Sunday, 27 January 2019

New Year Trip to Suirana

Hi guys just thought I would pen a few words about my recent 11 day trip to Suirana in Catalunya, Spain. I headed out on Boxing Day and arrived in the campsite late that night after a full day's travelling from Exeter via Liverpool airport that morning! I had rather optimistically decided to camp this trip but did not fully appreciate how cold it was going to be. My sleeping bag was a 4 season down one but was totally outclassed by the bone chilling cold experienced. Luckily some friends lent me a duvet and in combo with about 5 layers of clothing, it was doable. It was good to go back to basics and suffer a bit, makes you appreciate the finer things in life back home! Mucking in to cook in the miniscule cooking area every morning and night with all the fellow climbers was a good experience. Many a tuna/ pasta surprise was concocted in the cramped quarters to replenish diminished glycogen reserves. 

Migranya 8b - Credit: Charlie Egan
After a day or 2 to shake off Christmas excesses, I started to feel good on my main goal for this trip, Migranya 8b, a steep, powerful testpiece in Sector L'Olla at the head of the canyon past the famous La Rambla 9a+. I had tried this in 2013 but didn't quite have the level for it back then and despite being able to do all the moves OK, it had remained unticked since then. I learned from one of the locals that a left hand handhold on a crucial sloper in the lower half of the route had crumbled away since I had last tried the route so it was harder now into the bargain! After a couple of days reworking it and some beta tweaks, I started doing links from the end of the crux to the top and felt my route fitness suddenly come back after a period of mostly bouldering in November/ December.

The crux traverse on Migranya 
For once, on New Year's eve I resisted the temptation to go overboard and after a nice celebration in the bar where we sipped some beers, had a glass of cava each and ate 12 grapes in close succession on the stroke of midnight, I eschewed the dubious pleasures of a night out on the tiles in Cornudella and headed to bed at 1am. After a rest day of reading and chilling, the next day it was business time and I headed up to L'Olla with Alex to do battle.
Migranya - the crux

Video of Migranya

I had been close to getting through the crux move before New Year but a heel toe cam for my right foot seemed to be holding me back on the sloper move and I would always fall just short of sticking the next move. After a rethink, I decided to just use a heel rather than a cam as well and bingo, it worked. I stuck the crux and swung my way to the shakeout below the halfway roof. After a minute shaking out, I embarked on the still tricky exit moves which involve a crank on a 2 finger pocket and a dicey stab to a powerful gaston for the left hand. Thankfully, my time spent working the links on this section was not wasted and I got through this section to clip the chains. I was a good feeling to get this one ticked and be project free for a while.

Post send on Migranya

Send burgers and beers
The rest of the trip was spent getting some mileage in as it is sometimes nice not to have the pressure of a hard send to deal with and just enjoy some classics and there are certainly plenty around these parts! I had failed on the last move of the classic arete of Lua 7c 5 years previously due to a hold snapping and remember taking a huge whipper so it was cool to get revenge on this one. Also, Outback 7c+ was an enjoyable steep route which I remember sitting on every bolt of on a previous trip! I was close on the retro flash, falling off the final sequence but had to settle for a next go send.
Outback 7c+, Sector Negociee Credit: Buster Martin
After another rest day, I wanted to have a go at onsighting the classic Pren Nota 8a on Sector Negociee, which is a long steep wall with the crux near the top. I had a decent go but didn't get as far as the crux after trying to rest in a 'non-rest' before the real rest a bolt higher. I don't think I would have got through the next bit onsight anyway so was not too fussed to lob off. I hope to get better at on-sighting with more practice in the future as I have not done as much of it as I would have liked. No redpoint stress here, it all stays at the crag! I got the route next go which was great fun and a reminder of how pumpy these rigs can be - best not neglect the stamina training I reckon.
Sectors El Pati and Primavera
After a short rest, we headed back round to sector L'Olla to finish off the short but powerful Pota d'Elephant 7c+ which I had tried a couple of days previously. This has a couple of cranks on some pockets and some short lived tufas before a funky pull up onto the top slab. I then had a good flash go on Anemone Nipapa 8a but was stopped cold by the top crux moves, which are pretty hard for an 8a! I had another go just before it got dark but didn't have much left in the tank, one to come back for.

Pota d'Elephant 7c+

That evening in the bar, it was nice to hang out with the Brits I was lucky enough to spend time with this trip and sip a few beers. There was a good crew out this year, all supportive of each other and their projects, which is one of the awesome parts of trips like this.

Buster on Copa di Cigala 8a+
The next morning was my last so it was a slightly frenzied dash down to Can Piqui Puqui sector, which I had not yet visited this trip for a go on Gigololo 8a+, the right hand version of the ultra classic Anabolica 8a. Gigololo was another one I had tried 5 years previously. I sussed the crux moves briefly and had time for one burn but the exertions of the previous day were still in my arms and although getting through the roof onto the headwall, I got shut down by a big move from a pocket to a crimp. I don't feel too bad about this as I got back and had a peek at the comments on the route - apparently this move shut down a young Adam Ondra in 2006! I feel a little gutted nevertheless that I didn't have time to rest and have another burn but I had a plane to catch so leaving such thoughts til next time, I marched up the hill to my waiting hire car and before I knew it was cruising the coastal roads en route to Barca airport. Hasta luego Suirana!

