Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Oh yes oh yes, I'm almost at climax!

Its almost time. On Monday 12th of September I set off on my nomadic climbing pilgrimage, first ranging the east coast of Majorca, then wandering the forests of Fontainebleau with my trusty hammock.

Been super busy with work the last couple of months but managed to sneak some good little trips in preparation;

A little 2 day trip to Dinas Rock in South Wales, a beautiful wooded gorge with some stunning rock architecture, amazing sport routes (the classic Berlin 7a+, which was my first route on real rock since before the ankle-break), particularly on the Main Wall and Lower Cave, and some brilliant bouldering on the bottom of Kennelgarth Wall, reminiscent of the wonderful Pantymwyn Gorge (also went there and got SPANKED on Thug Mentality, but as a wise man once said, the only true failure is a failure you don't learn anything from. I learned that if you keep failing on the last move, find a better way of doing it before you get too spent trying it from the start. Ah well, next time!).

                                              The bouldering at Kennelgarth Wall

Lower Cave - to get a sense of scale, the small left hand cave is actually about 10 metres high and 10 metres deep, with a handful of amazing-looking sport routes!

Really good online guide to Dinas Rock on here with some great pics and vids too! http://www.southwalesmountaineering.org.uk/g_book/index.php/Dinas_Rock

Also had a great bouldering trip with the King! Me n Kieran went to visit Alberto and Lo-pez for some North Wales Bouldering action! After a morning of thrashing ourselves and making some good progress on the first couple of moves of Bus Stop (V9, but was pissing rain so the lip of the Jerrys Roof boulder was gopping) we proceeded to ruin ourselves further with an evening session at the Indy Wall, which has some brilliantly set problems (as always), with the Wad that is Alex Mason setting some wicked funky-tech problems to shoot down many a strong-man. It makes him feel better about being weak ;-)

Then, with our skin tender and arms spent, we dragged ourselves to the Pass once more with slightly tentative ambition, but through sheer determination Ki and I both managed to bag The Sting (a very cool lone problem with some thin and frustating moves at V9, tick!) and then Room to Swing a Katz, the hardest V6 I've ever done, with an obscenely tensiony move, awesome! As a note, the first ascentionist of this problem, Mark Katz, is a real inspiration. So often I hear grumbles from short people about not being able to reach or saying that tall people have it easy. Mark's minimal stature hasn't stopped him crushing some ridiculously hard problems and big moves; he just embraces the dynamic movement. Watch him doing rockatrocity on amateur hardcore to get an idea of his beastyness (available on vimeo if you haven't seen it). You may not be able to get taller, but you can always get dynamic. But thats off on a bit of a tangent.

Anyway, that little update brings me to the present; I'm working regularly at the wall so managing to get lots of little indoor training sessions in - feeling primed and ready to rock! My absolute sympathies to everyone stuck at work or starting back at uni this September while I'm off galavanting on the continent, but this trip is a long overdue, so forgive me for feeling just the tiniest bit smug...

Adios amigos!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Its been a while!

For the last 10 weeks I've not really had anything of interest to report; slow and steady healing with intermittent bursts of training, a handful of wild nights out and an ongoing battle against the evil that is boredom! But its been a valuable experience in many ways. The first few steps I walked brought such a feeling of liberation comparable to natural highs like the elation of finishing your last exam or the first time you have sex! But anyway, one of the things that has kept me sane and maintained my psyche for climbing is the endorphin pumping training sessions.

I am now a total advocate of brief but intense periods of training with adequate rests in between; say 2 weeks of '2 days on 1 day off' before a week of rest, and when you return to training your body's adaptations have had a chance to manifest and you can train at a higher intensity once again. I have no idea if this is the most physically efficient way to structure training, but I at least found that it allowed my motivation to be maintained throughout the 10 weeks; I relished the week off, but by the end of the rest-week I was craving training once again, even without having climbing to give me a measurable reward.

But the time has now come... I went to the climbing wall with the intention of taking it nice n steady with a bit of top-roping, but the ankle felt so solid that in my first session back I ended up flashing a 7a and just dropping a 7b flash on the last move, and again failing on the last move of a 7c last week. My levels of power have been hard to gauge; I've been doing some moves in the bouldering room that I don't think I could have done before, one big dynamic move in particular, jumping between two first-joint 2-finger pockets to hold a wild cut-loose!! It felt gnarly, but I'm not sure, my proprioception might be a bit out. But regardless, things are looking promising for my return to proper climbing, which will probably be some point in July.

