Rodellar

Les Chacals

Les Chacals

Rodellar is regarded as one of THE sport climbing meccas. Whenever I told people I had never been they were shocked and insisted it was a venue I must visit. They were not wrong! Walking down the gorge on the evening of our arrival it felt like paradise. There is a beautiful three clad river running through the valley with amazing overhanging walls of orange limestone above, I could not wait to get stuck in.

 

 

Rodellar Gorge

Rodellar Gorge

El Delfin Rodellar

El Delfin Rodellar

A Cravita 8a was the first route of note. The route follows an impressive steep blunt prow with ever increasing difficulty to the crux move just before the chains. I went for the onsite but read the sequence wrong at the top and blew it. It was a formality 2nd go although my body didn’t feel all that well prepared for the long mega routes here in Rodellar, perhaps several month of boulder setting wasn’t ideal preparation. I was going to have to get fit quick.

 

A Cravat 8a

A Cravat 8a

 

The next day we climbed Pince sans Rire 7b+ and Gracias Fina 8a. Pince sans Rire is an incredible route, which climbs a huge tufa system with no particularly hard moves. It is a must for anyone climbing at this grade and is up there with the best 7b+’s I have done anywhere. Gracias Fina felt desperate, I had to give it a proper fight, perhaps the slightly wet holds and the fact I was on my 8th day of climbing didn’t help. I was in need of a rest day.

Unfortunately the rain started after our rest day. There were torrential downpours, strong winds, thunder and lightening. Rodellar doesn’t cope well with sustained rainfall and after a few day of this weather the tufa systems began to seep, making them unclimbable. We needed to search for a route that had stayed dry.

Essential belay equipment at a rainy Rodellar

Essential belay equipment at a rainy Rodellar

After several hundred meters of wading up the gorge through the swollen river we arrived at Les Chacals 8b, which, miraculously, looked bone dry. Les Chacals is different to most of the other route in Rodellar. It climbs a slightly overhanging wall on small edges, small tufas and “the ice cream cone”. The crux is low down and if you get through this you are faced with hard section separated my ok rests. On first acquaintances the route felt nails. I thought there was no way I would be able to climb it this trip. My 2nd go wasn’t much better and I was feeling pretty negative about the route, I almost stripped it but as it was the only thing dry we figured be should give it another go. This is when things changed, Ben West put in a good attempt climbing it in two overlapping halves, the psych began to build, and perhaps it was possible after all. On my 3rd go I climbed through the crux, fought my way through several hard sections before fumbling a big deadpoint move 30 meters up and just a few moves from the chains. My attempt spurred Ben on and he climbed it on his next go. Having fallen so high on the route the go before I wasn’t sure if I would have the beans for another good go. I got on it none the less and found myself easily through the crux, resting until I had recovered what strength I had, the dead point move when smoothly, just a few more moves to go. My strength was suddenly gone, tank was empty, just a few more moves to the top. The fight of my life ensued, I should have been “off” every move but somehow I wasn’t. I clipped the chains with the biggest smile on my face. This route had been an emotional rollercoaster, from feeling really negative about how hard the route was to feeling elated clipping the chains in just four goes was a great feeling. Les Chacals is one of the best routes I have climbed at any grade anywhere.

 

 

 

Les Chacals

Les Chacals

Les Chacals

Les Chacals

The crags were still seeping but La Kanabica 8b looked climbable despite a wet start. The route climbs a great twin tufa feature before a hard boulder on small edges at the top. Climbing this route was all about being efficient through the bottom section so as to have the strength for the top. It took me a few goes to get the bottom wired but once this happened the route was soon done.

 

Twin tufas on La Kanabica 8b

Twin tufas on La Kanabica 8b

 

I finished my Rodellar experience with probably the most well know route there, Coliseum 8a. This 40-meter monster climbs a steep groove in the centre of the Gran Boveda. I really wanted to onsite this route and because of this self induced added pressure I climbed really badly, got very pumped and slumped off just above half height and lowered to the ground. Disappointed but with no pressure I climbed the route second go. I felt like a different person. I climbed fluidly and decisively and clipped the chains with only a mild pump. There is a lesson in there somewhere.

