Friday, 13 February 2015

Comp scenes back!

First post of the year! Where did January go? Anyway here we are, on the cusp of spring (we hope) and most of us are looking forward to putting the winter behind us and moving on to warmer and longer days. The winter for me has been a bit of a let down so far, it promised good things at first but then sadly it has yet to work out how I imagined. But apart from the odd ascent here and there, the general climbing population in the UK has had the same difficulties this time around. Last winter was so stellar that it was always going to be hard to match up to, let alone beat!

Anyway, last weekend saw the return of the comp scene for me. It was time again for F-BO15. This event last year was a huge success and I was major psyched to hear that it would be back again. I came agonisingly and surprisingly close last time to winning, only to be pipped to the title by the smallest of margins. So maybe this time around could make up for that...

Once again The Foundry put on a really great day for everybody, with a plenty of folk rocking up to do battle with the infamous 'Wave' and enough cake to feed half of Sheffield.
It was cool to see a mix of both climbing veterans and strong, up and coming youngsters, all competing together on some rather whacky problems.

 Mens Problem 2
©Keith Sharples

Qualification went well for me and by lunchtime I had finished which left plenty of time to chill, grab some lunch and be glad that I had arrived early before the holds gradually turned to mush with excessive chalk and grease.
The results were announced and I was pleased to have qualified for the final again in 3rd place alongside a bunch of very strong and good friends. Cailean Harker, Ben Moon, Sam Whittaker, Mike Adams and Stu Littlefair. It was lining up to be an interesting affair!

There is an excellent report up already over on The Foundry website of how everything eventually panned out, but one thing I will say is that the route setters certainly got their creative juices flowing and cooked up a selection of bizarre and sometimes baffling problems for us all. There was a bit of everything from hand jamming and techy wierdness, to swinging Lapis balls and then some good old fashioned pure 'wave' power to finish us all off.

Clear inspiration from the recent 'BIFF' on Mens 3
©Keith Sharples

The eventual winners were Ben Moon, who really turned up the gas and showed us how its done, and Ella Russell for the women. The new King and Queen of The Wave! So big congrats to those guys and throughly deserved!

Check out a more detailed report here:

I ended up finishing the day in 6th place, so while not quite as good a performance as last time out I'm still really pleased and it was another throughly enjoyable day out, full of banter and good laughs. Our crew did end up winning the team event however so that was a bonus! Nice one guys.
Time to step up the training now and get prepared for The CWIF, which is less than 4 weeks away now! These things come around so quickly eh. Psyched!

Big thanks to all the sponsors who helped make the event possible. Mammut, Five Ten, Moon Climbing, The Clinic, Bleaustone/Lapis/Axis, SteepedgeStoneSmith and CragX Climbing Shop. Already looking forward to the next one!

 Big guns Whittaker takes the swing

As I sit here writing this all I can hear is the rain lashing it down on my skylight. It is hardly looking inspriring for the weekend but with a bit of luck something might be dry... I don't really care what, just want to climb outside! 
Have a good weekend everyone, and hope you manage to get something done. 
If not, drink plenty of tea and treat yourself!

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Letting go

I've been trying to gather some thoughts together in my head for a blog update for a good few weeks now. Each time I came to type up the collection of ideas and jumble of words, I would sit staring at the blank white page on my laptop, without a clue of where to start or if it would even end up being remotely interesting to anyone. Eventually I'd give in and go make another pot of tea.

The end of the season didn't bring what I was hoping for and despite all the efforts and time invested, I had to walk away empty handed for probably the first time in my climbing life. This is what abject failure feels like is it?

Without wanting to sound big headed, what frustrates me more than anything is the fact that I know deep down that I should have nailed this thing. Yes it is hard, yes it would have been the hardest graded route I've ever done, but what was stopping me was not the fact I was too weak or just simply not fit enough. I think if that was the case I'd have been able to accept the whole situation much more freely and easier. It was simply down to factors that were completely outside of my control.

