Wednesday, 14 November 2012

European Championships

Last weekend was a competition that was significant for me not only in my performance but also in my emotions. On Wednesday night, the eve of our travelling to France, I was told my granddad had died suddenly walking in the Spanish mountains. It was a real shock for me, we were close and the news hit me hard, but I knew exactly what I was climbing for.

The Bordeaux region at this time of year is just like England, very wet! I tried to stay hydrated through Friday, as in previous Europeans I’ve always struggled with fluids and it seemed to pay off. I woke up late Saturday morning feeling light and strong and had a leisurely breakfast of bread and cheese. As we were climbing in the afternoon, we went to the wall slightly early to watch the Youth As and Juniors, as well as scope out the warming up area and any routes that were potentially ours.

As we predicted, we had the same routes as the Junior girls. I was on last for the first route, but because the routes were run simultaneously and I was around halfway through on route 2 I would be on that first. Route 2 was a blue route going up the longest part of the wall, a variable angle section ranging from vertical to around 20° off. It was perfect for me, and despite a rushed start from an unexpectedly low fall by the competitor before me, I was off and moving well.

The first section was reasonably steady, small holds but they were all positive, and the same for the middle. The top was thin pockets, so accuracy was key on this section. I climbed well, feet moving intuitively and not getting too pumped, and I was soon past a long go-again off a good pinch that many came off, with the help of a high foot. I swapped feet, and in my mind I was 100% sure I reached the hold just below the lip, a small pinch and was moving off that when my foot slipped off a slopey-topped slot. The video tells a different story, and despite the certainty in my mind (to the extent remembering the feeling of the hold and the dynamics of the next move), I had got to the hold before that. Still, it placed me well but I had to get high on route 1 (my route 2) to be sure of a place in the final.

Route 2 was short, around 12m, all technical and balancey on small holds. Perfect! Around 5 or 6 had topped before me and I was last on the route, bad for the friction on a route that had already been described as greasy. I set off and it felt fine, turned the lip of the steep section onto the final headwall and had a small shake on a pair of reasonable holds by the second to last clips. The end was in sight, with just one move to a sloper left to stick to be above the highpoint of anyone who hadn’t topped. I stuck it, made a move round a corner, clipped, next hold and I topped! I knew this put me in a pretty good position in terms of qualifying and i was very happy, I think my celebration showed that! I was interviewed afterwards, and to be honest I have no idea how that went, but it may have been rubbish! I was in the final in 8th, already an improvement on previous EYCs. Now to crush in the final.

We went back to the hotel early to eat and get a good nights sleep, missing the Junior and A finals which I was quite disappointed about, the opening ceremony we stayed for was very spectacular! I was in bed early, around 10 and woke easily as 7 the next morning, feeling light and strong. This was very different to Imst, there I woke feeling stiff and tired. This, I believe, is down to my warm down after route 2 the previous day. I did a full warm down immediately after my route, whereas in Imst I delayed it a lot, even then not doing a full warm down. Warming up I felt good, though due to the small area I had I couldn’t go for a run and I’d forgotten my skipping rope! Despite this I was feeling strong, ready for anything the final could be.

We went out to observation, and had 6 minutes to view the route to determine a sequence. It looked reasonably straight forward, a powerful start into a close to vertical array of arêtes and rockovers. It looked perfect for me, and as the first climbers began I did the final stages of my warm up.

I felt ready, secure, focussed and calm when I left isolation, dropped my jacket to the ground and stepped onto the wall, no hesitation. The first moves were fine, bar a match where I expected to go to a different hold. A match on the tufa-like volume in the roof was hard, and required a big flag to stop the swing. The next section through small holds on volumes suited me well, with many heel hooks to keep the weight off my fingers.

I came to a slopey sidepull with a good heel, but instead of clipping as I should, the next hold looked positive and I moved to that instead. The hold was a small slot, worse than I expected, so I moved again to a big sloper. Looking back, this was my final chance to clip, but instead I moved off again. The move was long but I was still feeling strong and I held the small crimp ok. Again I looked at the clip and decided to move to the next hold. It was at that point I knew it was too late. I couldn’t reach the clip. I shook once, climbed down, attempted to clip but I couldn’t, I was too high! Again I went back up and put a heel on to steady myself, catching the clip with my foot as I did. I noticed this, and desperation meant I tried to guide the draw up with my foot. This is against the rules, but I was above the clip be such an amount where I couldn’t even reach the top of the draw. The foot lift was unsuccessful and that was it then, I climbed up and down twice more in vain attempts to clip before I was called off the route. The foot lift had been seen and the judges had decided it was enough to call me up on. I was scored to the hold before where I’d got to, putting me in 3rd when I came off.

 The move to the hold I was scored to proved difficult and 2 people dropping it going for the hold, and 1 reaching the hold but not moving off, who I beat on time. This meant I was placed in 7th overall. This was frustrating, I was reasonably fresh when I got to the next hold, and could easily have made the next move, which alone would have placed me in 6th. Of course, in the grand scheme of things 7th is amazing, but its just the niggling feeling that could have gone better, one day I’ll have a comp where I make no mistakes, lets hope its Kranj!

This weekend was all about my Granddad, and he would have been ecstatic with my placing, so I am too, especially give the circumstances! Wales blog next, Ireland next week for Irish champs and Kranj the week after that! PSYCHED!

Friday, 26 October 2012

BLCCs 2012

Another long journey to Edinburgh last weekend almost ended in disaster when we very nearly missed the Edinburgh stop. I’m not sure how it happened considering we were both awake but we packed up and made it off just in time!

