Positive Climbing

Adrian Berry Climbing in Sardinia Photo by Mark Glaister

Me climbing in Mallorca back in May 2009, the shot was taken for the updated Rockfax guidebook to the area. This route was about 7a, only the bolts were all pretty well rusted which made it feel more like an E5! Photo by Mark Glaister.

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September 24th 2012

The summer was filled with work up in the Peak District doing coaching days on the gritstone, with days out with the camera taking photos for the Peak Bouldering Rockfax that I am working my way through with the hope of getting it finished next year. It is going to have more photos than any other guide I have produced, and this combined with the enormous files coming out of my Canon 5Dii has meant having to upgrade my computer and find a better way of backing things up.

Wreck Cove

Photo: Shipwreck Cove

I was also active down on Gower this year. Simon Rawlinson let me know about a crag he spotted and managed to get permission from the National Trust to bolt. I headed down for a look and was so impressed that I returned a few weeks later with drill, glue and a bunch of Jim Titt's finest twizzlers to start the development. The first day at 'Shipwreck Cove' as it is now know was a pretty grim one. It had been raining for a while and low cloud hugged the cliffs. I had too much gear to carry in one go so I hiked to the top of the crag and failed to find somewhere to place a belay bolt. I headed back to the National Trust office and got permission to park my van at the top of the cliff so I could use it as an anchor and to save carrying all the kit. It was an unusual place to park with the front wheels a couple of metres from the hundred metre cliff-top. After wedging some blocks against the tyres I tied-off the wheels and abseiled down.

Halfway down I placed a couple of expansion bolts to re-belay and got ready to go over the edge and have the first close-up look at the wall. The crag is tidal so using stainless steel bolts was obviously the best way to do it. The only problem with using glue on steep crags is you can't use the bolts to take any load until the glue has set, this is a major issue when the crag overhangs 10m (and is only 20m high). My solution is to drill 12mm holes and use 6mm RAWL bolts as temporary anchors that can be used to take enough force to get in close to the rock but can easily be removed.

After a quick look around I noticed the main line of the cliff and thought that seeing as Simon did the leg work to get permission to bolt, it would be only fair for him to have the best line. I decided to bolt the line to the left which looked like it had holds. Working my way down I realised just how steep it was. Although I had trad gear including skyhooks and pegs, they were of very little use to me as there just weren't any cracks. It was pretty knackering work getting the holes drilled, but eventually I reached the sand with most of it drilled. Then it was back up the rope with bolts and polyester 'cement' and working quickly so as not to waste glue and nozzles, I manged to get in most of the bolts.

The next day I headed down with Simon, this time in even worse weather, and placed the last couple of bolts. Simon fixed a rope at the top of the line to the right of mine and drilled his way down it. Unfortunately his line turned out to have very few holds - so he reasoned he would just leave it and bolt a line just to the side another time. I cleaned my line pretty heavily and was pleased to find that, apart from one short section, there were reasonable holds all the way. It was, however, quite wet, so there was no chance of trying any of the moves.

It was several weeks later when I returned to Wreck Cove. Simon had been busy with Rob Lamey, having bolted four superb lines, two of which were soon climbed to produce a fine new 7b+ and a 7c+. The crag looked very different when it was dry and had some clips hanging off it. I worked my line and found a way to do all the moves, though one was a definite technical crux, and each time i tried it, it took a bit of skin off my finger. Over two days I gave it a fair few redpoint attempts but my skin was just too thin to get it done. I will return!

Adrian at Wreck Cove

Me on my project - photo by Simon Rawlinson

While on Gower, I spent some time taking photos for an update to the Gower Sport Climbing Miniguide that you can get through Rockfax. The second edition will have Shipwreck Cove plus several other new venues, and the update is free if you have the first edition. Because so many people now view PDF guides on phones and tablets, the new edition will be optimized to work on a digital device, rather than be printed. It should be available fairly shortly.

