Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Bowles again ...

Well, we decided to head back to Bowles Rocks last weekend: James, Ana (my girlfriend and official photographer for the session) and Ines. Tried Fandango (5c) unsuccessfully, which feels desperately hard for a 5c. It is rumored that one of the bottom holds broke off and that would explain why this climb feels rather like a 6a. We also climbed the classic Sapper (4b), James and I did the Inspiration variation of the climb (5b) and Ines did the classic route. An unforgettable squeeze. Also tried Abracadabra (5a), one hell of a crack; Patella (6a), again unsuccessfully; Ly'in (6b) which I wasn't able to do (arggghhh), I keep falling at the crux but the bottom moves now feel much easier, James sent it again, officially redpointing it first 6b (last week he had actually done a bit of hangdogging); and finally we tried Ricochet (4b) which has a very tricky start and some delicate route finding, nice 4b! Next week we are planning to go to Yorkshire and try some hard grit, so see you then!

Having fun in Fandango:

Monday, April 18, 2005

This is a big number:

This weekend we had one of the most amazing climbing we have had this year at Bowles Rocks. James, Geraldine and I headed down to this beautiful climbing spot south of London, where we enjoyed the weather and some quality sandstone.
Our first climb of the day was Mick's Wall (5b), and awkward crack I onsighted easily but that took James unaware. He sent it in style after a series of failed attempts which made him improve his jamming technique the hard way. We next tried Mick's Wall Variation (6a) where I failed miserable. James showed a much better performance here but he found the top moves too hard to tackle.

Mick's Wall Struggle:

The great project of the day was The Banana (6a), climb we tried unsuccessfully a couple of weeks ago (see previous posts) and that we sent at our FIRST try this time. We can barely believe the top mantleshelf felt so easy this time! This is my first British 6a.
We then move onto Patella (6a), certainly much harder than Banana. Although neither of us could do the final couple of moves (argghhh!!!), we felt really satisfied we our performance here. This route is amazing I am confident we will be able to handle it in a couple of weeks!
The climbing for the day was going on far better than what we would have ever expected, but things were going to get even more exiting. There were a bunch of meaty hardmen trying impressive boulders in the Fandango wall. They moved later onto Ly'in slab (6b) which simply looks impossible. We watched them trying and failing again and again, and we dreamt about the day when we could tackle climbs at that grade.
After a good rest and after enjoying the hardmen show, we moved onto Pig's Ear (5c) and Pig's Nose (5a) two truly sandstone classics at their respective grades. Pig's Ear involves climbing on a shallow and flaky slab to reach an awkward overhang. This climb took a good couple of tries but we finally managed to send it. Pig's Nose, well, we simply flew past it! I had tried this climb some 3 years ago and its final, steep overhang felt so impossible!

Having fun on Pig's Ear:

Relaxed, and happy after such an amazing day, we started gathering our things before deciding whether to go home or do a little bit of light bouldering. We then passed again in front of Ly'in slab where a couple of guys where trying it unsuccessfully. When they were done and retrieved their ropes, I got onto it and tried the first couple of moves. Ummhh, it looked doable after all. James was getting exited and enticed me to put the rope up. He tried first, reaching for the first horizontal set of finger holes, and pulling real hard on them before stretching and reaching the second set, which is miserably smaller. James spent a good 5 min there trying to work out what to do next until he finally decided to traverse to the arete and finish up an easier route "this is too impossible man". I went up it, exited about how a 6b slab should feel. I managed to arrived at the second set of finger holes awkwardly, and started playing with them, trying to visualize a way to move forward up. I found a small mono for my left index finger, big enough for the first phalanx of my finger to go in. Gathering strength from where I didn't have it, I pulled hard on the mono, move my feet as high as possible, whole body under tension, and reached high up with my right hand to a miserably side pull sloper. Impossible. Went down the climb, taped my fingers to prevent injuring the pulleys and went up again. I repeated the same hard pull on the mono, but this time paid more attention to my footwork and reached further high up with my right hand to the upper ledge ..., I actually managed to touch the lip of the ledge before all my strength abandoned me and my body detached itself from the slab. Impossible is nothing, this is doable! "James I know you can do this!" He got really exited, so we swapped rope and belay and he went up it quickly. He performed his own version of the moves I had worked out and he actually managed to reach the upper ledge! Unbelievable, he had simply tackled the 6b crux of the climb! Despite James's phlegmatic character, I could see happiness pouring all over his face.

6b Glory:

I certainly wasn't going to give up that easily so I had another couple of goes. These later attempts where not as good as the first ones (argghhhh!). I went down the climb feeling a bit disappointed, but hey, a first 6a and 6b the same day? Not even in my wildest dreams! No worries, I'm sure next time I'll do this climb easily ...
Well done James!

So close ...

Monday, April 11, 2005

Cracks and Flakes!

For years I have heard my French friend Pascal talk about a hard climb called the 'flex' down at Harrison's Rocks. He would mention this climb again and again, and how he would try it every New Year's Day, sometimes successfully, sometimes failing miserably. I was intrigued by this climb's name. I would try to imaging its crux sequence involving some 'flexy' moves. Last summer Pascal showed me the climb, and after checking the guide book I realised that it is called 'The Flakes' (6a), and the climb itself involves a rightwards traverse using a series of flakes and a very hard move pulling over an overhang to gain the top. Last Saturday I went with my climbing mates James and Geraldine to Harrison's and had a go at it. None of us could handle the crux moves but nonetheless were satisfied by our performance. I reckon that a couple of weekends more and we will be able to handle it!

Yours truly hanging onto the Flakes:

Jame's Stupid effort:

Another crazy climb we tried was 'Stupid Effort' (5b), to be tackled with one of the most wicked sequence of moves I have seen in a climb at this grade. The above pic shows James sending the crux slab, involving a mantle shelf for the left arm, a tiny sloper for the right hand and an awkward stretch for the left leg!

Geraldine getting 'high' up onto Stupid Effort:

Other highlights of the day included the savage 'Slimfinger' (5c), and the squeazy peasy 'Long Crack' (4b), the latter one a true classic, where inproper offwidth technique can take more than one experience climber into an unexpected struggle.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Sandstone tour

Our climbing leader, James Davies, is in talks to become editor of the www.southernsandstone.co.uk website, so this weekend we decided to go for a sandstone tour and try some hard climbs at Bowles Rocks, Eridge Green and Bulls Hollow, check the conditions and take some pictures!

Bowles Rocks: The Banana 6a

Our first stop was at Bowles, where we all tried the famous Banana climb! This route was previously graded 5c, but the tree that was at the top was removed, and the exit is now much harder, and the climb is now considered 6a. The banana was too much for us that day, with the last moves proving elusive. James did his hip trying the moves at the top so he sadly had to stop climbing for the rest of the day ... However he enjoyed the nice weather getting high and taking some terrific pictures!

Eridge Green

Our next stop was at Eridge Green, where the car park boulders offer plenty of high graded climbs to waste anyone! Patrik had a particularly nice session here, sending Too Short (5c), Trainer Drainer (5c) and Equilibrium Wall (5a) among others.

Bulls Hollow

Our last stop was Bulls Hollow, where last year's restoration project has considerably improved the rock conditions. It is still wet, muddy, greasy and slippery, but hopefully after a long hot summer spell we might finally see these rocks dry! Patrik and I were too knackered to succed in Pseudonym (5c) so we settled for a disappointingly easy 4c next to it.