Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Back to the climbing

As if you could ever have enough of looking through those photos of Bolivia?
Well, closer to home there are still some lines waiting to be done. You don't have to go off into the desert in a 4x4 and I haven't seen any llamas' hearts hanging from the washing lines in Belford.

As reported elsewhere, Dan Varian has climbed the groove to the left of County Ethics.
'Black Triage' goes at 8a. After the initial struggle to master the crux, Dan got up it on his first go at stringing all the moves together. Good job he'd remembered to clean the top.

Dan Varian on 'Black Triage' 8a, Back Bowden

It was very dark, so there might be more photos to come.
I know of at least two other people who've been on it, so the second ascent might come in the next week or two. I've already had a 'mid-session' text from Back Bowden about the smallness of the holds!

Hangman's Rock sits on a steep hillside above Old Bewick, overlooking the River Breamish and the Cheviots. Chris Graham discovered the potential of this boulder in early 2008 and put up a couple of fantastic problems. It's well worth the trip to do them.
I went up there on a very grey, dark day with Chris and Adam Watson. Adam hadn't been there before and he was psyched (as always) to get on the problems. We kicked off on Jeux sans Frontieres 7c which has a hard sit start. It took him a few goes to get his legs bent into shape for the start, but it didn't take long.

Adam repeating Jeux sans Frontieres 7c

Adam topping out on Jeux sans Frontieres 7c
Chris Graham, Jeux sans Frontieres 7c, Hangman's Rock
Chris Graham, Jeux sans Frontieres 7c, Hangman's Rock
After 'warming up' on this, they both got on the sit start to Paranoia, another three star 7c. No problems with this, and done in good style without using the block... ;-)

Chris Graham on Paranoia, Hangman's Rock

Hangman's Rock

Over at Back Bowden again, I got some photos of Katie Mundy on Barbestelle 7a, up on the top tier. There are some amazing roof problems up there and they don't see much action. They're all a bit hard for the grade, but then again, aren't most problems that are horizontal?

Katie Mundy on Barbestelle 7a, Back Bowden

Katie Mundy on Barbestelle 7a, Back Bowden in lovely black and white.

...and on a mid November day that was almost too hot for climbing, here's a photo of fearless Matty Forster. A future trad-hero in the making, he started up a rare on-sight solo of On The Rocks E7, but his dad persuaded him it wasn't a good idea. Maybe next time.

Matty Forster on South Arete 6a+

Natasha and I hooked up at Bowden for some photos on another weekend that wouldn't have been out of place in the middle of summer.

Natasha Allan on Second Leaning Groove VS 5a

Here are two different views of The Scoop:

Natasha Allan on The Scoop, VS 4b

Graham Hadaway on The Scoop VS 4b
Graham moved up here recently and I'm looking forward to introducing him to some of Northumberland's finest.

Over at Kyloe, here are a couple of photos from what was definately a winter's day. Cold and dark, but good company, and who can ask for more?
Not very good for taking photos though...

Neil Colquhoun on Gargarin's Groove HVS 5a
Chris Morrish on Slab and Groove VS 5a

After spending a bit of time contemplating 'The Jump' over the descent scramble, we marked out the distance on the ground and decided it was too close to call. It was therefore upgraded from an initial assessment of J4 to at least top-end J8 as it is most probably a fatal landing. The jump at Ravensheugh pales into comparison when compared with this massive gap and uneven runup. Despite all this, we still had to gently persuade Chris that it wasn't a good idea.
The only person that I know of who has done the jump is Neil Anderson who refused to grade it. He has also done the jump naked and I have the photos to prove it.

Here are a couple of photos from just before my South America trip which I forgot to post. It was up there with my worst Northumberland midge experiences, so I think I was trying to block it from my mind.
Up at Curtis crag, I photographed Russell Clark on the E3, 'Shot in the Dark'. It must be one of the steepest E3 routes in Northumberland. As I write this, I can't think of anything else around here that is steeper. The gear isn't bad though, but the rock quality isn't the best.

As Russ made his way up through the grooves, disaster struck as a piece came away. Tom who was belaying wasn't in the line of fire, and I managed to get a couple of blackmail photos as Russ came off.

The fall...

The shower of debris a moment later. "Below"!!

And finally...
Some photos of Howlerhirst and Great Wanney that I took a while ago, but I've only just got round to sorting them out.
It looks like there are a couple of specks of dirt on the sensor in the first photo, but they're actually Peregrines so I left them on. I was at the crag for hours watching the sky unfold as the clouds came in. Very apocalyptic, and fantastic for photos!


Great Wanney

Thursday, 10 November 2011

250 square miles of (mostly) unclimbed boulders...

Who hasn't dreamed of discovering such a place, where everything you climb is a first ascent on perfect rock? Vast, Dali-esque boulderfields, in a desert surrounded by volcanoes, and it's at altitude too, so the 'make or break' temperature is friction friendly.
So, as I was saying in my last post, on the summer trip across South America, we arrived in Bolivia and headed out into the desert to check out Valle de las Rocas.
This venue is already legendary amongst climbers, despite the fact it is so remote, there are hardly any problems and those that exist are poorly documented. In the global search for the holy grail of adventure bouldering, Bolivia might just be the answer.

The route. The boulders.

We arrived in Mallcu in the dark, so I had no idea what the landscape was like. I couldn't sleep, so I got up early and walked up the hill opposite to photograph the sunrise and the volcanoes. Well, forget that. Look at the boulders behind the village! Incredible. There are also a few boulders that I climbed on in the river beds you can see, but the good stuff is on the plateau. You could spend a few months just in this sector alone, and you can bet that absolutely nothing has been climbed here.
Well, I was pretty excited, but I had no idea what was in store.

The 'small' boulder field behind Mallcu. These photos aren't 'stitched'. Just enjoy the view!

Mallcu. The left side of the previous photo. Just to give you an idea.

Right next to the road and waiting for a first ascent...

This is fairly touristy. There are a couple of videos on youtube of 4x4s in this section.

Overhanging. Perfect pockets. Ticked.

More boulders next to the road.
 So we jump in the jeep and head around the corner into the next valley and 'Boom', I can't believe my eyes. Boulders. Lots of boulders. Thousands upon thousands of them stretching into the distance.

A lifetime's worth.

Bouldering vastness.

Here's something interesting.
I might not actually have been to Valle de las Rocas.

There's an article about Valle de las Rocas in 'Climbing' magazine here, and a couple of photos of the area here, but both of these concern a different area to the north that the 701 goes through. What this might mean, is that all the rock in these photos is unclimbed!
Imagine that.

Look at the rocks in the distance!

The houses (bottom right) give a sense of scale.


Most of this stuff is big. That canyon in the middle is at least a couple of pitches high, if not more.

Check out the prows on the right.

So I'm going to leave you with these. The high-res versions are something else, and there are lots of them. As usual, I couldn't stop taking pictures.

If anyone's planning on going, let me know. I'm itching to get back out there for some mind-blowing bouldering photos...

...and the Salar de Uyuni is just up the road.

I've been out in Northumberland a couple of times recently getting some photos, but I'll leave them until next time.