From winter to summer, in a blink of an eye. No time to be idle, as it always appears. I don't know what it is really, perhaps knowing that there's so much to do, to explore, to wonder. That propels me forward. Always hungry for more. Gaining momentum through the seasons, like a rolling stone, gathering no moss.
I've rolled from winter to spring with one motion. I remember my last wake up call on the Ben Nevis north face carpark like it was yesterday. Springing into action at an uncivilized hour does edge into your brain. From under the duvet, I longed for rocks, by the open sea. A friend wrote recently he gets strangely emotional when climbing by the sea. I understand the sentiment. Perhaps my adaptation to British climbing culture is now finally complete.
Trying to make up for loss time invested in Scottish winter, I thrown myself into the rock season with abandon. The constant battle between disciplines. It started suitably in Gogarth, where it was easy to replace the solitude of Bein Eighe for the one of Yellow Walls in late February. Quickly followed for a rare two days of glorious gritstone. Always a grounding experience. Then the quest for power started by siege of Brean Down. I climbed my heart out to get fit for St. Leger over the Easter holidays. In the process I managed to climb "Prisoner of Bullwoker" which despite being a link-up is one of the better 7c+'s and perhaps the only one that stand solid at the grade.
The house of winter power for southerners: Brean Down
Our holidays in France went by fast. The climbing was of the highest class and I understand why some people prefer it to Spanish limestone. Somehow the French crags have more flair and a certain "je ne sais quoi". As per most climbing holidays, the style was focused on onsight or quick ascents. I got away with a cheeky 7c called Moby Dick, but the real highlight was the outstanding wines of the Mount Ventoux region. We found some real gems and we were glad that the Gendarmerie didn't look too close when they searched the van looking for hidden immigrants in Calais.
As sometimes unfortunately happens if you are self-employed, a work contract got dropped at last minute just before heading back. Bad news turned immediately into good news when Dougie agreed on a week of trad in Pembroke. The weather was fantastic and I had one of my best weeks down there. It was deserted of climbers, bluebird skies every day, range east was open midweek, I was in good form and the Dougie was a fantastic partner. I managed to tick three E5's (John Wayne, Circus Circus and Ships that pass in the night) I saved the onsight for a long time, and the pleasure of showing Dougie around and pointing him to the classics. We finished on a high as Dougie send his first E5, Blutcher in St. Govans, as the last route of the trip. I think he was happy on his drive to Chamonix.
The weekend after Pembroke we headed up to Anglesey with a good forecast to film one of the Mountain Journals for Alpkit. I never met Dom Bush and his team before, Hel and Mat, but they turned out to be such a laugh. I did Warpath at Rhoscolyn for a third time for the camera and then Electric Blue a couple of times. We had so much fun flying drones around, playing with slow-mo cameras and basically mocking about. The Isle of Anglesey, and Rhoscolyn in particular, has always been a special place to me, I really enjoy spending time there.
With the trad bug well into motion, we made a dash for Cornwall for a few days. A few things that have been on my list for a long time had to be addressed. The first one was Kafoozalem, perhaps the most know E3 in the south. The second was to finally ground-up an E6. In the case of the Bosigran Extreme Rock classic, it certainly made me earn it, I was pumped as sin and I was almost off a few times. The way of granite. For the E6 contender I picked Lazarus at Bass Point, mainly because the wall looked amazing in an incredibly beautiful position, not far from the most southern point of mainland Britain, Lizard Point. The ascent was far from the best style, but it was still ground up. The guidebook mentions the grade is if you back up the rotten peg on abseil. In which case is impossible not to see the route. Also, the wall overhangs a fair bit, so to place such back-up gear, you need at least a couple of pieces to keep you in. Despite the faff, the route is amazing and has some very stiff moves. That topped with The Cull E3 next door made for a tremendous few days.
After Cornwall, we headed to Dorset to zero in some projects. Viki and I had been getting involved in The Cuttings scene to get on with some sport-climbing strength. After the positive experience with Hall of Mirrors, a 7c feature some fantastic climbing, I moved on to another 7c called Nightmare Scenario. This one suited me better and I did it the day after Lazarus. As soon as I came down I did say to Viki that this was the route for her. She's never climbed 7c, neither 7b+, but I was positively convinced that she could do it. It was a perfect fit. I started working Fighting Torque, an 8a right next to it, so we both had projects right next to each other. How ideal! To cut the story short, after a saga of a few weekends or warmongering on this projects, we both send them within minutes of each other. I was happy to be back on the 8a saddle, but the big thing was Viki doing her first 7c, that was pretty major. It was so exciting to see her going through the process, see it through and come out at the other end. I take as much pleasure out the achievements of the people I care as that of my own.
If I can summarize this last three months, it would be a sense of accomplishment out of being able to do beautiful climbs across different disciplines, winter, trad and sport, at a decent challenging level in such a short period of time. I grew up near the mountains, in the Pyrenees, where people do all sorts at a competent level. That multi-discipinary attitude has always stayed with me, I always felt that I'm a one trick pony, historically I can only do one good thing at one given time, and with loads if prep time in between. I admire the all-rounder climbers like Dave MacLeod and Nick Bullock who can switch disciplines so quickly, with hardly any adaptation time, and get to do beautiful ascents of whatever is in the best condition for that season.
That's the magic of being a jack of all trades. To pick the cherries that are in bloom.
Replacing Ben Nevis with Yellow walls. The Moon was the perfect escape from the gloom of the highlands. We lost some friends up there and needed a change of scenery. Here Jon Leigthon following on the first pitch.
Matt Pidgen snatching two of the good grit days of the season. Strapiombante E1 at Froggatt. Matt is no slouch on the tools either, an accomplished alpinist and winter climber himself. We got on well.Remembering how to use my fingers again. Matt Dougie having the time of his life in Pembroke. He ticked every single classic I threw at him. Here he's dispatching Under the influence E4 at The Castle. It was really cool that last tie we tied on was only a few weeks earlier doing a new winter route on Ben Nevis. About to get my smile wiped off my face. I got a serious schooling on Let Him Babble on, an E4 at St. Govans. Took a silly fall and stripped the gear on abseil. I saved the Energy for Circus Circus E5 the day after, which I found far easier than this. Showing Dougie the delights of the Huntsman's Leap. That rock never fails to amaze me. Spicy little start on Body Language, an E4 at St. Govans East. Steady away after the first few moves. Viki enjoying the delights of Saint Leger. I loved the place. And the Mount Ventoux wine. Did I mentioned the wine? Any self-respecting climber should do their field research when abroad. It's not all about climbing after all. On Warpath for a third time for the cameras. Dom Bush is a very talented film director and DOP. Very modest and humble, it was great pleasure to work with such a creative talent. (Photo Dom Bush) Welcome to the adventure! (excuse the sunglasses posing, it had been sunny till then...) (Photo Dom Bush Landandsky Media) Rhoscolyn Beach, one of my favorite places on this planet Look mum no ropes! When I first met Mat Howes, I though he was just the drone pilot. But he said it wasn't his main job. I asked what his main job was, he said jungle warfare instructor. He used to work for the army, now he is basically a total badass. Half the things he does I can't write about here, but he would certainly make Bear Grylls look like Paris Hilton (Sorry Andy Kirkpatrick!) Another total badass, Viki smashing her first 7c. Not many weeks ago she was doing the Ice Climbing world Cup. A real inspiration. Airtime on Fighting Torque F8a at The Cuttings, Portland Robin O'leary on Fighting Torque as well Marcus O'leary. another inspiration. Some monkeys like doing monkey business