Wednesday, 26 December 2012

CHILLED - and winning! Hope I've found the formula

The last comp is always the winter British Youth Open. I’d won this in Sunderland last year, and the summer one at Ratho.

I couldn't wait for this event at Awesome Walls in Liverpool, as the 2009 Youth Open here was one of my first leading comps and I have fond memories of this wall.  In ’09 I came sixth and in ’10 third. I wanted to continue doing well in this comp ;-).

After a long drive up on Friday we got to the hotel and after a good sleep for once we headed down to the wall. I walked in to be as inspired/nervous as I was three years ago at the steepness and size of the wall. Routes looked amazing, I was psyched!

Route one took a smearing corner up the right hand side of the comp wall. No problems. Topped. Climbing for fun, and what a difference it makes!! It was about 7a+. Quite a few other people topped this.

The next route was much harder, orange up the middle of the comp wall. I was climbing midway through the group. Most people fell off a hard move off an undercut half way up. I slapped up, missing the intermediate that caught people out. I had stuck it. Bump low hand in. I screamed (don’t do that a lot!), made a move to a good hold and CHILLED! A few seconds later I was at the top, quite a fight! This route was given 8a and it felt solid at the grade. I qualified in first place. Sweet.

Since the start of the day there were rumours of how hard, the purple on the comp wall was: 8a, 8a+, 8b or 9a. Whatever grade it was, it was our final. I was psyched.

After a long wait in isolation I went out for observation. I had spotted the rest and cruxes. Everything went according to plan and I made a big move off an undercut. I caught the next good hold. By the sound of the crowd I knew I had won. I didn't care! I wanted to finish the route everyone had been talking about and worrying about, and I did! First place in the Youth Open for the third time running, and climbing for fun. Result!

The route was given 8a+/b. I was pleased to onsight it! Got a ‘well done’ e-mail from Steve McC, who set it. Ian said 'What if you could climb like that in Euros, because you can!', which really made me think. Molly also managed to flash the route after the comp and put a good effort in on the orange, sick!

Well done to all the climbers! There was some amazing climbing and the new team was selected. Rebecca Kinghorn is one to watch!

Bouldering open was the next day and I injured myself. Came 9th. Did something to my neck and haven’t climbed since, three weeks plus off. Itching to get back. But over the last few months I’ve learnt loads about my head, just how to be psyched, being relaxed, being confident in my ability and trusting myself to be good enough to fight hard. 

Bring on next year, if I get selected ;-)!

Three more comps, a Euro goal realised, and my head more sorted

Three more comps helped me sort my comp head.

At the European championships in Gemozac, France, I was quietly confident I could make the final. On my first route I was up 2nd. It looked about 7c+/8a. I only managed to about half way up before I pumped out. I had been over gripping from the floor, nerves!

Relax for the next route. It suits me - low percentage tech route - but the same thing happened. Although I felt like I got some flow back just before I fell, I tried to lock a move and should have been more dynamic. It felt like I had given up and let go, a feeling I used to get a lot in comps but had got rid of. I came 20th. The next day I did the speed for fun and came 20th out of 22.

I decided to go to the Welsh championships after Gemozac to try and sort my head out for comps. Great event, but less pressure, so how would I react and what would I learn? I arrived to find everyone who made the Youth A podium at the BLCC was there – me, Connor and Luke. I was psyched.

The comp was in a different format to usual, having three qualifiers, a semi and a final. Me and Connor were the only ones to top the qualifiers and went into the semi in joint first. I went out first and topped the route, climbing with a relaxed style which made me enjoy the climbing. No-one else topped. I went into the final in first place. In isolation I could tell from the crowd that people had come close to topping the route. I knew what I had to do and did it. I had won without a fall. The comp really helped teach me how to relax and I was excited to use this new frame of mind in Kranj, the final round of the Europeans.

After a good warm up in Kranj’s weird corridor boulder wall, and watching the older group go up our route first, I was ready for my first climb, which took the left hand line of very steep wall in a sports hall.

