Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Night fever

I was asked 'are night sessions the way forward or just a way to get cold?', and I realise walking up to the crag that so much of the outdoor climbing experience comes from being able to see and enjoy your surroundings. Night sessions are like training in that you go out with an intention in mind and you are focussed on it completely. This might not be too different from a day session, but between goes in the day you can enjoy where you are. Think I'm a little bit adrift at the moment. Having been so focussed on Zeke I'm now enjoying puntering around on the grit, but I'm not directed towards any clear goal.

Dylan has always gone on about how good his Mondo pad is. And indeed, it is thick and deep. But it is also soft and very heavy. I lugged it up to the Plantation on my own last night. I was quite suprised by the amount of snow and ice about, it was treacherous getting about. Started off on the green traverse boulder. Certainly it was very cold, but quite still and the rail felt sort of wet. No visible trace of damp, but definately a bit moist - like there was low cloud or fog or something. Whilst I was puntering about the beams of two head torches started bobbing up through the trees, I felt relieved - even stanage which I know well, is a bit spooky on your own at night. It was Tom Slater and Kevin that looks like a monarch. They were there to crush Zippy's traverse. I moved up to the Joker. It being slightly damp and me being quite afraid of the fall stopped anything like a sensible attempt being made. Simply putting my hand on the right of the two slopers left it black. I gave up and joined Tom and Kevin on Zippys. Night bouldering does not lend itself to highballs or scary falls or problems. Well, not to me at least. Good venues for Night climbing would include lo fi things such as the business boulder. I warm to this theme as I start climbing, I dont like the business boulder normally, but perhaps at night its worthwhile. I set about that traverse thing, and I still cannot do the middle cross through move for love nor money. I think its 8c.

All three of us head up to the Pit. Its got a big streak of wetness but is just about climbable. I am desperate to get it wired so I can be like Adam, and I am getting better on it each time I go. The two schools of thought on the sequence fork right off the starting line. You either reach up with your left or right hand. If you are better technically than you are strong you lead with the left, and if you are strong and 'technically dense' you go with the right. On saturday I thought I was going to be able to unlock the trick secret of the left hand first way, last night it felt desperate, but I was all over the right hand way.

I always want to finish climbing feeling either that I have worked hard, or that I have done something. Certainly, I didnt do anything notable last night, but I do feel achey today which is good.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

The hamster that turned

Confirmed my suspicions that my latest illness is nothing more than a head cold by climbing ok last night. It seemed quite quiet at the Foundry, but it was nice to see Jules and Stu Littlefair. No other revelations. Dylan wants to go powered by lantern light this evening. Am quite keen but unsure as to the wisdom of such a plan given my recent convalescence.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Ned's big day out

Once again I am ill. I have the immune system of a hamster. Saturday was a lovely day. A perfect gritstone day probably. Car reckoned 3.5 degrees, and I was the second car in the plantation car park. Yomped up to the boulders and wished I had gloves. Felt like a bit of morning dew was still about at first, but by 10 it was mint. Ned, Dave and Tony turn up and join me dicking around on the Green Traverse. Ned and Tony go to do Ron's slab and Dave and I go over to Brass Monkeys. These guys all want to go up to Shine on, and I think - yeah! why not. About 7a they reckon, and its E7 - would be a good tick, they're not that high these routes, and the top bit is supposed to be easy. Yeah. Lets go for it...

When I previously tried Brass Monkeys I was on my own and its a bit scary. Not the top, but the crazy swinging bit. Anyway, I was also totally doing it wrong. Dave pulls on, nails the crimp, flicks his toe round and bump bump up - he's done it! nice work. I try his method but I dont get on with this flimsy toe hook/scum thing and find a more basic way. Ned and Tony turn up and I dispatch. Ned has just done Ron's slab and adds Brass monkeys to his list of ticks. Tony is technically a pygmy (albeit a strong one) and whilst he does the moves he doesnt do the problem. We move to Shine on.

