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. 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Boulder Central Interview Part 2

So here you go part two of Jon Chittenden's interview with myself from Boulder Central. A little bit of chit chat about training, the future and why you should get involved in the comps.

A couple of weeks ago I headed for a morning session at the rightly named Awesome Walls in Sheffield. Climbing on such a big and fun wall made me giggle like a child on the best climbing frame in the world. It wasn't long before I started on the 7's and then it wasn't long until I was pumped out of my mind and falling off 7c. I wasn't too disheartened as I was having fun a great work out, even better today when I heard Ste Mac didn't fair much better.
Obviously I took my hard earned fitness to the rock this week. Monday at Ravenstor with Yann Genoux and I almost flashed the fun Call Of Nature. Climbing through the hard sections I just muffed my feet on the top wall and second go it all felt a pleasant journey. Next up was a trip to one of the best crags in the UK, Lower Pen Trwyn in North Wales. A quick red-point of Battle Of The Little Big Orme allowed me to tick another of Ste McClures 50 best 8a's of the list. Some pleasant young chaps were trying Over The Moon Direct so having already climbing this a few years ago I thought I would have a blast on Over The Moon as most of the clips were in. The arcing moon shaped crack is fairly notorious but it is something I have always wanted to climb. I battled my way again through the lower section again on the retro flash I guess, recovered well the rest and moved right to the crack. A quick fiddle around with the first jam, I chose the jam, spotted a cheeky heel toe and tussled to the top of the crack with a smile. A pleasing ascent of Over The Moon in a fun flash slash os styleeee. So much for training routes on the plastic. Cant wait to go back.

Monday, 9 June 2014

A little bit of luck

I always say that a little bit of luck goes a long way in all sports. Watching the Grand Prix from Canada yesterday I guess Hamilton feels a little unlucky to sustain some car damage that put him out so close to the end of the race and when he was going so well. Back in the day when I was competing Andy Earl and Mark Croxall always use the phrase "The Luck Of The Parry" when I pulled a climb out of the bag.
Does luck really exist or do you make your luck as Matthew Syed talks about in his inspirational book Bounce, The Myth Of Talent and The Power Of Practice.

This book I would highly recommend reading. Quality practice and repetition is the key I believe. The best climbers in the world aren't just that because they were born that way, they work hard at it. Ste Mac, Dave Macloed, Sharma, Ondra and Shauna Coxsey are all good because the train hard and try hard.

So what set me off today with this amble? I just came across an interview with Jon Chittenden that was filmed a while ago by the guys from Boulder Central, West Bromwich. I talk about many things including the highlights of one of my best years in terms of performances, 2007. I climbed 8B fast, in fact I was doing two a day sometimes and I became an Arco Rockmaster.

With Nalle and Jacky in Arco 2007. Photo Credit Alex Messanger

Topping Bloc 1 Arco 2007 Photo Credit Torsten Wenzler

This didn't come down to genes it basically came down to living literally in a climbing wall, Boulder UK Eating sleeping and breathing climbing with NO external influences and training hard. I won in Arco by one move over my good friend Nalle Hukkataival, a bit of luck you might say or was it that I chose to go wrong handed to get the higher hold :-), as we all know climbing is not just a sport for the biceps but sometimes the brain comes in handy too.

Shauna Coxsey now moves into a challenging and exciting two weeks, with the last two rounds of the Boulder World Cup to go in China and France. With all the hard work done all Shauna needs to do is keep smiling and enjoy the next few events. Hopefully some luck will shine.

Monday, 26 May 2014

A Kalymnian Omelette

Yet again it has been a while since I found myself on here. Its not that I don't want to write about the stuff I get up to but it seems to be even less common nowadays that I find myself with a moment to think let alone compose some thoughts. A wet bank holiday Monday seems to be a good place to get on the wagon again.

Last week I returned from Kalymnos and a 3 week trip. Kalymnos is a regular destination for me and I absolutely love it. There are always new people to meet, friends to make and obviously new areas to explore. The highlights of this years trip in no particular order were ET Cave (thanks Neil), St Photis (thanks Simon), watching the kneebar talents of Emilie from Canada, on sighting the amazing extension to Cigarillo-possibly the best 55m route in the Grande Grotte area, coaching another very psyched group with Adrian Berry from and having dinner at Pirates Bay.

Our workshop dates for 2015

To be honest though out of all that fun there were two things that stood out more than anything. A Kalymnian Omelette with added bacon from Sakis and bolting a new and very easy multi pitch route starting from the left side of Stankill and heading leftwards on some obvious ramplines into Panorama Left and making its way to the top of the crag in six pitches 3, 4b, 4b, 5b, 4b, 5b. The route is called Skywalk and will hopefully be a popular addition.

