All photo's are Copyright of Scott Swalling or the tagged Photographer. (Background photo Scott Swalling Photography).

About Me:

24Hr MTBike racer and general bike rider, climber and mountaineer. Good coffee drinker and cake eater (any cake, seriously, don't leave your cake laying around). Also, I like to try new things that challenge me.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Single speeding and snarling my way to 2nd in the Gorrick 100.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The difference a week can make. Cycle Kingdom Circuit Series

Last week I went in my second road circuit race and like the first one once I got lapped by my category I pulled off and DNFed as it gets to chaotic out there.

This week was a different story, feeling tired, but keen I arrived, early enough to have a chat and then get warmed up properly.  I had eaten well all day and loaded with banana's and a couple of gels before the race.  But I felt different, more determined maybe, this is not as big as the 24Hr Solo coming up, but it was time I rode well.

We lined up the whilst went and the E/1/2's left then us shortly after, I settled into a good rhythm and hope the new bike setup would work, I was doing my best to sit about 10-15 from the front and at 20 minutes felt good, the pace had ebbed and flowed, but it hadn't affected me at all, this was good.

Around 40 minutes I noticed the time again and still felt good and I was riding much nearer the front and still managing to free wheel now and then.  With about 4 minutes to go and 5 laps (in total 7 laps) I got a biting cramp in both calves, I think I might have even yelped slightly.  I thought no, this is not happening, I stood up out of the next corner and it hurt a bit more, back in the saddle it eased and so did the pace which we (a group of about 7 riders, me included) had been setting as we had caught a chap who had been away for most of the race.  The drop in pace allowed the pack to come back together and my calves to recover slightly, but they still hurt.

Heading up the finishing straight with 4 laps to go the pace quickened again and I closed an attack, "What the hell?", but this pace felt better for me and it caused the bunch to string out again, this is good I thought.  But sadly it slowed again and I thought about attacking and maybe should have, but the calves still stung.

A massive bunch swung out of the last corner and stood hard on the pedals, my calves weren't having any of it so I ignore them, I took a few places and got taken by a few, but I think I finished about mid bunch.  A great improvement on the past two weeks.

I watched as the Elites and 1/2's sped around the circuit and was very impressed by the power and pace of these guys.  Makes you realise just how good the pro's really are.

Gorrick 100 Enduro Challenge

2nd May, saw the first real Endurance race of the year, the Gorrick 100 (km) at Swinley Forest.

I turned out on the Single Speed and planned to use this race as training for the up coming 24Hr Solo race.  7 Laps of a mud heavy, wet, tyre sucking sand, sharp hills, twicthy descents, flat out fire roads and sweet as a kitten single track was the target.

63 men started in my category and the conditions would play a part on bikes and legs.  A small number of women had turned out for the 7 laps

The whistle went and so did we, the first lap was about sorting the field out on the track and then peoples strategies take affect.  By the 3rd lap the track was cut up a treat as there was one hill that was compulsory to walk thanks to the mud.

My plan was to keep ticking over an try to keep the laps at a comfortable speed, the lack of gears tends to keep you honest to such a plan, the plan was to finish the race.  At the completion of the 3rd lap people had already started to retire due bike, condition, plain too hard and not much fun.  But  many continued on, many of the 7 Lap girls making it a 4 lap race considering the conditions this was a great effort and a sensible decision.

As we continued the track got heavier, but the SS remained pretty much unaffected apart from the back brake pads disappearing, this made the twitchy descents interesting, but retiring never entered my mind, today had become about being string in the mind, even if that meant having to run/walk the bike up some hills.

On the 5th lap nature enforced a comfort break and would do so on the 6th lap, slowing my lap times.  But what had been impressive was the fact that I had been overtaking other racers in my category, this had bouyed me on.  Out on the 6th lap, I was thinking cool only one lap to go after this.  It was going to be a long hard day in the saddle, but it was worth it, I had put loads of hard k's into the legs.

