sawyl: (A self portrait)
Skimming through the Express and Echo web site in search of news about the most recent fire — a recycling warehouse went up on Wednesday — I stumbled across a nice profile of Mikey Cleverdon, our local hero, and his fight back to fitness following a stroke.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Down to the river mid-morning for the second of this weekend's runs. Unlike yesterday's parkrun, today's was a gentle 1.5 mile jog up to Miller's Crossing and back for a charity santa run. Getting there with time to spare, I stopped off at D&P's place to suit up. When I arrived, I discovered that someone was already dressed up and looking forward to his run:

A mighty funny looking reindeer... )

I pulled on my fancy dress while the others got ready. D tried to put some Christmas socks on little Dasher but she was not best pleased and pulled them off again just as quickly as they were put on her. Finally, all prepared, we went round the corner to the start where our santa suits suddenly went from fancy dress to total blend-in anonymity.

We started somewhere at the back and allowed H, our non-runner, to set the pace. All was going well until we reached Exe bridges, where the spaniels put on a sudden burst of speed — Dash, for all that's only 12 weeks old, is pretty quick and she ran a good part of the distance without needing to be carried. Our average pace was 7:37 a kilometre and we finished in 19 minutes and change, with a couple of slowdowns and a couple of surges when the dogs decided to step on the gas.

After the fun we picked up some rather classy medals and went back to the house for some lunch which definitely wasn't anything to do with my forthcoming birthday — as ever, all celebrations of my natal day are strictly off-limits but I find that I'm OK with having a not-birthday instead.

Dasher has a snooze... )

My afternoon was spent lazing around at home and catching up on things I'd put off during the week. I'd half-intended to go climbing, but the thought of going out in the cold put my off and I decided to treat today as a semi-rest and go tomorrow instead.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Out for dinner with friends, where I had the opportunity to meet their new springer puppy for the first time, I noticed the river levels were even higher than when I'd been running this morning. Fortunately I'd carefully picked a route that avoided any of the flooded bits of pavement and made it their unscathed.

After an extremely nice evening, filled with plenty of cooing over the new arrive and her oh-so-cute ways, I got ready to leave. My hosts offered me a lift, but I declined. I then stepped outside, we all realised how heavily it was raining, and I reconsidered the lift. Although it was dark and hard to tell for sure, it looked as though the river was up again and the pavements on the eastern bank were well and truly submerged.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Walking into town to go to the supermarket, I noticed a definite smell of smoke in the air. Trying to cut through the cathedral close, I discovered the cause: a huge fire that was in the process of spreading through the Royal Clarence. Avoiding all the closed roads, I went round Musgrave Row to the Guildhall. In the perhaps ten minutes it took me to do my shopping, the view from Queen Street had changed with the smoke suddenly much darker and flames pouring up from the buildings to the south.

The news reports say that everyone was evacuated in good time, but it looks like the buildings are going to be badly damaged. It's all very sad...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
As per last year's competition, this year's final was a speed showdown between the six top finishers. Coming out from isolation, the climbers had a few minutes of inspection before heading backstage ahead of the event.

First out where the U16s who powered through their first attempts on the route, followed by the open female and male groups. After the first round, the three slowest competitors were eliminated, with the top three moving through into the final round. There was a strong local showing in the finals and the roars from the crowd when Rhos Frughniet and Alex Waterhouse were climbing could of knocked your socks off.

After a short rest while the other groups were climbing, the final finalists came out and repeated their routes, this time even faster, to decide their place on the podium. As the numbers were being written up on the scoreboard — the MC had been ticked off by the head judge for reading out the results, presumably because the competitors were not supposed to know what they were aiming for — you could have cut the air with a knife. And the reactions when it was announced that Alex had come second to Matt Varela-Christie in the men's comp and Rhos had won the women's were overwhelming.

As someone said afterwards: it's really exciting when you know the people involved.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Second day of Exeter's third Deep Water Solo competition at the Quay, with some very hard problems quickly separating out six finalists in each category.

This gives a pretty decent impression of the wall and of the three different semi-final problems, with the difficulties increasing from left to right. The green routes were climbed by the U16 girls, the red by the U16 boys and by the women, with the men climbing on blue. The problems were graded very hard, extremely hard, and outright impossible by the setters, with even the strongest of competitors struggling and a very limited number of tops; indeed nobody manage to send the final route, although two of the men managed to touch the last hold.