Until then I'll continue with the training and top-roping until my ankle is totally bomber and ready to start taking some sweet lobs! So to make up for my lack of big sends and for my disappointingly stagnant logbook (the last route I did was on the 3rd of April!) here is a link to a little training video I've been making to keep the psyche going and get used to this new editing software. It will probably end up being an intro to the Majorca/Font film I'm gona be making; lots of DWS, lots of bouldering; lots of climbing with no strings attached. But for now... just training. Hope you enjoy it :-)


Wednesday, 4 May 2011

There's something about Mikey

Captains Log: 26 days since the incident of which we do not speak, and things are starting to get freaky. The owl in the corner is starting to look like an elephant, and Lord knows what the frogs have been planning, but there's definitely a badger in the ointment.

Nah, I'm not really going mad, but the abrupt change I'm experiencing from being super active and psyched to having a sedentary lifestyle thrust upon me is taking some adjustment. I'm still psyched though. My saving grace is my positive attitude and willingness to just accept the situation and get on with it, so I've been keeping myself busy and as physically active as I can for now. Just moving around on crutches is quite physically intensive; I worked out on google maps that I did about 4 miles around cirencester the other day! Triceps and shoulders are gona get strong out of necessity, great for mantles come Fontainbleau. I've also got the campus board and fingerboard up and running (think I'm gona have a session after I finish writing this) so I will get stronger than before my injury, at least my core, arm power and finger strength will be, for when I return to climbing in August. I say that I will with conviction because I foresee motivation being an important and quite challenging thing to maintain through recovery, so I endeavour to remain steadfast in my attitude towards training.

Aside from the physical, I've also set out to develop myself in other ways. I've started learning piano, got a great little song coming on, and just enjoying playing around with it really. I've also started feeling a real affinity with wood,  which has stemmed from carving my fingerboard, to putting up shelves, building the campus board and making my own home-made mahogany rungs which are a joy to hold! And I'm now carving a coffee table out of a great chunk of solid tree stump, which is testing my patience and problem solving abilities, but teaching me a lot about the nature of wood in the process.

I don't know whether it's to do with my body working really hard on healing, or being more sedentary and lacking the same kind of stimulation, but at the moment I'm sleeping a hell of a lot! I normally go to bed around 2am, and having nothing to set my alarm for I've been sleeping straight through until 12, and often going back to sleep until 1/2/3 in the afternoon... This doesn't feel unhealthy, I've been doing some research and found this. Maybe it partly explains why my body responds to training so well; because I looove sleep!

The waking life of animal organisms is a dynamic, destructive time because the organisms' complex proteins are torn down and exhausted as they are used for activities including locating and ingesting preformed organic molecules to meet the immediate energy needs of the wakened state and to provide the building block proteins which fuel the repair and growth dynamics that occur during sleep.

Slow wave sleep is the dynamic, constructive time of physical healing and growth for animal organisms, a recuperative stage where the mind/body system rebuilds itself after a hard day surviving in the world. Substances ingested during the awake period are synthesized into the complex proteins of living tissue; growth hormones are secreted to assist with the healing of muscles and repairing general wear and tear in tissues; glial cells (neurones in the brain) are refreshed with sugars to restore the brain with energy; the immune system is boosted.

Truly the importance of being idle! So intuitively I've started sleeping more to assist with my healing, awesome! Or maybe I'm just lazy and have nothing to get up for. But regardless, along with eating a load of bone-friendly stuff and quitting caffeine (one of the many evil 'bone robbers') I think the healing process is coming along nicely. My physiotherapy starts on Monday 9th of May, so I'll be able to start working towards more movement in my ankle and strengthening my left leg which is visibly wasting away! And awesome news, once my surgical wound is healed up I'll be able to start swimming again to keep my fitness up. Psyched for some free and uninhibited movement!

Come on Time, get a move on!!

I like this tune

Monday, 11 April 2011


Oh boy oh boy, the last few days have been a real rollercoaster; usually my favorite theme park ride, but these emotionally based ones don't give quite the same kind of thrill do they!
Part of the reason I'm writing this post is a personal process to externalize some stuff and wallow in some misery, but I imagine it might also be an interesting read for others.

So there I was, Thursday the 7th of April, feeling fitter and stronger and on the whole just better than I ever have been, confidence booming, my ego verging on obesity, and with 'The Trip', which has made living on the breadline for the last 5 months bearable, approaching so immanently I could smell the wine and sangria! 12 days in Fontainebleau with the Peckmeister and my old crushing partner Kieran, who I haven't had the pleasure of climbing with for too long now, followed by a further 12 in El Chorro with font-power and the fabled 'flow' (see Mason's recent post) and with the all-day fitness that I've been developing over the last few months. Can you sense the anticipation? It was tangible!

