Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Redpointing to the seventh degree

A bit of news- I managed to redpoint my first Fr7a recently- a crimpy yellow at Ibrox. Yaasss!

It feels weird to be blogging about an indoor climb- but 7a is a bit of a landmark for me. I'd definitely prefer to have done a classic crag route at the grade, but there's no way I'd have got it done outdoors with the p*sh summer we've just endured. My only recent real rock activity has been a day at Limekilns and an (unexpectedly dripping wet) ascent of North Face Route (S) on the Buachaille.

As a redpointing newbie, doing the 7a was very much a learning experience. Once I'd managed to work out the individual moves and started to link them, the main things stopping me were loads of tactical mistakes. Basically, I didn't have a clue what I was doing. Clipping errors, footwork errors, over- chalking- you name it. Fortunately I was able to get some advice (and constructive p*sh- taking) from redpoint ninjas Burnsie and JLS.  The actual ascent felt similar in a lot of ways to my ascent of Night Dive 5.11c/ Fr6c+ in Bermuda. It went relatively smoothly but at the same time it required quite a lot of controlled effort.

Back at the end of August I was climbing a lot by my standards (3 or 4 times a week), trying hard but seemingly without much improvement. I was getting frustrated, so I posted a topic on UK Climbing asking how fast folk had progressed their onsighting. The universal answer to my question was that it was a slow process, and required hard work. Doh!

During that thread I said my initial aim was to redpoint 7a by Christmas- so I'm chuffed to get it done in October. The only downside to it is that it's coincided with my worst flare- up of Golfer's Elbow yet. I've had this injury a few times in the last few years doing DWS stuff. I'm kicking myself because despite all that climbing, I neglected to do any rehab or antagonistic exercises for a few months. Lazy, lazy lazy! Overtraining + rehab laziness= injury. The Golfer's has caused moderate pain to both inner elbows and some pretty worrying numbness to both hands for a month or so...

It's just starting to improve a bit now after a couple weeks of limited climbing and the exercises mentioned above. Hopefully I can get the Golfer's settled down and get back to training. I've redpointed a Fr7a but I know I have a lot of work ahead. 7a onsight is the next target, along with more weight loss (I'm down 10lb or so from May this year, but plenty pies to shift yet). It's going to take a lot more effort to get the 'guns' loaded for onsighting 7a, but I'm very motivated to get there.

Yesterday there was snow on Ben Lomond down to 500m. Here's hoping for a good Winter season. Got some classics to tick!

For any fellow sufferers, here's a link to a good article about elbow rehab-
Rock and Ice elbow article

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bits and bobs in Monsoon season

After being spoiled by the incredibly dry Scottish Spring, drought has given way to a sucker punch of a Summer deluge that has scuppered many of my Summer climbing aspirations. "That'll teach ye!"- cackles the cruel mistress of Scottish conditions.

Fortunately, indoor climbing walls mean that training can be done regardless of what it's like outside. I'm one of the hordes who flock to Ibrox in the evenings, on a mission to get stronger. I'm a wee bit ashamed to admit that it's been dry on some of these nights (after rain during the day)- but I've chosen to go for the indoor option instead of making the effort to squeeze in a couple of trad routes before sunset. Back in the 1990's Ibrox was virtually deserted on any dry Summer evening. Now it's the real crags that are less busy- and some are becoming overgrown due to lack of traffic. Changed days, and I'm as guilty as anyone.

It's a bit of a conundrum for me- I really want the benefits of the wall fitness but I know from experience that the best thing I could do to help me climb well on trad would be to get as much mileage as possible- on trad!

It hasn't all been plastic and plywood though. Despite the weather and being kept very busy by our wee puppy Brodie, I have managed to do a fair bit of enjoyable outdoor stuff.

Burnsie's First Ascent of the Font 6B+ at 'Fintainebleau'
In 2006, Burnsie unearthed a gem amongst the choss of the Campsie Fells- a huge sandstone boulder perched on the skyline above Fintry. We headed up and did most of the obvious easier routes on the initial '06 sortie to 'Fint'. The Southern Arete ('Fint' 5+) with its slightly unnerving highball mantle finish was the hardest of them.

