Sunday, 6 January 2008

the project at Ilkley

My girlfriend woke and told me the weather looked good. We ate a healthy breakfast and phoned round our friends and family to find out what the weather was like in other areas. I almost decided to head back to Cratcliffe but remembered the project at Ilkley and thought it would be a good idea to put my apparent good form to the test. The closer we got to Ilkley, the worse the weather got and I was beginning to feel I had made the wrong decision. I met my photographer at the rather damp crag and we headed up to check it out. After warming up, I dropped a rope down the project wall. The project had been tried by many of the best British climbers for the last decade as it is a glaringly obvious, beautifully blank piece of rock. It is hard right from the floor and gets harder and more dangerous the higher you get. The climbing is very varied, with all off dynos, leading to micro crimping, leading to more dynos. I started to try individual moves and was alarmed to find I couldn’t even pull on to a few positions. The holds in the middle are tiny and spaced, this really is a hard piece of climbing. After warming my fingers up some more, I began to work out the most efficient way to move on the wall and eventually managed all the moves and linked a few short sections. I sripped my gear knowing that it was possible, super hard, but possible. It will take a lot of physical and mental preparation, and be ridiculously scary to lead but I believe that I can climb it, and in doing so, take grit climbing to a new level.
Before I left the apartment that morning, I had ideas of trying to on-sight a route called Death Watch. It is graded E7 6b which essentially means the climbing is relatively easy, but very dangerous. You can’t fall off! On arriving at the crag, the route looked very damp and I almost forgot about wanting to try it but after feeling pretty good on the project, I headed over to take a look, just in case. It looked ok, but I couldn’t be 100% sure if the top slopers were clean and dry. My girlfriend, Emily, kindly offered to take a look on a rope and brush the holds so I quickly set up a belay, racing against the fading light. As Emily made her way down the route, I ran around, trying to keep warm. The sun disappeared and everything felt eerie and tense. I made jokes with my photographer to lighten the mood whilst putting on my rock boots but still was unsure if I really wanted to go for it. Emily must have sensed how I was feeling and told me “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine, you’ll cruise it”, just the words I needed to hear. It was really dark and I was struggling to see the footholds. A guy who we had met earlier that day offered me his head torch as a joke, “what a great idea” I thought, and thankfully took it from him, before chalking my hands a final time and heading up into the unknown. The climb went smoothly and I really enjoyed it. I had a big smile on my face the whole way home. What a fun day!

Saturday, 5 January 2008

New Year off to a great start!

In the latter part of last year I decided to put aside a couple of months to work on a couple of famous Gritstone “projects”. As you are probably aware, the weather in England sucks and planning definite climbing or training days is almost impossible. The only sure(ish) way to get things done is to have a lot of time, a lot of psyche and unrelenting optimism.
My two main projects for this season are probably the two most famous, unclimbed lines on Grit. “The Groove” at Cratcliffe” and “The wall left of The New Statesman” at Ilkley have been looked at and attempted for years without success. They are stunning lines in obvious, easily accessible locations but are just too hard for anyone to even climb the individual moves on a toprope.
I first looked at “The Groove” about 4 years ago and managed to climb most of the easier moves but got shut down on the crux, I returned a year later but had no more luck. The following year I got close to the crux move and started to think It might be possible. Last year I managed the Crux move in isolation but then found it impossible to climb into the necessary position. After a very successful year bouldering I was feeling strong both physically and mentally and ready for another try…
Finally on the 5th some cold dry weather appeared and I headed to Cratcliffe with my girlfriend. After warming up bouldering, I set up a toprope and abseiled in to position. The day was almost at an end but I had time for a few good tries. I climbed the individual moves and the rock felt good. After a few minuets for my fingers to re warm, I started to try to link sections of the route and surprised myself be climbing two sections that I had never managed before. My confidence took a boost and in the fading light I started to try to link the whole route. I fell of the final dyno 3 times, my fingers just slipping off the edge of the finishing hold. Although I didn’t actually climb the route clean, I know it is possible for me and in better conditions (ie. Daylight) I know I can do it. Darkness came and I stripped my gear before soloing the classic E2 “Fern Hill” to get back to the top of the crag. I felt contented and pleased with myself on the drive home but also a little nervous for what lies ahead. It is only really now that the real head games and sleepless nights start. To lead any hard grit route, lots of factors need to fall into place, but to lead something like “The Groove”, everything must be perfect, and lady luck must be smiling down.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

a new year, a new blog!

­­­On the first day of the New Year, writing the first post of my new blog, I felt like I should briefly summarise my 2007, so that people who don’t know me, will get an idea of what I got up to.
2007 was a very busy and productive year for me. A lot of my hopes and dreams seemed to start to fall into place and that is all thanks to people like you and the help and support you give me.
At the beginning of 2007 I completed one of the most famous projects on Gritstone. "The Promise" E10 7a is now the hardest route on Gritstone. During the process of working the route and on the actual ascent I was filmed by 2 separate production companies. The finished footage has already appeared in one, full length, climbing film (Commited, HotAches productions 2007) and will appear in another film due out in 2008.
In the first half of 2007 I took a few trips bouldering trips Switzerland. I began to focus on "flashing" hard boulder problems and in March I became the first person in the world to Flash a confirmed V13 boulder problem when I flashed "The Ganymede Takeover" at Brione, Ticino. My ascent, along with many other hard problems was filmed by Crabstix productions and will be released in a film about myself in 2008.
In April, after a specific training program, I flashed a second V13 boulder problem, "The Great Shark Hunt" at Chironico. Again, my ascent was captured on film by Crabstix productions.
I traveled to Asia during the summer and spent some of my time sport climbing and developing the local Bouldering and Deep Water Soloing. I wrote an article about my trip which appeared on a British website and also scoped out the potential for future bouldering and trad climbing trips.
I returned to Switzerland in November and had another fantastic trip. Amongst other things I flashed my 3rd V13, "Schule des Lebens" which again was captured on film.
After having a great (very relaxing) time in Mexico, I flew into Colorado to catch up with some friends and hopefully do a little climbing. It was really cold and snowed heavily (well heavy compared to England) for a lot of the time but I managed to get a few things done and have fun.
Just before the year was out I got chance to look at a few trad climbing projects I had been told about in the past. I was really impressed and very psyched to invest some time into them. They are all fantastic lines, and super hard, just what I was looking for.
2008 has all the ingredients for a fantastic year. I am really looking forward to the TNF trips to China and the Czech Sandstone and whilst I am not away traveling, I should have plenty to occupy me back home in England.

Here’s to a great 08