I'm at my dads to earn some spending money for The Trip (which I was quite looking forward to btw) and after a few days without climbing my muscles have acquired the hunger; you know when they just feel like they need to squeeeeze something! I'm at Gloucester climbing wall with a couple of Stroudy climbing friends and I'm feeling elastic, electric, flowing and free! I flambe my way (no not a sugary glazing, in this context I can and will use it for the act of being flamboyant) up a few warm up routes, on one of these finding no less than 6 no hands rests up 12 meters of vertical (not because I needed to, just because I could). As I bounce my way up a 7a+ that was set to flow true by none other than Steve McClure I hear my belayer and my friend below commenting on my languid style and the nature and quality of my movement and technique, and I have yet another injection of ego and a burst of excitement about how successful The Trip is setting up to be.

I don't remember why or how I fell off. I assume a foot slip or something; I was hanging on a jug in the 10 meter high roof and was mid-clip when the unexpected plummet began, and it didn't end until I was flat on the floor. Hurtling through the air I had time for thoughts to clarify; they were something along the lines of "goodness, there shouldn't be THIS much slack out" and then a flash of "this is serious!". Cat-like as I may be, physics be physics, and gravity gravity. I crumpled well on landing, but leaning slightly so my left leg took most of the impact, smashing through an inch of mdf which also helped to absorb the shock, thankfully leaving my spine in tact. It's a strange panic when you hurt yourself; first instinct is to get up and walk around, perhaps to establish to yourself that you're ok. I try to get up immediately, heavily winded, and feel my left ankle is stiff and painful, but otherwise I'm unscathed. I gasp that I'm ok to my belayer, who I realize is in shock; frozen and stammering. Over the next few minutes while we wait for the ambulance I reassure her that I'm fine and that it doesn't feel serious, but she's distraught with guilt and just repeating that she has never dropped anyone before in her life. First time for everything eh. We chat idly with the chubby male paramedic until the 2 smokin hot female paramedics arrive with the wheelchair, and after witnessing some cringeworthy flirting from my friend Remmy I smoothly charm my way downstairs and off to the hospital. Yes that's definitely how it was!

Laughing gas is a brilliant drug! There I was hyperventilating away and hysterical over my devastation while the rest of the waiting room sat there miserably with what appeared to be nothing wrong; the irony of which only added to the hysterics of my rushy altered state, until mean old nursey McPhee said I wasn't in enough pain to warrant laughing gas. Bravado gets you nowhere! The X-ray showed a couple of suspected fractures in my ankle so I was popped in a cast and sent on my way, prospects of walking, let alone climbing out the window for the near future, and my much-anticipated Trip well and truly down't shitter.

Needless to say I have had a lot of frustration to vent, and have spent a lot of time staring pensively into space recently. But I'm well on my way to coming to terms with it. Everyone has been very sympathetic. I don't mind this, although I don't like people making a fuss. I know people mean well, but I find little solace in some of the cliches that they offer, as applicable as they may be to my situation, they just seem hard to stomach sometimes. No, not everything happens for a reason. This did not happen for a reason. I'll endeavor to maintain my optimistic outlook and make the most of a shitty situation, but no divine power influenced this for the greater good. It is unfortunate chance that 2 minor and common events; a lapse in concentration and a foot-slip, both coincided to produce a disproportionately serious result.

I will do what I can to prevent this experience having too much of a negative effect on my future climbing. I'm going to train hard for my physical maintenance over the recovery period, and I feel I am mentally robust enough and have processed the experience well enough to cope with the psychological implications. I'm no more likely to be dropped in future than I was before this incident. I will certainly be a devout and attentive belayer in future. I will probably be more verbal and open about the trust between climber and belayer for my personal reassurance, but that can only be a good thing. I don't hold resentment towards the girl who dropped me, even though I had only just met her and it would be easy to pass blame and judgement, it's not in my nature, and it is unfortunate for her as well as me that the outcome of her distraction was as it was. Approaching these issues with mindfulness and detachment feels important to me, so they don't play over in my mind and become mental blocks in future.

Of all the cliches however, I have definitely benefited from some. The silver linings; my self-development in ways that I would otherwise neglect due to my obsession for climbing; woodwork, reading, music, cooking etc as well as continuing to train hard on the fingerboard I'm carving (I would never prioritize training over climbing even though I know it can give greater improvements in strength, but now I am forced to do so).
Also looking for the light at the end of the tunnel; I will still be able to go on a wild climbing trip once I'm recovered. The girl who was belaying has offered to pay for my flights to be transferred so I will now be going for a month or more to visit Majorca for DWS, Albaraccin and Font for bouldering and apparently there's some good sport climbing in France and Spain worth checking out...
Thirdly, I have taken refuge in remembering that it is always darkest before dawn. I'd say this has been one of the most distressing events of my life. My feathers aren't easily ruffled and I rarely get stressed about things, so I'm sadistically enjoying a bit of wallowing and strong emotion, safe in the knowledge that it will pass soon enough with a bit of adjusting.
Then I look at the lessons to learn. There is not much I can take from the event itself; just the importance of attentive belaying. But from the experience of being injured I can learn empathy. I have never really been injured before. It sucks. And for someone who is so used to being agile and mobile it is a real eye opener to appreciate those who have difficulty moving or dependancy on others. It really sucks.
And finally... Life Goes On.