This one certainly won't be a soft touch ;-) Last years project.

Bolted ground up this years addition is a little bit easier than my project from last year. A 4pitch mega project above afternoon on which I managed to free the easiest of the 3 new pitches, the last one at a rather technical and pockety 8a. Sadly this year a couple of the small and delicate tufas remained wet so I will have to wait until next October to try again.

For the last 4 weeks I and probably a large and ever growing number of climbers in the UK have followed Shauna Coxsey and her quest for the IFSC Boulder World Cup title. With two golds out of 4 events and always on the podium the half way break gives everyone a well earned rest and an opportunity to train a little rather than just travel. Shauna will be back on our screens from Toronto this weekend. The tour then moves to Vail, a quick jaunt back to China and finally onto the last round in Laval France to finish off a mega busy and fast paced season. By the 29th of June no matter what happens it will certainly have been the most exciting series of competition I have witnessed since I saw first hand Mark Croxall win at Birmingham and Andrew Earl win in La Reunion. Bring on a World Champion summer for Team GB and a big thanks to all those that stood up at a time when we lost our funding to contribute to the peoples team.

My rest days at the moment are taken up in supporting Kate and our ponies in the quest to have 4 FEI (The Federation Equestre Internationale) qualified ponies by the end of this season. No mean feat when many people, even the top riders are pleased to have one or two that can stay sound all year and even more impressive when you consider that all ours are barefoot i.e. no horse shoes.

The life of  "The Crew" is not so easy!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Cuatro Dias

I realised this evening that every day this year has been amazing. I know that we are only 4 days in but it is a hell of a good start. The big news for me is my new role working for one of the most respected outdoor distributors in the UK, the Mountain Boot Company. My remit covers many different areas including sponsered hero or brand ambasador for three of the best brands in the business Scarpa, Edelweiss and Grivel. I have also taken on the role of team captain for these brands meaning i get to work with some of the best climbers around, with the likes of Dave McCloed, Tim Emmett and the newest Scarpa and Edelweiss Athlete, the uber strong Ed Hamer. In the words of Tim, it looks like there are some spicy times ahead. My final role with MBC will be retailer support via boots demos, staff training and hopefully some interesting events. Infact the first demo of the year will be at the 4th Blokfest event on the January 19th at The Depot in Nottingham. Check out some more Boot Demo dates and venues below.

Scarpa Boot Demos
Blokfest Jan 19th Depot Nottingham
The Arch Jan 20th London
The White Spider Jan 25th London
The Castle Jan 29th London
The Crag Feb 9th Stowmarket

On new years day I headed over to Sella to check out Sam and Rich Oranges new house. They never cease to amaze me with the drive and passion for all things fun. Sams latest pass time is collecting horses, already she is on 4 and quickly catching up to my 6. We left Sam to her ponies and with Rich we headed up to the less frequented wall of Elefante. Three 60 meter routes later we left happy and looking forward to a return visit to give some of the harder Mark Edwards routes a go.

Day 2 was a visit my favourite crag on the Costa Blanca...sadly I can't say where it is but if you are in the know then you will know. I came away with my hardest os for a while, the amazing and recently rebolted 7c+ Con Licencia Para Volar.

Day 3 turned into a rest day and some van work was in order. A full day painting and insulating the bedroom area of the van was a nice and relaxed way to spend it and although single handedly carrying my generator and lifting an 8x4 out of the van was by no means light work I was pleased with the results.

Day 4 I headed out with my good friend Bill for a fun day multi pitching on the Penon D'Ifac. Mare Nostrum was only put up a couple of years ago but represents one of the best outings on the Penon. 9 pitches starting with a 7a and culminating with another rather out there 7a Mare covers some amazing ground with some really great pitches. It is really well bolted so if 7a is not your grade it probably only has an obligatory grade on 6b. Obligatory means the lowest grade you need to be able to climb to get from bolt to bolt. This was my 4th route on the Penon and all have been great fun, on my way back down I wondered if Adam Ondra ever has days like this. Just fun to be out and moving on rock no matter what the grade, watching seagulls catch an up draft, sharing belays with a friendly Spanish couple and finishing the day off with a Canya in the local bar surround by the Calpe expats version of the Jeremy Kyle show kicking off at the table
next door.

Money can't buy you days like these and long may they continue. Int climbing great.