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.

27 March 2012

Sun is Shining

This weekend was supposed to be the start of a week long trip bouldering in the Lakes, but 'real life' reared it's ugly head. Being utterly useless at generating motivation to get on with uni work, I've ended up having to sacrifice my Easter holidays to instead read journals and disseminate the work of competitive scientists.
The trip was supposed to be with Mikey G, Kieran K, Drew M and Tim P, so Laura and I went over to meet them for a days climbing at Nesscliffe before they all set off. We had a lazy start after a late night, and got to the crag around midday. The weather was amazing with the sun blazing, but it called a stop to my plan to try Leaf Storm (E6 6b) as I started to sweat just stood at the bottom. We started off with a load of bouldering including the classic Berlin's Fallen (6C), The Highwaymans Escape (6C+) and my favourite, The Planch (7A). Then we went round into the huge quarry with its gobsmacking 40m high corners, walls and aretes. Nessy definitely has the best lines I've even seen in my life!
Yukan II (E7 6b) is a stunning slim groove said to be about 7b+ with a couple of exciting sections and it's on the hitlist for the year. It was in the shade so I figured it could be worth a shot. When we rocked around a couple of Lancs lads were trying the route, I realised there were going to be on it for a while and with only an hour and a half left at the crag I knew I wouldn't get chance to try this either. However, it was great to see people turning an E7 into a spicy bit of fun as they took it in turns ground-up. Seeing that has broken the aura for me and I can't wait to get back and try and flash it.

With the routes I wanted to try out of bounds, I plumped for a razz at the Nessy testpiece My Snorkel (E6 6c). Quite appropriate at the moment to, as I struggle to keep my head above water in the sea of shit that is final year. I went for the onsight, it looked well protected with a couple of pegs. I got up to the first peg via a long, committing stretch. Once I'd clipped this it was time to suss the crux. With an arete in my left hand and an undercut for the right I tried desperately to keep the sun out my eyes, and to make a heinous high rockover. After a few goes, I was getting bloody pumped, finding it hard to release a hand to shakeout. A local offered beta, but I thought I could do it so I declined.
Then, embarassingly, Scooby attacked his dog which really thickened the lactic custard in my arms. 'Ok, what's the beta?' I shouted, as my hands unfurled on the holds. As per the advice I swang around to the otherside of the arete, and made a big reach up to a good flattie. I was through the crux, but I was screwed. Stretched out, pumped out and with no holds for my right hand I made a desparate bid for some higher holds. Needless to say, I was off. I couldn't even untie my own shoelaces afterwards. Fitness Needed!

I watched Mikey cruise it and got that nostalgic jealousy as he reached all the holds with such ease. I've worked hard to let it go, but it's hard to not feel hard-done-by when you watch someone able to reach past the move which had you off.. That said he fully deserved the tick, climbing with such confidence and guile.

Going for the second go with tight and swollen forearms I wasn't holding out much hope. I nippped up the start easier than before. Swinging round the arete, I could feel my grip loosening. At my previous high point, I smashed on this time, laybacking the arete to a good pinch just above. I clipped the peg from a pair of mediocre holds, but I was pumping out. I fondled the little crimps above but when I tried to pull on them, my elbow just lifted instead. Fight mode engaged as I tried to shake some energy into my arms. I decided on a sequence and went for it. Boning down on the crimp with everything I had left in the tank, I slapped up into a slopey undercut. The top hold was within arms reach. An all out slap landed thankfully on an incut jug, but I could still barely hold on. Luckily this was the end, and all that remained was a scamper up a sandy slope.
I seem to get ridiculously pumped a lot!! It's probably time to get fit now if I want to stand at chance on this years projects.

The next day we parted company with the lads as the four of them set off up to The Lakes with four big people, four loads of luggage and four bouldering pads in a Nissan Micra. A solid win for optimism!
Laura and I headed to Ruthin Escarpment on the way home. It lies in the rolling hills of the Clywd region and provides some good quality limestone micro-routes and bouldering in a chilling little spot.
It took us about an hour and a half to find the place, getting lost in the woods and running into a really creepy, derelict farm complex. Finally getting there, it seemed a shame to be using this amazing weather to climb on an insignificant and uninspiring little bit of limestone.  Totally wasted from the day before, it hurt to just clench a fist, so everything felt quite hard. Particularly the 6B's which felt no easier than the 6C's. I managed a couple of problems, but the lack of footholds wasn't ideal with our arms on the day.
The highlight was a new variation finish to Pity the Billionaire (7a). Simply called Pity the Billionaire RH (6C), the problem takes on a funky pinch to pop out onto a series of flatties on an undercut wall. A highball extension to this would be possible at about 7A+, but I didn't have the beans for it.

Anyway, it was good to get on an E6 this early in the year (even if it was a punchy E5), and after eyeing up Yukan II, my goal of flashing E7 seems an excitingly realistic proposition.

