The light at the end of the library.

Cherry_header5 Finally we have surfaced again, having held our breath through a storm of coursework, presentations and exams. Bursting through the other side of our Final year Exhibitions, desperate for some time to climb on real rock (after a considerable amount of beer and sleep). The next couple of months in Nottingham with no uni work should leave us with some time to train for the upcoming Norway trip. Not to say that we haven’t been training all year in some respects – as the training for this trip is quite different from our last. For one thing, we aren’t planning on having to do any multi-day routes. This means (hopefully) no hauling or need for a port-a-ledge on this trip. Even if we do get on multi-day routes, we’ll more likely climb them ‘alpine style’. Additionally, we’ve been concentrating much more on things like hard bouldering and trad climbing. Whilst we’ve retained the aiding and big walling skills learnt in Yosemite, on this trip we’re hoping to do much more free-climbing, perhaps with the goal of developing some new routes and boulders of our own. This has meant a much greater emphasis on physical training as not only do we need to be physically fit again, but we’re going to have to be as ready as possible for the kind of free-climbing that Norway offers!

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Basecamp on wheels! Complete with slick alloys and top-of-the-range sound system.

Yes, the Van is here – a beautiful rattling lump of off-white metal that is the key to a successful trip. Stefan has been trialing it already, taking it on short trips to the peak, and less short trips to North Wales. It has yet to be properly panelled and kitted out, but that will all happen in the weeks to come.

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Stefan on the powerful ‘Pit and Pendulum’ a V8+ in the Ogwen Valley, North Wales.

Stefan has been utilising his newly acquired transport to get stuff done! Freshly released from exams, he’s been pushing himself on ever more powerful boulder problems and difficult trad routes.

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Cherry making the big move on ‘Deliverance’, a V8+ Dyno in the Peak District.

I on the other hand, have been pansy-ing about on technical slabs and walls. Finally doing ‘Deliverance’ at Stanage plantation felt like a big deal for me. I’d had a fair few sessions on it yielding no success, and the feeling of pushing it closer and closer and closer until I finally latched that edge and topped out the problem was fantastic – I felt it got me really motivated to stick with hard projects and see them through.

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James Salisbury sporting a gorgeous blonde toupe, on the desperately thin slab ‘The Snivelling Shit’, an E5 6a at Millstone Edge.

I was also pretty psyched to flash (on top rope!) The Snivelling Shit (E5 6a). This low angle blank slab is very similar to the sort of climbing we could be doing on big face routes in Lofoten. Funnily enough, it felt incredibly similar to the sort of climbing we were doing on the Apron, in Yosemite. Only that was graded 5.10 R, and this was graded E5 6a. And this felt easier….

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Cherry using some fairly insecure thin hand jams, to flail his way up ‘The Gates of Mordor’ an E3 6a at Millstone Edge.

My experience on The Gates of Mordor (E3 6a) perfectly captured the training that I want to be doing. Not being scared of taking falls on gear, trying really hard on real rock, and using my route climbing in the UK as a learning experience, to become a better climber! Trying this was route was not just about doing it, but also learning how to do it. What to expect? More of the same. Thin slabs, steep cracks, powerful boulders, and bad driving. It’s good to be back!

Northbound.

Things have been quiet recently, too quiet. With both of us being in our final year of study, balancing work commitments and climbing can be a tough game, especially when the nearby peak district has been soggy for about 2 months.

Obviously, we’ve been training incredibly hard:

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‘training’

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Photo: Ace Film and Photography http://www.acefilmandphotography.com/

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Photo: Ace Film and Photography http://www.acefilmandphotography.com/

And we plan to put our various climbing skills to practise in one of the most beautiful and wild climbing destinations in the world – The Lofoten Islands in Norway. An endless landscape of jagged granite spires rising out of the sea awaits, with top class trad climbing, bouldering and even hard sport routes.

The plan?

Train hard, work hard, graduate, drive north, climb until our fingers bleed and we run out of food.

This blog will serve to document our efforts in fulfilling all of these goals! Thanks to everyone who’s followed us so far, and I hope you find the photos, articles and videos to follow at least entertaining – if not informative.

The Magical Lofoten Islands

The Magical Lofoten Islands

Captain Kirkpatrick and the one-day Enterprise – VIDEO

Better late than never – here is a short video of our 11:30 hr speed ascent of the Leaning Tower, tied to Andy Kirkpatrick.

This was our last ‘Big Wall’ at the end of the month in Yosemite, and I think its fair to say that it was totally beyond our expectations.

When we sat on the coach that drove through the valley floor and stared up at the countless towering walls, we both considered the many possibilities and opportunities that stood before us. We could go aid climbing, free climbing, bouldering or big walling! Yosemite Valley is big-climbing Mecca, and it makes you consider your ambitions and your limits every day. The walls are so gargantuan, grand, and clean that they can look intimidating and impossible – they remind you how small you are and how hard you’ll have to try. But the climbers in the valley are so endlessly psyched and mindlessly optimistic that they’ll make you believe you can do anything, they’ll tell you to jump over that gap that you never though you could jump.

To “live the dream dude!!”.

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When we met Andy, he was one of those people. He gave us an opportunity to try something far beyond our own expectations. Like two men crazed by some infectious psyche disease – we over-enthusiastically agreed. Perhaps he wouldn’t realise we had no idea what we were doing?

As we settled down for 5 hours sleep, underneath North America’s most overhanging big wall, Stefan politely asked ‘So Andy – how do we climb as a 3?’.

Perhaps he did, and that was just part of the challenge.

Scotland, spindrift and vertical swimming

A short and not-so-sweet video that really is just a collection of video clips and pictures of our 2015 Scottish winter adventures (so far).

This year we’ve been learning the way of the weekend warrior – stupendous cramped car journeys that pull into the North Face car park (the true centre of British mountaineering) at 4am, only to wait an hour in the dark for the alarm to go off at 5am, throw some pot noodles over your face and start the Ben Nevis commute. Of course, all this is only true provided the weather holds up its end of the bargain – and even then you may get to the CIC hut just to turn back muttering “No f**cking way am I gunna get myself killed today.”

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It’s a frustrating game, when the odds simply refuse to stack up in your favour. But keep at it, and with a bit of luck and a lot of chocolate biscuits, the weekend warrior is rewarded with some of the richest mountain days and most memorable climbing experiences they could hope for.

If you’ve bought the trousers, you’ve gotta do the route.

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‘That’ll be £250 please’.

I handed over my card. With some post Christmas money available and sick of having trousers that absorb more moisture than they keep out,  i had invested in some decent hard shell trousers.

Rather appropriately TNF Point Five, to which Cherrys first response was  ‘If you’ve bought the trousers, you’ve gotta do the route.’

Two years ago, while misguidedly learning to use crampons on Tower Ridge, I remember looking over to the Point Five/Zero gully part of Ben Nevis. From TR it looked steep, very steep. The specks of climbers steadily chopping their way up it looked impossibly small and dwarfed by the scale. The idea of getting on point five gully was exciting. For the next two years all our plans to get on it were thwarted by bad weather, lack of funds and not being able to climb together.

Until last weekend.

Cherry drinking breakfast while queuing at the base

Cherry drinking breakfast while queuing at the base

Cherry finishing the first pitch

Cherry finishing the first pitch

hunkered down while being shelled by ice

hunkered down while being shelled by ice

Stefan leading the rogue pitch

Stefan leading the rogue pitch

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psyched!

Cherry saluting an magical day

Cherry saluting an magical day

Sunset over Lochaber

Sunset over Lochaber

Over the moon we’d actually got up it we ambled down the tourist path in the glow of a beautiful setting sun.

We’re heading back up there this evening, with a smidge more confidence and understanding of how to climb ice.

The wet season

Every UK climber knows that pre-Christmas, is the wet season.

Well realistically every season can be the ‘wet season’, and I certainly remember Autumn/ Winter times that were wetter than this one, but having said that it’s still pretty wet.

Carefully balancing university commitments and climbing goals, this Autumn/ Winter has been one of indoor training and little climbing – but quality days taken dvantage of when they did come through.

For Stefan and I, returning to live in Nottingham with no car and a final year of university to contend with – was a bit of a shocker. No more casual evening cragging, no more walking distance boulders and as a result, a lot less opportunity to get out and get stuff done.

However, as foretold by the ancients and written in the holy book of the weekend warrior – you have to make the good days count.

When a clear, cold saturday morning rolls around, we’re up at 5, on the train for 6, and at the crag for 7/8am, loosing skin and wasting chalk on every piece of dry rock available. It’s been an interesting change of pace, and it certainly pays off to learn how to save yourself for the right conditions, the right day, and then give it 100% in your window of opportunity.

Here’s to a cold dry winter in 2015!

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Another unsuccessful trip to Burbage.

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Unimpressed by wet crags.

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The definitive 5.11 – Burbage South’s answer to Seperate Reality?

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Another night spent speculating the many choices of poor footholds on Deliverance (7B).

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Christmas spirit at Sheffield Train Station.

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“Stefan climbs the North face of Santa” – Graham Higgins

Merry Christmas everyone!

The Frictitious Fellows get back on the Grit.

