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Monday, 25 August 2014

Raiders of the Dark Ark

Just under a month ago I blogged about a new project I'd bolted at the mighty Llanddulas Cave. I didn't really fancy my chances back then and redpoints seemed a mile off as I was struggling to work out the tricky finishing moves. I persevered and finally the moves came together with some beta tweaks. The first time I managed to link from the kneebar to the end I was totally in bulk and couldn't have done another move! In my mind it was still something to train for over winter for next year. From the next session onwards everything changed, I don't know why but it just felt a lot easier. The moves were solid and I managed a link from further back to the end. I then did it from the 3rd bolt to the end and that meant redpoints. After re-aquainting myself with the start of Temple (I hadn't been on it for 4 years) I soon made it to the kneebar but was totally boxed. Every session I made progress and I was bracing myself for the inevitable backwards session where you suddenly start falling off everywhere and the stress starts to kick in. On redpoint session 4 I found myself at the last move pulling into a good sidepull that marked the end of the hard climbing. It wasn't to be as my heel ripped off the small spike but I knew it was on from that point. One big problem I faced was that on every link I'd done to the end my hamstring had pulled on the heel move. When I did it one redpoint i could feel it from my calf up to my arse. I knew I couldn't keep pulling my leg and that if i got to that move again I really needed to top out. This created a bit of pressure and I thought about it a lot over the next week. A week later I returned with Luke Clarke, the conditions had been amazing for a few weeks and this day was no different. First redders I powered out on the last hard move. Then i dropped the start and the middle and on the 4th RP I found myself hanging off my heel rocking up to the sidepull. I got it and grabbed the big undercut and reached the jugs. As I was rocking over the finishing hold a big jug I'd been using started wobbling giving a heart in mouth moment. Luckily there was another one and i clipped the lower off ever so slightly chuffed. This roof really does give excellent hard climbing. It's like a non polished version of Parisellas with better rock and cooler holds. Raiders of the Dark Ark does the Font 7B start to Temple to the 3rd bolt then does a hard toe hook move right to a kneebar (I slipped off here quite a bit). The kneebar felt pretty good on the redpoints and was a decent rest for the arms if a bit sapping for the core. The route then busts straight through the roof with some cool foot beta and finishes at the ledge at the same height as Last Crusade. The end felt 7C when I was working it but more like 7B+ when I had it wired. I considered topping out up the 6b Lord Nibbler but after doing the route again I decided it wasn't really in keeping with the bottom as you end up chimneying up both walls. I'm pretty sure it's 8b+ but you never know, it's certainly a grade harder than Temple and didn't take long enough to warrant 8c. All in all a great surprise that I didn't even know existed until 6 weeks ago. Sometimes it does feel like the climbing gods are looking after you. It's not the end for this roof as the link project is still to go and you could do that into this finish too. It was the end of a great week for me in which I managed my hardest problem and hardest route in 3 days. The steroids are finally paying off.
Start of Temple:

The kneebar rest:

The crux sequence:

Footage of the FA:

