Monday, 11 May 2015

Bulgaria bound.

So a new adventure starts today. I have just returned from a couple of great weeks in Greece. First up was a week in Crete. Inspired by the new inland Greece guide by Aris Theodoropoulus which also introduces the island of Crete and its climbing.

I had a whistle stop tour of 3 of its gems. Voulismeno Aloni, the stunning Tersannas Cave and the superb gorge of Agio Farrango. It is safe to say I will return.

Lowering off in Tersannas Cave

Next up was our Positive climbing coaching week in Kalymnos. I joined Adrian Berry, Lucy Creamer and Simon "BFG" Rawlinson along with 17 willing and very able climbers for some great performances, fantastic sends and many barriers broken.

So the last two weeks brings me to here, Stanstead airport and a quick blog. I landed at midnight from Kalymnos and have a flight to Barcelona at 8am. From there we begin a long drive to my new house in Bulgaria with the Zoo. 3 horses, 6 dogs and a black cat. I feel like a child at Christmas, I have no idea what is in store but I am sure it will be fun. I haven't even seen my house, Kate went out a bought it a few weeks ago on a bit of a random mission.

For a little taster of climbing in Bulgaria here is a video from the 2014 Petzl RocTrip.

Vratsa is close to my house, with some nice sport caves even closer. Granite boulders in the mountains to the North and then limestone in Rumania. To the south is Greece, mainland limestone perfect for a long weekend and the adventurous Meteora. So much exploring.

The journey will take us through France, Italy, Slovenia, Hungary and Rumania. Time to check in.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Supersonico Highs and Lows

The start to the year was a massive high. On the 9th of Jan I completed my longest standing project and what is probably the hardest thing I have climbed. It sits for me alongside Blomu 8c+ in Santa Linya that I climbed a few years ago but I personally believe it is harder, not a grade just harder.

Commitment and total focus is what it came down to, no shock there then. If you stick with things and put the effort in you tend to reap the rewards, and my reward was sweet.

The sweet spot soon passes when you are climbing well and you get back to reality. My climbing has gone off the boil the last few weeks, not through lack of motivation more through a bit of a cold  I think. Having said that I have been getting out and about.

Looking for new cliffs to develop.

Checking out other projects some that I have tried before. A session on the very hard Mestizaje 8c+ in Bovedón. As far as I know it remains unrepeated and is one of the worlds earliest 8c+'s around.

Visiting recently develop futuristic crags like this. Rich Mayfield here on an amazing 6c+.

And climbing this. My 41st 8a climbed on sight yesterday.


Cant complain too much.

Sunday, 28 December 2014


Things have all moved around yet again. But change is good. I have just watched Adams movie Change, inspirational to say the least. Its what I need at the moment, inspiration and commitment.

We have returned to our home in the Costa Blanca after almost 3 years away and to a project and a line that has been burning away deep inside me all this time. 


In 2009 my friend Bill Hannah spotted a wall, it was pretty obvious it was going to be a great place to climb. High above a beautiful valley is Sector 45 Degrees, I think it is pretty obvious why its called that. After creating a way in over numerous visits with Bill and Kate I could finally get stuck into the bolting in May 2010.

The first route I bolted and climbed is called Luz De Sol. A stunning single white tufa that went at 7c, a classic all the way to the top from the aptly named Sun Terrace. It quickly became obvious I would need some help bolting if I was to even think about realising the crags potential so I enlisted Mike Langley from The Castle Climbing Centre, Martin Strong and Korneilja Howick. They spent there whole holiday here bolting, bolting, bolting, cleaning, cleaning, cleaning and generally getting wasted in the midday sun to help open the routes.

Since those days we have created around 27 lines from 6a to 8b and 13 of which are still projects from around 8a to 9a including the daddy of them all the stunning arete on the edge of the 45 degree wall. I have probably invested around 20 days of my life into this route already and its about time I got it done. In the past I have always only had the odd day on it, never really putting in the effort to start making progress. Just over a year ago I managed to unlock a new sequence to pass the first bolt and since then I have known it was possible. Since returning a few weeks ago I realised I was a little fitter than before after a month in Kalymnos and I decided that I need to start putting the time in. 5 days of effort has seen some great progress I finally managed to climb from the ground via two hard boulder problems to the arete where the route really starts. I think this section is around 8b. From here you launch straight into the crux followed by an ok shake with a heel and what will probably be the red point crux I think. A better shake out albeit on side pulls is had then from here on in it is around 7b+ to the top. 14 Bolts in all.

