My best Sport Climbing season yet
Summer has gone, Autumn has past and it’s currently November. It’s raining outside and as I type this it appears that the season for Yorkshire sport climbing may be over, for now. Perhaps it’s time to dust off those bouldering pads and return to the Gritstone…or the Alps in my case. However, before I trade my quickdraws for ice screws I thought i’d take a little time, and a few words, to reflect on my best climbing season yet.
Before you start reading about my best climbing season yet I should put things into perspective. Prior to this season my absolute hardest climb to date was Austrian Oak (8b) which is considered soft for the grade by many. Other than this, I had not climbed anything near to this level.
A LATE START
Returning from a ski expedition in Kyrgyzstan it was already mid June! I had not climbed for over a month and was drained from the work of high altitude adventuring. I was pathetically weak and much of the sport climbing season had already past. I had only one project for this season but was doubtful to whether I could get back into shape and begin working the sequences again. The Groove (8a+) at Malham Cove. A classic, sustained, complex climb that draws an almost straight line 35m through the Cove.
BACK TO THE BOARDROOM
In attempt to keep my ego high, I quickly dropped the grade and began training. But all I was experiencing was failure. Even my previous warm-ups felt difficult! After a brief delay of a few weeks my body finally began to react. Descending down to Yew Cogar I managed to tick Vorsprung Durch Technik (7c+), before diverting, via the pub, to Kilnsey where I then ticked Biological Need (7c). Soon enough I had ticked off a few more routes including Dominatrix (7c) and The Bulge (8a). It was time to get back on the real projects.
CHANGING IT UP
I was making good progress on The Groove and soon began red-pointing despite being pumped out of my mind at the crux. Then the heatwave came.
Forced to find shade the entire of Yorkshire’s climbing scene appeared to hide under Kilnsey. I got on Grooved Arete (8a+) which, was basically the opposite of my project. Being less than 15m tall it felt like bouldering with a rope on. It was desperate and I could hardly do any of the moves despite being spoon-fed all the beta! However, having a brief stint on something powerful and burly seemed to do the trick. I was still getting pumped on routes but could climb on and fight a little more. Making use of a brief weather window I returned back to Malham and before I knew it I had climbed The Groove! Going on the grades it wasn’t the hardest thing I’d ever climbed, but honestly, it felt like it.
KEEP THE SEND TRAIN GOING
I felt strong and wanted to put a few routes to rest. Over the next few weeks I switched between Grooved Arete (8a+) at Kilnsey and Overnite Sensation (8a+) at Malham – something I’d had a few fleeting goes on in the past. Both routes were powerful, both were at my limit and both were close to going. After finally managing to link the start of Overnite Sensation I got to the top…but was too pumped to clip the chains! What a bloody disaster…
Returning to Kilnsey, somewhat astounded by my failure on Overnite I got back on Grooved Arete. It looked like I was having another bad day until I clawed my way to the top, fuelled purely on Kendal Mint Cake. A few days later I clipped those bloody chains on Overnite! Eager to keep the send train going I immediately set my attention to another climb I’d be on in past, Predator (8b).
I had climbed an 8b before but this one felt way beyond my ability. I remember making the joke “by the time I am fit enough to do Predator I would have already climb 9a”. It felt a million miles away but now I was on a roll and eager to see how I faired. It still felt impossible but step by step it was coming together. Setting off from the ground I made a link through the crux, which was wet in places, to the lower chains. Had it been dry that day I would have done it! Needless to say it went next session. I haven’t climbed 9a though…
SETTING A LONG TERM PROJECT
I was eager to work out the moves on something much harder for next season. A long term project. I decided to get on Unjustified 8b+ which starts up a crimpy wall before traversing into a steep crux boulder section and onto the final headwall. However at this time of the season this particular section of the Cove often gets wet, and stays wet. This didn’t bother me though! It was a long term project for next season, and possibly the season after. Something I would train for and aspire to one day climb…
It was difficult but that’s what I was looking for. However the sequences started to come together fast. After a few session I surprised myself by climbing from the traverse, through the crux boulder and up the headwall to the top! It felt like it would go soon. I just needed to climb the crimpy wall that leads into it. Apparently a harder task than you’d imagine. I had some good red-points from the ground making it through the crux boulder but burned out too quickly on the headwall. Perhaps a long term project after all!
The rain continues to fall outside and with that I have no more time before heading out to the Alps. Having had a much better season than I could have ever imagined I can leave happy, returning psyched (and hopefully a little stronger) in Spring.
Vorsprung Durch Technik 7c+, Biological Need 7c, Dominatrix 7c, Fifty for Five 7b+, The Bulge 8a, The Groove 8a+, Yosemite Wall 7a, Grooved Arête 8a+, Overnite Sensation 8a+, Predator 8b.
Thanks for stealing my camera and taking some great photos this summer Jerome, Andy, Chris, Ben!