Sunday, 17 December 2017

Summer and Autumn round up (Yorkshire, the Peak and Smith Rock!)

Hi folks, its been a while since my last blog but having unfortunately fractured my heel bouldering at Burbage West two weeks ago, now seems a good time to round up the second half of my climbing year. 

A long way to go! Starting up Cry Freedom on the link-up 'The Great Escape 8b+ Malham (Pic: John Thornton)

Since I last blogged in June, I was psyched to move onto new projects after closing out True North and Something for Nothing and invested considerable effort over the summer into Progress 8c+ on Kilnsey's North Buttress, thirty foot to the left of True North. First, I ticked Mandela 8a+, a king line through the main overhang which I had wanted to do for years. It didn't disappoint!

Mandela 8a+, Kilnsey (Pic Kris Suriyo)
Opening my Account on Progress 8c+

I invested 20+ sessions in this awesome power endurance/ stamina beast over June and July, often going after work on a Tuesday night and taking some strategic half days off and hooking up with the keen local climbers. I got it down to two overlapping halves (or a 'one hang' ascent as the Yanks would say). Although there is still a long way to go in terms of getting it done, I was encouraged to get the key link from the ground to the 'eyes' at the 5th bolt (the first opportunity to shake and chalk) quite early on in the process (see video below), which is a fierce 8b piece of crimping.

Working Progress 8c+ at Kilnsey (Pic: Kris Suriyo)
I also went from the third bolt to the top a few times, which has to be a meaty 8b+ link in its own right. Unfortunately, the knuckle of my left index finger is a little too fat to get a shake in the first 'eye', which is a little shake out for those with thin fingers, but I'm confident I will be able to rest a couple of moves later by swapping my hands in the eyes. Sadly, as soon as we hit August, North Buttress practically turned into a waterfall and even though I held out hope of having another chance, it wasn't to be and the anticipated 'Indian summer' failed to materialise.

 Link on Progress 8c+, Kilnsey (from the ground to the 'Eyes' at the fifth bolt) (Video: Andy Tappa)

  Attempts on Dalliance 8b+

While Progress was out of commission, I decided to first tick some routes I hadn't ever got round to trying on the impressive wall to the right of the corner of Balas. First I did the tricky Puppeteer 8a and its short extension, Drenka 8a+ and then managed to flash Neil McCallum's good new addition up the wall just to the right, Dark Stranger 8a.

The Puppeteer 8a, Kilnsey (Pic: James Turnbull)

I then put my energies for the rest of August and September into some unfinished business from last year, the tricky Dave Pegg classic, Dalliance 8b+ (on the right hand end of the crag) as this stays drier for longer. I got close to doing this in August using my old sequence from last year of sticking my left heel way up and left on a spike and then slapping up into a big undercut. Unfortunately on one of my best goes my left hand ripped out of the undercut and I fell off backwards and inverted, painfully slamming my left shoulder into the rock. After lowering off, I realised that I was having trouble raising my arm above my head and sure enough, it stiffened up overnight and a lovely yellow, green and purple bruise appeared around my shoulder joint. A visit to my physio confirmed that I had torn some ligaments. I had to take a couple of weeks out to heal this up and by the time I got back on the rock, suddenly the season was rapidly running away.

Training on Comedy 7c, Kilnsey (Pic: Kris Suriyo)
After speaking to Paul Bennett, I changed my sequence to his method on the top crux, which is much safer and involves keeping your feet lower and with less risk of inverting in a fall. By this stage, in late September, even Dalliance was seeping badly and even though I stuck at it til the bitter end, it was a losing battle against the wetness. I was happy to get to the last move using the new method (see video below) several times and linked from the third bolt to the top three times on a particularly wet session when going from the ground was out of the question. Again, this one will have to wait until next season. The battle is over but the war is not yet won!

 Link on Dalliance 8b+, Kilnsey (from the upper rest to the top)

Peak Bouldering and Training at Malham

I had 2 weeks in Smith Rock booked to look forward to in the first two weeks of November to escape the wetness of the UK crags and was really looking forward to another crack at Just Do It 8c+ my project of the last 2 years. 

Byker Groove V9 (Sean's Roof, Blackwell Dale, Peak District)
After a long season at Kilnsey, I was conscious of the need to top up my bouldering for the savage V9 crimping crux on Just Do It as inevitably, if you predominantly climb routes for a long period, you will be lacking some top end power. I was getting out after work to the Peak a fair bit and had managed to do Ru's Traverse, a stout V11 at Griff's Buttress in Blackwell Dale at the end of June but was getting shut down by the next challenge at that crag, the burly Mutton Busting V11. I decided to drop the grade a little in order to get some ticks as some success is always good for the soul. Over July, August and September, I did Neil's Wall Sit V9, Byker Groove V9, Advanced Training V10, Alacrity Sit V9 and Converter V9, great training for the fingers and all enjoyable problems.

Alacrity Sit Start V9 (Cucklett Delph, Peak District)
I also changed up the pace by starting going back to Malham for the first time since May with the aim of keeping my endurance topped up.

Cover to Cover 8b, Malham 
After re-climbing Climb of the Century 8a+/8b on the upper tier, I took it to the top of the crag via Breach of the Peace to do Dave Birkett's excellent linkup 'Cover to Cover' 8b for a particularly memorable outing.