The route had an easy start, which led to a powerful crux. I did the first two crux moves easy. Drilled my foot. Made a dynamic move to the next hold. The quick draw got in the way. Whacked it with my hand. I fell. I was a little disappointed, but felt much more relaxed than most recent comps. I was joint 15th on this route. We went back to the hotel and eight hours later I was back beneath the wall ready to climb my next route. This route seemed to have a series of mini cruxes. I found myself at the rest before the top composing myself to tackle the volumes above. I made the hard slab move. Yes. Next move. Feet cut loose. Back on. Come on, I think to myself. I slapped into the hold but beneath me my foot popped and I was off, pumped!

I had a decent fight on this route, which I have not had for a while in a comp due to being too nervous to get into full fight mode. Finished 16th. Well done to Molly who came 2nd.

So it was the end of my first year of Euros in Youth A. I had two goals – a top 15 ranking and a final, and I made the first one, finishing ranked 15th, and 14th in the world because of a different scoring system. Good. But I didn’t make a final. A 12th, 13th, two 16ths and a 19th, so never out of the top 20, but not a final.

But over these three comps I realised I needed to relax, and I did enough to have a good fight at Kranj.

Realising I need to sort my head for comps!

For this year’s BLCCs, I really wanted to improve on my other disappointing results in this comp. I didn’t, but I learnt a lesson about my head that helped later in the year.

I qualified for the Youth A final in joint first. But in the final, after missing a clip, I struggled to reach down and clip. My foot ripped off. I felt very disappointed as I felt like I had been climbing really well before the comp.

The next day it was my first go in seniors. The first route was an endurance 7c. I climbed it so easily, only to fall because off a lack of commitment on last 'pop' move. On the next route I was up first. It was a tetchy 8a. I managed to get to the last lip, beating some people who topped out the other route. But the whole comp, for me, came down to the last move on the first route. I finished 9th, outside the final.

Afterwards I tried the seniors’ final route and managed to get very high, to the same place as Dave Barrans, who came 3rd. Though this doesn't mean anything, it showed me what I could do when I sort out my head and relax.

Again, I killed the disappointment by getting outside in the Peak with Will Smith. I tried to head point Life Assurance but my head messed with me and, when trying to down climb, my foot ripped and I took the fall the fall you’re not meant to take! The next day, back on Mecca it was too wet to go for red points, but I made some good progress on the moves. 

Good fitness from climbing outdoors, but disappointment indoors at worlds

After my trip to Kilnsey, it was time to look ahead to the world championships in Singapore at the end of August. The weather got bad which gave me time to train indoors. I felt fit and strong; my trip to Céüse had increased my fitness a lot.

We flew out to Singapore on the Saturday before the comp on the Wednesday. The comp and our hotel was on a holiday island called Sentosa and the wall was on the amazing sandy beach. Before the comp we just had one session at a really cool little wall where most of the teams had been training.

For my first route, I was nervous. I fell off with a deep left foot flag under my right leg, which limited my reach to the next hold. I still came 26th on this route. Psyched - I can still make the semis, which is top 25!

The next route looked like it suited me. I was climbing later on in the day so got to stay in bed for a bit which helps recovery from jet lag. I made a few trips down to the wall to get some beta for the route, but made sure I stayed cool and hydrated in my hotel room.

I made my final trip down to the wall, got warmed up, then the rain started. The wall was soaked in minutes. Climbing was delayed and no one thought it would carry on that day. But the routes were dried with towels and I was back at the wall warmed up ready to go.

The route suited me perfectly - good positive holds and flicks moves. Start went well. I got to one of the harder looking moves, did it. Heel up. Couldn't get it to stick. I panicked and flicked for the next old.  Almost caught it but I was off.

Overall I finished in 38th. I was pretty disappointed. I was hoping for the top 20 to improve on my 25th result last year.

Consolation back home was a trip to Peak limestone with Jim Pope. I decided to try Mecca (8b+) and managed all the moves but the crux, and did some big links. Good effort to Pope who did his first 8a.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Three more Yorkshire 8s and first 8a flash

After Imst (see below) I had one rest day where I went to watch some of the Olympics in the stadium. It was really cool to see people do other sports for once.

I then headed up to Kilnsey with Tom Bonnert. We got there with a little time to climb before it got dark, and within an hour of arriving at the crag I had finished off The Bulge (8a) and had a play on some harder things, I was psyched!

Day two, and a go on Bat Route (8c). I did the majority of the moves that were dry that day. I really understand now that to attempt this grade in Britain you need the beta and I didn’t have any. I can also see why Adam Ondra onsighting it was just so cool. But it was very hot and wet so we went back to Kilnsey.

I got on Grooved Arête, a 15-metre 8a+ (some say 8b) on the right hand side of the crag. It is said to be a harder version of Raindogs, being mostly power endurance. It sounded good! After working the moves I had a few redpoints that night but was tired from working Bat Route. The next day I got frustratingly close but decided to leave it. Tried the following day but it was my fourth day on and I could feel it.

Tom had to go home but I met Ian Dunn and after a rest day (watching climbing at the crag) I was back and did the route first redpoint of the day; easy after a rest day ;-).

Dead Calm is a newish 8a at Kilnsey on the right of North Buttress. A lot of people were trying this so I tried to get as much beta as possible over three days of watching people on it and try for my first 8a flash. After climbing the lower section (WYSIWYG 7b) I shook out at the good rest then got to the second last clip, clipped it and composed myself for the top crux. It was weird to be up here and looking at the holds after three days of getting beta - I knew exactly what to do and then I was at the top, my first 8a flash!  Thanks for all the beta from everyone on the route and to Ian and Tom who made it a good trip!

Video (should have been wearing brighter colours!) of Grooved Arête

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Psyched now for the Worlds after Top 20 at Imst

After Ratho I managed to fit in one session at Westway before the next European round at Imst. It felt good to be back at Westway after so long away and I was psyched to do a Liam 8a+ there.

Early flight next day, a long wait at Munich for the rest of the team and crazy storms on the drive through the amazing Tirol to Imst. Next day after that, the rest day, was spent on the Alpine Coaster, a 3,500m long roller coaster on which you control the speed. I learnt how to kill the brakes with my feet. Cool.

Later that evening we found out our start positions. I was 8th first round and 30th second, which meant, I reckoned, a seven-hour gap between climbs. I had this before in Linz, where it was also very hot. I’d learnt how to prepare - stay cool, drink lots and relax. I was so psyched that I woke up feeling very tired due to not getting enough good sleep. Comps in Austria are always really well run and Imst being no exception the comp started exactly on time. All the routes were on the big outdoor wall leaving the huge indoor lead wall for warming up, which is one of my favourite things about Imst.

After watching the seven climbers before me there were some interesting results. I was up. After sketching my way up the bottom slab I climbed pretty fast up to what seemed to be the crux section. Really cool moves on small but positive holds! My style! I got past the big move and then to a complicated foot sequence where your body is horizontal. I got my feet sorted and just before I pulled up to the next resting jug my feet ripped off the wall! I was a little annoyed but psyched as I felt I had climbed well on the route until that point. I came 23rd on that route. Need to do better in the second round.

My second route was shared with the Junior category (apart from one changed hold) and I went after Jonny W, so I got lots of beta from the two Jonnys and Luke. The route began up one of the long slabby sections of the Imst wall with a jump start. I was pretty nervous for this but allowed myself to be as I knew once I caught the jump I would be relaxed for the rest of the route. The route had some big moves on poor holds until it turned into the roof where there was some funky 3D climbing. I got up to the roof and a few moves in I decided to try a different sequence and missed the hold that had been added for my category. I slapped to a volume, almost held it, and was then flying through the air.

I was happy about how I climbed on this route. I was 15th, so an improvement on the first round. (I noticed that I had been scored lower than I thought so after a word with the judge I was moved up to the correct score.) I had finished 19th overall.

Imst is a very popular comp and often has some interesting results,  so I was not to annoyed and got psyched now about the Worlds at the end of August!

Overall the team did well with Luke, William and Alex making the finals and others very close!

Time to get back out on rock.

Friday, 3 August 2012

To Ratho, to try to qualify for the European Championships

After one day of rest at home after getting back from Ceuse, I travelled up to Edinburgh for the British Youth Open, which is used as part of the ongoing selection process for the British team and for the rest of the comps this year.