 

On our last climbing day in Spain we drove over to Riglos to climb the spectacular and justifiably famous Fiesta de los Biceps 7a. This route sums up the word ridiculous! It is almost 300 meters high and overhanging most of the way. When you get into the steep upper pitches you are pulling on microwave oven sized boulders, which look like they are only attached with a bit of mud. Climbing this route allows you to revel in the marvelously exposed position. I literally laughed my way up it. The route is supposed to be 9 pitches long. We did it in 4 and were down in time for an early lunch. What a brilliant way to end such a good trip. Everyone should have this route on their lifetime ticklist. It is a must!

Fiesta de los Biceps 7a

Fiesta de los Biceps 7a

Riglos towers

Riglos towers

 

Academic Direct

There is a great little 8a high above the road in Avon Gorge called Academic. Its has a brilliant boulder problem crux which is reached  by a few moves up a blocky arete and a sketchy traverse. This route is a must for anyone operating around this level in the Bristol area.

The top crux of Academic Direct 8b

The top crux of Academic Direct 8b

The direct start was an oft talked about and occasionally tried project which climbs straight to the mid hight jug via some very hard climbing.

I tried the direct a few years ago, when I was up belaying Mike Goldthorpe on the original, despite not being able to do all of the moves I was fairly confident that it would be possible although I was still a long way off. After my initial attempt I didn’t return to the route for some time although I often thought about giving it more attention.

A couple of weeks ago after coaching on the UpGrade Junior coaching day Ben West and I popped up there to give it another bash. The direct start revolves around three hand moves and eight foot moves. You start with your right hand on a good pinch, left hand to a poor intermediate before taking a half pad undercut. You then move your feet several times to get a heel behind the pinch. The heel stabilises you on the undercut so you can take a small quarter pad side pull with your right hand. The crux is stepping out of the heel hook onto a spike, bumping your left foot to a smear before putting your heel back behind the pinch. You then do a big move to reach the mid hight “jug” before climbing the crux of the original route.

I think the lower crux would probably get Font 7C+ as a boulder problem and the top crux is about Font 7B.

After a few hours of trying the moves it started to come together. I could do everything but the big move to the “jug”. A few minor body position tweaks and I latched the move. If felt like it would take some time to refine the whole sequence in order to link it, non the less I thought I should have a redpoint. To my astonishment everything fell into place on the first go and I found myself with just the crux of the original route above me. Almost fluffing this I pulled my self over the top with the first ascent of  Academic Direct 8b in the bag.

Although the route isn’t the most inspiring line it is good to have a route of this difficulty in town and it has got to have some of the hardest moves in the gorge on it. I look forward to others repeating it.

I have since returned and placed two glue in bolts to give the start a more independent feel. Get on it people.

Thank to Ben for the belay and for recording the agent on his phone, here is the footage YouTube Preview Image

Fore anyone interested here is a video of the classic Swimming through a shark attack 8a+ in El Chorro which I climbed a few month back YouTube Preview Image

Road back to 8a (Rehab part 2)

As many of you will know I suffered a full rupture of my A2 pulley whilst on a bouldering trip in South Africa last July. When the injury happened I was in the best form of my life and I was absolutely devastated with the set back. On returning home I set myself a goal which was to be climbing at a reasonable level within 6 months. With this in mind I booked a trip to El Chorro for January.

I am writing this blog sitting outside our Finca in El Chorro having just climbed my first 8a, Mar de Ortigas, since the injury.

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It has taken me 188 days to get back to this level. In my previous blog here I documented the first part of my rehab. Below I will try to explain what I have been doing between then and now.

