Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Vertical Life

Vertical Life is what my blog is all about.
But it doesn't make much sense to post all twice. First here on this blog, then on Dennis website and maybe then somewhere else too.
So. A new site. For both of us.
My blog will stay in use, but the main site will be our new joint website.

With our new site we will inspire, motivate and entertain you and even more: we want to have a forum on where everyone can have an open discussion about climbing and travelling related issues.

We're still working on the site but the basics are online here:

Monday, December 22, 2014

Lecture Sat. January 3. 2015 - Inspiration for the new year!

Recognize the banner on top of my blog?
Let's talk about it.
Together with Dennis van Hoek I'll hold a lecture about iceclimbing and other vertical adventures.
Location: climbing gym Monte Cervino, Bergschenhoek (NL)
Time: 19:00

On the day we'll hold a special drytool clinic.

Subscribe and join through our FB event pages.



Monday, December 08, 2014

DDE 2014

On Sunday evening last week I arrived in the Netherlands.
I had to walk to the climbing gym in the rain (as there is still no bus stop close by).
The gym was going to be my new home for the next week.

My bedroom gives me good dreams
I had just five days to set 22 drytooling routes on the outer wall of the gym.

In the rain, the cold, the wind, and the darkness I worked full time form 9 in the morning till after 11 in the evening.

Luckily a couple friends had been working really hard too the previous weeks.
Bas and Rick have done a fantastic job by putting ropes in the anchors, hauling wood blocks up the wall and even setting quite a few routes.
Also Marit, Tim, Tom, Erik, Richard, Elwin and Fedor helped out with the routesetting. Elwin even set the hardest route in the qualifications. It turned out to be a pretty hard route as only two competitors managed to climb it flash!

The tree-team

That took quite some pulling getting such a huge pole between my legs

Nuff said

19 different qualification routes in varying difficulty from D3+ to D9+ and then two finals (at about D8+ and D11+)

Rick testing one of the routes by night

The wall is ready

On friday evening I had something different then drytooling. 'Sinterklaas'.

Every year we celebrate 'Saint Nicholas'-day on December 5.

The Saint was a good man from Turkey, living in Spain who freed child-slaves and gave them food, a job and housing. The myth says he went by ship to the Netherlands and we always tell children he brings presents for you when you've been a good child over the last year.
The saint has 'little helpers' called Zwarte Piet (Black Peter) that crawl into the chimney's to fill your shoes with presents. The chimneys made the faces 'black as soot'.
Traditionally we buy presents for the whole family and make 'surprises' and a long poem about the tone receiving the present. The idea is to make fun of the others in the poem. Discuss things that happend during the past year, like a car crash, new job, favorite food or something they're scared of.

I drew Dennis for the surprise-poem thing. So I had to make something for him and buy him  €15,- present.
Okay...what to buy for someone who doesn't like to get presents, doesn't like to get goods as he gets emotionally attached to it and then never dares to throw it away when broken or not longer useful.

Peter, the owner of the Monte Cervino gym was working on his present. An artistic impression of a guitar. Or apple, or softball-bat, or... the idea was a guitar.
He was using extremely old wood, over a 1000 years old from the old docks in the Rotterdam harbor.
As I've studied Forest and Nature Conservation I knew a bit about the wood and figured it was Basralocus. When looking for it online I couldn't even find an English wiki for the wood.
The wood he was working on probably comes from Suriname (South America) and it's know for it's high silica content. As it doesn't grow fungae and is really dense (it doesn't float but sinks) it's often used for docks and other water works.
And he had much more of it. Oh, I should ditch the paper-folding-T3-conversion idea and go for this. Make Dennis a present that is utterly useless but too beautiful to ever throw away and then hide the actual present inside it.
Peter and I decided to make a stone. A stone out of wood. I just got two old ices crews from Vera and there we had it. Cutting, filing, shaping, sanding... Every evening and every day of the week Peter, Arjen and I worked on the stone for a bit. On thursday Peter oiled the stone and suddenly it got his whole beauty. The reddish wood with all the lines and even more special, I had the core of the tree in the middle of the stone. On the side I put the old icecrew and the wood was suddenly a story. It almost shone energy, 1000 year old vibrances of energy.

Meanwhile Dennis was on his way from Germany with two friends/colleagues; Vitus and Jan.
The deal: you dress up as Zwarte Piet and you get free food, beer and a place to sleep over the weekend.
They accepted the deal.
Was hastily got them into their costume and just minutes after we all nicely sat in the living room they nocked hard on the door and jumped in with the presents. Dennis' dad started singing "Sinterklaasje kom maar binnen met je knecht..." and all others joined in.
It was hilarious, such a surprise and everyone had so much fun!

Jan and Vitus

On Saturday morning all was ready for drytooling.
Volunteers showed up and the who circus started running.
My parents did the subscriptions, Arjen and Peter the finances and Rutger did an amazing job with all the registrations.
Outside there were fires, tents, flags and Peter had sausages for sale.
Inside there was free pea soup for all competitors.

The first routes are being climbed

Maya having fun

Dennis climbing Elwin's route

Weird people

The idea was to hang under the tree...

Ape-factor XXL

From 10am to 3pm everyone was free to climb. Flash, all routes had to be climbed flash to get the points. With so many competitors (97 in total, too bad not all subscribed and filled in their scores so on the end results it doesn't show) we had to have that rule. If you fall you're out and that hight is your final score. Though there were 19 routes, so enough for everyone.
Some did make some tactical mistakes, like staying too long in the easier routes or going too fast in the harder routes and slipping off the first holds...
Jelle had some really bad luck, twisting a hold twice (=technical incident) and so 'waisting' energy he didn't have enough time in the end to reach the high score needed for the finals. I think he could have done really well in the finals too.

