Sunday 28 September 2008

Big Long Now

Exit problem, Big Long Now, Sky Pilot (video still from Echo Wall)

Usually a couple of times a year I start a post by saying sorry to you guys for not posting in a while. The volume of work on the Echo Wall film has made it impossible though over the past couple of weeks. But here I am, in the car with Claire on the way to Glasgow to hand over the finished tapes to the DVD manufacturers. Woohoo! Well, we ain’t relaxing just yet until we get many large boxes of DVD in our living room in a couple of weeks time.

We are happy with our film though, and all the extras to go on the DVD - Spanish sport climbing, Glen Nevis soloing and bouldering and an extended interview with the climbing legend Jimmy Marshall. After we get back from Glasgow we’ll be sorting out a trailer for you to see what all the fuss is about some time next week, and you’ll even be able to pre-order a copy of the film from the shop shortly too.

In amongst the craziness of putting the finishing touches to the film and lectures in different cities in Scotland, I have made time to sneak out for some local climbing sessions. Climbing is so utterly relaxing for me, that even after back to back 18 hour days editing for many days, just getting out into the glen and running up to Sky Pilot for a session makes me feel fresh.

And much fitter than I expected given lack of sleep. The resilience of the body is quite an amazing thing really. In my last post I was getting excited as I was really close to the monster traverse of Sky Pilot. Constant wet weather was getting in the way, but sessions in poor conditions were excellent training. At one point I was resorting to blasting along the first part with a towel scarf and drying the soaking holds as I went. It didn’t really work.

Back with Kev on Sunday i got through the crux for the first time but a great big slug sliming over the crucial foothold needed to be removed with a gentle nudge of the toe, which destroyed my reserve on the last couple of moves (you’ll see in the film).

Big Long Now, the ‘barrel’ section, about 25 metres in, 25 metres to go! (video still from Echo Wall)

But the ‘September High’ was on the way. Five days of dry weather was the final piece of the puzzle. Last night (friday) I sprinted up after getting home from my lecture and pretty much knew it was ‘on’. First time out I lost my concentration with the anticipation of doing it and fumbled the crux. Next time I was more relaxed and got through to the kneebar with a margin to spare.

Ten minutes is a long, long time to feel the suspense about the last traversing section and the exit problem. Especially when hanging upside down from your knee. Yeah, you ‘should’ do it if you get there, but it takes a fair bit of composure not to let the anticipation get to you. That is the great thing about endurance climbing. I love that!

I didn’t need to worry too much, this was definitely my moment to nail this project, and I topped out with just a gentle pump in my arms. Brilliant. The massive 50 metre horizontal trip across the crag is now ‘Big Long Now’ and Font 8bish although a highly unusual one and quite hard to grade. Certainly the hardest link I’ve done on rock anyway. But it’s hard to know if I’m just rubbish at this type of climbing?? I see some of my problems at Dumbarton are receiving some upgrades with repeats. Perhaps this could be harder than V13? It’s certainly much harder than A Muerte at 9a which would make it V14. I lose track to be honest. Anyway the vid of it will be in Echo Wall so you can see for yourself its the brilliant climbing that stands out here. Because this was my endurance training project for Echo Wall it’s a nice feeling of completeness to finish it for it’s own sake and also in time to make it into the film.

Perfecto timing - now I can get to work on the more conventional straight up projects just in time for the good autumn conditions. Bring it on (but don’t worry i will have a trailer done for y’all during the week). More video still of Echo Wall on Claire's blog here.

Saturday 13 September 2008

Back to the big Sky Pilot trip

Working the mammoth traverse of Sky Pilot back in July. Pics: Stone Country

After a few days working away from home I’m back in the routine of working and training/climbing in Glen Nevis. Training by going climbing on real projects is often much preferable to training indoors, so long as you discipline yourself to work hard and subordinate perfect rested attempts for getting a good workout. Those of you who read this page regularly will know I worked on a massive traverse of Sky Pilot as my endurance training for Echo Wall during June and July.

I was starting to feel pretty close to this in late July but then work trips and Echo Wall itself demanded different focus. The big trip has always stayed firmly in my mind as a solid V13 project (at least) and eating away that I could never make it through the crux and nail it.

The climb starts off with 10 metres of V5, then 10 metres of V6, then 10 metres of V9 then another ten of V9, followed a final ten of V8. Nothing even remotely hard in individual sections, but add all that together you need a lot of stamina and excellent pacing and timing to save your strength for the right moment at the end. It reminds me of running 1500 metre events actually. Hold back, holding back until you hit the crux at the end and pulling down through melting arms.

Last week’s training binge followed by two days of rest, good food and some more sleep had a rather positive effect on me, it seems. Over the past two nights I have made two small improvements on my backlinks through the crux. Tonight’s backlink was from before the start of the hard climbing, and in less than useful conditions with several wet holds and a chasing pack of midges.

I only have a 10 metre V5 to add onto the start now. It’s possible that a good few days of conditions and a few heaps of broccoli could be all that separates me from the end of this amazing upside down rock climbing trip. More updates later this week…

I’m looking forward to the attempt when I grab that bloody pinch after 40 metres of climbing and have juice left to squeeze it.

Sunday 7 September 2008

Wake up & smell the coffee part 1

Getting Echo Wall ready for it’s test screening at Fort William bouldering wall last week kept us up until some silly hours last week. But we got there. The screening got us pretty excited but also gave us a long list of tweaks to make over the coming couple of weeks. Thanks so much to everyone that came and for the great encouragement and feedback. By the way, the recipe for Claire’s gingerbread is here. So far it's powered the current hardest climb in Scotland in bouldering, mixed climbing, sport climbing and trad climbing. The ultimate sports fuel? Let me tell you this pattern ain't no accident.

After three and a half weeks of no training to work on the film I couldn’t handle it any more and went on an eight day training bender, cutting the editing down to 12 hours a day to make room. It felt so good! Everything hurts right now. Some sleep would help, but in some ways I think the rest has done me some good. My body feels quite strong right now if a bit heavy – ready for some bouldering. On a visit to Glasgow I stopped by at Dumbarton and Glasgow climbing wall for a couple of references and 1-5-8 on Glasgow’s campus board was feeling pretty easy. I had been getting the fear because I have yet to succeed on 1-4-7 on Fort William’s board, but it seems that I can happily blame the desperate board, rather than weakness in this instance. A rested body with a good base of strength is a good base to build on.

A video still of Don’t Die of Ignorance XI,11 from the Echo Wall film I’ve been editing this week.

I have three major boulder projects in the Glen for my local winter projects. A V13 and two V14s. Right now the conditions are perfect to work on these. But work is in the way. Work is always in the way.

This is something I struggle with constantly. I should do less work, but I keep doing more. Learn the word NO Dave goddammit!! The trouble is that work is too damn interesting a lot of the time. The work I did over the past two years allowed me the opportunity to have a spring and summer with much climbing on Echo Wall and to save up enough to make the purchases necessary to make a film about it. That’s pretty cool. But where do I stop? As always with work, new work creates new directions and openings. So which ones to close in order to stay focused?

Right now I am on the verge of total lack of focus and a bit of an implosion. Perhaps a symptom of having completed Echo Wall and not taken time to sit back and take some decisions about what to do next.

Anyway, enough moaning. Hugh reckons:

It’s all good. My moan is simply about the lack of hours in the day to fit in all the good things. I can honestly say I have not felt bored for a single second for at least the last eight years. But enough of being so knackered all the time I can’t enjoy all this stuff properly.

This is a wake up and smell the coffee time for me. Some stuff needs to change. First step, I’m off for some zzzzzzs.