Sunday, 16 April 2017

Happy Easter! Update on bouldering and training

I thought it was about time I put pen to paper, so to speak, and write a little update on my winter's bouldering and training for you to digest while you are all munching your Easter eggs! The last time I blogged last year I was about to embark on a period of indoor training and bouldering with all the crags either already seeping or about to. I had some interesting sessions at Malham and Raven Tor right at the end of the routes season on Pete Dawson's new route Something for Nothing 8c and Evolution 8c+, making some mini breakthroughs on both, which has given me something to think about over the winter. 

Texas Hold Em Font 7B+, Trowbarrow  (Pic: Sam Pratt)
From November onwards up until recently, I have been doing the Chris Webb Parson's one arm hang programme before work on Tuesday and Thursday mornings followed by an evening session of either bouldering at the Manchester Depot or Rockover or routes at Stockport wall. I had a highly enjoyable week in El Chorro over New Year where I managed to get two fantastic 8a's done which I had tried 16 years (!) previously, Lourdes and Musas Inquietantas, the latter route being these days very difficult to get on with the Gorge walkway being now commercialised.
Musas Inquietantas 8a, Lower Gorge, El Chorro (Pic; Adam Bailes)
Porrot 7c+, Makinodromo, El Chorro
Since getting back from El Chorro, I have been getting out bouldering at the weekends as much as possible - pulling down on real rock at regular intervals is important for psyche after all! A lot of visits have been to Parisella's Cave where some extremely cold and windy sessions were had but also to Pill Box Wall and Sunny Wall on the Orme and Tremeirchion and the Gop near Prestatyn plus a day at Trowbarrow in the Lakes. I was chuffed that I have managed to tick off some of my hardest boulder problems, including my longstanding nemesis, Drink Driving V12 on Pill Box Wall, which has been satisfying. Halfway House V10 and In Life (lite) V11 in the Cave, Silence of the Trams Sit V10 at Sunny Wall, Enter the Dragon V12 at Tremeirchion and Push the Button V10 at the Gop have been stand out problems. I'm well keen for more though, its addictive this bouldering game! I have done some videos on my Youtube and Vimeo of some of these boulders if anybody is interested in getting any beta for their own ascents:

Youtube bouldering                                Vimeo bouldering

Here are a few pictures of the bouldering I've accumlated over the last few months:

Halfway House Font 7C+, Parisella's Cave (Pic: Ally Smith)
Pit Problem Font 7B, Trowbarrow (Pic: Sam Pratt)
Texas Hold Em Font 7B+, Trowbarrow (Pic: Sam Pratt)
The Lizard King Font 7C, under Dinas Mot (Pic: George Dunning)

The Tracks Font 8A, Barrel Cave (video still)
The last few weekends, I have managed to get to Llanberis Pass as the weather has improved to try out some problems I have heard a lot about at some new venues, which I think is important to do in order to avoid going stale at your regular crags. It has been cool to climb stuff like The Tracks V11 in the Barrel Cave and the Lizard King V9 under Dinas Mot and Corridors of Power V10 in the Cwm Glas Bach boulders over a handful of visits, which has left me hungry for more!

Pump up the Valium Font 7c+, Raven Tor (Pic: Ally Smith)
Recently, I was psyched to do a one arm hang on the central bottom rung of the Beastmaker 2000 without rotating and with no weight taken off for the first time, which is definitely progress! Here is a little video of the first time I did this on my right arm:

Now, thoughts are turning to the forthcoming routes season and I have already been back to Raven Tor and Malham to get involved with some of my projects there. This year, I am going to try and boulder as much as possible as well over the summer, to keep the power up - its got to help on those route cruxes. So, stay psyched out there and whether you are going for boulder or route projects this spring, try hard and all the training will be worth it in the end!

Views from Sunny Wall, Great Orme

Friday, 28 October 2016

Project updates from Kilnsey and Smith Rock

Hi folks, I thought I would update you all on progress on projects which I have been trying this year. As anyone who has devoted more than 3 days to a redpoint project can attest, the closer to your limit a route is the more things have to fall exactly in place for a send to take place. I have been beavering away at 2 main projects this year, at two crags that could not be more different but which I love spending time at in equal measure. The first is True North 8c at Kilnsey in Yorkshire and the second is Just Do It 8c+ at Smith Rock out in Oregon, USA. Having multi year projects has its challenges both mental and physical but I am hoping to seal the deal on both of them as soon as I can, roll on next season!