The next step after completing my finger curls was to build finger strength progressively on the fingerboard. I started with partial body weight hangs on big holds in an open handed grip. The way I did this was to stand on a set of bathroom scales whilst doing my hangs. At first I only took 30% of my body weight, then 40%, then 50% and so on until I could comfortably do my sets of hangs without standing on the scales at all.  I did repeaters i.e 7 seconds of hanging 3 seconds of rest, repeat for 6 reps. This was one set. My sessions consisted of 3 sets with 5 minutes rest between sets.

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When I felt strong and comfortable open handed I worked through the same routine but in a half crimp position. It was really motivating to see progression through these sessions and my finger had less pain and stiffness as well as feeling stronger after each session. I must add that I had my finger taped using the H taping method for my fingerboard sessions.

Now this all sounds very scientific and structure but I must admit that I was really missing climbing movement so I added one session a week on the circuits into my rehab. I started off by doing the easiest circuit at the wall using only massive holds. Each week I increased the number of moves I did until I was doing over 1000 moves in a 2 hour session still on the very biggest holds. I climbed very carefully and precisely making sure to place my feet perfectly so they didn’t slip. The last thing I wanted to do was shock load my finger. I actually really enjoyed these easy climbing sessions. They gave me time to concentrate on perfect climbing movement and to iron out some flaws in my technique. After a month of this my climbing felt really fluid and efficient and, dare I say it, better technically than it had ever been before.

I supplemented the fingerboard sessions and circuit sessions with general conditioning and core work often on the TRX.

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As my finger strength increased I started to increase the difficulty of the circuits. I made sure I was well warmed up by doing a few hundred moves on the easy circuits before moving onto something harder. At first this meant making my own 40ish move circuits up to avoid any small crimps. Eventually I could climb the set climbs but I had to open hand the small edges, getting my “pinkie” finger on wherever possible. I was still trying to do about 1000 moves per session.

The thing I would say about this and any stage of the rehab would be to really “listen” to the injury. If there is pain or anything more than mild discomfort reduce the intensity or stop altogether and go and do something else for a while, like surfing.

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6 weeks before my planned trip to El Chorro I started to really up the intensity of my rehab, in fact you could almost call it training. Having done so many moves on the circuits I had given myself a really good endurance base. I also Route Set for a living, part of this job involves testing the routes or boulder problems I have set (to make sure they work at the given grade and are nice to climb) and this testing was all the strength/power training that I needed so all I had left to work on was my power endurance and recovery.

The style of climbing in El Chorro is generally long, steep and pumpy. You often have to move efficiently through hard sections, getting pumped, before finding a nice rest, perhaps a knee bar, where you have to recover as best you can.

My favourite way to train for this is again on the circuit boards. I do a kind of interval training which involves warming up thoroughly before alternating between a hard circuit where you get pumped and an easy circuit where you can recover fully. Alternatively you can do a hard pumpy circuit then try and recover on a good hold or rest position before repeating the hard circuit.

I soon began to see improvements in my climbing and  after several weeks I could comfortably do laps on the 8a circuit at Bloc

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Admittedly I had set this circuit to suit me. It has no crimps and mainly  consists of big wide moves on pinches and slopers, just like El Chorro.

So here we are, in El Chorro. The rehab and training seems to have paid off and I am really happy with the level of climbing I have been able to return to. I am confident that I will be able to return to my previous form and maybe even surpass it. The thing I have learnt through this process is that many people who push themselves in sport encounter injury along the way. It is the how you deal with your injury that dictates the outcome. Be positive, use your time and energy constructively to work through your rehab and perhaps you will be able to reach new heights in your chosen activity.

I will let you all know how my week in El Chorro pans out.

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I must also thank my sponsors, Mammut UK and La Sportiva for their continued support.

Fontainebleau Video

Here is a video of a quick trip Ben West and I had to Fontainebleau last spring. It was a very wet week but in-between showers me got some great problems done.

