Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Nearing The End


There's a point at which things start to click. I blindfolded myself today and felt my way through the crux of the Maiden's Bluff project on a shunt. At this point it all starts being about perceptions. There are in-built errors in the sequence that get ironed in with repetition, trying to climb it a certain way. Safety comes from new eyes, or in some cases, no eyes at all.

Then you can have a play around with other feelings. I leaned right in on the no hands rest and felt my face against the wall. I like to zoom in a little, see the ocean of wall and the infinitesimal deluge of raining micro pockets. The wall's awash, and I span past them all. They look at me like a set of little sea cucumbers and chuckle with me. It's a funny place. It raptures and roars, this arete. It clunks; with even a slightest of taps and the brittle thud reverberates around to shake the bones of you. I then played a little game to get me a bit nearer the solo. I hung from the start of the crux, closed my eyes and imagined the worst injuries possible from a fall. At the point at which I was most revolted by the idea, I let go and dropped onto the shunt. It was pretty hard to let go, especially when I got to the stage of really believing it was going to happen that time. Bizarre and fascinating. I suppose the lesson is that even trying to live out the most basic of philosophies requires high levels of the unhinged.

The climb itself is starting to feel easy, creating a bit of uncertainty. Is it still hard? It certainly seems to be a bit too simple to be new wave. But maybe the obscene levels of danger make it still so? It's a very strange position I'm in at the moment. When I look down from the crux my eyes go all blurry and I can't focus in on the ground. I'm trying to imagine what it would be like with gear: If it had bomber gear; if it had illusionary gear.. I can't quite figure it out though.

Mark Rankine and Neil came up from Sheffield the other day and managed to headpoint the Tormented Sole. It's the first H7 of mine to be repeated and it's probably the best one. They seemed like they enjoyed it, which is grand, but the memory of climbing that made me wonder even more about recent projects. The big question on my mind is how far away is the climbing on the Maiden's Arete from the other stuff I've done. How does it connect? It's easier climbing (as in, just the moves) than Psykovsky's Sequins or Fly Agaric, harder than the Hypocrisy of Moose and The Waves Of Inspiration, but it's BOLD. A proper solo is quite a rare thing and it's making a sequence that would probably be around H8 with some alright gear feel well into H9 or 10 terrain. Add in the fact that the rock is unreliable and it's desperately insecure and you start to get to a point where it seems properly hard.

I'm incredibly weak and light at the moment, which is a fantastic feeling. It's like I'm a fly on the wall - ultimate amateur trad climbing I suppose, where it's all about weird moves and the mind and nothing at all about being an 'athlete'. The rain has set in now and I feel even more distant from the grunting climbing gyms. I like the rain, fat leaves weighed down and birds chirping in extremis. There's no better feeling than finding your path again, excited at what's to come.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Mental Designs At Maiden's Bluff



There's been a long quest for the right route and now we're there. The arete at Maiden's Bluff is still unclimbed and still exquisitely insane. It's a weird place up there, the seld-trod slopes lashed with rhododendrons and sweeping bushes, the distant swashing sea. It's a very peaceful place, especially when the tide is out like today. 

The arete itself is also fairly peaceful. You can tell that the line is content with itself. It's never had any attention. No one's ever tried it. But it knows that it is classy. It knows that it would scare off basically everyone in the world. Developing a relationship with a piece of rock like this is therefore extra special. 

I still don't know for sure whether I'm going to go for the solo. There needs to be some philosophizing that gets me to a point where the risk is not only worth it, but the experience on the solo is something I crave. The first step has been to turn the shunting sessions from a horror to a tea-party. This has started to happen and I've started to feel good on the crux.

The rock is solid where it needs to be, but the easier sections of climbing have some disgusting holds that really cannot be trusted and often fall off completely unexpectedly. I suppose the crux itself is the pinnacle of choss climbing, with hard, totally unprotected moves on crumbling smears. The barndoor crux is out of this world, which is also probably where the mind needs to be.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Horror In The Moors - Homing In On A Project

The Terrifying Future Of The Moors
The Hypocrisy Of  Moose, Psykovsky's Sequins, Gold, Fly Agaric - in all these cases, the danger can be comprehended and justified. This means the lines are sane and mere mortals can actually climb them. There's a new breed of line in the Moors however - a type of route that is simply 'roaring horror'. At the Maiden's Bluff today, I got my first sight of the coming tide: It's pretty scary.

I've had a few weeks off from climbing, with absolutely piles of work. It's meant that I've been able to buy a car, which is excellent (driving around, listening to really loud trance), but obviously no new routes have been climbed. It's settled down a little this week, with only about 70 hours penciled in, so I've started trying to get out.

Time off always changes things in the mind. I was in a bit of a hedonist rut before, where I was enjoying day to day climbing, climbing routes that the rest of the world seems to think that I should be climbing, but not actually making any headway with the far nobler task of 'reinventing the Moors'. This is set to change I think. At Maiden's today I started to really feel a drive to climb the arete. It's the sort of thing that is always going to be ludicrously dangerous; it's the epitome of the New Wave.

I'd struggled before, finding a way around the arete that was at least partially secure. There seems to be three types of security in climbing: bomber almost all the time; doable quite a lot of the time, but things rip and sometimes it doesn't work; and then just daft, utterly low percentage moves. I think the definition of old wave routes is that they are somewhere between the first two types of security. New wave is between the second and third, which is why it was important for the move to feel closer to the middle type. If it's too ridiculous, you don't even have a chance.

So the crux is now getting to a position where I could solo it (that's 'could', not solo it every time). And when we say solo, we mean a REAL solo. No gear, not a nugget. Chance of surviving a fall? Low.  It's exciting. I'm interested to see how this one will go. The sequence is so daft, on outside edges of the shoe and so ludicrously barndoory I think a successful ascentionist can happily commit themselves to the asylum.