• The Joker and Snatch

    Last weekend was a trip that I had been waiting for, for a long time - a trip to the peak district! I don’t often go up to climb on the Peak gritstone as it’s a long trip from Bristol and my parents don’t climb. Luckily my aunt lives in Hope, in the heart of the Peak District, so me and my family went to stay with her for a weekend.

    We drove up on Friday and the weather was looking really unpredictable, but luckily there was a weather window on Friday afternoon so I and my Dad headed up to Stanage. My main aim of the weekend was to climb The Joker (font 8a) at Stanage, a famous and historic one-move-wonder put up by Jerry Moffatt and featuring in the film Hard Grit. Fellow southerners Cailean Harker, Ben West and Hamish Potokar have all climbed the Joker this winter and I was keen to join the Bristol send train.

    Stanage that day was completely empty, bone dry and VERY windy. After a suitable warm up and a few laps on The Green Traverse, I started trying The Joker. I decided to use the campus method. My first few attempts were rubbish, only getting half the distance from the crimps to the top, but every go I got closer and closer. Whilst resting after 10 mins of trying I turned around to see a huge black unappealing rain cloud over the other side of the valley. Feeling rushed I jumped back on, pulled, and got my hand in the finish jug, so surprised I let go!

    I knew I didn’t have much time so I gave the boulder a quick brush and the next go I did it. Yes! Very pleased to send it 15mins. Followed by a quick pack up, run back to the car park and of course a rain storm.

    The next day we headed back to Stanage, the crag was very busy and weather was better, rock all dry once again. This time I was hoping to get on Snatch, another one-move-wonder 8a but a more recent addition to the crag, being climbed by Paul Bennett only a few years ago. It involves once again dynoing from two crimps too a good hold on the top of the boulder, but this felt slightly more powerful. I had previously tried it 11 months ago, after last year’s CWIF and remember getting close.

    Today I was once again getting close, but decided to change beta and put a right foot on instead of a left foot and use a different crimp for the right hand, jumping to the finish hold with my left hand (not out of bounds for this problem).

    In order to do the move you really have to pull on and just explode upwards. After 30mins I had done it, involving a very cool cut loose on the finishing hold. Happy.

    Then I topped it off with a very fun ascent of Not To Be Taken Away, a highball 6c and one of the best boulder problems of its grade in Britain.

    All in all a good two sessions climbing in the Peak and very keen to return!

    Thanks to my aunt for looking after me and my family and thanks to my Dad for spotting me in the cold wind!

    Thanks for reading and big thanks to sponsors La Sportiva, Lyon Outdoor, Tip Juice, Padstar Climbing Holds and The Climbing Academy.

    James Squire (Beastly Squirrel)

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  • Too much plastic!

    So the last month or so has been pretty busy. Unfortunately not on rock, it’s rained almost every weekend since the start of the year but I have been competing in a number of amazing comps and I did manage to finish off one project. Where to begin...

    TCA Redpoint comp:

    At the start of January was the 3rd round of The Climbing Academy’s boulder comp league. Each round has a different comp style or a twist which made things interesting. This round was ‘redpoint’ style meaning you have 3 hours to climb 20 boulder problems with as many attempts as you like, without it mattering how many goes you have. I had just recovered from an illness a day before and was feeling a little rough on the day but never the less continued to compete and would just see how it goes.

    After a long warm up I didn’t feel too bad and soon started ticking off the blocs, with a super small edge traverse being climbed I was feeling good as this was one of the hardest qualifying problems. After 2 hours of climbing I had ticked all but 2 problems, putting myself in joint first with Hamish Potokar for the youth male, and bagged myself a place in the adult final. The other male finalists were Pete Dawson, Phil Rose and Hamish.

    So the final was soon under way with 3 mins per problem per person in front of a big crowd and disco lights. The problems this time round felt hard! The first bloc was involved a gaston lock off move low down and a slopey top out, all of us fell low down apart from Hamish who topped the problem.

    The second problem involved toe hooking out of the roof and a pinchey powerful finish with all of us dropping the upper moves.

    The third problem was mega steep on wooden holds going straight up the middle of the wall. This being the hardest it also saw no tops with us all falling off the middle move into an undercut.

    Never the less it was another fun final with Hamish taking the win, Phil Rose 2nd, I was in 3rd and Pete 4th.

    Thanks to the TCA for hosting the comp and well done to Hamish for winning.

    Blokfest:

    Once again another round of Blokfest, one of my favourite comps with loads of volumes, cool setting and cool music - as per usual!

    This round was at the Depot in Nottingham, which meant a long drive from Bristol, with the TCA youth squad, but was worth journey. On arriving the younger members of the TCA squad were competing in the morning and all adults (including me) competing in the afternoon. After a bit of lunch and beta reading our 25 blocs, we got warmed up and the comp began.

