Saturday, 29 May 2010

Blackhorse Apocalypse!

I've just realised that the Manic Street Preachers managed to predict the downfall of the British banking system in 1992. 

The audaciously titled "NatWest-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds" is taken from there début album "Generation Terrorists" which seethed with angry political polemics and critiques of the consumer society "The more you own the more you are, lonelier with cheap desire". 

I don' know of any other band that could manage to shoehorn such an unlikely chorus together yet make it sound so effective. Check it out.


Economic forecast soothe our dereliction
Words of euthanasia, apathy of sick routine
Carried away with useless advertising dreams
Blinding children, life as autonotomes

NatWest, NatWest-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds
Blackhorse apocalypse
Death sanitised through credit
NatWest, NatWest-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds
Blackhorse apocalypse
Death sanitised through credit

Barclays iron eagle, "33 injection"
Sold to advertisers, computer execution line
They give and take away, repossess and crucify
The more you own the more you are, lonelier with cheap desire

NatWest, NatWest-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds
Blackhorse apocalypse
Death sanitised through credit
NatWest, NatWest-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds
Blackhorse apocalypse
Death sanitised through credit

Prosperity - exports for Pol Pot
Prosperity - Mein Kampf for beginners

NatWest, NatWest-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds
Blackhorse apocalypse
Death sanitised through credit
NatWest, NatWest-Barclays-Midlands-Lloyds
Blackhorse apocalypse
Death sanitised through credit

Hear it here!

They are also responsible for my favourite lyric off all time:

 "Killed off literature for sex and violence,
 fed a generation the equivalent of science"
"B-Side Dead Yankee Drawl"

Utterly brilliant and more relevant today than ever.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Eyes Up.

Do we really see things? I mean do we really look? I ask in that I was recently struck by the detail in some of the buildings in central Leeds which I had walked past may times without actually really seeing.

Leeds is quite fortunate in that a lot interesting architecture has survived the war and the planning aberrations of the sixties and seventies (the aberrations are there all-right but don't get in the way that much). I'm not talking about buildings of national significance but interesting architecture that gives a bit of character.

These thoughts got me up and into town at the ungodly hour of 5.00 in order to roam around with my camera staring upwards without the worry of causing a major nuisance. I hope the images below inspire you to take a closer look at your home town. Who knows what you may find?

Leeds Town Hall is actually grade one listed and one of the finest in the country.

So is Kirkgate Market

I cycle past this old Synagogue every day on the way to work

The Civic Crest crops up on quite a few buildings. For some reason in it's wisdom Leeds has chosen to include a dead sheep.

I really like this old church, which is now used to sell under-where.

Relief carving showing traders, priests, and Red Indians??

Rather nice building which fortunately shields the abominable station house till the last minute.

Statues on the former Post Office building (City Square). Note the civic owl below the high middle window.

Possibly the least intrusive Starbucks I've seen

I like the colour and carvings on this.

Interesting style! Also does a good job of hiding West Yorkshire House.

Fine use for an old church. Now a temple to the new Gods. The O2 Academy.

The Academy again. Note the dead sheep centre.

So eyes up...

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

For The Initiated

It's quite hard to explain to the non initiated the "joys" of Scottish winter climbing and this video probably won't help. The routes look a bit insane and the conditions typically Scottish. Got to love the rivers of spindrift.

Having watched it it's become obvious that the reason I'm still bumbling about on grade III/IV and not grade VIII is because I don't own a pair of Nomics (although much bigger balls will also be required). Still now having Blogged about them maybe Petzl will send me a pair:-)

We really do enjoy it you know.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: The Perils of Adventure Trad

In starting this Blog I'm concious of the fact that not all it's readers will be climbers or even interested in climbing and therefore I should perhaps heed the words of super Alpinist Andy Kirkpatrick in that: "climbing is like masturbation: a lot of fun when your doing it but nobody else wants to see you do it or here you talk about it". I will therfore attempt to keep the geekdom to a minimum.

Adventure trad is big routes on big mountains, with lots of pitches, route finding problems, and high potential for epics. It is however a bit like Russian Roulette as exemplified by today's escapade in the Lakes.

