Thursday, 29 January 2009

Polish Ace takes Joker under wing

There are many ways to climb the Joker. Some of them carry more kudos than others. All of them are difficult, and none of them I have done (yet). Yesterday evening, in rubbish conditions and near darkness I witnessed Polish Dave (my new hero) dispatch the Joker with ease on his second go of the day. Granted, he has done it before, but the holds were wet and I wouldnt have bothered at all save for his enthusiasm. I am absolutely beside myself with excitement about getting back on this problem - now i have seen it done, and I have seen it done as the end of the Ace.
The two main schools of thought seem to me to involve which leg you dangle under the roof as a counterweight. The so called easier way involves leaving your left foot behind, swinging your right leg under the roof, and then on the backswing campussing up with the right hand to a jug at the top. This is what I have been trying. The original way the problem was climbed, and the way the Ace follows the holds, is with your left foot on the starting jug, right foot swings under and then left hand to the top followed in the same movement by the right to the aforementioned jug.
I've always wanted to try it the end of the Ace way, as if I did the Joker then it would make sense to start trying to link those two moves in to do the Ace. But I couldnt see how to get in before yesterday, and now I have been shown, I have seen the light and that is the way I want to do the problem. The move is a four stage compound move - swing in, back out, left hand up, right hand and kill the swing. Very futuristic, and to merit the grade - bloody tricky. Like my previous attempts on the Joker, last night went from swinging on holding the holds, patting the wall and then off to getting my left over the top. In fact I honestly thought I could do it last night, but it didnt happen. I'm away now until Sunday night, and to be honest - my skin could use the rest, so its no bad thing.
My Jerry book has. Very exciting - in the front page there is a wonderful dedication from the big man, it says "Ben, you are the wind beneath my wings, an inspiration - I couldn't have done it without you. Jerry". Oddly, it had been delivered to Ben Moon's house, but I collected it from the postman whilst sat outside.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Desperate jokes not funny

I hope that my current fixation with Jerry's finest wont be a prolonged relationship. When I think about it and I'm not there, doubt creeps in and I wonder whether i will ever do it, but when I am actually underneath it, I keep getting close and thinking its on.

I am slightly desperate to get it done, so I'm grasping at chances to get back on it. On one hand, this approach could yield dividends as I could get it done quickly, but it does mean that I have been prepared to try in inideal conditions. Like last night. Dank accurately describes conditions at the boulders. Although apparently dry to the touch, the holds didnt feel good and would go black after a minimum of fettling. Plus, I mutilated my tips on Saturday and they've not yet recovered, so had tape on one finger and the rest were/are weeping.

Not the Joker from dobbin on Vimeo.

The desperation comes from knowing I can do it, and wanting to do so soon. And, strangely, that I'm away this weekend and its as if it wont be there when I get back. Possibly on Wednesday then...

When it went dark I drove to the Foundry for the final round of their comp. Going out first meant I was already warm when I arrived, but that I waned fast. Really good problems in this round - the best of the series? reckon. I climbed like a right donkey, but had fun.

The man Moffat was in signing copies of his book which I have on order, so hopefully it will arrive soon... .

