Tuesday, 12 July 2016

5.10 Quantum review


Now firstly I never actually owned a pair of the old style purple Quantum’s, although I did in fact once try a pair on many years ago. So while I am unable to comment directly from experience on the comparisons between the old and new versions, I can give a run down on the key qualities of the new design and offer a comparison to some of the other shoes in the 5.10 lineup that have similar attributes.


Below is what the crew at the Tennie HQ have to say:

"For the redevelopment of the classic Quantum, we worked with the Huber brothers, Alex and Thomas, to develop an all-around performance shoe for any climbing setting. We started with a Stealth® C4™ outsole, the Hubers tackle a diverse range of climbs with many different angles and rock textures and C4™ is our most versatile compound. The shoe has a stiff midsole and lined Clarino synthetic upper, so it stays comfortable for extended periods of wear. The tongue is a perforated ariaprene, which conforms to the foot and provides unmatched breathability. The Quantum is built on a new last; it is slightly downturned and a bit wider than our traditional downturned lasts allowing your foot to sit in a more natural position."


I first picked up a pair of the re-designed Quantum towards the end of last Autumn. It was late in the season and the limestone was beginning to give way to the onslaught of the winter months.
However before it gave up the ghost entirely, I did get to give them a few run outs on my project at the time.

They are a stiff, down turned boot that offer unparalleled support. They are a slightly wider last than before and come with a very sharp edge making standing on and pushing off small microscopic edges a dream. The design of the heel cup is all new compared its predecessor, feeling secure and tight around your foot, with zero dead space.
The route I briefly tried towards the end of the last season was Evolution at Raven Tor. Anyone that knows anything about this route will know of the nature of its series of small holds throughout. 
The route obviously requires exceptionally strong fingers but it equally requires precise, intricate footwork. The Quantum felt like the perfect tool for the job from the moment I first gave them a run at the wall. 
The C4 sole brings a huge degree of sensitivity and stiffness throughout the entire shoe, enabling you to really generate some serious push throughout the toe box. The down turned toe gives them an aggressive feel, which along with the stiff edge, enables you to wrap your toes around those micro edges.

Two other stand out features are the perforated tongues which give a very comfy and snug like feel and a lacing system that does the job of maintaining the tension as the laces are tightened up. A small detail maybe, but something that just adds that little bit extra.

It was not long before the crux moves on the headwall of Evo started to become much more amenable and I suddenly found myself linking over two thirds of the route in a oner.
Unfortunately that was the last time I got to use them as the season quickly came to an end, winter set in and shortly after Christmas so did my injury. 


However, I made sure they were apart of my line-up for my recent trip back to the Gorges du Tarn. I had a feeling they would suit the style of climbing out there and this proved to be the case.

I have to admit I am a big big fan of the Teams. They are my go to shoe for a lot of stuff. Particularly abroad, but I made sure to give the Quantum's their fair chance and they honestly felt at home straight away. Performing just how I imagined them too on the steep pocketed walls of the gorge.
Perhaps not a shoe (to begin with) for smearing, slab style routes but I am sure once bedded in and softened slightly they would feel equally good on such terrain.

One thing to note is that thanks to the Clarino synthetic uppers, these shoes will maintain their shape and barely offer any stretch so keep that in mind when trying on.

Obviously, as always with climbing shoes, there will be various and conflicting opinions but there is no doubt in my mind that this is another top quality, high performing shoe in the 5.10 range.

Friday, 10 June 2016

British on tour!

©JonClark
From the road the Tennessee sector rises up above your head and appears to be a sheer blank wall of formidable and intimidating rock. Even when stood at its base, at the first glance upward it looks to be blank still and hard to imagine where the routes could possibly go.

Then as you eyes slowly begin to adjust to the vast expanse of yellow, orange and grey limestone, the features gradually start to appear. You begin to see lines of weakness that weave their way through the rock and rise up and up into the sky.

I have said this before but it is crazy to think that something like this has been so perfectly sculptured for climbing. The holds perfectly shaped. Immaculate pockets, crimps, jugs, pinches, undercuts, all that fit the shape of the aspiring climbers hand like a glove. This wall has it all and all in a perfect succession that end up yielding some of the finest selection of routes I have ever climbed. These walls have been purposely built for climbing.