The problems featured are:
Pancras assis 7C
La Gaule 7C+
La Direct du Surplomb de la Mee 8A
Big Boss 7C
Tristesse 7C
Fourmis Rouge 7c
Imothep 8A

Imothep is still one of my all time favourite problems.

Enjoy

A2 Pulley Rupture (Rehab part 1)

This summer I had a 5 week bouldering trip to the Rocklands in South Africa booked. It promised to be the trip of a life time.

I had prepared well with my training. I was feeling fit, strong and healthy. For the first 6 days of climbing I was on great form, ticking off hard classics quickly. I had high hopes for the trip, until this happened:

In the video you can hear several different loud cracks and pops. On the first hold I move to you can hear a faint crack and then whilst swapping hands on the fiddly match there are two loud popping sounds. I now believe that the first crack was a partial tear of my A2 pulley and then whilst bumping around on the match with with poor feet the pulley ruptured fully.

Initially I had no pain in the finger and there wasn’t much swelling. There was just a strange fuzzy tingling feeling and the finger had absolutely no strength.

It was a 40 minute walk back to the car, during this time I kept my hand raised above my head, the cold wind helped to keep the swelling down. Arriving back at the house I iced the finger to keep the swelling away.

The icing technique I use is the one suggested by Dave Mcleod. I put 5 to 10 ice cubes in a bowl of cold water and leave my hand in the bowl for 10 to 15 minutes. At first my hand goes white but after about 10 minutes it it starts to flush with blood. You can tell when this happens because you will feel a nice warm throb in your hand. It will also be a nice pink colour. I believe this a trained response and you get quicker at flushing the blood to your hand the more you do it.

At first we thought I may have just dislocated my joint. I theorised that the two pops could be the joint dislocation and relocating and I hoped it would heal up fast.

I went to the local hospital in Clanwilliam to see a doctor. He sent me for an X-ray.

Xray

Xray

The Xray showed that there was no damage to the bones in my finger but couldn’t give me any information about the pulleys. He just vaguely told me to rest and not climb for “a while”.

Finger pulley system

Finger pulley system

Pulleys are ligaments that hold the finger flexor tendons (FDP and FDS) onto our finger bones. There are 5 pulleys, A1-A5.

The pulleys experience extremely high loads during rock climbing, especially when crimping. and I suspected I had done damage to one of these.

From previous pulley strains I have suffered I know that when pressure is applied to the palm side of the suspected injured pulley there is localised pain/discomfort.

Testing for pulley strain

Testing for pulley strain

With this injury I had no pain just a dull sensation where the A2 pulley should be.

Not satisfied with the local doctors vague advice I decided I was in need of an MRI scan to give me a proper diagnosis for the injury. Fortunately I had travel insurance for the trip which was provided by Sports Cover Direct. They organised and paid for my scan without any hassle at Durbanville Mediclinic in Cape Town.

The results of the MRI scan were conclusive:

MRI scan showing bowstring of the tendon

MRI scan showing bowstring of the tendon

MRI scan showing cross section of the fingers. Note bowstring of tendon and remains of A2 pulley

MRI scan showing cross section of the fingers. Note bowstring of tendon and remains of A2 pulley

This scan shows the palm side of the hand. The tendon in the ring finger is more visible because if is bowstringing away from the bone

This scan shows the palm side of the hand. The tendon in the ring finger is more visible because if is bowstringing away from the bone

I had suffered a full rupture of the A2 pulley in my right ring finger.

Whilst I knew a full rupture meant having a substantial amount of time off climbing my head was still full of questions:

“How long will I need off climbing?”

“Will my fingers ever recover back to full strength?”

“Will I need surgery on the injury?”

“What rehab should I do to maximise my recovery?”

When I returned home I booked an appointment with a hand surgeon. I wanted to know if surgery was needed or if a conservative approach to rehab could be taken.