Leaving the Full Tilt belay on the first crux of True North (Pic - Dale Comley)
I have been out to try Just Do It twice this year, the first time was back in April this year. I was unexpectedly presented with the opportunity of a longer trip than usual at the start of September being in between jobs and didn't hesitate to head back there for a month for another crack but I'll come onto that later.

The upper crux of Evolution 8c+, Raven Tor (Pic - Sam Pratt)
First up, I'll pen a few lines on this years attempts on True North. (My blog on last year's attempts is here: After returning from Smith at the end of April, I had a few weekends on Evolution 8c+ at Raven Tor, the other hard project I would like to do eventually if all goes to plan. I made progress on the upper wall and had some good sessions with George on it who was very psyched before picking up a tweak to his finger on Weedkiller :( However, a split tip from repeatedly sessioning the crux move (a vicious lock on the lip of the roof left of Chimes using a tiny 6mm edge) meant I had to take some time off the route, by which time it had warmed up and True North was dry.

Locking the gaston pocket up to the left hand mono at the end of the first crux of True North (Pic - Dale Comley)
Looking back on how the summer panned out, I spent pretty much every weekend at Kilnsey from mid May through to the end of August, including a couple of half days in mid week and spent a lot of time on the route. After a complete sequence rebuild I was able to work out my ideal beta by mid July and made it to the last move for the first time. I got there 6 times in total by mid August which was a breakthrough in itself after failing at the penultimate bolt multiple times last summer, i.e. at the part where it steepens up to 60 degrees around a chunky glued block. What made the difference was firstly going out right by the third bolt on Full Tilt, which actually saves power for higher up on the route, even though its more long winded than going direct. Actually, for all but the most flexible, the direct moves are now basically defunct after a crucial foot spike for the flag move crumbled away (along with a few others, fortunately not irreparably ;)) Also, by keeping my feet lower on the first move after the Full Tilt belay (see pic at top of the page) and bridging out down and to the right so the moves using the razor crimps were less bunched up was much easier than my previous method. On the moves at the glued block, Luke Dawson pointed out that it is easier to throw a left heel up before you slap up for the big slot by the last bolt, which was a huge help and put me on the last move, which was exciting. 

Clipping the penultimate bolt on True North, at the 'eyes' and before the glued block (Pic: Dale Comley)

On the last weekend in July, I got to the last move 3 times on the saturday and sunday and it looked like I had a good chance of doing it. However, it wasn't to be as the crag proceeded to get progressively wetter, catastrophically so in mid August, putting paid to all suitors' ambitions for another year (apart from a certain Alex Megos who was the only (2nd go) ascentionist this year). Oh well, this is part of the challenge of the route and it means that you have to really tick it in May/ June or risk running the gauntlet of the crag turning into a waterfall. Next year, I plan to hit the route early and take strategic leave days in May/ June for the campaign. Now knowing my perfect beta, which has definitely been hard won (!) no sessions will be wasted working stuff out so its all down to training and execution. 

Wrestling with the glued block, which guards entry to the last move, strenuous stuff! (Pic - Dale Comley)
Sticking the slot by the last bolt (don't do it this way, whack your left heel up on the block first!) (Pic - Dale Comley)

After North Buttress got wet, I took advantage of the chance to head to Smith at short notice that changing jobs had offered. One moment I was doing a lantern session at Rubicon, the next I was tying on under Just Do It on the Monkey Face, shaking off the jet lag! With a long stretch of 30 days to go for attempts, I was careful to try and avoid trying it too much and in the first 10 days or so, had second day sessions on White Wedding 8b+ or 5.14a in Aggro Gully to mix things up a bit, which I managed to send (see the video below):

So how did the redpoints go? Well at the end of my trip in April, I was pleased to make it to the 'porthole' (see my the second half of my blog post here: With a bit more time to play with this trip, I initially spent a few sessions on links in the upper part of the route, managing for the first time to link from the belay of the first vertical 8a+/8b pitch (at the 10th bolt) to the upper chains, which is a 15 meter 8b+ in its own right. Logically, if you can do this link then you should be able to seal the deal from the ground as there is a very good stemming rest just down and right of the 10th bolt, the famous 'Sharma' rest where he takes his jumper off in the Pusher video from 1997, where you can stand around for up to 3 minutes. However, I found during repeated redpoints from the ground that in spite of this rest, the upper crux feels substantially more pumpy than when you approach it just having done the 3 bolt 7b+/7c from the belay. 