After a good warm up, getting back into plastic climbing after my time in Ceuse, I got psyched up for my first route on the old comp wall. It started up a techy slab. I knew there were lots of slips and foot pops on the route, so I knew I had to be careful. The slab then leads into the roof and the obvious crux, which was turning the lip on huge funky slopers.

I climbed up to under the roof with no problems and after a quick shake headed into the roof. Left hand gaston undercut in roof. Right hand - into undercut. Left hand – jug, then match. Clip. Left hand - huge sloper. I slapped around for the best bit on this, got my foot up and slapped for the next hold. I was off. This funky style is definitely something I need to work on. I came third on this route, the only tops were from William Bosi in Youth B and Jonny Stocking in Juniors.

The second route was up the right hand side of the main comp wall on sick slopers with lots of heel hooks. I managed to top the route without much problem, which meant I had qualified for the final in joint first with Luke Dawson.

The final was the Juniors’ second qualifier. It was a line of small holds, but good ones, up the middle of the comp wall. My style - I was psyched, I came out second to last and managed to top the route - it was about 7b+/7c. I had won, which meant I was selected for the EYC in Kranj and the European Championships in France.

I’m sure Ceuse helped because trying all those 8s and 7c+ onsights taught me to rest efficiently and I could feel that helping on the second qualifier and in the final. Plus you’ve got to get a bit stronger after ten days outdoors. I must keep using in comps everything I learn outdoors, and vice-versa.

It was a really good comp with some impressive climbing from everyone! Well done to the Lyon youth who all got some awesome results. We also got our new kit from the team’s new sponsors, ‘Sherpa’. Thanks to John Ellison for sorting.

(Right click pictures to open)

Going for the top in the final 
Picture - Peter Wuensche

Getting it!
Picture Peter Wuensche

With Connor (l) and Luke (r)
Picture: Nick Pope

Link to results:

Ten days, seven 8s, in amazing Ceuse

Last week I returned from an amazing ten days in Ceuse, said to be one of the best crags in the world. I was out there with Will Smith and Jonny White. We were lucky to have perfect conditions the whole time we were there and there were no forced rest days due to weather!

Not gunna write about the whole trip, just about some of the best days and my favourite routes.

On the first day we headed to Cascade which is an amazing steep sector that features lots of bouldery climbing between HUGE rests. First we did the classic warm up Ananda (7a) then I got on Correspondence Imaginaire (7c+) - 20 minutes later I lowered down. My first 7c+ onsight. Good start.

Then we headed over to Biographie, which is probably one of the most famous sectors in the world as it is the home to Realisation (9a+). It also has one of the most classic 8as in Ceuse, Les Collonettes, which can either be done at 8a from the ground or 7c+ starting after the very hard bouldery crux. I definitely wanted the real tick. I worked the moves then went for a redpoint, getting close to the top. Next go, I thought. I had a few more goes but in the end I could not even do the crux move at the start anymore.

Next morning Jonny and Will both managed to crush Correspondence Imaginaire after a half rest day. I was back beneath the amazing tufas of Les Collonetes but again I could not get past the reachey move at the start! Time for a change, I thought, so I got on the classic 8b of the crag, L’Ami De Tout Le Monde, which is a very powerful and steep route on the right hand side of the crag. I managed to get all the moves pretty quick so returned to the ground for a redpoint attempt. I had a few attempts that evening before it got dark, managing to do the first crux only to fall off on the next move.

A few days later after a rest I was back at Cascade and managed to onsight Mirage (7c+). Will also came very close to the onsight. We then walked over to Collonetes, but I still could not crack that crux move! So I did the 7c+ version with the aid start to get my draws out, but I felt ashamed for doing it with the aid when it’s possible without. I promised to come back and finish it off properly later on in the trip.

