Thursday, 27 March 2014

Keen Roof

So Tuesday marked another BIG step forward in my climbing. It is still taking time to properly sink in as I have been super busy this week with various things and barely had chance to sit down, let alone properly process what happened.

Keen Roof is a boulder problem first done by James Pearson a number of years ago and given the grade 8B/V13. It climbs straight through the roof of the cave down at Raven Tor, and has had a number of repeats of the years. In fact I believe it might be the most repeated 8B in the Peak/UK...

Anyway I had put it at the top of my list of projects for the coming season. I strive to excel at all disciplines of climbing, (bar ice climbing, but maybe in the future...) and while last year I managed to break into the next level with my sport climbing, by doing 8c and then E9 on trad, my bouldering was something I really wanted to try and push further this time around.

Last week I got a message off of Mina seeing if I was keen to head down the Tor, and after hearing how dry the place was I got psyched to get stuck in on the first limestone session of the year. I figured it'd be a good opportunity to give the fingers a good burn and reacquaint myself with the other big goal for this year. It was a freezing cold day, baltic in fact. But all the regulars were there and the place had the usual busy busy atmosphere.
I gave my project a couple of tries and was pleased to find out I could still remember all the intricate sequences and beta. It is going to be hard I'm sure, but if it was too easy then were would the fun be right!
There was a bunch of pads all laid out in cave, with one of the visiting Italians Stefano Ghisolfi, putting in some efforts on the monster problem 'Belly of the Beast'. A line were you virtually start lying in the dirt at the back of the cave before climbing out into Keen Roof. Chris Webb Parsons grabbed the FA of this thing a few months ago and it was cool to see somebody actually trying it.

Around 5 years ago I dabbled on Keen Roof, having no idea what I was doing at the time and knowing that in reality it was something way way beyond what I was currently capable of. Since then I've fondled the holds on occasions but never mustered the psyche to pull on and get involved.
So Saturday I took advantage of all the pads and had a quick 10 minute play with Stu. I decided to try the crux move out to the lip first and totally surprised myself in sticking it and climbing on through to the top. I was in state of slight shock at how straight forward it felt and quickly realised that I might actually be strong enough to pull this off. All I needed to do was link in a handful of starting moves and it'd be in the bag.
My skin was wrecked however and my whole body was a little shattered. But I felt super encouraged and full of excitement at what I'd just managed to do and quickly my thoughts turned to planning what day to return during the week. First though a rest day was needed to grow skin and recuperate!


My rest day was great, and I woke up Tuesday morning feeling much refreshed and rearing to go! Opening the curtains though over breakfast and we were greeted by mist and horrible drizzle and the forecast didn't look like it'd improve much. We figured we'd drive out anyway and take a look. Surprisingly the crag had held up fine, although conditions were not the best. Warming up my fingers felt strong and pretty soon I started to pull onto the different positions along the problem.
My first proper attempt from the start I slapped the lip, just missing the good hold. Second try, a while later, I stuck the lip move but fell coming around to match! It was close, I could sense that this thing was fully on now. The skin on my fingers felt super cold, to the point were I wasn't getting much purchase with the rock. I took 10 minutes to allow the blood to return and recharge myself.
The next try I instantly knew everything felt 100% better, pulling through the roof moves, sticking the lip slap with ease and coming around into the match felt bomber. Throwing the heel up I focused in and fired up to the finishing jug! Job done. It almost seemed a bit of an anti-climax. I hung there for a second or two to enable my brain to try and process what had just happened.
I had just climbed my first V13.

Unfortunately we didn't manage to get the actual send on video but luckily I had something still left in reserve for another round shortly afterward, this time in front of the camera. Here is my quick, and quite poor attempt, at stringing a short edit together. Thanks to my Dad for shooting this!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Winter deluge

Since the start of December the winter, to put it bluntly, has been nothing short of depressing. We have all been in the same boat, in some cases quite literally... But while we get annoyed about not being able to get outside on dry rock, there are people down south that have had their lives turned upside down, with crazy scenes of flooding. So I guess in that respect we cannot complain too much. We have definitely gotten away with the worst of it up around here. I can't possibly imagine having water half way up your front door!

