Monday, 4 August 2014

A potter in the Peak - a few good boulder problems

I caved. On Sunday, I found myself with a free afternoon, nothing immediately pressing to do. It had been a busy morning and, therefore, come 1pm I had barely even glanced outside, let alone breached the cozy confines of my flat. But now, after completing the chores, I stared through the window at clear blue skies. What a stunning day it was.


We racked our brains trying to come up with something to do. I was tired from a good session at The Climbing Works the day before, so I did not want to touch plastic again for at least another 24 hours. A walk? A museum? Cinema? And then I thought, despite my last blog's previous assertions that this time of year is no good for climbing outdoors, a sojourn to the Peak District for a little potter would be the best use of this rare occurrence of a free afternoon. 

Due to tiredness and warm weather, I had no expectations. No pressure to reach the top of anything. I had barely touched real rock in what felt like months, therefore I thought we'd have a potter; I could throw a few moves on the side of a cliff face or boulder. Setting off from Sheffield, I still wasn't sure where in particular I wanted to go.

One of the last full days I had climbing outside was mostly spent at Curbar, repeating, for the Nth time, a number of classics. Following a skin shredding grit session, a friend wanted to show me a small limestone cave near the village of Alport, on the other side of the Chatsworth Estate. When we arrived at this tiny feature, there was one specific line that caught my attention, the full traverse along the lip of the cave. Within the cavity it seemed dirty, white mold growing on the rock, mud and water streaming out of crevasses. However, the line that caught my eye was clean, a little chalk here and there, but it looked great. I had a few half-hearted attempts, but I was too tired from the earlier climbing and pumped out too fast.

On Sunday's warm, sunny afternoon, I thought this would be a good one to go back to. The line in question, if your encyclopedic knowledge of Peak District bouldering hasn't dredged it from the depths of your memory banks, is called Meltdown (7B). When we arrived, it looked as good as before. I touched some of the holds and they all felt positive and relatively large. If it wasn't for the fact that most of the climbing took place in the horizontal plane, it would get a much easier grade - the holds feel like they should belong to a 5+. However, they're practically all razor sharp and moving between them does require a little athletic hocus-pocus because of the steepness.

Having twirled my arms a couple of times, breathed a little deeper than necessary, and fondled a few more holds, I sat down at the start of the boulder problem. My warm up seemed comically lame, but what the heck, my muscles still felt warm from the previous day's Climbing Works session. Off I set and, before I knew it, I was through the crux, about half way along. I contemplated stepping off, for the sake of extending the warm up, but then I thought better of it. Onwards I continued until, before long, I reached the last jug. My forearms throbbed with the familiar feeling of a flash pump, but I had managed to climb Meltdown on my first try.

Having taken all of 10 minutes out of the afternoon, another destination was required to while away a few more hours. Off to Rowtor we went, a shaded, wooded bouldering area, unfortunately usually doubling as a hide-and-seek playground for the offspring of those frequenting the nearby pub. The squawks and squeals of excited, young goblins regularly break the otherwise tranquil silence.

On arrival, there was one particular line I needed to complete. It had thwarted me in my weaker days, when I found every move a bit desperate. That line is called Blood Falls (7A+). If you can't finger jam (like me) the first move is a little throw to a good three finger pocket, followed by a horizontal crack line, into a nice dynamic throw for a rounded top out. The last move had proved the stopper for me, but following a successful training regime (Hah! "training regime"... that's a laugh) over the past few months, I managed to tick Blood Falls off my list in just two goes.

Despite the warmth, I was doing alright at this climbing lark, so I chose something a little harder next... Quine (7C). This has become a one move wonder - a dyno from a sit start, using two semi-decent but sloping pinches, to a sloping top out. It's a low-ball, that's for sure, but the jump is fun. Unfortunately, I took too many goes; first trying to use the huge undercut (the old fashioned, non-dyno way), then using the wrong foot placements and finally, having figured out what works best for me, hitting the top on several occasions but putting my feet down as I did so. I decided to move on, as the pinches that had once felt easy to hold, were getting a little slippery under skin. 

Being as it was just around the corner, I had a peak at Domes stand start (7A+), and managed to dispatch this sloper hopping line in a handful of tries, after figuring out the start position. The lower start will be one to return for, but I've been told connecting it into the stand is harder than it looks, definitely warranting its 7C grade.

With a few climbs under the metaphorical belt, and the afternoon advancing, it was time to make an exit and find some dinner. I don't regret having not climbed outside much recently, because it has been HOT, but having got out yesterday I realise I definitely missed it. I want more now and, warm weather or not, I'm not sure I'll be able to restrain myself. I'm already aching to get back and finish Quine and this weekend we're off to Northumberland. 

BRING BACK THE ROCK!