This month is was time to head out to Kalymnos to run a coaching holiday. It had been exactly ten years since I started running coaching holidays in Kalymnos, so a bit of an anniversary. Joined by Gaz Parry, with whom I had been working with in Fontainebleau earlier in the year, we spent the week delivering ten workshops aimed at helping those attending to improve their climbing. I have to admit it was probably the most amazing coaching week I have ever run - one person went from struggling with 5s to ticking 6c.

bye bye doc

Cat on Bye Bye Doc (6c)

Gaz and I did have one day off while everyone took a rest day we hiked up to Afternoon (twice) to bolt a couple of lines that were accessed from a new route - which turned out to be really badly bolted. It was a few days later when the course was officially over that we redpointed our projects - Gaz's tufa climb went at 7b, and the wall I bolted was a technical 7c. I named my route Spatan Junior, and Gaz, for reasons only know to those who were on the coaching holiday, called his route The Butcher of Baragwanath.

Glaros New Routes

I stayed out for another week with Audrey and Raphael...

Bolt Eating

June 19th 2012

Not long back from a five week road trip around France and Spain, the aim of which was to join team Rockfax in the Ariege region to help get photos for Chris Craggs' new guidebook, and of course to explore the area and do some climbing. Unfortunately for me I had damaged a finger pulley whilst getting a bit carried-away in a friendly bouldering competition at the Biscuit Facory, so I was going to have to lower my expectations.

The Ariege is a beautiful part of France, and we spent the week visiting different crags. Because we were in a big group, Audrey and I could get a fair amount of climbing done by taking turns to look after Raphael and teaming up with whoever was free to get on the rock. Another way of putting it was we had to take turns looking after Raphael, and when it wasn't our turn we'd amuse ourselves with some climbing. Ariege

After the week in the Ariege we drove up over the Pyrenees into northern Spain and headed straight for Siurana. I'd been there years ago, but hardly scratched the place. The reason I was there was to take photos with a view to producing a guidebook. The old Rockfax Costa Daurada guide had been out of print for a while, so something to replace it is needed. What I want to do is to produce a bigger guide, more selective, but covering a much wider area than the old Costa Daurada guide. It will take a few years before you see any book on a shelf, but it should be good when it gets there.

Right: Stephen Horne climbing on the granite at Auzat, Ariege, France.

In Siurana we didn't have the benefit of being in a group, so our climbing pretty-much stopped, not so fun for Audrey but I was able to take lots of photos and check out all the approaches. I got myself a new camera in the shape of a Canon 5d Mark ii, the much bigger files being generated are making life a lot easier for turning photos inton topos as much tighter cropping is possible without affecting the image quality, plus the 35mm sensor means I can take super-wide shots at 17mm and save a lot of stitching later on.

Towards the end of our time at Siurana we were pleasantly surprised to bump into Ed Hamer, was was out with his folks. Ed had just ticked his first 8c out there and then made quick work of an 8b+ at Siurana. As I needed some photos, Ed got back on the 8b+ and I did a photoshoot. Great to see Ed climbing so well - I did a couple of days coaching with them way back when they were kids - though I'm sure his success is just down to a lot of hard work!

Ed Hamer in Siurana

Above: Ed Hamer on Migranya Profunda 8b+. L'Olla, Siurana, Spain.

After Siurana we moved over to Terradets, and I spent a couple of days taking more photos, and checking out the area - it was a bit heart-breaking not being able to climb on Bruixes, but it would have been equally tough not being able to try the harder routes due to my finger being injured. The weather was a bit grim to start with, the first day I was there there was hail-storm so violent it collapsed our tent!

Next we visited Eco Dharma Centre which wasn't far from Terradets. With slight trepidation we took the van up the rough 4x4 track to the centre, and checked out the small experimental community that live there - you can see more at http://www.ecodharma.com. We only stayed on night, but it was a privilige to be in such a wild and beautiful place.

Next we drove over to the amazing Rodellar where we spent the last ten days. For most of the time I was running around taking photos and checking the place out, but towards the end, some friends came out and we were able to get some climbing done - resulting in me onsighting a 7b+ on the last day.

