Friday, 6 December 2013

The New Statesman

Firstly I'm really psyched to announce I've joined the Edelweiss UK team, they've been quietly making the best quality ropes for years and it will be great to be able to get out climbing on them.

Second, my ascent of the New Statesman at Ilkley last month has been made into a film by my housemate Kevin Fenemore who is the man behind Abstract Normality Media:

Jacob Cook climbing The New Statesman, E8 7A from Abstract Normality on Vimeo.

I haven't blogged about this ascent yet because I've been waiting for the video to be ready.

Jordan Buys kindly posted an interview with me about the New Statesman on his blog, rather than writing a lot about the route I thought it might be most interesting if I just posted that interview here:

Jordan: How old are you, where are you living?
I’m 25 and I’ve been living in Leeds for the last two years.

Can you give us a brief summary of your climbing life so far, highlights etc?
I started climbing aged 7 in London, but something happened 4 years ago whilst I was living in Oxford and I became extremely psyched, I haven’t looked back since. Over the past few years I’ve undergone a bit of an apprenticeship into hard adventurous trad in the UK. Going from having no idea what I was doing and all my gear falling out, to repeating a bunch of trad test pieces onsight or from the ground up. Routes like Lord of the Flies, Ghost Train, Masters Edge, Positron etc. My climbing highlight so far was probably doing the E8 Point Blank in Pembroke ground up over a couple of sessions, a process involving some 20m lobs!

Over the summer I took the next step into adventurous climbing by going big walling off the west coast of Greenland. To be honest in terms of big walling I feel remarkably similar to myself 4 years ago starting to trad climb. But I’m really keen to put the time in and learn the tricks of the trade; Yosemite here I come. More big wall first ascents in adventurous locations is the dream.

Can you describe The New Statesman in three words?
Spicy Arete Burger.

Did you find it easy, scary or full of bird poo?
I got completely shut down on my first session and thought I’d probably never do it. Amazingly on my second session I found some new beta and was able to top rope the route in a one-er, it seemed a shame not to go for it there and then! I was very scared, it was the first time I’d ever really headpointed a grit route (or any route!) so the whole process was a bit new to me

A trickle of bird poo actually served as a tickmark on the thank god jug near the top!

Why did you get on it in the first place?
It’s been on my mind that I had to try it ever since I moved to Leeds, such a good line and it’s only half an hour from my house! Also I’d been watching Neil Bentley on it in hard grit for the last 15 years.

How many times did you watch Neil Bentley on Hard Grit to get motivated?
Many, many times! It wasn’t until I actually tried the route for myself that I realised just how bad his sequence actually was!

Do you rate the new cafe at the crag?
3 quid for a coffee?! It’s a disgrace…

Did you wear your lucky underpants that day?
I wasn’t expecting to lead it that day because it was only my second session and I’d gotten spanked on my first. Luckily all of my underpants are tie-dyed anyway…

Have you any designs on other grit routes in Yorkshire?
Yes! All of them. Right now I’m pretty psyched about Ilkley, my mission is to climb all the routes there. I recently did Cindy Crawford, Desperate Dan and Guillotine. Next up are Snap Decision and Milky Way, I may even have a play on Loaded; who knows, maybe I can lank my way past the crux on that one too! Unfortunately this may mean I finally have to do Botterill’s Crack as well, grim.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Desperate Dan and Guillotine

We had a great day up at Ilkley last week, finally putting the Grove Gardens pad stash to good use.

After warming up on Bernie the Bolt, a great highball 7B+. I managed a ground up ascent of the precarious Desperate Dan, E6 6b, and a headpoint of the chillingly bold Guillotine, also E6 6b. Rather than waffling about the climbs I'll just put the video up, here it is!

Desperate Dan and Guillotine, two E6s at Ilkley from Jacob Cook on Vimeo.

I think I'm starting to feel in the zone on the grit now. Last weekend I managed a lifetime ambition by making a ground up ascent of Ullysses Bow at Stanage, pads or no it was still bloody scary :p. No video of that one though.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Cindy Crawford

After staying out until 4 in the morning the night before and having to eat my breakfast in the car on the way to the crag, I didn't have high hopes for my day at Ilkley. Josh and I had decided to have a go at Cindy Crawford. This John Dunne test piece blasts straight out the extremely steep valley face of the calf boulder and tops out at a dizzying 7 or 8 meters. The grade is around E7 or font 7C depending on which system you would prefer to use. Luckily we were able to stuff more pads into the back of Josh's two door Toyota Yaris than you might think!

