About me:

Originally from Hull, I now live in Llanberis, North Wales. Totally addicted to climbing, I work at the Indy Climbing wall and as a freelance routesetter to fund my dirty habit.

29 February 2012

Tenuous Transfers and Tricky Transitions

We all heard the rumours. Everyone was talking about it. Could it be true... Apparently, a friend of a friend said his friend saw a forecast for a day without rain in North Wales. Even the optimists were dubious, but, sure enough, Saturday was indeed dry. Of course, in the run up to this meteorological anomalie it was particularly hard to decide what to with this window of opportunity. I wanted to do something nails or something exciting and without too much demand for fitness, so the slate seemed ideal. The plan was to get a clean ascent of The Medium (8a) before have a crack at the most stunning line on slate: The Rainbow of Recalcitrance (E6 6b). Duncan was keen for the respective neighbouring lines of Headin' the Shot (E5 6b) and Poetry Pink (E5 6b). Perfect.

We rocked up at Serengeti to the familiar bleak humming from deep within the mountain. Armed with re-soled edges, I had expectations of success so I got straight on with it. A quick toprope to remind myself just how freakin' thin it is and it was time for the lead. It's times like this I'm glad we live in a quantum universe, somehow falling off and moving up at the same time, that was until I tried to observe my position at the final move, and found myself swinging below the first bolt. Many failed attempts later (including two on Headin' the Shot!), I threw in the towel. It just felt too hard, and increasingly painful and unpleasant. Fortunately for me, Duncan is wiser than he is tall, so a little pep talk and a really quick onsight of Headin' the Shot (E5 6b) from him, gave me the inspiration to have one last go.
 Rocking over on the big-toe pocket-smear I had managed to divert my attention away from the jaws of defeat just long enough for a sneaky peak at self belief, but, it wasn't good enough and the cloud of doubt shrouded my mindscape once more. I fell off, and although disheartened, I'm keeping my towel.

Like Brian Blessed with a Total Fitness membership, Ben Alsford turned up and led us to; Taken Over by Department C (7a/+). In need of a bit of a pick me up I went for the onsight putting the draws in. The lower wall succumbed to a delicate yet powerful approach, and all was going well until a final impasse by the last bolt. I tried to recover on some undercuts above my head but I was flagging. I became totally unwilling to part with the rock, it would take more than a bit of protein to repair my ego if I fell off this as well. I gritted my teeth and made the final crossover to a huge jug just in time. All is not lost.
Retrospectively, it seems that The Medium (8a) has become largely a mental battle. It feels as though every time I think I might fall off I do. I need to believe I can do it, to do it. It's as if it really is some kind of metamorphic medium.

Monday, me and the savvy seal, Tom Ripley found good weather at Craig y Forwyn. One of my first blogs was about this crag and in particular Great Wall (E4 5c). I remember absolutely loving the crag and this day was just the same. I don't know what it is about the place, it could be the reminiscence of peak limestone trad and the youthful nostalgia it inflicts, the giddyness brought on by knowing your not really supposed to be there, or simply the immaculate, pumpy wall climbing.
 I wasn't sure what to do so Tom picked out The Snake (E2 5c, 5c). I wasn't feeling all that fit, or even awake so I had no real expectations, and knew it'd be no formality. The first 10 metres or so were steady away, then I came to a point where I had to swing around an arete onto a layback flake. I arranged a bunch of gear and set off. It felt ok. Brilliant, I thought, E2's feel juggy. A couple of metres up the flake it was time to switch to another flake to the right. I was gently pumping here, I had gear about a body length below my feet and I could see a good incut at the base of the next flake, so I pushed on. "Ah, Fackin'el" the incut was full of mud. I backhanded further up the flake and made a powerful swing across, but I still couldn't stop to place gear, the feet were crap. A fleeting moment of terror came over me and I scampered my feet up high to the muddy incut. I was in a bicep-burning position and the flake flared above. I stoved a cam home in desperation and clawed my way up the final section. Tom got even more pumped seconding with the added trouble of having to remove the gear, so by the time he made it to the belay he was wasted. As such I led the second pitch as well which provided a really contrasting bit of climbing with intricate moves and thought-provoking gear.
Tom had intended on doing Mojo (E1 5b) but a heavy night of drinking the night before crushed his psyche. Instead he tried Sangfroid (HVS 5a) only to be thwarted by the alcohol again. Luckily for me he made it as far as the junction with Sangfroid Direct (E2 5c). I took over the lead on another stunning E2 pitch, very similar in character to The Snake, but this had a bigger feel to it being one long pitch with chunkier flakes. I laybacked up to another flake transfer crux, put some gear in this time and smashed on up direct via some suprisingly hard moves to join The Snake for the technical headwall finale. Then, just as we topped out, the rains came.