Monday, 26 January 2009

Jokerdog Beastmaker

This mornings barely coherent ramblings begin with what cannot be described as a film review for fear of recriminations from actual film reviewers, but I have to recommend something as its potentially the best film I have ever seen : Slumdog Millionaire. Brutal, harrowing, heart rending, funny and overall -excellent. I loved it. Go see.
Back on track, Saturday's weather bucked its ideas up from Friday's deluge and I arranged to meet Dr Pinch at the Plantation. I was first there (out of anyone) and found a more or less dry plantation with a brisk cold wind working its magic. Other teams arrived as I busied myself with green traverse variations and consumed black gold (coffee not oil). As the stopwatch counted out two minute rest intervals, my gaze was drawn nervously up the hill to my objective - Jerry's futuristic test piece 'The Joker'. I felt excited to be on it and confident. Writing confident I think perhaps hopeful is a more accurate word. On Wednesday I had kept getting a tip over the top, and I thought that meant I was near to doing it, so optimism was high.
Settled in beneath the Joker, I began what must have been a hundred goes. I think I started at the point I left it on Weds, i.e. my hand was over the top on some goes, but on some it wasn't close. Its a very frustrating thing to be involved with. Its a problem that tests your desire to do it because it eats skin and on many attempts you cannot even concieve of ever climbing it. But, these rubbish goes are interspersed with OMG moments when I honestly thought it would go down on the next go. But it didnt! Rab Carrington turned up and headed over for a chat, and asked how it was going, so I attempted to demonstrate - and at this point (delightfully) the best go of the morning took place. I teetered on the starting block and settled my fingers on the 'appalling crimps' before leaning my right foot on a button just beneath the lip. My hands took my weight, I swung under and then raaaaa! up we went - my right hand lashed out and somehow went further right than before, I latched the good bit of the jug - FOR A FRACTION OF A SECOND! and then was off again! OMG OMG OMG! Felt more euphoric than I have ever done about not doing something! There were no other good goes.
I think this is going to be a problem where the single minded dogged mentality of the hard boulderer is going to have to be summoned. Of late, on the grit at least, I have been flitting from quick win to quick win - doing a bunch of good, classic problems at a grade which means I can do them reasonably quickly. This is what Roy set me out doing - getting some mileage in. And its been great. I love coming home with something in the bag - but I know I can do this one and its a good reminder that what separates the dedicated from the casual is focus. Of course, the more talented or strong you are, the less dedicated you have to be....
Which leads me perfectly to yesterday, when the Beastmaker distribution centre opened its doors. Finally, the 4 axis computer milling machine thing which has been home made by boffins in Leicestershire has started churning out Beastmaker fingerboards. As an exercise in viral marketing these boys have unintentionally done well. They've whipped up a lot of interest without trying, so Gaskins knows what would happen if they thought about it. Anyway, I got mine yesterday and its already fitted and in place. Why is it so good? well, its made of wood which means its kinder to your skin, it has very well thought out progressive grips which will allow you to work out where your fingers are weak and then target that specific area, and, grips which force you to use it and train strange hand positions. Using it, and hanging off most of the grips yesterday I of course compared it to every other fingerboard I have ever used, and I realised why its better - all the holds have been designed so that you can actually use them without your other fingers getting in the way. And its wood. Studying it in detail, theres a lot of thought gone into the design, and I'm actually quite excited about starting some sort of fingerboard regime!
Finally, delighted with our new fingerboards, Dr Pinch and I went round to Beastmaker HQ for a quick masterclass last night. Back two Dan dazzled with one arm front three repeater encores although disappointingly noone was wearing a vest. I left them a present in their toilet to say thanks.

Thursday, 22 January 2009


I dont trust the weather forecast past 2 days, but within a 2 day window its pretty much on the money. The metoffice said that it would rain overnight, and lo - it has. No posts so far this week as I havent done anything worth posting about. Yesterday however, i managed to get out in the afternoon (yay for no overtime and flexible working!). As you will know, my thoughts have been revolving around Grindleford, and for once not the cafe.

Its a lovely feeling having some time to yourself and being able to think "hmm, where shall I go?". Knew Dylan would want to go back on Western Eyes (I'm just not that bothered I dont think), keep wondering about west side story, Ed Brown was doing back to do Black Car Burning (he did it!) and Pritch has been on the Joker. And in spite of all of that Rae saying that Rubicon was in condition kept popping back to the front. Spoke to Ed in the morning and he made an important point - dont go back somewhere you have done everything with the sole intention of showing off at the cost of not doing something new. Success breeds success said I, but I knew that if I went to Rubbercon and crushed everything I wouldnt have the beans to do Mossatrocity. Had I learnt nothing from Sensei Mosely?