It's a bit of a strange one because after Big John did it way back in 2000, it lay unrepeated for 13 years until Dave Sutcliffe ground upped it earlier this year. I have absolutely no idea why it's seen so little attention; it's a sweet line and well within the capabilities of quite a lot of climbers in the UK at the moment.

Out of nowhere I managed to flash the line, thus making the third ascent after John Dunne and Dave Sutcliffe.

It was one of those rare moments in climbing where everything falls into place and hard moves feel effortless. I wasn't concentrating on anything really, how high I was off the ground, how small the holds were, exactly what sequence I was going to use, success, failure... It all just faded into the background. Until everything flashed back to reality and I was cutting loose with my right hand holding a green sloper on the lip of the boulder. Deep breaths. Take it easy. Over the top. A perfect climbing experience.

I remember reading a Johnny Dawes quote somewhere about how you can climb every day for a year and only get a couple of moments like that. I think I'd agree with him.

Still feeling warm and psyched I decided to try and repeat it five minutes later, this time with the cameras out:

Cindy Crawford from Jacob Cook on Vimeo.

And some more photos...

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

The Knifeblade

Tom and Ian had spotted an incredible looking knife blade feature from the boat. It looked like it might go, following the line of an enormous corner system and then moving right near the top under some capping roofs.

Pete, Ian and myself were dropped off at the base at 4pm. The wall being North facing meant it got a total of about 3 hours of sun between the hours of 1am and 4am!

We scrambled up on the left and were able to gain a half height ledge system which took us back right and deposited us at the start of the corner. We began to climb through the night.

As the sun blinked onto the face at 1am I was leading an exposed pitch out on an arete, linking two crack systems via some airy face climbing.

A few hours later I was at the end of the crack system under the capping roof at the top of the corner. The rock around me had begun to sport deep white scars indicating fresh rockfall and ledges were filled with gravel and dust, it was not somewhere I wanted to be for long. I knew that all I had to do was traverse about 30m to the right and we would be out on the easier angled "Knife edge" and could run up this to the summit. I placed a runner as high as I could and set off.

 A balancy traverse 10m to the right gained a resting niche, but still no gear!

 A further 10m traverse without a single good runner put me in a bit of a ridiculous position. I was now facing an enormous pendulum back into the corner. But I didn't fancy attempting to reverse and I knew that if I wasn't able to reach the arete our attempt was over and we'd have to go down.

It was a truly wild place to be, one of those times where you learn how you really cope under pressure.

Looking up at the crux pitch; scary territory
Somehow I arrived at a belay and Ian and Pete figured out some elaborate ropework to allow them to follow the traverse without facing the prospect of the monster pendulum.

Sure enough we were able to scamper up the arete to the summit.

It felt great to be the first people ever to stand on top of such an inspiring feature and a fantastic way to end the trip. It was also cool because we could see for miles, all of our climbs from the trip were layed out before us. Ikeresak mountain in the foreground which Pete and I had climbed the week before, Uumannaq mountain in the distance where we had put up "Islands in the sky" and even, way off on the horizon, the entrance to the fjord containing the Horn.

The knifeblade actually connected to the mainland at the top via a thin bridge of land. We opted for what turned out to be a 7 hour hike off the back rather than abseil back the way we had come up.

We named our route "That Sinking Feeling", in honour of how proud we were to have gone the whole expedition without sinking the boat even once! It went at around E5 5c.

A Topo of the line.
On the way down we found some Antlers!

At the end of a 6 week trip, Peter was feeling pretty horny...

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Islands in the Sky

The North summit of Uumannaqq mountain in West Greenalnd is guarded by a 400m smooth pillar of vertical granite. As Tom, Pete and I ascended the steep scree gully to reach the pillar I was feeling way out of my depth.

Being in a big mountain environment in such a remote location was something I had very little experience with. I just didn't know if the massive perched blocks at the top of the scree gully were going to start rumbling down towards us. Tom and Pete seemed to be pretty happy with our situation, laughing and joking as we approached the route. I kept my fears to myself, happy to trust their experience of the terrain.

