Sunday, 17 March 2013

Climbing The Keel (7C) at Almscliffe - with vid

Eyeing up The Keel at Almscliffe
It was raining when we left Sheffield. It was raining (heavily) when we returned. But an hour up the M1, the weather was fine, even turning to glorious sunshine for the entirety of the afternoon. At Almscliffe, the eternally dry crag, we found good, crisp conditions.

I had two unfinished problems at Almscliffe - Underhand (7B+) and The Keel (7C). Of the two, I had felt closer to finishing Underhand, so I was going to get on that first. But the rock was dripping wet and, with seemingly little hope of it drying, I went to check The Keel and, thankfully, it was in pristine condition. First, a few warm up problems, and then to business. 

I had tried the problem before, so had some idea on beta, but it had been three months since I last laid hands on it. It took me a few goes to figure it all out again - the specific body positions to keep a crucial toe hook in place, in particular. I started linking the bottom section pretty quickly, however, but struggled a little more with the hand match on the lip of the boulder. Eventually, I was making throws for the juggy pocket. But the effort of working it out again was taking its toll on my arms, so I decided to have an extended rest and come back later.

Starting The Keel at Almscliffe
An hour or so of spotting and I was once again sat under The Keel. A few failed attempts and I was losing skin, psyche and was ready to go home. One last go, I said, the palm of my left hand, where I grip the keel hold, throbbing in pain. Ten minutes rest and I found myself pulling on again. Before I knew it, I was back matching the crimp on the lip of the boulder. I made the hand shuffle quicker this time and moved my right hand to the sloper. I released my right foot from the slot at the back and held the infamous Keel Swing with a quick toe hook. I reeled it in and launched for the pocket as before, but this time I stuck it!

After finally pulling onto the slab, I was rather knackered. But I also really, really didn't want to drop the problem. I don't often come to Almscliffe and this was likely to be my last try on The Keel for months, so I had to finish it. You can't drop a 6A slab after climbing a 7C roof. But this fear almost paralyzed me and I didn't move for around a minute. Finally, having breathed heavy and regained some strength, I began a precarious sequence to top it out.

I have to say, I don't think I've ever tried so hard on a boulder over the space of a few hours. And I've never come so close to going home before topping out a problem on the very last try of the day. I was massively relieved to finish The Keel and it is definitely the hardest boulder problem I've ever climbed - despite being my second of the grade.

Anyway, without further adieu... below is the film. With commentary (laughter) from Leigh-Anne as I finally finished the slab after nearly a minute catching my breath and figuring out what to do.