Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Process

Before Christmas Caroline eyed up a line of bolts through a roof and decided she wanted a go. Initially even making the long reaches between holds around the second and third bolt seemed impossible. But she kept trying, something about the route took hold of her and she wanted it. I was happy to keep returning to the crag. I had routes of my own that I could work on but even watching the process of someone working a route like this was really inspiring to me. I’ve seen lots of routes projected in the past but I’ve never before seen a route really, truly worked! I think the most I’ve tried a route is nine or ten tries over a couple of days and i don't know how i'd react to taking on a challenge that kept smacking me down. Every move on this route seemed to challenge Caroline in one way or another. Some were scary. Some committing. Some out of her reach and others just plain hard.
There were a few more memorable hurdles though: finding the kneebar after the fourth clip and then the following sequence of toe hooks allowing Caroline to make the fifth clip. That sequence in itself took a whole session to perfect and even then it was still touch and go as to whether Caroline could stick it on redpoint. By far the hardest move on the route is immediately after the fifth clip. Caroline uses this horrible tufa with her left hand as an undercut and snatches for a right hand pinch before popping again to a sharp pocket. To be honest I couldn’t do that move despite trying it a number of times. There is a “Lanky” way of doing this route that moves left to good holds at the fifth clip and then rejoins the original route after Caroline’s dyno on the lip. The left Variant is closer to the 7c mark while the straight up method remains the true line and a much harder proposition. Caroline had no choice as to which way to go because she couldn’t reach any of the holds out left!

Day after day we returned and each day some form of progress was made. A new highpoint, an improved sequence or even just managing to give it 3 or 4 goes despite sore fingers. I think Caroline suffered from the typical trad climber syndrome of wanting to static every move. I’ve thought about this a lot and I’m not sure what causes it to be honest. Is it the serious nature of trad requiring you to make every effort to achieve every move in balance, meaning that if the hold you’re reaching for isn’t good you can feel around for a better one or even reverse to safety without falling? Or is it a lack of commitment? Dynamic moves are only really required to carry you to a point outside of your static reach bubble, aren’t they? Their very nature means commitment. You target, you sway, you kick and throw! If you miss, you’re off. I think Caroline’s height requires her to develop a more dynamic and aggressive style otherwise she won’t be able to reach things. On this route Caroline got a chance to work this… a lot! Once Caroline had exhausted every possible method for negotiating the lip of the roof it became clear that she would have to deadpoint. To throw for the hold. That one move took a session to figure out and many more to stick on lead.

The final spirit-breaker came the day Caroline finally stuck her dyno on redpoint. The final tricky sequence of turning the lip to easier ground spat me off the day I lead it for the first time and I knew it was going to cause trouble. Excited, Caroline made the sixth clip and got her high heel hook but didn’t milk the rest and ploughed on up. Matched on the flatty she completely powered out and came off below the top. Gutted. She had to wait another week before we could return and the previous highpoint and close fail made the difference. The mental barrier of sticking the lip had been removed and there was nothing to loose…

No comments: