20 things I’m longing to do in 2008 (Part One)

Tagged by Brenda, so…

I shall start at 1 and see how far I get – so in no particular order:

1. Convert my Flickr Screensaver to WPF.

I thought I’d start off with this as this is a mostly code related blog. I’ve written some small prototypes and it looks like it could be quite good. I’ll also try and write a couple of blog posts about the process/what I learnt.

2. Take more photos.

I had a slow end to the year photo-wise, but I got a new wide angle lens for Christmas which it would be rude not to use, plus strange people keep giving me rolls of film, so they need experimenting with.

3. Lose weight and strengthen ‘core’.

I’ve been hovering at around the 13stone mark for quite a while now. I want to get down to 12.5-ish, all in an aid to…

4. Improve my climbing.

Climbing is now definitely my main none-work related focus at the moment, and my main inspiration for getting the weight down. We have three trips abroad planned for this year, all climbing trips (Fontainebleau in France is the first one). Its a strange game, climbing – while there is a certain joy in ‘just climbing’ there is also a large part of you that always wants to be a little bit better.

Working on your ‘core stability’ (which is more than just your abs, but your back and other areas too) is very good for climbing. Good exercises include doing crunches on a swiss ball, planks (or benches as they are sometimes called) and super man exercises.

5. Visit more places in the north-east.

This one should go nicely with the No 2. Places I want to go this year include Dunstanburgh Castle and Cragside, but there are plenty of other places out there (like the Farne Islans for example).

6. Visit more places in the UK.

This one will go nicely with the climbing one as well. So far I’ve only really ever climbed a little in the Peak District, quite a bit in the Lake District, and lots in Northumberland. Possible places to go include definitely North Wales, other bits of Yorkshire, and ideally (though less likely) somewhere on the south coast, like Cornwall (there is an area called ‘Chair Ladder’ which has some amazing climbing on it).

7. Spell better

Get it into my head that the middle vowel of ‘definitely’ is an ‘i’, not an ‘e’ or an ‘a’. Whenever my hands spell that damn word I always get it wrong. Oh, and win more games of Scrabulous in the process.

8. Improve as a husband…

Hey, no-one said I’m perfect, so there’s always room for improvement. Luckily I have a wife who loves me (and who likes climbing too).

9. Think of something else to put on this list to make 10.

Because 9 just seems to few :)

Firefox users more likely to rock climb!

rock-climbing.pngExclusive: Mozilla Secretly Launches A Viral Campaign For Firefox

Techcrunch is reporting on an interesting video released by Mozilla about Firefox. Apparently Firefox users are 139% more likely to be rock climbers.

Well I’m a rock climber and I use Firefox. Mmm, must be true as its on the internet!

View the video direct on YouTube.

Also, in a similar vein, Firefox users are apparently 13% more likely to have purchased Classic Rock in the last 3 months.

Black Crag, Langdale

We had a made drive over from Cockermouth (managed it in 1:15, not bad going) via a many winding road and then up the Wrynoss Pass. Parked at the top but forgot to look for the Three Shire Stones.

A short walk-in (easiest of the week) leads straight to Long Scar. However we had been there for not long when up turns a group of 20 school kids from Redcar. It was mildly funny at times (especially the one who spent about 20 minutes telling everyone she was stuck, couldn’t make it, wanted to come down etc. SHe made it in the end though).

We managed to squeeze in two routes before they got started, Platt Gang Groove (Diff) and Sam’s Saunter (VDiff) (had to really with a name like that). They where both very enjoyable, and apparently some people think they are graded to low (i.e. they should be VDiff and Severe respectively) but I couldn’t see it myself.

Next I just had to do Katie’s Dilemma (Severe) as my sister is called Katie. This was a lovely route, the best of the day and a joy to behold. It got a couple of stars too if I remember correctly.

After this we abandoned the noisy kids to their fun and headed over the top to Black Crag. We did a very nice VDiff on the right of the needle called Skye Ridge. Then things went downhill for the last route of the day when we decided to do The Needle (VDiff). It was a nightmare. Tricky start with little protection and lots of ackward balancing before finally getting up into a horrible chimney (behind the needle) where you have to stradle between the back of the needle and the wall and slowly edge yourself upwards. I found the start of the chimney quite hard, feeling fairly squashed, but Caroline hated the top, where her shorter legs meant the increased distance between the needle and the wall was much trickier.

