The recalcitrant

IMG_2093With some spare time on my hands, well a little bit of time, a new baby tends to suck most of the time away. I decided to make an attempt to think about my climbing, with as much of an objective perspective as possible.

I have two very similar tendencies or preferences if you wish. I say to my wife, I’m going training, this means going to my shed for an hour or so, sometimes a little more, here I listen to techno, I do a few dead hangs on increasingly smaller holds, a few assisted pull ups, standing on a bucket, then I do three (warm up) problems in escalating difficulty, if I flash them all I move onto three harder problems, one of which was a project for several months, basically these are three maximal effort problems. After that I try one of maybe two on-going projects, I fail to complete the projects, both of which are over a year old. Then I go back to the house.

Outside I mostly go to one of three or four same venues and try and fail on one of my four or so projects in the area. Occasionally I make progress, but if I’m honest I’m some way from finishing them off. Now and again, a few times a year, I clean and climb a FA, grade wise I look for 7’s, if the FA is a 7B+ it might take a half a dozen or more sessions, less if it’s easier. To be fair on myself I do sometimes finish a harder project, more often it will be a FA. It’s just that the last time I did this seems some time ago now, maybe it’s what happens as you get older or maybe I like the process too much or maybe I’m just lazy.

It’s clear my training and bouldering is limited, maybe not in imagination and dedication, but in terms of breadth it is limited. My training I suspect if analysed by a professional isn’t even training. However I justify to myself that I am in fact training for circumstances that I encounter in reality, for example a single boulder project, isolated near no warm ups, its often cold. So my ‘training’ in the shed is I think specific at least. This specificity is revealed when I try and do something broader, like a long boulder problem or visits a bouldering wall with blobs and compression and roofs and not a 45-degree angle with small holds in sight. In these contexts I’m rubbish.

So I ask myself what do I really want from my climbing and training. I think I like doing what I do, it’s a habit, it’s a routine and it’s a comfort, it’s a meditation and sometimes a philosophy. It’s also an embodied practice; I’ve been doing more or less the same thing for twenty years. But and it’s a big but, I would like to finish one, at least one of my projects.

Next time I have some spare time on my hands and I don’t go to my shed to train, or drive to a project and fail, I will try and write up some ‘objectives’ or some ’thoughts’

down by the river

Down by the river. A large mouse crawls out of the undergrowth oblivious to my presence as I sit motionless. Over the summer spiders have colonised the cracks and holes in the rock, brambles and ferns hang over the lip of the boulder. Out of the half dozen or so moves that I tried I couldn’t do any of them. Is this a meditative practice or a huge waste of time…I expect I will never know.

sector 28 Laramade


Sector 28, for want of a better name. There is a bit of a sector not far from the main area at Laramade. It does seem that there is quite a bit of potential in this valley, last year I found  and in another sector, after a bit of a clean, this very good arete emerged, starts hard and gets easier; ‘Scully’ 7B/+ or thereabouts I think. Very close to this I cleaned up another good problem, more like 6C ish. This area has been climbed in before, there is an old hard project from a few years back, with a video lurking on the web, but the area has quite a bit of potential. I have a few projects on the go some stupid some realistic.


My last post was about a project…well it took a few sessions, but I’m very pleased with this problem. It pushed me a a bit, struggled initially to climb past my seven move limit/block. In the end it went easily though. I’ve spent a year in the Ariege looking for new problems but it was only in the last couple of months that the searching started to pay dividends, the bare trees of winter probably made the difference allowing glimpses into the trees that finally revealed the potential. Should be more to come!


I looked in the woods and I found a very promising unclimbed boulder. I came back with brushes and a ladder and cleaned the moss and dirt from the boulder. Revealed beneath was a prow of granite, hidden in the trees, a thing of interest a thing of desire. On my second visit I began to piece the moves together, complex yes, but everything seemed to be in the right place, every move was powerful and interesting. I’d found a beauty.

It’s now a project, it’s harder than I thought. Thirteen moves long, none easy a mid way crux and a difficult finish.

Ohh but the joy….

burnt toast

I went for a long drive to go bouldering; in the end I didn’t climb much at all. After crossing the Pyrenees I drove across vast tracts of empty arid Spanish landscapes, boggling in its scale and occasionally marvelling at its detail. I had plenty of time to think on this long journey. Bouldering has for a few weeks lost some magic, relentless failure and snow has left me jaded, the pursuit of projects had numbed my desire. The trip was cut short, just too much snow, I was back home and today drove out to look at some recent discoveries and to try an old project. Exploration and newness left me refreshed and invigorated, this is what bouldering for me has always been about, the creative, unknown, the possibilities.

