Thursday, 29 March 2012

Bridestones Quicky

     The Bridestones are a series of pinnacles and buttresses on the edge of Dalby Forest.  It's a scenic place that's popular with tourists and only a few miles from Dalby Activity Centre which makes it a useful spot to head to for some after-work exercise.

     The rock here is all on the soft side and can be very sandy in places, I can't say it inspires me much but it is certainly a unique venue.  It's also very steep making everything strenuous.

     There were a couple of groups on the pinnacles when I arrived so I headed to the quieter buttresses to do some circuits.  I found a place with two good handholds where I could kind-of rest and made short excursions out from there onto steeper ground before returning pumped, shaking out for 30seconds or so and heading out again to repeat the process until I fell off.  After a couple of these 'sessions' my arms were solid and my fingers tired so I took a round trip down the valley on a rubbish newly-stoned path and back to the car.

     It's surprised me the last few days just how tired I am getting after just 4 or 5 steep moves.  Regularly getting on overhanging and pumpy circuits might be a good way to improve my strength and stamina, I'm going to head to Ravenswick on Sunday to see how I get on with the traverses there.

A free  guide to Bridestones is available here

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Princess Leia

  Fancying a bit of time on my own I decided on a return to Clemitts this afternoon.  I had only one thing on my mind - Princess Leia.  I've tried and failed on it a few times in the past but feeling more motivated than usual I headed down towards Fryupdale. Below the woods Princess Leia is on the first boulder you encounter, it takes the steep slab just right of the arete (nearest boulder in picture).  A great line on a great little bit of rock.
     The sun was beating down on me when I arrived.  I had assumed it would be a bit more shady being west facing but I was a bit early for that.  Despite this I got straight on the problem.  It took me three or four goes to find the correct beginning sequence but my hands just kept slipping off a non-too-positive undercut which was integral to me gaining height.  Not really interested in anything else I chose to find some shade and hang around for a few hours until it had cooled down.

     When the sun had finally gone over the hill and I had stopped sweating I had another go.  Two good undercuts enable you to get your feet up onto the slab and into a stable position where the poorer undercut allows a step a little higher.  The footholds are mostly smears but the rock is grippier than you'd expect.

     So, up to a variety of poor slopers and then the first and only decent(ish) hold, a small right hand crimp.  I fell off here, through lack of effort more than anything, falling backwards and hitting my bum on a sharp little rock.  After a few minutes jumping around and cursing I put some Jimi Hendrix on my music player and got back on it, doing the first bit easily up to the good hold.  So close to the top but with feet skidding about on the rock below it took all my willpower not to reach for the left arete, to palm down with my left hand instead and make a quick reach for the top.  Success!  And yet another hard (for me) problem to add to my list.  Not quite content I repeated Seal Of Approval, the same grade as Princess Leia, after only a few tries.
     Despite only doing two problems it's been a good day.  In the past I believe I've been failing on things because I've convinced myself they are too hard for me before I have even got on them.  My recent gains have come from a more positive outlook rather than any improvement in ability or strength.  It's going to cool down at the weekend, where to go?

A guide to Clemitts boulders (£1.50) is available here
A free guide to Clemitts the crag is available here

Friday, 23 March 2012

Three Days At The Office

     Back to Dalby this week and things are really starting to happen now at the new centre.  The weather couldn't have been better, it's easy to forget about the wet and cold times and realise how good it is to be spending my working days outside.  Still managed to get a bit of climbing in though, just trees instead of rock.
     If you'd like to read an update on progress and see what I've been doing it's on a separate page here.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

GEAR REVIEW - Red Chili Spirit VCR

'They look and feel ok but they aren't anything special'

Read my full review of Red Chili Spirit VCR's here.

