Friday 8 January 2016

The Positivity of a New Year

Seeing in the New Year on Ingleborough
So its a new year, where many climbers will begin to write their goals and aspirations for the coming year. Suddenly a new year seems to kick start peoples brains. It gets them thinking about what they want to achieve. Climbing isn't just year on year, it is a continuous journey where we should continue to develop through the winter months and into the following year in one smooth transition. It is hard to continue training through the dark, wet autumnal months and I'm sure many folks performance drops during these months as the number of climbing days is significantly reduced. Mine certainly does. However I have tried to up the ante during the Autumn by getting myself a membership at Inglesport, my local wall, and I feel that I am already making gains through more regular visits. 
New Years Day training at Inglesport
However since the 'new' year, even I am taking a fresh perspective on my climbing. I am becoming more goal orientated and am going to stack the odds in my favour come the new season. After seeing in the new year on the top of Ingleborough, I was straight down to Inglesport on new years day, blasting out the tunes and getting in a boulder session. My awesome christmas present, a Beastmaker, has mounted and coupled with the brilliant Beastmaker app is providing structured training to supplement my other climbing. 
Will this be the year of the Beast? Only time and motivation will tell...
The new year also means new rubber. I was lucky enough to find some dry rock over the christmas period, catching up with my good friends Ben and Kirsty, we managed to get a boulder session at Brimham Rock. It was great to be out on rock again rather than plastic, and this one session has reignited my enthusiasm to get out on the rock as much as possible in the new year. There were a couple of problems at Brimham that I struggled on, not because I wasn't strong enough, or my skin too worn, but because of my equipment. It was frustrating, my boots were too worn, no edges left which meant I had no chance of standing on the small pebbles which prevented topping out. So new boots for me then! 
Some dry rock at Brimham Rocks
New year, new rubber. Scarpa Vapor Lace.
The pile of guidebooks has appeared at my bedside table as I'm looking for routes to add to the list for this year. I have got to a stage in my climbing where I am not as focussed about aiming towards particular grades, my climbing is about exploring crags I have not visited before. There are still quite a few. I am already looking towards climbing trips for the year, as I am heading to Norway next week to climb at the ice hotspot of Rjukan, Claire and I are already looking at heading to Lofoten in the far north of Norway. 
Lofoten looks amazing, just google it!

The last new for me this year is the launch of my own business, Olly Roberts Climbing. I hope to have inspired anyone that reads my blog, but maybe I can be a part of the development of your climbing. My website is now live, but updating and developing it is a never ending process and constructive criticism is more than welcome. So contact me if you would like to try climbing or hillwalking, move outdoors onto rock, guided multi-pitch routes and much more. All courses are bespoke and structured around your aims and aspirations.

Saturday 21 November 2015

Autumn Sunshine in Mallorca

After a miserable autumn of weather in the Yorkshire Dales, Claire and I booked a last minute trip to Mallorca for some sunshine. We headed to the South-West of the island and based ourself in Santa Ponca. We were blessed with the weather and had five days of sunshine, although quite a few blustery days. I was surprised by the variation in the limestone, I don't think I was expecting it, with some crags being very sharp, crozzly water worn compared to pocket and tufa covered orange sheets of rock. There was even this contrast within a crag, Puig de Garrafa for instance. 
Cala Bruix, Puig de Garrafa
That was the first place we climbed. Due to it's popularity quite a few of the easier graded are incredibly polished, just like climbing at Malham then. Don't let that put you off though the routes have some good climbing, nice movement and are all pretty varied. We started in the popular Sector Duck and climbed a number of the two and three star routes. We both found it harder trusting our feet on rather glassy footholds. We later moved down to Sector Corral which provided some brilliant climbing on lots of positive orange rock. 
Barbol at Can Ortigues
Can Ortigues sits high above the twisting road overlooking the sea on the Western side of the island, on a very steep slope. The tall grey walls of crozzly rock provide some tricky sharp moves which can be felt on the fingertips and through the soles of my rock boots. The routes had tricky starts and it was hard to read the rock. 

