Italian update

Really quick one to say i havenàt forgotten about the blog, but due to power problems (solar power isn’t the future quite yet) I haven’t been able to add anything. Update on trip report should appear at some point on Monday.

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The Italian Job

And so, after an epic 1,200 miles spanning two days, we have arrived at our destination… and it’s raining. I’m currently sat in my tent in one of the most beautiful Alpine meadows (I didn’t think meadows actually existed!) that you could possibly imagine to see, and the only view I have is of a small grass bank. Admittedly, I could get dressed, get out of my sleeping bag and have a look around, but the rain continues to fall above my head, and with every thud that hits the roof of the tent, I become more reluctant to move. As I type, Steffi has closed the door of the tent and I’m not really that bothered. It’s just like being anywhere else really.

However, that being said, we’re not anywhere else, we’re in Val Daone, a small valley to the West of Trento in Northern Italy, having already been through France, Germany, Austria and of course, Italy and the views have been tremendous. After the lay-over in London, we left at about 5am, and got our ferry at 8. Through some divine brilliance (which had little to do with me) we managed to collect Stu from the train station in Reims on time and repack the car in the middle of la Gare. Then we were on the road again, rattling along French motorways, before finally deciding to stop for a kebab just after the border into Germany.

It’s always struck me how similar Germany and England seem to be, and this tiny kebab house in a small unknown village seems to have cemented my belief. The fact that it then started to rain seemed to add to it, and by the time we got into Munchen, it was officially fucking it down, to the extent that I couldn’t see the lanes any more. The land of unlimited speed limits may be one thing, but unless you’re happy to do 140mph, it’s a little scary, especially if you’re short one mirror…

After a little argument, involving me being told I need to stop, because I should be tired even though I wasn’t, we pulled off the autobahn and quickly pitched the tent, at around 11pm. A restless nights sleep left us to realise in the morning that the weather hadn’t relented, and we were still in the thick of it. At least we still had fucking miles to go.

It wasn’t too long (I think) before we stopped again for breakfast, again in a small non-descript village for some delicious ham and cheese pretzel and some sort of brilliant mohmstriezel, a glazed doughnut sort of thing with cherries in the middle.

Next stop was a brief detour to the La Sportiva factory to arrange a visit next week. We go on Monday, and while Steffi seems unutterably indifferent to the idea, me and Stu are both super keen. Apparently, there’s one guy who laces all the Sportiva boots, and I can’t wait to meet him! I’ll try and keep you posted.

Then for the final stretch. Even I got bored of saying “We’re nearly there, don’t worry” but after what seemed like an extended eternity (through blistering heat this time, just for variety) we finally drove through stunning mountain passes, looking at deathly drops, imposing cliffs and breathtaking scenery before eventually pulling into Val Daone itself. The campsite we were offered for €5 a night each seemed awful, really, so we drove up the valley and finally found the photo you see below. You might think it’s fake, but believe me it’s not, and that is exactly where we are. Hope you’re jealous…

free camping - the image we had before we went

London Calling

Okay, so i’ve been a bit slack in terms of posting anything on my blog. In fact, in recent weeks, you’ve missed out on my eventual ascent of Utopia Traverse into Left Hand at V7 after 10 months of effort (i have written an article about it, which should appear soon), a quick ascent of a tricky V7 in the Brenin which doesn’t sound like much, but took a little lateral thinking during my training, and a speedy success on Left Wall Traverse V8 at the Cave of Justice. I”ve also had some visitors, cooked some local cuisine (shoulder of Welsh Lamb with Honey and Rosemary glaze, leeks, carrots and roast potatoes for those interested), and been for a walk over Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr in a horrible drizzly shit. At least now you can see why i’ve not been writing!

And now the time has finally come, and i am not in the village. I left at 5pm last night, almost straight from work, and after a brief stop in Birmingham, made it to London at about 3am. On the journey, i managed to figure out some pieces of advice which may be helpful:

1. Stopping on long journeys is not always beneficial, as you can struggle after a long rest.

2. Directions are only any good if they haven’t closed a section of your route!

3. The A1 isn’t that easy to follow despite the fact that it is the A1.

4. Finding your way through Central London is stressful, but not really conducive with the relaxing effect of smoking…

So today, we’ve spent most of the day cruising London, visiting Dalston, Monument, London Bridge, Brick Lane and Mile End. In many ways i’d forgotten how much i love the big City, with it’s throngs of people, hustle and bustle and shops, cafes and pubs on every road. I’ve always felt this but there’s something very magical about our capital, and i normally find it a joy to visit. It’s also a great place to catch up with old friends, and it was nice to share a bagel in Mile End Park with Marta, who i hadn’t seen for over a year.

