Due to (surprisingly!) popular request, the days leading up to Mutation, starting way back in 1996. This is pretty much lifted straight from my climbing diary.....

Day 1    16th November 1996

Chucking it down with rain, really humid, seepage everywhere! It was kind of game over for the year, and I wasn’t sure why I was even there. Not much to do, and my psyche from having redpointed Evolution had long gone. So decided to abb down and check Evolution Direct. It had looked like a way to go when I was on Evo. Definitely possible! looks like 10 hard moves, at least 6a for all of them, a few 6b, maybe a few 6c. Will add a lot in grade and quality. Could be a good project for next year and certainly worth another look.

Day 2    30th November 1996

Must be the last day of the year. But still keen just to be outside, can’t face going indoors yet. Very wet, totally seeping and run-off everywhere. Awful! Only possible routes were Tin-of and Sardine, and they were awful. But I was there to check Evolution Direct again, before the winter truly arrives and to see if it will work. Dogged up Chimes and lowered down to have a look. Looks like two hard sections, neither of which I could do, or even work out how to do. Do I really want to get involved in this?

Day 3    1st December 1996

Despite not really having a clue how to do the extension or even knowing if I’d ever be capable, I was psyched to get started. Not a climbing day, didn’t even put on my shoes. A bolting day, very hard work. Clip-sticking up adjacent routes by myself and basically being a bit gripped the whole time. I only put in two bolts and it took all day. Not even sure they are in the right place. Anyway, I have a project of my own which has to be at least 8c+ and will be a super classic if I can do it! Feels incredible to have a ‘project’ at the Tor!


Day 4    23rd March 1997

Good start to the day with a flash of In Brine. Nice to be in that mode again after the winter of not much. Feel pretty rusty after occasional route sessions at The Foundry and the odd bit of bouldering on Grit. Keen to have a look on the new project straight away. ‘Evo direct’ was looking rather hard, with 2 big sections. I have a feeling that being tall may help but it was a bit damp still. Evolution felt fine though, and I reckon after practice I’ll get to the junction not too tired. So that was good, to see I could still (potentially) climb Evo even after a winter of faffing (still my hardest route). However, the top bit could be out of my league but I do think it will be possible by someone.

Day 5    29th April 1997

My elbows seem to have developed a total injury that started for no reason at all (well, could have been all the climbing). So, I couldn’t risk much climbing and basically just warming up has been enough. Probably should not have even been climbing at all. Still, gradual improvement overall with elbows, so may as well press on.

First hard climbing day for a while and back on the extension, which may have been optimistic. But maybe after all the rest I was going OK? Now after this session I have a good idea of all the moves, and have done all the moves except move 10 (left hand from sloper to tiny edge). Move 3 is totally nails and I managed it only once but not really properly, in fact not really at all, a hideous cross-over, which hopefully is not the way!

Day 6    6th May 1997

Good and not good! Evolution went well! I worked it to remember the moves, then led to the junction. Huge crowd including Ben Moon must have helped with psyche! Anyway, the direct is nails! Hmm, maybe this is too hard. Still could not do the moves. I even got Rob (Barker) up there to try the moves who couldn’t do them either. I’m now not sure about this. Being tall looks to be very helpful. I may have to bag it for a while.

3 days later back in awful conditions. Whole of crag a seeping river, a week of rain has reverted the crag back to winter! I climbed like an arse on easy routes and beginning to wonder if I’m just a complete punter after all, just climbing routes that are to my strengths. I’m meeting people everywhere that are miles stronger than me. I need to try a real 8c to see if I can actually cope and climb that hard. I’ve a feeling I could be rather humbled!

Day 7    12th May 1997

Conditions really awful today, didn’t even try the extension, and couldn’t do Evolution either. Best effort on Evo was with one rest. Really good fun trying it with Rob (Barker) and John (Welford)  though who are looking strong.

Day 8    21st May 1997

At last, back to the crag, unfortunately the place was suffering from dampness and a horrid slime so I couldn’t do a lot until it dried up later I the day….but, I DID do the top half of the new section in one hit! So, it can be done, in theory. Unfortunately tweaked my shoulder trying the first cross-over move, so I need to rest up or find a new way, though I don’t think there is another way! But still. I might even be able to do this mad route!

Day 9    29th May 1997

After a week trad climbing in North Wales I was gagging to be back, and even got there early for good conditions, which weren’t good, and rapidly became bad. Went up onto the extension but it was a total waste of time, way to hot and slimy and I’ve no idea why I even considered dogging my way up. A split on my finger from Wales was also threatening to rip open, so basically, I didn’t do anything. All in all, rubbish! I’m sick of making no progress now in crappy conditions. I need to wait for it to get better. Probably pointless till Autumn.

Day 10  16th October 1997

Ah, back to lovely soggy England after 3 weeks in Asia, and a whole summer of bits and bobs all over the place. As usual, The Tor welcomed me with humid conditions, but I was inspired to have a look at the proj. The last sequence was not an option due to the conditions, but I DID do the cross-over! First time ever, and did it twice too! Maybe I was going OK, maybe a break off hard stuff has done me good?

Day 11  22nd October 1997

Top nick today! At last. Really good crowd too, Neil Bently, John Welford, tons of super climbers. Good day on the extension, and what a difference the conditions make! Kind of think I’ve wasted a bunch of time really. As good as did the whole extension in one! Fell off the final move but only cos I got my hand tangled in the rope! It was time to have a burn from the ground to see what happens. As expected, I got to the junction, set up for the cross-over, and flopped straight off. Nowhere near, but maybe if I can wire that move? Later did Evo, and it felt fine. So what grade is the extension? It surely has to be 8b? Or more? I redpointed Make It Funky in 6 days and should have done it in way less, this extension has been a battle now for ages. But it has been a lot of warm days.


Day 12  5th February 1998

Solo dogging session on the extension, mainly just to see if it was dry. I clip-sticked my way up and lowered down on a grigri to try the moves. Amazingly it was nearly dry, though Evolution was sopping wet and unclimable. Anyway, working the route alone was actually OK, not too scary! I couldn’t do the cross-over, and tried every conceivable different way. This is disappointing as that move is just so hard, and so not my style. I did do the top crimpy section though three times. Slightly different sequence, using a micro crimp out left to get my bodyweight out left before reaching for the awful crimp. Conditions are CRITICAL! The moves on the crimp are so hard, and today was freezing too! But maybe it could be on, I should do some training for that cross-over, best start now!

Day 13  17th Feb 1998

Back again, back on it again. Awesome conditions. Not much progress, except the realization that the crux move has to be done that bloody awful way. I managed it twice all day, with lots of tries. Very tweaky on my shoulder. Nearly led the whole extension twice too, each time doing the move I kept on going but fell on the final crimp move. But the undercut pinch thing was damp meaning everything was a bit harder after that. Had a go from the floor just to see.. and fell straight off the cross-over, in fact I made absolutely no impression on the move at all. A bit depressing really, but then I’ve not done any training for this move at all, and in fact no training at all, so hardly surprising. I should get my finger out and do some stuff.

Day 14  25th Feb 1998

Mixed day of different feelings. Slightly sore tip, having totally split it on V.Big + V.Small on Slate. Disappointing having got through the crux of V.Big and then to blow it, and that was 2nd day too! But skin not too bad already. Began feeling confident that I’d make some progress, somehow…. Which is odd considering how little I’ve made so far! I was thinking I’d get the extension link, and then be ready for RP next day, however, I just couldn’t do that bloody move! 20 goes later I managed it once but only just! Tried all the other options as I usually do, and came to the same conclusion as I always do! After a long rest I totally went for it, swinging wildly and managed to get some kind of body swing thing going that seemed to make a difference. In fact managed the move twice in a row. And then led all the way through from junction to top! That’s the first time I’ve ever actually managed that link! Had a burn from the ground, and of course fell off the cross-over. But then after a short rest I led to the top. So, that’s overlapping halves kind of. Suddenly it all seems promising and super exciting, but I need to calm down as I could fall off that cross-over for the rest of my life!!

Day 15  1st March 1998

Bonus day really, wasn’t even gonna go out as the weather was abysmal; windy and snowing hard! Totally Baltic, but conditions good – I think? Three days rest and today was my first real redpointing day! I got to the cross-over three times, reaching out for the pinch but not really getting that close. It’s such a weird swing. Now, from a rest on the rope, I can manage the move with the momentum and timing, but to get that timing after doing Evo is nails. Still, three RP’s to the junction is not so bad really, like running laps on Evo. The cold helps, but then does it? My fingers were frozen by the time I reached the junction. Very hard to get the optimum. It probably only comes once a year! Ended with a split tip again, same as on the V.Big. Gonna need a week to heal now as its quite a flapper.

Day 16  1st April 1998

Mainly out to meet Neil Pearsons (OTE) and Ben (Lowe) to look at photos of V.Big + V.Small. Very psyched to have scraped the 2nd Ascent of that route. Neil even hinted on a front cover of OTE! Wow. Ben was psyched too, first effort at taking pictures really! I’d be well psyched to get a picture in a mag! Anyway, while there I got back on the extension, but it was rubbish conditions and I got nowhere. Tried a burn from the ground but couldn’t even do Evo. Has the last month of North Wales trad and sport been no good for this? Probably, the moves are so specific and so hard. But I think its conditions. It needs to be cold and crisp like before, and not warm and muggy!!