Climbing Neo at Sa Cantera
Finally we climbed at Sa Cantera up a quiet valley looking out above Palma but manages to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The crag seemed less popular and was a little dusty in places but the climbing was great, with some thin technical moves providing plenty of interest. Some of the routes were a bit dusty and dirty in places. I only had three days of climbing on the island and barely scratched the surface of the climbing here, I'm pretty sure that I'll be back to explore further. 

Wednesday 11 November 2015

The Beautiful Forest - Fontainebleau

     Claire and I had spent the last ten days exploring the Chamonix, but unfortunately the weather was looking too good for the last few days of our trip. Like everyone in the Alps, eyes are kept firmly on the forecasts and plans hatched for excursions into the mountains or crags in the valley. Our plan was to escape the valley, but where to go? Countless locations typed into the forecast; Saas Fee, Grindelwald, the Provence region, Aliefroide, but the South of France and the rest of the Alps wasn't looking hopeful. Fontainebleau; overcast with breaks of sun and hitting around 19 degrees. Happy days, it would just be like climbing on the grit in the summer. We packed up camp and headed to the forest.
What a place! Looking in to the forest at Roche aux Sabots
The brilliant patterns in the Sandstone boulders
     It had been four years since I last been to Font, I always seem to have great trips there, it is such a chilled out place. I never really go with any expectations and only use a guidebook for maps to get to the crags. I just climb lines and problems I like the look of, and thats a lot of them. 
Eyeing up the final throw on a Red problem at Roche aux Sabots
     We had a great few days, it was like being a kid in a sweet shop as we were only there for three days before catching our ferry back to the UK, so I climbed as much as I could in those three days. Often heading out for morning and afternoon sessions to avoid the midday sunshine. We camped at La Musardiere and visited crags within the Trois Pignons area; Gorges aux Chats, 95.2, Cul de Chien, 91.1 and Roche aux Sabots. As I hadn't climbed much recently and this was a pretty spontaneous visit I just planned to climb a lot of problems, building up some mileage rather than trying really hard boulders. 
Topping out at 91.1
     It took a little bit of readjusting to get used to the polished footholds which was pretty frustrating to begin with, feet just slipping away with no warning from holds that seemed solid. I love the movement that is found on the boulders in Font, how subtle changes in body position can mean the difference between failure and success. Our brief visit reignited a spark for the area and I can't wait to plan another trip back and put some prior training and effort in beforehand.
Over crimping at 91.1
Topping out a thin slab

Tuesday 10 November 2015

A Busy Year in the Outdoors

     I've been pretty quiet on the blog front this year unfortunately. Personally it has been a bit of a mixed year in terms of my own climbing. I moved to a new area at the end of last year and have found it hard to meet new climbing partners to get out to the crags. I know that sounds like an excuse, I have still been climbing and have gone through another phase where I have massively got into mountain biking and started racing through the season. This is the first year that I have been working freelance, mostly within the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District. I have worked for lots of different people and organisations, providing a huge variety of work, in terms of places and the people I have provided outdoor experiences for. Here's a selection of the things I have got up to through the spring and summer months. 

Meeting my new crag and biking partner for the first time... Skye
Mountain Biking with the Wensleydale School BTEC Students
Walking above Malham with Rough Edges' Prince's Trust Group
Bringing Skye home!
Climbing at Robin Proctors Scar
Working on my first SPA Training - Personal Climbing at Oxenber
My first PMBA Enduro at Lee Quarry, Rossendale
Climbing Scafell Pike with a group from Marston's Brewery for Kendal Mountaineering Services
Little Skye isn't so little anymore
Paddling on Coniston Water with Dallam Outdoors
We even managed to get a quick trip to the Alps - Claire's first trip to the Alps