Dipping into a deep bit of mud off a small embankment, the front tyre submerged up to the hub and a super many into 12 inch deep mud was experienced, this actually only added to the fun and didn't make me any muddier.  As I jump back on the bike, I realised that I had not seen many other riders in my category in a while and the riders I was passing or being passed by, were either 3, 4 or 5 lapers, and there weren't many of these left.

Climbing the last hill in the wheel sucking sand, I decided this would be the point that I was going to lift the pace, for the final lap.

As I headed for the Start/Finish, I noticed that they had re-routed the finish, as I crossed the line I commented that "I thought you might do that" to the stewards and thanked them, 6 laps was still long enough.  They all responded with big smiles and congratulations and the sponsor grabbed a bag and shook my hand and handed me a bag congratulating me on 2nd  Place, I questioned this "What?", and he said you have got 2nd Place.  I smiled broadly and thanked him and the small party of race organisers left and Rory the winner came over and we congratulated each other.

What a surpising race and a great result I thought, but it still didn't register as a great effort until seeing Nik at home.  I had enjoyed the race, suffered the conditions, managed a poorly bike, made my target, loved the track and chatted to some other like minded people as we suffered together.

Next stop 24Hr Solo Champs.

Scotland ina Weekend - Central Grooves and a dirve through the night

Sunday Rob and I were on the hill early, probably should have been a bit earlier.  We found ourselves at the base of Central Grooves (VII, 7) the route I had backed of Saturday morning, today we were going to climb it and I was up first.

I started up the first pitch with more confidence, but after reaching a higher point than Saturday, my confidence ebbed away and I soon back off, thinking of the time and the fact I didn't want to let Rob down by not getting this route down.

Me just below my high point on pitch one on a very lean route.
(Photo: Rob G)

Once I was on the ground, Rob set to work and climbed this very difficult pitch in fine style, picking his way through the thin edges and fine cracks to a belay of sorts.  I apologise at this point as I was to nervous (focused if I lied) to take photo's, sorry Rob.

I started off up the pitch and no everything is not easier on second, it still proved to be tricky and as I arrived at the belay congratulated Rob on a great lead.  I was up again and there was no way I could not, not lead this pitch.  The pitch started off easily enough, but shortly above the belay, it got a bit stiffer.

I found this tough mentally and doubted myself more than once or twice, a bad thing to be doing.  Rob encourage me from below and was great, glad I was on the route with him.  I pushed on, got some more gear in. (The gear seemed to come in clusters with run outs in between.) I made an airy step and then went to move up and lost my nerve and had to sit on the gear, booo :-(

I collected my thoughts and encourage by Rob, I pressed on, but this seemed a tough pitch.  I started up a vertical wall and near the top struggled to find good axe placements.  I decided to down climb for a rest, at this point my left axe slipped a bit and my feet popped, but I managed to stay there.  I wedge myself into a crack and had a few words with myself and made few silly comments.

Rob continued to encourage me and showed great tolerance ;-) , but it was getting cold and time was matching on.  Whilst I was having my moment, I think his patience (rightful so) ran out a bit, the next thing I hear from Rob was "There's no need to cry about it!".  This made me chuckle to myself and I new he was right, his comment and making me laugh seemed to help me focus and clear my thoughts.  I manned up as they say and got on with the job at hand.

I was soon over the wall in front of me, next a little run out to a suspect bit of tat, some discussion about if this was the belay. It all seemed a bit rubbish, so I pressed on thrutching my way up a series of cracks, placing my axes blindly and relying on feel and trusting my ability as Rob had told me to do several times.  I arrived at yet another suspect belay, I hammered the peg back in until it made a solid sound, placed a size 3 nut and called for Rob to start up.

