Thursday, 7 March 2013

A Pleasant Surprise

Not a bad bloody life! Crafnant valley and the classic Wonderwall bloc.
Here's a not-uncommon conversation that I've been having with people recently -
"Hey Mike, hows your climbing going?"
"Yeahhh *shrug* not too bad.... been doing a lot of indoor gumpf through working at the climbing wall, not been climbing outside enough, time/weather/transport/other commitments, whatever, don't really know what kinda shape I'm in" - etc. etc.

Now I'm sure thats not an uncommon exchange in recent weeks for most of us pitiful climbers, undoubtedly the worst effected social group effected by the current climate, with many of us suffering minor mental breakdowns through lack of cathartic climbing and general lack-of-purpose-in-life syndrome. So my current situation wasn't exactly filling me with hope for immanent climbing trips - Fontainebleau next week, Northumberland at Easter and Devon and Dorset in May - lots of new aspirations and unfinished business - the classic 8a Cider Soak at Ansteys Cove is calling for another siege, the undeniable allure of a sandbag makes the Yorkshireman 7b+ at Kyloe-in-the-Woods an exciting prospect, and Berezina and L'angle Parfait in Font need a good seeing to this time round! (see my video for those here ).

Cheeky french blow after sticking the crux-sloper on Special K (but just look at that glorious crimpy rail!)
So with some reasonable form on plastic but no way of gauging my performance on rock, a weekend bouldering trip back to my old stomping ground of Wales with some good old uni buddys was just what the doctor ordered! The company was exemplary, the weather was kind, the bouldering was exquisite! Kieran, Drew, Phil and myself took Crafnant's stunning dolerite boulder field by STORM, with send trains calling at all stations, some hard individual ticks and for me a personal highlight of snatching the first-ascent of the obvious righthand finish to the immaculate Wonderwall; crimping don't get much better than that!

The super tensiony match on Grasswind.
We then headed back to one of Kieran's local Shropshire crags, the soft sandstone of Nesscliffe, where we combined psyche with the Boosh That Boulder boys (; truly forming a force to be reckoned with, with inspiring power being brought out by all, especially Mark Riley who booshed some of his projects and got the first "re-ascent" of Kyloe-In 7c after I broke the crimp (oops!) and made it 'proper 7c', and proper wild at that!

So anyway, it seems that it isn't such a bad life after all, my earlier complaints of form were quite unnecessary and perhaps a tad self-pitying to say the least. It also seems that hard work at the wall results in hard climbing outside, so I've now got my hopes well and truly up for the forthcoming months - all set for some satisfying disappointments and with any luck, a few more pleasant surprises.

Setting up for the mega move on the now crimpless version of Kyloe-in, 7c
Here's a little list of my weekends highlights;

Ratt Roof         7a+  flash
Ratt Roof ss     7b
Cruella              7b   flash
Wonderwall      7b+
Grasswind         7b+  3rd go
Morning Glory 7c   First ascent

Special K          7c

Kyloe in     7c (pre & post-crimp)
Rigpa          7b+ flash
Did Nick Tick? 6c+ (desperate!)

Photography by Kieran King