Tuesday 17 February 2015

A Forcan Windy Day

     Our decision on where to go today was made a lot easier after seeing Ken Applegate post a picture on twitter of the stunning Forcan Ridge bathed in sunshine yesterday. This was an option for some point this week and a route I have been meaning to climb for a while. We had a relatively early start and a drive round from Lochcarron to Glen Shiel. There had been fresh snow from yesterday or perhaps overnight down to around 650m, but we were greeted with lashings of rain as we put off getting out the car, thinking we’ll give it five more minutes to see if it stops. We started our approach to the ridge following the well defined path that contours it’s way up the hillside, spotting fresh foot prints in the snow, perhaps Ken’s from the previous day. 
Piers on the early sections of Forcan Ridge
Piers kicking steps up a section of firm snow
     It was still raining hard as we followed the tracks ahead until the lower sections of the ridge were in view. We spotted another team on the ridge just as it was entering the cloud, around an hour ahead of us, they must be their tracks we were following. We moved quickly up the the lower sections of the first slope weaving between the rocks making use of the lower grassed slopes. As we climbed higher onto the ridge, we undulated through and over little rock steps which provided much interest. The wind had picked up by this point, whipping across the ridge, buffeting against us as we hunched over the nearest rock or crouched down. 
Down climbing a short gully to avoid the abseil on Forcan Ridge
     The powder slowed our progress as it made our boots feel insecure on the slabby rocks and grassy ledges and the build-up made it hard to judge the depth or the solid ground which lay beneath. Occasionally the ridge narrowed from rocky blocks to narrow snow ridges which didn’t look too stable and we quickly moved across these, timing our dash with a break in the gusting wind. Soon we reached the abseil, which I had read about in the guide, however it didn’t specify its length and said it would be possible to down climb. After a look down the line this wasn’t really an option and we opted to put on our crampons and down climb a short gully and traversed around the buttress to rejoin the ridge. 
He is walking on a snow ridge, honest.

     With the perceived crux passed, we continued through the cloud taking each difficulty in our stride, but the ridge kept on giving as the next section revealed itself when we approached. Steadily we reached the upper sections and the the ridge began to broaden and ease off as we neared the saddle and the trig point summit. From here the climbing was over, map and compass out as we discussed legs to take us off the summit. We descended through the cloud down a snow slope before following our next bearing to reach a bealach, avoiding dropping into the wrong glen far from the car. Making the bealach we tracked down the valley, dropping out of the snow-line and into the bogs beneath, following a stream back down towards the car and back into the rain. There had been a thaw through the day, with rain falling at around 900m and the snow on descent from the summit feeling relatively slushy. The fresh snow from the previous day had gone completely as we looked back up from the glen. Fingers crossed that the forecast rain and warm air leaves some snow in the North West for the rest of the week. 
Some windy navigation to get off The Saddle

Monday 16 February 2015

A Grand Day Out On Beinn Bhan

     I had heard a lot about Beinn Bhan, recently being in the UKC news pages for a new X,10 mixed route and looking through the pages of my Scottish Winter Climbs Guide. It is a relatively modest height, the summit trig point at 896m, but rises straight out of the sea close to nearby Loch Kishorn. The impressive coires are hidden from view as we set off from the car, trudging across the boggy grass and heather, the heavy raindrops bouncing off my waterproofs as we jumped across several streams along the vague path. We cut off from the path and headed up through the bogs, towards A’Chioch. The rain was still hitting hard and the prospect of a long wet scramble was not too appealing anymore. 
Quietly pleased that it has actually started snowing
     The rain began to turn to sleet, then snow, as we were close to the base and decided against the route, choosing instead to contour across the mountain past the huge coires and buttresses before finding a weakness to the summit. The snow continued and whipped it hard into our sodden figures as we traipsed through the saturated hillside. We contoured past Coire na Poite catching the shadow of the imposing buttresses of A’Phoit and Coire an Fhamair ahead. I can’t quite describe the size of these cliffs, they are huge and complex. I think they are the most impressive crags I have seen into the UK.
Looking across to A'Poite and A'Chioch
Piers heading on to the upper reaches of our slope
     We picked our weakness up the hillside on the right edge of Coire an Fhamair. We could pick out a route from the base of the slope, which weaved its’ way through the sandstone tiers following the path of least resistance. The slope was now covered with a layer of snow and we agreed that we wouldn’t climb up anything that we wouldn’t be comfortable climbing down. This was to be our Giants Wall, well it felt like it. We couldn’t tell if there was going to be a route for us to forge on the upper sections as we stared up into the clag which covered the upper reaches of our slope. 
Looking across to Giants Wall
     We hardly noticed all the height we had gained as we moved into the upper reaches of our route. We had weaved around through the shelves of heather and boulders, hitting the occasional patches of old snow which had softened up, proving to be a real pain as every step sank up to the thigh becoming ever more frustrating. We reached a broad ledge in the upper parts of the slope, the snow still falling with strong spindrift blowing down from the upper reaches. From here it narrowed up to form a narrower spur and a final couple of tiers of crag led us onto the plateau above. The cloud had broken and we could look across towards the Giants Wall and the summit. 
Piers nerving off onto the plateau

