Thursday, December 31, 2009

round (up) 2

Time flys – its nearly 2010! Following on from Dan’s post, here are my top 5(ish) moments of 2009.

Font is the best bouldering venue in the world, no contest (for me anyway). It is hard not to have a good trip to font, especially when you have just finished some exams.
The most memorable moment was Noir desir. I remember looking at this on my first trip to font and thinking it looked impossible. This time when I looked at it again (complete with puddle in the finishing jug) I got the feeling that it was going to be easy. I don’t know why – I never usually feel this about any problem. Sure enough, after warming up (a bit of arm windmilling) I pulled on and found myself hanging off the finishing puddle/jug. I love the feeling when it just works. You have no idea why, or how, but it works. I guess this is what Dawes is on about in Stone Monkey.

The exact opposite happened on Imothep. First session (albeit on a hot day) I couldn’t do the first move. 2nd session I dropped the last move a couple of times. 3rd session I did nothing but drop the last move! That was until my absolute last go. I had nothing left to give. No skin and no energy but a small drop of motivation which I hadn’t yet sweated out of my red raw fingertips. The only thing keeping this in was the layers of tape covering 5 of my 8 tips!

I set off knowing that this was my last go, and although things were far from going to plan I kept battling, refusing to give up. On reaching the final holds I tried some new beta – a tiny ripple with my right hand that allowed me to adjust my feet and jump again for the top. I grabbed the last sloper with 3 tips, the tape slipping off my sweaty fingers. I lunged again, this time getting more of my hand on. I was pumped and my hands were slipping, but the finish line was inches away. I wasn’t giving up now. I jumped my legs up and clamped with everything I had, mauling the ever improving slopers, crawling my way over the finish line. I collapsed on top panting, straddling one of the best boulders I have ever climbed. Its nice to have to fight for success!

St. Bees is by far my favourite crag in Britain. Perfect red sandstone boulders sit by the sea, kept cool by the breeze even in the height of summer. I visited St. Bees twice this year, and each time I had the best time. Aquachoc (bee-fish) was waved in front of me like a red sandstone rag to a bull. “We couldn’t even pull off the floor on this one” Dan told me. I got all interested!
I generally don’t like one move problems, especially low ones, but the holds on this are just perfect. Somehow I managed to keep my feet on the overhanging smears just long enough catch the jug and rumble up the ultra classic Apiary Arête to finish.

However the highlight of St. Bees was Tim’s crack, the best 7c in the country (go on, have a go on this and then name a better one…). After wobbling up this amazing pocketed roof crack, absolutely knackered at the end of a long day with food rations dwindling (thanks to someone throwing their bag down a cliff!), it was straight into the sea to cool off. Perfect end to a lovely day out.

The Frankenjura was brilliant – I wasn’t expecting it to be so good. I knew the routes were world class, but I knew almost nothing about the bouldering so went with no expectations. It turned out to be amazing (in a short, steep and powerful kind of way) with real grades to keep the egos in check! The first few days were spent getting shown the classic problems, followed by getting thoroughly shut down by them all. After a few weeks we begin to adjust to the brutality of the climbing and begin to get some things done.

The best problem of the trip was V2 – 2 pockets, 3 slopers, and a heel lead you up this font like feature. It was great to get the problem ticked, but more importantly, that day marked the end of my lingering finger injures (I got a bit keen on the fingerboard and upset 2 of my pulleys), and from then on I only ever felt stronger. It was great to end the trip with a couple of hard crimpy problems, proving that my pulleys had cheered up and my fingers were back in the game.

Ned vs schnee from on Vimeo.

Ned halloween bouldering from on Vimeo.

Caseg groove is something that I had wanted to try for a long time. The bulging slopers just looked brilliant and I couldn’t resist a trip there. After doing the Gimp and Main Vein is was time to get stuck in. The crux ended up being 1 foot move, which I solved with a ninja kick to a smear. It was impossible to do this move slowly as the direction of the slopers meant I had to keep constant pressure through the feet to stay on the rock. Eventually with the light from one headtorch, and some very fed up spotters I busted through the tricky move and thrashed my way blindly up the stand up start, topping out in the dark. This was one I had wanted to do for ages. I was dead chuffed.

I can’t really mention best moments without comps coming into it. After very little climbing between March and June (dissertation and exams taking their toll) I headed over to Eindhoven for the World Cup. Although I wasn’t feeling weak before we went, I certainly wasn’t feeling fit. However qualifiers went pretty well. I still fell off far more than I should have but never mind, I was through to the semis!

After an early start (I hate these!) it was back to isolation. Feeling surprisingly good after warming up I flashed the first 2 problems (apparently causing the route setters to panic. “that punter didn’t fall off – the problems must be too easy”!), the 3rd was nails so I called it quits early, but the 4th was not so bad. Excellent. I was content with my effort, but this soon turned into excitement as everyone else started falling off a lot more than I had. Eventually the scoreboard settled down, with my name in 6th place. In the world cup finals. Sweet!

The finals are a bit of a blur. I was totally knackered. My biceps felt like knotted hemp rope and my back was seizing like setting cement. Never mind, this is a final! The problems look brilliant.
I flashed the 1st problem, and was sooo close to flashing the 2nd, failing to hold the finishing hold. It all went down hill from there, and when time was up I collapsed on the mat to watch Killian float up the last problem to win the comp. This was a great experience and has taught me that on a good day, with the right problems, I can potentially do quite well in international comps. The month after this was the British champs. I managed to control the nerves well at this comp (it just didn’t seem like a big deal after the world cup) which really helped me to climb well under pressure and I ended up doing ok.

Well, its not long till I go off to font now so I had better get back on the fingerboard….


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