I came back to Calderdale in June and was amazed to be feeling good back on grit. I’d hardly climbed any grit for a year and in April strained a pully from too much board climbing in lockdown. Luckily you can avoid crimping a lot of the time on grit and there were enough 15ish degree days where you could trick yourself into thinking that climbing on grit in June and July wasn’t totally idiotic.
Having got a decent amount of volume in I wanted to get stuck into something hard and decided to have a scout about locally. I’d only ever projected one boulder before, Squishy Squashy, a 7C+ link up at Forest rock, in Leicestershire. After 5(?) sessions I managed to punt off the final and easiest move of the boulder twice. After that session I was annoyed but also pretty buzzing with the fact I now knew I was capable of climbing 7C+, even if I hadn’t managed it then. A few days later I broke my collarbone, 3 months out from that, followed by wet weather and then lockdown, I couldn’t get back to it for months. I was alright with that, a link up at forest rock was more of a training goal for me than an end in itself, so despite not getting it ticked it did its job in so far as changing the difficulty of boulders I thought I could do. I’ve been back twice since, months apart, and spent both sessions relearning beta and feeling good, only to not have enough left in the tank to finish it off. It’d be good to do it one day, but it’s never been top of the list.
After checking out a couple of things I headed far onto the moor to the Hammerhead boulder and Thunderstuck, an unrepeated Mike Adam’s problem. The problem was a project in the Lancashire bouldering guide and I couldn’t possibly describe it better than Robin did when it was still unclimbed: “Embedded in the heather and peat of Lancashire’s eastern reaches*, far from the road and the grasp of convenience climbers, there is a boulder shaped like the head of a hammer. The blunt end of this has what look like holds, if you engage your Infra-Grit vision (for some humans, holds of this colour sadly lie outside the visible range). I’ve tried the mantel on its own, a stern gurn-fest that will likely be 7B/7B+ish. A sitstart is definitely possible, spanning from the back of a small roof to slopey lip holds. Bring your clampiest heels and your best upper arm bumps… I predict the grades of all these projects will begin with an 8 and end with an oof”
*despite being in the Lancs guide it’s technically just inside the West Yorkshire border - make sense given its quality 😉
It seemed like the perfect project, hard, local (still a pain to get to) and it's a style I’d got really into. On my first session I did the first two (and easiest) moves spanning out to the slopers but couldn’t figure out the move to the lip. On the FA Mike Adams kept the far back heel used for the second move, however being at least 6 inches shorter that was never going to happen, so I started trying a dynamic slap to the only decent(ish) hold on the lip. I didn’t even attempt the stand that first session, telling myself it was because it wouldn’t be too bad but really because I was scared to find it nails and be demoralised.
The dynamic beta for the crux I was trying from the first session
Second and third session I figured out the stand, you throw your foot over the roof and press straight into a mantle with only a couple slaps further back on the never ending rounded top.
I kept trying a variety of weird ways to try get the move to the lip. This was followed by two more too hot sessions testing out different methods, I could slap the hold however it’s not something you’re holding a swing on and I had no idea if I was any closer than my first session. These sessions had been on the ‘cool’ days in July and August but where clearly still way too hot.
Playing around with different ways to do the crux to no success
First session back on it in November and it was a different problem. Turns out trying the hardest thing you’ve touched and on terrible slopers isn’t worth trying mid summer, I knew it at the time but I was just too bloody keen. A ‘hold’ to the left of the one I’d been going for on the lip was now useable and within 5 attempts I’d stuck the move, using the same dynamic beta but going to this worse but closer hold. Only a week earlier I’d been chatting to Will about it and said I’d no idea if that move was even possible for me. This method did mean there were a couple extra moves to figure out to get into the stand, but I managed to do all the individual moves that session even if I managed zero links of any significance.
Second winter session and it conditions were perfect, did the stand easily first go which I’d never done before and it was on. I then quickly managed to do the crux from the start for the first time and was into giving it proper goes. My best attempt I got up the start and fell off the move throwing up the right foot. It’s a low percentage move and because you’re fully locking off to avoid sagging out, really takes some oomph. Throwing the foot perfectly onto the little dimple is rare, but if you manage to get enough friction to get the left foot on you might just be able to pull it out the bag. You’re in for a battle though as you have to improvise on the selection of poor slopers. I didn’t want to leave feeling so close and with mint conditions but with 4 bleeding tips I eventually called it a day.
A week later and I was back, it was cold but I’m guessing more humid, it felt nowhere near as sticky. After a couple hours of just pulling into positions and then starting to do individual moves it had cooled a bit more and was feeling better. I managed to repeat the stand and started giving it proper goes. The routine was do the crux in isolation, give it a go from the start, fall trying the match the lip after the crux, rest 20 mins, repeat. After many hours I got through the lip match and to the stand, I realised in that position with the heel on you’re pretty solid and can take a breather and muster the oomph for the hard foot throw. I missed the right foot but got the left on and started to grovel, getting eager and slapping back to early I was spat off.
Surely it's in the bag
I thought that was it, next to no skin left and feeling exhausted after over 5 hours up there. I didn’t want to leave but couldn’t even do the crux move in isolation with now 5 taped fingers. I took a twenty minute break and decided to have one last tape-less attempt. I sat at the start and chanted “last go, best go” before pulling on with zero expectation, I got past the crux, matched the lip and took a few seconds to psyche myself up for the foot throw and mantle. I threw up the right foot, missing the dimple but managing to get the left on, instead of slapping back to early I got the right foot higher and improvised a scrappy new mantle sequence, a power squeak I’d topped it out.
It was my first time ever repeatedly going back to something with no idea if I could do it, time spent doing/trying moves up on the moors is never wasted time, but it's worth remembering:
“Tactics often trump training” – Dave Macleod
(leave the hardish grit for winter)