening was spent (as this afternoon is sure to be) at the Works in Sheffield, and i’m starting to wonder if this year will be a tour of Worldwide indoor climbing centres…

The debate now rages in my head: stay, and hope for good weather tomorrow and Thursday, or sack it off and head home. Indecision may be the death of any successful climbing this week, but we must wait and see, optimism being key i think. Fingers crossed.

It’s the Peak’s Worst Kept Secret…

Hmm, maybe a little highball for me...

I got a phonecall (or maybe text, facebook or e-mail, it’s hard to keep track) from a friend over Sheffield. It’s surprising how often I get these calls since i’ve moved to Llanberis, “I hear you’re living in North Wales, can i come stay for the weekend?”

Not that i mind, in fact quite the opposite really, as when i’m living here alone it’s nice to see old friends, and good company. Anyway, back to our original story, and this was an old friend from Birmingham, who’d made the move to the gritstone a few months ago. Of course, i said it’s fine, mainly because i’d stayed at theirs two weeks previous, and offered to reciprocate, but that didn’t prepare me for what lay ahead: as i stopped briefly to say hello to Tom on the way down the pass, i asked how many were staying…

A few hours later, the last two walked through the door, giving a total of… ten!

Nevertheless, the kindness was once again shown on the Sunday night when i found myself in Sheffield again. This time, the weather held out, and Monday saw me and Tom sat eating breakfast at Surprise View Car Park, watching the slightest of rain on the windscreen, before deciding it wasn’t that bad and making the trek through the trees to Millstone’s Secret Garden. My project: Beachball 7a. Tom: Dick Williams 7c. For me? No success, although it was nice to have a crack on the grit for the first time in about six months! Tom? Close but no cigar too, but made slightly nicer by the appearance (and subsequent struggling attempts) of Adam Long!

Three days off this month beckon, and with it another drive over to the gritstone. More success is sure to arrive, if only because i’ll try easier things…

I’m Still Here

For anyone who reads this blog on a vaguely regular basis, you may have noticed a distinct lack of enthusiasm over the last few months. You may think it’s because i’ve been far too busy to post anything, but that’d be a poor excuse really. Maybe it’s because i’ve done nothing worth writing about, and while my last outdoor bouldering session involved a lot of standing around, half a dozen cigarettes and a complete lack of bouldering at the Cave, this isn’t really true either, as with the winter conditions as they have been, almost everyone round here has done something! Some of you may have even come to the conclusion that i had finally reached the demise i’ve been predicting for years, or that i’d given up on outdoor sports, but again, you’d be wrong. To be honest, i suppose the real answer is a combination of both – laziness, forgetfulness, personal crisis, and not a massive amount getting done have all conspired to a bit of a poor show on the blogging front. So here’s a rough recap since i last posted on my return from Font: Trying to refresh my memory from the photos folder on the laptop, it  seems there really wasn’t anything worth writing about in September, October or November, but the at the start of December came the snow that seemed to cripple the country and leave the village with the noise of every other house sharpening ice tools… I had a stunning day out, again walking straight from the house, up Elidir Fawr, a peak that had so far eluded me, scrambling randomly up through the slate quarries, and putting a whole in my new Arc’Teryx jacket on a barb wire fence! This really is a great, forgotten peak that should certainly be attempted by anyone local to the area. The following day involved an ice route, clibming The Ramp III 3 in Idwal. This ranks among some of my favourite routes undertaken in any conditions, and included a stunning belay against a giant ice pillar, in perfect skies. I am truly indebted

to Mike for leading me up such a fantastic ice fall and it really was a stunning day. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get any photos of eithe

r of these days, so i’ll leave it to your imagination on how unbelievable this day really was.

I also had a visit from Stu, on his way back to Canada. This was nearing the end of December, when the village was cut off by snow, and again we decided to walk out of the house. The idea was to head up the Llanberis path and down the Miners to the Pen Y Gwyryd to sort out Stu’s stuff before he jetted back. Things didn’t quite go to plan, though, as darkness fell shortly after we finished descending the zigzags, around the time we found Stu had no headtorch… Thankfully the full moon and snow sorted us out.

Since then, not a lot has happened really. Christmas was spent in Birmingham with parents and on my return, all that was left were some very wet hills: we went from a foot of snow to a foot of water within the space of a few days. New Years Eve was spent at the summit of Snowdon, under sub-zero conditions, followed by a long walk down to the village, which was awesome, and the third of Jan saw another freezing trip over to the Cave of Justice, a now regular haunt of mine, although the distinct lack of psyche did lead to a total of nothing getting even tried.

So 2010 seemed to fizzle to a bit of an end, but big plans are being made, so watch this space!

This was until about a week ago: Steve moved into my house. Since then, i’ve somehow racked up three Masters Swimming Sessions, several indoor bouldering nights at the Beacon and Brenin walls and a day out on the bike today round to Beddgelert, not to mention a day out on the grit last Monday at Secret Garden (post coming up soon)! My body feels sapped of all energy, but i feel i’m getting stronger, with a climbing trip to Bristol next weekend (admittedly to help my cousin move house, but two birds, one stone, all that jazz), either a Scottish or Peak trip planned with a total of five days off work, and a week in Switzerland coming up in the next two months, as well as hopefully more activity around the manor! As well as all that, only five more months till Canada…

Contemplating a busy year ahead

Échec en France

I seem to do this quite a lot: go away with a goal in mind, believing quite whole-heartedly for it to be possible, although not easy. I arrive, exhausted due to my insistance to drive enormous distances, and relax for a while, never quite establishing the necessary mindset. Before i know it, I’ve fallen prey to lethargy, and my short term dream seemed to dissapear as quickly as those while i sleep. And so it was again on this trip.

This time, my idea was to go for 20 – 30 boulder problems of 7a or harder, in a week. This didn’t seem too unattainable really – I can work 7a in a session, maybe working a couple in a session. I can climb for a week every day without burning out. This would be my sixth trip to Fontainebleau so i know the rock, the style, the holds. And finally, i was taking two excited young boulderers. Besides, it wasn’t as bad as some of my previous challenges: 1000 boulder problems in three weeks between four of us, or a first ascent in an Italian Alpine Valley. Nevertheless, in hindsight, it seems a little ambitious; the final tally: zero.

In fact the hardest problems i managed to climb were a megre 6a: Little Shakespeare and Silver Lago at Bois Rond and a repeat of La Marie Rose at Bas Curvier, and while I did manage to get a lot of beta for a lot of projects, as a climbing trip, it proved somewhat unsuccessful. Morning sessions continue to elude me due to my relxed attitude to getting out of bed, and even after the first two wet days, the weather continued to dog our progress: 30+ degrees is not an ideal tempterature to be bouldering! Nevertheless we persevered.

Our first days climbing involved gaining as much height as possible in search of dry rock, and we found ourselves at 95.2; a popular crag with some stunning lines. We would find ourselves back here twice again that week, with Sam getting an impressive ascent of Retour aux Sources 7a on the last day (i’ll be back for that one). Our other two days of climbing were spent exploring a new sector for me, still in the Trois Pignons called Bois Rond. Having explored the forest quite extensively now, i have a feeling that this will become one of my favourite spots, to go alongside Gorge aux Chats and Roche aux Sabots.

Bas Curvier also saw a session early on in the week. While i left the lads to continue on the blue circuit that we had all started on, i set up camp under Carnage 7b+ to try my hand. The first move continued to thwart me, and while i will always refrain from the temptation of jumping on Helicopter 7a after Terry’s appaling accident in 2007, Abbatoir 7a did see some attempts, all fruitless though. The greatest chance of success came on Cortomaltese 6c, but again the weather dogged us with a small shower greasing the crucial slopers. However, i remain optimistic that were i to return for a trip when the friction is better and the moisture less, hopefully all (although possibly not Carnage) will go fairly quickly.

As i said above, as a climbing trip the week was a bit of a disaster, but as a holiday it was just what was necessary. Sometimes you need to take solace in the fact that information can be just as important to these activities as a series of ticks in a book. Trip seven, as long as it’s not too long into the future, is destined to be a triumph of success. Maybe i could crack 7c…

Breaking News from Fontainebleau

[We interrupt this Italian trip report to bring you breaking news from Fontainebleau]

So a mere six weeks since I was here last, after my September trip was brought forward due to work commitments, I find myself sat in my second home yet again, although this time on a different campsite. And yet, despite the fact that it is mid-August in Northern France, and not an Alpine valley, or Welsh mountains, I still find myself dogged by bad weather.

Admittedly, I’m currently sat on a bouldering pad in glorious sunshine, this is day three and it is the first time I’m able to say that this week. The usual travel arrangements were made (finish work at 6, pick everyone up, drive to my destination in as few stops as possible in as short a time as possible) and we arrived to rain. Relentless, almost Welsh rain, and I found myself surprisingly depressed to the extent I wanted to go home. Full credit to my mum for this one; I phoned her to find an optimistic 10-day weather forecast, which looked good for most of the week, thus brightening my outlook somewhat, although I’m still not finding the usual Psyche yet.

