Monday, 21 September 2015

The Horse (H7 6c)

Best Finishing Move Ever?
I've finally managed to climb a decent line outside of the Moors! It's become a bit of an area of worry that I never climb anything outside of the Moors. Can I do it? Is the North York Moors merely a figment of my imagination? Maybe this was me proving to myself that I can climb even without spirit of the Moors - or maybe the spirit of the Moors is here as well?

It's been a really nice past few months in Northumberland. After a little bit of a scout and some beta from Si, I went for a waddle around the rocks behind Sandy Crag. It's a magic place up there, with little hanging valleys and forgotten swamplands. It's just that little bit wilder than anywhere else I know, which makes for a fantastic trip out. I've been warming up for the Sandy Arete by shunting bits and bobs in an undocumented area dubbed 'The Land Of Milk And Honey'. It's a funny crag, as the rock (as with much of the Simonside range) is pretty scrittly and the lines are deceptively hard.

I had a good bash at the central wall, which I linked at roughly H8 7a. The climbing was fantastic and the line perfect. Alas, all the holds ripped off straight after I had linked it. There must have been over 10 holds that ripped - I'm used to the odd one breaking, but that many just makes the whole thing a joke. It's in a stable condition now, but the top is high and I can't even do the move on a shunt - slopey!!! 

So I turned my attentions to The Horse - looked about E4, turned out to be font 7b. There was a similar experience of holds snapping, until the fairly stable position we're in now. Bits and bobs of painful shunting resulted in me having it fairly dialled a few weeks ago.

Fast forward to Saturday Morning 10am.. I'm jogging down from Sandy after a dawn session with no chalk and I bump into Psychedellic Si Litchfield. He's got 1.3 mats and is stoked for The Land Of Milk And Honey. Not having been to the crag for a while, I'm keen to get back and have a ganda at The Horse. It needs a clean, but it's on crimps, so It doesn't take long to get dialled again. The lone pad looks slightly disconcerting - 6 pads would still be bold, but I was excited at the prospect of doing it  and justified that I would probably only fall off the bottom if at all.

Class route - weird! Easy start, then a rancid undercut lank and sloper move to a small crimp. The crux is holding this crimp and then popping into chord of features that pretends to be a hold. You then get into a really nice fiddly, smeary boss climb, culminating in a wild mounting of the top of the prow, thence safety.

Thursday, 10 September 2015

No Turn Unstoned (E6 6b)

It's been a long time since I properly climbed at Ingleby Incline. It's a great cliff and extends for about a mile across prime grouse moor. I'm always keen to go back to the old haunts on a rest day and Anna was keen to check out the large number of starred HVSs & E1s, so off we went. Nowt better than a good bit of sun and a calm breeze. Ingleby can be pretty vicious in a wind, but suddenly turns into paradise in the lulls.

We spent most of the day on Hunters Buttress, climbing 6 really good slab climbs. I'd forgotten just quite how good these are. Compared to Northumberland, they're very clean and noticeably bomber rock. It's just great to spend so long in a position of such safety and warmth - you've got to enjoy these last warm days.

After a couple of hours of boshing up and down these climbs (rekindling my passion for the heather belay), I started to get new-route fever. I'm largely free of wanting to just climb new routes for the sake of it these days, but perhaps reliving the old times brought this to the fore? Who knows? Anyway, we ended up on the next buttress along, with Anna having a right good time on TOny Marr's Geronimo (E2 6a) and me having a look at the left arĂȘte.

There are a large number of unclimbed things on Ingleby, which are all strangely tricky and quite unlike all the rest of the climbing on the crag.  The hardest thing on the crag to date is Physical Graffiti (E5 6c), which is basically a gap-fill highball climb of no real note. A touch easier than that is a sole climb that gets technical 6b - the far better Love or Confusion that was put up by the formidable duo of Monty and Parker. The arĂȘte left of Geronimo looked to be around E6 6b, so I was pretty excited by the  prospect of shaking up the harder routes at Ingleby. For such a great crag, the harder lines are painfully under-developed.

To cut a long story short, I set out with a fair idea from abseil on how to do the climbing and a bit of a belief that a fall could potentially be rolled out without broken bones. That latter bit I'm not too sure about. I had no pads and I reckon you'd want four before even contemplating a slip - hard to know.

One of the invaluable tricks I've learnt from ground-up Moorlanding is to spy your landing twice. Check it REALLY well before you set off. Look for rocks to dodge and where to roll - look at the camber. Then, at the last second, before entering the crux, look down again; reacquaint yourself with that camber and look up at the crux - get to know where you are in relation to this. By the time you slip off, you won't be able to do any of this. Maybe it sounds common sense, but I'm consistently amazed by how rubbish people are at rolling off things.

Luckily my feet stuck, which was really nice. It was good to get that quick buzz of having just rocked up to the crag and claimed a 'scalp'. I don't get many pure egoey days anymore and that kind of reminded me of the old times. I'm having to fight off the urge to just give up on the long term projects and take this nice easy path - it sure feels good when it goes well!

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Hitting The Wall - Harvest Time

Projects are hard. Just when I was thinking that everything was coming together nicely, I have a really crap session on it, where everything feels impossible.

It's a big deal when a day doesn't go well. There aren't that many days now before winter and just getting to the crag is a mini-expedition. It's an hour-long drive and then a substantial slog up to the crag. Sandy crag itself almost has a mountain feel to it. The wind is nearly always blowing up there and, depending on where it's coming from, you can either have a sweaty slip-fest or a neigh-on arctic experience.  If you can juggle these various elements (as well as managing to get on it before the sun hits it), then there are invariably good conditions to be had. Sometimes though, you can just be having a naff day.

I find my main motivation with routes is the feeling that they are outrageously hard and dangerous, but that I am good enough to climb them. Being able to realistically set off on something that you have built up as more-or-less impossible is something I never tire of. This is great at the beginning of a project, but there inevitably comes a time when the moves don't really seem that extreme any more, but you just don't seem to always climb them. If you have a bad session and you struggle to do links you did before, or you feel way more sketchy on crux moves, then that is a real hit to the euphoric mania that drives much of new-routing.

I suppose this is a very important time in a project. You naturally want to run away and forget all about it, but what makes the difference between doing these incredible things and not managing to do them is how you respond when hit with the terrifying obstacle of being shite. I find a sound tactic at this stage is to get a friend on the route who doesn't know it at all. Hopefully they won't flash it on a top rope and they will make some noise about how mad it is. This rekindles the original love you had for the line and makes you realise that you were just being a bit mopey. You can also meditate: try and feel the spirit of the route and how that interacts with your desires and core being.

As we head into autumn, psyche is going to be a hard-won thing. The days I look out of the window and see a cold and painful sky, I need to be putting my thick socks on and getting goose-bumpy. Back in time for pie...