Thursday, 25 April 2013

Not far but away


Lucky Strike, Rusty Walls at Pembroke. I had just begun abbing into the shady belay ledge perched above the sea when two thoughts occurred to me, I hadn’t been trad climbing in a year and that this was my first sea cliff. I ignored these thoughts as Tim passed me the rope ends and I tied in. I know it’s next to the sea and all but I rather naively didn’t expect it to be so wet, the rock was the colour of mud (or rust!?) as I made my first few steps above the waves and eyed up the rising flake line like a gift. “Is the foothold wet or is the rock dark brown in colour?”, check the sole of my shoe, “wet”. The route went by smoothly and aside from some cobwebs of the mind needing blowing away all was fine.
 
Tim followed up and we semi ran back over and down into St. Govans. I started up The Arrow and after the obligatory greasy start ambled my way to the top, on the way I had turned my head for a life affirming gaze only for the view to be obliterated by a bank of mist. Ah well. We walked back round to our bags and after some gentle persuasion by Tim (he’d abbed in and flaked the ropes before I said no) I stood underneath The Butcher. Those that know me can attest to my famously wet hands so it was with an atmosphere thick with static rain and a pair of slippery kippers that I set off up the starting crack, two runners in I knew this was a piss take, as elegantly as possible I down climbed removing my placements, hopefully wowing spectators with this gallant display of tactics. Back under terra firma Tim Led us out through a steep E2 and upon surfacing we watched Dan McManus calmy dispatch The Butcher like it was type one fun. A move over one buttress or so for Tim’s main event, the classic E5 Get Some In.

Tim Lounds getting a right old sweat on
 
 
He cruised to half height, where the duality of  good hold/not-so-good gear had him stuck in a mental loop. I asked him if he was getting anything back, he said yes but the code of the belayer had been understood. Tim found a small placement that focused his mind and he set off up into the crux, a sequency move on good holds and a slap for a ledge. With tired arms he broke through the crux and like a veritable brown shirt sieg heil’d a sinker jam in the horizontal break above. He'd definitely be getting some in later (in the pub for those who missed that  humdinger of a pun)

We caught up with Liam and Mark on Star Wars and watching from Stennis head could see El Grippo in full effect, plenty of good in-jokes surfaced from this ascent but I know from experience they sink like fibre-lite turd when retold to others, so I won't, apart from GREASY and DESPERATE. There was a queue under Manzuko so Tim guided me across his dad's route Riders on the storm, amazing rock and a proper crux above a low tide crashing away below, smiling all the way. The E1 was cool but I think if you stray from the groove you sort of make up your own line on the face, I enjoyed the line I chose. Back towards the car we met up with the boys as Liam topped out Ships that pass in the night and we watched Mark dyno his way up on second. I cant even wax poetic about the route. Stunning, fucking stunning. 
 
pure buzzin mate

no contest


We knew bad weather was due on the Sunday so it was little surprise in the morning when the pitta patter of raindrops could be heard on the kitchen window. We decided to outrun the weather and move to Avon where the rain wasn’t due until 4pm. Sad to leave Pembroke, not a goodbye just a see you soon.

I’ve never been to Avon Gorge, I knew it was close to Bristol but this is definitely urban cragging, multi-pitch at that, whereas the last urban crag I went to was Bell Hagg so quite a difference. Tim had said good things about the routes coming up into and out of the ‘ramp’ feature, a slither of an Idwal slab. The bottom tier had suffered rock fall and had been shut off so I started up Banshee a relatively short offering about midway up the ramp. After Tim supplied me with gear beta I set off into the crux and with high feet caught the flatty at the bottom of the groove, the crux was supposed to be the mantle just after this move but thankfully it doesn’t feel so bad after the grit. Tim’s lead and he opts for the route Them right at the end of the ramp where one step off the belay puts you 30 metres up, he weaves his way up cursing shit pegs and praising technical moves. I had initially looked at this entire wall with disdain due it’s sandy/snappy appearance, but nearly every move on this E3 was sublime, dinky nodules for feet and technical cross overs on crimps for crux’s. Highly recommended. Topping out over a fence into a busy park on a Sunday was a new one for me and felt very alien, though all in all I was just doing exactly the same thing as the joggers, cyclists and ice cream eaters were doing, enjoying their waste of time.

