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- Climbing - Ned Feehally
- Climbing - Neil Mawson
- Climbing - Pete Whittaker
- Climbing - Ryan Pasquill
- Climbing - Steve McClure
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Redpointing. It’s all about the journey. It’s only a game. It might only be a game, but are we just playing with it, or is it playing with us? If it’s only a game then it doesn’t matter who wins or loses. It’s just about the taking part.
I was thinking that, until it got close.
Then it was more than a game.
If I list the 10 most important events of my entire life, probably 4 will be redpoint ascents! This is no game!
I returned to Malham on a bad forecast carrying a deflated ambition from the last rather close call. I’d done it but I hadn’t. Would I ever have the drive to push through again, and was the window closed anyway? At least the bad forecast was bad in a different way, blazing sun, and I picked out my line through the glare, seepage lines dotting the way signalling impossibility. But closer inspection showed the power of the sun as dampness tracked back up the wall. The window cracked open again, but today the gap would be marginal, the rock hot to the touch, it would gradually cool in the shade, and then the dampness would return in the evening. When to try? I waited like a pro, and then threw myself in at a calculated moment.
Conditions surprised me, warm, but no humidity; a marked change to previous cold days. Warm fingers found new texture, previously hard and wooden, now conforming to the intricacies of the holds. Suddenly I was there, the final few moves. Concentrating 100% I took on the complex sequence and held it together. The final moves up Batroute took me by surprise, pumpy and technical I closely watched my petrol gage through a third eye; dropping fast it would hit red as I hit the finishing jug. More haste less speed. There was no margin for error.
I topped the route with nothing to spare, my physical ability dropping at exactly the same rate as the difficulty of the moves, even down to the final UK 4a mantle. Then safety. Turning back the view hit me, the beautiful Yorkshire Dales stretching out into a sun soaked spring evening. I had a bit of a moment and let it sink in. It’s only a game. But I’m glad I won
Contributed by: Steve McClure
“Climbing is about the process. Take a long look at your definition of success; is it only about rattling a chain? If you can afford to let a few get away then it’s likely that your climbing will be a richer and more rounded experience.”
Did I really write this? I read it in my article in CLIMB 99 recently, so I guess I did. Final success is only part of the journey, but to be fair, it’s fairly important. On my most recent project I’m all over it, it’s within reach, I don’t want to let this one get away, and yet I feel like I’m losing my grasp..
Slowly I’ve been inching higher, and then suddenly glory came into view with a high point within a few moves of easy ground. I rested up and hit the crag good to go. But poor conditions were against me with drizzle blowing in. Twice I hit the final holds, twice I pinged off, damp with moisture! Gutted.
Rain poured and the grapevine warned of a soaking crag, but I returned anyway; my line was still dry, just! Conditions were poor but I wanted it badly. Well rested my ascent was perfect, and suddenly I was set for the final lunge. It went in a dream like fashion as only it can on that perfect final redpoint effort; I hit the hold. I’d done it. I’d already started celebrating. Just a reach to the finishing jug and it was all over. The jug was in my hand…
But it wasn’t, my fingers tickled it but something was pulling me down, pulling hard. I pulled against it, but the force wouldn’t give. Confused I looked down. My heart skipped a beat as I computed the situation; somehow the karabiner of the final quickdraw that I don’t clip on lead had buried itself within my fig 8 knot, reversing back into hard moves I couldn’t free it, and with the draw mallioned in I couldn’t uncip it. Panicking I tried to figure a quick fix but there was none to be had, and then suddenly I was sat on the quickdraw, a 100% reverse in my feelings from total euphoria to utter disappointment. Screaming my frustrations like a child I tried to calm down, suddenly embarrassed, but the disappointment surrounded me. I couldn’t shake it. How could this happen?
Next go I didn’t get so far, conditions had become humid, third go was the same. Despondent I left the crag, another two days wait looming. Time dragged. The evening before I tried to relax as I listened to the rain against the windows. Then I got the text “crag soaking, no point going up for a while”……..
