8 Points Dropped

It’s a funny old crag the Cromlech boulders: it has some really excellent aspects going for it but at the same time is an utter bag of shit. It’s also undoubtedly the most popular bouldering venue in North Wales.

There are dozens of problems within a few seconds of the road, some of them of exquisite quality – definite three-star classics – and while i’m not advocating missing problem like The Ramp V1, The Edge Problem V6, the Cromlech Roof Crack V6 or Jerry’s Roof V9, i do like to try and tempt people from these little blocs.

My theory is that there are boulderers out there who have climbed Rampless at V8 on the roadside boulders but are yet to even look at other classics at much lower grades (and much higher quality) such as King of Drunks V6 just a short slog up the hillside on the other side of the valley. And this despite the polish, the sharp holds and the incessant traffic that can often be more dangerous than a fall!

This has had a significant effect on the erosion at the crag as well. Let’s take The Edge Problem as our example, where the handholds for the standing start are now out of reach for all but the very tall stood atop stacked pads and the sitting start means your backside can no longer reach the floor. It’s something i find myself explaining to people regularly, such as the Sunday following my Porth Ysgo success.

Brimming with enthusiasm, but lacking anyone to go with, i looked through the list and was torn between the Barrel and making the big walk up to have a maiden effort on The Lotus V10. Either which way, i figured i’d have a warm up at the Cromlech, where the problems are a touch easier, and see if i could persuade anyone there to come somewhere, well, better!

As it turns out, that’s exactly what happened. As i turned out, i saw a girl topping out The Edge and then had to explain that she’d just ticked the V6 version and had no need to try it from any lower. Nevertheless, she said, she’d been working it from lower and wanted to finish it off – and full credit to her for that.

Within a few minutes, they asked what i was up to. When i mentioned the Barrel, pointed across the valley to it and found it in the guide, they opted to come with me! Success!

While nothing went for me, it was nice to have company and was great to see my two new friends ticking problems and relishing having somewhere new and fun to play on. The day ended with a hot chocolate in Pete’s Eats, as all good climbing sessions should.

But with a slight tweak in my right bicep, i opted to rest for a week or so, with a potential competition coming up the following Friday. I’d heard about the Beacon Boulder Bash for a while but wasn’t convinced until two of the Centre Assistants from work persuaded me to go along.

So competitions can work in many different ways: aggregate competitions last for months with no time limit on completion, timed comps with 5 minutes per problem and 5 minutes in between or a good old fashioned flash contest.

Normally, the flash contest can be pretty tough: 10 points for first attempt, 7 for second go, 3 for third and 1 point for hitting the bonus hold. For this one, though, they were slightly kinder, offering 10 points for a completed problem within three tries, 5 points for any completion thereafter and 3 for getting the bonus hold in control. It meant there was much more room for error, and more encouragement to keep trying things and stay till the end… and the after party!

In store for the winner? £100 cash prize, with other monetary prizes for second and third. The downside to this? A large group of very strong North Walean climbers came out the woodwork, keen to snaffle what would equate to a couple of days wages.

So despite psyching myself up on the drive in, convincing myself that i might be able to win this, as soon as i walked in the door and saw who was there, reality hit hard and i realised the only chance of going home with any cash was to start rummaging through everyone’s bags…

Anyway, it wasn’t about winning, but it wasn’t just about taking part; i wanted to do well by my own standards, to compete against myself, so to speak. Competitions can be very different beasts to just climbing without pressure and despite my best efforts over many years, i’ve never really got it right.

This time, though, it went very well. Out of a potential 300 points, i managed 239, dropping only 8 on problems i should’ve done better on. It was good enough for twelfth and those 8 points would’ve bumped me up another two places.

I can’t really complain about that to be honest, and i won’t – it was a great event, well arranged and well attended, with good problems and a great vibe. The winners worthy, the rest content and all told, a fantastic comp, well worth considering for next year.

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