rydra_wong: stick figure on an indoor climbing wall -- base image taken from the webcomic xkcd (climbing -- xkcd)
[personal profile] rydra_wong
UKC: Elder Statesman and a ground fall for Michele Caminati

Note: you don't see him deck, just fall out of shot (I only watched it after finding this out), and Caminati requested that it be posted so people could learn from his misfortune. 16 seconds of slo-mo footage of exactly what happened to the rope as it's pulled against the arete.

Stay safe, everyone.
emperor: Photograph of me climbing. (climbing)
[personal profile] emperor
Just a quick note to say I wrote up last year's trad escapades on my own DW journal here
rydra_wong: Lisa Rands' chalky hands on the sloper on the route Gaia (climbing -- hands)
[personal profile] rydra_wong
Here's a little 5-minute short on The Old Man of Hoy, with Andy Cave and Simon Nadin climbing it for the cameras.
emperor: Photograph of me climbing. (climbing)
[personal profile] emperor
Dave McCleod has been in Norway recently, and I've been watching his blog posts (available here as [syndicated profile] davem_feed) with some interest. He recently posted about his free ascent of the 400m E8 granite route "Bongo Bar", grading the pitches 7b+, 7b+, 8a, 7c, 7b, 6c, 7a, 6b. There's a short film clip in that entry, and UKclimbing have a write up here.
rydra_wong: Lisa Rands' chalky hands on the sloper on the route Gaia (climbing -- hands)
[personal profile] rydra_wong
Breaking news: trad climber Hazel Findlay has sent Dave Birkett's E9 route Once Upon a Time in the South West:

UKBouldering thread
UKClimbing news item

This looks like it's the first female ascent of an E9*, as well as the third ever ascent of this route. And it's a Birkett E9; for context, Birkett doesn't believe in the existence of E10s, and Birkett routes tend to get very few repeats as they scare the fuck out of most people.

I've posted these before, but here's Findlay on Rainbow of Recalcitrance and making an attempt on the ridiculously stupid (and I mean that as a compliment) Gin Palace. Matt Segal and Johnny Dawes provide belaying and moral support.

{*It's almost impossible to compare it with trad routes abroad as this involves translating from the British trad grading system, which leads inexorably to wank. "It's very hard and dangerous" is the best I feel able to venture.}
emperor: Photograph of me climbing. (climbing)
[personal profile] emperor
I'm hoping someone else will answer the related prompts about indoor climbing, bouldering, sport climbing, and ice-climbing, but this is a short piece about how great trad climbing is :-)

Briefly, trad climbing is what most outdoor climbers did before sport climbing (where routes have bolts in the rock for you to clip to) was invented - you place your own protection (nuts, hexes and cams) in the route as you go, and your second takes them out as they follow you up. This means that the leader needs to be able to follow the route up the crag (based on a more or less useful guidebook), and place appropriate protection. Unlike sport climbing (where you tend to push your grade and fall a lot), the aim is to climb routes cleanly on your first attempt. Trad grades have two components, one describing how technically difficult a route is, and the other an overall indication of how tough the route is. For example, a route graded HVS 5c would probably be well-protected and have a short crux sequence, a route graded HVS 4c would be more sustained and/or hard to protect.

If you want to go outdoor climbing in the UK, most of the crags are trad-only. That notwithstanding, what's so great about trad, given it's probably riskier, and certainly more complex than sport climbing? Paradoxically, despite all the iron-mongery, it feels like quite a pure form of climbing - just you and the rock, and precious little sign of your passage once you're done. There's something pretty adventurous about standing at the bottom of a crag, looking at a line, and then getting on and climbing it - and a great sense of achievement when you get to the top! I also like that fact that I can find my own way up the rock, and make my own mind up about when to place gear - I'm not constrained to the red plastic holds, nor to where someone else thought a good place to clip was.

Also, the mountains in the UK are so damn pretty, and stopping on a belay ledge half-way up a mountainside to appreciate the width of the view in all three dimensions is just amazing. It makes my day every time!

[I am happy to answer trad questions in comments]
emperor: Photograph of me climbing. (climbing)
[personal profile] emperor
Cams are great. They fit in parallel or even slightly flared cracks in the rock into which you'd never get a nut safely, and if you fall on them it makes them grip the rock harder. Also, they're very aesthetically pleasing devices[1]. Ignoring for a moment micro-cams which you'll probably only need if climbing in the E-grades, there are several different options, with either single or double-stem, made by Wild Country, DMM, Metolius, or Black Diamond.

