Friday, 2 May 2014

Back from the Continent

So here we are, a month and a bit down the line.

What have we done?

It started with some training, then proceeded to some job resignation and rounded out with a month long climbing trip and a blunt slap to the face by reality.

Exciting right?
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Training was...difficult, after coming back I realise how woefully under-prepared I was for the raw stamina nature of the climbing. I didn't struggle with any single move that I tried while in Ceuse, but I still fell off... a lot.

Training with a finger injury is always hard, especially when the only realistic method to improve stamina is to hang on your fingers for extended periods. Sadly, this is what I had to contend with during the weeks prior to the trip. I did what I could, but in hindsight, it was never going to be enough. I put on too much weight, and didn't do enough climbing before the trip to really stand a chance on anything serious that was longer than 10-15m. Unfortunately Ceuse is almost entirely populated by routes of at least this height and as a result I was given a bit of a schooling.

However, that said I still had a fantastic time.

The first few days there, we spent trying to find the path up the hill. You might have thought this would be easy what with the path markers existing all over the place, but you would be wrong.

The first time we walked up to the cliff it took us almost 2 hours, and we were thrilled to find that there was a crystal clear pool of snowmelt at the base of the waterfall. After drinking our fill, we moved along the cliff, checking out potential lines and standing in awe at the base of the famous classics.

Face de Rat
I'm not even sure if we climbed on the first day.
If we did it was only a couple of 6a's or so.

The next few trips up the hill proceeded in a similar vein, with us failing to find the appropriate path, and instead fighting our way up the hill for far longer than it should have taken, bushwhacking through bushes, grasses and weeds. All of which seemed designed to scratch and scrape at our arms, legs and faces for as long as it took for us to arrive at the path, covered in blood and sweat and panting hard.

I'd complain more, but damn! If it doesn't make you fit!

Once we had become a little more acquainted with the rock, and the climbing on offer, and a little more aware about the space between the bolts, it was time to start looking at a couple of harder lines and maybe some projects.

First port of call was an amazing line called Lapinerie. This route takes in the base of a slab in the 'Demi Lune' sector of the crag, before ploughing on up through the overhang via a series of jugs, big moves and then a tricky sequence before a dyno finish. It is probably a bit soft for 7b, but regardless of the grade I think it is definitely one of the most fun climbs that I have ever done outside. A range of angles and styles, a nice rest, and some fantastic expansive moves between some semi spaced clips to reach the chains. All in all, well deserving of its claim to 3 stars.

A French chap on the classic Cent Patates
After finishing off Lapinerie, I moved down the wall towards the Berlin sector to find a project to get stuck into. After looking at the guide, and looking up at the wall, I decided to try my luck with putting in the draws on the eponymous route - 'Berlin' 7c/+.

I soon found out, as many have before me, that the difference between a short, soft one and a long, hard one, is that the second will leave you feeling sore and bruised in the morning.

The route starts with a small crimp for the right hand, and a single pad two finger pocket for the left, from here, you get your feet high and go straight up to a fair right hand edge, a slight balance adjust and then into a filthy sharp undercling for the left, after working your feet up onto some polished smears you make an edgy slap to another bad crimp for the right hand and bring your feet up high and left to bring your hips high enough to make an accurate deadpoint to a left hand first joint pocket. After all that, you are now about 2 metres up and able to start the route proper.

I knew by the time I made it half way up the climb that I was never going to be able to do it this trip, I simply didnt have the stamina. I found good sequences, and gained the chains on my first go on it, but it was never seriously in my mind that I would be able to put the whole thing together in one single redpoint.

There was something quite nice about that though, a certain release from pressure, not that I felt particularly pressured to begin with, but now it just felt like training. I was simply climbing for the sake of enjoyment, and learning about a whole facet of the sport that up till now I literally had no comprehension of.

Despite this, I stuck with it, and trekked up the hill for my couple of burns a day on the route. By the end of the trip I was linking together 3 bolt segments in the top half, and had almost done the bottom half free.
Despite the beating I received, I am deeply in love with this route, and I can't wait to get back on it in a year or two's time once I am lighter, stronger, and most important of all - packing some unbelievable stamina credentials.

I'll leave it there for now, and come back to the rest of the story after the weekend.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Training for Ceuse and Year Recap

In 4 weeks time, I expect to be making the daily hike in to Ceuse.

For those that don't know, what that means is a 1-2hr uphill trek with food, gear, ropes, clothing, and water all in tow!

As such, while I *am* on a diet right now, I'm pretty sure weight will be shed by the bucket load once I start doing that walk once a day.

