Saturday, 5 May 2012

Bold star classic climbing at Burbage

A grey blanket laid overhead. The odd spec of blue shone through the weave of clouds, varying in hue from charcoal to off-white, but thick and foreboding. The day didn't look as though it was going to be good for climbing, so I took my time getting set up this morning. A slow breakfast and a slow return from the land known as Nod. 

When I was finally ready, I decided on a stroll down to The Foundry, the legendary climbing centre, renowned for being the first in the UK and for having roots with the equally legendary Jerry Moffatt, among many other 80s strongmen. The stroll was partially to buy a new pair of rock shoes and partially to check the weather. I didn't intend to climb there, so I didn't take any of my gear with me. However, it was spitting outside - to quote Peter Kay. But the day before I had 40 minutes climbing on the gritstone at Curbar in the spitting rain and the friction was actually fantastic, so I decided to take the risk. Worst comes to the worst and I can retreat back to Sheffield and climb at The Climbing Works.

I chose Burbage South Edge for the little excursion. I really wanted to send a classic problem called 7 Ball. It gets a bold star in the guidebook - the highest accolade bestowed by 'Peak District Bouldering' - and it was well within my limit, so it had to be done. It had been a few weeks since I touched grit, so I didn't want to blast out and get on something really hard, so 7 Ball seemed ideal.

After the short walk in, I warmed up on some easy traverses, slabs and walls - some not in the guide at all, just blocks that are strewn across the side of the hill. The mild pump that, when dissipated, leaves your arms feeling refreshed and strong on subsequent problems came and went. I was ready to give 7 Ball a blast. I worked my way along the edge, over the plethora of blocks and under the low lying branches, and finally stood beneath the boulder problem. The rain came and went, but it was soft, a few drops and didn't provide much issue.

7 Ball is a low ball, that's for sure. But it's a good low ball. I was hoping it wouldn't take long but I was there 30 minutes trying to work it out before another climber joined me and flashed it. However, I found out afterwards it wasn't a flash but a retro-flash, as he had done it before. But the ascent gave me the beta ideas that I needed. Or so I thought. Another 30 minutes later and I was still battling away, having done the problem in two sections but failing to link it together. None of the moves felt especially hard - the crux being a slight throw from a side-pull sloper to a large-ish pinch about a foot higher, while your body lays horizontally along the underside of the block. Where I was slipping up, however, was just after you catch the good pinch, as you slap out to an arete and then wrap your legs around the same edge and squeeze hard. I hadn't got the hand sequence right and I kept falling here... repeatedly. 

A few friends then turned up out of nowhere. I wasn't expecting to see anyone: they just so happened to come to the same area I was climbing in. Two of them decided to join me on 7 Ball and we began working the moves together. I demonstrated where I was getting to - and subsequently fell off again. And then the two of them had a go. Both are much smaller than me so had to work out some alternative beta. But their hand-sequence for the first few moves was better than mine, cutting out two little shuffles which sap precious energy and add dreaded lactic. So, after another 15-20 minutes and three goes more with the audience of two, I finally managed to link the problem together, with the altered beta. It didn't feel especially difficult and I think it warrants the grade - I just made a complete arse of working it out. Never mind - onwards and upwards (pun intended). I actually thoroughly enjoyed the send - and it felt especially satisfying having worked the problem for so long. So all's well that ends well.

Burbage Valley (taken during Summer 2012)

Next, I decided to tag along with the two, and we went to find the rest of the group. We thought they were doing battle with a problem called Electrical Storm so headed there first. The adrenaline of the first send sparked an interest in doing something harder and I was keen to give the Storm a go. But when we arrived, the wall was bare of climbers. I had a feel of the holds and they were damp and slimy. I can see why they moved on. A slight stroll further along and we found them stood under Attitude Inspector - another bold star classic.

I watched a few tries from a couple of different climbers - one tall and rangy, who struggled to use a large undercut effectively, and another short and light, who looked comfortable but the dyno from the undercut seemed a long way for him. Despite the fact that I had only wanted to do 7 Ball today and was in desperate need of some lunch, I decided to pull on my shoes and have a go at Attitude Inspector. It apparently gets two grades harder than 7 Ball but my first try wasn't far off (in hindsight, I wish I'd flashed it), my second go was closer still, my third I jumped too far and hit about 6 inches higher than the jug you dyno to, and my fourth try I latched it, matched and hopped off. Problem done.

Despite the fact Attitude Inspector was supposedly harder, and also got the fabled bold star, it wasn't half as satisfying as 7 Ball. But that comes down to overcoming greater adversity to find victory, I think. Either way, I was satisfied with my afternoon's bouldering. The rain and sleet had started to come down much heavier by that point, so it was time to retreat. 

A good start to the bank holiday weekend. Back out on the grit tomorrow, hopefully. And hopefully find something a little harder to work on. We'll see how it goes. Hope you're all enjoying your climbing this weekend!