Contributed by: Steve McClure
Driving out into the Peak District from Sheffiled I was not optimistic about finding dry rock; it was raining and the general feel to the air was DAMP.
However the impeccable limestone of Squirrel Buttress across the river from the famous Raven Tor was 'dry as a bone' as they say! I was keen to do 'Candy Man'; an 8a put up by Ned a few years ago. I actually managed to find some easier beta for the stand and so I set to work on the sit start which has been an obvious but forgotten project since Ned did the stand. Luckily I tried hard and managed to get it done. I was surprised and chuffed to say the least.
This place seems to have got a bit of a slating (excuse the pun) by people, myself being one but this really is a case of appearances being deceptive. It definitely isn't a world class venue but there are a few good lines that really pack a punch.
The climbing is burly to say the least; poor slippy feet make the wrestling with upside down jugs very tiring. The climbing here is like being at the wall-gymnastic movement that leaves the core and ones biceps absolutely pooped, oh and everything is a few moves longer than what you would like, leading to, or in my case at least the dropping of last moves over and over and over again!
I would say the three problems in the video below are the choice selection of what's on offer at Forest Rock with Heathen Chemistry definitely being the best of these.
I would say Forest Rock is definitely worth a visit especially in these times of whacky of weather as bits stay dry in the rain and all is reasonably sheltered from the sun.
I love a good sport climbing trip to Spain and this time I was off to Margalef, an area I had not yet had the pleasure of visiting. I flew into Barcelona with Tash and met up with Ryan who had already been out in Suirana for 7 weeks, lucky bugger! We stayed in a town called Mora d’ebre and drove up the windy roads to the crags each day. Margalef is a beautiful area and it felt very green compared with the usual dry and dusty areas of Spain I have visited in the past. The crags are dotted around in a number of different valleys so there is usually always somewhere to climb depending on what weather you are chasing/avoiding.
The team looking psyched on a rest day visit to the beach.
The routes although powerful suited me as they were around 25m (relatively short for Spanish limestone, although they felt epically long for an unfit Peak climber!) and full of lovely pockets. The rock is conglomerate so you are usually holding the pebble scars as pockets and I there is nothing I love more than a good two finger pocket.
Rob Greenwood on a ridiculously pumpy 7b.
Everything looked so good and I just spent two weeks onsighting, never really having more than one or two goes on something as I would be to excited to try the next route. Everyone seemed like they were climbing well, Ryan's 7 weeks in Spain was paying off and was making 8a onsights look about 6a, Tash was sooo close to a 7a onisght but decided to rack up some airmiles instead and Rob was onsighting routes that a couple of weeks ago had been been his hardest redpoint level!! My fitness only got me about 15-20m up a route and I fell of a lot of 7cs just beneath the chain with my elbows in the air pumped out of my mind. I found this pretty funny at the start of the trip but by the end of the second week it got slightly frustrating. Luckily my ‘onsight fitness training’ paid off and I got my first 7c+ flash with pretty minimal beta from Ryan on my second to last day. It felt weird to flash it as it only felt like yesterday (even though it was a good few years ago) that I redpointed my first 7c in Costa Blanca. This was the first trip I felt like I had seen an obvious improvement in my climbing over two weeks, which was very satisfying.
Looking out to Siurana from a crag at Monstant
Contributed by: Katy Whittaker
Pulling a face on "working 9 to 5" at Sean's roof
Photo: Nick Brown
Contributed by: Ned Feehally
This is part 2 of a blog post that I started last night – if you haven’t got a clue what’s going on, then click on this link!
Continued from yesterday…………
I think it was Seb Grieve that immortalised the gritstoner’s mantra, “It’s all in the mind” when he climbed the E9 6c Meshuga at Black Rocks. The self professed weakling of The Foundry had surely captured something important here – even Pete when I met him, had the words inscribed on a rucksack he used to bring to the crag. As I’ve climbed more and more over the years and more with climbers like Pete, I’ve come to realise how true that is. We’re not talking big french numbers on these routes, but we are talking big Blockbuster bills when it comes to smashing yourself up and lying around the house for a month.
