Monday, 22 June 2009

Several shades of lime

Not a lot to report since returning from Magic Wood. I’ve been back on five day weeks whilst Nige is away in Scotland so haven’t had as much time to get out and about. Evening sessions have mostly been spent at the Tor where I’ve been trying to boost the finger strength with some bouldering. This hasn’t been very successful, in part because I don’t really enjoy failing dismally on things I’ve already done and also because it’s aggravated an ongoing wrist injury.
Other than the Tor I’ve had a couple of plays on the project I bolted last year at the Cornice, managing all the moves despite some wet holds. Although I can do the moves I’m struggling to string many/any together and it feels a lot too hard for current levels. I’ll give it some more effort if/when it’s properly dry, but at solid 8b+ I might have to give this one away.
Had a fun day at Thor’s, though most stuff was still a bit wet. The only new thing I did was Twilight of Tired Gods, a rather hard E3 (E4 in some guides) in the West Window. Went on it as a warm up but it ended up taking ages and having a bit of an epic, ho hum. As well as getting on (and later completing, see Beastmaker blog) Slavek’s old project, Dan had a go at Spear of Odin, one of the 7c+s I put up in ‘05. It had too many properly wet holds for him to do in a oner but he did do all the climbing nonetheless and reckoned it was one of the best sport routes in the country. The only other person I know who’s been on this route is Zippy who repeated it in ‘06 or ‘07, rating it at the time as an even better route than Thormen’s, high praise indeed! Please excuse me shamelessly plugging my own route, but I do really think this one and nearby Escape to Valhalla are something special and worthy of more attention. The cave may not be as pretty as its Spanish brethren but the climbing is very similar and really unique for this country. Here’s a gallery of old Thor’s pics for anyone interested:

Back at the Tor the other night with a sore wrist I decided to refresh my tick on Indecent now that the tree start is gone. The new version dubbed Half Decent is now 7c and starts up the newly bolted RH start to Body Machine. Managed to redpoint first go despite getting rather pumped. Lowering off in the evening sun high above the river I was reminded how much I prefer getting on a string here rather than scrabbling around among the dust and polish attempting to climb the first 3m!
Saturday was Nettle Buttress down Cheedale to try the newly rebolted Toys for the Boys. What a great route! Immaculate rock and moves throughout. I lacked the finger endurance to complete in a session, but looking forward to a rematch on Tuesday. Third best 7c+ in the peak?
Late start, yesterday then a trip to Stoney Quarry. Having recently done Millionaire Touch I was keen to have a go at Oliver. Warmed up on Jasper which was better and more independent than I’d given it credit for. Oliver was brilliant. The ‘runout’ bit turned out to be fine having a decent RP and sideways wire halfway through, but the stopper move to get on the ledge was very perplexing. Blaring sun, dust filled breaks and a lot of effort trying to mantel the ledge too far right didn’t help. In the end the move wasn’t too bad, but I won’t spoil anyone’s onsight by giving away the details. Every route I’ve done on this wall has been a belter, just a shame about the proximity of the ever buzzing and clicking sub station.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Toot toot!

On Tuesday I got back from a ten day trip to Magic Wood. Nominally justified as Dobbin’s stag do, it turned out to be more of a straight-up climbing trip in the end with Herr stag-egg getting away very lightly on the piss up and ritual humiliation front. I’d like to have seen Dobbin lashed with cling film to the underside of the bridge, but aside from this minor disappointment it was a really good trip.
Me, ‘boiled crab’ Cofield and Jerry Le Sage travelled over in the van which was a pretty epic full day drive on either end of the trip, leaving eight days to climb or rest in the middle.
Having spent the last few months mostly trad climbing I set out with no climbing expectations of the trip other than to have a relaxed time and hopefully give my finger strength a bit of a mid season boost. As it turned out I wasn’t as weak as expected and managed to get loads of good problems done at (magic?) grades above expectations. Generally had good fun running about the woods searching out and picking off the best looking probs and managed to clock up a decent tally of sevens: Du Cote De Szechuan, Supernova, Man of a Cow, Schnee Brett, Jack the Chipper, Hohenrauch, Sudenfall, Iron Butterfly, La Dance, Goldfisch, Grit De Luxe, Slip Slop Slap, Dropzone and Protecktor. Had a good go on Never Ending Story II on the last day whilst sitting out some rain, managing all but move one and got very close to that despite awfully greasy conditions, certainly top of the list of probs to try if I every go to MW again.
The weather was pretty kind with next to no rain and relatively cool temps on most days after a couple of scorchers early on. A bit of midday heat gave a great excuse to lounge about for hours talking shit before heading out for evening crush.
Trip banter was exceptional especially on campsite with Cofe, Sausage, Good King Henry and ‘one trick jet propelled pony’ Rocketman Rob Smith. Many a happy hour was spent talking utter drivel and jibing the comedy manner and stylings of the insitu euros.
Everyone else seemed to have a good trip too (see Dob’s blog for a fuller run down on what folk did). Cofe climbed well bagging up loads of stuff including Supernova, Fool Fighter, Hohenrauch, Goldfisch, Schnee Brett and Jack the Chipper. Rocketman pulled the stops out for an impressive flash of Jack the Chipper, as well as being the only person to get up the very tricky Swizz Beats. Jerry put in a good fight on Octopussy (good luck next trip) as well as finding time to school everyone on Hohenrauch, casually shaking out on a static pull through the ‘slap’ crux – the crowd went wild, just like Leeds ‘89.
Ended up taking even less photos than I usually do, but I think cofe took a good few (no doubt era defining) pics and I’ll post a link to them if I can.
Effort to Dobbin and Dr Pinch for getting the whole thing together and a big toot-toot to all the other hommes!

