Monday, 22 September 2008

Law of Gravity

The weather has blessed us recently, enough to have two good afternoons on my project at North Berwick. With so much else going on at the moment, it was nice to be able to have just an afternoon out climbing, rather than committing to a full day and spending it fretting about not getting other things done.

I say "my project" but in fact it's probably not project material for a lot of people, including Sam's hardcore Alien 2 crew, but being only 5'4", everything at North Berwick is project material for me. The mission? To grow/stretch/reach at least 3 inches more than my current maximum.

The facial expression here says everything. This is Darkness Falling (6a+) in the corner of the slab. It's only 6a+ and yet every time it feels like relearning my times tables: should get easier but is always an immense and painful struggle. Just reaching the first clip is a mental and physical battle. After that, there's one hard-ish move and then it's ok.

Jonni, looking cool as a cucumber in his new sunnies, gracefully reaching for the good hold on Darkness Falling 6a+.

Moving through the corner and onto the other wall, we concluded our usual warm-up sequence with Law and Disorder (6a+). I'm sure this is well known for it's dynamic start, but I have to dyno off the large block to the right; any minor error of judgement on this would see me hurling myself off the ledge entirely, landing 10 feet down in a pile of nettles which, incidentally, hide a very large rock. Jonni can reach the first hold just by standing on tiptoes.

Jonni on Law and Disorder, smirking about something...can't think what!

Having messed about on lots of fun stuff, I then realised that it was my turn to climb and I couldn't escape the reason I was here: Law of Gravity. The 7a start is too reachy and the nettles under it pose a greater risk than the alternative, so I usually opt for the 7a+ start. The last time I was on this was May, I think, when I managed to link all the moves on a top rope. Bong was dyno-ing for the two long moves low down, which completely freaked me out about leading it. My climbing isn't especially dynamic at the best of times, let alone when I might have to flail around somewhere in the heavens for a tiny wee ledge that is clearly beyond my reach! Anyway, this time I was cornered. Nobody was going to put the clips in for me.

The first two clips went fine, much to my surprise. Thereafter it became a bolt-to-bolt affair. Injured and therefore not climbing, Caroline was along for the ride and to practice her photography skills, so I have some interesting pictures!

This is the second of the two very long moves just above the second clip. Although, having said that, they're all pretty long moves for me. I think I missed the good hold on this occasion, getting the left hand end (which is slopey) rather than the right hand end of it (which is much more jug-like). The right hand end is about an inch higher....not much but when you're almost at full stretch anyway, it makes a difference. Never mind; you know what they say. If you're not falling...

Bolt-to-bolt was good until I got to the last one. That's when the scare factor really kicks in for me. I was talking to Martin at Alien 2 about it, and he said, "Nice move at the top where you get the two undercuts and just stand up." Just stand up??? The damned holds are above my arms at full stretch!! I have to stand on the big ledge with both feet, get the left hand slopey slippy sidepull, tuck my left toe into a tiny hole in the wall above that big ledge, push down hard with my right hand and tighten every muscle in my whole body to get my right foot up onto a tiny ledge so that I can let go with my right hand and reach the other side pull. After that, it's ok. But mustering the courage to tuck my toe into that tiny hole, praying hard that it will stick, is an icky moment.

Dislocating a left hip, crimping hard with the right hand and reaching left hand up for the little black triangle in the break above my right hand. It's a looong way, with nothing else for my right foot.

This is a first, and wrong, attempt at the icky moment move. The tiny hole for my left foot is somewhere behind my left knee in this picture.

So the following week, I got straight on it, bolt-to-bolt first to remember the moves swiftly followed by a first redpoint. All good, cracking through the long moves, psyched for leading the top move, and what happened? My foot SLIPPED out of the diagonal crack lower down. There are no words strong enough to express the frustration. I've made stupid mistakes on redpoints before, and many of them. At least they provide a legitimate reason for screwing it up. But I don't believe I've ever just slipped like that. My fingers can only just reach the bottom of the crack above, so there isn't much purchase there to be able to just hang on and pull harder.

Here is the slippy left foot: I'm at such a stretch it's really hard to see exactly where to put my foot....I guess I put it in the wrong place which is why it slipped. I need that extra wee step up to get a proper grasp on the right hand. Alas, this time it was not to be. Gravity was calling loud and clear.

The failed redpoint...

So, next time it should go. Dave suggested (tongue in cheek I think....!) that for short people like me it should get 7b not 7a+. I'm not sure about that, but I am left asking myself how the grade can be anything but altered by one's height. Clearly, someone with a longer reach than me is going to find this route easier. Does this just mean that I have to be stronger and technically more competent than my tall counterparts in order to climb the same routes? ;-)


Dave Redpath said...

An excellent route, glad your enjoying it. This was my first 7a+. Lovely wee wall shame there wasn't more of it.

Iain said...

Yes it does ;-)

I find that move reachy enough and I'm sooooo much taller than you (:p) it's no wonder you're struggling with it.

I don't think routes are normally as height dependant as bouldering, unless you're in a scottish quarry where some tall bloke manufactured some of the holds.
This one seems to do alright on routes:


sam clarke said...

I really don't reckon that being short is any more of a disadvantage than being tall. Obviously certain routes, the ones at North Berwick being prime examples, are height dependent. But equally there are lots of routes and boulder problems that are easier for the short (cubby's lip, very big and very small, jerry's traverse at stanage, etc). For one thing it's easier to be strong if you're short-you weigh less and you have shorter levers. I suppose being tall is great if you are ridiculously flexible and can still have fingers and a core of steel. I don't know anyone like this though. All the really good climbers I can think of are a little on the short side.

alpinedreamer said...

Height versus Grading is a perennial debate that isn't going away! It's nice to provoke people into responding to blogs.

I do agree with you that on balance I would rather be a short climber than a tall climber. It seems to double the value of my achievments in the eyes of people who don't know any better. ;-) Well, I have to prop my ego up somehow!

alpinedreamer said...

At least you have long arms, Iain! I have normal sized arms ;-)

Oh, and you're much stronger than me. I guess that helps.