Keeping Raphael Cool in Rodellar

Audrey finds a way of keeping Raphael nice and cool in Rodellar

So, back in London now. I have just put the details of next year's Font trip on the site, and am turning my attention over to coaching in the Peak District and getting more work done on the Peak Bouldering Rockfax guidebook that I've been working on for a while now.

April 12th 2012

So, the big news is the arrival of a new little person in our home - Raphael Orion Berry was born in the early hours of the 11th of March. For the last month he has been a delight and we couldn't imagine life without him.

Rapahel and Dad

Now, some other news...

About ten years ago I was thinking of ways of encouraging more climbers to receive climbing coaching. I had the notion that one of the difficulties climbers faced was finding the time. I reasoned that we all find time for a trip, so combining trips with coaching could work well. It ended up working very well indeed, and now the concept of climbing coaching holidays is very well established. For various reasons it had been a few years since I'd run a trip, but I had noticed that the sort of trips I used to run with Neil Gresham, Steve McClure and Gaz Parry just weren't being run any more, so I decided to step back into the game and organise some trips. The first trip ran last week in Fontainebleau, and with a combination of a great group, perfect weather, and the considerable talents of my co-worker for the week, Gaz Parry, the week went brilliantly, and I will certainly hope to run a similar trip there next year. Compared with the trips I used to run under the planetFear banner, I reduced the group size from ten to eight to allow more time for 1:1 coaching, and also we ran workshops twice a day, rather than just the one. Gaz and I were delighted by the improvements shown by everyone, both in technique, and in sheer confidence, so the point that climbers struggling on blue circuit problems were getting stuck in to black circuit problems by the end of the fifth day of climbing.

The next trip I will be running will be a trip for supervised young climbers in Val di Mello (August) and then I'll be back in Kalymnos running a coaching holiday in September. You can find out more about the trips by following the link at the top of the page to Holidays.

Fontainebleau Coaching 2012

Above: Helen laughs in the face of fear on the highball slab at Éléphant.
Below: Gaz, Ian, Paul, Myself, Sarah, Helen, Cat, Nic, Ed, and Lynn.

Font Group 2012

Coming up... In May I'm off to Spain to take some photos - it's an open trip, so if you want to get some climbing done around May, do get in touch.

January 30th 2012

Just back from a ten-day ice climbing trip to Cogne, Italy. I was out there with Gabriel Mazur, Lucy Creamer, and Tim Glasby. We had originally planned to spend the week in La Grave, where I hadn't done much previously, but a week before we were due to drive out we had to accept that there was no ice to be found in La Grave, so switched to Cogne. The word was that there was pretty much no other ice to be found in central Europe, so we were in the right place, though it was a bit warm and because autumn has been quite dry, there wasn't as much ice formed as is usual. On the plus side, there was very little snow, despite a massive dump of snow on the other side of the Alps. This meant that a few routes that are usually out of bounds due to avalanche risk were relatively safe to do.

I was climbing with Gabriel, and managed to get plenty done: we started off with Lilaz Cascade, which was a bit thin in places, but still very good. The top was in the sun and I pulled out the camera and got some nice photos of Lucy.

Lilaz Gulley

Above: Gabriel pointing the way to the last two pitches of Lilaz Cascade.
Below: Lucy on the penultimate pitch of Lilaz Cascade, Cogne.

Lucy Creamer Lilaz Gulley Cogne

The next day Gabriel and I did Cold Couloir (4+), a winter ice route that thinks its an alpine route. It is pretty long - 600m if you top-out. It was one of the routes that is usually avoided due to a very high avalanche risk, but this time there was hardly any snow, so we felt it was safe to climb. Great climbing, we lost count of how many pitches we did, around eight. We felt like we had the route to ourselves, probably because we picked the day with the worst weather to do it - it was windy and snowling lightly all day. We stopped before we got to the top as we were both getting pretty tired. The route isn't very well equipped for an abseil decent, and we ended up abseiling from all sorts of bootlaces.

