Friday, 23 March 2007

A goose chase

Here's an account of doing a new boulder project. I started rambling and it turned out quite long!

I first discovered this lovely and extremely well hidden roof a month or so ago. It had been snowing heavily and all the crags were saturated with slush and snow melt. Fi was working over the weekend and I'd already tired myself out at the wall on the Saturday, so decided to drive out and have a nose around at Turning Stone and Cocking Tor. I remembered spotting a few likely looking buttresses at CT and there was the long standing project dyno at TS which needed some Rhododendrons cutting back. Whilst at Turning Stone I decided to abseil down the big unclimbed roof to see if it would ever go (it will). After questing through bushy tunnels to where I though the roof should be I threw down the rope and set off. To my great surprise I discovered that the roof had an upper tier, totally inaccessible on foot due to the thick Rhodies all around. The rock was clean and immaculate and there looked to at least one vaguely possible line up the side with a landing (the front side being perched above a big drop). I left the crag intrigued and keen to return as soon as the rock dried up.
Well it took a while for the dryness to arrive and it proved as difficult as ever to drag anyone out to a 'project' crags. But in the end it only took minor arm bending to get Dense out for a look. Most of the day was spent clearing up the Cocking Tor circuit and a very good time was had bagging fairly minor but still very worthwhile probs all along the little buttress dotted between the main block and Turning Stone. It's a good little circuit in it's own right and an ideal warmup for the harder stuff. Feeling fairly tired and getting late we went over for a look at the roof.
The trusty bow saw was wielded and we managed to sort out a non-abseil way down to the block. With the worst of the dreaded Rhodies cleared it's a great little spot, perched on top of the crag with clear views across the valley to Ogston Res'(a regular stop-off for migrating Osprey!) and Eastwood Rocks.
Much effort ensued on the top move which looked to be the meat of the prob. With stacked pads we could pull on using a slopy three fingertip pocket for the right and a devilishly marginal pinch for the left. Initial attempt to do the move as a slap fell way short of the top and we concentrated on trying to lock out to poor intermediate slopers on the vague left hand rib. After numerous failed attempts I switched to trying the start. This went fairly quickly but was still hard enough to make the as yet un-done upper move even harder. After getting the two key holds from a left heel-toe it is necessary to cut loose, pull up high and step your right foot onto a good lip hold, all the time creeping a little on the poor pinch.
I took one poor photo of Dense on the crux, which he said reminded him inexplicably of Salle Gosse the famous 7c at Sabot in Font. After that there could only be one name, Salle Goose it was.
Got up Sunday and looked out the window to see wet roads and driving hail. There had been bold talk down the Sheaf on Thursday night of a trip down on Sunday to try Jame's masterpiece River Of Life, but things were not looking good. Expecting a late afternoon potter at the Works I was surprised to receive a call from James saying he and Dave Mason were at the crag and ROL was in perfect condition. Jeepers. The team was duly assembled, me, Nige Kershaw and Andy Banks would be there in an hour.
ROL was indeed in perfect nick and with good psyche, some roaring, and beta from Keenus, me and Andy both got it done, with Nige and Dave coming close.
With plenty of the day left attention turned to Salle Goose. I was slightly reluctant to let such a strong team see this project which I dearly wanted to do first, but thought sod it, I'll just have to pull hard and get in quickly. I'll tell them they can work it but not link it until after me. To my horror Andy pulled onto the crux move after watching me fail, and dispatched it via the slap on his second shot!! Damn this was looking like another one lost to my impatience. I continued to try to link the problem, telling Andy he couldn't try the link until I had bagged the FA. After much frustration and failure it looked clear I was not going to get it in a hurry and I was feeling bad about keeping Andy off a prob he was clearly well capable of doing. Attempts were interrupted by snow showers requiring the holds to be taped over with green army issue tape (awesome stuff!) and the top draped with a rag (see pic on previous post). Belatedly sticking to my principles I let Andy loose on it. Perhaps due to me keeping him stood in the cold for ages or due to wetness on the holds the link didn't prove to be the formality I think we both expected. Andy must have hit the top ten times but not stuck it by the time failing light, a split tip and more snow finally stopped play. Feeling a mixture of relief and disappointment for Andy we went home, both still well happy to do ROL but keen to return for the goose.

