Friday, 27 March 2009

Slack is just one of many words you could use to describe my blogging activity of late, there are others, particularly ones from France, but I feel slack gets the point across without being too harsh. As usual, there are no real excuses, but I will give some anyway because a) it makes me feel a little better about being slack, and b) it gives me something to write about in what has otherwise been a pretty uneventful time.

In short, I have been super busy with numerous different projects and since multitasking is definitely not one of my strong points, I have found it difficult to fit them all around one another. Writing a blog dropped right to the bottom of my pile of priorities, it became a do it tomorrow task and as the famous saying goes, tomorrow never comes.

Apart from my usual activities of climbing, training, lectures and personal work, I have recently been organising a lot of the logistics for an upcoming North Face trip I am running. The Summit Series road Trip runs from the 1st of April until the 10th of May and will take us through 14 countries to the finish at Melloblocco in Italy. Along the way we plan to climb a selection of the best, classic Fr8a’s in Europe as well as holding lots of slideshows, masterclasses and other events during our rest days.

The schedule is manic, and pretty much works out at one climbing day, one event day, one climbing day, one event day, all the way to Mello. I would never have imagined the amount of work that is needed to organise something like this. In the past my trips have always been fairly spontaneous, you know the date you leave, and after that, everything just sort of happens, but for this, simply because of the very tight schedule we need to keep if we are to complete it as planned; we need to have every day planned to perfection. Hundreds of emails have gone back and forth between many different people, and whole days just seem to vanish into a blur of forwarding, Cc’s and attachments!

When I have been able to justify time away from the computer, it’s been a tough decision between time on the rock, and time training. Obviously the rock is where I would like to be every day, but especially in the UK, days out at the crag can seem like frustrating wastes of time and money if the weather is bad. I love being outside, and in a perfect world, I would climb outside every day, but since climbing is more than just a pastime, I need to be both realistic and professional and make decisions that I feel are best for my personal progression.

Training certainly helps me progress and since it is not weather dependent it often seems like the right choice. However It is surprisingly easy so get sucked into a circular cycle of training for training sake, and at times I have had to check with myself that there is a specific aim to work towards. Without an aim or a goal, is there really a point? Possibly I guess, maybe the aim is simply to get really strong and ripped? But if that was my goal, I’d probably just take up body building. At least then I’d get to cover myself in baby oil and wear a shiny thong....

Last time I wrote about French Duke at Earl Crag. It took me a while to return to for round two on the route, much longer than I had originally planned and unfortunately the weeks between seemed to have caused a significant drop in the skin-rock friction coefficient. Despite feeling much stronger than my previous session, I failed to reach my high point and after 3 or 4 attempts I decided to cut my losses and try something else.

Paul from Hotaches was out with me getting some footage for their next DVD and so rather than just calling it a day we drove to Ilkley to try to film a little circuit. It was a fun afternoon with a lot of climbing and by the time we had finished, I felt tired and a little beat up but very content. We filmed a few problems including Desperate Dan with the direct start, Baby Spice, Ring Piece and finally Cindy Crawford. I was trying to highball CC but was stopped by a powerful lock out to the arĂȘte a few moves from the top. You are pretty high at this point, and committing to hard moves when you know you are not firing on all cylinders is difficult to do.

The difference between success and failure on the grit is very slim and 9 times out of 10 comes down solely to conditions. After climbing lots on Gritstone over the last 6 years, It seems to me that to find success, you need a healthy dose of either luck or patience. Planning in advance is almost impossible, you just need to be in the right place, at the right time, and the magic will happen.

Embracing, rather than fighting the warming weather, I began to make a few trips to Wales to climb in Parisella’s cave. This seemed like a good trade off all-round as it was still real rock, yet the problems are all powerful and often endurance orientated so would also work as training.
After re-acquainting myself with the place, I recently had a pretty good session climbing a nice set of problems both old and new (to me). The highlight of the day was split between climbing The Wire, and Bell Pig, two very different problems but both pleasantly satisfying. One of the best things about the cave is the almost never ending opportunities for links, when you complete a problem, there is almost always something you can climb into or out from it. I would like to spend a little more time in there when I get back from the trip, and if my endurance is as good as I hope it will be when the roadtrip is over, maybe I can do something really long and hard.

I have climbed quite a lot over the last week and my body is feeling tired for it so I think it will be wise to take a rest up until the roadtrip begins. (un)fortunately, I still have many jobs to do for the organisation so its safe to say I wont be sat around twiddling my thumbs!

Friday, 6 March 2009

A few months ago Jordan Buys made the first ascent of the project arĂȘte right of Mind Bomb at Earl Crag in Yorkshire. Dubbed The French Juke, Jordans solution to this often tried last great revolved around guppies and twin clamping heel hooks; not exactly a simple sequence, so props to Mr Buys for working it out.

To cut a medium story short; after wandering over to look at the line one day whilst bouldering at Earl, I decided it looked like a good contender for a flash attempt, and not only that, thought you could place the gear on lead, rather than pre-placing it. I returned the Sunday before last with ideas of doing just that.

After warming up by climbing up and down the start of the route and hanging around trying to fiddle in various bits of small kit, I felt happy that I had the gear placed as good as I could be without placing it from an ab-rope. I was even happier to find that it was actually pretty good, which made me more confident about giving it a good flash attempt.

It was a very windy day and I was really struggling to stay warm. My fingers would turn numb all too quickly when on the rock, making it nigh-on impossible to hold anything but jugs. As the day progressed, it got a little more bearable, but unfortunately never ideal and by the time I had climbed into the crux my fingers no longer belonged to me and I just managed to reverse back to the ground.

On my second attempt, I decided to try another sequence, which was a bad idea and the Duke promptly spat me off. After milliseconds of uncertainty, the gear held true, time for round three. I returned back to Jordans sequence but was having real trouble making the guppy feel good. I guess due to its unusual nature, there is a good way to hold this hold but it may need a bit of practice to find it. However, it may just be that I am too weak/crap to use it! Unless I headpoint it, we will never really know. Anyway, I took the guppy, worked both my feet up and could just about start the next move when I was suddenly airborne again.

Attempt number four, sequence number three. This sequence was not really planned; it just sort of came to be and took me to my current highpoint of just tickling the top slopers. I locked off, reached up, came up short, locked a little deeper, reached up again and I was off. Frustrating but also encouraging.

The light was fading and that was enough for the day. As I climbed up to retrieve the gear I realised how absolutely shattered I felt, which made me feel a little happier about my final sequence. I hope that when I return, I have the umpf to lock to the top sloper from where I hope the next couple of moves will be ok.

Fingers crossed