I had intended to launch myself headlong into this years routing season with my new found bouldering strength, but it doesn't seem to immediately transfer to routing. Given my current level of fitness and lack of faith in the holding power of my tatty old harness and ropes, I think I may need to invest a little bit of time to that dangerously comfortable 'mileage' mindset, and perhaps a little bit of money on some new gear.

24 February 2012

Webcam Links

I've added a few links to webcams in North Wales on the right-hand side of the page. If anyone knows of any other good'uns let me know, particularly ones for Gogarth. The live feed from Anglesey is a little gem.
In other news, I've been digitally enhanced, as in the finger is (touchwood) near enough better... and a second gritstone slab of wordplay. Tenuous.

23 February 2012

You can't control the weather

Yesterday I climbed outside for the first time in almost a month. Wales seems to have been embraced by some kind of soggy membrane for several weeks now, this combined with 3rd year's unreasonable workload (nearly 5 hours a week now. Sheesh!)  has not been particularly conducive to getting out. However, it's given me time to work on a few other things to help when I do finally get outside. I tried climbing with a weight vest and ankle weights a couple of times and I've seen more or less instant power gains, well, after the 2 days of barely being able to lift my arms or turn my head. I've done some, although admittedly not enough, finger icing and despite a set back at the end of Jauary it seems to be almost healed. Also I've being losing weight steadily this year and feel like I've cracked a diet that works for me. I cut out meat, other than the odd cheap chicken or low price lamb, primarily on a financial basis, and I don't miss it, but I do think I ache a little more after climbing if I haven't hit the post session Yazoo.

Dunc and I arrived at the Orme yesterday as soon as we heard the rumours of some dry rock. Unsure about what to try without a guidebook we warmed-up on Brothers in Arms (6c) which felt amazing. All the training, dieting and rehab had paid off, and being more than 3m of the ground felt liberating. Cranking through the overlaps I couldn't believe how easy it felt for the grade. Back on the deck, I kissed the guns and revelled in a new level of strength whilst Dunc had a similar experience and we both agreed it felt like 6b used to feel.

Then we met up with Livingstone and Sam Rad trying the bouldery Jerusalem is Lost (7a). Dunc got involved and managed a ground-up ascent after Sam who got it second go. Meanwhile, I checked Livingstone's Smartarse Phone for a guide, only to discover the route we had just done was in fact Tony's Route (6a+). A pleasant reality check.

We looked for something we could all try that's not too fingery, and so ended up at Firefly area to try and do all four E3's, placing the gear on one each and leading the other 3 as clip-ups. I remembered I'd done one of them before, but I wasn't quite sure which until I had a flashback when I recognised a particularly sapping undercut. Sam started on Solid Gold (E3 6a) whilst I attempted a wet looking Firefly (E3 5c). Sam made quick progress, I flailed around on moist, soapy pockets and ended up slumping on to the first bolt I intended to make a retreat to try something dry, but, seeing Sam going for it and getting pumped I decided now was the time to get involved. If it was wet the whole way it would just be a bit harder than usual. I pulled back on, cracked on and loved it. The wetness added an exciting element of uncertainty and induced some gimpish whooping. The whole atmosphere changed, it went from being a disappointing, damp and dingy day to a more vibrant, fun and less serious situation. It was the sort of change I normally feel if the sun comes out, but this time there was no physical trigger. It's all just a state of mind. Hopefully I will be able to tap into this more often, perhaps climbing in the rain is a good way to achieve it? Although I'm sure if I did it too much I'd earn the multi-dimensional nickname: Rain man.

Sam and I swapped over with Livingstone and Dunc respectively, who both seemed to make lighter work of the routes than we had. Then it started to rain heavier, but by this point we were all enjoying it so we cracked on. Sam and I re-led the routes cleanly, then we all swapped over for a team clean-up. By this point it was getting late so we headed down to The Cave where a big team of monsters were trying wet V12's. I flailed about on Lou Ferrino (V10) until Nodder took pity on me and give me the numbers. Next go I nailed the one move I'd never managed, so now its just a case of linking the 12 incredibly powerful moves, which just about seems possible. Dunc also made progress on Left Wall Traverse (V8) linking the entire bouldery start at the end of the day so a trip back soon is on the cards.

It's now Thursday, I've got all psyched to climb in the rain and now it's bloody sunny again. Typical.