Thursday, 29 October 2015

Turning Into A Monk

I'm starting to feel like I'm there. I can see the moves conveyoring through my mind. I'm starting to see the spans that fit to my body and the holds that graze at my finger tips. The hours are being put in and the progress is not always linear, but it comes of sort and brings me closer to the lead.

Dreams are destiny in climbing and it is only recently that I have been able to dream of the route in its entirety. It ticks through my mind, with both hands and feet, move after move, until every hold is groped. I don't know how many times I'm going to have to go over this route in my head before I can do it, but it's going to have to be a lot.

For the first time though, I can actually see myself climbing this thing. The 3rd crux, which is easier than the 2nd, was the one I really couldn't see myself soloing. I was finding it impossibly sketchy and just generally hard for someone of my dimensions and weaknesses. I've put in around four sessions on this move, which has given me a piano-chord caterpillar movement solution and presumably some new muscles. This has suddenly turned this spiral of anguish into something I'm quite comfortable with. Added to this, I've found a potential skyhook placement just below the start of the hard climbing that will hopefully protect the 1st and 2nd hard moves somewhat. Alas, the 3rd and 4th hard moves are still going to be a complete horror show..

Despite these little things going in my favour, there are 3 obstacles that I am still nowhere near surmounting. First is the transition between crux 2 and 3. By itself it's fine and I've even linked both cruxes together, but it's tenuous. Although a lot of the time I can do the overall crux statically, it is pretty spanned out and the transition move relies on getting the hold just right. If you only have the span in mind, you will certainly fall off the transition move. Obviously getting the hand twisted for the transition is hard when you're so spanned out and the footholds on this section are abominable.

The 2nd problem is the last hard move on the route, which I can do more or less every time, but that is very sketchy, blind and slopey. At this point you've already been in the death zone for quite a while and that extra last slippy move is going to be absolutely minging.

Obstacle 3 is connected to this - the endurance part of the route. A chum of mine I showed the route laughed at the idea of endurance being a difficult part of this climb; rightly declaring that anyone who was good enough to do this line would have no problems with endurance. Perhaps he's right, but there is certainly something hard about putting all these moves together. It might be simply the difficulty in climbing repeated hard moves without the ability to chalk up that is going to leave you very high, sweaty and having to pull off horror slope and smears.

So there is definite progress. I'm only managing to get out once or twice a week at the moment, which is not ideal, but that's life I suppose. I'm feeling very inspired by the line and kind of still can't believe it's possible at all. I need to keep an eye on that as the rain and cold sets in, forget about 'scalps' such as the link and get the headtorch out! These routes respect effort.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Closer to the link..

The Sandy Crag project has really captured my ambitions. After 4 months of hard work, it's starting to feel like I might be able to climb this line.

Never before have I had this level of sustained doubt on a route. Setting off up the slog to shunt the route has been getting harder and harder, as the expected break-through just hasn't come. Added to this, I've had doubts as to whether the project even suits me and whether it's really a viable solo. When you have practised something for nearly half a year and still sometimes can't do the moves, I suppose that's a valid question.

This self-doubt culminated in a couple of rancid sessions in high humidity, without chalk. Low point. I think 'despair' is the word. I suppose the only thing pushing me through the dark nights, bewinded Ronhills and general sogginess has been the lessons I've learnt previously. On Psykovsky's Sequins I found that things that you never thought possible could become so. The difference with Psykovsky's Sequins was that I wasn't so intensely invested in the route from the outset - I tried it over a number of years, whilst involved in other things. There was of course an element of doubt in Sky Burial and Divine Moments of Truth, but this only lasted as long as I grappled with the single crux move. On the Sandy Crag arête there are several hard moves; many of which don't suit me.

The humbling power of headpointing is the way it exposes your weaknesses. On the Sandy Crag arête I've been confronted full-pelt with my fear of compression moves. There is an almost masochistic rite that has to be traversed for you to succeed in a hard headpoint. On the Sandy arête, I've had to not only attempt moves that are disproportionately hard for me, but try these before any other move and force myself to engage positively with them.

The result has been a mini voyage of discovery that has finally began to bare fruits. On Tuesday of this week, I bombed up past Elsdon after work and had my most successful session on the climb so far. I built on the past couple of weeks' work surrounding a certain hold transition, which enabled me to link all the hard moves of the climb together.

That is massive progress. If I can start to be able to link the crux most times, then I could potentially look at being able to do if after the energetic little F7a start. That's going to be really exciting. Once the crux is comfortably linked there are few boundaries to attempting the lead.