We were in Edinburgh for the British Lead Climbing Championship, a competition that I’ve always enjoyed, as the routes are always fun and the wall is as always incredible. This year was no exception, and with the Hangar wall at its steepest our first route climbed its left arête. It looked fine until the edge of the roof, where there was a long powerful slap around the arête, to a good hold. I was up 3rd, and with one person getting to the slap I set off. I felt fine, had a quick shake on a good hold, and then moved into the roof section. The holds were good but the slap looked long, so I put a heel underneath an undercut spike. I was slapping reasonably statically around the lip, but when I went for a tick mark on the lip there was no hold, just more wall! I was stretched out and committed by that point, and without a left hand to fall back on my heel popped and I was off!

Turned out the tick mark I slapped for was above the hold, a sequencing error! It was frustrating to fall off barely pumped, especially since new beta found only a few after me rendered the move pretty easy! I was annoyed but it was on to the next route, a slabby, balancey, horror fest, perfect!

I was on late, and by me only one had topped the route. I moved through the first section well, a small mistake with a clip but I was soon nearing the final key rockover. I love any slab route in a competition, and this was no exception, I made the rockover stick and was soon on a slopey crimp and a small but positive feature. I felt in balance and control, and made the final move stick. I clipped the chains and lowered to the ground. I was in the final, qualifying in 4th place.

After checking the time of isolation, I headed to the café for a snack before the wait, and came down just before 2.30. I was packing up my stuff and people kept asking me if I was meant to be in isolation. Confused and worried, I jogged to the isolation area and made it in just in time! I had been told isolation closed at 3, but it had in fact closed at 2.30. I was relieved I mad it in only just in time, but this also added to the stress of the day!

My warm up was good, and I was soon walking down the tunnel to the final waiting area. I was 3rd out, but had no idea where the others had got to, bar a slowly swinging clip at around half height. Walking out I got a cold feeling in my hands, like they were about to go numb on the route. My warm up had been good, and I pushed it out of my mind, but I was slightly distracted.

I read the route and set off. It was quite powerful, but I felt fine moving through a big pinch to a sloper and an undercut. The move looked long so I put a heel on the sloper, in the process dropping my foot off the other foothold. This put me too low on the holds, meaning only a dynamic move would allow me to reach the pinch target. I came back down, had a quick shake, as by this point I was very pumped, and tried again. The same thing happened once again. I was very pumped by this point, and had to go for the move. I went, grabbed the hold and very nearly stuck it, but I was off all the same.

Everyone else had used a low foot, but Billy and had opted for the high heel, and it spat us both off. It was irritating to come off two routes due to sequencing errors, but it was a learning curve. I will defiantly look at having multiple sequences for all crux moves, and hopefully this won’t happen again. I am also working on my power, as for the first time I was failing not because of pump, but the moves themselves. I have been working endurance almost exclusively since Imst, and while this has offered good progress, my power has been letting me down lately.

I placed 5th overall, but despite this I was selected for the final EYC in Kranj, Slovenia. Next comp is the European Championships in Gemozac, France! The event may be being webcast, but I’ll let you know nearer the time!

Happy climbing!



Thursday, 27 September 2012

Training and Comps

After a long summer of comps and trips, its time to settle back into training for the rest of this years comps. After identifying endurance as a weakness of mine, as soon as I got back from Imst I began working hard to get the upper levels I need for European competitions.

Because of the general shortness (in comparison to Europe that is) of the walls in the South West, laps are essential to get the amount of pump required, so 6x4s (6 times up a route, 4 times in a session) have been the main constituents of my sessions over the last months. One thing I have noticed recently, my route climbing has improved hugely in terms of my ability to hold on for longer without getting pumped, but my bouldering has seemed to suffer slightly.

The Quay birthday comp showed this well, and while I topped all of the routes (including an 8a set by Steve McClure) first go, my bouldering was terrible, flashing just 2 of the 6 problems and only getting another 3rd go. Bouldering never has been a massive strong point of mine, but the extra power on a hard route is always nice!

The next week was the last round and the final of The Barn’s bouldering series. I was in second coming into the round, with a large gap to 3rd, so I could afford to sit back a bit and save my energy for the final. I got through in second, along with Tom Newberry, Matt Parkinson and Jack Luckhurst in 1st , 3rd and 4th respectively.

It started well, with me topping the first slab on the flash, and only Tom did it second go. Things were looking good, but on the second, more powerful but slightly easier problem, a small dab was ruled too hard to be just a touch, and I could only manage 2nd go because of this. This meant I was joint first with Tom going into the last problem, a hard, powerful roof sequence.

First go I missed a press into a poor gaston on the roof, but Tom flashed the problem so my chances of winner were gone completely. All I had to do left now was top the problem, and on my 3rd and final attempt I very nearly did just that, touching the final hold before my fingers gave up. Still a very good second, but my bouldering could defiantly be improved.

Finally, I have decided the winter project! Tuppence, 8b at Ansteys Cove. Initially with a slightly easier, more indirect, start but then the full tick when I’ve got that. This is the start of the 8b+ extension Tuppence Ha’ Penny, so could be a very good long term goal! Time to get on it!

Also, I finally have twitter, so if you want regular updates on my climbing and training just follow me @Alex_Waterhouse!


Psyched for BLCCs next week and the European Championships in just over a month!! :D

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Imst EYC

 All of the training, laps and routes since Ratho had lead up to this weekend. It was my second European Youth Cup and my first overseas competition and I was keen to do well. Imst is an incredible place, not only with the world class wall but the area!