©JonClark

My month in France was without doubt one of the quickest months of my life and I now find myself back at home and reflecting on what was undoubtedly a wild few weeks. For me this trip was all about testing the waters (forgive the pun) with my elbow and just trying to climb in whatever capacity my body allowed. I still felt strong but honestly had no idea how things would go once consistent climbing on a daily basis kicked in.
French life is such a breeze. There is nothing better than waking up, chilling in the sunshine over breakfast, heading to the local bakery for fresh, warm crossiants before a day of climbing with friends, on spectacular rock amongst utterly breath taking scenery.


I am so thankful for the way in which my injury held up and utterly amazed at what I managed to haul my a$$ up. I came back feeling fitter and stronger than ever before, which is even more bizarre in some ways, and I really cannot wait for the next trip. Wherever that will be...
I have thrown together a series of random diary notes and thoughts, jotted down during our rare rest days and the forced downtime while waiting for the numerous storms to pass over. Thanks to my buddy and travel partner Jon Clark for providing some pretty sweet photos as ever!

Théorème de Thalès, 7c
©JonClark
©JonClark
Crag essentials...
Pizza La Muse!
The Jonte has been calling us since we arrived. We see its huge cliffs standing watch over our campsite every morning we wake. From this distance it is hard to judge the scale of these cliffs but they are undoubtedly impressive. Even more impressive though is how old some of these routes are and how fearless the first ascentionists must have been back in the day.
Flicking through the guidebook the size starts to become a reality and our mouths water at the prospect of getting up there. One route in particular was on our list from the start.
El monstro del muesli!

JC scouting out the huge sectors that form The Jonte!
A 45 metre 8a with a cool name and rumoured to be a classic. When we eventually made the sweaty hike into the crag we were greeted by full blazing sun and scorching heat. Nice, but not conducive to pulling down hard! After a lengthy debate we made the choice of 'screw it, we're here now' and set off up the baking limestone with not much optimism.
45 sweaty minutes later and with almost a full bag of chalk gone, I made it to the chain in one piece! It was a fight, but a hugely memorable one. The view from the top was even more spectacular and I sat up there, slumped in my harness for a short while and breathed in the cool mountain breeze.

We have all been there before but those occasions when something ends up going your way after completely dismissing all expectations, are quite often the sweetest. Once back on the ground I looked up and realised the entire crag had come into the shade! Typical.



On-sighting was never my bag. I never practised it enough. Never went abroad. Was never fit enough, and always got ridiculously pumped. A few years ago now I adapted my climbing style and suddenly became hooked on the big pump fests. My eyes opened up to the fun game of on-sight climbing. The unknown aspect and thrill that climbing up a piece of rock, first go, with absolutely no prior knowledge of the moves ahead, can bring. One minute you can be shaking out in a nice relaxed rest, French blowing the chalk cooly from your finger tips. Then within a few seconds you will be fighting for your life on slopey non holds, searching frantically for something to grab, 10 metres above your last bolt. Staring at a monster fall.

©JonClark
Fight or flight mode in full effect. The choice is simple, press on or take the plunge. Your brain goes into overdrive, trying to work out the most efficient sequence. Your lungs are working at full capacity, your heart is skipping beats and the oncoming lactic-acid laps at the door to every fibre in your body.
Climbing in this style is a real rush for me. It may sound like a living nightmare but it is an exhilarating experience and seriously rewarding if you make it to the top on that first go, after such a hard fought battle.

"Priez pour nous"
©JonClark
Tonight is curry night. We all need it. My arms are feeling a little jaded after topping out a 60 metre 8b on the Tennessee sector earlier this afternoon. Yesterday was 30 degrees, sunny blue skies. Today is 8 degrees, gale force winds and torrential 'showers'. This morning was way too cold to climb so we wait only to try again in vain after lunch. Jon then gets lucky with a sweet on-sight of Mosaïk Man and the sun slowly begins to warm our bones. I decide to jump back on 'Le plaisir qui démonte Extension ' while there is a chance the weather window will hold. This is some route. A real beauty with a series of complex and fun boulder problems that link together up a gently steepening wall. The climbing this time around feels almost effortless and I pull past the final crux and can finally relax on jugs of joy.
Then, out of no where the skies turn black and within seconds I am blasted with huge golf ball sized rain drops. I have no option but to take sanctuary in the small cave two bolts from the top and wait for the 'shower' to pass. 10 minutes later the monsoon subsides and I sprint up the easy finish to the belay and then it is back to base to dry off!