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Kilnsey Progress Update

Hi Folks, its been a little while since my last blog so I thought I would pen a few lines to let you know what I've been up to over the summer, now that it is but a distant memory! Since getting back from Oregon in early June, my objectives for the summer were to capitalise on fitness gained at Smith Rock to get stuck in to some projects from last year at my favourite crag in Yorkshire, the mighty Kilnsey! 

The first crux on Progress - (Credit: Marc Langley)
I decided to have a crack at Dalliance 8b+ first up as this was some unfinished business from last October when I had been stopped by seepage. After a few sessions back on it, it was satisfying to clip the chains after a beta tweak from Paul Bennett on the redpoint crux at the top, cheers Paul! Here is a clip of the send go, some closure at last was satisfying on this tricky number.

                                                         Dalliance 8b+

Next up was Progress 8c+ which is a considerably harder affair and one which I had invested many sessions in from May to July last year. I had got through to the redpoint crux above the 4th bolt and the 2 undercut 'eyes' quite a few times but had been shut down by the very powerful crux on flat sidepulls and pinches with poor foot smears that immediately follows. It must be 8b at least to get to the eyes so it is no small undertaking to crank your way up to a position where you can challenge the redpoint crux. This year, after a good start refreshing the moves and doing some good links from the 3rd bolt to the top, the heatwave struck in July. 

By the first bolt on Progress (Credit: Martin Atkinson)
I found it increasingly difficult to make any headway with the sweaty conditions that ensued and began to think that I must be weaker than last year as I couldn't get back up to the eyes. I did manage to do a key link from the 2nd bolt to the top, which I was pleased with but which is actually still some way from redpointing the entire thing. Thankfully, I needn't have worried about the lower section as in mid July on some odd cooler days I finally made it back there and after some beta tweaks courtesy of Jordan, began to get more reliably up to the 4th bolt.

Another view of the first crux on Progress (Credit: Martin Atkinson)
Unfortunately, by mid August, the annual monsoon rolled in and the crag turned into a waterfall - from heat to wetness in 24 hours! Such are the trials of the Kilnsey regular and the route was out of commission for more than 2 weeks. I took the opportunity to keep my bouldering tuned up by visiting Griff's Buttress and doing some crimpy limestone numbers like 'King of Lambs' Font 8A, 'Mutton Bustin' Font 8A and 'Mint Sauce Right Hand' Font 8A, all excellent problems (see video below).

                           Bouldering at Griff's Buttress, Blackwell Dale

By the time September rolled around (or is that Sendtember!) thankfully connies were much cooler and I surprised myself by getting up to the eyes 3 times in a session, which made clear how vital cool conditions are on this line. I re-engineered my beta on the redpoint crux to a higher step up with the feet which seemed to make the move a little more manageable from the ground. 

About to clip the 3rd bolt on Progress (Credit: Martin Atkinson)
I had 2 sessions in even colder conditions where I got up to the eyes on every redpoint and finally stuck the redpoint crux (see picture below). This was a great feeling after trying this rig for more than a year!
Sticking the redpoint crux on Progress (Credit: Martin Atkinson)

The next go that session I got a move further but realised that I was stranded as my feet cut and I was left dangling from 2 poor pinches! Sadly, there were no further opportunities for me as the next round of wet weather blew in and that was it for the year. I have made a video of my highpoint (see below) and am beyond psyched to get stuck back into this beast as soon as the crag dries out in the spring, bring it on!

                                   My best attempt on Progress


Monday, 11 June 2018

Just Do It!

I've been back in Manchester for a few days now and have had a chance to reflect on my latest trip to Smith Rock. Flying back this time felt like the end of an era in some ways, complete with the usual jet lag and kipping on airport benches at 3am, good times! This was my 6th trip in 3 years to try Just Do It and I was aware that time was running out for completion of this project due to the pressures of keeping on trying a route so far away from my home. I said to myself at the start of the trip that it was important to get it done this time around so I could move on with my climbing and free up time and effort to sample some of the classics closer to home. I was lucky enough to have been given the option of staying out for a longer period of time before flying out due to my work circumstances so I had this up my sleeve. 

The slap up to the 'sidepull sloper' on the upper crux (Screengrab: Nate Gerhardt)

In the back of my mind was my talus fracture back in December and how well I would be climbing compared to previous trips. Luckily, on my first session up on the Monkey I quickly realised that I felt stronger than my last trip and my fitness was decent due to a recent spell at Malham and some indoor routes at Stockport Wall. I had also been lapping my replica of the route at Rockover Climbing Centre that Tom Stewart, the owner, had kindly let me set on their auto belay area. I had been adding ever increasing amounts of climbing going up and down different routes before shaking out on the first hold of the replica (a hold very similar to the big flat hold at the 13th bolt which marks the start of the upper cruxes in the purple rock) and then finishing up it, which I had never been able to do training on the same set up last year. So, just the small matter of climbing the real thing!

