Saturday, December 31, 2005

Cacao e' Chuao

Durante la ultima semana de diciembre de 2005, Mike, Fuco y yo nos dirigimos al pintoresco pueblo de Chuao. A unas dos horas de caminata desde el pueblo, montana arriba, se encuentra una gran pared de arenisca (?) de unos 150m de altura, que forma parte de la garganta de uno de los tributarios del rio Chuao. En esta ocasion Federico tenia como proyecto encadenar en libre un enorme techo bordeado por una larga grieta (20m) en su base. La ruta fue preparada en artificial y Federico encadeno practicamente toda la ruta en libre exceptuando el paso crux justo al final, a un par de metros de la reunion.

La gran pared de Chuao vista desde el camino de aproximacion.

El Mike colocando una de las dos chapas en el inicio de la ruta. Esta seccion presenta roca descompuesta y poco posibilidad para colocar proteccion tradicional. Pocos momentos antes una de las piezas de proteccion fallo y Mike se dio un bollete bestial en el suelo, que resulto en una pequena fractura en la muneca derecha.

Preparando la ruta en artificial. Secciones de la roca estaban descompuestas, llenas de nidos de arcilla (avispas) o nidos de golondrinas. La proteccion fue dejada in situ para el posterior intento de encadenamiento en libre.

El Fuco despues del primer intento de encadenamiento en libre despues de un largo dia de preparacion de la ruta en artificial.

El Fuco en el crux. Una sequencia de slopers y dinamicos. Veredicto: 5.13a!

Er Fuco y su ruta ..., el gran techo sombreado que aparece en el centro de la foto.

Regreso a casa, el camion a traves de la plantacion de cacao.

La larva del Mikey y su ferula, despues de haber sido tratado por Flor Boscan.

Caco e' Chuao. (5.13a) Un solo largo de aprox. 30m. La primera seccion de escalada es de unos 10m hasta alcanzar la grieta y se proteje con dos chapas. La grieta se proteje con proteccion tradicional hasta alcanzar la reunion (dos chapas sin cadena).

Monday, September 12, 2005

El Naranjo

Naranjo North Face

Last week we headed to Northern Spain, to the 'Picos de Europa' range (Europe Peaks). The most emblematic peak in this range is "El Naranjo de Bulnes", aka "Picu Urrielu", an impressive 500m high limestone monolith, with a summit reaching 2516m above sea level. My long time climbing partner, the crazy Frenchman Pascal, went down there with me to do the Marínez Direct, a long, but very easy route on the south face of the peak. The climb is done on superb, clean and hard limestone, along curious features called "canaletas", which are shallow grooves about 2 inches wide and 3 to 5 inches deep that have been carved by the action of running water on the limestone slabs. Highly recommended.

Sunrise and the hills around Naranjo:

Sunrise on the climbing day

Naranjo east face from the refuge:

The east face as seen from the refuge

Climbers on the east face:

Closeup of climbers on the east face

South face:

Martínez Direct - South Face

First belay:

First belay


Pascal on Naranjo's summit


Pascal on the first abseil

Approach path:

Pascal on the way back to the refuge

Friday, June 10, 2005

Separate reality, solo again after 19 years!

Separate reality, one of the most iconic roof climbs in Yosemite Valley, has had recently its second solo ascent. In 1986, the pictures of Wolfgang Güllich soloing this impresive, horizontal, 6m crack, hanging 200m above the Merced River went around the world. Hainz Zak, who shot Wolfgang's iconic pictures made the second ascent. More info here.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Wet Corner

I'm well on my way to becoming a bailing out expert. I did my BSc at Wye Valley, with One for All ... (5a HVS), when I had to bail out very close to the top because of nasty rain and a very, very slippery slab. Last Saturday was the turn of Cenotaph Corner (5c E1), a climb that needs no introduction. We arrived late in the morning at the bottom of the corner, after a nasty scramble on very slippery rock. The right wall of the corner was completely wet, in fact, a sort of subtle water fall. Nonetheless, I decided that after all the effort I had had to have a go at it. It seems that I didn't learn the lesson properly in Wye Valley. Anyway, a wet horrorshow ensued that left me hopelessly hanging from the middle of the climb. I ended wet, cold and numb, and with a well earned MSc on bailing out. Never try your first E1 in the rain! I am now looking for the PhD ...

Main wall of Angel Falls goes free!

Angel Falls, with its 978m drop, is the highest water fall on earth. Its waters fall along a massively overhanging, ancient sandstone wall. A team of British, Russian and Venezuelan climbers made a clean first free ascent along the steepest part of the wall. 31 pitches in total, with 9 graded E7, 19 days of climbing, 14 on the wall. No bolts or pegs left on the wall. More info at Truly an amazing accomplishment!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Coronation Crack

Coronation Crack
Originally uploaded by dycotiles.
Last bank holiday weekend went for a hard sandstone double session - Harrison's on Sat and High Rocks on Mon. On Sat I sent my long stanging personal project: The Flakes, at 6a (or hard 5c depending on the guidebook), it is one of the true classics at Harrison's. Monday at HR was a crack jamming session, where I finally sent Coronation Crack (5c), probably the best hand jamming crack in Southern Sandstone! The best thing is that my long friend and climbing master Pascal couldn't do it! This is the first time ever that I beat him in a climb, which made me feel very proud, specially considering that it was his birthday!

During Monday morning it rained very hard, so the slabs at High Rocks were too wet to be climbed, so we settle for a little bit of music when the sunshine finally appeared.

At the end of the night we went to Pascal's house to celebrate his brirthday. Pascal got a bit pissed and afterward tried to eat one of his kittens!

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Brixton guidebook

Yes, Brixton Climbing Wall, the most daring of all London Crags has got its new guide book, with a complete description of all the amazing routes available! The guide is not properly finished yet, but you can have a look at it here! Read it, use it, and leave your comments.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Basset's Farm

The Garden of England

On Sunday I headed back to southern sandstone, this time with my old friend Pascal, and Jonathan a quite nice American chap. This was our first time at Basset's Farm, and to be honest this crag is set in the most breathtaking scenery of all the other sandstone crags I have visited so far (and that includes Harrison's, High Rocks, Eridge, Bowles, Bulls Hollow, Stone Farm and Under Rockes), here you are literally climbing in a beautiful garden. It is a very small crag, but with impressive and very technical climbs all above 5c in its main wall. This crag is certainly worth a visit, specially if you are a strong climber wishing to get away from the crowds!

The main wall

Pascal monkeying on Tree Route (4a)

Jonathan resting

Anaconda squeeze!

Duncan pretty happy stuck inside Anaconda Chimney

Last Saturday we headed to High Rocks, where the restoration project has had a profound impact on the quality of the climbs. The highlight of the day was Anaconda Chimney (4a), a very long, narrow, exhausting and brilliant climb! A serious contender for the best chimney climb in Britain? We also tried two of the most immaculate arêtes in Sandstone: Henry The Ninth (5b, right of Infidel) and Advertisement Wall (5b, left of Engagement Wall, see pics bellow), both very technical and balancy. James, Tobby and Duncan performed superbly on Engagement Wall (6a). Other joys of the day where the jamming cracks Lucita and Marquita (both 5c), Coronation Crack (5c) a true classic, that deserves 4 stars and that I haven't been able to manage yet, Dirty Dick (4a) which is a nice route to solo, and Infidel (6a), a very technical climb that regrettably none of us manage to climb!

Patrik on the superb Engagement Wall

James on Infidel

The climbing maniacs: James, Ines, Duncan Geraldine, Caroline, Tobby and Mario

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Yorkshire grit ...

The famous Yorkshire dales were our destination for last bank holiday weekend. We did a nice walk along the cliffs and gorges of Malham, practiced some fine bouldering at Caley, had a crack hell experience at Briham Rocks, and enjoyed a sunny and warm day of relaxed bouldering and top roping at Almscliff.

