I’ve sat down to write a blog so many times since the end of May and now we are nearly into August. It’s been a busy but fun time for me with lots of coaching and setting work mixed in with some cool trips so I thought I’d write a little about the highlights of the last 2 months.
First up for me was was a 2 week planned trip to Rodellar with Adam Hocking and Tiffany Soithongsuk; Will Sim also came and joined us for most of the trip and Will Hardy for our last couple of days. I think as much as anything with a trip its not all about the climbing it’s who your with and also who you meet that can make or break a trip, this trip turned out to be great and lots of fun was had. Rest days in Rodellar are beautiful too, playing table tennis in the sunshine at Kalandraka or swimming in the gorges, I think the swimming provided the most entertainment for the rest of our group as I am not a water baby and I would usually swim from one side to the other as quickly as possible. For me the best bits of the trip were watching Tiffany flash Toma Castanzo (7a+) on her first day, having previously redpointed 7c this was her first 7a+ flash. Tiffany also did a 7b 2nd go and put in a really good fight on L’any que ve Tambe (7c) at Gran Boveda. Watching Adam climb Acrabita (8a) after breaking his toe before the trip and also watching a new friend Amir also put in an amazing fight to climb Acrabita too for his first ever 8a. My personal highlights were: Acrabita; fourth go (8a), Gracias Fina; onsight (8a), Kings of Metal; third go (8a+), El Sepes; second go (7c+/8a), L’any que ve Tambe; onsight (7c). This time I knew it was going to be a good trip climbing wise; on the first day I climbed Made in Mascun (7c+) which I’d struggled with the previous year due to a bad neck. I also had a look at Geminis (8b+), a striking line in the Gran Boveda which I made good links on quickly. Unfortunately it got too hot and I had to make the tough decision to leave it for another time.
Shortly after Rodellar I was on another plane this time to do some summer Alpine climbing for a Rab photoshoot with Calum Muskett, Adrian Samarra and Ben Winston. I didn’t know what to expect from this trip as I’ve never really climbed on granite and I’ve only put crampons on once before. The first day up on the Cosmiques was a bit of a steep learning curve for me, climbing down the ladder from the station with big drops either side I felt like Bambi on ice. I was completely out of my comfort zone trying things like front pointing on rock, whilst I was scared by the lack of control I had I also absolutely loved it. The trip certainly had its eventful moments with Ben trying his best to mangle his fingers by grabbing the drone on the first day. I learnt that I’m definitely not a winter baby because as soon as the sun went I got cold but I also loved the experience more than I thought I would and it’s something I am keen to go back and do more of. I loved the unforgiving nature of the granite where you have to be climbing technically well, the altitude didn’t affect me which was a nice surprise too and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. We didn’t get to try our objective of the Voie Petit properly which was a little frustrating but the highlights for me were climbing the crux pitch of Linia Blange (7b) on the Chandelle du Tacul and a day at Bionassay with Jude sport climbing. I guess the thing that will stick with me the most from this trip is not so much the climbing but the whole experience, learning some new tricks and whilst Chamonix is incredibly touristy it’s easy to see why; the scenery is truly stunning.
After the Alps trip I still had unfinished business with Melancholie but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it after 2 weeks of not climbing much. I first tried this route in March and felt like it would go pretty quickly given the less than ideal conditions and my quick progress. However this turned out to not be the case due to continued bad conditions with the odd good one thrown in to taunt me. I could only try the route every now and again due to my busy schedule which was frustrating, I couldn’t just pick and choose the days I wanted to do it and on those free days I sometimes just couldn’t muster the psych that was needed. I had one day before the Alps trip where I went backwards on the route falling just above the boulder crux each time which was my worst attempts on the route bar the odd warm up go falling off the boulder crux. I was getting frustrated as my high point of falling off going into the jugs on Bad Bad Boy was one that I’d attained quickly. I found on coming back from the Alps I wasn’t any weaker but I was a whole lot fitter and my motivation to do the route was renewed after a change of scenery, I was no longer getting pumped on the route so now it was just down to silly mistakes. On the day I did it I fell off going into the jugs on my first go (at this point Wiz suggested a slightly different foot beta sequence which worked out much better), second go was bad but my third go I made it through to the jugs not pumped – I was in as long as I managed to stay relaxed! For me the end of Bad Bad boy is still hard and I don’t do it by the usual method from the undercuts, instead I roll over with my left hand from the crimp rail which works better for me on consistency. I was so happy to clip the chains on this iconic hard route and to take a breather from redpointing.
