Thursday, May 30, 2013

Yorkshire Bouldering with Matt Birch

During my short time in England I managed to finally visit my buddy Matt Birch up in Yorkshire as I've been threatening for years.  He lives just a shortish drive North of the Peak District and there happens to be a bunch of gritstone up his way as well.  Matt showed me around to a couple of his local crags and when it wasn't raining/hailing we climbed on some pretty sweet problems.  And by climb I mean Matt ran laps on classics and I flailed and made up lame excuses.  Apparently there is a friendly rivalry between the Yorkshire crew and those from the Peak District as they both claim to have the better bouldering.  I didn't get to see much of what Yorkshire has to offer but I think it's safe to say that both places have some good stuff.

Here are a few pictures of Yorkshire gritstone and cuisine

 Matt warming up on Flying Arete at Almscliff

 Gypsy is a little terrifying when the holds toward the top are damp.  Fortunately it rains enough to keep the ground soft and pitching from the top should just leave you knee deep in mud

Matt Birch.  The man, the myth, the legend

Ben's Groove was just one of the amazing problems at Caley.  I definitely want to go back to this area.

Since I was in Yorkshire (pronounced "york-sure" for you yankees) it seemed like the ideal time to try Yorkshire Pudding.  I can say Matt's climbing ability is rivaled by his culinary skill.  Yum yum.

Deliciousness. Yorkshire pudding, chicken wrapped in bacon, and potatoes all topped with gravy.  I'll be back for second helping is this and the boulders in the near future.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Brad Pitt and Deliverance

Brad Pitt and Deliverance are arguably the best problems in the Peak District and they have achieved an iconic draw similar to Midnight Lightning in Yosemite.  One can hardly talk about Peak District bouldering without referring to these problems and when returning from a trip one is very likely to be asked if they sent.   Patrik, who has lived in Sheffield for a year, is so sick of North American friends asking if he's done these problems that he has considered printing a shirt that on the front says "No, I haven't done Brad Pitt" and on the back "but I have done Deliverance".

I'm no different than Patrik's other annoying friends as some 10 years ago I already decided that I had to climb on these two problems.  I was taken by glossy pictures from the mags and added them both to an ever growing lifetime tick-list.  Now in general I don't like having projects before arriving in an area but these problems are special and became priority.

For Brad Pitt I woke up at 0500 for the best chance of avoiding rain and taking advantage of having Lina there to take Hammie for the morning,  Deliverance was the only problem of the trip I tried more than one day as two short sessions and lots of frustration was needed for this one. Both these problems epitomize the Peak style of subtlety and body position as being strong will only get you so far and I imagine more than a few strong-boys have been humbled by these gems.  For me the problems were a learning experience and while just trying them made my day, getting sends of both was like a dream come true.

Brad Pitt follows a line of slopers and while it seems straight forward it was anything but.  Each moved had to be learned and required a degree of subtlety and precision I was not expecting. 

 Patience was key as it took many tries to figure out the first move off a tricky heel and in total nearly 3 hours before I understood the body position necessary to get me to the top.

More than a few times I stared down the finishing jug before everything came together and happy endorphins rushed through my body

Deliverance is beautifully situated and climbs right up the middle of a face, finishing with the notorious slab-dyno.  I was actually more excited for Deliverance than Brad Pitt as slab-dynos are not my strong suite but this one looked amazing.

Figuring out the beginning only took a couple tries but that last move was relentless.  There is a fine line between pushing too much off the bad foot and not enough.  Push too hard and the foot blows, not enough and you don't reach the jug.  Just after a good burn I'd think I'd figured it out but then the next few attempts would be hopeless.  I imagine one could get lucky and do the problem in a couple tries but by the time I actually grabbed the jug I'd figured out all the little subtleties and reckon a repeat wouldn't be too hard.  I guess the plus side of falling off a move 30 times is you learn how not to do it.

Before the dyno one tries to gauge how much force to put on that right foot.
And then one time it all comes together 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Peak District Photo Dump

Some more pictures from the Peak

Patrik on the Green Traverse 

Hammie out for a quick session

Helene climbs, Lina spots and Patrik spectates 

A bucolic landscape

 If you've ever been to the Peak District you've seen a few of these. 

Patrik on a steep arete in Standage

The Eagle stone sits all by itself but is well worth a visit as it is has several great problems.  Here Patrik tries to find balance before the double-dyno on Where Beagles Dare

Patrik finds a creative sequence on a deceptively difficult problem

Flatworld was one of the problems I sought out after seeing a picture in the guidebook.  This aesthetic arete was  the gem of the small area

Patrik pulls on a cool pocket problem

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Churnet Valley

When talking about climbing in the Peak District one needs to understand that it is not one large climbing area but rather a smattering of small areas spread over a fairly large region.  Some areas are extremely small and most days consist of hitting up several places so planning is important as one doesn't want to spend an hour in the car getting between two distant areas.  Fortunately many of the areas are located in clusters (sometimes walking distance from each other) making the transition from one to the next quite easy.  But there are some areas that sit isolated at the edge of the Peak District and warrant a good portion of your day just do to laction.  The Churnet Valley is one such area.