The lower crux in the purple rock (Pic: Mike Doyle)
On the first day, it was a case of getting reacquainted with the moves as usual and keeping jet lag at bay. On the second session, I went for the key link from the 1st chains to the top (which weighs in at 14a or 8b+) which I had done once before in 2016 but which I had never had the chance to get solid on due to the pressure to keep trying from the ground every time on shorter trips. I surprised myself by getting through the upper crux twice and very nearly going to the top on my first attempt, getting shut down on the last big move of the upper crux sequence, to a relatively big flat crimp before the final, hopefully not droppable (!), moves up to the final shake out guarding the chains. I had never done this so early in the trip and was in 2 minds as to whether to keep trying this link or start trying from the ground. I decided to try from the ground. After a session or 2 of narrowly failing to reach the porthole, I managed to get up there before the end of the first week, which is the earliest I have ever managed this on all of my trips. The porthole rest follows the first crux section in the purple rock on crimps which is around V8 or so. (For those interested in my previous trips to try Just Do It, check out my previous blog posts from 2015 onwards:

Approaching the porthole rest (Pic: Jason Bagby)
This time I could feel that I had a bit more fitness in my arms from all the training over the winter and had a good stab at getting past the upper crux, another powerful V8 boulder problem. This sequence is more sustained than the crux before the porthole (comprising 8 hard moves in total) and the hardest 2 moves involve a powerful lock off and cross over from a 1st joint 2 finger pocket to a poor, gaston crimp and then holding this to then fire into another, better, 2 finger pocket. From this pocket, 4 slightly easier moves follow without rest before the relative sanctuary of the 'big, flat crimp' by the 16th bolt and the still tricky exit moves. 

On my next session, I was mega psyched to finally stick the upper crux pocket stab to the 2 finger pocket on a session with Steven Dimmitt. This was the breakthrough I had been looking for and what the previous 15 or so redpoints up to the porthole over my last 3 trips had led up to. I very nearly stuck the next big move to the 'sidepull sloper' too but was so surprised at finally having stuck the pocket stab move that I fell just short of it, but I didn't mind as I knew it was now on, I could do this!!
After sticking the upper crux for the first time from the ground (Pic: Steven Dimmitt)
I still had a few days before my flight was due so I persisted in trying it in hot conditions with only 1 rest day between attempts in the hope of snagging the route without having to rebook my flight. Unfortunately, conditions were too warm so I the slight setback of having regressed from my highpoint with the nagging doubt as to whether I would ever get up there again. Luckily, having not got on the flight, the pressure was off in some ways as with no fixed return date, I had the luxury of being in a position to pick and choose my redpoint days. Little did I know that it would take another month before I was clipping the chains!

After a mini-heat wave of 80+F temps, I returned with Crit Concrad and managed to get a move higher, holding the sidepull sloper but not having quite enough power to get crimped up on it, which you need to do in order to execute the next throw to the 'big flat crimp'. Since failing on this move on the link from the 1st chains on my second session, I couldn't decide whether to move my feet 4 times using some intermediate footholds (which seemed to be less strenuous and more in balance) or to stick with my old foot sequence, which was only 2 foot moves and more powerful but quicker. I went with the former option and chanced introducing some new foot moves as these moves felt OK on the link from the porthole. Unfortunately, on my redpoint, I ended up stranded below the throw move with no hope of sticking it as I was too pumped to move my feet! I went for it anyway and took the ride with a new highpoint under my belt of 2 handmoves further up the wall, which was good progress nevertheless. The lesson I took from this was not to tinker with your sequence, best to stick with the devil you know!

The first 2 finger pocket move on the lower pitch (Pic: Mike Doyle)

I was fully expecting to be able to rest 2 days then head back up to the Monkey and send but the weather had other plans. Another mini-heatwave rolled in and I was forced to train in the morning cool of Morning Glory Wall and Aggro Gully. This was no bad thing as I was able to reference my fitness on my favourite training routes such as Churning in the Wake 13a, Aggro Monkey 13b, Disposable Heroes 13a and The Quickening 12c. I even chucked a lap on Full Heinous Cling 12c in the Dihedrals, for old times sake ;). I clocked up 4 or 5 such sessions over 6 weeks and I think this helped me to avoid burnout. Still, it was not ideal having to wait more days than necessary when I was on the brink of success and there were times during the hot spell when I began to doubt whether it would ever cool off and I would get another chance. It was at such times that I found it important to stay focused and positive during the long hours away from the crags. Using the time productively was important as one of the problems of all the resting was how to keep your mind from constantly obsessing about the route, which could be counterproductive. I spent many happy hours in Redmond library reading classic novels like Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road' and Thomas Hardy's 'Return of the Native', books I will always associate with my time out in Oregon. 