24 March 2012

...to Have the Good Times

It's hard to imagine now, the way I felt a few days ago - wallowing in self pity and disarray at the intimidating volume of work impending and the numerous dormant tweaks and injuries threatening.
Laura helped me re-plan my dissertation, I cancelled a week-long trip to the Lakes and the pressure released like accepting you'll never make it to the toilet in time: I wasn't pleased with what I'd done, but it certainly felt better.

Warming up in the cave on Tuesday, I was feeling positive. I'd eaten half as much as I usually would over the last two days, and the day before I'd done a 40 minute boulder session to get the muscles going. In theory I was in as good condition as possible with two days preparation.
I met up with Jo Allen and James Noble who'd come over from Sheffield for a couple of days. They were making good progress on Left Wall Traverse (V8) and In Hell (V12), while a week-old pet lamb checked out the place with even more youthful enthusiasm than Mikey G.

I refamiliarised myself with the moves on Lou Ferrino and it felt encouraging, so I toyed with a positive mind set. Should I think I can do it? Should I KNOW I can do it? Should I think I can't do it? Should I stop over analysing? To the latter I've retrospectively applied a resounding yes, as my state of mind manifested in the first few attempts. Scruffy, undecided and weak. Banana time.

Now more relaxed, I had my first proper burn on it, and it was my best go yet; tickling the two-finger pocket nine moves in. I realised I’d forgotten to bump my heel along a few moves back, which had a domino effect on the execution of the subsequent moves. I fiddled with the bits I not done well on and found I could get the two-finger pocket static by pressing my knee up against the far left side of the crimp rail. I tried again, with the new beta this time. This would have to be the go, the muscles were waning. I got the two finger pocket well, but the huge lunge from this, to a fingers-depth slot required more accuracy than I could muster, and it wasn't to be.

I took a good rest, and wondered whether I had enough left in me for a good burn. Pulling on expectation free, after the first two moves I knew this was the go. The first moves never felt easy like that before. Remembering back to the first time I tried it, I just couldn't even pull off the floor. Going even further back, I recall see Chris Davies dispatch it in 'Stick It' and thinking 'I'll never do anything like that... 'cos bouldering is shit' I qualified defensively... Eight moves in and it was all going well, no mistakes. I dug into a deeper echelon of power at the crimp rail and rode a fresh wave to the two-finger pocket. This was it. All was going well, I'd nailed the sequence so far. I sucked up and Starred down the finger slot like an angry python, and with all the venom left, I struck for the pocket. The finger tips licked the edge of the hold, but, it was enough. I lunged over behind my head with my right hand, and went again for the finishing slot. It wasn't over. The tips on both hands were slipping...

I dropped to the floor after matching the finishing hold, at first ecstatic, then, a bit unsure as to whether I had definitely done it from the start (I definitely did). It was over!!!

Whenever anyone gets a successful tick in the cave they always wander out, into the light. Without thinking I did the same. It seems instinctive to leave the place, and for me it will probably for a while now that summer is here.

I'm over the moon to have done it. Steep and burly used to be my biggest weakness, lagging a few grades behind most other styles, and now it defines the hardest thing I've done. It stands as testament to the benefits of climbing indoors. When I moved to Wales two and a half years ago, steep V3/4 felt nails and now I’ve done a horizontal V10. Thank you Indy. I’m fairly sure that patching up the technical and physiological deficiency has consolidated my ability on the vertical too. Anyhow, that’s enough smugness for now.

 The next day I went up to Sheep Pen for a chilled one with Laura and Dunc. When we arrived Joble were already there, Jo had done Dirty Slappper (V6) and James had done the rarely repeated Jerry’s Problem (V10) (in about 5 minutes as well!) and this was after a good session at the Cromlech boulders including Jerry's Roof (V9) for James. The first time these two Jerry testpieces have been done in a day?

We warmed up and cracked on, it was a lovely day. Proper t-shirt weather. Laura and Dunc quickly knocked out Dog Shooter (V4), and the powerful Toe Dragon (V5)... nice one Laura! I had a wander around with Joble and walking back over to the Dog Shooter Block we eyed up an overhanging prow on the back of said boulder. There were holds. Nice ones, small ones, slopey ones. A little bit of lichen and a dry-stone wall under the overhanging face must have repelled attempts as it looked unclimbed and I'd never heard anything of it. We got to work, brushing the holds and ticking the feet and realised the wall isn’t in the way at all. It was time to try it.

Noble nobly stood down and let me have the first go even though he’d done most of the cleaning, or, perhaps he was hoping to get the beta as I drop it near the end?  Either way, I went for the flash burn and gave it everything expecting V7/8 difficulties. Luckily for me ‘The Heels Have Eyes’ turned out to be about V5 with great climbing. Noble knocked out the second ascent first go, then did a V2 rockover named 'Blink' direct through the middle. Then Jo did the stand-up at V4, dubbed ‘Eye See Ewe'. I think we’ve opened up a great line with some very good climbing and look forward to hearing what people think of it.

