Sunday, 27 April 2014

Enter the Badger

It has been another crazy busy week, with so much stuff happening. Today is the first time in what seems like ages where I've had time to actually just sit down and chill a little.

So, to kick things off:

I took a trip to the secluded venue of Badger Cove over the Easter weekend to see what it was all about. I had actually been up there a few times before, many moons ago, with my Dad on various camping trips that we used to take together. But I wasn't able to remember much as we're talking somewhere around 15 years ago, so it was slightly surreal to be back and see the crag in a whole new light.
The cove itself sits high up on the valley side with a full on view of the impressive prehistoric Thirst House Cave. The dale feels like it has long been forgotten by the general public, who instead opt for the more well known destinations such as Chee Dale and Millers Dale. However it is a super nice setting and made a change climbing away from the hustle and bustle of the usual spots.

In recent years Badger Cove has become the home to a small collection of some of the hardest boulder problems in the Peak. This has all been down to the dedication and hard work of Dan Varian. His problems Dandelion Mind and Bewilderness, both given V14, sit side by side and climb through some incredibly steep and hard terrain on immaculate rock.
Check out the video below of Dan's quest in making the FA!

It was Dandelion that interested me the most so we met up with a friend who was currently trying the problem and he quickly walked us through all the beta. It is a very basic, short boulder. You could almost describe it as a typical 'board' style problem. The crux involves a hard deadpoint slap to a small but fairly positive side-pull before another big lunge left again to a decent sized sloper.

I pulled on for my first try and within seconds found myself on this last crux move, which blew me off and I landed back on the mats. It felt brilliant to have gotten so close though. The psyche instantly flowed through me, it certainly was not a million miles away...
Feeling pretty wasted I didn't make any further progress that day and left with a smile on my face and stoked to return ASAP! First though a couple days off was needed.

I found myself back down here after just the one rest day. I had taken Sam down to show him the layout and figured on giving the thing a quick try. Mason and James arrived not long after us and the psyche started to build. The next thing I knew I was power screaming my way through those final moves, up to the glory jugs! Again, another crazy feeling that is hard to describe other than just sheer unbelief. 
Having a bunch of mates behind me, shouting encouragement was a massive help and I do feel that was a BIG factor in me maybe trying that little bit harder and giving it that extra couple of percent on the final moves.
The next day we woke up to it hammering it down with rain. But it no longer mattered, for once I could not care less. :)

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

The Beast.

Belly of the Beast never even entered my radar as something I could ever conceive of doing. Even when I managed to climb Keen Roof a couple of weeks ago, the thought of actually being able to climb a problem that Chris Webb Parson had given V15/8C, never actually crossed my mind.

Just to clear a couple of things up here is a quick run down on the problem itself. If you hate 'waffle' look away now.

For those that don't know this line, it basically starts right back in the cave at Raven Tor and climbs the extension start of Ben's Roof before breaking out and finishing up Keen. It's a fair amount of hard climbing, and virtually feels like a route in some respects. Yes, grovelling around in the back of a dirty, dark cave definitely is not everyone's cup of tea, and I know for certainty what some people think of the idea, but it's hard! And that is the point. The challenge. You have to look past the filthy surrounds of Gollums hideout and focus on the moves, which are actually fairly cool.

One of the visiting Italians, Stefano Ghisolfi grabbed the second ascent of it last month and downgraded it to around 8B+ or V14. Stefano chose to climb the line using the two knee bars that are available along the way, hence the downgrade and which I have to admit, definitely makes a difference to the overall difficulty.
Chris Webb however chose to climb the thing without, creating a much harder all round challenge.
Personally if a knee bar can be found on a route/problem I'll use it, to me it makes no sense not to and ends up causing the problem to become an eliminate.
Regardless of this, massive and utmost respect to Chris for preserving with it last year, when he had to deal with some pretty wet conditions to get it done. At the end of the day it is your own choice how you climb something and as long as you're happy with the style and having fun, who the hell cares.

Anyway it suddenly occurred to me after chatting with Dave Mason that it could be worth giving the thing a bash sometime. I'd done the start before, and was feeling fairly fit. So with this in mind I gave it a go. 1st try from the back I hit the lip of the roof. I was once again shocked. This is possible, this is actually going to go, I told myself. And by the feel of things, pretty dam soon!

However it didn't go that session, or the next, or the next unfortunately. I suddenly developed a mental block on the crux slap to the lip. My head would lose focus or I wouldn't place my feet right, or my fingers would numb up. It started to get super frustrating. I just wanted to get the thing done. Not for the grade, that was a bonus. But because it was such a long and hard piece of climbing.

Check out this funky short clip from JC of one of my previous attempts at the thing!

A week after first trying it, I suddenly realised I'd probably had around 4/5 sessions on the thing. There was no wonder it was starting to feel like a siege! A proper proper rest was in order. Some time to let the body fully recover and re-focus my brain on what needed to be done, so I took a couple days off.

Driving over last Thursday, the temps felt right and I was feeling well rested. We rocked up at the crag only to discover the holds were soaked. Unbelievable. The Tor can be a weird place at times.
Within an hour or two they had dried back slightly, so figured I'd give it a burn and see what happened.

It was feeling solid, I stuck the lip, screaming as I came into the match, heel went up, another power scream to latch the next hold and then another even louder than the last. It felt the hardest I have ever ever tried on a climb. One move from the finish though and it all came to an abrupt end. Every ounce of my power and strength squeezed from my body. Annoyed but buzzing at the same time, it did the world of good for my confidence. I knew it was game time.
Within 20 minutes it was in the bag on my second try of the day. Still a huge fight towards the end, but being more warmed up and with the extra confidence in myself, it made those final moves feel a little more steady. It was still probably the hardest I have ever had to fight on something.
Sitting on the mats afterward I tried to digest another big moment in my climbing. It was a nice feeling for sure.

Without a doubt I am feeling in best shape of my life right now, and I'm incredibly excited for whatever is next!