The atmosphere was positive, friendly and open with only one minor accident. A climber forgot to tighten his helmet and dropped his helmet half way in the route.
Much better then last year where I unfortunately had to disqualify a climber.
It was all so positive this time, so satisfying!
People liked the routes, the sun shone, the music was good, no-one stole ice axes, the soup was warm and time was flying! Before I knew it, it was time to start the finals.

Rutger and my parents were counting the results rapidly. Tim and I hung in the wall to adjust the lighting and the holds.
It was getting colder and darker but still quite a bunch of people stayed to watch the finals.

The six men and women were inside, warming up and getting nervous. Whilst outside the first woman started her climb. Noel Diepens.
She was actually not in the finals but as number 6 didn't show up she was added to the finals.
When she passed the wood-log I got a little worried. She climbed well, very well. What if all the other girls would do the same, then the finals would be too easy...
Kind of 'luckily' she didn't make it to the merge of the men's finals. But for a new-be to drytooling, this was a really impressive climb!
The next climber was Jojanneke. The crew of 'IGOKO' a new online climbing shop. She's tall and really could use her length. Unfortunately she didn't get as high as her support-team was hoping for.
Aniek was next. It wasn't her first time in the finals and a couple weeks ago she won the Sportsclimbing Junior Nationals. Not very tall but very strong she got further and further up the wall. The women had 12 minutes to climb. Maybe too much time as it got a little boring to watch the lack of speed. When Aniek got the "one minute" warning she speeded up and slipped off exactly when she timed out. Reaching a new high point.

Aniek in the finals (photo Jan Hoffmann)

Marin was next to climb. She had an advantage, but her advantage became a disadvantage. The small holds from Edelrid is what she'd been training on lately. But she thought when they were turned in a certain way you could only use them as stein-pull.  She lost so much energy on this and fell off early then I expected.
Maya to climb next. She's the daughter of former ice climbing team member and this year's routesetter Elwin. Reaching the finals and qualified second proves she's got the talent too.
Unfortunately she lost her iceaxe in the middle of her climb and thus had to stop climbing...
Finally Anna had to climb. Anna is doing really well in Scotland on the comps and this is her training for the world cup season. I was expecting her to win, but I was curious with how much difference to the other competitors she'd have.
Getting higher in the route she didn't seem as pumped as the others and just made the move where Aniek slipped off. In the chain (the end of the men's finals) she fiddled with her axes and lost one!
Losing an axe means 'out' and her time was almost out too. Still good enough for a first place :)

Anna in the finals (photo Jan Hoffmann)

The men's finals was a different story, also for me.
It took me three tries to climb the route in once within the time, so I knew it was possible but not easy at all! Long moves, technical moves, tricky holds and little time: I'd set the time first on 7 minutes but decided to change the time to 8 minutes when I did the final briefing to the competitors.

Maxime, Tom, Harry, Laurens, Fedor and Dennis qualified for the finals.
Maxime from Belgium was first to climb. We met Maxime last Spring on the Kahiltna Glacier in Alaska where they also climbed the Moonflower Buttress. Great to see him here again in a totally different scenery and performing well again. I expected an clear result: battle between Harry and Dennis, Fedor just below, maybe something good by Laurens and then 'the others'.
Though, that didn't really go as I thought. Maxime got so high in the route! Again I got nervous...what would the others do now...?
Tom to climb. You could see he was not as experienced as Maxime with the axes yet but still managed to use creativity to get high. It was his goal to reach the finals and he did it!
Harry to climb. He got higher, higher, but the moves sometimes seemed a little long for him. The time was running and when going passed the chain at the top of the wall he timed out... Still a few climbers to go...!

Power move by Harry Holmes (photo: Jan Hoffmann)

Laurens' turn. He's tall. And that helps when drytooling. And it was not his first time he reached the finals. One axe still at the top of the chain and one axe in the wood he timed out, so close to the top!

Laurens running against the time (photo: Jan Hoffmann)

Fedor's turn to climb. Ex-iceclimbing-team-member and still very much into the stuff with ice axes. I know what he climbs...he should do well.
Though in the middle of the route he slipped! All axes off the wall he suddenly was flying in the darkness...
Just one more to go. Dennis.
Of course I wanted him to win but the vertical wall the unknown small technical holds and my routesetting style are not really his strong points.
Could he do it?
I was nervous!
Just a few moves up the wall he placed his aggressive Krugonogi Giraffe pick as semi-steinpull in the hold. None of the climbers had used the hold that way. Jelle, who was sitting next to me said he didn't understand why Dennis was using the hold so strangely. The crowd was silent. Suddenly the hold broke! I expected it. Why would you use it in this way?
Technical incident and thus second attempt...
I replaced the hold and Dennis had to climb again.
He moved steady up the wall and clearly had more speed then the other climbers. With just over 2 minutes left he got at the start of the chain. Most climbers timed-out at this point where Dennis had enough time to top the route. The move from the log to the next Edelrid hold was long. Inspired by the DTS of the previous weekend I knew this moves were possible. Dennis tried and just didn't grab the hold, tried again. Again. The crowd was screaming. And I was so hoping he could do it!

