All quiet on the western Sheffield front...

4th Nov 2009

Yes I know it’s been a while, in fact quite a while- so much so that I’ve forgotten what’s happened in the interim.

Right I’ve just gone off and skim read my last blog- phew it was a long one! Sorry about that. It’s amazing how much stuff I can come out with that has absolutely nothing to do with climbing.

But that seems to have been the way of things over the last few months, for some reason climbing just isn’t happening.

Although, my friend Ali (who I met in Catalunya last winter) and I had arranged to do some tradding together and when he came home for a few weeks at the end of August was mega psyched for trad. I was mega psyched for holding his ropes so we were a good partnership. It was very strange actually because I don’t think I’ve ever felt like that before. My dream used to be a climbing partner who only wanted to second routes, I was so mad for leading and onsighting. But when Ali came over I was not psyched at all. A combo of things I think; hardly climbing over the summer, a few niggly injuries and maybe not tradding for a while. I could never understand it in the past when people used to say ‘Oh I need to do some easy days just to get my head back together’, well now I know what they mean.

My head was all over the place. We were planning on a UK trad tour but initially there was lots of rain, so we climbed in the Peak for a bit and the gem of a crag High Tor was a regular venue. But the first day turned out to be a disaster. I was seconding Debauchery and just felt weird, almost not in control of what I was doing, the whole thing felt wrong. I had a bad feeling about everything. When I had initially been waiting to ab down, I had that very strange feeling of wanting to jump off the top. I literally had just sit there holding the grass. It all sounds very odd and I’m probably sounding a bit melodramatic but suffice it to say, there was a strange wind-a-blowin.

Anyway, not far from the top of the route (approx 150ft) I fumbled clipping a quickdraw onto my harness and dropped it. I couldn’t believe it, I never drop things, it just isn’t me. But I did and I looked down and it was heading straight for Kodo. I shouted at her and just as she was getting up to move, horror of horrors, it landed on her head.

I know it sounds funny but I was mortified. What with everything she’d been through (have I mentioned her facial paralysis?) a quickdraw from 150ft in the face was not going to help. I scampered to the top and abbed back down to her with tears streaming down my face, feeling like the most stupid person in the world.

I could see that she hadn’t been knocked out, fortunately it was a DMM phantom and they are possibly the lightest quickdraws out there. But on closer inspection she had a gash on her face very close to her non-paralysed eye. The sight of blood just put me into a panic, so I rang my vets (Vets 4 Pets in Millhouses, they are amazing) and got her an appointment and we left. Kodo definitely didn’t want to stay any longer, so poor Ali’s first trad day in the UK for a year was a bit of a disappointment. Anyway, I felt a bit silly taking her to the vets but they said I’d done the right thing as she could have received some serious damage to her eyes. With very thorough tests, it turned out there was no long term damage, she was just in pain. She was given some very strong painkiller and boy did that knock her out. She started to get a bit agitated, then she completely conked out for the whole night, almost comatose.

Anyway, she survived that episode and Ali and I carried on cragging. But it meant that there was no way I was going to take her tradding with us, it’s just too dangerous. Just before I dropped the draw, Ali pulled a loose hold off and that narrowly missed Kodo- maybe a doggy suit of armour is the answer with a fleece lining for the winter!

Once the rain stopped, we went to N Wales, which was great. I absolutely love that place, especially Gogarth, there are still lots of routes I haven’t done there and I need to go back.

The weather was fairly kind to us; all in all we did 9 routes while we were there but only one that I hadn’t done before. This was ‘The Cow’ E5 6a at Yellow Wall, Gogarth. What a great tussle, it was really nice for me to do something new and I was keen to lead, so I did the crux crack, which was awesome.

Ali had a great trip too, he ticked a lot of classic E5s and was climbing really well. We went to the Cromlech the first day, somewhere I’ve been a lot but for the first time I didn’t enjoy it. I started on Left Wall, to give Ali a warm up for Right Wall and my head was all over the place. Again, it was a very strange feeling. I almost didn’t want to be there. Although I didn’t find the climbing hard, it was that whole trad weirdness thing. Quite a new feeling for me and not very nice. But by the last day when we did The Cow, my head definitely felt better. I think the lack of motivation has partly to do with the fact that I’ve climbed so many of the routes that I can do at the crags and when you’re in that situation you lose a bit of drive because there’s no focus I guess.

