Tor, Targets and Tendu

One I wrote a few months back, mainly for my own benefit I think:

I’ve always had a vague notion of targets for my climbing, but in the last few years they’ve become more concrete. I started to view myself more as an athlete, and tried to take that attitude towards achieving the goals I have. In the past 4 years I’ve realised a lot of those goals, and a great number more have shifted as I’ve realised how naive I was about what I could achieve if I put the effort in.

For the past couple of months I’ve been at Raven Tor quite a bit. I wanted to get Tin Of done, as it seemed the next logical route to do, and one I should be able to do quickly (I actually had a bit of a nightmare with it). I’ve made forays onto a few Peak 8as this year, primarily to get an idea of how much fitter I need to be to get up them. My conclusion was that my fitness is probably ok for a lot of the short, bouldery routes the Peak has to offer, but that I was lacking strength to actually do the moves. Most of the routes I’ve been on (The Sissy, Unleashing, Little Plum) have boiled down to a hard boulder problem, around F7B. I concluded that if I wanted to do them there wasn’t much point in just laying seige to them, and I’d be better off getting more mileage and then training strength over the winter in the hope of being able to do a couple of them next year.

So, I decided that I needed to get on a project to really test me, and just a notch below that target grade of 8a. I wanted something iconic, and something which would really beat the hell out of me when I was working it. The choice here was totally obvious for me – Body Machine at Raven Tor. I’ve always been inspired by the line and the history. When I started redpointing a few years ago Body Machine was a route which was right at the limit of my imagination. At the time it started by climbing 25 feet up a tree, and then stepping onto the rock into a F7c pitch. I was really inspired by the F7b+ next to it, Indecent Exposure, and that grade seemed like it would be attainable. I wasn’t so sure about Body Machine.

Then, in 2008, some bugger chopped the tree down. I was gutted. For me that probably wrote off the prospect of doing Indecent, and it surely meant that Body Machine was too hard? It meant that you had to add in a short, cruxy F7b+ and then climb most of the F7c section above that. It nudged the grade up to F7c+, which was off the chart as far as I was concerned. I didn’t write it off altogether, but I thought it was unlikely I’d ever be in a position to do it.

The last few years I’ve got a lot stronger though, and a lot more mileage on harder sport routes. My “pyramid” of routes building up to this grade looks about right, perhaps a little skinny by some folks standards, but on paper at least it looked possible.

I had a first session on it earlier this year. It felt desperate. I didn’t put much effort into the first section, since it has a really hard move using a nasty sharp crimp, and I thought it would either injure me or ruin my skin. I figured that the first objective should be to do the route from the third clip, to simulate the original.

You can basically break the route down into 3 sections. The first gives strange, off balance climbing leading into one powerful move using two small crimps, before a few easier moves to a good shakeout. Up to this point is supposedly F7b+ on it’s own, but it’s tricky to grade since it’s all about that one move. The next section is the meat of the route, a few tricky moves lead to a large undercut flake and the infamous rockover move. I don’t think the rockover is that bad actually. It’s a very powerful move, but mostly on your right leg and I find it more psychologically challenging than anything – I never expect to do it, but I’ve done the move far more times than I’ve fallen off it. After this move you get a quick shake and two powerful sequences, separated by a clip, which lead you to the jugs at the break, and a possible hands off rest if you’re daft, or have amazing core strength. For me it’s a pretty good rest, with my foot shoved behind a block in the hole. Most of the rests on this route are frustrating in that they’re probably really good if you climb just a couple of grades harder, whereas for me they’re all a bit time limited. I can’t hang around in that position forever, so I can’t recover completely for the next section.

From the break the third section is for me the hardest. The moves are no harder than what’s already done, but you’re tired and the sequences are tricky, it’s very easy to make a wrong move. On first acquaintance this section felt impossible. This was mainly because it’s quite hard to pull back onto the rock if you fall off, so you waste a lot of energy this way, and also that there are a lot of holds which are clearly well used, but aren’t necessary. After doing a few explosive campus style moves out of the break you end up with your right hand in a reasonable pocket. The next few moves are very drop-able as you work your hand rightwards and get your left hand in the pocket. Footwork is really crucial on this section since the handholds are pretty poor. The move from the pocket to the next good crimp is my favourite one on the route. You leave a reasonably secure position to reach out right for the Tendu hold. This is a small, sloping hold, 4 fingers wide and less than a fingertip deep. I feel like I’m levitating as I get this hold, because I can’t pull very hard on it, so all of my faith is in my feet. When I get the hold I have to move my feet across, gingerly and then hang the hold while I move my left hand. If you’re fresh this move is easy, but by this point you’ve already done 20 metres of climbing and your core strength is sagging. The next few moves are a real tease, with decent holds in awkward positions, requiring you to really focus on your core. The worst point of the route for me is the break by the final clip. You finally reach good jugs, but in a position where you know you can’t recover properly. The next moves are easy really, but they’re on big rounded holds, and it’s still steep. You need to recover a little and then just go for it. Basically if you can get your left foot onto the hold at the lip of the overhang you’re golden, but it would be frustratingly possible to fall here!

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