The Good

Corvus a classic route was great, everything I look for in a mountain route, big views, easy route finding, good exposure, nice easy gymnastic moves, and belays from which you can take it all in.

The hand traverse on Corvus
The Bad

Crystal Slab was a bit of a shocker. Wet, hard, not nice moves, and quite run out. Masa however was equal to it and again proved he has some secret magic bag capable of holding everything ever created by mankind, producing from nowhere a couple of skyhooks just when they were needed and nothing else would do. Not quite as good as when he produced 50 meters of assorted lace, slings, string, and cord from said bag allowing us do do a 50 meter retrievable abseil on one rope a couple of winters ago but close.

The Ugly

From the top of Crystal Slab we attempted to find Slab Route and got lost. Masa hears my manic laughter as I round a corner and am confronted with something out of the Lost World. A grotty choss filled gully where a flame thrower would make a useful addition to my standard gear.

Amazing views though.

Friday, 21 May 2010

What The Banker's Can Never Understand

Whilst hanging around Bloomsbury on Thursday waiting to see Marina & the Diamonds (of which more later) I had a quick look inside the British Museum.

All I can say is WOW; Adam Smith clearly knew nothing when he talked about the Wealth of Nations being measured in economic terms, Museums are where we really find the true wealth of the World (we shall put aside the touchy subject of why the treasures of the ancient Egyptian, Greek, Assyrian world etc.. should reside in London). The British Museum is and epic space.

The Rosetta Stone that enabled the decoding of Egyptian hieroglyphics the first thing you see when you walk in the door.

I actually felt a surge of emotion as I walked into the Egyptian gallery and the history and anthropology of Human Kind confronted me on all sides. The beauty of the objects and skill with which they have been created leaves me in awe of the creativity and imagination of our race.

Half an hour barely allowed me to touch the surface, but inspired me to go back for more.

It's free as well.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Can I Have a Top Rope Please?

After recent thoughts on pushing the grade and learning to be comfortable above gear today's attempt has ended in failure. Good day at Froggatt in the Peak, three easy routes done introducing my mate Andy to his first taste of Gritstone. Then I decide to push the boat out a little.

I've been wanting to do Chequers' Buttress for ages as it's a 3* classic HVS. It's hard but safe, with good gear. The attempt went well until I tried to reach across and get established on the arête. It was hard, I got scared, and could not commit to the moves. Embarrassingly I then called for a top rope.

Were it all went wrong. I got to this point but could not persuade my right hand to let go and move onto the arête. (photo © ChrisBrooke)

But here's the thing; I then hung at the crux for five minutes whilst it was prepared so I'm obviously strong enough to do these routes. The gear was at waist hight so even if I had fallen I would not have gone far. Really, really frustrating that I could not commit to the move.

Once the top rope arrived finished relativity easily. Bugger! Must try harder.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Learning to Fly

F**k! No bloody holds. My feet scrabble for purchase on the rounded bulges beneath me as I frantically search the top of the crag for something to grab on to. Nothing; the top is rounded and I just can’t get my body weight high enough to pull over. Fearful of committing to the top out I make to decision to try and down-climb, but the holds are rounded and extremely difficult to reverse.

I don’t really remember what happened next, I must have slipped. No fear, no life flashing before my eyes, I was not really aware what had happened until it was all over. It was a big fall about fourteen meters, almost half way down the crag and a heavy landing as the ropes pulled taught and my gear stopped me and swung me into the crag.

The fall, Upper Teir, Roaches.

Bruised and very shaken what I did next probably saved my climbing career. I knew I had to climb to the top of the crag, if I allowed myself to be lowered to the ground I may never have had the courage to climb again. I grabbed hold of the rock and slowly pulled myself up the crag via an easier route past the no. 10 nut which had saved by life now irretrievably jammed in the crack.

Despite this, this event back in 2007 still effects my climbing; I have a real difficulty in pushing myself if there is any chance of taking a fall. Falling however is part of climbing but faced with a move I’m not sure if I can do I often can’t commit preferring to back of and play it safe. With the rope above me I can usually climb 5b and often push 5c or even 6a; put the rope below me and I balk at attempting 5a.