Monday, 19 March 2012


     A return to trad has been on the cards for a while now and so the rope and rack were packed and we headed off to Brimham to get on some longer gritstone routes.  Although sunny today, many of the further edges weren't getting any sunshine and still don't seem to be in the best condition.  After seconding The Pig Traverse I chose Grit Corner for my first lead climb of the year.  Infact it was my first time on the sharp end since Stanage last August, it's been a very long time!  Although an easy route I faltered on the first few moves up a crack, two attempts trying to take it direct, jamming and feet slipping before I realised a layback was the easy way.  Certainly not the best of starts.  The rest of the crack to the ledge was a path, though very dirty for the feet.  Stocked up with cams, hexes and nuts I only actually used 1 sling and a quickdraw for protection and headed up the left hand finish feeling incredibly rusty.  A few easy chimney solos later and that was the proper climbing done for the day.  My head just wasn't in it.
     Brimham is a beautifully scenic place with tons of rock but I've never found her routes to be particularly friendly and so it perhaps wasn't the best venue choice for a refresher.  I'll have to aim for an improvement next time out.
     At Lovers Leap area sits Anniversary Arete, a boulder problem I'd tried the last two visits here and one of my future aspirations.  It's a great looking line and gets a grade of British 6b, a grade I felt I was still quite far off achieving.  Its moves are really quite specific and balancey but the start actually felt really steady today, small sharp pebbles and smears for the feet, lay-backing off the arete.  After having a high crimp pointed out to me and giving it some thought and attempts going into double figures I caught myself by surprise by latching the top and fought my way over.  I almost couldn't believe it, I don't climb that hard, only an hour ago I was struggling on a VDiff.  A little while later I did it again without much of a struggle to prove to myself it wasn't just a fluke, it just felt so easy.  Perhaps it was the shoes, I'd put my new Chilli's on for the occasion.
     On a high, and after a cup of tea, I decided to try another 6b, again an arete, this one called Pommel.  It's overhanging but has a positive enough edge to allow a good pinch-grip.  A crafty heel-toe in the break made reaching the sharp part of the arete quite easy and I hit the top just as my feet cut loose.  An awkward top-out with 'technical knees' completed the problem and yet again it felt pretty easy.  I'm guessing this one has been over-graded a little though.
     Considering the let down of the first part of the day this turned into a fantastic outing.  I'm absolutely buzzing, even if my hands and arms are raw with gritrash I feel like I've broken through a barrier in the difficulty I can climb, probably more of a mental barrier than anything but an important milestone to me.  I hope I can continue with this new found good form and use it to improve my trad. It's all in the mind you know!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Upleatham Daze

      As I had a busy morning I hoped a local walk would help blow away the cobwebs.  To the North of Upleatham is a plateau of farmland surrounded by pine woods, a popular place for dog walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders.  I like it too and go there regularly.  Today was warm but very hazy, the daffodils and gauze were in bloom and the wildlife active.  I like being up here, music player on, just exercising and enjoying the views.
     As I had mentioned Soapwell Quarry in a previous post I thought I'd better go take some photos.  The rock here is very sandy, soft and loose so not the ideal place for clambering.  The photo is the only part of the quarry where I have done any climbing, a few years ago we had a few hours soloing and bouldering for which I recorded some route descriptions and grades (currently lost).  The obvious sharp arete to the left is the best line here and the only thing I chose to climb today, the rock seemingly a bit (not much) more solid than the rest.  Everything here feels serious and I certainly do not recommend anyone to climb here!
     There is a wind farm currently proposed for the top of the plateau.  More on this area and my thoughts on the wind farm can be found on a separate page here.

Thursday, 15 March 2012


     As it was such a sunny day today a return journey was called for to a spot I visited last month (Two Newish Venues, 18th Feb 2012).  As it was getting dark that day I had failed to get up a problem I had commented was a bit too hard.  It's a pretty insignificant problem in the grand scheme of things really, it doesn't stand out as a 'climb me' line and I have no idea of it's name or grade but the moves had felt good even though I couldn't complete them and the failure had played on my mind for nearly 4 weeks.  Sometimes there are only two grades for things I try to climb, easy or impossible.  I came at the problem a bit more thoughtfully today, looking at all the holds and the best way to grab and use them and visualising the body and feet positions that would be needed.  After practicing a couple of the higher moves to see if the way I wanted to do it would work I sat down underneath.  I got the sequence correct straight away and was soon at the top.  Easy!


     Other problems I was shown here today were a slab with a couple of decent but slightly sandy lines on it and an arete that climbed great but should have been longer. Many of the lines here will benefit from some more traffic.

