Monday 30 April 2012

New Base Line

Climbing New Base Line 8B+, Magic Wood. Video stills from the Polished Project. Their blog is here and has a few more pics.
Woohoo! I’m well pleased I did one of my long term dream climbs - New Base Line 8B+ in Magic Wood. It is one of the most iconic hard problems on the planet and I’ve seen so many pictures of the world’s best boulderers on it and thought it looked line an inspiring line. For years I’ve wanted to come and try it, but I expected it would only be to see how hard it was. I didn’t really dare to think I could do it.
I was able to climb it a lot faster than I expected, on my third session. When I walked up the first day and saw it, I just thought it looked even more inspiring than the pictures. But after a couple of weeks in Switzerland I’ve finally curbed my tendency to headless chicken, and I carefully worked the individual moves. I got them all done after an hour or two but was getting worried about very thin fingertips.

Next day I found an even better foot sequence for the first and last moves and got overlapping halves before my skin totally died. My plan was to have a rest day and come back for some proper attempts. Lukasz and Wojtek were arriving that day for a week of filming me talking about ideas of mine about climbing. Maybe they would have timed their visit well?
But next day it snowed like hell I had to take another rest day to sit out the blizzard. The guys couldn’t even make it up the road to Magic Wood film the snowy landscapes. I knew that there would likely be a few days of snow melting down New Base Line. So, never shy to shift some offending snow, I borrowed a yard brush from our flat, floundered up through the forest and cleared great heaps of soft snow from the top of the boulder.
It was a good strategy. Next day it was bone dry and in perfect condition. So I warmed up and battled my way all the way to the finishing jug. I wasn’t quite warmed up to full power on the successful go and on the final four moves I was fading fast, swinging out wildly on every move. If it had been a week earlier in the trip I’d have definitely fallen, but I’ve really re-learned the bouldering skill of just not letting go even when your mind tells you you’re falling.
I was so happy to complete it. Apart from being so nice to climb, it’s definitely a landmark in my bouldering progress. We finished off the day with a flash of Foxy Lady 8A and had a session on an 8C that seems to suit me. Since then I’ve been back for another session trying hard things, and once my skin and muscles get tired, going off round the forest ticking off classics like Sofa Surfer 8A, Muttertag 8A and Free for All 8A. 
The weather has gone rather downhill again - warm and wet, which is probably just as well as I’ve seriously pulled a muscle in my trunk and can hardly bend down never mind climb hard!

The footage of New Base Line and all the others will be in the Lukasz and Wojtek's film, although the main part of the film is about ideas of mine, and things I've learned from the last ten years of my climbing life.

Saturday 28 April 2012

Swiss Gneiss first week

I’m settling well into Switzerland, sharing our flat with various friends and visiting the boulders. The first week of my trip was spent in Chrionico which was unfortunately a little warm for hard stuff, and rainy too, but still good fun. I was speaking in Lecco also which was a great evening, if a little stressful with my words being translated sentence by sentence. I think it worked ok for the 500+ audience who turned out!
I spent a couple of sessions trying From the Dirt Grows the Flowers 8C which was excellent. I got the moves but it was far too warm in the sun for the famously slopey top out. I’m sure I’ll come back to this one sometime. Rounded topouts are a huge weakness of mine which although I don’t enjoy them so much I’d like to improve at them. In between trying this I went across the river and made a quick ascent of Conquistador Direct 8B/+ which was recently put up and the video of it looked excellent. I made my own video above.
It was just as good as it looked although I did have a grumble to myself about the heat making in hard to squeeze the pinches. It’s really made me realise how lucky we are in Scotland with frequent good conditions thanks to the almost permanent wind! When I was climbing Conquistador Direct it was about 14 degrees and humid after the rain but completely still. It’s often 14-16 degrees in the highland glens right through the summer, but with a good wind it’s much easier to stick to the holds. The rain, however, does present a problem…occasionally.
Now we have moved over to Magic Wood which despite the sudden 20 degree increase in temperature, conditions are still surprisingly good and getting some excited about recent links.