So what does a middle-aged (yup I think I’m going to call myself that now) man do when he wakes up in the night thinking about dying? I play a game. A game of the mind. I need to trick myself into not going into autopilot on the route, because at the moment my mind wants to think about the ominous nature of this route and what would happen if I fell off. My rational head is completely happy with the situation, but this is often the part that we switch off when we go for big leads. So how am I going to trick myself? I hatch a plan to stay focused on the surroundings all the way up the route, to allow myself to be disturbed, to notice the sounds around me, to see holds that I won’t use and to think about each sequence as it happens. No auto-pilot this time.
Tying on for the lead at the base of the crag, I stay completely relaxed and jokey, almost as if I’m not going to make an effort. I climb the first section of the route in my trainers to the ledge and place a couple of cams. I also place a bouldering mat on the ledge as I seemed to have fallen off the first move so many times on top rope that I kind of suspect it will happen again. As I lace my climbing shoes I chat to a photographer and sing a bit of the new Pink song.
“We’re not broken, just bent. We can learn to love again…”
Man, that’s such a good song. I have to keep my voice down though or my mates will think I’m soft. Humming away to myself, feeling the breeze I pull onto the start of the route. First move passes very quickly and I’m onto the rockover that I always fall off. Hmmmm… it’s gone in a second. This is going too well. Shit, I’m doing what I normally do. I’m letting autopilot take over. Ok, what’s happening? Ah yes, someone’s talking to me. I’ll answer them. For a moment, I pull out of the dark cloud of subconscious action to remind myself of my strategy. As I pull into the next sequence though, I drift back again. Mono on pebble, move foot, adjust to two fingers, roll over to sloper. That’s not right. No, that’s definitely not right. What the fuck is going on, why does that hold feel so bad? I can feel my anxiety rising as my doubts about falling off race towards a reality. Ok, just flick the hand a little, that always works. Alan Cassidy does it all the time and he climbs 8c. Nope, that hold still feels pants. Look down to find footholds to reverse. Ah, crap. Those aren’t that close. At this point I roll out of autopilot again and glance up to the top of the crag to see someone looking over the edge looking concerned.
I’ve only cocked up on headpoint routes a couple of times over the years and it’s a strange feeling when it all starts to spin out of control. You almost feel indignant that the route has turned round to bite you. On top rope you were such good friends, hanging out, thinking about various sequences and how many options you have when you feel soooo relaxed. The sharp end is different though – it’s that quiet black dog that always sits in the corner of the pub looking unloved. It’ll put a hole in your hand if you misread its silence for docility. In that last second before parting company with the pebbles I finally force myself to look downwards to view my outcome. Dear God, yes. It doesn’t look too far. I jump.
Back on the ledge, feeling pissed off and relieved at the same time, I review my climbing. I’d over-estimated my ability to control my mind and vowed that my next effort would be more a mixture between conscious and subconscious action. I take just a few moments of time, before setting off for a second attempt. This time, I feel the balance. I can rationalise when I want to and likewise switch off when necessary. Even at the crux, I’m all four points of contact on pebbles – what a ridiculous proposition – but I’m happy with it. The route flows reasonably and I top out taking a certain joy in shouting,
“I’m alive, I’m alive!”
As I said in my previous post, I don’t want to step on Nathan and Pete’s toes when it comes to their ascents, but I would like to say a couple of things;
Nathan: I’ve watch a lot of headpoint ascents over the years by various climbers, but his performance on Order of the Phoenix was quite something. Totally business-like. I couldn’t believe that someone could dish out E8 climbing in just a couple of minutes, with no fuss, no mistakes and no ego. Brilliant. I can’t wait to see what he gets up to this coming year.
Pete: The prow project (direct on Appointment with Fear) that he’s just succeeded on climbing has got to be one of the all time greatest gritstone leads. The line is totally outrageous, the climbing is high in the 8′s and there are no rests. You’ve gotta be a beast for this one. I was massively inspired watching his performance. Thanks Pete!
Everything from the day was captured by the Hotaches film crew and Mike Hutton on the stills. I’m sure if you keep up to date with what they do, you’ll see some nice pics and video footage shortly!