Not a wet crimp in sight! (Pic - Bob Loomis)
On redpoint from the ground, I would get through the lower crux by the 14th bolt (a savage Font 7b+ crimp move in the steep purple rock) most redpoints (8 times this trip in total) but fail to get through the upper crux due to very high levels of pump. The porthole is such a good hold, albeit with very poor feet that it is tempting to outstay your welcome there. I would generally spend 45 secs to a minute there trying desparately to expel all the lactic acid from my forearms before pressing on. The upper crux feels extremely taxing in that state of pump as it is an insecure Font 7b stab to a deep 2 finger pocket that requires you to retain good form using an awkward right smear and executing a big cross through to a tiny left hand gaston crimp and then to the deep 2 finger pocket. Funnily enough, the stronger you feel and less pumped you are, the easier these moves feel, go figure! 

At the first shake by the 5th bolt (5.13b or 8a to here (Pic - Bob Loomis)

 I was hit with a 6 day warm spell at the 2 week mark after having 4 or so  attempts where I was quite close to sticking the pocket. However, for some reason, I kept repeatedly getting the gaston too low on the cross through and once that happens there is no way back, no adjusting is possible! Hard climbing was pretty much out of the question with temps up to 93F on one day. After some trail building in Cocaine Gully and a few training sessions in shady Aggro Gully, it was time to resume attempts. However, there was now an element of time pressure as I had less than 2 weeks left. The problem with a route of this nature on a relatively short trip is that you need a full rest day between serious attempts due to the sharp nature of the rock and the fact that you are pretty much wasted the next day! The days soon mount up and suddenly I was down to the last week. I was taking 2 full rest days to be totally fresh after a chat with Sonnie Trotter (which was rad!) who gave me some more ideas for foot beta - he sent it back in 2000.

The first crux of the upper section by the 14th bolt, the porthole rest up and left (Pic - Jason Bagby)

I gave it a really good go with 3 days to go with Calvin in pretty much perfect temps of 56F and had one finger in the back of the 2 finger pocket on the upper crux and felt the least pumped yet in the porthole.  However, as soon as my left fingers bit into the sharp gaston on the cross through I knew I was a little too low on it again, my body sagged downwards slightly and my left elbow went up... I was off again! On my last attempt on the last day after only one rest day where the very friendly French climbers Nina Caprez and Christophe Bichet were enjoying their second day in the Park up on the Monkey I didn't manage to make it to the porthole due to still being fatigued from my last attempt.

:Leaving the porthole, the big span for the first 2 finger pocket (Pic - Heather Furtney)
I am more motivated than ever to return as I have a better idea of what is required in order to send this beast having been up to the redpoint crux a fair few times now. You need to be both fit and strong at the same time, not an easy combo! There are plenty of climbers out there with multi-year projects in a similar situation who I draw inspiration from. Back at Malham and the Tor and in a new job, I am reflecting on the experience and already planning my winter's training for next year's bout on both Just Do It and True North. Thanks for reading and keep the faith on your projects out there!

Just Do It 8c+, East Face of the Monkey, Smith Rock (Pic: Adam McKibben)

Monday, 16 May 2016

Winter bouldering and Spring trip back to Smith

Hi folks, I thought I would write a little round up of the training and bouldering I've been doing over the last 6 months and my latest trip to Smith Rock along with my goals for this summer. The winter was spent training hard, doing a lot of bouldering at the excellent Manchester Depot and fingerboarding on my new beastmaker. I have a nasty ankle sprain back in December to thank for getting me more into 'hangboarding' as the yanks would call it. While laid up in December and before I could jump off properly again in early February, I had a period of intense sessions, often doing 7 climbing sessions per week spread over 5 days, with 2 rest days. Weekends were spent bouldering in Wales, mainly in Parisella's Cave but with frequent visits to Pantymwwn, Tremeirchion and the excellent micro crag, the Gop, near Prestatyn. This was hard work but I was psyched because it was with the overall aim of raising the bar strength-wise so I could have a good chance of making a breakthrough on or actually doing my project 'Just Do It' out at Smith and also to put me in good shape for my projects on UK lime. 