Since the routes out there tend to be somewhere between 20m-50m long, and Craggy Island is only around 10m high, I have been forced to start working on my stamina. As such, Linkups and 4x4 training are taking up the majority of my training. I am also doing some sessions of add-on on the boulder wall, and working on my campusing for raw power.

However, since my foot is a bit sore still, and I have a pulley tweak right now, I have been getting on the Core Training and General conditioning.

Oh yeah, since I'm not climbing aaaaaalll the time, I started creating some more OC like the incredible works you see above.


A couple of weekends back I climbed one of my long term projects in the Peak!

Woop Woop!

For those that don't recognise it, that is the top out of the highball 7B+ super classic 'West Side Story' at Burbage West. 

Despite having climbed the crux section at the base of the route on 3 previous occasions, I had not managed to climb out the upper section. Mainly this has been due to the highball nature, freezing cold hands and wet holds. But this time, with 4 pads and several spotters below, I MTFU and made the move up to the flake.

Topping out while dodging the puddle of water was an interesting experience, but I haven't felt so exhilarated in a long time! 

Another classic down, and the road to recovery seems to be well trodden in.

Checking my UKC logbook while writing this tells me that I climbed Brad Pit over an entire year ago now. Time has veritably flown past while trying to combat various injuries and pursuing my sport climbing goals.
Running down the last year

January - Climbed Brad Pit and the Terrace

February - Went to Switzerland and climbed several 7Cs, tried some 8As

March/April - Lost Mojo and started training again.

May - Trained for sport with Pete and started knocking out the 7c's at Brean Down

June - Ripped stuff in my shoulder and took a long time off. 

July - Couldn't climb much, so started going crazy

August - Due to my shoulder injury I bailed on the sport climbing trip to Spain, and instead went to Thailand!
Found some climbing out there and did a 7B/+ boulder thing after several sessions.

September - Came back from Thailand and went straight out to Fontainebleau with my mates from Craggy Island. During which, I made this short video.

October - I went to Font again with a group of people from TCA and failed to climb anything of note, though I did do a super nails 6a that no one else manage. WORTH! 

November - I did my first Craggy 7c route. Again, for people who dont kow, Craggy sandbags with the best of them, so this was actually quite a big deal for me.

December - Took a really nice series of photos of Hamish on the Joker after his win at the Junior BBCs
Did my first Craggy 8a!!!! Just before New Years I managed to break the back of the problem and climbed all the way to the top in one! YYFY, very Very VERY happy about that ascent. Came at the end of a lot of training, and recovery from injury, and all the other crap that happened in the year.

January - Felt fat after Christmas, also, no climbing anywhere because of the eternal damp.
Started writing stories about pirates and other stuff.

Still only climbed on one hard boulder outside this year, and I wrote about that above.


Monday, 3 March 2014

Part three - in which George gets a job.

George came to, his head was pounding and his eyelids throbbed.

"Wake up, you tiny membered, mast riding, son of a sea serpent," growled the Capitenne, "open your eyes and grow a spine, you lily-livered, sea cucumber!" The vitriol that came spewing from the Capitenne's mouth was made worse by its sheer volume.

George opened his eyes. Slowly at first, squinting carefully through the lashes as he tried to avoid accidentally catching another glimpse of the Capitenne's luscious legs. As his lids parted further, the room started to take shape. In front of him stood a man. Definitely a man this time, but grizzled, and sea worn. His long hair was matted and dark. His beard was the same and, despite its ragged nature, George couldn't help but be jealous. Ever since he had been a young child he had aspired to grow a beard like that.
Once, a travelling salesman had sold him some Mir'arrgh'cle pirate hair tincture® for his face, but it turned out to be cat's piss, and he was followed by strays for a week. George was an enterprising lad though and as a stubbleless youth he had experimented with a variety of prosthetic beards. After much trial and error - balancing warmth with form and function - he had found the best solution at the local baths. He would sneak in at the end of the day to gather the hair from the plugholes, and then stick it to his face with some tar from a local shipyard. This would last for a couple of weeks before he was forced to replace it, which was left just enough time to gather more hair for the next beard.
Eventually though, George had given up, and decided to let what happened, happen. Recently, after 10 years of refusing to shave, he had managed to grow a small moustache and goatee, and he was very protective of those wisps of hair.

Snapping back to the present, George brought his eyes back into focus and saw the pirate still standing in front of him.

And this really was a pirate. It was the pirate that you heard about from stories, the one that rampaged across the seven seas and sacked whole cities on a whim. Even his stance told stories, his cocky grin described a lifetime of pillaging and his swanky pirate-brand clothing betrayed a nonchalant yet superb sense of fashion.

