Monday, 1 October 2012

Wow I'm a disgusting person!

I cant believe I haven't posted on here since my 2011 Majorca write-up, and here I am, freshly back from my Majorca 2012 trip, and finding that creative writing is like many other skills - if you don't do it, it becomes hard. Much like ROCK climbing - as in climbing on real actual proper rock. Like stone rock, not pulling on plastic holds like I've been for the last umpteen months! Which isn't to say that doesn't keep you in good shape. In fact with the combination of both indoor climbing and route-setting I've definitely noticed a bit of the old burl coming back in the shoulders, but my goodness do I feel out of touch with rock. Looking back through my UKC graphs I count 69 routes in the Logbook in 2012: that includes trad, sport AND bouldering!! 69?!  Compared to 2010's exploits of 245, there is only one word for that. Shocking. And crap. Thats 2 words, but that pretty much sums it up. Crap and shocking.

"But Mike, whats happened to you, I always thought you were an insufferably determined optimist?!" Well anonymous voice, yes I am! So lets take some positives from 2012...

Firstly, its not over yet. The winter is coming, and that excites me. I'm motivated to train again for the first time since my ankle-break, as well as having some great Winter venues around me including Brean Down for some hard sport, and some wicked little bouldering spots near by, not to mention I'm on the way to getting my driving license - 3-day Peak blitzes, here we come!!
Bit of a setting sesh at the Warehouse
Secondly, I've had an extremely productive year with my budding career at The Warehouse Climbing Centre in Gloucester; lots of instructing experience, coaching some future climbing prodiges and now taking over as chief route-setter, which I've become totally obsessed with (I close my eyes at night and see holds. Lots of holds).

The Majorcan Frying Pan! Where dreams become food.
 And last but most certainly not least, I've just got back from yet another awe-inspiring trip to Majorca - it just don't get no better than this! 9 days of climbing back to back. Now normally I'm a big advocate of the importance of rest, but in Majorca it just seems like that doesnt apply. Its not to say we didnt have some slightly more restful days, but I was still climbing 7's every day. Its really odd but, out there you just dont get tired! Our bodies were replenished by constant submersion in the sea and long lounges in the sun, we ate like Kings and Queens (I don't do things by half with camping food - we're talking morrocan feasts, tasty pakora and paella platters) and the salt-water also does wonders for the skin, cuts heal in a day or two and your tips maintain a pleasant soft-yet-tough feel to them. Plus the Majorcan limestone yields holds that are almost all skin friendly juggy pockets and finger jugs. ALMOST all of them...

The amazing and super steep Kill Bill 2 (very hard 7b+!) in the intimidating Tarantino Cave
... but not all of them. There are two moments that I have to let my ego loose to tell you about. Carlos Checa in the Snatch cave is a bouldery 8a that I had tried a couple of times last year and got nowhere on - a crimpy rail to a funky triple-mono hold (like you put your fingers in these  o 0 o  ) and a desperate snatch to a sharp but positive 2 finger pocket, gotta be font 7b+ just to there, before bouldering out the cave on big gibbon-moves on chunky pockets. Anyway, very chuffed indeed to get that ticked, and very keen indeed to try the Cala Barques testpiece Snatch 8a+ next year!

Its all about the knee bars baby!
And then the big one - the route, nay, the move, that has been on my mind ever since I saw Klem dreaming about it in Dosage II. "I think the brain is too slow", he said. It certainly seemed that way for me too, clinging onto two opposing crimps, feet bunched high, and those barrels, so, so, soooo         far         away!! And Klems maniacal screams in my imagination, "COME ON, GETSCHO!!" Jump.... Tickle.... Flail.... Splash!    Jump. Tickle. Flail. Splash!   JumpTickleFlailSplash! JumTicFlaSplash! But as the trip drew to its end, and even though the those barrels had slowly started coming closer to me, my brain was still too slow, and I found myself on the last day of the trip, and still I hadnt stuck it. Time against us, Cailean and I ran up to the Diablo with an hour and a half until our coach across the island, and yes the pressure was on! Perhaps it was something to do with the sangria and liquor-filled melon from the night before, but that day my brain was feeling pretty slow. My body wasn't though.