People say always look for the silver lining and one positive to pull from the last couple of months deluge of rain has been training. With nothing to do but climb indoors it has meant I have really been able to focus all my energy into some proper training. Without a doubt I feel much stronger than even just 6months ago, maybe no way near quite as fit but with a bit of luck that won't take very long to get back...
I have to admit though at times it has been a struggle to maintain motivation. Obviously I have goals in mind but ultimately we all want to be outdoors and it can be a struggle waking up every day with the rain lashing down on the skylight.
I think now I've just come to accept it and understand that its important to not let it bother you too much. The days now are getting longer, surprisingly fast, spring is just around the corner and with a bit of luck it'll bring some more settled weather.

When it has come good, on the odd occasion, we have tried to make the most of it and managed one or two fun ticks. Routes have really been out of the question, so I started getting back into my bouldering. Heading out on my own, laden down with a tonne of pads and trying various problems around the Peak.

Huffy's Roof - 7C+
300 Pound of Musclin Man - 7C+
Ben's Wall (Curbar) - 7C
Great White - 7C
Ben's Wall (RHS) - 7C


It has however slowly been drying up since the start of February and it felt brilliant to get back in among the routes at the weekend. The wind was horrific so after a failed attempt to climb at Curbar we decided on seeking out shelter within Froggatt woods.
There is a route here I've known about for ages, Dick Van Dyke Goes Ballistic. I finally went to take a brief look at it with Sam Hamer a few weeks ago and while it was verging on a waterfall we figured it was worth coming back for during a dry spell. But with an armoury of brushes, as it was pretty filthy from top to bottom! It had probably only had a maximum of 2/3 ascents since first being put up by Dave Pegg 20 years ago!

Anyway I won't go into too much detail about it, but if you like something different, away from the main events then go seek it out. No doubt it'll have a flurry of ascents now, with the ground up gang queuing half way down the beck! Have fun.
Indoor Fisherman by the way, situated immediately to the right of this, is probably among one of the best E4's you'll find in the Peak, in a quaint little setting. So if you're looking for slightly easier/safer challenge, then I'd highly recommend it. :)

Monday, 17 February 2014

The Competition Game

Most people won't know me as a competition climber. For me it is all about climbing outdoors and I see indoor climbing purely as a way to train and occasionally a way of having fun messing around with a bunch of mates (especially on those rainy days). However it may surprise a few to learn that 'back in the day' I did used to do a fair few comps around the country. These were mainly lead events with the odd bouldering one thrown into the mix every now and then. I was never very good, but I made finals on a few occasions and used to enjoy the scene.

In more recent years however comps for me have gone off the radar, bar taking part in the odd one here and there. The last one I did was Rocfest last year and while it was good fun it also cemented the fact of why I'm not a huge fan. Queuing and massive crowds! It can be/is a nightmare. Constantly dodging bodies, all vying to try problems that are getting more and more filthy by the minute with sweat and chalk.

However after hearing about the FB0-14 and that Mammut were going to be one of its main sponsors I figured it would be good to show some support and it could actually be a fun day out. Plus the weather was guaranteed to be nothing special. The general theme of rain and more rain seems endless just now and it is hard to keep motivated.

 
 Morning qualifiers on The Wave
 ©MickRyan

In the end it was a brilliant day out, the qualifiers went pretty good and I thought all the problems were really well thought out and made good use of the limited space available. I made it through to finals in 4th place and was psyched to see what the route setters had conjured up for us all to battle it out on!

 Problem 3 in the Final
©PaulBennett

The final seem to go incredibly well for me, I felt fresh, focused and in the end totally surprised myself and somehow managed to eventually finish the event in 2nd place. Narrowly missing out on the win by one tiny attempt! A silly foot mistake on bloc 4 ended up ultimately costing me!

A range of emotions hit me afterwards. I was obviously super pleased and stoked to have completely exceeded all my expectations of the day, but at the same time I felt pretty gutted to have come sooo agonisingly close to sealing the win, yet one slip up had let me down. 
It was a great experience though and in hindsight it is all too easy to say 'if only this' and 'if only that' but in the end I'm just very pleased to have competed, had fun and come away with a fresh outlook on competitions.

 Stu entertaining the crowds and getting all funky on the last problem!
©PaulBennett

A day or so later I found myself watching the mens and womens halfpipe final in Sochi. Competitions in general are a cruel game, no matter what level they are at. It was interesting and also slightly encouraging to see elite athletes such as Shaun White blow it and even Torah Bright not come out on top. Anything can happen in these things.