Good splurge. Good effort if you got all the way through that!

Friday, 1 April 2011

There's always more toothpaste in the tube!

Over the last few weeks I have been living a slightly more conventional life; having to fit my climbing in around work and weather (although I've still been sleeping in a cupboard under the stairs). But I've enjoyed the sense of urgency you get from this, nipping out after work to make the most of our recently extended evenings, and have managed to get some absolutely cracking routes done!

With the ambient warmth of last week George and I ventured to the south side of the pass to Clogwyn y Gafr, a compact little crag with line after line of superb quality. This is where I did my first E3, Satsuma Special a couple of years ago, which I later discovered gets E4 with the demise of a peg that once protected the bold headwall. A brilliant bit of climbing regardless of it's bold nature! But this visit we were not looking to push our boundaries into grades beyond ourselves, the trad season still being so young. So we each bagged a slightly damp crag-classic; the eye-catching crack line of Pulsar E3, ranging from finger locks to arm bars and some powerful slopey laybacking to evade the saturated algae on the lead by George, and then I udged, palmed and slithered my way up the equally attractive corner of Sacred Idol E3, made even better with the holds in the corner being elimiated by seepage and slime, making for magnificent multi-dimensional climbing in all planes of movement between the side-walls.

A few solid days of menial work does wonders for the psyche! So later that week I headed out with Matt Burdekin for what turned out to be a bit more of an intense session than the above! We got up to the Grochan, one of my favourite crags, for convenience as well as for the quality routes. The only drawback was that I had done almost all the routes there. Just the exciting cracked headwall of Quantum Jump E5 still awaited my presence on it. This is the route I witnessed George deck on a while back due to a mean little notch cutting his rope on the lob, so it has been a bit of an elephant in the room for a few of us ever since. Whether I was to be successful or not, the elephant had outstayed his welcome, and Burdy's relaxed 'have a bash' attitude really helped relieve some of the pressure surrounding the idea of getting on it.

Leo Houlding's attitude towards saving routes until they're within your ability comes to mind. It's those hard-fought onsight attempts at your limit that are really the most rewarding, whether you're successful or not. Recently I belayed Alex on Great Wall E4 at Craig-y-Forwyn; a revered and historical route that I know he really wanted to onsight; the Alex vs. flash-pump battle that ensued was a pleasure to witness, and his hard-fought success on reaching the top was enjoyed by all (except the miserable git of a land-owner). So I approached Quantum Jump with the acknowledgment that I might fall, but with the determination not to! A few times I was close to coming off, a foot pop here, a barndoor there, and a desperately deep pump on the last few moves, but I just kept on pulling; there's always more toothpaste in the tube! How close I was to coming off only added to the exhilaration of success! Up at the belay an old climber called across his sincere congratulations, saying that he had seen many attempts and few successes from young ambitious lads on that route. I would definitely class myself as a young ambitious lad, and thankfully that day I was also a successful one!

I now have a weekend in Pembroke to get some beasty trad onsighting done, before I head off on my fright-free European adventure of bouldering and sport climbing. I'm super psyched to get out there and get crushing, but I will also be looking ahead in anticipation of getting back on the trad that this brilliant rocky little island offers.

Video of Leo Houlding just missing out on the onsight of Balance it is, E7 6c at Burbage South. Can't wait to have a crack at this, I just need to be a bit fitter and in a bit better shape!
(the audio and video are way off sync for some reason, but you get the idea)

Friday, 25 March 2011

Yaaaaaaay Hoh!

Finally got round to doing the project at Tremadog! Now named 'The Philtrum'; anatomically the groove under your nose, metaphorically the groove under everyones nose; an overlooked line on the Vector buttress! Now the ivy has been stripped the line is quite striking, clearly visible from the Grim Wall abseil. I've spoken to a couple of North Wales activists who knew of the line but had never bothered to clean it or give it a proper look, and I have the ivy to thank for masking its quality until now.