I tried everything in the book to keep the blood flowing through my little digits. My many belayers and partners will testify to how much time I spent experimenting with different methods. Laps, of Ben's Roof, dogging up to the crux, countless sprinting up and down the road, Pound Land hand warmers stuffed in my chalk bag. Even laps up Mecca before the red point go! Nothing seemed to work.
Luck would definitely play a part sometimes, maybe the sun would poke its face out and lift the air temp slightly or gently warm those tiny holds just as you approached the headwall, but in the end the weather or whatever you want to call it, soundly beat me.

After a couple of big breakthroughs and as I started to realise more and more that the route was actually a possibility I knew it was just going to be a case, as these things always are, of just getting everything to align perfectly together.
The first time the thought of the season ending and walking away with nothing entered my head, I started to panic and that is when the stress of it all really began to kick in. Nerves became a bigger issue with each session. Uncertainty and doubt can play havoc with your psyche. I wanted this thing so badly. I kept comparing it to where I was at last year when I was embroiled in another redpoint battle on the extension.

Time flew by at a crazy rate of knots, unlike anything I've known before, and even as November arrived and the first frosts started to appear, I still had faith that maybe, just maybe it would still go.
However I had to start to admit to myself that it might not happen this time and as the days flew past, at their crazy speeds, I gradually came to accept it. The route is going no where, it'll be there ready and waiting for me in the spring. Which when you think about it is only a few months away!

So even though I came away with no big tick, and occasionally it still hurts that it didn't happen I no longer view it as a failure in any way. I learnt so much about myself, about my climbing and what I am actually capable of. As well as gaining a whole new perspective and outlook on climbing in general. This sport is extremely addictive and despite the stress and the bad days it was still a hella lot of fun!
I hope that the whole experience has made me a better climber and that I'm wiser for it...
The stand out lesson for me though has to be learning to accept that sometimes, you really do just have suck it up and let go.

It has all been said before by various rock gurus but climbing isn't all about the send. You can argue that the majority of the time it is but it is also about the journey we take to get to that point of pure heaven when we finally tick our projects. It's about the mental battles, the physical battles, the breakthrough days as well as the days where nothing seems to be going right. In the end you'll more than likely remember the journey you took to reach that finish line, rather than the actual moment of success.

A huge shoutout and thank you has to go out to all the folk that encouraged and helped me during the last few months. You all know who you are and I really appreciate each one that supported me on my quest!

It was so close I could virtually taste success, but if it wasn't a battle then it wouldn't be hard. And that is what I strive for in my climbing. To push myself to my absolute limits. Not just physically but mentally too. Kaabah certainly did that.

Right now it is all about Christmas for me. Enjoying some time chilling out, relaxing, hanging out with friends and eating lots of good food. The weather has been pretty shoddy for any full blown grit ventures just yet, although I did manage to squeeze in a quick ascent of Ben Moon's 'Full Power' (V11) a week or so back. Definitely feeling the bouldering vibe at the moment. It is a pleasant change of scene from the rigours of the red point. I have my eye on a couple things but we'll see how stuff goes and if the weather gods are kind to us...
In the mean time I'm slowly getting stuck into some training, keeping the fitness levels up before full training kicks in at the start of the New Year. Ready for a couple of trips that are in the pipeline and another all out assault on the Tor in the spring.
We've also been working on a couple of really cool video projects over the last few months which I hope to be able to share real soon. Pretty excited to see the final edits so keep an eye out for those.

I have to admit that I'm loving having some actual time off. I think it could be good for me! Waking up with no real plan in place for the day ahead has been pretty nice.

Anyway, thanks for checking in and for once again sticking with my ramblings for another year. Hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

See you at the crag :)

Oh and lastly... It appears my blog has been shortlisted for some kind of an award. It'd be great if you could follow the link below and give me a quick vote. :)

Cheers ya'll


Monday, 10 November 2014

FBO Returns for 2015!



Following on from the big success of The Foundry Bouldering Open that ran back in February, it is once again returning in the New Year! Last time out was a huge amount of fun for all involved and I know that it definitely got me psyched on the whole comp scene again.

Next years event, to be held on the 7th February, promises to be bigger and better and hopefully it'll be another good weekend for The Foundry crew!

Check out the link below for everything you need to know about the day.

And to get you even more psyched and for a taster of what to expect take a look at the video below from Ben Pritchard that gives the low down on last time out!