As we racked up at the base of the pillar cloud formations swirled above, below and around us. One moment we were surrounded by a thick fog, the next we could see for miles; islands, mountains and icebergs appeared momentarily before being whisked from sight by the ever changing cloudscape. It felt atmospheric and otherworldly.

We started up a promising looking dihedral, which since we couldn't see more than about twenty meters up the face seemed as good a place to start as any!

Weirdly once we started actually climbing my fear subsided and I felt back on familiar ground. It surprised me how much feeling scared on the mountain came down to a lack of familiarity with the terrain. I would love to get to the stage where I feel at home in any kind of mountainous environment.

We climbed 5 great pitches on immaculate rock to reach a resting ledge, above this a left trending overlap feature was the obvious way to go. It also looked desperate! I fought my way up an unrelenting 60m pitch of fingerjams and tenuous laybacks. I placed every single runner I had and did a fair bit of shouting! A truly incredible pitch.

I gave the pitch hard E4 6a, reminiscent of something like Resurrection at Dinas Cromlech, although in hindsight it was such a battle that it could well have been E5. Tom and Pete used a variety of techniques (and ascending devices!) to join me at the hanging belay.

After several more tricky and varied pitches we reached the top at the stroke of midnight. We decided to call our route Islands in the Sky after the epic cloud formations which continued the whole time we were climbing.

I am pretty sure we were the second team to reach this summit, after George Ullrich and Matt Burdekin made the first ascent of their route Broken Toblerone in 2010. There is without doubt a whole load more lines to be done on this incredible face. We took some summit photos (decked out in our matching and extremely warm RAB jackets!) and got back to camp for a late dinner at 6am after more than 20 hours on the go. I could get used to this 24 hour daylight business!

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

The Horn of Upernavik

Upon arriving in Greenland, Ian and I spent a week sat on the dock in Illulisat waiting for our boat, the "Cosmic Dancer" to show up. Our friends Tom, Peter and sailors Clive and Angela had sailed the boat across the Labrador sea from Canada. Due to some small, pesky things like force 9 gales, they were delayed. We invented some jokes:

"Knock Knock"
"Who's there?"
"Not the Cosmic Dancer!"

After a week, the boat got to within five miles of us, only to be forced to turn back! Too many ice bergs had blown into the harbour and had effectively blocked it off. Ian and I decided some drastic measures were in order, we hitched a ride with some cowboy seal hunters. They drove at 40 miles an hour through the fog, dodging icebergs and laughing. Then me and Ian were left cowering in the front of their boat whilst they shot over our heads at seals!

The "Horn of Upernavik" was our first objective, the 1200m main face had never been climbed despite recent attempts by several expeditions. It turned out to be a pretty life changing adventure for me. Here is a piece of writing telling the story. I wrote it whilst still recovering from the ordeal so it gets quite dramatic in places:

Finally all aboard the Cosmic Dancer we motored through the fog towards the Horn with only the occasional iceberg appearing to keep us company. We’d been planning to try and climb the Horn of Upernivik for nearly a year but to me it still sounded a bit like somewhere out of Lord of the Rings, not like somewhere you could actually go. As we turned the corner into the fjord the fog lifted to reveal a thin strip of sea bounded either side by huge sheer walls of deep red and black granite. This was to be our home for the next 8 days or so. I found the fjord quite a spooky place to be, with a kind of silence I don’t think exists in England. Only punctured by the occasional rolling boom – you could never quite tell if it was caused by avalanche, rock fall, an iceberg collapsing or thunder.

First view of the Horn
The Horn itself looked different to the other mountains. Rather than the deep red looser rock, it presented a curving arc of golden granite that glowed in the sun. It was hard to get a sense of scale. It wasn’t until a few days later when I saw my friends as tiny orange specs halfway up that it really sunk in just how big this wall really was. 1200 metres high, taller than the highest faces in Yosemite and the height of several Verdon Gorges stacked one above the other.

The slab and upper headwall had been attempted at least 3 times by expeditions in the last few years but none had succeeded. The closest was an attempt by British climbers George Ullrich and Matt Burdekin in 2010 who got within a few pitches of success in a single alpine style push only to be forced to retreat due to reaching an impasse in the headwall and running out of food and water.

