UKC user Lizard Ollie (Ollie Thomas) has scoured the UKC logbooks notes and categorised the curious mix of comments left behind in the wake of joy, defeat, disappointment and angry weasels (yes, you'll just have to read on)...
The UKC logbooks. Where else could you find such an eclectic mix of opinions, thoughts and exaggerations that can provide hours of entertainment on a rainy afternoon? Oh yeah, the forums.
Entering a route into your UKC logbook is an excellent way to keep track of progress throughout your climbing career and show off to undoubtedly confused non-climber friends and family. It also gives you the chance to let the rest of the UKC community know what you thought of the route. Was there a particularly dire crux move? Was it a breeze? Has half the route fallen into the sea? These key questions can sometimes be answered with a quick scroll down the logbook 'notes' or comments section of a climb, allowing informed decisions on whether this route is worth the precious time you have at the crag.
On the other hand, notes that are too detailed can detract from the overall adventure of turning up and finding out for yourself that 'punching yourself in the face helps you get the psyche required for success!' Those with extremist ethical views may even consider this to invalidate the onsight, but let's not go down that road. While browsing climbs at crags in both near and far lands, one cannot help but peek at the notes written by those who have previously made (or failed) on ascents of the routes in question. I thought it would be interesting to try and categorise the 10 most common types of note-takers you regularly see floating around the logbook section, illustrated with a few standout examples.
*Original spelling and grammar largely unchanged for added comedic effect*
A comedic note will, you guessed it, include some kind of line, joke or pun with the vague hope of putting a half-smirk on someone's face should they ever read it. I personally try and get my notes to fall into this section, which luckily isn't too hard to achieve when life seems to be an endless tapestry of hilariously apocalyptic failures. Here's some favourites (misspellings included):
"Did it clean, just, but it still sounded like birthing a giant baby!"
"Pumpy! Eating two monster bacon rolls and having a snooze did not make for the best warm up. Well protected."
"Psyched to of got up it! A bit brown trousery near the top!"
"Your a better man than me if you can do this without swearing."
"Led in Alpine boots. Amazing crux on pitch 3 - Kama Sutra manual should be referenced for ideas of how to get round it. Top pitch was airy and incredible. Great route."
"Water pooling behind wires in cracks, water running down sleeves, howling winds, crying girlfriends - a proper day out on a lovely little route."
The Beta Bleater
A beta bleating note can be controversial. While some may appreciate knowing that there is a hidden hold on the route, others may be disheartened heading into the climb armed with this knowledge. A lot of the time notes may briefly mention beta for the route, but a bleater will go all out in detail. Take a look at these:
"Left foot high as possible, left hand as high as possible in huge pocket, bob up to pinch with right hand via intermediate crimp, right foot in dimple, left foot heel hook by left hand, pull up as high as possible so nose nearly touches the hold above that's not part of the shield (pull with left hand as much as possible to save pressure on the left knee ) take left hand to left hand crimp on shield (using intermediate hold on face if necessary), very delicately turn the heel hook into a toe hook, trying not to let your foot pop out, pop right hand up to crimp on right of shield. Do something with your feet. Twist right side in put right foot in scoop, go up with right hand for big pocket that's level with the top of the shield, twist left side in and get right foot high, go for the top which is all good but a nicely placed chalk tick could help you find the thank god hold set back from the edge. Don't hang about. Brilliant problem."
"Better than I expected given this was the first day out on rock this year. Three goes: first go got to the top bolt to bolt fairly quickly, second go 2 rests, third go best high point - fell off going for the second pocket by the 5th bolt, then dogged as was spent. Starting off the block each time. Next time? At the initial bulge go LH in vertical crack by the bolt and throw RH for the crimp and again for the jug. For the crux definitely need to rock over onto high RF on a good nubbin by 4th bolt. On pumpfest traverse left to the flattie by 6th bolt, go LH, LH, RH to vertical side pull, balancey move LH to flattie."
