Friday, December 11, 2015

Finding Worthy Rocks: First Ascents in Dartmoor National Park

As my friends are well aware, I was not too psyched about the move to Southwestern England.  I generally judge an area by the quality, quantity and potential of the local climbing and it was safe to say that Exeter is a downgrade in every way from my home in Gothenburg.  Fortunately I quickly stopped whining about what I left behind and started exploring my new home and realized there is a decent amount of rock to be found at my "local" area of Dartmoor National Park.  

Those that know me are aware that I like the process of searching for boulders almost as much as I like climbing them, and since everything in Dartmoor was new I had plenty to keep me busy.  I went to work systematically visiting every area, ticking the local classics and searching for anything that might have been overlooked.  Using various online resources, local beta, satellite images and detailed maps I started trekking to every area that had even the remotest chance of having climbable rock, and while most of these missions were met with disappointment I'd occasionally stumble upon something worthy.  

Well, the productive outings have started to add up and not only have I collected quite a few projects but I've also added 15 new problems with some of them being among the best in Dartmoor.  So here are a few pictures of some of the new problems and there is certainly more to come.  I have come close to exhausting the areas closest to home but there is still plenty on the far side of the moor.  

The majority of climbing in Dartmoor is on rocky outcroppings called "tors" like Greater Rocks (foreground) and Hound Tor (background).  While all of these tors have been climbed at for years (they are hard to miss) there are some obvious problems that have been overlooked.  

One such overlooked problem is at Easdon Rocks and only two meters from the classic Easdon Arete.  It goes from a sit using a "nonhold" under the roof and then navigating the slopey lip/arete to the top.  I called this one Overshadowed.

While the potential up on the open moor is limited there are several wooded areas with clusters of boulders hidden in the trees.  I've had the good fortune to meet some kindred spirits that have been exploring the woods for years and they gave me a tour, saving countless hours on my part.  Thanks to Tom Rainbow for showing me around and pointing me toward this project, which I called Lazy Colon.

A little arete I found hiding in the woods and brushed up.  I do try to seek out the best stuff but not every fa I do is going to be an area classic.  Sometimes you got to find the "best of whats left" and I can say being in England is teaching me to make do with what I have.

 Lustleigh Cleave is a large wooded area that has the most potential of the Dartmoor areas and where roughly half my fa's are, including this gem.  Over the Mountain is one of the most enjoyable and surprising new problems as it started as a nice option for a day out with my sun and turned into a minor obsession.  It took me two days to just figure out the beta and I hauled my son back roughly 8 times before putting it together.  The climbing is pretty unique for Dartmoor and packs a lot of climbing into a small space.

Here's a shot of the crux underbelly of Over the Mountain

Here's another new problem in Lustleigh.  I brushed this one up while supporting a friend on an adjacent problem and Mikey and I sent it one after the other.  Another problem worth doing if in the area.  Hey Mikey, what did you call this one?

Perhaps the best problem I've put up in Dartmoor is also in Lustleigh and climbs the face of "the project boulder".  Yankee Doodle Dandy is essentially just three moves with the last one being a big dyno.  I did do this one by myself but it's not recommended as pads and spotters will prove helpful.

It's always nice to visit areas you've marked on your map and find someone has done most of the work of cleaning the boulders.  I later found out who had developed this little area and informed that I was the first to do this little dandy.  I called it The Gift and want to thank Dave Henderson for cleaning it up.

Another sweet problem Dave had cleaned up was this slopey traverse he called Snaresbrook Snake-charmer .  He started from a jug in the middle and I added an extension that sit-starts all the way left.

This one is actually still a project (one of many) but I've figured out all the moves and at some point I'll get back to it.........

Friday, December 4, 2015

Wrist Rocket (aka Triple Threat Arete): Little Cottonwoods Best Problem?

Wrist Rocket is an amazing climb in Little Cottonwood that is a contender for best in the canyon.  I was fortunate enough to stumble upon a crew there as it does require a few pads and/or a solid spot. Also a big thanks to my buddy Kyle for prepping the top and spraying me down with beta.  

It's also worth noting that the name of the problem can cause some confusion as it also goes by the name Triple Threat Arete.   I'm not actually sure which name is "correct" but it is a great problem regardless.

