Monday, 18 January 2016

2016 grit climbing - get it while you can

You can count the number of times I've climbed on grit in 2016 on just two fingers. That's right - twice. The first was New Year's day and the second was the Saturday just gone, 16th January. Grit season indeed. Shambles. Not of my own doing, unfortunately, as this would be less frustrating, but entirely because it has hardly stopped raining. You've seen the headlines - we're becoming amphibious.


The British are evolving to meet their climatic conditions

Trying to find a silver lining, I suppose the poor weather has meant that I can train in anticipation of the 2016 upcoming climbing holidays. That has been the sole factor keeping the motivation ticking over - Fontainebleau in March and Rocklands in June. Planning to hit the grit on the weekend only to check the miserable forecast zaps the psyche level faster than an A2 pulley rupture (exaggeration warning!).

The reason I started writing this blog, however, is because I have actually climbed on real rocks twice in the past three weeks. And on those two occasions, I have "sent" stuff. I'm starting the loathe that saying and the phraseology that comes with it - sent, sending, etc. I suppose someone, one day, thought it was a derivative of first ascent, but it's not. It's silly. You climbed a boulder problem or route, you didn't send it. Anyway, besides the point...

New Year's day started off with a bang, as I managed to climb a boulder problem that has thwarted all my many previous efforts. A true nemesis of a climb, I have battled and struggled on this one. Indeed, my last blog about climbing outside, when I lamented the previous drought of good weather (these lamentations are frequent), was almost entirely about failing on this boulder problem. Well, I fail no more. I did it.

La Musee Imaginaire on the Bad Landing boulder at Curbar is given the moderate grade of 7B+. It feels rather a lot harder than that for me, however, and I'm not in the least bit embarrassed to say it took more effort than any other boulder problem I've climbed, including things that get harder grades. But that's bouldering and climbing for you - it's all quite personal. Some people are suited to certain boulders more than others. However, when you climb something you feel entirely unsuited to, it feels all the sweeter. All it took was the frigid New Year's day conditions and about two more hours of effort. Here's a video of someone climbing it (not me) for a visual aid...



It was another two weeks before the weather let up enough to get back to climbing outside and this time Stanage was calling. Another bitterly cold day (it is Winter, after all) meant it took me a while to get going, so I started the day repeating Green Traverse a couple of times. This is an excellent 7A, a benchmark for its grade in the Peak District, but one that I worry about. It is the recipient of a great deal of traffic, as it's not the least bit scary and many want it for their first 7A, and one day I believe the crimp rail will pull off.

After this, I climbed Captain Hook again. This is an ultra-lowball and, for that, you'd expect it to be rubbish but it climbs rather well. It's the soft end of 7B and, again, not the least bit scary so it sees its fair share of traffic as well. The starting handholds (and eventually a heel hook) are starting to look a little warn, but it's an excellent boulder problem. The sun had come out at this point, so I was starting to warm up. That meant, time to try something new...

Off up the hill to Badger, a good looking overhanging prow. This climbs really well, is graded 7A and is at Plantation. However, in stark contrast to its brethren down the hill, it appears to receive very little attention. The top section (if you keep moving to the left to top out) is rather scritterly, but I suspect this would abate if more people were to climb it. Maybe not - it's just a guess. Either way, it's a rather good boulder problem, and one I'd recommend to the Plantation faithful.

After that, we decided to walk back down the hill to the van, and make the short journey over to Higgar Tor to climb on some different rocks. We breached the latter afternoon and knew sunlight would start to dwindle soon. The temperature had begun to fall as well and our energy levels were beginning to wane, constantly fighting to keep us warm and moving. Higgar Tor was on the way home and there was a particular boulder I wanted to try; the delightfully named Piss and Shit.

The first is the stand variation of the second, separated by a mere +. The first is a soft, campus-slash-mantle 7B and the second adds some small roof crimper climbing before getting to the same place, with significant additional difficulty, therefore warranting an upgrade to 7B+. I climbed the stand rather quickly, after deciding on how to mantle the upper part, and the sit followed after a little more effort. The sit adds some good moves and is an excellent boulder problem - shame about the name. The stand is also good but it's all over rather quickly.

After that, knowing that it would likely be another few weeks before we could touch grit again, we reluctantly departed to find warmth and a hot meal. So endeth the story.