Saturday, 27 December 2014

Hajj attempts and new Mecca Linkup

Now seems a good time to pause and reflect on the last 2.5 months of effort put in at the mighty bastion of peak crimping, the Tor. As September gave way to October, I went back into project mode on Hajj, the left hand extension to Mecca, which I had put on the back burner as a project while I put in the hard yards on Cry Freedom. Now the latter route was ticked, I could focus all my efforts on this beast and I was keen to get stuck in. Having found a good sequence using an improbably small left foot hold earlier in September that allowed a massive reach for the left hand to be made off a good, flat hold for the right, I knew it was on and I had made the crucial link from the Mecca belay to the top. While evening sessions were no longer possible with it getting dark at 7, 6:30, and then by the time November rolled around, 4:30, I was still going out to the crag after work for bouldering sessions, trying to keep the edge with laps on Bens Roof, attempts at Powerband (I have a goal at some point to link this into Pump up the Power - the training linkup 'Pump up the Powerband, which is a meaty 8c) and other boulder problems such as Kristians direct start to Wild in Me 7b, Powerhumps 7b+, Out of My Tree 7b and various linkups/ circuits on Weedkiller and Basher's problem. A keen band of lantern session boulderers kept psyche levels high, after all, what could be better training that busting out moves on real rock?

The Crux move of Hajj (Photo: Jon Clark)
At weekends, I followed my routine of Saturdays on the project followed by stamina days at Malham. In October, I made some good gains on Mecca, getting up it 3 times in a session for the first time ever. However, Hajj is a very tricky customer, with a desparate move off a small, flat undercut for the right hand proving to be stopper on all of my redpoints. The set up moves into this are hard but manageable and I got to the point where I never fell off them, even from the ground. As soon as my fingers bit into the first crimpy undercut for the left hand and then I slapped into the crux right hand undercut, it was like hitting a brick wall. When doing these moves from the shake on Mecca Extension, you seem to have time to stand up into the undercut with the outside edge of your left foot on a big flat hold (that you have previously used as a hold for your right hand). However, once you are a bit pumped, it becomes much harder to stand up into the move. On almost all of my attempts from the ground, I would end up jumping up and out from the crag into the inevitable 20 footer down to the Mecca belay instead of reaching up in control to the tiny left hand crimp which allows you to match on an intermediate and then slap into the big right hand gaston that spells the end of the crux sequence. These last moves are exciting as you are a fair way above the last quickdraw (the last dogging bolt unclippable off to the right) and would be on for a fair old whipper! On one of my redpoint attempts, I got partially stood up into the undercut and within 3 inches of the final left hand crimp. Alas, although close to the move, I knew I was never going to make it although it was my best go of the season. Still, this was a window into doing the route and got my psyched.

Just past the crux on Mecca (Photo: Jon Clark)
Unfortunately, after this good attempt, on my next go I split a tip on the left hand rat crimp on my third redpoint of the day. I had been trying the link into the Whore of Babylon as a consolation prize and had the moves worked and was in two minds as to whether to go for this of have another go on Hajj. I decided on the latter and the tiny sharp crimps decided I had outstayed my welcome. This meant I had to take 10 days off the route.

                                                                                           Mecca linkups and projects

It was at this point that I started trying to bag the Whore of Babylon link. This is the red line on the above topo I have drawn of Mecca links and projects. This is a cool linkup that Steve McClure had first done but which I think finished up Crucifixion. The moves from where it leaves Hajj (after the first independent move) are not too hard and the whole 2 bolt sequence before it joins Proud Whore is probably 7b+. The moves are not trivial but way easier than those on Hajj. The finish up Proud Whore, although probably 7b+ again, was steeper and more physical and on my link attempts from the base of the groove on Mecca, proved to be very pumpy indeed!

As late November arrived, me and the ever dwindling band of regulars started to get hit with unreliable conditions as, even though the crag was still essentially bone dry, as soon as the temperature rose above about 6 degrees, the dreaded condensation came on. On Saturdays in a row, this happened, which resulted in frustrating enforced rest in the hope of better conditions the following day. Basically, opportunities for successful redpoints were dwindling fast. Even when the crag was dry, as December rolled around, it unsurprisingly became bitterly cold as the sun now didn't rise above the hill opposite the crag and Mecca got zero sun. One day when I failed to get up Mecca via my usual method in the dusk due to a late arrival at the crag, I decided to experiment with the different ways of gaining the base of the groove, managing to climb it via the classic right hand to the horn method and then, the following week by the Egyptian way method. What I was after was an easier, more reliable method and I hope that I have now found it with the Egyptian way. After all, if Steve and most other people do it this way, there must be a good reason!

As the end of the season approached, I wanted something to show for my efforts and on last session before the Works party, the Whore of Babylon link went down. Unfortunately (or fortunately!) I discovered a really good rest in the Creamteam break before the finish up Proud Whore which took the edge off it, although at the end of the day, this section still has to be climbed and is no pushover. The direct version will be even pumpier. So, with the Tor season ended for 2014, I have been getting stuck back into some plastic training and some much needed new moves. I'm psyched for what the New Year may bring and will be back for Hajj, and other projects, in the Spring! For now its off to Chulila for 15 days of bolt clipping heaven, some onsighting and change of scene, venga bichos!

A classic 8a route from around Chamonix earlier this summer, can anyone guess which one?

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