We had the worst flight time in history, so a 4.30 am start meant a 6 hour wait in Munich airport for the rest of the team to arrive. It went as slowly as expected but eventually we were on the road and quickly arrived at Imst. Friday was filled by the alpine coaster and swimming and comp day arrived rapidly.

We woke up at 6:30 (5:30 in the UK) to be down at the wall for its 7:30 opening. I got straight to warming up as I was on 7th for route 1. The route looked like a sketchy vertical section with lots or terrible holds and rockovers, into a pumpy overhung section before a roof to finish. The demo made it look as hard as we thought and people were soon on the route. 2 climbers had got just above the donut hold before the roof before it was my turn to climb, and I set off up the vertical wall. Climbs often look harder from closer up, but this was not one of those times and the first few clips were far easier than I expected. I moved through to a big move to a sloper, then a few more moves led to a slight rest where I found I could sit on my heel. Unfortunately this made the clip extremely awkward, and it took me at least 3 goes to get it in! This looks quite a short amount of time in the video, but it felt like an age and I was very pumped by the time I got it in! I shook and composed myself, then set off! The next moves were ok, and I stuck a hold that a couple of climbers had come off on, then my forearms finally lost all ability to function and I was off! A match on a double scoring hold had put me in 3rd when I came off, and this did not go down much during the day, leaving me in equal 4th with Ruben Firnenburg!

Route 2 was very pumpy, with very few rests and with my endurance not being the best it was going to be hard for me. Jim was on first and a hard long move around half way spat him off, so it defiantly wasn’t easy! I got on and cruised through the first few moves to a hard rockover which many had come off on, but got the wrong part of the hold so had to readjust. I stayed on and was soon at the best rest on the route. I shook and got ready, and tried to move onwards. I began to get very pumped on a big volume, and made it a few more moves until I couldn’t go any further, and came off going for a crimp, just a move before a good rest!

It was a poor performance which left me in 7th overall with over half the starters left to climb. I couldn’t cope with another 11th so the stressful wait began. I left and sat in the stands of the football club next to the wall, but I could still see the top of my route! Fortunately I didn’t see many emerge so stretched and listened to some music to try and make the time pass. I went back with just 10 climbers to go and I was on the edge in 8th place. Those 10 climbs were the most stressful of my life, and after the 7 of them I was in 10th. Just one good performance from the final 3 could leave me in 11th again and once again off the final. 1 off, then 2, then 3! I was relieved more than anything, but didn’t want to be too happy until I’d seen the results. I was there, 10th! My first European final at my first overseas competition and in such an amazing place too!

Now I had to prepare myself for the final. I had never gone for a second day in competition, so I wasn’t sure how to go about it, but a reasonably early bed and a good meal were as good as I could manage. I woke up tired and slightly drained, and warming up on routes I’d done previously I felt like I was getting pumped quickly and lacked something. Not the best start but the isolation was short as I was firs out so after observation I was on almost immediately. I climbed well in the start but a long press to a gaston flustered me slightly as I couldn’t reach it easily, so had to make a dynamic move to catch it with just a thumb before putting the rest of my fingers on. It was hard but I was beginning to get pumped (much earlier then I would have liked) so had to move on. I was getting more and more pumped, and got a small shake on a large flat hold, before a long move out left to a crimp, then a big move to a hold on a volume. I remember seeing the hold while sequencing, but on the route I forgot it was there completely so went for the volume itself. Needless to say it was terrible and I was off. I was frustrated, partly at the fact I had got pumped so quickly but mainly because I’d been stupid enough to miss a crucial hold. 1 other came off in the same place as me, but as he was marginally quicker he finished ahead of me so I remained in 10th place.

It all comes with experience, and as it was my first final I was just glad to be there, anything else was a bonus. This time it was not to be, but next time I want to not only make the final but perform in that as well as I did in the qualifiers. Next comp is the BLCCs in October, then the European Championships in November! Time to train!!!!! 

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

The best crag in the world?

Is Ceuse the best crag in the world? Last week I went on the trip I’ve been waiting for and planning for months now. Ceuse is the sport climbing mecca of the world and after months of waiting I was finally going. We packed, squeezed and cut down on luggage to get under the weight limit and at last we drove to Bristol, met with Chris at the airport and eventually we were on the plane away from a cold Britain to a sunny Marseille in over 30oc heat. It was defiantly a change in scenery and on the drive to the campsite we discovered the sheer amount of rock that the French have! We were driving past crags that would have been classics in the UK!


After shopping in Gap (with me winning the “who can see Ceuse first” game) we arrived at the campsite and pitched up. Ceuse is famed for perfect rock, incredible scenery and amazing routes but as well as that the walk-in is infamous amongst all who have travelled there. It really is a slog, but it’s over eventually and when we got there it did not disappoint. Cascade is an amazing sector, and put anywhere in Britain it would be the best by far (all of the sectors at Ceuse would!). We began on a 6c+ called Medecine douce, famed for not being a warm up and that went ok, onsighting it without too much trouble. I’m not sure what else I got on that first morning, but I didn’t get up anything else that day. I probably did my usual trick of trying too hard too soon, and I proved this theory by walking to the other end of the crag to try L’ami de tout le monde, an 8b that Buster had done a few days earlier. The whole plan for the trip had been to try lots of onsights and flashes, then get on a hard project if I felt strong, but instead I got on the hardest route I’ve ever tried on the first day after just doing a 6c+. Defiantly something to learn from this. I left without even 2 routes on my first day, but if it was any consolation the walk down was much easier. 

