Tag Archives: jerry’s problem

Happy New Year!

I cannot find exactly where i first said about it but somewhere on here, i mentioned about the 1st January being poor as a climbers New Year. It’s right in the middle of the mid-winter season and your goals and objectives should be squarely in place and on the go by then. Maybe a quick review but resolutions for the year ahead? No, not now, just keep training.

The time to set your next goals and objectives is now: the weekend the clocks change. Twice annually, it’s the right time to assess where you’re at and plan for what’s coming. So in that spirit, here goes:

2015 Assessment

Since this time last year, so much has changed it’s hard to imagine! Having just returned from a frankly poor trip to Font, the first ascents continued to come with Fluffion 6a+, OGYDd 6c+ and culminating in my crowning achievement: Prowess 7b. Around that time i’d also managed to step my game up a bit with an ascent of Bus Stop 7b+ in the Llanberis Pass. This was also quickly followed by Ultimate Retro Party 7b to keep the trend coming.

Then followed the best trip to date: Magic Wood 2015. Perfect conditions, vibrant scene and some hard ticks! Intermezzo 7c, Dinos Don’t Dyno 7b and Bosna Genial 7a flash to name a couple of highlights marked my most successful trip since Font 2014 and my Carnage tick. I came back buoyed and psyched.

And that kicked off a summer of relentless success: Fish Skin Wall 7a+, The Pinch 7a+, Original Traverse 7b on the Brenin Boulder, The Gimp 7b even a flash of Wavelength (stand start) 7b+ as now graded in the new guide. The introduction of The List this time last year inspired me to get out at every opportunity and gave me the focus and autonomy to be able to narrow it down to the best possible option, with the last hard tick of the year being Love Pie 7c.

A dry spell followed Fredrik’s visit at the end of October (while it rained relentlessly) and so i got training in the wall, competing in the Indy Aggregate once again but not wholeheartedly as i was also training in the Mill and at Work. Oddly, the host of potential venues meant i actually did a lot less than i otherwise would but that didn’t seem to matter once i finally got out again.

February came and with it dry rock and fresh enthusiasm. Save for the occasional day (to tick Popcorn Party 7a mainly after many years) i hadn’t really been out since October so when i finally could, the List took a big hit. Johnny’s Problem 7b in the Pass, the Witches Knickers 7b and Toe Dragon into Kingdom of Rain 7b all fell within the month but the best was yet to come. Nearly two years after my first 7c, and five mixed sessions, i cracked the next grade: Jerry’s Problem V10 at Sheep Pen.

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Giving it beans yesterday on #jerrysproblem at #sheeppen. Session 3 on this one and I stuck the first two hard moves fairly quickly, much to the surprise of the excellent crew surrounding me. Sadly it didn't go and despite dry #rock this morning, and a repeat to try and keep the momentum going, it again eluded me. With rain falling this afternoon and another day off not until a week Thursday, it's not looking likely to be going any time soon. Still, it's not going anywhere and the weather is starting to turn… Photo credit to @michelle.l.wardle and top marks for capturing a great move with a great shot #northwales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing_photos_of_instagram

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Until i just wrote that, i didn’t realise how long i’d been on 7c as a top achievement and now, it seems silly as i’ve already been working on my first 8a! Which brings us to the next section.

2016 Spring/Summer Goals – short term

Put simply, it’s carry on as before and try to keep ticking them off The List… although thinking about it, adding the goal of “try and stop going on about the List” may not be a bad one too!

I’d quite like to concentrate on the four that remain from the inaugural version: Shocker 7b in Beddgelert Forest, Going Down On An Elephant 7b at Elephantitus Cave, Animal Magnetism V8 high above Caseg Fraith and Roof of a Baby Buddha 7c+. The latter has been the last to receive some serious attention and it’s gone well! Just need to bear them in mind during a dry spell.

In summary:

  • Keep ticking off the List
  • …but stop talking about the List as much
  • concentrate on the oldest four.

2016 Spring/Summer Goals – season long

Obviously knowing this was coming, i’ve been pondering this and a few weeks ago, i was hoping for my first 7c+ and maybe 8a. With recent developments, this has now changed and now sits at three 8a climbs this season/year.

I’d also quite like to get a 7c abroad. With plenty of opportunities to do this lined up for this year, it should be a distinct possibility, even though it can often take multiple sessions. It’ll take some attention to pick the right one(s) but it’s certainly attainable. If it goes quick enough, maybe 7c+ is also achievable but only time will tell on this.

Finally, i’d like to keep going on the first ascents in Bryn Engan and create a proper topo for everything in the forest. The new guide is looking closer all the time and i’m really hoping that my lines will make the cut. Getting a sufficient circuit may be the key and there’s plenty of projects currently waiting to be cleaned and climbed.

Oh, one more thing. As my coaching develops, i’d like to take this to the next level and the next hurdle will be to obtain my SPA proper. Assessments for the Foundation and Development coach can’t happen until i have a “group management” style award and that’s the most sensible and obvious one to do.

  • Three 8a climbs
  • At least 7c abroad
  • More first ascents and a comprehensive topo
  • SPA assessment

2016 Autumn/Winter Goals

Now that i’ve got into training a bit more and have some substantial facilities, it’s time i actually made proper use of them. Following an end-of-season review of course, the goal would be to train my weaknesses properly, develop my strengths a bit more (something i feel people should probably do a bit more – they’re the bits you’re good at, harness that!) and put some structure in place to be able to do this. It’s something i’ve never done and something that would benefit not only me personally but would be crucial to my development as a coach.

  • Train weaknesses
  • Develop strengths
  • Create a proper training plan and stick to it!

All of these should be perfectly sensible objectives and will push me on the way to being actually quite good. I have ideas in mind for longer term but to put them in place now would be folly – this is enough to be going at for now and thinking too far into the future risks losing sight of the short term goals.

So i’ll leave you with a Best of Psyche! greeting and wishing you all…

Happy New Year!!!

Reasons to be Cheerful, One to Ten

So initially this post was going to be Ten Reasons Life is Good but when i started to write it, i found it wasn’t right. Granted, i can easily find ten things about my life that mean things are good right now but it’s not what i want to talk about; they’re things that have been around for a while and aren’t what’s made my ears hurt from smiling. No, in all truth and honesty, there are merely two reasons that there is currently a (literal) skip in my step.

In my first draft of this, i started with the weather and it is true, the weather seems to have turned and now i’m getting out regularly. But this isn’t really the cause of my recent happiness, it’s just a trigger. It’s meant that after a long nine-day stretch in work, on Thursday gone, i was finally off with fine conditions and there was only one place on my radar: Sheep Pen.

Pads packed in the Landy (another one on the aforementioned list that, granted, does make me smile every time i get in) and we were off, a relaxed start a must. Turns out the conditions were too good – sunny meant warm and after a poor warm up that did little to inspire confidence, i could feel my fingers sliding off the gaston hold. Last time i was there, i was wearing everything i had. This time, less than a fortnight later, i’m down to skin and i’m still too warm!

[It is worth noting that normally, i am not a climber known for complaints about conditions and will generally try anything any time. I’m currently planning an article on this subject for the near future]

But this does lead me into one of the reasons i am currently walking with a spring in my step: my companion for the day, for i was not alone this time. My girlfriend was with me.

I’ve always tried to avoid talking about my personal life on here, it’s not relevant or appropriate. But Emily is entirely relevant to this story, crucial in fact as she followed me up the steep gully approach, carrying a pad for me, fully ready to spend the day sat on a rock watching me repeatedly fall off the first move of Jerry’s Problem V10. Or at least, i hope she was as that’s exactly what happened!

For an outsider, bouldering like this must seem more than a little obscure, and i was struggling to think of another sport like it: you do the same movement, time and time and time again, over and over, until you finally do it right and then move onto another equally unique move. With gymnastics, for example, there is a limit to the number of said movements but not with climbing, it is infinite and no two moves are identical. But compared to something else, you repeat the same thing dozens of times to get it just right. It must seem a bit weird.

And yet, there she sat, taking photos, offering whatever help she could, consoling me and hugging me when i needed it and giving me hope when it started to wane. She was the perfect person to have there that day and i hope more than any climbing aspirations that she is there for a lot more of them. And the few words of encouragement she did offer out loud while i was on the wall were equally perfect, both in what she said and when she said it.

For as the sun dipped behind Foel Goch, the temperature dropped several degrees. I began to shiver slightly and felt the holds. No grease! Now is the time, now is when it shall fall.