Ian and I decided to try their line for at least the first 600m or so and to try another crack system in the upper headwall. However, fearing that the same problem might befall us if we tried it in a single push, we decided to spend a day or two fixing ropes as high as we could up the lower slab and returning to base camp each day. So that we could quickly ascend these when we did go for a summit push. The 24 hour daylight meant we weren’t limited by light in how long a push could be, only by how tired we might become.

The main face of the Horn - the line attempted by Ian and myself is drawn in blue
 Day 1. We spent the day with me leading and fixing ropes. Ian followed jumaring in his trainers with a literally enormous bag on his back (that I don’t think I could actually lift) containing about 300m of ropes and enough water for a small fire engine. As supposedly the better technical climber the leading was my responsibility, I couldn't help feeling that Ian got a raw deal here, but he seemed stoically content with this arrangement. The first pitch gave an indication of the nature of the climbing ahead. Good solid granite with apparently no gear. Damn. I took out my nutkey and started gardening, finding that there was in fact plenty of gear underneath clumps of earth which filled the cracks. By the end of the first pitch my nutkey was worn sharp to a point. Not a good start.

The guys who tried the same line in 2010 warned that the second pitch could well be the crux of the whole route. Sure enough the crack closed up completely leaving 30m of blank slab with only the smallest of ripples giving footholds. Ullrich had hand placed a bolt in the centre of the pitch whilst on lead. This provided the only meaningful protection. Full credit to him for this, the thought of standing precariously in the middle of that pitch for half an hour whilst hand drilling a bolt makes me shiver and I’m not sure I would have been able to do it. I set off with some trepidation and managed to find a sideways rock 2 five meters up, which might have kept me from falling directly onto Ian’s belay. Small downward pointing overlaps provided the only hand holds and sketchy smears gave enough purchase to continue rocking over and reach the bolt. Clip, thanks George. From here the climbing got hard. As the bolt got further and further beneath me, thoughts of how far away from any help I was began to surface in my mind and cloud my concentration. I was on the pitch for a long time, contemplating attempting to reverse or jumping off and taking the long, skittering whipper onto the bolt. It seemed like every time I finally came to the conclusion that it was too dangerous and I should retreat, I would spot a new ripple in the slab which would lure me one rock over further from safety. The pitch was probably stupidly dangerous and I actually have no idea why I committed to it. Somehow I arrived at the belay and spent the next five minutes yelling wordlessly at the top of my lungs as the tension left my body and I allowed the adrenalin to kick in. George said that even with the bolt the pitch was E5 6a “if not a touch harder” I think what he meant here was E6!

Ian jugging the blank crux pitch
That day we managed to fix 250m up the slab before returning to base camp.

Day 2. We aimed to get halfway up the face to some “scree filled ledges” that Matt Burdekin had mentioned in his report, bivvy here, then go for a summit push the next day. We got another 3 pitches up the slab from the top of our fixed ropes to reach a broken ledgy section beneath some overlaps.

Still a good 200m below the ledges we had hoped to bivvy on. Ian was jumaring with the both bags (cheers Ian!) up a particularly nasty E4 5cish runout slab pitch. I heard an ominous buzzing noise above me followed by a sharp crack. Rocks started to rain from the sky. Big blocks fell to either side of me, any one of which big enough to kill a person. Ian frantically jugged the remaining 10m and we made a belay under an overlap for shelter. I was truly terrified. A kind of dull, hollow fear. Very different to the intense invigorating fear I had experienced on the lower crux pitch. I feel like I now have some idea of what it must be like being shot at, the randomness of it felt somewhat comparable. Five minutes later a 4 slice toaster size block landed exactly where I had been sat and shattered, leaving a cloud of dust and a dry acrid smell in the air. It seemed Peter and Tom who had been on the wall above us for about 36 hours had got bored on their descent and resorted to trundling rocks at us! They were at this point descending from their new route “Choss, the Universe and Everything”, up the more broken right hand wall, E2/XS 5c 1200m (nutters!). We waited for 2 hours beneath the overlap until our next appointed time to speak with Tom and Pete on the walky-talky. We told them to “not move!” and abbed back to the floor leaving another 120m of fixed lines on the harder sections we had climbed that day.

Day 3. Summit push. We decided to just go all out for the summit in a single push since we now had fixed ropes about a third of the way. Also this way we could travel much lighter, move faster and Ian could finally put his rock shoes on and do some climbing!