The No Nonsense Note-taker
These people leave a note that tells you exactly what happened and nothing else. No faff. Less time writing notes and more time climbing. Here are some prime examples:
You'll know you've found a scholarly note when you have to scroll down the page more than twice to read it. Most frequently describing an epic, the scholar will usually go in to such microscopic depth of their experience, you'd be forgiven for thinking they were trying to publish it in a scientific journal. Precise gear placements, breathing frequency, shoe rubber thickness, ambient humidity, none of which are outside the scope of a scholarly note. Take a look:
"Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls take a comfy seat and lend me your ears. Picture the scene. It was late afternoon on a warm summer's day. The tide was close to high and myself and Aby decided to ab in for a final route - Octobrina, E2 5b. I had not been on form, but nonetheless it seemed like a good idea. Meanwhile Tom and Wendy decided they'd had enough and went to get food for a BBQ. And so it was, sun drained, with leaden arms we started up Octobrina. Aby in a hanging belay just above the high tide mark and I making my way up a cracked slab. With a rest belay the crux, the first pitch went relatively smoothly. Aby reached the belay and promptly announced "Well, this is awkward, but I need to pee". And so it was I found myself looking out to sea while Aby relieved herself on the 3 foot deep ledge behind me. Feeling more comfortable Aby started racking up for the next pitch. A very steep crack. Just at the moment when this crack appeared to be getting steeper and steeper with every passing second, a voice came from above. "Aby, Jake" Wendy and Tom had returned. Almost immediately Aby and I looked to each other and said "top rope?". It was agreed and we yelled up "can we have a top rope please?". Shortly later the ab rope was being lowered to us with a prussik attached - a subtle hint. Fortunately I had my micro traxion and rapidly ascended the 20m. Upon reaching the top I belayed Aby up in the encroaching darkness. It turns out this pitch was a sand bag. In the darkness we were the last to leave the crag and headed back for our BBQ. Edit: turns out what we thought was the second pitch, is actually a different route and goes at E4 6a!"
"Got to the start of the climb just before high tide (around 3:30pm), coming across two guys, both called Matt. They had arrived first, with the mention of "well, at least we have some company in case anything goes wrong". After waiting at the belay, Matt said that he hadn't paid out slack for almost an hour, so we had to check up on Matt. I dutifully put Richard on belay so he could investigate. It transpired that some horrendous rope drag had resulted in both Matt, and Matt, having the other on belay and holding the dead rope wondering why the other wasn't climbing! Richard managed to sort out the rope drag issues so Matt could retreat to the safety of the ledge. Both Matts ascended their abseil rope, after taking the decision to attempt the climb on another day. Now, it was our turn. Fortunately our chance encounter with Matt, and Matt, meant we were delayed just enough to do the low tide variation. Having anchored myself in with feelings of excitement mixed with apprehension, I watched Richard leap across the rock with a beaming smile, raring to go after our previous delays. Once Richard had hopped around the corner, my thoughts drifted to what the route had in store for us. The route was absolutely spectacular. Superb moves on high quality rock, in a stunning position. Left the first piece of gear in on the second pitch because of the mind goblins telling me about the swing I would take if I were to fall upon removing my gear. Richard, unphased and putting his MIA skills into practice carefully traversed back to remove the gear. The third pitch was wild and bold and had the added excitement of darkness closing in. We were rewarded with a (relatively speaking) straightforward pitch, topping out with the sun setting and a very firm handshake."
The Raconteur of the Absurd
It's actually hard to believe that some of the events detailed in an absurd note even happened. These outrageous situations make for some good reading, though. Below are some interesting examples:
"p2 this time, in a penis costume."
"Thought some ne'er do well was chucking rocks down on us from above, so we shouted at them quite a lot, but it turned out to (maybe) be somebody's ashes. Hmm, awkward. Anyway, a *** weird and crazy HVS. I traversed the quartz rather than downclimbing the crack... downclimbing the crack would take mega slab confidence especially for the 2nd, not sure I'd call it HVS for that option."