The semi-final problems in all their glory. Note the umbrella on the far left, positioned to keep the rain off the finishing hold of the first problem.

With the morning taken up with the under sixteens, the open competition started with the women at around 12:30 and it quickly became apparent just how hard the problems were.

Rhoslyn Frughniet tops the first problem under the watchful eyes of the route setters...

The second problem featured an early dyno which threw a few of the competitors, a powerful move to a taijitu volume, with slopers on the head wall:

Eugenie Lee going up to some truly terrible slopers on the second problem.

The final move off the spiderweb hold called for careful balance and a big commit. Rhos did the move extremely dynamically:

Rhos Frughniet matches the final hold with a dyno

While Eugenia went more statically, also topping the route.

The weather by this point was rather wet, as can be seen from the water running off the front of the awning which, thankfully, extended several feet out in front of the wall keeping the climbers dry. Kudos to whoever decided to rig the tarpaulins up in advance — last year the women's semis had to be put on hold for an hour or two while a roof was rigged up to keep the rain off; I suspect the extremely cold and unpleasant conditions experienced by some of last years semi-finalists might explain why more than few of them chose not to enter this year.

Having arrived in bright sun, I'd managed to slip into a shadey spot which also turned out to be out of the rain, when it arrived in earnest.

Tom, on the cherry picker on the other side of the dock, was slightly more exposed than the the rest of us.

Fortunately the showers soon passed and the competition was not badly impacted thanks the careful deployment of an umbrella. Emma Twyford, one of the first to make it on the top section of the route, reported some problems with wet holds and the route setters sprung into action, drying them with chalk and scrubbling off the residue.

Emma was obviously pleased to have made it to the top!

Rhos also making it three for three in the semi-finals.

And with the women's finals decided, we moved straight into the men's semi-finals...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
My bus was very late this afternoon and although it started going back along its usual route, it doubled back on itself and went through Heavitree after it had picked up everyone from the regular stops. I couldn't understand why until we got the top of the hill, when the main road meets Barrack Road, where there was a distinct smell of burning in the air. I got off the bus at Waitrose and walked back down Portland Street where, about halfway down, I got my first look at the centre, which was mired in the most enormous pall of smoke.

As I got closer to home, I discovered a lot of the roads were closed off with police tape — luckily mine was still open — there was a constant sound of fire alarms from the student halls, and there were 10-12 fire engines parked up on the roundabout that links Sidwell Street, Weston Way and Blackboy Road. There was a thick pall over everything and the world stank like the city was on fire.

Checking the local news, I discovered that a fire had broken out at Richer Sounds in the early afternoon and they fire crews were still trying to get it under control. The smoke continued to hang over everything until late evening, but it seems to have stopped now, even if everything does still smell like the sixth circle of the Inferno...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Gentle day with an early lunch at BTP and a wander around town. Seeing the huge crowd waiting for the shuttle buses to Radio 1's Big Weekend at Powderham — by 11am they'd extended all the way down Paris Street — made me rather glad I wasn't leaving town.

After a long, lazy lunch we went for a ramble down by the river, foraging for the elderflowers which have just started coming into season. Collecing a bumper crop, we brewed up a batch of cordial before retiring to the roof terrace for the rest of the afternoon.

Exeter Skyline

The weather was beautiful: mid-twenties with fairly high humidity but enough wind to keep it bearable. Despite slathering myself in sunscreen — a rather good children's sort that shows up green until you've rubbed it in — I'm worried that I may have caught the sun in places, even though I hope it might just be wind burn, I rather suspect it's not...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
With Exeter DWS comp over for another year, the six male finalists decided to celebrate with a simultaneous leap from the top of the wall:

Touching the void...

...synchronised splashdown!
sawyl: (A self portrait)
As with the women's final, the format of the men's competition was also a speed elimination, with top six going head to head on the same problem with the fastest three going through to the second round. The problem, set in the middle of wall and featuring the wrecking ball, featured a number of dynos, including one across a big star of volumes in the middle of the upper section.

The problem starts on the volume and then up to a couple of footholds:

Vincent Boucher at the very start.

...a move on to the wrecking ball...

Max Ayrton moves onto the wrecking ball

...out again with a move to a mono pocket...