It took another hour (or thereabouts, i have no idea on time scales) of repeatedly falling and i’d completed the route from one move in twice now. I lowered onto the starting hold, looked up as i have so many times i struggle to comprehend, and sprung upwards to the left gaston. I hit it and stayed on the wall, clawing my fingers around the hold to desperately try and get as much possible purchase from the hold as i could. I threw my right hand up and hit the crozzly pocket, also not perfect but enough to keep me on for a second to readjust. On previous efforts, my right foot had popped off the small hold but not this time and i lifted my left foot onto the rail my fingers had started on.

Now the right foot came to join it and the left was left to dangle. I looked up again and saw the juggy rail i was aiming for. From behind me, a voice said, with mild surprise, “Go on, Pete!” in such a way as to imply that, after so many times falling off, this might just be it, maybe. I almost imagined that Em was actually looking away during those first two moves and had suddenly turned around and realised i was still on. It was just what i needed, at just the right time and i thrusted upwards to hit the good hold.

I was still on and moved my left up to the sanctuary of the finger jug for my left hand. Just one more move and a top out now, it’s easy but i was nervous. Drop off here and i might not get back, certainly not today! As i looked for the exit jug, i thought to myself “Don’t drop it” but just at that point, the voice behind gently said “Come on,”

It gave me that added little edge of confidence. It’s an easy move, and i knew it but it was almost as if Em’s voice had released me from my nervous tension and as she said it, i flew upwards and hit the jug. I hung there for a second, savouring the moment before realising if i dropped it here, i’d never forgive myself. Come on, get on with it, get it done and with that, i threw the left heel on top of the boulder and rolled around to be safely stood atop the block.

The whooping and hollering started even before i’d finished – a normally reserved climber unable to contain his excitement. Another hard problem, a new grade! my first V10! and the perfect one in the perfect setting with the perfect companion! And there, with that, i moved into the next grade boundary. V10. 7c+. Something i never thought would happen.

Hard bouldering is a strange game, as i mention regularly but more specifically, right at the top of  you ability, i find there’s something specific. Stood on top of the boulder, cheering and whooping to my hearts content, looking down at Tess and Em, i suddenly started to question what i’d done. Did i really just do that? I had to ask her! It doesn’t feel like it just happened, such is the extent that you’re engrossed in the movement at the time. I’ve had this plenty, where it doesn’t feel real and you have no recollection of what you’ve just done. Jerry’s Problem is five moves and a top out, not exactly much to remember! But it’s gone from your mind in the immediate aftermath of success, the exhaustion and exhilaration pushing it all away to the point where you question if you’d actually floated up the wall instead. Or more likely cheated and not noticed, with a sneaky dab for example. I asked, did i really do that? The smile said it all but Em said it anyway: “Yeah! You did it!”

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Not the actual #sequence (not the sudden disappearance of the hat…) but these are the moves that I somehow managed to link together. A brutal first few moves of utter delight, a few beautiful moves where you have to keep it together and not get too excited and then pure delight. #jerrysproblem V10/7c+ First problems of each grade for me are often forgotten but I wanted this one to be perfect and it was: the crag is my favourite in #northwales, the moves flowing while making you burst with effort, the day glorious and the company (and the words of encouragement) couldn't have been better from @emks93. This one will live long in the memory and rightly so. What a day. Thanks to all those who contributed. #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram

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I came back down and we hugged and kissed, Em just as excited at my success as me. I couldn’t believe myself. Andy Marshall, my old friend and colleague, has long since accused me of not truly trying with my climbing. Perhaps he is right. But only up to now. I know the feeling when i’m giving it my all and now, the goal posts now forcibly moved by completing my annual goal in mid-March! i’ll be finding the right climb and going for it. For the greater the effort, the sweeter the reward. And right now, thirty years of effort have given me the greatest reward i ever could’ve asked for.

Almost Perfection

Much as the worm did for the Two Ronnies, the weather around here is slowly starting to turn. Sessions are becoming less rare, conditions are coming in more and more often and the psyche that disappeared during the three-month deluge has reappeared. The average grade of The List is rising rapidly again, the ticks on my 27crags page are once again coming thick and fast.

Keeping this trend going has been pretty easy this week. The standard Sunday/Monday off and a good forecast for the former left me with multiple options but with sunny weather predicted, i was pretty sure where i was headed: Sheep Pen in the Nant Ffrancon. The climb? Jerry’s Problem 7c+/V10.

