Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Dovehole Boulders

Saturday was set to be good weather-wise, and for once the forecast was right! It was warm (for February!) and the sun looked promising so Caroline, Andrea and I headed for Northumberland. We all agreed that so often we find climbing in winter so difficult because all three of us get so cold so quickly. Whether this is an unfortunate consequence of our lean, ripped physiques and low body fat, or just because we are girlie wusses, I'll leave you to decide, but Saturday was set to be a perfect temperature for us. Having been to Kyloe so often, Andrea suggested Dovehole.

For some unknown reason I appeared to have removed the road atlas from the car (strange, since we came to rely so heavily on such precious items while we were on the Continent) so we struggled a little with the directions in the Northumberland Bouldering Guide. For those of you who know this wonderful tome, I'm sure you will appreciate the cartographic challenges faced by its valiant authors. More by luck than our expert map reading skills, and maybe because the road atlas was sending us good vibes from it's hiding place under the front seat, we happened upon the Dovehole Boulders peeking out from behind the trees a little way up the hillside. It was a lovely spot, sheltered from most of the wind, and with a lovely view of the Cheviots.

Our first task was to eat. So we sat on the mats and munched our way through various chocoate biscuits, cookies, sardines, coffee, juice and breadsticks, before finding a slightly damp traverse to fall off.

First things first: food!

We started on boulder number one and discovered an interesting and particularly challenging B2 traverse. This was the first time Caroline and I had been bouldering outdoors since September, so it took us a while to work things out.

Following the problems round the boulder in an anti-clockwise direction, the next one was very different from the fingery traverse. A big slappy reach for a rounded lump, followed by a heel hook, turning to a high rockover, and a looooong reach back for some nothingness, left two of us very chuffed to flash it, and one frustrated that she could only do it when nobody was looking!

Caroline getting the heel hook

Depending on which way the boulder was facing, we discovered that some problems were too damp to try. There were some very worn patches too, and we tentatively attempted some of these, our efforts tinged with a mite of guilt at the additional erosion we would undoubtedly be causing just by putting feet on rock.

Our last problem didn't take as long as we thought it would, and our perseverance was rewarded with a proper top out on a Font-height boulder. Wicked! Unfortunately, in our excitement we forgot to take any pictures of it!

We didn't race around and do a huge number of problems; we didn't even do anything especially hard. But just being outside again was fantastic. Circumstances are such that it isn't always possible to spend every day of every weekend outdoors and climbing (although there are many people who seem to achieve that!). For me, the start of the year has been busy, and I have had things other than climbing occupying my time and energy.

Frustrating as this is, I'm not climbing well at the moment anyway so some time out is probably of great benefit. I read with interest extracts from Chris Sharma's journal, written for Climbing magazine. If great climbers like Sharma sometimes feel as though they don't care if they never climb again, maybe it's ok for me to take a wee break from training and pushing my limits while I do other things. Maybe "me and my climbing" have reached the mature stage of our relationship! Climbing indoors is not inspiring me at the moment; I'm finding it hard to muster the enthusiasm to pull hard. Climbing outdoors is currently restricted by office hours and weather, which frequently conspire to limit my opportunities. This weekend's jaunt to the County has most definitely improved my psyche. I hope it will keep me going a bit longer and allow to me focus on other things without going slowly mad.

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