The next days were more of almost the same, with only a couple of 7bs being done, but I was improving fast. Ceuse is defiantly a crag that takes some getting used to, with the combination of the walk, the food (I had pasta and a sauce every day for the 8 days I was climbing) and the camping wearing you down before you’ve even begun the classically pumpy routes. The last 2 days was when it really began for me. I was trying a 7c called Galaxy at Berlin before my final rest day, getting high before pumping out and taking a big fall, with my first ever inversion! After doing the classic 7b Super Mickey in the morning, I got back on Galaxy, taking a couple of goes to do the crux boulder problem. The problem has a pair of high starting holds that are normally reached by building a small rock pile but after many feeble attempts which only succeeded in a scattering of rocks I kicked over my latest attempt and started off lower holds, making the start much harder, but I sent the route first go.

That is one thing I didn’t like about Ceuse. Some routes rely on using the first bolt as aid or a large stone pile to reach a good starting hold. If these routes were in Britain you’d just have to find another way around it or tough really. It just seemed to take away from some routes, especially if they are possible without the aid. Still, at least these starts haven’t just been chipped, but left for someone who’s good enough to do in the routes original state!
Buster wanted to have another go on the classic hard 7b+ Blockage Violent, but I still wanted to go for an onsight. I wanted to leave it but figured now was as good a time as any so I went for the route. The moves felt solid and I was moving well, sticking what I assumed at the time to be the crux. When I got to the less steep section around the second to last clip I knew I had it in my sights and called down to Buster that I could do it! The last moves felt fine and I clipped the chains, relieved. This was possibly the highlight of the trip for me so far, I had onsighted Blockage, maybe the classic of the crag. Buster sent the route next go and we headed down after dark on his final day.

The next day was my final day at the crag and my dad was there so we walked up slightly later than usual. I warmed up on Medecine douce then went for my next goal of the trip, an onsight of Vagabond d’occient, another classic 7c the starts up a steep wall onto a long headwall. I cruised up the juggy steep wall to the knee bar rest, recovering for the crux that was sure to follow. The move cam quickly and I launched, sticking it! I moved quickly through the next juggy section with some very long moves before I was finally at the chains! My hardest onsight moving 2 grades in 24 hours, what has this place done to me! I then tried to flash a 7c+ called Le privilege du serpent, but fell high from the final move of the crux, frustrating but we decided to move as the sun was beginning to hit the crag.

Vagabond, 7c onsight

We moved to Berlin to have a final attempt at Mackach Walou, a 7c+ with one of the catchiest names at the crag. I’d fallen high with Buster the previous day and was keen to get back on it. I put the clips in and got the beta sorted, then went for it! It felt fine until the top crux, where I began to get very pumped. I pulled through and slapped up a rib, before getting my self onto a good jug that allowed me to clip, an then a quick shake before the last few moves and clipping the chains. A great way to end the trip!

Ceuse is an amazing place and I would go back any chance I get, and I could defiantly have done with another week or two once I’d gotten into my stride. Oh well, next year here we come!

I was hoping the trip had made me stronger, since as soon as I got back we were on the train to Edinburgh for the Youth Open. This event makes up the selection for the European Youth Championships at Gemozac, France in November so I had to do well.

I arrived early at the wall to find we had 2 qualifiers on the less steep old competition wall, and our first looked very similar to the first qualifier in the Europeans earlier in the year. I was 5th onto this climb and so didn’t have a massive amount of beta for the top section, only the demo, who had fallen off on the final move.

I moved quickly through the first section, finding a move from an undercut to a poor hold on a volume the hardest, as I decided to slap and move faster, rather than do an easier step up that would have taken more out of me. I climbed easily to a rest above, and not pumped I shook on the last good hold while eying up the final sequence. I tried a cross through that felt hard, so reversed it and went to the further hold with the other hand. Match on the volume then a long move to a good hold. Toe hook by left hand, match, left foot high and then rock to a big sloper. The match to this was a crux that many fell on, but I found it fine and matched. Little shake then a cross over to a crimp. This is where it all went wrong. The beta from the ground was to put a foot below the roof, or maybe a high heel. I opted for neither of the two, and put a foot above the roof and jumped to the final jug. It felt easy, until my right hand popped, and unpumped I swung from the final hold. Frustrated I returned to the ground, but fortunately only one climber topped the route so I got second on that route.

I was on second to last on my final qualifier which normally would be a good thing, but the route had already been climbed by Youth A and the Juniors and they were complaining of the grease even before we were on. Fortunatly we managed to get someone to brush them, but that meant the route was easier for the first climbers in the group and the route was hideously greasy when I got on it, and I could have quite easily come off the easy slab section at the start, as others had. I made it through to the greasy rest below the crux headwall. I made it over the roof and a high heel made the move to a large volume easy and sitting on the heel gave me a restbite from the climbing, I couldn’t quite reach on sequence, so touched the base of the hold for a few seconds to gain the points. I returned to the lower hold and went for a long cross over, which I stuck and matched. Now very pumped I missed a crucial feature and went for the final hold, where I fell with my fingers over the edge. I qualified for the final in 2nd place.

Qualifier 2!