Smoke a Bloke, Font 7b+ at the Gop, North Wales (Pic: Sam Pratt) 
When you want something badly enough, you'll go the extra mile and make sacrifices to achieve your aim whether that is an hour less in bed before work, fingerboarding
The last move of Solomon's Seal Font 7c+ (Pic: Sam Pratt)
Solomon's Seal 7c+ (Pic: Sam Pratt)
at 7:15am or busting out an extra lap on Rockatrocity when the wind is whistling through the back of the Cave and its 3 degrees. I knew I had to get stronger to have any chance on the savage crux of Just Do It, situated by the 14th bolt and it was with this in mind that I set myself mini goals of doing Hatchatrocity 8A in the Cave, 36 Chambers Sit start 8A at Tremeirchion and Blokesmoker Low 8A at the Gop. I even threw in as a goal a grit 8A called Solomon's Seal Sit start at Stanage after getting the stand start (Font 7C+) wired. 
Ticking off anything remotely hard is satisfying and it was gratifying to tick off Hatchatrocity and 36 Chambers sit start both on the same day in March on my best day's bouldering since 2009. The others will have to wait as shortly after this, I had to do some emergency stamina training at Stockport Wall with 3 weeks to go before my flight and had to postpone attempts on these other projects. Sometimes its hard being an allrounder! Even though bouldering is great as a way of training endurance as well as power (aka Jerry Moffat's training philosophy), the thought of setting off on a 30m monster pitch having done no roped climbing for 3 months was sufficient to scare me into putting some time into this aspect of my climbing. 

36 Chambers Sit, Font 8A (Pic: Sam Pratt)

The reachy starting moves of 36 Chambers Sit (Font 8A) Pic: Sam Pratt
Sam Pratt, a talented photographer and climber living in Manchester has been coming out with me to Wales and the Peak and has been taking some snaps, some of the best ones are here. Thanks a lot for all these shots Sam!  

Hatchatrocity, Font 8A (Pic: Sam Pratt)
The last few moves of Rockatrocity on the link in from Hatchatrocity, Font 8A (Pic: Sam Pratt)
A couple of weekends before flying out to Smith, I had a couple of pretty cold outings to Malham where I managed to tick 'A.B.H' 8a+, a pumpy link up of GBH into Baboo Baboo, which was a good early season outing. I'm looking forward to some more Yorkshire action this summer, with True North, unfinished business from last season, being my primary objective. With Kilnsey already dry, attempts have begun at the time of writing, but more on that in future blogs :).

Under the Bridge, Font 7b+, Pantymwyn (Pic: Sam Pratt)
Early on in the lower pitch (Bolts 1 - 10)
Pic: Julien Havac
I have been trying Just Do It for a year now, spread over three, 2 week trips. So, how did this trip's attempt go? Well, after 4 days re familiarising with the moves doing some links into the crux from the belay at the end of the first pitch (at bolt 10), I decided to concentrate more on top-down links rather than try repeatedly from the ground as this had started to become quite frustrating on my previous trips. We were hit with 5 days of very warm weather in the middle of the trip which was not ideal. It was like summer with temps as high as 79 degrees Fahrenheit making serious attempts out of the question. The Monkey is cooler than the lower climbing areas and often much windier but this has limits and on one abortive attempt, I literally has moist fingertips before bearing down on the left hand crux crimp, which meant pulling on the razor blade hold was a non starter it was so painful! Thankfully, on the last day of these warmer temps, a nice breeze was blowing when I set off on my link go from bolt 10 at 7:30pm. Climbing through the last 3 bolts of the yellow rock (a 10 metre 7b+ leading up to the upper resting ledge at bolt 13 just into the purple band) I realised conditions were actually pretty good due to the effect of the wind. Indeed, that same evening my friend Peder Groseth, a local Bend strongman, sent Starvation Fruit, a long 8c on the Picnic Lunch Wall that day so they can't have been that bad!
Gaining the porthole rest at bolt 15 (Pic: Julien Havac)

My goal on this link attempt was to get to the top and I was chuffed to get to the resting 'porthole' (shown in the picture below of the first ascentionist Jibe Tribout back in 1992) for the second time that session. I realised also that I wasn't that pumped at this point, unlike on many of my other link goes. The moves leaving the porthole constitute the redpoint crux of the route and although not as hard as the crimpy V9 moves gaining it, they are a major hurdle to clipping the chains. 