So what role does falling play in climbing?

With some forms of climbing falling is not an option. Soloing is often thought of as the purest form of climbing, but for the soloist the consequences of a fall are serious injury and in many cases probably death. To solo requires intense concentration, calmness and supreme confidence in ones own ability.

Now I solo, but only easy routes way below my technical ability, and I never push myself outside my comfort zone. Others push it further but presumably the same principles apply. Alan Robert; notorious for scaling buildings is probably the most famous soloist in the world amongst non-climbers but for sheer audacity the solos of Alex Honnold are unique and regarded in awe by many climbers. His recent solos of Moonlight Buttress and Half Dome featured in the film Alone on the Wall are little short of amazing

Alex Honnold soloing past a party, in territory where mistakes are not an option.

Falling is also a bad idea on ice. Winter routes often rely on dubious protection of ice screws and pegs often with large runouts in between. Climbers have sharp axes in there hands and crampons on there feet which can do immense damage to your body in a fall. Will Gadd one of the best ice climbers in the world has never fallen on an ice screw. Again it is about staying well within your comfort zone.

Mid fall. The climber was ok. I'm amazed that someone managed to capture such fast event. Note how close the crampons are to the ropes!

What then should we make of deep water soloing? Here falling in an essential part of the mix as you climb close to your limit, and in many cases it is the only way to get off the route once you’ve completed it. The same is true in sport climbing. Lines are bolted and therefore falling is considered safe and an essential part of pushing your grade.

All part of the fun??

In traditional climbing the leave no trace approach means things are a little different. Here the situation is more adventurous as you place your own protection as you go. You have the additional skills of reading the fissures and cracks in the rock and working out how best to use them to protect yourself. One you’ve place protection you have a mental picture of how much you trust it to catch you if you fall from the moves above and this often feeds back into how hard you push.

Clocking up the air miles.

My problem however is I am failing to push even when the gear is good, even on bolted sports climbs I often fail to commit to the moves. The more I think about it the more I realise that falling may not be the problem. In the Alps last year I went canyoning, a brilliant experience which involved numerous jumps of cliffs into water. Yes it was scary but the fear was controlled, because the falls were planned, expected and “safe” as I know the water to be deep.

Now I don’t know much about the psychology of risk but familiarity with an experience or sensation, even ones of high danger breads a confidence and reduces the level of fear. So maybe the answer is for me to go out and choose routes which are well within but were gear placements are spaced and I must get used to operating a way above my gear.

But hold on; this is not the problem. I really should not fall off on these routes therefore I am not actually learning to conquer the fear. What I need to do is climb hard routes where there is a considerable chance I may fall but where the gear is reliable, therefore I will become familiar with falling off and the system saving me (even though I know this from the example in the intro). Or maybe I should do both? Anyway Peak tomorrow to put some of these ideas into practice. Where are my brave pills??

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Happy place

Stuck in Dagenham and Thurrock for two weeks with work. Is there a less attractive part of the country? Big negative on the life experiance meter. I forget how lucky I am to live in Leeds about 2 hours from the Yorkshire Dales, Peak District, Yorkshire Moors,  Lakes, and only a little further from North Wales and Northumberland.

My mind needs beauty. Somewhere I would rather be. Think of somewhere amazing. Think Kuffner at sunrise, this is my screen backdrop.

Erm... The Kuffner @ Sunrise (photo J. Griffiths)

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Yes we can??

Inspired and worried by this leader comment. So much potential for change and something new. Now fearful the chance will be thrown away.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

We Only Have One!

Earth rise from Apollo 8 (photo Nasa)

Please read and think.

The Election

Tomorrow you need to do society a little favour, get your voting card and go down to your local polling station and put an X in a box. If you really can't bring yourself to choose write your own box and tick that, it will be recorded as a spoilt ballot which is a statement in itself. Now you may feel society already does/asks too much or too little, takes too much or not enough, stands for what you believe in or needs major reform. But unless you make that walk tomorrow what you are actually saying is "I don't care".

I feel voting is really important, it's a statement of participation, that you have listened to ideas for the future and made a decision about them be it assent or rejection. Regardless of what you think the role of the state should be in society voting says you care about your future. 