Nearing the top on the F.A. of The Heels Have Eyes (6c+). Laura Perry Collection.
All satisfied and powered out, we chilled and watched the last of the evening gold spilling over the mountains. These are the good times...

19 March 2012

You Need the Bad Times

Since I last wrote a blog, I had a peak exchange with big Stevie Ramsden. He came here first, and we spent the day in a series of dwarfing corners. Steve did Emulator (E1 5b) first, then we swung leads on Big Groove Direct (E4 5c) on Main Cliff which was totally brilliant, it felt pretty bloody hard for 5c, but I think it might have lost a flake. This would explain why it felt 6b, or perhaps we were just blind to an easy, traditional solution.
In stark contrast, the next day we hit the cave. Steve racked up a good haul of V6-V8's whilst I tried Lou Ferrino (V10). I figured out how to do the knee-torquing fourth move, so I tried to link the first four moves together and in an unexpected whirl of excitement, made it to move 8 of 12!
After a bit of a party that evening, a relaxed curcuit was in order. We headed to Caseg. The rock here is perfect, so even the crap problems are a delight. I think Caseg Groove (V5) might be the best problem I've ever done, powerful and subtle, spot on.
The next day we went to Rhoscolyn, it was cold and windy up top but once we got down there conditions were decent. We started off on Savage Sunbird (E2 5b). The climbing is mega absorbing, most holds appearing to be glued on so it takes an element of stupidity to pull away on them.
Steve tried Centrefold (E3 5c) in Fallen Block Zawn. He didn't check the guide and ended up getting pumped on Dreams and Screams (E6 6b) before trying to escape by traversing across an overhanging hobnob of a wall. Needless to say a variety of crumbs parted company with the wall before Steve became the eponymous fallen block. I tried The Viper (E4 5c) which charmed me with a wonderful array of jams, pinches and undercuts up a gently overhanging shallow groove. Loads of cams protect it and with very little venom, it would be a good first E4.
Me battling with The Viper (E4 5c) courtesy of a procrastinating Laura Perry.

The next weekend Me and Laura went to Steves in Sheffield. It proved to be a fairly fruitless trip, with the exception of a day at Gardoms where Laura got close on her Mark's Roof Left-Hand (V6) an I did Soft on the G (V8). Also at the end of the day I made a few exciting slaps for the top of Suavito (V8+), which resulted in bruised heels when I missed the mats twice in a row.
We went to the CWIF final on the sunday evening which was a great event with Shauna Coxsey stealing the show using high precision footwork and effortless technique. Impressive.

Since then, things have been pretty naff. I spent the last week trying to write my dissertation, struggling all the way, but having now realised I was going about it all wrong, I'm starting again. So one of the most depressing, laborious weeks of my life was seemingly in vain. Retrospectively though, I think I learnt a lot from it . Firstly, knowing when to cut your losses: I had a feeling what I was doing was rubbish, yet I couldn't bring myself to sacrifice two days of effort, but, it ended in me losing a weeks worth of work.
Secondly, you won't achieve fuck all with a negative attitude. I was really resenting having to acually do some work, and as a result I worked myself into a recoiling ball of frustration and hate. Now out the other side of a fairly pathetic dark-time (god knows how I'm gonna cope in 'the real world') I can see that if I could apply a bit of my climbing mindset to everyday life, it wouldn't be so bad. I need to stop making excuses for being lazy and get round to doing things. I've always just considered myself pretty poor at life tasks and organisation, but I'm never going to be any good at it if I don't try it. Basically, having to click 'forgot your password?' is no longer going to thwart my attempts to access the plethora of online accounts 21st century life demands.
Which brings me back to climbing. Of course. Since the quirk of likelihood experienced on Lou Ferrino, I've been back twice. I haven't got any closer, but I have remained positive and got the moves dialled (also I managed to get a confidence boost for the year by doing Left Wall High (V9) at the end of a session, for the first time since the first time, first time).
Lou Ferrino is definitely one of the best problems I've ever been on: technical, unlikely, power endurance and surrounded by £2.50's worth of breath-taking scenery.
Burly slapping through a roof really isn't my style and I've had to work my weaknesses to get anywhere near it. I first tried it about this time last year and each move felt like the living end, but an intensive period of steep, indoor bouldering early this winter and regular dabbles at the moves have brought it within the realms of attainability.
I'm heading back there tomorrow afternoon, after a morning on my dissertation. If I maintain a positive attitude, it might just knock Caseg Groove off the top spot on one of my many, many lists.

15 March 2012

Mind over Body

I've not got time for blogging at the moment with my dissertation deadline looming, but here's an awesome video of Dave Graham talking about the concept of movement, and the idea that, to an extent, we only need to be stronger in order to fool ourselves about that which we are capable of. It's very reminiscent of the wafflings of Dawes, and I doubt that's a coincidence.

DG on movement and the future of climbing