However, one line resisted our efforts. The overhanging West Wall had some good holds on it, but turned out much harder than we'd imagined. After umpteen unsuccessful 'one last goes' we had to admit defeat, shouldered our pads and stomped back down to the road. We were chuffed but both knew we had unfinished business up there.

In July we perspired our way up through fields of stampeding bullocks, knee deep bogs, and squadrons of clegs to resume battle. Burnsie summitted first, using tiny crimps before making a dynamic move for a large sloping hold. I found eventual success via a highly precarious mantleshelf method that threatened to spit me off into a tumble down the hillside. Luckily I latched the jug at the top! We were both highly chuffed with the new three star Fint 6B+. For the esotericists, here's an approximate OS grid reference- NS 625 888.

Burnsie on the finely positioned 2nd pitch of Ardgartan Arete (VS)
I had hoped to have at least a handful of Mountain routes done by this stage of the season but the Monsoon means I've managed a grand total of one- on the South Peak of the Cobbler.

Burnsie and I did our usual brutally quick, but much less scenic approach via the Rest and Be Thankful. I'd seen a Mountain forecast of pleasant, warm conditions and based on that we hoped to try Gladiator's Groove Direct (E1). Unfortunately, at 600m we entered thick claggy cloud, and by the summit baltic Easterly winds were gusting 30mph and higher. The schist was very slick and damp and the South Peak was invisible only 50 yards away. Not ideal. We sheltered, and waited for a break in the clouds hoping we'd be able to salvage something from the trip.

After lunch the cloud base lifted above the tops. Although the rock dried out, the temperatures stayed low along with the psyche levels. Gusty winds and lack of time made us reluctant to jump onto a reputedly bold E1. So, instead we racked up and got on Ardgartan Arete (VS) carrying our ruckies. The first pitch follows a very thin crack line up a slab and over a crux bulge. The crack is quite blind so it's fairly run- out. Thankfully the climbing is never desperate though, with some balancey moves to sharpen the concentration when above gear.

The guide describes two further pitches but Burnsie ended up running both of them together, which wasn't a problem and this seemed quite logical with our half ropes. Although the first pitch is probably the technical crux, the second was definitely the better pitch- following an exposed and aesthetic line near the arete itself. It was an enjoyable route and definitely worthwhile after our initial weather woes. We then scrambled over the South Peak and zipped back down to the car where the midges had a quick snack on us as we packed up. Ironically it was still and warm back in the Glen.

Burnsie setting off on Arrol's Arete (F6
The other day me, Burnsie and John Sharples visited Blantyre Towers. There are around a dozen well- bolted routes here in a quiet wooded setting next to the River Calder. The routes (from 10- 20m high) tackle the aretes and faces of the sandstone piers that are relics of the abandoned Greenhall Viaduct.

Sandstone railway walls have long been popular as training venues for climbers. This one shares the same formula of rough stone blocks featuring 2 finger pockets of varying depths and small crimps. The climbing itself is pumpy and enjoyable, if a wee bit repetitive due to the nature of the holds.

The climbing has similarities to the infamous Finnieston railway walls in Glasgow, but Blantyre has these key differences-
-it's a pleasant rural setting.
-you're  going up instead of traversing.
-there's no busy dual carriageway ten feet behind yer arse.
-you're breathing air, not exhaust fumes.
-getting arrested is unlikely.

I was happy to flash Alouette Arete (F6a- 10m), but Arrol's Arete (F6b- 18m) had me spanked fairly near the top. I'm keen to go back and try to redpoint the routes, ideally when there's a decent breeze! Unfortunately, on our visit there were clouds of Daddy Longlegs sized mosquitoes sucking the life out of us- despite using DEET repellent. Burnsie texted me to say he'd woken up like the Elephant Man with the bites he'd sustained. I thought I'd left the mossies back in Bermuda. If it's not the weather it's the insects trying to do you in here!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Expedition to the Dolerites

Just had a wee expedition to the Dolerites in the company of Jim 'Faither' Hall. It was my first time there in 5 years and it was great to be back.

