26 February 2012

Remaining Philosophical

Well, hello 2012. Nice to meet you.

Compared to Dave's near academia level of climbing study, and Bryn's stated goal of taking up running to bolster his climbing fitness, I remain the philosophical climber of the group (as in, the take as I find kind of climber - we're all deep thinkers, on climbing or otherwise).
To that end, the year has started in reasonable shape. As of yesterday, I've managed to check in at Almscliffe, Caley and Brimham, in that order - not bad for the first two months, and I expect things will really start to pick up in late March. Almscliffe, on January 14th, was about getting a feel for the rock again, and for being out in the world, as a few favourite climbs were re-ticked on a gloriously crisp and bright day. Caley, February 19th, was similar in the sense that it consisted largely of retrying climbs already achieved - though, frustratingly, the already ticked Flapjack Scoop withheld its charms on a day when the biting cold should have meant great friction. Still, a fine session was had, including introducing a recent acquaintance to the joys of the climb.

Brimham, on the 25th of February, felt like the year really beginning, largely because of the discovery of a couple of projects, some tangible new achievements, and some thoughts on fitness.

After an arduous trek to the far end of the crag, Dave and I pondered Fag Slab Solo. By this time, the wind had picked up significantly, presenting chaotic factors that you just don't want to throw into a solo, and so we put that one in the bank for a better day...
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25 February 2012

The Knowledge

Brimham is brilliant but I have tended to hit the Pommel boulders to often. Great area but other boulders are available. Today was a voyage of discovery that started in a chilly wind and ended in the glare of the February sun. Stuart came to join the Odessy. My plan to solo Fag Slab backfired before it began. It was cold,windy and I backed off but it looked do-able on a good day.

Next was the technical groove of Whisky Galore which is all about your feet. I use my feet reasonable for a man of my age but could I get them onto that high edge? I could not. Mind you I was delighted to get as far as I did. This one is troubling the scorers now and would be step change in difficulty. A couple showed me and Stu the way, their puppy licked my face and then they mistook Stu and myself for a couple. their gaydar was out of calibration I think.
We ended up next on the trackside boulder. Which delivered problems that were steep and powerful and slabby and smeary in spades. Everyone got something to add to their collection and we met another couple who didn't ask us if we were together, but I was acting macho now just to make sure.

Finally that prow near the cubic block which frustrated and teased and skinned my fingers. Then Mr couple 2.0 demolished it with a monster slap, easy for the young and hollow cheeked but I will be back.

So no big wins but two days ago I felt like death on a stick with a sore throat, all in all not bad. I have climbed right through the winter this year for the first time in decades. The friction is fantastic my winter grump is less pronounced and the problems are quieter.
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22 February 2012

Fresh holds in Bingley

Given that the city of Leeds is home to 4 indoor climbing venues- City Bloc and Leeds Wall in the centre, Rokt to the south, and the Depot to the west- you would be forgiven that I would get excited about a new venue in the outlying north east enclave of Bingley. Even more so given that I live 10 minutes drive from Harrogate Climbing Centre! However, I was intrigued when I heard climbing wall manufacturer Hang Fast were setting up their own centre- The Climbing Barn- as to what they would come up with.
My suspicion that it would stand as a showpiece to their talents seem to be well founded. Arriving through the winding lanes of Crossflats, it certainly looks different to most climbing walls, utilising a traditional stone barn rather than a post industrial structure. As such, I was concerned as to how much climbing it would have on offer. However, the space has been well used, and the rustic feel carried on by leaving exposed beams. Indeed, it has that lovely feeling of a restored cottage with it's mix of new and old features. Being brand new does lead to a certain sterility in atmosphere, but I reckon that will fade over time and it's really nice to climb somewhere clean and freshly painted (climbing centres do seem to run out of steam when it gets to the top of the walls).
So what of the climbing? Well, the first thing to note is that it is a bouldering centre with some routes added on- my experience so far has normally been that it's the other way round. We didn't get round to trying the routes- top ropes on some lovely textured walls that Hang Fast manufacture- but wouldn't have had the energy after working some of the low grade circuits. There was certainly plenty to keep us busy, and the setting nicely graded to keep you on your toes. They also seemed to have put a lot of time and thought into a proper kid's circuit, which went up to v5!
The Barn obviously has a bit of way to go until it is being fully utilised, but its a damn fine start and shows lots of promise. I just hope it gets the punters in suitable numbers. I'll certainly be planning another trip, and imagine it'll be an ideal spot if we ever get rained off Earls Crag or Shipley Glen.
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21 February 2012

Some wise words from some wise people

The Compressor route on Cerro Torre has gone free and the first ascensionists  chopped some of the 200 bolts that bludgeoned their way up some of the most controversial climbing in mountaineering history. In 1970 a bolt ladder made it possible and climbing divided on wether bolts were acceptable or not as a means of making a route. The debate goes on. What was bizarre is that people have criticised Hayden Kennedy and Jason Kruk for daring to chop the bolts after their ascent

It's been great then to see some pretty big names in mountaineering defending their right to remove the ironwork and applauding their achievement. Seems like there are some new hard men out there.

I also came across this article by the great Yvon Chouinard the man behind Patagonia and some big days out in Yosemite who has also spoken in support of Kennedy and Kruk. He has also been a long term advocate of the view that how you climb is as important as what you climb. The article is about making first ascents in his late sixties and how you can stay radical to the end if you don't let your mind grow old. Climbing has become a lot harder recently at least in terms of grades climbed. I wonder if the focus on the physical has been at the expense of the beauty of the experience sometimes.
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19 February 2012

Chillin in the forest

Sun was out should be great I thought, Caley wasn't feeling the love though, the sun was just skimming the ridge and shining in the valley, on those lumps of grit it was Baltic. Friction was great, I warmed up on Chicken Heads and chanced my arm on Low Pebble Wall but it was so cold I had no faith in my boots. Off up to the crag and I managed to scare myself half to death on Mr Smooth. The top slab looked green but wasn't and my fingers were still cold as I wobbled up the slab, warmed me up though. Stu and Karrie arrived and we puntered about on the flapjack I even got my head in the sun stood on top of it.

That sit start middle cream egg prow was next on the menu and it nearly succumbed but hitting a pocket blind was proving tough. I got the sequence once but failed to finish, should go next session. I pretty much wore my shoulders and fingers out on that one. Stu got it from stood up and Karrie had a horror on it but finished it anyway. After that the Horn beat me easy, but I saw a guy get it and I liked his style so have some plans for next time. Nice to be outside again and nice to get up a few classic problems. Good session, cracking friction just wish it was easier to stay warm on a day like today.
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