Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Alea iacta est

The good news is that I came close to a Font 7a+. The bad news is that came close to a Font 7a+.

Continuing my new found affair with Peak limestone, I headed up last Sunday for a quick fix. Maybe it was the heat making our decisions fuzzy, but we missed our turn and ended up at Raven Tor. I decided to re-do Too Hard for Mark Leach. I worked this problem a few weeks ago and retro-flashed it this time round. As we were bored we decided to do a video and I was a bit too nonchalant, which resulted in me slipping from the penultimate hold, falling on my back, rolling down the slope and hitting my knee. Needless to say, I wasn't coming off the second time 'round.

I tried a few other problems at Raven Tor, but was feeling way too weak not to mention hot. We then headed to our intended crag, Rubicon.

So I’ve been struggling with a rather simple concept. Right now being weak, injured, out of shape, etc. I’m not that far off my best grade wise. Either the training and sacrifice made little difference, or I wasn’t climbing anywhere near where I should have been. Maybe as always, it’s a bit of both.

I came pretty close to Kudos (the ultra-easy way, with a heel hook). I got both sidepulls and even managed to get my right foot out of the heel hook and left foot on the starting jug a few times, but I was too knackered to complete it.

I’m more likely than not kidding myself, but it does pose a few questions.

We spent the evening chilling at Rheinstor where I flashed the start of an E4 (V4 to the break). I still love this crag and wish that I could bring it back to London.

Wizard of Aus Start
I now have a project, reason enough for the obsession to begin anew. Maybe this time I should dream harder, but therein lies dangerous thoughts.

Monday, 15 June 2009

Peak Limestone

Raven Tor

A friend’s birthday party brought me to the Peak for what I thought was going to be a series of soul destroying bouldering sessions. Happily, I was mistaken.

A V3 at Rheinstor

The sunny weather presented the perfect excuse to eschew grit and try for the first time some Peak limestone.

I hope this sticks...

We started out at a chilled riverside venue not too far from our campsite called Rheinstor. It wasn’t posh enough to make the new Peak District Bouldering guidebook, but it can be found in the old Rockfax Peak Bouldering (‘98). If you like pockets (or indeed, want to train finger strength) then I would say that it’s worth a visit. It only has 12 named problems, the majority of which are the bottom quarter of trad routes, but I found it fun to just have a go at whichever line took my interest and jumped off before it became too committing.

More pocket pulling

After abusing our finger tendons for a few hours, we decided to head to Rubicon and um… abuse our fingers a bit more. I’ve visited Rubicon a few times, but I was never able to climb there since it was half subsumed by the lake. What a great venue. I got A Miller’s Tale on my second try (argh – should have listened to the beta and then it would have been a flash!). I was quite surprised by this as I haven’t been bouldering outside in ages and the last time I climbed with any regularity indoors was last October. I spent the rest of the day relaxing and doing the odd easy problem here and there.

A Miller's Tale

The next morning I was feeling rather tired and mostly just wanted to curl back up in my sleeping bag, but the sunny weather again guilt-tripped me into making the most of it. We headed to Raven Tor, oddly enough more as a reccie for future projects rather than to have a serious session.

After warming up on a few problems, I spied Too Hard for Mark Leach which is comprised of the end bits of Ben’s Roof. It was up my street; slightly powerful, juggy, but with a few interesting holds thrown in to the mix and some interesting moves, so I gave it a try. The throw for the penultimate crimp shut me down a few times, until I realised that I needed to lock more deeply and static it.

Too Hard for Mark Leach

I was really not expecting to tick this problem as I am so far off my best it’s scary. I’m weak, injured, out of shape and completely distracted by life, but still it went in about 20 minutes.

I think that I found a bit of myself once again in a dusty cave. This trip put a lot of perspective back into my life. I wasn’t happy when I was mostly just climbing, but equally not climbing doesn’t work for me either. I’m now faced with the challenge of balancing the two in some sort of happy medium.

And of course I had to find one negative in this otherwise perfect weekend – if I’m climbing Font 6c with not much effort now, why the heck didn’t I climb tons better when I was in shape, argh!

To round the weekend off, we headed for Pleasley Vale near Mansfield. Again, this great little limestone venue wasn’t good enough for the current guidebook, but can be found in the Rockfax one. It doesn’t have many hardcore desperates, but what it does have is a lovely setting and tons of fun problems to try. It’s well worth a visit on a warm summer’s evening.

How to climb if you're short - get your feet as high as you can...

A V3 at Pleasley Vale

Lock and pop - et voilà!

Needless to say – I’m a Peak Limestone convert… and to think people travel all that way and only ever climb on grit :-)

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Of Mice and Men

I’ve been totally and completely subsumed into my course and as a consequence, I’ve had next to no time for climbing or much else for that matter. I thought it was a reasonable trade off since I spent years climbing and doing little career-wise. I had to make up for lost time somehow. I even planned for it – I thought the rest would allow my shoulder time to heal properly.

With life being as great as it is, hardly anything worked out as I had hoped. I still feel a million miles away from what I want career wise and my shoulder hates pipetting / writing / typing even more than bouldering and for some odd reason, not climbing at all bothers it more than gentle climbing – how does that work? Argh. I’ve also not had time to do any physio exercises, which hasn’t helped. As soon as I get some spare time, I’m off to the doctors and not leaving until I get this sorted out. Sadly for now it has to wait.

Over the winter I had a few periods of bouldering indoors somewhat regularly, but these sessions would soon be interrupted by a hectic schedule and fall by the wayside. Recently I started mountain biking and cycle commuting again as a means to gain some general fitness in a way that easily fits into my schedule and I’ve also been climbing a few times indoors. I even made it up to the darkest depths of the Churnet for some bouldering one hot weekend. It was however more of an experience in bushwhacking than climbing though and my legs still bear the scars.

The worst thing is that I can’t shake the feeling that this time is different; as if it’s all gone. The usual pattern follows as such after a lay-off: rapid progression from say V3 to V4 and with some effort progression to V5, then plateau and spend ages seeing little improvement. This time ‘round, I seem to be struggling with just getting back to V3 and it’s just slightly irritating. To be fair, I haven’t gone climbing more than two times in a week for months and my mental state isn’t that great (though when is it ever…) which I think plays a large part. Everything just feels so far away from me.

I know that I definitely miss it and need to get it back for lots of reasons. Looking back perhaps it wasn’t the best laid plans…

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

In the meantime

I’ve always had problems with accepting things as they are. I don’t know if it arises form harbouring residual brain-washed American ideals, the mistaken need to feel in control of things that I’m clearly not in control of, or just a deep seated character flaw. Regardless of its origin, it remains a defining quality. On account of it, I’ve lost friends and my career has suffered many times. Conversely, I think it’s partly what kept me going with bouldering and it definitely contributed to what finally drew me away. I used to think it was a driving force behind me which was both good and bad in equal measure and that it would abate with time and maybe a bit of stability. Right now, I view it as a source of unhappiness. At times I actively wish I could just give in; quit, leave, give up, run away, anything but deal with it; accept it. But ultimately it’s clever enough to find your hiding spot and it more likely than not has grown bigger.

I want a bit of peace above all else and it yet it feels the furthest away from me.