When he saw George's eyes were open, the Capitenne took a step forward and brandished a gnarled fist "Y'ell be workin' in the kitchen wi the rest of the maggots," he said, and punched George in the gut. George's world grew dark and he passed into a deep and troubled sleep, filled with fanciful images of bearded mermaids and mountains of treasure. This, however, was not unusual.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Part two: In which George meets a god-ess?

The door creaked slowly open, and light flowed into the room. George squinted up and was able to make out two dark shapes silhouetted against the doorway. They moved closer and one of them grabbed him by the legs.

“All right Matey, we’re taking you to see the Capitenne,” said Gruff, his wooden leg made a hollow knocking sound on every step.

“The Captain?” said George. He’d never spoken to a captain before. He’d once been asked to find a new feather for the captain’s hat while they were in port, but he gave it to the First Mate - who promised to pass it on with his regards.

“No, 'Capitenne' – you aren’t saying it right,” growled Gruffer, moving round to his shoulders “Now shut your grog hole and be quiet.” They lifted him into the air and carried him through the door.

Once they entered the galley, the flickering light from the oil lamps gave George his first chance to look around at his captors. The one that he had been calling Gruff was holding his legs with his back to him, but he could tell from his slight frame he was much younger than most of the pirates he knew. His short hair was also unusual, most pirates let their hair grow long while at sea, sometimes cutting it when they went a’wenching on land.

The pirate he had named Gruffer was holding his shoulders, and George could see right up his nose, which, although he was an older pirate, was also well trimmed and unusually hairless. His jaw looked as though it had been chiselled from rock, and a slight stubble sat around the edges. In short, Gruffer was handsome, and that was by pirate standards. By landlubber standards, he was practically a god.

Step, knock, step, knock.

Step, knock, step, knock.

They walked down the ship toward the captain’s cabin. The rhythm of their steps sent George into a pleasant daze, he closed his eyes, relaxed into the trip and hummed a couple of bars of ‘The eye behind the patch’. He was just about to get to the chorus when a loud noise echoed round their heads. The ship rocked heavily to the side and George opened his eyes again in time to see Gruffer opened his manly mandible

 “BLOODY BILGERATS!” he bellowed “Those idiots upstairs need to tie the boats better! They’ll have us all down with Davey Jones at this rate.”

George used the break in movement to take a look around again. This time he found himself in the bunk room, hammocks were swinging between joists, and all around him stood a horde of unfamiliar men, staring at him with their eyes. Their beautiful, beautiful eyes.

Every one of the men that surrounded him was at least an 8/10. Accounting for personal tastes, they would all definitely be a 9 after a couple of swigs from a bottle of rum.  He marvelled at the splendour around him, and suddenly felt very self-conscious. It wasn’t that he was ugly. In his own crew he was probably above average., but if he went to a tavern with any of these guys, he would definitely be the ugly friend. He felt like a man that had accidentally walked into the ladies toilet - he decided to take the only honourable action, and shut his eyes.

He heard a few snickers, but the walking started up again soon enough and the noise eventually died away. After a while, they stopped again and he heard a knocking. He took the noise to mean that they had arrived at the captain’s quarters, but he didn’t open his eyes yet, the last time had been too harrowing. The door creaked open and they walked in.

“Capitenne, we have brought the prisoner,” said Gruff, or maybe it was Gruffer. He couldn’t tell. His brain was too addled by beauty.

The next voice that spoke was gruffer than both of them put together. Gruff like a buffalo gargling rocks, like the low rumbling of a volcano, or the rolling fullness of thunder after lightening.

“Put him in the seat. I want to talk to him alone.”

He felt himself being carried, and then lowered into a wooden chair. His eyes stayed firmly shut. There was no way that he could deal with the Adonis standing infront of him right now. His crew was dead, his self-esteem shattered, the last thing he needed right now was to have his sexuality be confused by what was undoubtedly the most handsome man in the world.

“Open your eyes, boy.” The words flowed over him like treacle over porridge. He felt them sink into him. They entered his head slowly, as though travelling through every orifice, resonating deeply in every pore. He felt compelled. Powerless to refuse.

He opened his eyes and prepared for the worst.
Infront of him stood a woman.

No. The facial hair stopped that train of thought.

A man?

No. The hips were too shapely.

A man wearing an incredibly seductive and flattering dress?

No. At least, maybe?

