Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Four days... yes, FOUR days... on real stone. I am blessed.

Finally, in what feels an age, I've managed to have a good few days climbing on real stone in the UK. Since the start of 2014 it's all been a bit sporadic; a day here, a day there. Weather, illnesses, work, and more have all conspired to whittle away at motivation and time in roughly equal measure.


However, the recent trip to Fontainebleau, followed by a spate of good (if a tad warm) weather in and around the Peak District, has helped to bolster the dwindled motivation. Therefore, four days on the stone have been procured since Font. FOUR! I know, crazy. I know what some of you are thinking... students, part-time workers, part-time climbers... 'four aint that many... haha!' Well, it's a lot to me! And others... family people, commuters... 'what I would give for four in ten days on real stone!'. You have my sympathies.

Anyway... the four days went like this: two days bouldering on limestone at an undisclosed location (due to access peculiarities... it's not banned, but it's not actively encouraged with guidebooks either), one day sport climbing on limestone at Horseshoe Quarry (plus a little bouldering at Tom's Cave) and one day on grit stone at The Roaches in Staffordshire.

It's been a good four days too... with lots of ticks metaphorically going in the book (I've never actually ticked problems off in my guidebook). 

All feels a bit cloak and dagger, but I'll start with the undisclosed location. I made my first trip here after work one day, a few days after the Font trip, having heard about it before but never been. I'd been told of nice, long traverses with too many holds, where you can make up sequences and train power endurance. So I was keen. The first trip started with making stuff up as I went along, and repeating a few bits and pieces Leigh-Anne and friends had conceived. We then moved to a steeper area with more established problems, where I began working a 7A+. I had hoped to make short work of it, but the fingery nature of the problem (and all limestone problems) thwarted my efforts. I quickly ran out of energy and shifted onto the easier 6C variation, climbing it first try.

When we returned (yesterday) I had that 7A+ very much in mind. A sole objective for the trip, having just two hours after work once again. I warmed up, then sat underneath it and immediately greased off the sidepull, the soft skin on my hands rolling on the sharp holds. Try again and much the same. Heart sank. The other end of the crag was shaded, so I continued warming up, keeping the muscles going, waiting for the sun to descend. I did a 6A+, some pullups, touched some holds, spotted, and waited. Patience wearing thin, I tried another 7A+ problem and completed it 3rd try. Confidence boosted, I got back on the main objective. Half an hour and a 5 degree drop in temperature (yes, it fell that fast) and the holds felt completely different. Three or four tries later (I forget exactly how many), I made it past the huge lock-off on a two finger pocket and latched the crimp above. That's the crux - the rest went without too much difficulty. 

I tried a 7B+ but the sharp crimp was biting my skin and, with a bank holiday weekend trip to St. Bees coming up, I decided to Save The Tips (new charitable organisation?). To wear down the arms, I repeated two 6C+s in double quick time and made a dash for the car, the sun now almost completely gone from the sky. 

The sport climbing excursion to Horseshoe was a few days ago. It was mostly to teach and learn, rekindle the lost skills and memory for sorting out a belay and stripping a route of quick draws. A trip to Montserrat, near Barcelona, is nearing and so a few more days on the rope will be necessary. Anyway, nothing of any difficulty was ascended, being a day after the epic at The Roaches n' all. 

Speaking of which, The Roaches! Love that place. We went for a friend's birthday and never found the friend, so just climbed all day. Brilliant. I had no objectives and just went with it. Firstly the Greener Traverse down (6A) and up (6B+) was dispatched to warm the muscles. Then to the upper tier, where short work was made of Calcutta Traverse (6A) followed by the Black Hole extension (7A). We then wandered over to the Too Drunk boulder, where I dispatched its namesake problem (7A) and Not Drunk Enough (6C+). Then back to the main section of the upper tier, where Nadin's Traverse (7A) fell after some work and then Cooper's Traverse (6B). Then The Rippler (6A) and it's sit variation (7A). 

All this work necessitated a tea cake break, so after a short walk we made our way to the Roaches Cafe. Noticing the clouds quickly turning black and ominously blanketing the sky, we made a dash up the road to the Newstones/Baldstones crag. A re-warm up on the classic foursome of The Grinding Sloper (6A), Varicose (6A+), Wall and Mono (6A) and Square Cut Face (6A) was just completed when the rain started - light but definitely raining. I wanted to show Leigh-Anne the Baldstone's Traverse (7A+), so we started walking. I got distracted by Sly Stallone (6B+) and jumped on that before moving on. 

The rain started in earnest while walking across the Moor, so I had no hope of actually getting on the Traverse. We arrived and it was bone dry - temporarily. We threw the mats in the mud and I got to work. First go got me through the crux I had so struggled with when I was younger. I was surprised. Unfortunately, my surprise quickly turned to annoyance when I realised I hadn't left enough room for my big, fat hands. So I came off, reassured that it wouldn't take too much effort. The rain was getting heavier. The next go I forgot the sequence towards the end, where a little power is required, and I came off. Next go, I missed the jug at the end (a 5+ move) and came off again, a bit aghast and bewildered. I sat down, cursing my luck, with the rain lashing, drops hitting the holds, soaking my shoes and mat. Sod it. I chalked my hands and made one final push. I made it through to the last hard move again, almost dropped it, but just about kept my tired body on the wall. I eyed up the 5+ move, the memory flash of failing it just minutes before quickly wiped away, and latched it, ending an excellent day totally wiped out.

While there is nothing amazingly hard in that list of boulder problems, it was all amazing fun. And hopefully good training for St. Bees this weekend. Bring on the sandstone!