Thursday, 20 September 2012

Getting on the Peak District grit stone

The sends continue! As this streak of good weather we've been enjoying has continued into a second week, I've continued climbing outside, having only ventured to the indoor wall once in over a fortnight. And I've continued to ascend up boulder problems of the classic variety, which is a great feeling. I've not been training, only climbing, and it has been a long time since this last occurred.

Following last Thursday's ascent of Captain Hook at Stanage Plantation, on an evening after work, I started playing around on Zippy's Traverse, trying to sort the moves out as best I could. A fellow I recognised from The Climbing Works said hello and kindly offered me some beta on a move I was struggling with, but this did little to help. He informed me that "everyone has their own beta for this problem and, just because you can climb it one way, it doesn't mean you can climb it another". And so I was back to figuring it out for myself.

Eventually, after around an hour of non-stop efforts, I had figured all the moves and had done the problem in two overlapping halves. Unfortunately, due to the exertion, I had run out of energy for the send, so I re-repeated Green Traverse for good measure, then a 6C traverse as a warm down, said farewell to my friends and departed for the evening - the sun having gone to bed and the threat of gate closure at the Plantation car park looming.

The next day, Friday, I took a rest, with thought ahead to a full day on the grit on Saturday. I wanted all my energy stocked up and ready to go come the weekend. When it finally arrived, my tips were still sore, my muscles still aching and the warm weather had once again revealed itself in all its glory. Despite this, we made our way to Curbar Edge in the young hours of the day, to take advantage of what little cool weather there would be that day. It was extremely breezy, verging on gale like winds when we arrived, so we began warming up with a slight chill in our bones. Like a fool, I jumped on a boulder with tiny crimpy side pulls as only my third problem of the warm-up and promptly split my left forefinger tip - a good start to the day.

Having stuffed the small hole with chalk and tighly wrapped tape around the digit, I continued to climb. It became a bit of a highball kind of day, and the first problem of any merit we ascended was called The Fat Controller (which apparently used to get E3 trad grade). A lovely tall wall, with interesting moves and a nervy reach over the precipice. I completed the Controller on my second try.

Next it was on to an old nemesis, a problem I had tried before and failed on. It's not a hard problem in terms of grade, but there is a rather dynamic move off an undercut and a sidepull to a sloping edge around 5 feet higher than your previous hand position. Coordination and a steely determination to hold on despite the concern a potential flapper are what it took. Several goes later and I had learnt The Art of Japan, or so the problem was called. My tips were starting to get really sore by this point.

Onwards we continued, however, to a series of low-grade, balancy slabs with no real holds, just undulations in the grit stone. A feel for the rock was necessary, the right body positions were key, and a cool breeze to blow away the sweat from your hands would have been welcome. The latter was sadly lacking, as the problems were enclosed in a small enclave, sheltered from the wind, but with readily available sunlight beaming in from above. Despite the adverse conditions, a 6B+ of no name went down (eventually) and another 6A+ followed swiftly afterwards. The heinous slopers offered up by these two problems had taken their toll on what little skin I had left, and I knew I didn't have much more to give.

Despite this, we moved on once more, to the bottom of another tall wall, this one an E1 trad route that goes by a name I cannot remember. I had a couple of tries and reached a height that suddenly felt uncomfortable. I backed off, leapt onto mats and was thankful to have solid ground under my feet. My tips, being as thin as they were, were sweating profusely - it really was time to call it a day. I was afraid of tearing a hole in another, and that would mean taking considerably more time off than I was willing to give. The others continued to climb, with a friend making swift work of the E1, moving on and quickly conquering another 6C and then finally finishing up on a couple of 6As. I watched on jealously, knowing that I couldn't partake any further in the day's climbing, but enjoying the company and the sunshine. It was also rather interesting to watch the other climbers in the area, slowly ascending a couple of E4s, one to my right and the other to my left.

When we finally departed for the day, be-lining for the cars, I felt surprisingly tired. Having ascended nothing of any great difficulty, and having given up a good two hours before anyone else, the day spent in the great outdoors, maneuvering through crevasses, up hills, across uneven grounds and, of course, up the occasional climb had taken their toll. I was grateful I would be visiting a friend's house for a slap up meal of muscles, chicken pie and chocolate dessert, washed down with a delicious bottle of white wine, as I felt I needed as much food as my body would permit.

The following day, Sunday, I spent mostly relaxing. I had chosen to take the day off from climbing, to let my tips heal and my body repair. However, when I say "take the day off", I still ended up completing over a hundred pullups, hundreds of pushups and a range of core work. I split this into three sessions throughout - a solid conditioning day.

Monday arrived and it was back to work. I intended to take yet another rest day from climbing, but the masochist in me packed my climbing bag and threw it in the passenger side foot-well of my car just in case I changed my mind. Throughout the day, thoughts of Zippy's Traverse kept entering my mind. I found myself going over the moves in my head sporadically, knowing that one more session and it would definitely go. I had intended this session to be the following day (Tuesday) but by 5pm I couldn't simply drive home. I went by Stanage Plantation to finish off some unfinished business.

The walk up the hill to the Plantation is a good warm up, at least for getting the blood pumping through your body. My heart pounding, my calfs throbbing and my lungs billowing, I took to a 6C traverse to warm up. I know the problem like the back of my hand, and tend to warm up on it every time I go to the Plantation now. After three laps, I stuffed everything into my bouldering mat and made my way down the hill, towards Zippy's. I have to admit, I started getting excited. But my hands were still feeling the weekend, with little skin separating the outside world from the inner flesh. I knew I didn't have many tries - truth be told, I gave myself three tries and that would be it... call it a day and go home.

After 10 minutes of standing around, brushing a few holds, chalking my hands sporadically, staring at the rock and trying to remember the moves in their minutiae, I finally pulled on. I climbed smooth and strong and before I knew it I was at the crux. Ten seconds later I was through this and holding the jugs for the finishing section of the climb. I topped out with energy to burn and felt elated. I had opened up the tip I split on the weekend and slashed my ankle, which was bleeding rather profusely, but I made it to the top. Elated, I scrambled back down the rock and got packed up. That was enough for the evening. And almost like a rest day, as I had completed my goal in only one try. 

The sends continue!