Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Last day psyche

We have just arrived in Fontainebleau, ending a two month affair with Ticino. It was a great trip, a lot of bad weather, but generally fun and productive. In the last month of the trip the weather was a bit better but very cold. I had to leave a boulder in Brione as I couldn't really function in the -7 temps! At Cresciano and Chironico it was a bit milder and we enjoyed pottering around over the Christmas period. A few days before Christmas Big Paw saw its fourth ascent of the winter by Mickey Paige, a good end to a successful trip for him.

We were struggling a bit to maintain being psyched after so long and, like I said, struggling to try hard in the low temperatures. This resulted in a couple of weeks of easing off trying hard things and just trying to do more volume (which to be honest is just as tricky in the cold I think). On Christmas day we went out in the snow to Chrionico and bumbled about before cooking up a feast in Ludiano. Boxing day was our supposed last day climbing and we spent it at Cresciano in the sun! It was a lovely day and I decided to have “just one more go” at La Pelle Left (8A) (the one in Stone Love). I had been trying this boulder quite a lot and had worked out a sequence I could do pretty early on in the trip. I had thought it would go fairly quickly actually but it punished me for my optimism and refused to comply. The start moves were causing the problems, I could generally do the problem from two moves in every time but was struggling to keep a toe hook in to do the first two moves. This was frustrating because when I first tried it I could do those moves so I was trying to work out what had changed/gone wrong to prevent it working again. I still don't really know what had changed, but on Boxing Day I could suddenly do the start again! Who knows. I think perhaps it was partly mental and having a couple of weeks trying other things had helped me relax. I also wore a slightly different shoe (an old Talon rather than a newer one) which may have clinched it. So on our last day it was suddenly on again and I was psyched. My first go was encouraging but turned out to be my best – I dropped matching the good hold at the very end (last hard move really) because I didn't catch it far left enough. I just couldn't get back there again and left the crag pleased about the breakthrough at the start but a bit sad that I just hadn't quite pulled it out of the bag.

We went to Ludiano and packed up the van, ready to leave in the morning for Fontainebleau. In the morning it was beautiful and I couldn't help saying “maybe just one more go?”. So we went up to Cresciano and set a limit of midday as a leaving time. I warmed up and my skin was very sore, I felt a bit achy from the day before and honestly I wasn't very optimistic. Hoping maybe, but not optimistic. I had a few good goes but was struggling to keep my foot on a particular foot hold. It was pretty cold and felt very glassy. Kook then has a totally genius idea. He breathed on the footholds to warm the rock up just before I pulled on and it made all the difference! Soon I was topping out, psyched that it had been worth the last go. It was pretty much bang on midday when I did it and we packed up straight away and started the long drive to Fontainebleau! A nice way to end that chapter of the trip.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

A busy day in Spain

To start off in my first blog as a new Beta Climbing Team Member I want to pass on my congratulations to Mina and Charlie for their recent exploits. Mina for her send of Maralyn Monroe a problem I have had the pleasure of climbing and Charlie for ticking The Walk Of Life, a pleasure that at some point down the line I would like to have.
Yesterday was a fairly typically busy day in Spain for me. When you are trying to climb and renovate a house you just have to grab the moments you have with both hands. The day started in a typical fashion with our usual trip to the builders, 40 blocs in our battered golf had its back end dragging on the floor. Next up a trip to the market to find so old drawers to fit into our rebuilt rustic style kitchen. Drawers found and paid for I waited for Kate to return with the car. When she arrived there was another face looking out of the window in the form of a new puppy. Nemo seems to be a cross of Husky and Podengo!! A new friend for Sandi and the cats I think.

Kate and Nemo at L'Ocaive

After a quick trip back to the house we grabbed our climbing bags and headed up to L'Ocaive. L'Espolon De L'Ocaive is probably the most stunning and best sport routes I have ever climbed. 50m of continously interesting and exciting moves right up until the end. I had tried this routes a number of times over the last year but my last attempt at a redpoint saw me failing to reach the 8b belay. On friday I did the 8b again and at last it was starting to feel ok, on Sat I did some more big links again on the 8b and had a long working session of the top wall. It was a hard session really as the route was in the shade all morning and the wind as bitterley cold, but I managed to conjure up two new sequnces. One allowing me to make a clip that previously I had failed on and the other allowing me to not have to deadpoint to a shallow and blind mono.
L'Espolon De L'Ocaive 8c

Yesterday I returned and with all the days excitment taking my mind off the route I felt relaxed and warmed up well. I fired up the 8b which fell easily, any pump from this would make it impossible to climb the upper technical arete. The top half went well with only a few few jitters including a bit of freestyling around the last bolt when I caught a hold wrong. Thankfully my Kalymnos fitness had come in useful as I managed to recover on all the rests no matter how poor they were. The belay arrived with a scream and I could finally get all my clips back. All in all a fun day out.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

The Walk Of Life

Funny old thing motivation. Last time i posted i was psyched to climb in as many places as possible, on lots of different rock types and styles, sport, trad, onsight, redpoint and so on..... Then quick as a flash that all changed.

