Monday, 16 May 2016

Winter bouldering and Spring trip back to Smith

Hi folks, I thought I would write a little round up of the training and bouldering I've been doing over the last 6 months and my latest trip to Smith Rock along with my goals for this summer. The winter was spent training hard, doing a lot of bouldering at the excellent Manchester Depot and fingerboarding on my new beastmaker. I have a nasty ankle sprain back in December to thank for getting me more into 'hangboarding' as the yanks would call it. While laid up in December and before I could jump off properly again in early February, I had a period of intense sessions, often doing 7 climbing sessions per week spread over 5 days, with 2 rest days. Weekends were spent bouldering in Wales, mainly in Parisella's Cave but with frequent visits to Pantymwwn, Tremeirchion and the excellent micro crag, the Gop, near Prestatyn. This was hard work but I was psyched because it was with the overall aim of raising the bar strength-wise so I could have a good chance of making a breakthrough on or actually doing my project 'Just Do It' out at Smith and also to put me in good shape for my projects on UK lime. 

Smoke a Bloke, Font 7b+ at the Gop, North Wales (Pic: Sam Pratt) 
When you want something badly enough, you'll go the extra mile and make sacrifices to achieve your aim whether that is an hour less in bed before work, fingerboarding
The last move of Solomon's Seal Font 7c+ (Pic: Sam Pratt)
Solomon's Seal 7c+ (Pic: Sam Pratt)
at 7:15am or busting out an extra lap on Rockatrocity when the wind is whistling through the back of the Cave and its 3 degrees. I knew I had to get stronger to have any chance on the savage crux of Just Do It, situated by the 14th bolt and it was with this in mind that I set myself mini goals of doing Hatchatrocity 8A in the Cave, 36 Chambers Sit start 8A at Tremeirchion and Blokesmoker Low 8A at the Gop. I even threw in as a goal a grit 8A called Solomon's Seal Sit start at Stanage after getting the stand start (Font 7C+) wired. 
Ticking off anything remotely hard is satisfying and it was gratifying to tick off Hatchatrocity and 36 Chambers sit start both on the same day in March on my best day's bouldering since 2009. The others will have to wait as shortly after this, I had to do some emergency stamina training at Stockport Wall with 3 weeks to go before my flight and had to postpone attempts on these other projects. Sometimes its hard being an allrounder! Even though bouldering is great as a way of training endurance as well as power (aka Jerry Moffat's training philosophy), the thought of setting off on a 30m monster pitch having done no roped climbing for 3 months was sufficient to scare me into putting some time into this aspect of my climbing. 

36 Chambers Sit, Font 8A (Pic: Sam Pratt)

The reachy starting moves of 36 Chambers Sit (Font 8A) Pic: Sam Pratt
Sam Pratt, a talented photographer and climber living in Manchester has been coming out with me to Wales and the Peak and has been taking some snaps, some of the best ones are here. Thanks a lot for all these shots Sam!  

Hatchatrocity, Font 8A (Pic: Sam Pratt)
The last few moves of Rockatrocity on the link in from Hatchatrocity, Font 8A (Pic: Sam Pratt)
A couple of weekends before flying out to Smith, I had a couple of pretty cold outings to Malham where I managed to tick 'A.B.H' 8a+, a pumpy link up of GBH into Baboo Baboo, which was a good early season outing. I'm looking forward to some more Yorkshire action this summer, with True North, unfinished business from last season, being my primary objective. With Kilnsey already dry, attempts have begun at the time of writing, but more on that in future blogs :).

Under the Bridge, Font 7b+, Pantymwyn (Pic: Sam Pratt)
Early on in the lower pitch (Bolts 1 - 10)
Pic: Julien Havac
I have been trying Just Do It for a year now, spread over three, 2 week trips. So, how did this trip's attempt go? Well, after 4 days re familiarising with the moves doing some links into the crux from the belay at the end of the first pitch (at bolt 10), I decided to concentrate more on top-down links rather than try repeatedly from the ground as this had started to become quite frustrating on my previous trips. We were hit with 5 days of very warm weather in the middle of the trip which was not ideal. It was like summer with temps as high as 79 degrees Fahrenheit making serious attempts out of the question. The Monkey is cooler than the lower climbing areas and often much windier but this has limits and on one abortive attempt, I literally has moist fingertips before bearing down on the left hand crux crimp, which meant pulling on the razor blade hold was a non starter it was so painful! Thankfully, on the last day of these warmer temps, a nice breeze was blowing when I set off on my link go from bolt 10 at 7:30pm. Climbing through the last 3 bolts of the yellow rock (a 10 metre 7b+ leading up to the upper resting ledge at bolt 13 just into the purple band) I realised conditions were actually pretty good due to the effect of the wind. Indeed, that same evening my friend Peder Groseth, a local Bend strongman, sent Starvation Fruit, a long 8c on the Picnic Lunch Wall that day so they can't have been that bad!
Gaining the porthole rest at bolt 15 (Pic: Julien Havac)