One night whilst away I drank a bottle of wine in a white plastic hotel room and watched on rolling news the unfolding spectacle that is Trump. I’ve been completely out of touch from mainstream news media, only getting the endless second hand horror from Facebook. Are we moving into an un-theorised phenomenological era? There has never been TRUTH, any event or happening or experience is always represented and mediated, always serves a specific discourse, there is always a transition and an impossibility to represent the act itself. A ‘post truth’ world, of ‘alternate facts’ and ‘falsehoods’. The FB’s, the tweeters, the instagrammers, are a generation of experience seekers, their lives documented and sprayed for all to see, nowadays a life or experience without mediation means nothing…Beuys and Warhol in different ways prescient…and in principle the contestation of truth is a good thing. This directly leads us to a world where politicians are celebs, the message is a massage, the desire for popularity, success and winning comes at a price. That price is mass idiocy. An opinion, is an opinion is an opinion and we get Trump and Brexit.

Let’s build a bridge across the Atlantic, a wall to divide America from Mexico, let China suffocate, all the animals are dead, the world is too hot, burnt toast is bad for you…

cornwall, rain and reading

I’ve had a FB exchange with a climber, who has been visiting Cornwall and has been in touch for details and directions for the problems in the ‘Treen’ video. It felt strange, for it’s the first time since moving to France in March that I can honestly say I missed Cornwall. At the time I wrote…… and we came to a landscape bare of light and life, fields and paths of mud, earth and animal…two years later I leave the same landscape… of granite, wind and sea…  But right now I remember the wind, sometimes constant, sometimes a storm, the moist wet air, the drizzle, the mud, the stinging cold. Snatched blues skies, intense, between squalls or rain. The rain that falls for days, the rain that falls and the rain that comes from the sea, and the storms, I miss the storms.


Meanwhile from a shuttered room in the heat of Southern France my current reading and research…



A wet Sunday in the Ariege

So you live in the Pyrenees, its raining, you have no training board, what do you do? Well it just so happens that I stumbled across a bit of steep limestone, sandwiched between Lidl’s and a Carrefour Express, easy parking and three minutes across a field. This has a kind of urban feel to it. It felt like I was back in the UK, just bouldering nothing fancy, in the drizzle.. Being France though it’s all very peaceful, by a river and really quite nice. No one has bouldered here before, there is no chalk and no white arrows. The cave has harder linkups and plenty of potential to keep me busy until I get a board built.


the rat and the EU exit, a rather poor analogy.

update…it turns out I was mistaken, my blog was based on prejudice, as was the decision made by millions in the UK. The animal that turned up in my toilet bowl was in fact an edible door mouse….


My Movie 1
Orlu project
rat business

It’s been a strange few days. I’ve been party to the UK voting to leave the EU from a distance. I’m in France and I’ve witnessed a deluge of opinion from social media and the other media, yet felt removed and isolated. Apparently a large number of people voted without understanding the issues, I wonder how they made a decision, flip a coin! It was a heady and intoxicating mix of lies, propaganda, capital, ideology and fear. I’m sorry to say fear seems to have decided the issue. Yet now the UK appears to be exploding or imploding,  becoming fragmented, decisive and inexorably  insular. Both main parties, having manipulated the debate to their own ends now appear to be committing a kind of mass outbreak of mind numbing, crass stupidity. The streets appear to be bristling with aggression, blind ignorance and intolerance at levels that seem unprecedented. Fear presides and runs through the exit-eers , they have no idea what to do. Europe postures, rejected and hurt, keeping a lid on the extremist domino effect that we may yet still see.

I surprised myself last night and I surprised a rat. It’s normally very silent in the evenings, yet I heard a bit of a commotion in the bathroom, without really thinking I walked over opened the door and there it was a rat in the toilet bowl. I had an involuntary shudder, shut the door and swore a lot. I thought initially i’d flush it back down the loo, but I don’t have a flushing loo as yet. I use a bucket of water. I tried four buckets, each time the rat got pushed back a bit, fought and writhed and I swore some more. Ultimately though we were back at square one, me looking at a wet rat, pathetically scrabbling at the smooth sides of the toilet bowl. A kind of peace prevailed. I relaxed a bit as I could see that it couldn’t get out of the toilet bowl, I’d feared it running through the house. I bent down and stared at it, the rat stared back at me, its nose twitching, smelling the air. I started to talk to it, I had no idea what to do. I walked round the house in the hope of finding inspiration.

Then I looked at my pasta tongs. I plucked the rat out of the toilet and dropped him, squealing a little in protest, into a bucket. Minutes later he was free, wet, but alive. I hadn’t butchered him with a hammer, although I’d considered it.  I had a kind of inbuilt fear of the rat, but after some time in each others controlled company I could see that it meant me no harm and thus I owed it to the rat to set him free.

The EU was a bit like my meeting with the rat, yea for sure we maybe didn’t want to meet each other that evening and yes I had a reaction that was initially negative, yet peace and equilibrium were restored and no blood was shed. WE SHOULD HAVE STAYED IN.

I’d had enough, I was fed up with it all, so I drove into the mountains and found a boulder to climb.