Massive head on Banshee
 

The weekend had felt like a little holiday and I glow about it now. Now I’ve had the most fun it’s time to actually try harder, the weekend approaches.

Went to Garage Buttress at Stoney on Tuesday night, wanted to try the getting-classier 7b+ but it was busy so belayed Oli on Jerry’s Little Plum, did half of some sketch 6c then watched Ben and Will try that extra bit harder and both climb King of Ming one after another. When I look up I’m really impressed with this sweep of rock, great colours.

Last night we were running over to the WCJ Cornice, Oli talked me through Brachiation Dance and I had a fairly good flash go, dogged to the top then ran out of light, felt reasonable even with some wet holds to manage. After the one move on the slab it’s big holds all the way and can see it being a good warm-up in future though shouldn’t get ahead of myself. Oli set off up Free Monster with my head torch, though he would have been better off with a fan and some tin foil.


Thursday, 11 April 2013

It is technically Spring


Everyone was out snowballing, I didn’t want to. It was strange to not have the excited feeling like I used to but I’d just come off a sport climbing trip and really just wanted to climb some routes and pull down. I did try, went for a walk and swam up to The Sentinel, it felt fun but had no spark. At the plantation it was a surreal setting and a great atmosphere of enjoyment but grumpy as it sounds, looking around at the excitable masses, it was as if the snow was to these Grit Classics what the London Riots were to JJB sports. Is this what some of the old guard feel when we do things with pads?
  
I went out for some techno on the Friday evening, didn’t intend to drink as was up early for a shady Tor with Mark. I was real tired by 11pm and on the soft stuff by midnight so slumped in the corner, pint of water in hand and with my eyes flickering closed I may have looked utterly mashed to the passer-by. I took Chris’s keys and slipped out the exit. Arriving at the Tor in brisk shade there were streaks dotted around, One fist sized wet patch on the flat hold next to the second clip of my project (Obscene Gesture), though I could work around it. Clipped up bolt to bolt and felt great lowering down, thinking I’ll just work the bottom and have a redpoint, must have tried 20 times to find a steady way through the start before someone pointed out you could start from the left where it originally came from, joy! Not next month now, next week. I wonder how I’ll feel on the last stretch to the good crimp on the headwall, a warm excitement as I even type the words. It all comes down to when I get the undercuts and bridge my feet higher, slotting my right thumb into the mono and pinching upwards and across to the small crimp and then the amazing pocket with the left index. If I can get this move in motion i'm in, it's one of those strange moves which feels in micro terms like a knackered car turning over before it kicks in, always some doubt.



 
The day after we went to Rubicon with the idea of having a preliminary recce of Moat Buttress and the upper circle. Millers tale felt hard and I snatched badly, never nice to have that jarring feeling. While the others sought kudos I wandered down the dale scoping out the crags as I passed them, it wasn’t too busy, there was wildlife all around and I felt really happy to be in such a place “if this isn’t nice then I don’t know what is”. I thought I could hear the rumbling of off-road bikes in the distance but upon looking into the stream it turned out to be a myriad of frogs out on the pull. I guffaw’d out loud. Eat the Rich had a single wet (not seeping) important pocket, Let the Tripe Increase was wet down low and the WCJ Cornice looked remarkably dry consdering. I hope the great melt this weekend doesn't fuck it all up.



 
I’ve felt really tired since I got back from Spain, partly because I fell ill within two days of returning, but I’ve become stuck with a feeling of exhaustion that needs looking at. The wall was tough work and I felt heavy, not helped by a work colleague saying my face has filled out, “oh really? It must be the beard” I said, knowing full well I could of stopped that sentence without the letter D at the end. I haven’t been too tired to dream though, even though I haven’t completed by medium term goal of 7c I’ve started to cultivate the unthinkable thought for a Jonny Q Punter - climbing an 8a.

Since filming Oli on the Zone I haven’t recorded anything, I have a vague idea of what I’d like to do but I’ll have to either organise myself better with the good climbers I know or put the feelers out for anyone who’s got something decent going down. All this whilst juggling my immense personal climbing ambitions. It’s going to be tough to make some nice Limestone clips, it being pretty crap looking on film, but for the sufficiently nerdy it’s great to see these routes up close. If I can get someone on Evolution this season I’ll be chuffed, no pressure Bobbows. I cant realty afford any more kit but I’d love a new tripod and slider, anyone?

oh yeah, Thatcher.