The surgeons recommendation was that surgery was not needed for a single pulley rupture and that conservative rehab would be the best option. He referred me to Dr Schoffls paper on finger injuries which gives a nice timeline of the rehab process.

Table for scoring pulley injuries

Dr Schoffls table for scoring pulley injuries

Table showing recommended rehab schedule

Dr Schoffls table showing recommended rehab schedule

I had a grade III injury so a non surgical rehab was recommended. I was overjoyed with his news and I booked in to see Nina Leonfelner. Nina is a physiotherapist who has worked with climbers that have suffered  from pulley ruptures in the past.

She built me a rehab program taking Dr Schoffls tables into consideration.

So for the first three weeks after my injury I had rested and iced the injury twice a day. I used tape as protection whenever I had to do anything physical with my hand. I also did some very gentle mobilisation of my fingers.The idea of this was to stop scar tissue building up and attaching to the tendons which could lead to a poor range of movement in future.  These mobility exercises included:

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For the following month I did some very light resistance exercises to promote healing of the damaged tissue. These included using the rice bucket, squeezy balls, putty.

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I also did a lot of antagonistic forearm work these included wrist curls and lots of work with the powerfingers.

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I had a  30 minute routine using these that I would do three to five times a week.

After this stage of the rehab my finger was feeling much stronger and my finger had almost  returned to full range of movement. It was time to move onto the next stage.

The mid stage rehab that I was given was a bit more intensive. It revolved around doing weighted finger curls. The idea is to start with multiple fingers with a low weight. I then increased the weight until I reached about 5kg’s without any discomfort. I then reduced the number of fingers being used and started back at a low weight until finally, after about a month, I could finger curl 4-5kg’s on one finger without any pain.

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This is the rehab stage that I am currently working on. I am really happy to be seeing real gains in my finger strenght and feel confident that I am well on the way to making a full recovery. Nina tells me there is one more rehab stage to complete before I can get back to the climbing properly.

You can find the next stage of my rehab here.

In the mean time check out this great article written by Robin O’Leary and Nina Leonfelner on ukclimbing.

 

 

 

 

 

Poppy, Anstey’s Cove

Anyone who has climbed on Ferocity wall at Ansteys cove will know that this crag  lives up to its name incredibly well. The routes consistently feel very hard for the given grades and are characterised by hard and powerful climbing with very few rests. Respect has to go to Ken Palmer for his foresight in climbing the majority of the routes on the wall. He must have been an absolute beast.

I had been trying Tuppence 8b for too long . My first session on Tuppence went really well, I did all of the moves first try, fell off the top jump move first redpoint and this is where every go has ended since. I must have had 10 sessions or more on the route and every session I would fall on the top move. It was becoming a real mental barrier for me. I would climb easily to the last move, fall, pull straight back on and do the route to the top, every time. I think there were a few elements to my failure on this route, firstly every time I reached the last move  I expected to fall secondly I had this feeling in the back of my mind that I should have already climbed the route. This thought added extra unwanted pressure. Finally, I just did not visit the wall regularly enough to really find my flow through the lower section. I decided I did not like the experience I was having on this route, climbing is supposed to be fun after all.

Tuppence

Tuppence

 

The infamous Tuppence drop knee

The infamous Tuppence drop knee

I moved my attention right to Poppy, the hardest “up” route on the wall. I had belayed Gav Symonds on it a few years back on his successful redpoint and he had made it look like a path. I wanted a new challenge and decided to give it a try. On my first session I put the clips in, did all of the moves, just, then gave it one redpoint burn. There is a move where you match your heel above your hand on the same hold. Whilst doing this my heel slipped trapping my finger between the rubber of my boot and the rock as I fell, the result of this was a “circumcision” of my index finger and the end of a very short session.