Isolation was reasonably short but extremely loud, and I was glad to be out when I was called. I was warm and feeling strong but the wait in the final waiting area was long due to a backlog, so I had to stay warm with pull ups on a beam. I was eventually called and read the route quickly, and pulled on confidently. It felt easy to a jug before a roof, and as I wasn’t very pumped I rested for a very short time here. The new rules implemented this year mean that ties in the final are not decided on countback to the qualification, but on time taken to reach the highest point. I disagree massively with this rule, partly as it makes the qualification pointless but also because someone who tops all 3 routes can be beaten by someone who qualifies in 6th but gets up an easy final 1 second quicker. We have been training to climb quicker for months, and this paid off this climb. I moved from the rest and used a sketchy toe hook to move through the crux roof. I wasn’t too pumped and a final off balance move around the roof was it for me. I very nearly held the hold but my fingers uncurled and I was off. When I got down the judges were talking and I was told I had missed the final clip. I was horrified, but my score still stood as the hold I had moved off was possible to clip off. I was frustrated because I’d missed the clip, but also because I hadn’t topped what was a reasonably easy final. Either way, I got to the joint highest place on the route, but my speed training had paid off, and I got to my high point in almost 2 minutes quicker than Pete.

I had finally won, all the training had paid off and I was selected for the European Championships. Not a bad few weeks really, and Imst this weekend!                                                                                

Monday, 9 July 2012

British Bouldering Championships 2012

This weekend I took the long trip up to Sheffield to compete in the British Bouldering Championships. I went up on the Saturday to check out the wall and it looked sick, not too steep but technical, and the senior problems looked awesome! 

I came back on the Sunday to a very muddy Graves Park, with the section below the warm up wall being a muddy puddle! The problems looked good, and as I was in the second qualifying group I watched the first group to get a bit of beta on the problems. They all looked doable to reasonable and after warming up our group were called and I got straight in, being the first to climb. I got on the second easiest problem to warm up, and got up it easily. The second problem I went on was one of the hardest, and getting on it so soon could have been a mistake on my part, falling off 3 times in reasonably quick succession. I was frustrated, so forced myself to rest, but again I got on a grey problem and fell on my first attempt, despite it being a reasonably easy. This attempt was the difference between making the podium and not in this competition, and although I dispatched it easily on my next attempt, the frustration was there so I moved on to some easier problems to boost my confidence and bank some points.

My second go at problem 6

I got up the rest quite easily (apart from a shaky top on a black press problem) and was drawing with Pete for 3rd place, but he had all 3 attempts on the final problem that I also had goes left on. Despite him coming off low down on his first 2 goes, he just stuck the bonus on his final attempt and that pushed my back a place to 4th. I had a final attempt, in which I very nearly topped it, but greasy hands and a small sequence error kept me off the finishing hold. Very close, but extremely far.

Overall I placed 11th (Against Youth A, B and C) and in Youth B I got 4th.

Doesn’t matter, bouldering isn’t real climbing anyway… ;)

CEUSE next week!!! :D

Friday, 22 June 2012

A Rain Filled Weekend

This weekend we made the long trip to Malham for a coaching event organised by the MCofS and delivered by Robbie Philips. The drive was long and mainly wet, with the rain giving us thoughts about where the nearest indoor wall was! We arrived at the campsite at 9:30 on the Saturday to a rainy, grey sky and some psyched climbers. Robbie reckoned the crag would be dry so we headed up and found the entire wall was dry as a bone, and I think the only dry piece of rock in Yorkshire!

The conditions were perfect, cold and dry and the rock felt really sticky warming up (and that’s saying something for Malham!) and after doing a route or 2 and using the Crusher Holds Orbs hanging from a bolt (great for warming up, will get a pair to go to Ceuse with! ), I got on my project from last time at Malham, Raindogs!

The (one of many) classic of the crag, pure power endurance without a single easy move or rest over its 24(?) move length has been a project that has taken me a while to do, at least since I first wanted to do it, which was as soon as I heard about it! It has not taken a long time in actual work on it, but it feels like ages.

I had one quick go to remember the moves, feeling very strong from the start and only resting on one sequencey move that I soon remembered and again to clip the final clip that hadn’t been extended. I came down and after a bit of a rest went for the route again. First moves felt strong, but a foot slip by the first bolt put me back down again. Another rest, then off!

I felt strong and solid, climbing steadily to the “rest” and had a minishake and chalked before moving on to my redpoint crux, a high step up to a polished foothold from a sidepull and a sloper undercut pocket. I stuck it, bumped for the sidepull, right hand to a sloper, feet up, go again for the final pinchy sidepull, match and final foot change. Then the final move, a long bump to the chain that many people fall off 20 times before they actually do the route. Fortunately I stuck it and clipped the chains in relief, a good first day!!

Grabbing the chains! DONE!!


The second day I decided to focus on volume at mid 7 range in preparation for Ceuse, and got some good onsights, second goes and a couple of failures!


-Raindogs 8a
-Free and even easier 7a+ (Flash)
-Just Another Dead End Job 7a (Flash)
-Rose Coronary 7a (Second Go, numb fingers!!)
-Something Stupid 7b (Onsight)
-Bongo Fury 7b (Second Go)
-Rated PG 7a+ (Onsight)
-Consenting Adults 7a (Repeat to take the draws out, still polished and      rubbish!!!)

Below are a few pictures of the trip: (All credit to my Dad, he’s got a new camera so took about a thousand photos!!)

Warming up

Something Stupid, 7b Onsight

Starting Wasted Youth... (love this picture!)

And off!!

Thursday, 24 May 2012

First European

Not been on for a while, been training so much recently there just hasn’t been the time…

This weekend was something I’d been waiting for essentially since I started climbing: my first European competition. Due to my poor performance at the assessment day, this was my first one for a while so I needed to make it count.

We flew up on Thursday (on a flight that was more going up and going down than anything!) and arrived in a rainy Edinburgh late afternoon. The hotel was extremely dull, so after 2 days of that I was happy to be climbing again!

