Thursday, 26 May 2011


Is it a good sign when you arrive somewhere to climb and there's noone there? If its a popular crag - probably not. That said it was a funny time - after the morning shift, but before the normal workers would have been able to get there. The sun wasnt out, and the ground bore signs that it must have rained during the day, but the mega wind had been stifled and the air was warm and muggy. Did some rumbling around on jugs then bailed to Culloden.

Ned hadn't even put his boots on. He was supposed to be saving himself for Revelations. I felt the pressure of execution - the knowledge that you have the physical ability to complete a climb and just the doing between you and success. Rumbled up it putting the clips in, then had a moment on the rope at the jug pocket before the crux. Decided to put the next draw in to have a go on the move with the rope above. Describing it as 'the move' is misleading, as that implies its the hardest move or something, which it isn't. In the final analysis - its a pretty easy move, but its the one which requires commital, and that which I backed off when I last investigated. So, with the draw in place, I do the move - its easy. I take the top draw off and come back to the pocket. Having a moment and telling myself just to go for it I crimp through the crux moves and with slightly more aplomb - launch to the jug - yes! its allright! I dont collapse in a trembling mess of jelly, I do it! awesome! I get lowered off and set the stopwatch to wait.

Some time passes, some general nonsense, some israeli chocolate spread. Now I feel nervous. There's really nothing between me and it - but I have to actually get it right this time. Doing my best to empty my head I set off. It goes well - as I pop to the pocket the holds are all alright and have beans to spare. Crimp, crimp, stab and I am at the high point. I dont allow myself time for consideration, slotting my right hand up into the locky jam thing, and then up come the feet, I try not to allow myself to get bogged down in the minutae of foot position - what I have is good enough, so I make my move, and its like its above the mats at the climbing works and is 6a - I reach out to the jug! get in! Delighted, I lower off and share congratulations with Nedward who is so enthused by my success that he's already squeezing his tootsies into his boots for a go.

With no warm up his first go is a fumble. He swings around a bit, works out what to do and where to hold the holds then comes down for a chill for a minute. As he sits on the ledge surrounded by murder weapons he steels himself for the rat crimps above, then, like a fox pouncing on a chicken he goes - pow pow pow! he's at the crimp, the fox looks to be less pouncing, more having a swat at, but a swat is enough and with the culloden chicken in his jaws he scampers to the jugs with his tail in the air - BOOM! A ned o dob o log tag team ascent!

Back to the tor... Dave Musgrove and Miles are wandering about, and the crag is still reasonably quiet - certainly compared to how it has been. Dave is on one of those routes above Pinches wall, Its not little extra, and it looks hard. Ned gets on Revelations. He does the move to the pinch every time he tries, but never the move after it. Poor Ned, he's getting cross with it but I am so convinced he is going to do it that I wont let him off the rope. In short, he doesnt ever do the go again move off the pinch, but the bit I thought was hard he makes look easy!

Miles is having a look at evolution. Bear in mind that I saw who I think was Markus Bock on it last week, and he was having a hard time - Miles was all over it. The moves which I have seen other people struggle with looked like jugs to him, but the easy roof bit he seemed to find difficult. Suspect theres some trick we didnt know about.

I have a go on Mecca. I feel good before I set off, and I sort of know and expect to get into the groove this time. As my right hand snags the horn and I walk my feet through, I think the difference is one of attitude. IN the past when I have been in this position I wimp out and grab the draw, but buoyed with the success around the corner and some encouragement from below, I walk my feet out and get into the egyptian. I match and actually shake for a minute before taking a hand off to clip. Whilst it doesnt feel easy, I do it and go back into the semi rest egyptian. I have a shake and look up the groove. Then decide to rest on the rope. But this is still progress.

Into the groove from the deck is a gateway link. The climbing changes at that point from burl to technical, and the groove offers some respite, whether from a kneebar or an arse bar which ever way you do it. I did have a little furtle at the knee bar last night - blimey, the first ones not great is it!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Lord of the fishes

Si Holmes made a good point - climbers diversifying to surfing like it so much is because every day is a school day, you get to enjoy that rapid progression that so enticed you to climbing in the first place. Each time I go, I learn lessons. I come away ruminating on the latest revelation, and feeling like I have improved. I think its also because it crosses over quite well - strength to weight ratio of a climber should be better than average, and with it the ability to flick to ones feet rather than struggle.

We had a wedding in Croyde (well, in Saunton, but you will have heard of Croyde), so with a fair group of others, we trekked down to North Devon. Rather than camping we had rented a house in the village, and although the weather would have been ok for camping it was pretty cool, and rather breezy, so a house changed it into a pleasant experience rather than a trial. I mentioned that it was windy, and this all but did for the waves. There was scant little swell anyway, and what there was was blown flat by the wind. That said, there was occasionally a rideable wave surface, but it was small and short lived.