For those who haven't been, Auchinstarry Quarry is close to Glasgow on the doorstep of Kilsyth. The crags surround a cute loch created by the quarrying, with fishermen dotted round the landscaped shores. At first glance it looks pretty idyllic. From the climbers' point of view the crag features 20- 25m high Dolerite buttresses with some real classic routes from Severe to around E5.

It's very popular- mainly because there aren't many good crags in the Glasgow area. Consequently, it's a bit polished and it can also be a bit sandy in the car park area.

However, the main downside to the venue is its close proximity to Kilsyth. Many Scottish small town crags are magnets for local 'wine connoisseurs' and Auchinstarry is no different. Groups of them can often be seen sampling a cheeky Chateau Buckfast (or three). Regular Auchinstarry devotees develop Zen abilities to zone out on the sound of screaming and smashing bottles. The worst case scenario is if they start throwing objects down the routes- but luckily that's not the norm. It's all a bit like the pub in Star Wars, but the creatures are uglier and they wear tracksuits.

Jim Hall on Spirogyra (VS)
One reason I really like the place is that Spirogyra (VS) was one of my very first leads back in the early '90s. At that time I was desperate to get into lead climbing so I killed two birds with one stone and bought my mate Danny a rack of 8 wires for his birthday. It was a very expensive present but it wasn't really that altruistic- I couldn't afford to buy gear for myself and get him a present. I felt a bit ashamed, but quickly swallowed my guilt and 'borrowed' the wires almost as soon as the gift wrap was off. I led Spirogyra with the 8 wires and 5 screwgates. I remember tackling the crux and finding it quite tricky. Despite carrying a rack that could sink the Titanic it still felt nippy 20 years later.

During the afternoon Jim dispatched the popular routes Slinky Lizard (HS) and Trundle (VS) in good style despite wearing the cheapest, nastiest Decathlon kippers money can buy. 

Leading Walk on the Wild Side (HVS) photo by Jim Hall
Last route of the day was a return for me to the route Walk on the Wild Side (HVS). It's quite a bold slab climb on crimpy edges and I think it's one of the best routes of its grade anywhere.

It has a justified reputation for seriousness. The start is very bold, with the first tiny micro wire placements appearing around the 7-8m mark. The gear improves as you gain height but it's still a route that requires a cool head. All your weight is on your feet, on tiny edges throughout, and if you tense up it's easy for your calf muscles to cramp up and Elvis to enter the building (and stay there!).

I've led it a handful of times and it never feels trivial, even when I'm going well. On this occasion I felt pretty good and moved as quickly as I could between gear placements. However, on this ascent I was wearing very soft smeary shoes. I hit the jugs at the top with my feet in agony while my arms were completely unpumped...

A check of the watch while coiling the ropes up top revealed it was half past beer o'clock, so we decamped to the Kirky Puffer for a nice pint of real ale. A great wee re-union with the Dolerites!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Avoiding Elvis at Glen Nevis

Cavalry Crack Buttress, with Dundee Buttress to its left and Secretaries' Buttress above.
Just back from my first trad climbing trip for years. The last time I climbed a Summer pitch sticking 'they metal hings' in the rock must have been way back in 2008. My mate Andy texted me to say he had obtained a Gold Pass (freedom for an over-nighter) for the June bank holiday weekend. He hadn't been out climbing much recently and his liberation coincided with a good forecast- game on!

The original plan was to go over to Garbh Bheinn and try to get on a few of the classics. However, eagle- eyed Andy noticed that MWIS were forecasting 3 degrees C at 900m, with Northerly winds. The idea of multi-pitch mountain routes started looking a bit masochistic. After some thought we realised both of us hadn't been to Glen Nevis in ages. 10- 15mph winds were forecast, so maybe the midges wouldn't be too bad?