(See my earlier blog post for more detail and photos of these moves: 

It was the move shown in the picture below that I managed to stick for the first time linking from bolt 10, a stab off a tiny left hand gaston crimp into a deep 2 finger pocket with a tiny smear for your right toe that requires a fair degree of accuracy. Unfortunately I fell off the last hard move of the pitch, a throw off a slopey sidepull crimp for your left hand for a crimp rail by bolt 16, which marks the start of the exit moves to bolt 17. Still I was pleased to have nearly done the 8b+ link from the top of the first pitch to the top. 
So, with 4 climbing days left, I surely had to try from the ground and luckily was blessed with some cooler temps when I next came up to the Monkey with my friend Calvin. On my first go from the ground this trip, I was really pleased to get to the porthole at the 15th bolt for the first time, this link is 8c I reckon if the whole route is 8c+. I was buzzing as on my previous 2 trips I had fallen around 12 times from this move from the ground; it was the breakthrough I had been looking for. In retrospect I hung around too long in the porthole and didn't have the best way of holding it to rest. It is pretty awkward to hold as although it is a good jug, you have to hold it cross handed and there is only room for 7 fingers and the feet are not great so you are mostly on your arms. So when I embarked on the redpoint crux I didn't have much left to give and fell off 3 moves into the traverse rightwards. 

The upper crux by bolt 15 (Pic: Heather Furtney)
I was then faced with a dilemma with 3 days left. Do I rest 1 day then try the next to last day with the possibility of another attempt on the last day? Or rest 2 full days before an attempt on the last day? Or do some lighter climbing tomorrow then take a single rest day before have a last day attempt? I chose the latter strategy as I felt I was gaining fitness from doing other, easier pitches both on the same day after attempts on Just Do It and also on the next day before taking a rest day. A tick of Churning in the Ozone, a long, pumpy 8a probably in retrospect took more out of me than I expected but I enjoyed the pitch and it is so difficult to judge these things just right. Anyway, the last day dawned and my friend Andrew Hunzicker and me warmed up in Aggro Gully before heading up to the Monkey where we were greeted with really good conditions. After my initial warm up go, I set off feeling really good but unfortunately, the draw on the 14th bolt, which most people don't clip on the lead, stabbed me in the chest during the crux move as I was trying to get really close into the wall, pushing me off the move! I was gutted as this was the first time this had happened and I was feeling really good. No matter, after an hour and fifteen minutes rest and the draw safely removed from the 14th bolt, I had another go and got a new highpoint, making 2 moves further than my previous session and reaching the porthole for the second time. This time I had made a conscious decision not to outstay my welcome and set off after around a minute's shaking out. I had very little left for the pocket stab move but was psyched to have finally got there and had a go in anger. Would I have been fresher after 2 full rest days? Who knows, all I know is that I have proved to myself that this rig is possible for me for sure and that I'll be back next year for hopefully 3 weeks or a longer trip, can't wait! Here is a little video of my best attempt:

I was definitely feeling stronger this trip than October last year from all the bouldering and training and now know that as the route is so bouldery, it suits me to go in the Spring rather than the Autumn when a summer campaign of routing will inevitably mean a slight drop off in power at the expense of increased route fitness. So, here's to Spring 2017! In the meantime, there are plenty of hard sport routes to be dealing with here in the UK and I have been on Evolution as well as True North in the last few sessions, its certainly exciting to get involved with all these classic hard routes. Til next time, enjoy your climbing out there!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Suirana/ Margalef 2016

Happy New Year everyone, I hope all your climbing wishes come true in 2016! To update you all about the last 2 months or so since I came back from Smith Rock at the start of November, I started a period of exclusively bouldering at the Rockover bouldering centre in Manchester (which is 5 minutes' drive away from where I live) in the evenings after work. I combined this with weekend sessions bouldering in Parisella’s Cave on the Orme outside Llandudno. My aim was to increase my power levels in order to prepare for my objectives for the coming year, which are Just Do It at Smith Rock, True North at Kilnsey and Evolution at Raven Tor and also to prepare for a forthcoming 8 day trip to Suirana I had planned with Ally Smith. 

Give me more of that orange stone! Mucho Troncdo poca Madera 7c, El Pati, Suirana (the onsight that got away!)
After 6 weeks of pure bouldering I was starting to feel reasonably strong and was coming close to ticking Hatchatrocity, a tough Font 8A in the Cave, falling off the move to the final pocket several times. However, it wasn’t to be after some seriously heavy rain beat down in late November/ early December which meant some key holds required drying before each attempt, which didn't help matters. 