Andy hiding from the weather

Arrgggh, this was starting to stress me now. Mostly I don't get possessive about probs, but this one felt close and was such a good prob. I was keenly aware that the weather looked good for the week while I was stuck in the office and Andy had some free time. I dare say in hindsight that Andy may not have decided to try it, but I was feeling paranoid. Bollox to it, I had to get there in the week, after all I'm off to the Dales for a week come Friday. After some jiggery pokery a late visit on Wednesday was engineered. I was to meet up with Rhys and James for a last try before the week away.
Conditions were nice but the sun was on the goose so we warmed up with a solo of Overton Arete and Hugo DeVries and Rhys got some footage of James cruising ROL.
First go on the goose felt good after two rest days, but I still couldn't get the height needed. I could just touch the top but my left leg was stubbornly holding me back from making the distance. Over and over again I flopped onto the pads. Finally I managed to do half the last move after getting a push on from James. This was from holding a nothing intermediate sloper. Progress at last I thought, but could I get this sloper on the link, not a chance! With hope fading I decided to give it a break and we went down to the lower tier to try a smart looking highball I'd spotted ages back.
The highball line is a roof some way above a big Rhodie bush. You cross the roof via a slightly flexible flake, a heel-toe and a blind reach for a rugosite edge. You then make a spectacular but easy cutloose and press on up tiny jugs edges to a final awkward mildly gripping move to a break, from where you can finish up a very overgrown VS, escape left or dive off onto the pad/bush trampoline. James got it first, then me after a few test launches onto the springy landing. Finger Bang (blame South Park!) generous 7a+ (I found another hold, with James original way being 7b)is a corker and another good reason to visit the crag.

Finger Bang!

Back upstairs I pulled on, did the start with the pinch feeling good, twisted the pocket a little to get more inward pull for the slap and latched the top first go! Phew, at last! And caught on camera, looking forward to seeing the footage.
Strangely managed to do the last move first go again for the camera, funny how these things go. It's hard to say what made the difference in the end. Maybe better friction, maybe the rest, maybe the little twist on the pocket, or maybe just better concentration. I opted to give it 7c+ given the amount of effort and time it took compared to the 7cs I've done this winter, but probs which boil down to one move can feel so different to different folk and different builds. Hopefully it will see some repeats and we'll see if it sticks, whatever the grade it's an ace prob and deserves attention. Given the current popularity of ROL I dare say it should see a quick repeat, I'm sure Andy will dispatch it in no time with fresh arms and new skin.

James on Salle Goose

And that's that, apart from to say soz to Andy for not telling him I was going there on Wednesday. Soz mate (if you happen upon this blog), a bit underhand, but I wanted it for myself in the end...

Monday, 19 March 2007

Risk and reward

In keeping with me and Dob’s cross blog musings on all things climbing related I’ll attempt to expand on my outlook to climbing in a country renown for it’s unpredictable weather. A quick disclaimer here, I’m not trying to diss how other people approach climbing, just explain my own philosophy.

Ben’s comments about not wanting to risk a wasted day got me thinking about what a fine balancing act the grit season can be. Given that time available to climb is limited and the ultimate goal is to climb good hard problems, what is the best strategy? From Paul’s reply he seems to favour the climb loads inside and unleash infrequently outside when conditions are perfect approach. Whilst I can understand the logic behind this I’m not convinced it’s the most efficient way forward. On the other hand you have those who never go indoor climbing, just go out a lot and get very good. Again I’m not convinced this is the most efficient strategy either. One extreme seems over reliant on pure strength gain and the other over reliant on skill gain. The latter approach might work for Sharma, but if you have a full time job and you live in Sheff it's not going work like that. Both elements are in my ever humble opinion, of even importance if your goal is to climb hard across a range of styles.

One of the main inefficiencies of the former approach is that you are reliant on predictably mint conditions arriving at the same time as your available time slot. The UK being as it is, this will happen very little. However, good conditions are far commoner than people think, they just require a level of knowledge, flexibility and risk to access. The risk is of a wasted day, but really this risk is a lot lower than people often think. Yesterday is a prime illustrative case. The forecast was for high winds and frequent snow and hail showers. On the face of it a total non starter, but with several key bits of information we managed to find the correct problem in extremely good condition. The key information being that the days prior had been dry, the wind was a strong westerly, the crag was east facing and the problem was a roof. Coupled with insider info from James who lives close by, the odds looked worth taking a drive out for. After all, if it doesn’t work out we could always fall back on a wall sesh. People often seem amazed that A I bother going out on days which look awful on the face of it and B that nine times out of ten I find things in good nick. It takes some learning but eventually you get a feel for what will be in on what day. So long as you keep your ticklist long and open to adjustment there is pretty much always something to go at. So many people get fixated on one or two probs and have a hideously frustrating time going to the wrong crag in the wrong conditions. Bend with the wind, grass-hopper.

With a long ticklist and an intimate knowledge of which crags suit which condition you also develop a hierarchy of condition scarcity which allows you to maximise what you get done. Put simply each days weather will allow a certain number of crags to be worth going to. Some crags like Almscliff or Cratcliff are much more likely to be in good nick than crags like Caley or Burbage South. The rule of thumb being that you always try to go to the crag with the narrowest conditions window that the weather will allow. In so doing you catch the rare good conditions at places like Caley and you don’t run out of things to do at places like Almscliff, saving it for iffy days.
Or alternatively you could txt me.

I’ve kind of lost my thread now and I have to do some work so I’ll leave it there.