And so I set the channel on Grindleford, took the batteries out of the remote control and got involved. First go, felt all over it - strong, in control, beans to spare for the end, and yet plop! I'm back on the ground having slipped off the top. 4 minutes later and I've changed the camera angle and set off again. I dont feel as composed, in the back of my mind I wonder if this is going to become another siege nemesis, but its a fleeting thought and I'm humping my way to within striking distance of glory. Current wisdom on the top is to take the left heel off and paste the toe on the front of the roof before windmill slapping the top with the right. Its a real sapper as you must be taking a lot of weight with that heel, and you're so tantalisingly close when you have to do it - I wonder if you can go with the left? In order to do so, the right hand has to be a bit further back, and on a seam which allows just a bit more udge to get even closer, and bam I slap the top with my left - oh shit! its not properly on! I have to lay one on with my other hand and even then I think I'm off, but with both hands I can shuffle a bit of the surface of my palm onto the hold and mantle (sans style) to glory. What an epic. If you watch the video, marvel at the total lack of grace with which I top out.

Mossatrocity from dobbin on Vimeo.

I reward myself with a cup of tea and a flapjack from the station cafe (which tastes lovely) whilst pondering what to do next. On one hand, I could go to Rubicon, however, the remote control has no batteries and I am dialled into the project channel. The Joker it is. On arrival my focus is unwavering. There are teams beneath the breadline and somewhere else, but its straight to the joker for me. Delightfully this looks like it could be on. I started off being three inches short of the top, and finished up an inch or so over. But where is the good bit of the damn hold? Anyway, I'm psyched, but its raining so I shall have to wait.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Poached Eggs

I'd found a lofty perch with a window in the tree canopy and I could see an impressive vista of a beautiful alpine valley. Shreds of low cloud scudded along at eye level and I felt at peace. At peace was not where I needed to be however. I needed to be on it. I was sat beneath Octopussy at Magic Wood. Nige had been treated to my continual flailing for at least an hour and had scuttled off to feed on the success of others. I emailed Tim on my BlackBerry and tried to summon the force to send. The silence was broken by the sound of someone approaching. I shook myself from my catatonic reverie and peered off the ledge into the gloom - Pete Hurley. Ah good, perhaps this will be the psyche I need... Pete yomped up the E17 death path and stopped to say hello. He had one leg up on a boulder, and all I could see was a massive rent in the crotch of his trousers. Delightfully he had boxer shorts on, but I felt only seconds away from being treated to a furry egg. Quickly I dismissed Pete and tried to banish the vision by grinding more sheets of skin off on Octopussy.
Dylan and I popped to Burbage for an hour yesterday lunchtime, and we bumped into Ed, Dan and Ricardo at the Bridge. As Ricardo tried to do a problem Dan kept saying he would banish him back to the car to change his trousers, and I couldnt see why - but then the nightmare returned. Ricardo's pants were in tatters. I dont know whether Dan did make him change because I hot footed it over to Western Eyes to avoid the spectacle.
Got on a bit better with Western Eyes yesterday. I dont think I can make (or have made) that instep cam thing work yet, as with my right foot just pasted on the wall I could get to the hold before the top, and then even the top hold - but its rubbish that top hold, certainly not the jug you were hoping for, but then, this is supposed to be 7c+, and considering the effort you have to put in to even get 7c these days, I suppose it should be quite hard. Anyway, I feel some considerable distance away from being able to do it, but, on the positive side its not a case of picking my battles, this isnt something I chose, its something that everyone seems to be involved with at the moment, and I am carried with the flow. So, if I did do it, I would be psyched because its not some crimpy wall thing.
Mossatrocity is still at the forefront of my intentions. It got me thinking why I was so keen for that one and not Western Eyes, and the reason is because its easier so I think I can do it quite quickly, and thats what I want - quick ticks. Or at least, I can see myself doing it - with stuff like Western eyes, it feels so out of my comfort zone that I dont completely believe I can, and I dont want it enough to make myself try.
Finally, just a quick note to mention the works board. I went after it had been reset and thought it was all evil brick hard. Got shown some problems last night and got quite excited - there are some good hard ones there. If I was making it again i would make it steeper, but still....

