Valley Touchdown!

From Cherry’s mums house (all the greatest expeditions begin in the living room of someones mums house) to Birmingham New Street station, through to London Gatwick, flight to Dublin, transfer to San Fransisco, straight onto the Bay Area Rapid Transport system to Richmond, Amtrak train to Merced, a 3 hour nap on the living room floor of some Iranian mechanical engineers we met in a car park, and the 6am YARTS bus straight to the kiosk of the Legendary Camp 4.

It’s safe to say, we winged that one a little bit.

Walking through Yosemite valley is like walking through a Disney film, with blue skies, woodpeckers and squirrels surrounding you, and the constant reminder that if you leave a single crumb of food unattended for even a second, a Stealth-ninja-bear will swoop down and rip all your belongings to shreds.

Wired as we were, we jumped on the Yosemite Shuttle bus down to El Cap bridge, to go and have our retinas split open by the enormity of the Big Stone.

Allow me state the obvious for just a moment: It is BIG. It’s smooth, perfect granite that’s less intimidating and more majestic. Pictures of El Capitan are impressive but having it looming above you, warping perspective as you walk up to its base is totally mind blowing – and really warrants a little sit down to get over it.

Last minute cramming

If Big walling were an exam, then we’ve pretty much just sat done the equivalent of sitting up in a panic in the library the night before, downing energy drinks and writing the answers on our hands.

That’s not to say that we haven’t done plenty of practice in the last 6 months, but there’s something about the idea of your first big-wall trip looming over you as the flight dates get closer and closer – that creates a real sense of urgency.

Where else but the quarries again – this time returning to the the eerie, humming crater of Twll Mawr. It’s a big and quite intimidating place, continuously steep and littered with the noise of falling rock. Sharp, jagged slate flakes and edges, rotting slabs, and the familiar booms of Ian Lloyd Jones cleaning another new route with a sledgehammer.
We were here to do as many pitches as we could across the weekend, in true bigwall style. The main focus was on block leading and change-overs at Belay stations. Quote Leo Houlding “Avoid the clusterf*ck lads”.

I’d love to say that this ‘drill’ all went smoothly, filling us with confidence and leaving us gagging to get to Yosemite and smash out routes. But that just wouldn’t be realistic.
In the real world, you rarely ‘Smash’ things first go. Bags get stuck, people get frustrated, clusterf*cks remain unavoidable, things get dropped and ropes get cut. But amongst the many failures, lessons are learnt – lessons I’d much rather be learning now than 100 metres up El Capitan!

We’re still psyched out of our trees of course. That’s the funny thing about failure in climbing – it calls for a two-part reaction. For the first part, you can sulk as much as you like, blame the weather, or the rock, or your partner. But the latter part always follows, a renewed psyche to try harder, push further, and hold on longer. It’s a wonderful feeling, turning up for round 2, staring your nemesis in the eye and thinking ‘Not this time…’

We returned to Twll Mawr early the next morning, and continued our Big-wall drills, continued to deal with the clusterf*ck, and kept on keeping on.

Even if it takes us a week to get up anything in Yosemite, we’ll get up there in the end.

Yosemite Training – Part 3 from StefanandCherry on Vimeo.

The Summer time, when the weather is fine.

So it would seem that after being plagued through the Autumn and Winter with an atmosphere that was 90% water, the proper Summer has arrived, and its absolutely cleared the slate (no pun intended).

The days have been long, dry and warm – and so every day we’ve been out climbing, jamming, swinging and camming. It’s full  on Summer Trad season and time to spend as many hours as possible on rock getting confident, and getting psyched for Yosemite Valley.

 

IMG_2630

North Wales and DMM have been a central theme in all of our preparation and training. Without the places, the people, the advice, and the support we absolutely would not be able to go!

IMG_2621

DMM Dragon cams cams cams. This isn’t even half of them.

 

Like some sort of climbing equinox, DMM have given us a very generous amount of gear just in time with the good weather. Which means not only did we have the chance to climb and train, but we had the means aswell! Hugely psyched now, it seems like the dice are rolling in our favour in these months leading up to Yosemite.

Stefan:

Spring and early summer started really really well for me, getting out loads with Edmund in the week and once a month going to the Peak or Llanberis for six day sessions, returning ruined and with a satisfying feeling of getting loads done. We had an excellent midge infested trip to Malham, where I had a respectable tally of five 7a’s, two onsight, as well as getting agonizingly close on a 7b. Along with some great days at Millstone, the roaches and regular three star Pembroke routes everything was going great…

On Time For Tea, really fun route!

Time For Tea, really good fun!

 

That was until I wrote off my car driving home from work about a month ago. I stood in the road, dripping blood from my left hand, rang home and felt like a prize idiot. Apart from some glass in my hand and some painfully bruised ribs I was relatively unscathed.