Nathan Phillips makes easy work of the pocket

...down to a volume...

Matt Cousins moves down to the volume

...and the first real dyno...


...round the overhang using the crack created by the two volumes immediately above...

Wiz Fineron moves past the overhang

...a little campus onto the star...

Matt Varela-Christie campuses

...ready for another dyno...


...across the face of star...


...on to a couple of tiny crimps...


...with a last throw for the big ledge...


...and the bell and the finish!


The times for all this were nothing short of astonishing: Matt Cousins set the pace in the first round, flashing the problem in the staggeringly quick time of 38.06 seconds! After a rest to allow the second round of the women's final, the top three men — Cousins, Matt Varela-Christie, and Vincent Bouchet — returned to duel it out.

On his second attempt Varela-Christie managed to get his time down to 28.56 seconds. So with Bouchet on 35.69, it all came down to Cousins' final run which was superbly quick right up to the point where a slip on the final crimp cost him valuable points thanks to a premature splashdown, giving victory to Matt Varela-Christie and second place to Vincent Bouchet.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
This years finals took the form of a speed elimination, with each of the six finalists climbing the same problem and the fastest three — and those with the highest points in the event of a failure to complete the route — going through to a second round. Timing was via the hugely sophisticated device of a small bell hung above the last hold.

The women were first to climbing a red problem with a giant sized version of the EP wrecking ball used during qualifiers. The route started with a dyno up to a jug on an orange triangular volume...

Emma Twyford makes the first dyno look easy.
...next up to the disco ball...

Rhos Frugtniet moves onto the disco ball
...then a heel hook out to the a hold on the next volume...

Sarah Pashley moves off the ball
...a move over to a pocket...

Jennifer Wood hangs on three fingers
...up over the overhang...


..a quick traverse using the disco ball...

Ellie Rymer on the traverse
...cut loose...


...up on to the teardrop...


...reach up for the bell...


...and done!...

Frances Bensley finishes the problem.

For the record, Jennifer Wood managed to flash the problem in an astonishingly quick 1:20.6 seconds. After a break to allow the men to complete their first elimination round, the three fastest women — Wood, Twyford and Frugtniet — returned to repeat the problem in order to determine podium position. The only minor difference being the removal of the final hold so now, to ring the final bell the competitors had to dyno for it, guaranteeing themselves a dunking:

Emma Twyford

Rhos Frugtniet

and Jennifer Wood on the cusp

The end result: Twyford first, Frugtniet second, and Wood third.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
In line with the forecast, the morning was every bit as a cold and wet as predicted, so I took a while to get going and didn't get down to the river until eleven or so, just in time to see Jenna on her last problem. Conditions were pretty grim and the wall was quite wet despite an improvised awning of umbrellas along the top, and eventually a hour's halt was called to allow the setters to rig up a shelter out of planks and tarpaulins.

By the time the women's semis resumed at one, the new canopy was in place and the weather was starting to break but sadly it was still too drizzly for photos. Emma Twyford completed her series of top-outs, Rhos Frugtniet was on very strong form much to everyone's delight, and soon we were into the men's semis.

All the semi-final problems were extremely tricky, with few of even the very best of the competitors making it up to the middle sections of the final problem. Steve McClure was on particularly good form — the setting rewarded his more static style of climbing over the dynamism of some of the others — but only a very small number completing the problem, although Matt Varela-Christie came very close but was unable to quite match both hands on the final hold for the required two seconds.

Running behind schedule after the break for rain, the setters were coming down to start stripping off as soon as the last competitors were through, with the wall swung back into the dock almost immediately to allow them to reset ready for the finals.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
The afternoon of the DWS competition was dedicated to the men's qualifiers. The problems went from relatively easy — even I could have sent the first one — to a tricky but do-able middle problem to an extremely hard third problem with a very difficult dyno on the penultimate move that only a handful of people managed to stick successfully.

Rory Bascombe making very light work of the first problem.

The second problem featured an early dyno up from a volume to a large blue feature:

Adam Scott sticks the first dyno.

This was followed by a swing through on the wrecking ball...

