Tag Archives: Bull’s Eye

The Long Awaited New Testament

It’s here.

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I've been waiting a very long time for this. Not just me, many people both local and elsewhere around the world and you know what, it's been totally worth the wait. It does have some weight to it: nearly 700 pages means it nearly doubles the mass of my #climbing bag but what that means is there are SOOOOOO many new places to explore; places I never really knew existed, places I knew of but didn't know what was there, places I know well with extra new lines to throw myself at. Makes it even sweeter for me that I'm in it! Not a photo but my lines in Bryn Engan! #stoked Here's to a summer of #bouldering in #worldclasswales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #guidebook #book #climbing_pictures_of_instagram

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It has been a long time coming, for anyone wanting to boulder in North Wales; that’s quite a number of people given it is up there as a contender for the best bouldering in Britain! The last guide was originally published in 2004, in moody black and white and was actually bilingual, with everything being given descriptions in Welsh (Cymraeg) as well as English. It went out of print back in 2009 and has been a prized possession for anyone lucky enough to lay their hands on one – something not to be loaned or lost for sure! – until now.

For some context, the old guide was 303 pages and (as well as half of it being duplicated already) contained the usual general pages, commandments for bouldering outdoors, two pages on gear, another on landings, four pages on the definition of a boulder problem (worth a read) and another three on grading. At the back, once past the faraway crag of Cae Ddu, you’d find a FULL graded list of everything in the book, eight colour photos including one of the great John Gaskins and SIXTEEN pages on history of the local scene. Oh and a glossary.

All that is gone, save for four pages of introduction; such is the nature of the North Wales bouldering explosion since the last guide first hit the shelves some thirteen years ago. In fairness, it had to as the weighty tome that now covers my homeland extensively still comes in at 667 pages. It weighs 1150g, almost half the weight of my daughter when she was born…

The old classics are in there, obviously but with entire new crags that only the most dedicated of locals were aware of. Nevertheless, with almost every crag at the very least giving a photo topo for an old project for me, and after years of deliberation, i’ve opted to go for a No Retro Ticks approach to the guide.

I was chatting to an old friend Andy Marshall the other day and said about this so just to clarify: No Retro Ticks refers simply to literally ticking the guidebook, not claiming the ascent. What this means in real terms is that there is a lot of repeating of boulder problems around here for me all of a sudden!

That’s not to mean i’m going to leave a lot of the new stuff. On the contrary, unable to wait for the delivery at work, i snagged a copy from local shop V12 (often called VDiff) the day it arrived and was out the following day checking out somewhere i’d been before but not climbed.

I love doing established boulder problems, with beta and a grade and i love doing first ascents but what i really don’t like is doing something that i know has been done but i don’t know how or how hard. I find it really irritating and more than once i’ve done something slightly different from the original and don’t quite get the ascent. There have been a few places like that around here but all of a sudden, i have a book that now shows me where they lie.

The first crag on my radar? The first crag in the book! Little walk in, dog friendly and oft pondered, i headed into Fachwen to get some much needed mileage under my belt.

A great little session culminating in Shorter’s Roof 7a+ while listening to the Test cricket. More than getting back into the swing of things, it was liberating to actually climb something i’d looked at years ago but was put off by not knowing enough detail. That and it’s a great little roof.

The only other ticks in the book were up in the pass where i managed to sneak out for a couple of hours. The Llanberis Pass has always been the focal point of the North Wales bouldering scene and has suddenly expanded, somewhat unexpectedly. One would’ve thought it couldn’t get much else new but it really has.

The Obedience Boulders are one such area that weren’t really known before but now have photo topos and provide a quick session for those nearby. Most people will be lured to the nearby Corridors Of Power 7c+ but i would suggest Nicotine Wall and it’s surrounding problems would be worth stopping at on the way there.

Sadly, despite obsessively reading the book at every opportunity, that remains my only outdoor sessions to date; stymied by poor weather and a baby, not to mention moving house. What we have mentioned though are some excellent scouting missions.

The crag of Fontainefawr was another i’d heard plenty about but not visited so an evening walk turned quickly into bushwacking and searching in the woods to find the inspiring hanging roof. It did look mighty impressive but for me, didn’t quite hit the spot and would most definitely not be baby friendly.

The one that did push my buttons was Supercrack. Under the heading of the Black Rhino boulder – a less inspiring but equally tempting boulder – Supercrack has captivated my attention since i first laid eyes on it in person. Despite the rain, the bottom half remained chalked and i really cannot wait for a dry spell to get back there and get spat off the harder (and hopefully not the easier) lines.

It looked inspiring in a recent video that caught my attention too but that wasn’t why i was watching. Long time readers will remember the excitement i felt after completing my best first ascent, Prowess 7b. So imagine my excitement when i watched this video:

It is a great feeling to put up a new line, even better to see it in the guidebook but to know that people are out there climbing it is a real thrill. What’s even better is a conversation i had the other day with the boys at Dragon Holds.