Monday, 12 January 2009

King of the fig

It felt every bit of the reported -4 as I shoved my bag down inside my pad. There was plenty of freezing fog about, but I had a good feeling about Saturday, although my worn tips didnt look like I would get too many chances. It was early - about 945 and there were no other teams out climbing, and no cars in the car park. I set off, marvelling at impressive haw frost on the boulders :

Thankfully the holds on the fig were unaffected and although difficult to warm up I managed it eventually. The amazing heat watch reported -2 and 70% humidity, which would explain it feeling pretty good, but not incredible. Dylan arrived, I set about the Fig. The first time I put my left hand on the sloper I can feel a crystal push through the dreadfully thin pad on my index, the shock of which refocusses my mind on whether what I thought would be a dead cert will be at all.

Dan turns up. He and Dylan start working out Submergence. I have always fancied a do on this, and they get pretty close to doing the crux move. I want to get involved, but maintain my single minded dedication to the fig. On several goes I get out to the lip but am sliding around on the holds and drop off. Theres at least a couple where I get there and am eyeballing the crimps but dont do the move. Then Ed and Pip turn up. We have a chat and I step up. The showing off effect is enough and I know pulling on I'm going to do it. I take the sloper perfectly, my right matches on and I have all the subtleties down, I rock over and have the time to settle my left on the pinch and move my feet, which happens without incident, again, my hand movements are unusually precise, I'm locked on and know its going down! I match the lip and have a bit of a moment getting my right foot on, but bam! I'm there! the move to the crimp is complete and I'm rocking over to glory. YYFY!

Dan video'd a previous go where I get to the lip and fall matching, and when I'd finished I filmed Dylan do the top. I'd have done it again for the camera but had a big hole in my left index so didnt. Here is the vid :

Blind Fig from dobbin on Vimeo.

I thought it would be funny to stick it together badly so that the climber changes half way through.

Ed and Pip walk on taking pics, some southerners turn up and Dan, Dylan and I set off somewhere else. Dan and I want to go and do the Sphinx. We bump into JLS and Vic and they reckon it will be covered in ice at the top, and I cant feel my right foot, so we decide to go down to Grindleford to have a look at Mossatrocity. JLS and Vic are terrace bound. Its much warmer down there and totally ice free. Mossatrocity looks amazing. I get out to the lip on the flash and totally wilt. Everything everyone has told me about it is true - you want to do this quickly! its a complete body mangler, and I think I have mild bicep strain as a result.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Dancing... with figs in my eyes...

I could have chanced my arm at lunchtime, but no I thought - be professional (!) I thought. It's sunny, it will be impossible. Wait until 1500 and crush it then. With concerns about it being too warm, or in the direct sun light I headed out at a professional sort of time. On arrival at Remergence lots of holds were wet, but the ones I wanted to use looked ok. Sort of.

Bimbled about a bit remembering I'd also thought to warm up at home first (like Keith) but hadn't actually done anything. Managed to find some other dry holds to take the edge off, and then it was time to set about the Fig. Some ranging goes were required to remember how to use the sloper, then I moved my attention to the top bit (from sloper on) only the lip holds must have been a bit damp because I was slithering about where on Saturday I was glued in place. Anyway, made it to the two lip holds and slapped poorly back to the good holds. Didnt do it, but wasnt worried because this bit is ok and if I got there psyche would carry me through.

It didnt. I got from the start to the two lip pinches and fell off there. This led to another 10 goes with diminishing returns from each. Sigh. I should also like to mention that when I arrived it was 43% humidity, but there was a big bank of fog over Higgar. When that reached us at Bbg north temperature did drop, but humidity went up - 80% it said at 1630 when i finally admitted defeat. I think I can take 8b for getting to the lip in adverse conditions.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

We all like Figgy pudding

Popped out to crush the fig this lunchtime (as it is overcast), but it is wet. There's plenty snow in Burbage :

and the pinch and holds above the lip on the Fig are soaked (click to make bigger) :

Trying to be a wise man and not a fool, I didnt put my boots on - save my skin for another day when it could be climbed. I have nothing to gain working the moves - as I have done them all.

0.5 degrees above freezing and 70% humidity!

