Picos de Europa Day 2 Garrido Zapata route

Today we got back to Pena del Fresnidiello (1477m) with little expectations of climbing (due to poor forecast). Either way we set our minds on the other side of the wall (left) where the route Garrido Zapata goes (315m to the south summit).


BTW I should mention that the most recent English language guide book for the area is 28 years old, with only one edition printed in 1989….

Peter harnessing the power at the bottom of the crag.

Anyway the route is a reverse of what we did yesterday – easy enough start, with harder top pitches.
When we arrived, it was obvious that the sun won’t be out much, but after all it kind of worked for us. It was way too hot yesterday, so a bit of a shade was welcomed.

I started P1, which was a massive water carved slab that ran for 50m, with 1 bolt and almost no other pro (I might have put one or two nuts).

Me getting on with P1

Next pitches were very similar,  until Peter’s nasty traverse pitch, that gave a bit of variety. Rather blank and sparsely protected.

The scale is very difficult to convey through the photos 

At this point it started to rain, just as I was gearing up for first of series of more difficult pitches. Without much thinking I just went for it. I was a solid HVS bridging against weird ear shaped flakes (marked Diedro on the first picture above). It was OK protected, with odd piton and some nuts I placed, but definitely hardest so far.  

Peter on one of the middle sections

Peter’s next pitch was rather blank and now quite wet crux pitch. The weather was in ‘misty mode’ for quite a while now giving the wall  black color. Black limestone equals wet limestone.  Definitely not fun anymore.

Looking up at increasingly wet wall. Gotta continue!

Pete got to the anchors in ‘any means necessary style’. I followed.

Half way up I actually went flying (just some 5meters) when a dodgy hold exploded in my hand… My partner arrested the fall, I shook it off and continued it rain.


At this point we were 30 meters below the summit, but had no safe way to ascent any further. The rain was in full Irish mode, so we decided it’d be best to bail.


On a separate note, the pair of Spanish climbers, who were climbing alongside, retreated on the very first signs of bad weather, some 1.5h before us. Perhaps they were allergic to rain.

Either way, we were going down. Relatively quick abseils (I mean it still took around 45 to 60 mins) took us to the ground.  Quick drive back to Arenas, and we were sitting in a bar drinking beer and eating cheese again.  Tomorrow it’s round 3 at the same wall, and it’s meant to be wet again…


Picos de Europa days 0&1

We arrived to our hotel just outside of Santander, Spain around 10.30pm. Nothing to note other than the fact that it turned out that somehow I left one of my trousers and shorts in the rooom (there were in bag that must have fallen out of my luggage while in the room). Oh well. I’ll pick it up on the return.

First I have to say that Asturias look nothing like Spain. It’s more like Ireland, all green but with permanent good weather .

For first days route we picked 320m V+ (around VS 4c in our money), 7pitch classic, Elixir para calvos to the north summit of Fresnidiello.

On above photo the route goes right of the roof seen 1/4th high up it.

As the book says, the first two pitches are somewhat difficult, rest is rather cruise mode.

All of it tho is rather run out (as fory taste). All pitchea were on avg 40m and u wouldn’t fine more than 5-6 protection points(1-2 bolts, redt trad). All belays bolted.

The approach was also rather steep. 45mins and some 400m elevation gain in full sun.

Peter started P1 and in 4hours we were on the summit.

There wad another couple of climbers in front of us. Very nice Spaniards Marta and Carlos. We met with them later in the village we are staying (Arenas) for quick exchange of plans and ideas for future climbing projects.

As for climbing itself the whole idea of easy but run out routes is somewhat new to me. I like to have an option to protect myclimbs, which is not something people seem to be bothered about here.

7-9m runout seems a norm. I guess it’s something I’ll have to learn.

It’s meant to rain tomorrow so I’m not sure what the plan will be. We shall see…


Operation resole – results

They are back! There is nothing better than new soles on already broken is climbing shoes.  All new and rubbery rubber on all 7 pairs.


The pictures of all the shoes before and after are here. Big kudos to for taking the order and processing it efficiently. I definitely will be  using their services in the future.

Canada 2017 climbing my travels

Carnage on the slopes.

Since our climbing have come to an end (avalanche is still high/high/high), but we still have few days to spare, we decided to give skiing a try.

