Redpointing. It’s all about the journey. It’s only a game. It might only be a game, but are we just playing with it, or is it playing with us? If it’s only a game then it doesn’t matter who wins or loses. It’s just about the taking part.
I was thinking that, until it got close.
Then it was more than a game.
If I list the 10 most important events of my entire life, probably 4 will be redpoint ascents! This is no game!
I returned to Malham on a bad forecast carrying a deflated ambition from the last rather close call. I’d done it but I hadn’t. Would I ever have the drive to push through again, and was the window closed anyway? At least the bad forecast was bad in a different way, blazing sun, and I picked out my line through the glare, seepage lines dotting the way signalling impossibility. But closer inspection showed the power of the sun as dampness tracked back up the wall. The window cracked open again, but today the gap would be marginal, the rock hot to the touch, it would gradually cool in the shade, and then the dampness would return in the evening. When to try? I waited like a pro, and then threw myself in at a calculated moment.
Conditions surprised me, warm, but no humidity; a marked change to previous cold days. Warm fingers found new texture, previously hard and wooden, now conforming to the intricacies of the holds. Suddenly I was there, the final few moves. Concentrating 100% I took on the complex sequence and held it together. The final moves up Batroute took me by surprise, pumpy and technical I closely watched my petrol gage through a third eye; dropping fast it would hit red as I hit the finishing jug. More haste less speed. There was no margin for error.
I topped the route with nothing to spare, my physical ability dropping at exactly the same rate as the difficulty of the moves, even down to the final UK 4a mantle. Then safety. Turning back the view hit me, the beautiful Yorkshire Dales stretching out into a sun soaked spring evening. I had a bit of a moment and let it sink in. It’s only a game. But I’m glad I won
“Climbing is about the process. Take a long look at your definition of success; is it only about rattling a chain? If you can afford to let a few get away then it’s likely that your climbing will be a richer and more rounded experience.”
Did I really write this? I read it in my article in CLIMB 99 recently, so I guess I did. Final success is only part of the journey, but to be fair, it’s fairly important. On my most recent project I’m all over it, it’s within reach, I don’t want to let this one get away, and yet I feel like I’m losing my grasp..
Slowly I’ve been inching higher, and then suddenly glory came into view with a high point within a few moves of easy ground. I rested up and hit the crag good to go. But poor conditions were against me with drizzle blowing in. Twice I hit the final holds, twice I pinged off, damp with moisture! Gutted.
Rain poured and the grapevine warned of a soaking crag, but I returned anyway; my line was still dry, just! Conditions were poor but I wanted it badly. Well rested my ascent was perfect, and suddenly I was set for the final lunge. It went in a dream like fashion as only it can on that perfect final redpoint effort; I hit the hold. I’d done it. I’d already started celebrating. Just a reach to the finishing jug and it was all over. The jug was in my hand…
But it wasn’t, my fingers tickled it but something was pulling me down, pulling hard. I pulled against it, but the force wouldn’t give. Confused I looked down. My heart skipped a beat as I computed the situation; somehow the karabiner of the final quickdraw that I don’t clip on lead had buried itself within my fig 8 knot, reversing back into hard moves I couldn’t free it, and with the draw mallioned in I couldn’t uncip it. Panicking I tried to figure a quick fix but there was none to be had, and then suddenly I was sat on the quickdraw, a 100% reverse in my feelings from total euphoria to utter disappointment. Screaming my frustrations like a child I tried to calm down, suddenly embarrassed, but the disappointment surrounded me. I couldn’t shake it. How could this happen?
Next go I didn’t get so far, conditions had become humid, third go was the same. Despondent I left the crag, another two days wait looming. Time dragged. The evening before I tried to relax as I listened to the rain against the windows. Then I got the text “crag soaking, no point going up for a while”……..
Picture – Keith Sharples
It feels like the window is closing now. Yesterday at Malham it was too hot to even be there, never mind climb! Conditions got better later, but not great, and nothing like what we have been spoilt with for a few months now. I broke a foothold off my project too.
But the project has changed! The Easy Easy is too hard for now, up Raindogs, the Rainshadow crux and then the 8c+ new climbing section before the 8a of Batroute finish. I won’t do it before I run out of time, but I knew that before I even started. So I opted for a cop out project, starting up Batroute instead. It works just as well as a route in its own right, getting me high every time allowing good training on the upper project wall. Rather than about 8c+ into the new climbing which is what the Easy project throws (to where it leaves Rainshadow), its only 8b, making for a 9a/+ overall link. It’s not the gold medal I’d like, but a silver would do! Maybe a cop out, but a temporary goal with a relevant training benefit.
But anyway, even Cop Out project is running away from me. Hard work this redpointing lark
La Dura Dura (hard hard) is truly amazing. I had a look at it a while back (from the ground) while Chris was working it. There was no point doing more than looking. A taste of the future and inspiration for us all. The fact that Chris got this is really motivating, achieving what he thought was out of his depth.
