Sunday, August 9, 2015

Rocklands (part 3)

One of the days over in Rocklands, we visited an area called '8 Day Rain'. Developed by Lisa Rands and Co, the area is so named because they went there after 8 days of continuous rain.

Psyched to get going!

We had it to ourselves the day we went. In Rocklands, some areas are far more popular than others, but the quality of rock and the range of problems is as good in one area as it is in the next.

The problems felt a little more spread out in '8 Day Rain' than the areas we had visited before. I loved exploring the natural corridors between the boulders as they wound their way up the hill. Eoin and I warmed up on a few super short but burley 6a/6b problems.

It was so hot that day. I felt strong but somewhat sleepy as the sun seemed to beat down on us as we climbed. I was psyched to try Vanity 7A. The problem looked impressive in the guide and when we got there, we realised that the photo didn't quite do the line justice... However - with only 2 pads and 1 spotter each (Eoins spotter was a!) we were a little intimidated.

The landing is rocky, which is unusual in Rocklands - most landings were sandy and flat.

We quickly flashed a 6c on the corner of the same block and eventually decided that Vanity which is a highball problem - was not worth getting injured over, so we just left it be - another time!

Another look at the guide and there was a 7a that caught our eye called Silky Natural.

We headed over and though most of it was in the shade, the sheer heat of the day made the problem a lot harder than it might have been in cooler conditions. It was a traverse to start after which a huge throw to a large scooping jug linked through to a set of burley moves that again, traversed up higher and out of the roof onto a standing ledge.

Eoin made good progress, and seemed to have the problem in two halves. I was sure he'd send it before we left that day. Unfortunately, during one of my attempts, I missed the burley throw in the middle of the problem and fell off... The mat slid and I fell on my back just where a rock was poking up out of the sand.

It hurt... A lot. I thought in that instant that I'd done serious damage. The fall seemed so minor until the damn pad slipped.

After what seemed like a long time, I managed to get to my feet and walk it off. My lower back had a cut and a bruise, but I felt ok. Actually my hip seemed to feel a little weird - liked it had been knocked out of place, but that feeling just started to fade after a while.

We decided to go and have some lunch. So we wandered over to where Al and Aoife were climbing and all 4 of us sat down for some food. As we ate, a funny little creature hopped out from the bushes beside us. He was about the size of a field mouse, with springy back legs, a snout that resembled a trunk and funny ears - he was a treat to behold. He dashed out and then away again. I threw out a crumb for him, and he jumped out again and grabbed it. He was so fast!!!

An Elephant Shrew

Later we asked Charité (who owns and runs the Travellers Rest where we stayed) about him and she said he was an elephant Shrew and that people come to study them and have trouble getting a glimpse!


Back to '8 Day Rain' and after lunch Eoin decided that he'd like to go and try to complete Silky Natural. He came so close but the sun, at that stage was roasting the problem and made it all so much harder.

Al managed it, but admitted the heat made it feel harder than it should have been.

The sun was setting on our day and we wandered back over to the start of the area. Al was interested in trying another few problems and left Eoin, Aoife and I at a problem he'd done before called The Golden Rail 6C.

It had it all! A knee bar, an undercut with arm at full extension over the head, crimps, jugs, a bizarre stopper move the middle... I was excited to try, but nervous of my back. After so many attempts on Silky Natural, Eoin was pretty tired - and for us tall folk, the crazy middle move which linked the roof start to the technical finish required a huge amount of flexibility, not to mention trust in the feet!!

The start of the problem really drew me in. It seemed to have the potential to be the best problem I'd tried in Rocklands so far. Al had shown us how to do the middle move, but I had my own ideas, writing his technique off as impossible for tall people.

The Golden Rail 6C

I tried everything I could, but kept on getting spat off the block. I was getting stronger on the move though despite my failures. In the end, having thrown everything I had at it, I went back to Al's technique and guess what...

It worked.

I sent the problem just before it got dark and I couldn't have been more pleased with my efforts.

It certainly felt like the most difficult problem I had done so far... By a good bit. We had sent a number of 6cs (and even flashed a couple of them) and a 6c+ at that stage and The Golden Rail felt like the hardest and the classiest line so far.

I'd really love to go back with a heap of pads and try Vanity. But I am very excited to have completed such a great problem as The Golden Rail.

8 Day Rain is a really wonderful place.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Rocklands (part 2)

The climbing in Rocklands is the best I've ever experienced. There I said it and it was easy to say.

Best rock, best location, best temperature, best wildlife, best sunsets...


In my experience there, the base of each block (in general) plays host to the difficult moves in the problem. In some cases it might be that the hard moves go all the way to the top... But the top out...

Well, on every problem I did - the boulder's top was littered with jugs. Rocklands boulders have knobbly jugs all over their tops!!

For me - that meant I was happy to try anything.

Another lesson I learned is that the rock is sharp - I had tiny nics all over my hands from the start - fingers and palms. I used a lot of tape!!

There was one instance when I joined the guys as they were trying an 8A called Out of Balance. The was a direct 7B variation and I was psyched to try it.

Al made the first move look like nothing - but when I got on it, I missed the move and as I fell, my left hand was left in an awkward position on the hold I'd started with. My left index and middle finger were badly cut at the first joint.

A lot of blood - and a lot of tape for the rest of the trip!!!

That was a really beautiful 7B though. I really wish it hadn't attacked me - I'd have liked to go back to it, but I was too scared of dropping the opening move once again.

In Rocklands - if you go off away from everyone - it's possible to experience silence. No sound.

That means no cars, no birds, no insects, no breeze... Nothing. The quiet is profound.

And you can just sit there and the sound of absolutely nothing at all offers an immense experience - and more than all the noise that is possible there - tells of the vast land that surrounds you.