Ben pulling on to the start of Wrist Rocket

The start of the problem is straight forward fat-boy climbing with big moves to big holds and lots of foot cutting.

Ben eyeing the last dyno before entering the crux lip encounter

Here Kyle and Ben attempt one method to do the crux that uses a small crimp to the right and standing up.  I prefer the alternative of matching the arete and doing a balancey mantel.  When your foot is on the lip the hard climbing is done but you still need to keep it together for 15 feet of slab climbing.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Loving the Granite of Little Cottonwood Canyon

I've arrived back in England so now I've got some time to do some retro-posts from my time in the States.  I'll start out with some pictures from Utah's beloved Little Cottonwood Canyon.  Hope you enjoy.......

Little Cottonwood Canyon seems to be one of those areas you either love or hate (for the record I lean heavily towards loving it).  This boulder strewn canyon is located just 20 minutes from downtown Salt Lake City and is a huge selling point for climbers that move to the city.  Regardless of whether or not you think LCC is destination worthy, there is no denying that is would be a phenomenal place to have as your local haunt.  

Little Cottonwood of course refers to the entire canyon but the bouldering is actually quite varied depending on which of the many sectors you visit.  The entrance to the canyon provides climbing at lower elevation for the colder/snowy months and the alpine areas high up provide a respite from the sweltering summer months.  You can even optimize temps by choosing either the sunny or shady side of the canyon and if you really want to get nerdy you can select you area by the rock itself as the granite can vary between areas.  

The climbing itself tends to cater to more technical climbers and it helps to be good at mantling as crux lip encounters are common and many a strong gym-rat have left the area with their egos slightly bruised (this also might explain why some folks don't like the area).  That said, the bouldering is pretty extensive so I'm sure you can find something to fit you style....... 

Here are some photos

Located at the Secret Garden sector, Copperhead is a crimpy test-piece on one of Little Cottonwood's best boulders.  It essentially boils down to bearing down on the sharp crimp Ann is reaching for in the picture.  I actually never thought I'd do this problem but having done all the other straight-ups I figured I'd give it a shot and miraculously found myself on the top.  Sometimes I surprise myself.  

Elizabeth stares down the crux of Lance's Dihedral.  This problem is on the same boulder as Copperhead and is not to be missed if visiting the area.

Dain give St Nicholas a raspberry.  Also at the Secret Garden this problem comes highly recommended and is one of the first problems I'll go back to when visiting the area.  Unfortunately I don't have a photo that shows the problem better so you'll have to settle for Dain looking swoll.  

The Round Room is a hidden gem that is worth seeking out.  This gentle scoop requires some technique to make the use of non-holds and is fun for the whole family......unless you are short, in which case you'll find yourself reduced to tears.

Another angle of Kyle on The Round Room just reaching for the crux move.

Bronson Arete at the Riverside area is one of my favorites.  In this shot Noki sets up for the big move out right, which he was just able to span. 

Austin on Bronson Arete

Also at the Riverside area is Alzheimers.  There are two solutions to the crux final move and Carrie opts for the heel-hook right hand up method instead of the deadpoint/dyno with the left hand.  Both options are hard and it's just a matter of what fits you better.

One of my favorite problems from this trip was the tricky Gerbils.  While it might not look like much this problem packs a considerable amount of climbing into its two moves and should be a rite of passage for folks hoping to master the subtleties of Little Cottonwood.  Tommy trying to find balance for the reach to the lip.

Just to the right of Gerbils is Duct Tape.  It is also a two move problem but of a very different style from Gerbils.  You do get to use this amazing sloper and hope it provides enough purchase to do the dyno crux.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Back in 'Merica and a Moab Drive By

Man it still feels great to be back in the USA.  We've been here for almost 2 weeks and I've got that hankering to move back.  Maybe some day......
The kids and I flew to NM and moved into the Motherload (our beloved van) to make the initial journey to Salt Lake City.  I've missed life on the road and while adding a couple kids to the mix certainly complicates things there is still nothing quite like the joy of van living and I'm glad I get to share it with my family.  Of course I'm not sure how much the kids appreciate the long drives as they can turn even the best behaved kids into grumpy little monsters.  Fortunately since arriving in SLC we've spent minimal time in the rig and the long drive up included occasional stops so the kids could stretch their legs and dad could climb some boulders.