There are still so many routes to go at here. So many hard lines that I would love to put some real effort into. It will be some time before I visit this place again but I'll be back one day for sure. For now I shall be hanging out in the UK for a while and hopefully jetting off again in the not to distant future.

Thanks to my partners Jon and Pete and finally a huge shout to my sponsors Mammut for allowing me the time and means to head out here.

Check out my destination article in the spring addition of CLIMB magazine for a more in-depth look into the Tarn and surrounding areas. AND if you have yet to visit, make it your next trip. You will not regret it!

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Tarn 2.0

Alongside discussing beta; injuries and the weather must rank as the top most talked about topics amongst climbers. I would hazard a guess that this is the same for most other countries climbing populus, and not just the British.
So with that in mind and seeing as my last two posts have started with an injury based theme I thought this one could start with the weather. Just to keep things interesting and balanced.

It's raining. Torrentially.
But we are not letting it dampen our spirits too much as we are all delighted to be back in this beautiful part of the world. The Gorges du Tarn.
I climbed for years hearing about this so called French climbing 'paradise' and of people coming out here time and time again. My brief trip last August made me see just why it gets this glowing reputation.


So here we are. Back again and with a sizeable more chunk of time to play with. Unfortunately for all The Tarn's beauty and appeal, it does rain here too. One minute it could be shorts and shades, the next down jackets and scarves. A game that we are all to familiar with. Right now its full on waterproofs.

However the climbing is something special and the thought of jumping on the next route jotted down on the ticklist the following day, keeps the fires burning and psyche flowing.

© Jon Clark
To be honest I am emmensely grateful that I am even out here and with the ability to actually be able to climb anything at all. There was a point a few weeks back when I was seriously beggining to doubt if my injury would heal up in time and if the whole trip would be a waste of time.
Thankfully as our leaving date got ever closer my elbow started to show rapid signs of improvement and I was able to increase the levels of my rehab and training. Even on the journey down here I was still apprehensive of just what I would be able to do and how I'd hold up. However after just a couple days of climbing I managed a route that even just a couple of weeks ago, was more than I could have ever hoped for.

It has now been over a week, climbing most days, and I am very much beggining to get back into the groove of things again. There is so much to do, the vast potential blows your mind. You'll be sat around during the evenings pondering and planning the next climbing day, thinking you have it all figured out. Then suddenly someone will remind you of another world class sector and you'll find yourself rearranging plans all over again. A rather nice predicament to be in though.

It is hard to say if it will be possible to tick all of my main goals out here, that I set myself at the start of the year. I am just happy to be climbing and thankful for the time to enjoy myself. Despite the rain!
Stayed tuned.


Monday, 18 April 2016

Countdown

The countdown is firmly on now for our return trip to France next month. The ferry is booked for the 28th April, the tick lists are currently being written up and the excitement amongst us all is building. We'll be spending the whole of May mainly in The Tarn and potentially checking out somewhere new on the drive back north, towards the end of the month.


My elbow rehab really seems to have taken a big step in the right direction these last couple of weeks. It is certainly feeling stronger all the time and I can now climb, for the most part, with virtually no discomfort at all. I am still uncertain and apprehensive, but it is extremely pleasing to see almost daily improvements.

The tricky part has been NOT to over do things. It has all been a huge 'learning curve' in lots of different ways. I'm used to big, tough and intense sessions. So the hard bit has been having to force myself to stop, even when everything feels fine. A very fine balance. On the one hand you want to gradually up the intensity, but on the other you are cautious of pushing things too far. Finding that middle ground, that seems to constantly be shifting, is tough work!

Cantobre dreaming!