Sunday was spent driving around to try and find some alternative accommodation, as my companions on this trip were not particularly enamoured with La Musadiere (to be fair, I hadn’t realised quite how expensive it was there) and we explored the possibility of a gite. However, as it was France’s national holiday on 15th August, not a great deal of success was found and we’ve settled on a site much further South, near Grez sur Long. We then proceeded to spend most of the day asleep.

Monday involved mainly sleeping, shopping and finding that the problem that Chris Lancaster got stuck on all those years ago was actually in Apremont! Eventually we got back to the site, where against my better judgment, I managed to teach poor Sam how to correctly build a fire while getting rather uncharacteristically drunk on a bottle of wine consumed in about half an hour. A nice stir fry was then ruined (for me at least) but collapsing in the bushes, before falling asleep on a bouldering mat and being draped with my sleeping bag. Thank god it didn’t rain.

Yesterday was slightly better, and a nice relaxed start was followed by a trip the popular Bas Curvier, the prominent venue in the forest, and one which continues to draw my attention. Attempts on the blue circuit soon disappeared as the allure of harder projects soon became too much and I proceeded on spending far too many hours trying the first move of Carnage 7b+ to little avail (it’s fucking hard!). Attempts on Abbatoir 7a soon took up a lot more time, despite the psychological barrier caused by Terry’s appalling fall and subsequent broken leg on the same line back in 2007, and the day was completed with a quick repeat of the classic under-graded La Marie Rose 6a. Fajitas of sorts, and a mild campfire finished a good day, (with a ban on wine for me) which despite the ominous skies and temperate conditions saw quite a lot of climbing.

My original plan of 20 – 30 7’s may be disappearing as quickly as my enthusiasm for wine-drinking, but I’m still gonna try and see how close I can get, while trying not to demonstrate what I now call the Three-P’s of bouldering: ping, peel and plummet. I’ll try and keep you posted.

[Photos to follow, Wi-fi connection won’t allow for some reason]

Mountains of the Mind

On our way south, i had made the suggestion that we should call in on the La Sportiva factory to arrange a visit. After all, i’d rather take half an hour out of our way, than to drive all that way only to be told “Come back tomorrow.” It turned out to be a good idea. However, after pretty much a week of solid rain, i was more than a little disappointed to wake up on the second Monday to find beautiful sunshine and glorious weather. Well, you play the cards you’re dealt i suppose.

Unfortunately, we didn’t get any photos of the factory itself, or indeed at all, as we were unsure of their policy on such things, and too concerned with our smell to ask i suppose. Anyway, the tour was fantastic, if only to those of us genuinely interested in these things, and it was fascinating to see the intricacies of making a rock boot. We followed the line through gluing the sole unit onto the leather, checking the leather for inaccuracies, and finding out that the rubber for the sole is actually put through a washing machine to remove a layer of silicon that sits on the surface! Did you know that each pair of Sportiva shoes goes through 115 pairs of hands? We ended our tour, after having seen their enormous new warehouse, with the shop, where me and Stu (probably not that sensibly) bought matching t-shirts, along with Steffi’s new shoes.

We sped back through stunning scenery, to arrive back at our dry site and hit the projects once again. More work conintued, into the darkness, making me glad i bought an enormous Black Diamond lantern before i left, which is thoroughly recommended! No actual progress, but a bit more info and i felt myself getting closer to my prize.

The next day involved a return to other projects, mainly back over the river and onto my 7a, and the spiggolo for both Steffi and Stu. Their (temporary) failure did put a little damper on my success, but they did return on the Thursday to finish the job, fair play to their perserverence! Stu, especially, deserves special mention for this one, as he continued to push and push until he could take no more. Steffi of course, hadn’t had the first session, but seemingly enjoyed the many attempts that are involved in climbing a boulder project.

After some food, we actually tried a new sector! Down in the forest, we found we were a little more sheltered, and able to crank out some more problems… evidently graded by someone else! While the 7b+ by the site seemed quite dooable, a 6c+ blatantly wasn’t. Ludicrous as this may sound, it was more like 7a+ and took me quite a lot of attempts to begin to get nowhere! This is coupled with the relatively easy climbs nearby, with rocky and dangerous landings that were again very undergraded. As the sun fell, so did my heart slightly, but once again we finished in the dark and returned home to a roaring fire.

…and then the sun shined!

It wasn’t until after we left that i noticed in the guidebook that Nudole was the first sector of the seven in Val Daone that should be visited, which is quite ironic and very true as it’s this sector that we found ourselves living in for a week and a half. As such, on Friday when the weather finally relented, it is somewhat unsurprising that this is the first spot we chose to play around.