Andy picked me up on Saturday evening driving a courtesy car- a wee Hyundai i10 automatic. Awesome. You can barely get a handbag in the boot of these cars so the seats had to go down to accept our kit laden sacs, tent and midgy repellent. It felt like a pedal car as we buzzed up the A82 and brought back memories of early 90's trips in various tin box Fiat Pandas (the ultimate snow driving car). We arrived outside the Kingshouse Hotel in Glencoe and managed to secure one of the last tent spaces near the road. Tent up quick, we proceeded straight to the busy Climbers' Bar to partake in a few ales and some chat with a couple of lads from Yorkshire who were planning to go up Ben Nevis.

Andy at the top of Secretaries' Direct (S
Next morning the 7am alarm felt like a lie in according to Andy (he has 2 young kids). The sun was out and the Buachaille looked superb, as ever.

I was delighted to feel totally fresh after sticking to a self- imposed 3 pint rule the night before. We got to Fort William only to find that Morrisons didn't open until 9am so we were forced to traipse over to McDonalds. It was my first visit to the ginger- permed population poisoner's emporium in donkey's years, and I really hope it will be my last 'unhappy meal'. I don't need any help getting super- sized, thanks Ron.

 Driving up the Glen, hordes of aspirant Ben summiteers were heading for Tourist Track. We snaked our way up the road and got the last parking spot below Cavalry Crack Buttress.
With both of us being rusty we agreed the best idea would be to get plenty of confidence building mileage as opposed to difficulty on this trip.

Second pitch of Vampire (HS)

First up was Vampire (HS)- a weaving three pitch route on Cavalry Crack Buttress.

The start of the first pitch took a wee bit of finding, and we nearly made the mistake a few folk have done (according to UKC)  in climbing a bold looking direct variation at E1.

After orientating ourselves to the correct start the true first pitch turned out to be a bit scrappy, but suitably amenable for our purposes.

The second pitch is a cracker, with an open book corner widening out into a slanting wall climb, parallel to Storm below.

Next were a couple of single pitch routes on the neighbouring Dundee Buttress. The first one we did was Promises (HS). It was Andy's lead and turned out a great wee route.

Breaking my own intention to stick to easier climbs I was tempted into trying Dundee Weaver (HVS). It looked straightforward from below (don't they all?) but the book warned it had a tricky crux moving into a crack at the top.

Sure enough, the hard moves took a bit of thought and effort to overcome. Unfortunately, during my lead the wind dropped and Andy was forced to stick the midgy hood on while I spent a few minutes getting sorted before going for the top out.

Secretaries' Direct Route (S)

The last and best route of the day was Secretaries Direct (S)-  a superb slab climb positioned high above the glen.

The rock quality on this route is impeccable. It must be one of the best Severes in Scotland?

What an enjoyable route. The starting move into the first corner is the nippiest of them all, then it's just brilliant steady climbing above. We did it in two long pitches rather than the 3 in the book which was fine with half ropes.

I reckon that was my first trip to the Glen this century. It's quite a scary thought to realise it's been over 12 years....

It was a great day out, all objectives were achieved. Got plenty of mileage (7 pitches), stuck bits of gear in and Elvis didn't enter the building once!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Beating the Pies, and the A'Chir Ridge

Been back in Scotland for 2 months. Unemployment has been good so far. The fact that it hasn't rained much since we got back has been a great way to break us back into life back home.

Since I've not been working there's been plenty of time to dedicate to get a routine of running and training for climbing going. The targets are- drop 2 stone to get back to my fighting weight and get the fitness up big- style for climbing.
I'm running three times a week (25 miles on average) at the moment- which is the most I've ever run in my life. Despite the running schedule and almost complete abstinence from beer the Pies are proving very resistant to eviction. I ran 99 miles in May but I've only lost a measly 2lb!
Beastmaker 1000 with Argos stopwatch

Having spent the last four years in Bermuda climbing short, steep juggy routes I'm struggling with two of my big weaknesses. It's the old troublemakers- finger strength and stamina. I've been going to Ibrox recently with Erick and it's apparent that overhanging F6c is at my limit at the moment. The moves aren't desperate but I'm boxed clipping the lower- off.