Just below the good rest above the 9th bolt, the chains of the first pitch just above  (Pic: Mike Doyle)
I had one abortive early morning session with Brady Kendrick getting up at 5am for a 6:45am start up on the Monkey to beat the heat. I shall always remember Brady pulling up in his truck and the whooping and hollering and 'Heck yea's' for no particular reason other than pure psyche as I cranked out some hangs on the Tension flashboard hung up in the parking lot while the coffee kicked in. This session was not a success as the entire route was in the sun by 8am before even one redpoint was possible, leading to an impromptu training session in the gully on the way back - at least we tried!

The stemming rest at the 9th bolt (Pic: Jenny Abegg)

By the time temps cooled down, I had spent a week without any redpoints since my highpoint and was nervous about whether I would be able to get past the upper crux again. Probably the low point of the trip came after my first redpoint that first session back when I failed to get up to the porthole. To be honest I was gutted as I began to wonder whether I had burnt out and would ever regain my highpoint. A change of pace was in order and I elected not to have a second redpoint from the ground for once. I bolt to bolted up to the 9th bolt and then managed to do a link from there to the top, which was a massive confidence boost as it was one bolt better than the link I had been aiming for on my second session and a personal best in still warm conditions. It also involved climbing into and out of the main stemming rest above the 9th bolt. Every move felt the best it had ever felt and I had power in reserve at the chains. I needn't have worried about fluffing my previous redpoint and had turned the session around. The moves on small crimps leading to the porthole are so hard on the link from the ground that it is inevitable that you won't have a 100% strike rate. If you put your feet a few cm's left or right of the sweet spots on each foothold then you are liable to be spat off. Sometimes, redpoints don't go well purely down to the law of averages - you can't always climb at your best. 

Big move at the 12th bolt (Pic: Mike Doyle)
The next session with Brady and Jenny Abegg proved to be a turning point and it was a rare occasion when the weather allowed me to take rest 2 days and then go back up for another session without having to wait for a longer hot spell to dissipate. In hindsight, I could have done it this session as I stuck the pocket stab move twice, which I had never done in a single session before. Unfortunately, I didn't get the second 2 finger pocket as well as I would have liked which left me short on the slap to the sidepull sloper so I didn't quite make my highpoint again.

Focus required! Just below the 3 finger crimp on the 1st crux of the purple rock (Pic: Mike Doyle)

The Monkey was still intent on testing me though as yet another 5 day heatwave rolled in with some pretty horrible, humid thunderstorms thrown into the mix. I made a tactical error of coming out one evening for a session to try and keep momentum going as I had rested 2 days already and felt really fresh. This was a mistake as I fell off the upper crux in really humid, warm conditions. Lesson number 2, don't bother trying things at your limit in bad conditions, rest up instead! In retrospect, I should have gone training at the gym in Bend or something, anything but try Just Do It! 

Starting the upper crux: locking the first 2 finger pocket, about to crossover for the gaston (Screengrab: Nate Gerhardt)

Crossover move from the 2 finger pocket on the 
upper crux (Pic: Heather Furtney, from Oct 2015)

I managed to steady the ship with a session sticking the pocket stab again with Mike Doyle on a session when he came super close to sending the East Face Crack 13d without clipping any of the fixed gear, taking an impressive fall in the process (he sent it with ease next session). However, I didn't make any impression on the slap to the sidepull sloper, which did nothing to ease my fears of having peaked too soon. I decided to try the 1st chains to the top link without lowering off after my second burn and after 10 mins hanging at the 1st chains. This link felt the easiest it had ever felt using my old, quicker foot sequence. I knew I was getting closer and it was only a matter of time.

The redpoint crux - stabbing into a 2 finger pocket 
off a small gaston crimp (Pic: Heather Furtney, from Oct 2015)

I was destined to have one more close session and made the trek up there with Jon Roderick, who has been trying the East Face Crack and who I belayed on a very smooth ascent of the lower pitch (12c on trad), way to go Jon! This session, I failed on the pocket stab move twice, despite 2 full rest days so I was stressing out wondering whether I had lost the power needed for this move. However, the saving grace was another 1st chains to top link after 10 minutes rest following my second burn. Jon put up with me offloading a load of doubts about conditions and beta on the walk down, sorry Jon!

The weekend looked warm so I would only have one rest day before an attempt on Friday, which looked like half decent temps with the forecast saying 70 degrees. I scoured my contacts for a belayer and luckily Lukas Strauss-Wise agreed to come out at short notice on Friday night, which was a big ask. It felt warm in the air in the gully but hanging out there with my good friends Andrew Hunzicker and Nate Gerhardt helped to create a relaxed atmosphere. We could feel a warm breeze blowing down the gully and all agreed conditions felt good, despite the heat. I left it until the last possible moment to allow for one burn before sunset before hiking up to the Monkey. The initial bolt to bolt go felt good and I was psyched to have the chance for a decent attempt before resting through the heat of the weekend after which substantial rest I should then be in a position to have a full blooded go on Monday.

