Monday, 14 March 2016

The Outdoor City showing its colours - ShAFF & CWIF

What an outdoorsy weekend! Sheffield really showed itself off as The Outdoor City with the Sheffield Adventure Film Festival and the Climbing Works International Festival kicking things up several gears. In the showroom cinema you had the greatest selection of adventure and adrenaline fuelled films since... well... ever. And at the Climbing Works a strong field of domestic and international climbing phenoms battled it out for the CWIF Crown.

Add to that the glorious weather bestowed on us for both Saturday and Sunday and you were in danger of a serious Outdoors Overdose - the dreaded Double-O condition. Look it up. It's a real thing *ahem*.

My weekend took the form of climbing, climbing and more climbing. Pretty much a continuation of the preceding week, I suppose, as I had been trying to make the most of the dry Spring weather we've been enjoying, getting out onto the grit when work allows. 

I had entered the CWIF 1pm qualifying session, giving me a much needed slow morning. A little wrecked, I took the opportunity to bake recovery banana bread, giving me the energy to haul myself up some climbs. After trying about a third, my shoulders and back were in tatters and I had to call it quits. I really enjoyed the problems but they certainly felt harder than last year. 

With the top of the field looking as tight as it did, I suppose it was for the best the problems were tricksome and powerful. Sean McColl, the eventual CWIF King, performed like a super athlete and attained a near perfect score of 297 - dropping the flash on only one problem before getting it second try. Almost inconceivably impressive.

Sean McColl competing in the CWIF final

The next day, the Canadian went onto dominate in a hugely entertaining final, battling against a who who's of international climbing wads. Two problems in particular, one requiring great feats of contortion and shoulder strength and the other a double clutch opposing dyno or triple clutch dyno (depending on your beta), proved the highlights.

In the women's final, Shauna Coxsey once again waltzed through problems the other competitors struggled on. She didn't manage to flash them all this year, however, so I suppose that's something. Watching five competitors battle tooth and nail and come up short, you're left feeling the problems were set too hard, but then Shauna came out to float them with relative ease, leaving you feeling maybe they should be harder.

Contradictions aside, I think the problems were set perfectly. They split the field well and proved hugely entertaining for the assembled crowd and webcast viewers. The CWIF final is worth a watch if you didn't see it live - very professional setup this year and great picture quality.

Pre-final punditry - Mina and BBC presenter talking shop.

While I caught the final, we missed the semi-final due to a weather window far too enticing to miss. We headed into the Peak District on Sunday. It was a stunning day - the sun was out, the birds were singing, there was a slight breeze and our chosen venue was relatively abandoned. 

Secret Garden on the road to Hathersage is not so secret this time of year, as the lack of vegetation allows a direct view from the road to the main band of rock. The diminutive crag holds some great little sloper problems - real gritstone fights where the mantle is usually the crux. 

I took the opportunity to enjoy a volume day - still sore from CWIF and the glorious weather ensuring friction wasn't easy to come by - which proved great fun and immensely relaxing. I took a tour of the crag's offerings, grades from 6A to 7B, with a highlight being a variation on Beach Ball I hadn't done before, taking a left exit via a large sloping pocket. Another highlight, or highlights, was getting off the main bit and exploring some of the smaller outcrops scattered left and right. Low-hanging roofs, a slab and a huge rockover added to the day's tally. My finger tips are rather pink today.

Leigh-Anne working a great little problem at Secret Garden in the Peak District

On top of that, I enjoyed a jaunt over to ShAFF at the Showroom Cinema to catch up with outdoors folk and make new acquaintances. I've never been great with meet & greets or networking events, a touch shy perhaps, but a couple of beers helped. It was great to see many piling into the fringe events and piling out of the cinema doors with giant smiles on their faces and speaking enthusiastically about some adventure they'd just witnessed on the big screen. Here are my reviews of a few of my festival highlights:

And that was that. A great weekend packed with outdoors shenanigans. I'll be driving down to Fontainebleau on Saturday for a week in the glorious French forest, so hopefully more shenanigans to come. Fingers crossed the weather follows us down!