The sun had been blazing for 4 days so we decided to jumar at 2pm in the sun in order to reach the end of our fixed lines as the face went into the shade. This way we could climb through the cooler temperatures of the night and we would need to carry less water. Jugging 400m of slab in the sun was miserable to say the least! But after this we made good progress and by 2am we had covered a further 500m of ground, tavelling light and swinging leads. The climbing was never desperate but in some places it was extremely runout, probably up to about E4 5c. However as we climbed ominous clouds started to gather on the surrounding mountains and I became increasingly worried that a storm was brewing.

 At 3am, maybe 200m from the top it seemed our weather window had closed as rain set in around us and the temperature dropped. Facing the prospect of a slippery 900m abseil descent, I was pretty scared at this point. Especially as if clouds moved in below us it would make navigating back to our fixed ropes extremely difficult. But being halfway up the headwall we were so close to completing our route that we decided to try and wait out the rain and see if we could press on for the top. We crawled under a fallen block which gave nearly enough room for the two of us to lie flat side by side, both still attached to the belay with slings.

The phrase “shiver bivvy” is definitely appropriate for this one! We were supposed to be going “fast and light” so we didn’t have enough clothes. We got out a silver foil type space blanket from our first aid kit and shared it. 4 hours later at 7am Ian was showing signs of being a bit uncomfortable, the prince biscuits were finished and the rain seemed to be stopping. We pressed on up the headwall trying a line about 50m to the left of the crack which repelled Ullrich and Burdekin 3 years ago. We got to the base of the most immaculate dihedral running up the final 100m. The granite looked so good it almost made the effort to get there worthwhile! The only problem was the lovely hand crack we had spotted from base camp wasn’t a hand crack at all… but a squeeze chimney! I really had to give these last two pitches everything, Ian later told me I sounded like I was giving birth, whilst I literally squirmed for my life. Not pretty.

We reached the top by 1pm, 23 hours after setting off, feeling pretty strung out, extremely proud to have made it and nervous about the descent.

Wild eyed summit photo!

Stunning view from the top
We decided to try and follow Tom and Peter’s descent line down the choss and scree ledges to the right. As this would mean leaving behind less gear, plus, if we could find their ab tat we could hopefully get down relatively fast...

What followed was 7 hours of terrifying scrambling around on sloping scree ledges. As we descended the rain set in again and the weather window was firmly slammed and bolted from the inside. Any later and we wouldn’t have made it as the rain continued non-stop for 48 hours!

30 hours after setting off we hobbled back into camp.

The route took every ounce of strength, courage, intuition and luck that I had at my disposal and left me totally exhausted. It felt like every skill I have developed as a trad climber so far was tested and put to use.

Cosmic Rave – E6 6a – 1225m

I am both very proud of the line and very glad to be down. I wouldn’t go back up that mountain if you paid me!

When the rain finally stopped Tom and Peter kindly offered to go up and get the fixed ropes down. I was more than happy to offer helpful hints for them over the radio from base camp. It turns out every single rope we have was trashed by rock fall during the rain. Tom and Peter bravely jugged up and retrieved the trashed ropes which we later cut down to size. Instead of 6 60m ropes and 100m of static rope, we now had 55m, 52m and 51m ropes plus loads of ab tat! Wall rope anyone?

Luckily we met up with the Irish climbing expedition in the village of Uumanaq a few days later. They took pity on us, prized open a barrel labelled “fulmar most foul” and sold us some non-trashed ropes on the cheap. The only minor downside being the nauseating smell of fulmar vomit. Win!

The Cosmic Dancer and the Irish boat "The Killary Flyer" together in Uumanaq harbour

Monday, 8 July 2013

Expedition? What Expedition?

10 months ago the plan was simple: "Let's sail up the west coast of Greenland and attempt some first ascents on huge granite big walls rising straight out of the sea".

Of course this sounded like a great idea, so when my friend Pete Hill from the Oxford uni mountaineering club asked me to join him, Tom Codrington and Ian Faulkner I said yes without a second thought.

Now, 10 months and literally hundreds of hours of planning later, I still can't believe it's actually happening! We've overcome many problems, not the least of which was finding a boat and someone to sail it! (up to now I've spent no more than about two hours on a boat in my life). The answer came from Clive and Angela Lilienthal who have kindly offered the services of their 38' yacht "The Cosmic Dancer".