Sore Finger

Six months later and I was back. Poppy 8b+ breaks down into three boulder problems which link together with no real rests, to me it feels like V4 into V9 into V7. I chalk twice on the route, right hand once mid crux and left hand once before the top move, it hardly felt worth carrying a chalk bag. Basically this route is hard and continuous. I felt like I had a good chance of getting through the hard crux from the ground but the final moves involving an uncomfortable front two pocket were feeling difficult.

There are several other easier routes which climb through the last crux sequence of Poppy so I decided to do some of these first to get the top crux wired. First up was Postman Pat 8a+. Postman Pat starts on the left hand side of the wall and follows an obvious break line rightwards across many of the other routes on the wall before finishing up the top crux of Poppy. I have some phone footage of my ascent thanks to Lisa

After Postman Pat I climbed Cyberdog 8b. This route climbs the cruxy start of Tuppence, through an amazing sequence involving a super thin tufa before joining the top of Poppy.

Cyberdog

Cyberdog

After doing these routes I felt confident that if I got through the hard crux on Poppy I could be able to fight my way to the top.

I had one session on a Monday to reacquaint myself with the moves. They went surprisingly smoothly which got me psyched. I drove back on Wednesday With Mr Pickford to dispatch but it was not to be. I just couldn’t quite stick the last move in the hard middle sequence, my core was just too “saggy” from not enough rest days. I drove home empty handed but really confident that I had what it took to climb the route.

After two rest days I returned,placed the clips and dispatched the route first go of the day. I was overjoyed and so psyched that I swung the clips into Fishermans Tale 8b, tried the moves and climbed it first go from the ground.

We celebrated with the South Wests best fish and chips on the cliff top overlooking a lovely sunset. A great way to end my best weeks climbing ever. In seven days I climbed:

Postman Pat 8a+,Cyberdog 8b, Poppy 8b+ and Fishermans Tale 8b.

 

 

A weekend to remember

Last weekend I had to travel to Edinburgh for the BMC Youth Climbing Series final as many of the youth climbers I coach had qualified. This event is held at the impressive EICA. As Edinburgh is a long way from my home town of Bristol I decided to use the  competition as an excuse to go on a mini climbing trip. The aim was to stop wherever the weather looked good between Bristol and Scotland. The First stop, Nesscliffe.

Nesscliffe is definitely one of my favorite crags for hard trad. Its lines are just so inviting to climb. All of the routes follow really distinct features, usually either aretes, faces or grooves. The first route I had my eye on was My Piano E8 6c. My initial thoughts were to try and have an onsight go on the route but on arrival I couldn’t see the first peg which should have been somewhere shortly after the first crux. After looking at the route I decided against the onsight and climbed the it on toprope first. I worked out the gear and cobbled a basic sequence together then lowered to the ground. On inspection the two pegs after the crux appeared to have rusted away which made the first half of the route a pretty serious proposition. Despite this I felt confident and climbed the route placing all of the gear on the lead. It went smoothly and was almost disappointingly uneventfully. You can watch fellow Mammut team member Nathan Lee climbing the route in the video below.

The funny thing with head pointing is that you take the most dangerous route you dare to do and climb it in the most controlled and sterile way you can. I think I prefer the thrill you get when onsighting, which leads me nicely onto my next route; Yukan ll E7 6b.

Yukan ll is a stunning pitch which climbs and amazing tapering groove line with some very baffling and technical moves. I wanted to climb it onsight. I won’t say too much about the moves here so as not to spoil your onsight attempt but the climbing is great and pretty well protected throughout. I was chuffed to climb the route steadily making Yukan ll my first onsight at the grade of E7.

On Saturday I coached and supported the youths at the comp. They all climbed well, its great to see them continually improving.

Sunday came around and I drove from Edinburgh to Dumbarton in time for an early morning start. I hadn’t bouldered at Dumbarton for many years and I had almost forgotten how much quality this crag has. If only it was a little closer to home. What followed breakfast was possibly my best morning of climbing so far. Sabotage 8A was the first problem, shortly followed my Silverback 7C . I then ticked Firestarter 8A and all in time for lunch.