I've got a Beastmaker 1000 set up on a plank of wood screwed into the hall cupboard doorway and I've been using it if I'm not going to the wall or bouldering. I've seen the threads on UKBouldering where people post about feats of strength on their boards. Good on them for getting that strong but the 'Beasts' can all relax because there's no danger I'm going to be threatening their achievements any time soon. I'm starting to see some slight improvement using my 'beginner's' 1000 series board. It's a great bit of kit, but I'm taking it very slowly dues to a combination of being too weak to do anything hard and not wanting to get injured. I've never finger boarded until this year and I really don't want it to end in tears.

One thing I am very pleased with is that I am now properly going for it at the wall and taking falls, where before I would have shouted 'take' or down- climbed. Fear of falling off was and is quite a handicap for me, but I'm finding it's less stressful to just take the lob- and I'm wishing I'd started doing it years ago....

Beinn a'Chliabhainn, Brodick and the Holy Isle- from an easy bit on the A'Chir Ridge
Recently, me and my wife went over to Arran and did the A'Chir Ridge  during the heatwave we had in May.
I've done the Ridge a few times over the years. Coming back to it again with a non- climber was a bit of an eye- opener.

On my first traverse around 20 years ago I remember being gripped scrambling up the 'Mauvais Pas' crux- a 'bad step' involving a steep and very exposed wall above the Fionn Choire. The fact I was carrying a 60 litre sac with full camping and climbing gear didn't help much. Mistakes were not an option- thankfully none were made. Once atop the crest I was glad that the difficulty relented a bit after that initial excitement. On a subsequent traverse I had nothing more to carry than a water bottle and a windproof top but the bad step still required my full attention.

My wife had cruised the Aonach Eagach and Curved Ridge before so I expected the A'Chir wouldn't be that much trouble for her either.  However, my memories of only one point of real difficulty at the 'Mauvais Pas' turned out a wee bit rose- tinted. After last week's traverse I'm now convinced that the A'Chir is a big step up from the mainland scrambling magnets mentioned above. It's much harder, the route finding can be tricky, it's very exposed and consequently it's much more serious undertaking.

I had taken the precaution of carrying a short rope and a few bits of gear for occasional belays if needed. Luckily, I did because if we hadn't taken the rope we would have had to abandon the traverse for safety's sake. In the passage of time I'd forgotten how slabby and almost completely lacking in jugs it all was. Wearing road running shoes, Julie was not finding it easy to trust friction on the granite and there were a good few moments of stress before she gained confidence in her feet. Over the course of the Ridge her confidence improved though as she discovered the 'joys' of thrutchy body wedging and bridging that are required for many of the downclimbing sections.

We used the rope a lot overall and it was a good decision to take it. My memories of the 'Mauvais Pas' remained true. The fixed tat and pegs seen at this point are quite welcome sights, reassuring you that you are on route, providing security and also giving the sense that you are not alone in feeling the exposure here.

The Rosa Pinnacle of Cir Mhor
One of our options we'd discussed for the day had been the four star classic Sou' Wester Slabs (V. Diff) on Cir Mhor. Julie hasn't done a lot of rock climbing but the stuff she has done has been of equal difficulty. I offered her the choice and she decided against the V. Diff reasoning that she that hadn't climbed in a long time. Ironically, I reckon she'd have cruised Sou' Wester Slabs in rock shoes! I don't think there's much gap in difficulty between the routes. The fact that there's no thrutchy, exposed down- climbing on Sou' Wester Slabs would probably make it a far more pleasant excursion for someone who isn't a regular climber...