The last time I had skies on must have been 2011, so by no means I know how to ski. I did get few hours of lessons back then I learned how to stop (plow FTW) and maybe turn. It’s been a while though. Lar is in similar situation, doing only few days of it in his life. PG is at least intermediate skier, having done it for up to few months at time during his time in the Alps.

Upon doing some research we opted up for Norquay ski area in Banff.

Norquay map

It is close by and reasonably priced (working out for total of  ~70euro for 1/2 day pass [12 to 4pm) incl gear rental.

I must say that facility is pretty well organized. Staff is professional, well informed and very friendly. It took no more than 30 mins to equip us with gear and we were ready to hit that lift in our fashionable climbing clothing & helmets.

Going up the lift.

And it was a mistake… Should have started with baby slope area and make sure that I actually remembered the necessary skills (most importantly how to stop).

The first 30 minutes were a real eye opener.  I fell at least 3 times on first 30 meters. So have Lar. The difference was I was actually able to get up and continue, while he twisted his knee in such a way that he couldn’t really continue (he’s ok, just  a bit sore).

I must say that I initially definitely overestimated my ability to be in control, but it only got better with time. As I acquainted myself with the ground few more times trying to remember what I was doing, PG went to explore the area a bit more, while Lar confined himself to the ‘magic carpet’ practice area.


PG & Piste 18 in the background, with the lift to the right.

After a while though I was back into my old skill-set of being in control and could enjoy doing laps. It was never more than going quite slowly in full plow stance, occasionally turning, but I enjoyed it.

Enjoying the ski time!

We actually shot few short videos, so when I got more time I’ll stitch them into some sort of comprehensible video. Watch this space.

Canada 2016 climbing photo

IMC talk slides

Thanks again for all of you who showed up to my talk. It was great fun being able to present to such a nice bunch of people.

For thos who couldn’t come see the slides here and part2 here.

Canada 2016 climbing

Talk for the IMC

Some time ago (as in many months ago) I was asked by IMC meets people if I didn’t want to deliver a talk about the trip to the Rockies we did in March 2016. I didn’t think about it long as it might be a good idea to inspire some rock climbers to go and try ice (albeit options in Ireland are limited to 0 places).

Well anyway, the day has come, or it will, on the Thu, 05.01.2017 @21.00 at the Teachers Club, 36 Parnell sq , West, Dublin, Ireland D1. Admission is free and are all welcome.

Click on the photo below for more details.imc-talk-frontpage




Fair Head and other Northern Adventures.

    It finally happened. I managed to convince people (well, it took zero convincing this time, the team was more motivated than I) and climb in Fair Head. It was my (and Tereza’s) first ever trip there – while for Jirka it was a return after 8 years of absence.

So there we were, yet again on epic adventure trail.  We left on Friday and for a change spent a night at a with a roof over our head(rather than camping) in Ballymena’s Slemish Barn. It’s actually a really nice place at very reasonable price point (15GBP for a bed in a dorm room).
They have very good facilities, with basic breakfast provided (which is a nice touch – we didn’t expected it). The owner (Michael) is a very nice guy, and will accept Euro if you ask nicely.
The place is situated strategically close to Fair Head (40min drive via the coast road, I think it’d be faster via the other route), and allows for nice & early start in the morning. Obviously camping at the farm on Fri was also an option, but sometimes it’s nice to treat yourself to a warm bed.


And that’s what we’ve done. Got up ‘early’ on Sat &  we were at Sean’s farm before 9, where we also bumped into Ambrose and his magic van.


We quickly moved towards the crag (it’s a 15 min walk through the farm, in fantastic setting) – as the forecast predicted rain at 1pm.


By 10am we were racked up at the bottom of our first victim, 2 pitch classic on Ballycastle Descent Gully East-  Girona *** VS 5a (although the book we have says 4c, 4c) – I lead the first (apparently harder one), Jirka flew the second one.


Below – Jirka on Pitch 2

Jirka & I below.

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Few drops of rain didn’t discourage us at all and we made our way to The Prow to find our next targets.


Not being over-enthusiastic about our ability to lead these long ‘hard for the grades’ routes we’ve settled on another classic, The Black Thief VS 4b .



It was such  a nice route to lead. Nearly 30m of fantastic bridging and jamming. Gear everywhere, fantastic views – Fair Head at it’s finest!
I lead it, and then Tereza (who’s relatively new to the sport) – lead it on my pre-placed gear. She actually flew it, without looking back. I’d say – teach the girl how to place gear and she’d be leading HVS on her own  in no time!