Now my hardest climb to date is 7c and i have three to date: Rock Attrocity at Parisella’s Cave my first, Intermezzo in Magic Wood last summer and Love Pie at the Pieshop boulders up in the pass. Is that enough to be getting on the next grade? Well, the truth to that one is it doesn’t matter – if i found the right 8a, i’d gladly skip a grade, even at this level. It’s a big mistake i made at uni, where “my grade is V5, i don’t climb V6, so i’m going to leave them well alone”. In hindsight, it was stupid trad climbing mentality; not to say that trad climbing mentality is stupid in of itself but it’s stupid to apply it to bouldering. It’s a bit like going into a 100m sprint and trying to run it like you would a marathon.

So, fuck it, go on then: let’s get on it and see what happens. It helped when Pablo agreed to come along with his friend Cameron and i heard my old friend Tim Peck was planning on going too. Even better when i arrived, another old friend and ex-colleague Andy Marshall was there too, with Michelle Wardle. (Michelle lives with Tim on the high street, here in Llanberis, some 100m from my house. We first met on the beach in Magic Wood last summer… one of the weirdest experiences i’ve had to date!)

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Finally a #gloriousday off and a fine one for #bouldering in the mountains! Sadly, I didn't take it pictures… Not of me #climbing anyway, as I only got on two problems: the link up from Toe Dragon into Kingdom of Rain V8 and agonisingly close to Jerry's Problem at #sheeppen . The conditions were perfect, the company immense and the send of my first V10 so close I can taste it. If I wake to find it still dry, nothing could stop me heading back, first thing in the morning and topping off one of the best periods in my life. #northwales #snowdonia #northwalesbouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing_photos_of_instagram #nantffrancon #Ogwen #mountain #mountains #scenery #landmark

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So, the perfect crew conveniently mustered, we set about getting to work on the main block. Link ups between Toe Dragon and either Dog Shooter or Kingdom of Rain were attempted at V7 and V8 respectively and completed. Ding Dong’s Traverse 7c was given a bit of a bash and Cameron especially walked away with an impressive array of ticks quietly tucked under his belt; cheating slightly in that he’s strong and had never been, having more to go at than the rest of us…

Myself meanwhile did my usual trick of jumping on the V8 link up between Toe Dragon and Kingdom of Rain as a warm up. Granted, this one isn’t as bad as it sounds, as the moves have been well rehearsed and being a long traverse to begin with, with the potential to simply step off the rock at any point, it’s possible to get into it slowly. The fact that i didn’t and ticked it on the second attempt is entirely besides the point.

I’ve always been abject at warming up. I blame it on visiting crags where the easiest line is my project too many times and i’ve adapted to it nicely now and rarely feel too much need. Considering my recent coaching exploits, it’s worth pointing out i do understand the concept and was talking a few people through it last week: get the blood flowing, start easy and slowly crank the difficulty up to get your body used to the idea of working hard. As soon as you start to feel that bit of pump, step away, let yourself recover slightly, then get into your session proper. I know this from the swimming club, where you’d complete 750m of various strokes for your warm up. I know the concept. Doesn’t mean i do it.

But whatever i do normally works for me and while i wouldn’t teach my own methods, anyone who argued can look to my injury record (or lack of it). What this meant on Sunday was as soon as Toe Dragon – Kingdom 7b (my seventeenth of that grade no less) was done, i was ready to jump onto Jerry’s. Thankfully, Tim and Andy were keen for that too.

Once again, in typical fashion, they cracked on while i sat and had a smoke, absorbing beta. Turns out they’d not been on it before, whereas i’d had two previous sessions to try the difficult first move. They tried, struggled to make the distance at first but had several sterling efforts that were certainly to be proud of. I got up, put on shoes, chalked up and sat under the initial holds.

I knew it was far, knew i had to give it beans, knew this one was going to take some effort. I stretched down and thrusted my body upwards, hard. Not only did i make the distance, i hit the hold and stuck it, swinging backwards wildly and letting out the most enormous scream as the effort poured out of me. I couldn’t hold it and returned to terra firma with a thud to a cacophony of encouragement. Andy shouted over, “when did you learn how to do that?!” Truth be told, i have no idea.

