Wednesday, 23 March 2011


Things are going well, which as I type this brings a smile to my face, and for a brief moment I even considered marking the occasion with an elegant and refined self-portrait. I'm sure you know the sort - tops off, slap on the baby oil, flip the mood lighting and stare moodily into the distance – but unfortunately, I can’t find my favourite pair of aviators, and you know as well as I do that a portrait without aviators is no portrait at all.

The reason for this blog is that the day I depart these snowy lands to return to England is drawing near. I planned to talk about how strong I feel both physically and mentally, about the preparation I have made to increase my concentration and performance under pressure, and how I feel it will be to return to hard trad after such a long time away.

However, my gooning groupies are on holiday this week (everyone needs a break once in a while - even from the best job in the world) and so my overly indulged ego is feeling a little fragile today. I fear being accused of narcissism for the second time in a week would likely be a blow from which I would not recover, so instead of continuing to talk about myself and my life, this blog will be from now on dedicated to the best of British - Fish and Chips and Galaxy Chocolate.

And talking about Chips and Chocolate – I have to give a big shout out to the good old cup of Tea. Enhancing both sweet and savoury, is there a more versatile and appreciated drink? Answers on a postcard please...

Groupies - Check, Tops off - Check, Aviators - Check! Is any more proof needed?

OK, Time to be serious... If the above few paragraphs seem a little more eccentrically out of place than normal, you should head on over to UKClimbing to read the amusing (if a little lengthy) forum thread discussing my mental condition. Whilst I am flattered that people are so interested in the inner workings of my mind, I can’t help but feel that there must be more important things to discuss? I'm not entirely sure how much (or little) of the content was serious, but regardless, it is one of the funniest things I have seen in a while.

On with the show...

Here are a couple of photos from the weekend, sampling the brilliant trad climbing at Cadarese, Italy.

Mustang 8a, Cadarese - Photo Riky Felderer

Mustang 8a, Cadarese - Photo Riky Felderer

Despite training harder than ever and being in the best shape physically, I know that trad is an often difficult and delicate mistress to please and I felt it was important to spend a few days reminding myself of her subtleties.

Cadarese is a bit of an anomaly in Euro granite as the entire place is made up of splitter, after splitter, after splitter. Development began around 8 years ago, and as is usual in these parts the main sector was fully bolted. Three years ago, Riky Felderer and friends began to develop an adjacent area that became known as “The Crack Party” and since then, perfectly protectable trad routes have been established up to 8a/+.

I began the day warming up in the main sector, climbing a very fun full body experience 7a+, followed by the sectors current hardest route, the 8a+ “Once Upon a/Beslan Memorial” combination. Beslan is a wonderful route, with two distinctly different crux sections, but most importantly follows perfect hand and finger cracks for most of its length – Time to bring out the friends!

The first thing I noticed when racking up for a trad route after an extended sport period is how heavy the gear is. Stepping off the floor, one immediately feels the effects of all the extra metal as it swings back and forth below your hips. Secondly, it is so much slower than leading a sport pitch, even with very simple protection.Every placement has to be found, judged, selected, (often reselected if you are bad at stage 2), placed, tested, and finally clipped. This process breaks up any rhythm, vastly slowing down the climbing and increasing the time hanging off your hands – and all this before we even go into the mental aspect of trading.

The lead went well, and despite having a bit of a tussle to seat the final crucial .5 friend and getting majorly pumped in the process, the last 5m run-out on slopey crimps passed without too much drama. This was a relief for reasons more than simply ticking the route, as my England project is in a similar style to this final section – its confidence inspiring to know that I can perform well on crimps despite being pumped silly and far above protection.

Up next was Mustang, the route from the above pictures, and a route I had been drooling over since Riky shared with me a picture from the year before. After an easy hand crack for 10m, one finds themselves at a brief rest point, with a tiny finger lie-back crack the only way to the belay, 12 meters above. The climbing begins with a technical, delicate sequence, and finishes with a burly, pumpy sprint, with the transition between the two extremes bringing the crux.Unfortunately, the crack was not entirely dry, and after a careless foot swap the damp crack spat me off on my onsight attempt.

After another slip, I worked out the secret of staying on the rock. By keeping my hands and feet close together I could apply even pressure directly to the rock, no twisting or extending made for very powerful climbing, but atleast I could stay on the wall. Placing protection was difficult due to the small size of the crack and the powerful body positions. Small friends have small lobes, which means a small margin for error when placing them – it doesn’t take much change in the rock for one of the lobes to miss its placement. To be able to confidently commit to the climbing, you need to invest a lot of energy in placing the gear. Its a bit of a catch 22 situation, but ho-hum, it all adds to the fun, and after a big fight I made it to the top. One of the best!

I’m back in Innsbruck, resting my skin for something big... Ill tell you more soon.

1 comment:

Ramon Marin said...

Hey James, you should totally ignore the judgmental cynics of UKC, as you are well doing. Just focus on what's important, and block the rest. Climbing, friends, love and having hell of a good time, that's what matters.

Keep it up mate! Good luck with your new trad project