Saturday morning started early with a 7:30 wake up, breakfast then off to the wall. Our routes were being demoed by video, something which was new to me, but that wasn’t due to start for another hour so we set about reading our 2 qualifying routes. The first, a hard green on the old comp wall which began with a technical start that moved into some powerful spans and then an endurance-fest to the top, looked doable, but the long moves in the middle were likely to be the ones that threw me off. The second, a pumpy, technical roof with lots of heel hooks and some big spans looked far more my style, which was good as I was on there first.

This comp they had decided to split our category (as we were the largest) into 2 groups, running the 2 qualifiers simultaneously with some people doing route 1 first and the rest route 2. I disagree with this on the basis that this is applying 2 different groups to 2 different set of circumstances, which isn’t a fair system.

After we’d seen our demos, I was 11th on our first route. The first straight up section looked fairly simple, with most coming off on a spanny traverse across the steepest section of roof onto a volume. I got to this section not too pumped, and moved through relatively easily, although I was now pumped out of my mind. I got a small rest at the volume, although wasted a huge amount of energy trying to clip a draw that was just too far away. I tried swinging the draw but it was still too far. I gave up on the clip and went for the move around the lip, something that lots of people had been falling on, and stuck it, although only just and got a toe hook on the volume. I was now beyond pumped, stuck one more move, and just couldn’t get my heel up for the final move. I slapped, touched the final hold but I didn’t get the best bit of the hold and was so pumped I couldn’t stick it. I was happy, but one more move could have topped me my first 8a flash! I was placed 6th on that route, getting the furthest of anyone who didn’t top it by 3 or 4 moves.

I’d managed to pull my quad on the first route, so got it taped up before my second route. This looked much harder, and I got to a good rest on the volume and could feel a flash pump coming on. This was bad. I have a problem where after a short session of 6 or so routes, I seem to flash pump on absolutely everything. It doesn’t matter whether its 6a or 8a, I just can’t hold on. This time it just seemed to happen quicker than normal though, and I made the next hard move, a long, powerful reach into a thin crack before my arms just stopped working. I came off without having moved enough to warrant a + point on that move.
I was livid for coming off so quickly, but figured I still had a chance, as many of the climbers had come off a reasonably hard move much lower down. When the results came in I was gutted. 11th, one place off a final and even worse I was just a + point on my second route away from coming in 6th. Such a small margin, and due to the way the scoring worked I’d actually climbed further than many of the climbers in the final, but they beat me on position by making it that one + extra.

I know 11th is good for a first European, but its just frustrating that it was by such small margins. On a positive note I ate lots of food that evening, won a trip to Spain for a week and am now training hard for my next European in Imst, Austria in August. Good timing, as I arrive back from Ceuse the week before, PSYCHED!!!!

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Pet Cemetery

I don’t normally update my blog this quickly, but I have just had quite a good day…

After the Quay comp on Saturday, we headed out to Ansteys to try a couple of routes. After Cider Soak last week, I was keen to get on something more difficult to see where abouts my outdoor limit is, so I got on Pet Cemetery, the 2* 8a+ linkup on Ferocity Wall. The route starts up the classic 7b+ crackline The Lynch, before a very hard boulder problem that ends at the jug at the last bolt on Cider Soak. The route then continues up Cider Soak to the chains.

It took a go or two to remember my sequence on The Lynch (which I had worked last year but never finished) and get the clips up, then climbed it to warm up. Then I stuck the clips in on the traverse and lowered off. I worked the crux boulder problem, which seemed really hard! Fortunately I managed to find a nice sequence through the traverse. Basically, I match the best hold in the middle, before slapping to a good side pull and sticking my heel up. The heel was the thing that allowed me to stick it, and I managed to make the big move off the next hold quite easily after that. I gave it a go from the start, but a combination of the Quay competition and working the route meant I pumped out at the very start of the crux problem. We headed off, feeling hopeful for the next session.

Today we headed back out (but not before registering and having a look at the Life Centre, more on that soon, I’m going for a climb tomorrow) and I was determined to get it done. My first attempt putting the clips up was promising, and I would have managed the crux if I hadn’t had z-clipped the clip before!!!

The next attempt was the one. The Lynch went well; I even missed the second clip to feel all fancy, and got to the jam rest. The crux felt solid, match was fine, big move out left, heel up, right hand over, sort out left foot and pull for jug! I hit it! Not pumped, just had to relax a bit for the top section, then launched into it. All of a sudden I was topping out and the chains were clipped!

First 8a+, didn’t really feel that bad and defiantly not at my limit! Tuppence next!!!!

Video (Pretty awful but there was no-one there to video it so we just had to set it recording on the pinnacle over the other side!)



Thursday, 22 March 2012

The Ups and the Downs

Assessment day

It’s been a while since I last wrote on here, but I’ve had no good news to talk about! However, I do now, but we’ll start with the not so good stuff…

On the 3rd of March I had an assessment day for the British team, and this has been my focus for the last few months. The idea was that we had 5 routes to attempt, a 7b, 2 7b+s and 2 7cs. Completing 3 would qualify you for selection to European events this year.

The day started well enough, a bit numb (because of the cold!) on the first route but got up it, and the second route was fine, although I was pretty shaky (not sure if it was nerves or excess caffeine…). Then it started to go wrong. The third route started up a steep wall, before turning a small lip and moving into a technical corner. I started off up the first wall fine, but as I was moving through the steepest part I got the worst flash pump of my life! It was incredible, my arms just didn’t work! By some ridiculous fluke I managed to pull the last few moves before the no hands rest in the corner, but it was very close! In the corner I had a rest and a breather, and moved on into the technical, crimpy, slopey corner. It was fine up until one move, where it turned out you had to use the feature screw-ons (which were a different colour to the wall and all chalked up!) which I thought weren’t in! Even without these, I managed the move with difficultly and cruised to the top!