Something to train for! Pocket cranking on the steep start to Magic Festival 7c, Raco de Tenebres, Margalef
Also, unfortunately, I sustained quite a bad ‘category 2’ sprain on my left ankle in mid December after bailing out from the Cave one Saturday morning after arriving to find it was completely condensed out. On the way home, an awkward, twisting fall at the Boardroom bouldering centre onto quite a hard mat resulted in a trip to A and E, a precautionary x-ray and 2 weeks of exclusive beastmaker training while the swelling gradually went down. Oh well, take in on the chin as they say! This meant that I had to alter my objectives for my Spain trip. As the first 10 days or so involved getting back to walking normally, hard climbing would have to take a back seat for a week or two. I had intended to try Migranya, a tough 8b which I had tried on a previous trip and which is a powerful number. However, after a trip to my physio, Cathy Gordon of Romiley Physio (see if you fancy an excellent service in the Manchester area) and getting the all clear to go, I was keen just to see how my ankle would fare and trying more vertical, less intense climbs seemed a sensible plan.

Ally on La Seconella Direct 7a+, Suiranella Centre
As it worked out, 2 weeks off actual climbing coinciding with the Christmas festivities meant that the first couple of days were spent getting back into the groove and the ankle felt pretty weird and weak at first. Just scrambling in to the crags over rocky and uneven paths without tweaking it was a challenge. I was climbing with a baggy boot on my left foot and a neoprene ankle support to protect it. I was therefore reasonably satisfied to redpoint a 7b+ on my second day. 

Ally at Suiranella Centre
On previous trips, due to quite a few days spent redpointing Zona-0 and Ramadan and trying Migranya, I hadn’t made it round to the Suiranella crags before and I was keen to change that and sample what they had to offer. We ventured round to Suiranella Centre on the 3rd day and I managed to onsight a 7b+ without any problems. The following day, I was starting to feel like my ankle was getting back to normal whilst climbing and I managed to bust out a couple of 7c onsights at Raco de la Finestra, a superb pockety crag in Margalef.

Pockety fun on Magic Festival 7c Raco de Tenebres, Margalef - don't forget the kneebar ;)
After a rest day, and not having a 2 day hangover for a change ;), we decided to hit up Suiranella Centre again. After warming up onsighting a 7b+ and fluffing a tricky 7c, I decided to have a go at Memorias de una Sepia, a crimpy looking 8a after watching another climber crush it and taking mental note of all the foot bumps on the crux. There seemed to be a left foot heel hook move using some poor slopey crimps to deadpoint for some better holds leading into a scoop by the 4th bolt. I had been informed that from here to the top is 7b+ so I knew this should be doable. The heel hook crux went exactly as planned with a few desperate slaps and was the first heel hook since my sprain so I was psyched it still worked and there were no ill effects. Getting into the scoop was satisfying but the rest wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped. Nothing for it but to quest on upwards! Knowing that an 8a flash was on the cards if I could keep it together was a great incentive to keep cranking and I took my time over the next 6 bolts, milking the rests and trying to keep my cool on the last redpoint crux, a crank on some tiny crimps with a left foot jam in a crack leading to a monster jug and easy ground. I was made up to be back climbing nearly at my best onsight/ flash level so soon into my ankle recovery. 

Victory pose after flashing Memorias de una Sepia 8a, Suiranella Centre
To celebrate, I redpointed a tricky 7c, Matarrates, further left on the same crag and eyed up La Crema, a famous 7c+ wall climb I had wanted to try the next day.

The bulge of Matarrates, a quality 7c at Suiranella Centre
After a few beers in Goma Dos, the new local bar for climbers in Cornudella, the next day, I warmed up on a 7b and then set off on my onsight attempt of La Crema. It all went well with some tricky, technical moves interspersed with good shakeouts (so much so that I had to force myself to leave them at times). A total hands off rest 3 bolts from the top is the nail in the coffin of the route being 8a (it isn’t, despite the abundance of 8a ticks on scorecards out there ;)) and allowed a complete recovery before tackling the top crux. This involves a few intense cranks on some tiny crimps on a slab which allow you to do a hopeful rock-up for some more positive crimps and the jug of glory! I was pleased with this one as while on paper it was my ideal route being a crimpy, vertical wall climb, it still has to climbed at the end of the day. Setting off is the hardest part as always and once into the rhythm of climbing, I enjoyed every minute until the chain was clipped.

Onsighting La Crema 7c+ Suiranella East
Unfortunately, I split a tip on the top crux and had to tape up my right index finger for the remaining 2 days of climbing. This didn’t stop a productive day at Margalef however during which I managed to flash a 7c, La Corva de Felicitat at Raco de Tenebres, a cool, steep conglomerate/ pocket crag and redpoint 2 others including Tsunami, a powerful short one that had got away on my last visit to the area in 2012. 