On my first trad climbing trip, I got to try a range of different cams from our instructor's rack, and since then I've bought some Dragon Cams, and have used them on limestone, rhyolite, and quartzite. I think they're really good - they have a pretty good range of widths for each cam, and I find the thumb-trigger design much nicer to use than the loops you get on the C4 Camelots. They're a bit stiffer to operate than some other cams, but that means they feel a bit more secure in the rock. The extendable sling is a real plus on meandering mountain routes, too - quite often I don't need to use a quickdraw on my Dragons.

In the end, the best way to decide what cams you like is to play with different ones and see what they feel like, but I'd definitely recommend giving the Dragons a go. I'm very pleased with mine and they are sooo shiny!

[1] I may have been known to happily sit playing with the mechanism on my cams...
emperor: (Default)
[personal profile] emperor
I should start by saying I'm pretty inexperienced at trad climbing, but [personal profile] rydra_wong suggested that a newbie's thoughts on the subject might be interesting anyway, so here we go.

I've been climbing indoors on and off for a number of years now, and after a hiatus of several years started going on an approximately-weekly basis again back in May. I'm not a particularly accomplished climber, but I'm reasonably competent, and S and I decided that some outdoor climbing might be fun. After a weekend with an instructor, and an eye-popping amount spent on toys[1], we went to Wales. We spent Saturday playing around on Tryfan Fach, which is a common spot for people learning to climb outside, and even the hardest route we tried, Mossy Slab felt very comfortable. Thus emboldened, we tried the rather more committing 4-pitch Sub-Cneifion Rib on Sunday. VDiff ought to be several grades easier than what I climb inside[2], but there were still a few "moments", particularly on the exposed fourth pitch. I was very pleased to make it to the top having lead all four pitches cleanly, perhaps even more so when I gathered that the pair following us up had given up on the fourth pitch entirely!

So, what's trad like if you've climbed indoors? Well, the first thing you notice is quite how much ironmongery you have to carry around the place. Particularly if you like mountain routes, there will often be a fair walk to get to the crag, and you have to carry a rope or two, helmets, harnesses, climbing shoes, your rack, waterproofs, map, guidebooks, etc. There are plenty of roadside crags, though! Secondly, you have to find your route. These days, guidebooks have pretty good "topos", which are big photographs of the rockface with the various routes marked on them, but it still requires a bit of thought to work out where any particular route starts (and, indeed, where it heads from that start). If you're used to nicely colour-coded routes with quick-draws ready to clip into, it's a bit of a culture shock! The flip-side of this, though, is that anything goes - as you climb the rock, you can use whatever features of the face suit your climbing style, and there's something deeply satisfying about that; it makes you notice geology, too, the different facets of a face, different rock types, and so on. Thirdly, you have to place your own protection. This involves, as leader, finding fissures in the rock into which you can place nuts or cams, and then not falling off while placing the gear and clipping the rope into it. On multi-pitch routes you also have to construct belays (on quite good ledges at easy grades, less so with the harder routes).

While self-placed protection can and should be almost as safe as the quickdraws in a climbing wall, convincing your subconscious of this can be tricky! Also, there's an ethic with trad climbing that the best sort of an ascent is a "clean" one - ie one where you don't have rely on your rope and protection. This means that for most people, you're climbing routes that would feel pretty easy if you did the equivalent inside. It doesn't always feel that way, though, particularly on the more exposed bit of a climb, when it can seem like you're above an awfully long drop!

What you do get trad climbing is to spend time on mountainsides in very pretty countryside. Belay ledges afford pretty awesome views, and you have time to appreciate them, too! It's hard to describe, but it's like being part of a near-vertical face of the hill - you can look down and think "wow, I came up here", and it feels like a proper adventure. There's a focused self-reliance, too. Don't listen to my witterings, though - go and try it for yourself when the weather improves again :-)

[1] if you're a member of a climbing club, or know people who already climb trad, they may well be able to lend you gear
[2] The chart at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grade_(climbing) is pretty good
rydra_wong: Lisa Rands' chalky hands on the sloper on the route Gaia (climbing -- hands)
[personal profile] rydra_wong
Goodies from BBC Scotland: "Five Climbs, Five Islands," a two-parter covering Dave MacLeod and Tim Emmett's attempt to climb five new extreme routes on five Hebridean islands in five days:

Part 1 on iPlayer here.

Gorgeous scenery, quirky people, exquisitely hard trad climbing, filmed in loving detail, with intelligent explanations of what's going on (including an explanation of the British trad grading system, which has defeated many).

I can't rec this one too highly.


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