The big move to the sidepull sloper 
(Pic: Heather Furtney, from Oct 2015)

To my horror, I proceeded to fall of the move cranking a tiny right hand sidepull just above the 3rd bolt, a move I hadn't fallen off in over 2 years. I put it down to the relative heat then lowered off and rested 15 minutes, which is all the time there was left before it would start to get too dark to see footholds. Without any expectations, just before 8:30, I set off again and managed to slap through the sidepull move. I had extended the 8th draw on my previous session which enabled me to clip it from lower down in a position of balance and made it less strenuous. I arrived in the rest above the 9th bolt feeling fresh and for some reason started for the first time to alternate putting my weight over my right then left foot as I shook out each arm in turn, which I think helped. After my regulation 2 minutes shake, I set out up the familiar 12d section leading up to the 13th bolt shake. I realised I was feeling really good and so didn't stay more than a couple of shakes on this hold before attacking the next big move up and right leading into the crux crimps. I made it through these moves to the porthole with relief and then tried to calm my breathing down. 

           My send video. (Advisory, contains some slightly 'rum' language)

After 45 seconds and 2 shakes on each arm, I eyed up the upper crux then set off. One thing I had learnt on my previous session was to be sure of adjusting several times in the first 2 finger pocket to get it really well so I really twisted my fingers in deep and adjusted 4 times. Another key bit of micro beta was to do an old fashioned foot swap on the sika crimp on the cross over move to the gaston crimp rather than place your feet next to each other on this hold. My outside left foot came down on the foothold perfectly after the swap and I cranked up to the gaston. I fully crimped this and placed my right toe on the dicey smear. This time, I hit right in the back of the second 2 finger pocket and only needed one adjust before moving my feet up for the slap to the sidepull sloper. After a power grunt, I got more than enough height to get crimped up on the sloper using the crucial crystal at the top of the hold and before I knew it I was crimping the intermediate sidepull and moving my left foot out in readiness for the throw up to the big flat crimp. I went for it and my fingers latched the hold, I was in! The exit moves went on autopilot and the next thing I knew, I was shaking out in the final jug before the last moves 5.12 guarding the chains. Thankfully these went without incident and I was clipping the chains! It was a great feeling to put this project to bed and be able to fly back to the UK without any unfinished business for a change. 

Post send pic (Pic: Lukas Strauss-Wise)
I would like to thank everybody who came up to the Monkey to belay me or offer support, it means a lot! Coming from the UK with no partner this time, I was relying on finding partners out here. The fact that I was able to keep coming up there for 6 weeks with not a single time when I had to skip a good day for lack of a partner is a testament to the awesome Smith Rock climbing community. A special mention to my friend Calvin Landrus who came out to belay me a tonne back in 2015 and 2016 but who has recently sadly contracted leukemia. I am happy to hear that the chemo has been going well and best of luck with the recovery. 

Happy climbing out there and good luck with all of your projects!

Beers in Bend!

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Summer and Autumn round up (Yorkshire, the Peak and Smith Rock!)

Hi folks, its been a while since my last blog but having unfortunately fractured my heel bouldering at Burbage West two weeks ago, now seems a good time to round up the second half of my climbing year. 

A long way to go! Starting up Cry Freedom on the link-up 'The Great Escape 8b+ Malham (Pic: John Thornton)

Since I last blogged in June, I was psyched to move onto new projects after closing out True North and Something for Nothing and invested considerable effort over the summer into Progress 8c+ on Kilnsey's North Buttress, thirty foot to the left of True North. First, I ticked Mandela 8a+, a king line through the main overhang which I had wanted to do for years. It didn't disappoint!

Mandela 8a+, Kilnsey (Pic Kris Suriyo)
Opening my Account on Progress 8c+

I invested 20+ sessions in this awesome power endurance/ stamina beast over June and July, often going after work on a Tuesday night and taking some strategic half days off and hooking up with the keen local climbers. I got it down to two overlapping halves (or a 'one hang' ascent as the Yanks would say). Although there is still a long way to go in terms of getting it done, I was encouraged to get the key link from the ground to the 'eyes' at the 5th bolt (the first opportunity to shake and chalk) quite early on in the process (see video below), which is a fierce 8b piece of crimping.

Working Progress 8c+ at Kilnsey (Pic: Kris Suriyo)
I also went from the third bolt to the top a few times, which has to be a meaty 8b+ link in its own right. Unfortunately, the knuckle of my left index finger is a little too fat to get a shake in the first 'eye', which is a little shake out for those with thin fingers, but I'm confident I will be able to rest a couple of moves later by swapping my hands in the eyes. Sadly, as soon as we hit August, North Buttress practically turned into a waterfall and even though I held out hope of having another chance, it wasn't to be and the anticipated 'Indian summer' failed to materialise.

 Link on Progress 8c+, Kilnsey (from the ground to the 'Eyes' at the fifth bolt) (Video: Andy Tappa)

  Attempts on Dalliance 8b+

While Progress was out of commission, I decided to first tick some routes I hadn't ever got round to trying on the impressive wall to the right of the corner of Balas. First I did the tricky Puppeteer 8a and its short extension, Drenka 8a+ and then managed to flash Neil McCallum's good new addition up the wall just to the right, Dark Stranger 8a.