Sabotage is an amazing problem with a very complex sequence and powerful moves up the steep prow before a brilliant top out. Silverback has got to be one of the best 7C’s I have ever climbed. The move to the jug on the lip makes you feel like a real hero (a move/feeling worth traveling for!). Firestarter is characterised by very small holds and body tension, superb.

I finished the long weekend with a great day in the sunny Peak district where I climbed Tsunami 8A and The Press kneeling start 7C+ at Rubicon.

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I seem to have found a run of form recently which is supprising considering my lack of training and my love of pastries.

Really psyched for South Africa in the summer now. I might even do a bit of training.

 

Magic Wood Video

To celebrate almost a year since our visit to Magic Wood I have put together a video of our time there.

Problems featured include:

Grit De Lux 7B
Wonderboy 5B
Foxy Lady 8A
Moo’s Gully 4B
Intermezzo 7C (Flash)
Die Schone 6B (Flash)
Supernova 7C+
Never Ending Story part 2 8A
Unnammed 6C
The Gift 7C
Piranja 7C+
Jenny 6C
Nothing Changes 8A

Enjoy!

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The Comp Scene

Over the summer I seemed to suffer from a lack of form. I have been trying to understand why this may have been. It is possibly down to the fact that I climbed hard for 16 days in a row in August and suffered form a bit of burn out or, perhaps it was the fact that last winter was my best climbing season yet where I achieved many of the goals I had set for myself and therefore my desire was a little lacking. What ever the reason was it had had an effect on my climbing.

I had two weeks of climbing in Spain where I didn’t achieve the things I wanted to, partly down to uncontrollable circumstances such as bees, wet weather and tweaky monos. Don’t get me wrong I still did plenty of climbing but just not to the standard I had set myself.

The winter season came about and with it the start of the competition season. I really enjoy competitions. There is a great social aspect to them and well as the fact that they push me to try really hard. I used to view them as great training but now I seem to enjoy them for what they are. To start the season I did a few local competitions as well as two rounds of Blokfest. My results were not very pleasing with me placing around 20th position in both rounds of Blokfest. I was slightly disappointed with these results as last season I made a few finals and was always in the top 10.

Mammut had asked me to compete at this years FBO. I wasnt really looking forward to competing as I didn’t think I was in the best form, I decided to just go into the qualification round with no expectations. The setting for the FBO was excellent with many varied and interesting problems and before I knew it I had flashed 24 of the 25 qualification blocs. This put me in 1st place heading into the finals.

Problem 2 FBO15 Final

The final was great fun to be a part of with the vibe in isolation being  friendly and fun. Sam Whittacker, Ben Moon and I were matching one another bloc for bloc until the last problem. Ben Moon completed the last climb where Sam and I could not, crowning him “King of the wave”. I finished in 2nd position which was  really unexpected and a great confidence boost. Perhaps I was seeing a return to form.

Standing next to the legends. FBO15 Podium

The following weekend saw the first Rab Superbloc Masters competition take place in the EXCEL centre in London. This event was an invitation only competition with all of the best competition climbers in the UK taking part. Someone (Alex Hazelhurst) probably though it would be good entertainment to invite me, perhaps he thought it would be funny to watch me flounder.

There were 20 female and 20 male competitors. My goal was to not come last (gotta be optimistic). The competition was run in an IFSC world cup format so effectively our first round was the semi final. I was out 4th. The running order had been established by taking the British Championship results from last year, as I was the highest ranked non GB team member in that event I had a pretty good position in the running order. The problems were hard. Dave Barrens was out first and we could hear from the crowd and the commentary that he had only achieved one top. Out of the four problems I got three bonus’, usually this would be a pretty poor score in a competition of this calibre but, as all of the competitors completed their rounds my name was still sitting in 6th place on the scoreboard just scraping me into the final. Three of us qualified for the final without even climbing a problem, the climbs really must have been hard.