Big thanks to The Foundry for hosting this great event again and to all the sponsors involved for their support. A full report of what went down at FBO-14 can be found here:

 Get ready for the weird and whacky

Hope to see as many of you there as possible!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The projecting game

Where has this month gone?? The autumn seems to be disappearing at an alarming rate and once again we are on the home straight to finishing off another year.

There is a reason the blog has been quiet these past weeks. I have been focusing all my time and energy into a single project. While in some respects, it is probably the hardest route I've ever tried, it has been immensely frustrating doing battle with this one. I'm not going to rant on about 'conditions' and the reasons of how climbing in the UK can be so tricky, but for me it is a route that requires everything to be so absolutely perfect in order to execute properly. Anything remotely out of cater can make the tenuous crux sequence go from feeling pretty solid to suddenly core busting hard!
The main issue we've been experiencing is freaking numb digits. The minute you bite down on those knife blades at the crux, every ounce of life and every drop of blood you had in them is instantly drained. The ability to feel the intricate rocks details beneath your finger ends becomes an impossible task. And there is nothing you can do about it.

If you could guarantee the right temperature and conditions every time you set off up the wall I am pretty confident that it might have gone by now and we'd be rolling in fish n chips and Bakewell tarts till Christmas!

Normally by this point in the year my attention has switched to the grit. Spending the short days pulling down on fat slopers, balancing up aretes and fiddling in crappy gear into marginal and dubious breaks. However we have been blessed with a longer sport season than usual this time around and the crags are still dry, offering those of us still keen to get our projects done. It isn't everyone's cup of tea, I realise that, but I want this one bad. I'm determined to keep throwing myself at it until it either goes or we find ourselves 6ft under in snow!

It has been a pretty testing time these last weeks. I have to admit that the daily commute to the crag,
the usual warmup and having to deal with constantly changing weather, not to mention the countless lobs down the face after another failed redpoint, have definitely started to affect me mentally. One day it will seem within my grasp and then the next it'll go back to feeling a million miles away.
That being said my psyche is at an all time high for it. Small progress and micro gains continue with each day on the route. Even just getting up to my highpoint and feeling less pumped and more focused but yet still falling on the same section feels like another step forward on the road to those chains.
Climbing with Ryan Pasquill has been a huge benefit and he has taught me to not beat myself up too much and how to reduce the stress levels when things don't seem to be going my way. We are both on the same wagon. The redpoint wagon. Going through the same problems and emotions. Having someone to share that with is a good feeling and super encouraging!

I find what helps when things don't seem to be going well is to remind myself that this route is 8c+. It is up there with one of the hardest routes in the UK and I'm sure would make some 9a's in Europe seem a relative stroll in comparison... Sometimes it is all too easy to blame yourself and think that you are simply not good enough. When in actual fact these routes are bloody hard and we are pushing our bodies to the very limits of what they are capable of doing.
I want to try hard, climb the hardest routes and to be the best that I can be, and that is what keeps me coming back time after time and continues to drive me forward.

I have no doubt that it WILL go, eventually. To have something so hard and at your maximum limit to try and beast yourself on is hugely motivating for me. Getting home with your body totally, utterly wasted and beat up, knowing you gave it your all is a great feeling.
Today was a good day. Despite the freezing temperatures. Every burn now my body is stronger on the moves. One of these times everything will just slot into place. Just gotta be patient!

Man I love this game.

Monday, 22 September 2014

We've been duped!

The good early autumn temperatures that were upon throughout August very quickly gave way to an Indian summer and so far this month hasn't been all we'd hoped for. However plenty of stuff has still been happening and I'm learning to be patient and wait it out. The one positive is that the Cornice is still in prime condition. It's been fun finishing off the last few remaining routes I had to do down here, although there are still a couple left... but they'll probably end up staying that way! Desperate!
Anyway I've thrown together a collection of photos from the last few weeks that give a snapshot of what we've been up to. Time for a brew!

Three points on 'Four Door Dostoyevsky'

Monumental Armblaster (8a+)

Finding the love amongst the butterflies...

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Learning to try hard again

What does it mean to try hard. To really try hard I mean. To try so hard and give the absolute maximum amount of effort.