Next I decided to get back on L’Ami De Tout Le Monde. I quickly dogged it to get the moves back into my head and then set off for an attempt feeling strong. On the start the jug felt 10 times better with good skin, caught the crux yes, flick to jug - got it! Come on! “Relax,” Will shouted. I rested and then set off into the second crux, which is not as hard as the first , but is very droppable - luckily not for me on this go.  I then climbed the top wall slowly, being careful not to make any mistakes, and clipped the chains! YES! Second 8b. As for the difficulty, it felt very similar to SatanX (8b), which I did in Gorge du Loup at Easter in the same amount of sessions  – two. I was psyched!

For the rest of the trip I got some really fun climbing done and on the second last day after doing Face De Rat (8a+) on my second go I decided it was a good idea to get back on Les Collenettes. After almost catching that early crux a few times I managed to get it and top the route easily. Even through this route is ‘only’ 8a it is one of the most satisfying routes I have ever done due to the start move feeling impossible!

Jonny and Alex Waterhouse both got some impressive ticks while we were out there, Jonny doing his first 8a and Alex putting in a sick effort to onsight Blockage Violent, a desperate 7b+. Will had a good trip ticking two 8as while I was there and he is still there for three more weeks so will probably crush some even more hard stuff!

Thanks to everyone, Ben too, who made it such a good trip! And for my birthday messages on the last Saturday!

Overall my ticklist was:

7c        Vagabond d’Occident (o/s)
7c        Galaxy (second go, ground up)
7c        Corps Etranger (second go)
7c+      Mirage (o/s)
7c+      Correspondence Imaginaire (o/s)
7c+      Privilege Du Serpent (second go)
7c+      Tenere (second go)
7c+      Makash Walou
8a        Bourinator (second go)
8a        Carte Blanche (second go)
8a        Petit Tom
8a        Les Collonettes
8a+      Encore (second session)
8a+      Face De Rat (second go)
8b        L’Ami De Tout Le Monde (second session) 

Chilling at Ceuse

On L'Ami De Tout Le Monde (right click to open)

Topping L'Ami (right click to open)

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Bittersweet results in the EYCs, but so psyched for the summer

I've been really psyched with how the EYC comps are going this year. Everyone on the team is psyched, both for comps and rock. There’s been some great results for everyone, everyone is getting better and we’re going to see some more great results before long.

Then some de-psyching news for me, at the end here, but I still hope I’m getting closer to a final after my first three EYC rounds in Youth A.

I’ve moved up this year from B. It’s been a bit nervy cos, looking at the Youth A climbers last year, when I was in Youth B, they were beasts – so strong. Quite a few are 9a climbers. It’s a tough and competitive group. I didn’t know how I was going to do. 

First comp was Ratho. I was up second on what looked like a really fun route on the old comp wall. The start went well until I reached a tricky clip in the roof, which took me a while to sort and really tired me out. It finished off quite a few climbers. Should a clip be a mini-crux? I fought through a few more moves, but came off through tiredness, disappointed but psyched for my second route. This looked like it really suited me, being steep and on positive holds on the hanger wall. I felt like I was moving really well until I started having to fight a really tight rope with a not-very-alert belayer. Should I call a technical? I carried on into the roof but I went from feeling fresh to boxed within a few moves and came off.

 Resting on the second route at Ratho
 Picture: Nick Colton

I came 13th, my best result in my first Youth A after being 11th in Youth B last year in Bulgaria. The whole team did really well, with six in the finals.

Next up for me was Voiron in France, this was a really cool comp. I was really psyched for my first route and managed to get level with the last draw before the chains with a bit of fight. After this last clip though I fell of a hard roll-over into a gaston. After this move there was a good hold to shake, and it was ok to the top. Everyone who did the move I fell on topped! Annoying.

The next route was a slab to a really funky roof section. I managed to get there feeling fresh after a quick shake out. I headed into the roof. It was completely different to how I imagined it and took me a while to work out. I fell of a few moves over the lip but I felt like I climbed well. Here is the video.

I finished 16th overall. Although this was not as good as Ratho I was pleased because there were a lot more hard competitors and I felt like I climbed much better!  Molly put in a really good effort to come 5th and Luke and Jonny came frustratingly close to the finals. Another good comp for team GB!

