Thursday, 16 April 2009

Blogs that I like...

I thought that I would make a list of climbing related blogs that are actually good. If climbing blogs were a genre, the genre would be branded 'crap': most climbing related blogs are the pre-pubescent blatherings of super-hyper-uber-keen-youths, describing the tedious minutiae of their climbing related life, like some sort of log. A log on the web, a web log. Surely that's not what blogs are for?

And so, in the spirit of blogging the way it should be (like magazines but free-er and without pages) here is my top list of blogs with words on which are worth reading, and pictures that are worth viewing...

The Irish funny man and BMC guidebook writer has a very good, though rarely updated blog. The archives are well worth a scroll through on a rainy day, and his Jonny Dawes story is an awesome bit of storytelling.

A proper climber's proper climber. Expect bracing ethics, gripping tales and dry humour...

Only recently brought to my attention: a west-country bloke who can certainly turn a phrase. Possibly the only blog in history to be able to record ordinary day's climbing with verbosity and hilarity combined. 

Despite starting almost every post with the word 'well', and dubious grammar skills, Mark Reeves has got some very interesting stuff on his blog. There are some really nice photos, tales from Wales and interesting insight into life on the Llanberis MRT. There's some dross too, but you don't need to read it.

Some pretty funny stuff here by singer/climber Murphy. Worth it 'cos she uses the phrase 'another petite, rad little bitch', which is pretty funny.

Consistently good photos from one of the best, together with some entertaining tales make this blog one worth reading.

Quality tales and funnies.

So yeah, that's the sort of thing I like to read. Hope someone finds those links useful.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009


Almscliff was my first experience of the fabled grit. I may have been from down South, and therefore dead soft, but its reputation had not escaped me, nor had that of the now familiar ‘cliff. Steep, hard and fierce was what I’d been told, and I believed it. It was, I assumed, one of those crags which gives a little tingle in the base of your spine: half excitement, half paralysing terror. The reality was somewhat underwhelming - even the dreaded Almscliff VS felt, well, VS. The quality, on the other hand, spoke for itself: behind the polish were superb climbs. I was converted.

My first trip to Almscliff was also pretty much the first time I saw real, proper boulderers in the wild. I used to boulder a lot in Somerset, and obviously saw others doing the same, but it was only when I moved to Yorkshire that I encountered the bona-fide, self confessed full time boulderers, with their buckets and beanies and one armed pull-ups. 

The chalk caked holds of Demon Wall stood out a mile off; the white-washed splodges looking like the resulting clash of a boulderer with a paintball gun and the problem which spat him off just one too many times…

I watched as a public spirited boulderer cleaned the chalk off: scrubbing hard with a washing up brush, he removed a significant portion of the crap from the holds. Impressed, and hoping for a demonstration of this iconic problem, I continued to watch as he dipped the same brush into a bag of chalk and preceded to smother holds with it, brushing hard and working chalk well into the rock. Strange. 

Another time, same crag. Wandering about climbing problems in sporadic bursts, I walk past the roof. “D’ya wanna go?”  “Alright”. I climbed across the easy start section, out to the lip and the painfully small crimps, almost hanging them, I could move no further. But my inability to hang small holds is by the by. What I’m getting at is the slippery chalky covering on grit, which normally has pretty amazing friction. Even the starting hold, which is enormous, gets brushed and recoated on a regular basis. Quite why people do this is beyond me: chalk is not a miraculous grip powder. It does not increase the friction coefficient between rock and hands in itself. It dries moisture from the hands, which increases friction. Excess chalk, or chalk on the rock does nothing of benefit, indeed quite the opposite. Tick marks do have their uses: blind and slappy holds, not uber jugs right in front of your face at the sitting start.

Chalk may wash off rock in our frequent rain, but not when it’s under a roof, and so in a combination of easter time essay-writing boredom and public spirited self affirmation I caught the train to give those holds the cleaning of their life. It turns out that two litres of water is not sufficient to clean all the holds properly, but I managed to get the worst off the really chalky holds under the roof. I’ll be back for the rest of the crag...