Friday, January 20, 2012

Johnny Dawes interview

The brilliant, mad, articlulate Johnny Dawes talks to the Guardian. He has some interesting stuff to say and there are some good clips of his running jumping antics.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

Unclimbed projects

Following on from article from 2004 listing some of the best projects in Wicklow here is a list of a few worthwhile unclimbed lines. All of the below are good lines on nice rock, there are no SS or variations or extensions. They are King Lines if you will.  I know of more some that I'm seflishly hoarding from myself (they easy ones), so this list isn't exhaustive.

 1. Split boulder, Electric Mountain

 This line is on the hillside to the left of the Electric Mountain forest. There is a big buttress split vertically by a fared chimney. The first move is a big throw from some small edges to the big slopey ledge and then a highball finish. There is an easier project to the right as well.

2. Flicking the Bean boulder, Mall Hill

The slopey arete on the Flicking the Bean boulder isn't probably that hard. The landing is awkward as it slopes away but there are plenty of branches to build a level platform. Might be a sit start, on the day that photo was taken I pulled a flake off from below the nose on the right, it was rotten and very loose so was no lose.

3 Art's Boulder arete, near Glanekeera

High, hard and remote. Great line though.

4. Line right of Wow Prow, Glenmac

The Wow Prow is the arete in the middle. The other line is the right arete. Very steep very slopey compression from a SS. Very much the modern style. There is a line of seepage in the middle of the face that might interfere.

5. Dyno right of Boat 66, Glenmac

Dyno up the middle of the face. Starts on a shit hold and goes along way to the lip to a good jug I think. Rocky landing. Borderline impossible ie. very hard I think.

6. Nemesis Boulder right arete, Glenmac

Just noticed this one when going through my photos. Looks like hard clamping up the steep nose. Mightn't be that impressive in person.

7. Roof below crag, Lough Dan

Long roof traverse. Maybe 15m long. Would stay dryish in the rain. Lovely rock, great holds. Not even that hard. Why am I mentioning this one?

8.  White Elephant, Glenamlure

High. Very blank arete. Oh and at least 1.5 hours from the road. Good luck with that.

9. Steep side of Gullyblock

Left arete. Steep. Might be a few holds on the face.

10. Forest boulder, Mall Hill

Deep in the forest above and left of Living the Dream is a nice rounded boulder. The centre of the face doesn't look like much in the crappy photo but it is beautiful. A few decent holds to start and then some very slopey moves on the bald pate. Beautiful. Did I mention the dappled light?

Well that's all I can think of for the moment. If you know of anything else worth mentioning leave a comment. Note nothing in Glendo.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Old article - Nine of the best unclimbed problems in Wicklow

This is an article I wrote in early 2004 that was never published. I have added updated information in red.

Nine of the best unclimbed problems in Wicklow

This is a list of some of the best unclimbed boulder problems in Wicklow. All are hard most are very hard. That the majority are in Glenmacnass will be no surprise to those who have been there. Only one problem listed is in Glendalough the reason is that this list about the unknown rather than the known and Glendalough is very much the known. All styles of problem are represented long, short, safe, slappy, crimpy and fingery. This list used to be a top ten but John Gaskins climbed the tenth problem (see the news item Darkness before the Dawn) just before Christmas.

 1. Glendalough – The Hidden groove project

About a hundred meters above the Fin is a large boulder on the uphill side of which is the groove.
It’s about 16 foot high, the landing is a mixture of rock and grass which will require many pads to make it safe. The start is easy but the top out will be the crux with very technical insecure stemming on marginal holds. One to headpoint maybe?

I believe Dave Ayton did the first ascent of this shortly afterwards. He gave it around 6b I think. It's more scary than hard. A good few pads and a bit of patioing would make it quite safe. I saw Harry Fogg do it quite causually one day. 

2. Glenmacnass - Wow Prow 

Photo by Dom Green
Maybe not quite as strong a line as the original wow prow in Bishop, California (now named the Mandala by Chris Sharma the first ascentist) but nice none the less. About three fingery deadpoints should see the top in hand. If you prefer steeper more powerful problems there is a very overhanging rib with only the vaguest sidepulls to the right. 

Wow Prow was probably over stating it slightly. I'ts a nice line and looks great from a distance but the holds are small and sharp. I think John Gaskins did all the moves ones day but never linked it video on youtube. Other wads have looked at it but weren't captivated. Still someone should get it done. Now the line to its right is a different story, very hard and in the modern style of compression on slopey holds. 

3. Glenmacnass - groove left of the Wow Prow

Not that hard as the rest of the problems in the list but a great line. The top section needs a good clean probably from a rope. The first move is a hard fingery slap from sharp crystals to a good hold, a bold upper section leads to a very good jug to on the lip. The landing is quite good though there is a few holes worth avoiding.

Andy Robinson did this a few years after. Called it the Shroud, it's around 6b. Bit highball and the crux is a long reach.

4. Glenmacnass - No Dice
Photo by Dom Green
Not an obvious feature as the most obvious feature is the lack of features. There is one small crimp for the left hand and a vague slopey rib for the right hand and foot. The difficulty lies not in discovering what to do but doing it.

John Gaskins put a bit of work into this one to no avail. I heard a rumour that Barry O'Dwyer hit the top. Very elegant minimalist line but with quite defined holds.Video of John trying it on youtube.

 5. Glenmacnass – Andre’s arete

In a bend of Glenmacnass river about five kilometers above the waterfall is a large granite boulder, the Riverside boulder. This large rectangular block with a heather hat has a perfect vertical arete. It’s oft admired as it is prominent from everywhere in the upper valley. Apparently this arete was climbed in the early fifties by a Polish climber who was living in Ireland at that time called Andre Kopczinski. Apparently he didn't even use climbing shoes (this was a long time before sticky rubber or anything similar) just a thick pair of woollen socks. If so this would have been one of the hardest ascents in the world at that time. For the moment though lets consider it unclimbed until we are sure of otherwise.

World famous now as Solidarity. Andy Robinson picked this plum and then fecked off to Canada. You can see the extent of the pool under it before Andy came along with his shovel. Andy was rightly worried that the line would be robbed at the boulder meet and get it done just in time. As for Andre, well it's a nice idea.

6. Glenmacnass - Nemesis

High, hard, long and complicated. The landing is good but boulder is high (20 feet). It will take a particular type of person to get excited about this project as it will take a lot of figuring out the moves, cleaning holds etc. The first move is a tricky slap to a relatively good hold after that there not a huge amount to aim for just the slopey lip and the odd crystal for the feet.

Stupid problem really, don't think it had seen any attention. The arete to the right is the excellent Smokey and Bandit.

7. Glenmacnass – Dice slap

It’s just one hard slap off a reasonable edge to a small crimp with no footholds worth mentioning. Easy if you’re strong enough, impossible otherwise. Not as impressive a line to look at as the others but a cool move.

Visted Welsh was Chris Davies did this at the 2005 meet. Called it Monkey Burger which is one of the worst names I could imagine. There is now a similar problem to the left also.

8. Glenmacnass – The Full Rasher Traverse

This will be a fine endurance outing without any particularly hard moves but lots of them. The Rasher is the traverse of the lip facing the river that looks vaguely like a rasher on its side. The complete traverse starts right on the other side of the boulder going up (and across) one arete down another (a fine problem in itself) and finally across the Rasher itself. The holds are always slopey and never good enough to get a good shake out. One to try after a holiday clipping bolts.

Probably been done by now. Compelling line if you like stamina stuff I suppose. You can see in this video Gaskins causually traverses it before dropping off at the mantle.

9. Glendasan - prow of the Tank

The prow of the Tank boulder above the mining village in Glendasan is formed where the two overhanging faces meet. To the right is 'Darkness before dawn' John Gaskins 8a+ and the hardest problem in Ireland. John used a camming device placed under the boulder to hold his mat in place on Darkness this would be worth doing on the prow as the landing below the sitstart is rocky. A very steep sitstart on some slopey holds leads to the lip after which there is still a good bit of work to do. There are also another two unclimbed problems on this boulder (the face to the left and the crack just to the right).

John did this one at 7c. Great line.

So of the 9 6 are done. The two really worthwhile ones left are the prow right of Wow Prow and the Dice Rib.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Projects: open or closed?

For years I have been on the look on for the prefect project in Wicklow. I wanted something that would inspire me to train and try and get stronger. So it needed to be steep and powerful, on edges rather than slopers so it wasn't too condition dependent. It needed to be unclimbed as that is what blows my skirt up. It needed to be a few moves which could be worked in isolation as it gets old fast falling off the same move day in day out.

I expected to find it in the Glendo but never saw exactly what I was looking for. Last summer I found it in Glenmalure. Every box ticked. I have sorted the landing, cleaned the holds and tried the moves. And now I'm trying to get a bit stronger before the siege starts.

I'm deeply motivated  by it and would love to go on and on about it and share all the photos I have. But something holds me back, I'm afraid that if I told the world that someone would go and climb it. And I want it all for myself.

My attitude to projects always has been that no one owns the rock and if you don't want anyone to climb your project don't tell anyone.

Photo courtsey of Joe Kinder

In sport climbing there is the principle of the red tag. A climber would clean and bolt a line. While working it she would leave a red tag on the first bolt to indicate that it's a work in progress and other climbers should stay off. Considering the time and expense of equipping a sport route this seems fair enough. The question is: how long is the equipper entitled to before she has to open the route up to others?
Red tagging seems to be accepted practise but sometime even the heros get into trouble over it. Deadpointmag offered a $1000 bounty on a route Chris Sharma was working. Chris asked them not to. Shortly afterwards a can of worms opened. Read the Deadpoint original piece and then the embarrassing apology.

Josh's defence that as Chris didn't literally put a red tag on his projects or that they were never "officially open" or "officially closed." is bullshit.

"Chris had put the better part of two years projecting the line, and his request for Ethan to stay off it, was between gentlemen"

"...When he realized that Nalle had flown in from Finland on a mission to try the route, he asked Nalle to give him some time to complete it first..."

Anyway. Boulder problems usually require only a small amount of work to prepare them (though there are exceptions) so the issue of finances doesn't come into it. So is it right for anyone to claim a project as their own? One very strong boulderer I know said that if he heard someone was working a problem he would give them a year to get it done before trying it.

The advantage of closed projects is that
  • It reduces the need for secrecy, people will share information more freely if they aren't worrried someone will go along and do their project.
  • It encourages people to get out and look for new problems of their own.

  • Not all climbers are going to agree with and respect the idea of closed projects and this could cause friction. Also how do you know a project is closed?
  • It can cause stagnation. There is nothing like the fear of your project getting 'robbed' to motivate you. Plus it means problems wait years before getting done as people drift away from climbing leaving a trail of closed projects behind them.
The best solution is probably one of compromise. The Irish bouldering scene is pretty friendly and most of the active boulderers know each other and the way it seems to work at the moment is that you keen quiet about a project but you expect people to give you some breathing space anyway.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Back of the Rasher

A very large, wet cave in Sligo

In 2004 we checked out this huge cave in Sligo, it's near Aughrish Head, I can't remember exactly where but could probably figure it out. The cave was huge, I think you could fit a few double decker buses in it but it was soaking wet. It was clear though that the rock was incredible smooth and rounded limestone, the walls where step banded with slopey breaks. If (and it's a big if) it ever dried it would be amazing, probably bigger than Gravity with beautiful rock and a perfect sandy landing. Photos are Kev Cooper's.