The Puppeteer 8a, Kilnsey (Pic: James Turnbull)

I then put my energies for the rest of August and September into some unfinished business from last year, the tricky Dave Pegg classic, Dalliance 8b+ (on the right hand end of the crag) as this stays drier for longer. I got close to doing this in August using my old sequence from last year of sticking my left heel way up and left on a spike and then slapping up into a big undercut. Unfortunately on one of my best goes my left hand ripped out of the undercut and I fell off backwards and inverted, painfully slamming my left shoulder into the rock. After lowering off, I realised that I was having trouble raising my arm above my head and sure enough, it stiffened up overnight and a lovely yellow, green and purple bruise appeared around my shoulder joint. A visit to my physio confirmed that I had torn some ligaments. I had to take a couple of weeks out to heal this up and by the time I got back on the rock, suddenly the season was rapidly running away.

Training on Comedy 7c, Kilnsey (Pic: Kris Suriyo)
After speaking to Paul Bennett, I changed my sequence to his method on the top crux, which is much safer and involves keeping your feet lower and with less risk of inverting in a fall. By this stage, in late September, even Dalliance was seeping badly and even though I stuck at it til the bitter end, it was a losing battle against the wetness. I was happy to get to the last move using the new method (see video below) several times and linked from the third bolt to the top three times on a particularly wet session when going from the ground was out of the question. Again, this one will have to wait until next season. The battle is over but the war is not yet won!

 Link on Dalliance 8b+, Kilnsey (from the upper rest to the top)

Peak Bouldering and Training at Malham

I had 2 weeks in Smith Rock booked to look forward to in the first two weeks of November to escape the wetness of the UK crags and was really looking forward to another crack at Just Do It 8c+ my project of the last 2 years. 

Byker Groove V9 (Sean's Roof, Blackwell Dale, Peak District)
After a long season at Kilnsey, I was conscious of the need to top up my bouldering for the savage V9 crimping crux on Just Do It as inevitably, if you predominantly climb routes for a long period, you will be lacking some top end power. I was getting out after work to the Peak a fair bit and had managed to do Ru's Traverse, a stout V11 at Griff's Buttress in Blackwell Dale at the end of June but was getting shut down by the next challenge at that crag, the burly Mutton Busting V11. I decided to drop the grade a little in order to get some ticks as some success is always good for the soul. Over July, August and September, I did Neil's Wall Sit V9, Byker Groove V9, Advanced Training V10, Alacrity Sit V9 and Converter V9, great training for the fingers and all enjoyable problems.

Alacrity Sit Start V9 (Cucklett Delph, Peak District)
I also changed up the pace by starting going back to Malham for the first time since May with the aim of keeping my endurance topped up.

Cover to Cover 8b, Malham 
After re-climbing Climb of the Century 8a+/8b on the upper tier, I took it to the top of the crag via Breach of the Peace to do Dave Birkett's excellent linkup 'Cover to Cover' 8b for a particularly memorable outing.

Cover to Cover 8b, Malham 
Getting into October and with even Malham starting to seep badly, it was time for some final training pitches. On a cold afternoon off work, I managed to do The Great Escape 8b+, a bit of a cop out link breaking out left into Predator before the final crux of Cry Freedom but nevertheless guaranteed to produce a good pump! 

The Great Escape 8b+ Malham (Pic: John Thornton)
Trip to Smith Rock

I was joined on the trip by Mina Leslie-Wujastyk, who was keen to try Just Do It with me. It was great to head out there with another Brit to share beta and psyche after several solo missions. It had been 13 months since I had last tried the route in the autumn of 2016 when I was out here for a full month (see my blog from last year I had done a lot of bouldering, training and routes since then so I was keen to see if I was any stronger on the route. 
The upper crux of Just Do It 8c+ by the 15th bolt from an unusual angle (Pic: Jon Roderick)
After a couple of days of re-familiarising the moves, I reclimbed some key links and started putting in some burns from the ground. Unfortunately, it was hellishly cold on a lot of the days we were up there, even when the infamous Monkey Face wind wasn't blowing a houlie. We even enlisted the help of a portable propane heater in an effort to bring some life to our freezing fingertips. Even when you managed to get warm enough to climb, you were so exhausted from the constant running up and down, star jumps and taking off 7 layers of clothing that by the time you got on the rock, you had likely already used up a lot of your energy reserves. Despite this, I was pleased to get up to the porthole rest by the 15th bolt three more times in total. On one go where I arrived at the crux with numb fingers and had to shout take, as I could no longer feel the holds(!), after the hot aches had subsided, I rested a few minutes on the rope then, after lowering down to the 12th bolt, went from there to the top (see video below). Sometimes, when things don't go to plan, this is just the filip that you need in order to try a new link. 

