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- Climbing - Pete Whittaker
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I have just come back from a two month trip to Spain. Most of it was spent in Siurana with a couple weeks in Margalef at the end. I have never been to this part of Spain before and the scenery in and around the Serra de Montsant mountain range is impressive. It’s much greener and less arid looking than the other parts of Spain I have climbed in. Siurana blew me away when I first saw it looking down from the road towards the main sectors of Siuranella and El Pati. The wall of El Pati is the most striking feature when you first look across and is home to some hard stamina fests. Looking at it you can understand why La Rambla is such a sort after route.
Mina Crush and I flew out with team DMM: Caff, Cal and Ray. The driving force behind the trip was Caff and his La Rambla mission. The trip was kind of last minute for me but I managed to get a couple weeks beer free training in before departure. I planned to stay beer free for the first three weeks of the trip, and I confidently told caff this on the way over but that didn’t stop him sabotaging me by buying me a beer on the first night. Man those Estrelles are good. Thanks caff.
Day one and the La Rambla mission started. Myself caff and mina all had a play up to half height; mina looked strong, as always, and caff looked how I felt. I kind of decided then that I needed something much shorter. I didn’t really fancy my chances on a forty metre 9a+. My solution was Jungle speed which is given 9a but pretty soft at that, and anyway the quality of the climbing well outweighs the grade. The route climbs a cool wave like overhanging wall via some amazing moves on nice holds. It took me three sessions and lots of school boy errors (man I never learn) to get it done. I have to say I was a pretty surprised at getting such a good tick so early on in the trip. I did feel pretty complacent, but not as complacent as Caffs smug Ian Hislop impression.
Next up for me was a look at A Muerte 8c+. First time up to work out the moves and they all went pretty much first go. Hmmm this isn’t supposed to happen, normally when I try a hard route I get spanked and lower off with deluded optimism. Next session I felt good, third session I fell looking at the finishing jug three times, but by the fourth session I was feeling spent and ripped a monster flapper in my finger. Game over for now. It was time to relax, have some late nights and go onsighting.
Caff slowly let go of his la rambla mission and looking at the bags under his eyes I could see that he had come on the trip already burnt out. Still he had coffee and beer to cheer him up and after a couple of weeks the true caff form started to come through with him dishing out the Cumbrian banter and pissing up some 8a+’s onsight.
Contributed by: Ryan Pasquill
Although a lot of people don’t know it, my main passion in climbing is “new routing.” Everyone assumes that it’s crack climbing, but in fact, the joy that I get from climbing a new route (no matter how bad they are are sometimes!) far outweighs most other climbing experiences. I’m especially lucky to have a climbing partner in Pete who also seems to hold these values highly. I remember when he was still at school, I’d pick him up every Wednesday afternoon and we’d try and get a new route in each week without fail. Some of the quality that emerged from those trips, was utterly horrendous! I think even Grimer was disappointed in Pete’s standards…
There is one combination of climbing experience that trumps everything; a new route that’s also a crack. The backs of my hands tingle even thinking about it. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to find routes of this type in the UK as they form many of the most obvious lines and hence were climbed years ago.
Last week however, I struck gold and found a lovely unclimbed ultra-thin crack at Hallmoor Quarry, where I’d previously done Speak The Truth. After a session of cleaning and working out where to place the multiple RPs I gave Pete a call to tell him about the line. Once I’d explained that the crux involved a move just like the one on the mono undercut on Cobra Crack in Squamish, he was sold!!
Returning a few days later we found that the route was a little wet, but I knew Pete wouldn’t even entertain the thought of doing something else, so we started off on the route as a warm up. My God………. I was so pumped! Everything had seemed pretty straight forward trying the moves on abseil, but now linking everything together in the damp seemed a different kettle of fish. Topping out with arms like lead balloons, I somewhat dreaded watching Pete make it look easy. Fortunately he saved my shame and did me the gracious favour of pulling out a “Full Gurn” and I silently chuckled away on belay below.
The next week I then came across the polar opposite to a new crack route – a prow! I’d been hunting around Gardoms Edge for a few hours and came across a fairly obscure prow tucked away in the trees that starts from half way up the crag. I’m certain it would be an easy highball if it were at ground level, but as it is, if you fluff the final tricky move you’re going a loooooong way. It was great to have a local lad Kyle Rance along to make the second ascent – big grin on his face after sketching that final move… I decided to let my 20 month old daughter name the route, so “Porride Egg” E6 6a, it is!
I gave both routes E6, but as I’ve been reminded by my own rantings about grades last week; grades can be so far out on each end of the spectrum. Soft Parade you’re not going to get up unless you’re sport climbing at least 7b+ and good on RPs, and Porride Egg you could climb as a V3 boulderer with balls. What a nightmare. I think I’ve become lost in my own mind.
Contributed by: Tom Randall
The world is filled with noise. Make room for silence. Arc’teryx runner Adam Campbell stars in a story with no words. Shot on the streets of Vancouver and the high country around Whistler, Silence is the story of every runner, climber and skier who chases passion rather than the modern world’s trappings. Headphones recommended.
It has been another hard winter here in Scotland. The long dark nights, the rain and the work commitments have once again meant that rock activity has been limited. Same old story huh?!
