Thursday, 18 October 2012

Costa Blanca

Nik was so lost in the hardcore techno on his I pod he momentarily forgot where he was and started dancing

A week or so after my big breakthrough i was lucky enough to meet up with Nik Jennings. He had been running a coaching course in the Costa Blanca and had a few days after to climb. A 6.30 am start saw me arrive in Alicante about 12, I keep forgetting how big Spain is. I was knackered after driving through thick fog, rain and even hail at one point. Not just now and then but pretty much for 300kms of the journey.

It was wet there too so the planned trip to Forada was not on. The only dry place we could find was Ibi. It looked OK and was in a very nice setting tucked away behind an old water mill.

 The only dry route in the village

Unfortunately there were only 2 dry routes on the whole crag in the central section. We got there just in time to see a group lowering off La Chica yeye. When i say lowering off they were lowering off a maillon from the bolt below the chains. Not always a good sign. Nik reckoned that 7a+ that people have bailed from is a great warm up grade and told me to go for it, thanks Nik. I fell at the 2nd bolt on a dynamic lunge for a pocket. I hit it, but didn't hold it as it was blind, i got it on a bad part and i have a saggy arse. My words not Niks.I am not holding my tension when i hit a hold and as a result i may touch the hold but often fall away from it meaning failure. I managed the rest of it up to the final bolt.

It's worth mentioning here that the route was about 10 moves long and all of them were strong, reachy and most were using bolt on bits of rock filed down.Very bizarre, even for Spain.

 Spot the bolt ons. There are 3 in this picture alone.

The last section had a yellow resin mono hold and a small blue crimper up and right. It appeared you had to somehow reach the miles away mono and then yard up on it. Nik mentioned something about using my feet and pushing up but i went for the yard up on one finger tactic, and failed. Cut a long story short i had 3 rp goes and everytime got to the mono and fell. Even Nik didn't manage to get it in one. He was finding the reachy move low down really hard but eventually cheated on the mono move by using technique and going again for the crimp.

The finishing holds. You can see the massive holes in the roof above and a breeze block nailed on for good measure. Subtle !

My mono finger was feeling tweaky so after another attempt failing at the mono we quickly decided to move on to the other dry route hoping it would be just as good. At least this one had no holds bolted on it. Shame really as a couple of them could have really improved it and would have meant we didn't need to use the razor blades disguised as holds. Imaginatively named Route 10 it wasn't what we'd come to climb on really. I didn't get it in the end but with comments about the crag saying it's sandbag heaven i wasn't too upset. It salvaged something out of a very wet day and i still wasn't scared of falling. I took more falls that day than in the whole of last year.

The view from the crag - not bad i guess
Next day we were going to Forada. Nik had told me it's the best crag in the Costa Blanca with no bad routes on it. The weather decided otherwise again, and as we couldn't even see the crag due to the cloud we diverted again. Heading North until we could see the sun meant we ended up in the Xalo valley at Las Pinturas in the Los Pinos area. It was a cool looking place. A long, short, open cave of orange rock with some cave paintings and some climbs with very steep starts before rounding the lip to what looked easy slabby ground above.

Las Pinturas
Starting off with a bang i went for Route 5 and found wet pockets followed by bloody sharp holds on the slab above the bulge. Failed again ! I got a good pump on though so it did it's job as a warm up. Next up was Paprika. As Nik won't allow people to take it easy he made me have a bash at on-sighting it. This quickly turned into a bolt to bolt to work the moves out. It was fierce steep to start. Having rested a while i thought about having another go to get it wired. I was quickly dispossessed of that idea by Nik who told me to get on it and crush it. 1st bolt clipped, sneaky foot faggotry to get through the hard bit foot popped off. Lack of concentration. Bugger ! The good news is it went next go and felt easy. I wasn't even pumped. How does that happen ? Once through the crux there was a shake point and i had to stop myself leaving too early as i felt like i was flying. Normally you can't get me away from rests.

Even better news is that it's thought to be a hard 7b :0)

So what to do for the rest of the day, apart from belaying Nik trying 8a on-sights of course ? Well i could go for a 7b+, a 7c or a 7c+. Of course i went for the 7c+.

