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! 

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