It’d been a long and difficult year (with some minor relapses) but for the most part, we’d managed to stay entirely Grit-free. We’d spent the year having long days out in the mountains, edging in the slate quarries, clippin’ bolts by the seaside and heaving our guts out in America. What a year, what could possibly be missing?

No climber can resist the call of the slopey mistress.

God it’s good to be back.

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Back at Millstone for some high friction jams!

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Stefan pouting at the camera – Delectable Direct, Lawrencefield.

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Cherry fiddling in wires – Suspense, Lawrencefield

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Stefan trying The Storm (V8+) – Plantation

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Cherry falling off of The Storm (V8+), Plantation.

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Stefan flashing The Steep Traverse (V5) – Plantation

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Stefan on the tricky foot traverse of Deliverance (V8+), Plantation.

Brushing Deliverance

The Frictitious Fellows brushing Deliverance – in a vague attempt to accumulate more friction.

Triple D send bro!

“Sweet Triple D send Bro!” – ‘Ghetto Blaster’ Joe, Yosemite local

Below, we’ve put together a few of the little bits of video we managed to capture in Triple Direct.
In all honesty we hoped to capture alot more, but with only 1 working camera between the two of us and with rather more things on mind than taking pictures, we’ve really only skimmed the surface of the highlights (or lowlights) of what takes place on a big wall.

So find below, a short video that does no justice to what felt like the longest five days of our lives! (so far)

Right on.

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Captain Kirk and the One Day Enterprise

“Do you want to do leaning tower in a day?” was the question. An enthusiastic “yeah that would be cool!” was the reply.

That was all that constituted the brief exchange that, at 5 am the next morning, saw me perched on a narrow ledge in Yosemite Valley, belaying a head torch bobbing steadily higher and higher. On the past two walls that lamp would have been attached to Andy Cherry, but this time and quite unexpectedly, it was a Petzl Nao, fixed to the head of the man himself, Andy Kirkpatrick.

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The initial excitement of being offered the chance to climb with him gave way to nervousness that we might not be up to it, be too slow or just generally piss him off. By the second belay I feared this was exactly what was happening. We’d spectacularly cats-cradled the haul and lead lines together causing Captain Kirk to look down and questioningly state that he couldn’t move. Hasty apologies followed as AC and I scrambled to tidy up the mess, suggesting a multitude of solutions AC eventually told me to shut up and belay and he’d sort it. Soon enough we were well on our way, Andy K cruising through the first six pitches while we jugged and cleaned in his wake savouring the experience and, having finally worked out the climbing-as-a-three-system, quickly forgot the embarrassment of the tangle.

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While Cherry fired pitch seven – another steep roof on lots of flexing pegs – I sat and belayed in the sun. With AK as a thoroughly entertaining belay companion Cherry’s pitch flew by and Andy was soon smiling gleefully as he lowered me out into space for another airy and rather bouncy free hanging jug. After my pitch of a steep crack and another roof I mantled out the top bivvy ledge in the late afternoon sun, called that the lines were fixed and pulled out a cliff bar. Above me was the last pitch, below was the steepest wall in North America and in front was Yosemite Valley. I munched on the bar and felt awash with a warm glow.

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Cherry’s lower-out jibbers and the sound of rope scraping over a sharp edge brought me back to the moment, quickly redirecting the haul line to something less ruinous I waited for Andy and Andy to appear over their respective edges. We spent little time on the actual summit – it’s more of a ridge than a summit – and the ominously approaching thunderstorm made us all a bit keen to get down. 8 raps down a precariously loose gully popped us out at our previous night bivvy spot. Another half an hour and we were back in the car on south side drive gunning for the pizza deck.

Beyond our wildest expectations for the trip, we’d done a wall in under 12 hours with one of the people who’d originally inspired us to go to Valley. He even bought the pizza. What a dude.

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Climbing, particularily Big Wall Climbing, is a game of trust. We get by placing trust in our friends, our partners, our own strengths and occasionally – rusty pegs. Will that cam hold? Will they fall? Can I hold that? Can they do this?

It wasn’t hard for us to place trust in Andy. We’d read his books, followed his articles and been to his talks. We saw an opportunity to climb a bigwall with one of our heroes and we took it.
For Andy it was very different – he was climbing with strangers! Novices no doubt; perhaps idiots? For starters they sure as hell didn’t know how to untangle a rope. Andy took a leap of faith, and he placed trust in us. He wanted to get to the top of the leaning tower too, and when he handed us the reigns at pitch 6 he trusted us to get there.

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Less than an hour later, (definitely an aid climbing speed record for me) when my two climbing partners emerged at the top of pitch 7, both breathing heavily and exclaiming “f**cking hell that was steep!”, I felt as though I could stay on this wall forever, with these friends, playing this game.

