Winter has finally arrived, time to dust off the ice axes. I have to admit I’ve been putting it off as much as I could, the summer has been way too good to let it go that easy. The decision to start training for my winter climbing projects was made for me when I snapped the A4 pulley tendon when crimping too hard on a boulder problem. Luckily a ring tendon is not that important for hanging on axes. So instead of being miserable of the nasty injury, I thought this was the message I needed to start specific training for winter. What’s so wonderful about being a polyvalent climber is that you can change discipline when you need to, maximising your options and always being able to get out on the hills.
So my training had officially started, and with a vengeance, despite the delay. I had one session on the chalk down in the Saltdean cliffs, which went pretty well, focusing on stamina, but I always get blisters on my first session there, and this was no exception. Swiss Cottage climbing wall has equipped a few drytooling routes, so we have now finally a training facility in London where we can get strong, a few visits have been paid to this venue so far.
But the real action has been happening in North Wales, at the best drytooling venue south of Scotland, White Goods. My partner in crime has come in the shape of Tim Emmett, who is looking at getting strong for his lastest installment of the “Spray On” project in the Hemleck Falls, BC Canada. In my case I’m training specifically for my first project of this winter, which is “Mission Impossible” a classic benchmark M11 in Haston’s Cave in Valsavaranche, Italy. I’ve never climbed that grade, and despite not being “hard” by today’s standard, is still a great challenge for a part-time punter like me. Tim had never been to White Goods before, it took me a bit of convincing that this crag is where it’s at, in terms of getting strong in the UK. Finally we found a weekend we could both make the trek to North Wales and the game was on!
Tim totally loved The Goods, he was like a kid in a candy store. He flashed or onsight every single route he would touch. “Mental Block” M9+ offered a bit more resistance to him, it took him two attempts, but after all 9 routes of grade M8 and above, we were tired. I was very chuffed to flash “Mental Block” on the first day. In fairness, I’ve seen Dave Garry working the route once before, so I sort of new where the hooks where. it’s a route I always wanted to do, but always saved it for a good day, and this day was certainly it. This trip I was feeling strong from my summer sport climbing, despite being my first real outing on the axes this season, so to get a flash of an M9+ was very much a good sign. I was even more pleased about my “have it” mentality, snatching the flash ascent almost in the dark and after having gone hard all day. I think Tim’s approach to climbing had a great effect on me. We scoped out the harder lines and noticed that Rob Gibson’s “Lip project” was now fully bolted. After a few text messages, it transpired that no one really knows if it’s an open project or who’s the secret bolter. So we vowed to return and give it a go.