Thursday, 11 April 2013

Post Switzerland power! A couple of days on the grit.

We returned from Switzerland to news of epically good conditions in the Peak District - snowballing had become the word of the week. When we left, water was still descending from the skies in its various forms: fog, snow, rain, sleet, hail - you name it, at some point over the past few weeks we've had it. So it was a welcome break to leave the British isles and head for sunnier climbs. You can read my Switzerland round up here.

Despite having spent 10 days abroad, bouldering in some of the best locations on the planet, I was slightly jealous to hear that conditions had been so good back home. Strange, huh? You're always jealous of the things you don't have. So after one full rest day on the Sunday (we got back at 2am), I went to work on Monday morning with the firm idea of heading out to Burbage North to get on Zaff Skoczylas (7C) at 5:30pm. When the clock rolled around to the required hour, I departed the office for the crag, only to find the starting holds on my problem to be dripping wet. The snow above had melted and it was streaming down the hill, through cracks and crevasses, and had seeped all over the bottom section. Gutted. To add injury to insult, I promptly slipped over in the wet and crunched my knees. Thankfully, I managed to walk it off on the way back towards Burbage Bridge.

On the way, I stopped off at The Terrace (7C), which I climbed at the end of last year. A write up and video can be found here. I was feeling stronger than last year, so I thought I'd test myself and see if it felt any easier. I pulled on from the sit position easily, to my surprise, as this had felt rather desperate last year, and promptly didn't throw for the dish very hard, still hitting it before plopping back down on my arse when it didn't latch. Three or four tries later (having also practised the end moves once), I caught the dish and climbed to the finishing lip before dropping off - the mantle being around 3+ in grade and the back of the boulder being shrouded in snow and soggy ground, I thought I'd leave it. Happy with that, I continued the walk back to Burbage Bridge.

Twitter told me a friend was heading out to try the classic West Side Story (7B+) so, having glimpsed them across the gorge, I walked over to try the problem with them. I like this problem (to look at) and I'd love to climb it, but I feel closer to climbing an 8C fridge hugger (I've never tried one - I say that as an exaggeration to get my point across) than I do to that line. I've never tried WSS in earnest because I've never got on with the moves - balance and revolving around a tiny, tiny crimp. I'm hopeful that one day, when trying it in passing as I do, it will just fall into place and I'll glide to the top like you're supposed to. We'll see. Anyway, after a few stifled efforts, I made no progress whatsoever and my friend split his left finger tip pretty badly. Onwards!

For a "consolation prize" we went around the corner to try Jason's Mono Problem - something I must have walked past a hundred times but never realised it was an actual boulder problem. It's one or two moves (depending how you start it - it makes no difference either way) and you jump for a huge jug by way of a shallow, sharp mono that you hardly pull on. Having never heard of or considered the problem before, I had no idea of grade and didn't ask. The first try I overshot it, poking the wall above pretty hard - which hurt like hell on cold fingers. The second try I did it and thought it must be 6A/+. The guide actually grades it 7A. The softest 7A I think I've ever done. It must be ideally suited to the tall.

Anyway, it was really, really cold, so it was time to depart - the sun quickly descending. But I decided to stop off at Mermaid (7A) at Burbage Bridge on the way back to the car, which I promptly retro-flashed, easily, giving me pause for thought on Jason's Mono Problem... maybe it was the conditions or maybe I was just feeling really strong after Switzerland, but everything was feeling relatively easy (except WSS, of course). This is probably the first time this has ever happened in my climbing career. I hope it's not the last!

So, with that little confidence boost, I thought I'd give Rocket Man (7B+), just around the corner from Mermaid, a quick blast to test the power. I tried this once or twice before, a long time ago, but it always felt incredibly desperate. Pulling off the floor was OK, but dynoing from two poor footholds and two semi-decent handholds was out of the question. I hit the lip of the sloping top out first try on Monday, to my immense surprise. I had a lot more in the tank, as the first throw was a bit of a tester. A couple more goes and I was getting further and further into the meat of the sloping topout before I latched it on my fourth or fifth try. I nearly dropped it at one point, when I was trying to shift my hand into a decent mantling position, but a little wiggling later and I was on the top, freezing my ass off in the wind.

Just to finish an excellent couple of hours bouldering after work, I did the superb 6C arete right of Mermaid - it needs a name people! - and then went home for a much deserved dinner.

The following day (Tuesday) I went out to Rivelin for spotting duties and managed to climb Beak No Weevil (7A+), which I had also tried before and deemed desperate for the grade. It still felt desperate but I managed to finish it. I also went out to Curbar last night (Wednesday) but after warming up on the Trackside boulder I found that my left arm had had enough and was calling time. Both it and I needed rest, so that's what I'm doing. Looks like rain for the foreseeable future, and then most are heralding the start of limestone season - the temperatures set to rise to typical spring levels before summer rolls in. Maybe I'll try some limestone climbing this year... hmm... there's a thought.