All in all a lovely crag, and I think there is still more we didn’t get round to doing (Glass Slipper buttress has some good routes on apparently, and there was a Mod on Long Scar that got tons of stars and would make an ideal easy lead for Caroline.)

Summerhills, Hartlepool

We made a quick trip to Summerhills to check out their bouldering park. It is a manufactured bouldering park in much the same vain as Whickham Thorns in Dunston, Gateshead but with some very big differences.

Firstly it is much larger – with the bouldering spread over about 6 (I think) boulders of varying sizes. Also there is a perceptual thing where the boulders are sunken down a bit and are slightly higher than the surrounding grass, giving you the feeling your not quite as high as you really are (which actually helps!).

The first boulder is the biggest and has some fun problems on, Managed a couple on the west side (the one with all the 2 foot holes on) and another round the right of that (a easy roof pullover problem). There are plenty of good holds and the smearing feel firm. It was perhaps a little too hot for any good slopers as after a few seconds my hands would start to slip.

So all in all a very enjoyable experience, and only 10 minutes from my parents house so I suspect I shall be back again.


Brimham Rocks, Yorkshire

Finally a days proper climbing outside, with photos!

One of Brimham Rock's rocks

We went to Brimham Rocks, in yorkshire. An early 8:45 start, followed by an 1 1/2 drive got us there about 10:30. We picked up Ian, our friendly ‘mentor’ who has kindly taken us under his wing.

The place itself is amazing, some really bizarre rock formations (see above photo).

We started the day off on Cubic Rock, we seconded Great Slab and then I lead Heather Wall in the middle. My first Severe lead.

Moving on over to Lover’s Leap we seconded Birch Tree Wall, a lovely VS 4c.

Birch Tree Wall

Then we went and did some silly slabby VDiff thing (Lichen Slab) while Ian did Enigma.

Caroline attacks the climb

Ian - Our Mentor

We then tried to do Gnome Arete, and failed miserably. The start was the hardest part, some damn small crimps and some very delicate feet smear/balance work required.

Finally, and perhaps best of the day was leading Fag Slab (S) and then seconding Fab Slab Variant (VS). I’ve got my eye on Fag End for next time as well. (Fag Slab is the central corner in this photo while Fag Slab Variant can be seen on the right.)

Overall, simply the best!


Went to Scugdale on sunday. The weather was meant to be lovely and sunny (at least according to the mid-week forcast) but it turned out to be misty and windy, and a little bit cold.

Did a bit of bouldering to start with, some easy Diff problems on the east end (Beginners Wall Area) and then met up with Ian, a VERY nice guy we met at Sunderland Wall who is being very kind by showing us the ropes (pun intended) a bit more to help us gain in confidence.

He apologised for the weather (it wasn’t his fault!) and then helped set up a top rope and Caroline and I both did Pet’s Corner (VS 4b) and Wailing Wall (VS 4c) – very impressed with ourselves we where.

In general though I think it needs a rematch – the rock was very dirty (due to lots of snow in previous weeks) and sandy, and still quite damp (it wasn’t a warm wind!).

Took my camera but completely forgot to take any photos. Annoyed.

Wainstones, North Yorkshire Moors

Just has (5/9/04) an absolutely brilliant day up at Wainstones. The weather was very sunny, with little or no breeze, but this didn’t really bother us until mid afternoon when water supplies where running down and the rock was hot to the touch.

Managed to lead some lovely routes, including Wall and Ledge (Diff ***) and Jackdaw Ridge (VD *). The lovely crack at the bottom of wall and ledge very nearly ate our first piece of gear – took about 10 minutes to get a number 13 stopper a foot back up the crack and out. There was also The Slab Climb (S) which I think we actually did the VDiff variant as there is absolutely no gear until you’re about 1m from the top, which makes it certainly feel severe. So that was also practically my first VDiff solo as well then :D – go me!

There look to be some lovely HVDs, one on the right of the Sphinx (East Sphinx Climb I think its called), and one around the left hand side on the next buttress (Groove and Crack) which I intend to try next time we go, and hopefully give the slab climb another go at its proper S grade.

