Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Barcelona waves

So the move to Catalunya comes ever closer (beginning of May now) and we are just starting to get plans in order. There is a lot to do and think about - how do we get out there (fly/drive/ferry), how much/what stuff to take, bank accounts, accomodation etc.

The only one thing that has been worrying me about Barca is that, for all the amazing climbing nearby, the quality mountain biking just outside the city, and the fact that the ski-lifts of the Pyrrannees are only a 3 hour drive away, the fact is that the Med is not exactly famous for it's waves. In fact, for 8 months of the year it is pretty much as flat as a mill-pond. I had heard rumours that the winter months bring some small swell every now and again, but months of web-searching only found a couple of low-res pics, and a lot of hearsay.

Yesterday though, while searching for an example to show Mr Rhys, I happened to stumble upon www.funkysurfing.com, a photo-diary dedicated to "the waves of Barcelona and Tarrogona". Check the waves of two weeks ago, at Barceloneta (the city's main beach). Needless to say, my mouth hit the floor, and perusal of the rest of the season's waves revealed at least some sort of consistency. From the pics I'm guessing that the winter waves of the Med are about the same size and consistency as summer waves in Wales (i.e. usually a foot or two of wind-chop, with the occasional bigger and/or cleaner day). I guess I'll only be able to see how consistent it really is when I live out there, but one thing's for sure - if waves like the one below come along even once every couple of months, I'll definitely need my board!

Monday, March 26, 2007


Two weeks ago I was sport climbing down at Portland with Macca and Hugh Merrick and, bearing in mind the difference between trad and sport, worked the moves on a 7a+ called Victims of Fashion. 7a+ is a bit of a funny grade for me, technically I've onsighted at this level in the past, but that was in Spain and everybody knows that Spanish grades are soft(!); the highest I've managed over in the UK is a redpoint of a 7a at Blacknor (also in Portland - Medusa Falls for those that know it). So anyway I worked Victims of Fashion two weeks ago and got completely knackered, I couldn't even link it on a top-rope let alone think about trying to redpoint it, so I put it in the bag for another day. That day arrived on Sunday, and I was pretty keen. I'd been doing a bit of finger strength work in the last fortnight and I was hoping that it would make the difference.

The key in this sort of situation is to remember that you're trying to redpoint a sport route. So after warming up on a couple of other routes (including an onsight of Out of Reach, Out of Mind) I didn't jump on my project and try and climb it one push straight away, I spent half an hour hanging around on it (thanks Al!), resting at each bolt, not using too much energy, working the moves over and over until I was satisfied. Then I came and rested for 20 minutes, went through the entire sequence of the route in my head, and set off for the lead. The result: 7a+ ticked on first redpoint, and a big smile on Alun's face.

In fact, I had so much energy left in the bank that I redpointed a 7a (Trance Dance) an hour later! Chuffed!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Trad vs Sport

One of the threads on UKC has raised a very important point with regards to the difference between 'traditional' and 'sport' climbing (non-climbers: see note*). As sport climbing is so rare in Britain, many climbers here don't understand its attraction, as it is simply not as adventurous (no real risk, relying less on your own initiative, usually not even reaching the top of a given crag).

But of course they are different games, something that was summed up nicely by UKC poster abarro81:
I think a lot of people in the uk, particularly those who dont enjoy pushing themselves technically so much, just arent used to climbing sport so they do it in the same way they go trad climbing.

They'll go out and do a bunch of stuff below their limit and maybe top rope something their mate lead which is a bit harder. I can see how they find this lame - I find easy sport climbing boring tbh. i think those who like sport climbing generally like that you can onsight at your absolute limit and work stuff that at first seems absurdly hard.

A lot of people i know who dont like sport so much have just gone trad climbing with bolts rather than sport climbing in the above way. i think it takes a different approach than trad.
Which mirror my thoughts exactly. There's no doubt that the rush you get of getting to the top of a brilliantly exposed trad route is amazing - but succesfully reaching the lower-off chains on a really hard sport route, which you have been practicing and trying for days, is also a brilliant feeling. As Lito Tejada-Flores wrote years ago, there are lots of different games in climbing, and being able to appreciate the draws of the different games makes climbing the satisfactory and fulfilling hobby that it is.

* 'trad' climbing is when you ascend the rock placing your own equipment in natural features and fissures to save you in the event of a fall, which is removed with little damage to the rock by the person following you; whereas 'sport' climbing sees you relying for safety on bolts and hangers that have been drilled into the rock. Trad is more adventurous than sport, but the relative safety of sport climbing makes it easier to climb at a higher standard, as the only thing you risk hurting when you fall is your ego).

Monday, March 19, 2007


Well, we managed to get a victory at last. And let's face it, if you'd come up to me, or any other Welshman, before the tournament saying "you can only beat one team this year, which do you choose" then it's a bit of no-brainer.

But let's face it - England just did not show up on Saturday, and Wales didn't really play any different to the how they played in the rest of the tournament. This isn't actually such a damaging statement - we should have won against Ireland (people forgot that pretty quickly), drew against Italy, and while the Scottish game is one to forget, we didn't embarrass ourselves in Paris. Yet the reality is that we're still not clinical enough. On Saturday was that the our pack got the upper hand and turned the screw on the English from an early stage in the game, which meant quick ball and consistent movement over the gain line. That, coupled with Hook's excellent kicking game, meant that 75% of the game was played in England's half and to lose a game with that amount of territory is a almost impossible - but the scoreline didn't reflect the Welsh dominance. Let's be blunt about this, Wales should have been 30 points up at half-time, and should have won by 40, and only a lucky bounce, a moment of magic from Ellis and several moments of selfishness from Shane Williams prevented that. There is still a lot of work to do before the world cup.

As for England... only more questions, no answers...

Saturday, March 10, 2007

News flash: time warp discovered in Stadio Flamino, Rome!

Science boffs worldwide are in shock this afternoon, after a freak time-warp incident occurred at a popular sporting event.

Awarded a penalty in the dying seconds, and with the choice to draw the match by kicking for goal, or go for the win by going for a lineout in the corner, the Welsh rugby team were clearly told by the match official that there were 10 (ten) seconds remaining on the clock. The Welsh decided to go for the win, and so drilled the ball into the corner for the lineout.

Yet, amazingly, the mid-flight ball must have entered what scientists are terming a 'local anomaly in the space-time continuum', because despite leaving James Hook's boot at high velocity, the time it took to travel the 30 yards to the touchline must have been greater than 10 seconds, because the ref blew for full time immediately afterwards.

Controversially, some Welsh supporters have suggested that the referee made a mistake, thus robbing Wales of at least a draw, and maybe a win. However their calls were jeered by the mass of physicists all excitedly discussing the new era in physics

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Gower Bouldering Wiki

Over the spring of 2006 I was writing up my PhD, and during my better efforts to avoid it I went off bouldering around Gower. Finally, my labours have now come to fruit (it was a hard job etc. etc.) with the Gower bouldering wiki:


check it out...