Its December. Ready for skis and ice axes. But until last week my climbing still felt a bit summery. Mostly rock climbing and summer alpine work and play…
In April I had a trip to the Gorges du Tarn. I was out in Europe anyway doing my guides Ski mountaineering course, so I after that I went down to the Tarn with Tom Livinstone, and Uisdean and we set to work trying to gain some endurance. We were there for about ten days and came away with a number of great routes ticked and I managed to climb an 8a. Les Ailes du Desire. I was really pleased with this as a first 8a. Its a huge 50m pitch mostly on overhanging jugs, but with a slightly harder bit in the middle with plenty of time to stress about falling off.
I was able to be at home for a few weeks after that, and it was cool to be at the Fairhead meet. Amongst a few other things I put up a new route on the Dark side. Still Learning E6 6b takes a line through the huge overhangs between Learning to fly and Night rider . I Spent a day or two cleaning it, and it was awesome to be able to make the first ascent with Matt Pyecroft from cold house productions filming it. Paul Swail had Matt over making a Short film for Rab Equipment. I think the routes E6 6b, as the second pitch has a bold 6a section off the belay, then a difficult crux pulling blindly through a roof in a stunning position. It climbs in 3 pitches, with the last one being the last pitch of Learning to Fly. 6a, 6b, 5c.
Still learning E6 6b, 1. climb an obviously cleaned groove into a corner that is blocked by a big roof. Escape rightwards to the base of another groove and make an awkard belay. Green cam and number 9 nut. 2. Climb boldly off the belay into a groove, peanut for gear, then move left and climb a steady bold crimpy section on the left. After arranging gear (small cams in a horizontal crack) quest out further left across the slab towards the edge of the next big roof. Move from left to right through the roof to gain a stance under a second roof and arrange good gear. Pull through the roof to gain good holds, and continue up the groove above. At the top of this groove, exit on the left and climb to the belay on Learning to fly. Watch for a few loose blocks. 3. Same as Learning to Fly.
It was awesome to see so many visitors at the head, and cool to see the big E6 I did last year un jour peut etre getting a second ascent by Nick and John and getting a good report.
My Irish trad sesh was short and before long I had to go to the alps for my first summer of Aspirant Guiding. Its been great to progress to this stage in the scheme and being able to work in the bigger mountains was a great privilidge and a rewarding experience. The summer training course was 9 days long and set us up well for guiding clients in variable terrain and on the pointyest of mountains. Throughout the summer I enjoyed working as an Aspirant on a variety of peaks, super mellow, spiky and classic, and esoteric adventures. Some guided routes in the alps have a lot of prestige and fame, and people can be very focused to tick things off. Some clients, are more into finding a bit of solitude. Its nice to do a bit of everything, but the crowds on certain routes can be a bit overwhelming and frustrating.
The Alps were very hot and dry through the summer and a lot of routes were in very dangerous condition. Sticking to Alpine rock that wasn’t meant to be held together by ice was the best bet. We had some good days off doing some great rock routes, trying to pick safe objectives. Will and I went to the Fiz on a day off in the middle of the heatwave and had a great time. The fiz sits high above Servoz and I have always wondered what the routes were like. Its a bit of an adventure getting to it, but once on route the rock and the climbing is excellent. We climbed Betelgeuse 7a+ which is 7 pitches of fairly bomber limestone. Im not sure what the best approach is, but what we did was a bit minging.
Later in the summer Rhys and I went to Bregalia. We were keen to do the classic North face route, the Cassin, on the Piz Badile. As predicted the route was mobbed, despite our really early start, walking in from the car park at midnight. We arrived at the base about 4.30am and joined the line. Seeing how slow the lead teams were moving was frustrating, so we barged through, and managed to get in 2nd place. We summitted around 10.30, and smashed back down to Italy for Pizza. Our next route was the Peoples direct. Also on the North face of the Badile. Unlike the Cassin, this has probably seen much fewer ascents. Neither of us had heard anything about it, but it looked like a great line and was guaranteed to be a bit quiter and probably an adventure. The approach is a bit funky and is from the opposite side of the mountain. After gaining the Col de Cengalo, down climbing a gutter of shit gains the start of the route, which progresses higher and harder to the very Apex of the ENE Face. There was a bit of everything, loose rock, massive quivering flakes, wet rock, high mountain vegetation, manky old pegs, and occasionally some really cool pitches, the penultimate fabled to be a 7a+ crack.
