Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Rock Snobbery

I'm a rock snob, I admit it. I look at gritstone and say to myself “why are all these crags so short? What is the point of climbing here compared to somewhere like Pentire?” Conveniently I forget that Pentire puts the fear of God in me and perhaps if I felt more comfortable highballing on slopers I might actually get on Darkinbad instead of just staring at it. The truth is that when I say to myself that climbing on gritstone is pointless what I mean is climbing on gritstone is hard.

‘They’ say that grit is God’s own rock if this is true God really hates me, you see climbing wise I only have one strength – I can hang on to small holds – a hold type that is recognisable by its absence on the grit. My climbing weaknesses are many and varied and occur on just about every route in the Peak: slopers, smears, arĂȘtes, slabs, heel hooks, rock-overs, dynamic moves, powerful moves and of course the dreaded mantle.

Also a lot of grit boulder problems and routes seem to fall into that awkward middle ground of too high for me to boulder above pads without the (probably over-exaggerated) fear that I might break my legs and too short to ever climb out of the ‘danger zone’. The danger zone is that section of a climb that no matter how well you protect it if you fall off, chances are, you’ll hit the ground. Whilst on a 40m route the odds of the hard move being in this danger zone are low, on a 10m route the odds are shifted considerable towards the breaking your legs end of the scale. This combined with the conviction that I'm going to fall off every move means that the concept of venturing any distance from the ground is an alien one.
Rob Greenwood on End of the Affair, Curbar

To me this rock type with its subtle balance of hard and scary has never really appealed which is fair enough considering that the Peak District is a 4 hour drive away, enough time to get to Pembroke or be well on the way to North Wales. But today I climbed a handful of problems at Curbar and though in terms of grade the problems I climbed didn't do much to soothe the ego and though I didn't attempt anything even remotely high I did a load of different moves on gritstone. I climbed an arĂȘte and I stood on smears and I held slopers and I topped out via something that could be described as a mantle. You know this grit stuff isn't as bad as it looks, it might just catch on...

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Pet Cemetery

Life’s about good days and bad days, good weeks and bad weeks. If I’m lucky the bad days and weeks will slowly fade from my memory but I hope some of the best days and weeks – those filled with climbing, exploring and learning; with bright sunshine; with perfect climbs and good mates – will stay with me for life.

I came back from the BMC International Meet in Cornwall keen to get back on some unfinished business at Anstey’s Cove – my home away from home. After a week of long walk-ins with a rucksack, long sunny days at the crag and long evenings drinking mead and making friends I was feeling fit and well rested.

First session back at the Cove and Pet Cemetery was feeling good; the fitness that I had built up on the starting section meant that I could arrive at the crux feeling relatively fresh and I had got my head around the intricacies of the crux section – which for me involves hissing “crimp, crimp, crimp” at my right hand for the duration of the move. All that was left was getting though the crux with enough beans left for the top 7 moves.
The crux. Photo: Justin Timms
Soon I found myself eyeballing my right hand mid crux and slapping with my left, I hit the hold and swung onto the jugs for a ‘rest’. This was a new high point for me and I was trying, and failing, not to get too excited; the route was by no means in the bag and I had failed on this the top section of Cider Soak back when I was trying that route. A few moves later and I was slapping, with rapidly fading strength, for the finishing jug. My fingers hit the back of the hold but flatly refused to close and my body transcribed a perfect arc through the air with the marks of scraped off chalk on my right hand the only memento of my redpoint attempt. The rest of the day was a lesson in diminishing returns and my next session at the Cove nearly a week later was a lesson in how badly I can climb first day on. Rest days are the devil’s work I tell you.

Then I had some good days – a two day coaching for coaches course with Neil Gresham and his Masterclass Coaching Academy. The course I was on, courtesy of The Quay, was Module 1 of MCA’s coaching scheme focusing on technique and learning structures of teaching technique to intermediate and experienced climbers. Learning more about climbing, the science behind it and better ways to teach it is always a fascinating experience and when you combine that with learning alongside some of the best climbers and coaches in the South West and being taught by a top climbing professional who exudes psyche it makes for a very good day indeed. Day two of the course was even better than day one with a focus on routes as opposed to bouldering and we spent the latter part of the day filming ourselves on onsight attempts at our limit and reviewing the footage as a valuable coaching tool.

I left The Quay to make my way to back to Anstey’s buzzing with psyche and vowing to follow Gresham’s advice that I needed to train power. It had been a great day and there was one thing that could make it a perfect day but I was too psyched to worry about success or failure, I just wanted to climb stuff. With a brief warm up and the luxury of someone else putting my clips in I was soon chalking up at the bottom of the climb. A small eternity of climbing later and my hand fell into the top jug, with the grip of someone trying to strangle a lion I clipped the final draw and relaxed.
The Jugs! Photo: Justin Timms
A great day but that’s enough of this sport nonsense, sea-cliffs are calling.