Contributed by: Alan Cassidy
Every winter in the UK you inevitably spend a lot of time training indoors avoiding the typically unreliable weather. It’s probably one of the main ways that we as Brits, can stay motivated. We’re slowly getting stronger and fitter during the dark months and all the while you can tell your mates about what routes you’re going to do when it stops raining (yeah, right) and of course browse the guidebooks.
As a trad climber, guidebooks are one of my main sources of inspiration. I absolutely love them. I suspect most people have a nice Tom Clancy novel next to their bed – I have most of the BMC guides with little bits of paper stuck in them! These bits of paper refer to constantly evolving ticklists and ones that contain some totally unrealistic goals and others not so…
Having been able to get out a bit more recently, I’ve found myself trawling through the guidebooks looking up things that I tend to shy away from when I’m a bit rusty. Bold routes, any aretes and anything that’s at Curbar. One route that ticks two of the boxes is Speak The Truth, an E7 6b at Hallmoor Quarry. I remember seeing a video of someone climbing this years ago and thinking I’d never do that (i.e. the bold soloing) but recently 2 things changed my opinion. One, was that Pete Whittaker had been out and flashed the route and secondly that Ethan Walker and Sam Hamer had headpointed it in the last few days, so most likely there would be plenty of chalk on the route. To further bolster my confidence, they’d posted a video up on youtube with a (hopefully?!) perfect sequence repeated twice before the camera.
With this in mind, I convinced my wife that post-night shifts she’d like to come out and spot me doing “a nice easy climb that Pete said was ace.” Poor her. There she was lugging a bouldering mat through thigh-deep brambles on a weekday morning – Thanks Kim! As I sat at the base of the route, I wondered about two things;
1. Was Pete’s flash and casual remarks about ease of climbing to be relied on? Shame I couldn’t get him to demo to me one-handed in a pair of Five Ten trainers to show me how it really was a piece of piss. Ok, just trust Pete. He knows how crap at aretes I am. He’d not have recommended it otherwise.
2. Was Ethan and Sam’s sequence any good? Both those boys climb some big numbers and my long term sieges on V8′s isn’t exactly up with their quick V11 ticking. Hmmmmm…. but they both did it quickly. Maybe they’re Arete Jedi Monkeys? Hmmmmmm…. doubts were creeping in.
Ah sod it. Can’t be doubting myself now.
I put my boots on, quickly chalked up and thought I’d just do the first sequence of moves to take my mind off it. Ok yup, feet up and smear high. Not quite as easy as I was hoping. I’m stood up now, high enough that I’m a little scared. I look down. No…. don’t do that. Eyes up. Good hold on the arete. Yes. Good holds. Right, take them hard, and run feet up. I can see better holds higher. Surely this is the “little boulder problem” that Pete talked of. Feet so high it’s getting scary. Move my hands quickly up the arete to counterbalance. Shit. That’s not great. Just two foot moves until a good hold. They’re sandy. Ugh. Don’t cock this up. I’m totally crapping my pants. Holds reached, but I’m so gripped I’ve started cramping in my foot and I’m overgripping on everything. Relax. RELAX. Pretty much all out blind panic. I can’t really think any more and I go autopilot just to top out.
Thank God for that. It’s over.
Sitting back down at the base I mull over the route in my mind. I was so gripped and the route is so much my anti-style (insecure, balancy and not a crack in sight) that I realise that probably this route is really rather easy. I’d been right about my earlier assumptions – I’d simply not realised how much I has batting off the wrong foot.
The more I thought about this route and some others that I’ve done recently, I came to the conclusion that it’s about time that someone spoke out about how ridiculous some of the grades on grit are. Over on 8a.nu they’re always banging on about the “personal grade” thingy and how it will lead to a better consensus. Why don’t we really do it on trad? Sure, the ego can get in the way and you’d love to take the Man Points, but surely the buck has to stop somewhere? Someone has to take the hit, downgrade all their best stuff and be honest. Well, that’s going to be me. I’m going to sacrafice my ticklist so we’ll no longer think that Nosferatu is really E6 and Profit of Doom is E4.
Time to load up the excel spreadsheet….
Contributed by: Tom Randall
Living in the UK I find winter is a great time to work lots to get some money saved up and to train ready for the spring time when the weather picks up. So far this winter I've worked lots but not managed to save any money as it's all been spent on the bottomless pit that is fixing my car!! On the plus side I have managed to train a lot.
This winter is the first winter I've written myself a training plan and got myself a training diary. Living and training in Sheffield I've always seen lots of people with bits of paper and stopwatches constantly writing things down which I've not been part of. This winter I joined the club and have found it really useful to keep track of what i've been doing and how much I've done each session.
Special Cases font 8a/+, Bowderstone. Pic: Jordan Buys
To start with in January and Febuary I've been focusing on bouldering strength. I am most definitely a fitness climber and I find it hard to gain strength so need to spend much more time working this weakness. It seems to have paid off this year as I had a great couple of days up in the Lakes at the Bowderstone where I managed to climb my hardest boulder problem yet, Special Cases font 8a/+. I also had a great time competing in the CWIF at the Climbing Works where I came 9th in a very strong British field. This was my first taste of a 5 minutes on 5 minutes off competition setup and I really enjoyed it.
Now its March my focus has changed to more power endurance circuits ready for the sport climbing season in Britain. I'll also get to test out if this more structured training approach has worked during a short trip to Southern Spain at the start of April.
Contributed by: Neil Mawson