Sometimes it’s hard to measure your own progress in anything. As a teacher I’m aware that I’m getting better at my job, but it usually takes someone else to point out to me the things that I’m doing to help that. After a while things become instinctive, and you don’t really notice the things that you do out of habit.

It’s similar with my climbing. In the last few years I’ve tried hard to recalibrate my self-perception. I decided that in order to progress as a climber I had to see myself as a work in progress, and apply the same principles from my pedagogy to my climbing that I would if I were giving feedback to a pupil. I had to view myself as an athlete, and work hard to maintain the things I was already doing well while all the time thinking about what minor changes should I make to do them better. The minor part is important – I see my pupils making progress in the classroom all the time, but I also see them getting disheartened if they can’t access a problem immediately. The minor changes are themselves a motivates, making micro adjustments to what you’re doing gives you a constant stream of achievable goals, and while measuring your progress might be hard (especially for me in the limestone off season) it’s easy to at least see you achieving something.

Last summer I put a winter of reasonable if slightly disjointed training to good use. I threw myself at a range of different routes, I onsighted quite a few E4s, and a couple of E5s. I succeeded in breaking the spell that the grade had, but not completely. I was terrified setting off on Resurrection at the Cromlech. I’d psyched myself up to try Right Wall, which was unfortunately wet. The change of focus was hard, although Resurrection should be easier, and safer, I’d always been nervous of attempting it. I climbed very cautiously, I spent a long time on the route and got the onsight, but I was a mess of lactate by the top. A confident approach and I’d have flown up it.

Body Machine

I ticked through routes at the Cornice – losing a bit of focus in the process. The point of the Cornice was to get fit to try Body Machine again. Throwing laps on some of the easier routes would have been ideal, but I got sucked into redpoint projects, with some success. I made quick redpoint of a bunch of routes I’d once considered hard. Cosmopolitan, Bored of the Lies and Cordless Madness (second go – although I grabbed the chain at the top, I couldn’t face doing it again.) A return to Body Machine saw me feeling strong on the moves, doing the crux statically and consistently, and still getting my arse kicked on the top section. Eventually I got ill just at the point where success was near, it had to be put off for another year.

Yukan II at Nesscliffe

After accepting temporary defeat again from Body Machine my mind turned to what I should focus on for 2015. I realised I hadn’t really be focussed on the goals I wanted. I had a very successful summer, but there were a few long term objectives in the back of my mind that were beginning to feel more possible. I redpointed Yukan II (E6/7 6b) at Nesscliffe in August, the gains in strength from a visit in June were massive, and I realised that I could aim higher if I wanted. I went home disappointed at not having investigated Gathering Sun in the upper quarry, or brushing one of the big E5/6 routes to try for a flash.

There were two routes that surfaced from the depths that had always fascinated me. Master’s Edge at Millstone and Point Blank in Stennis Ford. I went to investigate ME in October, and after a couple of sessions did it clean on toprope, only to not yet find an opportunity to return in the dry to finish the job. Point Blank had been simmering for years – this is probably the one line which has inspired me more than any other. I remember seeing the face on my first visit to Range East in 2005. It’s such an obvious feature, and I wondered why it hadn’t been climbed, perhaps it was just too hard? I could pick out the line that I’d follow on the face, although I never looked any closer to see if it was possible. It turned out it wasn’t too hard as Dave Pickford made the first ascent, and it’s seen a slew of ground up ascents since. At the time it was certainly hard enough to be off my radar, but when he made the FA and gave it a grade of E8 my first thought was that it didn’t seem totally ridiculous, not as high a grade as I expected anyway.

Salmon Left Hand at Bamford

I made a point of telling people my plan – that I was going to spend the winter training with this route in mind. I felt that if I shared it then I’d be committed – I’d feel stupid if I didn’t at least make a good go of getting it done. As it stands I think I’m making progress towards this goal. The sort of fitness that might see me up Body Machine would also get me up this, and a brief foray on an ascender in December confirmed my suspicions, that it’s a feasible objective for me. Whether I can pull the whole thing together remains to be seen, but I’m pretty motivated, and having looked at the route more closely now it feels within reach. Here’s hoping for some good weather at Easter.

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