thinking hard and climbing less hard
i’ve just been to Scotland and ticked off a really nice problem that i’d found whilst boulder hunting. My mind has mainly been on a prow in northumberland though after a close call last week.
On Thursday morning whilst at work I listened to a podcast Interview with Ben Moon where he said some really interesting points, and also some pretty blanket statements that i didn’t expect from a man in his position. Here’s some quotes from Ben, which out of context probably look worse than they really are as he was fairly positive about the UK on the whole. But they still struck me as odd and i couldn’t shake them.
“i think theres still a good tradition of training in the uk but we’re not really producing climbers out on rock.”
“we’re not producing world class climbers at the moment”
“its an interesting question why at the moment british climbing isn’t producing “Björn: Ben Moon” the best climbers in the world” “we haven’t been for quite a few years”
Edit: Ben Got the point, and qualified that his comments were just about uk male sport climbers.
regardless these words rang through my head whilst i walked into my project on Thursday afternoon, and nevertheless helped spur me up it.
I hit the board again for two weeks and made sure i had two rest days before trying it, i then started getting close again after mentally restoring myself to home game rather than away game. Regardless of whatever reasons why, that just seems to be the way it is in the UK for myself, maybe i was just tired off my holidays, who knows.
Picture by Steve Blake, Steve's put up a 3 star classic 7A+ at this crag and he was putting up lines like hitchhikers in the 70's, not a bad innings!
After dropping my prow on the last move to a half pad mono in the arete last session 3 times i was quietly confident i could get it done on thursday if things swang in my favour, I’d had 2 rest days and i had the added bonus of motivational umbrage bestowed upon me from Ben’s words. To top it all i found a slightly better foot position on the upper section that made it a few percent easier, so i ended up doing the stand up first try and the sitter first try that day after a big rest. Star Power represents a nice break away from the traditional crimpyness and power climbing that much of our 8B and 8B+s in England adhere to, whilst it is still reasonably fingery it is more of a compression and long power test piece being 13 hard hand and tricky foot moves, it hasn’t got any 8A moves on which is why i’m reluctant to properly guestimate it in the 8B+ grade as i think those should have 8A single moves but it does have loads of moves almost that hard and it ends with a 7C ish single move to a blind half pad mono, which after you’ve done an 8A+ to get there is a bit of a sod. To me it seems harder than monk life which is roughly a 7C into a 7C+ move (but sharp so go limiting) but easier than The Rail which felt like it had an 8A+ move on my sequence. I don’t think its a dead cert for 8B+ and that grade is very much tentative in the UK...
Picture courtesy of Mark Savage, a man as psyched on his photography as i am on bouldering.
On paper there are 2 climbers in the UK who have established and repeated climbs of the 8B+ grade in the UK Myself and Mike Adams, and i certainly don’t have a clue where the boundaries truly start and end. If Gaskins’s post 2003 problems are included its like throwing a flipping brick into a tumble dryer going at full speed and asking it to carry on working.
Ben pinned 6 tails on the 8A and above donkeys as his markers for where the benchmarks are. Nowadays there are over 430 and it takes some getting one’s head around as to where the tails are exactly. Of course there are mostly benefits to this process. In sport climbing its looking like hubble is more and more likely the worlds first 9A, like star wars remastered it just gets better with age whilst realising how far ahead of its time it was.
As ever i'd like to thank the really impressive development work of the true grafters like Jon Fullwood, Steve Blake, John Watson, Bob Smith, Greg Chapman, Lee Robinson etc etc People who often wont make the headliines for lack of big numbers but are often the reason why guidebooks for outdoor bouldering are more than a pamphlet about stanage plantation and almscliff. To me it’s people like that that truly add the backbone to our sport, they tend to be less about the #tbts and throwbacks and more about the crack on and get stuff done. Without Steve and Bob Star Power might never have gotten climbed.
`Many thanks go to Scarpa UK in this respect too, as they let me crack on with developing and repeating lines and they've got a great supportive attitude towards the sport.
The Thick end of the Wedge
It’s always tricky to come back from a climbing trip abroad and keep the momentum going. The excitement of being somewhere different and being able to climb on new stuff day after day can make your home climbing areas feel mundane. After some down time I was struggling to think of what I wanted to do locally, and the season was drawing to an end rendering all but the shadiest crags out of bounds.