I take one look at it and walk back to the boulders. It looks piss until you are high enough to do some damage, then it looks tricky but fucking scary. Ned adds this to the notches on his bedpost whilst I open my account on the Joker.

The deliverance boulder is now crowded. Jim and Foley have arrived shortly followed by Bob Smith and Ed Robinson. On display up at the Joker Ben Pritchard is repeatedly getting his hand over the top, Lee is trying and Paul and Nat are also in situ. Its quite hard, as you would expect from a one move 8a. I barely manage to move at all and when an excuse to go somewhere else comes up I jump at the chance.

Stanage plantation is a lovely place but on a saturday morning on a nice day it is not going to be a calming quiet experience. I chat to Adam down at Careless Torque before finding Rachel and Tom Briggs in the Pit. Its a pity to barge in, but when there are more people/teams than rocks what alternative? Sorry Tom and Rach. Haven't been back in the Pit since I did it and it feels a bit slippy the right hand first way, and I would like to learn the 'easy' left hand way. Never ever been able to get my hand up this way, until today, and it feels allright, but I'm all uncertain and dont complete it. Perhaps lacking motivation? Ed and James and Jim and Worm and others all try and I run out of time and go home.

Later on I learn that Ned has also done Careless Torque and Silk. A good day out all round then!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Don't stop me now

Tonight Im gonna have myself a real good time
I feel alive on the Board turn it inside out yeah!
And floating around on sm-e-ears
So dont stop me now dont stop me
cause Im having a good time having a good time
Im a shooting star leaping past the jugs
Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity
Im a racing car passing by like Chris Sharma
Im gonna go go go
Theres no stopping me
Im gonna do your project!
Two hundred 8b's
Thats why they call me mister lying twat
Im traveling at the speed of a cat
I wanna make a supersonic man out of you

Hmm. Needs work. Foundry board tonight anyone?

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Mog Egg the board destroyer

The Foundry was busy with a strong team last night. Ned, Dave Mason, Leo Mog Egg, Tony Mussels, Justin Plumtree (still looks like a ginger vagrant) and the incredible hulk himself - paul bennett. Much went on (or down) on the wave before migrating to the board. I bloody love climbing on that wall. It feels more applicable to climbing outside, there's no tricks, you're either strong enough or you're not. The potential for feet on smears and elimanates is high so you can tailor your experience, and I love it.

Whenever I go through to the board there its like a revelation. What have I been doing biding my time on the wave? The thing is, you need showing round some of the problems, or if with a team you could work them out from the book, but on your own, with no music - its an effort to get on it. Really good board though. Mog Egg Moger looked amazing. Springy, strong and unstoppable - I was agape at his power a couple of times, and after one particularly astounding feat I had to award him a medal I was so impressed.

After Monday's drubbing at the hands of Varian, Foundry Tuesday felt like a better session. Still I failed, still I tried hard but I came away feeling like I had had to try hard. I think I'm not strong enough to get a training effect out of Dan and Ned's board, I am on it for such a short amount of time I cant feel it working. Or is it so profound that I dont know it? are my presumptions about what training should feel like outdated? Does feeling worked mean you've done too much and allowed yourself to get tired doing moves within your comfort zone? Spanish Kev used to reckon that he had at least one session a week just doing single moves and failing, and he climbed 8c so there must be something in it!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

The importance of being Wolfgang

Dan overruled Ned and the original board session was back on again. I arrived and Dylan was waiting outside for me. I’ve only previously been on their board twice before, and both times I have had plausible excuses, not so last night. The gloves were off. No splits, no previous day training – it should all be on tonight. But it wasn’t. It’s a humbling experience climbing on that board. Yes there is an element of it being a new board, but really the meat of the matter is that it’s just hard. The base level is higher than anywhere I have been and so I find it difficult to get going and there are no ego cosseting soft touches to build confidence.

You don’t get strong by doing moves, you get strong by not doing them. The problem is that I like to climb - to do a bit, to feel the flow and movement in my limbs, whereas flailing doesn’t give me that satisfaction it will lead to greater strength. Back to the question of comfort zones. It’s nice to operate within one because you get to feel good about yourself, but this is a hollow victory, you’ll feel good in the short term, but longer term you’ll plateau. You need to push it if you’re going to get better.

What makes this board so hard then? Without question it’s the slick wooden holds and slick wooden foot jibs. But the emphasis is on the foot jibs. The problem with grippy resin foot holds and screw ons is that they are grippy. Place your foot, forget about it and move. That’s not right, and it encourages sloppy ploppin’. Clifford and Birch used to swear by the rubbish wooden foot jib wisdom and it did them no harm, so I become more and more convinced that it is the way. I think the symmetry idea is a strong concept too. You do any problem and before you can take the tick you must repeat its opposite which turns this board into a laboratory of movement - excellent to study your specific individual weaknesses.

So, I leave this most excellent of boards feeling a bit crestfallen. I don’t feel like I’ve done more than a couple of consecutive moves but as I have tried to explain above, this is actually a good thing. Accept ego death and get stronger as a result. As I head towards home my mind starts to wonder about my motivation, to get stronger I need to fail on problems rather than do them, but I like doing problems, I like the movement, and this makes me wonder what it’s all for?

I realise that if you stick to the public climbing walls you’ll pretty much always be able to do almost all the problems and people will tell you you’re good, and in that pool of skill you are - the biggest cog in a small wheel. It’s important to realise that the world is not just that small wheel. This is a syndrome seen often in climbers who get to be the best climber at their local wall, and so they think they are the best climber in the world and then they come to Sheffield.

Everyone likes an ego boost. Surrounding yourself with climbers who aren’t as good as you is a strategy for achieving just that. You get to feel the big dog, but once again we are back in the big cog, small wheel thing. For the person consistently operating at the top of their group of chums, the danger is of stagnation, and of falling in love with their self image created by these fawning acolytes. Once they’ve created this false idol so you have to live up to it. I imagine it’s no giant leap of faith to get from here to having to embellish actual deeds in order to live up to their expectations. Within a group of friends what does it matter if someone is generous with the truth? Well, it doesn’t really. Its only them thats cheated themselves. But when embellishment encroaches upon history then it matters. And it matters to me because I have to accept my limitations and move on – why shouldn’t they?

Ultimately climbing is about much more than being the best. It’s about experience and adventure, look further than the end of the board and who knows what you might find!

Monday, 17 November 2008

A dog on the motorway

The problem with having a semi fixed ticket is that you cant organise the weather when you need it. How deeply frustrating. Had I more than a three hour window, I would take my chances and go out, but with limited time and >90% humidity I cut my losses and go to the wall to train instead. This was the shape of Saturday morning.

My frustration grew through the day as conditions just got better and better. She was out at a dinner party in the eve, so I decided to try the much hyped lantern session knowledge, however, I was of course on my own. Went to Stoney. It wasnt very cold at all, and I got spooked in the woods by myself (like there would be anyone there), so managed only an hour and a half. Whilst this wasnt a great experience, can totally see how on a night like last night (cold and clear), it could be brilliant. Its a bit strange flying through the air towards a pad when its dark too. You seem to fall further. Or perhaps I just need to eat more carrots.

Sunday was a lovely day in weather terms and after bimbling about doing housey stuff we went for a walk down Water Cum Jolly dale, where we saw this :

Which is of course the mighty superted who lost his camera at Rubicon some months ago. What a nice thing for the finder to do to get it back to him. Anyway, I texted him and he does already have it back, so if you go to Rubicon - take it down! Plenty of mud underfoot at Rubicon, but all rocks totally dry. Theres a big wet patch on the Bastard, but absolutely all the rest looks mint. Top of Kudos wall has patches, but the important bits were dry. Walked on down to the bridge at litton mill - passing some interesting looking crags on the way, I plan to investigate some of these next summer. Cornice looks soaked. We slog up a hill in the mud and come in to Monsal head from Priestcliffe direction. Is a lovely afternoon :

We stop at Calver cafe on the way back in and see Dave Barrans and that Callum guy from London. I chat to DB but only notice Callum and family as he is leaving. Wonder if he did Pinch 2? There looked to be chalk in Polish Dave's dog egg cave too, perhaps it was his...

