Friday, 28 October 2016

Project updates from Kilnsey and Smith Rock

Hi folks, I thought I would update you all on progress on projects which I have been trying this year. As anyone who has devoted more than 3 days to a redpoint project can attest, the closer to your limit a route is the more things have to fall exactly in place for a send to take place. I have been beavering away at 2 main projects this year, at two crags that could not be more different but which I love spending time at in equal measure. The first is True North 8c at Kilnsey in Yorkshire and the second is Just Do It 8c+ at Smith Rock out in Oregon, USA. Having multi year projects has its challenges both mental and physical but I am hoping to seal the deal on both of them as soon as I can, roll on next season!

Leaving the Full Tilt belay on the first crux of True North (Pic - Dale Comley)
I have been out to try Just Do It twice this year, the first time was back in April this year. I was unexpectedly presented with the opportunity of a longer trip than usual at the start of September being in between jobs and didn't hesitate to head back there for a month for another crack but I'll come onto that later.

The upper crux of Evolution 8c+, Raven Tor (Pic - Sam Pratt)
First up, I'll pen a few lines on this years attempts on True North. (My blog on last year's attempts is here: After returning from Smith at the end of April, I had a few weekends on Evolution 8c+ at Raven Tor, the other hard project I would like to do eventually if all goes to plan. I made progress on the upper wall and had some good sessions with George on it who was very psyched before picking up a tweak to his finger on Weedkiller :( However, a split tip from repeatedly sessioning the crux move (a vicious lock on the lip of the roof left of Chimes using a tiny 6mm edge) meant I had to take some time off the route, by which time it had warmed up and True North was dry.

Locking the gaston pocket up to the left hand mono at the end of the first crux of True North (Pic - Dale Comley)
Looking back on how the summer panned out, I spent pretty much every weekend at Kilnsey from mid May through to the end of August, including a couple of half days in mid week and spent a lot of time on the route. After a complete sequence rebuild I was able to work out my ideal beta by mid July and made it to the last move for the first time. I got there 6 times in total by mid August which was a breakthrough in itself after failing at the penultimate bolt multiple times last summer, i.e. at the part where it steepens up to 60 degrees around a chunky glued block. What made the difference was firstly going out right by the third bolt on Full Tilt, which actually saves power for higher up on the route, even though its more long winded than going direct. Actually, for all but the most flexible, the direct moves are now basically defunct after a crucial foot spike for the flag move crumbled away (along with a few others, fortunately not irreparably ;)) Also, by keeping my feet lower on the first move after the Full Tilt belay (see pic at top of the page) and bridging out down and to the right so the moves using the razor crimps were less bunched up was much easier than my previous method. On the moves at the glued block, Luke Dawson pointed out that it is easier to throw a left heel up before you slap up for the big slot by the last bolt, which was a huge help and put me on the last move, which was exciting. 

Clipping the penultimate bolt on True North, at the 'eyes' and before the glued block (Pic: Dale Comley)

On the last weekend in July, I got to the last move 3 times on the saturday and sunday and it looked like I had a good chance of doing it. However, it wasn't to be as the crag proceeded to get progressively wetter, catastrophically so in mid August, putting paid to all suitors' ambitions for another year (apart from a certain Alex Megos who was the only (2nd go) ascentionist this year). Oh well, this is part of the challenge of the route and it means that you have to really tick it in May/ June or risk running the gauntlet of the crag turning into a waterfall. Next year, I plan to hit the route early and take strategic leave days in May/ June for the campaign. Now knowing my perfect beta, which has definitely been hard won (!) no sessions will be wasted working stuff out so its all down to training and execution. 

Wrestling with the glued block, which guards entry to the last move, strenuous stuff! (Pic - Dale Comley)
Sticking the slot by the last bolt (don't do it this way, whack your left heel up on the block first!) (Pic - Dale Comley)

After North Buttress got wet, I took advantage of the chance to head to Smith at short notice that changing jobs had offered. One moment I was doing a lantern session at Rubicon, the next I was tying on under Just Do It on the Monkey Face, shaking off the jet lag! With a long stretch of 30 days to go for attempts, I was careful to try and avoid trying it too much and in the first 10 days or so, had second day sessions on White Wedding 8b+ or 5.14a in Aggro Gully to mix things up a bit, which I managed to send (see the video below):

So how did the redpoints go? Well at the end of my trip in April, I was pleased to make it to the 'porthole' (see my the second half of my blog post here: With a bit more time to play with this trip, I initially spent a few sessions on links in the upper part of the route, managing for the first time to link from the belay of the first vertical 8a+/8b pitch (at the 10th bolt) to the upper chains, which is a 15 meter 8b+ in its own right. Logically, if you can do this link then you should be able to seal the deal from the ground as there is a very good stemming rest just down and right of the 10th bolt, the famous 'Sharma' rest where he takes his jumper off in the Pusher video from 1997, where you can stand around for up to 3 minutes. However, I found during repeated redpoints from the ground that in spite of this rest, the upper crux feels substantially more pumpy than when you approach it just having done the 3 bolt 7b+/7c from the belay. 

Not a wet crimp in sight! (Pic - Bob Loomis)
On redpoint from the ground, I would get through the lower crux by the 14th bolt (a savage Font 7b+ crimp move in the steep purple rock) most redpoints (8 times this trip in total) but fail to get through the upper crux due to very high levels of pump. The porthole is such a good hold, albeit with very poor feet that it is tempting to outstay your welcome there. I would generally spend 45 secs to a minute there trying desparately to expel all the lactic acid from my forearms before pressing on. The upper crux feels extremely taxing in that state of pump as it is an insecure Font 7b stab to a deep 2 finger pocket that requires you to retain good form using an awkward right smear and executing a big cross through to a tiny left hand gaston crimp and then to the deep 2 finger pocket. Funnily enough, the stronger you feel and less pumped you are, the easier these moves feel, go figure! 

At the first shake by the 5th bolt (5.13b or 8a to here (Pic - Bob Loomis)

 I was hit with a 6 day warm spell at the 2 week mark after having 4 or so  attempts where I was quite close to sticking the pocket. However, for some reason, I kept repeatedly getting the gaston too low on the cross through and once that happens there is no way back, no adjusting is possible! Hard climbing was pretty much out of the question with temps up to 93F on one day. After some trail building in Cocaine Gully and a few training sessions in shady Aggro Gully, it was time to resume attempts. However, there was now an element of time pressure as I had less than 2 weeks left. The problem with a route of this nature on a relatively short trip is that you need a full rest day between serious attempts due to the sharp nature of the rock and the fact that you are pretty much wasted the next day! The days soon mount up and suddenly I was down to the last week. I was taking 2 full rest days to be totally fresh after a chat with Sonnie Trotter (which was rad!) who gave me some more ideas for foot beta - he sent it back in 2000.

The first crux of the upper section by the 14th bolt, the porthole rest up and left (Pic - Jason Bagby)

I gave it a really good go with 3 days to go with Calvin in pretty much perfect temps of 56F and had one finger in the back of the 2 finger pocket on the upper crux and felt the least pumped yet in the porthole.  However, as soon as my left fingers bit into the sharp gaston on the cross through I knew I was a little too low on it again, my body sagged downwards slightly and my left elbow went up... I was off again! On my last attempt on the last day after only one rest day where the very friendly French climbers Nina Caprez and Christophe Bichet were enjoying their second day in the Park up on the Monkey I didn't manage to make it to the porthole due to still being fatigued from my last attempt.

:Leaving the porthole, the big span for the first 2 finger pocket (Pic - Heather Furtney)
I am more motivated than ever to return as I have a better idea of what is required in order to send this beast having been up to the redpoint crux a fair few times now. You need to be both fit and strong at the same time, not an easy combo! There are plenty of climbers out there with multi-year projects in a similar situation who I draw inspiration from. Back at Malham and the Tor and in a new job, I am reflecting on the experience and already planning my winter's training for next year's bout on both Just Do It and True North. Thanks for reading and keep the faith on your projects out there!

Just Do It 8c+, East Face of the Monkey, Smith Rock (Pic: Adam McKibben)

No comments:

Post a Comment