Just like you wouldn't go to Stanage in June (unless you were getting up early and going to do snatch), so a good surfer wouldnt even paddle out in conditions like these, but a punter can still learn things. Which is another thing about learning - there's something to be gained from having a go. The water was conspicuously quiet, and there was a definate lack of good people, but of course there were - you won't get Ed Robinson in the water unless its at least 3ft, >10secs and light offshore. I on the other hand, went out every day and did a bit and loved it.

So, what were these lessons then? I got to ride a mate's fish - this was the first revelation. First of all, I could duck it, which meant getting through white water became less daunting. Less daunting = greater willingness to try. Then when up on my feet it was more responsive, allowing more precise control of direction and enhancing my ability to be in the right place to prolong the ride. I managed to both bottom turn and get between sections which I havent yet done on my own mini mal. I also learnt that having a watch is a great thing, as it feels like you have been in the water for hours when its been 30 minutes. And finally, i learnt that when paddling out, you dont need to paddle as hard and fast as you can - save that for catching waves. A more relaxed stroke on the way out allowed greater longevity of session and better recovery for those explosive bursts on the way back.

So, back to sheffield, back to the tor, back on the route. First day on it again since Croyde tomorrow.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Badger bait

Several people had mentioned the amount of shit I was getting on the internet. I hadn't seen any of it, and wondered where it was. I thought of all the possible vectors and finally thought to check UKB. And there it was, the motherlode. A steaming pile of Morton Muck. Although most of it is reasonable and makes sense, the blog is not to be taken as literally as it seems it is read (paradoxical statement perhaps). I write what my inner dialog was when I did or tried something, and perhaps lack the external filter that some people apply before putting pen to paper. I'm not going to apply one now, I dont mind the shit - its not proper shit after all, and largely deserved! However, one small point - Paul B's aversion therapy - i dont believe thats the way. The way is small incremental steps.

I should have been to the county this weekend, but the forecast was so bad we pulled the plug. It seems like every weekend when i have a full weekend ticket, the weather craps out. Contemplated all sorts of options, none of them looked very hopeful, and so I ended up at the tor. At 0830, but it was already 14degrees and totally still. The groove was smee. Made it into the base three or four times, but never to clip. Had one go where got the horn, then managed to sort it out, but felt in bulk.

I think all week the weather predictions had been for saturday to be showers in the day and then for sunday to be mega rain, and saturday was true, but the mega rain arrived on the evening, and sunday was mint. Went with Ned and Jon to check out Badger rock, which was good. Nice little spot in a nice location, with some pretty good problems to go at. Badger Badger Badger does look really good. Adam turns up and adds deathy finishes to the easy stuff and thats that.

Yesterday was supposed to be back on Culloden, but we got sidetracked at the tor. Had a quick burn on Mecca, but the previous days 'easy session' on the board slowed me down and it didnt go great. Good tor scene, and loads better conditions than saturday. Overcast with a fresh breeze. Did Powerband again, which makes two ascents in about 20 years. Tried to do it a third time with a view to getting it wired and nearly managed it (falling stepping foot out of egyptian, but with hand on the undercut). This is good, and I am now psyched for stamina band as a training project for Mecca. Its going to teach me to recover. And, you see, the reason I have never given much energy to it because of my inability to do the last move on PB. Now I can do it I am going to do Staminaband.

Thursday, 5 May 2011


A quick tale from the Tor for you. Its all about mornings at the moment. The sun gets round onto the tor by noon, and to be honest - the heat is so great, and so prolonged, that there's little point going of an evening as even after the sun goes, it doesnt cool down enough before it goes dark. And dispense with the idea of lamping - you need to be an hour or so after dark for condensation to have gone (even then it might not have done), and the expense and size of an effective setup must surely be prohibitive. Anyway, given all this advice, I went last night anyway with Nick Brown, and lo - it was good...

Yes, it would have been too hot on Mecca, and yes, that which wasnt at the right hand side was sweltercon factor 20, but it was quite climbable in the leafy right hand side, and in fact I think it felt pretty reasonable. Funnels the wind you see the right hand side bit, and I think it felt like it was ok. Nick hadnt done Powerband, and I havent done it twice (the proper way), so we got involved in that in the guise of a warm up. The part of this tale which is pertinent is that previously on the ascent which suceeded, I employed the feet straight on at the end beta, and have never been able to make it work since. Ned and I talked about this last week, as he does egyptian. Nick and I tried it last night and went from getting the hand on the mound to getting it in the cleft (snick). Interesting. Tried from the start, and wilted getting left foot across, but got renewed interest in Stamina band, which must surely be good training for Mecca? Athough, as I think Rae once said, powerband is only good for doing powerband!

The point of the expedition was to ascend to the summit of the climb 'Culloden'. So after argubly exhausting ourselves flailing along a polished traverse at a different crag, we headed to our objective. From the ground I placed the first three clips, and with the rope dangling safely overhead, I scuttled onto the ledge. Moving the murder weapons out of the way, I teetered upwards. To my delight, the jugs were dry, and I was able to swing gayly between them like a hippo galloping into burger king. Up to the crimp I went - ooh, it felt hard and physical (again, in the words of the Cowie - theres no hiding from it), and take said I.