James attempting Otley Wall (V3) at Caley Crag

Success on Chicken Heads (V2)

Caroline battling with the Chips (V0-)

Geraldine testing her boots on an unknown friction slab (V1)

The climbing crew: James, Geraldine, Duncan, Caroline and Mario

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Bowles again ...

Well, we decided to head back to Bowles Rocks last weekend: James, Ana (my girlfriend and official photographer for the session) and Ines. Tried Fandango (5c) unsuccessfully, which feels desperately hard for a 5c. It is rumored that one of the bottom holds broke off and that would explain why this climb feels rather like a 6a. We also climbed the classic Sapper (4b), James and I did the Inspiration variation of the climb (5b) and Ines did the classic route. An unforgettable squeeze. Also tried Abracadabra (5a), one hell of a crack; Patella (6a), again unsuccessfully; Ly'in (6b) which I wasn't able to do (arggghhh), I keep falling at the crux but the bottom moves now feel much easier, James sent it again, officially redpointing it first 6b (last week he had actually done a bit of hangdogging); and finally we tried Ricochet (4b) which has a very tricky start and some delicate route finding, nice 4b! Next week we are planning to go to Yorkshire and try some hard grit, so see you then!

Having fun in Fandango:

Monday, April 18, 2005

This is a big number:

This weekend we had one of the most amazing climbing we have had this year at Bowles Rocks. James, Geraldine and I headed down to this beautiful climbing spot south of London, where we enjoyed the weather and some quality sandstone.
Our first climb of the day was Mick's Wall (5b), and awkward crack I onsighted easily but that took James unaware. He sent it in style after a series of failed attempts which made him improve his jamming technique the hard way. We next tried Mick's Wall Variation (6a) where I failed miserable. James showed a much better performance here but he found the top moves too hard to tackle.

Mick's Wall Struggle:

The great project of the day was The Banana (6a), climb we tried unsuccessfully a couple of weeks ago (see previous posts) and that we sent at our FIRST try this time. We can barely believe the top mantleshelf felt so easy this time! This is my first British 6a.
We then move onto Patella (6a), certainly much harder than Banana. Although neither of us could do the final couple of moves (argghhh!!!), we felt really satisfied we our performance here. This route is amazing I am confident we will be able to handle it in a couple of weeks!
The climbing for the day was going on far better than what we would have ever expected, but things were going to get even more exiting. There were a bunch of meaty hardmen trying impressive boulders in the Fandango wall. They moved later onto Ly'in slab (6b) which simply looks impossible. We watched them trying and failing again and again, and we dreamt about the day when we could tackle climbs at that grade.
After a good rest and after enjoying the hardmen show, we moved onto Pig's Ear (5c) and Pig's Nose (5a) two truly sandstone classics at their respective grades. Pig's Ear involves climbing on a shallow and flaky slab to reach an awkward overhang. This climb took a good couple of tries but we finally managed to send it. Pig's Nose, well, we simply flew past it! I had tried this climb some 3 years ago and its final, steep overhang felt so impossible!

Having fun on Pig's Ear:

Relaxed, and happy after such an amazing day, we started gathering our things before deciding whether to go home or do a little bit of light bouldering. We then passed again in front of Ly'in slab where a couple of guys where trying it unsuccessfully. When they were done and retrieved their ropes, I got onto it and tried the first couple of moves. Ummhh, it looked doable after all. James was getting exited and enticed me to put the rope up. He tried first, reaching for the first horizontal set of finger holes, and pulling real hard on them before stretching and reaching the second set, which is miserably smaller. James spent a good 5 min there trying to work out what to do next until he finally decided to traverse to the arete and finish up an easier route "this is too impossible man". I went up it, exited about how a 6b slab should feel. I managed to arrived at the second set of finger holes awkwardly, and started playing with them, trying to visualize a way to move forward up. I found a small mono for my left index finger, big enough for the first phalanx of my finger to go in. Gathering strength from where I didn't have it, I pulled hard on the mono, move my feet as high as possible, whole body under tension, and reached high up with my right hand to a miserably side pull sloper. Impossible. Went down the climb, taped my fingers to prevent injuring the pulleys and went up again. I repeated the same hard pull on the mono, but this time paid more attention to my footwork and reached further high up with my right hand to the upper ledge ..., I actually managed to touch the lip of the ledge before all my strength abandoned me and my body detached itself from the slab. Impossible is nothing, this is doable! "James I know you can do this!" He got really exited, so we swapped rope and belay and he went up it quickly. He performed his own version of the moves I had worked out and he actually managed to reach the upper ledge! Unbelievable, he had simply tackled the 6b crux of the climb! Despite James's phlegmatic character, I could see happiness pouring all over his face.

6b Glory:

I certainly wasn't going to give up that easily so I had another couple of goes. These later attempts where not as good as the first ones (argghhhh!). I went down the climb feeling a bit disappointed, but hey, a first 6a and 6b the same day? Not even in my wildest dreams! No worries, I'm sure next time I'll do this climb easily ...
Well done James!

So close ...

Monday, April 11, 2005

Cracks and Flakes!

For years I have heard my French friend Pascal talk about a hard climb called the 'flex' down at Harrison's Rocks. He would mention this climb again and again, and how he would try it every New Year's Day, sometimes successfully, sometimes failing miserably. I was intrigued by this climb's name. I would try to imaging its crux sequence involving some 'flexy' moves. Last summer Pascal showed me the climb, and after checking the guide book I realised that it is called 'The Flakes' (6a), and the climb itself involves a rightwards traverse using a series of flakes and a very hard move pulling over an overhang to gain the top. Last Saturday I went with my climbing mates James and Geraldine to Harrison's and had a go at it. None of us could handle the crux moves but nonetheless were satisfied by our performance. I reckon that a couple of weekends more and we will be able to handle it!

Yours truly hanging onto the Flakes:

Jame's Stupid effort:

Another crazy climb we tried was 'Stupid Effort' (5b), to be tackled with one of the most wicked sequence of moves I have seen in a climb at this grade. The above pic shows James sending the crux slab, involving a mantle shelf for the left arm, a tiny sloper for the right hand and an awkward stretch for the left leg!

Geraldine getting 'high' up onto Stupid Effort:

Other highlights of the day included the savage 'Slimfinger' (5c), and the squeazy peasy 'Long Crack' (4b), the latter one a true classic, where inproper offwidth technique can take more than one experience climber into an unexpected struggle.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Sandstone tour

Our climbing leader, James Davies, is in talks to become editor of the website, so this weekend we decided to go for a sandstone tour and try some hard climbs at Bowles Rocks, Eridge Green and Bulls Hollow, check the conditions and take some pictures!

Bowles Rocks: The Banana 6a

Our first stop was at Bowles, where we all tried the famous Banana climb! This route was previously graded 5c, but the tree that was at the top was removed, and the exit is now much harder, and the climb is now considered 6a. The banana was too much for us that day, with the last moves proving elusive. James did his hip trying the moves at the top so he sadly had to stop climbing for the rest of the day ... However he enjoyed the nice weather getting high and taking some terrific pictures!

Eridge Green

Our next stop was at Eridge Green, where the car park boulders offer plenty of high graded climbs to waste anyone! Patrik had a particularly nice session here, sending Too Short (5c), Trainer Drainer (5c) and Equilibrium Wall (5a) among others.

Bulls Hollow

Our last stop was Bulls Hollow, where last year's restoration project has considerably improved the rock conditions. It is still wet, muddy, greasy and slippery, but hopefully after a long hot summer spell we might finally see these rocks dry! Patrik and I were too knackered to succed in Pseudonym (5c) so we settled for a disappointingly easy 4c next to it.