Friday, 13 November 2015

Progress on Just Do It

I've been back nearly 2 weeks now since another trip to Smith Rock to try the world famous 'Just Do It'. I have been going through the photos that some of the talented photographers, Heather Furtney, Jason Bagby and Julien Havac took of me on the route and thought I would share some of them here. I was excited to see what difference a summer of climbing would make compared to my attempts in May plus the fact that I knew the beta now. As things turned out, I ended up trying True North up until early October due to Kilnsey remaining amazingly dry so it didn't leave much time to prepare for a longer, supposedly pumpier affair like Just Do It. However I needn't have worried as despite its 35m length, this rig is much more about power than stamina, unlike Jibe's other famous line at Smith To Bolt or Not to Be.

I went alone this time and was lucky enough to get belays off some kind local climbers (Andrew, Crit, Justin, Andi and Calvin thanks a tonne!) Conditions were better than in May being mostly colder and without too much wind. The day after flying in and attending the Reel Rock Tour film showing in Bend, I went up to re-familiarise with the moves and the day after, managed to do some decent links on the upper section. It reminded me of how hard the crux by bolt 14 actually is. Imagine a viscous V8+ shouldery, crimp problem on Pill Box Wall on the Orme and you wouldn't be far off! This first hard section leads to a 'pod' resting slot (described in more detail in my post back in May).
Reaching the crux left hand crimper at bolt 14 (Picture by Heather Furtney)
The crux move at Bolt 14 (Picture by Jason Bagby)

 Sticking the 'tooth' by bolt 14 (Picture by Heather Furtney)
From the resting pod, there follows a very tricky and powerful traverse involving two 2 finger pockets for the right hand and some slopers, gradually easing to the belay beyond bolt 17. The move hitting the second 2 finger pocket and locking it to a left hand sloper is probably V8 alone.

Leaving the resting pod and starting the tricky traverse at bolt 15 (picture by Heather Furtney)

 Crossing through to the gaston off the first pocket then using it to stick the second (Pics by Heather Furtney)

Alan Watt's description of the route from his seminal 1992 guidebook is below:

I would agree that the first 13 bolts are merely a warm up (!) for the difficulties between bolts 14 and 16 when you are hit with some savage cranks straight off a good but quite pumpy resting rail at bolt 13. These days the bottom part of the route to bolt 10 is considered 13b or 8b due to some very thin pulls on pockets and crimps but after doing it a few times and getting it wired, its probably only 13c or 8a+ I reckon, like Alan Watts says.

Easier moves at bolt 4 (Picture Jason Bagby)
Approaching the lower crux at bolt 8 (Picture by Jason Bagby)
I decided this trip to focus at first on links into the upper crux and on my 3rd day on the route was psyched to climb from the rail at bolt 13 to the top for the first time, which is an 8b link. I found a slightly easier method on the crux before the pod by first bumping my left foot up to a small pocket before slapping for the 'tooth' crimp with the right hand which seems to make the move higher percentage. I also found that by trailing your right foot on the move to the left hand crimper on the crux rather than first placing it on smear, this move became much more manageable.

On my next session I started climbing from the belay at the end of the first pitch (bolt 10), which must be 8b+ if climbed to the top and links through a 3 bolt 7b or 7b+ to the resting rail at bolt 13 before embarking on the top 8b section. On this link attempt, I was pleased to make it through the crux at bolt 14 (the first time I had ever climbed any distance into it). After a brief shake at the resting pod and chalk on each hand, I got to the stab move to the second 2 finger pocket, just failing to stick it. I have made a little video of my link attempts on the upper section plus the bottom wall to give you a flavour of the climbing involved (and to remember the moves for future attempts):

If I had had more time I would have continued trying this link as it would have been a big confidence boost to have got it in the bag before trying from the ground. However, with only a week left it seemed to make more sense to try the full rig and 'roll the dice'. On my 5th day I started the first of 3 days' worth of attempts from the ground before my trip ended. Each session would start off with 20 minutes warming up on a board indoors before hiking up Misery Ridge to the Monkey and climbing Spank the Monkey, a runout 12a. I would then climb short sections on the route to the top to prepare for full blown attempts. I had 6 attempts, two per session and got to the move slapping for the tooth before the resting pod on 6 occasions in total. I felt closer to this move from the ground than in May when I frequently fell on the previous move to the left hand crimp before the slap to the tooth. It was frustrating not to stick the tooth though and make it to the resting pod. You would think that with an excellent, approaching hands off rest at bolt 9 (I stood here for 2 - 3 minutes on redpoint), you would recover almost back to zero and I felt fresh at this rest on all of these 6 attempts. However, something about having cranked through all of the lower section five minutes before attacking the upper section makes it tougher to crack than if you have simply slumped on the rope at bolt 10.

Reaching bolt 16 on a link attempt, nearly there! (Picture by Jason Bagby)
On my 6th session, I managed to one hang the route, resting 5 minutes on bolt 14 before pulling on 2 moves where I had fallen off and climbing to the top, which was definitely progress since my last trip. This was the first time I had done this on the same tie-in, which is a better 'one hang' ascent I guess than if you climb your 'overlapping sections' over different tie-ins or sessions. On my last attempt, despite taking 2 rest days, I definitely felt a bit tired on the route after 7 sessions on it in 13 days. What you need ideally is a longer period of time during which you can do other climbing in order to remain fresh on the route....or a higher overall climbing level. With only 2 weeks at a time available from work, I will have to adopt the latter approach for future trips although perhaps a few days trying easier routes to mix it up a bit wouldn't go amiss. After my last tie-in I hiked down Aggro Gully and managed to onsight Kill the Hate, a cool 5.13a or 7c+ in the gathering gloom and felt that I was feeling stronger in general after the previous 2 weeks of effort so all the hard work is certainly not going to waste!

Hiking up Misery Ridge to the Monkey Face with Calvin (Picture by Julien Havac)
So, what did I learn from this trip? Well, the experience was invaluable in spending more contact time on the crux and managing to discover some important new beta. I have realised that I need to change my training to get stronger so the crux feels feasible with more climbing in the arms from the lower wall. My previous training in the Spring focused on both stamina and power and I made some gains in both areas. Training for this trip was mainly doing routes outside over the summer at Kilnsey and bouldering on Peak Limestone. For my next trip, I am be changing to a '3 to 1' power/ stamina training plan where fitness is put on the back burner in favour of bouldering  and fingerboarding. I think this will help my climbing in general. I want to get back to my bouldering level from a period when I was exclusively bouldering 6 years ago. Fitness training is important for sure but there comes a point in every route climber's career when they have to knuckle down and get stronger. After all, as Tony Yaniro said: "If you can't hold the holds, there is nothing to endure!"

I hope these ramblings encourage others out there knuckling down to long term projects. Redpointing ain't easy and if they went down without a fight, it would hardly be worth it would it? Onwards to projects in the UK and the next trip!

A moody looking East Face of the Monkey (Picture by Julian Havac)

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