After recognising the woods of Bryn Engan in a photo, and a comment saying they were searching for new boulders, i asked if it was where i thought. The reply: “You know where it is, near Pyb boulder and prowess”. Not only are people now trying my climb, they’re also using it as a landmark!

It might sound a little sad but it’s nice to think that while this new book is giving me so much inspiration and new climbs to throw myself at, that i’ve been a little part of that.

The Dry Side of a Damp Coin

After a couple of posts from friends, i may have talked down the week ever so slightly. So, in the interests of optimism, here is the same review but with an upbeat approach. Every word of both posts is completely true.

 

Every other year, i get the honour and privilege of travelling to Scandinavia, to explore more of what i believe is one of the greatest areas of the world. I’d love it to be more (i’ve even considered moving there a few times) but it’s a biannual visit because in the opposing years, my good Swedish friend, Fredrik comes to visit. After a hiatus last year for his wedding (marrying another good friend, Karin at a ceremony i was honoured to attend and even gave a speech) last week was once again Fredrik’s turn.

Months of planning couldn’t really help us with the Welsh weather, as we were forced to play it by ear. Still, optimism reigned supreme as i collected both Fredrik and his brother Tobias from Bangor station late on Tuesday night – the back of the car bursting with food…

With Tobias making his maiden voyage to these shores, i was keen to offer some hearty local dishes and throughout the week, i think i succeeded quite well: pan haggerty, more bangers and mash than we could finish, bacon butties with brown sauce, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, it was a hedonistic and gluttonous feast from day one.

And day one proper was quickly upon is. A relaxed start (with Welsh Rarebit) meant we had time to ease into the day, and the easy decision to start up at Sheep Pen. Fredrik had missed this North Walean Wonder last time round and with Tobias climbing around the 6c sort of area, it was a good choice.

I was vindicated in my decision pretty quickly: The Pinch 7a+ went quickly while my back was turned, i got a new highpoint on the tough first move of Jerry’s Problem 7c+ and Tobias sent his very first 6c+ in Toe Dragon. Traditions being the theme of the week, this ascent prompted another that my compadres had been doing for some years: a new top grade warrants a bottle of champagne. We even got a quick visit from Emily – a welcome surprise.

Day two and another relaxed start preceded a trip to Rhiw Goch. I was keen to get on Badger’s In The Mist 7c after an incomplete ascent the week before. While i didn’t get on that well, and Fredrik didn’t really get the psyche for Moria 7b (despite it’s three stars) we did get a good session on dry rock, with Tobias stealing all the headlines with quick sends of Gap of Rohan 6c and Ride the Wild Smurf stand 7a. (Thankfully, we hadn’t bought the champagne by this point, so one bottle would suffice.)

The weather had sat on the cusp of good and bad all week, raining overnight but stopping late morning, allowing us to go in search of dry rock in the mountains every day. Friday was just such a day and the strong wind was enough to counteract the overcast skies. With projects from two years ago in mind, we made the trudge up the hillside above Ynys Etws towards the Wavelength circuit.

It was another day of ticks, although mostly for Fredrik this time as he quickly flew up Utopia Left Hand 6c before a quick look at Love Pie 7c after my tick on Monday and then up the hillside to exorcise the demons surrounding King of Drunks 7a and the tricky Groove 6b that he had left previously.

Windswept and windburned, we returned home, with three days of trudging the hills and crushing problems taking it’s toll. Not to be discouraged, we checked the forecast and Saturday looked good: sunshine, not a hint of rain but a steady breeze. The plan: the so-far unvisited crag of Crafnant. While it was a way away, it would catch the breeze and would offer the chance for more V-points than we could possibly achieve.

Sadly the risk didn’t pay off, with the skies as grey as Sean Connery’s hair and the air as still as fruit juice without bubbles. Even moving around proved trecherous but not to be discouraged, we made an early decision and went back to the Cromlech boulders for a headtorch session.

It went well, with Tobias getting another V5 (a dyno Loose Canon) as well as a handful of various other bits before Fredrik’s valiant effort on Bus Stop 7b+ and my own efforts on Diesel Power 8a and Jerry’s Roof 7c, despite tendon problems in my left hand.

With their flight not until 6pm, the last day was up to the lads to decide and i was pretty chuffed when they decided to go and try and repeat some of my own problems around Bryn Engan.

With conditions lacking, we brushed with vigour to try and get the holds just dry enough and while Prowess proper didn’t go, the 6b+ stand start was a consolation and Fredrik got to try enough to admit he liked the moves – a win in my eyes. Tobias meanwhile was feeling the effects of a heavy week and had called it a day –  a good sign that his time hadn’t been wasted.