Once again Jon Fullwood (not one for thinking inside the box) had a suggestion. Johnny Dawes’ old route Home Cooking needed a sit start. It’s a beautiful, soaring double arete that tapers to a lovely sloping finish way up high.The existing start always felt like it missed the point, pulling on just above the meat of the feature, in a juggy no man’s land above the clean cut prow below. The low start makes the most of the whole feature, squeezing through it’s blankness into the glorious highball romp of a finish.
As the seasons rumble on, the changing of the clocks brings about a short magical period (very short this year!) where the days are long but the temps stay low. It’s great to be able to hold fire and take your time, heading out in the afternoon but knowing you have hours of daylight and conditions to play with.
The sequence is great, the crux being a tricky foot move off some sloping nothings and some karate chop slapping into the original route. Great fun...
BIFF - Beastmaker International Footless Festival
For a long time here at Beastmaker we have discussed how much fun it could be to run an entirely footless climbing comp. There was a video floating around the internet a while ago of a French footless comp which looked like a load of fun and ever since seeing that we have pondered the idea from time to time. Each time we decided it was a stupid idea. Who'd want to do a footless comp, let along come and watch it?
Eventually we took the plunge and mentioned the idea to the Climbing Works. They jumped on board with more vigor than we ever expected and all of a sudden we had a date set.
The format was simple. A load of boulder problems, a pull up comp, a deadhang comp and a couple of other "problems" thrown into the mix for good measure. ALL climbed without feet. Competitors could try anything in any order with an unlimited number of attempts. The relaxed format meant the "climbers" could just get on with trying their hardest without worrying about falling off and as a result people were throwing themselves at the problems like lemmings off a cliff - impressive and daft in equal measure. The crowd got to see some real treats, both in terms of "oh my god he's defying gravity" and "look at that plonker opening and downing a can of Stellar mid problem" not to mention "there's Mallory in full 1950's Everest gear, check out his finger strength!".
The turn out for the competition blew us away. About 50 competitors and 200 spectators piled in to the wall to watch some ridiculous feats of strength, laugh at some ridiculous outfits and drink a ridiculous amount of beer.
All proceeds from the evening (about £800) went straight to Climbers Against Cancer. We felt like we could get away with running such a stupid event if we just fobbed it off as a charity find raiser, which on reflection worked quite well!
As the long evening drew to a close and bodies were being scraped off the floor there was still time for one more (hastily organised) event. Featuring the never-seen-before never-to-be-seen-again highball deadhang death match, the grand final was a sight to behold.
Competitors hung opposite each other, and armed with a foam noodle and failing limbs they battled it out in a last man/woman hanging contest. Fortunately no one was injured or killed, despite many near misses and one particularly worrying moment. You'll have to watch the video to see for yourselves...
Thanks to everybody that attended. Be it to watch, laugh, drink, show off, impress girls, impress boys, dress ridiculously, hang out, hang on, go on the pull (up), help out, catch up, eat pizza, look cool, make friends, shout, etc. We couldn't have done it without you.
A huge thanks also has to go to the Climbing Works - not only did they allow this event to be run (seemingly at the risk of having their lovely climbing centre closed down for good) but they really got on board to turn a stupid, whimsical idea into a functional but also totally stupid event.
We certainly had a great time and we hope that you lot did too. Anyone who couldn't make it (or missed it to sit in the pub and moan about how it isn't "real climbing") - you'll be able to watch a video of the event in the coming weeks...
See you next year? Well, we will have to see about that but we do hope so.
Results are posted below. Thanks to all those who attempted to add up their own scores - I understand that must have been rather testing in the haze of lactic acid.
Louis Parkinson 529
Nathan Phillips 494
Dave Barrans 483
Matt Cousins 481
Joe Wilson 454
Dom Wragg 444
Stu Littlefair 440
Tom Newman 427
Mike Mullins 415
Euan McFadyn 399
Sven Whittaker 395
George Carmichael 392
Ash Wolsey-Heard 379
Rupert Davies 383
Joe Heeley 373
Sorle Haywood 354
Jack Ainscough 348
Joe Swales 325
Quiche Bradbury 309
Roddy Mackenzie 292
Dave Mason 245
Billy Ridal 210
Daniel Turner 155
Jordan Hollins 152
Dan Waters 145
Toby Chan 109
Michaela Tracey 431
Jule Wurm 385
Diane Merrick 268
Gliter Guns 200
Charlie Terrance 162