Monday, April 11, 2011

Team Slovenia - Day 10

With Jakob going on the Saturday night Team Slovenia wasn't really a team any more but following the CWIF after-party arrangements had been made to bring the team back up to full strength. To replace Jakob in came Klemen Becan and honorary Slovenian (for two days) Nalle Hukkataival - Team Slovenia hadn't just been brought back up to strength - it had got a whole lot stronger with three climbers who had done at least Font 8a on board now! Thankfully yours truly was aboard and somewhat hungover to boot to keep things in the realms of respectability for a while at least.

Once Team Slovenia had been fuelled with Red Bull and the like it was off to Stanage for another day of crushing - first up was that perennial favourite Deliverance which was quickly dispatched by all concerned.

Nalle Hukkataival - Deliverance

While we were there we were joined there by Ned Feehally, Nick from Outcrop Films and a few others just to add a bit more crush to the team and the send train on Deliverance continued. As is usual there was a fair bit of banter going round and eventually the (possibly mythological) story of the basketball player sending Deliverance came up. This naturally descended into a plan of sorts and a runway of mats was set up and off they went. One by one the problem went down until there was just one guy (whose name I forget) left. Again and again he tried but kept falling short so to help him up the problem an Oreo biscuit was placed on top to that extra bit of motivation.

Unknown - Deliverance runway
© Klemen Becan

It worked.

Unknown - Deliverance runway II
© Klemen Becan

From there it was over to Brass Monkeys - Jernej proved that winning the CWIF hadn't been too much of a strain by doing the honours yet again with the usual flash of the problem. Nalle and Klemen both gave it a good go but ultimately got shut down on that so it was off to try Help the Young SS instead.

It has to be said that trying Help the Young SS probably wasn't the best idea of the day as it was catching the sun on one side on what was already proving to be a warm day and while the standing start may have been done by one or two of the team the SS eluded everyone and after a while of futility it was sacked off for other things instead.

For Jernej that involved a very quick introduction to trad climbing. He had been wanting to get on Unfamiliar (E7 6c) but thought it best to try a couple of routes first and so we sat at the bottom of Millsom's Minion (E1 5b) while I explained as best I could what everything was and how to use it. Suitably (or not as the case may be) educated in the intricacies of placing random pieces of metal he shot off up the route and made it look easy whereas I (who had actually seconded this route cleanly years ago) failed to get past the crux in a display of such ineptitude that words fail me. It also means that there is clearly a lot of work to do with getting back into some sort of non-bouldering mental state if I am to get back on a bit of string again this year.

We then went and had a look at The Unfamiliar (well Jernej did) but a lack of a static rope and also something meaningful to attach it to on top of the route without a load of frigging about meant that setting up a top rope wasn't going to be easy. After a bit of thinking about it we decided that it really wasn't that much of an option and added it to the ever growing list of things to do next time and went to see what the rest of the squad were up to.

Walking down the crag we found them below Ulysses where a huge pile of mats had been placed so that it became a problem of highball (yeah right) proportions. I took the sensible approach and got out the camera instead - a far better proposition I thought. 

 Ned - Ulysses

As far as I can remember Klemen sent it, Ned sent it and Jernej flashed it with his usual calm style and weird flat foot smearing style.

Once that had been done by the majority then attention was turned to White Wand instead and the send train got rolling with a vengence - Ned flashed it followed by Jernej followed by Klemen.followed by at least one other who decided that he was going to do the whole route which led to some very tense minutes for the onlookers (and I guess him as well) high up while he figured out the rest of the route.

Klemen - White Wand
Unknown - White Wand

Finally it was time for the team to get on Careless Torque - Ron Fawcett's classic line on the Not to Be Taken Away block. Ned got it sent again, Nalle and Jernej both got sent packing by it and Klemen...

Careless Torque Trailer from Outcrop Films on Vimeo.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Team Slovenia - Day 8 & 9 - CWIF

I had a day of doing other things for the qualifying round of the CWIF but in a nutshell Jernej thought he had done enough to qualify. Jakob knew he hadn't as he didn't do all the problems but as he was leaving in the early hours of Sunday morning anyway whether Jakob did qualify or not wasn't that important.

Before he went though I introduced both of them to the finest pub that is within 10 minutes of my house - The Sheaf - which they were both very impressed with. Whether it was the quality of the barmaids, the beer or just the fact that it an awesome pub that impressed them so I couldn't quite figure out. Me I was impressed by all three elements naturally.