Behind our camp was the fantastic 7b+ called Spigolo dell’anguria which i had set my sights on when we first arrived, but i decided to go exploring so we wandered off to check out the boulders on the opposite side of the lake. After a short walk, we got to Bloco 11, with amenable grades for all three of us, and discovered how beautiful the granite in this forgotten valley was. We made quick work of Figus 6a and Taccus 6b+ not to mention the 5c on the boulder as well. The rock was like a zoomed in gritstone, and with my lack of experience of granito, it was quite a shock to the system. For anyone planning on visiting, it’s worth noting that you really need to toughen up your skin and take plenty of Climb On, sandpaper and if possible, spare fingers…

After a prolonged period of sitting on the pads and enjoying the good weather, we finally got of our arses and headed over to Bloco 15, with slightly less problems, but a much nicer landing, and a lovely 7a to get stuck into. We all made short work of the spigolo to the left (although Steffi had by this point gone for a walk) and Stu set to working the opposing arete on the other side of the perfectly triangular bloc, while i plyed my trade on the just-off-vertical, thin masterpiece in the middle. This managed to take most of the day, with neither completing our respective projects, so we headed back to camp for dinner and a bonfire, although en route discovering the power of bouldering pads for carrying vast amounts of firewood, while Stu and myself carried back… a tree.

More projecting followed that evening, with my first real attempt on Dell’Anguria while Steffi and Stu began trying both the direct from my starting hold at 6b and the rising traverse to the right at 6a. I knew we were going to spend a lot of time at this bloc (we had already left the guidebook to fall apart in the rain here) so i was secretly hoping they took their time. Unfortunately that was not the case, as they both managed both problems without too much difficulty.

Saturdays forcast for the afternoon wasn’t great, so we made the most of the (short) morning by heading down the valley to check out La Plana, a forested sector were hoping would shelter us just a little. We managed to get a couple of hours in before we ran away, getting in a little crotch-ripping 6a, and a delicate yet beautiful mantle problem at 6a+.

Sunday was equally poor and we passed the time by going round and round Arco and Riva del Garda (a town, i am reliably informed, entirely populated by Germans) looking for a swimming pool to attempt to clean ourselves, and looked forward to the following day: a trip to the Sportiva factory. Yes, i am very sad.

A slightly belated return

And so, here i am again sat in North Wales, in the rain. Firstly apologies for the lateness of the returning post; coming home has seemed to have left a lot of work, namely cleaning up, sorting out the leaking roof in the house, and generally getting out around Wales again! Since i’ve been back, i’ve somehow managed to cram in canoeing, road cycling, sport climbing and of course, bouldering. Not bad with an injured shoulder…

The last (substantial) message i sent you was being posted from a small tent at the head of the valley, after connecting my phone to my laptop: something that made my day, considering the weather! It managed to rain for the next four days, giving us little enthusiasm, and little to do. We managed to get into  routine involving late starts, lunchtime-breakfasts and eventually heading into the nearest decent village known as Tione. Here we witnessed our first wonders of Italian ice cream and attempting to order coffee in Italy (see the trip report that WILL appear at some point…). After a brief foray into the local library (the following day: we were too late on the Tuesday) we discovered that there was indeed a local climbing shop in a nearby town called Sarche. From there, we soon discovered the famous destination from Arco was just down the road, suffered much less from the weather, and had some excellent limestone bouldering!

However, by this time, Arco was about an hour away from home. Still, it was worth it for the prospect of dry rock! So after our now-typical late start, we piled into the car and make the trek to Arco… only to find it was wet there too. Nevertheless we did find that it is the most splendid of climbing towns, reminding me very much of home, and we enjoyed more success ordering coffee and food, before heading off in search of open shops and a swimming pool, as by this time, now Wednesday i think, we were beginning to honk just a little.

However, after a short time, we found that it had stopped raining, and that the limestone was now dry, so we bought a local guide for a mere 6€ and actually started to climb! While the rock wasn’t amazing, and not a venue i would gladly go back to (for bouldering anyway, the sport climbing looked amazing) it was a welcome change from being sat in our sodden tent doing sod all!

Then, at long last, after three long days of wet weather at camp, we awoke to the most glorious weather you could hope for, as illustrated by Stu here! Our first day, inevitably, involved us playing around the site, although that story may have to wait for another day. Some 500 photos were taken by me, not to mention those by my comrades-in-arms, so there’ll be plenty of updates on this one, and the trip report should appear hopefully sometime soon. Keep checking back to hear more from our Italian Job.

On a separate note, i’m probably going to change the format for the site slightly, in the near future. The original idea of my blog was to give people information on different bouldering venues around Europe, and hopefully eventually the world, so please don’t be surprised if you click to find out it’s all a bit different! That being said, the speed i’m getting through putting the trip report together, it might not be that soon…

A home for European bouldering reviews and info