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Giving it beans yesterday on #jerrysproblem at #sheeppen. Session 3 on this one and I stuck the first two hard moves fairly quickly, much to the surprise of the excellent crew surrounding me. Sadly it didn't go and despite dry #rock this morning, and a repeat to try and keep the momentum going, it again eluded me. With rain falling this afternoon and another day off not until a week Thursday, it's not looking likely to be going any time soon. Still, it's not going anywhere and the weather is starting to turn… Photo credit to @michelle.l.wardle and top marks for capturing a great move with a great shot #northwales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_pictures_of_instagram #climbing_photos_of_instagram

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You could feel the enthusiasm, Owen Hayward and his young lad coming to watch. I tried several more times and did very well, sticking the first two moves to make a new high point. Only one more move after this and it would’ve been done – a new grade achieved, a champagne moment, i’d be a V10 climber.

But the best climbs are the ones that fight back and this one tempted me, slapped me in the face and walked away. I had a break to take a walk and never really got back to that high point. Either nerves, exhaustion, a mental barrier or one of a multitude of other factors suddenly reared to mean that at five o’clock, i was forced to pack up and walk away empty handed. Granted, i couldn’t complain at the success and there was no doubting it had been a hugely successful session. Nevertheless, like a lower league football team losing the cup final, sometimes it’s not much consolation being so close and yet not quite getting the reward.

The difference is that, unlike a cup final, i can build on this, go back and get it done. Even a night’s rest could be enough and i told myself that if it hadn’t rained by the time i awoke, i was back there to get this thing done. I’d even worked out my celebration, worked out the Instagram photo i was going to post (and still am, by the way), in my mind, a new day would bring new focus and i’d hit that first hold, make the second move and i’d be one more grade up on the ladder.

This problem is a fighter though and Monday, despite the dry weather, called in the help of the weather gods to give freezing conditions and a biting wind – much like the conditions that completely derailed me at the Roaches recently. I was down to two pads, from the myriad of them the previous day and there alone, conscious of the top out and it’s slightly treacherous landing.

It just wasn’t right – i still wasn’t hitting the hold, i couldn’t stay warm and every necessary rest meant i was back to square one, freezing cold with numb digits. Eventually i reasoned that repeatedly doing the move wrong could run the risk of ingraining failure into my muscle memory so for the second time in as many days, i packed up and walked away.

And believe me, that’s hard to do. When it’s so close, knowing that just one more attempt could be the one for victory, packing everything up and leaving it behind for another day is agonising and there have been plenty of times where i’ve packed up, unpacked for a few more goes and repeated for quite a while.

But having to go back, having to go train and put effort into this makes it all the more worthwhile. The best climbs aren’t the ones that feel easily, they’re the ones you had to really want. So now, with no days off for a nine-day straight, it’s time to train and rest and get ready for that one more session. Granted, ticking my first V10 would’ve topped off one of the best weeks of my life but sometimes, waiting for the right moment makes it all the more special. Trust me.

A Gap In The Clouds

My phone blipped with a text. I looked: it was Pablo. “Man I’m heading Jerry’s roof now”

I looked out the window and it was, near as damnit, dry outside – the first chance i’ve had for weeks. Out the back of the house, the stone walls still clung to the damp but the tops of the trees were swaying slightly, meaning the rock might actually be in nick.

I looked at the fire and the teapot resting, staying warm. On the table sat my appealing-looking tea, slowly cooling. This had been my plan for the morning: drink tea, tidy up a bit, crash out for the morning doing boring normal-person jobs. To be honest, this was quite appealing – was i really gonna change plans at the last second? After all my complaining, it would’ve been pretty pathetic not to go because i had to sweep the floor and drink tea.

I looked at the clock: quarter to eleven. I’d made plans to help with a cleanup at the Mill at 1pm and i really don’t like letting people down. But two hours might be enough for a short session… And of all the people i know, these guys would surely be the most likely to understand. And it’s not as if i wouldn’t go, i just might be a bit late.

I looked at the dog and she returned that look of hope that we’d go do something slightly more interesting than sitting in the house yet again. She wanted to be out and while Jerry’s roof would involve a ground anchor and being tied up, at least she’d be out! A change of scenery, someone else to pester, just not to be stuck in here would be good enough.

