1 May 2012
Bring the Pump
The suffocating smog of deadline pressure has lifted and with just one assignment and one exam left, visibility is at 99% giving almost perfect climbing conditions. This has come with some relief as the last few weeks have been very slow on the climbing front.
Four weeks ago, I was down in Dorset for Easter eating heartily and plugging away at my dissertation. Me and Laura made it out to Portland for the day for a spot of bouldering at The Cuttings and despite the perpetual eating of late it turned out to be a pretty good day.
We had a quick warm-up on some greasy classic called Nu-Breed (V4) then I spotted this steep looking wall coming out of a pit with a perfectly spaced set of edges. It wasn't in the guidebook but it looked really cool. I couldn't really tell how hard it was from skegging it. It could have been anything from V4 to V10 but I managed to crank through it nicely first go after spending the time figuring it out, so it could only be V6 at the most.
We moved on and I got frustrated at a bunch of poor quality problems with horrible holds and unpleasant moves Then it started raining and my brush snapped punctuating the mood. I realised this had been my only day out in ages and I wasn't enjoying it. Then I realised this had been my only day out in ages and I should start enjoying it. It worked. I flashed Petty Thief (V6), Neil Armstrong (V6) and Death of Kings (V6). We went over to the Relativity block and I managed the eponymous V6 3rd or 4th go, but only just as I was getting pretty powered-out.
We bumped into a group of locals who told me the unidentified problem I'd done earlier was Terminator (V7), and off the back of this confidence boost I scraped my boxed carcass up Lightning Strike for my second V7 flash of the day! I wonder if I'd have flashed either, if 'd known the first one was a V7?
A week later, after much pleading for a partner on UKC, I went to Swanage with Luke Tickle. We planned to go to The Promenade for some sport climbing, but with really rough seas we were confined to a small, frequently wave-splashed platform. We knocked out Flail Trail (6a) next to the abseil, then I tried the bouldery Violent Breed (7b+). Needless to say it was a poor warm-up and after managing to onsight the roof problem crux, I pumped out on finger jugs above. By this point the sea was tickling at Luke so we decided to bail out for somewhere less tidal. Luke led Eskimo Nell (E1 5b), a rather fine scooped wall reminiscent of an easier Wall of the Worlds (E5 6a) just along the coast.
Then I looked at doing Zoolookologie (E5 6a). I'd read that it was hard and pumpy for the grade so had no idea how I'd get on as my fitness had been long neglected. I'd also read that you should preplace a rope to escape up past the top band of mud/rubble. It took a while to locate the stakes to hang the rope off, then a hail storm came.
I'd been dying for this day for ages and after getting two buses to be here, I was relucant to turn away despite the hail, the thunder, the abiguity of access and the explosive seas. Fair play to Luke abbing in with me as it was harder than anything he'd been on before, the route was frikking steep and the atmosphere was wild. I was pretty nervous at the bottom with Zoolookologie looming out over me and the sea, but through a bit of re-thinking and whooping I channelled the nerves into excitement.
The route was pretty goey with less places to hang around than I expected. I managed to sprint it well though and pulled through the top bulge with only just enough juice left in the tank. I do love Swanage.
I've just had a gruelling fortnight of university hell, handing in my dissertation and giving a 10 minute end of year talk consisting mostly of opaque bullshit. I was supposed to sit and listen to my peers talk's for the next 6 hours after, but the sun was shining and I am, at least a little hedonistic. With a face saying 'ill be back' and a gait projecting purpose I walked out the door and jumped in the air for a fist-pump freeze-frame with the equally bored and disrespectful Tommy Cole.
This signalled the termination of 'the thick of it'. To the slate!
Riding a high from 'winging it ' through the talk and then escaping, I went to go try The Rainbow of Recalcitrance (E6 6b) with Jim McCormack. It was all wet so I tried what I thought was Splitstream (E5 6b) instead. I was revelling in the movement on rock and couldn't stop exhuberating about the quality of the moves and the hair-raising run-outs. I popped off the crux first go but got straight back on and did it getting sucked into a sustained and exciting run-out, which I was pleased about as usually I lose my bottle once I've come off.
From the halfway point on the rainbow the line became totally ambiguous and I felt like I was doing some scary moves which felt harder than what was supposed to be the crux. Fairly mentally spent and in fear of being on one of the E7s hereabouts I backed-off. It turns out I was on The top of Cystitis by Proxy (E5 6b) so maybe I should have ploughed on. I really, really, really enjoyed it though. Bring on the summer of trad.
The next day I went to Gogarth with Bubbles. I led up Park Lane/Doomsville Connection (E2 5b/c) in one big pitch then Tom tried his nemesis; The Strand (E2 5b). At half way it looked like it was in the bag for him, moving well and and not pumped. He got above his high point and I think expectation got the better of him. Next time Tom! I led it with pretty much all the gear in place as a clip-up. Fantastic. Might as well bolt it up as its got a lower-off at the top already!
Then I tried Energy Crisis (E5 6a). I'd had a go about a year ago and gone up and down three times from half height to preserve my arms and the onsight. This time armed with the crucial cam (3.5. You could also get a bomber 5 even higher) I was glad to have not committed before. Some unique moves got me through the crux and led me into a spectacular monkey-up-a-stick sequence with a solitary rock 3 on the last 5-6 metres. We did the recently cleaned Crowbar (E1 5b) to round off the day and on the top crux pitch I got struck my an ironic energy crisis. I felt like I was falling upwards, like I was going to faint, scrabbling through the moves desparate for the horizontal. I made it onto the top slab and managed to paste a rainbow of seagull fluids all over myself by building the belay in an unfortunate position. Crowbar was great and certainly deserves attention along with Fifteen Men on a Dead Mans Chest (E5 6a) since Rob Greenwoods cleaning escapades. We made it back to the bags and refuelled just in time to wait for an hour and a half for a lift home.
Yesterday I had a brief window between handing in an assignment at 1 and working at indy at 6 so me and an on-form Gwen Lancashire bombed over to Gogarth to go for a high-speed, top-down burn along the Kalahari Highway (E5 6a). We abbed in to see the route's imposing, stacked rooves... and Tim Neill already halfway up it. After waiting a while to follow them up it Tim had to take an intermediate belay because of savage rope drag, and time pressed it's smug, governing thumb into my face like a bully with the upper hand. We did Kalahari (E3 5c) instead, but it was still awesome with great climbing and a summery atmosphere.
I've got two rest days ahead now, after which I intend to try Dreams and Screams (E6 6b). With a 75% chance of the latter, I'm gonna give it absolutely everything. Can't Wait.
Posted by Alex Mason