Above: Gabriel making the first of many abseils to descend Cold Couloir. It was a windy, snowy day and the route felt more like an alpine undertaking than a winter ice route.

After a rest day we ticked the grade 5 Erfaulet - which was another route that is usally threatened by unstable snow, but this time there wasn't any to worry about. Gabriel lead the crux pitch, which was his first grade 5, and I got the next one, which was less steep but thinning out a bit at the top, to the extent that there was a hole in the top of it, through which I could see that the ice fall was just a hollow shell with a waterfall running down the inside.

Below Left: looking up the crux pitch of Erfaulet.
Below Right: looking down the hole I'm gently climbing around on the second proper ice pitch on Erfaulet.

The following day we did Lau Bij, a route frequently given 5+, it was in thin condition, and I had had a bad time on it the previous year when I inexplicably fell off seconding the first pitch then lost my nerve leading the second and had to reverse and aid back. It was in slighter harder condition this year, but just as exposed. Using better tools (a new pair of Nomics) made a difference and I was determined to get it done. The climbing was hard with lots of swapping on the tools, some cutting loose, and the need to recover on what was surely overhanging ice. To make things a little more worrying, as I approached the top of the ice I realised that there was a deep and wide gap between the ice and the rock where the rock had warmed in the sun and melted the ice, as the whole route pitch was free-hanging this made that final section a bit of a head game.

Below: Lau Bij

..

Our second rest day turned out to be an unfortunate one for Lucy. She and Tim headed off to do Cold Couloir, and Gabriel and I headed off to Cogne to get some groceries. Just as we arrived back in Lilaz Gabriel received a call from Tim saying that Lucy had broken her leg and they were slowly making their way out. They asked if we could hike in and help them out. I didn't think it was a good idea to try to get out on foot so, with help from the Hotel Nigritelles, got through to mountain rescue. I asked for some ground transportation, but they insisted on sending a helicopter. Within minutes I head it pass overhead - an amazing resposnse time. It picked them both up and took them to the hospital in Aosta. Gabriel had already run up to pick up their bags, and I headed up on foot to help with the carrying. There was only enough light to walk in, and out with the bags, so it was definitely a good call to send the helicopter. We picked up Lucy and Tim in Aosta that evening - Lucy had a clean break in her lower leg, and will be off her feet for a little while.

Monday Money<< One of the Brits braving the final pitch of Monday Money - he is in the wettest section of the route and is getting thoroughly soaked.

The next day Gabriel and I wanted to check out Repentence a classic 5+/6 at the end of Valnontey. The hike was gruesome and when we got there we found a guided team in place. We waitied but the more we watched them the more we didn't wish to follow. It would have been a very slow day and we were getting cold waiting. Later we heard that this team were not well matched with the route and were resting frequenly by clipping into their tool and resting on screws. Disappointing not to have a go on Repentence but I think we made the right decision. Our back-up plan was to do Monday Money (4). A couple of Spanish climbers were coming down from it when we were waiting for Repentence, claiming it was wet and couldn't be protected. There were four British climbers waiting for it, and they were going to abandon the route based on the advice of the Spanish climbers. I have always found it worthwhile to take tales of terror with a pinch of salt and so Gabriel and I got on Monday Money and though it was running in places, we were able to find a line that mostly avoided the water and got to the top. The Brits followed our line and we all managed to get the route done.

The final day we headed out to try Di Fronte al Tradimento (5), however there was a slow party just starting off when we arrived, and again we didn't feel like we wanted to climb below them, taking every belay, so we headed back down the valley. On the way back we found a short but steep ice fall that was fully in the sun, the route was a 3 but our direct line was more like a 4.

Below: on our first rest day there was a dog sled racing even going on in Lilaz where we were staying. I followed Tim Glasby out and took a few photos with my Lumix - not quite as easy to use as my Canon SLR, but I was quite impressed with the results. The event was fun to watch - the dogs were loving it.

Dog Sled Racing in Cogne

2011 Entries are here.