Dennis running for the first place (photo Jan Hoffmann)

He passed the 'one-minute-warning' and tried again. I knew the move was long. Come on, put your feet in the chain, grab the axe on the top and go for it! Once again he just missed the hold and fully timed-out!
Ohh! I so wished he would have topped the route! Luckily still enough for a first place :)

Final results can be found here:
More pictures soon on the DDE Facbook site here:

Tired but happy we went home.

But the weekend wasn't over yet.
Sunday morning we stood at the gym again. For the first time we'd have kids drytooling!
A group of young kids from 8 to 19 years old came to learn the new climbing.
We had the worst weather possible: rain and wind and almost freezing.
Still all dressed up well and we climbed outside for the whole day.
So impressive to see the group climb the same routes as the adults did the day before! And swinging the tools was amazing to watch.

Dennis to young climber Letho: "Oh, you better don't use those tools, it's kind of hard to swing them into the wood". The young eight year old tells him "nee hoor", walks to the wood and shows a perfect swing getting my Grivel Froce axes perfectly into the wood.
We really had fun!
Hopefully we can do this more often and establish a youth team within the next 2 years.

That evening Dennis, Vitus, Jan and I drove back to Isny. And today it's office life again. I'm happy I ran this morning (in the snow).

The NKBV just wrote a very nice report with pictures on their website:

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The DTS at Usine

The train takes long. Forever long. The only entertainment left was my mobile phone after I finished all the work on my laptop. My e-book had an empty battery and I couldn't fit knitting needles in my two stuffed bags. 
On Facebook the 'should-the-Dutch-Climbing-Federation-tell-climbers-how-to-use-a-Figure-of-Eight-"belay-device"-discussion' got pretty spicy. Good entertainment for me. I mostly don't comment when I see totally senseless reactions, but this time I couldn't resist. Online it's still going on 2 days later now. I don't care anymore. I had different things on my mind.

Facebook...oh, Facebook...

Gaetan picked me up from the trainstation in Grenoble. His livingroom was now my bedroom.
On Saturday he and some friends organised the 'Dry Tool Style' in Usine, a massive drytool area in Voreppe (next to Grenoble). It was the final of a series of friendly competitions in French drytool areas. All in real rock, totally different from most other competitions that are often held on artificial walls.

The marking below the cave

The sun, the cliffs. What more you you need in life :)

On Friday I helped out preparing the cliff. I belayed Pierre, did gardening and enjoyed the sunny day and good view. So much better then my regular office job.

Gaetan doing some advanced gardening

Usine is a huge cave. The rock on the sides is so compact that is pretty much feature-less. The back of the cave is loose and couldn't even be bolted. Everywhere you see blobs of moss and water dripping down. In the past it had been mined for roof tiles. Before someone lived in the cave, a guy called Bibi. Locals therefor call the cave after Bibi instead of Usine. (Usine means factory, named after the noisy concrete factory underneath the cave)

The factory below the cave

Ze Jezus

A painting in the left side of the cave reminds of Bibi, in rusty brown a Jezus-like figure with a bottle and a big bird decorates the cliff. You need a bit of imagination to spot the big painting though. Once a year he sold home-made spirits (or something) to the villagers, maybe that explains the bottle in his hand.

Pierre drilling and climbing at the same time

The cave has had a lot of different functions. The Swastika cross they hacked away. 
In the winter of 2008-2009 Gaëtan and Etienne (if I'm correct) re-discovered the cave. It was immediately clear the cave couldn't be used for Sportsclimbing. The bolts that were there already were of an old aid route. Gaetan and friends invited their super strong climbing friends (9a climbers) to discover any possibilities for Sportsclimbing, but even they found the cave not fitting Sportsclimbing. 
Route after route got drilled and bolted. Drilled, as there were literary no features at all. And the pockets needed to be deep to maintain them. Impressive routes like the D14 called Bichette are now part of the Drytool Style in Usine.
And now in Summer time other people use the cave. Non-climbers.

Gaetan at his Usine office

That evening Gaetan even cooked a full meal for me, his brother and friends. Soup, pasta and fruit as dessert. I felt welcome and also privileged.

Saturday. Climbing day. 
We all woke up early and it was still dark when we got at the cliff. It was already busy and people already started climbing. Although this was my second day at the cliff I was still impressed by it's size. Now with all the people in the routes it was even more amazing. All these people are drytooling! I'd never seen such a big group of people drytooling on real rock. 
There was music, crêpes with Nutella, vin chaud, tea, and DTS t-shirts for sale. People with big camera lenses were hanging in the static ropes around the roof of the cave. 
I chatted with different people until they told me it was time to start climbing. I'd have a lot to do. They were right. It was going to be a tough day. 

Even the best sometimes almost fall ;)

Gaetan and Jeff showing off

I started with some easier routes on the right side of the cave and after a while I found myself in one of the harder routes. A D10, and I flashed it!

Steph in Infinity, D10
Young climber in orange (wannabe Dutch?)

Surprised with my own strength I went on to the next route. L'Usine, a D11. I heard all the routes in Usine are rather stiff graded, an Usine D11, would be a D12 or even D12+ at other places. But hey, in the end a grade is just another super relative number. 

Slightly nervous I started in the route. My belayer was the local Pack. I spotted him in Infinity, D10, doing a one-armer to clip the next quickdraw. That guy is strong. He'd climbed the route before and gave me all the beta. Telling me I shouldn't do any figure of fours as I wouldn't need them. I wasn't so sure yet and besides, women were allowed to do 'yarinos' as they're called in French. 
I was happy to reach the top and surprised at the same time: I didn't feel that hard! Happy to have flashed the hardest route in the qualifications I went on to do the other ones. Within just a few hours I got third place in the ranking. But not for long. Others that didn't manage to flash the routes still had enough time to project them and still get the points.