I did discover an old peg on the route (I hope it doesn't turn out that its already been climbed and just not documented) but I suppose I'm not too bothered... I'm just psyched that my inclination to explore paid off with the re-discovery of this line; regardless of whether it's already been climbed or not it is now a magnificent route with sustained and varied climbing from beginning to end, ready to be enjoyed by anyone who has or think they have the minerals to do it.

The Lowdown.
After failing to link it on top-rope during my first play on it back in January I knew I needed to get fitter and stronger, but was also worried that some wad might notice it and nip up it before me. But with some decent recent form I felt confident, and on the day of the ascent I clocked a better sequence and got it linked clean after a couple of attempts. Psyched to go for a lead! Headpointing is so vastly different from onsighting. You fly through the moves with conviction, and to me they always feel easier on the lead than on top-rope, when your muscles are primed with the adrenaline and you're switched on and focused on your sequence, but also in that zoned in/out state where movement becomes very intuitive.

Anyway, I got to the ok rest above the roof no sweat, just a mild pump which I knew I could recover from and now the climbing was less steep & pumpy and more delicate & flowing, with inspiring gear right by me to spur me upwards. Flying through the groove sequence I arrived all of a sudden at the sloping shelf, but as I scuffled my heel on I felt in an odd position, unable to go with my right hand like I had been in practice. Winging it, with the peg and a small cam a few feet below me, I turned my right down to a palm, rocked on my heel and crept my left awkwardly across my bunched body and up the wall to the flatty with a Stevey Mac "Yeaaaaaay Hoh" woop of success and a flood of satisfaction and contentment, which, contrary to a previous post, I fully allowed myself to be for the rest of the day; sated as can be. Cheers to Duncan for the belay on the ascent, and Jono for the belay back in January.

What a Feeling!

Also here are links to the UKC logbook and forum for the route.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Set me free from the shackles

I'm writing this post in anticipation of liberation from my blossoming 'career' as a waiter. I've got the hunger for climbing; hungrier than when I had all the time in the world and none of the urgency. Keen to make the most of every moment of free time that I get I nipped on the bus to Llanberis after an early finish, intent on a bit of soloing and a reccy at the routes up at Drws-y-Gwynt and over by Owain's Arete (I fancy a look at that if anyone's keen?). But to my disappointment I bumped into George, and had to settle for some trad on the Grochan and what felt like the first proper trad 6b action of the season (grit doesn't count), Ulrich gliding his way up the aptly named Pump and myself floating up the groove of Pus (feel free to ponder as to whether that's sarcasm or not). And it being pay day and all I went and indulged in some Pete's Eats grub and the Llamff after-party at the Fricsan, big in the game!

But after working full-time now for just a week I am even more content in being time-rich money-poor for the foreseeable future, and I'm stumped as to why people choose to devote their lives to working in pursuit of material wealth. Give me a bit of pocket money, a rack and ropes, food in my belly and feathers under my head and I will be content for at least a couple of weeks, before I decide I need to go to DWSing in Majorca and can't afford the flights. Can't wait for that trip in September!

But in the meantime I have some serious earning to do; my 10 days in Font and 14 in El Choro aren't gona pay for themselves! But that will be when pay day really comes for me. The day I get handed the wad of cash is almost trivial; only appreciated when the time comes to send the likes of Carnage/Eclipse/Noir Desir/any or all of the Big 4, or going for the flash attempt of Lourdes (might aswell have a bash, I'll hopefully be quite fit by then!)

But that's 3 and a half weeks into the future, and I'm stuck here in the present, travelling into the future at a meager 24 hours per day, which is much too slow to go doing breakless 9 hour shifts. I guess I'll just have to do what everyone else does for a bit; wait patiently and stop complaining. And get as fit and strong as possible while I wait.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Public transport, retro-flashing and day-long fitness

You might think not having a car can be a bit of a shite sometimes, and I suppose it is, but I haven't let it stop me getting out, with Gwynedd County having the 26th best public transport service in Wales! (I'd also add that 63% of my statistics have been made up). From the hub that is Bangor you can get a train or bus to Holyhead for North Stack, a bus to Llanberis for slate or an easy hitch to the Pass, or Bethesda for an easy hitch to Ogwen (both prime hitching routes on roads that only lead to one place), and Gerlan for Caseg boulders (about £2 return!). The other day Duncan even got a bus all the way to Tremadog (you can get to Aberystwyth on this for £5.40, and then your halfway to Pembroke!), and my personal favorite, and a regular pilgrimage last year; the trusty Number 5 to Llandudno for the Orme. This is a safe bet be it rain or shine; it offers wet-weather bouldering in Parisella's and a host of top-class limestone sport and trad routes! With all the students balls-deep in academia this week no lifts had arisen, so for the first time in 2011 I made the familiar pad-laden trudge to the bus stop to meet Tim 'Pectoralis Major' Peck. Public Transport rocks!