Lastly, i looked in the mirror: dickhead. How could i not go?! I’ve done nothing but complain for three months of the relentless deluge of drizzle and now i had a great opportunity to get out and climb on rock! Turn this down, and i would effectively be turning down any hope of outdoor winter climbing this season. I had no choice. And i didn’t want one.

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Half an hour later and i was desperately trying to get warm under the big roadside boulder, pads everywhere, dog bothering us but happy to be outside pulling on dry rock once again. I even let out a little cheer the first time i pulled off the floor!

But that cheer was nothing compared to the whooping and hollering that was to follow! I would’ve joined Pablo on Bus Stop 7b+, and did repeat some of the moves, but i’m rarely a fan of repeating problems i’ve done before. Jerry’s Roof V9 was another option but a touch hard and i didn’t think i’d have time to have a proper blast. Instead, recently i’d seen a video clip of someone doing Johnny’s Problem V7/8 on the right hand side. It’s a problem i’d always neglected in the past (not sure why) but looked okay so i thought i’d have a blast.

I wrote an article recently about how modern technology is changing the way we climb and this was no different. After a token gesture effort to pull off the floor, i decided i wanted video-beta for my feet. It turned out to be pretty useless and some common sense would’ve gone far further (get your feet high to get power from an undercling, and if a hold is heavily polished, it’s probably the one everyone uses…) but nevertheless, at around 1 o’clock, just when i was supposed to be arriving at the mill, i pulled off the floor with feet high, got enough power into my right hand and snatched the pocket with my left. A minute later, i was cheering so loud it was embarrassing.

And just like that, it was done – only my second outdoor climb since the 30th October: Johnny’s Problem V7/8. Pablo, too, made progress on Bus Stop and we both left happy, chatting about the possibility of Albarracin next Christmas, spirits high at having thwarted the weather at last and got outside at last!

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The rest of the day went well – the Mill clean up was hugely successful and i spent the early evening with a fresh pot of tea watching James May talk about Land Rovers (amongst some other cars). It was the type of day that renews your faith in life, brings optimism to the fore.

The previous day, i’d been at a fantastic gig in Capel Curig at the Siabod Cafe and was chatting to people about the atrocious weather we’d all been suffering and while a good moan is good for the soul, i did say we had to keep the faith. Stood under that boulder on a windy afternoon, those words resonated in my mind. It’s there for the keen. I hope we all get out again soon.

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It happened. It was always going to eventually. Yesterday, I finally managed to #climb #outside on #rock! And not just that: I #ticked something new as well! This is only my second tick since 1st November as the few dry days (and I mean about three of them) just haven't fallen to me kindly. So you can imagine my joy yesterday! The climb in the photo isn't actually the one I managed yesterday. This is #busstop 7b+ that fell last year during the #summerofsends but #johnnysproblem is just to the right at V7/8. #jerrysroof traverses from the bottom left of the picture to rise and finish in the middle at the top. Here's just hoping my next session isn't another three months away… #llanberispass #northwales #northwalesbouldering #bouldering #rockclimbing #climbing #climbing_is_my_passion #climbing_photos_of_instagram #climbing_pictures_of_instagram

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The Dry Side of a Damp Coin

After a couple of posts from friends, i may have talked down the week ever so slightly. So, in the interests of optimism, here is the same review but with an upbeat approach. Every word of both posts is completely true.

 

Every other year, i get the honour and privilege of travelling to Scandinavia, to explore more of what i believe is one of the greatest areas of the world. I’d love it to be more (i’ve even considered moving there a few times) but it’s a biannual visit because in the opposing years, my good Swedish friend, Fredrik comes to visit. After a hiatus last year for his wedding (marrying another good friend, Karin at a ceremony i was honoured to attend and even gave a speech) last week was once again Fredrik’s turn.

Months of planning couldn’t really help us with the Welsh weather, as we were forced to play it by ear. Still, optimism reigned supreme as i collected both Fredrik and his brother Tobias from Bangor station late on Tuesday night – the back of the car bursting with food…

With Tobias making his maiden voyage to these shores, i was keen to offer some hearty local dishes and throughout the week, i think i succeeded quite well: pan haggerty, more bangers and mash than we could finish, bacon butties with brown sauce, fish and chips, shepherd’s pie, it was a hedonistic and gluttonous feast from day one.