I finally decided that it was about time i went and had a look at the Walk Of Life down at Dyer's Lookout in north Devon. There's been so much talk about the route and so many opinions bandied about, but what struck me was that no one local had actually bothered to go and check it out. The previous ascentionists and come from Matlock, Fort William and the Lakes in that order. So if they could make the effort, then i certainly could. After one weekend's visit i was hooked. Headpointing was back on my agenda. I was psyched to do this route and only this route....

I first went down towards the end of October with my wife Gilly. Having come straight out the back of an intense 4 days filming a commercial in Cardiff with the usual long days and late nights. I managed to swerve the wrap party much to the perplexity of most of the crew.

"What d'ya mean you aint gonna come and get totally lashed in Tiger Tiger with us with a free bar all night?!!!" they said

"Err no....i'm gonna head off down to Hartland Point in Devon and mess about on a 50m sea cliff all weekend instead" said I.

"You twat".


But i was a happy twat, cos the next day whilst they were cringing under the pain of their hangovers, i was free as a bird, off in the van with Gilly reveling in the stunning blue sky and high pressure weather that was sitting over the south west.

I'd not actually been to Dyer's Lookout before at all, so on first aquainance i was impressed. What a sheet of rock! I absolutely have to climb this i thought. As luck would have it, whilst i was setting up the rope. Andy Mitchell and Dave Birkett, whom we had met at Ilkley the week before, turned up with a double agenda. Andy had come to have another go at The Walk whilst Dave had come to have a look at the unclimbed line to the left. Their beta and psyched was really helpful and that combined with some quality banter made for a cracking weekend.

I had 2 goes on the route on this visit both of which were spent working out and trying to remember the huge amount of moves on the route. The second go i did it in 3 sections but i knew there must be easier sequences to suit my strengths and weaknesses. More time was needed......

We left Sunday afternoon, to get back to Bristol and catch an evening flight to El Chorro. Gilly and i had had this trip booked since the summer, and although i now couldnt get The Walk Of Life out of my head, this was really the perfect place to go and enjoy some relaxing bolt clipping in the sun. It was especially good for Gilly, a much deserved holiday and a chance to get some proper sport climbing in before the winter months descended upon us.

We spent 5 days in Chorro. Both of us focusing mostly on onsighting. Much of the trip was spent over at Desplomilandia where we both took advantage of the hilariously overgraded routes. I onsighted Leron Careto 7c, La Golosa 7c+, Paquistani 8a, El Ruin De Roma 7c, Perseverencia 8a, and almost onsighted La Conexion Pelirroja 8a which i got next go. Gilly onsighted Debora Cuerpos 6b, Alobeitor 6a+, Provinciano Marrano 6c and Buena Sombre 6b+. Nearly all of these routes are over graded but its only fast food and ticking ego inflating grades on holiday is what climbing holidays are all about. The highlight of the trip without doubt was Gilly making an inspired last day redpoint of a punchy 7a called Manzanilla Madness Which for once was no soft touch. She fell off the easy top slab just before the chain to add to the jeopardy and gain a taste of what its like to have to keep your cool when the pressure is on. We had to leave to catch our flight home shortly after, but she kept her cool and dispatched it with the perfect mix of precision and determination, just like a pro ;-)

When we got back home, i spoke to Simon and Rob at Beta to let them know that i was trying The Walk Of Life. Lucky old me. The first thing they said was that Sterling had just brought out a new super light weight prototype double rope. As yet unnamed, they were calling them 'project 8.0's' as they were 8mm thick and very very light. This was perfect news for me. I was concerned about what a difference the weight of the ropes was going to make on the lead and these sounded like the perfect ropes for the job! Like a couple of heros, they sorted it out immediatey, and the next day a box arrived at home with 2 brand new project 8's, a load of Bleaustone chalk and a full set of Ball Nuts from Trango as well.

Now these Ball Nuts are hard to come by. They aint essential for The Walk Of Life but they sure make it a hell of a lot easier if you're gonna place all that kit on lead. As well as that i'd found that the smallest Ball Nut fitted in a tiny slot on the boldest bit of the route. I believe James didnt bother with any gear here, and i know that Dave Birkett filed down a knife blade peg to fit into it, but this Ball Nut although not perfect was a very satisfying bit of pro to find.

On the Bold Lower Section
Photo: Simon Wilson

Next weekend i was down there again, practicing, working, remembering again and again the endless moves and gear placements on this magnificent piece of rock. I had no excuses now. I'd borrowed several sets of Ball Nuts, i had the light weight Sterling ropes, I'd top roped it clean. Time to get stuck in......but no. Tides. The window of opportunity would have to wait.

