Nothing much happened once i got back from Font for a week or so but then, suddenly, North Wales was smacked in the face by a spell of good weather. The game was on but the question was, was i fit to play? Here’s what happened:

Wednesday: The Punk 7c

After work session and i spent the entire day with indecision as to where to head. Several options screamed at me but with no partner, Nazgul’s Traverse 7c at Rhiw Goch was out – i needed that extra little bit of confidence from a spotter. I also desperately needed fuel, having pushed it a touch too far so first port of call was down to Betws y Coed.

It would’ve helped if i’d left work promptly. After fuel, i opted to head up to Roof of a Baby Buddha 7c+in the woods nearby and drove up the forest track to drop kit, before taking the car back down to be parked at the bottom by the road. Thankfully, i had the good sense to check if it was in condition before pulling all the crap out of the car: it was not. Granted, it would be climbable but with plenty of other stuff available to me, and the grade being a bit optimistic for this session, it would be a folly to get on it.

So, at 7pm, i found myself WILDLY overloaded, leaving the car at Ogwen Cottage and setting off towards The Punk 7c at Clogwyn y Tarw. I was running far later than i’d wanted, wanting to be home for around 9:30 for when Em got home. Nevertheless, it was good to get out and get a session in. And at this point, i was optimistic it would fall fairly quickly, my first session on the problem being so good.

Something was very different this time around. I don’t know if it was the conditions, being substantially warmer than back in March, or a distinct lack of form or strength but something wasn’t right. The moves to the sit start that had felt relatively easy before now felt desperate and i tried to simply repeat the stand start at 7b+. It took nearly an entire session to get close, my head not being in the game properly with my pad sliding on the rock to my right. I was, granted, making the distance and hovering over the hold but for some reason, i wasn’t gripping.

Verdict: Failure

Finally starting to get out again, and with many projects quite close, and nothing ticked off the list in a few weeks, it's time to start being a touch more selective about where I head out. It didn't quite work out that way last night. It took me an hour and a half after finishing work to finally leave the car with pads heading up here: #gribinfacet to #clogwynytarw to get back on The Punk sit start 7c. The stand had gone easy a few months ago and the extra four moves had felt fine then but not so much this time. I think being alone knocked my confidence a touch. Back again tonight methinks. #worldclasswales #northwales #snowdonia #ogwenvalley #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing_photos_of_instagram #mountains #scenery #stunning

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Thursday: Renaissance of a Small Hold 7b+

I’d managed to talk Pablo into joining me this time, even though he would not be there until later. I’d opted to return to The Punk and I also had a piece of tatt rope with me to tie my pad onto the slopey rock so in theory, my mind should be right in the game. With an extra hour in hand, i’d set myself up much better. Or so i thought.

I arrived at Clogwyn y Tarw only to find it baking hot. That was exhausting in of itself and while i wouldn’t complain, it didn’t make climbing very easy. I felt sapped and tired before i even started and for some reason, was uneasy and not completely comfortable, eagerly awaiting Pablo’s arrival.

However, possibly due to the nerves, when he arrived at the bottom of the valley, my directions were utterly abject, failing to ascertain where he’d parked and offering unhelpful waypoints like “bridge”, “waterfall” and “obvious path”. Of course, there are many of these things around the bottom of Llyn Ogwen and looking back, i couldn’t have given him less of a chance of finding me.

When i phoned him to find out what was going on, it became apparent he was ascending on the wrong side of the valley. With me again hoping to head home for roughly 9:30, heading all that way up the hillside would be fruitless. Instead, i suggested we try something else that i’d been thinking of for a while: Renaissance of a Small Hold 7b+.

It’s a fierce crimp fest, with tiny holds on a just-off-vertical wall – just my type of thing! Crucially for our circumstances, it’s right on the valley floor. Within twenty minutes, i had packed up and ran down the hill, typically overloaded although carrying slightly less this time, and met up with Pablo, us both apologising for the mix up.

My head was down by this point, after another (albeit short) session failing to repeat the stand start of The Punk. While i had harboured ambitions of flashing Renaissance, it turned out we couldn’t get off the floor and my head dropped still further. I kept trying but to be honest, it was probably more because I’d dragged poor Pablo all the way here when he could’ve easily settled for a nice little project in the Pass.

Emliy arrived on her way home from work and offered some support, even if she did complain about the midges in equal measure. I would guess that my own lack of enthusiasm probably made it obvious that at this point, i’d lost interest and wasn’t going to get very far. The irony is, though, that at this stage, i was actually making progress and possibly only a move away from a nice tick.

With fingers destroyed, skin ravaged and mind completely elsewhere, we sacked it without success and headed home.

Verdict: Fiasco

Friday: Rest

This was the first night of the week that Em and myself both had off work, and from a selfish point of view, the ideal time for a rest night. But the weather continued to be glorious – far too good to waste!