 

WP_20140626_001

Crashed Clio

Trying very hard to take some positives from the crash I told myself, at least wouldn’t have to buy fuel anymore and I’d get fitter from having to ride everywhere.

I decided to end my  placement early and I am now spending August working for Henry Castle of Climb Pembroke, running climbing and abseiling sessions on the beach in Tenby.

In a way, its been nice to have a month off. It’s very rare I get so injured that i have to properly take time off, Which pisses off Andy (who gets injured all the time) no end!  But spending time researching other trips, reading up on the routes we’re thinking of and trawling through the new ‘Yosemite Big Walls’ guide  has got me itching to just get out there and get on it!

..and I’m a lot fitter than when I had a car, as well as getting pretty handy at baking things..

 

IMG_2543IMG_2545

 

Cherry:

I’ve been in a blind panic for about 3 weeks now.

Ever since Paul, my manager said “5 weeks till you go now!”, I’ve been hurling myself at every route I wanted to try and every crag I wanted to visit this year. But its just not enough time! I haven’t climbed on cloggy, I haven’t fallen off the rainbow, and I’m starting to think I’ll never actually do Spong. 

 

Screenshot (18)

Mad Dogs of the West

 

If I’m honest, I don’t think I’ll ever get through even half of my North Wales wishlist – it’s just a  by-product of living here! You go out with one route in mind, and you come home with two more.

 

Screenshot (35)

Aid climbing Somewhere between the corner of PainKiller and the newly Established ‘Black Gates’.

Screenshot (39)

Back down underneath the Painkiller after ripping a 00 cam out!

 

I’ve managed to squeeze in a fair bit: Shouting in surprise at the top of Cracked Up, shaking with nerves on the onsight of Dinorwic Unconquerable, getting well and truly stuck inside Fear of Infection, getting pumped every 10 seconds on The Strand, unloading my entire rack into Cenotaph Corner, wearing all the clothing I own on Dinas Mot, ripping ancient protection out of Weasels Rip my Flesh, sinking FAR too much time into the Cromlech Roadside boulders, and Parisellas cave, throwing myself headfirst off a whole host of the routes far too hard and scary for a punter to be throwing himself on in the first place!

As the time closes between now and Y-DAY, I’m going to keep plugging away, revelling in the unique heaven of North Wales summer, ticking off and falling off my training routes. But when the day comes, I’ll be mighty sad to lose the magic place! 

North Wales… I’ll be back for ye.

 

Bloody chilly on the mot

Bloody chilly on the Mot

Being ripped by Weasels!

Cherry header

Climbing is a sport that’s incredibly mentally involved.  That’s not to say of course that other sports aren’t – but climbing can sometimes require you to make some very risky decisions, very quickly and quite often throws you towards the consequences of your actions, at an acceleration of 9.8m/s squared.

I stood sprawled across the rock, in balance but in trouble, a few metres above the last peg. I looked right and struggled to make out a sequence, I looked left and struggled the same. I’ll go left. Will I? yeah I’ll go left. I’m so close to that thread anyways.

I opened my eyes about 3 seconds later. “Yeah I’m fine – my whole body is buzzing!”.
Where am I though? I can smell grass.
“I think you snapped that peg cherry, look here it is”

IMG_2705

A fair example that these old rusty pegs can’t always be trusted

 

Ah yes that was it. I had been a few metres above the last peg on Weasels Rip My Flesh (E4 6a) and had opted to take the short and reasonably safe-looking fall onto it. Evidently it hadn’t gone as planned, and I’d shortly joined Darren back on the ground. I sat up and check my head, arms, legs – all fine! Just a little bit bruised.

I must admit that taking a  ground fall like that dashed my confidence a fair bit. Since taking a month break for a knee injury, I’d been really psyched to jump straight onto the many trad routes I’d been putting off this year, equipped with stronger fingers and more experience. But here I was, right at the beginning of my ‘summer tick-fest’ sat at the bottom of one of those routes with a broken peg in my hand and few holes in my jeans. It can really stifle your confidence if you’re knocked off your horse early on. It would have been nice to come back firing on all cylinders, but I seemed to have stalled at the first junction.

At times like this, it is best to exercise a little bit of perspective. This is one route, on one day, at one crag. If you let your failures chip away at you, they will steal from your future experiences. I was lucky to be able to walk away from this one unscathed, and be given the opportunity to get back on the horse. Climbers cannot always expect that their training will bring them directly to their goals. Training is just one of the cards you must hold in your hand!

 

Screenshot (10)

Cherry eyeing up the upper section of the classic slate crack – The Dinorwig Unconquerable (E3 5c)

IMG_2689

Thankful for the gracious overlap in the Dragons camming ranges, many cams were still ‘shuffled’ up to fill this perfect splitter!