There have been a number of articles written on the subject and not just climbing related ones but across all sports and life in general.
We all have the ability to dig deep and find that extra bit of effort from somewhere that enables us to push boundaries and achieve our goals. How do we harness this ability though and how can we turn it on more often?

Within our sport there are obviously different types of climbing that require different approaches and different levels of trying hard. During the spring I had tapped into the ability to fully commit every single ounce of my strength and being into pulling through hard moves and bouldery sequences. I'm talking about the type of 'try hard' were we bust our guts on that one individual move, or scream like Ondra as we fight to cling onto those final few holds before the top.
It wasn't just having the physical strength but I also think the mental strength to train my mind into totally believing that the body was capable of pulling off that particular move and nothing was about to get in the way of that. If you can master this art of belief in yourself then you'll be surprised at what the body can actually accomplish.

Out in Ceuse you tend to have to adapt a different type of 'try hard'. The routes are long, pumpy and can be mentally challenging. It's a test of endurance rather than how hard you can crank down. Not that some routes don't require any pure boulder power at all, there are plenty that do. But in general, its all about how long you can keep on pulling before the dreaded lactic acid floods every single inch of fiber in your forearms!

So coming back to the Peak where the majority of routes are less than 20 meters and often built around short bouldery and powerful crimpy sequences, was going to be a slight shock to the system at first...
On returning home I took a couple of days to relax, recover and to just enjoy doing absolutely nothing. I caught up with friends, family and all that had been happening in the world over the last month and ate plenty of tasty home cooked food! Waking up in my own bed has never felt so good.
However the weekend came around and I started to get the itch to pull down on some rock. I needed my fix and the Chee Dale cornice was calling. Within 15minutes of leaving the car we were at the crag and already warming up. A pleasant change from the Ceuse routine!

32 is a short 8b+ and another tough offering from local and ever keen new route activist, Kristian Clemmow. It bascially takes a direct line into the top of the 8a+ testpiece 'R n P' involving some powerful and bouldery climbing through the lower bulges. The rain had beat me to it on this one last year so it was at the top of my list to finish off!
It is safe to say that I felt all a bit hungover to be honest, although at least I had managed to get myself reacquainted with the moves. My arms felt weak and it was obvious I needed my body to remember how to pull down on Peak lime again!
I spent a day trying to re-engage my brain into a 'bouldering on a rope' mindset. I knew that pure power was still there somewhere, but how to coax it back out again was proving difficult. Patience was the key...

Another couple of days resting I felt ready and refreshed for another go. The crux is rumoured to be around a V9/10 bloc and requires pulling off two low undercuts to a high sloper using possibly the biggest drop knee you can possibly imagine. It was still feeling dam hard and I sensed the frustration starting to build. Then suddenly an intermediate crimper sprang into view, opening the whole thing up and within a couple of efforts I was pulling through the final hard moves and clipping the belay feeling pretty stoked and slightly shocked. I'd got my boulder power back!

While writing this post I was reminded of an article written by Mina Leslie-Wujastyk last year for Summit Magazine, were she discussed the art of trying. After reading her thoughts on the subject again and her experiences, it was nice to see that we are both on the same wave length.

"...that split-second moment when you should be falling off but you dig deep – somewhere hidden and not often called upon – and for a moment you think nothing, see nothing, experience nothing. But you’re still on the rock."
Mina Leslie-Wujastyk, 2013

You can check the full article out here over on her blog:

Quite often we will lay awake at night going over the moves of our projects again and again in our minds. We can virtually feel the holds under our fingertips and visulise ourselves climbing every move to absolute perfection. You find yourself totally buzzing and feeling like a kid on Christmas Eve, hardly able to contain your excitement for the morning to arrive.
Then sometimes we'll rock up at the crag the next day and nerves and doubt will start to set in as you look up at the blank canvas of rock before you. If only we could keep the mind in that state of psyche from the previous evening...

"Improving at this sport is an input-output system—the effort you put into climbing directly correlates to success.... we need to take that next fall, and then fall again and again … until we send."
Sasha DiGiulian, 2013

While it can be easier said than done, the next time you are struggling to get that breakthrough you are so desperately craving on that particular project, take a step back and attempt to engage your mind into that 'try hard' state of thinking. Maybe it'll only yield one more move further, or maybe it'll get you all the way to the top. Either way you've made progress right?
Find that self belief to keep on pushing even when the pull of gravity starts to get stronger, your fingers begin to uncurl from their grip and your head begins to scream out for you to shout 'take'. You just never know where that extra bit of effort will get you....