Andy taught us more than just a few little Aid climbing and rope untangling lessons – he gave us confidence. He’d said “yeah, we can do it!” and together we had. He’d taught us that the crazy ideas are sometimes the best ideas.

We returned to the valley floor feeling stronger and more confident than ever despite the hunger and the fatigue. This trip was almost at an end but it seems like our Bigwalling adventures have just begun.

Where next? What next? And how many cans of coke will we need?

Smoke and Monkey Calls.

“Yeah yeah, we’ll take a load of water, a load of food and we’ll just climb nice and slow and bivy on the big ledges. It’ll be really chilled out!”

This was the Plan. A ‘chilled out’ ascent of the Washington Column with plenty of extra water, 5 easy pitches a day and big comfy bivy ledges along the way. In all fairness, the pitches were quite easy, there weren’t many of them, and the bivy ledges are absolutely luxurious – and scenic as hell! But you can never really ‘cruise’ up a big wall. It’s never gunna be relaxing, and it’s always going to be hard work!

In classic style we started the approach in the midday heat, moaned a bit, and then whipped up the first 3 pitches to get to the dinner ledge. ‘Great bivy for 6’ or, an absolute bivy mansion for 2! Stefan then lead and fixed the next two pitches in the inexplicably sudden and wild Yosemite valley wind, and we rapped down for a 3 course meal carefully prepared on the appropriately named ledge – each course with added grit (This time, a can of tea with powdered milk served as a sophisticated aperitif as surveyed the valley below).

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All this coincided well with a fairly substantial, 8000acre forest fire, which an ill-mannered bolt of lightning had started over the back of half dome. The Yosemite skies were punctuated with helicopters chopping to and from the fire, dumping fire crews and water. People were evacuated from half dome as the valley filled with thick smoke, and the air started to feel thin.

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Tea on the Dinner Ledge

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Cams, Cams, and more Cams!

When we woke up in the morning on the dinner ledge, we couldn’t see half dome, or glacier point. In fact, the smoke was so thick we could barely see anything about the valley, so we decided to crack right on and jug up to pitch 6. I’d barely started the Pitch when we heard monkey calls from just below us – Wall Monkeys!

Hooting, shouting, and rock music crept closer and closer until Joe and Dave – two eccentric and incredibly PSYCHED wall monkeys hit our belay. We were more than happy to let them past, pulling through on our gear. Joe – a gangly figure with long black hair and dressed almost entirely in tie-dye – fired through Pitch 6 and met me at the belay, swung two lockers of his harness, pulled through 20 metres of slack, tied off, shouted down to Dave, fist bumped me and then immediately began the thin crack above, clipping no gear with a 20 metre loop hanging underneath him. He seemed be falling upwards through his aiders, barely staying on the wall as he danced and sang along to the Jimmy Hendrix playing though the ghetto blaster clipped to his harness. About 5 minutes later, Dave jugged up to me, introduced himself, high fived me and then jugged right through.

These guys were pretty inspirational, not just in their speed and efficiency but in their total psyche for being on the wall, they were loving it! Music blasting, monkey calls at every belay. Being surrounded by smoke, helicopters and rock music made for a pretty awesome morning – “its like something out of a Vietnam war film!” – as we led neatly through the next few pitches – until pitch 8. Joe had given us a heads-up “dude the awesome hand crack is awesome, but the chimney kinda blows hard”. The topo gave us a heads-up too “Loose 5.8 chimney”.
It’s a 5.8 chimney, how hard can it be?

Not looking too impressed by the 5.8 Chimney

Andrew still maintains that this is the hardest thing he’s ever lead in Yosemite. Dragging a Yosemite rack and two ropes up the glossy chimney, backed with loose sandy blocks and offering little in the hope of solid protection was indeed as hard as it could be. This was just another one of Yosemite’s little ‘lessons’ for UK climbers. Unless you actively seek out loose, slick chimneys in the UK, and wriggle up them carrying everything you own – you may be surprised by how awkward and terrifying a pitch of 5.8 can be!

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This led quickly to the ‘Sandy cheese gully of death’ and then eventually what must be the best bivy so far, the Column summit. A full 360 view of Yosemite valley and all its famous rock formations, and a really cool cairn shaped like a little man. Someone had even stashed some extra water for us. We lay down and listened to a little 90’s rock (inspired by Joe and Dave) and more tinned peaches.

The Column was definitely a lot more accommodating than El Cap, but was not without its difficulties. The two are pretty dissimilar, and Washington column was quite a different experience, with a lot more chilling out, a lot more rock and roll, and a lot more sand.

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2nd Wall! STOKED!

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