"Some suspect gear from fran. First time I've removed a runner which turns out to be trainers."
"Amazonian adventure! 3.5 hours in flippers."
"Great route. We were attacked by an angry weasle on the top pitch!!!!"
Fairly self-explanatory. An over-grader note will be up in arms about how it was the hardest HS they've ever done or that the route is a total sandbag. To be perfectly honest, I've found myself here a few times too. No doubt these notes are coupled with a forceful click of the register votes tab. Here are some examples:
"This is very scary first pitch it isn't an S more like a HVS, don't even think about committing down there unless you can comfortably climb the grade, we believe there has been a rock fall making it much harder. It is amazing climb, pitch 2 and 3 are very good an more like a S, however very exposed. Awesome!"
"This was once graded Severe - I think its probably worth HVS 4c!"
"Pretty sure VD is a mistake - should be VS."
Unsurprisingly in a similar guise to the over-grader, under-grader notes will downplay the severity of the route making it out to be breeze, which for a lot of wads out there, it probably was. This can vary from dropping one technical grade through to the kind of massive reductions usually reserved for a bank holiday sale at DFS. Take a look:
"the crux is one pull and its jugs virtually everywhere with more threads than you can imagine and hands off rests to boot: E2? the top pitch is a nice contrast with its square cut hanging groove and some balancey moves to get established. not the mind-blowing pitch thats made out but still good fun."
"This wall is as overgraded as Lower Sharpnose. Great!"
"7a+, I don't think so, try 6c."
The Pitch Counter
Probably the most numerous of all the UKC notes and the least interesting. However, pitch counter notes allow others to see who got stuck with the crux pitch(es) and it can give the note-addict a quick fix in the event of an uninteresting multi-pitch:
"Led P1 & 3."
"Led pitch 1 and seconded pitches 2 and 3."
These notes don't seem to make much sense to an outside reader, even when in context, but they presumably mean something to the original ascensionist. Try and make sense of these:
"This is the most beautiful wall I've seen folks. Believe me, its a great wall. It's a real wall, nice and strong. A serious wall. It's not a wall that they just climb up. Its magical. I know it. We all know it."
"Ruined by a single hoegarden...."
"Wouter - Peter pan made."
The Turn-off Merchant
These are notes that can make the heart sink, especially when you look on the author's logbook and see they climb much harder than you. A turn off note will deter most but inspire others who long for a taste of type II fun. Here are some I enjoyed:
"We journeyed up into the bowls of the earth like a trio of parasites and it somewhat predictably shit us out again several hours later. Determined to return and finish this after psychologically recovering from the amount of stress endured, it is definitely a route which you can get yourself killed on."
"Let's take our bags up with us to save the walk out... P1 damp 5a with microwire to get of ground then muddy 4c. P2 Ed didn't read guide and went up most of let us prey (looked like a terrifying lead but he enjoys soloing E3 slabs in the peaks), occasionally had to tread on damp muddy bits which didn't inspire confidence in the delicate footwork!. P3 left my hedge shears at home, but managed to tear my way through 20m of ivy, mud, hawthorn and rock that resembles a moist wensleydale to emerge at footpath fractionally before nightfall. Weirdly quite enjoyed all this..."
"I very rarely give up on a route but this one was so unpleasant I turned back after the 4th pitch. I squelched through copious amounts of veg, put my foot in the hidden carcass of a dead sheep, climbed the odd bit of slimy rock then decided that was enough. It might have been better with a partner although I'm not sure black humour could have improved this 'climb'. Is this a classic? A classic of what? Character building? It's just a revolting gully that would normally be avoided but someone called it a classic and put it in a guide book."
Thanks to all the users whose notes have featured in the article. At the very least, you provided me with some cheap entertainment.
Are you a serial note-maker? Do your notes feature here? Got any favourite note examples?