Finally I have decided to commit to getting this done, some training the last two weeks fitted in around a busy diary of setting and Blokfest have made me feel a little stronger and a little bit more care with my diet and some work on a bike has allowed me to drop a few pounds. 

Two days ago I had my best red point yet. An earlier start out to the crag I was hoping for a few red points, the first went well and I almost made it through the 3rd crux and into the shake with the heel, my best attempt yet.  Only to power out probably more due to the cold wind than anything else. I rested for a while the pulled back on. The first move is a massive and contorted cross over like this....

....but when I brought my right foot up I felt a massive twinge in my hip/back. I really struggled to reverse this as you can't actually fall off here without going splat, i couldn't really walk or move and ended up laying down on the floor with Kate pulling off my boots and  putting my shoes on. End of the game...for now.

Hopefully tomorrow I can climb, there is a harder method than the roll over that isn't as tough on the back but with harder moves, I guess I will have to try it. Cant wait though, I love trying this route, the process is and has been amazing, from bolting to unlocking the moves. Many of which I couldn't  do when I first tried it. Every time I discover something new, something more that brings me closer and closer to the finish it is a great feeling. The only way to stay motivated is it take all the positives and learn from any negatives. Little by little, Poco a Poco.

Where ever you are and whoever you are I hope your dreams will come true next year and you all have a great time over the last few days of 2014. I will be saving my celebrations for sometime in the future.

Sunday, 14 September 2014

J'aime la France

I must admit I am starting to fall in love with France. Its not that one off other side of the fence grass is greener sort of feeling that I had when I first travelled to Buoux at 16. It is the sort of love that just grows and grows. Over the years I have been to many places, most of the famous crags, Buoux, La Loup, The Tarn, Ceuse, Russan, Seynes, Peillon and on and on. All of which are truly amazing. Its not the usual haunts that are making it for me now though it is the more random and unheard of venues that are becoming a real pleasure. They take you away from the norm and into a new world, whilst venues like Ceuse are amazing they tend to absorb you and drag you into their world and sometimes you don't really see the beauty that is just around the corner or infact on the other side of the road.

Take every opportunity to rest up. Me and Cedric getting some shuteye.

This week we have been re-sampling the delights of the Gorges Du Tarn around 20 years on from my first visit with Ian Vickers and Naomi Guy. I went chuffing up some amazing climbs like Les Nouvelles Plantations Du Christ, Les Ailes Du Desir and the outstanding L’Odyssee De L’Espace, all a minimum of 50m they were pretty darn special. I even took a few moments at L'Odyssee belay. With a knee bar in I looked at the view, I took in the feeling of such a special climb before I clipped the belay, amazing. Every evening though we headed up and out of the gorge and away from the climbing to explore the high plains and villages. A stunning doss at the Pont Sublime one evening, another morning waking in the Gorge De La Jonte to count 24 vultures in one photo, a short walk along the GR6 with the dogs and an afternoon in Meyrueis all made for a more special visit. On wednesday evening we headed back to just north of Limouges to check on our horses as our friend who has been looking after them has hurt her leg quite badly. Hope you get well soon Becky. 

All looks good with Kate, Td and the ponies.

Not a bad view from a 20 acre field

The next afternoon we made the 1hr drive over to L’Angles-Sur-L’Anglin near Potiers, almost a pleasure to drive with so little traffic on the roads. Destination was Guignoterie, yet another old school crag with small pockets everywhere and almost vertical white limestone this was going to be a tough place to climb. The crag itself is only small, 100+ routes in a little sleepy backwater of France but as with all these crags it carries some history. Back in the 80’s it was frequented by the likes of Marc L’Menestrel and La Mouch. In fact it is apparently the home to the first 7b+ in the world to be climbed on-sight by Benoît Faure. Fissure Jaune is a wall and then crack, the white rock hiding the sequence to all, the only thing to read are the blackened feet as you try one finger then the next in a plethora of monos only to discover that its better with your thumb! 

The stunning L'Angles Sur L'Anglin

More fantastic photos of this wonderful village can be found here in all credit to Stephane Charbeau or here on

Checking out my Booster S

Thankfully I didn't fall, it was a pleasure to climb and imagine what it must have felt like over 20 years ago to on-sight on pitons! After that I climbed the only 8a of the crag, another excellent route with a tough and slappy crux, a really fun second half and a Gorges De Tarn style runout above the last bolt. The climbing was great but this wasn't what made the experience for me. It was the discovery of yet another stunning area in France. If you are ever near Potiers make sure you visit L’Angle Sur L’Anglain it truly is beautiful, yet another off the beaten track gem of a place and I cant wait to go back for some more.