For some mid-week inspiration in trying hard have a quick watch of this:


Friday, 8 August 2014

A Summer in Paradise

The Final Roundup

After a month living at the foot of arguably one of the greatest and most majestic sport climbing destinations worldwide, I am finally back home and enjoying spending a day or two relaxing and catching up with family and all that's been happening in the world while we've been away.
I started to write a final post as the end of my trip approached, so below is an extract from that, along with a selection of photos with some more words and thoughts put together since getting back.
Put the kettle on yo!


So my time out here is swiftly drawing to a close. It is hard to believe that it is the eve of my last day before I start making my way back home Tuesday morning. It's one of those cliches but it barely seems 5 minutes ago that we rocked up at the campsite raring to go with a months worth of climbing to look forward to. 

At the start it feels like the time to leave will never arrive but unfortunately everything has to come to an end at some point, and I could not be more psyched with how this whole trip has progressed. Even though I'm sad to be leaving, at the same time I'm looking forward to heading back home to a hopefully dry Peak... and chilling out with a few home comforts for a day or two. 
This place, while totally awesome, definitely starts to take its toll on you after a while. Maybe not physically, more in a mental fashion. Each day I feel fitter and fitter but anyone who has spent a month or more out here will understand and know where I'm coming when I say this I'm sure.

While getting to climb here each day is on another level, one of my favourite times of day out here has to be waking up each morning, sticking on the stove for a brew, munching down on some cereal while mulling over and getting fired up for the days climbing ahead. Equally satisfying is crashing into your tent after a long hot day at the crag, cooking up a beast of a meal to refuel before writing up your ticklist and thinking over the session you've just had. Then to finish, sitting around till bedtime with friends and exchanging stories from everyone's day to then finally letting your head hit the pillow. All ready to repeat again the next day!

 The perfect route? Sending L'Ami de tout le Monde (8b) as the clouds and mountain rain start to roll on in.
Photo | Sophie Whyte

Without a doubt this has been the best climbing trip I've been on yet. Not only for the shear quality and quantity of routes I managed to get done compared to my previous visit, but for the countless memorable experiences along the way.
From those simple rest days where the only things you do all day long is lay in the sun, eating, reading and topping up the tan to those moments at the crag that you've been training for.
By the end of week two I flashed my first 'proper' 8a (L'Ami Caouette) shortly followed by a flash of probably one of the most famous (and scariest) routes in Ceuse. The super technical, slabby and much sort after 3 star 8a+ that is 'La Femme Blanche'. On a personal level achieving this is one of my proudest moments in my climbing and one I certainly will not be forgetting in a hurry. The trad head definitely kicked into gear as the slabby section began to get more and more run out. Scary gritstone trad must be good for something right...

 The perfect rest day activity. Breakfast in Gap eating fresh French pastries!

Sam Hamer back in 2011, weaves his way through the perfect limestone pockets that form the upper headwall 'L'Ami Caouette' (8a)
Photo | Dirk Smith

With L'Ami Caouette I set off with the flash in mind, figuring I'd just see how things felt, but on Femme Blanche I had no real plan and basically started climbing to check what all the fuss was about. Then slowly as I got gradually higher and higher up the wall I began to suddenly realise that maybe, just maybe I could reach the belay. One super scary moment, high above my last bolt, clinging onto a poor pinch before having to shuffle delicately back leftwards on tiny slippy smears for your feet, marked the turning point when I really started to believe I could reach the chain. Thankfully I had expert guidance constantly being shouted up from below by both Lena and Marco! Without their beta and help I can guarantee I would have never made it to the sanctuary of the belay! A huge relief. Cheers guys! Big respect especially to Lena for also sending, particularly as it was so soon after recovering from badly damaging her ankle out in Magic Wood 2 weeks prior. Strong!

It has been said time and time again that quite often with most sport routes we'll forget the feeling of sending, they just never quite stick with you the same as a hard scary trad line. This ascent however I will remember for a long time.