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Pessimistic realism

Another good post from Keith on his blog this morning. He talks about optimism, pessimism and realism, claiming he is a realist yet stating "the glass only contains half it’s total volume" which I think makes him a pessimistic realist! ;-) Anyway, I am being pedantic, the meaning I am taking from another well considered and written post from the shirehorse, is that even for the most focussed amongst us failure on reference problems is hard to swallow and can lead to what I shall describe as Foleyitis.
This is a common condition where failure to do a move or problem you think you should be able to do leads to diminishing rest time and worsening further attempts. This debilitating mental sickness was first observed in Britain's best bum doctor up at that palace of power that was the School. James would fail on something he had previously done and rather than rest up properly and try again, he would exclaim and immeadiately try the stopper move. Of course, he hadn't rested enough, didnt do it, and his frustration was deepened.
To overcome the disease one must achieve enlightenment. Allow your ego to die and chalk your failure to experience. Go back a stage, get some mileage in - the session could still recover, certainly don't push on a level until you have worked through it.
Talking to Dan Walker last night, I am massively psyched to go up to Low Rider. My focus is on the fig at the moment, but I think that could be the next one....

Monday, 5 January 2009

Normal service resumed

Back to work and normal blogging duties along with the rest of the nation today. The unbroken weather ended with the holidays this morning although the forecast for the rest of the week looks good. Dylan and I arranged to go out on Saturday and whilst nothing went down, it was good nic and I made progress on things. Loads of people out, started the day at remergence with (amongst others) Robin Barker, Simon Reed, Ryan, Char, Worm and team Glossop. Got shown the way on the fig and now have a sequence. It felt like it was doable on a next go, but the next go never came. I learnt its not worth trying when its anything other than overcast.
I wanted to go and do the Sphinx. Its on Roy's list from last year (of grit things I have to do), and its a scene of previous failure. It didnt look as high as I remembered, and we had loads of pads, so I felt brave. Never did a couple of moves when I tried it before, falling because I couldnt do it rather than anything else. This time made it out onto the jugs at the end a couple of times, but kept getting sequences wrong/cold pumped.
Ran round to meet the rest of the team at Western eyes. Previously dismissed this as looking good but being scary. So many pads reduced the scare factor and I was treated to a couple of show pony laps to appreciate the sequence. Although, having to decipher an 'in step cam' mid flail incremented the unsuccessful attempt counter. Sacked it home tired and relaxed through rest of weekend.
Tonight its back to the Foundry to get back on it. Wednesday night climbing, Thursday short day session - perhaps the fig at lunchtime... 

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Happy new year

Haven't posted in ages because I've been on hols and out of my normal routine. Anyway, happy xmas and new year reader. Hope yours has been happy and you are fulfilled. I write this from a bed just south of cockermouth in the lakes. We're here with a group of 30 for a big party to celebrate the new year.

From me I've climbed nothing amazing, in these two weeks of pretty consistently good conditions but I did get out a few times. Once to realise its only worth trying blind fig when its overcast, once to succeed on zaff SCwochlass (sorry Dave, I know that's wrong!) and once with the Foley to go and do flatworld.

I got a little point and shoot digital camera for xmas. It films hd. I can't actually edit it though - lack of processing hardware. Until I sort this out I'll fail back to vga, besides, its only for the web anyway, so it doesn't matter. I filmed both problems using said camera and will upload the clips when back home. They're not very exciting and I have much to learn from the likes of Keith. On the subject of which, he is on it at the moment. He crushed an 8b called amber in Swiss, then did gecko in font just after xmas. Waddage!

Chris Doyle has done alphane moon at chironico (don't know where this is actually, have guide, will look.) just before xmas, which all these heroes who presumably know a thing or two about good problems say is brilliant. The pictures look ok, but you can't tell properly from them so I shall have to seek it out, but that's not going to be until 2010 I think. I suppose its possible after the wedding...

Climbed with nEd and Dave just before xmas which was nice, especially as I was both having a good session and on home turf at the foundry. Which leads me on to variable. The sorcerer of sending has added little women to his ticklist which is 8b I think. What's more waddage is that he did zerberus in the Jura and didn't tell anyone. Gold plated waddage. Which reminds me - Dave mason did something called river dance or play or something which he speaks very highly of. I can say no more.

There will be no beastmakers for now as the machine is broken again apparently, although there is something on their Blog from after I heard that which suggests that production may restart soon.

Well done all you beasts. I'm inspired.