Superbloc problem 1
Photo Duncan Bottrill

Superbloc problem 3
Photo Duncan Bottrill

I was absolutely buzzing to have made the final, having surpassed my ambition of not coming last by 14 places.

In the final I climbed ok but thin skin and the skill of the other athletes meant I finished in 6th position. A placing I was very happy with.

Superbloc Final 1

Superbloc final 2
Photo Duncan Bottrill

Superbloc Final 3
Photo Duncan Bottrill

Superbloc Final 4
Photo Duncan Bottrill

Superbloc Podium

As soon as the superbloc finished Ben West and I drove to Font for eight days of bouldering. Unfortunately the weather for our week away was far from ideal. Out of the eight day trip we managed a meagre three and a half day of climbing. Despite this I still had my most successful trip to the forest climbing a number of hard boulders in quick time. Because our weather windows were so short we crammed in as much climbing per day. My tick list for the week is below:

Day 1 (half day):

  • Belle Gueule assis 7B flash
  • Pancras assis 7C
Day 2
  • Fourmis Rouge 7C
  • Big Boss 7C
  • La Directe du Surplomb de la Mee 7C+/8A
Day 3
  • Haute Tension 7C+
  • Hyper Tension 8A
Day 4
  • Imothep 8A
We will hopefully get a video put together of some of the best bits or our trip soon.
The bad weather did enable Ben and I do to plenty of work on our newly started Coaching Businesses Up-Grade.uk
We are putting together a few “bouldering essentials” tips videos, episode 1 is below. Check out Up-Grades Facebook page and give us a like for forthcoming episodes.
The next big competition is the CWIF so I’m off to do a finger board session.
See you all out there

 

New Year in Northumberland

I like to climb on New Years day. It has become a tradition, a start the year as you mean to go on kind of thing. I have spent New Year climbing ice in the Alps, trad in Pembroke sport at Ansteys and this year is was to be bouldering in Northumberland.

Northumberland or “The County” is a place I have heard a lot about but never visited before, after all I can be in font in about the same amount of travel time. The climbing style in The County reminded me a lot of Font, the climbing and the stone feeling somewhat alike.

After the 6 hour drive from Bristol we arrived at Hepburn. There are a few problems of significance there, the two most prominent are “Northern Soul” 7A+ and “Preparation H” 7C+/8A. Northern Soul in an amazing boulder. It starts up a technical slab into a crack and the onto a hideously slopey topout in Highball terrain. I managed to flash this boulder with some beta from a very helpful ground crew. I got pretty close on Preparation H, dropping the top a few time before darkness stopped play. It was time to head home for turkey Fajitas, Scrabble, Red wine and NYE.

The next day we headed to Kyloe in the Woods, a fairly good wet weather option. There are many classics here through all the grades. We were here to try “The Yorkshireman” hard 7B+. Its an absolutely classic bloc which climbs a flared diagonal crack before a hard deadpoint move to a good edge and the top. I had to try hard on this and it was only with a bit of helpful Beta from Dan Varian that we figured out the bizarre sequence.

The best day we had was at Bowden doors. The conditions were perfect, it was cold clear and crisp. It was our fourth day on but this didn’t seem to be slowing us down. I had one of those great sessions where you sort of forget about the guidebook and walk along the crag climbing what looks good. Some of the best problems were Stagged 7B+, Temptation 7B+ and The Crack 7C+/8A, this, as its name suggests climbs a crack feature on a very font like boulder. The climb looks easy, feels nails when you are trying it and steady when you get it right.

Our last day was spent trekking around on the Simonside hills finding hidden boulders and admiring the stunning views. By day five my skin was thin and my body was aching but it was just so great to be out climbing on such good rock.

The short trip has left me with more projects to go at and I cannot wait to return to Northumberland. Below is a short video put together by Ben West from the trip.