Wednesday, 23 March 2011


Things are going well, which as I type this brings a smile to my face, and for a brief moment I even considered marking the occasion with an elegant and refined self-portrait. I'm sure you know the sort - tops off, slap on the baby oil, flip the mood lighting and stare moodily into the distance – but unfortunately, I can’t find my favourite pair of aviators, and you know as well as I do that a portrait without aviators is no portrait at all.

The reason for this blog is that the day I depart these snowy lands to return to England is drawing near. I planned to talk about how strong I feel both physically and mentally, about the preparation I have made to increase my concentration and performance under pressure, and how I feel it will be to return to hard trad after such a long time away.

However, my gooning groupies are on holiday this week (everyone needs a break once in a while - even from the best job in the world) and so my overly indulged ego is feeling a little fragile today. I fear being accused of narcissism for the second time in a week would likely be a blow from which I would not recover, so instead of continuing to talk about myself and my life, this blog will be from now on dedicated to the best of British - Fish and Chips and Galaxy Chocolate.

And talking about Chips and Chocolate – I have to give a big shout out to the good old cup of Tea. Enhancing both sweet and savoury, is there a more versatile and appreciated drink? Answers on a postcard please...

Groupies - Check, Tops off - Check, Aviators - Check! Is any more proof needed?

OK, Time to be serious... If the above few paragraphs seem a little more eccentrically out of place than normal, you should head on over to UKClimbing to read the amusing (if a little lengthy) forum thread discussing my mental condition. Whilst I am flattered that people are so interested in the inner workings of my mind, I can’t help but feel that there must be more important things to discuss? I'm not entirely sure how much (or little) of the content was serious, but regardless, it is one of the funniest things I have seen in a while.

On with the show...

Here are a couple of photos from the weekend, sampling the brilliant trad climbing at Cadarese, Italy.

Mustang 8a, Cadarese - Photo Riky Felderer

Mustang 8a, Cadarese - Photo Riky Felderer

Despite training harder than ever and being in the best shape physically, I know that trad is an often difficult and delicate mistress to please and I felt it was important to spend a few days reminding myself of her subtleties.

Cadarese is a bit of an anomaly in Euro granite as the entire place is made up of splitter, after splitter, after splitter. Development began around 8 years ago, and as is usual in these parts the main sector was fully bolted. Three years ago, Riky Felderer and friends began to develop an adjacent area that became known as “The Crack Party” and since then, perfectly protectable trad routes have been established up to 8a/+.

I began the day warming up in the main sector, climbing a very fun full body experience 7a+, followed by the sectors current hardest route, the 8a+ “Once Upon a/Beslan Memorial” combination. Beslan is a wonderful route, with two distinctly different crux sections, but most importantly follows perfect hand and finger cracks for most of its length – Time to bring out the friends!

The first thing I noticed when racking up for a trad route after an extended sport period is how heavy the gear is. Stepping off the floor, one immediately feels the effects of all the extra metal as it swings back and forth below your hips. Secondly, it is so much slower than leading a sport pitch, even with very simple protection.Every placement has to be found, judged, selected, (often reselected if you are bad at stage 2), placed, tested, and finally clipped. This process breaks up any rhythm, vastly slowing down the climbing and increasing the time hanging off your hands – and all this before we even go into the mental aspect of trading.

The lead went well, and despite having a bit of a tussle to seat the final crucial .5 friend and getting majorly pumped in the process, the last 5m run-out on slopey crimps passed without too much drama. This was a relief for reasons more than simply ticking the route, as my England project is in a similar style to this final section – its confidence inspiring to know that I can perform well on crimps despite being pumped silly and far above protection.

Up next was Mustang, the route from the above pictures, and a route I had been drooling over since Riky shared with me a picture from the year before. After an easy hand crack for 10m, one finds themselves at a brief rest point, with a tiny finger lie-back crack the only way to the belay, 12 meters above. The climbing begins with a technical, delicate sequence, and finishes with a burly, pumpy sprint, with the transition between the two extremes bringing the crux.Unfortunately, the crack was not entirely dry, and after a careless foot swap the damp crack spat me off on my onsight attempt.

After another slip, I worked out the secret of staying on the rock. By keeping my hands and feet close together I could apply even pressure directly to the rock, no twisting or extending made for very powerful climbing, but atleast I could stay on the wall. Placing protection was difficult due to the small size of the crack and the powerful body positions. Small friends have small lobes, which means a small margin for error when placing them – it doesn’t take much change in the rock for one of the lobes to miss its placement. To be able to confidently commit to the climbing, you need to invest a lot of energy in placing the gear. Its a bit of a catch 22 situation, but ho-hum, it all adds to the fun, and after a big fight I made it to the top. One of the best!

I’m back in Innsbruck, resting my skin for something big... Ill tell you more soon.

Monday, 14 March 2011

The Return Of The Jedi

The Return Of The Jedi... Photo: Copyright David Simmonite

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I promised you a detailed description of my latest grit route “The Return of the Jedi”; a great little arĂȘte in Bank Quarry, climbed on boxing day last year. As seems to be the norm these days, I have been mega busy over her in Austria training and preparing for another English project in the near future, which if all goes well, should be a really exciting time... But before I start going into details of what is yet to come, I need to go back and put right the past!

So, my project...

The Line... and the landing!

Shortly after starting climbing, I was introduced to 2 “projects” in a small, dirty quarry, not far from my parent’s house. The quarry was not the most inspiring place, but these 2 lines were simply stunning and I decided I had to climb them – the only problem was, back then I couldn’t even move up the featureless overhanging rock!

I sporadically returned over the next few years as my climbing improved, and on Boxing Day 2004 I made the first ascent of “The Power of the Dark Side”, an awesome route up a slightly overhanging fridge, and a route I still consider to be one of my very best. At around fr7a+ the climbing was relatively easy, but as the route took no protection and climbed over a terrible landing, leading it was a pretty intimidating prospect.

The main project still remained, and from time to time I would wander up from my Parents to have a play, gradually working out the moves and developing an idea of how the route would one day climb. Three dynos/slaps (where my feet would often cut), linked together by several other powerful insecure moves, all above another horrible landing. I knew the line was possible but I also knew it was damn hard, and for one reason or another, I never found the motivation to lay siege and get on the “sharp end”.

Yet another session...

The quarry (and its projects) were unknown by all but the most esoteric explorers, and this gave me comfort; my little project was not in any danger of being snatched up from under my nose, I could sit back and relax in the knowledge it would be waiting, should I ever feel like the time had come. That was until the new Froggatt guide was published earlier this year, including detailed information about all the Matlock quarries, and a nice picture topo which includes my line as the “E9 Project”. Shit! My secret was out, I needed to act...

Boxing Day 2010 dawned clear and crisp. Persistent snow still covered the ground; if the route was dry, conditions could be prime. After abseiling to clean the route I returned home to warm up. Pulling on the rough gritstone edges on the side of my home brought childhood memories flooding back; a lot has changed for me over the last few years, there has been good and bad, happy and sad, but all of it has served to make me stronger, in many senses of the word.

A very cold Caroline...

Caroline offered to be GriGri girl for the day, and the two of us made our way to the quarry, neither really knowing what to expect. This would be her first experience of belaying a hard grit route, and it would be my first time on the route since failing to even do the moves during my last visit; what was going to happen was anyone’s guess. Climbing the route first try on toprope came as a big surprise! The rock felt grippy under my skin, the holds felt big under my fingers, and the moves that were once so hard, now came easily. I knew it was on...

During my time away in Chad, I noticed a big change in my mentality towards trad routes. Rather than look at and plan for all the negative points – where will it feel hard, where will I get pumped, where will I feel scared, where can I sneak a no hands rest... I now found myself excited to try, eager to see what challenges lay ahead, confident that I was fit enough and strong enough to succeed. The same could be said about this project – leading it would be fun.

“The Power of the Dark Side” was named after a pair of Christmas socks, and in keeping with the idiot Star Wars theme, I’m calling this new one “The Return of the Jedi”. I placed a couple of boulder pads at the base of the route that made it a much safer proposition than it would be without. I still believe that it’s not possible to offer an E grade for a grit route climbed with pads, simply because of the potentially limitless amount of protection they can offer. For me it was E x, for the next ascent with more pads it may be E x – y, and the one after with less pads, E x + y, with y being dependent on the number, size, and quality of your foam.

The Return Of The Jedi... Photo: Copyright David Simmonite

HXS 7a explains as much, or as little as you need to know. In other money it is perhaps F8a+ to toprope and would be a fierce little offering with a couple of bolts – from the floor to the ledge it is slap slap slap, no time to stop and chalk! With enough pads and big balls you could possibly consider the bottom section a highball boulder, but the top of the route is pretty far from the floor and still has a tricky move. I chose to take a rope and place some (bad) gear, if nothing else it kept Caroline smiling until the ordeal was over.

I’m really made up to finally finish off this duo! It’s a strange little place, but the lines are both 3*, the first projects I ever tried, and only a few hundred meters from my house – how about that!

To see a small gallery from the route, as well as a video of the first ascent, check out

Thursday, 10 March 2011

After a near fatal hard disk failure, I just started to sort out my archives and began to upload a few new videos. Check out the Video section in my portfolio @

Here is Progression...