We also had our first experience of ‘group toproping’. Some of the other people who joined us for the day where groups out for some toproping. I couldn’t quite tell if this was a friend taking friends out for the day or if this was part of some paided experience – but if those guys got paid to do it then thats what I call easy money! They sure can take a while on a single route though, and unfortunately for us it was the Wall and Ledge climb that looked really nice and I was dying to try. We got on eventually though but ended up doing some dire stuff around the back for a while. Cantilever – which I’m not sure we did right – how are you meant to do the chockstone ‘direct’ – I ended up going under and then up the back left hand side; and Falcon Rib, a seemingly random Diff climb which had a reasonable start though.

I cannot finish this post without mentioning the flying ants. Damn they were annoying – I spent some lovely time belaying while sitting in the middle of an entire swarm, nearly drove myself mad – this was also the moment a nut decided to get stuck so Caroline’s ascent took even longer. Ended up setting up a top rope stance after the next lead just so I could belay from the bottom – took an age to get it right, extending everything so the double opposed screwgates (aren’t I good!) reached over the edge of the crag but it was fun to do (yes I’m sad, I enjoy all the rope stuff).

Point of interest: Wainstones possibly named after the Saxon verb “Wanian”, meaning to lament or grieve as its the place where a Danish Chieftain is said to have been slain.

Great Wanney, Northumberland

Bank holiday monday saw us eager to get out climinbing again, and after drawing straws to see if we head south into the Cleveland hills or head north into Northumberland we set off north, hoping the weather would be nice.

We headed off for Great Wanney with our photocopied version of the guidebook. Found the place fine, although the guidebooks description of “turn left at the phonebox” when in fact there is a huge hotel at the crossroads, with a small phonebox hiding under its eaves was bizarre.

Sandstone is funny rock. And whoever graded this stuff deserves shooting, well I suppose the guidebook does warn you – “its Very Difficult and Severes that have caused Very Severe leaders problems” should have let us in on the game.

We had a good day though, even if it was a bit windy (ok, very windy – from up top you couldn’t hear jack). I Managed the first half of Foxes Hole before bailing out and doing the scramble to the right of the proper finish, and then ended up abseiling for the gear as Caroline couldn’t quite get over the lip. On the plus side I remembered all the details about abseiling and that was actually good fun. After lunch we decided to do some Moderates instead, doing Broken Blocks Staircase and then Lichen Chimney before calling it a day as the weather wasn’t looking the best.

All in all it was a good experience – will travel south next time to see how the grades compare down there!

Brown Slabs Again…

For our first trip climbing outdoors on our own we decided to go back to Brown Slabs at Shepherds Crag in the Lake District. We also decided to go back on August bank holiday weekend! Would this turn out to be a huge mistake, or would we survive!

We got to the Lakes by about 7.30pm, thinking we had made good time. First we tried the two Castlerigg campsites but they both reported full (although last time we were there one was saying it was full but wasn’t really – just not taking any more people because the ground was getting too chewed up). Then we headed a bit further down Derwentwater and tried to find the Ashness farm campsite – and then we found it – closed for the 2004 season! Onwards and upwards we went…

So finally, our fourth campsite of the evening was Rosthwaite campsite. We fully expected this to be packed as well but it turned out to be virtually empty. Strange! (but it didn’t last, by Saturday night it was packed). So we settled down for the night, hoping for nice weather for the saturday.

Saturday came and the weather looked ok so off we set bright and early. And yet again we managed to beat the rush. First to the car park and first to the crag by 9.30am.

9.31am and it started to rain…

Typical. Luckily we stuck it out, sat around under the trees and discussed belay stances and anchor technics for nearly an hour as the rain came and went. Then finally about 10:30 it finally cleared up and we decided to just go for it! And glad we did, because aside from a bit of wind and a few more spots of rain in the afternoon we had a lovely day. As for what routes we did I have no idea. We started in the middle and tried to do Brown Slabs Arete but chickened out and went right instead of left, ending up doing something more like Brown Slabs Face. Then we tried to do the normal Brown Slabs route as a single pitch, but ended up under the fissure, rather than on it (or the alternative out to the left) which made it a lot harder. Then finally we tried something up the left (Brown Slabs Direct I believe) which was brilliant although my stance was a little high and didn’t leave Caroline far to lead on the second pitch.

So our first day out on our own and we remembered everything – this climbing outdoors stuff really is fun!

The following day it rained – lots – so we came home.