Sunday, November 2, 2014

Flirting with danger

           Photo: Ramon Marin

It’s August 19th. I am standing below the line My Piano at Nesscliffe. The rock is still damp and the moves seem to just about go. Extra care on the footwork is prepared. I have just broken the ‘thank-god’ hold to place the cams half way up the arête whilst head-pointing. My friend from Chamonix goes up on top-rope to flirt with the line.

“Without the hold now, its desperate Andre…” Stephen shouts from hanging on the rope whilst looking around for another possible solution. “Bloody desperate” he goes on. I am starting to loose hope.

I lower my friend down to the ground.
“I don’t know how you’re going to place those cams in now” he said.
The sending opportunity seems to be closing the doors.
But the iron still remains hot.

“Give me the cams, I am going to do it now.” I said softly.

My Spanish friend Ramon gets all excited and went up to the top ready to snap some shots. It was a real front row IMAX ticket for him to see the show in real-life action. E8 is the big boys league and only few achieved this level – they are the ones with the biggest balls of them all. I rack up ready and battle my way up the balancing corner of the amazing sandstone cliffs. My god, Stephen is right, placing the cams seems absolutely desperate.  I have no knowledge of this new sequence and just managed to put in two cams without falling. I take a deep breath and run for the oasis.

It’s a real head game where the risk is high. It’s a dangerous man’s sport and I don’t know why we do this, perhaps for the thrill feeling - to feel right on the cutting edge. Climbing is certainly a very strange sport.

Time has flown by; it’s been nearly 3 months since climbing on the outdoor rock. That’s what happens when renovating a new crib and working in London all the time. But soon I will have much more free time when work settles down again.

It’s October 29th and I am on my way to the Peaks to see the Hamer bros. For some reason I am a wee psyched to boulder for a change. I drop the idea to Sam, he looks at me in the eyes as if I proposed to rob the Bank of England. He said “behave”. I suppose I will take that as a no. Sam is a trad warrior and will not tolerate ‘a few poxy moves’. So we’re going to go large then! Within an hour we were in the Hamer’s back garden, Curbar. God, I would love to live in the Peak District.

End Of The Affair is probably one of the most famous Hard Grit routes. A line I had considered for years but had been too terrified to touch it. But today the weather is perfect and my head is aiming straight.

After flowing up easily several times on a top-rope, the music inside my head speeds up. A similar theme from the movie Jaws. Oh boy, the pressure! It’s not hard at all. It’s just precious. It’s possible to be brushed off on any of the delicate moves. It’s the challenge I signed up for.

Millimeters from the final hold, my foot slipped; how did this happen? Why did this happen? Did I not place it on the right pebble? Did I not put enough force on? I suppose these things can happen on god’s own grit. But why at that particular move? The move that is forbidden to fall. Everything goes slow, and you slowly realize your going down. Black hawk down.

I will probably leave this one behind for now.

Here is a little scary video to see.....

Moments before the flight, photo: Archie Cameron-Blackie

 Ed on the no fall zone Photo: Hamer Collection

 Dad's got balls on Grit too. Photo: Duncan Simpson

 Sam on Nettle Wine, E4 Photo: Hamer Collection

 Ramon 'Rambo' Marin somewhere in Scotland Photo: Marin Collection

 Stephen 'weekend warrior' Pearson on Yukin 2, E7 Photo: Ramon Marin

Landon punter faffing at Nesscliffe Photo: Ramon Marin

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Keeping up

                                          Neandertal 8b+

Years seem to pass by earlier as we grow up. This year has been a roller coaster for me, being constantly on the go. More work came along draining all my precious free time in order to save the half terms for the real rock. I ended up working nearly every weekend as well as week days and evenings.

My girlfriend and I recently bought a property in London for the cheapest price you could ever imagine, but imagine how much DIY is required for that? I will probably be on this project for my entire life before I can actually sit on the sofa with a beer. On the edge of being gazumped by sellers and endless financial worries. This is real survival life in London! But with 99 problems on my plate, as a true climber, I always keep the side game spinning. Training was still going with Baxter most mornings before work. After a few mini rows with the girlfriend who sees climbing as just scaling some lump of rock. We came to an agreement in the end that I am allowed to go on short climbing trips if she is allowed to get a new ‘organic’ bed mattress, which cost an absolute bloody fortune! When really I only wanted the cheapest one from Argos or even a camping Thermarest would be fine.

