Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The first three rock climbing weeks of the New Year

I wish I had written before now but, unfortunately, this is my first blog of the New Year. I am not starting as I mean to go on. I will hopefully have a lot more to write about in the coming weeks and months. However, the start of 2013, I'm sure like many, was a bit of a slow one in terms of climbing. Having eaten and drunk a little too much over the festive holidays, my climbing when I came back to it was not the best. 

On New Year's day I found myself at Almscliffe, in North Yorkshire, with a bunch of friends. I had a great day out and managed to get Morrels Wall Traverse (7A+) finished in only a few tries, which was nice. I tried and failed on The Keel (7C) again, which was the big project for the day, and then I sent a bunch of stuff I'd done before. Towards the end of the day, we placed the mats under Underhand (7B+) and had a few goes. I was tired. I could feel it in my arms - my left bicep had been hurting all day, remnants from the previous day's swimming and badminton efforts at Centre Parcs with my family. But I gave it my best shot, to no avail. The small slots and crimps hastening my downfall... literally.

A week later, my left arm still playing up, and I found myself under the same bit of rock. Having come close when I was knackered, I thought the following weekend, fully rested and ready to dispatch, it must be a sure thing. There was a hard lesson in failure. I have failed on many climbs before - what climber hasn't? - but I was so certain that Underhand would go with relative ease that this failure came as a bitter disappointment. Call it arrogance. Call it over-confidence. Call it naivety. Call it whatever... I learnt that nothing is ever a "sure thing", just go and have a go and see what happens.

One of the hardest 6C+ problems ever? Unknown name, at Froggatt Edge.
Fast forward another week (being winter, us office-bound folk only deal in weekends on the rock, unfortunately) and I took three days to simply climb on the Peak grit stone. No expectations, just see what happens. Friday went past without anything to write home about (or a blog, for that matter). It was wet in the morning so, thinking I wouldn't be able to climb, I did my "home-made" exercise routine. Then the sun shone bright in the afternoon, so I thought I had better head out to Stanage Plantation, only to find my arm now hurt. I barely climbed - doing a 6C traverse was the highlight - choosing to rest for the next day instead. 

On Saturday, a decent group of us made an excursion to Froggatt, where everyone had their eyes on their own little problems. Mine was a handsome piece of rock, tucked away down a hill, next to a waterfall, that goes by the name Old King Cascade (7B+) (picture below, and crux sequence at the end of the blog). A jutting prow / nose that requires big, burly climbing on jugs - my cup of tea then. And so it proved, as half an hour of working the moves and it was dispatched. I hate talking grades, but they do help monitor progression so... I've never sent a 7B+ in a session before, let alone in such a short amount of time, so that was quite a surprise. Anyway, I went on to climb a HARD 6C+ later that day (picture above). For those that want to try it, it's right of the classic Joe's Arete and climbs past a small roof, to a good flat hold and a small jug and then into a long, diagonal slot. In my view, or maybe it was just the way I climbed it, this is worth an upgrade. I believe it used to get 6B+ in the old guide as well!

Me on Old King Cascade (7B+), Froggatt Edge.
The following day, it was up to Stanage Plantation. No real plans for the day, feeling a little tired from the day before, but I had my eye on a couple of problems I had yet to do. A quick warm up later and I got the first of those, Glass Hour (7A), shortly after a friend climbed it. I went on to try a hideous mantle start to a trad route called Silk Start (7A+) and failed. I was wiped out by that point - exhausted. But, whilst walking back, we passed the highball classic Crescent Arete (5+) and, unbelievably, I had never even tried it. Lacking the energy or the will to go to the top, I totally wimped out about half way up and backed off. My girlfriend subsequently walked up it first try. I then spotted a friend on a very quick ascent of another classic highball, Not To Be Taken Away (6C+), which capped off an excellent weekend of bold star boulder problem climbing. 

Actually, now I've written it down, it doesn't seem like I've done too horribly badly, considering we're only three weeks into the New Year and I can still only climb outside on weekends.


Crux sequence for Old King Cascade (7B+), Froggatt Edge

(All photos courtesy of Mike Etchells)