Results in process

I kept on climbing with my new friend Pack and continued flashing the routes. 
At the end I had one route left to climb and still more then enough time to climb it. I decided to leave it, save some skin on my hands and some power in my arms. Although, I still had enough power at the end. I just felt really good and energetic. 
Looking back I wonder...if I would have done it...
I was already so satisfied and so happy with what I'd climbed I just didn't care about results. Surprising, me not being competitive.

Preparations for the finals in the dark

Stephanie was competitive and wanted to get it all. She climbed them all. The other girl, Coralie, new in the national French team only managed to climb a few routes. She was new to it all. 
I was set for the finals and qualified 6th in the overall ranking. The organisation decided to split the men and women and suddenly we had 11 people in the finals. Steph, the new girl and me were in the women's finals. 
Though, finals weren't about winning so the prices were handed out before the finals actually started. A good idea! 
I got nervous when it was my turn to climb. Already stressed after Steph almost decided to quit. The new French girl was using the super long iceaxes. And why was she in the finals anyway Steph wondered. If she would have known there was a seperate women's finals she would not have climbed as much to reach the finals. I could see her point. This was her show, her place and suddenly some new girl took it and she even used the super long axes! Also, if Coralie would get te first place, it would be the thing people see. Only the first place counts. And that is true, even if it's a friendly competition the winner gets all. And all that will be remembered afterwards online... I remember very well how I found it to become second in Buxton a month ago...

To Steph it was an unfair game. She didn't have her day. Her mind played tricks with her in the routes, suddenly having to project the routes that I flashed was certainly not what she'd expected beforehand. She's a good climber though, very experienced and her competitive and determined style brought her where she is today. A female mountain guide in France, a climber who's winning competitions and last week she even managed to flash the D12 Castor et Pollux. An impressive ascent.

I didn't care too much about the long axes. They fit in the UIAA box, it's strange no company had searched the iceaxe limit so far and personally I never had the feeling I really needed them. I just think you admit your weakness when you climb with super long axes. I often ask the men that use the long axes if they're trying to compensate their small dick. Not sure what I could ask a women...maybe something like 'so you like big things hay?' 
This was not a competition about who has the longest/biggest. It was about personal achievements, fun and friends. It turned out she did have an advantage though. Being taller then both of us, with the extra long axes she managed to reach some holds. Not with style, not with power, but she made it. For her it was a good practice for the worldcup season, it was okay.

Coralie on her way to the first place

My turn to climb. Jeff belayed me. Earlier the super strong Jeff and Gaëtan showed the route so it was a flash comp but the locals in the finals had climbed bits of the route before.
The first moves were long but I could make them. "Whooo", "sexy" and "lekker lekker" (Dutch for nice or tasty) they screamed to me from the audience. I found it funny. Suddenly one move looked long. Figure of four? I tried, hung around for a bit and tried again. When pulling in the Figure of four on my right axe I suddenly slipped! I was out! Wow! I totally didn't expect to come off. The boys blamed the figure of four. I just didn't knew. I felt bummed! But it was okay, I was happy with my results anyway.
Just a bit later it was Steph to climb. She also did a figure of four on that same hold and slipped off as well! Wow! Again! I was so surprised! The new girl had beaten us both!

Six Pack Power in the finals ;)

It was Pack's turn to climb. He was nervous I noticed. Funny, totally unnecessary as he climbs so well. The men in the DTS series are not allowed to do figure of fours so he pulled his was through with a lot of dynamic power. 
He stalled at a long move in the higher bit of the route. That move was so long! He almost fully dyno-ed and missed! Out! I was really hoping he'd top out the route!

Pack falling off...

When all had climbed I wanted to get a second go. I found I should be able to make the move. Jeff was willing to belay again. No figure of fours. At the move I swung and grabbed it! "I told you, no figure of four" they screamed to me from the ground. They were right. I moved on and on and passed the point where the French girl fell. Again a long move. Sideways. I got the hold, my arms totally stretched to the maximum span. I found a little foothold but Gaëtan screamed 'no feet'. I wasn't so sure about that advice. Got my axe loose and fell! The axe still up in the hold. Again, he was right, no feet would have been better! It took a while before I could get the axe back. It fell to the ground, not the best one was wearing helmets and it dropped just 2 metres away from the audience (sorry for that...)
We cleaned up the crag, hauled all down and went to the 'MacDo'. Pack invited me for a party in Grenoble but after we'd dropped off the final stuff in Crolles it was just too late for me. Time to sleep. 
The train right now, Sunday, is not as comfortable as I hoped for. The mother of 2 sitting next to me isn't the best. A crying baby and an horrible kid. For hours and hours they keep on being irritating. The father goes around the train all the time, aggressively taking money from the girls wallet and leaving again. Hopefully I can get some sleep tonight. Dream of powerful drytooling routes. I love that style. DTS spirit it is.

My home for the rest of this week

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Had ik maar...

De achteraffers

Had ik dat achteraf niet moeten zeggen?
Had ik dat achteraf niet moeten doen?
Zo leven wij - de achteraffers.
Had ik dat moeten verzwijgen - toen?