Still, we had a great day out on the A'Chir. You can't beat Arran in sunny conditions like this. The only casualties of the day were Julie's H & M leggings which had not proven thrutch- proof. They were pretty trashed by the end. We were both sunburnt to a crisp (we didn't take suncream because we thought we were used to the sun from Bermuda! Ooops) but no long term damage was sustained. Hill days in Arran tend to be big days in my experience and this one turned out to be around 10 hours long. We were tired from our exertions but thirst and hunger spurred us into a record breaking descent down Glen Rosa- all that jogging paying off at last!

Walking back down Glen Rosa

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Countdown Begins

Sunset over Harrington Sound (photo Davie Crawford)
In just over a month Julie and I will board a Gatwick- bound BA flight and leave Bermuda after nearly four years of expat life. Our temporary work permits are finito and we have no right to remain in Bermuda. We're actually ready to go back despite the attractions of life here. We've had an amazing time, we've found loads of new friends and had great adventures. We'll miss it, but it is time to move on.

For me, the best bit has been the climbing. It's been tremendous- if highly esoteric!

Bermuda is a small (20 square miles) sub- tropical archipelago situated atop an extinct volcano. It's in a very isolated position in the North Atlantic- more than 500 miles off the East coast of the US. This remote little outcrop features many miles of rocky coastline, white sandy beaches and clear turquoise ocean lapping the shores.

At first sight, it looks like there should be tons of climbing- but you change your mind when you actually touch the rock! This is not Yosemite. Most of the rock here is incredibly soft, sandy and has more in common with Weetabix than decent limestone. You really could excavate a cave with a tea spoon on most of the South Shore.
In fairness, most of it has been formed from petrified sand dunes- so it's not too surprising that locals tend to look very puzzled if you tell them you climb de rock.

When we arrived in May 2008 the Bermuda Rock Climbing wiki had been started by Grant Farquhar. This hosted route descriptions and photos of around 20 routes. These were mostly Grant's routes- his original DWS exploits at Admiralty House, the first sport climbs and a bit of beach bouldering. Many of these have become classics. Dave Macleod had been out here and while on holiday completed his 2004 roof climbing test piece 'Dark & Stormy' (V9). It was by far the hardest route on the island (and remains unrepeated to date despite some local attention over the years). He's been back since and established a V10- as if V9 wasn't hard enough....

We're currently totalling around 300 routes of all styles- most of them are DWS and Sport climbs.
There's a tiny active climbing community living in Bermuda, so whenever new venues and routes are discovered the news travels fast and everyone is excited to get involved.

In 4 years we've uncovered some great new places to climb. I've spent a lot of my own time trying to find the next holy grail of Bermuda rock. I've snorkelled and paddled miles of coastline in the pursuit of something worthwhile. Sometimes I got lucky, plenty of other times I ended up doing scrappy routes that nobody will ever climb again. Regardless of that, they all exist on the wiki as a record of fun times. As John Langston dryly observed, 'If you trip up in Bermuda, you record it.' Quite.

I'm glad to say that I did manage to unearth a few real gems amongst the choss. Here are some new routes I did that I like. I've done quite a few other good ones but these stick out as worth talking about-

Davie Crawford working Captain Caveman prior to the FA (photo Grant Farquhar)
Josh Hill cranking on Captain Caveman (photo Davie Crawford)
Captain Caveman (5.11a, 5m)- Davie Crawford. 19th September 2008. Clarence Cove.
In the couple of weeks prior to attempting this route I'd been successful (after plenty of work) on Grant's superb Atlantis (5.11b). Buoyed with confidence, I spied this unassuming looking unclimbed roof on the West side of Clarence Cove and announced to Grant that I thought I might be able to flash the first ascent...

Over the many subsequent days trying it I lost count of the unplanned splashdowns as my failure to flash it turned to into an epic battle! It became apparent that I was not only weak, but I had absolutely no idea how to climb steep ground. A long crux move crossing a horizontal section was proving desperate. I was collecting some serious air miles, and the swinging falls were so frequent that when I eventually found the key- a slightly unnerving heel toe jam that held the swing- I was as shocked as I was delighted to find myself stood on the top for the first time. Fantastic!

