Frozen Out

You have good sessions and you have bad sessions; that’s just part of life. It’s about balance and comparison – if they were all amazing, that would just become par. What’s frustrating is if those bad sessions come when you’ve driven nearly three hours, half way across the country…

I’ve bouldered in the cold before, many times, and yes, it does help the friction on the rock slightly but i’ve also been derailed by it as well – most notably in Switzerland in November 2012! This Sunday was one of those trips. We went to the Roaches, on the request of my friend Pablo, heading over full of psyche and enthusiasm, ready to have a blast at Tetris 7c and buzzing from the short dry spell we were right in the middle of. The stage was set for one of those days that you remember for a long time.

But i hadn’t really anticipated it was going to be one of those really cold days. The thing with these days is to try and keep the psyche going and get on the rock as much as you can – get warm, stay warm. And that was my problem, i just couldn’t get going. We started on Trust 7a: a tricky mantle onto a steep-ish slab where your only option is to place your feet carefully and trust them. It didn’t appeal and while i could do the first couple of moves with ease, i just wasn’t feeling it.

I soon got straight onto Tetris but found myseld spat off unceremoniously – like an old-time tobacco chewer in a Western. And with that, my head went down. I sat down and smoked a cigarette, got up to spot, smoked another. Very occasionally i put some shoes on and had another blast but they were token gestures at best, getting colder and colder and rapidly losing psyche, struggling with the problem at best. It soon became apparent that 7c wasn’t going to go in a session (it was optimistic from the offset!) and while i knew i should get on something else, something easier, when it started to snow lightly, i knew i was done.

I did feel very bad for Pablo but to his enormous credit, he didn’t let my pathetic attitude affect his climbing. He gave Tetris a damn good go and towards the end of the day, got back on Trust and nailed it like a pro. We left shortly afterwards, my respect for my companion even greater than it was before.

It wasn’t all bad: it was very nice to be outside on rock again, irrespective of how the performance went. It was also a stunning day and a great one to drive 300 miles or so (even if we did get a flat tyre on the way home…). But most of all, it was brilliant to spend a day with a guy i originally met randomly at the cromlech roadside boulders and who has become a good friend of mine.

The following day, i headed back into that same pass, this time alone. I’d been delayed by sorting that tyre from the night before and trying to overcome the lack of psyche from Sunday, but eventually Tess and i took the long trek up the hillside above Ynys Etws towards a problem know as Lotus. In the film Stick It it was given 8a, in the guide gets V10 (or 7c+) in reality, it’s fucking brutal. It’s a traverse from low left under a roof and requires a lot of pads and with only one with me, i was restricted to trying a move or two at a time. Even then i struggled.

But it was first session and i did tick off a couple of other problems and top out on a rock climb. It didn’t matter what it was – for this week, it was enough, that was my victory. Now Thursday evening, it’s forecast to rain again tomorrow for another week and it turns out, i didn’t actually tick two established climbs. It didn’t matter.

It just goes to show that sometimes, it’s not about how hard it is, it’s not about the grade. Don’t get me wrong, ticking hard lines feels better than sailing up easy ones but sometimes, it’s just to be out tasting success. I coached another session that Monday night; my third coaching session in two weeks and i worked with that group absolutely contented with my two days of bouldering. Funny how it goes sometimes.

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