For me, getting back on the horse was conquering The Dinorwig Unconquerable. I won’t bang on about it as much as I definitely could, but I will say that the thin jams above skiddy cams gave a memorable crack lesson. I was incredibly happy to onsight this (although I did have a little bit of an idea having belayed James on it) and tick another big name off my Big British crack list. BRING ON THE GLASSY GRANITE!

 

Team Limpy and the furious fingering

Cherry header

 

 

 

 

 

 

As this questionable blog title would have you believe – I’ve been limping a little recently. No biggie, just a few stressed ligaments in one of my knees – maybe a little too much high stepping on slate recently! A quick fix – two weeks off climbing and some magic pills. So unfortunately, not many metres of rock have passed under my hands for the last few weeks. Instead I’ve just been training a little, aiding a little and reading a lot.

IMG_2368

Obsessive beastmaker lock-off sessions with the Dougster – who’s injured his ankle. Together we form – Team limpy!!

IMG_2405

The New Testament – By Chris Macnamara

 

IMG_2369

The Very Old and the Very New (C2+/ C3)

The real training has been the Aid Climbing. After heavy recommendation I’ve ordered Chris Macnamara’s “How to Big Wall Climb”, half instruction manual, half training regime for beginner Big Wallers.

 

Honestly its the absolute business, it covers all the basic aid climbing techniques clearly with photos and suggestions on how to practise them. Chris constantly reminds the reader how important it is to practise your big wall systems and aid techniques before you get on the wall, to avoid being one of the over 60% of teams who bail! So while studying this thing like the bible, I’ve been hitting the quarries with some newly acquired Yates’ Aid Ladders (courtesy of V12 Outdoor) and a worryingly unfamiliar array of bent metal. The objective? The Very old and the Very New, a clean aid hairline crack at the top top top of the Slate Quarries.

 

It’s evil. I’ve had a few goes on it so far, on a top rope. Man oh man. Aid climbing is whole different game. You know when you’re Trad climbing, and you’re getting a little pumped – so you stare down at your last gear and you try and remember how good it is, how far you’re going to fall, staring at that next hold and wondering how long you can hold it for and whether you’ll spin off wildly? Its like that, but for continuous hours at a time.

 

More pictures and a gear feature coming soon! That’s all from injured Cherry at the moment – thanks for playing.

Trad, Tactics…..and Trying

Stefan header

 

 

 

 

Taking a year out from Uni has been really great for climbing. Especially when your work placement is in Pembrokeshire.

Last summer, after spending most of my climbing past making bad excuses about why I didn’t try very hard on Pembroke trad, I finally owned up to myself about why I didn’t. It scared me. Maybe it had something to do with it being so close to home and ending up with a, “what did you expect would happen” from the parents had I broken something. Or maybe I just thought I’d get outrageously pumped through a total lack of technique and proper tactics and fall off.

I think it was probably the latter.

But living at home, with a car, a bit of money from my placement and an endlessly keen Edmund I couldn’t really make any excuses anymore and, to be honest, I didn’t want to. If the past few months have taught me anything, it’s that Pembroke is ace.

With the guidance of Edmund to point me to the best, evenings after work have been spent  at the crag on some cracking routes trying to be as efficient and tactical as possible.

Last night, as I topped out an E3 (Space Cadet) , the finishing holds were bathed in a warm golden glow. I sat on the top, savoured the sunset and thought of the ice cold can of coke I would get from Pembroke Londis on the way home.

Turns out they were out of Coke. Got an Irn Bru instead.

Here’s a few pics of recent excursions with Andy, Edmund and Hannah

 

Hannah at The Castle

Andy bust his knee so he took some cool pics instead.

Pill Box Wall – Andy bust his knee so he took some cool pics instead.

Edmund on Manzoku on a very greasy afternoon

Edmund on Manzoku on a very greasy afternoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ed packing up at St Govans – with a very wonky horizon.

 

More in the Mawr!

Cherry header

Twll Mawr, the big ol’ black hole in the quarries. Last weekend, we headed down to join the multiple teams all keen to repeat the ‘UKs longest sport route’ – The Desolation of Smaug!

6 pitches, 140 metres and totally varied climbing throughout, a really cool feeling to topout right on the very top of Twll Mawr!

 

IMG_2318_stitch

Cherry on the comfortable belay of pitch 5, Desolation of Smaug! , Twll Mawr.

 

Straight after, we jumped on Super Massive Black hole – a 4 pitch 7a that I had had on the wishlist since moving to Llanberis. I have to admit I was dead nervous, the cruxes were quite distinct and balancy, with delicate trickery being the key to success. I’d been prepared to spend all day on this, trying the pitches and eventually abbing back down for a final redpoint attempt – so I was totally psyched that we were able to onsight it!