Then it went really badly! After a good long rest, and some exercises to clear the remains of the pump it was time for our 4th  route. This one was all about endurance, but on the crux, my foot slipped going for a good hold. I wasn’t happy at all… The worst part was I did the route the next day all the way to the top (we were only going to 2/3 height) with no pump at all, very frustrating!!

My final climb was even worse, I was frustrated about the 4th route, so didn’t rest long enough before my attempt, and as a result I once again flash pumped at around ½ height. This time there wasn’t a no hands rest to save me, so I was off within a couple of moves! A lesson to be learnt there somewhere…

After the day I was selected for the Ratho EYC in May, along with the Imst EYC in Austria in August (just after Ceuse so should have some good endurance!). Then after that there’s the European Championships and the Kranj EYC that haven’t been selected for yet, so I better get cracking!

CWIF and Peak

A week later, I took a train up north to Sheffield to compete in CWIF. I’ve always seen this comp online, but this year was the first time I actually got a chance to compete, so I was pretty psyched! Looking at the problems, they all looked hard, with just one that I could confidently say I could do every time, although most of the rest looks like they were do-able. I started off on some of the slightly easier ones to begin with, but quickly moved on to some of the harder ones before they became too crowded. Apart from the occasional route with a long move, it went quite well, and I ended up scoring 156, putting me in 58th place overall and 4th (I think) in the under 18s! I must be better at bouldering than real climbing…

On the Sunday it was looking really nice, so we headed out for a bit of a boulder at Stanage. Turns out it may have been a bit TOO nice, as the rock was really greasy! After a bit of a mess about on the pebble we moved on to the only problem we knew would be in the shade, Brad Pit. I looked at it last year when I was up there, but never had a go, so this time was my first session. The beta is generally match the rail then heel up to the left of the rail, then go left hand up to the bottom of the sloper and then match with the right. From the sloper, hand up to a rubbish crimp then slap or just dyno off the sloper. Might as well start with the tall beta!

My first attempt seemed pretty promising to me, and I managed to touch the sloper. The next was even better, and I managed to get a bit of a hold on the sloper! After a few more goes, I stuck the sloper with the left hand and then in a few more I managed to match the sloper. Then it started to get really hard! The next move was huge! Even with the top crimp I couldn’t even slap for the finish! I worked out the problem was it was so warm, meaning my hand was slipping off of the sloper when I got to the crimp, so I had to readjust it so it was back on before the slap.

By this point, I was about to miss my train home, so after a couple of incredibly close slaps (almost holding it) I had one final go:

Will defiantly go next time if it’s a bit colder!

Cider Soak

Finally some success!

On Sunday, I went up to Ansteys Cove for a bit of a play, and the draws were up in Cider Soak, the classic 8a of the crag, which I’ve wanted to do for ages, but this was my first real go. On my first bolt to bolt I surprised myself, getting every move either first or second go! I had a few more bolt to bolts that day and was getting mot of the moves first go, apart from the move off of the resting jug. I was getting worse, so decided to call it a day, so took the draws out determined to come back soon.

That day came soon enough, the next day in fact, but I only had about an hour get it done (I should have waited really, I was 4th day on!)! I bolt to bolted it to get the draws in, then went for the redpoint! My first attempt was a flop, my foot popping while clipping the third draw.

The next go I was feeling strong, moving though the first section well, and was quite surprised when I latched the resting jug! The first section is the crux, but the section from the jug is almost as hard and entirely droppable. In my bolt to bolts I’d done the move off of the jug in a very powerful way, and when I was resting and had a couple of test go’s, I realised I wouldn’t be able to do it that way this time. I made up a bit of beta involving a match on a crimp, and I had the sloper. Right hand to the crimp, heel on, left hand to the sloper , heel up, slap to the crimp, slap with the right hand to the jug! I’d done it :D My first 8a outdoors, and come to think of it, about my 10th completed route on rock… Time to get some mileage in! Anyway, I have completed one of my goals, to climb 8a outdoors before I was 15!

A video of the assent is here:

In Easter I’ll be headed up north to Malham, Scotland and the Lakes! I’ll keep you posted!



Sunday, 5 February 2012


Hi Everyone,

Its been a couple of weeks of travelling for me, starting with a bouldering comp at TCA in Bristol. I really should spend more time there, it’s awesome! In the comp I was climbing well until a foot slip spat me off one of the easier problems at around halfway which really stopped any chance of doing really well. I ended up in 5th (would have been 4th within a couple of holds of the winner without the slip), fine for a bouldering comp against some really strong guys, including at least one 8a boulderer!

We then drove on up to Wales and stayed with Simon Rawlinson. We had some great ethics debates and our conversation reminded me how much I want to do The Quarryman groove pitch! Its such a great line and the moves just look so cool. I’d really like to get up there during the summer to try it, but it might be beyond me at the moment.

Johnny Dawes on The Quarryman 

After a walk around Dinas in the morning (defiantly a place for the future!), we headed off for Dynamic Rock for the leading ladder. I always like the setting here, and this round was no exception. Up to 6c were awesome, but the 7a was really hard, and almost spat me off on more than one move! I got it though (after a proper fight), and moved onto the really nice 7b, which felt easier than the 7a. I then moved onto the 7c, which was fine up to a low footed rockover. The move was off of two rubbish slopers, low foot and a move out right to a rubbish two finger pocket at the edge of my span and then go again to a good side pull. This move was a real stopper for me, and after 3 or 4 goes admitted defeat and moved onto the 8a. The 8a was awesome, but the two days had got to me, and twice I flash pumped about halfway on really good holds, showing me that the session was all but over.

