Thursday, 22 January 2009

Crab-boy and the Mechanical Ape

Hello again. It’s been time. It’s not been the most amazing period of my time climbing and I haven’t had loads to report on. Highlights from the hiatus include a splendid day out at the Roaches Nth Cloud and Skyline with a kiwi giant and a couple of golden hoofed wizards; a lovely highball at Scout Hut Crag called Needle of Dreams; and a day of classic highballing at Buthiers.
Anyway out with the old and on to the new. A fair bit of my time has been taken up recently with a route project at Eastwood Rocks. I may have made oblique references in the blog to this in the past. At work I have an eight page list of ideas for new boulder probs and routes, this project being top of that list. On the right side of the Cave Buttress, which is the lovely curvy first section encountered, is a monstrously undercut wall with no obvious line of weakness. When I first encountered this face it had no routes on it. The cracks on either side provided easy fare, but in between was a tantalizing blank. In 1996 I attempted to open proceedings with a traverse along a high level discontinuous breaks. My onsight attempt ended in ignominious retreat from a big runout (these days it’s well protected with small cams). Kim Thompson, who’s a boulderer now but used to be a fearless trad leader, stepped in and cruised along Hot Yimminy E3 5c. Later the same year I returned and tried to lead an alternative finish up the right side of the upper bulge. This time my foray onto the wall being thwarted by an angry farmer chucking us off his crag (this has happened only once in 15 years of visiting, thankfully). It would be another twelve years before I returned to climb Farmageddon E2 5c. Detailed inspection around the time of the initial new routing, showed the lower bulge to have few holds of any size and where the bulge was narrow enough to span past, the upper wall seemed very blank indeed. Crossing the bulge was well beyond my capabilities. What I did find however was a line of small holds leading left along the lip, which though invisible from the ground were sufficiently positive to make up for their lack of size and led out to a biggish boss were upward engagement looked possible. Still it was far to hard for me to contemplate back then.
Last year I had the job of putting together the Eastwood script for the forthcoming BMC guide and work on this got me interested in new routing in the area again. I’ve already blogged about the bits and pieces done over at Cocking Tor and Turning Stone. But always in the back of my mind was the line of holds along the lip at Eastwood and finally in November last year I got round to having a tentative play on a rope. Initial forays seem to suggest it was a goer but pretty sustained and crimpy. I’m no great crimper but several visits later and a fair bit of messing about with different sequences and I had it fairly figured, which just left the question of how to protect a lead. Several options existed, lead with side runner in nearby tree – safe and simple; lead without tree-runner – hard to place ballnut 1 in a crucial handhold; highball over lots of pads – high and wild falls seemed likely and lots of padding would be needed; or highball above a man-net strung to the nearby trees – unconventional yet strangely appealing!

The next visit was with steely fingered crimp fiend Paul B. Unsurprisingly Paul made short work of the difficult crimping and was keen to do the route for real. That made my mind up on the protection options. Time to get the route done and worry about going back to do it in better style later!
The second day with Paul was a write-off due to extreme amounts of cold wind and ice. The time after that (read Paul's blog for in depth commentary on my ineptitude) was nearly but not quite, due to throwing myself repeatedly at it while it was wet instead of hanging back until it dried. Pritch got some footage of the attempts and I'll try to get hold of this and stick it up here at some point.
Fortunately Saturday saw the route fully dry thanks to a strong wind. Out with Cofe, Dave and Joe B. Did the Eastwood trav to warm up. Felt OK on that so set off on the proj. Got to the very last hard move, a long lock to a three finger pocket. Tickled the edge but didn't have the lock and dropped off with a mini roar of frustration. Belayed Joe who made a very good job of flashing my route of '06 Monster Monster! Duly rested I set off again and this time being properly warmed up got to the lock and this time it felt fine. Having done the hard bit I then promptly got freezing hands dilly dallying at the break deciding which of three possible finishes to go up. I'd intended to go direct but had not worked this on a rope and didn't fancy tackling very slopey unknown ground with icy wooden hands. Eventually I managed to remember the sequence on Farmaggedon and finish up this. This is only slightly less direct and arguably less contrived than the direct so I wasn't too bothered, just glad not to blow it on relatively easy ground.

