Well its been a busy month that’s for sure! It’s been lovely having Marra Jones back in Cumbria to muck about with on climbing adventures and keep me on my toes on the board. Have fun in America you git!
We did quite a bit of training in the wet February weather and only got out a few times. Dave utterly crushed working class and got super close to Monk life considering his only other session on it had been over 2 years before. I spent most of the time stealing his posh American brush.
We had a vague goal in mind which was a short working holiday to Ireland. I knew Fairhead was pretty much identical to board climbing and after last August’s visit i’d spied a bunch of gaps that i fancied a better play on. Eddie has written a lovely blog about the week here: http://www.boulderworldbelfast.com/beastly-boys-set-beastly-board-climb-beastly-problems/
All i can say is that it was bloody hilarious from start to finish, and knackering. I managed to massively over train for what became Glen Ross in my head as absence had made all the holds grow smaller and further apart in my memory banks. As a result i sketched my way up it in about 45mins. Just about managing the odd bit of footwork but mainly over gripping (the sideways rain wasn't too relaxing an environment) with a good old bit of trying really hard. It was fantastic fun and whilst the rock isn’t the most beautiful it climbs superbly from start to finish. My holiday was made on the first day basically. If anyone is reading this thinking that Fairhead sounds amazing, well it is. And it isn’t. The boulders are amazing; the landings are the worst i’ve ever seen. We started calling it the Fairhead effect where you think about trying a hard move but look down instead and jump off muttering something about the massive chasm to the left being a bit scary. It’s nothing a few back breaking hours of patio building can’t fix though and my proudest achievement of the trip is building the landing under Glen Ross as there simply wasn’t a landing there last August. I'm thinking about entering it into the UK patio awards but if Birkett got wind he'd beat everyone. Worthy stone contenders are Chapman's various patios and in the wood section we have Macleod's Bear trap prow infilling. However, i think the current wood winner by far is Mr Duffy's space machine.
Patioing is also what bloody knackered us all out. with Eddie and Dave putting a good hour or so into Spindle’s landing and myself into big Glen. The good thing is that reorganizing talus only really needs to be done once (and added to if you’re keen) and then the areas gradually become more about the bouldering and less about the potential grimness of falling down a hole in a place with no signal. The style of power crimping at the head is very refreshing compared to most of England’s sedimentary offerings and there is so much of it on offer there that i can see it becoming a bit of a mecca for pulling hard in the 7’s and 8’s. Now that the board scene in the Niron just became public i look forward to hearing about the locals translating their gains onto the rocks.
Just another fine day in Ireland, Dave sitting pretty after flashing Leftism in awesome, crush every move, style. Ricky and I still climbed after this "shower"
One place training on a board doesn’t really help you for is Font. Good job Katie and I were planning to go to Albarracin the following week then, which has more face holds and steep climbing. Except our ferry got effectively cancelled as the boat was downsized and we lost our cabin. Plan B. Looks like we are going to font after all!
The forecast looked pretty warm and we’d heard as much from recent visitors so i put in an extra pair of shorts but packed the thermals in hope of colder temps too. In the end it was a great holiday, very relaxing. Fair enough i did end up climbing a lot of things in the heat but it is so much better than rain that you can’t complain... much. It was nice to have a decent length holiday out the country and to nibble away at lots of classics in the forest that i’ve been dying to try since i started climbing. I also had time to look at and try some projects this trip which was nice as i’ve got a few new things to come back for on my next trip. Which is good as it’d be nice to put up some problems in font as a sort of busman’s holiday. As it turns out the locals reckon my accidental left version of l’arete de boissy assis is worth writing up as a separate line so it turns out that last november i accidentally put up a very nice 8B+ (8B), in a few goes, in font! Which is a nice accident from another great holiday.
Many of the problems i most enjoyed this trip weren’t the hard ones. Climbing in the manner that i did on this trip i felt like a consumer of moves rather than savouring them for days. Like scoffing a good meal i devoured classic after classic in a flurry of hairy legged squeezing and podgy bellied mantles. I’d mentally decided to drop things down a gear on this trip due to the weather and mainly due to the fact that i had so many classic high 7s to mid 8s still to try in the forest. It was great fun running around them all but i think they’d have been better enjoyed if i was a local nipping out one at a time in good weather and really getting a great feel of the problem. Such is life though and you can’t have everything.
One notable failure was getting close to Pierre Philosophale in a session and i’d love to get back there next trip and really savour that one, it is a bizarre style for font but fantastic nonetheless.
Not quite looking as stylish and gecko like as Mina in the 7+8's on Paddy.
My nemesis of the trip came in the form of Tajine, it’s funny because every other boulder i did on this holiday i did in sub 1 hour max. Tajine was the nemesis that nearly broke me. On my first session i got really close, falling off the last move on an early try after a quick dabble on the moves. The last move is hard but i was trying it a stupid way. I then worked out a much better way, at which point we got rained off! After sitting under it for an hour hoping it’d pass we gave up and walked out in the dry as the rain stopped as we left. My next day on it i had unbelievably glassy skin which couldn’t hold slopers at all meaning two of the RH holds on this problem became the mother of all frustrations, as i’d fire off with the slightest wrong move. Weather wise this was one of the coolest days of the trip and i think my skin had thickened to be great in the +17˚ range rather than the 10˚ mark, that and it had no texture from weeks of classic bashing, so a fine glassy polish had emerged.
(Also one thing i’ve noticed is that font has loads of RH slap cruxes on the classics anyhow and so that hand gets even more worn) So after dropping the last move another 4 times that day trying unbelievably hard to hold a sloper which normally feels fine i was a broken man and sulked round to londinium and it’s more positive holds. At which point my skin on my RH middle finger literally burst. A bizzare 3 way split like popping a tomato skin. Not good. I decided that as things couldn’t get much worse, i was going to do londinium to improve my day and make it bitter sweet. and with the help of a nice local called Thomas i managed it the next try.
It took one more visit to Tajine to finish the bugger, this time my skin was fine and once i’d calmed down from the frustrations of the latter days i managed to bosh through for my most satisfying ascent of the trip. I think everyone meets a nemesis now and again for whatever reason, sometimes parameters just come together that really make something hard to do. It was nice to battle with something in Font and even nicer that it was one of the best problems in the forest that i was battling with. I finished that day doing The Tube a black star 8A which many question compared to its peers. I think its worthy though, as the variety of the climbing packed into one problem is superb, it may not look like a londinium or partage but font is arguably more special for its moves than its soaring lines. and problems like l’aplat du gain and The Tube have some really great moves on. Saying that one line which i think has one of the best moves in font is Delire Oronique. It is simply superb. That awesome lift off move is one I wont forget in a while. Brilliant vision from Mr Lopota on that one.
In the end i was just 5 problems shy of matching the number of 8’s i’ve put up in Northumberland in my entire climbing lifetime, not bad for a 20 day holiday. However each of those in the county has been on that slow development timescale. The process of discovering each one, cleaning and linking them to become problems. This all means they will obviously, always hold fonder memories for me. In many ways it was fun to be a consumer of problems for a while and it’s something i enjoy on holiday. But i still feel like a tinkerer in my heart as it’s what i find really satisfying. I’m someone who likes to work the pull-ons in places which i know well. Small fish, tough pond suits me just fine. To be a Bleausard doing that in Font would be my idea of nirvana. Best playground in the world, except for the view.