In this time I also did Ring My Bell (E7 6b) ground up second go after watching Ollie Cain headpoint it to climb his first E7! My first attempt did not go smoothly and I couldn’t seem to get my head in the right place but after falling on to the cam on the crux I felt a bit more settled, I’d got the scary bit out of the way and my first fall on trad of the year. I found the crux hard and even on my second go from the ground I felt like I just about scraped my way through the moves with a different method to Ollie. Even though I was disappointed in myself to not flash the route I was still happy with my ground up style.
Next up for me was a bit of a planned/unplanned event. I was involved in the FRCC youth Lakes meet. Before I go into this a bit more Caff mentioned a pre-weekend hit on Impact Day something which was on my radar but not at the top of the to do list. This meant leaving at 7:00am from Wales so that we could give it a good go but be back down in time to meet the kids at the Rawhead hut in the evening.
My thoughts on Imapct Day, E8 6c:
I was pretty sleepy on the drive up having thrown everything in the car for 2 weeks on the road starting from now. I parked up in Langdale and realised after about 10 minutes that Caff had already headed up to Pavey (keen youth that he is!). I packed the kit I thought I’d need and started the trudge up the steps to Pavey in the baking heat, I was soon down to shorts and a sports bra. As you reach the top of the walk you hit a nice lake and the first sight of the climbing on Pavey Ark (a beautiful sight), I could also see a small dot above Impact Day so I started moving as quickly as possible. Once we were all sorted and ready to go Caff and I both top roped it a couple of times to check out the moves and gear. I felt like I had a good sequence but was not mega happy about the start. Caff tied on to the sharp end and cruised it in his usual calm style, he made it look as easy as he had done on top rope. Everything was in control and there was no doubt that he wasn’t going to do it. For me I’d had a quick check of the starting sequence again as my only doubts lay in this bit, I think this was due to it being a big move and badly protected at the start but also in Part due to knowing that Hazel had come a cropper on the start of this same route; as Caff put it I wouldn’t have had doubts if it was just the former issue. I spent about 20 minutes at the bottom post Caff’s send deciding on whether or not to pull the ropes, the doubt was niggling at me but at the same time this voice in my head was overriding this telling me that I could do it. In the end the latter voice won and I’d convinced myself that if I walked away without giving it a shot I’d be disappointed with myself. I pulled the rope and the nerves kicked in – was I doing the right thing? Even though I’d climbed the moves easily I don’t take a serious headpoint lightly; I started off nervously placing the first kit then into the “E5” sketch start, a long lock off move saw me through the start and I could breathe again. I was so nervous though I knew I was over gripping because I didn’t want to climb the start again. I laced the break with kit before the crux, I was more pumped than on top rope but I was going to give it my all, my arms started to chicken wing mid crux but I somehow managed to make it through to a crimp rail and the peg to breathe and get a quick shake out. For me the route wasn’t over after the crux and I still found the top moves hard, I needed to get something back for the top out as I couldn’t do it the same way as Caff, I just about got enough to get the pocket right hand, little crimp left hand, then crimp right hand, big move into a left backhand and kick my right foot up to press it out and top out. I was so relieved I’d done the route and happy to have given it my all and won the battle. We even had time to have a quick celebratory drink before heading off to meet the keen youths for the weekend.
The main reason Caff and I were up in the Lakes was to help out with an FRCC Lakes youth meet which Ron Kenyon had done a stellar job of organising and without his efforts this weekend would not have gone ahead. There were 10 kids signed up for the weekend ranging from 12 – 17 years old, what surprised me the most was that 8 out of the 10 were girls which was great to see. I was teamed up with a young girl called Ellie Cox for the weekend and luckily the weather gods were mostly in our favour managing to hit the two Raven Crags over the weekend. Ellie impressed me with her climbing skills and composure on the trad routes we did and by the end of the second day I was happy to pass over the baton to do a multipitch Severe called Original Route, I think it’s important to teach the basics of placing kit and making belays in a non stressful environment and having done a couple of trad routes previously Ellie was pretty solid on her gear placements. The aim of this weekend was to inspire the future generation for trad climbing and I hope we did that and that this event will happen again next year fingers crossed!