So, this week. Its Monday and that means one thing - board action! Tried to tap Ned up when I saw him on Saturday, but he is worried I will do all their projects and so only wants me to come on my second day on, which might be Tuesday. Weds probably nowt, Thursday? hmm. Something on Thursday me thinks. I have a meeting in Halifax until 1400, but will probably come back to Sheff straight after.

Thursday, 13 November 2008


I feel guilty. I had a couple of days leave to take before the end of the year, and I kept one of them secret so I could go climbing. I thought noone would ever have to know, but these things never work out right, and I am a terrible liar, so I was found out. Anyway, this stealth holiday day was yesterday.

An early start preceded breakfast at Otley cafe which was great. £3.30 for full breakfast and tea - brilliant. As we had no fixed destination in mind and Mr Pritchard had unfinished business at Earl, there we started. I was happy to go to Earl because the only time I had been previously it was hot and midgey. A beautiful day overhead, hardly a cloud to be seen :

We got involved with, but failed to succeed on Grape nut, Lager... and Underpants. I think it had been raining overnight as things were dryish but a bit moist. Treacherous underfoot, but getting better as the day wore on.

Decided to go to Slipstones and headed off. Its lovely up there. Watched the sunset from the edge and managed to do Sulky Little boys which is a good prob. The rock quality is amazing, its super fine high quality grit which I would compare almost to granite. Fab. Quested off in the gathering darkness and all set about layby arete but despite an initial flurry from Dylan, we managed nowt. A good day out, home by 1930.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Wild ginger horses

I've never regretted starting this blog. Its fairly non intrusive and possibly theraputic to write and I can use it to my advantage arranging partners, escapades and missions. Its fun to occasionally be controversial but the best bit is without doubt the associated comments. Some of the wisdom that gets imparted through such a tenuous secondary channel is just ace. Highlights almost always come from the likes of Kershaw, Fullwood and Littlefair - just see yesterday's rambling nonsense from me and associated pearls from them for an example. I have joked about producing a book of the highlights from the blogosphere (i.e. not this blog), and undoubtedly most of such a weighty tome would come from the comments. Perhaps inside front cover could contain this from yesterday :

"To climb anything anywhere near your real limit you need to be able to fly the plane through deep fog with both engines on fire and still make a perfect landing on the runway."

Thats what I'm talking about. Genius. So, round 1 of the sheffield walls climbing comp thing last night, and also R1 of the foundry's league. Despite claiming to have retired from comps, Monday is a training night anyway, and Dylan was out and about so there was no option of the board and plus, Roy had been on to get some support for Neil - who's put much time and effort into organising, and it was great fun. I think I was super relaxed and happy not feeling any pressure and not being arsed. Ned also turned up early and it was really good to hang out with him, as since I let him graduate the school of Morton he rarely returns to such lowly circles. Dan and Rob had stripped the whole wall and set some really good problems. Not that they dont always, but when its just gaffer tape over existing holds it doesnt feel very special. With less skilled setters what happens is that everything bar one possibly impossible problem goes down. There were 25 to do and 24 got done, so on paper it appears thats what happened, but its not. 18 were pretty straightforward, 2 were easy to slip off, 3 were tricky and 2 were brick hard. When I left, noone had done one of the two hard 'uns, and only Ned succeeded on the other.

