Established readers may remember that my toe was giving me some issues at Crookrise, leading to a semi-barefoot session. I think that worked for me because it was a new crag, and I no basis of comparison for any given of its rocks. Last week at Almscliffe, the toe was troublesome, and it was spoiling many - most - of my regular climbs, and certainly not making me feel like pushing myself. So I rode my unicycle up and down - okay, mainly down - the path along the bottom of the crag. This, along with high winds and biting cold, had us polish the session off pretty quickly.
Last night (slow writing, almost a week later, distorting the timeframe slightly...), although I still took my unicycle with me, I determined to beat the toe into submission. I picked Bryn up from his house and we headed up the hill, meeting Dave at Morrell's Wall. I took a quick warm-up on the side wall, and then decided to have a crack at Morrell's. Or, more pointedly, decided not to go and tackle a selection of easier climbs that I'd already done - if I only had limited mileage on my toe, then I would try to make it count toward some progress on a notable problem. And progress there was - Dave had already climbed it, and was lauding the friction for the night, a brisk but not overpowering wind blowing any moisture off the holds. I had a crack at the problem, and over several attempts I tidied up my start and got somewhat further with my efforts to get past the first crimp. I didn't quite get hands on the second crimp, but was nevertheless very happy with how I was getting on. I predicted that this would be Louis's night to put Morrell's to bed, and so it proved not long after his arrival.
Next in our sights was the Crucifix and Pebble Wall, though we took in a number of smaller problems en route to keep our eyes in. As we settled below the Crucifix, my toe started to play up, and I was concerned that I might not get another climb. I flexed it for a while and took my time before making any attempts at the problem, but once I got going the flexing proved to have done enough. The Crucifix hadn't given much up prior to this attempt, but I found myself more comfortable with the starting moves, taking only a couple of goes to get my hands in a spot that suited. Unfortunately it also suited a fair bit of rock rash for my right wrist, so I look forward to developing a tough spot there. Still, I got my hand up past the break for the first time - and found it to be almost worthless. And I'd been looking forward to that moment as well. The fault was my own more than the rock's - can we ever really blame the rock? - and I found that a shift in weight allowed me to get myself a little higher. Bryn demoed the climb for me and then seemed to get himself a little stuck with the downclimb - perhaps I was projecting my worry onto him, but his foot looked awfully contorted as he tried to set himself for the descent and I didn't want home to break a leg just before his upcoming holiday. Or ever, for that matter. To try and help him, I climbed up the down, something of a satisfying problem in itself, and then, after a brief chill at the top, down again, finding a leg-break free solution which Bryn then followed, with some personalisation of his own, of course. I gave The Crucifix a few more goes, not getting any further, but still managing to get consistently further than I had in any previous session. I had a bit of a look at Pebble Wall as well, a cursory effort just to get it started for future efforts.
And that was the defining quality of the night for me, a good sense of progression, rather than completion, on what felt like next-level problems. The only tick of the night may have been the unbidden crucifix descent-ascent, but the progress made elsewhere was for one thing enjoyable enough, and, for another, gave me a great sense of having much to look forward to.