Summer slumping

I had a fantastic summer last year.

I guess the highlights for me were onsighting Resurrection at Dinas Cromlech (I’d always been quite intimidated by it) and headpointing Yukan II at Nesscliffe (one of those times where an idea to do a particular route comes together quite nicely.)

Yukan II at Nesscliffe

Towards the end of the summer I paid another visit to Malham with Mark Rankine, the first in nearly 6 months. Mark was keen to finish off Raindogs, having got close a few days earlier, and I thought I’d have another look at Obsession. I figured the weather had suddenly got cooler, and I had a week until school started again so a refresher session would leave me with time to return and finally get it finished.

First go up I couldn’t remember many of the moves, I reworked the sections and few good bits of beta came back to me.

Mark fell off the finish of Raindogs.

Next go I got a bit anxious and over-reached at one of the clips, leaving me too pumped for the tricky undercut moves. I was annoyed with myself, I should have tried harder, I just slumped onto the rope really. But that was ok, this was just another fact finding mission, right?

Mark fell off the finish of Raindogs.

Third go up. One for the fitness. Hey, this is going ok, not concentrating too hard, just letting the moves flow. Remember the plan, clip and climb. Into the undercut, a slight wobble, then catch the sidepull with the perfect thumb pocket. Feeling totally calm and strong at this point I climbed through the section comfortably to the rest by the final bolt, composed myself and pawed through the tricky finishing moves to the lower-off. An unexpected tick.

Mark sent Raindogs. Top day.

I felt really uplifted by this route, I’d felt close before, but hadn’t expected to feel so in control when I did it. It’s great to return to old projects and get them done, especially as it provided me with a really concrete measure of my fitness. Definitely fitter than last year, and six months ago.

The whole summer had been gearing up to trying Body Machine again once the temps dropped and my fitness peaked. A first return session on it was promising, I felt really strong on all of the moves, did the crux static and put in some decent links. Next session I hit a new highpoint, only a couple of moves further than last year, but still, progress. I returned once more and hit the same point 3 times in a row. I had nothing more to give. I knew I could climb the lower section better, but I simply wasn’t recovering in the resting position. The top moves are powerful and I get spat off one clip after the rest every time. I only need to add a few more moves, but I’m totally maxed out at this point.

Three weeks and a lot of salad and bike commuting later and I’m 3kg lighter. It’s raining lightly, but conditions
seem surprisingly good on the route as I put the clips in and I’m hopeful, even though I still feel tired from work. First redpoint I fall off the crux for the first time this year, I can barely do it when I pull back on. It takes me a minute to realise that the whole route is condensed. I try to put in a link from the first crux to the top, but I’m over-gripping and greasing off the whole way and it doesn’t happen.

Body Machine

Next morning it’s cold and fresh. Perfect conditions. Will it happen? Someone else has the clips in, saves me the bother but what do I do to warm up? I spend ages bouldering and eventually get my shot on the route. I’m shaky, fighting my way up the lower section I only just make it to the good rest. I tell myself to carry on regardless. Who knows? Sometimes it’s the attempt that feels the worst that brings success, draws out the extra fight in you.

Guns raised I pull out of the rest onto the steep and compact final crux. It’s powerful, snatching between sloping crimps to a reasonable pocket. Feet up. Out of the pocket and then use all of the body tension I can muster to keep my weight in a transfer my left hand to the pocket. Clip. I’m boxed, but this is a new high, hold it together for just a few more moves. I reach rightwards, hips sagging and fingers uncurling. I’m on the poor crimp, but in my panic I haven’t moved my feet, I’m playing the fools game and ignoring my beta because it feels like moving my feet will spit me off. And now I’m stuck, too strung out and powerless to move my feet across. I can’t lean back to place them, I fight as hard as I can but to no avail. My right hand snatches for the good crimp at the end of the traverse. Catch it and use the momentum to dance your feet up and undercut to glory. My dancing shoes fail me, and all I’m left is the memory of how that crimp should feel when you get it right. I’m chuffed with a new highpoint, the end of the hard climbing, but frustrated to contribute to my failure with such a basic error, ignoring my own well-worked beta. Another go and I’m nowhere.

Back at the drawing board I evaluate my options. I’m pretty sure at this point that I’m strong enough and fit enough to do this route. A little more wouldn’t go amiss, but the game is all in my head now. My body knows the moves and the positions. I’ve refined most of the beta and the clips. The problem now is that my heart rate is too high, I’m too anxious. I’m not recovering because I’m worrying about falling out of the rest position, even though I never have. I’m climbing too staccato, I’m thinking too much. Perhaps it’s overworked? Maybe I need to fresher up by using some different beta?

So this week: I’m focussed on techniques to lower my heart rate while I’m climbing. I’m breathing well, but I’m anxious. I’m desperate to get the route done but need to feel less pressure. I need to be calm. I need to believe that I’m strong. Believe that I can recover. I need a little bit more self-confidence. I need to use momentum, forget about the microbeta and enjoy the movement. Enjoy feeling strong.

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