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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
“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”……..
Picture – Keith Sharples
It feels like the window is closing now. Yesterday at Malham it was too hot to even be there, never mind climb! Conditions got better later, but not great, and nothing like what we have been spoilt with for a few months now. I broke a foothold off my project too.
But the project has changed! The Easy Easy is too hard for now, up Raindogs, the Rainshadow crux and then the 8c+ new climbing section before the 8a of Batroute finish. I won’t do it before I run out of time, but I knew that before I even started. So I opted for a cop out project, starting up Batroute instead. It works just as well as a route in its own right, getting me high every time allowing good training on the upper project wall. Rather than about 8c+ into the new climbing which is what the Easy project throws (to where it leaves Rainshadow), its only 8b, making for a 9a/+ overall link. It’s not the gold medal I’d like, but a silver would do! Maybe a cop out, but a temporary goal with a relevant training benefit.
But anyway, even Cop Out project is running away from me. Hard work this redpointing lark
Just in case you wondered if I'd dropped off the face of the earth, Well, I feel like I have to a certain extent! I've made that tricky call as to whether to cover lots of ground or throw all the eggs into one basket - it seems the time was right to throw them in and I've committed myself to a 9b project up at Malham. Its truly amazing, but a big gamble as it feels truly desperate and may be out of reach, especially considering the Not sure all these eggs will help or hinder, but it would be rude not to try, after all, these long routes need lots of energy...... .
Just in case you wondered if I'd dropped off the face of the earth, Well, I feel like I have to a certain extent! I've made that tricky call as to whether to cover lots of ground or throw all the eggs into one basket - it seems the time was right to throw them in and I've committed myself to a 9b project up at Malham.
Its truly amazing, but a big gamble as it feels truly desperate and may be out of reach, especially considering the
Not sure all these eggs will help or hinder, but it would be rude not to try, after all, these long routes need lots of energy......
Seems like a long time now since I was climbing on sun-kissed rock in Argentina. As a nice reminder my friend Will Hummel sent through some cool pix he took of me out there. Nice to have a pro take some great shots. These are on an 8b I onsighted and a hard one apparently. For me its rare to get action shots of the real thing, the camera is usually pointing in the direction of the real stars, so these round off a great trip. Thanks Will
For the last couple of years the Petzl Rock Trips have just been getting bigger and better. There was Mexico in 2010, that was incredible, and last year the trip to China was on a whole new level, shocking the climbing world not just with the scale of the event, but also with the venue they had discovered and developed for the climbing world. There didn’t seem much room to move after that, but somehow they pulled it out of the bag!
The area known as the Piedra Parada is in the Chubut region of Argentina, maybe 2000 km south west of Buenos Aires, well in land and basically in the middle of absolutely no where! From the east coast where I landed it took 12 hours by bus, passing through endless nothing as day faded into star studded blackness unlike any I’ve seen before. Waking up I was in a moonscape, a broad valley, and the Chubut river meandering through. Vast rocky plateaus spread upwards and off into the distance scored by deep canyons. Total silence except for the occasional bird call and the trickle of the river just yards from my tent, and an air so clear and sharp that every breath made me feel alive.
The Piedra Parada itself is actually a massive lump of rock sticking out of the ground from the valley floor. It’s about 260m high and maybe the same wide, rising up from the middle of nowhere and sticking out like a sore thumb. There is climbing on it, plenty, and some good multi-pitch trad adventures. But most of the climbing is in the Butrera Canyon that snakes its way northwards for around 5 km, with huge walls and pinnacles towering hundreds of meters into the crystal clear blue sky. There are a lot of routes, and scope for a hell of a lot more! In my few days climbing I barely scratched the surface.
But the 7 full days of travel were worth the 5 good days of climbing. I turned up with no expectations, out of shape and injured and with a dodgy knee from an operation just a few weeks ago. But it came good, with 3 8b, 4 8a+, 2 8a and an 8b/+ all onsight (except one 8a+ flash). The 8b/+ was the last route of the trip and will stand out above every route I climbed, and above every route I’ve climbed this year. Totally at my limit, it was one of those “Climbing Moments”. Johnny Dawes once said that he could climb all year for one of those moments, and he’s right! Maybe I get more than one per year, but its not many more. When you’ve really experienced them you know how rare they are, and how special. I can still remember most of the moves on this route, unusual for the onsight, but each move was so analysed and ingrained. For this route alone the entire trip was worth it, I’d have come all the way just for that!
Read more in the next CLIMB magazine due out soon.
A route with history comes full circle! Mecca is one of the most sought after hard sport routes in the Peak. 8b+ and a hard one, the first ascent by Basher in 1986 was done after a massive siege on his last day before emigrating! Now climbed with knee pad technology its bottom of the grade, though the old skool still leave the pad on the ground and slap they way up the groove the hard way.
But however you claw your way to the chains, they are still really in the middle of nowhere, and the extension still has to be done! I was somehow left with the first ascent back in 1998, soft 8c, a route 8a/8a+ after a bit of a rest at the Mecca chains still doesn’t push it up much in terms of grade – so long as you can recover!
But a few years later a good sidepull crumbled off in the middle of the extension, only to be ‘fixed’ with a rather generous replacement in the form of a random chunk from the floor. I wasn’t totally impressed, but it wasn’t much easier so it was left.
But then a new sequence was found using the glued block in a way that could never have been done before. But still, not much easier, so no stress. And finally, people realised you could now avoid the crux of Kabbah (my 8c+ that is to the right) by reaching across into the block. This took Kabbah down to 8c, which was a bit of a shame.
Fortunately the block fell off (and I didn’t knock it off before you ask). And I got the chance of making another ascent yesterday (Sunday 7th). Same grade as before, just a bit harder. So the route gets another little bit of history to add to its colourful past!
When Petzl put together their first Roc Trip I doubt they would know where it was going! The format may have changed a little, but the underlying principles remain intact; climbers like to climb, travel, meet people and party!
The Party has just got better and better. Mexico was wild, China immense, and this year, teaming up with The Natural Games again, the party was actually a festival! There must have been 15000 people there, three nights of awesome music, films and boulder competitions. No sleep was ever had till after 4am!
But it was on the crags in the morning, no lie-ins! Tarn, Jonte, Boffie. Hot, but who cares when the scenery is this good. Millau is as good as it gets. This year the climbers got to just climb, no ultimate route, no pressure. I like it!
Best route. Museli Monster, an awesome 8a, onsighted with a fluffy head and battling with sweat. Brilliant. Not had a good fight in a while.
So that’s 10 years. I missed the very first one in 2002, also in Millau, but was there for the 2002 Gunks trip a few months later, and since then I’ve been to pretty much all of them. So that’s Gunks (US), Millau (France), Cantobre (France), Peaks (UK), Squarmish (Canada), Kalymnos (Greece), Redriver (US), Zillertal (Switzerland), Mexico, China…. What a journey! Being part of this right at the start has been one of the biggest privileges of my life. I lucked out big time! BIG thanks to Petzl!
And it just gets better………..
And my hardest boulder problem too. Ironically it still needed a rope. Worlds first 8c+, Font 8b, way ahead of its time. The strong boys reckon Font 8b+! Nice little vid here made by Ben Pritchard a while back. And yes, I missed a bit by mistake, thats what happens when you cut it yourself!