Jirka collected the gear after us, we abseiled and sent him for what turned out to be the last route of the day – The Fence, VS 4c.

He enjoyed every single move of this 24m high route. Tereza cleaned the gear 2nd and  I went last to meet their smiling faces at the top of the wall.

We cleaned up and headed back to the farm to make some food and relax.

Once we pitch the tents and setup my precious Kelly Kettle, we got a nice surprise from Sean, the landowner who brought fresh supply of fire wood – for a nice pit-fire.


It was very nice of him. We had a friendly chat about the history of his land (he owns over 400 acres) and climbing in general in the area. He doesn’t climb himself but is very friendly and welcoming to all climbers – big (like his most recent famous guest – Alex Honnold) – and small – like us.


We sat by the fire and enjoyed the bottle of 12 year old anCnoc, talking about future plans, climbing, big bulls, small rabbits and other less important things.


The morning welcomed us with windy weather, sore hands and loud children (well these, from the tent nearby, were crying all night, so there wasn’t much sleep)…
Since it was Jirka’s last days in the country, we’ve decided to give up climbing for the day,  and explore local touristy spots.20160807_083151

We stopped by in Ballycastle, to look at Fair Head from distance.

And the move further west. The hanging bridge and Giant’s Causeway are ok, but it’s nothing special after day like we had the day before. Although the massive waves made quite the impression.

Bushmills Distillery at the other hand it’s a different story.

Both of us being admirers of good whiskey couldn’t miss the chance to visit that place (it’s been there since 1608!).


We completed very interesting 40min tour around the factory (it’s operational 24/7, so there are strict no-photography rules). You get to walk (with a guide) around the production line, as he explains how this fine drink is made. At the end you get to exchange your ticket for a taster of their produce. Jirka actually ended up with 5 shots (since some of our visiting group didn’t drink whiskey, others were driving), while I picked up a bottle of their 12year old single malt reserve (available only at their factory shop, nowhere else!).


That concluded our short outing to The North. Drive back to Dublin was uneventful. It’s actually quite straight forward – motorway all the way down…

I hope we’ll be able to squeeze in one more trip before Jirka returns home…

Entire album with some more descriptions is available here.





Time is running out.

Jirka got a very good job offer back home in Czech, so we got only have 3 weeks before he’s moving out of the country again.

I’m very happy for him, but also sad to lose yet another climbing partner. With Conor moved to the UK, Andrew moved to the Middle East, Derek&Padraig move to no-climbing-land of injuries it doesn’t look good in terms of future outdoor adventures.

With this in mind we wanted to make the most of it and got back to Dalkey for 1/2 day to do some routes.

I’ve teamed up with Sonja, while Team Czech went off together.

Between 4 of us we done (leader listed 1st):

THE SLOPS 14m S 4a (Sonja&Mic) – she actually took an unlucky fall from before 1st gear, right into the bushes. Luckily no major damage.

DIPHTHONG * 14m S 4a (Jirka&Tez) + (Mic&Sonja) – I can’t believe I’ve never climbed it before. What a great and pleasant (read: easy) route!

THRUST *** 24m HVS 4c, 5a (Jirka&Tez) – apparently there were people TR it, and it took them a while. Not exactly ideal if you ask me…

HELlOS *** 34m VS 4c (Mic&Sonja) +  (Jirka&Tez) – I’ve lead it last year, forgot how run-out that route is at places, but defo 3 stars!

From there I’ve setup a TR for:

HOTHEAD ** 20m E2 5b  – and we all done it on pretty much first try. It’s a pity that it’s so poorly protected, otherwise it’d be amazing lead climb.



We cut the evening short to go back to Derek & Irka’s to talk about future climbing plans (Fairhead next weekend, Sicily in October) and have a drink in celebration of Derek’s low key 38th bday. Happy birthday mate, get back in shape. The mountains are calling!


As we were browsing some questionable hair styles (visit the album on the link below for bonus photo),  Tereza made some amazing pastries. I’m not really sure what or how exactly these were made, but oh my, they were good!!


As usual all the photos are in the album.





Back to The Burren

It’s rather sad that I didn’t do any real outdoor climbing for almost a month. One or two outings to Dalkey, nothing special. I’ve spent most of the time at Awesome Walls, at work or watching Euros.