The next trip planned was Pembroke, my favourite place in the world. But luck wasn’t on our side…

The forecast wasn’t great (this was all in September, which everybody says was a great month after the dismal summer but we seemed to be following the rain) but Ali was on a time schedule to get back to work in Spain so we had to go for it. We had one nice afternoon, which was when we arrived so we went down The Leap, to take advantage of the good conditions. Then for the next couple of days the weather wasn’t great but even worse the road to Range East was shut by the army, so we were limited to a few venues and just to top it off the tides weren’t at their best. So the days were frustrating and not much of any note was done, which was disappointing.

We spent one day cooped up in the van by the rain, fortunately I had my mobile broadband with me and we were parked up at Mother Carey's and amazingly the broadband worked. So we whiled away the time surfing the net for weather forecasts, catching up on emails and watching ‘Sean of the dead’- it could’ve been worse.

After this phase of trad I was quite psyched to do more and tried to organise some trips back to Gogarth but they didn’t come off for one reason or another and my climbing dwindled again. I’d started to get some injuries seen to by a Chiropractor called Matt in Belper. He’d been highly recommended by Ruth my housemate, so I thought it was time to get things sorted out. My left shoulder had been causing me problems since Spain (but not really affecting my climbing) then over the following months niggles had developed in my elbow, wrist and hand. The hand was causing the most problems as it felt like that as soon as I pulled on any vaguely small holds, I was going to snap a tendon. These niggles were really starting to get to me and were holding me back. I had thought tradding would be a safe bet for these injuries but you forget that on E4’s and E5’s (even E2’s and E3’s at High Tor) you have to pull hard on some small holds. So I think this was why I wasn’t keen to lead as I didn’t want to find myself in a no going back situation being forced to pull on a crimp and a tendon going POP and me flying OFF!

These injuries are still bad as we speak. They have maybe got slightly better but I don’t feel in a position where I can consider hard training. I had anticipated that by now I would be training power to get stronger and to catch up on the lost time this summer but it’s obviously not panning out that way- kind of the story of the year really. It’s a funny old time.

For half term my family came and stayed, which was great. We had a houseful; my Mum Sue and her dog Jas, my sister and her new dog Alfie and the kids- Jake, Oli and Phoebe- Phew! What with three dogs and seven people it was manic but fun and great to all be together. My nephews got really into bouldering this summer and are getting pretty good. So we did quite a bit together which was nice. But again, I felt I was ok climbing up to a certain level and using biggish holds but as soon as there was something smaller my body said ‘No’. But we were all able to boulder together and have fun sessions. Oli (13yrs) did his first lead and we even got my sister climbing. She’s just a natural; I wish she’d do more. Jake seems to be drawn to cracks when we go out, a boy after my own heart and Phoebe just clambered up everything in her crocs, she’s a little monkey!

Kodo had a lovely time playing with the new addition, Alfie; they dragged each other round the house playing tug-o-war with a squeaky bone. But little did she know that this was her lull before yet more grimness. Her dodgy leg that has been rumbling on since the beginning of summer finally had to be dealt with. She has been on anti-inflams for a few months, which I’m not comfortable with but they did help and give her some pain relief.

Once we knew the facial paralysis was stable and wasn’t anything sinister, an operation on her leg was next on her agenda. So yesterday morning we took her to the vets to get her knee chopped about by Scott the vet. Poor thing, this op is quite a big deal as there is a 3 month rehab period. It’s going to be a long haul for all of us. Especially the first couple of weeks, as she’s not allowed any walks and has got quite a lot of drugs to take.

Scott said her cruciate ligament was in a bad way and it was amazing that she had been able to walk and get about as well as she was. Apparently, it was hanging on by a few threads and could’ve gone at any moment. So the op was the only realistic course of action and hopefully at the end of the 3 months she will be feeling a lot better and we’ll be able to go out to the crags together and on some long walks again.

We had a sleepless night with her last night, she was obviously in a lot of pain and Tim and I felt very helpless and sorry for her. We are both complete softies when it comes to Kodo and we slept down in the sitting room with her because she can’t come upstairs. She definitely needed some TLC. Worryingly she hasn’t been to the loo yet or had any water, seeing as she can’t stand on her leg, I’m not sure how she’s going to manage to wee or poo. She’s also got a massive incision on her leg with some pretty hefty stitches, I looked at a video of a cruciate dog op yesterday and no wonder she’s in pain. There’s a lot of mauling the knee around, it looks very swollen. I’ll post some pics of her wound in the gallery for anybody with a morbid interest!

Lastly (I know I’ve rambled on ridiculously again), some good news- we have a new van. The saga of the VW rumbled on with a non satisfactory outcome. I am very sad to say, that I had to sell it on ebay as a non-runner after my aborted attempt to get to France. But I got