After a moments respite to collect ones thoughts and allow the lactate to drain, I pulled on at the crimp. What a few weeks ago felt like a rat crimp felt like a boner, and I casually stabbed in to the tooth. Levered up to the jam and looked impotently at my feet - erm, nothing looks right. Hmm. Back on the rope. I put the next draw in and suddenly a helpful smear appears just above the third bolt. Hmm, the move is about 3a. I go back to the jugs, and climb through to the end. Hmm.

Nick has a go, makes good progress - does all the moves, but feels cold after winching my bulk for the last 20 minutes and comes back down. I have another go, this time climbing through the hard bit, but being too scared to commit to the last move. I know I am being a wimp, and before I give up I hold the position for a few seconds and try to talk myself into it, but it doesnt happen and I slump off the route.

So, the problem is that physically I can do the route, but I need to embrace falling off first. The problem is that I need to thread my foot behind the rope just above the bolt, and its you are without your edge as you are at the top. Man up Morton!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011


I could launch into a massive diatribe about all thats gone on since I last put finger to keyboard, but I will spare your eyes and my fingers for reasons of time - the same restrictions preventing more eloquent and lengthy postings here lately too.

So, the day I went with Ned and Ed to Anston, I opened my account on a Mike Adam's masterpiece called Dark Art. I can remember going years ago when Dan did it and being amazed and thinking that there was no way I would ever do it. Well, on the weekend before I had a bit of a do, and actually thought I could believe I could do it. Suddenly I had gone from ambivalance about the place to scrabbling for chances to get back there. Thursday the 7th the opportunity came and I went straight from work. The difference from the weekend was that as the clock struck 4, the temp said 19degrees, and I thought it was probably pointless. And it would have been had I gotten straight on, but by the time I had dropped stuff off, fannied around and warmed up, the problem was in shade and it looked like I could be about to do it. Slowly I increased my high point, until I actually latched the dish which signals the end of the hard climbing - blimey! was this it! I've done it, just adj..whoa! bang - on the mats. "Dammit! I'm not gonna do it!" back around I go, and there are bad goes, ok goes and I even think about leaving - then have another good go, but none good enough. Still - quite happy that I am pretty close I pack up and head off as night falls.

And the problem then was that it went red hot. I did go back on Saturday the 9th, but it was redders and there was no point. And in fact, I shouldnt have done, as it bit me and I came away with splits. The thing is, I knew it was daft, but I knew I could do it, and that I needed just one go, so I thought that perhaps I could still pull it off. And it did nearly happen, but nearly isnt enough and I went home empty handed. That was the day of Adam's wedding. Went to that in the evening with Dave and Ned and had fun. Sunday out on bike in the sunshine.

The next two weeks saw the calling of the lime, and the start of tor season (and at times, it felt like it was already too hot). Ned and I went to get on Mecca but got sidetracked with Culloden. Man, that is so doable. The pocket was a bit wet, but I worked out a probably dubious sequence, but which works for me (if interested, this is from rh in pocket, left to crimp, then right toe out right, rock up to rat crimp rh, then flag and stab left to tooth thing, right up to wedgy fingerlock and left outside edge in jug pocket. Jump to jug). But the split from the week before reopened and that was the end of that. I honestly think I could have done it but for that. Damn sharp rat crimps.

Then I got back on Mecca, and to be honest - I feel good on it. On the 22nd I got into the groove with one hand twice, only I didnt manage to clip. Think it was a bit hot and I was fighting, didn't catch the horn right and had to yard for the draw rather than clip it. Pretty poor really, I should have gotten both hands into the groove, sorted it out, then clipped. Its fine though, if I get there when its cooler, or i havent got taped splits I think i will be ok. My plan is to get into the groove, then start from bottom of the groove to the top - which is a link i have done before, then into the groove - top, then full redpoints.

Finally, Saturday 23rd me and the monster go to Mallorca for a week. Lovely. We stayed at Deia which is up in the mountains and just wonderful. Very different to the mallorca you see on club reps - not a paunchy burnt englishman in a football shirt in sight (except me of course, but I dont have a football shirt). Loads of road bikers everywhere in the mountains - its obviously the time to go. Anyway, we have two full day walks which are brilliant, and even a day investigating the DWS potential. Problem is, as everyone predicted - that the sea is too cold. Much too cold. You jump in and hyperventilate, claw your way back onto dry land and shiver, cramped in a ball until the sun warms your cockles. So, the iterative process of progressively jumping in from a bit higher and higher doesnt get to happen, and I am wracked with terror! We investigate Cala Barques, which is incredible. The Stu little 8a looks amazing, but I am too scared to even set off (it starts from a ledge at about 5 metres). I do a 6c about 5 times but am so overgripping everything that I get really pumped. We look at Sa Nau as well, but its forbidding and I dont want to even go in!

So, its a post of irons in fires. Back on Mecca - keen for that, feels like I have a lot to do though, but I think I am getting the concept of being able to do it. Culloden I would like to get back to, and I hope that would go quickly (kiss of death) and then theres Dark Art. But, will it be too hot from now on I wonder! Hope not.