Another f8a onsight and a Summer round up.

23rd Oct 2015

8a lower off Point Blank Tom s roof Once Upon Punto Caramelo Hard belay clip

It’s been a busy time over the last couple of months with quite a lot of coaching work and when it’s in Font and Kalymnos, it doesn’t get much better!
My trad plans for the summer didn’t particularly get off the ground. I had quite a few trips planned to amongst other places Berry Head and The Gower Peninsula and rain just stopped play. Maybe I was in the wrong place at the wrong time but a summer of trad it wasn’t! Even Pembroke was wet but we managed to salvage a damp week with a great last day, where Nick did Ghost Train and I head-pointed ‘Point Blank’ E8 6c (see second image left). This hadn’t been my objective but it was a cracking route and sometimes a big number is good for the ego! But I’d have still preferred to onsight some E6’s, I’m so Old Skool...

Doing a week’s coaching in Font was good on many levels but one of the best aspects for me, was just a reminder of how special Font is. Being a route climber, going to Font on a trip is pretty low down on the list of destinations but our coaching week really awakened an awareness of how good it is and just how beneficial it could be for my climbing. After all, I’m always advocating to others the benefits of working your weaknesses, well Hello, slopers and heel hooks, here we come!

Right: Ed trying hard at Bas Cuvier

I did manage a quick trip down to N Devon just before I left for Font, with The HotAches guys again. Two goals: 1. To spot Tom Randall on his crazy new roof crack boulder problem for a short film. 2. Have a play on an E9 called Once Upon A Time in The South West. Spotting Tom on his problem was awesome, he has such an eye for a great new line but also the tenacity and drive to get the thing done. Devon is a long way from Sheffield; so for him it took a lot of commitment. Not to mention the interesting (read nightmarish) logistics of lugging 14 boulder pads and a step ladder across boulder strewn beach, so he could work it safely on his own. (See third image on left).
Then top roping ‘Once Upon a ...’ was another very interesting experience. Slabs aren’t my forte if I’m honest and this wall is an uber slab (see fourth image left)! But I really enjoyed trying this route, it was the sort of slab that had holds on, you just needed pretty strong fingers to use them. And mega good footwork, the gear wasn’t awesome but it didn’t feel like death on a stick. I feel the grade is more for the difficulty than the death potential, saying that it would be pretty scary to lead...I didn’t manage to do it clean but I did do all the moves eventually and feel with a winter of training I would love to get back on it in the Spring.

Rachel Atherton speaking at the Women's Symposium 2015.

We have just had the Women’s Climbing Symposium in Sheffield, which just seems to get better each year. There were 250 participants, which seemed a lot but it didn’t feel crazily crowded. There were a lot of very interesting workshops and talks that people signed up to, I was giving 4 ‘Head’ workshops along with Hazel Findlay but I also managed to catch Catherine Destivelle and Rachel Atherton (world champion mountain-biker) doing their talks; they were both very inspiring in different ways, Catherine’s soloing was audacious and Rachel’s drive and humility was a pleasant surprise. Women do seem to deal with success differently to men, even a world champion gets nerves and pukes up before a race!

Finally, my biggest most recent chunk away was a three week stint on Kalymnos, with two weeks coaching for ‘Positive Climbing’. I had a brilliant time, with some lovely people. The first week was a mixed group and I was coaching with Gaz Parry and the second week was (for the first time) a women’s only group and I was coaching with Jude Spanken. We hadn’t worked together before, so it was great to get to know her and realise we had very similar outlooks on the coaching format. Two great groups, thanks guys for making our work so much fun!

Kei, Cath, Tasya, Sally and Lucy C heading home. Photo: Julie Mair. 

My three weeks ended well on Kaly, after onsighting quite a few f7b+/f7c’s, I got two f7c+’s too. ‘Zawinul Syndicate’ Grande Grotta, onsight and ‘Themelina extension’, Iannis. This was technically a flash as I’d seen some guys trying the extension a few days earlier. I found the f7b+ start seemed pretty tough and burly in itself and was pleased to get through that!  And on the last day I onsighted an f8a- ‘Punto Caramelo’, Grande Grotta, which I was obviously pleased with. I had actually wanted to get on ‘Aegialis’ f7c but it was too busy, so I got on PC instead. It was a classic pump fest with plenty of rests, I was having to employ all my deviousness to get up it (see fifth image left). But the worst bit came at the end, the belay was desperate to clip and I ended up having to climb past and above it just to get it clipped (see image left). I was pretty pumped at this point and would’ve been mightily annoyed to have fallen off not being able to clip a very oddly placed belay! (See sixth image left)

Gorse bushes fight dirty!

My plan now is to try and get rid of a few niggling injuries, as I want to get into some winter training, namely for my distinct lack of power and burl. It was highlighted very unceremoniously when I had a few goes on an awesome f8b at Iannis called ‘Racomelo’. I really struggled on a few key moves on a bouldery section, where you just had to pull. I didn’t really need reminding but it was another nail in the coffin for my inadequate power levels. Having onsighted quite a few f8a’s this year, it seems a bit ridiculous that redpointing an f8b should feel so much harder.

So with that, I’m off to devise my training programme and hope my decrepit body will be up to the job...

Last day psyche gives an f8a onsight.

Thanks to Julie Mair for the use of her pictures; above and images 1, 5 and 6.