Rob soon arrived and commented that that was a tough pitch, I thought so.  :-)  But I had not bricked myself since I got going again after the slipped so things were good.  I suggested that maybe Rob lead the next two pitches as one as they were a bit shorter and would save time on rigging belays and my faffing on the lead.  He agreed and headed off on what looked to be a bit easier ground, IT WAS NOT!

Rob climbs very well and when you see him thinking about something, it means it is tough, soon I would find out what was causing the thinking, but not before having a few spindrift showers.  After sometime Rob called for me to climb, I asked what the belay was like, "Not great came the answer", oh well what can you do, don't fall off!

I started up, through some difficult moves, eventually rounded the corner to see the slab of death, no ice and patchy snow and no gear between and the corner above the slab.  I thought fecking awesome lead Rob.  I passed this and the corner and the little steps above, collecting gear and feeling very tied and my arms felt dead.  I arrived at the belay and congratulated Rob and clearly the boldest pitch on the route, with some tough moves.

I grabbed a few bits of gear and started up the easier (Grade IV, 4) snowy ground above whacked one bit of gear in above a cornice I had just climbed and headed for the top of the buttress and finally to a bomber belay, woohoo, just when you don't need it.  Bloody Scotland!  Rob soon joined me and we congratulated each other.  I also thanked him for his encouragement and patience.
We made away down to the coire floor in rapidly fading light and then down to the car park in a very rapid time in the dark, I think we were back at the van around 2000.  Giles had already left and Nik and Dan waited for us with hot tea.

We sorted our gear and headed south again.  A long drive through the night, with Rob doing the lions shares and arriving in time for us to have showers and head straight to work.

This rounded out my winter, but what a great way to finish up.  I'll do it again next season as well.

Winter Round Up - Scotland in a Weekend (The mini rescue)

As Rob and I walked off we took in the surrounds and a few pictures as well.


As we swung around and turned down toward the coire floor, something was missing.............Nik, Daniel and Giles.  We expected to see them on their way down and if not at the bottom already.  Scanning the buttress we noticed them high and on a ledge like some welsh sheep...........they looked stuck.

I headed back up to see how they were doing, by the time I go there they had kind of made the decision for Dan to down climb and come up the gully behind the sentinel they had arrived at. I would drop a rope from the top of the sentinel for Nik and Giles to secure them from above as they would be unprotected.  Rob soon arrived and we rig a rope for me to cross to the top, within about 10 minutes I was throwing the rope over the top.

Daniel cruising the the gully as I prepare to drop rope in the background.
(Photo: Rob G)

As Daniel rigged his belay, Nik and Giles tied into the rope I had dropped to them and soon they started the down climb to the gully from the ledge.  First Nik and then Giles, a shout from each and they were back on Daniels belay and heading up the gully to the top.

Not a bad spot for a belay.
(Photo: Rob G)

Below left, Nik tops out and right Dan, Nik and Giles.
(Photo's: Rob G)

We headed down in fading light, ate well and learnt just how they ended up where they did and made plans for the next day.  Rob and I would head back to Central Grooves.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Winter Round Up - Scotland in a Weekend (Day 1)

Nik, Rob, Daniel and I loaded the van and headed to Glen Coe, West Highlands, Scotland.  Giles was already on route.  We drove through the night and arrived early and Rob suggested getting on it straight away, which if I hadn't worked a longer than expected day, I might have been tempted.

After a few hours sleep the others and myself felt a lot better and we all headed into Stob coire an Lochan. Giles had meet us at the car park so we sorted gear and headed off up the long walk into the coire floor.

 The crew gearing up under the Buttress'
(L-R: Giles, Daniel, Rob and Nik)

Rob and I had planned to climb together and knowing Rob's ability I was prepared to give almost anything a go.  The plan was Central Grooves (VII/7), somewhat of a step up for me, but I was keen if a "little" nervous.  The teams chose their routes and off we went to the bases of our chosen climbs.

 A sunny day in Scotland.