Tsunami 7c at Sector Laboratori, Margalef (no walk-in required!). Brian Weaver climbing in lower picture
On the final day, we both felt quite tired but last day psyche kicked in and we both managed to redpoint La Ardilla Roja, a tricky 7c right of Zona-0 at El Pati after we had failed to onsight it. With an hour to go before we had to bail to Barcelona airport for our evening flight back to Manchester, I managed to onsight a 7c at El Primavera Sector to round off a highly enjoyable trip.

I was happy to be back climbing after the ankle incident and whilst the swelling is still there and I am not allowed to jump down from boulder problems for another 10 days, I am pleased with progress so far and psyched to get back to bouldering training. Interestingly, I have always found that a fitness trip like this usually kickstarts my bouldering for some reason, no idea why, maybe a break from a power cycle or something rests the muscles!? I will leave that one to the training boffins out there J Happy climbing folks.

Suirana Village from Suiranella Centre
My Trip Ticklist above 7b+

Memorias de una Sepia (flash)                                                        Suiranella Centre


La Crema (onsight)                                                                          Suiranella South


Antologica (onsight)                                                                         Raco de la Finestra, Margalef
Festa Fotre (onsight)                                                                        Raco de la Finestra, Margalef
Estratosferica                                                                                   Suiranella Centre
Matarrates                                                                                        Suiranella Centre
Mucho Tronco poca Madera                                                            El Pati, Suirana
Magic Festival                                                                                  Raco de Tenebres, Margalef
La Corva de Felicitat (flash)                                                            Raco de Tenebres, Margalef
Tsunami                                                                                            Sector Laboratori, Margalef
La Ardilla Roja                                                                                 El Pati, Suirana
Hijos de la Pedri (onsight)                                                               El Primavera, Suirana


Teoria Punset                                                                                   Suiranella East
La Refinaria (onsight)                                                                      Suiranella Centre
Berrio Cabrero (onsight)                                                                 Suiranella Centre

Friday, 13 November 2015

Progress on Just Do It

I've been back nearly 2 weeks now since another trip to Smith Rock to try the world famous 'Just Do It'. I have been going through the photos that some of the talented photographers, Heather Furtney, Jason Bagby and Julien Havac took of me on the route and thought I would share some of them here. I was excited to see what difference a summer of climbing would make compared to my attempts in May plus the fact that I knew the beta now. As things turned out, I ended up trying True North up until early October due to Kilnsey remaining amazingly dry so it didn't leave much time to prepare for a longer, supposedly pumpier affair like Just Do It. However I needn't have worried as despite its 35m length, this rig is much more about power than stamina, unlike Jibe's other famous line at Smith To Bolt or Not to Be.

I went alone this time and was lucky enough to get belays off some kind local climbers (Andrew, Crit, Justin, Andi and Calvin thanks a tonne!) Conditions were better than in May being mostly colder and without too much wind. The day after flying in and attending the Reel Rock Tour film showing in Bend, I went up to re-familiarise with the moves and the day after, managed to do some decent links on the upper section. It reminded me of how hard the crux by bolt 14 actually is. Imagine a viscous V8+ shouldery, crimp problem on Pill Box Wall on the Orme and you wouldn't be far off! This first hard section leads to a 'pod' resting slot (described in more detail in my post back in May).
Reaching the crux left hand crimper at bolt 14 (Picture by Heather Furtney)
The crux move at Bolt 14 (Picture by Jason Bagby)

 Sticking the 'tooth' by bolt 14 (Picture by Heather Furtney)
From the resting pod, there follows a very tricky and powerful traverse involving two 2 finger pockets for the right hand and some slopers, gradually easing to the belay beyond bolt 17. The move hitting the second 2 finger pocket and locking it to a left hand sloper is probably V8 alone.

Leaving the resting pod and starting the tricky traverse at bolt 15 (picture by Heather Furtney)

 Crossing through to the gaston off the first pocket then using it to stick the second (Pics by Heather Furtney)

Alan Watt's description of the route from his seminal 1992 guidebook is below:

I would agree that the first 13 bolts are merely a warm up (!) for the difficulties between bolts 14 and 16 when you are hit with some savage cranks straight off a good but quite pumpy resting rail at bolt 13. These days the bottom part of the route to bolt 10 is considered 13b or 8b due to some very thin pulls on pockets and crimps but after doing it a few times and getting it wired, its probably only 13c or 8a+ I reckon, like Alan Watts says.