That being said, as we called time on the week and wandered around Betws before the drive to Manchester, i realised that even though things hadn’t quite gone as well as they could, it was always nice to see my friend again, and a pleasure to meet his brother. Granted the conditions hadn’t come close to the fantastic days i’d somehow managed to find over the summer; we had got out every day, getting good, worthwhile ticks in the process. Even if that wasn’t the case either, social time in good time is never wasted and now i can look forward to my next Scandinavian trip next summer to the island of Aland.

Dampened Expectations

When you go on a bad trip, it’s a travesty. When you play host to people and it’s a bad trip, it feels even worse.

We’ve all been there: hounded by bad weather or a lack of suitable options, or any of a multitude of factors that can mean your rare week off can not quite match your expectations. I’ve had my fair share – frozen to death in Magic Wood, boiled and lost in Frankenjura, rained on for a week in Daone, overwhelmed in Font and of course, the Ill Fated summer of 2013 with Fredrik.

Well the man in question came for his biannual visit last week, this time with his brother in tow. After months of planning and discussion, he finally arrived at Bangor station late into the night and was collected in the Green Machine ready for a week of sending.

While the weather was typically session killing, every morning of the week, we awoke to a wet outside that was painstakingly drying out. Yes, it meant we could still get out but it severely limited our options.

Not for day one, though, as Sheep Pen was on the cards one way or another – only a week of driving hell would prevent a day to one of North Wales greatest bouldering crags. In truth, it was a great session too, with sends galore including The Pinch 7a+ for Fredrik and Toe Dragon 6c+ for Tobias; the first of that grade for him and a prompt for a bottle of champagne for dinner. I even made some progress on Jerry’s Problem 7c+, although not much, and we had a visit from Emily.

Alas, though, as the days are now quite short, the success was all too brief; the downside of coming over so late in the year. The up side to that was it gave us plenty of down time, so back home and into the kitchen to cook up some hearty British meals.

I had planned to make sure we were well fed throughout the week and didn’t disappoint. The menu for the week included pan haggerty, bangers and mash, Welsh rarebit, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie and of course, bacon butties. And that doesn’t include the large bag of pies and pastries for lunches.

On to the second day and on to Rhiw Goch, with a personal aim this time: a correct ascent of Badgers In The Mist 7c. With my success on the direct variation, i was hoping that the ground work had been laid. I was wrong. It turns out that direct is as different a problem as you could get and my abject effort means i’m resigned to starting again on a problem i’d already had on my ticklist a week before. The frustration from that was carried through to the next day. Where the sun had basked us and dried the boulders of the previous days, Friday was no such luck. Wild and windy meant that when we headed out to the open boulders in search of dry rock, we were blasted from all sides. By the time we got home, with ascents of Utopia Left Hand 6c and King of Drunks 7a in the bag, we were windburned and wiped out.

With a promising forecast for Saturday, we were hoping that it would be the crowning day of a mediocre week. Supposedly dry, sunny and with a light breeze, the plan was Crafnant: a new crag for me meaning plenty to tick off. The downside? Quite a drive and a twenty minute walk in up a steep hill. It was also an unknown quantity, a risk, and it was probably this that led to our downfall.

Around two o’clock, we arrived only to find the air heavy with humidity, the sun hiding away behind a blanket of cloud and every single rock covered in what felt like fairy liquid. Even moving around felt nigh on impossible and the vast majority of problems unclimbable.

We looked and after some indecision, we reluctantly retreated. It was a tough choice as it meant we were restricting ourselves to a headtorch session somewhere but even in hindsight, i’d say it was the right one. Where we went wrong was gambling it would be in nick in the first place.

The evening session on the Cromlech wasn’t that bad though, with Tobias (undoubtedly the most succesful of our troupe throughout the week) getting yet more bits done before Fredrik had a semi-triumphant blast on Bus Stop 7b+. My poor showing on Diesel Power 8a highlighted my level of exhaustion after a summer of sends.

The Swedes’ flight wasn’t until the evening and with the best weather of the week so far, it seemed churlish not to get out. One last effort meant time to pick a project and Fredrik was keen to try Prowess – my three-star 7b line in a north facing forest that won’t catch the sun until March… In short, one of the few places i was pretty certain wouldn’t be in nick.

But projects are projects and i was very keen for my friend to try my super line. Armed with brushes and chalk, we trudged in and got to cleaning but sadly to no avail. Tobias tweaked his shoulder on Bull’s Eye 7a and Fredrik failed to nail the first crux, albeit getting the standing start 6b+ as a consolation.

At Crafnant, Fredrik squeezed in another new line and named it Dampened Expectations. It’s an apt description of the week, for while we all hoped it would be the trip of a lifetime, i don’t think it’s one that will sit in the upper echelons of experiences. The one consolation: it was fun to see my friend for the week.