And day one proper was quickly upon is. A relaxed start (with Welsh Rarebit) meant we had time to ease into the day, and the easy decision to start up at Sheep Pen. Fredrik had missed this North Walean Wonder last time round and with Tobias climbing around the 6c sort of area, it was a good choice.

I was vindicated in my decision pretty quickly: The Pinch 7a+ went quickly while my back was turned, i got a new highpoint on the tough first move of Jerry’s Problem 7c+ and Tobias sent his very first 6c+ in Toe Dragon. Traditions being the theme of the week, this ascent prompted another that my compadres had been doing for some years: a new top grade warrants a bottle of champagne. We even got a quick visit from Emily – a welcome surprise.

Day two and another relaxed start preceded a trip to Rhiw Goch. I was keen to get on Badger’s In The Mist 7c after an incomplete ascent the week before. While i didn’t get on that well, and Fredrik didn’t really get the psyche for Moria 7b (despite it’s three stars) we did get a good session on dry rock, with Tobias stealing all the headlines with quick sends of Gap of Rohan 6c and Ride the Wild Smurf stand 7a. (Thankfully, we hadn’t bought the champagne by this point, so one bottle would suffice.)

The weather had sat on the cusp of good and bad all week, raining overnight but stopping late morning, allowing us to go in search of dry rock in the mountains every day. Friday was just such a day and the strong wind was enough to counteract the overcast skies. With projects from two years ago in mind, we made the trudge up the hillside above Ynys Etws towards the Wavelength circuit.

It was another day of ticks, although mostly for Fredrik this time as he quickly flew up Utopia Left Hand 6c before a quick look at Love Pie 7c after my tick on Monday and then up the hillside to exorcise the demons surrounding King of Drunks 7a and the tricky Groove 6b that he had left previously.

Windswept and windburned, we returned home, with three days of trudging the hills and crushing problems taking it’s toll. Not to be discouraged, we checked the forecast and Saturday looked good: sunshine, not a hint of rain but a steady breeze. The plan: the so-far unvisited crag of Crafnant. While it was a way away, it would catch the breeze and would offer the chance for more V-points than we could possibly achieve.

Sadly the risk didn’t pay off, with the skies as grey as Sean Connery’s hair and the air as still as fruit juice without bubbles. Even moving around proved trecherous but not to be discouraged, we made an early decision and went back to the Cromlech boulders for a headtorch session.

It went well, with Tobias getting another V5 (a dyno Loose Canon) as well as a handful of various other bits before Fredrik’s valiant effort on Bus Stop 7b+ and my own efforts on Diesel Power 8a and Jerry’s Roof 7c, despite tendon problems in my left hand.

With their flight not until 6pm, the last day was up to the lads to decide and i was pretty chuffed when they decided to go and try and repeat some of my own problems around Bryn Engan.

With conditions lacking, we brushed with vigour to try and get the holds just dry enough and while Prowess proper didn’t go, the 6b+ stand start was a consolation and Fredrik got to try enough to admit he liked the moves – a win in my eyes. Tobias meanwhile was feeling the effects of a heavy week and had called it a day –  a good sign that his time hadn’t been wasted.

That being said, as we called time on the week and wandered around Betws before the drive to Manchester, i realised that even though things hadn’t quite gone as well as they could, it was always nice to see my friend again, and a pleasure to meet his brother. Granted the conditions hadn’t come close to the fantastic days i’d somehow managed to find over the summer; we had got out every day, getting good, worthwhile ticks in the process. Even if that wasn’t the case either, social time in good time is never wasted and now i can look forward to my next Scandinavian trip next summer to the island of Aland.

Shut Down

Shut down. After early optimism about success and my first V10, last night’s session at Sheep Pen (again) brought it all back home.

The first session back is always shit and after an enforced week off due to a friendly kickabout and a mild return of my knee injury, this was no different. Whether due to malnourishment, fatigue or just that first session failure, the session didn’t go well and while i was making the distance better than before, on that day it all went right, i was further from holding it and no closer to sending than ever.

I would probably say, after last night, that my post-Swizzy purple patch is now over and the send train is having a bit of a wait at the station. Couple that with other factors today – changeable and unpredictable weather conditions and perpetual indecision – and it’s going to take a lot to get it going again.

