Monday, 23 November 2015

Getting shut down on Peak District grit stone. Love it.

The weather around the Peak District, and the rest of the UK for that matter, has been truly awful of late. Before the weekend just gone, the last time I touched gritstone was November 1st. The reason I remember the date so clearly was because it was around 20°C - in November.

We struggled to find friction on Curbar edge, chosen for its relative exposure. I ended up having an epic trying to climb four easy graded slabs at the very far end of the edge - which took roughly 2 hours - before relegating the rest of the afternoon to bathing in the summer sun.

Since that day, good weather climbing days have been few and far between; none falling on the weekend. I've seen instagram photos and videos of people getting out on the occasional weekday; the envy building up inside and quickly forgotten when business calls.

Finally, three weeks after that November 1st summer's day, it stopped raining long enough for us to climb on grit stone once again. It was a relative bonanza as everyone with an interest in the little brown rocks shot into the Peak to take advantage of the cold temperatures - having dropped to 1°C but feeling much cooler in the wind.

Snow covered Curbar in the Peak District

Oddly, it had snowed the evening before, so on Saturday there was a great deal of the white stuff adorning the dying heather and ferns strewn across Curbar hillside, where we once again found ourselves. I love Curbar. This time we were playing among the boulders below the edge. 

The snow was melting on the top of Trackside and water was streaming down the lower corner of the problem of the same name. Strawberries looked like a mini-waterfall, but this wasn't stopping people trying the other lines. In fact, there must have been 20 of them gathered around this easily accessed boulder.

Almost every other boulder we trekked to see was suffering the same fate as Strawberries. The ground conditions being unbeknownst to us when we set off, we'd chosen completely inappropriate footwear and our feet were now soaked and freezing. Before departing, I did bag a consolation prize, Dan's Wall. This cheeky little 7A is a sitstart to a 4+ aréte. I'd always dismissed it as silly and walked by, so I had never climbed it before. It does have some burly moves - it needs them to turn a 4+ into a 7A.

Anyway, after that, we left for the warmth and comfort of the Climbing Works, to get the muscles pumping before a pub dinner.

The next day we went back to Curbar to check on the fate of the wet boulders. My Bad Landing project - I hesitate to call it a project; a few sporadic attempts each season does not a project make - was actually dry on Sunday and the conditions were amazing. Freezing cold.

I suffer from Raynaud's syndrome - which causes the capillaries in my fingers and toes to shut down when it's cold, leaving me with yellow, white, numb digits. This hurts. Getting them warm again, getting the blood pumping through them, can be a long process, and climbing before this happens is exceptionally difficult. 

An hour after we arrived at the boulder, my fingers and toes were finally firing on all cylinders again. I had nearly given up 30 minutes previous and thrown in the towel but perseverance paid off and I was glad to have stuck with it. I had an hour of good burns on the "project" before I got too tired to continue.

I failed at the climb, obviously, or this would be a victory blog. This climb is a total nemesis. Probably my hardest to date. I've had nemeses before, but this is probably the hardest for me. I define a climbing nemesis as something that is supposed to be within your ability to climb - grade-wise - but still feels utterly impossible and takes sessions upon sessions of efforts. There is still a move that I haven't been able to do, even in isolation. 

I'd like to blame my height but this feels like a copout. I'd like to blame the style but it's practically horizontal climbing, which is supposed to be my strength. I'd like to blame conditions, and previously I've had that privilege, having rarely climbed on it in good connies, but yesterday was prime. There is nothing to blame - I am simply struggling to climb this particular line.

These sorts of barriers are good learning curves, however. They teach me patience and to be happy out climbing on rock. Getting to the top of a boulder is a great feeling but it passes quickly and isn't important, really. What's important is that you enjoy climbing and go out for climbing's sake - and yesterday I did lots of climbing on grit stone. It was amazing.