Up and Down Again

All this talk of foreign, exotic locations had got me thinking I ought to improve my sport climbing ability a little. After all, I’ve spoken to a couple of people about Thailand and their instant reaction was “for bouldering?!?!”. And I suppose they were right, to an extent. It’s not like I’d turn the whole thing into a sport climbing trip, (especially after my recent animated argument that if you’ve only got about 40 years in life to do things you like at a high level, do things you actually enjoy while you can) but it had occurred to me that I should probably be able to turn my hand a little if I was gonna go!

In truth, when in Squamish last year, I was fully prepared to have a bash at the big wall at least once. It just so happened the guys I was with weren’t keen or able, but I would have were circumstances different. And being as sport is a little different, I thought I should probably give it a bash again.

So, with Monday off in glorious sunshine, Mike and myself trundled off to the North Wales coast, and Old Colwyn. The crag of choice: Castle Inn, carefully chosen for it’s selection of bolted routes with grades you could count on one hand… When thinking of my abilities, optimism had stepped aside to realism and the knowledge that I’d only tied onto a rope once in at least a year; just adapting to being that high again would be the aim of the day!

It worked, to be fair, and the 4 I tried first seemed too easy to really bother with. Happy to move up, I tried a 5, and found myself more aware of being on lead again. There was one point where I was very aware of quite how far away my last clip was, but other than that, all was good. A 6b and 6c on second were to follow, both clean, and the day was branded a success before heading back to complete other errands.

Today, a regular customer came in and asked, as most do, if I’ve been out cragging lately. I told him of my exploits and was very quickly brought down to earth like a ground fall. “Oh, I know that place” he said, “I took my kids there the other week!” Turns out they were leading the same routes as me. They’re younger than 10 years old…

I wouldn’t mind too much, I’ve long said to people I boulder V8 and lead VDiff, but after my roped exploits, as I still had an hour or two of daylight, I headed to the Braichmelyn for a quick boulder. It wasn’t a great session: I dispatched the V1 without style, the V3 without grace and left with merely those two problems ticked in my new guide. I couldn’t help but wonder if my inability on sport had infiltrated my bouldering. Not good! thought I, this would be disastrous on a foreign trip!

Actually, that last bit is a bit of an exaggeration, but I did ponder, briefly, before just assuming I was probably a bit tired and out of shape; the Braichmelyn boulder being renowned for neeeding strong fingers. Had my mild jibbering at 40ft stayed with me when more in my comfort zone? If I did a couple of days sport in the far east, would my bouldering grade drop considerably too?

Being so remarkably different in the different disciplines still stuck in my head. Mike, my climbing partner that day and good friend, is quite the opposite – if he can physically do a move on a boulder, he can do it on a rope. It’s that whole head game again.

So, more practice? I don’t know, I’ll probably do a few more sessions and see how it goes but I think the only way is to completely separate the two: it’s either a sport day, or a boulder-day. God only knows what’ll happen if I get some Deep Water Soloing in!!!

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