 ©PaulBennett

Finally a big thanks to The Foundry, the route setters and all the events sponsors for putting on a quality day for everybody! Same again next year I hope... Also congrats to all the other finalists, especially Martin and Shauna on their win!

If you haven't had chance to check out the video of the day from Ben Pritchard and Rich Heap then take a look here :)


Thursday, 16 January 2014

F-BO14

The Event:

On Saturday 8th February 2014 we  will be holding F-BO14,  The  Foundry Bouldering Open.   This will be a BIG one day  comp with a CASH prize list of £1700 plus other super spot prizes from our sponsors.  The Chief Setters will be Rob Napier and Percy Bishton with Mr Graeme Alderson as Chief Judge.  (For those old enough to remember, Graeme was the man behind  FIBO at The Foundry back in the 90′s).

The Sponsors:

Mammut

Moon Climbing

Bleaustone / Lapis / Axis

The Clinic

CragX Climbing Shop

Steepedge

The Format:

A ‘score yourself’ qualification round with 25 problems starting from font4+.  Very similar to our normal bouldering league comps.  Set so  there will be plenty of problems in the font 5 to 6 range (equivalent to our level 1 and 2 problems in our circuits) so everyone can have a good climb in the qualification round.

The top 6 men and women  go through to an onsight final of 4 problems each which will be set on the wave/Bleasutone walls.

The comp has  Senior (18 or over on 8/2/14) and Junior age categories (age 10 years (chnaged from 12) to under 18 years on 8/2/14) as well as a Team event.  It is open to any climber who is at least 10 years old on the 8th Feb 2014.  However, please note  there will be no special junior problems set but again there will be plenty you should be able to have a good go at.

Team entry – In the qualification round any 3 people can make up a team on the day of the event,  just let us know on the day that you want to be part of a team.  You do need to be entered as an individual first, there is no extra cost to then be  part of a team.  Teams must contain at least one female climber.  Being in a team means you have a chance of winning more prizes!

Each competitor will receive an F-BO14 competition vest or T-shirt (for juniors) provided you pre enter on-line.

SPOT Prizes – There will be lots of prizes up for grabs by any climber  during  the qualification between 9.30am and 2.30pm.

Individual Prizes (Senior M&F):

1st: £350

2nd: £175

3rd: £100

4th: £60

5th: £40

6th: £20

For more info check out: www.foundryclimbing.com/fbo14

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Looking back at 13'


It barely seems like 5 minutes since the start of the year. 12 months have disappeared in a flash and we are once again on the verge of a New Year. Looking back, so much has happened over this time it is hard to comprehend. I thought I'd just upload a brief recap with a few of my favourite images before the partying starts...
I'm sure of writing something similar towards the end of 2012 but this year has been a huge one for me and my climbing. Last year was brilliant, and another big step up in terms of climbing, but 2013 has blown it out of the water.

Taking advantage of some of the late season snowfall, in APRIL!
©MikeHutton

For the last few years I've spent a fair amount of the time traveling and climbing abroad. It is crazy fun spending endless weeks at a sun kissed European crag, without a care in the world, other than your current project. This year however I made a decision to stay at home and climb local, with the hope that we might just get a decent summer. However we did make one brief trip back out the Frankenjura in April. Myself and Ted had a brilliant time out there last year and this time our aim was to stay for longer. In the end it was hardly the best of times and we found ourselves back home rather early, but we still got some great routes done and it was a good learning curve.

©EdHamer

Back on home soil it was time to get stuck into the sport season for real. The weather came good and stayed good for most of the summer months. Crags dried out, even the Chee Dale Cornice again, and lots of stuff got done by everyone. I love it down the Dale, there are so many routes to go at and all under the shade of the trees and right next to the cool river. Perfect.


©GuyVanGruning

It would be impossible to go through all of my favourite routes of the season but a couple stick out to me in particular. Routes that marked a significant step forward in my climbing and routes that I really had to fight for. One of these has to be Mecca. It was a major major milestone for me and made all the winters training and hard work in the gym worthwhile. Not only was it my first of the grade it is also a route of huge historical significance and one I had been looking up at since a young lad, when I could not even begin to possibly imagine ever being able to it.