Navving in the white room from Beinn Bhan summit
     We took the opportunity to practice our pacing and boxing to avoid the corniced edges of the coires. The cloud returned as we reached the summit but the sun broke through to provide cracking views to A’Chioch as we descended the South East Ridge before breaking off down the slope direct to the car. This slope dragged on and on and I can’t recall a step that wasn’t followed by a squelch as we reached the snowline and onto the saturated boggy slopes below. It was a grand day out, a hard won ascent and some really adventurous mountaineering up this impressive Scottish mountain, I am sure to be back. 
A break in the cloud this afternoon on Beinn Bhan
Taking the direct route down to the car

Tuesday 10 February 2015

A Weekend Pass on the Ice at Beinn Udlaidh

      Scotland was having a cracking February with lots of ice forming with sunny stable weather conditions. I am focussing most of my winter exploring areas of Scotland I haven't previously visited whilst gaining experience ready for my Winter Mountain Leader assessment at the beginning of March. This weekend it was time to dust off the tools, forget the summits and go climb some routes. Jack and I headed to Beinn Udlaidh, aware that it was a weekend and that the crag will be very busy. We had an early start, leaving the van at 5:30am, making sure we had first pick of the routes, neither of us keen on queuing. The sun was just rising as we started up the final slopes to the base of the crag, revealing the routes from the darkness, walls of ice stepped up the crag, huge umbrellas and daggers hanging from overhangs. The ice architecture was incredible. 
Moving up the first pitch of Quartzvein Scoop
Jack under the umbrella on Pitch 2 of Quartzvein Scoop
     I started up the first pitch of Quartzvein Scoop, the classic of the crag, my ice technique a bit rusty as I swung my tools into brilliant sticky ice. I moved up the groove above to a comfortable belay and watched the black dots wandering up the track on the approach. Jack climbed under a brilliant umbrella and climbed round to its right and  up the ice steps above. I finished off the third pitch to take us to the top. 
A busy morning at Beinn Udlaidh
     As we walked off the top, we likened the mountain to a crag where you are able to walk off and select the next route, unlike the huge mountain days you complete whilst climbing a route on Ben Nevis. A large number of teams had now swarmed the crag, with queues present on the majority of routes and teams climbing lines of ice all over the crag. We opted to climb Green Eyes, another IV 4, which provided a steeper first pitch which had become quite hooked out from the previous weeks traffic. 
Jack on the first pitch of Green Eyes
     We opted for a gully line next, climbing South Gully of the Black Wall, with 2 long pitches taking us to the top through some brilliant ice formations. The temperature definitely rose through the day as we finished up climbing Ice Crew, which we made a three pitch grade three. It did however have a few steeper sections of ice, steeper than we were expecting anyway. 
Moving into the bottom of South Gully of the Black Wall

Jack not enjoying the hot aches
Jack moving through the umbrellas on the top pitch
     We stashed the gear, saving our shoulders on the walk down and the early approach the following morning. We were slower on the walk in, the four routes from the previous day taking the toll on our weary bodies. After gearing up we climbed the cold climbs classic Ramshead Gully which was a contrast to the previous days routes with some thuggy thrutchy moves required in the narrow bottom sections of the gully. It was a lot milder than the previous day and the cloud and clag had moved in with a brisk wind, we descended for a leisurely drive back to Yorkshire.