Flying through the 6c sequence up to the rest I felt elastic once again, got the crimps, jump.......... and tickle, and flail, and splash! My brain is too slow! Another attempt, I get to the crimps, and then I don't remember anything, except swinging from the biggest jug in the Mediterranean!! WAHOOO just doesn't cut it. Total euphoric ecstatic elation doesn't cut it. Words just can't capture that move, it truly is "poetry-in-motion".

Needless to say I fell off the hard 8a climbing at the top, but to be honest I couldn't care less. That's next years challenge. For now I am more than content with sticking that move, and happily amused with the idea that my brain isn't too slow, Klem, it just has no place on a dyno halfway up a cliff over the Mediterranean sea, where rational thought is quite simply not necessary. Let your brain wander and let your body do the thinking!




Tuesday, 24 January 2012

There and back again

So on the train on the way home from the airport I get a call from the boss telling me they hadn't managed to find cover for my shift, so, having not showered for a week, fingertips in tatters and on a few lousy hours sleep at the airport I drag myself to the first of many all-day shifts of climbing instruction. As I belay yet another youngster up 'the green route', I reflect on the abruptness of this sudden change; for the last 49 days my sole focus had been total leisurely pleasure; climbing for myself, that's a given, but also the whole lifestyle that goes with the travelling ethos; the coffee and smoke in the mornings, the lazy hammock-bound afternoons and the liquor-filled melons at night. And suddenly here I am in a dusty climbing wall, the golden pocketed limestone and silvery sandstone replaced by multi-coloured blobs of plastic on ply. I try and reassure myself that this day was always coming, that the lifestyle isn't sustainable, if I was always on travels then I wouldn't appreciate it as much as I did, and that it will soon come again. All true, but it still doesn't stop me yearning for more, so if you'll excuse me I'll just take a minute to do some serious reminiscing!

Her Majesty, Cova del Diablo
Ahhh Majorca... More than a few people have told me that it was my kinda place. And as sure as shit floats to the top, I was in love! It was my utopia, the promised land to which my long-awaited pilgrimage was destined. The deep water soloing there is off the awesome-scale! On my first day I made my way across the island to Porto Cristo and, following the sounds of power-screams and splashes, I headed straight for the majestically imposing amphitheatre of Cova del Diablo, dumping my 30kilos of baggage in a bush and meandering in on the wondrous low-level traverse of White Hopes, a 5+ featuring everything that all the mega-classics have (apart from stupidly overhanging rock), making the perfect introduction, warm-up and access to the cove. Wanting to take in the surroundings and find my dws feet a little (not atall because I was intimidated by the imposing scale and prowess of the Diablo...) I decided to stick with the low-level traversing and try my luck at Superwoman 7a+, and promptly taking my first few splashdowns of the trip.
Me on the crux dyno of Ejector seat

Great success!
Flashing ejector seat, courtesy of some superb German beta

The first few days of deep water soloing are where it shares the most aspects with trad; you feel exposed, its not so easy to climb relaxed, you're scared bollockless to fall off, and at the same time falling off is where it's at! A few days into the trip, and with the reassuring company of George to bolster my confidence, I started to get more into the deep water solo flow. Thats when it becomes more like sport climbing and bouldering, going at hard moves with gusto, with sustained pumpers like Bandito 7c, or low-crux boulder problems like Strangers in Paradise 7b+ (maybe font 7a+ish), an absolute gem in the Snatch cave at the magical bay of Cala Barques, with its handful of caves, each individual with their own styles and different atmospheres; the bouldery Snatch cave to the towering Tarantino cave, or over to the sociability of Sa Cova with its perfectly formed bogey-tufas and relaxed have-a-go feel.

The laidback lifestyle of Cala Barquez.
Yep, we're carving spoons.

Food fit for a king, including pan-made pizzas, onion bhajis,
and enough chocolate spread to give any normal man type II diabetes.
And it's not just the climbing at Cala Barques that makes it such an amazing place, it was also my home for the 3 blissful weeks I was in Majorca; a shady forest for my hammock overlooking the lapping waves of the Mediterranean and soft white sand of the beach peppered with sunbathers, slackliners, titties and todgers, waking up to some of the most magnificent sun and moon-rises I've ever witnessed, all in Majorcas perfect climate; 24 days of sunshine and 1 of rain (a powerful thunderstorm that saw 20 naked climbers all dashing for a mid-storm swim in the sea during the monsoon shower, awesome!). To leave this place was a real wrench, but leave I must; it was time to chase the cooler conditions of October in a little forest called Fontainebleau...