This is part six of a series of posts all about the turning points in my climbing career. From single moves to huge time spans, these are the events that shaped me into the climber and person i am today.
I’ll be posting a new one every few days so keep an eye on the blog for the latest or, if not, they will appear in one beast of an article at the end of the series. Feel free to comment and let me know of some of your own highlights, i’d greatly enjoy hearing some of your own.
The crossover on the overhang at Lancaster Uni wall
As said before, landmarks are expected to be first climbs, first times to a place, so on and so forth. Bouldering being what it is, i wanted to include a single move in my list. The question was: which move.
In truth, once i could think of one, it was likely the winner. Not that it made things much easier! Every move i could think of came in the middle of a sequence and was, in essence, part of that sequence and not the move that mattered. In fact, after much thought, there was only really one contender and, against my better judgment, it’s an indoor one.
In 2002 i went to Uni, finally escaping the evil clutches of my bourgeois parents (or so i thought at the time; it wasn’t until years later i realised how much i relied upon and admired them both). It was freedom at last: no more “be home by 5”, no more checking up on me, as with so many students all over the world, i was now out on my own.
The downside is i had no one checking up on me and thus proceeded to waste the next three years of expensive education doing no work and failing my degree. With no one to hassle me, i was free to do as i wanted and all i wanted to do was climb.
In freshers week, i went to Fresher’s Fayre with one intention: to join the climbing club. I had also intended to join the Hiking Club but this fell by the wayside and climbing became the all-encompassing obsession right from that first week. At some point that week, i did my induction at the climbing wall on campus and signed up for unlimited use.
It was described on UKC as a “greasy sweat pit” but it became our greasy sweat pit – an old converted squash court that became a standard place to find members of LUMC, Lancaster University Mountaineering Club. I used it to train, although not training as i know it now, this was training on footwork and technique and it got quite good. As i trained more, i naturally got stronger.
By the time of my second year, i was one of the stronger ones, although still incapable of transferring this to trad but that’s another story for another day. The leisure centre who ran the wall saw a golden opportunity with a captive group of budding volunteers and got us to set new problems and clean the holds.
It didn’t last long; just long enough to leave me with the bug for route setting. Even once the allen keys were taken off us, we still set our own lines using bits of coloured tape wedged behind the holds. One day i set a peach.
By this time i was into my third year and definitely in the top three boulderers in the club. With my attitude stuck at V5, setting indoors was the only true challenge i had, in hindsight – the only way to truly push myself on a long term project.
The line ran up the large wavy overhang opposite the door from a hanging start matched on a jug. You went wrong handed for a couple of moves (deliberately) before making an the move.
A right heel hook and a left toe on a screw on led to an awkward cross over and one that thwarted me time and again. After that, you would do a dyno out left before moving straight up to a poor finish on the sloping top of the wall. The fact i can remember this ten years later is testament to how it stuck in my memory, though quite how long it took has long since left my old grey matter.
What i do remember vividly is the crux. The crux wasn’t a move, it was far more subtle than that. You could fairly easily reach across and grab the pocketed green hold but you’d need to be much stronger than me to keep hold and don’t forget, i was practicing technique and was climbing much harder than my pure strength would suggest.
The trick came in the hips: instead of leaning back on the left handhold and simply reaching over, you had to twist your hips flat against the wall, pressing hard with the left toe on the screw on. It was as subtle it comes and the first time i realised quite how delicate and precise this sport is. From them on, when the going gets tough, it’s the smallest details that make the biggest differences.