Had ik de wasman een fooi moeten geven?
Had ik dat achteraf nou maar gedaan!
Had ik met Adriaan moeten gaan leven
of zou dat misschien ook niet goed zijn gegaan?

Had ik die jas niet liever moet kopen?
Had ik maar NIET naar Marie moeten gaan?
Had ik maar beter gewoon kunnen lopen
in plaats van zolang op lijn negen te staan?

Had ik die trap liever niet moeten boenen
en had ik niet uit moeten gaan zonder vest
en had ik me niet moeten laten zoenen 
door die vervelende kerel uit West?

Wij achteraffers, wat zijn we toch moeilijk
en - achteraf - voor ons zelf nog het meest.
Had men ons niet beter op kunnen hangen?
Was dat achteraf niet het beste geweest?

'Dankzij jou en jullie jubileumboek ben ik nu ingelijfd bij de literatuur, althans dat zegt men algemeen. Ik voel me de bejaarde hoer die plotseling op visite mag bij de streng calvinistische familie. Ze zijn vriendelijk.' 

Dit aardige, korte en prachtig-venijnige briefje schreef Annie M. G. Schmidt aan uitgever Geert van Oorschot kort na de verschijning in 1985 van de bundel Gedichten, waaraan zij meewerkte. Hij bevatte een keuze uit eigen werk van zes dichteressen die de uitgever de moeite waard vond. De andere vijf waren Elisabeth Eybers, Fritzi Harmsen van Beek, Judith Herzberg, Hanny Michaelis en M. Vasalis. 

Vandaag kreeg ik dit gedicht, wat wel heel toepasselijk is op mij. 
Dit denk ik elke dag, elke week en maakt me kritisch over alles wat ik doe. 

Maar vandaag kreeg ik meer nieuws. 

Een paar maanden terug besloot ik niet mee te gaan met "mijn" team naar India.
Het voelde niet goed, niet veilig, niet sterk. Ik was ergens bang voor, ergens zat het niet goed. Succesvol zou het niet worden. 
Tenminste, dat gevoel had ik.
Vanaf m'n besluit dacht ik bijna elke dag "had ik maar".

Vandaag kreeg ik bericht. Slecht weer, en zo veel dingen die niet liepen zoals ze hadden kunnen of moeten lopen. 
Het eigenlijke doel was daarom niet gehaald. 

Voor een dagje is de "had ik maar" eventjes verdwenen. 
Soms zijn beslissingen heel moeilijk, maar soms, als je je gevoel volgt, komt het goed. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Weak week > strong

Friday - travel

"No, your car is too big for a normal parking place so you'll have to pay €4,50 instead of €3,00 per day".
Our car is actually smaller and shorter then a modern T5, station or other larger car. It only looks bigger because of the campervan-box on the back.
We refused to pay and drove off again, she told us with a mean voice; "you're not going to find anything cheaper".
We didn't care, she was just being a bitch to us so we didn't want to spent 10x4,50 at her parking-place-business.
The other parking was more expensive even, but the ticket machine was not being a bitch to us so we accepted it.

Later on the day we survived yet another flight with the Yellow airline from Ireland. We were facing the next challenge: driving a car on the 'wrong' side of the road. Actually. I was doing fine, as an extra drive would cost us ten GBP extra per day. So Dennis was the driver.
Roundabouts the wrong way around, traffic jam, until we were hungry and ended up in a road side restaurant.
A big round building provided place for the big fast-food chains. The yellow M, the King, the Taco and Burrito places and also a chain that was called ChopstiX. We suddenly understood why so many British children are obese.
I decided to go for the Asian food. At the end at the counter I wanted to have a pair of chopsticks. As it would fit the food I thought. The only thing they had were plastic forks. Right...ChopstiX... Dennis chose a cardboard pizza from the D.

We arrived in New Mills. It wasn't too hard to find Ruth and Andy's place as Andy managed to be on Google Streetview.

The house of Ruth and Andy

Ruth offered us tea (with milk) and went on with her knitting. She has a small brand called 'Scruffy Dog'. Making hats and other had knitted things.
You can order any color and style combination you like. Pretty fun!

Saturday - Thunderdome

When you say Thunderdome I think of the hardcore electronic music scene in the 90's. Drugs, skinheads, Australian, Nike Air...that kind of stuff.

The Thunderdome music logo

In Buxton they have a different idea. The Devonshire dome had become the scene for a unique drytool event.
When I walked in I suddenly remembered; I learned about this building in art-history. It felt like standing in a picture, the picture from my art-history book.

The new Thunderdome
We thought it would be a good idea to support the event by joining the 'competition'.
Andy and James fabricated a row of square blocks and hung them in the roof of the more then 150 year old dome. Inspired by the show event in Sochi last Winter during the Olympics they'd tired to make a similar structure.
Great thing of the location is that it's not a climbing gym. Suddenly dry tooling was placed out of it's original environment and people who'd never climbed before could get in touch with dry tooling.
I might 'steal' the idea and use it somewhere in the Netherlands next year.

If you like bouldering raise your hand
Andy explained the rules and the practice round was on.
I was nervous. Competition nervous, like I can be but hadn't experienced for a while.
So I wanted to go first, get it over with.
The 3D structure turned to be quite a bit harder then I expected and for my feeling it took forever. When I was pumped I asked Dennis to take in the slack and lower me. I got just half way the blocks...

The other climbers turned to be not much faster and it took a while before a climber reached my high point. Most sat in the rope a couple times.

In the afternoon finally everyone had their go. Most impressive go was from the two British para climbers. John Churcher managed to get around the first block! The other para-climber Dave Bowes had not much experience with dry tooling yet but did surprisingly good. He reached the 4th place! I mean 4th place overall, between the other male climbers. Wow!

Dave Bowes, Picture: Anna Wells
After our second 'qualification' run (5 minutes time to climb) I was drawn as second to climb. Dennis had to climb as frist.

Dennis decided to climb fast. Long moves and the further he got the harder it was to clip the draws. The slings were maybe a little too short. For every clip you had to make a long move upwards.
At the top blocks Dennis got his axe stuck between the block, foam and the hold. Pumped, trying to pull the axe out he was losing time rapidly. Just a couple more moves before he timed out. Just before the end!

Dennis at the start of his qualifier
Just over half way
I decided to go slow but steady as I didn't expect anyone to get near anyway. It would be a waste to fall off before the time would run out (8 minutes).
The judges blew the horn, I took a couple breaths, looked at the route, looked up and started my climb. (Later on I understood I wasted my time by looking around at the start, as the time was already running before I stepped in the route...)
In the qualifiers quite some people ripped out of the foam so I decided to swing hard.
Too hard. Every time it took ages to get the axes out of the foam.
Just before the log I asked for the time. The echo made it impossible to understand anything of what was been said below me. I shaked my arms, to wait for the answer, looked up again, shaker again, and again. The guy above me put up three fingers, so I guessed he meant three minutes.
So slowly I moved to the log and took my axe out to make the move out towards the next hold. Suddenly the rope came tight. Time out. Huh? Really? I wasn't even pumped!
Ah well...

Me in the finals
Slightly disappointed I watched the other climbers.
Suddenly I saw Anna (Wells) still climbing on and even reaching the log! Ow F* I didn't expect that to happen. She tried to reach for the hold, for the foam, didn't manage to swing into the foam. Tried again and...time out.
Wow! That was impressive. She just climbed really well and beat me.
Stupid me!

Katy had a bad luck day. The girl from the British ice climbing team fell off in the first bit of the route.

Katy Forrester
Other male competitor was Tim Emmett.
I admire him for his climbing at Hemken falls. The humongous overhanging ice/mixed lines that he'd put up there are really inspiring. I'd LOVE to go there and climb some for these lines too.
Because I admire him I was a little shy talking too him first. Funny... :)
Anyway, he did really well. Being totally pumped at the top of the blocks we thought he'd fall off way before. But he managed to swing his tool in the last bit of foam (and couldn't get it out anymore).
With just one tool left he managed to clip the last draw and finish the route.

Tim Emmett

Sunday - Masson Lees I

Still really tired from the climbing on Saturday we went to Masson Lees, a cave in an old quarry not far from the town Matlock.

The view down to Matlock
It's Andy's home cave.
The area is mainly bolted sports climbing except from the far left corner in the dark. There Andy and other climbers have put up some dry tooling lines. Mostly with drilled pockets as the rock is very unstable and would wear out when you'd only use natural holds. Sportclimbing? Here? No, it's wet, loose and sandy. So perfect for dry tooling.

At 2/3 of the route
Andy called his route "something like M11".
Up to the first chain it's an M10. Not too hard once you know where to find the holds, although the overhang gets met pretty tired every time. But that is just one third of the route.
After having climbed the roof you mantle up to a rest. And then it goes on again with a couple of huge moves. Length is definitely an advantage here. I can just reach the next hold and can just retrieve my other axe out of the stein pull. Nothing for my feet, just this one hold for one axe.

A good belay from Andy will help you through the start of the route

Long long move
In a figure of four I read for the next hold, a small hold that you can only hold sideways, crunching your fingers between the rock and the axe. Then a sandy, crumbly lip, and hopefully find a small rest. Then from yet another (natural) stein pull you get into the roof traverse. No footholds, just handholds.
Super utterly tiring, I was biting my teeth into the iceaxe when crossing figure-of-four-to-figure-of-nine.
My hands burned, the skin was on fire and dark red blisters were starting to from under the calluses.
I got close but couldn't do it that day.

At the final traverse, not even half way the traverse yet...
Monday - Gritstone

We desperately needed a restday. Rest from the climbing and traveling.
It was raining so we couldn't do much other climbing. It didn't matter too much. We needed the rest.
Still at Andy's place we enjoyed a breakfast, tea, coffee, more tea and headed out to watch Andy and James teaching the first years of the University of Buxton (Derby) their outdoor climbing skills.
Not a bad job I think to teach at an University. Especially when you teach climbing in the outdoors!
Andy complained about how little people actually show interest in the courses. The students pay quite a bit to follow the lessons but a lot of them never show up.
I wish I followed such a program instead of what I'd studied. It would fit me so much better I think.


Later on the day we drove to the gritstone cliffs of Stanage.
Beautiful scenery, the sheep, the autumn colours, the fog.
Even in the rain the stone still felt really 'grippy'. I was thinking of the route Gaia and could suddenly imagine how you can find enough grip on the holds in that route. Still not easy though.

Tuesday - Masson Lees II

We said goodbye to Andy and Ruth and their great hospitality.

We needed a second try at the route. We were pretty sure it's not an M11. Having done quite some other (harder) routes in different areas around the world I was guessing this route is much harder. How much harder? No idea. I'm not that good in the grading-game. Also I prefer to give it a 'stiff' grading.
It reminds me of Raph Slawinsky. He told me "if you can keep a straight face when grading the route and all others also keep a straight face, you know the grade is right." Not sure if Raph is the right person for grading is own routes ;) I mean, who dares to discuss the grading with him?

I got a go and failed in the start. Completely confused. I was so nervous!
Because I was pretty close on sending it two days ago I really wanted to climb it. Even more to prove that I can climb, that I can do more then making mistakes in competitions.
The pressure I was putting on myself didn't help. It never helps.
Dennis went on, climbed, climbed further and struggled his way through the last moves. Wow!
His sent even put more pressure on me. I had to do it. Now. Not next week, no now.
I climbed. On, passed the crux moves in the middle. Found a good enough rest in the stein pull before the traverse. Moved on and got my rope stuck on the buckle of the harness legloop. The rope somehow really got stuck. Hanging in a figure of four, figure of nine I couldn't retrieve my axe, the rope still tangled in the loop. I panicked and could hardly get it off, turning in a couple figure of fours again. It drained my power and energy. After just two more moves I was biting almost through the axe in my mouth. I needed to go on! But I found myself not being able to hold on any longer. I had to...Another move...Another hold...come on, one more.... I couldn't, my mind was joining in the game and I just could hold on any longer. I had to put my foot on my axe to clip I have no idea why I put my foot there, I didn't want to fall off. Foot on

Just passed the start of the M10

I cried coming down from the route. I failed again!
The feeling inside me was crushing any bit of motivation and positive thought. I'm not good enough. I can't do it...

We decided to stay the night and give it one more go the next morning.
I wasn't sure if that would work, being tired of the warmup, three attempts today, and a rainy night in the little tent would't really help...


We went for dinner, so we didn't have to stay in the rain and ended up in a restaurant that served fish and chips.
Dennis doesn't like fish and chose the chicken instead. The fish and chips was an utter failure. The mashed peas tasted burned, the vinegar was out of date, the sauce tasted like it had been in the fridge for weeks already and as dessert the coffee was even worse. Probably the most horrible coffee I ever drank in a restaurant. It was the kind of coffee you dissolve in water. Way too little coffee in luke-warm water. Dennis couldn't finish it. I took one gulp to finish it.
But aye, at least it was warm and dry in the restaurant.

Wednesday - The final attempt and The Works

The voice in my head told me this was not really the right thing. But I should at least try the other voice said. Okay.
First try. F*. Just passed the first M10 section I got confused. Fail.
Even more pressure.
We decided to pack the tent and come back for a last try.
I was warmed up, feeling allright. But this attempt did not go very well either. Just passed the second draw in the roof I failed again. Too pumped, too sore, too tired.

I felt guilty to Andy. He showed us this amazing route and I couldn't even finish it!

Imagine, Andy pours a very old, 20y+ whisky. Super rare, pure with a unique smell and taste.
You're grateful for sharing the gold and smell it a couple times before taking a very small sip.
But then you end the evening, go to bed and leave to almost untouched glass there in the living room.
The next day the whisky tastes different, by far not as pure.
Next time the route will be different... not as pure.
Sorry Andy, for not drinking the full glass.
At least Dennis drank the whole glass.

The view from the Works dry tooling area

We drove up to the Lake District.
The closer we got the smaller the roads until we could see the famous lakes. The small cottages, windy roads, hedges, rocky and hilly grasslands were beautiful.
We missed the turn to Hodge Close, turned back and weren't sure if this was actually the right road still.
At the end of the road we found the parking Andy explained us. And we found the path to the cave.


No comment

At the start of the cave we found a laminated paper, telling us about some kind of drytooling-research. Strange.
We heard the inside story about the bolts and were reminded of all the strange ethics again.

The cave was big. And the routes even bigger.
We walked all the way to the back of the cave and found Andy's huge project. The route seemed to be going on forever! It would get you beyond pumped.

Huge cave!

We came for the other route, the one that starts in the middle of the cave, also a route by Andy. It's called 'Guardian of the Underworld'. Quite a fitting name for such a cave and such a route.

Half way in the Guardian

Just before the top in the Guardian

After one attempt we decided to look for the other cave that hosts Greg's 'Power Dab'. That cave was a little hard to find. We decided it would be cool to give it an insight attempt as all the holds were visible from below.
The thing is called Power Dab as you might touch the ground when you fall. Nothing different to our home cave, actually, we didn't find it that bad. It looked safer then some routes in Starzlachklamm.

When climbing back in the big cave we got lost on the way of the Guardian. For the first go it was hard to find the right holds and placements. And before we knew it the light turned to full pitch black darkness.
The headlamp was still working, but the gentle light outside had turned into full rain and darkness.
It was late and we should give it a rest.
Dennis decided to give it one more go, but got lost again somewhere passed the foot-rest. Almost though...almost...

Climbing by night...

Thursday - Early Work

We woke up far before the light decided to wake up.
With your headlamp on we walked to the cave. Tired and not really ready but still wanted to at least give it a try.
Dennis went for it and got stuck at the big move. The whole route seemed fine until this move.
The move is huge, even for Dennis with his long arms.
No onsight...
My turn, ay well...I tried, but that just really, really long...When I finally had it I couldn't get my other axe out of the hold again.

It looks light but its actually just the camera trying to adjust the background...

We tried again but ran out of time. We had to be in the car to catch the ferry to the Isle of Wight later that day. (On the far other side of the UK)

Dennis was invited for the White Cliffs event. Ten ice climbing athletes from all over the world were invited to take part in the event organized by Red Bull.