So i’m back in the training wall again. After a hefty warm up, i’ve set a Jerry’s Problem equivalent; different but similar enough and equally unattainable. It’s a method i’ve read about plenty before (more often written by people who find the concept laughable) and one i employed during the four-year seige on Carnage, as returning regularly was obviously impossible and to be frank, it was pissing me off. But I’ve never tried it for a local problem. In the past, i’ve just gone back to said project and kept trying, with varying success, especially on a problem that can easily be incorporated into my commute home.

With hindsight, such as trying problems like the similarly named Jerry’s Roof in the pass, simply trying over and over wasn’t good enough – especially as i was far too infrequent to actually benefit. It’s a techique i formerly faux-mocked Dave McLeod’s masterclasses with: “You go and try it, fail, go away, get stronger, some back and send”. But with a Scottish accent.

[I’d just like to point out i’ve never been to a Dave McLeod masterclass and was basing this on second hand information. Again, in hindsight, it’s probably grossly unfair and i am not advocating avoiding his sessions: he can undoubtedly do a lot better than me]

The difference now is that i can now get on the fingerboards and the campus boards. As such, i’m going to cut this short and get on with it. Psyche levels had dropped before yesterday’s session, probably contributing to my poor session, but they are slowly rising again now that i’m here.

Could This Be The New Standard?

At long last, i’ve done it: The Pinch 7a+ at Sheep Pen. It was the latest in an ever-increasing list of ascents since my return from foreign shores – a trip that seems to have got everything to click into place.

In July alone, i managed around eight or nine days with an outdoor climbing session, as well as at least six indoor training sessions. While this doesn’t sound like much, you must consider that the weather has been typical for a British summer (relentless drizzle) and i was recovering from a knee injury, meaning no climbing involving legs for two weeks.

To get a tick like The Pinch at the end of this is the icing on the cake. But what is probably more impressive is what else went down during that session.

On a glorious evening, myself and Ryan made the wandering trek up the gully to the plateau. He’d done my project before but was still keen to repeat it and so, after a quick warm up on Toe Dragon 6c, a problem that had eluded Ryan for a very long time now completed, we headed over to the Pinch Block. After being so agonisingly close last time, i wasn’t going to leave this without a fight.

Thankfully, it went fairly quickly, with a subtle change of beta on the starting hand holds. It left us plenty of evening to head into the Main Block and, at the request of my friend, we put the pads under Gnasher 7a. It’s a weird problem: a thrutch into a crozzly pocket that will rip your hands to shreds if you don’t have the precision. Rye didn’t but i did and it fell within about three attempts.

By the time i nailed it, Ryan had decided that he wasn’t interested in ripping skin from his fingers and sacked it off. Instead, in what felt like an audacious move to say the least, we shuffled the pads left and underneath Jerry’s Problem 7c+. It felt like a daft idea but looked like a great line and deserved a bit of attention.

Astoundingly, the first move was incredibly close to relenting and while the second move cannot easily be done in isolation, a similar one can and that went too. The top out doesn’t seem to offer much resistance compared to the rest of the route and suddenly, instead of itching to get back for a 7a+ it’s a 7c+ that’s grabbed my attention…

Could this be the next step up in my climbing career? With three 7c climbs behind me, as well as two 7b+ and ten at 7b, perhaps i’ve moved up the ladder a touch? A recent session at Indy would help to give this credence (where anything less than 7c that i threw myself at seemed to give in rapidly). After all, there are only so many “strong days” that you can have in a row before you have to start thinking you’ve simply become stronger.

The rest of the session convinced me. Owen Hayward, the local activist who seems to have a knack of discovering not just lines but entire crags, had been busy at work at Sheep Pen. Working hard, he’s doubled the amount of lines now there (and created topos for it too) giving a host of new things for us locals to throw ourselves at. So we went for a look.

We didn’t look at everything. In fact, we only looked at one new block, with a couple of lines, thought it looked awesome and dragged the pads over. Diggingest Dog 7a+ looked sweet so i chalked up and got on.

I’ve flashed three 7a+ climbs before and all were soft (or i somehow did them wrong). This felt solid, and after success on that first go, i couldn’t repeat it, struggling to find that initial sequence for my feet. Ryan couldn’t manage it either, strangely making me feel slightly more smug. And this was at the end of the session.

I’m still not convinced i’ve made it to the next level yet; i think a V10 is needed to convince me properly. With Jerry’s Problem fitting the bill so well, it may not be long before i can deny it any longer.