    The qualifiers contained harder problems this round in my opinion but still of great quality. I quickly fired through the blocs with 22 flashed in about an hour and a half. This left the 3 hardest blocs remaining. One was a dyno, one was a steep prow and the other was a powerful roof. By this point I had realised that I probably wasn’t going to make the final, but never the less continued and kept the hope!

    I started on the prow and the dyno, falling off the top sections of each. I thought the prow would go quickest so put my main focus on that, but I got a bit tired so moved on to the dyno after about 30 mins of working. The dyno I had fallen off the last move off over 6 times and the slopey volumes at the top were getting greasy after a lot of people had been trying it. So I decided to have one last attempt… and to my surprise I stuck the last move. Boom!

    So I then moved back over to the prow and after a few minutes rest I topped that block as well. Almost dropped the finishing moves though so felt lucky to get this one.

    My final qualifying bloc was a steep roof with a massive doughnut shaped volume in the middle and a techniqual vertical finish. John Partridge and I were both trying this bloc and both getting close, John even fell off the last move, and I had just found some confident beta. However we were both tired. As we were both about to have attempts from the start, Mike Langley and Gaz came over and explained that John and I both had the same score, and we were both in joint 5th – meaning if we both stopped, we would both have just made it into the final. So we made an agreement, both stopped and both of us had made it through to the final. Some form of god must have been with me that day.

    The finals soon began after an hour or so’s wait in isolation (including a quick power nap) and the observation period of the 3 problems that everyone would get 3 minutes on. I was the first of the 6 finalists out!

    The first problem looked mega. A big sideways dyno followed by a crimpy looking finish. I fell off the dyno about 5 times but I finally stuck the move and held a big swing. Then I matched the high crimp where you had a sketchy move out to a pocket, I went to reach once but then retreated, then went again and stuck the move. Foot on and slapped the finish! First Blokfest final top, very happy.

    The second bloc was the hardest final bloc in my opinion, involving a double upside-down leg hug and a slopey finish. I managed to get past the leg hug but fell moving off a small crimp to the slopers.

    The third bloc was a powerful pull out of the roof involving a big move to a hold on top of a triangle volume, however on my last go I got a double toe hook instead of a toe clamp under the roof and fell, but should have been topped. Although it was inspiring to watch Hamish top the bloc afterwards.

    Overall I had finished 6th (again!) but was still psyched as it was one of the best comps I had ever done.

    The male final positions were:

    1st Dave Barrans

    2nd Nathan Phillips

    3rd Matt Cousins

    4th Hamish Potokar

    5th John Partridge

    6th James Squire

    Thanks to everyone from the Blokfest crew for an amazing event and I am looking forward to the last round at The Castle in London.

    Under Cover Rock Schools Comp:

    Another more local competition I competed in recently was the annual Bristol schools climbing completion. Held at the original Bristol climbing wall of The Undercover Rock (or the big church as most people know it as). All the major private schools from around Bristol turn up to compete, with 4 events to compete in – bouldering, speed, top rope and circuits but you can only compete it two. As well as the open lead event.

    It was a great afternoon of climbing where I won the bouldering and won the open lead route which weighed in at about F7b so it wasn’t too bad. Great effort to the rest of the Bristol Grammar School team, where we won the senior category – the only category we entered!

    New climbing development – at a secret cave:

    Weather has been utterly dire this month but I managed to get out on the only nice weekend we had at the start of January and climb a secret project called ‘Tears of the Angles’ at about 7c+/8a which adds a cool extension to an existing 7c. The access is currently 50/50 with some people saying its ok but others not. Anyway I am currently speaking to Natural England and soon to have a meeting - so things are looking promising, so will hopefully bring news and info out later this year!

    Since the access is getting better here is the ONLY photo I will release until access becomes fully public.

    New stuff:

    Big thanks to Lyon Outdoor for sending me a new pair of La Sportiva Futuras at the start of the year. By a mile my favourite shoes, use them for climbing on any angle or style of wall! Can’t wait to get on more projects and compete in more comps in these.

    Thanks for reading and I would like to say an even bigger thanks to all my sponsors La Sportiva, Lyon Outdoor, Tip Juice and Padstar for their support.

    James Squire (Beastly Squirrel)

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  • 2013 Round Up!

    2013 has been an amazing year, deffinatly the best year so far! From bouldering in the Peak District and North Wales to seaking out local first ascents and climbing abroad in Fontainebleau and Sardinia, as well as many super fun comps like BlokFest and the British Bouldering Championships.

    Heres a selection of the best places and problems I have climbed this year, enjoy!

    Big thanks to my sponsors La Sportiva, Lyon Outdoor, Tip Juice and Base Cubic.

    Happy new year!