That evening we met the whole crew and climbers. It started good, you had to drink a whole beer in once to get to know your starting number.

Friday - Practice work I

Hello there huge cliff

The ten were invited to try the first of two routes that Scott and his team established on the big wall.
Not just a route. 100 meters of climbing!
The chalk cliff was longer then they all thought. Without any proper holds it took everyone almost an hour to get up. Swing, swing, swing again, then all would break out and you'd have to swing your axe in again and again.
It was a long day and luckily I also got a half try.
I got lowered to halfway and climbed my way up, trying to make te holds as big as possible for the dudes.
I unfortunately couldn't get a go yet on the second route.

Dennis on his way up

Saturday - Practice work II

I guess Gordon was too afraid having to climb two routes. He asked if they could just do one finals and only on the second, overhanging route.
No-one seemed to see the problem but didn't care too much either. So route 2 became the big finale.

The group was split in two and Dennis was invited to a boat trip in the morning.
With a 8-10 person rib we went onto the wild sea.
The waves were big and reminded me of the days that I was still into windsurfing. I felt the energy again, jumping over these big waves.
I should get into that again when I live in the Netherlands again. My brother sent me a picture of what he'd been up to this week. Same waves, other side of the lake.

Li, la, boat :)

The waves, wind and tides actually caused quite some trouble for the team. The original idea was to get the climbers onto the beach by boat and then have them start from the bottom.
Just before the event started the sea decided it had a different plan. They'd never seen the sea this high and the wide beach turned into a small strip of sand with the waves touching the cliffs.
All the equipment that had been placed on the beach was impossible to reach (or had disappeared into the sea already).

Today the team was going to train on the overhanging route. They could make more speed and the holds looked better.
The routes was more them 100 meters long and so overhanging that it had to be protected with warthogs.

Scott being fully in control

On the top of the cliff Sandy hand his team were in charge of the safety.
They used industrial techniques and a double rope system to lower and belay the climbers.
On toprope. Yes.

The riggers doing hard work

It is impossible to hold a safe competition on lead on single ropes on this cliff.
The rock is not just chalk but has layers of flint (fire stone) every 20cm. This stone is so sharp you easily cut a rope. For the same reason it is impossible to climb this rock with just your hands.
Some people who weren't there complained that it's just toprope ("toprope is lame") but as always "de beste stuurlui staan aan wal". The best skipper stands on the shore, we say in Dutch.


It might be possible to lead the wall, but not as competition. I don't want to die.

The chalk climbing is actually quite old and has an interesting history.
Most well know is maybe the movie 'The great white fright' where Ian Parnell and Chris Cubitt climb a big cliff close to Dover. But far before this climbing movie people were already climbing the cliffs (with ice axes). The first crampons were not just tested on ice but also on these cliffs!

Other argument I heard was that it damages the cliffs.
Yes it does.
Does that actually matter?
The cliffs naturally wear out too and often even faster naturally then when ten ice climbers swing their tools. There are no rare plants, historical objects, dinosaurs you're taking off.
Why not try to climb it?
If you don't like this you better stop using your car, never use plastic, stop eating meat and don't flush your toilet anymore. That all has significantly more impact then ten ice climbers on a cliff.

Cream tea when viewing the cliff with binoculars

Sunday - Finals

So were where we. Yes, per-finals day.

All climbers were invited to join the finals. The numbers drawn during the beer drinking game were the starting numbers.

Will Mayo was to climb first and set the bar high. Just over 21 minutes it took him to climb the route.
Second to climb was Alexey Tomilov. He crushed the time and set a new high with 16 minutes. Wow!
Yeves Heuberger from Swiss wasn't feeling too well and got cute nervous. Unfortunately he fell in the middle of the wall, officially disqualified now he still managed to set a reasonable time with 31 minutes.
Dennis turn. Still pumped from all the climbing we did this week he thought it would be smart to start slow and see how it would go.
He was lowered and I listened in the radio. 1, 2, 3, touchdown! He stood on the beach. No one around him and the only way out was up.
He started slow, as he said. The second rope hung in a big loop below him. He talked into his radio but the belayers didn't seem to understand him in the fierce wind.
After quite some meters they fixed the rope and both ropes were pulled up evenly.
Dennis still climbed slow sometimes matching on his axes. Matching is a tricky move as then there's no back up axe to stop you from falling when a hold would brake.

Finally he got up. Tired, pumped, very pumped with 26 minutes of climbing.

Pumped and tired

For long he could hold his third place until Calum and Jeff went passed him setting new and fast times (23 and 19 minutes).

Eventually he had to take enough with a 6th place. Not bad though :)

Price giving

That evening it was time to party. With Jeff as barman, Will drinking whisky (#whereswillmayo) and a show off on pull-ups, one armers (Kurt Albert style) and forever planking it was a thing to remember. But hey; what happens at the Red Bull party...stays at the Red Bull party ;)

Monday - Travel

Time to go home again, sit inside the office. Dream about climbing and hopefully train some.
At least we know what we have to do: train harder!

Once again I really want to thank the team of Red Bull UK (Jamie, Becky) the chalk-pro Scott Muir, the safety team of Sandy Allen and all the other contributors (National Trust, Isle of Wight, Albion Hotel, the restaurants...)

Other reports:

Dennis van Hoek
Andy Turner on MyOutdoors
Anna Wells on My Outdoors
Jeff Mercier
Calum Muskett

And video:

Red Bull White Isle Of Wight by Riders-Match