I’m out of my depth on a much easier project (The Easy Easy Project). Slow progress. Progression on sport routes tends to follow a flattening curve, and in the ideal world you’ll hit on success just before the curve gets totally flat, thus pushing yourself close to the limit but not finding the route hovers just above your flat-lined performance for eternity. I’m not sure where I’m at on the Easy Easy project but progression seems to be slowing down at a rate that won’t hit my target. Sunday didn’t yield any progression at all, and Tuesday I was broken from Sunday! At least I learnt something; a single days rest is not enough! 10 days in this year now, that’s a lot, but still room for improvement, still motivation to explore further. No point trying from the floor anymore now, I’m aiming for the link from Raindogs belay to top of the crag, probably 9a+ as a link, at least 9a. If I can get that then its ON. Sometimes targets need to be slimmed down, the end goal too big and far away and depressingly hard to motivate for.
With all these training venues opening up, myself and Gaz Parry checked out a new building that is being converted into a training centre. Close to the city centre (a big city too!), and also close to an established climbing wall, this will be a major addition!!
Joe Cook Redpointing Bat Route
Zero degrees, cloudy and a biting wind didn’t inspire as we bundled into the car clad in duvets and hats, But 2 hours later it was T-shirt and shorts and glorious sunshine. Yet again Malham Cove comes up trumps. It must have been the nicest place in the UK on Thursday. Perfectly orientated to catch all of the sun and be sheltered from all of the wind being there feels like you have cheated the winter!
Joe Cook redpointed Bat Route, must have been his 4th effort of the day – now that’s tenacity for a route that long. The rest of us floundered. Starting to clock up the days on this project now, think I am into day 8 this year. But a high point, from the ground to within 9 hand moves. That’s after around 55 hand moves, and a million foot moves; probably hard 9a to that point. Nine moves sounds close to glory, but adding up to maybe font 7c+, or worse, then its not! Especially as the last few moves are desperate. But what a route. Still not committed to it yet, but as Rab said to me, what else would I be doing anyway…….
A taster of Climb magazine number 99 that I have just written, it just seemed pretty relevant right now, with getting stuck into something really hard. I’ve been pushing to my limits for a long time now. But are they my limits? Where is the limit? A true limit can only be found with failure. So far on my redpoint projects I haven’t failed! I’ve invested heavily in things that looked unlikely, only for the stars to align and award me my prize. If I’m not trying something where I believe I could fail then it isn’t hard, not really truly hard. And once I know I can do whatever I’m trying, then a project loses its sheen; it probably isn’t hard enough to be really important.
I think I’ve found the final exam. And this one I truly don’t know if I’ve stepped over the mark. Right now it feels impossible to link, a hard project at Malham cove. I haven’t got what it takes. I can’t imagine that I ever will. But I’m getting drawn in. My motivations have changed over the years and I don’t actually need the glory, though I’ll give it my all. I’m excited to explore, because this project is going to test me to the limit.
Five days in this year, a couple last year, and maybe 6 the year before. That’s already an investment into something that I might never get up!
How far can you go? And how for is too far? Massive questions. I’ve just written about this for CLIMB 99. It follows on from how far can WE go in CLIMB 98. That refers to the ‘we’ as in humans – where are our limits, and where are we going in the near future. Again, big questions. Incredibly interesting, but at the end of the day, just that: interesting. How far can you and I go are far more important. I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and to be honest the CLIMB article I wrote is basically written about me and for me. I want to explore my limits and take it to the edge; but the question of how far is too far must be answered in detail and compromises reached. And these concepts stretch way further than climbing; they are the very cornerstone of our lives. How much can you push in your job, your free time, your DIY, your family, everything? And how far is too far? We strive for the perfect balance, and some of us think we’ve found it, but I think most of them are easily pleased. The rest of us are constantly looking, changing the rules. Just as everything comes into balance we knock it over..
Massive subject. I could write a book on this………
My posture could be better! But it’s nothing like as bad as some peoples, with their shoulders hunched over and their arms dragging along the floor. Still, I thought it was time I had an body MOT, and went to see Tim of Peak Pro Fitness (http://www.peakprofitness.com/). I expected he’d point out what I already knew, but within 3 seconds he highlighted a lack of reach due to overdeveloped muscles around my pelvis. My leg raising ability may be good, but it’s actually rotating my pelvis and reducing my reach - bad news for someone who is already lacking! So a set of stretches and exercises sorted. Tim also showed me some excellent strength gaining methods using his stringy apparatus. These exercises concentrated on the stabaliser muscles in the shoulders and back, with the goal of fixing inbalances, reducing injury, and ultimately cranking on the cliff. I’ll let you know, and I’m hoping to go from 5’6” to around 6’2” if thats feasable
Seems like a long time now since I was climbing on sun-kissed rock in Argentina. As a nice reminder my friend Will Hummel sent through some cool pix he took of me out there. Nice to have a pro take some great shots. These are on an 8b I onsighted and a hard one apparently. For me its rare to get action shots of the real thing, the camera is usually pointing in the direction of the real stars, so these round off a great trip. Thanks Will