Anyway, England’s opening World Cup match may have to wait as an early night beckons, before a 4am start to get the ferry onto the continent. Another stop, this time in Reims, will hopefully be the last before finally getting down to Italy by this time tomorrow. Or maybe that’s a little optimistic…

Weekend in the City

On possibly the most glorious weekend in the history of North Wales and I had arranged to go to Birmingham to get the car serviced. In fairness, there was no way when i sorted out the trip that anyone in the world could predict what the weather was going to do but i did love the irony that i should wait till the best weekend this decade to leave the village for the first time since Christmas. That being said, i did manage to get to Nescliffe on the way to Brum.

Nescliffe is a little known crag in Shropshire, a sandstone escarpment alongside the old road from Holyhead to London, lending itself to short but bold routes. It also has a substantial amount of gritstone-style boulder problems, relying on strong fingers, good technique and friction… something that is not available in abundance on a blisteringly hot summers eve. So, at Berlin Wall in a gorgeous sunset, climbing shirtless, i chalked my hands and climbed on the starting moves of a simple V1 called Jug U’la only to find myself with a clean palm lying on the floor!

Twice more the rock raped my hand of any grip, chalk getting sucked up into the greasy sandstone until finally there was enough friction to be able to hold on. After a frustrating amount of time, i made it to the top of the problem, wondering who the hell had graded the problems at this place! However, the next ones soon fell, with Dead Head V2 6a feeling unimaginably easier, and slowly a little list of ticks appeared, in the beauty of the sun setting through the forest.

So on to Birmingham, and while this may not seem like the best way to recharge when you live somewhere like Llanberis but there is always something nice about going back to where you come from. My home is definitely in Wales, but the city will always hold a special place in my heart, even if only for a weekend.

Perseverance

Possibly the best point of working in Capel Curig and living in Llanberis is the fact that i can stop off in the Pass on the way home. This does, however, come with it’s downsides. Every night this week i’ve been hitting the rock, mainly at the Cromlech Roadside and Jerry’s Roof and i’m beginning to feel the strain; my body aches, my skin is very thin and generally, i’m in mild ammounts of pain! Still, if this is what it takes to train for Italy, then so be it. Most of these evenings have been alone, and with the exception of finally ticking The Blunt V4 which has long eluded me being such an amenable grade, i haven’t really got anything done. The first six moves of Jerrys are under my belt but again, this is insignificant compared to the strength gain. Fitness and endurance are improving, and i can feel like i’m getting ready for the trip.

Another day on the Slabs

Not quite at Idwal, but a super quick post about last night on Tryfan Bach. After another turbulent evening, Rich managed to drag me out to Tryfan Bach for another VDiff climb, Slab 1. About the only thing to report is my wonderful text-book (in a good way) triple-equalised belay at the top of the first pitch!


The Cave of Justice

After a turbulent session on the rocks the night before, I agreed to go out to the Great Orme on Sunday for some bolt clipping and a bit of bouldering. So, once we’d dispensed with the classic directions-for-the-wrong-village fiasco, with me searching Fachwen for a house in Llanrug, i eventually met Sam and we head out to Llandudno.

Parisella’s Cave is one of those places that i’m certain is not nice: a dusty cave on the outskirts of an old outdated seaside resort, next to a tourist road running around the Orme that is so polished, you can see your reflection as you drive past. However, as with so many things in life, just because it’s crap, doesn’t mean you can’t like it! My first few visits were fraught with failure and general unhappiness, not being able to route find through tricky eliminate problems and finding the fact that the roof is so excessively steep made for many unhappy hours. Eventually, after a few more trips, i found a couple of projects and now manage to pick my way through the cave with relative ease.

Sunday was mainly spent in the neighbouring Split Infinity cave to the right, mainly due to the audience and star studded climbers such as Chris Doyle, Chris Davies and Matt Heason in Parisella’s itself. I was working problems like Slim V8 and The Organ Grinder V8+ while doing the repeated traverse through the middle of the cave, first from left to right, then back at a beasty V6. Split Traverse High V7 also beckoned and i was starting to make some progress, but after a while we decided to head into the cave proper. After accidentally ticking the V8 version of Left Wall Traverse i reasoned that i should probably get it done, not to mention having another look at Rock Attrocity V9.

So all in all, two nice ticks, quite a lot of work, and some progress being made. Possibly almost as significant was that when i finished, i actually still felt quite strong and fresh! Apart from a tweaking tendon, the training seems to be going pretty well. Roll on Val Daone, less than a month to go…

And now for something completely different

So after some walking, cycling and trad climbing, last night i decided to return to my main focus, primarily as i need to get strong for Italy. Unfortunately, this soon involved spending money… I was a total gear freak before i started working in a shop (hence wanting to work in a shop) and now that i do, it’s possibly even worse. This wouldn’t have been a major issue, but the new Ogwen guide came out on Wednesday and yesterday, it spent the day taunting me.

