Back To It

So, originally we were supposed to be heading back on the Sunday but Simon was needed at a conference and so, after five days of fantastic ascents in beautiful conditions, we packed up and headed off on the second Sunday morning. A few goodbyes to some new good friends and we were heading North, at a snail’s pace but with a phenomenal mile-per-gallon for a Land Rover, for almost the entire length of Germany. Stops were infrequent, debates were vociferous and eventually, we rocked up at Simon’s house in Bonn.

It had been, as mentioned in my previous post, the best trip of my life and the best birthday i’ve ever had. At half past nine every morning, the sun would crest over the adjacent mountain and roast the tent forcing us out of bed. It turned out to be a blessing as we would then rise, socialise and get stoked for the day ahead. Topless and tea’d up, the weather was glorious every day bar one and often we would head up to the Edelweiss or head out for supplies. There was often someone on a rest day to bum around with and days that are so long that there’s no rush to get out.

And while it was hot and wonderful in the sunshine, get into the shade and the temperature plummeted to a much better level for hardcore bouldering; and that’s exactly what went down. My personal ticklist of 7s consists of a 7a flash and redpoint ascents at 7a+, 7b, 7b+ and 7c and every one is a stunning line. It’s unusual to get such a collection on a single trip and even Font, which i know very well, has never relented such as Magic Wood did. Is the venue soft? I would say so but that doesn’t mean it’s any less brilliant.

The Font portion of my trip was, admittedly, poor at best in terms of climbing but that really wasn’t the point of going and for once, i actually adjusted my activities to match the conditions. The point was to get out of town, spend some time alone, enjoy being abroad again and for that, it worked a treat. And i got a load of easier climbs done so not a complete bust.

So, after such a success and a very long drive, we pulled up at Simon’s house and within five minutes were heading out again; bound for a party down on the banks of the Rhine with some of his friends. It was a great night (including for Tess who had a whale of a time playing in the warm river) and a fitting end to our week together. Next day was spent driving through the Netherlands and a (thankfully uneventful) drive through dreaded Belgium before a twitchy time in Calais amongst immigrant unrest. Unsurprisingly reluctant to stay in the car (or worse, a tent) in the middle of rather substantial problems, i paid the extra and by evening, had turned up at my folks in Birmingham.

Another hidden bonus was my shoes. Ages ago i’d bought a pair of La Sportiva Futuras, as the leather was so amazingly soft and supple i couldn’t resist. I’d tried them a few times and found i couldn’t stick to anything in them, and had given up. At one point, i even had them up for sale but with no takers, and my trusty old Solutions at the end of their life span, i dug them out and took them with me. On the first day, Simon, in need of new shoes himself, tried my old Solutions and opted to buy them off me. This left me with the Futuras. By the end of the week, i was so sold on them, they almost became my only shoe choice (the Solutions still having pride of place with their superior heel). It’s a small plus but an important one – nearly £100 worth of important, and symbolic of how well the week went.

The downside, and it’s a slightly familiar one: a mild injury. My right knee was sore and an impromtu football match once back home did nothing to help. Some rest was needed so the idea of heading straight out on the Welsh rock would have to wait. Instead, it was back on the training wall. After a couple of sessions dangling by my fingertips and pulling up on my arms, i tried sticking my shoes on and it felt pretty good.

Meanwhile, my friend Karen had entered the British Bouldering Championships in Sheffield and Saturday gone, made it through the qualifying to get into the semi-finals. Knowing what it’s like to compete at something like that completely alone, i drove over after work to support and watched the following day. Cliffhanger was great, a fantastic event and thoroughly recommended – next year you should go. Karen finished very respectfully inside the top 20 and we decided that Stanage wins over watching the finals.

The obvious crag won over and before long, we were walking into Plantation for an afternoon session. We had a blast on the Business Boulder and ticked off a  few V4s before heading up to the Green Traverse 7a. Admittedly, i’ve done it before, two different times, but the full traverse Dope On A Slope 7a+ hadn’t had a look in yet. It went, very quickly and once again, i returned home, a beaming smile on my face.

The knee is holding up and i have a appointment at the doctors this afternoon. Meanwhile, it’s time to ride the wave of success from Swizzy and work on the ticklist.

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