Then it was Linz in Austria. I knew it was going to be a long day as I was climbing midway through the group of 51 on my first route, which meant I would be near the end on my second! The first route went well. I got to the rest and composed myself and set up for what appeared to be the crux sequence. There was a long move to a pinch and then a tricky clip. Then a move to a side pull, then an undercut where I came off. Just after me someone found a way to match the pinch to make the undercut easier. I should have seen it, so that left me frustrated.

I came down at 10.30am and had to wait until 5pm to do my second route. It really felt a very long time. I wasn’t pleased with this climb. I got a sudden pump and fell off a tricky cross over into a roof.

Overall I was placed 12th and was pretty pleased and thought I am getting closer and can really feel my comp climbing improving. Well that was what I thought until I found out my score was wrong. It was too high. Someone had typed in a wrong number. No-one noticed on the day and I didn’t notice until the day before the BBCs the next weekend. I asked the BMC to try to get me marked down because I don’t really want to benefit, but at the BBCs Tim Hatch and Nick Colton said nothing could be done. I was de-psyched by this. I thought I was 12th and I was probably about 16th. Need to climb harder! It messed my head and didn’t help my BBCs performance that day; I came 13th.

Anyway, back in Linz, Jim put in a really good effort to top his second route, which was amazing to watch. Also Jonny S did really well making the final and finishing 8th. A lot of people got PBs in terms of position and everyone else was close. Another good weekend for team GB. Molly bounced straight back after missing the final for the only time in four EYCs this year and is going to crush in Imst.

Big thanks from Molly and me to Rob and Liam, our cool coaches.

I’m off to Ceuse for two weeks with Will Smith and  Jonny White. Back for the Youth Open at Ratho at the end of July and the next EYC in Imst in early August.

 Psyched for the summer! 

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Three Yorkshire 8s in two days

On June 1st, Will Smith and I drove up to Yorkshire to spend a few days at Malham and Kilnsey. I was psyched to get on some of the classics. We arrived at Kilnsey with a bit of light left to climb. I did the warm up of the crag, Directissima, a polished 6c. Then I decided to have an onsight attempt on Comedy (7c), but came off at the crux after slapping to a chalked up ‘non-hold’ – close but no cigar. I managed it second go, just before the light went. Will had a play on Full Tilt (8b) as the dark came in.

The next day we went to Malham to get on Raindogs, which is a very classic power endurance 8a. It’s known for being very polished and having no hard moves, but no easy ones either. The conditions were a bit greasy. I tried this route briefly last year and came close, so I managed to remember the very cool sequence on good crimps quite quickly. My first redpoint attempt of the day saw me get to the 2nd last move. Next go, I thought… Maybe not. I had a few more frustratingly close goes, but then managed to do it.  This is definitely my favourite route, and the polish makes it better! Will came very close.

The same day we headed to a very cold Kilnsey, where I had a go on Urgent Action, a Euro-style 8a+ and one of the Yorkshire ‘Big Three’. It was so cold (it was Jubilee weekend weather) that I had to come down. I had another go later in the evening where I managed to work out all the moves. They’re all very long moves between jugs. After a sustained lower section you get to a good rest, which is followed by a short powerful section, and then the crux, a long deadpoint from a jug to a perfect hold. After a few more moves you get to probably the redpoint crux, a big go-again off an undercut, then a sketchy slab section to the chain.

The next morning I tried to get warm by climbing up to the second clip on the route a few times, and then I was ready for the first redpoint. First time, I fell just before the rest. I tweaked my sequence, had another redpoint and did it! Psyched! First British 8a+!

After a quick rest, I then decided to try The Thumb, an 8a which shares the second crux of Urgent Action. After working out all the moves I did it first redpoint. Two 8s in a day!

I then had a quick go at Mandela, 8a+, which takes a sick traversing line across the huge roof at Kilnsey. It was a bit scary but I’m psyched to go and finish it off soon

The next day, Will got Urgent Action, his first British 8a+; he made it look easy. I warmed up by redpointing, Pantomime, a 7b+ and then I had a flash attempt at The Bulge, 8a, managing to get to the crux. I then worked out all the moves and had a redpoint attempt where I came off a few moves from the belay. Close - another one to finish off next time!

