Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Spring! Spring! Spring!

Very glad to see the wild moor horses back at Danby!
Northumberland is a fantastic place. It hums a vibe of difference. I've been visiting and re-visiting some of the crags recently and it's been a very interesting time. There's so much excitement when you visit a new place and Northumberland is one of the more exciting places I've explored.

There's a deep sense here of abandonment and mystery. Talking to local climbers, I get a tangible sense that even they haven't quite got their head around many of the places. For many Sandy Crag or Howlerhurst are adventurous crags that require a powerful motivation to visit. I was talking to the woman who lives in the farm below Howlerhurst the other day and she reckoned I was the first person up there this year!
Howlerhurst Bouldering
On the flip-side, I've been re-visiting a couple of crags I've not been to for 7 or 8 years. I was at Back Bowden yesterday, belaying Anna on some of the classic extreme slabs there. It was really nice to see her grapple and then eventually manage to scrape up them - no mean achievement considering she's only been climbing a year! I also was struck with an enormous wave of awe; It's such a good crag!
Anna on Shine On (E3 5c **)
Back Bowden is one of those places that just oozes class. There are so many cool-looking hard routes there and I just want to climb them all. On and Off the Rocks both look brilliant and Adam Watson's line Purgatory looks like a monster! Even the routes on the dank wall look inspiring. O to be strong!
Best place on earth?
I feel like every year is a lifetime. You come alive in spring; thrash violently at your zenith in the summer; cram as much as possible into autumn; and then slowly die with the winter. I'm a new man this year, trying to pace myself, resting injuries, building the psyche slowly and eating well.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Diets, Links and Inspiration

I've long been wondering about whether I care enough about the Key Heugh arete in order to do it. Yes, it's a cool line. Yes, it's pretty hard. Yes, it's in a fantastic setting on the roof of England. But do I really want it like one of my Moors routes? I've been through this before with routes in Cornwall and the Peak and have always decided that, despite having invested time and energy into something, my heart wasn't really in it. I've been waiting for this moment of abandonment to kick in at Sandy. It hasn't.

I've hit that point in a project where there is no turning back. I don't want to turn back. I've become entranced by the line and the place. I feel it's a part of my life that I will never be able to forget and that I will never be able to forgive myself if I abandon. The path is in a sense now easy, because I have no other option but to continue. There are two types of fear in climbing: the fear of death and the fear that you aren't going to make the correct choice. I no longer have to worry about the latter.

The reason for this clarity of purpose is in a sense the progress that I have made with the route. The session I had last Saturday, whilst being only a subtle improvement on past sessions, was a colossal leap in terms of how secure I felt. Every move now feels like the kind of boulder problem you can do most times. I can link the entire crux section, which is 8 metres long. I'm pretty sure I could link the whole thing if I really got my act together. These artificial targets are of little significance however. What really counts is the way I feel on each hold and move.

The final hard move was one that was really causing me worries. It's not hard at all, but it's sketchy, blind and several metres above the skyhook. I've worked out a different sequence that makes this move a far more attractive proposition. Added to this, I've done some training to improve my (frankly shocking) compression strength. I'm still rubbish at compression sequences, but the result is that I can actually do one of the transitions between holds that before I was getting thrown off over and over again.