Bull’s Eye!

Well you don’t often get a weekend like that! After what seemed endless drizzle and wetness, we were finally blessed with a decent spell of good weather. It was even better when you consider it followed a brief snowy spell, leaving the tops as white as you could imagine and Snowdonia in it’s most stunning beauty. This weekend, the snow reflected the sunshine, making the skies even more wonderfully blue, reminding those of who living here why indeed we do. And where was i? In a shaded woodland facing North…

Emily Bridger attempting Fresh EyesSo why did i chose this as the venue for my enjoyable and convenient weekend off? Because it is in this forest that lie my recent discoveries and current unclimbed (and as such ungraded) projects. I found them in the latter stages of last year, received an early Christmas gift on Christmas Eve, culminating in my first Welsh first ascents and have been waiting ever since for an opportunity to return. Beaten back on multiple occasions by time constraints, wet weather and on one occasion, a sheet of verglas covering the top of the boulder, it’s been frustrating me that i have yet had chance to return. So when this weekend rolled around, there was no hesitation on where to head.

Saturday morning and i rose fairly slowly, allowing the air to warm to a more amenable temperature  and drove to meet my companion for the day, Serena. I’ve been very careful over who to take to this boulder, Serena being an ideal companion and joining a currently elite list of trusted souls. We met, collected Tess and wandered in, the path to this new site slowly becoming more obvious. Conditions were good – not so cold as to kill enthusiasm but chilled enough to offer good friction. We began by introducing Serena to only her second outdoor bouldering venue, and a few attempts at Christmas Comes Early 5+. A good warm up for me, a good tick for her and (after a quick look at the problem now known as The Dichotomy of Good and Evil and thought to be around 7c) before long we’d moved around to try another first.

DSC04294Originally the line went from the shelf straight up through a tricky mantel, albeit with good feet. Slowly, the line moved, evolving as the moves fell into place and by the time it was climbed, followed a rising traverse line to finish into my premier problem on the boulder, Storeman’s Legacy 7a+. While not what i had originally imagined, it gave a more natural line – something i imagine is commonplace when making up the problem for yourself. It has maintained it’s original name of New Direction, somewhat fitting considering the history of the line and has a speculative grade of 6c until someone can confirm. It, and my other firsts on this bloc, can be seen on the video below.

We quickly nipped down to the RAC boulders, to give Serena a more normal taste of bouldering, introducing a nearby and established crag, with lines documented in a guidebook. It also meant we both left on a high, although the day had not gone the way i had originally planned…

The Bull's Eye Boulder

Another of my finds has an unfortunate stream that runs right through the middle. It is also a jumbled array of rocks, meaning it is very difficult to reroute said waterway and thus, offers little opportunity for ascent. So imagine my delight on Friday when i headed down to find the stream dry and the climbing possible.

DSC04349Sunday morning saw a solo return, desperate to make the most of the unusual conditions. With a lack of rain and what stagnant water remained still frozen, this was my best chance and i knew it. Another relaxed start saw me walking in after bumping into an old friend. Soon i was there, alone but for my canine companion and ready to do battle with this new boulder. Neither rockboot nor chalk had touched this before, although it had been cleaned of mud and moss and was good to go. I would like to take this opportunity to say (especially after i was foolish enough to publish photos of my cleaning efforts) that only nylon brushes and my hands were used to remove any vegetation and loose rock and that was after extensive research into the ramifications of my actions. Nevertheless, if you have issues with this, or indeed any advice or help on the subject, please do contact me at chezdelabloc@gmail.com

A beautiful day allowed me to climb three new routes: firstly Bull’s Eye 7a, named after the concentric circle formations on the rock when i first arrived. I’d speculated with a few people as to what they were and how they were formed; i quickly discovered once on the rock proper that they’re actually dirt formations… As such, if you end up there, please take care not to disturb more than i unfortunately have already. It is a very fun climb, with every move slightly harder than the last and is started in the low pocket shared with the next line.

DSC04367This is to it’s right and called Bull’s Arse 6a: a six-foot problem that seems a touch pointless but does give nice moves when started low and makes a good warm up. Finally on the left arete, Bull’s Large Protrusion 6c is named after the unfortunate jutting rock that nestles just above one’s backside once you pull off the floor. This move was considerably more difficult, almost to the point of impossible, before the loose shale-rock was removed and scattered on the floor to give a more solid standing. Again, as above, this was done exclusively with my hands, merely pulling and pushing loose rock until it became free.

Those three ascents fell surprisingly quickly and soon i was heading home, delighted with my achievements for the weekend. It has ended with a great sausage casserole and David Attenborough on the TV, bringing this week’s delightful days off to a fitting end. I now have to recover and hope that next weekend follows suit, to allow me to go back and tick off some more.