Cover to Cover 8b, Malham 
Getting into October and with even Malham starting to seep badly, it was time for some final training pitches. On a cold afternoon off work, I managed to do The Great Escape 8b+, a bit of a cop out link breaking out left into Predator before the final crux of Cry Freedom but nevertheless guaranteed to produce a good pump! 

The Great Escape 8b+ Malham (Pic: John Thornton)
Trip to Smith Rock

I was joined on the trip by Mina Leslie-Wujastyk, who was keen to try Just Do It with me. It was great to head out there with another Brit to share beta and psyche after several solo missions. It had been 13 months since I had last tried the route in the autumn of 2016 when I was out here for a full month (see my blog from last year I had done a lot of bouldering, training and routes since then so I was keen to see if I was any stronger on the route. 
The upper crux of Just Do It 8c+ by the 15th bolt from an unusual angle (Pic: Jon Roderick)
After a couple of days of re-familiarising the moves, I reclimbed some key links and started putting in some burns from the ground. Unfortunately, it was hellishly cold on a lot of the days we were up there, even when the infamous Monkey Face wind wasn't blowing a houlie. We even enlisted the help of a portable propane heater in an effort to bring some life to our freezing fingertips. Even when you managed to get warm enough to climb, you were so exhausted from the constant running up and down, star jumps and taking off 7 layers of clothing that by the time you got on the rock, you had likely already used up a lot of your energy reserves. Despite this, I was pleased to get up to the porthole rest by the 15th bolt three more times in total. On one go where I arrived at the crux with numb fingers and had to shout take, as I could no longer feel the holds(!), after the hot aches had subsided, I rested a few minutes on the rope then, after lowering down to the 12th bolt, went from there to the top (see video below). Sometimes, when things don't go to plan, this is just the filip that you need in order to try a new link. 

Link on Just Do It 8c+ (from 12th bolt to the top)

Mina did really well on the route, quickly learning all of the complex moves and redpointing the lower part (8b) with ease on her 3rd day on. I have never climbed on this route other than on my first day on due to the rugged nature of the climbing on both the muscles and skin so this was a very impressive effort. She was doing some great links on the upper pitch in the purple rock and even found an alternative method on the reachy crux move involving a very crimpy undercut (Malham comes to Smith Rock!) but was very unlucky with some split tips. The extremely cold conditions were also not making it any easier for both of us. I'm sure she will be back with fresh skin and in wamer temps to seal the deal. 

Mina on Aggro Monkey 5.13b (8a)
On the last day after Mina had left, I had my best ever burn. I somehow got to the porthole feeling quite fresh, despite feeling tired on the lower pitch. I think relaxing and letting go is just what your mind needs at times on these long term projects. By subconsciously giving up the possibility of climbing the route, I tricked myself into getting through the V9 crimp crux below the porthole despite it being my second go of the session on my 7th day on the route in 14 days. I was surprised to feel my energy coming back like never before in the shake out. I think I even shook out too long (a full minute) as I was so used to having to stay there that long from previous redpoints in order to get any kind of recovery. I had a really good go at the upper crux where I got the gaston crimp for the left hand solidly for the first time and was pretty close to sticking the deep 2 finger pocket that marks the end of the really hard climbing. 

Mina cruising on Churning in the Wake 5.13a (7c+) 
Having run out of time again, I left feeling encouraged that I had actually improved on the route in the preceding 12 months and will be back as soon as I can for another crack, hopefully with temperatures 20 degrees warmer! 

Accident at Burbage 

Sadly, the second weekend after I got back, on a bouldering outing to Peak gritstone with Pete Dawson, I fractured my talus bone (the small bone that the head of the tibia rests on) falling off the top moves of West Side Story, a classic font 7b+ at Burbage West. I have done the problem including the 3 move top out several times in the past so was possibly lulled into a false sense of security. It was one of those moments where I was probably more tired than I realised after a full session over at Burbage North and quite a few attempts to repeat Western Eyes. It was also a little damp in the air (not on the rock) and my right foot slipped on the foothold as I was standing up into the crimpy sidepull before reaching for the top of the crag. 

Out the game! Fractured talus from fall off West Side Story (small fracture not really visible)
I fell straight down with my feet on a level with the top jug of the boulder problem and unfortunately, the second pad was stacked on top of the first one in such a way as to create a downward slope which my right foot landed straight on. I rolled over on my ankle which dislocated and then popped back into joint after a couple of seconds. I initially thought I had got away with it as my foot wasn't swelling up too badly but an x ray and CT scan at Sheffield General A and E confirmed that I have got a small, non-displaced fractured of my talus bone near to the edge of the joint. I would like to say a massive thanks to Edale Mountain Rescue team who quickly attended the scene and stretchered me out in the dark. Without volunteers like these, we would all be in a much worse position when accidents strike. 

Luckily, the fracture clinic at the Manchester Royal Infirmiary have confirmed that I don't need any screws putting in but will be non-weight bearing for 6 weeks and will no doubt need lots of physio thereafter to get back in action. Oh well, a timely reminder of the dangers of bouldering, take care out there! Now, time to get strong on the hangboard! 

Attempt on In the Flick of Time Font 7c+ 1 hour before my fall (Burbage North, Peak District)

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