Sunday, 11 March 2012

The End... for now!

Time for a little update, but unfortunately, it brings bad news. Actually, it contains quite a lot of good news, but also a temporary setback that whilst small, forces attention over everything else.

Esclatamasters has become my main goal, with rest and climbing days all planned around it. The top of the route and crux section (final 15m) is not very overhanging and subsequently has rather small holds. Whilst I wouldn’t call them sharp, like a knife, by their very nature they can be quite abrasive for the skin. The bottom of the route (first 25m) could not be more different. Steep and athletic, with long moves of generally good holds, the bottom is a joy to climb and leaves you rather pumped before the aforementioned finale... fortunately there is a very good knee bar in the middle, phew!

Slow and steady progress was being made, and on my 5th redpoint I found myself holding the last of the really small holds, eyeing up the first good (3/4 pad incut) edge marking the end of the crux. Dont get me wrong, the route is far from over! There are still 6 tricky moves to go before the giant jug, but latch this hold and I feel there is a good chance to go to the top.

Perhaps from nerves, or just plain old fatigue, I hesitated a little on the move, coming up perhaps 2 or 3 mm short. The hold was almost in my hand, I felt the edge bite into my skin, but it was not quite enough.

It was however, enough to rip a hole the size of Andorra in my middle finger. The dream is dead, and I lowered to the floor feeling numb – which in hindsight, I much preferred to the slightly later feeling of throbbing pain. A very big disappointment, but one has to try to look on the Brightside. Skin will heal, bodies will be stronger after a rest, and motivation will be sky high.

The Wound!

Instead of wait around in Spain, Caro and I decided to head back to France for a few days to take care of some necessary jobs. Hopefully I will be healed in time to get back before the end of next week, but at the very worst, it should be the week after. With a little bit of unexpected free time, I thought it might be interesting to take a few pictures of the several stages I use to care for a big split, perhaps somebody will find it useful in the future, and perhaps someone will just enjoy the gore...

To read more and see the pictures, head over to

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Birthday Presents

Yesterday, just one day before her birthday, Caroline managed to fight her way to the top of Mind Control at the Spanish super cliff of Oliana. Having climbed the route a few days before, I had a pretty good idea of the difficulties involved, and decided to devote my rest day to being the perfect little Gri-Gri girl (boy) to give her the best chance of success.

My brand new 9.1mm Beal Joker was pulled out to help with the rope drag. We also worked out a nice method of climbing the first section with 2 ropes, clipping the first 5 or 6 QD's on one line then dropping it at the rest to allow the other line to run freely through the remainder of the route. This is also the first time I have used a 100m rope! I remember back to my early days on the grit where a 50m would seem excessive - now, 80m seem short and on cliffs like Oliana, often leaving the climber dangling in space whilst the belayer works out how to get them down!

She clipped the belay on her second try of the day, 3rd red-point in total, with another inspirational display of grit and determination - there was no way she was letting go of the final tricky tufa.

Caroline in the first crux of Mind Control

With another project in the bag, there is nothing else to do today but lay happily in the sun, watch the beautiful view, and enjoy the company of good friends - what more could you wish for on your birthday. Perhaps some good food and wine... tonight?

Congratulations Caro, and happy birthday x

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Un Petit Update... Mind Control and Esclatamasters

2 blog posts in 2 days... this makes a pleasant change. This one will be pretty short but I just wanted to share a few excellent pictures from my friend Francisco Taranto Jr, who is here in Spain with Caro and I.

Approaching the rest on Esclatamasters 9a

Francisco is a freelance photographer who is living a lot "on the road" with his girlfriend Sandra, 2 beautiful children, and his cheeky dog Filipo! Home for them is wherever some interesting action might be, so if you happen to see them at the cliff, or their giant 80's Mercedes Westfalia, make sure you say hi! You can check out his website and blog at

The last few days have been spent trying a cople of harder routes, one of which got sent, others still a work in progress... Topping out on Mind Control, one of the longer routes up the centre of Oliana was a nice moment indeed. Mind Controll is famous for being one of the 8c+'s onsighted by Adam Ondra last year, and so it was interesting to finally see the route in person, and try to comprehend what onsighting something like that entails, especially in the wet.

The top tufa in Mind Control

With Mind Control in the bag, I moved on to my planned "long term project" in the form of Esclatamasters at the little visited cliff of Perles...

To read more and see the pics, check out

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Asia, England, France, Germany, Spain... Dont stop movin' even if the world stops turnin'

So many things, so many places, and so little time sat in a coffee shop in Spain... Time is running thin so I will do my best to keep things short and sweet.

Banff European Tour Premier in Munich

We returned from Asia a little earlier than planned to a cold and snowy England. Training was to be the name of the game, that was until we found some luck in the shape of a white 2001 VW Transporter. Owning a van has been something I had considered for a long time, but a lack of funds and time has always stopped me from pulling the trigger.

Training took a back seat, squeezed in as an afterthought at the end of each day as time was devoted to converting the back into the perfect little home on wheels. Perhaps not perfect, but good enough for a winter and spring in Spain and Italy - Insulation, Heater, Electrics, Stove, Grill, Oven... Bed... and a few other little bits and pieces. With the Van on its way to be finished, we caught the slow boat across the channel and after 2 days were back home in the sunny south. Training at out local gym, the super steep Altisimo in Grabels, began again in the hope we would miraculously find some of our lost endurance before the imminent departure to Spain.

Oliana is to long what Altissimo is to steep and I was a little intimidated to say the least. Suddenly the 3 routes a day we had been doing in Asia seemed rather poor groundwork, and dreams of floating up the never-ending tufa began to float away on the breeze. We warmed up, which is actually an odd act in Oliana as the few routes in the 7’s tend to be less than 15m long – not perfect when the hard routes are all closet to 50m.

Despite my fears, Caroline seemed to be coping pretty well...

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