Once this was done it was time to escape the heat and head into the depths of Chee Dale. The Cornice is a classic crag with a tonne of classic routes. I had missed climbing down here and it was dam good to be back! Some stand out routes from our trips here include the old school line of 'Devonshire Arms' and the new school testpiece 'Techno Prisoners'. I had also forgotten how good it was a few years ago to head to this crag on rest days and do a bunch of the easier routes the place has to offer.

 One of the best new routes in the Dale. Gran Techo | 8b
©JonClark

I also had a couple of brilliant short trips with my Dad to both Yorkshire and Wales. We spent an awesome week camping at Gordale and climbing at the local crags. Malham especially is such a cool place and I always look forward to climbing there. We also got to check out Giggleswick for the first time, and spent a couple of sessions here, away from the crowds and heat. The weather was perfect, climbing early in the morning to beat the sun, relaxing on the campsite and enjoying being somewhere different. 

Jerry's Roof, V9 | Llanberis Pass
©OliBerkin

By the time the autumn arrived and temperatures started to cool off it was time to think of the main project that I had been mulling over for most of the summer. This was of course the extension to Mecca and I could barely wait to get stuck into something really hard, test myself and put everything I had learned over the last few months into practice.
It took a fair few sessions but eventually it went down. My first 8c. I loved every moment of the whole process, even the days when things didn't go entirely to plan. In some ways I was sad to see it all end, but it was another huge personal moment for me and one I won't forget in a hurry! Thanks again to all the support I received from everyone and to my Dad for the hours he put in belaying.

©JonClark

The grit season has been going amazingly well and as its all still fresh in the memory I won't go on about it, but again there have been some stand out moments over the last month or so and more major milestones reached. Lets just hope that the season continues at its current rate and the New Year brings more good conditions and top days out on the brown stone!


Happy New year to you all and thanks for ya'll continuing to check in. I'd also just like to thank all my sponsors, Mammut, 5.10, NakdWholefoods, ProBalm and GUEnergyUK for their continued support. They are all a terrific bunch and I am super grateful and to be working with them all.

Cheers

E

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

...Happy Christmas!

For this post I thought just uploading a few photos from our recent days out would be best. I do love to read about peoples ascents and thoughts but I equally love sometimes to just browse through pictures. Enjoy!
I should have some cool video to share with you all soon too, so keep an eye out for that!

Thanks to everyone that checks in and reads my blog. I really do appreciate it and all of your support really means a lot. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!! :) ☃❆❆☃

Unfamiliar | E7/8 6c, Font7C
©JonClark

The End of the Affair | E8 6b
©MikeHutton

Clippity Clop, Clippity Clop, Clippity Clop | E7 6c
©GuyVanGruning

 Dave bearing down on Unfamiliar
©JonClark

A green and slimey Balance it is... | Burbage South
©NadirKhan

Electric Slime...
©NadirKhan

Friday, 6 December 2013

Getting into The Zone

It is hard to know where to start with this one as it seems so much has happened in such a short space of time. For that reason I'll try to break up the latest news into a couple of posts and hope ya'll don't get too bored!
Cold days and top conditions in abundance have continued to arrive each week, which has allowed us to get out there and work our way steadily through the grit hit list. 
I've gotten into the habbit this last couple of years of writing out a list of routes to try over the approaching season. Some are dreamy, some maybe more realistic but I just find it not only maintains motivation, working through a list, it also means there are no days spent wasted trying to decide what you want to climb. All you do is check your list and pick one that takes your fancy. Simple.

I had hoped to try The Zone last winter but in the end time ran out and the winter was over, so this year it was one of the routes at the forefront of my mind. I knew that after a summer of crimping and climbing things much much harder it would in theory feel okay, as long as my head was in the right place and I swatted up on my skyhook knowledge...
I also wanted to do something where you actually had to pull a bit harder, and not just keep it together on another 'steady plod' above a big scary run out.



The route was first climbed back in 1998 by the legend that is John Arran. What this guy hasn't done is not really worth knowing about. He was one of a small collection of guys who were at the front of the gritstone revival back in the 90's, with numerous hard and bold ascents up and down the edges. To put into perspective just how good this guy was, one of these routes was 'Dr Dolittle' at Curbar. Thought it be somewhere in the region of E10 7a, it remains unrepeated to this day.