Friday, 22 August 2014

One For The Road

Back in 2008 I was sat under a snowy 8B Swiss boulder problem with Keith Bradbury and we were talking about big numbers. I remember telling Keith about a project link up on Pill Box Wall that would be 'my 8B'. That year I'd done a new up line in front of the Box, the second i topped it the big challenge was laid down. It was so obvious, straight after the crux of Drink Driving launch straight into the 7B+ with no rest to create a crimpy power endurance beast. The years past and although I didn't really try the last link the challenge was omnipresent and always niggled away at the back of my mind. It was looking unlikely that I'd ever have the tools for this one. The first breakthrough came in 2012 when for the first time i managed to get through the original traverse more than once or twice. I even managed to finish up Last Orders, a 7A right at the end of the box. I returned with the hard link in mind but never managed the first move of Last Rites, in truth it was still miles away. Roll forward to 2014 and after a intense Cave campaign I managed to do the first move of Last Rites from the start for the first time. 3 sessions later I was still getting through Drink Driving and on my best go greased off just as I was getting my foot up for the last move. Climbing can be a cruel sport and I've been on the rollercoaster long enough to know that every time you think you've cracked it there's a bumpy descent back to earth just around the corner. I returned for another 4 sessions and sure enough the window of opportunity had closed. Unlike most the stuff I've done I couldn't seige this one, it just didn't work. Normal level was falling on the cross under of DD. Elevated level was needed to have any kind of chance and even then it probably wouldn't be enough. Frustrated I walked away and continued with my summer trying to forget how close I had been. After seiging a new line in Llanddulas i had suspected i might be finding form again so returned to the Box to have a look. Straight away I felt light and floaty - essential conditions to have any kind of chance. I got through DD 3 times that sesh but only made it past the first move of LR once. I knew I had to return quick before the window closed again. After a rest day I returned, I didn't feel quite as floaty but made it through DD, this time I nailed the slap off the pinch. I got my feet up stretched to the crimp, my foot popped but I moved quickly and got rocked over for the last hard move to the good pocket. It felt like I was eyeing it up for an eternity, I slapped expecting everything to pop but somehow I landed it perfectly. The last move was fine and I jumped onto the box and that was that. It's only another link up on the Pill Box but for me it's been there taunting me for fucking years and has always been a bit too hard. One for The Road could be the hardest thing I ever do so I'm going to savour it even if it is a link up in front of a toilet. Compared to the 4 8A+'s I did in the Cave this year it feels like hard 8A+ (or 8c if you think such things should be given route grades). IIRC Ben Freeman, Ed Hamer and Dan Knight all thought Drink Driving sneaked in at 8A+ (Barrows thought 8A but he could keep his feet on a good low foot on the two crux moves). I would say it feels 8A/+ to me now (I struggle to believe i can lap 8A+). Last Rites is pretty soft for 7B+ too but its short and the last hold is a pretty small crimp (plus the feet are small which feels hard when the tensions gone). Time to start going there and back now ;) (well if it's good enough for the Bleausards.......)


Saturday, 9 August 2014

The Pink Star

It was inevitable that the constant stream of new grade 8's on the North Wales lime would slow down eventually. After a steady stream of big numbers since 2009 (many of which nationally significant) there comes a time where the do-able lines start to run out. There are still some ripe plums out there but perhaps not enough keen beasts to step up to the plate. If there's one man you can always rely on though it's Pete Robins-North Wales master crusher of hard new lines. After 5 years of hard seiging though even Pete's resilience had to wane at some point. He picked off a couple of grade 8's at the Allotment and Craig y Don earlier in the year and then had some sessions on The Big Crunch project down LPT. This could provide the potential step up he'd been looking for although after several sessions it proved to be too much of a step up for now. Bransby made it look doable but he didn't return and Pete sacked it off. Pete climbed himself into form by establishing Ropes of Maui in the Pass and he knew he had some unfinished business come Diamond season. Back in the first year of the Diamond renaissance, Pete Harrison bolted (along with a load of re-equipping) a big diagonal crack feature on the right hand side of the crag. It was a striking and unique line that had future classic written all over it. The following year Johnny Ratcliffe climbed the lower diagonal at 8a and last year Pete Robin's did an obvious connection between the two at 8b+. The Pink Panther joined the top crack about halfway along but the obvious challenge was the feature in it's entirety and Pete immediately set about working on it. As the nights drew in and the conditions deteriorated he knew his time was up for that year but the route was top of the agenda for August 2014. As soon as the birds had vacated the crag Pete got back on the crack and soon picked up where he left off last year. After some beta refinements he was back at his previous highpoint and with time on his side the first ascent seemed inevitable. Today he finished it off to give The Pink Star (8c+), another quality hard route which unfortunately just missed the guidebook cut off point. It is an amazing route and is the sixth 8c+ in the area.

Pete checking out the holds in 2009:

Recent shots: