11 August 2012

Pumping Grit - Brimham and Almscliffe, August 2012

Between Bryn and myself, you're looking at around eight years of bouldering experience. You would not have guessed it from the way Monday night's session at Brimham commenced. Starting as we so often do in the Pommel area, I approached the left hand end of the gloriously named Easy Boulder, the first bit of rock I ever approached with a mind to real climbing, and scampered up. All good so far, but when I returned to ground level Bryn was having difficulty following in my footsteps. Knowing how different a climb is to watch, I figured I should climb the problem again to help Bryn through. Nope. Couldn't do it. Hang on, hadn't I just climbed this problem? That didn't seem to matter, as I fell off from halfway up. So we moved along the boulder, to the group of problems with the large jam. Surely this would get us into the swing of things? Nope. Couldn't do it. What was going on? For my part, my arms had quickly become very pumped, and I think my warm-up for the night was perhaps a little lacking. Still, we weren't going to be put off and, somehow, pretty much the full width of Easy Boulder fell to our assaults.

We didn't look at the Pommel, or the little quad with the nice arête, but had a play on the slab and roof nearby. I spotted the move for the slab - a high foot, unusual for me to try such a move ahead of Bryn - but Bryn was in the ascendance for the side of the roof, gaining the key moves in imperious fashion. For my part, I threw myself at the problem enough times to get it, with good guidance from Bryn and despite feeling like it might be out of reach for the night.

The Cubic Block area held the main problem I wanted to work on, but I was distracted first by the mantle problem on the slab opposite, the one that leaves he climber pressed against the face of the slab with a ledge to traverse out, and next by the solo up the Cubic Block itself. It hadn't been on mind to do, but the sky seemed to be begging for a better viewing. I enjoyed flowing up the rock - you may not be pushing yourself on a solo, but that doesn't mean it's without merit - and the top-out exposed me to the edge of Brimham, to Nidderdale, and to the sky. The sky... I'm struggling here, but I felt like the sky was washing over me and through me. I didn't really want to climb down.

Still, what other choice did I have? So down I came and had a look at the sit-start to the left of the Cubic Block. I didn't make any progress, and returned to the mantle on the slab face to knock down a bird's wing for Cosmo to look at. On the whole it had been a good session, and the lack of progress was mitigated by glorious twilight seen from on high.

Progress was order of the day on Wednesday at Almscliffe, with Morrell's Wall and The Crucifix being targeted for special attention. Karrie collected me, and then Bryn and Cosmo, and we found Rob and Louis at Morrell's. I felt that I didn't want to tire myself for Morrell's, but Rob advocated a good warm-up on something easier. I tried to take this on board and headed for a favourite old problem of mine at the end of Three Swings traverse. Whilst I did indeed warm up on it, I was quickly diverted into a genuine challenge immediately to the right. Another climber was trying his hand at a problem I'd last seen done a couple of years ago, a few small polished holds and then a slight traverse - still polished underfoot, and with crimpy hand-holds - to the same finish as the arête I'd just done. I'd never done this one myself, and I thought what I needed was someone to show me how. It turns out that what I needed was someone to show it to, as my attempts to find moves for this other climber and explain them to him led me further towards the solution myself. Attempt one and my hand was around the corner, one move off the last move, but my feet failed to find purchase as they attempted to follow lower down. They'd done enough to lay the foundation for the second attempt though, as my hands were more sure of themselves and my legs carried my weight around smoothly enough for my feet to stick to the rock. My hand went to the top (which, from that point, was more around than up) and polished it off, and called first tick of the night.

Back to Morrell's, and one move further than previous efforts. Pleased with this progress, but it was still very challenging, and I didn't feel that this put me on the home straight for the problem, still much work to be done.

At least I could still work - Rob departed after a twinge in his wrist couldn't be remedied by a good taping. Sorry to see him leave, but it was the wise thing to do. The rest of us aimed for Bryn's project of MK Wall, stopping off at the Matterhorn on the way, initially for a play at the low end - a full mantle variation for myself setting the tone - but Matterhorn Arête beckoned when Bryn realised that I hadn't yet climbed it. I'd tried a few weeks ago, in the wake of Louis momentously flashing it, to little and less avail than even on my first attempt last year. This time was different. I powered through the starting moves that had recently given me so much trouble and, once I found my feet above he break, there was no stopping me. I thought I'd heard a piece of advice about getting my hand over to the left side just below the top, so when I found myself sticking to the right and going instead for the top itself I did wonder if I was making a mistake. Not so, as a few adjustments of my hands made the top solid, my left foot went to the hold where I'd been advised to place my hand, and over the top I went with an exultant shout. It had been a long time coming, albeit with only a few attempts, and thanks to all present for their encouragements and celebrations.

Something of a play on either side of MK wall and The Egg left us fairly drained, so The Crucifix was off the menu. We moseyed back down the crag, dabbling with Boulder 10 and Three Swings as we went. As with Monday at Brimham, a gorgeous twilight sky made me want to linger - if I hadn't been due to work the next day, I could quite easily have gone to fetch my bivvy bag. I'd say a bivvy at our place of wonder could be on the cards very soon.
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