Easier moves at bolt 4 (Picture Jason Bagby)
Approaching the lower crux at bolt 8 (Picture by Jason Bagby)
I decided this trip to focus at first on links into the upper crux and on my 3rd day on the route was psyched to climb from the rail at bolt 13 to the top for the first time, which is an 8b link. I found a slightly easier method on the crux before the pod by first bumping my left foot up to a small pocket before slapping for the 'tooth' crimp with the right hand which seems to make the move higher percentage. I also found that by trailing your right foot on the move to the left hand crimper on the crux rather than first placing it on smear, this move became much more manageable.

On my next session I started climbing from the belay at the end of the first pitch (bolt 10), which must be 8b+ if climbed to the top and links through a 3 bolt 7b or 7b+ to the resting rail at bolt 13 before embarking on the top 8b section. On this link attempt, I was pleased to make it through the crux at bolt 14 (the first time I had ever climbed any distance into it). After a brief shake at the resting pod and chalk on each hand, I got to the stab move to the second 2 finger pocket, just failing to stick it. I have made a little video of my link attempts on the upper section plus the bottom wall to give you a flavour of the climbing involved (and to remember the moves for future attempts):

If I had had more time I would have continued trying this link as it would have been a big confidence boost to have got it in the bag before trying from the ground. However, with only a week left it seemed to make more sense to try the full rig and 'roll the dice'. On my 5th day I started the first of 3 days' worth of attempts from the ground before my trip ended. Each session would start off with 20 minutes warming up on a board indoors before hiking up Misery Ridge to the Monkey and climbing Spank the Monkey, a runout 12a. I would then climb short sections on the route to the top to prepare for full blown attempts. I had 6 attempts, two per session and got to the move slapping for the tooth before the resting pod on 6 occasions in total. I felt closer to this move from the ground than in May when I frequently fell on the previous move to the left hand crimp before the slap to the tooth. It was frustrating not to stick the tooth though and make it to the resting pod. You would think that with an excellent, approaching hands off rest at bolt 9 (I stood here for 2 - 3 minutes on redpoint), you would recover almost back to zero and I felt fresh at this rest on all of these 6 attempts. However, something about having cranked through all of the lower section five minutes before attacking the upper section makes it tougher to crack than if you have simply slumped on the rope at bolt 10.

Reaching bolt 16 on a link attempt, nearly there! (Picture by Jason Bagby)
On my 6th session, I managed to one hang the route, resting 5 minutes on bolt 14 before pulling on 2 moves where I had fallen off and climbing to the top, which was definitely progress since my last trip. This was the first time I had done this on the same tie-in, which is a better 'one hang' ascent I guess than if you climb your 'overlapping sections' over different tie-ins or sessions. On my last attempt, despite taking 2 rest days, I definitely felt a bit tired on the route after 7 sessions on it in 13 days. What you need ideally is a longer period of time during which you can do other climbing in order to remain fresh on the route....or a higher overall climbing level. With only 2 weeks at a time available from work, I will have to adopt the latter approach for future trips although perhaps a few days trying easier routes to mix it up a bit wouldn't go amiss. After my last tie-in I hiked down Aggro Gully and managed to onsight Kill the Hate, a cool 5.13a or 7c+ in the gathering gloom and felt that I was feeling stronger in general after the previous 2 weeks of effort so all the hard work is certainly not going to waste!

Hiking up Misery Ridge to the Monkey Face with Calvin (Picture by Julien Havac)
So, what did I learn from this trip? Well, the experience was invaluable in spending more contact time on the crux and managing to discover some important new beta. I have realised that I need to change my training to get stronger so the crux feels feasible with more climbing in the arms from the lower wall. My previous training in the Spring focused on both stamina and power and I made some gains in both areas. Training for this trip was mainly doing routes outside over the summer at Kilnsey and bouldering on Peak Limestone. For my next trip, I am be changing to a '3 to 1' power/ stamina training plan where fitness is put on the back burner in favour of bouldering  and fingerboarding. I think this will help my climbing in general. I want to get back to my bouldering level from a period when I was exclusively bouldering 6 years ago. Fitness training is important for sure but there comes a point in every route climber's career when they have to knuckle down and get stronger. After all, as Tony Yaniro said: "If you can't hold the holds, there is nothing to endure!"

I hope these ramblings encourage others out there knuckling down to long term projects. Redpointing ain't easy and if they went down without a fight, it would hardly be worth it would it? Onwards to projects in the UK and the next trip!

A moody looking East Face of the Monkey (Picture by Julian Havac)