Wanting to visit somewhere new, and not just head to the roadside at the Cromlech again, i decided to check out the boulders at the Milestone Buttress. These were clear in the new Ogwen guide, unlike the now slightly dated North Wales Bouldering, so i made myself an ultimatum: if the weather holds out, i’ll bit the bullet, buy the guide and head for the rock. If not, it would be a Brenin session and generally lots of pulling on plastic! Simple.

Marilyn Monroe runs out of the roof on the left, while Boneshaker comes along the lip from the right

It didn’t rain, but i’m quite glad, as Milestone has some terrific lines. I started by flashing the three V0- problems right next to the road, although the litter on the hillside of the wall wasn’t very nice. I’d like to say this is likely to happen at any roadside venue, but it doesn’t so i decided to move a little further up the hill. Onwards to Ding Dong’s Wall V4 6b, which while not that difficult, did have a slightly tricky landing. If i’m honest, i bottled it, especially after i jumped off, the mat slipped on the wet grass and i laned in a puddle on my arse. Spotter required methinks…

So alongwards this time to Marilyn Monroe V6 7a and Bombshell V5 6c+ before deciding that if i was to do a horizontal, full stretch reach out of a poor ledge that i would probably want a spotter for that too. The landing underneath Bombshell didn’t fill me with much confidence either, and on discovering that i had left my lighter in the car, i decided to call it a day. With a wry smile at having finally found this brilliant spot, complete with plenty of good projects for a day when i can find a friend, i retired for a quick hour at Plas Y Brenin, to continue with strength training. I shall return, watch this space…

A Grand Day Out

As much as i am aware of the name of this site, unfortunately this is another non-bouldering related entry, involving a lengthy walk, a poor Pub for lunch and an excellent cafe owned by a local Dutchman which was agonisingly closed. After all, it was raining at some point of the day so what else do you do?

We decided to go for a walk. Quite a substantial walk. In fact, i don’t think Lucy quite realised what she’d let herself in for when she reluctantly got ready to leave a mere half hour late. Three hours later, having left straight from the house, we arrived in Rhyd Ddu, and to my complete horror and disgust, Ty Mawr, one of the best cafes in the area, was closed. As a consequence, we decided to try an adjacent pub which had promise from the outside but quickly lost it once we stepped inside. The Cwellyn Arms certainly has potential, but on the evidence of the other day, i would not venture through it’s front doors again. (There’ll be a review on here soon).

After what was admittedly a rather nice Sticky Toffee Pudding (the only desert on the menu without a ridiculous pretentious name – this is the middle of Snowdonia, not Kensington High Street!) we set off up the Rhyd Ddu path up Snowdon, to what seemed like a chorus of “You’re heading up there now?” concerns from passing walkers, confused as to how we’d come to be going up Snowdon so late, but yet blatantly didn’t look like your average trainer-wearing, Cafe bound muppet. It took another three hours to reach the top, including a rather exposed section near the top that i had completely forgotten about, which to my mild dismay didn’t phase Lucy at all. Another two hours and we were home, glad to be back, eating food that was nicer than the pub, yet a damn site less pretentious…

It really was a grand day out, and badger me though she has, i still can’t tell Lucy how far we walked, offering feeble guesses somewhere between “quite a way” and “fucking miles!”. Again, apologies to the boulderers, but hopefully tomorrow night i’ll be back on the rock again.

Setting Suns

Finally a rest evening: after nearly killing myself on the bike on the Lap of Snowdon, and straining pectorals from days of bouldering, i was about to walk through the front door and relax. It was a nice feeling, knowing that all that awaited me was a cold beer and a comfy chair with my name on it. So imagine, if you will, my expression when i was confronted with an excited housemate almost bounding Tigger-style up and down saying, “So what we doing tonight?”

That’s the problem with having a reputation for being always on the go – it’s hard to get away from some days. I said no to more bouldering, as my body just couldn’t take it, and we agreed not to go to the pub through a distinct lack of funds. I suggested a walk, but Rich wasn’t keen. Finally, i said, “About the only thing i’m willing to do is some easy lead climbing on Tryfan Fach…”

About an hour later and i was on lead, a situation that normally fills me with dread, on a nice well-protected Mod, after having made a tour of Llanberis to find a harness and chalk bag. It was a glorious evening, despite the cold, and i lead a little over fifty metres before bringing Rich up. We quickly ran down and started up the classic Diff Little Tryfan Arete.

Half way up and running out of quickdraws, i decided not to run the whole climb out in one pitch, and set up a belay. When Rich caught me up, he lead through, and i proceded to sit through the sunset, as the temperature began to plummet. It wouldn’t have been that bad if it wasn’t that my Rab Photon Hoody was still at the bottom…

Walking back to the car, we both thought on about how much we love living here, climbing after work on a whim, and generally just being able to get out and do what we want to do, when we want to do it. Okay, it’s not always perfect, and the weather is often wet (not enough for paddling, yet too much for climbing, somewhat annoyingly) but i suppose that’s what makes evenings like this all the better.

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