Saturday, 30 May 2015

Divine Moments of Truth H10 7a

I stand empty-bellied; starved for the last day to try and make the razor holds feel bigger. Where the dentist drilled out my root yesterday throbs an enormous-feeling chasm and as I bite down on the chocolate eclairs a throb of pain tares through my upper jaw, across my cheek and into my eye-socket. I wince - my head leaning back to gaze once more on the line that has occupied thelast year of my life. I see the beautiful swathes of stone that have now become a barrier to an other form of existence. I have to climb it.

I'm at Kay Nest - the most beautiful dale in a pleasant little corner of the Moors. One of the largest pieces of rock around stands here and has been the subject to some occasional interest. Some time in the middle of the last century someone decided to drill a line of bolts up the wall. Judging by the snaking nature of the line, it seemed to be searching for the blankest and steepest way up the wall and presumable made for a long pitch by Moorland standards.

Notice the toothbrush hair for scale

The challenge for me was to take this aid line and turn it into a free one. In the 80s and 90s a few people tried to work the line, with the idea that they could use the bolts for protection. Most notable here is the Monty-Parker contingent who were climbing very well at the time and had already produced the hardest route around (Magic in the Air E7 6b), as well as a lot of hard and sketchy English 6c climbs. For whatever reason they didn't manage to do this and as such, in 2009 as I started climbing, there was a heritage in the Moors with a  big black hole around Kay Nest. It's the closest thing to a last great problem really and as such I was keen to have a bash.

So in 2011ish I had my first abseil down, which was followed by a bit of a go circa 2012/3. I managed to do it via a wild dyno and thought it would be roughly E8 7a with the bolts. As such, being interested in producing very bold climbs at the time, I decided against making sustained efforts to working it. It was only in my most recent phase in the back end of last year that I realised the potential for taking the bolts out and soloing it. And that's basically what I did. My hopes of producing a mind-bendingly difficult route were quashed when I found some alright gear low down, but it remains a formidable challenge and still fairly dangerous.

After asking around 30 people to come belay me, I was blessed by the presence of Olli and Jake who I hadn't seen for years, but drove up to make the Moors happen. I'm indebted to them.

The lead went clinically most of the way and as I reached into the crux I felt light and balanced. The sketchy feet stuck and the massive spans went okay. On the crux itself I had a tangible jarring of time. Motions repeated themselves, hung on eternities and reversed in direction. I balanced interminably on the edge of losing my cool with the calm aura around me telling me to stay in. It will take a while to fully interpret the crux experience, but it was positive and I felt like I learnt a lot.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Death of the Moors

The Kay Nest Aid Wall is there. It's pretty-much as dialed as it's going to be and the fingers are twitching to curl onto those fingernail crimps. Alas, there is no bugger to belay me. Finding gear on this route has been a double-whammy. Not only is it easier and less of the edge-of-the-mind experience I'd hoped for, but it also means I need to actually have a friend to come to the crag.

Unfortunately over the years I've managed to alienate most folk - through being weird, only talking about the Moors or just being daft. Now that no one actually lives in the Moors any more, a belay means persuading someone to drive 2 hours for the vague possibility of creating a weird line no one quite knows exists in a place that doesn't actually register in most people's realities. I fear this is a trait of the Moors that is hard to shake.

Before you climb in an area, it seems like a pretty wacky and completely-in-the-mind-rooted concept that is gradually bludgeoned into interpretability by raw delusions of apparent realness. Alas, once again, no bugger climbs in the Moors - so this never happens.

I need a bloody partner!

My next project is going to be full chocks-away mind-splitting soloing. Task number 1: make sure there is no gear. It needs to be a proper death route, for soon I will be old and will not dare to set out. In the mean time though, I am really feeling a bond with this climb. It has that legend of Moors past and Moors future and I am happy to be on there soon, regardless of outcome.

Come of partners, do your stuff!

Monday, 4 May 2015

Does Place Matter?

Not quite as dangerous as I first thought
It's a commonly-held view that the amount of progress made on a route is pretty much dependent on how much time you spend on it. This seems to make sense - to practise something you need to grapple, chew-upon and mull-over. But wait a segundo- that last bit - What does that mean?

Also a better route now the bolts are out
To mull, to think, to ponder. This is important with sport climbing and bouldering, but with bold Trad surely it's an even greater part?

3 star boulder problem start.
The photos above are of Luke Hunt - my old pal who I like to stay away from, as most of the times I climb with him I nearly get killed. So it was with some trepidation that I plodded up to Kay Nest with him. After fighting Ebola in Sierra Leone, he's now living in a van and proudly refers to his nomadic lifestyle as "the dream". Sipping coffee (no sugar though) on his sofas after a days climbing, with the new lambs bleating their heads off nearby, you can sort of see where he's coming from. Anyway...

He was his usual encouraging-self and was Tim Emmetesque in his " 'ave it Franks" attitude. "Get on it man, you have it wired". Tempting as it was and now with the crucial skyhook (see above photo), I decided I was a bit ill and would leave it for another day.

What I found particularly interesting over this bank holiday weekend though was that I felt no need to get on the shunt again on Monday. I drove straight back to Sheffield to do some work, reasoning that any progress I made from visiting the cliff, I could make back in Sheffield in my head. It got me thinking again about how much of these routes are manifestations of the mind. Indeed, the routes themselves do not exist at all without interpretation, simply being a collection of rock features without.

I left the route for another day and now every section is dialled, I'm simply waiting for it to become a necessity for me to climb the route. I need to feel like I can't not climb it. That feeling isn't very far away.