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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 10×4,50 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
The house of Ruth and Andy

Saturday – Thunderdome

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!

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
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
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 axe…fail…

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 move…is 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

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