When I climbed to a high vantage point during lunch, or a break or whatever, I could see nothing but boulders and cliffs off into the furthest distance, until it was no longer possible to see any further at all.

I've never been to a place where I've been so overwhelmed by the sights and sounds... Or lack of sounds.


Monday, July 13, 2015

Rocklands (part 1)

When we landed in Capetown we were all pretty bleary eyed. Getting from the plane to the car that we rented for the few weeks seemed to only take moments in the grander scheme of things to come. Then we were off and aside from missing a turn we had no trouble finding our way out of Capetown and onto the big long road up to Clanwilliam and finally on to the Cederberg Wilderness Area.

It was dark when we arrived having done a completely disjointed shop, we arrived with dinner on our minds. We picked up the keys from Charite and followed her directions down 3km of dirt track (bumpy as hell and not for the faint hearted!) and in the pitch black, we arrived at our little cottage.

On night 1 with only a few lamb chops but no oil or butter to cook them, we used the two cooking rings to prepare our dinner. If we'd been smart, we'd have thought of asking for firewood. These cottages are great - but they have no insulation and they become absolutely freezing some evenings. If you don't have a fire on the go - it's a little desperate!!!  In fact there were some evenings in Rocklands that I sat in front of the fire with my big down jacket and my hat eating dinner! Every other night that we were there, we cooked on the fire - it was the only way to prepare the large quantities of meat we ate!

I remember going asleep that evening. I was completely spaced out from the flight and I was so so excited about climbing in the morning.

We slept for at least 12 hours.

Friday, June 19, 2015

FFA... In Ireland... Ok, in Wicklow.

My post last week got my 'big fish, small pond' brain going and I thought I'd make a list of things I might have the FFA (First Female Ascent) on, around Wicklow and Dublin.

Nu Rails
Rhythm & Stealth
The Groove SS
White Stick
Tim's Mantle

Glendalough (maybe but I doubt it)
Chillax Left

Mall Hill
Living the Dream


The Scalp
Dark Angle

The Scalp (maybe but I doubt it)
Gully's Problem
Gen Tilly

Aytons Cave
Loco Total
Man Eater

I care. It's a mark I've worked pretty hard for. I'd really be interested to hear if there's girls about who've done any of the problems Ive listed prior to my ascents. For instance, I imagine Chillax went waaaaaaay before I did it and there are a few others in there that I think might be a little hopeful...

I might find some time tomorrow to add dates to these ascents...

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Who's line is it anyway?

closed projects - it really comes down to opinion - and here's mine;

As a boulderer, I'd really love to climb a first ascent. Not just some rubbish 'for the sake of it' problem, but something really great. If I ever got the chance, I'd want the reaction to be...

How did she ever find it? How long did it take to work out that sequence, and Isn't this a brilliant piece of rock (ideally I'd send a beautiful overhang or an amazing arĂȘte)

I have a full time job and so my weekends are not spent trudging through the unexplored Wicklow countryside. My weekends are spent in popular and documented bouldering areas. I have not got the time or the energy to seek out new life and new civilisations and to boldly go where no one has gone before.... My weekday evenings are mostly spent either at The Wall training or at home resting.

It is this lack of time and energy that makes me very greatful for the likes of Dave Flanagan, Michael Duffy, Ricky Bell, Pierre Fuentes, Barry O Dwyer, Al Sarahan to name A FEW!!! They discover and I hopefully follow.

I think I've had quite a few of the first female ascents, or maybe first Irish Female Ascents (where do you stop when narrowing it down) of the boulders around Wicklow.

I love the idea that I might be the first girl to climb problems like Rhythm and Stealth, The Groove SS, Robots, Living the Dream, The Nu Rails and everything in Aytons Cave that I've done so far (aside from Caroline's traverse for obvious reasons!!!!)

The point is that the idea of an FA really is important to me. And no I don't have a problem narrowing my field to produce my own breed of FA. First girl... Happy days!!!!

That is my opinion.

The problem starts when you pour your effort into something and it gets sent by someone stronger than you who doesn't share that opinion.

It's a bit of rock - it's out there and should someone want to climb it, you can't put tape around the Boulder and deny access.

So what do I think?

I think I really like Ricky Bells blog about his ascent of the Gentlemens Agreement. That post really sums it up for me. And I ended up really liking the whole story around the name of the Boulder and Ricky's acknowledgment that the race was on!!! The story makes his FA really special.

So in my opinion:

If it means something to the person working it, then hands off til you've asked, or come to an agreement!!!

Friday, June 12, 2015

Rocklands - 1.5 weeks

From Daniel Woods' InstagramAccount.

Daniel Woods, Dave Mason and the who's who of the bouldering super strong have been posting photos of Rocklands SA over the past while. I've been so excited to watch their videos and see their posts because in a week and half I will travel to Capetown, drive 2.5 hours north and (I think) be one of the first from Ireland to Boulder in South Africa's Rocklands.

I am so excited that I've started packing already.

My posts will not contain 8A onsights or new hard FAs, but I look forward to posting about the trip - and I promise one thing for sure...

I'll be trying my very best on every last block I get to.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Bouldering Essentials - Dave Flanagan

I had my first look at this book, written by Dave Flanagan, today at Awesome Walls and its a really lovely thing. It's brilliantly laid out, the images illustrate it beautifully and the book as an object has a fresh and enduring look to it.

The images jump off the page and act as eye candy for the next trip away, as well as, in other instances, acting as step by step guides to different techniques, equipment or exercises that every boulderer should know about.

A load of thought has gone into this book and its an absolute joy to flip through and read or just to have a gander at the pictures! I can't wait until my copy arrives, and am thrilled to have had a small part in its coming together.

Did I mention its Irish too!

Go get it.