Warm & Rainy, Cold & Snowy- Make your mind up January!!
I am not sure what has happened with Britain’s weather over the past few months. We have had unseasonably high temperatures, mixed with humidity and rain; this as we all know does not result in good climbing conditions. There has been the odd spell of cold dry days but just as momentum starts to build with psyche and motivation, in sweeps another warm, wet front to dash any hopes of ticking off those projects. The weather being like this also makes it hard to train- what are we training for?! Why do we do this?! Are questions that circulate around my head. So, if the weather in the UK wasn’t going to supply me with psyche I would need another impetus, and the only way I know of is a.... plane ticket!! A few clicks and phone calls later, a flight was booked!! Colorado here we come!! I have always wanted to visit Rocky Mountain National Park and Mt. Evans, the lines don’t look as stunning as places like Rocklands or Bishop but the movement looks phenomenal. Boulder also looks like a fun place to hang out, eat nice food and live the good life!
It’s funny how a piece of paper promising to take you to a new destination and a substantial decrease in one’s bank balance can increase levels of psyche tenfold, but for me it is definitely the answer to waning levels of motivation.
Training was planned over Christmas in Ireland and after the food consumption it would definitely be needed!!! My family seems to awaken at around 6:00am and cook non-stop till bed time! Amazing!
A wet trip to Fontainebleau over New Year didn’t even dampen my spirits; I managed to complete the Real Thing ticks with Bicep Mou, drink a good amount of red wine and eat some lovely buttery air, that the French call croissants!
After having nearly 3 weeks of very little climbing it was time for the training! The weather even played ball. Rubbish weather means I don’t feel guilty for not going out on the rock! However we managed to get the odd day of nice weather. In early January I went back to Darkstar, a highball 7c+ of John Welford’s that seems to have been all but forgotten. I brushed it up and worked out the moves before Christmas but it was a bit damp to finish it off. A cold, breezy day came and that was the first thing on my mind. After warming up at home and giving the holds a chalk on a rope I managed to send it on my second (and third) attempt. I was made up, it felt so much better because I had had to clean it up and put a bit of effort into making it climbable again. A great problem that will hopefully see a little more attention now. I was lucky enough to get the ascent captured by Outcrop Films and it will appear on the upcoming film Life on Hold.
Darkstar, 7c+: Courtesy of Outcrop Films
The good weather disappeared as quickly as it had arrived and it was back into the training! Always keeping a watchful eye on the weather, as time on rock is really important for me! During this period fellow Moon and Five Ten athlete Phil Schaal stopped over in the UK for a week before heading to the granite boulders and cold temperatures of Ticino. The weather meant he spent most of his time in the wall but he also sampled his first FULL English breakfast, Fish and Chips and a typical pub meal of.... PIE!! He managed a few sends too, of which I am sure he will update you all at some point!
A cold front seemed to be coming for the end of January and beginning of February. Fingers crossed!
And as we all know a few good days did arrive! I headed up to Bowden for the weekend; having never been here before I was as excited as a child on Christmas morning. There were particular things I wanted to try but I basically ran around for 2 days trying everything!! Both days we were first at the crag and last to leave, it reminded me of times gone by when if you weren’t completely boxed with bleeding tips then the day hadn’t been a success! I will definitely be visiting the County more often as there are a number of climbs I would like to do up there. More restraint will be critical next time!
Staggered, 7b: Courtesy of http://marksavagephotography.blogspot.com/
Another problem on my winter tick list was Brownian Motion at West Chevin in Yorkshire. This was climbed by Andy Brown way back when.... well I don’t when but needless to say it didn’t get repeated for a long time. Andy had used a toe hook around the arête which was a country mile away and given it the paltry grade of 7c+. Strong Bingly based Martin Smith aka Shaggy aka Pencil aka Terrace Ghost decided to use strength (as opposed to seriously long legs) to get the long awaited second ascent a couple of winters ago and proposed a more realistic 8a+ for it. Dave Barrens grabbed the third ascent earlier in the month and after watching the video of Dave doing it I was psyched! A few easy set up moves leads to a long lock off a right hand crimp to a slopey left hand rail, this is followed by poor feet and a number of poor right hand intermediates to the top! It was fifth day on but I had done relatively little (even sacrificing training) the previous day as I knew the weather looked pukka! A friend Dom volunteered to come along for moral support and a spot, he was resting on his laurels after climbing The Pinch at Crag X the day before. Arriving at the Crag I felt good, it looked even better in real life and much higher than I had expected but with a perfectly flat landing. I chalked up the holds and to my relief it wasn’t even damp. I had briefly warmed up on the finger board at home but the rock was cold. Needless to say I jumped on, soon realising that the first right hand crimp was sharp! My goes would be numbered! Thoughts of going home with a split tip after a few tries were not appealing. A few more goes and I was close to the long move up to the left hand hold but my skin was becoming wafer thin. I estimated two more goes at most! The long move for me seemed to be a mix of a lock and a pop at the last minute. I put the poor skin thoughts out of my head and pulled on, hit and adjusted the right crimp and surged up to the slopey rail and this time stayed there, for a brief moment surprise stopped me dead, I re-adjusted the hold-it was worse than I had expected- I brought my left foot out onto a very small foot hold and moved my right hand to the first intermediate, as I did this my foot popped, I tensed everything, getting to the top of my out swing I realised I had just managed to stay on. I steadied myself and campussed to the next intermediate, steadied myself again and went for the top hold!! Holding it and topping out from darkness into sun was one of my best climbing feelings!! I had been frustrated with my attempts at climbing outside recently and with this send it all disappeared!! I couldn’t believe first time after doing the first hard move I had managed to continue to the top, especially with the cut loose and campussing!
Ecstatic was the word and relief, my right index wouldn’t have taken another go. Three hours driving (there and back) and £15 in petrol for 7 goes to climb a bit of rock and it was all worth it, having said that the line between success and failure must have been pretty thin. The mental battle to have done the drive again knowing I would only get half a dozen goes would have been difficult! Oh climbing is a funny game!!
I finished the week off with a send of Zoo York, an overhung arête imported directly from Switzerland and Terry, a highball slab involving a mono pinch on pebbles, definitely a more typical gritstone experience!!
A few other ticks during this week of good ‘nick’ included- Domes sit start (Rowtor), Green Man (Stanton Moor), Salle Goose and River of Life (Turningstone).
River of Life, 7c+: Courtesy of Outcrop Films.
Salle Goose, 7c: Courtesy of Outcrop Films.
Contributed by: David Mason