Sunday 13 May 2012

Mystic Stylez

Holding the swing on the last hard move of Mystic Stylez Font 8C, Magic Wood (video still) The footage will be in the Polished Project film which is on the way.
Today I climbed Mystic Stylez 8C in Magic Wood. As far as I know the second ascent of this Daniel Woods climb from last year. It really has been a big restorer of my confidence after a couple of weeks of questioning my ability to get things done.
Having just succeeded and with the benefit of hindsight, I think it’s probably fair to say I tend to be a bit hard on myself at times. So much so that I know people sometimes mistake me for not taking satisfaction from my climbing. While being hard on yourself makes you hard edged and a bit ‘difficult’, it does have its uses, in moderation. This is how it went:
After I did New Base Line nearly two weeks ago I wandered down to Muttertag (8a) to try that and look at Daniel Woods 8C sit start, Mystic Stylez. With only three moves into the stand start, itself a one hard move 8A, It must have some pretty bad holds? The holds did seem better than you would expect, but it’s not until you try it you realise that they are at such unhelpful angles that moving between them is desperate. It’s a running theme with the steeper problems on Swiss Gneiss. The holds are deceptively good, but the climbing very powerful. The only way to make powerful moves less powerful is to get more weight on your feet.
So after getting the stand start in a few tries, I set about finding all manner of knee ligament shredding contortions to get opposition with my feet for the crux. I found a method to reach the right hand hold of the stand start, but was completely unable to move from that position (except towards the ground). But it was enough of a sequence to warrant some more serious sessions.

Then the temperature rocketed. 25 degrees in Chur, then 26, then 28. By the second week it hit 37 degrees briefly while driving to the shops. I started climbing by headtorch after dusk, then getting up at 4am and warming up by headtorch. It’s always hard to just blame conditions. I was determined that my movement was getting worse; more errors, less confidence. With hindsight, the big greasy fingerprints on the holds after each attempt should have told me that my lack of confidence that I could make more progress was because I could feel my fingers sliding from the warm holds, unable to apply their strength.
I replaced biscuits at the crag with apples, rested, got up earlier, and carefully refined my movement on each session. Time to leave for Scotland was approaching fast, but each session I did learn at least one small thing about how to climb the moves better. And I got a little further. On my last session before departure day, I touched the finishing finger rail on Muttertag 4 times. Although it is the last hold, touching it and holding it are two different things.
It would be expensive, but I could change my travel home and stay another week for the small chance I could keep making progress. It seemed a remote chance of making any difference. Maybe I should just take my medicine and go home to the fingerboard? I joked with a friend that on the other hand, maybe I ought to take my climbing more seriously than that and just stay no matter how remote my chances. He knew what I meant, but still laughed. Although lots of people think I do take climbing unbelievably seriously, a lot of the time I do feel like I’m at constant risk of being a lazy bastard and not fulfilling my potential. 
On one hand, the climb represented a target to focus my efforts. It’s just a bit of rock and it doesn’t matter to anyone whether I climb it or not. But completing it does make a difference in the mind of the climber. If you’ve really set yourself the target, and you’ve done enough work to know it’s possible, then giving in when the ‘extra mile’ to completion is there for the taking makes it difficult to move on with confidence to the next challenge. I’ve completed plenty of super hard projects, and have many more incomplete projects that I’m just not ready for yet. So I have been here before. I knew I might not manage it, but I looked forward and visualised driving home to Scotland without the send. The failure on the climb wouldn’t be worth a second thought (because if you never have failures, you can’t be trying anything that’s actually hard). The only regret I’d have would be failing without first giving everything to the fight.
So I rebooked the travel this morning, and studied the forecast. Rain on a cold front was coming through (at last!). By tomorrow, the front would be through and the temperature lower. So I planned to go for a run in the woods and get up at 4am for the next session. On the way I dropped in to see Thomas at Bodhi Climbing and book a room for the final days. He reckoned the rain was coming tomorrow, and I panicked. I walked outside and the temperature was dropping, clouds lowering and wind increasing. Maybe I should just get on it right NOW?!
So I jogged into the woods, and got my mats out under Mystic Stylez. As I did, raindrops started to patter onto the mats. I laughed at how desperate this was getting and just did the stand start twice for a warm up and to see if the rain would come on properly. It started to get heavier. Inwardly I said ‘well maybe I should just do it first try!’, while thinking back to the last 4 sessions of failures.
And then, I pulled on and did it first try. I was strong enough, confident enough and moving well enough all along. All I needed was a cool wind. All in all I probably tried it for 8 sessions. I’m pretty sure I could have done it in 4 if the conditions had stayed cold.
It seems that it doesn’t matter how many times you learn that conditions matter and it’s ok to be confident when you’ve put in the work, it’s hard not to get downbeat when things don't run smoothly. At least this leaves room for nice surprises.


  1. Fantastic effort Dave! Stories of your out right determination always make me smile :)

  2. Nice! I looked at this around 8 years ago as Sharma had been trying it. I heard Woods had done it, and put it on my list. Good effort - looks great and Muttertag is an awesome finish.

  3. Excellent write up, and brilliant effort!

  4. ... and youd did "Muttertag" on Muttertag (Mother's Day) - perfect ;-).

  5. Awesome send, one question though.

    What's up with your right hand being on your left arm in the second photo?

    1. It sure looks like it, but you can see that the fingers are correct (index finger placed to the right of the hand and the pinky placed to the left. Probably just the twist of the thumb that make it look like that..

    2. You're right, the fingers do make sense. I had fixated on the thumb, which looks kinda crazy. I hope to see this video soon.

  6. Inspiring, Dave. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Excellent news to come back to after a weekend away. Great stuff. And as a bonus, you must have had the best trip back to Scotland ever!

  8. The second photo is indeed strange (right hand on left arm).
    But does it matter, the climb will show in a video, I can't wait to see it. Dave is hero and I'm jealous he climbs this level.
    I'm one of the 9 guys (out of 10) that is hoping to climb double digit some time.

  9. Thanks. It's an unusual pinch with the thumb tucked under because the hold is an unhelpful shape. I guess some folk don't know how to pinch like that!

  10. good effort, an inspiration to new climbers like myself!