Link on Just Do It 8c+ (from 12th bolt to the top)

Mina did really well on the route, quickly learning all of the complex moves and redpointing the lower part (8b) with ease on her 3rd day on. I have never climbed on this route other than on my first day on due to the rugged nature of the climbing on both the muscles and skin so this was a very impressive effort. She was doing some great links on the upper pitch in the purple rock and even found an alternative method on the reachy crux move involving a very crimpy undercut (Malham comes to Smith Rock!) but was very unlucky with some split tips. The extremely cold conditions were also not making it any easier for both of us. I'm sure she will be back with fresh skin and in wamer temps to seal the deal. 

Mina on Aggro Monkey 5.13b (8a)
On the last day after Mina had left, I had my best ever burn. I somehow got to the porthole feeling quite fresh, despite feeling tired on the lower pitch. I think relaxing and letting go is just what your mind needs at times on these long term projects. By subconsciously giving up the possibility of climbing the route, I tricked myself into getting through the V9 crimp crux below the porthole despite it being my second go of the session on my 7th day on the route in 14 days. I was surprised to feel my energy coming back like never before in the shake out. I think I even shook out too long (a full minute) as I was so used to having to stay there that long from previous redpoints in order to get any kind of recovery. I had a really good go at the upper crux where I got the gaston crimp for the left hand solidly for the first time and was pretty close to sticking the deep 2 finger pocket that marks the end of the really hard climbing. 

Mina cruising on Churning in the Wake 5.13a (7c+) 
Having run out of time again, I left feeling encouraged that I had actually improved on the route in the preceding 12 months and will be back as soon as I can for another crack, hopefully with temperatures 20 degrees warmer! 

Accident at Burbage 

Sadly, the second weekend after I got back, on a bouldering outing to Peak gritstone with Pete Dawson, I fractured my talus bone (the small bone that the head of the tibia rests on) falling off the top moves of West Side Story, a classic font 7b+ at Burbage West. I have done the problem including the 3 move top out several times in the past so was possibly lulled into a false sense of security. It was one of those moments where I was probably more tired than I realised after a full session over at Burbage North and quite a few attempts to repeat Western Eyes. It was also a little damp in the air (not on the rock) and my right foot slipped on the foothold as I was standing up into the crimpy sidepull before reaching for the top of the crag. 

Out the game! Fractured talus from fall off West Side Story (small fracture not really visible)
I fell straight down with my feet on a level with the top jug of the boulder problem and unfortunately, the second pad was stacked on top of the first one in such a way as to create a downward slope which my right foot landed straight on. I rolled over on my ankle which dislocated and then popped back into joint after a couple of seconds. I initially thought I had got away with it as my foot wasn't swelling up too badly but an x ray and CT scan at Sheffield General A and E confirmed that I have got a small, non-displaced fractured of my talus bone near to the edge of the joint. I would like to say a massive thanks to Edale Mountain Rescue team who quickly attended the scene and stretchered me out in the dark. Without volunteers like these, we would all be in a much worse position when accidents strike. 

Luckily, the fracture clinic at the Manchester Royal Infirmiary have confirmed that I don't need any screws putting in but will be non-weight bearing for 6 weeks and will no doubt need lots of physio thereafter to get back in action. Oh well, a timely reminder of the dangers of bouldering, take care out there! Now, time to get strong on the hangboard! 

Attempt on In the Flick of Time Font 7c+ 1 hour before my fall (Burbage North, Peak District)

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Spring in Yorkshire: Something for Nothing and True North

I thought I would bring you all up to date with what I've been up to over the last 2 months or so on the Yorkshire sport crags. Since mid April and pretty much as soon as both crags properly dried out, I have been heading to Malham and Kilnsey with some unfinished business in mind. High up on my list of projects were Pete Dawson's Something for Nothing 8c at Malham and True North 8c at Kilnsey, both of which I had been involved with since 2014.

The crux of True North 8c at Kilnsey (Pic: Sam Pratt). My old, duff method!
By early April, I was making good progress on one of my projects in the Cave, In Hell V12 but I made the decision to cease attempts on that for now and divert all my energies into sport projects. My aim was to capitalise on a sustained period of bouldering and deadhanging since November last year. In Hell will always be there and is one of the driest problems around so it was an easy decision to make, even though I had been close, falling off 3 times after the flake match on Rockatrocity. Only one way to find out if I would be fit enough for Yorkshire, get involved! 

I had had some good burns on Something for Nothing back in November when Pete did the first ascent, getting halfway through the crux sequence by the last bolt. However, there is a savage crank off a 2 finger pocket to a distant undercut on the crux and this always stopped me cold trying it from the ground. With this in mind, my first objective on day 1 this year was to try and get the key link climbed from the 6th bolt of Cry Freedom (before the 1st crux of that route) to the top. On a half day off work with Al belaying, I shocked myself by climbing this link on my second day back on the route. This piece of climbing must rate 8b+ and only leaves the small matter of the introductory 7c of Cry Freedom leading to the undercut shakeout at the 6th bolt to link in. I felt way better than when I was last trying the rig in November, game on!