 The view that never gets old

Fitness wise I was just constantly left amazed at the difference from 3 years ago. Routes I fell off a million times, pumped out of my brains, veins screaming, succumbed as virtual warm-ups. Others that I could only dream of sending before went down within a couple of tries. It was just mind blowing and I'm incredibly psyched that all the training and hard work have paid off. Just as an example, on my previous visit, in the space of 4 weeks I ticked something like 3 decent routes... The hardest being a bouldery 7c+ at Cascade. This time, I've come home with just shy of a 50 route tick list up to 8b with whole host of onsights and flashes.

The thought did cross my mind to maybe get on something a little harder, yet while very tempting there was far too much to keep us occupied and in the end I opted to just try and tick as many routes as possible, regardless of grade. There will always be another trip for the harder lines, and this one has got me fully fired up to return again in the future to give them a go. There are just sooo many!


It would be a total nightmare to have to choose a list of favourites, virtually impossible, but below is a small selection of one of two that seem to slightly stand out from the others for me. Everyone of them a classic and an absolute joy to climb!

  • Radote Jolie Pépère - 8b                                   
  • L'Ami de tout le Monde - 8b
  • La Femme Blanche - 8a+ (Flash)
  • Face de Rat - 8a+ (2nd go)
  • Mirage - 7c+ (Onsight)
  • Tout n'es pas si Facile - 7c+ (Onsight)
  • Encore - 8a+ (2nd go)
  • Les Colonnettes - 8a (2nd go)
  • Rosanna - 8a (2nd go)
  • Makach Walou - 7c+ (Onsight)
  •  L'Ami Caouette - 8a (Flash)
  • Sueurs Froides - 8a+
  • Violente Illusion - 8b
  • Berlin - 7c (Onsight)
  • Cent Patates - 7b+ (Onsight)

I went out to Ceuse with a vague plan, a fairly rough idea of what I wanted to achieve. Which was basically, climb as much as possible and better than my first visit! So I am beyond thrilled that it all worked out and to not only accomplish what I originally set out to do, but so much more at the same time. It may sound slightly 'cheesy' but if you really want something and it means that much to you, then nothing can stop you from reaching your goals. Whatever they may be, big or small. Get out there and make your plans happen and your dreams a reality.

Huge thanks to everyone that contributed to making this trip so special, old friends and new friends from around the world. It isn't all about the climbing on these kind of ventures, that is only half the fun, but it is equally about the people you meet along the way and the new friendships you form. Once again we managed to hook up with a whole host of international guys and gals ranging from the USA to Denmark. Hope to see you all again sometime soon!

Big shoutout to Arthur and Alize for putting on an incredible surprise BBQ for us the other night. Totally out the blue and very much appreciated! Another example of how great and generous the climbing community really is.

Finally another huge thankyou to all my sponsors for all their support. They truly are the best in the business! Mammut, 5.10, ProBalm, Nakd & Trek Bars, Scheckters Organic Energy.

Special mention has to go to the folk at Natural Balance Foods and Scheckters Energy for sending me out enough bars and energy drinks for the whole trip. They certainly did their job in getting me through the hike to the crag each day and up all the rad routes we've managed to tick! If you've never checked these two companies out before then you are missing out! Click onto their websites and judge for yourselves :)

A thumbs up for Scheckters from Lena after sending her project!

The only problem with spending a chunk of the summer months away is that you arrive back home and it suddenly dawns on you that 'summer' is nearly over! Hard to believe August is upon us already, but that is the way it goes I guess. Time moves swiftly on.

My plans now are to hopefully take advantage of a dry Cornice...? Maybe try to finish off one or two things down there, alongside making some more trips up to Kilnsey. Soooo uber keen for this crag! Excited to put some of this Euro fitness to the test there...
Then it'll be time for my first trip to Font in September, which I am pretty dam psyched about. Embarrassing I've never been before I know, so definitely looking forward to it. After that my thoughts and training will turn to a trip to Spain for New Years. Missed out on all the action out here the last few years, so this time it is GAME ON! Get me to Siurana!

Cheers for reading and following me on my short French adventure over the last month.

Onto the next!

 Until next time Céüse...