I was really happy to do three 8s in two days and to work some other classics with Will. Now it’s time for a few days rest and I am off to an EYC in France this weekend!

Monday, 7 May 2012

Hopefully getting more people climbing via CBBC show

I was given the challenge with Molly of teaching Richard Wisker from CBBC's Friday Download how to climb for his show. Filming at the Westway with him and his team was an amazing experience. Friday Download gets young celebs (Richard was in Tracy Beaker Returns and The Bill) trying new things and Richard hadn't done any climbing at all. He was pretty nervous to start.

We showed him how to tie in and pull on and some basic moves. We got him to make sure he used his feet, which he seemed to be a natural at. We explained how belaying works and how to use all the gear. Richard managed to top rope one of the steeper walls using poor slopers and crimps. He had to do it several times for the cameras, which was a really good effort.

Then Molly and I did some climbing using a helmet camera, which was much harder than expected. They said ‘do some jumps’ so we did some cool dynos. (It's not exactly Hard Grit!) Then we had to film some interviews. It was a long and tiring day, but a load of fun and the CBBC people were cool. I hope to do something like this again.

No idea when it goes out - soon, I think. I will post the date when I know it. Be great if it gets people to try climbing.

If you haven't heard of Richard, here he is

Me, Richard and Molly

Learning to use a headcam

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

First 8b, in the amazing Gorge du Loup

Went to the South of France  – the Alpes-Maritimes inland from Nice – with Ben and a crew from the Westway. My last proper sport trips were a year ago, when I did my first 8a redpoints. Got on the team since and been focused on that, and now I really wanted to see if I could make progress on rock. Very excited, but I had been ill for a month so I planned a slow start to see how I was.

So we went to Mesa Verde in the Gorge du Loup thinking I’d have a try at the three-star 8a classic in the Gorge, Arrowhead. After a few easy routes to get into it, I worked all the moves then had a couple of close redpoint goes, but it got dark though I was psyched to come back.

Across the Gorge is Déversé – hardest crag in the area with at least three 9as. We went there next day. I wanted to try Déversé Satanique, a three-star 8a+. I worked out all the moves and after a few redpoints I came painfully close to getting it but a broken hold didn’t help.

The next day was a planned easy day. I got psyched for another try and headed back in the evening. I worked the moves to see if the broken hold would affect my sequence. It was getting dark and wet, so my last go ended when I slipped off a wet hold at the top. After a rest day, I went back and got it first attempt of the day, first 8a+.

Next target was an 8b, SatanX, that starts up the amazing steep line of Déversé Satanique and breaks out onto the blank headwall of an 8c, Hot Chili X. After working the moves comfortably, I knew it was on. Had two redpoints that day, getting to the last draw, where I pumped out clipping a desperate clip.

Returned the next day, decided to miss that clip, and sent the route. First 8b. Then went for my first 7c onsight and got it, Mecanik Destructif. Then went back and did Arrowhead to finish off.

So the tick list was:

Satan X, 8b
Déversé Satanique, 8a+
Arrowhead, 8a
Petit Poucet, 7c+
Mecanik Destructif, 7c onsight
Same Player, Shoot Again, 7c

Thanks to Ben and Peter and everyone else on the trip.

Two pics of the 8b

Winning the 2012 Leader Ladder Junior Elite category

Zippy and Tom Randall set some thought-provoking routes at Reading, which is such a friendly wall, for this comp. There were some strong competitors, not least Jim Pope. Got up everything up to 7c first time, but so did Billy and Jim. It was all down to the 8a and 8b.

The 8a had a technical start and ended with powerful climbing on good holds. First two times I got though the start but fell off, once because I had the sequence wrong, next time because I didn’t engage on a fingerlock hard enough. Got it third go.

Next up was the 8b which went up a cool prow into a roof. On my second go I got to the last hard move and collected all three bonus points, and the title. Pope was second, Billy third.

Really well-organised comp, and friendly lot at Reading. New wall, already with a good squad and  a good vibe. Psyched to go back.

Technical start on the 8a

Celebrating with Pope

Reading routes with the legend