The crux of Something for Nothing 8c at Malham (Screengrab from video footage)

Barely able to contain psyche in between visits to the crag, I started the familiar process of trying to batter the route into submission. It took a few more visits on strategic half days off work to get it in the bag. I found that the stopping point on all of my redpoints was standing up into the crux undercut that you cross through to with your left hand off the 2 finger pocket. I must have had about 7 redpoints (2 a day) reaching this point before I finally managed to creep over the line and stand up to quickly reach over for the sloper which marks the end of the crux sequence. With Rich Waterton belaying it was an incredible feeling topping this one out, the end of 4 year saga! 

Video of Something for Nothing 8c

So, one down and my thoughts turned immediately to Kilnsey where I had already had a few sessions in late April refreshing the moves on True North. Kilnsey in April is not for the faint hearted and several baltic sessions were had where the only respite from the bitter north wind was hiding in the car inbetween burns. Iain McDonald kindly held my rope on a few occasions where I didn't have a belayer and, desparate to keep momentum up and with nobody keen to freeze their asses off, I rocked up at the crag on my own, a big shout out to him!

Nearing the top of True North (Pic: Sam Pratt)
I have blogged about my efforts on this one twice previously for those interested in a bit of background to the campaign:

Blog from 2015 attempts            Blog from attempts last year

So, without rehashing what I have already written about, I will just add that this time around, I was very lucky in that the crag co-operated in kindly remaining bone dry from mid April until early June, a period of 8 weeks, which to North Buttress regulars is almost unheard of. Regular sessions on the route on saturday and sunday coupled with the fitness I had gained from my Malham stint soon resulted in me getting up to the last move again, a highpoint I had last reached in August last year. The whole season was ahead of me this time, which made a massive difference mentally. Knowing that there was plenty of time to finish the route off even if it got wet, only left the small matter of actually climbing it, easier said than done!

Hanging out on the last bolt of True North (Pic: Sam Pratt)
I kept on with the sequence on the last move I had tried a lot last year, involving a deep right foot dropknee onto a low fin with my left foot still on the glued block. Unfortunately, I kept getting spat off as the recoil when coming out of this dropknee was savage! I was able to link through this fine from the Full Tilt belay and it was doable, although not every time, from the kneebar by the 5th bolt on Full Tilt. As soon as I tried it from the ground though, even after 2 full days rest and a perfect go where nothing went wrong, I was still getting shut down. When my falls off the last move (including last year) went into double figures, I knew it was time to change things up a bit.

Reaching the 'eyes' on True North (Pic: Dale Comley)

I reverted back to a sequence that Will Kelsall and Tim Palmer had told me about involving taking the crux crimp with my left hand and slapping straight for the sloper below the finishing jug with my right hand. Although this was a powerful slap, it had the merit of being quick, involving only 2 moves as opposed to my old method's 4, plus even fewer footmoves. I had tried this method last year but had discounted it as being too powerful.
Steepening up! Stretching for the glued block on True North (Pic: Dale Comley)
The first time I tried from the ground with the new method was way better than last year and I immediately knew this is the way it would go down. I had a very close couple of goes where I tickled the sloper twice on the day when Pete Dawson sent it first try (a totally awesome effort!!) I knew I would have a good chance the next saturday as long as the route was dry. After a final light session doing routes at Manchester Climbing Centre on Wednesday and 2 full rest days on Thursday and Friday, I headed to the crag on Saturday morning trying to keep focused. 

Approaching the crux on Mandela 8a+ at Kilnsey (Pic: Kris Suriyo)
On my first go, I felt really good, the best I have ever felt on the route. I was amazed to finally stick the sloper from the ground and thought surely, this is it! Unfortunately, I couldn't find the small, white toe hold needed to stand up and roll over to the finishing jug and I dropped off unexpectedly, utterly gutted! I forced myself to recompose and had 90 minutes rest. I went back to the car to keep warm and gather my thoughts. On the second go, I had in mind that I had done Something for Nothing on my second go of the day so knew it was possible. I didn't feel quite as good as my first try but soon found myself at the last move. I gave it everything I had and grunted my way up to the sloper again. This time there was no mistake and with the last ounce of energy I had left, I rolled over with my left hand into the jug, it was done!! I was ultra focused on the still tricky, balancy rockover shared with Urgent Action and then took my time on the final groove. Clipping the belay was a massive relief after the efforts of the last 4 years and brought to a close a big investment in the route. I was too far down the road to quit, the stuggle must continue to the bitter end!

                                          Video of True North 8c

Over the last month, I have enjoyed briefly being project free at the crag. I ticked Mandela 8a+ the other week, which was a long term ambition of mine. 
New project time! The lower crux of Progress 8c+ at Kilnsey (Pic: Kris Suriyo)
I have also started to make inroads into my next project, Jerry Moffat's 'Progress' an 8c+ 10 meters to the left of True North. This one remains a lot drier than True North and perhaps suits my natural style a little better, being more fingery. Until next time and good luck on all your projects out there! 

Powerful moves by the 4th bolt on Progress (Pic: Kris Suriyo)