Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Recent activities "round the head"

I've been spending a crazy amount of time "round the head" recently, bouldering and climbing, and enjoying feeling stronger by the week. St.Bees head is a totally brilliant playground to have on your (parent's) doorstep, and i hope i will never take this for granted.

St.Bees head, looking towards the North head, from the south. Credit: Jim Krawiecki.

Despite having spent more time climbing on the St.Bees headland than anywhere else in my life, i'm still doing new stuff and feel as psyched for the place as ever. Recently myself and regular Cumbrian climbing partner Chris Fisher have been kept entertained by a selection of new sport routes on the North head, situated close to Fleswick bay. There are around 10 new lines ranging from 6b to 7c all thanks to Keith Phizacklea and Alan Steele, who have done a brilliant job, investing a lot of time and money in to this new "sector". The routes are only about a year old and for a lot of that year have been bird banned, so its been really fun climbing with no expectations and in some cases no knowledge of grades.
So much stuff still to be done! This is a new route we did a couple years ago on trad kit. As you can see from all the Puffin shit to my left, the cliffs are a super important place for bird colonies and are owned by the RSPB. Care must be taken to keep us climbers in their good books, respect the bans!

Unlike the bouldering, which everyone gets straight away and loves, the sport climbing at St.Bees is definitely an aquired taste. Often super sandy and a little wet from seepage, people find it a little weird and in many cases it definitely feels like "adventure sport climbing". However, i've grown to love it, and i think it has a really unique style and character, with some absolutely stunning moves, and it definitely teaches you how to hold on to dirty holds while wood-lice and earwigs fall out of pockets in to your eyes. I imagine good grounding for big walling in Madagascar or somewhere....
        We've spent a lot of time brushing slopers and removing wood-lice from cracks, and now the birds have moved off for the winter (i recently found out that some of the Puffins get as far as Newfoundland!), they should be in a good state for the near future.

This is the main wall which has been developed, currently with a 7C,7A+ and 6C+ (left to right). All of which are outstanding, especially the 7C "Sea of Sand".

Keith Phizacklea on the first ascent of "Sea of Sand" 7C. Chris made short work of this (basically second go), but it took me a few sessions. Its brilliant, with burly steep climbing then delicate with tiny crimps. Photo Copywright: Alan Steele.
At the far right end of the wall, this arete at 7b (we thought maybe +) is one of the best new additions.

Keith Phizacklea bolted a long steep wall round the corner from the majority of the routes, but never got round to linking/climbing it. So Chris got it cleaned, removed some lose rock and then made a very quick redpoint, resulting in "Castaway" 7C. I toproped it after the send not expecting much, as it looked a little chossy from the floor, however it turned out to be some of the best wall climbing i've done, with a perfect crux and even a bit of campussing! I'll have to get it led next time i'm down.

The line of draws above Chris is "Castaway" 7C.

"Castaway" from another angle. Photo Copywright: Alan Steele.

Setting off up "Castaway" on the FA.

So much rock. There's a couple of nice looking hard lines which Chris and myself have plans for, once we get hold of a drill...
There are many more excellent new routes in this sector, but to be honest my photos of them are so poor they wouldn't be given justice. So if you find yourself wanting a nice walk one day, just take a stroll along the cliff base from Fleswick Bay northwards for a KM or so and see for yourself.
       Once again, a big up is due for Keith Phizacklea, Peter Ibbinson and Alan Steele for putting in the work, really impressive as none are locals. Here's a topo of some of the routes: http://www.inglesport.com/news/article/6/St-Bees-New-Routes-2010/ .

And here's some stand-out problems recently -

"Trash Vortex", a new problem of Greg Chapman's at V7. Fleswick Bay. Credit: Chris Fisher
A cool problem i've previously overlooked at the north head. Credit: John Eccles.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Red Rocks in the Evening.

Evening sessions lapping "Dreaming of Red Rocks", with the sun levitating just above the Isle of Man, snacking on freshly caught Mackerel has to be the most idyllic way of training stamina. And west Cumbria's best kept secret.....

Chris in cruise control.


You don't get this at Ceuse.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Alaska movie.

Once again Jon has proved himself to be quite the movie maker with this latest AK movie.

Alaska, Denali- Cassin Ridge single push, and the West Buttress from Jonathan Griffith on Vimeo.

Watching this has sent me in to a frenzy of excitement about the next big trip. I currently have a few cool ideas bouncing around, as well as AK and Pata. I won't be able to be in Alaska next year however as it looks like i may have other commitments. But hopefully that will be the only spring absent from AK for a while!
       Even now looking at some potentially awesome conditions in Cham in the next couple months, i can't stop thinking about other places. Its all about the big trips!!!