I was alone at the crag and my climb had not been witnessed. The next day I returned with Grant and Fabian Gysi and felt under pressure (from myself) to prove I'd actually done it. Luckily I topped it out again on my first try. Grant and Fabian then followed. As they're both honed rock gods they both flashed it- but I didn't care. They'd been gentlemen and let me slog out my siege of attempts when they could easily have pinched it from under my nose.

Captain Caveman has turned out to be a popular route at Clarence Cove. It's short, it looks relatively harmless but it's very action packed. I wasn't the only climber to take the plunge off it- as you'll see in the photos below. The Caveman has claimed many scalps over the years! A 5m long 5.11 might seem a wee bit ridiculous, but all DWS and Sport routes here are on the YDS system so I'll take the 5.11 over a V2, thank you.

The Captain Caveman crew- from top left- Greg Baird collecting air miles, Paddy 'Power Scream' Cunningham in full effect, Jazmyne Watson showing some typically gritty determination. In the centre- Marie- Pier Belanger hits the 'C' of YMCA before splashdown! (photos collage by Davie Crawford)

Grant Farquhar (left) and me doing the 'dynamic descent' off Somerset Sea Cliff. The route Craic Heads is directly behind me, with the finishing layback crack visible (photo Julie Crawford)
Craic Heads (5.10b R, 10m)- 4th June 2009. Davie Crawford & Grant Farquhar. Somerset Sea Cliff.
This route is found on an attractive white wall of limestone on Somerset Island. Like many of the crags, we discovered this one by boat on one of our DWS exploration/ beer voyages. We'd hire a boat, load it up with beers, bikini- wearing babes (hi to Julie and Eloise!)  and bob our way round the coastline looking for new venues.

Somerset Sea Cliff was a cracking discovery and it turned out to be the best crag in the Great Sound.
It's a decent height for DWS and the vertical rock is generally very good (by Bermuda standards). The only negative point is a shelf of fire coral sticking out a few feet directly under the routes. Falling climbers must be careful to push off the rock to clear the shelf and avoid injury- hence the 'R' rating.

Craic Heads is probably the best route of the crag and it gives a cracking climb of two halves- each with a different character. The immaculate lower wall is technical and sustained. It demands your full attention- especially with the fire coral looming below. On our ascent I remember finding this section pretty tricky. There were enough holds to keep moving but not so many that you could relax.

The layback crack came within reach at just the right point for me. Two more thin moves and I got both hands into the perfect crack. It was an enjoyable blast to the top from there- making a brilliant contrast to the hard start below.
According to Josh Hill who last repeated it, he commented it's likely more 10c than 10b. Whatever the grade is it's a great climb.

Grant seconding the FA of La Cucaracha. He looks like he may be trying to stare out the cockroach in this. (photo Davie Crawford)
La Cucaracha (5.11a, 15m)- Davie Crawford & Grant Farquhar 1st February, 2009. Tsunami Wall.
This is in a seaside cave on Hamilton Parish's North Shore, Grant spotted the cave from a friend's boat and named it Tsunami Wall. He described it in the wiki as an 'escapee from Thailand' with its impressive tufas everywhere.
He immediately set to developing it, climbing many impressively steep sport routes threading the stalactites and steep roofs.

This particular route gained its name from a huge, totally unimpressed cockroach that spectated on the FA near the top.
I equipped the route one morning before work, hanging from an abseil rope in the cave with a battery powered drill, trying (with limited success) to get decent expansion bolts placed into the pillar on the left of the wall. The rock had a hard crust but behind that initial inch or so it turned very, very soft. More like wet mud than stone. The bolts were tending to spin when I tried to tighten them. Not inspiring at all.....

My drilling and hammering attracted some unwanted attention. A female voice shouted 'who dere?' through the partially bricked up cave entrance. I hastily made up a tale of me being a Geologist collecting rock samples (easier than explaining what I was really up to, I reckoned). She seemed to buy that little story, but before she left she told me to be careful about some dangerous crack heads in a neighbouring house. Apparently these were 'real bad guys'. I took note. Eventually I managed to place 5 bolts and headed off to work. The bolts weren't ideal but they were as good as I could manage.