Day 17  25th August 1998

Totally screwed up weather! Yesterday was amazing at The Cornice, today was a complete joke, raining SO hard. I knew it was pointless even going out but had committed to going with Dave. As expected the crag was in awful condition and even worse as the mist came in. I dogged up Evo, but couldn’t do any of the moves at all and immediately sacked it off without even getting on the extension.

Day 18  13th September 1998

Back again and conditions good! Still raining, but now freezing too, which is kind of good. I was worried about seepage but nothing coming through yet, though a few patches on other routes. Out by myself on a shunt. Extension was feeling desperate again now, been too long off it. But still, managed the crux cross-over a few times, and the top section too. And then linked the whole extension section from the junction to top. Plus, almost linked from long clip in Evolution into the final section. So that was a BIG step, to do the cross-over after having done a few moves, as opposed to having just pulled on.. Still, cross-over is for sure gonna be the stopper. But need to have a few RP efforts now. That’s quite exciting!

Day 19  17th September 1998

Not feeling good today, a bit ill and weak. Conditions OK, but we hung around till nearly dark and they got better. Was in RP mode. A high point – kind of! Three RP efforts, first was too warm and I fell below the junction at the gnarly pinch/crimp on Evo. 2nd and 3rd RP I got to the cross, and SO nearly held the pinch on the 3rd go! On both RP efforts I climbed from junction to top after falling. So now it surely is ON! Horary. Surprised really as I’ve not been focused on the route or even the style. Tweaked a bicep tendon on last go though which needs a bit of rest.

Day 20  22nd September 1998

Turned up with Neil and Keith to find crap conditions, warm and humid. I waited for ages waiting for it to cool down, which it did a little. So, clips in and went for an RP, expecting nothing, but amazingly actually got a high point. Well, not actually any higher, but so nearly held the pinch. Would not have done the route though even if I’d held it as the crimps above were too damp to pull on. Couldn’t do the last section at all! Can’t work out how long this route will take, conditions are everything, and so hard to get right. The top section is OK in great conditions, but I reckon I could still drop it up there.

Day 21  2nd October 1998

First cold day for a while, but humid too. Still despite that, and also feeling a bit tired, and also certainly injured (elbow tendonitis, for last 2 weeks lots of ice and stretching and little climbing), I really wanted to do well, and had placed a load of expectation on myself. Unfortunately it didn’t go great. First RP I climbed badly and was straight off at the cross with no impression at all; totally waisted! Spent a while faffing with the move as usual; 3 possible foot positions, all seem the same, can’t really decide which is best, but I need to stick with one! In fact today I tried all 3 today on RP, which seemed a good idea. And got to the cross 3 times. Foot position seemed to make no difference, though I was miles away from the move with any method so not sure I gained any knowledge at all. At least I can still do Evo pretty easily.

Day 22  7th October 1998

Yet another failed day. Getting annoying now! Feel as though I should be doing better. Maybe I am getting a ‘head’ problem on ‘that’ move. Today I had 2 RP efforts, first go was the best, swinging over to the pinch but not getting the distance. 2nd go was rubbish. No psyche and hardly tried. Evo is feeling a path, but that cross is just a killer! Today I got Myles (Gibson) up there for a look, and with his fingers his opinion on moves is really important. He found it nails too, and no info change really (would have been nice if he found an easier way!). He reckoned 8b at least for the extension if not more, so it means the route could be overall 9a. That’s probably why I’m not getting up it!

Day 23  10th October 1998

THAT move FOUR times today! Excellent conditions. I’m wasting them! They will run out soon for sure. Not sure about the head problem except I expect to fail now. I set off knowing I’ll get to that move, and fall off that move. But I still think I’m trying hard enough, even on the move. Its just so momentum orientated. I need to have the movement pattern in my mind and not just try and static it. I’m sure it will go. Spent ages fiddling with the move and found perhaps a slightly easier way of swinging it, but only slightly, and probably not at all really. But that top section is still so hard. Today after each go I climbed the top section to keep it fresh. I could for sure drop that bit! Just need to keep plugging away.

Day 24  14th October 1998

Horary!! At last. Totally didn’t expect it today but got it first go, straight through the cross and straight to the top! Once through the cross I totally wanted it and just crimped like never before. Just got it too, only just, that last move to the pocket I was totally out of there, complete lunge that I only just held. SOO close. Conditions perfect, as good as I have ever had there, windy and dry and crisp. Fingers just at the point of being cold, but still OK. Any colder and they would have lost feeling. Last few moves on the headwall were still hard, as hard as I have ever felt them being. Would have been awful to fall there. What a buzz to get it. Paul (Reeve) belayed and lots at the crag too so great atmosphere! Matt (Donerly) went up for a look, now that the route is good to go, but totally failed on the moves, and he’s no punter! So it must be hard. But it’s just such a good route! Maybe the best I’ve ever done. Later went on Hubble, Nails! Managed most of moves though and could be worth a look. After all, what else am I gonna do now!!