So we headed out to the beach, to Dinas Dinlle, to give Tess a nice little run around and enjoy a sun kissed wander on the sands.

It was a beautiful night and just what i needed to take my mind off my troubles. We kicked the football for the dog, Em paddled in the sea, we hugged and kissed as we wandered along the sand and watched the sun fall out past the Lleyn Peninsula.

Emily has this weird way of making me feel better simply with her presence. After a couple of frustrating nights, this was exactly what i needed.

Verdict: Just right

Saturday: Roof of a Baby Buddha 7c+

Knowing i needed a spotter to give me that tiny bit more confidence on Nazgul’s Traverse 7c at Rhiw Goch, i’d been asking around to try and find a budding volunteer. Another after work session, I’d managed to recruit Alex from work; keen to go down and have another blast at Moria 7b.

As i finished work, i dropped down to his house to check he was still up for it, around 6pm. He had a meeting to attend but was keen afterwards, as long as the meeting didn’t go on too long. Not a problem, a short session wouldn’t be a bad thing considering my skin had yet to recover at all and i did have a few things to do anyway.

At 7pm, after wandering through the bar to find he was no longer there, i was getting anxious to get going. Suddenly i bumped into him but before i could get any psyche together, he looked at me and said he was no longer that keen, after a long day out and about.

This pissed me off more than somewhat. Not only had i lost an hour completely unnecessarily, i’d now lost my intended project, as i was incapable of getting all the pads up to Rhiw Goch on my own in time, not to mention i’d just lost my spotter. It wouldn’t have been so bad if i’d gone an hour before. Now, it was pointless even heading there.

Now it’s not that i don’t have faith in humanity but i’ve had more than enough experiences like this to not think of backup plans. In this case, it was to be Roof of a Baby Buddha 7c+ in the Maes Newyddion just down the road.

Considering my recent failures, even the notion of success was wildly optimistic, especially in the time i had and the state i was in! And it wasn’t even a “if Leicester can win the Premiership” mentality that made me go. Things this hard need work, time and effort so working it now was the only way it might go later. That and i could get there quick.

What i hadn’t expected was regression from my last session. Last time i could make moves but not link them, this time i could merely hold the positions. It was suggested later in the weekend that the conditions would be awful in there but they really weren’t, it was all me.

Valiantly (in my own humble opinion, considering how shit i was) i carried on; working on the theory that any work would be good work in the long run. After an hour and a half, i was roughly where i’d been at the end of the last session again. But much more exhausted.

Verdict: Regression

Sunday: Nazgul’s Traverse 7c

After a long week, this was a full day off and with Emily working an eleven-hour day, i was in no rush. Kim’s friend Craig – a regular feature in the house at weekends these days – had asked the night before about suggestions for bouldering projects so when i came downstairs in the morning, he asked if i’d had any thoughts. After some debate and a glance at the topo, i’d talked him into Rhiw Goch…

This is the one i wanted, the one that would wind up my week nicely. I had a sequence, i had a spotter, i just had to do it! The stage was set, now i just needed to perform.

We arrived and it was even hotter than the evening at Clogwyn y Tarw. At one point, my watch read 38 degrees, sat in the sunshine, although this subsided to 33 soon after – not that anyone believes it. In the shade, though, it dropped to an amenable 18 degrees and the crag is that steep, it was never gonna get any sunshine.

We started by wandering up to the crag proper, Craig ticking off Ed’s Crack 5 and the sit start at 5+ and then moving the pad onto Steve’s Arete 6b+. Unfortunately for Craig, he placed his pad in the wrong spot, his foot pinged off the hold and he landed off the pad, twisting an ankle in a bunch of stinging nettles. (He was even commenting on it still stinging later that evening.)

Then it was my turn. I started on the warm ups Gap of Rohan 6c and suddenly realised that was the first time i’d topped out after doing a problem proper all week! Then i was on, while Craig worked hard on the Gap.

We were both agonisingly close, neither fell. I was having problems with my heel sticking on but on the one occasion it did, i merely stroked the right hand hold on the enormous cross through, not catching it right. Likewise, Craig was making the distance and stroking the last hold but not quite getting it right and in the end, fingertips almost bleeding, we were forced to make a painful retreat.

Verdict: Painfully close

Analysis

It’s obvious i’m not on form. Four days on out of five, i should have ticked at least one climb, especially from that list. If i’d just talked about five 8a climbs, granted i’d not bat an eyelid at making very little progress but this should be, and has been recently, well within my grasp.

While the obvious conclusion is i’m not strong enough – and this is something i need to work hard on in the short term – it’s not the only thing i need to think about. Several times over this time i was simply not in the right head space: stroking holds but not grasping, not really going for a move, making a move but not thinking about it properly before, during or after.

While pull ups and deadhangs are now on the agenda, something needs to change in my mind. On a comment on the photos above, i mentioned about the need to focus on less projects. Now, i just need to work no how i’m focusing.

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