My goal on this link attempt was to get to the top and I was chuffed to get to the resting 'porthole' (shown in the picture below of the first ascentionist Jibe Tribout back in 1992) for the second time that session. I realised also that I wasn't that pumped at this point, unlike on many of my other link goes. The moves leaving the porthole constitute the redpoint crux of the route and although not as hard as the crimpy V9 moves gaining it, they are a major hurdle to clipping the chains. 

(See my earlier blog post for more detail and photos of these moves: 

It was the move shown in the picture below that I managed to stick for the first time linking from bolt 10, a stab off a tiny left hand gaston crimp into a deep 2 finger pocket with a tiny smear for your right toe that requires a fair degree of accuracy. Unfortunately I fell off the last hard move of the pitch, a throw off a slopey sidepull crimp for your left hand for a crimp rail by bolt 16, which marks the start of the exit moves to bolt 17. Still I was pleased to have nearly done the 8b+ link from the top of the first pitch to the top. 
So, with 4 climbing days left, I surely had to try from the ground and luckily was blessed with some cooler temps when I next came up to the Monkey with my friend Calvin. On my first go from the ground this trip, I was really pleased to get to the porthole at the 15th bolt for the first time, this link is 8c I reckon if the whole route is 8c+. I was buzzing as on my previous 2 trips I had fallen around 12 times from this move from the ground; it was the breakthrough I had been looking for. In retrospect I hung around too long in the porthole and didn't have the best way of holding it to rest. It is pretty awkward to hold as although it is a good jug, you have to hold it cross handed and there is only room for 7 fingers and the feet are not great so you are mostly on your arms. So when I embarked on the redpoint crux I didn't have much left to give and fell off 3 moves into the traverse rightwards. 

The upper crux by bolt 15 (Pic: Heather Furtney)
I was then faced with a dilemma with 3 days left. Do I rest 1 day then try the next to last day with the possibility of another attempt on the last day? Or rest 2 full days before an attempt on the last day? Or do some lighter climbing tomorrow then take a single rest day before have a last day attempt? I chose the latter strategy as I felt I was gaining fitness from doing other, easier pitches both on the same day after attempts on Just Do It and also on the next day before taking a rest day. A tick of Churning in the Ozone, a long, pumpy 8a probably in retrospect took more out of me than I expected but I enjoyed the pitch and it is so difficult to judge these things just right. Anyway, the last day dawned and my friend Andrew Hunzicker and me warmed up in Aggro Gully before heading up to the Monkey where we were greeted with really good conditions. After my initial warm up go, I set off feeling really good but unfortunately, the draw on the 14th bolt, which most people don't clip on the lead, stabbed me in the chest during the crux move as I was trying to get really close into the wall, pushing me off the move! I was gutted as this was the first time this had happened and I was feeling really good. No matter, after an hour and fifteen minutes rest and the draw safely removed from the 14th bolt, I had another go and got a new highpoint, making 2 moves further than my previous session and reaching the porthole for the second time. This time I had made a conscious decision not to outstay my welcome and set off after around a minute's shaking out. I had very little left for the pocket stab move but was psyched to have finally got there and had a go in anger. Would I have been fresher after 2 full rest days? Who knows, all I know is that I have proved to myself that this rig is possible for me for sure and that I'll be back next year for hopefully 3 weeks or a longer trip, can't wait! Here is a little video of my best attempt:

I was definitely feeling stronger this trip than October last year from all the bouldering and training and now know that as the route is so bouldery, it suits me to go in the Spring rather than the Autumn when a summer campaign of routing will inevitably mean a slight drop off in power at the expense of increased route fitness. So, here's to Spring 2017! In the meantime, there are plenty of hard sport routes to be dealing with here in the UK and I have been on Evolution as well as True North in the last few sessions, its certainly exciting to get involved with all these classic hard routes. Til next time, enjoy your climbing out there!

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