We also climbed on a grand bit of rock way up Val de Mello called the Picco Luigi Amadeo. We started up a route called Pocco Loco, then Finished up the “classic” Taldo Nusdeo.
At the end of August I had a week in Ceuse with Liam Postlethwaite. Liam was climbing exceptionally well and was able to talk beta to me up a few classics.
In October I went out to America with Will for 6 weeks. We went straight out to Yosemite for a good schooling in crack climbing. It was the first time either of us had been in the valley. We did a lot of cragging, and worked our way through a lot of good day routes, mostly trying to free climb, but if necessary learning a bit of aid. Off widths were as brutal as we expected, but I think we were definitely climbing them better by the end. Its not a pleasant style of climbing, but it was something we felt we had to practice, so we could make an attempt at freerider. The start of the trip was outrageously warm and climbing in the sun was gruesome. We were able to climb Direct North Buttress, Rostrum, Astroman, Moratorium in the shade. We had a lot of days at Arch Rock, which must be the most under rated crag in Yosemite as there was never anyone else there. New Dimenions and Leanie meanie are must dos. Mid trip we got up the nose in a day, which seemed the logical way to climb the route. We spent a few goes climbing an amazing pitch called Crimson cringe which is a 50m arching crack, from from finger locks to fists, but as it arched you couldn’t jam feet in the crack so the left foot was always on the smooth wall. Although only 5.12a, a humble grade it took me a few red point goes.
As november approached the storms got more frequent and when we felt ready we had a go on Freerider. We didn’t have a lot of success. We climbed Free blast and hauled to heart ledges before the storm. Then after the storm started up from heart ledges, and got up to the alcove. the route was still wet and above the alcove the cracks were still choked with ice. We spent a morning twiddling our thumbs on the alcove waiting for the route to melt and dry. Getting twatted by falling ice all morning was fairly frustrating and demotivating. Our weather window didn’t really allow for this hold up. The second morning was the same, but we climbed the next pitches up to the 5.13a crux, the huber pitch. We had a few goes on top rope and I gave it a quick send on the lead. Its really short, only 3 bolts long, and it felt good to be pulling on crystals and figuring out the delicate sequence. After that we went all the way back down. We didn’t think we had long enough to free everything else before the next storm, and without a porta ledge, we were slightly compromised. 4 hours after sending the huber pitch we were on the ground again going to get pizza. We learnt a lot, and I definitely have a better idea of how to go about it next time.
For the last 2 weeks we went down to the desert. I had a few days in Zion with Heather Florence, and then we finished the trip in Redrocks. Zion was Beautiful and Il certainly be going back there, but with caution not to climb things that aren’t regularly climbed. We had a crap time on a route called silverback which was rated very good, and looked amazing but it was disgustingly sandy. In fact its maybe the most horrible thing I have climbed in my life. Heather was definitely sending out negative vibes from the start but I was convinced it couldn’t be this bad all the way to the top. One more pitch just to see,- surely the next one cant be as sandy, until pitch 6 where it was still as sandy as ever, in a super sandy 5.12 off width irreversibly above some doubtful gear in a very sandy crack. I blew a gasket, and swore at the climb and its absolute mingingness so all the tourists and zionists could here me. I managed to find some crappy gear and aid my way up to a sandy bolt and lower off. Monkey finger 5.12a, Shunes Buttress 5.11c, and Smashmouth 5.12 were all outstanding.
In Redrock we did some cragging and some of the classic multipiches. Levitation 29 5.11c, Cloud Tower 5.12a, and the uber classic 5.12 Rainbow wall. The last few days were spent figuring out the moves on a mega 5.13b called monster skank. We had a bit of time on the last day before driving back up to San Fran for our flight. Just enough time, and with all the last go psyche in the world I was feeling confident, until I realised I’d left my bag in the carpark the night before while collecting firewood. It contained my rock shoes, harness and most importantly passport. The last day was an epic stressfest back and forth to lost and found and police stations and finally a mission back up to see the British consulate and find a way to get me home. I don’t know what I was more pissed off about, the passport or not getting that final go on monster skank.
A good time was had by all. I look forward to going back to america.