Unrelenting rain on the journey didn't bode well for routes, but when we rocked up at the cave the sun was out and conditions felt prime! Warming up in Split Infinity my muscles felt supercharged, retro-flashing Lickety Split and knocking out a quick send of Bellpig (V9), which I was close to last session but with fresh arms today it went 3rd go. Moving into the 'proper cave'  I was feeling electric, with a routine retro flash of Clever Beaver and a surprise retro flash of Rockatrocity, feeling really comfortable on the moves even though I only had a pad for the starting moves, and then sticking the first move on Trigger Cut (V11) for the first time!
Time for lunch and some idle spectating of Jim McCormack crushing Tomorrow People F7c. With as much beta as a man of his stature could give me I threw myself at the flash attempt, fighting my way up through the bouldery crux, but with just one more hard pull from the awesome up-side-down-knee-bar rest my arms refused to pull and I had no choice but to slump onto the rope, totally boxed but psyched that I had got so close on the first steep sport route of the year.

After a bit of a rest and a pear (the fruit that gets things sent!) I casually pulled onto left wall to finish off the session, but ended up getting to the LW high/low fork feeling fresh, so thought I'd give the LWH a shot. At the sideways-heel-on-the-flake rest I was in disbelief; how had I recovered so well from my recent and deep-set pump?! Just the heinous V6 finish to go now! The final left drop-knee move felt glorious; retro-flashing 2 V9s and ticking a new V9 3rd go, with a lot of climbing in between. The last few weeks of long-day 'training' (just doing lots of climbing in a day) has paid dividends, no doubt about it! I foresee this being pretty beneficial come Font and El Chorro, where you have a limited time to do a lot of stuff. To add to this, my skin regeneration also seems really good, partly due to the sheer volume of recent climbing, and also due to lots of washing up.

So here's a link to a fantastic little bouldering film by Mark Reeves, Amateur Hardcore, which features loads of classics at a range of North Wales bouldering venues, great for some beta-snatching and psyche.

And here is a nice little video by Mason of him doing Left Wall High last year. It's said to be about F8a+, quite power-endurancey with around 25 hand moves and a fair bit of foot trickery, one of the classic true lines of the cave!

Monday, 14 March 2011

If you believe you can do it, and you crank like a demon!

Today was a sweet day! At first I was feeling a little hard-done-by because I had a job interview at Tesco (it went very well thanks) while everyone else ventured off into the sunny and crisp springtime conditions with high hopes to do daring deeds. Still keen to get something out of the day I hitched my way to the Quarries with this guy, who happened to be a friend of John Redheads (he gave me some interesting advice, something about letting go of the competitive side of climbing and being a part of the moment and climb to be free... or something along those lines). So, keen to merge with the Earth's energy, and equipped with my faithful shunt I went to find some people to burn off, but I didn't find anyone so had a bash at the Medium on seamstress slab instead.

Abbing down, it was obvious where the crux was. The bit with no holds on. But after some toil, a little rest and some cheeky inspiration I stumbled across the solution to the stopper move; my foot popped but I boned them crimps like I did yo' mama, and found my leg had swung into a really unlikely flagging position, finally in balance to do the obligatory no-handed one-legged-squat rockover on an annoying foothold to reach the 'cornflakes' and beyond. So I lead that with a belay and some helpful support from Tombo and Jezer (cheers guys! And super effort from Tom to lead Slug Club Special and Kubla Kahn back to back). Then I headed down with Al n Laura to the Pass and boshed out the tourist start to Jerry's Roof. It was nice to do it in front of the post-work WAD crew, consisting of Caff, Ioan, Jim and some other crusher doin Mr. Fantastic (cheers to you guys too for encouragement).

It feels like I might have gone up to the next plateau on the proverbial graph. It's hard to guage performance sometimes - there's a lot of variability if your going on what grade your climbing, and I imagine muscle memory plays a big part if you're repeating problems you've done before. But intrinsically I can tell that I'm stronger, more controlled in my movement, and my body feels good n tensiony. I still can't do a full one-armer though, so bst gt 2 d indy.

For lunch today I had pitta and humus, a pear, a penguin and 500ml bottle of lucozade. I think that helped.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

A little something I was thinkin about.

Everytime I arrive in the Peak District I am awestruck by the nature and quality of natural Grit formations. I am also blown away by how thoughtful the quarrymen were; surely when quarrying away they had more important things to think about than ensuring they left all these perfect slabs and walls for future climbers; a brilliant stroke of foresight on their part.

