Friday 24 August 2012

Higher highpoint, out of time

After the frustrations of not feeling good enough to get through the crux of my Steall project, I took a small break from it which consisted of some diligent training, family time and writing some more of my book. I could probably have taken more time doing those things, but the prospect of some better conditions and a trip away getting imminent demanded going back up for another couple of sessions.

On one session, when it was still feeling a bit hot and windless, I couldn’t even do one of the moves in isolation. I lowered off and felt pretty dejected. I was practically ready to leave it until next season. When it was my turn to climb again, I went for another go as a formality. A small breeze started up at the same time as I did. The holds instantly felt stickier and next thing I knew I landed the last of the crux moves.

I soldiered on in extremis for a few more moves before falling, completely pumped, from the last really difficult move at the last bolt. That was a real eye opener. For one, I learned that conditions matter even more than I would ever have given credit. To go from unable to do single moves, to almost succeeding on linking the whole thing in the same session, because of a few gusts of wind is a massive effect.

Second, I learned for the first time that the route is definitely possible for me. I think If I could replicate that effort a few more times, I’d struggle through to the belay one time. After that session, I must admit that a wave of utter determination to try my best to finish it came over me.

However, maybe that was my best effort, and I’ll not be able to match it before the autumn monsoon? I’ll find out. It doesn’t matter really. I’m just pleased to know I’m not wasting my time trying the project. Next session, I held the last crux move again but sadly my foot slipped straight afterwards. A good sign of consistency. 

I battled on for a couple more sessions in crap conditions, hot, humid, still and midgy. I still got really close even in those conditions. I had a sick feeling in my stomach that the temperature would drop and and wind would arrive just after I ran out of time before leaving, and that’s exactly what happened. So I am a coiled spring, and will somehow have to try and keep my powder dry for a while. I must admit I'm struggling with that more than I ever have right now. I suppose that's inevitable since it's biggest project I've ever tried. The likelihood is that I’ll be back again next spring for another scrap, unless I’m lucky and late September is dry enough to keep the seeps at bay.

Of course I’m well pleased to have got as high on it as I have. I’ve certainly put in a lot of work, both at the crag and in training and really feel stronger for it. On my last attempt of one session, I climbed the lower section in full knowledge I was too tired to have a serious shot at the upper crux. As I climbed through the first crux (Ring of Steall 8c+) I took my hand off to reach for the hold, felt tired and hesitantly went to grab the quickdraw and end the attempt and then changed my mind and carried on reaching, statically. When I did the first ascent of Ring of Steall in 2007 getting through that move was the hardest link I’d ever done and now I can do it nearly every attempt in decent conditions. At that time I couldn’t have imagined doing the move statically. I’ve really realised that I have so much room to step up my training and effort level yet.

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