The Cosmic Dancer left Newfoundland in Canada nearly two weeks ago with Tom, Pete and the two sailors, tomorrow me and Ian are flying to Illusiat on the west coast of Greenland. Here we will wait (an as yet unspecified amount of time) for the boat to arrive. The last I heard the boat was "hove to" in a gale, I'm not entirely sure what this means but I'm pretty sure it's not good! So we could be there a little while. Not to worry, we've got plenty to be getting on with, such as sourcing mountains of food and finding a gun to fend off polar bears!!

I've always imagined that people going on an expedition like this would have everything planned, down to the last minute detail. Now, on the brink of leaving, I realise this can't possibly be the case. There are so many unknowns!

This is it. A real life adventure.

We will try and update our facebook page and website periodically along the way if you're interested in following our progress.

Currently our expedition has kindly received sponsorship from:

Wild Country
Lyon Outdoor
The Alpine Club
The Mount Everest Foundation
The Andrew Croft Memorial Fund
The Gino Watkins Memorial Fund
The Arctic Club

Let's hope we can do some cool stuff to make it all worth it!

Here are a couple of the walls that have already received some attention over the last few years (hence the photos), to give you an idea of the kind of thing we'll be doing:

"The Impossible Wall" about 800m high:

"Red Wall" about 300m high:

Saturday, 6 July 2013


Upon returning from Lewis, I took my own advice, and went to Kilnsey! Over the past couple of weeks I've had four of my best ever sessions there.

First off I managed the huge roof line, Mandela. I was really pleased with this because for me, it is without doubt the king line of the crag. Having done Totally Free 2 at Malham last year, this means I've ticked my own personal "King Line" at both crags.

Unfortunately they are by no means the hardest! As far as I can work out Mandela was originally graded 8b+, but it's fairly clear now that it's nowhere near that hard. Perhaps people have just figured out how to climb roofs since the 80s? I thought 8a+ was fair although it could be hard 8a, since half the battle is getting to the right places in the roof to work the moves (if you fall off you end up free hanging in space). The crux move in the center of the roof is a crazy rose move off a crimp to a finger lock in a pocket. The first couple of times I made it through this part on the link I actually fell off, only to find my fingers were still locked in the pocket and I was still in contact with the rock. This was quite painful and scary and I was glad when I found a way to stop this happening!

In the four sessions I also managed quick sends of:

Urgent Action 8a+
The Thumb 8a
Complete Control 8a
Over the Thumb 8a

A tiny bit of me is feeling like it's a shame that I'm off to Greenland for the next 6 weeks and won't be able to put my fitness to use on something a bit harder. But the rest of me is MASSIVELY EXCITED and at least my fingers shouldn't have problems with any of the moves on the granite slabs!

I'll make another post about this expedition soon but for now check out the website or facebook page.

Here's a couple of snaps my mate Pete Wilkinson got of me setting up for the crux on Complete Control and boxed out of my mind about to fall off Urgent Action:

Friday, 28 June 2013

A Gneiss Time on Lewis

Without really paying attention to what was going on I found myself waking up at 6am to drive to the isle of Lewis in the outer Hebrides in a car crammed full of 4 housemates, ropes, tents, food and two surfboards! The day before, I'd talked to Ralph about trying The Scoop, a huge E6 climbing all the way out of the enormous overhanging Sron Ulladale, and he'd just gone and booked ferry tickets! However 5 minutes of googling at 5 45am as we were leaving revealed it was bird banned. Suddenly we were going anyway. I started frantically scanning Ralphs ancient 1996 guidebook to the Island trying to work out what we were going to climb. "Turns out there's some sea cliffs!"

15 hours, one ferry and one very sore arse later we were setting up camp on a deserted headland. We found a run down old world war two radar station to camp by which provided some shelter.

MIDNIGHT SUN! Turns out we were so far north the sun barely even set each night.

Woke up the next morning and found the climbing. It was really good! The rock was Gneis which reminded me of granite but it had these weird quartz bands which were quite friable and made some of the climbs pretty scary!

The highlight of the first day was a smooth onsight of Goodbye Ruby Tuesday E5 6b. It was really nice to feel calm, collected and in control all the way especially since the last trad route I did I fell off and hurt myself (see this blog post).