Frankly if you fail to do this you have no right to complain about anything and essentially until the next election your opinions don't matter. If you can't be bothered to give five minutes of your time tomorrow to register some form of will with society shame on you.

Do the right thing.

Monday, 3 May 2010


Poor rock starved Londonites Stu, Adam, and Ed, head up to Leeds to join Bird, Wicks and myself for a bouldering session at Caley. I mainly off-sighted* in order to get some shots.

The problems were hard.


The problems were good

A good time was had by all.

* Off-sight; verb: To go climbing but not actually attempt to climb anything. Example " I decided to off-sight today as I was taking pictures". To off-sight is perfectly acceptable on occasion but considered bad form if done continually. See also off-sighter, off-sighted, and off-sighting. A wide variety of excuses have been offered for off-sighting however these are often used to cover for the real reasons namely "It's too hard / It's too scary / I don't want to fail in front of all these people".

Of Dalby Forest, a terminal mechanical, and bank holiday traffic nightmare

Bank Holiday and time for a ride, Dom and Jim are heading up from Sheffield and the plan is to head out to the North York Moors for a bit of trail centre action at Dalby Forest. Not ridden Dalby before but have heard out target for the day the red route is known to be a bit of a stamina test at 23 miles mostly on dedicated single track.

Meet Dom and Jim at the car park in the middle of a hail storm, the weather having staidly got worse the further from Leeds I drove. Thankfully it’s over quickly and bikes are assembled for the off.

The trail is good, the track is well made, flows nicely, and the climbs switchback and are never too steep. The downhill sections run well allowing me to link smooth transitions from corner into corner may of them bermed allowing me to carry my momentum through. The technical runs are just the right length to get properly involved before you drop out onto a fire road for a rest.

I love the feeling once you get rolling on single-track; working out your line into upcoming obstacles, trees, boulders, berms, roots, and drop-offs. There are enclosed sections through woods with trees flashing past and decisions about line need to be made quickly and more open sections were the trail falls away in front of you giving a buzz as you see what is to come. Adrenaline flows and I’m breathing hard by each rest.

(Photo forestry commission)

All was going well up to about the 4.5 miles mark when suddenly the whole peddle mechanism jams up catastrophically. I dismount and it immediately becomes obvious that the mechanical is terminal with the rear derailure having been twisted backwards through 90o and jammed in the spokes.

Lightning strikes twice. I suffered the same with my last bike although with that one I manage to bend the frame at the same time and deliver the bike a KO from which it did not recover and I’m a little disconcerted that it has happened again suggesting it may be something to do with my riding style.

There is no way we can fix the derailure as it stands so we remove it and chop the chain down in an attempt to make the bike a single speed. Unfortunately due to the bike geometry the only gears that are available in the Heath Robinson set up at right at the top of the range. Whilst undertaking the repair the weather decides to do four seasons in about twenty miuntes with sun, rain hail and wind. Dom who has almost no body fat in his mission to climb hard has to resort to doing shuttle runs to keep warm.

Rolling again and it quickly becomes apparent that repair has seriously effected my ability to control the bike and made it very hard to get going on any thing but flat ground. The trail climbs turns and drops, the gears give me no power at the crucial moment and I perform a neat pirouette over the handle bars with a text book landing on my chin. Winded and shaken I offer thanks for my decision about six months ago to invest in full face helmet otherwise I would have done my face some serious damage.

Giving up on even freewheeling the downhill sections I wish the boys luck and push the bike along the trail to the nearest fire-road. Bit depressing limping back towards the visitors centre with a broken bike, the day cut short and expensive repairs in the offing. Still from what I have seen of the trail it is defiantly worth coming back to.

My ride for the day was my Gary Fisher Hi-Fi full suspension bike although if I had a hard-tail I would probably have brought that as the trail does not warrant a very bouncy bike, and I’m convinced a £1000 pound hard-tail would monster a £1500 full-sus round here.

The drive back is a complete nightmare with caravan chaos on the A64. I really don’t understand, why do people insist on buying these things? But that’s a whole new blog in itself.