Back to work then, filming cute little kittens for Whiskas cat food. A total change of scene. This would surely stop my mind from spinning over and over with nervous excitement about that damn route. No chance. Once the headpoint sucks you in, you are at its mercy until the job is done. The only way out from this manic obsession is to get on with it. Just do it.

Calming The Nerves Before The Sustained Upper Section
Photo: Simon Wilson

2 weeks later the tides were good. The forecast was good (if a bit bloody chilly) Gilly was being a total superstar in putting up with me babbling on and on and whats more she was happy to journey down to Devon again and belay in the freezing conditions. She made soup, helped carry all the kit, patiently belayed whilst i mucked about working the moves, she even warmed my boots up inside her jacket. I'm a lucky man indeed.

We waited 2 days for it to stop raining, and on the 3rd day it was still spitting. 2 good mates Si Wilson and Laurent Derioz drove down to take stills and shoot some video respectively, and i knew i just had to get on with it. I top roped it clean once more and i felt good on it. After climbing the first 20 feet, i placed the sky hook as the first bit of gear and then carefully down climbed to tie it off and make it secure. The rain started to spit a bit harder and so i knew it was time to push on. The bottom bold section flew by with ease. Then there is an easier section before things kick in properly. Unbelievably my foot skated out of a large damp foothold on this simple section. So much build up to an anticlimax. Next go was the one that got away. Some times you climb well, and things just dont go your way. This was one of those times. I battled my way through the middle crux, frantically fiddling in small RP's, cams and ball nuts along the way. 45 minutes later after a long rest on a good foothold, my foot skidded off again. Gutted. I wasnt even trying to make a move. The flip side to all this was 4 days later. (after driving to the base of the crag to avoid 'the walk in of life') Utterly freezing conditions, very high northerly gusting winds, dampness and to top it all i was climbing like sketching wobbling twat. Everything about the day said failure and yet somehow i wobbled my way up. Nearly getting blown off, feet skidding about, overgripping, generally climbing like a total punter, but The Walk Of Life went down. The feeling? Total relief, and an even stronger conviction that when thing sjust don't seem to be going your way, trying really really hard will always give you a fighting chance.

Now seems to be grit season........

Over and Out

Charlie Woodburn

Hard Moves Above An RP 0
Photo: Simon Wilson

Concentrating hard on the Upper Section.
Photo: Simon Wilson

Bouldering in a Winter Wonderland

So now the rain has turned to snow but the conditions are minty on dry days! With temperatures around and below freezing, it's been all about multiple layers and high psyche levels in order to get things done. On Monday, Dave and I drove into the winter wonderland that is Brione. It is VERY snowy there now and we had to take wellies, hot water to melt ice and brushes to remove snow from the top outs (very committed – or mad - I hear you say). The plan for the day was Marylin Monroe (8A) for me and General Dissarray (8B) for Dave (which are on the same boulder) and then a little play on Ganymede Takeover (8A+). So we started with a fair bit of brushing to enable a top out to be done. Marylin is easy to top out, with the hard climbing lower down so a bit of ice and snow was no problem and we had soon made it possible. Warming up was hard! A bit of painful dry firing here and there to wake up the skin...

Dave had had one previous session on General where he was really solid on the moves and did some good links so I was optimistic he would do well. The only problem he had was splits behind his nails which meant he had a limited number of tries before they reopened. I had had a fair few sessions on Marylin and was at a very frustrating stage having fallen off the last hard move lots of times. I first tried this problem two years ago with Dorothea Karalaus and I could barely do a move. I was so inspired watching her try it and since then it has always been on my wish list. I was optimistic but also knew I may just repeat my previous two sessions and mess up the end. Luckily, after a few goes (and a bit of frustrated rage) I managed to hold the last hard move and finish the problem. A few goes after I had finished Dave also pulled it out of the bag and did General Dissarray – really impressive in two sessions! Very pleased with ourselves we then headed up for a play on Ganymede to finish off a good day. Here are some pictures:

The next day I headed up to Cresciano with Kook. He headed off to his project for the day and I went to warm up and try Frank's Wild Years (8A). I had had two previous sessions on this block and I enjoyed trying it. It is fairly kind on the skin and is really burly. This type of climbing isn't my forte but I really like it, and I enjoy feeling totally destroyed after trying it! I had tried it a few days before with a guy called Andrea who lives in Cresciano and he was psyched again so we warmed up and set to work. The problem requires a lot of body tension and power but I think the key is to get as much weight through the feet as possible. I felt really good, despite the trip to Brione the day before and after some tries I managed to finish the problem. Very psyched. Later that day I went on to do some filming and spotting and Dave Jones did a really quick ascent of La Prou (8B). He had done Boogalagga (8B), his first 8B, the day before. Really good effort.

La Prou 8b Cresciano from David Jones on Vimeo.

Another thing worth mentioning is Mickey Paige's ascent of From Dirt Grows Flowers (8C) at Schattental. Though not as well known as some, Mick is ridiculously strong which this ascent obviously this space for more in the next month I think.