It was really good to see the Foundry heaving, and people vying for goes on problems. I worried about the Foundry when the works opened, but in Sheffield there is room for both to exist. Both provide different experiences and both are valid. Roy looked mean and terminated all but the two hardest problems, Ned was just Ned with his in built ginger brilliance (he let on that he's 12 stone, but its all beef - he looks super lean and ripped!), Justin 'I look like a vagrant' Plumtree turned up and looked well strong - does justin own a shirt? Those were your three contenders. I dont know that justin actually takes part in the comp, but I would put my money on Ned. Justin as I say looked very strong but he is a midget and might have struggled to put some of the sequences into action. No idea on final scores on the doors, but Ned was 23something and I was 221.

Dan Varian turned up clad in Wild Horse Adidas trainers. I actually thought for a horrible moment he was going to do one of the evil brick hard problems sans warm up and in the aforementioned adidas. I would have had to run him over (repeatedly) if this was the case. Its great having retired from comp climbing. I'm so relaxed and having fun now. This is how it should be. I'm happy to do the Foundry comps, as they are on a monday and I would be climbing anyway. But I'm not tiring my self out for the weekend on a friday night one.

Monday, 10 November 2008

mental fortitude

Weather disgustipating this weekend. Tried to go out on Saturday morning. Rubicon is unflooded but the high levels of moisture in the air have condensed on the rocks. It was probably driable, but this was 10am, reckoned by >1300 it might have been ok, but I had to be back. Went to the climbing works.

Chatted to Dave Hesleden and mate whose name I have never known, and then the Mighty Reeve turned up. He was going up whilst I was going sideways. Its the wrong time of year to be training endurance and he was trying problems I hadnt noticed before. Sometimes I find I can't summon the mental fortitude necessary to try hard on power endurance/stamina routes/problems. Which is why all that I have ever done has been a function of strength, or at most a few bouldery moves strung together. To succeed on longer things you need to muster inner mental toughness, you need to really want to do it.

I wonder if psyche comes from different areas of your brain or something? I find that on a short problem I can shut my mind out and execute, whereas to achieve success on hard redpoints you need to be able to pull it out of the bag when the chips are down - i.e. when you are pumped and form is less than perfect. Writing this it seems I have the boulderers mentality which is that in order to operate at your limit, all that goes before has to be perfectly executed, you cant afford to fluff the moves going into the hard bit.

I am of course, talking about extremes. I dont step off just anything because I think I stuffed the start moves up, only if I know that which comes after the bit I fluffed is at my limit. Part of which is honesty I suppose. What point carrying on if you know you havent got left what is required? I need to sort all these things out and get into really trying if I am to do Mecca next year.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

The incorrigible show off

Good board session tonight. Expected dylan to say no or not be able to make it or something, but in fact it turned into one of the good ones. As I'd climbed the day previous I expected nothing but felt pretty sparky and climbed ok. I reckon if there's new people, or people you want to impress then you try a bit harder, and that's what I reckon dragged me out of climbing like a turd. I can't resist showing off, which is why if I climbed 8b bloc I'd be psyched to go round the boards crushing everyone else' projects! If kudos alone wasn't enough, recognise the importance of climbing with your peers. If you're an 8b beast and you're climbing with people who aren't at your level then your always going to feel the big I am. This is not healthy. You'll stagnate. You need pushing, being burnt off is a good thing - that's the impetus to train, it shows you what is possible.

Feels such a treat to be climbing on a board again. I miss unencumbered access but am grateful for getting an invite at all. If the foundry board is a better training facilty than the works board, dylans is the next level. Dan and ned's is a step on from that. Its the knowledge!

indoor action

The problem with being enlightened in a climbing sense (preferring to climb outside) is that when it genuinely is hideous weather (such as today), you cant help but feel disappointed that you arent outside doing actual climbing. Add to that the fear of getting unstrong and rather than questing to look at new boulders you end up in a climbing wall. Perhaps I am getting into it, or perhaps I'd had a good rest before yesterday or something, but I feel like I'm doing allright at indoor climbing at the moment. Perhaps also, the difference was that I restricted my movements to the training wall. This is the bit of the climbing works that most closely resembles outdoor rock climbing. Chatted, climbed hung out - all good. Conflicting reports about how good or bad the weekend is going to be, I hope to get out.