    James Squire (Beastly Squirrel)

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  • Reading Blokfest + more!

    I always look forward to Blokfest, not sure if it’s the great setting or the volumes or the atmosphere but it’s always good fun. The next round (round 3) was in Reading and not being injured I felt good for the comp. After a 1.5 hour drive over with The Climbing Academy Youth Squad, we arrived for the 25 qualifier blocs.

    All of which were amazing, quite a few easy blocs but also one or two hard problems thrown in for the adult male, one of which involving an upside down heel jam, a sketchy mantel slab and a mono!

    Luckily I climbed well enough to qualify joint 2nd for the adult final despite a foot slip on an easy problem, with fellow Bristolean Hamish Potokar qualifying first.

    After an hour or so of resting, we were in isolation for the final, there were 6 of us and we all had 3 minutes per problem on 3 problems in front of a big crowd! No one topped any of the male final problems but all of us got close of certain problems.

    The first problem was a techniqual yet powerful problem on small volumes and crimps, involving some cool moves; I got close to the bonus hold but didn’t do it.

    The second problem was by far my favourite problem, a wild double dyno to two gaston volumes and a crazy swing! I think everyone got very close to this, I dropped the last move!

    The third problem was the hardest in my opinion, with some slippery footholds and large slaps between big slopey volumes. A few others got close but I didn’t even get the bonus hold. Overall I ended up finishing 6th which I was happy with, the final was good fun. The adult male results are below:

    1st Phil Rose

    2nd Matt Cousins

    3rd John Partridge

    4th Hamish Potokar

    5th Nathan Phillips

    6th James Squire (me)

    Also good effort to Molly Thompson-Smith for winning the adult female category.

    Thanks to Gaz Parry and all the Blokfest crew for an amazing event, and I look forward to the next round!

    On another note I won a local Bristol completion at the newly built Redpoint Climbing Centre – although they’ve only got a small bouldering area it made up with some good problems and a friendly atmosphere.

    Coming up to Christmas holidays soon so will hopefully get outdoors more and finish off some projects, that’s if I can find a break from all these comps!

    Thanks for reading and watch this space for more comps and outdoor action.

    All photos by the legend that is Sam Mitchel!

    James Squire (Beastly Squirrel)

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  • Don't Lat Go

    The last month hasn’t been too productive in terms of bouldering outside due to comps, rain and injuries. Lots of injuries. Including my ‘lats’, elbows and chest! Lovely. The injuries weren’t fun the completions defiantly were!

    First point of call was Blokfest, a great series of bouldering competitions around the country which I hope to compete in most of this season. The first round was at Mile End in London, an old school wall but recently rejuvenated for modern training and competitions. After a busy drive over we soon got started on the 25 qualifier problems. As expected the setting and competition was super fun with some great problems and big volumes but I made a few mistakes here and there and narrowly missed out on the final, but all in all a good day had.

    Another more successful competition I competed in this month was Bristol’s Undercover Rock annual climbing festival, always a busy and fun event – for route climbing and bouldering. With the La Sportiva/Lyon Outdoor shoe demo, as well as the event supporting Climbers Against Cancer. Also there was the first ever bouldering final! Luckily I did sound enough in the bouldering qualifiers to scrape into the final with Ellis Butler Barker and Cailean Harker. The final was the classic world cup format of 3mins per problem on 3 problems with a big crowd. All 3 problems were spicy and cleverly set with slabs, sideways dynos and a massive volume press! Ended up finishing 3rd which I was happy with and won £50! Congrats to Ellis in 2nd and Cailean in 1st.

    Last weekend I competed in another local comp, this time at The Climbing Academy in Bristol. It was the first round of the winter bouldering comps consisting of 4 rounds, each round having a different style - this round being classic format. The 20 qualifier blocs were VERY spicy and droppable seeing many people making stupid slips; I almost fell off a desperate mantel and had a mini heart attack. Despite this I was feeling strong (and a bit lucky!) and managed to flash 19/20 blocks and climb the last bloc 3rd go, meaning I was in the final.

    The finals were once again world cup style with funky problems in front of a big crowd. I didn’t get far on the first problem, the second problem I got close to sticking the crux and on the 3rd I got to the same place as Phil Rose but couldn't finish it off. Resulting in coming 3rd. Well done to Max Ayton for 2nd, and Phil Rose for winning his first comp final! Also special mention to Alisha Garside, still in the youth managed to win the adult final!

    Weather has finally been getting better recently and my injuries have finally gone, meaning I’m looking forward to this winter and a few projects around Bristol and South Wales to get too, including The Carpenters Apprentice V12 which I’m getting close too. Watch this space!

    Thanks for reading and thanks to my sponsors La Sportiva, Lyon Outdoor, Tip Juice and Base Cubic!

    James Squire (Beastly Squirrel)

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