Thursday, 15 March 2012

The rock climbing life steps up a gear

A lot of rock climbing has been taking place in my life over the past week or two. Being as this blog is aptly named "Sam's Rock Climbing Life" I feel I should share this with you. After all, that's what social media is all about, right? Sharing.

Well, I'm going to start with last Saturday, as any further back and I will be writing for quite some time. Sheffield has had some of the nicest weather it's had for a long time. Spring is definitely here and last weekend was probably the first day of 2012 when it actually got a bit too warm for rock climbing on grit stone, which every Steel City climber knows is highly conditions dependent, no matter if you're climbing 6A or 8A. Everything feels easier with nice cool weather, and vice versa when it gets a little toasty.

So, to make the most of the beautiful weather I departed for the Peak District. Unfortunately, not as early as I would've liked, as I had to take my car into the garage for a service. As soon as I got it back, however, I was out like a shot and met a friend at Curbar at around 2pm. Despite having started climbing well over 10 years ago now, and despite having been to Curbar dozens of times before, I had never bouldered at Curbar Edge, so this was the plan for the afternoon - do some exploring, climb some good looking lines, and see how I get on. This was the first time my fat fingers had touched real stone since my return from Fontainebleau, nearly three weeks previous. This isn't to say that I hadn't been climbing at all - no, no, no. I had been training on a lot of plastic. But it was time to hit the stone. No preconceptions of being able to jump on anything hard, I just wanted to climb some good looking lines. And so that's what I did.

We warmed up on a few easy but nice problems - ranging from 5 to 6A+. We were enjoying pottering around so much however, that we stuck to this grade all day long, as it allowed us to wander up to a boulder, scope out a beautiful route and despatch it within a few minutes. Sometimes, this is all you want from a boulder session. Sometimes, sitting under the same bit of rock, falling off the same move over and over again is just not what the doctor ordered, and so we carried on in this vein. Eventually, we scoped a nice looking boulder in the book and ventured off to find it. Called 'The Art of Japan', this two star classic was said to be one of the best problems at Curbar Edge. It needed to be done. By the time we got there, however, we were both a bit knackered, and after several goes skin was wearing thin and it was time to call it a day. A excellent day, I must add. It was getting dark and four and a half hours of bouldering had taken its toll. So we departed for home.

Me on The Art of Japan, Curbar Edge - taken by Katrina Peacock

The next day I was psyched to get back out. I wanted to jump on something a little harder but that I know I could get done. It was Sunday, and it was the weekend of the Climbing Works International Festival (CWIF). Although I had decided to take advantage of the nice weather and climb on real stone, as opposed to competing on plastic problems indoors, I was still keen to watch the Semi-Finals, which started at 12noon. So I arrived at Burbage Bridge at about 9:45am. I warmed up on a nice 5+, then took roughly 10 goes to send a 6B+ that I had never done before - the book says it's hard for the grade, and I would concur; it felt harder than 6B+, that's for sure. Then I moved onto a nice arete problem at a slightly harder grade and by the time I had topped that little gem out the clock was clawing its way to midday. My hands were sore and the temperature had risen to what can only be considered not conducive for grit stone climbing. 

So I shot off to the Climbing Works and watched some gnarly beasts batter plastic problems into submission. I've said this before and I'll say it again, the climbing scene in this place is like no other that I know. Everyone loves rock climbing. End of. And this showed with the epic crowd that had turned out to see some of the strongest climbers from the UK, France, Australia and USA battle it out. It was inspiring stuff. So inspiring that I shot off after the competition had finished, squeezed in a quick trip to my parents house for some lunch, went home for a shower and got back to the Climbing Works to watch the final on the big screen with well over a hundred other rock climbing enthusiasts.

Shauna Coxsey and Dave Barrans took home the gold for Team GB - and put on a very inspiring show to boot. The whole field, however, put in some excellent performances and I would highly recommend watching next year. I, for one, aim to compete next year. Not that I have any allusions of competing in the Semis or Finals, but would like to come away with a respectable score from the qualifiers. Keep on training and good things will happen.
Anyway, it was back to work on Monday, and I took a much needed rest day. My hands were sore, my body ached and my head said no more. So rest it was. Well, active rest anyway. I still bashed out 200 pushups. Come Tuesday, and I wanted to get back on The Art of Japan at Curbar. As soon as the working day ended, I swapped clothes, dashed back out to Curbar (thankfully, I work in the Peak District and Curbar is only ten minutes away... happy days) and attempted to make the most of what little sunlight we had left. I warmed up on a 5+ and a 6A+ and then made for the Japanese Art. Unfortunately, it wasn't to be on this occasion either. There are a few tenuous but relatively easy set-up moves on a couple of crimpy side-pulls, before you throw into a large undercut and move your feet across some precarious footholds. Then you breath, look up and launch for a low-percentage edge, around five feet from your last hand placement. Quite a large move, and I say low-percentage because I was finding it very hard to latch.

The sun had descended beyond the horizon, however, and I was finding it difficult to see the holds, so it was time to call it a day. Or was it? I hadn't had my fill yet. So I went back down to the Climbing Works to finish off the session. All in all, it was nearly three hours of climbing on rock and plastic. I went home, bashed out 100 press ups and some crunches and ate a vast dinner before passing out. 

The next day, I was unbelievably sore. To counteract this, I decided to do more pushups. It didn't really do much good, so I spent the rest of the day working and resting. But then, if you've followed the blog right, we are on Today! I went climbing again, unsurprisingly, and thought I'd be ripe and ready for some sendage. Unbeknownst to my head, my body had other ideas. I was broken. I went to the indoor wall again and managed a two hour session but it felt hard. My muscles ached. My fingers hurt. And all I wanted to do was go home.

The moral of this story is: being motivated is great - you can have a lot of fun with it - but remember to take more rest! Still, I can't wait to get back out there and finally conquer The Art of Japan. It needs doing. It's not the hardest thing I've ever been on, the moves feel smooth and easy, up to the lurch upwards anyway, which I am yet to latch. Next time. There's always next time.