Here are a few pictures from the start of the trip

My dad knows how to make the grand kids happy.  Fortunately this is a rarity but damn are donuts delicious.   

You got to love the Southwest.  Looking Glass Rock just a bit south of Moab. 

One of the quick stops on the trip North was in Moab.  I opted to check out an area I'd never seen that was a short walk and a nice place for the kids.  Zen Garden (aka Ninja Training Cave) is a pretty cool spot with a trickling waterfall feeding a little pond next to this amphitheater.  

My mom, who came along for the ride, helps Nalani wash her hands in the waterfall.

I believe this climb is called Shaolin Donkeypunch and is one of the two main lines in the cave.  I imagine there are tons of variations and links to be done if one is so inclined.  It's also worth noting that the climbs do topout but most folks seem to opt for dropping from the highest jugs as I did.  I'd love to go back with a spotter as the high dirty top just wasn't worth it this time around.

The crew at the Ninja Training Cave

I also stopped briefly in Price Canyon for a little sandstone.  I'd been to this small area about 11 years ago and it works great for a quick hit.  The Price is Right boulder provides several sweet lines but some of the holds can be a little tweeky. This problem is either called Off the Couch or is some variation of Showcase Showdown.  Regardless of name, it is a nice problem.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Bouldering in Cornwall

When planning a trip to Cornwall it was difficult figuring out where to climb.  Like Devon, Cornwall's climbing areas tend to be small and spread out and this is less than ideal for our little family.  While the bouldering in Cornwall seems to cater most to a motivated climber hoping to cherry-pick there seem to be a few "larger" areas you could spend a day with a family.

I of course had consulted some friends and on-line sources before the trip and one boulder in particular stuck out, The Dreamboat Boulder.  While not to be miss the Dreamboat Boulder has some complications as it is all by itself with a not so family friendly approach, and to top it all off you need to time your visit with the tides and it can still be wet.  I had seen some pictures of this boulder and despite the difficulties I stubbornly drug my family down a treacherous slope in hopes of doing one of the best problems in Cornwall.

Unfortunately due to the boulder being in the shade and a lack of wind the Dreamboat boulder was rather damp.  While I managed to get the holds "dryish" and do a couple other problems, the main line in the middle proved elusive.  In this picture I'm gearing up for the crux move of Wonderland, which I'd love to go back too.

Here is another angle on Wonderland.  That left crimp is a bit sharp but that still doesn't take away from the quality of this problem.  It you're going to do some bouldering in Cornwall this boulder is highly recommended,  just not ideal for the family.

While there are plenty of areas in Cornwall that aren't on the coast we only checked out those by the water.  That means timing is everything as twice a day the boulders are soaked by waves and all signs of climbing are washed away.  The bad news is that these areas are notoriously hard to get good conditions and some of the more tucked away problems are almost never dry.  On the flip side, without the tidal bombardment most of the rock would be total choss.  The coastal areas also tend to provide cool features and the skin friendly nature of the climbing is a welcome respite from the sharp granite of the interior.  With this in mind we decided to check out what I've been told is Cornwall's best tidal area, Godrevy.

Regardless of climbing, Godrevy is a sweet spot.  There is a nice long beach and apparently a sweet break as dozens of surfers crowded the water and lounged in a cafe by the parking.  The approach to the climbing is short and easy and a maze-like formations of the rock provided a perfect place to run around with kids.  

Lina climbing a problem in one of the the corridors of the "maze".  Once again there is no chalk to guide you as it is washed away twice a day and keeping your eye on the tide is important as you head down the beach.  I've heard plenty of stories of climbers getting cut-out by the tide with outcomes included waiting for hours, a terrifying choss scramble, or a return the vehicle soaking wet.

Another problem in the "maze".
To be honest I was unimpressed with Godrevy and it has nothing to do with the lack of chalk and most things being damp when we were there.  Don't get me wrong it was a sweet place worth checking out in it's own right but the climbing is very underwhelming.  While the rock may be fun to climb on there are very few natural lines as you tend to just pick a spot on a wall and climb up.  It also didn't help that many of the "classics" were drop-offs.  