It was bonfire night last night, and someone wanted to go to a bonfire. I really didnt want to go and stand in the drizzle and managed to persuade her to go for dinner after questing round likely bonfire sites in vain. Climbing again tonight, need to get hold of Dylan to see if he is up for the board, or else it is the Foundry.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

How to look good belaying

No board last night as Dylan was otherwise involved. Monday's energy levels are always difficult. I should have learnt some basic rules by now, but still I make mistakes. Always consume some sort of oat based snack before climbing. Always arrive, have said oaty goodness and a coffee, then crush. Because I thought I would get something at the Foundry, I forgot I didnt have any money, so had to cadge a coffee off Neil, and then borrow money from Kerry later on for a flapjack.

Started strong and felt good, but wilted quickly. Tried to campus, am so appalling at this I was quite glad to be on my own. The Foundry board is good. I just need to get into it. If I was making it again, I would put less holds on it, make it longer and about 5 (or 10) degrees steeper. Then wild horses wouldnt keep me away.

Climbers and style have never been close bedfellows, although with some of the new ranges coming out from Ben Moon and from E9 things are getting better. Climbers are apparently fascinated by deeply hideous but functional outdoor wear, preferring the reassurance of triple ply goretex to keep them safe should they be forced to bivouac on the way to the pub. I suppose its a badge isnt it - 'look at me, I'm an extreme sports dude'.Troll pattern pants - The worst of the lot :

I havent seen anyone dare to front such an item in many a year. I used to have some of these. Horrible, horrible fashion disaster. I must ask my mum if she has any pictures. Oh yes kind reader, for I am guilty too. I'm afraid I have an arcteryx fetish that will never be satisfied, and I seriously doubt whether my proshell alpha SL will ever be put to the test but its a nice piece and I love it. Double standards.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Cheating Sean

So I missed a post or two last week. I climbed on Thursday at the climbing works - So frustrating that I wangle the afternoon off and its 2.5degrees, raining and horrible. Even JonBoy wouldnt have risked it. The headache and general malaise of the previous day had lifted, I felt my perkiness restored. Popped to Dylan's house, saw Lee, went to the climbing works. I have previously dreaded going down because I get mithered to fix IT problems, but have even done some good there and that should be a thing of the past too. Felt like I climbed better than before, the indoor strength is returning. I am much happier struggling inside when its because I have achieved something outside. The balance this way round is how like it.

Once the weather crapped out, it pretty much stayed crap thereafter. Friday I didnt climb, or do anything really. Paul rang during a dull evening to say that Pascal had done a nighttime ascent of the Ace! well good effort mildly overshadowed by recent controversy surrounding that problem. Paul now has knowledge about the start and says its feasible and that we should try it. I havent ever really spent any time on it but would love to try. Perhaps this winter...

Saturday morning it had obviously rained a lot, so i went to Stoney. It turns out I lied about Sean's problem. Well, not lied, I didnt say I did something I didnt, but I didnt realise there were foot rules. When I was there and 'did' the problem previously I had to phone Foley for the holds, and I climbed it using obvious feet and the right handholds, but the rules say once you are in a specific position, the low break is no longer in for feet. Anyway, delightfully I managed to do it properly on this day, and suprised myself by having quite a good morning pottering about doing some fun problems. Spent the afternoon mooching around town with her, and then to the pub in the evening with Dylan and Lucy.

I dont know whether its my legendary inability to drink or some curdling of different sorts of beer, but after three drinks in the pub (and 1 before), I was sick at 0300! Felt queasy still at 10 when she and I got up. Went for a walk in the rain along Curbar before eating cake at Calver cross roads and was pretty much ok thereafter. Slothed and cooked rest of day away.

Forecast for this week doesnt look so good for the Peak. County looks much better, but thats three hours drive away and you'd need holiday... hmmm. Plans to climb are thus - tonight Dylan's board, Wednesday afternoon out? perhaps the tor/rubicon if raining. Thursday evening - a wall.