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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.
I don’t normally whinge about the summer weather we get. The last few years haven’t been that bad, I don’t think. Yes it’s not been that hot, but that’s better for climbing conditions. They’ve also not been that dry but at least we’ve always had a dry spring so almost all the routes are dry on the steep cliffs even if it does rain. This year however it has been terrible! No dry spring so everything is wet and then the usual showery and humid July and August. Trying to get anything done in this country has been a real challenge.
To my surprise everything at Kilnsey was dry a few weeks ago so I took the opportunity to get back on True North, the classic 8c up the middle of the very impressive North buttress. I’ve tried True North a few times before over the years and always been stopped by conditions. This route is the last to dry out at Kilnsey and the first to get wet! I’ve been in the position before ready to redpoint the route only to find the next time I’m there it’s totally soaked, it’s so frustrating! This is normally the crux for anyone wanting to do this route, but I was hoping it’d be different this time.
I spent a couple of days re-working the sequences, trying to remember them and changing them a bit. Not surprisingly it had rained heavily for a few days in a row and there were signs it was going to seep again very soon. I had one more long weekend to try and get it done. Friday was rubbish conditions. I was on redpoint shaking out at the rest half way up getting wet from the drizzle blowing in! This is a 30 degree overhanging wall 25 metres high, how was I getting wet!! I fell, not tired, at the upper crux due to wet crimps. I had one more day, after a rest day, to get it done. Hopefully the conditions would be better. Sunday….it wasn’t ideal conditions, quite overcast and humid, but at least the rock wasn’t getting wet! Thankfully I did it first redpoint with out too much trouble. As I expected the cliff was a waterfall once again by Tuesday, I done it just in time!
3 days later I found myself at Raven Tor, this time with very different conditions to Sunday at Kilnsey, it was cold and a strong wind was blowing. I was there to try Mecca Extension, another classic 8c that I’d tried earlier this year but like everything it had been wet for ages. It was now dry and I was psyched. It went the same as True North, first redpoint quite easily. 2 8c’s in 4 days, cool! I’ve got a couple more exciting projects this year that I’d love to finish off, before I go to Spain for a month in November. I’m just hoping the weather allows me to try them at some point!
Over the Jubilee Bank Holiday weekend I had a break from Sport climbing and went away with my Dad trad climbing to the Lakes. We got really lucky with the weather and had 4 daysin a row without any rain, amazing! We met up, just by coincidence, with my friends; Charlie Woodburn, Dave Pickford, Hazel Findlay and others who were all up for the weekend from Bristol. I had a great few days getting back into placing wires with my dad. It was just like when I was younger going out and ticking the routes out of extreme rock, only I was doing the leading this time. The last day we all went up to Pavey Ark and Charlie, Hazel and I tried Dave Birketts E8 called Impact Day. I had thought about trying to flash it (It’s the route Ben Bransby fell from the last move on trying to Onsight it with no chalk on it when it was still graded E9!) but just didn’t want the stress and fancied a more relaxed day out with mates so opted for a top rope. I didn’t find it too hard on top rope, about F8a, but didn’t flash it (such an impressive effort from Ben back in 1999) so I was glad I tried in on a rope. The start is bold but not too hard unless you’re short, then the top is hard, the crux being the last move, but safe. I had another go up it to sort out the gear then decided to have a go. I got way more pumped than I thought I would and almost dropped the last move….almost. So next up was Charlie who felt pretty tired after lots of climbing but went for it and fell on the last move…so close, it was a great effort! Next up was Hazel. Everyone’s probably read her account of her fall so I won’t say too much, but thankfully it was just a few bumps and bruises and she was ok. It was the first time I’ve ever had to hold a factor 2 fall when belaying!
Raining Bats and Dogs 1st ascent. Pic: Nick Brown
As the weather over the next few weeks was rubbish it was back to sport climbing and back to Malham sooner than I’d thought. Thankfully it was still cold and good conditions. I still wanted a break from Rainshadow though so got on the link up of Bat route into Rainshadow. Steve McClure did a longer link a few years ago that started up Bat route then traversed left into Rainshadow and then carried on traversing further left before finishing up Overshadow which he gave 8c+. But know one had done it finishing up Rainshadow. It took me 2 days trying it to get the link done but I’d had a day a while ago remembering the crux of Bat route anddone loads of links on the upper wall of Rainshadow while trying Rainshadow this spring so there was just a short new section to try. I gave the Link up 8c and a few people have since questioned it so here’s my thoughts on why I graded it 8c.
I view Raining Bats and Dogs (RBD) as doing 2 8b’s with a good but core intensive rest in between. So yes I think it’s harder than Bat route, as that’s 8b into 8a+, but don’t think it makes it 8c+. As Bat route is considered to be an easy-ish 8c then I think RBD is a hard 8c. If you compare RBD with Rainshadow (Rs) then Rs does an 8a+(no chain grab remember) and then a font 7c+ to get to the join with RBD and RBD does a 7b into a font 7b, a big rest then font 7a+. Even if you took the rest out the RBD is still easier! So my view is IF the rest wasn’t there on RBD then yes 8c+ for sure but it is so its hard 8c. Also RBD’s is easier than Steve’s Batshadow link which he gave 8c+.