Giles and Daniel had disappeared out of sight and Nik soon headed up the wrong gully as Rob and I prepared for our climb.  Nik reappeared and headed one gully down and disappeared again, we assumed she had found Giles and Daniel. It would be later revealed she had, it is just where and how they had got to that was interesting.

I opted to give the first pitch a go and sometime of twisting this way and reaching that way, with loads of encouragement from Rob, I had to back down off the route.  With time running out, we opted for what we hoped was Twisting Grooves (IV/5), but our eagerness to climb something, saw a marginal error in navigation and we were rewarded with Twisting Gully Right-hand (IV/5 ***) and this proved to be great little route easily climbed and giving Rob his first taste of Scottish winter climbing.  Which he seemed to enjoy.  Fortunately another team broke through the cornice at the top for us, which made life some what easier. (Right, Rob makes short work of the crux on P1).

Left, Rob on P2.  Below right, I top out.

Rob and I sorted the gear and headed down towards the coire floor.

Winter Round Up - North Wales

Next stop, Ogwen, North Wales

Phil, Tommy and I packed the van an headed off to the Ogwen Valley in North Wales, the plan was originally Scotland, but 80cm's of snow in roughly a day had smothered that plan.  Plan B, head to North Wales, was executed, but not without interest.

North Wales, was a tad warmer than expected and we should have stuck to our plan of staying high.  We walked into the Devils Kitchen area above the Idwal Slabs, selected The Ramp (III) with only the top pitch in condition.  We roped up and I lead the unprotected and on crumbling ice first pitch, rigged a rubbish belay and Phil and Tommy followed with no issue.  Next I lead the top pitch, once again with no issues, but the ice was not great and gear minimal so only two pieces were placed, but the climbing was easy.

Rigging a hanging belay at the foot of the gully at the top, Phil and Tommy made there way up and soon joined me and then disappeared to the top.

He had planned to stay high to allow for cooler conditions and we should have done.  But Phil was keen to try Central Route (III/IV).  We headed back down, my crampons balls badly in the wet snow, so progress was a bit slow, to the base of a very wet and barely there Central Route.  Tommy and I said to Phil, there is no need to get on it as it wasn't in condition, but he was keen and set off on a very thin route.

Phil, battled his way up and in many sectors opting to climb the rock as the ice appeared thin and rotten, after sometime and an excellent lead, we go the call of safe.  Tommy started up and I soon followed to cut down the time. After the first few sections it was clear the ice was very thin, but higher up still stuck to the rock and delicate tool work and the ice felt much better that the loose and friable rock.  As Tommy and I chatted about it being a great lead, Tommy asked me what I thought it would be as a summer route, I said "a stream, mate"  Nearer the belay the ice had got better, but not great for a belay, Phil had wisely whacked his axes into the still frozen turf and the belay looked pretty sound to me.

We congratulated Phil on the lead of the crux and he set off to finish off the route and Tommy and I soon followed.  We un-roped, packed the gear and headed for the top again.

We decided to head down from hear and called it a day.

The next day with the weather expected to be warmer we opted for a winter walk, up over Tryfan, taking in Bristly Ridge alternative alternative route, not having a rope so having to work a route around the sentinels on then climb a long exposed snow slope with no axes, which Tommy pointed out once or twice as I wish I had my skis to ski down it.  We made it to Glyder Fach, headed across towards our descent route of Y Gribin, made a slight navigational error in the clouds, descended, corrected ourselves, found the top of Y Gribin as the clouds broke and presented beautiful vistas and the Namelss Cwm and its climbing routes in very thick and perfect conditions, Doh!  We should have climbed.

We made our way down using our crampons for the first time to the plateau on Y Gribin, where Phil and Tommy took some picks and then we made our way down and back to the van for the long drive home.  We all agreed that it had been a successful weekend and the winter walk was certainly not a let down.  See Tommy's blog "A Vertical World" link to the left for photo's and more.

Next stop Scotland.