Gorges Du Tarn tips.
Les Vignes is pants. La Malene is the place to hang out. Butchers, shop, pizza, water, toilets, free camper van parking next to the river and 3g make this the spot for an evening in the Tarn. There is not camping allowed near the climbing you could get fined.
If you are in a tent check out Camping Beldoire in Vignes.
Get the local guide. Whilst the Rockfax is great, there are more sectors to be had and less mistakes, more info and money towards the bolts when you buy local. In Rozier you can get the local Tarn, La Jonte and Cantobre guides for 50 euro.
Get a long rope, i rocked up with a 70 and had issues, 80 as a minimum.
Get your head in gear and prepared to got a long way above bolts.....10m was the most I found. The tarn is bolted for on-sight, not for doggers or clipsticks.
25 clips and some long draws and biggish balls will get you up most stuff.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Off the beaten track in France

So in a totally unplanned move we seem to be living in France. Well at least Kate, the horses, the dogs and a newly acquired Siamese kitten are. I am spending my time working in the UK with Scarpa, the GB Team and importing the wonderful shapes of Flathold into the UK and holidaying in France. You are probably imagining I have headed to the glory crags off Ceuse, the in vogue Verdon and Gorge De Loup or the hundreds of other jewels of Southern France. Instead i spent last week visiting the region of La Lot.

La Lot is a river to the South of the Dordogne, a stunningly beautiful region of rolling hills, valleys, rivers, lakes and more importantly not many people. The Medieval influences can be seen in many of the villages and hamlets and still retain much of their original magic, without the modern day influences of traffic and tourists that we struggle to escape here in such a cramped UK.

It has been a long-time since I have been on a road trip. The plan to visit un chartered territory, with only the local guide in hand. First up was St Gery, a crag i have wanted to visit for years aftr seeing an iconic Petzl poster of Dave Graham shaking out in a knee bar on the classic Bastion A La Mansion.

A pleasant walk in to St Gery

St Gery is a perfect place to visit with a van, as are all the crags around here. Every town has campervan parking it seems. Loo drops, toilet, hook ups and free camping. St Gery goes one better, its only yards to the cafe, boulangerie and super market and only 5 minutes to the crag itself.

A wonderful view back along the crag and La Lot
The Bastion Cave with a climber on a great 6c+
Dave Graham on the classic Bastion A La Mansion photo: Sam Bie

Next up was Autoire where the level upped as far as stunning villages go. The Cirque De Autoire provides a stunning view of another wonderful village, which when you walk through the streets the few houses there are seem to be a throw back to a bygone era. It is home to one of the best 7a’s i have climbed and a superb 8a that starts up a medieval castles wall high above the village. You could easily spend a week here, plenty of routes of all grades, tufas galore and if you are in need of a rest day there is plenty of kayaking around, the insane Rocamador village and the stunning Gouffre De Padirac to visit.
La Diable En Rit Encore 7a. A perfect tufa.

High on Reve Et Reveler 8a

Inside Castle De Anglais

Medieval door heel hook lowering!!

I had spotted another great looking crag in the guide which on the map is a Gouffre (cave or sink hole, similar to that of Gaping Gyll in the Dales). Roc A Dor is where the locals when the temps hit 40, it is always cooler climbing in a hole. Sadly it is not a well frequented crag and was more like climbing at Gordale at the start of the season where everything is a little dusty. The 6c was bit of a battle and when it came to an 8a i just opted to switch straight into red point mode with a brush in hand. Nevertheless it was well worth it and the 8a was as good as anything in Yorkshire.
6c Gouffre Climbing

On my last day i headed to an old school but very famous crag called Eaux Claires, home to the 1993 classic Hugh by Fred Rouling. Old school as in not steep, tiny pockets and monos, like a hard version of Buoux!! A quick scan of the guide I spotted one of the earliest 8a’s in France,  La Capallete climbed in 1983 is nails. I so schooled by it that i failed to do 3 of the moves….note to oneself, i must get better at half pad monos and pinkie pockets. Nevertheless i enjoyed the fact it was hard and will certainly be heading back. In fact I am writing the at Stanstead on my way back out.