At the end of the first day I stumbled upon another area: Aurora Geo. I was immediately drawn to a wild looking line going out over a roof crack and blasting straight up the left hand side of an amazing looking smooth, slightly overhanging headwall. This was Romancing the Moose E5 6b.

Unfortunately the roof crack was sopping wet. But I couldn't stop looking at the headwall. It looked as though another line was possible, climbing the right hand corner of the sea cave and then moving left to climb the center of this awesome looking sheet of rock. Here the line of Romancing the Moose is drawn in blue and the new line is drawn in green:

Out came the ab rope! It was quite spooky swinging around down there on a gri-gri, totally alone until well after 10pm that night, but also really good fun. After an hour or so I'd pulled off some loose blocks, found some holds and... gear! It was on!

The next morning I woke up feeling nervous. I had felt the holds and inspected the gear but hadn't climbed any of the actual moves. But the lead went to plan and so was born "Should Have Gone to Kilnsey" which goes at E6 6b or f7b+ if you would rather pay in euros. Obviously the name is pretty tongue in cheek. Here's a video of the route:

Should Have Gone to Kilnsey from Jacob Cook on Vimeo.

The other highlight of the trip was doing the classic 3 pitch, E6 6b/c Screaming Abdabs, from the ground (or sea) up, in an evening with Ralph. This really is a 4 star route for line, position AND climbing. So good it's on the cover of Gary Latter's Scottish Rock North.

In fact it looked so scary we almost didn't set off! (the last two pitches are drawn on in blue)

Ralph put in a fantastic effort on the first two pitches. "The Yosemite Crack" 5c and "The Traverse of the Gods" 5b to leave us deposited under some enormous looking roofs in the most wild position I think I've been in on a UK sea cliff to date!

Here's Ralph on pitch two:

The first go at the final pitch I took a huge lob from the lip of the crux roof, which was pretty scary since I wasn't sure if the first cam under the roof was going to hold... thankfully it did.

I lowered back to the belay and had a 5 minute rest. This is my thank god I'm alive face after the fall:

Then went again and managed to send the pitch by the absolute skin of my teeth! Getting over the crux 6b/c roof involved the use of knees, elbows and chin! Above this I got so pumped and scared trying to fiddle in some gear that I would have long since let go in pain had I been on a sport route and not scared for my life! Here's the only photo of me on the top pitch... it's not going to be winning any prizes!

Thinking about it afterwards, it was actually a pretty painful and terrifying experience but I got such a huge kick out of it that I can't wait for the next time. Trad climbing is weird.

Monday, 10 June 2013

Ilkley Highline

I generally think of myself as being an optimist, I like to try and make the best out of any situation.

When I thought I'd broken my arm, with a trip to the Verdon Gorge booked in two weeks, it seemed like there were very little positives to take from my situation. There were so many amazing routes I wanted to try. I was also worried that my Greenland Expedition in 6 weeks would be affected. I felt stupid jeopardising so many amazing climbing opportunities for a bit of fun at Almscliff. After most of a day lying on my bed feeling sorry for myself, I was idly googling the Verdon when I came accross a sketchy video of someone walking a highline above an enormous void...


There was only one problem... I sucked at slacklining!

I spent 10 days FRANTICALLY practicing, it was fun learning a new skill like this because I could notice huge improvements literally every day. The only problem being when I fell to the right I had to just land flat on my side because I coudnt put my injured arm out to protect myself!

Then, the weekend before I left, a sunny Saturday dawned and we decided to go try it out across Ilkley quarry. Aided by some seriously colourful clothes and a powerful hat..

Ilkley Highline from Jacob Cook on Vimeo.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Gone West

Firstly a massive thank you to Scarpa and the Mountain Boot Company. I'm really excited to have joined the Scarpa - UK team. I've been wearing the Vapour Vs  for years now and think they are by far the best shoes available.

Almscliff is 20 minutes from my house. After years of living down south, 3 hours from the nearest crag, this still feels like a luxury.

One of my best experiences at "the Cliff" was doing Pete Browns Megadoom, ground up over a couple of sessions. This route feels absolutely nails for E5 6b! Featuring a desperate and awkward boulder above a large and kind of unpleasant fall. The guidebook warns that if you're off the last move you might "land in Caley", whilst this isn't true, you do go a long way!