     Across the valley some cleaning but not a lot of climbing had taken place last time.  After a nice easy ramble on one of the bigger bits of rock it was time to go look at the little roof that was clean and dry but unfortunately impossible.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

If You Go Down To The Woods Today

     Instructing work has been a little thin on the ground this winter as Ability Outdoors has a face transplant and becomes Dalby Activity Centre.  New location, new buildings, new activities and new paintball games.  If you would like to see some photos I took today and hear more about how the new site is progressing click here.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Some Old Footage From Scugdale

Scugdale from Martin Whitton on Vimeo.
     I rediscovered this short film of me the other day.  I made it on Windows Moviemaker and it used to have a beginning sequence but it was slightly embarrassing and so I've omitted it.  I think this was around 2009 and has Tippling Wall, Black Banned, Parsons Nose and Eve Left Hand.  For some reason there are a couple of photos of Pebble Climb at the Wainstones too.  This brings back some great memories of being on my own at Scugdale, feeling like I was doing something really special.  I remember Eve vividly, one cold, windy winter day.  It ain't half got a terrible landing and I haven't even considered doing it my last few visits.  I've failed at Black Banned on a good few occasions recently too which proves I've lost a lot of strength.  Must try harder.
     The images may be slightly grainy as I wanted to keep the size of the video down but it looks ok in the small window.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

By The Seaside

     There seems to have been a fair amount of bouldering development going on around the coast lately and as others were visiting one of these new(ish) coastal venues today I thought I'd join in and take a peek.  This may be the nearest bouldering to me, only a few miles from my house.  The only things nearer are perhaps Soapwell (there's a reason you've never heard of it) and Highcliff, plus it's only a ten minute walk-in.
     I generally avoid the coast, it always seems cold and windy and on top of that it's near the sea (I don't like the sea).  Coastal views certainly don't appeal to me as much as hilly ones and I have probably missed out on some fantastic climbing because of my aversion to large bodies of water.  Today was beautifully sunny and even though the wind was strong it certainly wasn't cold.
     The boulders themselves lie on a plateau with sheltered hollows, well above the sea and below a large but soft cliff.  It just goes to show that soft sandstone crags can be good for something.  They fall down!

                                                                                                                The rock here is incredibly variable and ranges from excellent to soft to conglomerate like choss but there seemed to be plenty of the good stuff to go round.  We started off on a nice easy slab which was a good size and had a decent sit start on it's left hand side, all good and solid.  A semi-arete around the other side of the same block had good rock for the hands with just one handhold which didn't feel 100% safe but this, along with a nice crossover move gave it a bit of spice.

     A little further south sits a lovely, photogenic pointy block just away from the main boulderfield.  As the soft rock on one side has weathered away it has left big chunks of hard rock slightly protruding.  Some good problems could be worked out on here missing out the bigger holds but the sit start up the centre was decent regardless and the arete to the left has nice crozzly holds and is interesting.  Further round the block, the slab (without the arete) is mostly on the feet and has a great couple of moves.

     Some pretty good problems and these were on just two of a great many boulders here.  If the nice weather stays with us I may be back to explore further.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Poll - Should font grades be used on the NYMoors?

     Following on from my Tuesday post 'The Changing State Of Moors Climbing' and although I don't get much web traffic I thought I'd do a poll to see what the general feeling is about font grades on the moors.  The poll is open for a month and so hopefully we will get a meaningful result.  It's over there on the right just below my face.
     Please vote.

     It would be nice to get a (sensible) conversation started on this subject either on the comments here or I may start a topic on UKC.  I'll keep you posted if I do.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Castleton Rigg Quarry

     This rarely visited quarry is a bit esoteric and certainly an acquired taste.  This despite the fact it has a great many redeeming features:  It is truly roadside, very close to a main moors through route, has stakes well positioned above, dries quickly and has over twenty short routes at a variety of grades.  That said it has some suspect rock, particularly at the far left end, some ankle twisting landings and is extremely open to the weather.  On a windy day it can feel particularly cold and nasty up here, today I went home with ear-ache because I didn't take a hat and it was a relatively warm day elsewhere.
     This is the only venue where I've done all the recorded routes in one visit.  Today that was never going to happen, I couldn't keep my fingers warm so just did some easy stuff at the left end, following the flakes up The Slab on the shield was enjoyable as always and the scrambles on the tower pleasant.  I had actually come after hearing about a few new but poor routes that had been logged on UKC but forgot about this as I was rushing around trying to keep moving.  On getting home and looking at the descriptions and my photos, Knock Off climbs the dirty slab to the left of Red Slab which I'm pretty sure I've done before and Shoddy Slab looks like it is the obvious slab in the centre of the lower photo.