230 metres of climbing in around 3 collective hours. Now all we’d have to imagine is carrying and placing gear, hauling every pitch, and accounting for multiple rope tangles and stuck haulbags… But it’s all good training right?

More big days and long routes soon!

 

Happiness is a 59p spar juice box.

 

 

 

Cherry on the final pitch of Supermassive Black Hole

Climb Now Work Later

Climbing_Logo_Red

 

Our latest news: DMM will be sponsoring us for our big wall adventures! We’re both super psyched to have some support from a truly awesome UK manufacturer. It’s a pretty big opportunity for us both – and we really couldn’t be more grateful for their help.

DMM have been making some of the best gear for over three decades and sponsor some totally inspirational climbers – click on the logo for a look at their blog or alternatively, checkout dmmclimbing.com

A night on the Skyline

The good weather has allowed us to get on with a little more big wall style training. This weekend, it was time for a full run through – We would pick a large route in the quarries, lead half of it in the evening, haul the bags up, clean the pitch, setup the portaledge at the belay and sleep for the night, to then wake up and the next morning, pack away, lead out and haul the bags to the top. Doing this, led to what must be the first two-day ascent of “Clash of the Titans” on the Skyline buttress. Perhaps even the slowest ascent of a slate route ever?

 

IMG_2081_stitch

Quite a stunning position to practice! Pic. Ed Morris

I think they key thing we took away from this was how much more confident we were. We have both been reading and practicing a few things and all the processes involved were much slicker than usual, way neater and more organised, and as a result much safer and easier to understand. No butchered quickdraws, no collapsing portaledge and no massively apparent ignorance of safety. We’re starting to get used to these vertical camps, and how things work.

Having said that – I still felt like absolute sh*t in the morning. Actually getting to sleep on the ledge is a skill in itself – rather than just lying still in a sleeping bag and not saying anything for 5 hours.

Thanks to Ed, for being happy to bivvy close by – in fear of a goat dislodging scree on him – to take the cool pics in this post.

Checkout the video,

 

 

The Spring has begun

Cherry header

The Spring has truly begun. There are leaves on the trees, there is blue on the sky and there is chalk on the rock.

Come Easter weekend the sun was shining! Unfortunately this meant that Snowdonia suddenly got very very busy, so we retreated to bus-stop quarry to climb somewhere less crowded.  This led to a session on Beltane – a wicked powerful 7b. It was very much a team effort working the route out, and it requires some fantastic big moves from the leader. Ed even managed a cheeky last-try redpoint! I’ll be back for mine soon…

IMG_1937

Cherry working moves on Beltane F7b

 

The following day – with the sun out and so much daylight that we felt spoilt – it was time to see off some wishlist ticks. Running off Easter holiday psyche, we both jumped on routes we’d wanted to do for ages, but had always been able to find excuses not to do.

 

Stefan:

“you look smug”

Sitting on the rocks in the river below the Cromlech, Edmund observed the grin that had been stretched across my face since topping out Left Wall.  The guide is right, it really does defy superlatives. I could wax lycrical for hours, or describe every move in the notes section of UKC, but theres no real point. For me it was very special, i enjoyed every moment, every move, with a very simple mantra, born of advice Edmund had given me, in mind.

‘Climb efficiently and make use of all rests’

 

Cherry:

I myself went for a route I had a fallen in love with at first sight: Cracking Up.

I’d first seen this lightning bolt crack on an evening run through Gideon quarries, during my first week in Llanberis. It is the absolute definition of striking, a jagged split through two huge blocks of slate, as though struck through the slate by THE MIGHTY ZEUS HIMSELF.

That may be a little dramatic, but I think its a beautiful line, and I was absolutely convinced I wouldn’t onsight it.

IMG_2129

The crux section of Cracking Up E2 5c/6a

The crux is contained in the lowest parts of the crack – getting off the floor. It starts out as frictionless ring locks with no hope of any real assistance from your feet, until it widens up into hands and fists. The inside of the crack is so clean, you can’t hide away from the jams required to climb it. Despite Stefan and Ed telling me I was ‘boshing’ it out, I must admit I was crapping my pants to begin with. It all just felt so improbable, squeezing friction out of this glassy rock – I was expecting to be spat out at any moment. But as I passed through Blue #5 cam territory and onto the first ledge I was on a total hype. This was type 1 climbing, all the jams had felt surprisingly solid!

IMG_2163

With all but one move done – Cherry on Cracking Up

 

I stood at the top for a moment and soaked in the feeling – I had been so prepared to be beaten by this crack, I had packed it out as my ‘crack climbing goal for the year’. And I’d just onsighted it! Guess that leaves me 4 months to try something harder then… The Dinorwig unconquerable perhaps?

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.