It always struck me that to pack in a load of great climbing on this buttress you could link the whole of All Quiet E4 6a into the hard climbing on Megadoom.

The first attempt saw me out over the final roof, eying up the boulder on Megadoom. Without really pausing to think I had my right hand on the awful pinch on the arete and was rocking onto my left heel. Everything felt wrong, as I inched up I felt my right hand slip a fraction on the pinch and before I knew what was happening I was off. My leg caught behind the rope, I tumbled upside down and crashed backwards into the wall. Grim. Some cuts on my back and a sprained wrist... bring on round two:

If it's worthy of a name I think I'll call my link up "Gone West" to be in keeping with the other names on this wall.

The next morning my wrist felt extremely weird. Fuck. A&E.

It's taken two weeks of bone scans to confirm that, I'M NOT BROKEN. Even so, I'm gutted to have put myself out of the game for a while. Especially given I was close to the form of my life. The day before the fall I managed to onsight Man With a Gun 7c+ at Kilnsey. Whilst not the highest number this was personally my best onsight performance to date. Being a vert/slab on british limestone, it features intricate and non-obvious sequences, bad footholds and hard to find hand holds.

Since I've been unable to climb or train, I put together some other footage I had of the cliff over the last few months. Here's a great day doing some of the classic boulders:

And finally, one for the connoisseurs. Browns roof, the scrittly highball left of Syrrett's roof, would probably be more accurately graded E5 than 7A+! This video also features some reggae cows and Ian crushing Big Greeny as part of his epic day doing the four classic E3s at the crag...

Thursday, 25 April 2013

Lord of the Swings

11 Grove gardens has become the beating heart of unemployed and student climbers in Leeds. We currently have the 5 people with bedrooms, Ian Cooper has a den in the basement and Tom and Harry in the living room under the board. With various girlfriends this makes about 10 people at any one time. It's total chaos but a lot of fun. We've been going to Malham a lot and I've been trying Bat Route. The problem is what to do on rest days...

When we got to the bridge it wasn't clear whether it was on or not, it looked like the depth of the bridge might mean you just hit the water, but after an hour or so of rigging and chucking a rucksack off, it was definitely on. I was first in line...

Lord of the Swings from Jacob Cook on Vimeo.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Shock Horror

Last week I set off up a little E6 at Ilkley called Shock Horror. It was cold, really cold. The problem with having more psyche than sense is that I often overlook small things like conditions and tactics. This can work in my favour sometimes. Not this time.

A full on blizzard started when I was halfway up the route! I was momentarily worried that I'd put myself in a pretty stupid position, but found I was just about able to reverse to the floor taking the gear out as I went. With numb hands and feet I skulked home with my tail between my legs.

A few days later we headed back for an early morning hit before uni, the sun was shining and the ground still covered in snow. It felt harder than expected and I had a pretty hairy moment at the top when the finishing jug was covered in semi-frozen green slime. Afterwards my housemate Jake decided to have a go, this was the first E6 he'd ever been on...

Shock Horror from Jacob Cook on Vimeo.

A few weeks ago I headpointed the route Deathwatch, an E7 6b also at Ilkley. I always find the process of headpointing a bit odd. We had a rope down it anyway and I was thinking about going for the flash after watching my mates on it, but basically got scared and had a go on the rope instead. Of course it went first time on toprope and I regretted not tying straight into the sharp end, but there you go...

Deathwatch from Jacob Cook on Vimeo.

Monday, 18 March 2013


Sack off the PhD and go climbing?

I've never been very interested in having much money or a conventional career, I don't want to be rich or famous. I've always thought I'd be happy with an interesting life. I'd like to be able to look back and think "that was cool".

I'm sitting in my office, motivation to work on my PhD has dwindled to an all time low. It's not that I'm apathetic or depressed, in fact it's the opposite. I'm full of ambition and excitement, I'm probably enjoying my life right now more than ever before.

If I think about my heroes from the past 50 years, most of them lived on the dole and went climbing every day. Maybe I should just do that!?

"Its not the same these days, you can't just live on the dole."

This is probably true, but it's also the case that if climbing and adventure is what I want most, then there are many situations in which I could do more climbing and have more adventures than I'm having at the moment.

Currently looking at New Zealand work visas... :D

This is now.