The Churnet Valley is near the edge of what you can call the Peak District (I believe it is located outside the Peak District National Park but is still included in the bouldering guide) and from the looks of it I wasn't too enticed.  The climbing consists primarily of drop-offs on cliff bands but there is one major plus to the area......problems can stay dry in the rain.  Knowing that England wasn't going to provide decent weather we made a trip one cloudy day and Churnet Valley proved to be the perfect location as we climbed a good number of problems despite frequent rain showers.  I'd even go as far as to say that we climbed some good problems, just wish they topped out.

The "main" wall at Churnet Valley is actually quite impressive and the problems have pleasing movement on high quality rock.  If only these problems would top-out. 

 Another view of the main wall.  Plenty of climbing on a single wall.

Patrik on one of the easier problems on the wall.  This wall is not recommend for those that don't climb in the  Font 7 grades.

 Simple Simon was one of the better looking problems and despite some serious effort I couldn't find a way to do it that didn't involve a right heel (damn my hamstring)

Patrik on Simple Simon

Patrik climbs The Nose at another wall in Churnet Valley

 A fun, thuggy roof crack

 Holding the big swing at the end

A cool dyno problem

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Two things you should know about the Peak District

As I start to prepare for my return to Sweden I've begun reflecting on the last week in England.  These 10 days in the Peak District was my first time bouldering in Great Britian and served as a scouting trip as from the beginning I wondered whether it would be any good.  It actually only took a couple days to realize I'd like to return for a second more substantial trip.  My time here has been eye opening in a number of ways and I thought I'd share the two most important things I've come to realized about bouldering on gritstone.

  1. The climbing doesn't suck.  Before coming to Sheffield I was under the impression that gritstone offered a handful of amazing climbs and vast quantities of turdy problems and hard (but unimpressive) traverses.  Much of the footage I'd seen from the area seemed to focus on either very hard climbs that were far from inspiring (small and/or sideways climbs) or very bold sends of routes that blur the line between highball and free-solo.  I had admittedly also seen a few amazing climbs that would certainly get me inspired but it's hard to justify a trip for just one or two good problems.  Fortunately within a couple days I realized the Peak District is more expansive than I realized and contains a fair number of amazing climbs I'd never heard of.

    In addition to have a fair number of great problems the gritstone tends to climb extremely well and even some of the less than impressive looking climbs become quite enjoyable.  The climbing is awesome and it is a place with something for everyone from bone-crushers to newbies.  The style of climbing has been described to me as "humbling", strength will only get you so far and you better have good technique and know how trust your feet.
  2. The weather does suck.  England has a bad reputation when it comes to weather and it is well deserved.  We have been rained on everyday and even experienced hail a few times.  While I have managed to touch a fair bit of dry rock it takes motivation and patience.  It can be exhausting trying to take advantage of the brief windows between showers and if you aren't willing to go out at 0500 in the morning you might miss the only dry spell of the day (yes, I did go out bouldering before 0600).  The safest bet seems to be going to a windy crag and finding a cave to hunker in until the rain blows over and then alternate between hunkering and climbing as the weather gods toy with you emotions.

    Unfortunately for me having a 3 year old in tow is not very conducive to quick sessions at blustery locations and I've had to pass on a few opportunities.  While Hammie is generally very cooperative I can hardly expect her to be overjoyed about shivering in the rain at 1900 while her dad desperately tries to send before the rock becomes sopping wet.

    Considering how bad the weather is I'd still say the climbing is worth the risk but one needs to be flexible and  I recommend good rain clothing and a lengthy book (or something else to do while waiting out the rain)
Here are a few pictures of from the Cubar area

Patrik sowes his flexibility

Lina getting a taste of gritstone

 Patrik on one of Cubar's best, Gorilla Warfare

A beautiful woman on a beautiful slab

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Taking a Peak

I've never been all that excited about taking a climbing trip to England but somehow the pieces all fell into place.  Between Lina's conference in Scotland (free travel for her) and my friend Patrick living in Sheffield (free place to stay for us) the trip was too easy to pass up.  Now a cheap Ryan Air flight and tiny rental car later I find myself wandering about the Peak District's gritstone.  Now if only the weather will cooperate I'll see what all the fuss is about grit.

If anyone has some recommendations while I'm here please shoot them my way (boulders or culture).

 Patrick playing tour guide to some wet boulders.  I guess no trip would be complete without a taste of the notoriously bad English weather. Now that I've done that it's time to clear up

Countryside.  Since it's not actually raining this is "good weather"