7c+ mentalness.
 It actually looked the most do-able option with a fairly obvious sequence.It is called The Reaper and is described as having a hard start leading to a very hard move. I should say. Using my new found extra appendages ( my feet ) i surprised myself by making fairly decent progress. I ended the day one move off from the easy ground. After only a couple of hours on it i was pretty happy with that. If it was local i'd have it as a project and i don't think it would take too long. I've never pulled off moves that hard before, not even when bouldering, and the amount of  weight i could get through my feet was wicked,

Next day saw us a bit battered but finally at Forada. I summoned up all my psyche and warmed up on something sensible this time - a nice steady away 6b+. Target for the day was a 7a on-sight and a 7b RP.

I ended up with a 7a flash of Starman and a pretty miserable fail on Muscleman. It's a great route but i just didn't have anything left in the tank after 2 hard days. It was pretty frustrating as i felt if i was fresh it'd go down quite easy. I was faffiing about at the steep bit and had no energy left for subsequent goes.

So it was off for another 6 hr drive back home. I'd got some successes, some failures but most importantly i'd learned a hell of a lot.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The comeback kid !

Well it's been nearly 6 mths to the day without a blog. Basically it's gone like this:
  • Lack of psyche following breaking through into a new grade
  • elbow tendonitis = 6 weeks off any hard climbing
  • Summer = 6 weeks of too hot to climb anything hard
  • Broken ribs = 6 weeks of no hard climbing
Taking these one at a time.

Lack of psyche was confusing to me, until recently. I'd just broken a new grade and physically it didn't feel that hard. Mentally however was another story. Being scared to death of falling and trying to climb as hard as i thought i could meant i was likely to fall. I just wasn't enjoying the process. It was only recently that i acknowledged that this happened when chatting to Steve at Loja. We talked about how he is scared of falling on on-sight and i am scared of falling on red-point. Steve is a red-point machine and brilliant to watch. He sorts out sequences very quickly, focuses and goes 100% on his attempts. This often gets results. I get more scared on red-point because i am much more likely to fall. I then hesitate, get tired and fail. The whole build up to it and mental pressure was just not floating my boat at the time.

I took the chance to go to physio for my elbows and whilst she didn't say stop climbing i was told to keep it at a low level for a while or she might have to repeat the really painful massage she had done on me. 'Nuff said and i was a good boy. What i found helped a lot were all the little things you do that aggravate it. I changed how i belayed in particular ( straight brake arm and no tension in it ), how i drove, how i carried my rucksack and loads of other little things that were stopping it recovering fully. It hasn't come back so fingers crossed.

Summer was just hot and everyone went away on road trips and left me partner less and sweaty, so not much done there.

The broken ribs was one of those things i couldn't do much about. A bit silly really but i got involved in a bar fight in a friend's bar. I grabbed the big fat fella who was causing all the grief and took him down to the ground from behind in true ex policeman style. Unfortunately i was a slightly drunk ex policeman and got it a bit wrong and he ended up falling on top of me and we hit the corner of a table on the way down. To add insult to injury i got whacked around the head with an ashtray that someone was trying to hit someone else with. Owch ! It wasn't all that bad after. I am sure i cracked a couple of ribs under my right armpit and did something round the back near my shoulder blade but it could have been worse. You should have seen the other guy :0) After a month i was able to pull hard again, but it still hurts when i sneeze.

After all this i was ready for trying again. Steve and his friend Paul were coming over for a week and Steve wanted to try Hasta Luego Luca again. It's an amazing twin tufa pipe climb with consecutive knee bars, and Steve had bought a 5.10 knee pad. Despite the fact that it has been universally agreed that this bit of kit takes off half a grade i still failed on it due, yes you guessed it, being scared of falling. I was too hesitant and slow. Steve cracked it off in good style.

Me really dancing while Steve basks like a lizard

We met up again a couple of days later at Cauche where a weird thing happened. Paul was trying Tomohawk, the very same 7b i climbed 6 mths ago that put me off. I got back on and sorted the low down boulder problem ( ish there was still 2 possible sequences for the boulder problem ) and flashed the rest. After a short break i tied on, climbed it decisively ( using the new sequence but going at it 100% ) and cruised it. I had not done anything different in my approach, i had no 'pre-flight' nerves, no fear of falling, just a feeling that it was going to be OK. I have absolutely no idea what happened. All i can say is that if that is how it feels for everyone else then i want more. I have started to worry though as i had not done anything to lose the fear, it could easily come back.

Getting to the steep bit

The crux is slapping for a blind edge over your head from the slopey undercut.

Crux done, just the easy ground to mess up on now

Victory swing