Sunday dawned and having checked the qualifying results I drove Jernej to the Climbingworks so that he had plenty of time to get warmed up prior to isolation. On the way down we had the stereo cranked up loud (with extra servings of Sub and Bass) to the sounds of Tuomas Rantanen to provide some extra SYKE before heading back and dropping the van off back at the house ready to walk down later. Simple reason for this was that Graeme A had promised me a couple of beers for going to the trouble of putting up Team Slovenia and I was going to cash in on that for sure - not for the trouble that Team Slovenia had caused me (which was none) but because the only thing better than a beer is a free beer!

The semis seemed to be going OK but Jernej really struggled on Problem Three - a very technical balancy affair to say the least but he made the bonus hold on his last go but got timed out before topping the problem out by 1-2 seconds which meant that he had finished sixth. He was gutted to say the least as if he had done problem number three in the time then he would have been through for sure. I commiserated with him and then he went off before coming back within five minutes to tell me that he had made the final after all as the top six go through to the final in the CWIF and not the top five as is usual on the World Cup comps. From the depths of despair to the heights of ecstasy would be a good way of describing how he felt and he said that he was going to win it now that he was in the final.

The final was a stellar line-up to say the least featuring Dave Barrans, Tyler Landman, Ned Feehally, Nigel Callendar, Stewart Watson and of course Jernej. Since he had qualified sixth then he was first up on Problem One which he duly made look easy by flashing it. I put it down as an "easy" warm-up to get the crowd going a bit but at the rest of the field came through and none of them could touch it then I started to get the feeling that Jernej's confidence after the semis was not misplaced but that this could really be on. Problem Two saw four of the finalists top it out (Jernej got it second go) to close the field up a bit but Problem Number Three was a real tester. Again Jernej was up first and his sequence looked completely wrong to me but it was subsequently proven to be correct when the other competitors used a similar method and Dave Barrans topped it out. Lastly it was on to Problem Number Four and all Jernej had to do to take the CWIF was to top it out. I was pretty damn SYKED by this stage and after having a look at it from the sidelines I turned to one of the guys I knew and said that it was in the bag as it was so similar to a problem that he had put up in Slovenia.

Did he do it? Of course he did - he fucking destroyed it!

We partied hard after that I can tell you!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Team Slovenia - Day 7

The weather around Sheffield was looking a bit patchy and so I took a gamble on Robin Hoods Stride\Cratcliffe being in nick and following an unplanned detour after missing a junction we arrived at a dry but rather breezy crag. With large amounts of skin having been lost to Bentley's the day before and only one day till the CWIF qualifications Jernej took a day off from climbing and the grit sighed a huge relief. Therefore the duty of continuing Team Slovenia's assault on the grit fell to Jakob instead though Bentley's hadn't left him in much better condition in the skin front to be honest but it was his last day and skin would grow again. Game on!

Warmed up at RHS on Angle Arête but watching me on this one would have thought that I had never been climbing before, let alone done the problem more than once but after four or five rubbish attempts I got it sent. Things improved with The Spine (the opposing arête) getting done first go but the harder variation - Spine Left Hand - seemed absolutely desperate and while I could get established on the start from there it wasn't happening. The various twinges from my left shoulder meant that it wasn't too happy about things either so I decided to go for the tactical retreat and try something else.

Walking a bit further round RHS I decided to have a go at another of my projects, Sweet Arête which proved to be anything but really. I am going to have to rethink the tactics on this one and see if I can get a sneaky heel in for the left foot as the move off the ground to the higher "hold" on the arête is proving way too low percentage at the minute. As it is most times I slap up with the left hand and while I can hold it there occasionally there also seems to be a microscopic pebble that while stood on the ground is as good as invisible. When trying the problem though the pebble magically grows and I hit it with the tip of my middle finger nine times out of ten which bloody hurts when you are trying to stick the move - yet another reason to rethink the sequence I think. Team Slovenia then had a go at Sweet Thing and got completely shut down on it until a quick perusal of the guide book gave up the information that it had not been climbed since a hold was lost in way of explanation of why it was so hard.

With that we decided to stomp over the hill to Cratcliffe instead as I wanted to have a look at yet another project that I have been trying on and off for what is probably years - Egg Arête. I probably should have given up on arêtes by this stage as I had taken a bit of a battering on them during the afternoon but regardless I threw myself at the latest contender in a great show of effort and a distinct lack of skill. This approach ultimately ended up with yet another ignominious defeat to my name but as a reward of sorts I was left with a severely bruised left palm to go with the hole in my finger, something I was so happy that I threw a climbing shoe at the boulder in a fit of pique. Not my greatest moment maybe but I felt better. 