A good weekend, and a couple of reasonable comps.

This weekend we headed to Kendal wall to scope it out before the assessment day. Now there are a lot words that can describe that wall, but the one I’m going to go for is HUGE! It’s massive, just walking from the ground floor to the top via the stairs is tiring! The main wall is 24.5 meters tall, which means that it is almost 3 times longer than The Barn!

After a quick plod up a 6a I was pretty freaked, heights aren’t really my strong point but I got on a 7a on the main wall, and after climbing to the top and jumping off (which caused me to fall the length of The Barn!) I was feeling really good.

I started on the 7a which was fine, before moving onto the 7b which was relatively easy up until a big dyno off of a rubbish hold to finish, which I stuck and topped. I was a bit pumped by this point so had a bit of a rest, but the wall was so cold I had to warm up again on the 6a to get any feeling back! I figured that was a good opportunity to get on the easier routes and did the rest of the routes up to 6c, which included a terrifying trip up the corner of the main wall. 20 meters up, no hands on and rubbish feet is not really a time for thinking…

I then got on the 7c, which was a huge stamina fest up the main wall again. My first go had me stumped by what I’m sure was a crossover, which I tried as a crossover but the feet were too low and I came off. The next go I just monoed the right of the hold and matched, which worked and I pulled on up to about 2/3 height before I flash pumped after the long day. A quick go on the 8a and a few more on the 7c confirmed that the session was all but over, so we left before the snow got too deep! The journey was a bit sketchy in places because of the snow, but we made it to the services and slept.

Today we went back to Dynamic rock. We planned to go to Malham for the day but the snow the fact it would have been ridiculously cold put a stop to that one. At the wall I got on the 8a first, and after a couple of mistakes near the top that I put down to pure stupidity, I got it and added a whole 6 points to my score. That stubborn move on the 7c didn’t go for ages, but after deciding to not go for the 1 point I worked the move and eventually managed to do it, missing out the good hold and pulling hard off the rubbish 2 finger pocket. It would probably go next session but I was too knackered today.

It’s been a good couple of weekends, and a load of training is scheduled for the next month. PSYCHED!!!

Happy Climbing,

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Injuries and New Year Goals...

Hi everyone!

Well I’ve managed to do a tendon!

I’ve had a pain in my wrist for a while (it was a niggling pain, for about a second after I’d pulled on any hold), but it stopped after Christmas after a bit of rest, but it came back recently. I saw the physio and it turns out I’ve managed to tweak a tendon slightly in my wrist. Two weeks rest it is!!

Turns out I actually do very little else other than climbing, so for the last 12 days 9hours (yes I am counting…) I’ve really been doing very little. I’ve been doing a lot of core and still been turning up to squad, but it’s quite dull really…

I haven’t posted any goals so far this year, so here goes:

-Climb 8a outdoors before April (Raindogs or Cider Soak hopefully)
-Onsight 8a indoors
-Make the semis at Edinburg EYC  sort of... not semis but 11th would have been...
-Go to the Worlds in Singapore Nope!
-Don’t get injured (again… ;))

To be honest I feel most of these may not happen but I really am trying my best!!

Happy Climbing!
p.s. sorry for the short post, it's late!!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Easy as that...

Hi Everyone,

It’s been an interesting week! TV appearances, articles, leading ladder and a nice day at Bonehill…

Last week I did the leading ladder at DartRock, and after onsighting all but the 8a in the last round there, I was keen to do better this time. The routes all looked crimpy, balancey and technical, my kind of thing! All the routes up to 7b were absolutely fine, although the 6a was solid for the grade!! The 7c looked to have one long move about halfway, and looking at the bolt spaces at the ground I knew that my feet would have to come off, so set off a bit apprehensive. When I got to the move I just committed straight away, stuck the move and got to the top. I’d matched last round, which would have been good enough. Looking at the 8a, it really didn’t look that bad, some rubbish holds at the top looking like the only problem. While I got 1 piece of beta wrong about halfway, I reversed a few moves and got it relatively easily, then on to the top! Technically my first 8a onsight, although I’m not going to count it because it felt a little bit easy for the grade, a great route though. My first 200 in the leading ladder, lets hope there’s a few more like this!

I recently appeared on Spotlight, and I don’t think I did that badly!! We got a call from the BBC on Thursday, and I missed the last 2 lessons of school to go for an interview at The Barn. We were expecting a 15 minute thing where he asked us a few questions, but instead we ended up filming for 2 and a half hours! It ended up coming together quite well, and I was quite pleased really!

Yesterday I had a nice little day up at Bonehill. I did Slopey Traverse and Rippled wall, both great problems which I’ve done before. I was bouldering with a few people and was told about some micro routes that were worth soloing, and thought that I’d take the opportunity of a few pads and spotters to give them a go. I did the E1 arête without a problem, so decided to give the E2 a go! It was defiantly good moves, but the top out was something I wouldn’t have done if it was on the ground, never mind 8m up! It was a horrible rounded thing with not a crystal to speak of, so I made the decision to traverse off, but the lower moves were hard and it was really scary, defiantly more so than the E1, so I’m taking the grade!!

You Cannot Be Serious V3 6a (E2/3 to solo) To the right of the arête is an obvious large hold. Start on this, go direct above, then move right at the top to finish steeply on big holds. Finish direct - scary and high. Wimps can finish direct into the groove (which is still scary!) or traverse right to step onto adjacent ledge. 

Been a great week!

Happy Climbing,
Alex :)