His eyes looked down at the jet black, high heel pirate boots ®.From there they moved up and saw the start of a perfectly smooth, toned and tanned leg. His stomach dropped, but his eyes continued upwards, drinking in the flawless calf. He lingered for a second at the kneecap, marvelling at its shape. He felt something stir within him. He was just a boy, no one had prepared him for this. He reeled and almost blacked out, but caught himself in time to take a deep breath. He held it for a second and tried to let it out slowly, letting the air blow through his lips like a soft breeze in summer. They were dry. So dry. He tried to lick them, but his tongue wouldn’t move, so enraptured was he by the sight he now beheld. His eyes seemed to move on their own; upwards they went, following the inner thigh high up into the fabric that concealed it from him. He strained against his bindings, trying to see an extra inch, another angle. He took in its curve, supple and gracious, as it rose up into the folds of white cloth that floated down from above. Tantalisingly short; the dress was revealing enough to cause hope, yet long enough to frustrate. It flowed like mist on a winter’s morning, outlining all that it contained, but concealing it from sight. He strained again at his bindings, yearning welling up inside, he forgot to breath, and fainted.

George the Pirate


George the pirate jumped down from the Crow's nest.
His arm was raised in his pirate-patented parrot claw pose.

"Yaaaaaaaaaaaargh!" He shouted again. "CAAAW," this time he added the parrot noise that his old captain had taught him.

He started moving forward menacingly, growling softly under his breath. He wasn't really sure if parrots growled or not, but the response made up for it.
All around him the invading pirates stopped what they were doing, and stared at him.

"Good stuff George," he thought to himself. He turned his eyes in a slow circle, taking in the surrounding chaos, and reached his non claw hand down towards his pirate belt.

It was at this point that George realised that he had left his sword in the nest.
He also noticed that all of his shipmates were on the floor, most of them not moving.

The boarders closed in on him...


He woke to the sound of keys rattling nearby, and tried to sit up from the floor. He gave up when he banged his head against something and found that his arms and legs had been tightly bound with a perplexing pirate knot.
He looked around, and instantly recognised the shabby interior from his long stint as an apprentice pirate potato peeler.

Four years ago, when George had started his pirate apprenticeship, he had been put to work in the galley with the other pirate peelers. He had worked hard, peeling faster than all the others, and led the rest of the crew in the sea shanty choruses. After only a couple of days, he had been given his own room in the back of the galley with the peelings.
As the head chef had said, it was more efficient this way; fewer people in the kitchen, and he could put the peelings straight into the bag.
He could also practice his sea shanties whenever he wanted, which was a nice, because none of the other pirates seemed to want to join in.

He had worked in the room for 2 years, loudly peeling potatoes to the sound of his own songs: 'Yar, it be a pirates life', 'My pirate lady (would you be)' and his proudest piece, 'The eye behind the patch'.
George had always wanted to be a pirate poet. Things at sea just seemed to rhyme; "Peg and leg", "Ship and Clip", "Gull and Skull". One of the best things about being a pirate was that you never saw an orange out at sea.

George could still hear muffled noise on the other side of the door, the keys were rattling and it sounded like two people were arguing in hushed voices.
He rolled over onto his front and squirmed and slithered his way over the peelings and put his ear to the rickety door.

"None o' the keys work," said a gruff voice.
"Are ye sure ye've tried them all?" replied another, slightly gruffer voice.
"Aye, I'm sure. She said it was the one with a potato on it," said the gruff voice.
George squirmed a bit, and put his eye to a hole near the floor. Looking through it, he could see four legs. Three of them were wearing official brand pirate boots (r). The fourth leg was stout and manly down to the knee, but from there the pirate's stripy shorts came to an abupt end and his leg continued to the floor as a lump of wood, scarred with gashes and chunks. Near the top someone had carved a small penis shape followed by "Billy wuz 'ere".

"Hello," George said.
"Oi, what was that?" George saw the peg-leg pirate swivel and look around - clearly that was Gruff
"I think it came from in there," said the other pirate - That was Gruffer.

"I like your boots," George said, "are they real?"
"Whassat?" said Gruffer, taken aback by the talking door, "O'course they be real. I plundered 'em for m'self from the pirate bay in port-au-prince, not three days ago."
George heard a soft thump followed by a curse.
"Are ye quite done talking about fashion?" growled Gruffer.
"I was only answering his question"
Another thump.
"Well stop 'only' answering questions, and help me open this door ya pox ridden dopewit".
"I've already tried all the keys!"
"Oh," said George, "you just need to wiggle it a bit. Some of the peelings accidentally got into the lock, and now it doesn't work so well."
George knew that the peelings hadn't been put in the lock accidentally. Work had been boring sometimes, so he had come up with a game he had called 'peelings in the keyhole'.
He could't remember how he scored it right now though...


Monday, 23 December 2013

Saturday, 21 December 2013