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A month passes in no time

22 Jul 2011

I can’t believe it and as ever so much happens.

It’s been almost a month exactly since Ellie Rymer, who I coach, came third in the BRYCS.  She got the same position last year, but since all aspirant British Team members have to enter now, the competition was much fiercer.  If it hadn’t been for a mishap on an earlier boulder problem, which she got second go instead of first, she would have come second.  Big well done!  Proud of you Ellie.

I’ve been continuing with my traversing and Broomgrove and Rubicon are now ticked.  However the new challenge is there and back, so onwards and along...  I’m getting fitter and the improvement is noticeable week by week.  I’m aware that I’ll never experience this kind of meteoric progress again ever again, so I’m enjoying it while it happens.

Vanessa Rubicon

Vanessa enjoying the ducks at Rubicon

I’ve been down the Cornice a couple more times.  Also Nic and I had our first 2 day and one night outing without Vanessa (thank you grandparents) and we headed to Clywd limestone near Llangollen.  Dinbren was our choice given the small walk in and sheer convenience.  It was great.


Dinbren, we had the place to ourselves, I'm in the middle somewhere

So more 7a onsights are in the bag and a few 7a+s, either redpoint or flash.  It’s probably time to get on harder stuff but it’s good to get the ticks and feel success rather than failure.

Failure is something I experienced in all its glory yesterday though.  And it wasn’t good.  But I would say it’s not entirely my fault.  I need to get this all down in writing before the film says otherwise.  Wild Country are over the course of this week filming for three films: one to promote the new Helium friends, one about Pete Whittaker and Tom Randell and their fascination with wide crags and finally one called Crack School.  The latter is where I stepped in.

Yesterday at Millstone, did they want to film me cruising up Embankment Route 4 (E1), Time for Tea (E3) or the ultra classic Regent Street (E2)?  Oh no, that would actually make me look like a competent climber.  No no, the plan, from the beginning of the day was for me (following the above) to climb Right Eliminate at Curbar (E3).  Now let me get this straight, I’ve onsighted this route before.  It is a notorious offwidth but down below you can bypass the difficulties by bridging up the groove and laybacking the start of the offwidth.  But in this instance I wasn’t allowed to do any of that.  From the deck, the point was to use offwidth techniques the whole way up (to simulate the glacially polished nature of granite cracks in the US which often have no face holds whatsoever).

Jeff on Right Eliminate

Here is my American friend Jeff showing proper offwidth technique on Right Eliminate

Tom Randell (http://wideboyz.blogspot.com/), crack expert talked me through the techniques.  I was genuinely interested in learning something new.  I’ve experienced the horrors in the US and often felt frustrated by my lack of upward movement.  So I remained open minded.  Then Tom gave a demo.  I should have paid more attention to the fact that he didn’t actually make it look that easy.

Then it was my turn.  Even after I’d shouted ‘take’ for about the third time I was still interested in what I was doing wrong.  I did actually learn one technique of fist jamming against the back of my other hand.  The butterfly jam was hopeless.  And my legs proved rather ineffective.  It was all in the right hip apparently.

With these kinds of wide cracks (5-6 inches moving higher to about 9 inches) you have to shuffle your one cam up as you go.  This was not particularly fun when you’re learning new techniques.  For anyone else in this situation, do top rope.

Anyway by about half way up the climb I was utterly exhausted and fed up.  At that point I just abandoned crack school and opted for my previous technique of laybacking and using the faceholds for feet.  I no longer cared about learning anything new.  And above, well I resorted to my old techniques of shoving my arms and leg in, which actually worked alright... until my cam decided to turn inside out.  Enough was enough. 

Oh yes.  When I did it some 10 years ago I don’t even remember the route being that bad.  I thought something was different.  The chockstone, which provided a handhold, foothold and sling, was missing.  Great.

My body is now in tatters, literally.  I guess if you watch the film and you’ll probably have a laugh.  And maybe you will learn something.  The key is getting out and practicing.  That’s the bit I won’t be doing.  Sometimes it’s good to stick to your strengths.  Offwidths aren’t one of mine...