Friday, 25 October 2013

Catch-up: Summer 2013 Purple Patch

I've just gotten back home after 2.5 weeks climbing at the brilliant Red River Gorge and jet lag is giving me the chance to reflect on what has been a superb year for me. I'll scribble something about the Red shortly, but in the meantime, it would be remiss to not summerise (see what i did there?) what's been going on in my little world for the last 4 months.

After two 6 month training cycles devised by coach Randall, much hard work, sweat and not a little lost skin, I'm happy to report the effort was worth it and I broke through my plateau and climbed two contrasting f8b routes over the summer. No big thing in a world of Ondra 9b+ and Megos 9a onsights, but a personal triumph to regain a standard i had previously only just scraped my way up whilst studying climbing full time during my PhD.

To paraphrase Lord Tennyson, "in the spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of Kilnsey" and for the last 5 years, as soon as the clocks change and the evenings grow longer, I have started weekly after work pilgrimages to the mecca of steep Yorkshire sport climbing. This year the arrival of Kilnsey season coincided with a purple patch in my climbing which had started with an ascent of The Prow, Raven Tor.

On numerous occasions over the last 5 years, I had gotten to the very apex of "the snor", only to be spat from the final roof, cursing blood engorged forearms and anchor like rope drag. Then one cloudy Saturday afternoon in June I sauntered up the lower pitch, shook-out mid-crux of the second (where previously I fought a near terminal pump) and casually arrived at the shake-out below the roof. With mere warm-up pulse and breathing rates, I knew this time they'd be a different outcome.

Cold Steal was also a previous nemesis, but like before, it relented with surprising ease and I set my sights firmly on the f8b extension; "Stolen". My memories of "Stolen" from previous years were of powerful, reachy climbing immediately above "Cold Steal"'s belay, relenting at the sanctuary of a deep break line 20ft above, before a further section of steep, pumpy climbing and a potential heart-break finish just below the chains.

This year it felt different; a tweak from a heel hook to a high toe tamed one of the long moves and a couple of extra foot shuffles reduced the Wattage of a powerful cross-over swung; both swinging the odds in my favour.

Or was it the training?

The day I did Stolen, I hadn't even planned to go on redpoint; a problematic clip posed an age old dilemma; clip and power out, or quest on and take the mega lob?  I set off up Cold Steal with the intention of sampling one of these options; only the answer was neither - tired, but feeling aloof and with a trusted belayer, I skipped the clip, set-up for the BIG move, slouched hesitantly then decided to lay one anyway (more slack for a bigger and softer fall my playful side said) and - BOOSH! Caught it!

Later that day, as promised to my belayer, we climbed in the sun on the right-wing of Malham and made a beeline for the Listers Arms when the midge became too much to bear; even these little blighters, nor the terrifyingly and dirty first pitch of Carnage couldn't dent the euphoria of my successful ascent.

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