Friday, 28 June 2013

New Route At Highcliffe - Five Years On (E4 7a)

So we've been back at highcliffe with a couple of pads. Of primary interest was Nick Dixons stonking line of 'Up A Creek Without A Paddle'. A great name for a prominent feature. It gets E3 in the guide, although I'd be surprised if it had seen an ascent since the 80s, so the E3 tag didn't mean a lot. So with similar feelings of trepidation that we'd had the day before on gluon, Dave set out for a look. With some high feet and moving round the arete he finally made it to just below the big ledge at the top. He kept his feet low and popped for the ledge in a move that looked fairly gripping. He made it though! Instead of cleaning the horrible easy top out he elected to jump off to the left, where the ground was higher.  Then it was my turn and I quickly copied his method up to the same final move. Here I paused and tried to be clever by getting a much higher foot than Dave, which would keep me in balance for the last move. Unfortunately the foothold promptly broke and I came flying back down to the ground. The fall was fine though and I got up it on the next go with a slightly different high foot. It was quite pleasant and the scary-looking fall isn't actually where you'd fall, so it's perfectly protected with a pad or two.  It should get a bit more traffic.
The Magic Scoop

I had another look at 'The Magic Scoop' on a shunt as well, figuring out how one would start it, but still struggling with the move getting established into the scoop. It's very powerful and compression, which is everything I'm bad at. The top is incredible though - this thing needs to be climbed.
The New Line Climbs To The Right Of Desperate Den Up The Blanker Section

It was getting a bit too midgey by this time and we retreated to the popular end of Highcliffe: Dave trying Desperate Den again and me trying the unclimbed wall to the right. The wall is interesting and of personal importance, being where the inscription to the late Ian Jackson is. It's nearly five years since his death now and what better way to pay one's respects than climbing something abominably difficult right next to where his ashes were scattered?  I've tried it a lot and haven't managed it. One starts off with very thin and blind feet before setting up for a jump for the jug on Stargazer direct. It's not a long way to the jug, but the holds are terrible and one is already fully extended. I'd touch the jug over and over again, but it was only when I just totally forgot about the fall and embraced the lightness of the whole route that I got it. One really has to feel light, like one is capable of holding the swing with one arm. It happened anyway and it was quite a shock.

It's no great line, but it's a pretty hard sequence slap bang in the middle of Highcliffe Nab, which is the home of hard Moors climbing. It felt pretty good. E4 7a was the grade.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Gluon - Highcliffe Nab

The FA of Gluon in 1978 (Photo: Tony Marr)
We went up to Highcliffe last night to have a look at Gluon.We were inspired by the photo above from Tony Marr, who reckoned it hadn't had an ascent without that side-runner out left.  It gets E2 5c in the guide with this runner, which implies it's not too tricky and fairly safe. As with much of the Moors however, you can't really rely on these grades and we knew that this blank-looking arete could easily be English 6b and bloody serious! It needed a clean anyway, so I had an ab down to brush the holds. It didn't look easy.

I got on it first and , despite the muggy conditions and marginal midge problems, the sloping sequence went fairly easily. I was nicely warmed up from the Mono Wall in the morning, which makes most things seem quite easy in comparison. Dave also tootled up the initial crux without too much thought, only taking a moment on the final slopier and altogether more serious part of the climb. We both used a rope at the top, as the easy finish is in such a state and we didn't have time to clean it.

Not really sure about the grade - English 6a seemed about right. The E grade depends on boulder mats and how you think a fall would pan out.  Not a bad V3 highball though I'd have thought. The starage would depend on how you climbed it. After the first few moves one can escape into Peeler (an adjacent E2), thus marring the independence of this line, but the moves are top class.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Back On The Mono Wall

It's been a tough few months since march. I've been doing my final exams for my German degree, whilst also managing to get chicken pox, which was pretty nasty. I also managed to get a finger injury 2 months ago, which might have just saved my degree, but also put the mono wall back a little. It was my own fault, trying to warm up doing mono pull ups, my finger made a noise like pulling a chicken wing off. I've gradually got back into it and I can imagine a time when the old finger will be as strong as it once was, but it has undermined my belief in the invincibility of finger tendons. The actual injured ring finger itself is fairly irrelevant for the mono wall in any case, as it's on the right hand, which is only really used in little finger monos. A greater set-back is that it was too jiggered to train and as a consequence my core and tricep have withered to nothing.

Still, just getting back on the Mono Wall is incredible. I actually feel noticeably happier after an hour hanging on the crux and looking at what might be. The finishing headwall is ready for the solo now, with the sequence being a tricky one to make feel safe, but probably the best part of the route. I reckon this part in itself is around E8. The crux has been a little harder to make feel solid. I've had three trips over there on my bike in the last week and on the first I forgot my rope, which was massively annoying. I was so annoyed that I set out on the solo for a look and, after a couple of down-climbs, managed to get to the crux sequence, which was scary.

It was a good experience climbing up the lower wall without the hindrance of an unbalancing rope from above. The lower wall is pretty steep and it's really hard to simulate how the moves will feel on a shunt. This is one of the real problems in solo-development, as the eventual solo feels miles away from the weeks of practice. On the Mono Wall this lower wall is at least fairly secure, as long as you have strong pinkies. As you hang from the second-to-last mono and look up though, you can tell that the next moves are going to be agonising. The next foothold you need is above your head and you're gearing up for a throw into the crux mono. I can't really imagine how this is going to feel on the solo - probably pretty wild.

The main limiting factor with the route is skin. If you get on it with perfect fingers, you have about 5 goes before you can no longer climb on them. You have to pull really hard on a very small surface and it rips flesh from all the pressure points ridiculously quickly. You can push past this to a certain point, but eventually the monos just fill with blood and it becomes impossible. Little and often is the name of the game and at least the sores occur on parts of the finger that you don't need for any other route. So you can carry on climbing and rest. I've tried tape, but then your fingers don't fit in. I think this would put people off, but it's like hunting a fast deer - you just need better tactics.

On a more aesthetic note, the crag is looking really nice at the moment. Conditions are fluctuating fairly wildly, but the rock is bone dry. Last time I was up, at about 7pm, the sun started blazing round the corner and the whole wall was washed with light. It was a pleasant experience and an unusual one for this happy north-facer. Solstice sun is a funny one, but it blasts the mono wall now and seems to be saying something.