 (Castleton Rigg Quarry - Left)

(Castleton Rigg Quarry - Right)

     There is a great problem at the right hand end called Two Faced, it takes the wall to the right of the diagonal crack (far right of picture), unfortunately I didn't get up it today.  I was at the crimps not far from the top, unable to feel what I was holding onto when I had a moment of doubt, it wouldn't be great to fall off here sans mat.  Getting buffeted by the wind I made a tactical retreat and instead punted for the slightly easier Face Route which goes up the side of the arete, but without using it.  It's only hard at the start and I was soon enjoying the good holds, taking a moment to look around at the view before topping out and running back down the hill to the car to direct the heaters onto my head.

A free guide to Castleton Rigg is available here

photo:copyright phleppy

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Changing State Of Moors Climbing

     The North Yorkshire Moors - Twinned With Toulouse (That's in France btw)

     'V grades, Font grades, British adjectival and/or technical grades, there are a number of different ways of grading the difficulty of a particular piece of rock.  V grades are sometimes used in conjunction with a technical grade but sometimes not, f grades change depending on whether they're used for bouldering or sport climbing, H grades instead of E grades, Peak District B grades and Yorkshire P grades.  Confused yet?'

     This post was a little bit long to include on the blog.  It's about the creeping use of font grades on the moors.  If you want to read the full piece you can find it here.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

DVD REVIEW - The Long Hope

'Another offering from the man who doesn't seem to believe in having limits.'
Read my full review of The Long Hope here.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Dalesward... Roundhill

     The Yorkshire Dales' rolling hills and valleys, an idyllic place for climbing, in-fact in many ways it's better than the moors (did I say that out loud?).  Round Hill was discovered in the 90's by the late Wild Bouldering guru Tony Barley and sits aside Masham moor, managing to feel somewhat remote despite it's diminutive distance from the road.  The walk-in is short, over the dam between roundhill and leighton reservoirs then a short stomp on a good path along the moor bring you to the rocks in about 15minutes.
     The blocks and little walls are fairly extensive with over a hundred recorded problems mostly on solid gritstone.  There are many big breaks here so jamming legs and feet and the odd kneebar proved useful.  The place didn't feel like it had had much traffic for a while with a few of the holds needing a light brushing.    
     The 3star problems of Gladiator (pictured) and Senator were as good in the lower grades as anything elsewhere being not too steep and interesting throughout.  Many of the problems are fairly similar in the movement  they involve but all are worthwhile and with so many easier problems to go at it was good to get 40+ done in a day and go home feeling like I'd actually covered a decent amount of ground.  The rock is so rough my palms and tips were red and felt raw for a number of days after.
     Some of the classic rounded gritstone top-outs were interesting.  This place certainly deserves more visitors, we didn't see another soul all day.

A free guide to Round Hill is available here

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Clemitt's Boulderland

     Clemitt's the crag has been climbed on since the 70's but it was only last year that the boulders underneath the crag recieved the attention they so obviously deserved.  I hadn't visited here until after the development had taken place and so I can't really envisage the amount of work that must have gone in to the cleaning of these blocks but kudos to those that put in the effort as this is a truly terrific find.  The stand-out blocks for me are the pathside boulders which have a variety of slabs and overhangs and three star problems on every one.  For the lower grade boulderer Sams Slab is the problem to aim for, it was, unfortunately, wet and muddy today.
     As this was just a quick-hit we spent most of our time on the No Hands Slab block.  I feel the grades here are currently a little dubious but regardless of their difficulty the steeper slab holds some very nice, balancy moves.  There is a small amount of snappy and soft rock but this doesn't detract.  Cloud Nine, which takes the left arete, has quality moves and is pleasing to the eye and to the right of this the Fingerprint Appreciation Society and its counterpart are good practice for those smaller, slopier holds.  My next target here has to be Princess Leia.  At the top of my grade it's a must do next visit.

A guide to Clemitts boulders (£1.50) is available here
A free guide to Clemitts the crag is available here