Just over a week ago I got a brief opportunity to jump on The Zone and check out the climbing. It is one of those routes that you look up at and all you see is just a blank canvas of rock. No matter how hard you gaze upwards it still appears to be virtually holdless. Only when you get up close and personal with it, you begin to see that actually there are holds there and the majority are fairly good. Flat, positive edges.
Anyway the sun was baking, people were walking around in t-shirts and the smaller holds felt disgustingly hot and sweaty. I understood now why it needed to be really cold for this route. Regardless of this I still figured out I could do all the moves and it was obvious that in crisp cold conditions everything would feel so much better.

The protection for the route to most would seem farcical and an utter joke. Carefully placed pieces of metal hooked over small edges, situated at just over halfway up the almost featureless wall. In the past I too thought this was completely bizarre and that you'd have to be a mad as a hatter to put your faith in something that seemed so 'marginal'. However they had been tested, most recently by Oli Grounsell last winter, and rumored to be as solid as a bolt...
I managed to borrow a collection of skyhooks and all I needed now was the right day to come along so I could head back up to try again. Tuesday arrived, it was cold, freezing in fact and I had manage to persuade Jon and Pete to meet me at the crag mid morning. I arrived with no real intention of going for the lead but knew in the back of my mind that it could potentially be something worth considering if everything went according to plan. I just treated it like any other climbing day I've had recently, with the attitude of not caring too much and just having fun out with friends.

 The Collection, weighted down with a couple of heavy bags.

After jumping around for about 30 odd minutes and trying to force the hotaches I jumped on and eventually the blood very slowly started to make its way to my frozen fingertips. I could at least now feel the holds! The sequence quickly came together, the crux holds felt like different holds to the ones I'd been pulling on in the heat a few days previous. The crux was linked, it felt solid, my mind started to contemplate the lead, but ideally I really wanted to link it all in one go which I managed fairly smoothly after a brief rest. This was it then really, it was possible and all I needed to worry about now, beside the suspect protection, was whether I could keep my fingers from numbing up...

Most of my ascents of late have followed a similar pattern. Once I know something is doable and tying into the sharp end is inevitable, I've gone through a certain mini routine. This generally involves, checking out the gear, fetching my skinny rope from the car, cleaning my boots and all the while trying not to focus too much on fully commiting yourself to the line until the last second, right before pulling onto the first holds.
It was really interesting to read what Katy Whittaker had to say recently about her ascent of Knockin' on Heavens Door. How she slowly talked herself into it by taking small steps towards tying in for the lead "just in case" she fancied giving it a try. It is a brilliant tactic that works incredibly well to calm any nerves, take away the pressure and just keep things nice and casual for as long as possible.

The nest of skyhooks actually seemed to be quite decent and one in particular looked as bomber as a nut placement, which did wonders for my confidence. I managed to fiddle 4 of them over two reasonable sized edges. Surely together they would hold a fall...? They obviously had before but so had the Parthian Shot flake and look what happened there...
.
I was confident however they would not need to be tested so the helmet went on, the boots tied up and off I set. Smoothly arriving at the gear, I clipped in the rope and quickly blew on my hands to give them a boost. The next bit went fine, and still going strong I took the little left handed pinch. By this point it must have been too much for my little fingers to bear as they seemed to instantly numb up, the last drops of blood squeezed out leaving them verging on lifeless. I could almost feel myself falling backwards in slow motion. It was either jump off here or give it an almighty lunge and risk falling off anyway. I took the latter option and thankfully made it to the good holds and easier climbing. SAFE.

 The moment of truth...
©Jon Clark

Another huge relief and such a privilege to climb. It is hard to comment on the grade and I have a limited amount of experience in these things. French grade wise, 7c/+ ish seems fair, definitely no harder. I will say though that in no way should the route be taken at all lightly but if the gear is solid and you could absolutely guarantee it holding, then in some ways it climbs like a pretty bold, slightly sketchy but brilliant, sport route... Maybe that's taking things too far. Just try to keep in mind what happened with the shipwreck flake and Will Stanhope.

Check back soon for a short video of the day as JC was again on hand to capture all the action and I'd just like to thank Pete once more for his encouragement and patient belaying.  Cheers!