One of Pritch's shots. Cheers sir.

So there you go another fine route at the lovely Eastwood rocks. Name? I spent ages brain storming but have not thought of anything that I was totally chuffed with. Here's the results of one such brain storm:

Quentin Crisp
Little Ladders
Monkey Dust
Beef Juju
Juju Bunyip
God is Dead
Rising Rooster
The Birth of Crab-boy
Crab-boy at the Gates of Dawn
Crab-boy Saves the World
Crab-boy and the Shining Sphere
Mission Creep
Beast of Eastwood
Fight or Flight
Fast and Loose
Only When I Crimp
High Speed Crimp Act
Crimping at the Crunch
Sneakin’ the Beak In
Stuperman II
Adventures of Crab-boy
Further Adventures of Crab-boy
God v Crab-boy – the Re-match
Crab-boy and the Mechanical Ape
Crab-boy and the Crimps of Doom
Lip of Fools
The Juicy Dangler
Think Yourself Big

In the end I got bored of waiting for the amazing name idea to come and have opted for Lip of Fools. No particular reason except for the obvious lip/ship pun, it climbs a lip and it looked OK on paper. I'm not suggesting me (or Paul) are any more foolish than the next climber, in case you where concerned Mr B.

Grade? Hell there's a question. Hope I don't get it wrong, people might start questioning my integrity and demanding apologies! That said I probably will get it wrong, I usually do! Well it's very safe with the side runner. Difficulty wise it felt a solid bouldering grade harder than the Eastwood Traverse (whatever grade the masses deem that to be now I don't know, 7b+??) to me, but it's very basic and crimpy so others might find it pretty easy. As a sport route I think it would merit 8a, but I haven't tied on in a sport capacity for months so this could be well out. Assuming the 8a guess is right then I suppose it should get E7 for effort, at least that's how I've always understood things. Paul concurred with this grade prior to his quick second ascent a few days later (good work yoot!). Neither of us has much headpointing/E7 experience so don't get too excited if we got it wrong.
So there you go Lip of Fools E7 6c **. The climbing is three star, but the line and side runner knock it back to two I think. Paul made a fast second ascent
Go and repeat it people, it's brill and safe. Or try and improve on my style. I intend to go back and do it without the tree runner at some point, so I might see you there.


Paul Bennett said...

It is a good line however if the grade is wrong you might have to justify our use of the tree to a bunch of pitch fork wielding UKCers!

A second look at the line made me think that a person a bit less paranoid than me, using my sequence, might be up for highballing it. If you've got the lock then you'll know if you're going to hit the pocket and therefore control the fall if its not on. Dan and Ned seemed to show some interest and I can't think of a better pair for the job!

Stuart Littlefair said...

Good effort on the Lip my man.

Some lines are better climbed as routes, and that looks like a fun outing with the baby bouncer action going on. I sometimes think that the best ethics are not the ones that make a line the hardest but the ones that make a line the best. To my mind, the best ethic for this line seems to be the tree.

It's certainly going on my list

Fiend said...

I think the tree runner is ace. It makes perfect sense - as does your grade-logic. It does look like a finish up Hot Yimminy would make more sense as a line, but still, good effort on it all.

bonjoy said...

It would be good to see someone highball it. Way out of my comfort zone though! Maybe with the net...

That was part of my thinking Stu. The bouncer makes for a safe hard challenge, which has to be gold-dust on grit.

Fiend - Funnily enough I was going to finish along HY, but the ground team persauded me that the RH finish would make for a stronger line. You could be right, finishing with a leftward exit gives a cleaner diagonal, with no looping back. Difficulty wise it makes no difference.

uptown said...

Fine effort - I remember first seeing this back in the 90's on one of our snoops. I was always keen to try, were it not for the farmer. I bet we share some common ground in those 8 pages! Keep up the good work.