Tuesday, 31 May 2011

A Question of Style

On Sunday morning Caroline warmed up by sending her project at the Wildside. Cuestión de Estilo takes a powerful line up a single striking tufa through consistently steep terrain. It is famous (infamous) for it's wicked crux move that utilises a painful two finger pocket that has to be taken with the front two fingers as an undercut.

It winked at Caroline back in January but she resisted trying it until she had finished her other project. Caroline was inspired to keep trying this route after watching and talking with some members of the Ukrainian climbing team who were visiting and playing on it. One woman, who had to work it a fair bit before eventually redpointing it, was discussing and sharing beta with Caroline as they were of similar height. She reckoned it was closer to 7c+. Later that day her coach informed us that she usually onsights 8a's and had redpointed 8c+, hence her surprise at being spat off a 7c.
Caroline spent some time working on her own sequence through the crux but could never give it more than two goes a day as the sharp pockets would shred her fingers and the powerful style left her wiped out after only a few attempts anyway. Just when she seemed close to sending it the weather stopped play. It turns out that despite staying completely dry in even the heaviest downpour, the route seeps really badly for weeks after heavy rain making it impossible to climb. I suppose all those tufas have to come from somewhere! Sunday we got to the crag and it was the driest it had been in over 2 months. Opting not to take a warm up, Caroline jumped straight on the sharp end and put the project to bed once and for all. A brilliant lead and one I know Caroline is especially proud of for loads of reasons.
Heres the video...

Monday, 23 May 2011

Castellet de Calp

We've had a good weekend on the rock. I gave my project at the Wildside a good few goes on Sat before ripped skin and tired arms halted play. Ah well progress was made and i came away from it feeling psyched. It's so frustrating. I've climbed the pitch over 12 times now with either one foot slip or a badly caught hold resulting in a fall. It's not a strength issue. It's not stamina either. My sequence is solid. It's come down to tiny differences. Slight imperfections in foot placements or gripping positions on a scale I've never had to worry about before. In alot of ways I'm learning loads. Which is good because in other ways the route (and the fact that i haven't sent it yet) is doing my head in. Of course if I was mutant strong or feather light i wouldn't have to worry about it but I'm neither. Work your weaknesses and play to your strengths.
After Saturday's redpointing i felt tired so we decided to go explore a new crag recently developed close to our house. It was brilliant and home to probably 20 or so routes between 7a and 7c+. A great evening mileage crag and better still, it's north facing which is essential now with temps creeping higher into the 30's. I warmed up on a really nice 7a and then surprised myself by fighting up to the chains of a tough 7c called Chasing the dinosaur. Brilliant steep tufa climbing, big moves - even two impromptu dynos on redpoint. Not bad for a rest day. I'll get some pictures of the crag next visit - it's deffinately worth checking out

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Birthday Boy!

I’m another year older – but not much wiser. Did you know that 29 is the tenth prime number, and also the fourth primorial prime. It forms a twin prime pair with thirty-one, which is also a primorial prime. Twenty-nine is also the sixth Sophie Germain prime. It is also the sum of three consecutive squares, 22 + 32 + 42. It is a Lucas prime, a Pell prime, and a tetranacci number. It is an Eisenstein prime with no imaginary part and real part of the form 3n − 1. Since 18! + 1 is a multiple of 29 but 29 is not one more than a multiple 18, 29 is a Pillai prime. 29 is also the 10th supersingular prime.

Here are some number ones from Ireland back in 1982 (the year I was born) – representing perhaps the pinnacle of music video production – everything since then has just been cooling down

Ooooooh yeah! I know what you're thinking - Quality!

I've also being doing some climbing. The night before my birthday we went to our local cave. I was keen to try an 8a+ that always winked at me. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I hadn’t climbed on anything this style in a while, instead choosing to focus on developing some Sella stamina. This route was more my cup of tea. It played to my strengths. Technical, reach, cruxy. I gave it a decent onsight go but came off after misjudging a sloper as a decent hold. Conditions were not ideal – the rock seemed moist from the days rain and evaporation but the moves came together really quickly. Lowering off I indulged the thought that this would go this evening. Two redpoints later and a lot of chalk to dry the rounded edges and it did! It can’t be 8a+ though – Felt about right at 8a and possibly harder without my reach – but then again I’m sure the soapy two finger pockets would feel more secure to the smaller folk… yadda, yadda, yadda. So that’s 15 or so grade 8’s but not a single 8b (unless my Popcorn first ascent turns out to be one!) – time to pull the finger out! I Spent the free lessons I had in school on my birthday trawling for information on quality 8b’s on the Costa Blanca. Armed with this new ticklist and 10 new draws I am now on a mission – along with plugging away at all the other routes in Sella :o)

Some other stuff that has interested me of late includes:

Ricky’s new E8 at the Head

Cool Video of bouldering at the Head

New route in the Burren by Ron with a alternative start/second ascent by Colm:

Plus a load of desk jockeys typing about how evil bolts are and questions being raised about the past, reality, history and first ascents – Huh! There was me thinking that the person who actually climbed a line first was the first ascentionist. Go figure – perhaps historical accuracy is overrated?