The way that grit climbs also gives a very specific and unusual style. It's certainly not for everyone; I know a lot of people who have a really hard time on it. But I love it. It suits my morphological, psychological and technique...ological assets perfectly; often bold, balancey and precarious, it demands trust in your footwork, and subtlety and awareness in adjusting your centre of gravity. Often large areas of rock will only have just enough features to get up it, no more and no less. The lines it can produce range from thin and necky slabs to plum-vertical walls, striking cracks, soaring aretes, and its fair share of savage thrutchy chimneys and offwidths. Steve and I also noticed throughout the course of my trip to the Peak that I did a remarkable number of high-foot/rock-over moves (not just on the slabs either). Having strong legs and good flexibility proved to be one the most prominent and beneficial maneuvers in the grit-climbing repertoire, allowing me and Steve to climb at a similar standard, even though he is a powerful wildebeast and I'm a lanky cheese string in comparison!

The way that slate climbs also gives a very a specific and unusual style. Again, it's not for everyone; I know a lot of people who have a really hard time on it. But again, I love it. It too suits my morphological, psychological and techniqueological assets; bold, balancey and precarious, demanding trust in your footwork (just on tiny edges instead of tenuous smears), subtlety and awareness in adjusting your center of gravity. You see where this is going...? For some reason when I think of slate I always think of desperate thin slabs and nothing else, and I all too easily forget the top quality routes it has in it's other slightly unique styles. It has the infamous thin slabs, but again like grit it has the plum-vertical walls, striking cracks, soaring aretes and even the odd savage thrutchy chimney-grooves like Gin Palace and the Quarryman. Steve and I first noticed my extensive use of high-foot/rock-over moves on slate, before we noticed it in my grit climbing too. Having strong legs and good flexibility has proved to be the most prominent and beneficial maneuvers in the slate-climbing repertoire; just need to work on my pain-tolerance now.

I find it quite unusual to think about grit and slate, rough and smooth, rounded and sharp, both yielding such similar climbing styles with such high contrast in geology and form, but those two paragraphs match up nicely, and only leads me to conclude that if Steve and I had his powerful upper body and my stretchy strong lower body, plus a decent ape index, and a massive knob while we're wishing, and my face (obv), then not only would I/he/we look like a freakish ape man, we'd also be crushing French 9a slabs in no time.
So, we all better get stretching, squatting and slacklining as part of our training to become heros/wads/beasts/extreme punters/crushers or whatever you aspire to be, it will do us favors no end!

Thursday, 10 March 2011

The Lord's Shit, aka: the Grit - Part 3

Fourth day of the trip - 3rd day on grit. Skin was feeling a little worse for wear to say the least. Quarried grit is definitely kinder on the skin than natural. I have never climbed at Millstone, and in my fragile state I didn't want to go there and have a half-hearted day - if I go there I want to have a crushing day! So decided to head to Frogatt for some bold slab action. Artless and Heartless Hare (both E5) both went down, before laying siege to a ground-up padded ascent of Narcissus (E6), tricky! But once the sequence was sussed it went nicely (if a little slappy...). It's quite hard though, probably a very highball V5 crux (I jumped off from the bottom of the crux fine, but any higher could be a bit uncomfortable). On the way back along the crag I stood and oggled at Beau Geste and Soul Doubt, inspired for them!

On previous visits to the Peak I have only ever been to Curbar, Frogatt, Stanage and Lawrencefield before, so I had not yet explored new territory on this trip. I'd become sated with bold onsighting for the trip, so decided to go to Headpoint somethin, possibly quite hard... With the warm sun still shining Steve suggested Burbage South to get some cool conditions. What a crag! Hard route after hard route, all superb-looking lines and a really atmospheric aura to go with the seriousness of the routes. Steve had errands to run, so he dropped me off equipped with shunt and a couple of pads. Simba's Pride is a route that has inspired me since I saw Ben Cossey slap his way to victory on Committed, and stood underneath it only multiplied my awe. The moves are amazing - hugging the prow on pockets and slopers, with the top 2 moves making the wild slappy crux. But I'm not ready. The moves feel too close to my limit to even consider on solo. One for the back-burner I guess. For the days tick a nice solitary solo of the Knock (E4) finished off an incredible send-fest on the grit, ready to rest up for the CWIF qualifiers the next day.

What amazed me about this week, something Steve noted too, is that nobody else seem to DO anything! 4 days of perfect weather; dry & cool (a bit on the sunny side but you cant complain) and we barely saw anyone else out, just the odd partnership jangling around up some lower-grade classics. It makes me glad to not live in the Peak; so I'm staying hungry and making the most of my time and energy, and trying to keep that ethic in mind when I'm in North Wales, or wherever I am for that matter.

The Lord's Shit, aka: the Grit: Part 2

Day 3; a day of aretes! Off the back of a sweet day at Curbar confidence was booming and the weather was fine! I had aspirations and classics to do at all the big grit crags. After umming and aahhing about where to go, we ended up at Stanage Plantation, laden with 4 pads and a basic rack just in case. A warm-up on Crescent Arete (on its left, right and with one hand) set the tone for the day. I did Archangel and Don sans pads before spotting Steve on a padded White Wand. This route is unique from its classic neighbors, in that it has a sequence of moves and holds rather than a pure clean arete. Steve took a good sized barndoor-fall/dismount while matching the arete (crux), before I did a repeat ascent and he sussed out the way soon after. I had a little recce on Ulysses' Bow, again without pads (I feel like I should go for the full arete-set paddless (and hopefully onsight) now I have come this far) but it feels a bit beyond me right now, especially with the sun beaming down its evil rays; perfect conditions will be required!
After all that boldness (and some mellow sun-bathing) we were in no state of mind to continue with our bold soloing excursion, so we had a look at Brad Pit. First few goes went well but my Anasazi heel felt shit! I changed my left shoe to a Testerossa and boom it went down next try! Classic case of using the right shoe for the job.

Content with the day's ascents but again not wanting to waste daylight and sunshine, we wandered over to do some chilling soloing, Right Unconquerable being particularly enjoyable! So as not to feel like we carried the rack up for no reason, I nipped up Telli, which confirmed that I was done for the day - painfully thin skin on a pebble-pulling slab didn't do anything to motivate me. Plus we were starving hungry (I had forgot my lunch so we'd shared Steves banana, single pitta with brie and handful of raisins), and when I get hungry, I can get cranky. So off we went to gorge on pasta, bacon, screw-balls and hob-nobs, and apply a fair lathering of climb-on!

The Lord's Shit, aka: the Grit: Part 1

The joy of only having casual part-time work is that when the opportunity of a lift and accommodation for a week-long trip to the Peak District is thrust upon you, there is nothing stopping you from seizing it. After a productive visit for Steve Ramsden to North Wales (doing some 'proper trad'), he and I headed back to Sheffield along with a great weather forecast and a sense of urgency to get some sweet grit ticks done before it gets too hot! It did not disappoint...
On the first day, to my dismay, Sheffield was haunted by a hanging mist and humid drizzle. So after lurking around at Curbar for a few hours to see if things perked up (they didn't) we headed for a light evening sesh at the Works.

The next day was more promising, probably being the most prolific day of climbing I've ever had. I won't go into intimate detail about each route (if you want to see my comments go onto my UKC Logbook), but by 3 o'clock I had worked my way up L'horla (E1), Committed (E6), Unreachable Star (E3), Ulysses or Bust (E5), Moon Walk (E4) and although Steve gave me the Lion's share of climbing time, he also cruised a cool-headed headpoint solo of Cool Moon (E7) (cool is the word!). We checked the time and it was only about 3; still plenty of daylight left, but after all that we both felt that sated contentment and full body & mind tiredness that only a long bold day of trad and soloing can give. We pushed on however, wanting to make up for yesterdays bad weather and lack of ticks, so I did Diet of Worms (E4) and both boshed out a flash of Slackers (E6), which, with a belayer to keep you from goin down the slope, is essentially just a bit of a highball (much like Committed actually).

After this, reflecting on how good a day it had been, I concluded that I had so far done an E1, E3, two E4s, an E5 and 2 E6's. It would be rude not to do a quick E2 classic to do the complete E1 to E6 full-house. Skimming through the guide I selected Elder Crack as the E2 of choice, not realizing the nature of the route until I was underneath it. Joe Brown goes up in my estimations every time I do one of his routes (I can't wait to do Right Eliminate next time I'm at Curbar!), and Elder Crack is no exception to his extensive list of absolute gems! I think I climbed it OK; a bit of thrutching in the offwidth section is all part of it (although I have learned since that it is easier to layback), but having 2 big cams to plug in definitely makes that slightly insecure scrabbling and scuffling that bit less nerve-wracking, so more credit to the man!

So there it ended, with a grand total of 31 E points for myself and 19 for Steve. The message that I would give from this day is this; don't be content! When you feel that sense of lethargic contentment creeping up on you, press on in whatever way you feel you can, even if it's just a bit of easy mileage or repeating routes you've done before. By doing this you will develop that all-day stamina which allows you to really make the most of a day out, especially now the days are getting longer! With that type of stamina all sorts of clever and fun little day-challenges are made possible; like doing all the routes of the alphabet, the Tremadog V-challenge, all the Sub-E1 routes of an area etc; these days are great fun and super satisfying for the tick-hungry logbook fiend like myself.