Contributed by: Tom Randall
The Saturday that’s just passed has got to be one of my all time best days out on grit. Ever since the day when me, Pete Whittaker and Nige Kershaw went to Millstone and did something like 10 E6-E8s between us (mostly flashed or onsighted), I’ve been wondering when it would be surpassed. I think yesterday finally did that.
Often when you go out with friends at the crag, one or maybe two of you come away something really ballsy in the bag. It’s just the way it works out. One of you mops up the collective pysche and cashes in, whilst the others are often happy to support and wait their turn some other day. When myself, Pete and Nathan Lee headed up to Wimberry we all had projects that we vaguely hoped we might climb that day, but it all depended on time, temperatures, sequences and luck. By the end of the day though, the planets had aligned and somehow all three of us had succeeded. It’s strange looking back on the day now and it seems with retrospect that as each person succeeded, that made the next person even more motivated and committed. It was like a tsunami of positive gritstone force was rushing up the Wimberry slopes to push gravity the other way.
Walking back down to the car park in the evening, the collective haul was the 3rd ascent (solo) of Order of the Phoenix by Nathan, the 2nd ascent of Appointment with Death by me and the 1st ascent of the Wimberry Prow project by Pete. Bloody hell, that boy can climb! I don’t really want to steal their own respective stories which I’m sure they’re keen to share, so I’ll recall a few thoughts of my own from repeating Appointment with Death.
I was first introduced to Sam Whittaker’s route (AwD) on the HXS film that someone bought me for Christmas one year. I think I was climbing about E1 at the time and was utterly horrified as I watched this nutter claw his way up Wimberry using tiny gritstone pebbles for his hands and feet. It seemed inconceivable that someone could do that in a position of such danger. I could barely hold onto big crimps on a gently leaning wall, so that piece of footage lodged firmly in my mind.
Fast-forwarding 10 years I have just completed a winter of unusual training methods. Mono-boarding has become the replacement for evening TV sessions, hours of crack campussing have hardened my index fingers’ skin & I discovered some important mental tricks. Combined, those factors meant that pebbles were now my friends, my skin no longer hurt and I knew how to disassociate effectively. That said, I was still the relative weakling that all my friends know me as, but there were small forces on my side now!
After a couple of sessions on the route working the moves, I realised that the lead was inevitable, but success was not. Something really bothered me about the route and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The night before going up to Wimberry, I had the most terrible night’s sleep. I woke up twice drenched in sweat thinking about the route. I switched on my phone and googled some images of Sam Whittaker on the route. Typing the search terms into the entry box, I realised the problem. Sam had pulled a totally brilliant trick on the mind – the obsessive nature of a climber will always lead them to mull the route name over and over again in their head. In doing that the climber also unwittingly takes on the subtle reference to what might happen if it all goes wrong. It had slipped in there, so slyly I’d hardly noticed it. My problem was that for the first time in my life I was thinking about dying on a route!
In the early hours of the morning I had to switch my brain back into the realms of reality. I wasn’t going to die on the route – not by a long way. Sure, if it went really badly wrong I might break a leg but that’d only be if I was unlucky. Objectively the route had to be no worse than many other gritstone frightners. It was tricks of the mind. Or was it weakness of the mind?
Part 2; continued to tomorrow. (Or this post will get very long!)
Contributed by: Tom Randall
Big Stone were invited to join Snow & Rock to run a Five Ten boot demo for the shop managers at Stanage Plantation. The weather had been really good all week leading up to this event and we imagined a beuatiful spring day climbing in sun however typical of British weather it was thick mist and a little drizzly.
This didn't seem to dampen spirits though as everyone plodded up to the Plantation and got involved trying out the various shoes. The mist lifted and it brightened up later in the day enabling a few ascents of 'The Pebble' block.
Photos of the day below by Nick Brown.
Early start in the mist at Stanage
Pete Whittaker giving the staff a few hints and tips
Ed talking the guys through the new shoes
Testing out the Stonelands on 'The Pebble'
Tim with his neatly laid out demo shoes awaiting the arrive of the Snow&Rock staff