Lastly it was the short walk over to T-Crack for Jakob - he really should have done it first go but he had every one of his tips taped up by this stage and when he got to the sloper over the roof he couldn't get enugh purchase to hold the move and so dropped off. While sat at the bottom of the problem removing the finger tape he looked at me and said "This is for Cratcliffe" and once he had removed it all he blitzd the problem with what seemed to be very little effort and a great deal of style before repeating it again for the camera. 

T Crack


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Team Slovenia - Day 6

Day 6 dawned a bit grey and overcast but by the afternoon Sheffield was clear and sunny so it was off to Stanage. We arrived sometime after 1PM and headed up to the Not To Be Taken Away block to warm up - Jernej quickly doing NTBTA again while I headed off to try a few of the easier problems on the slabs to get into the groove. After a bit of sitting about in the sun I pulled on my shoes and did Back Cover on The Nameless Block again just in time to see Jernej topping out Big Air  (E6 6b). He had committed to the jump across a couple of times on the Tuesday (the crux according to the BMC guide) and had obviously decided that leaping back again wasn't providing enough of a challenge any more. No mats or anything so it was definitely done "trad" style and as far as I am concerned onsight as well.

I congratulated him on that and did Shady Slab (with and without the starting block) before moving rightwards onto The Mental Block to try the problems there - again nice slab problems but that little bit harder and that little bit higher as well. I blew the start on the flash of Scoops Groove but got it second go and following some tenuous padding I got to the top feeling somewhat relieved and just in time to see Jernej halfway through an onsight solo of The Don (E4 5c). I spent the next few minutes enduring that strange sense of fear you get when watching someone on something a bit necky until he got to the top of the main arête when I went back to enjoying the sun instead. With the main part of the climbing over I provided a few instructions on where to go from there and when he returned I asked him what he thought of it to which his reply was something along the lines of "Didn't like it much as I had to mantle!" Nothing about it being hard, scary or the like, just that it had a mantle in it and from there conversation drifted onto Ulysses (E6 6b) which he was sorely tempted by but ultimately refused as it was only two days before the CWIF.

I wobbled up Scoops Slab which again featured some scary padding moves but kept at it as the guide said it gets easier as you gain height which is probably true but it didn't feel that way at the time and topped that out to Jakob having just sent his first confirmed Font 7c+ (Brad Pit no less). To say that he was pleased would have been an understatement - he was seriously made up by the fact and for good reason as it is a world class problem and not a bad one to move up the grade on either. He had been trying it on the Tuesday when conditions hadn't been as good and not had much success but with better conditions on the Thursday it went down first go!

Just to put this into some form of context I had just witnessed Big Air and The Don being soloed and Brad Pit being sent and we had only been at the crag for probably 90 minutes! It usually takes me that long to pull my shoes on...

Once things had calmed down a bit Team Slovenia then decided to get back on The Storm as it was out of the sun. Jernej was managing his skin so sacked it off early but Jakob was looking really good on it though quite how you can get this close to the final hold without doing the problem is beyond my ability to answer.

The Storm

Perhaps the crag had decided to fight back as The Storm remained an elusive tick for Team Slovenia on that day as well and after it was off to The Pebble so that Jakob could have another look at Deliverance and Jernej could have a second attempt at the Joker.

The Joker quickly got sacked as it was in the sun and the holds were not working so it was down the hill to Deliverance. Jernej did it again with probably the highest foot placement I have ever seen used to do this and then it was up to Jakob. After a few attempts including one too short, one too high, one where he let go of the finishing hold in shock and with the added bonus of trashing the toe of his shoe on one of the pebbles it joined the list of problems dispatched. No such luck on my personal nemesis - Pebble Arête - I bailed after one half hearted attempt as I was just wasn't feeling the love for it. There were just too many people about and the last thing I needed while trying to climb it was a random collection of fuckwits masquerading as spotters with an accompaniment of blooring on about the science of placing mats and the like.

To get away from the above I went and had a play on Green Traverse and felt pretty strong on the opening moves but while I was trying to work out the crux the random collection of fuckwits masquerading as spotters returned to haunt me again (much to my great joy) so I went off and had a look at what Team Slovenia were up to. As previously mentioned they had done Captain Hook on the Tuesday and had turned their attention to the neighbouring problem Bentley's Gonna Sort You Out. True to its name it did - there was some seriously shredded skin (Jakob was bleeding on and off in a manner that can only be described as profusely) and there was also the odd random gurn on show for those who had a camera handy.

Bentley's Gonna Sort You Out 1

Bentley's Gonna Sort You Out 2

Bentley's Gonna Sort You Out 3

Regardless of the blood letting and gurning directed at it Bentley's refused to fall to the onslaught and while they both got close it ended up another problem to come back for instead.By this time the sun was dropping below the horizon so it was back to the van and a quick drive up the road for The Buckstone Dyno. This was one of the things on Team Slovenia's list of things to do and by the time we arrived it was rapidly getting dark so Team Slovenia didn't have long to crush. They didn't need it to be honest - one quick warm up later Jernej flashed it and Jakob got it second go - something which was becoming almost normal.

In summary another impressive day of crushing from Team Slovenia but all this crushing was taking its toll - how much longer could the skin last?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Team Slovenia - Day 5

Should you ever find a couple of Slovenia crushing machines in your house the following  "rules" will keep them more than happy.
  • Feed them lots of tasty home-cooked food.
  • Let them stream Futurama off the internet to keep them entertained whenever they are not climbing.
  • Drive them about in a van with a big sound system with the bass turned right up and Techno on demand.
  • Take them to lots of different gritstone crags, point them at various things that are famous\hard and watch them crush.
Day 5 saw Team Slovenia having a rest day following their exploits at Stanage the day before and therefore it was declared that it was my day to crush (albeit at a more mortal level). Given this it was an easy decision to go to Curbar for Round 1058 of Butters vs. The Ulitimate Gritstone Experience but before that though there was time for a quick guided tour of Baslow and another look at Fatworld.

We stomped over to the Eagle Stone and upon seeing that any idea of a rest day  was put to bed for Team Slovenia. After hanging off various parts of it in the guise of warming up Jernej got on the Send Train with a quick flash of "A Fistful of Beagles" and not wanting to be outdone Jakob promptly did the same.

Having dispatched that, attention was turned to "For A Few Beagles More" which prompted a few raised eyebrows with the guide book describing it as a highball and following a quick consultation regarding possible sequences Jernej was off.  He floated (almost literally it seemed) as far as the top break on the flash attempt before dropping off as it was more than a little dirty but after a quick brush that too was added to the list of problems done with ease and Jakob then did the same in (I think) two attempts.

Me? I just stood there and wondered what the fuck had just happened - two of the hardest problems on The Eagle Stone had been done in a total of six attempts! It was a bit of a shock to say the least.

They then looked at a The Bright Concept as a final possibility but the line wasn't that clear and it looked to be suffering a bit of run off so I suggested that we go and look at the hard classic of the crag - Flatworld - instead. I was hoping it might provide a bit more opposition to Team Slovenia but Jernej gave me barely enough time to get the camera out before he flashed it with what turned out, in retrospect, to be a duff sequence - a conclusion arrived at after he had done it a couple more times to provide beta for Jakob. As it was Jakob gave it more than a few good goes but even with the beta he couldn't get it sent though that was down to sore skin more than a lack of talent.


After a flash of the rather scrittly slab to the left by yours truly we had a look at Fatworld which I still can not figure out how to do. I have pretty much ruled out the high foot method as just feels totally wrong to me so I played around with the smear up the face method.instead which doesn't feel any easier but at least it feels possible. Jernej and Jakob both did it and both said that it was never Font 6a which led onto a consultation of the BMC guidebook grading charts. Now I have always worked on the assumption that V3 was somewhere about Font 6a but the BMC put this round about 6a+\6b which goes quite a long why  to explaining why I am regularly getting shut down on problems of that grade. Moans about grade conversions aside they seem to be consistent across the board so it is just a matter of adjusting ones sights accordingly and getting on with it.

Having solved that we set off to The Ultimate Gritstone Experience and by the time we got there I was really up for the problem and was convinced that the extra SYKE from Team Sovenia would be enough to get me up it. After a couple of goes to get the sequence refreshed in my head it was back up to my usual highpoint and I was feeling really solid on the bottom section. The foot swap was going really well with no sign of cutting loose and the moves were feeling about as easy as they have ever been to me. Third or fourth go I actually had both hands over the lip and realised that I had no idea what to do so I hung in desperately trying to figure out what to do before descending back onto the mats far quicker that I had got up there. From then on it was a matter of getting back to a similar point and trying something slightly different every time in an attempt at unlocking the top section and while none of them met with success I think I have a reasonable idea of what to do now. All that is required now is the small matter of doing it come round 1059... 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Team Slovenia. Days 1-4

Sometimes you do something a bit out of the ordinary and following one such example of doing this I have had Team Slovenia (aka Jernej and Jakob) staying at chez Butters in the run up to the CWIF.

Upon their arrival around midnight on Friday, they got given the spare set of keys, the latest Stanage guidebook, a very perfunctory guided tour to the house and the sat nav with instructions on how to work it so that they could get to The 'works on the following day. That done and out of the way I promptly went to bed and left them to it as I had to be in work for 7AM the following morning for the first of four day shifts. In all honesty this didn't amount to shining example of planning ones life and I must admit that I did feel a bit guilty about it but there was no way out of it. I should also point out that I am not usually this rude to guests unless the guest in question is Sloper in which case such behaviour is not only acceptable but positively encouraged.

I returned the following night and Team Slovenia had found the 'works and by all accounts had crushed  and, more importantly, had managed to procure a lift for the following day out to the Peak which made me feel a lot better about things. They also got very excited after watching Commited and fancied a crack at The Angel's Share adding that UKB's finest Johnny Brown didn't trust his feet enough and though  I tried to explain that JB was a paragon of footwork over dinner I got the impression that it had been lost in translation somewhere down the line.

Day Two was Burbage in typically English weather conditions - rain clearing to sunshine and then a snow shower to finish off the day, a combination that the average British climber wouldn't bat an eyelid at but it was probably a bit of a shock to them. In the short spell of "decent weather" Jernej sent Blind Fig and then once the weather went back to being rubbish they had a guided tour of Stanage and then  from there onto Raven Tor to look at horrible crimps by all accounts.

Day Three was a rest day and, more importantly, dedicated to the production of Panckes of Power!

The Pancake of Power is just an ordinary pancake but filled with Chocolate Spread and Crunchy Peanut Butter resulting in something that tastes like a bit like a Snickers bar. Granted it sounds a bit random but they are actually really good and a quick calculation on the back of an imaginary fag packet shows that they produce lots of crushing power - get in your kitchen and knock a few of those beasts out before you head to the crag!

Suitably armed Team Slovenia hitched out to Stanage on Day Four and got rolling - Brad Pit, Deliverance, Captain Hook (2nd go), Green Traverse (flash) and Not To Be Taken Away all got crushed  by Jernej though The Storm held up under the onslaught due to being in the sun. Somewhere in amongst all of  that Jernej also started working The Joker and had a look at the start of Big Air going so far as jumping across before deciding that it wasn't the day for it. Not sure what Jakob did but I can say that Deliverance and Brad Pit escaped his personal onslaught for that day at least.

The following day however was Day Five and Butters was finally off shift!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Heavy gravity day

Just found this post that I wrote a couple of weeks ago but abandoned as the siren’s song of The Sheaf was too much to resist...

It had all looked so good in the morning, the overnight rain had blown through and had left sunshine and a breeze in way of trade so I decided to risk a raid to Secret Garden to have a crack at First Bulge. This had seemed a reasonable proposition on my last trip there and the wind had dried most of the problem but unfortunately not the slopey bulge above the crux holds, which was still suffering some run off. Hoping that it would dry off later I set to working the lower section from a standing start and after a bit of effort managed to figure a way get to the crux holds without feeling so stretched. As an added bonus I also figured out a way to do the crux that I am pretty sure will work. 

Having done that I sorted out what seems to be the logical line for the lower half of Sitdown Groove which, again, looks pretty doable - quite where the top half of the problem goes is anyone's guess but I will assume just to the right of First Bulge. The two lines are so close that they pretty much bleed into one another above half height but given that it looks to be easier ground above it’s probably not so important. 

Also had a play on what I think is the line for Topless Crack and managed the start and could get stood up and stable but a small and rather sharp pebble in the one of the pockets I was using stopped play after a few goes when it ate through my skin. Definitely one to go back for but I will almost certainly have to work out a different sequence in an attempt to avoid the skin mangling pocket.

A quick look at the top of First Bulge revealed that the crag wasn't going to dry sufficiently to allow success I bailed and headed off to Calver for a chip butty and then it was off to Baslow to try The Highland Circuit - something I have been meaning to do for a while. Even if I do say so myself, this seemed a very good idea, in fact I thought it was an idea with an element of brilliance about it that lasted all the way to the crag where I found out that I didn't have the guidebook in the van. Great - no guidebook meant no brilliant plan and so it was back to the familiarity of Curbar and the Trackside block instead – not such a brilliant plan it has to be said but it would have to suffice.

Did a few of the usual odds and sods to warm up and then got stuck into the ramp line problem but the move to the final hold was proving elusive to say the least. It certainly felt doable but try as I might I just couldn't seem to get in a position to get it statically which is the way it will have to be done as far as I can see. Putting this ineptitude down to the chip butty consumed earlier I decided to sack it off but got tempted to have a quick go at Strawberries before I left. It felt absolutely nails, so nails in fact that I couldn't do it. 

Damn that chip butty!