So the plan for this trip is to just take each day as it comes and gradually test the waters. I confess to not having a huge clue as to where my performance levels are at currently. I still feel strong but from a fitness/endurance perspecitive I may be lagging behind a little.

We will be basing ourselves further up the gorge this time so commuting to the crag will be down to
the bare minimum, meaning we can focus on the climbing even more. One thing Jon and myself are quite keen for this time though is heading to check out the big multi pitch stuff in the Gorge du Jonte. While we drove up through this gorge a few times last year we didn't have the time to climb here. It will certainly provide something a little different, and the crags look mega!

Guess who's back in the saddle?!?

Friday, 11 March 2016

Changes



Since the start of the year there have quite a few different changes in my life. I have kept it fairly quiet but the year itself didn't get off to the best of starts when a sudden and unexplained elbow injury raised its niggling and nagging head.
Everything was in place to start a period of organised training and psyche was extremely high to see the benefits of a solid structured program that would hopefully yield some decent results come our trip to The Tarn in May.
I’ll try not to bore you with all the details and prevent turning this blog into one of those usual in-depth ‘injury moaning’ stories that seem to constantly flash across our screens these days.

It was only a few days after Christmas and I suddenly noticed a strange discomfort in my left elbow/arm while doing a few routes at the wall.
At first I figured it being nothing but it quickly became apparent something was definitely not quite right. Particularly after discovering the Joint would grind and click when flexed.
At one point things did seem to be improving but then the niggle would randomly ‘flare’ up again.


Training quickly had to be put on the back burner and toned down. The annoying thing is that I still have no idea what the exact problem is, or how it even happened! I am assuming it is probably a number of things that have caused the Problem and it is probably down to the effects that intense climbing, nearly full time, can start to have on the body. I have been to a number of physio sessions and finally have a scan booked in for next week which might hopefully begin to shed some light.


At first the Situation was ridiculously hard to accept.. Having not had the experience of one of these potential long term type of injuries before and the ways in which to deal with them, made it even worse. Not being able to do what you love and what your life revolves around is, quite simply, depressing.
I’ve busted my ribs and back in the last few years but while those injuries were at the time a million times more painful and debilitating it was at least obvious what the problem was and you could rest safe in the knowledge that they would heal within a given time frame.
My elbow, while no where near as painful has turned into some thing much more serious.


All of this has meant that I have had to unfortunately pull out of CWIF this weekend. I am pretty gutted to be missing out on the 10th year, especially after my performance last year in reaching the semi finals for the first time. I'm sure it will be a cracking weekend and with a field that is looking stronger than ever it will certainly be interesting to see who comes out on top...

CWIF 2015
© DomWorrall

However things have not been altogether bad news. Last month I was offered a rather exciting  position with my main sponsor Mammut. A position that has the potential for some great opportunities and involve doing some ‘proper work'! It was something that I could hardly refuse and so far it has all been going extremely well and I'm psyched to see how things develop.

So while the injury has meant I am unable to go full steam on the climbing and training front at this exact moment in time, I have been able to keep myself from going totally insane by immersing myself into this new role.

Enjoy the weekend ya'll! Spring might even make another appearance if we're lucky...



Sunday, 10 January 2016

Staying on track, looking ahead.

I am a little late to the usual yearly roundup. The one that everyone dishes out as another year draws to a close and a brand new one dawns, but I can firmly say that 2015 was another stellar year for myself. I was able to achieve huge personal milestones and really start to see the results of lots of hard work and commitment begin to pay off.

© JonClark
We went on a bunch of fantastic trips and adventures, which as I’ve mentioned countless times now, really opened my eyes to the vast potential out there and just how much fun you can have with the right people who are just as psyched as yourself.

I spent the last few weeks of the year taking some down time, chilling out and enjoying giving my body a bit of rest, as much as I could manage anyway without boredom setting in. I always look forward to the Christmas and holiday period and with the year I had just had it made everything all the more pleasant being able to relax and look back, safe in the knowledge of everything we had achieved.

© JonClark
2016 promises to be another big year if everything works out and goes to plan. We have some truly great trips and ideas lined up, not to mention various pieces of unfinished business to take care of.
I cannot wait to get started! Until then it is time to train, prepare well and get strong.
After speaking briefly last year with one of the UK's leading performance coaches I was told that if I wanted to continue to push my limits and perhaps go on to stepping my climbing up to the next level then I may need to sacrifice some time outside in order to dedicate time into knuckling down to some serious training.

© TimGlasby
Anyone that knows me will know how much I love being outside. For me that is what it is all about. So at first the prospect of choosing to train rather than head out onto real rock was a little off putting. However I am actually looking forward to the whole idea and currently enjoying the change up.
I make no claims whatsoever about being a training guru and I totally confess to not knowing for sure if I am on the right track with things, but I can see the benefits it will hopefully yield and to be fair it is not like we are missing out on anything too spectacular right now! Maybe in Europe, but as far as this country goes, nothing much is happening at all.
So in some ways, however depressing it is, the winter we are currently experiencing has hardly been an issue. It has enabled me, up to this point, to focus in on some structured training and not feel guilty and sad about missing out on quality days in the great outdoors. If we do ever see the return of those crispy blue skies then I will most likely be out that door in a flash! Until then I shall be wrecking myself on pieces of wood and plastic.

Just where exactly my limits may lie and if I will ever truly be able to reach them, I cannot say, but that is what makes the whole thing so exciting. I know that I can continue to improve and grow as a climber and the desire to do so is greater than ever before.

© JonClark

Thursday, 5 November 2015

A good place

I am in a pretty good place right now. Looking outside at one of those typical damp and grey November days, I am unusually content and relaxed. The last few weeks have seen me investing my time and throwing my energy into another hard Peak sport route. Devolution. Last weekend saw the conclusion of this mini saga and we are still living off the psyche that a completed project brings.

For those not entirely clued up on their Raven Tor trivia, Devolution climbs the lower crux section of the mega classic, rarely repeated, Jerry Moffatt route 'Evolution', before scamping off rightwards via some delicate crimping into the headwall of Chimes of Freedom.
It is of course a cop out in many ways but still provides some seriously hard climbing and if Evo itself is considered 8c+ these days then this has surely got to be 8c in its own right. Either way, it is still pretty stiff! I figured on giving it a bash as the meat of the route is still the lower section of Evo and it would provide a good stepping stone to trying this afterwards.


It started to get a little frustrating at times, as redpointing does. I kept blowing the big lock-off move to the break but it was mostly due to my finger splitting open which meant my attempts were always limited. I had to have quite a few days off from climbing to make sure my skin was in the best shape it could be for the next session. Forced down time is seriously not my thing.

I am not sure what is worse. Falling off after doing 30+ moves or falling after about 3. On the one hand doing a tonne of moves and hard climbing is great for improving and maintaining fitness but then you fall over and over and your heart breaks.
Doing 3 moves and falling just gets you angry, in a whole different way. It feels sometimes as if you are just going backwards and you start to think you are getting weaker. This is all in the head of course but that is half the battle. Head games. Jedi mind tricks so to speak.


I have climbed Chimes literally hundreds of times. To the point where I could do the thing in my sleep, with a cold and dosed up on calpol. Baby Chimes was my first 8a and the full line is probably one of my favourite routes in the area.
I always knew that once at this point, from the ground it would be totally fine from here on in, but I also always knew that it would probably be rather nerve-racking climbing my way to the belay. After finally pulling through the start and making that breakthrough, to blow it on some silly moves done a million times before was not even worth thinking about.

However the mind is a hard thing to control. The minute I left the resting jugs on the headwall I felt a jibbering wreck! My brain was going berzerk, already in the future, trying to project me into post send glory. It felt almost impossible to switch off, relax and focus on the moves ahead. A simple moment of madness. A silly foot misplacement on the last move almost could have had me off. Thankfully it mattered not and the job was sealed. But it sure gave us a fright.

Now this one is out of the way I am psyched to get stuck into the main event. Who knows if it will go this year, as the season is rapidly drawing to a close. Hopefully there are a few weeks yet so at least if nothing else I will be able to lay the ground work for a full blown attack at it next spring.

Anyway I'm off to build a bonfire and make a pot of chili.