After the lakes I had a few days setting at Big Rock and White Spider, between my setting dates I crazily decided to head out climbing in Switzerland. My climbing partner for the 5 days (Jonny Baker) had some good ideas lined up and on the drive to our first destination showed me the options. I was psyched for some sunshine and new territory to explore, Switzerland definitely didn’t disappoint on the stunning scenery and 5 days of glorious sunshine. First up we hit the impressive limestone crag Wendenstocke for some multipitch climbing, the plan was to go and try the 13 pitch 7a Patent Ochsner. We didn’t have the earliest of starts arriving at the crag at 2 in the afternoon I wasn’t optimistic that we would get to the top of this adventurous route. Luckily we moved quickly though another couple who were abseiling as we hit pitch 5 thought we were slightly mad. The climbing was beautiful and techy with lots of delicate crimpy moves, for me the hardest pitches felt like the 6b+ at the start and the 6a+ slab at then end with no proper holds, spaced bolts and lots of smearing after 12 pitches of climbing. We made it down just before dark, a perfect start to the trip. I could have spent 5 days here though the walk may have destroyed my knees. The next day we headed to a lovely little sports crag called Simplon Dorf; I was surprised to see how many people were there but this crag had lots of good routes in the mid 7’s. With nice little open handed crimps it suited my style and we ticked off three routes there, a lovely litte 6c+ called Tabu, then a beautiful technical 7a+ called Andre am Bolzen. We moved on to a lovely 7c called Ferdinand Purrligaager that had a bit of everything, I managed to onsight this route which I was pretty happy with and then Jonny pulled a flash out of the bag (I always enjoy watching people fight on a route, something that I am not so good at). Our plan for the next day was to hop over the border to climb at Cadarese; on the way over I’m pretty sure the guys at the checkpoint were very bored when they pulled us over and were also extremely disappointed when they didn’t find any drugs in the van. Whilst Cadarese isn’t much to look at once you get through the trees the granite crags are pristine with perfect cracks all over the place, I was keen to try and improve my granite crack climbing skills on bolts (safety first). We started of warming up on a lovely 6a then moved onto a crack climb called Hannibal, I decided to try and learn to hand jam so clipped the bolts but still fell back into the comfort of lay backing, whereas Jonny decided to get his head better at trad climbing so cruised it placing kit and found “bomber” hand jams ….. hmmm something tells me I’ve got a long way to go! We then moved up the crag to the mid sector where some nice Austrian guys were trying the most striking line of the sector called C’era una Volta (7b+). After they were finished I decided to give it a go clipping the bolts again, luckily it was more finger locks this time so I managed to fight my way to the top for the onsight in the heat, it was a great full body work out with some pretty smeary footholds on the crux. The last couple of days were more chilled as my knee started to play up on the walk to the Petit Clocher (one for next time) and some bouldering at the Col du Montets, it was nice to chill out and enjoy the stunning scenery again finished off with a lovely quick swim in the lake at Servoz on the way to the airport. I was sad to leave the sunshine and views behind to head back to work but reality has to kick in at some point.
Finally, this weekend just gone I was involved in a weekend with 6 kids who won their categories in the Rocfest comp earlier this year. The prize of a weekend with myself and Caff was provided by DMM with Jim Mcormack representing from DMM and Ray Wood filming the weekend. This weekend wouldn’t have been a success without the enthusiasm and organisation from the guys at Rockover (Tom Stewart, Tom LLoyd and Melanie Jackson). We had one day at Robinhood stride/Cratcliffe and one day at Plantation then the Climbing Works when the rain came in. These kids impressed me with their displays of natural talent and lack of fear on the rock, they had limitless energy and there were many red tips by the end of two days. I guess my main thing for them to take away would be to not get too wrapped up in grades and my gold star for the weekend would have to go to & year old Fae who showed no fear and great technique (she reminded me of myself at that age).
Now I have a few weeks at home to catch up with good friends, enjoy the lovely sunny welsh weather (hopefully) and fix my hard worked body.