Ireland Wicklow Mountains Cycle Tour

This weekend Amy and I thought we would do something different; we've always wanted to explore Ireland and recently I got inspired reading the book Raising the Bar by Gary Cliff the founder of Cliff energy bar company. In the book he likens his business ethos with his cycling tours of Europe, travelling light and always taking the smaller scenic roads that allow more adventurous exploration and allow you to experience more of the surrounding culture, people and local cuisine rather then taking the fast highway which may get you to your destination sooner, but at the price of increased danger from traffic and closes your eyes to the surrounding opportunities for discovery.

Stunning Glendalough lake

After a smooth early morning ferry from Holyhead and a breakfast mini Guinness we set off on our bikes from Dublin towards the Wicklow Mountains carrying only the bare minimum: small water bottle, puncture repair kit, flip-flops, light fleece and of course a few Cliff Bars!

Powering up with a Guinness breakfast on a sunny ferry crossing :-)

On the first day we rode from Dublin to Glendalough via the Old Military Road directly over the middle of the Wicklow Mountains. This was a fantastic scenic ride on quiet (once we left Dublin behind!) and generally good quality (smooth) roads. I used my Pebble watch running NavMe linked with Google Maps navigation on my Android phone set to give cycle directions which keeps us away from busy roads, this worked really well, we hardly ever had to stop to look at the map.

Pebble Watch Navigation in action crossing Wicklow Mountains

Made it to Sally Gap

Sally Gap the highest point on the Wicklow Mountains Old Military Road..not much here actually!

Traffic Congestion 

After a nice meal and an Irish whiskey in the Wicklow Heather and, the next morning we woke up in Glendalough Hostel to a stunning sunny blue-bird morning. Glendalough lake looked amazing and the valley looked like a fantastic place to boulder on nice looking gritstone-like rock.

Glendalough Lake

For the rest of the day we had a leisurely ride down to the Wicklow coast and went for a swim on a stunning little beach which we found with some local knowledge from our friend and outdoor instructor Konrad Doyle. We then carried on along the coast to Wicklow for a celebratory Guinness and Irish coffee (we are in Ireland after all!).

Beach Near Wicklow

Celebrating our arrival to Wicklow with more Guinness and an Irish Coffee :-)

On the third day after a night in a hostel in Wicklow and some home made Irish soda bread for breakfast we had an early start and rode the 60km back for Dublin in time for an afternoon ferry.

Over the the days we rode 170.7Km with 1654m ascent in 9.2hrs moving of actual time, this felt about the right amount of riding to do each day without it stopping being so much fun! I really enjoyed the experience of our mini bike tour. One day it would be great to repeat such an activity through the European alps.

I used website to help me plan our route. If anyone is interested here's the route we took each day:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Petzl Roc Trip: Day 1 Travel

Back in June I entered a photo competition on Lyon Equipments website, I submitted a photo I took a couple of years ago of a climber on the classic roof of Bourinator at Ceuse. I could not believe my luck when I heard back that my photo had won!

My Winning Photo:  Bourinator 8a at Ceuse

Lyon Equiptement are the UK importer and distributor for Petzl. The prize was a place on the Petzl Roc Trip in Antalya Turkey. I was super excited as this was somewhere I head head of but never been before. I'm keen to avoid flying and opted to make my own way out to the event using overland transport (train + ferries).  Luckily I managed to convince my friend Jon Leighton that this epic journey would be a good adventure and he agreed to join me.

I'm writing this blog on day 1 of the trip, I'm currently sat on a Virgin train (with free fast wifi) from Bangor to London Euston, here's our travel itinerary for the next few days. Ravelling overland as opposed to flying gives us the opportunity to stop off on route, we plan to spend a week climbing around Athens which looks amazing (the new Kalymnos?!) judging by this new guidebook to the area

Bangor to London (Train)

London to  Paris (Train)
Paris – Milan (Train)

Milan Centrale – Bari (Train)
Bari - Patras (overnight ferry)

Patras - Kiato (bus)
Kiato – Athens (climb for week around Athens)

Athens to Rhodes (ferry)
Rhodes to Marmaris (ferry)
Marmaris to Antalya (car)

Fingers crossed everything goes to plan...good job I really enjoy train travel! Plenty of time to catchup on blogging, reading and a bit of work.

Lyon Equipment gave me a new Petzl Sirocco helmet for the trip, which incredibly light, no excuses for not wearing it! I also took the opportunity to replace my old broken head torch with shiny new Petzl Tikka-RXP. I choose this one as I like the fact it's got a built in lithium battery pack which can charge over micro USB, no more fiddling about with AAA's, this is also better for the environment as it was all too easy to use non-rechargeable disposable alkaline batteries in my old head torch. Battery life should also be much better than my old torch (Petzl quote 10hrs), and when needed charging the torch will be easy using my phone charger or USB battery pack I always take with me on trips to keep my phone topped up. The torch came packaged in fully recyclable packaging made from potato starch...well done Petzl :-)

The Tikka-RXP has got a 'reactive lighting' feature which I thought would be a bit of a gimmick. But after experiencing it in action when I went for a run and night time swim last night I'm actually quite impressed. The torch automatically regulates the light output depending on where I was looking and the ambient light conditions. For example looking down at the ground or at my hand (simulating a map) the touch ramps down the output to preserve battery life and my eyes night vision. The torch reacted almost instantly as I turned my head, very cool.

Packing for the trip....shiny new toys

Lighthouse Crags, Diamond Lock'ins & Limestone Guidebook

With Indian Summer weather upon us in North Wales I've been trying to get out climbing as much as possible. Highlights have been:

Checking out Read Meat 7b and Three Day Event 7b+/c on the Great Orme Lighthouse crags which was super fun and rather adventurous sport climbing. With an adventurous approach and long pitches on 'interesting and varied' rock these routes although fully bolted actually feel a bit like a trad sea cliff adventure. If you're willing to handle a bit of bird poo and the odd loose hold these routes give some of the longest steep single pitches on the Orme. The top headwall of Three Day Event is particularly awesome and feels pretty wild. This pitch made it onto the front cover of the newly released North Wales Limestone Guidebook (see below). I accidentally did a new link up climbing Red Meat into Three Day Event after traversing too far left! I'm calling the link up Red Feat, it gives a nice 7b+. 

Jon negotiating steep 'grass' on approach to the lower Light House crags 

Jon onsighting Read Meat 7b

Jon on the awesome upper headwall of Three Day Event 7b+/c

I've also had a few good days on The Diamond, including a couple of tidal 'lock-in's'! I was pleased to climb Empire State 8a and Robinson Cruiser 8a first red point, both long and great. The top crux right at the top of Robinson Cruiser is particularly perplexing initially, then once figured out makes an amazing hard sequence. The crux of Empire State is quite low down involving a bouldery sequence into a wild lunge for a jug. 

Jon on Non-tidal Screamer 7c during a tidal lock-in Diamond Session

Jon on Non-tidal Screamer 7c during a tidal lock-in Diamond Session

The big news for North Wales Limestone this week has been the release of the new North Wales Limestone guidebook; it's well worth the wait. Pete Harrison and Andy Boorman have done an awesome job. The guidebook is a real ground roots labour of love production, all the contributors to the guidebook are active locally in developing the area, all proceeds from the guidebook will feed directly into the local bolt fund. Buy your copy from V12 Outdoor here. I've only had chance to have a quick flick through the book but I've seen enough to be very impressed. 

I was also happy to see that one of my photos made into the guide, it's a photo of Tommy wading out from The Diamond about to be hit by a big wave after we got the tides a bit wrong! 

Tommy 'wading' out from The Diamond..we even took the time to roll up our trousers! 

Little Orme: Shining on The Diamond and and Ocean of Emotion on Detritus Wall

August has been a busy month, lots of lovely people staying in my house meant lots of psyche for climbing!

 The Shining 8a - The Diamond

A week or two ago I climbed The Shining 8a 35m on The Diamond, this was one of the best hard long single pitches of sport climbing I've done in the UK. By fortunate circumstances (mainly thanks to Tommy!) I was privileged to be the first to re-climb the route in about 30 years after it was re-bolted at the end of last year. The wall on the right hand side of The Diamond is a very different style to the middle and left of the crag, the wall is gently and unrelentingly overhanging with a bewildering number of blocky and sometimes sloping holds. Even though the route is now well equipped with about 12 or 13 resin bolts is still feels spicy and very exposed. With a bit of Ceuse fitnesses still hanging on in my arms I managed the route first red-point, having to dig-deep fighting the pump on the top section!

I was inspired getting a belay from Emma Twyford after she came very close to sending The Brute, that girl is strong!

(No. 6) The Shining 8a, topo from:

The neighbour route on the same wall Wall of Evening Light 7b+ taking the line left of The Shining is also just as good and also feels very 'out-there'! Wait for the golden evening sun to hit the crag for the four star tick.

Ocean Of Emotion 7b+ - Detritus Wall 

Yesterday I continued my quest to explore some new areas on the Orme, with an adventure onto Detritus Wall on the Little Orme. Detritus Wall is a wall a little further along than The Diamond and approached from the other side via an amazing 150m roped traverse that was equipped by Pete Harrison in 2011. See post on DMM website for access and info on Pete's new route Alberta Rose which also looks ace.

The roped traverse is an amazing achievement that took Pete over a week of solid effort on his own hanging about on loose bird covered rock. If you ever meet him, buy him a beer! (And donate to the North Wales bolt fund). The in-suite line is starting to show it's age and is covered in bird poo, it will probably need replacing after another winter. The traverse allows 'easy' if very gripping access to the top of a route called Ocean of Emotion 7b+ 30m that I had heard was very good. It did not disappoint. Hard technical climbing on crimps and slopers leaves an atmospheric non-tidal bird poo ledge just above the sea, the rout weaves up the wall to a stunning steep headwall on pockets and cracks. Unfortunately the rock at the top of the route is not great but sold enough to get you to the belay! Best conditions on the wall are in the late afternoon evening when it comes into the sun.

Gripping 150m horizontal handrail approach

30m abb from end of the handrail down the line of Ocean of Emotion 7b+

Will sending Ocean of Emotion 7b+

Handing out on bird poo ledge enjoying some after-work evening sun

Dinorwic Unconquerable E3 6a

Now for something totally different, a pure slate splitter crack climb in the Lost World in the slate quarry's. Sometimes is good fun to mix things up. It was nice to put this route to rest after failing on it five years ago, it still gave a good fight! It was great fun exploring the slate quarry's on a nice sunny day. 

Autumn takes hold in Mordor 

Kyber Pass from Modor, note the un-climbed funkey slate tufa seam on the right wall, same it's always wet

Funkey slate art

Never know who you might meet in the quarys

Sophie showing us how it's done, that girl can jam! 

Carneddau Fell Run - Triathlon Tuesday

Occasionally I really enjoy an odd fell run. A couple of days ago I had what I think was the best fell run I've ever had. After a morning swim in Llyn Padarn, bike ride to work and a days work in the office I was feeling a little tired trying to motivate myself for the bike ride home when I got a message from Dave asking if I would be keen for a fell run starting from Bethesda in an hr. Looking out the window I could see it was going to be a stunning sunny evening, it would be rude to turn down the opportunity, the challenge was on; Triathlon Tuesday was about to happen! I set off on the 10Km 30min bike ride home home, grabbed my fell running kit and head over to Bethesday. After working hard keeping up with Dave we were rewarded by a stunning sunset and the best fell running descent I've ever had. This is fell-running at it's best, smooth grass underfoot and perfect descent gradient saw us cover 1Km in 4min!

Sweaty work on the ascent

Carneddau Pano

7:30pm Sunset from top of Moel Mynion