Anyway… Happy cranking!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Lost in Translation

Sunday was awesome. Caroline had made commitments to help a friend with her business start up so I was sent off to the Wildside with a packed lunch and my Spanish phrasebook. It felt similar to that first day at school memory. I got there early and as usual there was no one around. I spend an hour updating my printed topo to include all the new lines and sorted out the grades to the best of my knowledge. Then just sat down and read till the locals arrived. It's a weird time of year here in Sella. With the season drawing to a close there are no tourists. Just the local scene in it's eclectic glory. Knowing everyone’s names and faces from the previous 3 months of frequenting this rock helps but its a different story when you go scrounging a belay with embarrassingly poor Spanish. Luckily everyone was keen to involve the new kid and unbelievably I never had to wait or even ask for a belay. They're all so sound! I got stuck in with the belaying duties too and also got the beta for a few years worth of projecting. Everyone had their own routes and it was surprising to find out that mine was not the easiest! Everything from 8c+ down to 7c+ was being worked and the psyche (not to mention work ethic!) was high. I gave my route a couple of redpoints - making little progress after a two week break. At one point i was tempted to strip my draws and working something else but then i thought about something i read recently. Work your weaknesses but play to your strengths. And it clicked. At this stage, these sessions are training for the summer's trad. The season is over here and it's not a mission for the next tick anymore. Plus if I can clock 4 laps of a 28m long overhanging crimpfest with one fall each time and then play on all the other equipped routes in the 8's then i'm obviously training for something! All good!

Heres a video from 4 crags all within 40 mins from our house. I was talking to the first ascentionist of the 8b at 2min50 called Clemencia. He was telling me that his original was static'ed through the roof a 8b+ and that the new dyno beta lowered the grade. He also said that it was class and would suit me, a real 3 star route! Oh and theres some shit hard bouldering in there too for any boulderers out there not feeling the love for the climbing with ropes :o)

Trad Summer

Click!! I don’t know why but all of a sudden I want to climb lots of trad… now! Don’t get me wrong, I’m still psyched as ever for the sports climbing but I'm mega psyched to get down to the Burren and up to Fair Head. Maybe it’s knowing that I’ll have a month in Ireland during the summer. Maybe it’s because I'm feeling a little stronger as a result of the recent mileage on the Spanish sports routes. Or maybe it’s just time I felt I needed to get on some of the best trad routes in Ireland. I think i'm quite seasonal regardless, switching between trad, boulder, sports and training buzz as and when. Either way it’s given my present climbing a serious burst of focus. Doing another pitch at the end of a session has now become a matter of building endurance before the return to Ireland and not purely to help the next redpoint.

I mean, just look through this:

Everything is quality and within my grade all of a sudden – maybe theres scope for more lines? Of course there is!!!
Writing this has got me thinking of my very last route I lead in the Burren. I think it was 3 or 4 years ago. Myself and Caroline had camped on top of the crag with Belgian Sean and his mate Tom. Our last day in Ireland before returning to Wales. Feeling that we were short on time I went straight down after breakfast to try Sharkbait without warming up - this was going to be my onsight attempt. It went perfectly - climbed smooth and felt easy. I left the Burren knowing that, for me, there was still everything to be done and enjoyed. In fact every crag in Ireland feels like that. I've done feck all before moving to Wales! Even while getting rained on in Glendalough the other week I couldn't help but be impressed with the amount still to do in the valley.
I can't wait!

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Power Shortage vs Wingspan Wad

Last week Caroline and myself headed out to Sella one evening after work. We were due to fly back to Dublin on Friday for the weekend and this would be our last chance to try our projects before taking a week long break. Walking into the crag we could see my line in full sun while Caroline’s tufa stood out as a dark black drainage line, dripping from the heavy rain a few days earlier. What to do? The only other climbers at the crag were Agustin and Ivan who we knew to talk to but didn’t really know that well. They came over and suggested we join them at the VIP sector which was in the shade. Then we got the tour – first ascents, beta, stories of flashes or repeats of every route on the crag. Turns out Ivan and Agustin had climbed everything at Sella – EVERYTHING! Ivan even redpointed a new 9a link up at the Wildside just before Christmas. The weird thing was that I had never met a strong climber with Ivan’s build – he’s like a strong version of me. Over 6 foot and skinny and with not much in the arm department. If he can do it yadda, yadda, yadda. Agustin gave me the history of the unrepeated 8c+. Ivan climbed it years ago but since then his fingers have gotten fat so even fitting into the shallow monos is impossible. Apparently a lot of strong climbers have tried it over the years but Ivan’s huge reach on the crux prevents it from being repeated. Ivan then measured my wingspan and then gave me the sequence… as if! I warmed up on a 6c+ and then got stuck into Desert Storm 8a (pictured above and below).
Boulder problem crux on a mono and two finger pocket off the ground and then just jug hauling to a crimpy move at the chains. It’s nice to have a steep shady crag for the evening after work. Psyched!!! Agustin also told me that he had the first ascent of many of the routes at Cova Fuma and that my ascent of the 7c Impackto was probably the second ascent – sweet!
Back in Dublin we had loads of stuff to do but eventually I made it down to Glendalough… in the rain. I was soo psyched for some bouldering it was a but gutting to admit defeat at first. After a hour or more of wet boulder scrambling looking at wet problem after wet problem, crossing the river and back again we tried to dry off the cherry through sheer positivity and huge amounts of chalk. I had never seen this problem before but it was cool. Man I feel weak. No bouldering has left me with a huge power deficit. I just couldn’t hold the holds. Shocking! It’s kicked me into action regarding training though. Monday I hit the ground running – literally. Mountain run, finger board session and a core workout. This morning another hill run and this evening a session at the crag. Time to shake things up and make some progress. Al’s advise of working bouldering power through working hard sprots routes bolt to bolt makes sence – I know just the route!