I was very happy when last week Jirka said he was keen to go to The Burren, co. Clare – a place he hasn’t been climbing  at yet. For me it would be 3rd of 4th visit. This place is pretty special – definitely in top 3 in the country for me.

Most of the action takes place in the Ailladie – 800m long limestone cliff with routes varying in height from 8 to 30m. It really has it all – from easy accessible HS type of warm-ups om the Dancing Ledges, via some classic HVSs (my favourite Great Balls of Fire) on the Boulder Wall, to absolutely stunning, accessible only for the best Extreme graded routes. And for the super brave and bold climbers there are even deep water solo routes.Across the road and a short walk south from Ailladie total beginners can enjoy Ballyryan.

Since I was the only one who actually been to the place before I knew that for this trip we will mainly focus on The Dancing Ledges based climbs, but more about it later.

We’ve agreed for early Saturday morning start, with a planned pit stop in Tullamore to pick up Tereza.

There was another, rather unplanned stop to fix a puncture, but oh well, shit happens.20160709_101923

If you are wondering what is this wagon above – well it’s actually a replacement car, Mazda is currently getting a quick service (that is taking 2 weeks, so maybe not that quick).

Anyway with Team Czechia on board, and all 4 wheels attached,  we were on the way! Luckily it’s relatively short drive  from Tullamore, so we were gearing up by early afternoon.

The plan was simple – climb us much as we can, as the forecast for Sunday was rather gnarly.

Even on Saturday the winds were strong and ocean was rough.


It just made sense to focus on the Dancing Ledges.


Above – Dancing Ledges

We started with LISDOONFAROUT 15m HS 4a,  and  GROUND CONTROL ** 16m VS 4c. Some parts of all the routes (especially cracks) were wet and sipping, adding extra excitement and challenge.

Below – Vertical start of Ground Control.



The weather cleared up a bit and we’ve taken some Jirka Insipred posed photos moved further south down the cliff.




GENESIS ** 16m HS 4b was next on the agenda.



Followed by Derek’s “favorite” route of this section: NUTROCKER ** 15m HVS 5a. I’m sure he regretted not coming with us – finally someone would have shown him how its done!


I must mention here the guy on the left – he’s climbing BONNAN BUI ** 15m VS A fine and popular route. They was a part of a group of 3 Americans from Seattle, who came to Ireland for 2 weeks, to travel the West Coast of Ireland and climb what they can.

Unfortunately he didn’t do enough research on the gear needed in The Burren, and had some  12 cams on him and maybe half a set of stoppers (cams on limestone don’t work that well). He was very frustrated that his cams keeps ‘sliding out’.  It took him 3 attempts and a 5m whipper to finally give up.

Luckily I was able to abseil from the top of our belay and retrieve his gear for him. Well almost all the gear – the nut he took a big fall on will forever be embedded in the crack.

After they were gone I decided to do a quick run through that route as well. I can see why he got stressed out. It’s definitely on the higher end of the VS spectrum.


We were getting hungry and the weather was starting to break. Time to setup the tents and test out that new Kelly Kettle I bought for our upcoming Iceland trip.


Kelly Kettle is really cool. Just make fire in it’s base part (using whatever solid material you can find) and enjoy boiling water, or a cooked meal in minutes!


Now, since there isn’t actually anything other than grass and limestone in The Burren, I had to bring my own wood. The setup is truly great, fast, efficient and leaves no waste. We made tea, cooked rice, soup, and grilled some sausages at the end.

The night fell quickly and it was a rough one. It was very windy and rainy. It was clear that there will be no climbing in the morning. My tent barely survived the night, but for a 30euro Lidl one – I must say I was happy with it.


Unfortunately the Sunday morning was spoiled by the sight of Coast Guard helicopter and rescue boat. When you see these two, as well as couple of ambulances and Guards on the ocean cliffs, it’s never good news.


It was clear that someone fell into the ocean, apparently a woman who was fishing of one of the cliffs. Real sad story. Unfortunately it’s not uncommon in that spot. More in the linked article.

To make most of the day, we quickly packed and decided to drive to Awesome Walls in Dublin.

Definitely a great weekend with a really good company. It only shows that it only takes couple of hours of good weather to make it worthwhile going away for 2 days!