It seems like the weather’s got even worse over the last week and now even Yorkshire’s seeping. Hopefully it’ll stop raining enough for things to dry out and I’d love to get some more trad climbing done.
I didn’t climb at Malham much last year. I only had a few trips up there to briefly try Steve McCure’s 9a test piece Rainshadow, just to see if it might be possible for me in the future and what I might need to improve on to have a chance of redpointing it.
Having trained most of the winter with Rainshadow in mind I’ve been spending most of my climbing days this spring at Malham. My aim this spring was to spend around 10 days trying it and hopefully link from the belay of Raindogs to the top. This might not sound like a big deal but it’s probably a hard 8c link and it’s a good stepping stone to having the confidence to thinking I can redpoint the route. For me there’s no point trying it from the ground if I can’t do that link, and its good training doing the top section when I’m tried. This link incorporates the crux bulge above the belay of Raindogs, which for me not being much of a boulderer felt desperate to start with, and then the upper wall which is probably around 8a/+ with no rest in between. The crux is about 9 moves and around font 7C+, but it took me 8 days this year to link it! I know I don’t boulder much but all the boulder problems I’ve done at this grade have only taken me a maximum of 2-3 days to do. Some 7C+’s I’ve done in a day so it’s been tough struggling with this crux so much, also with the knowledge in the back of my mind that I’ve got to try and do it after climbing an 8a+ route! God this route’s hard! & it’s going to take me a while to do it, if I can do it at all. But I don’t mind spending a long time on such a good route. Adam Ondra’s comment after he’d done it was that it is one of the best routes he’d ever done! High praise indeed coming from someone who’s climbed so many routes all over the world. I actually managed to get 13 days on it this spring, mainly because everything else was so wet! I didn’t quite get the link I wanted but made progress everyday which helped my psyche massively.
There’s been a great scene up at Malham this year, even with the terrible weather in April, with loads of the hard routes getting tried by various people. One day I was there, there were people on redpoint on Cry Freedom (8b+/c), Bat route (8c), Unjustified (8b+) & Power Ranger (8b+), and then Jordan and me working Rainshadow. That’s almost every hard route at Malham with someone on it! A few years ago it would have been very rare to see any one of these routes with a person trying it, now it’s hard to know where to look to watch the action. It’s great to see so many people trying these hard routes now, and it just go to shows how much the sport climbing level in this country has improved over the last few years.
Over the next few weeks I seem to have loads of other climbing plans, like a long weekend trip to the Frankenjura with my sponsors Marmot and a few trad climbing trips, that mean I wont get back to Malham for a while. This isn’t too bad as I generally find Malham too hot in the summer to get good conditions on regularly, so Rainshadow will have to wait until September when it hopefully cools down a bit.
Last May my friend Paul Smitton did the 1st ascent of the Dogs dinner buttress traverse in Chee Dale calling it Pedigree Chum. This buttress is an amazing leaning wall of perfect limestone for the 1st 15-20 ft in height then it turns into the usual peak limestone rubble. The obvious challenge was to traverse this good band of rock for the full 40 meters in length! Paul graded it 8c+. Steve repeated it soon after confirming the grade and then climbed a harder version adding a V10 boulder problem crux after all the hard climbing on the original. I first tried Pedigree Chum last October just after I’d done Bat route as most of the limestone sport climbing was seeping but this was dry. I was just going on it for training to start with but soon got hooked into doing bigger and bigger links until eventually I realised I might be able to do it. I got to linking it from after the initial 6 move V7 boulder right at the start to the end but never got chance to try it from the start before it got soaked from the autumn rain. After training hard last winter this traverse was my main aim in the spring. I went out to try it soon after returning from Misja Pec in March.
It took a good few session to remember what to do as it’s very sequency and my flow on rock was rusty after the winter indoors. I got to the stage of trying to ‘redpoint’ it just as the heat wave over Easter hit the country. This made me resort to getting up at 7am to beat the heat but it was still over 18 degrees at that time in the shade which is just too hot for small crimps. I had one evening after work when it felt really good and I got to within 2 moves of the easy climbing before falling off. Gutted but psyched at the same time, as it meant I was going to do it, I went to Pembroke for a week. This turned into over 2 so I could get Muy Caliente done, as it got wet for a week, and when I returned it was too hot and I’d lost my very top power endurance I needed. I left it for the summer to do some other climbing and was wondering if I’d get another chance this year as I wasn’t psyched to train this summer. I went on it last week again and went over all the moves and did some good links.
I went back this week to do some bigger links and to get fitter on it. As I was warming up I felt really good and light so just thought I may as well give it a go. To my surprise I got through the initial 8c section to the shake out with only the pumpy 8a+ bit left. This didn’t feel too bad either and all of a sudden I’d done it! I was a bit in shock but so happy I didn’t have to return next spring to get it done. Having redpointed Bob’s 8b+, Techno Prisoners, at the cornice two nights before I’ve had a good week climbing wise! It might not be a route where you clip bolts and climb upwards but it still feels like my 1st 8c+ as it’s longer than any sport route I’ve done in Britain.