The Walk of Life
This may come as a surprise to a lot of people, but I don’t really have too much to say about this route that has not already been said. When I read Dave’s blog report on his repeat a few weeks ago, the thing that shocked me most was not his proposed downgrade (I actually found this amusingly predictable due to the current bout of downgrade fever), but how quickly he had repeated it. I remember all too well how that route made me feel and the things I had to go through to get it done; so to get it done in only 4 days is absolutely amazing, but I guess that’s the sort of things we should expect from a truly world class athlete like Dave.
From comments I have heard from friends, it seems like a few people out in cyberspace still think my proposed grade came out of thin air, with nothing to base it on. In response to this, I guess I need to repeat what I said at the time of ascent – I graded this route based on my feelings, and my past experiences, which included trying Rhapsody. All of this information can be found in detail in some of my previous posts including this one http://jamespearsonclimbing.blogspot.com/2008/10/walk-of-life-e12-7a-48m-description.html but in case you don’t have the time to trawl through the archives, here is a small section describing my initial foray Rhapsody:
“On my first attempt at Rhapsody (on a toprope), I flashed the first half of the headwall, falling due to an incorrect foot placement. I then flashed each individual move to the top.”
I found the moves on Rhapsody to be straightforward, and this was ‘the E11’. I watched other climbers take the fall that they described as “nothing”, comparing it to bigger lobs that they had taken sport climbing. Accordingly I compared this to my experience on TWOL and graded it with Rhapsody in mind (and I appreciate the two routes are different styles).
After recently returning from 3 weeks of no climbing, my endurance was fairly low. I was getting tired quickly on longer boulder problems during my training and decided something needed to be done with the obvious answer being a spot of bolt clipping. I am not a naturally fit climber; endurance is something I have to work hard at and it drops off quickly if I stop, so I was not particularly looking forward to starting back.
To cut a long story short, I managed to on-sight a couple of long 8a’s during my first bolt clipping session of the season, which came as a pleasant surprise. After returning home and filling my belly, I began to ponder how strange and subjective climbing can be and thought about something else Dave had written in his blog regarding the French grade of TWOL being 8a/8a+ and not being strenuous at all. This couldn’t be further away from the experience I had. I didn’t know exactly how hard the climbing was, which was why I chose to not offer a French grade, but I know I found the route very strenuous and had to put a lot of time into getting fit. So much so, that the period when I made the first ascent was one of the fittest of my life.
How is it possible to find a slabby 8a/+ so tiring when you are fit, yet be able to on-sight a couple of 8a’s when unfit. This is a question that I really don’t know the answer to this. What I do know is this - I don’t agree for a moment that The Walk of Life is anywhere near E9 and that’s my honest opinion.