Gary Anning swings through. I couldn't resist including this photo — I just love the photographer's expression of delight!

with a reach out to the handhold on the left:

Elliot Vanstone campuses off the wrecking ball

Then it was back on the ball, with a brief sit followed by a move up to a pair of tiny crimps on the volume above:

Andrei Burton, the very last person to compete, working his way into position

The last couple of moves were very tough, with an unforgiving sloper just before the final jug:

Local Quay hero Jacob Straw was one of the few to make it to the end...

... but alas, he didn't quick make the dyno!

The final problem featured a nasty start and a hard move up passed the first overhang that separated out a number of the competitors:

Jacob was one of the select group who managed to make it up to the purple section.

Once past that, the problem featured a tricky little traverse and a dyno to a very unfriendly orange volume.

Philip Rose in mid-move...


...and safely on the volume, at which point he got a huge cheer as everyone realised he was going to be the first person to send the problem.

After which, almost no-one managed to complete the problem until a late flurry of senders towards the end — corresponding with a cluster of very strong climbers on at the end of the order...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
A fun first day at this year's Exeter Deep Water Solo competition, with the morning dedicated to the women's comp with the afternoon focusing on the men. Unlike last year, where the sponsored team climbers joined at a later stage, this year's format required everyone to climb in each round — a response to the large numbers of very strong climbers who did so well that they ended up in the semi-finals.

Emma Twyford jumps in after her final problem. The wall is designed such that competitors can't top out even if they succeed in sending the most difficult problem, guaranteeing that even the very best have to get wet at some point!

The first of the women's comp problem looked relatively straight-forward and everyone seemed to cruise up it with ease:

Eve topping out on the first problem. It was an extremely slick performance and she positively breezed up it.

The second problem was far harder, with a ball a couple of feet in diameter and featuring a couple a handholds dangling from a chain in the middle of the set. The official beta involved hooking a heel on one of the holds below the overhang and before sitting on the wrecking ball — as it inevitably got called by the commentators!

Izzy Bentley makes easy work of the EP wrecking ball...

The whole section was extremely unforgiven to anyone who inadvertently cut loose, with recovery only possible by building up enough momentum to swing back on to the wall:

Andrea Kovacs-Simon campuses on the wrecking ball. (ETA: Monday's Express and Echo features a very similar photo on the cover!)

The final problem was extremely hard, with small crimps from the start and a pull up over the first overhang using the orange volume:

Izzy Bentley on the third and final qualifiers problem.

Once past the overhang, the next move was up to a sloper and a couple more crimps before an extremely delicate move to the final hold:

Jessie Tucker on the upper section of the last problem. I have a feeling she didn't quite send it, but she came very, very close.

Christine Lowry was one of the few to complete the problem:


As was Emma Twyford, who obviously wasn't enthusiastic about the state of the water in the dock:

sawyl: (A self portrait)
Most exciting event of recent days: an unexpected power outage caused by a general trip in the local area. Which shows what sort of week it's been...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Early appointment with the haematologist this morning, with blood count numbers low but not catastrophically bad, so nothing much to do but keep an eye on things.

On the way in to work around mid-morning, I got caught up in the disruption triggered by the discovery of a couple of suspicious packages in Sidwell Street. It all seemed extremely efficient and organised, with the buses directed to take a circuitous route along the High Street and in order to avoid the road closures.

Eventually arriving in the office, I learnt some bad news — but fortunately not the worst — which rather dampened the effects of the good news from the hospital...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Yesterday we walked from Exeter through Stoke Woods and Columbjohn Woods to Killerton House, where we stopped for tea and cake — a really good gluten- and dairy- free lemon and cardamom cake from The Exploding Bakery. As might be expected, given my current enthusiasm for taking lots of photos, here are a few of the better ones.

Blossom

A tree in blossom on the university campus

Pre-lunch pictures... )

We arrived in the usual place for lunch at around half-past one and an advanced party was dispatched to scope out the ground.

The lunch oak

Lubo and Clare beneath what was to have been the lunch tree. Unfortunately the ground was too wet for sitting, so we migrated to a drier spot by the edge of the wood where there were old bits of wood to sit on.

A break for food and a journey resumed )

Immediately on arrival at Killerton we ordered teas all round, shook out the picnic rugs, and broke out the birthday cake.

Clare shows off the view

Clare gestures at the view in best, sweeping, aristocratic style. Or maybe she's just shading her eyes from the sun. It's hard to tell...