Most Bermudian routes are steep on big holds. La Cucaracha is unusual in that it's around vertical and features smeary bridging and generally crimpy moves.It took 2 red points attempts to get this route done. I got pretty close on the first one, but I was unwilling to commit to a fall and called 'take' at the last bolt.

The final go was a frantic affair. I knew I didn't have much left in the tank but I was desperate to get the route done. My climbing reflected this. I sprinted my way up to the last clip and got to the final hard rock over move below the skylight exit. I was pumped rigid but there was no time to stop now though. Just as the energy meter flashed red I made a desperate lunge and with some scrabbling action I flopped onto the top. Grant thought I was coming off.

Up on top the sun was shining as I set up a belay. I was delighted. I'd pushed hard and it had paid off. I may have been even happier that I hadn't tested the bolts. Looking back now, I'm also pleased to say the crack heads never showed their faces!
(John Langston re- equipped the line with beefy marine grade Jim Titt glue- in bolts in 2010- a big improvement!).

Clam-O-Rama first ascent (video still by Grant Farquhar)
CLAM-O-RAMA (5.10d 10m) Davie Crawford & Grant Farquhar. 26th May 2010. Ladies Chambers Crag.
The sea was warming up nicely and we still had a few more km of coast to check out. Grant and I pulled on our new routing trousers, pumped up my £30 Seahawk inflatable dinghy and set sail Eastwards.This venue was the find of the trip and remains one of the best DWS spots in Bermuda. It's named after a small park you have to walk down through to reach it.

It's a very steep crag and at more than 10m high it does feel like you're doing a proper route- as opposed to the bouldery feel of some places. There are crags with slightly better rock quality but the Chambers' combo of the height and steepness make this one to return to.

The rock is quite interesting here. Tightly, horizontally bedded layers of wafer thin fragile limestone- like fine china but more pound store china than fine stuff. This makes the climbing reasonably amenable- as long as you have stamina. The dinner plate holds provide good flat jugs- but they feel like they could snap at any point. Surprisingly they turn out to be strong enough. But you definitely can't get all dynamic and slap about. Delicate, wildly overhanging jug hauling sounds like it should be weird. It is weird but it's good.

I didn't have any stamina to speak of (a running theme with me) so Clam-o-rama took a few attempts before it was in the bag. On the day of ascent a local fisherman saw me and Grant scrambling around and drove his boat over to ask what de hell we were doing? If you watch the Climb de Rock 2 video you can hear Grant's replies.

To sum it up- I'm half way up and the guy starts asking Grant what I'm doing. Most locals don't have a clue about rock climbing so when Grant answers him back with 'he's climbing' the guy is none the wiser. The English language only provides one usable word to describe someone going up a rock face, so on the video you hear Grant trying to film me while simultaneously struggling to explain the alien concept of climbing to a Bermudian fisherman!

I topped out the route, totally unaware of anything that had been going on in the background. Watching the video later I was a bit alarmed to see how close the fisherman drove his boat to the crag. I wouldn't like to imagine what might have happened if I'd fallen at the wrong moment, and I bet the fisherman wouldn't have either!

Anyway, Clam-o-rama was done. I heartily recommend this pumpy little minx of a climb.

Climbing in Bermuda has been great. I can't envisage a time when virtually unlimited new climbing will available to me like it has here. It's been an incredible opportunity and I'd like to thank everyone I've climbed with here, particularly Grant.

Note to anyone interested-  it's great fun here, but it's also very, very expensive. Trust me.
There are a lot of better and easier options to choose for a climbing trip.

However, if you do happen to end up here (as many people have done) make sure you post a message on the wiki. Someone will be more than happy to show you around the spots. Enjoy!

If you want to check out the Clam-o-rama sequence it's featured on the film Climb de Rock 2 here-