Providence was one of the better lines at Godrevy but proved to hard for me despite a great spot from my son.  

A shot of the coast as the tide comes in.  Lots of rock and so few king-lines.

I did try one problem in Cornwall that wasn't effected by tides.  The Weapon is a single problem located off the coastal path that is easy to fit into the schedule as you don't need to run from the waves.  Cool compression moves lead to a committing top-out.

The Weapon.  In the end I was too scared to commit of the final move but if I ever make it back to Cornwall this one will get another visit.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Some photos from Cornwall

Apologies for the lack of action on the blog.  My computer decided to tank on me and everything else seems to be keeping me busy.  Such is life.

Anyway, just in case anyone still follows this blog and to get things up and rolling again I'll post some pictures from a recent trip we took down to Cornwall.  Hope you enjoy.

The coastline for much of Cornwall is pretty dramatic as rugged walls rise abruptly from the sea.  The battering of waves and fluctuations in tide has created some pretty awesome formations and plenty to explore.

While Cornwall's natural beauty attracts plenty of tourists there is no shortage of cool historical spots to check out, like Restormel Castle. 

The remnants of Cornwall's ancient tin mining industry are hard to miss as many old smokestacks remain.  It's also good to know that plenty of mineshafts are also left behind so be careful when exploring the ruins.

There is also no shortage of lighthouses along the Cornish coast.  I reckon a good number of seamen are extremely glad for this.

A Cornish sunset.

I'll post a bit about the climbing we did in Cornwall in the next couple days.......

Friday, August 28, 2015

Can't get enough Bohuslän

It might have something to do with the crap weather in England but I still haven't fully transitioned back since our trip to Sweden. It's always a little unfortunate when your climbing psyche is for boulders that are a long way away.  Since returning I've found myself looking at old pictures/videos from Bohuslän and jonesing to be back.  Man I love that place.  Anyways, I thought I'd share a few pictures from Bohuslän to entice and motivate folks.  

And for those that don't know, every blogpost is labeled by country, city/town and region/area so if you want to see all the posts from Bohuslän (or somewhere else) just scroll to the very bottom and click on the appropriate label.  I wanted the blog to function like a climbing reference of sorts and at some point I'll make it more user friendly.  Hope you enjoy the little photo tour of Bohuslän  

Most of the areas in Bohuslän are small but the quality of problems are often exceptional.  This problem is located at an area consisting of only a few boulders but they are well worth the visit.  I can't remember the name of this problem Kim is doing but it is classic.

Sunshine Arete is a problem I miraculously managed to FA on a warm summer day and is located at the same area as the previous problem.

This granite cave has serious potential for some hard enduro lines.  Two of the three most obvious  straight-outs are done and here John works on the undone project.  We almost did all the moves that day but have never been back.

Another shot of John on the same project.  The next move is the one we never managed to do.

Abiyoyo is one of my all time favorite FAs and I even did a whole blogpost about it.  As far as I know it still hasn't seen a second ascent.

Sioux City Sarsparilla is one of my FAs that actually see lots of traffic as it is regarded as one of the best in Bohuslän.  This one also gets it's own blogpost and there is even a video of the FA.

 Yet another FA, Cuerop de Hombre can also be counted among the best in Bohuslän.  It is located in Häller, which is considered the epicenter of climbing in Bohuslän for both bouldering and trad-climbing. There is also an old video of the FA.

Hippopotamus is another classic problem in Häller.  This power-endurance problem has alluded me and is one of the established problems I'm most excited about getting back to.

Incredible rock, world-class bouldering and spectacular settings combine to make Bohuslän one of my favorite places in the world.

I tend to put an emphasis on harder problems as the sparsity of grips and general blankness that make climbs beautiful also tends to make them difficult.  Fortunately Bohuslän hold lots of amazing moderates as you don't have to be a crusher to enjoy the climbing.  Here Spang demonstrates how it's done on his classic problem Falsifierbarhet.

And for those of you that are crushers there are plenty of projects to be had.  This particular project will require strong fingers and a good head as the hold gradually get smaller the higher you get.

This project should have been done years ago but we've never been back to it as one needs a boat to reach the island.  One of these day.......can't wait to return to Bohuslän.