Tea at Killerton House... )

Finally made it to the Red Lion in Broadclyst after a nine mile walk.

Outside the pub at last

From left to right: Mark, Gery, Lubo, Paula, Simon, Anne-Christine, Stuart, Clare, Frances. Behind the camera: me and JC. Note Gery's very muddy boots and Mark's incipient sunburn.

Gratuitous movie star close-ups! )

Once everyone was ready, we moved inside for food. I had a vegetable enchilada but the fish pie was popular as were the steaks. And when Frances' pudding arrived, it came complete with a birthday candle!

Frances birthday cake

Sadly I missed the actual moment of Frances blowing out her candle but here is the immediate aftermath. The framing and general angles show just what a terrible indoor photographer I am and just how bad I am at anything that requires flash...

Broadclyst war memorial at dusk

Another shot of Broadclyst war memorial this time at dusk with Venus rising in the west above it. There was a certain amount of debate about whether the planet really was Venus or Mars — I checked and Mars rose later — and whether the photo was going to come out, but in the end it all came together rather well.

We caught the bus back to town — happily, I confirmed that my bus Exeter pass was valid all the way out to Broadclyst — and rounded off an absolutely lovely day in with an uneventful journey home.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Serious traffic chaos this evening in and around town, with one of the main roads closed after a fatal accident, problems on the M5, and various on-going roadworks adding to the problems. I left myself what I thought was plenty of time to get home and sort things out before going bouldering but in the end it took me 90 minutes to get home by bus — almost twice as long as it would have taken me to walk. By the time I finally got to town, everywhere was closing and I decided to go home, at which point I decided that after spending an hour or so standing in the cold, I really couldn't face going out again.

But I suppose I ought to look on the bright side: at least I've managed to slurp down a larger than expected chunk of Gareth Powell's Macaque Attack, leaving me at the point where Powell neatly shifts the narrative into deep space linking the Macaque novels with The Recollection, his excellent space opera which, not at all coincidentally, I read yesterday...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
My course finished half an hour early today, so I dashed home and went for a run before hurrying down to the Quay to meet R for supper. We had a nice chat while the place filled up with people in to hear Kenton Cool talking about last year's ascents of Nuptse, Evereset and Lhotse — the triple crown — which he managed without returning to base camp.

Kenton Cool at the Quay

E arrived just as R was heading home and we went down to sit on the floor for the rest of the evening. The talk was really excellent, with just the right balance of humour and seriousness, and there was a good turnout with the raffle ticket numbers ending well over a hundred. Not only do I now appreciate just how amazing it is, but I know that Yuichiro Miura skied down Everest and also summitted it in 2013 aged 80. I also now know about David Breashears' amazing Rivers of Ice photographic project, that lets you zoom right in to huge photos of the mountains as well as comparing recent pictures of the glaciers with those taken in the 1920s.

An extremely enjoyable evening...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
After break of a couple of hours, during which I went for Moroccan mint tea and a hippy nut bar at a cafe in town, the wall was stripped down and the final three problems were put up ready for the last part of the competition.

This isn't a brilliant photo, but it shows just how bare the final configuration was: the male finals problem is the blue running from left to right, the female and U16 male problem is red running from right to left, and the U16 female is green running from the middle up to the top left corner.

Final DWS Problems


The evening event started with the U16 competitors, all of whom were absolutely amazing. They may have been shorter than most — some of them were tiny! — but they more than made up for it with solid technique and astonishing power-to-weight ratios. They were followed by the eight female finalists, including a few competitors who'd come all the way from the open sessions on Saturday.

Female finals photos )

Following the end of the female final, there was a short break during which the competitors inspected the wall and Neil Gresham talked a little bit about the competition, mentioning the quality of the setting and how well the problems tested the different weaknesses of the climbers, with people falling off at a range of different places on the wall — rather than everyone simply struggling with the same crux move.

Neil Gresham says a few words


While this was going on the weather changed for the better, with the late summer sun breaking through the clouds at just the right angle to catch the wall in all its glory. As a result, instead of having to shoot into the sun, I finally got an opportunity to take some glorious pictures of the finalists lit by a beautiful orange, late summer sun. Pure perfection.

Male final photos )

All in all, it was an awesome weekend, a great event, and a real inspiration. Let's hope it gets more people climbing and let's hope it happens again next year!

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