Tuesday, 13 October 2015

A Kilnsey Summer and Campaign on True North

Now the autumn rains have finally arrived seems a good time to write a few words about my efforts at Kilnsey over the last 2 and a half months. It has mostly been a good, dry summer apart from a 3 week blip in the last half of August and we have even enjoyed something of an Indian Summer through mid September and into early October. Since July, I continued with evening sessions at Raven Tor despite the shortening evening light and had some productive sessions on Evolution, managing to do the top wall in a oner and getting to the two crimps over the lip from the ground and having a go at the crux rockover. I now see what it will take to climb this route, which is more power, put simply! I also did lots of bouldering to keep on top of this side of my climbing doing ever increasing links on Ben's Roof, Powerband and the usual suspects down the right hand of the Tor. However, I decided to devote my energies to True North 8c (the extension to Full Tilt 8b) at the weekends so have put Evo on the back burner for now.

Adrift in a sea of rock. The sanctuary of the kneebar of Full Tilt with 8b climbing to go from here
So, how did True North go? Its been refreshing to try a hard project at a different crag from the Tor or Malham having not spent as much time at Kilnsey over the years. I was psyched to get a highpoint of the next to last bolt and on 3 redpoints got to the second intermediate for the right hand off a big, burly undercut for the left hand just before the slot/ jug on the steepest part of the route (which must be about 60 degrees overhanging). This slot offers a final, brief shake for the left hand only before the last slap for the final jug. On 4 other occasions, I fell a move or two lower with many more redpoints ending on the first crux after the Full Tilt belay passing 2 razor blade crimps.

  Attempt in September

I would often try the route 2 days on the trot on saturday and sunday as I was paranoid about it getting wet the next weekend, even if the crag was bone dry, given its notorious reputation for taking any seepage going. I was surprised at how even if I was feeling broken on sunday morning, after warming up, I was still able to make some good redpoints, its amazing what you can put your body through. Perhaps in retrospect it might have been better to have done some less intense climbing second day on and got some mileage in on some 8a+'s at other crags which is what I would have done on any other route at my limit. However, obsession took over and I was psyched to gradually piece the route together and get increments of progress with each visit.

Match of justice on the first crux of Full Tilt 8b
I still did lots of other climbing though for fitness usually after already intense sessions on True North. Over the summer I did laps on stuff I have done before like the Ashes 7c+, Man with a Gun 7c+, Biological Need 7c, Comedy 7c, Slab Culture 7b+, 50 for 5 7b+ and WYSIWYG 7b+.

Comedy 7c
The lower crux of Comedy
Vertical tech on Man with a Gun 7c+

I also did the following routes for the first time:
  • Bullet 8a+ 

Starting the crux moves on Bullet 8a+
  • 50 for 5/ The Ashes 8a+
  • Complete Control 8a
  • Sticky Wicket/ The Ashes 8a
  • Rubble 7c (onsight)
  • Dreamtime 7c+
  • Dead Calm 7c+
Stamina needed on Dead Calm 7c+
I repeated both of Seb Grieve's new extensions to Dominatrix, Exit to Eden 7c+ and Drag Queen 7c+, which offer good climbing in superb positions on the upper part of North Buttress plus a session trying La Connection 8b and a brief go on Over the Thumb 8a. It has been a busy summer!

Trying La Connection 8b
When True North got wet in mid August, I thought that was the end of attempts for the year and prepared to get ready to do battle with Evo. However, events proved otherwise and I got a second bite at the cherry in September. However, conditions were not perfect as the route did not fully dry out again and it was usually a case of stuffing beer towels and/or paper towels in the crucial pockets/ slots that get wet (at the niche by the first bolt, the break by the 3rd bolt and the pocket for the left hand at the Full Tilt belay). My technique at prepping the route improved a lot over a few sessions and I came to the conclusion that papers towels are the way forward along with copious amounts of chalk crammed into the back of the pockets which tends to generally keep the worst of the seepage at bay (unless its absolutely gopping), welcome to UK redpointing! (Actually we Brits are not the only peeps to employ such dark arts but I digress).

It was frustrating to slip off on several occasions whilst feeling fresh and strong on one time after redpointing Full Tilt as my left hand lost traction in the dampness at the back of the pocket by the belay and by the 3rd bolt when I took a big whip completely out of the blue pinging off a damp pinch, suitable swear words at the ready :). However, ulimately, I cannot blame the dampness or any other reason for not climbing True North. Not being able to get my left hand fully into the deep pocket you clip the Full Tilt belay off before taking the awful thumb press for the right hand and using it to gain the higher razor blade for the left hand (which is one of the harder moves on True North) undoubtedly made this move harder than it had been in August when this pocket had been totally dry. This was because I was using a diabolical polished footdink as my main right foothold and could hardly get any weight through it, making this move desparate as I was so bunched on the handholds; this method may be easier for the short as they are less bunched.

Moving right from the Full Tilt belay into the first crux of True North
However, on my last session on the route on 3rd October (a couple of days before it turned into a waterfall and all attempts were ended for this season), I discovered that I could make this move a fair bit easier by stepping down to a good foothold for my right foot which meant that it didn't really matter if you couldn't bury your hand into the pocket. I was shocked at how much easier this was and was kicking myself that I hadn't spotted this sooner, the perils of redpointing! The lesson here is to always keep trying different methods as even if they had previously seemed not the right way on the dog, 'sequence evolution' can occur and they could morph into the best way of climbing a particular section. I think this is largely down to how you tend to get stronger on the moves throughout a redpoint campaign so keep an open mind out there on your projects folks!

On the upper moves off the burly left hand undercut, I also discovered a significantly easier method as I had been too bunched again on all of my 7 best attempts. Basically I had discounted a good, low right foothold by a bolt in favour of putting my right foot straight up on a high, downwards sloping niche hold that I now use later on in the sequence, which made standing up into the undercut the living end on the link, although it felt misleadingly OK on my warmup links. My new sequence has two new foot moves which make this bit easier overall as it is less strenuous and involves keep my feet lower.

The hardest move of Full Tilt (for me). Going direct above the 3rd bolt using the boney left sidepull.
So, in retrospect, I am a little disappointed to have redpointed Full Tilt a lot (26 times in total this season) with only a 1 in 4 strike rate at getting through the crimpy moves above the belay and not having the best method on the upper burly moves. This meant I never got to try that last slap in anger from the deck. On the flip side, I am pleased to have been fortunate enough to have discovered 2 much better sequences which should serve me well for next year's campaign. I only wish I still had a dry route to try! Never fear, a return trip to Smith Rock beckons next week, its a hard life. Enjoy your climbing out there!

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