Trad 2

Here's something I started writing a while ago and never got round to really finishing:

So the last post covered why you might not want to go trad climbing, but what of all the reasons plenty of people love doing it anyway. Why do I do it?
Well it’s not because I’m especially good at it, that’s for sure. Whilst I take some pride in being able to punch a little above my weight in sport climbing, where cunning and doggedness has scraped me up a few 8bs without resorting to extended seiging, in trad climbing, fear of getting on bold stuff and to a lesser extent fear while on routes mean I’m not really pushing the boundaries of my on-paper capability. Rarely, if ever, do I feel actual bona-fide terror, it’s more like the old mental wall preventing me getting into situations where this might be a possibility. My climber’s mind tells me the wall is built too far back from the actual terror threshold, that I can stamp down the creeping fear when the need arises, but moving the wall requires a leap of faith, a trust in gear, rock and ability which can be hard to persuade the self-protective subconscious mind to take. I’ve always admired the apparent pure logical calculation of good trad climbers who can rationalise getting on routes which perhaps have potential for huge but safe falls. While to an outside observer what they do may appear risky, even reckless, in actuality the chance of getting into trouble has been totally thought through by the climber and accepted as the logically small risk it is. Your accomplished tradder has mastered the art of accurately assessing most of the true risk at ground level, then fixing a resolve to proceed in a certain manner and sticking to this plan with a head clear of internal conflict. As with any other aspect of climbing, I think this ability to trust your own rationalisation is half gifted natural propensity and half hard earned through continuous graft. I’ll never be able to go hell for leather on big runout E7s, and to be frank I don’t think I even want to get into a position where I’m comfortable with that sort of risk. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get better and better the more I try and what gains I do make are all the sweeter for being against the grain of some inherent timidity. If my enjoyment were tied up with measuring myself against my peers in trad climbing I’d have packed up my ballnuts a long time ago. The fact I persists in the face of slow gains is for the simple reason that it is brilliant, addictive and endlessly varied. While progress can be slow I enjoy these incremental gains made in the ability to ‘man-up’ and unlike sport or bouldering I have a fair bit of excess strength/stamina to play with in the quest for improvement. It makes a real change to swap a largely physical challenge for a largely mental one. Having done a lot of sport and bouldering I’ve now largely picked and eaten the low hanging fruits of the area. On the other hand the boughs of the trad tree are still heavily laden with fruitsome delights. As a discerning tickaholic it’s obvious to me where the high quality easy fix is to be found.
As discussed in my last rambling, trad is just not physically intense enough to be of much strength training benefit and as such I find myself moving backwards on the get strong/stay strong treadmill. To enjoy trad I have to let go for a while of this endless mission to stay strong. Having spent years on and off said wagon I’ve seen some of the benefits that dedication to the beef can bring, but I’ve also undoubtedly seen other opportunities pass me by. While the rat-race to stay strong opens up one world of potential rock climbing pleasures it can also lead to a narrow ‘progress’ obsessed outlook which effectively closes off another world of experiences.
I guess it boils down to the specialist versus generalist dilemma. Which strategy is going to give the most fun/satisfaction, realising potential in one field, or sacrificing excellence to become a decent all rounder? I think I could still squeeze some improvement in sport/bouldering grades out of my carcass if I really tried, but at 35 it would be a hard fight and ultimately I think the fun/satisfaction I’d get from it would not merit the effort put in, especially when being less narrowly focussed means I can get a lot of fun/satisfaction from biffing about on ledges, fiddling with bits of metal in beautiful places and still do enough sport climbing/bouldering to have fun and get stuff ticked. Still, it’s hard to let go and it takes a degree of humility to accept performing at a level you know to be beneath your best, i.e getting burnt off by your specialist peers in all disciplines. It helps to remember that the same must be true even for the best generalists. Whilst the likes of Bransby may be truly impressive as boulderers, trad climbers and sport climbers, they don’t often climb the very hardest grades of any type. It must have crossed these climber’s minds that they might have been the very best in the world at any one of discipline had they been willing to specialise. It’s probably for this reason that the climbers I have the most respect for are often the generalists, because it is most obviously these who are in the game mainly for the love of climbing. And this I can empathise with, because I've always loved the climbing more than I’ve loved being good at climbing.