Since my trip to Siurana, I managed to get 7 climbing days in Chorro, 6 climbing days in Tenerife, 1 day on Grit and ½ a day at Cheddar. All during the last 6 months, in just 15 climbing days on rock, I managed to climb….

Danza Agresiva, (El Chorro)                    7c On Sight
Madre Salvaje, (El Chorro)                       7c On Sight
La Golosa (El Chorro)                              7c+ On Sight
Quei Instants au bord du monde               8a RP
Talibania (El Chorro)                                8a Second Go
Subway, (Tenerife)                                   8a Second Go
Preserancia (El Chorro)                           8a On Sight
Morralla De Basca (Tenerife)                  8a On Sight
No Toques a tu madre (El Chorro)          8a+ 3rd go
Bulging Orange (El Chorro)                   8a+ second go
Lion Sleeps Tonight (Cheddar)               8a/8a+ 3rd go
Neandertal (Tenerife)                              8b+ 3 sessions
White Lines, (Peak District)                   E7 6C

I was pretty pleased with my achievements after managing 52 hours of work every week. With motivation and dedication it IS possible to do anything. How much do you really want to push? How ambitious are you?

Tenerife was different compare to the glass rocks of Europe from the comings and going generations of rock climbers. The volcanic rock supplied perfect friction gifting a feeling as if you were in Moab mixing the cracks with crimps from Siurana. Wow! Tenerife is an absolute killer crag.

   Neandertal (8b+) without the ‘th’ as the Spanish pronounce, was the highlight of the trip. After two days of working the route I could barely do the route in 2 half’s. I did loose faith in myself from the struggle. My dad also said that I was never going to get it from observing my poor progress. The nightmare continues, the crimp at the top came off on my second session making the crux nearly impossible. I made a note to quit muffins for life.

After countless searches around the section for clues and solutions I found a new sequence, 6 additional bizarre moves flying to opposing powerful side-pulls. After 10 attempts, more or less, from the ridicoulsly spaced bolt bellow, I finally conquered the moves.  But then was the real challenge, from the bottom, 25 meters below. Uh oh.

The truth was, I barely did the route on my second last day, I don’t know how I did it but I made more noise then anyone could imagine. It was a really triumph. I just couldn’t believe it when I opened my eyes at the chains. According to the locals, it could be harder. I am psyched.

All the hard training with Adrian Baxter is paying off. ‘But it is only the beginning’ he says, ‘you’re going to have to pull much harder’ he continues, like this was advice straight from the Dalai Lama. It’s going to be a hard month ahead now.

 El Chorro
 Beer sends with Ramon and Dad
 El Chorro
 Scary White Lines at Curbar with Ed and Sam Hamer (Ed is passing through the first crux)
 Ramon 'Rambo' Marin
 rest days innit
 Dad has to carry the big haul bag.
 After the gorge of death
 Cold innit
 What a beauty, riding the 'Subway'

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cabin fever (Siurana)

“Give us five”, the words struggled to come out of Sam’s mouth as he put both hands on his forehead. For a second, he looked like if he was having a brain freeze from eating ice cream too fast or something like that. It was New Years Day, there must have been dozen climbers cramped up in a small shed that we were living in. Even Robbie Phillips was on the floor; I thought he was in another climbing destination; Margalef? Sam’s brother Ed was still in his coma. What happened here? I was glad to see my phone under someone else’s pillow; I was incredibly surprised to discover I actually took lots of pictures from the previous night. I don’t remember half of this. Every image justified a thousand words of wild animals we were, celebrating away the New Year! There always seems to be a different drink in everyone’s hand as I flicked the photos by. We all drank probably enough alcohol to kill a small animal. This will be the last time I ever drink.

“Sam, how did we get back from the party last night” I whispered
“Give us five” he croaked. He said 5 minutes 20 minutes ago.

I remember the small crimps in Siurana on some amazing routes I did with Ollie Benzie 3 years ago. We cramped in a one-man tent in the coldest month of the year. We were completely broke having to hitch all over the place. But now I have a job and I told Sam I wanted a proper crib with warmth and warm water but couldn’t believe he booked a shed for the same price as a fancy apartment where our German friends were staying in. I made a vow to not let Sam book any climbing trips in the future.

Here in Siurana everyone was incredibly strong, everyone was sponsored and some were climbing the odd 9a grade. Hanging out with some of these cool dudes made me realise it was a trip I needed to put in a bit more effort on the rocks.

I managed to make a quick tick on Ramadan, 8b, on just my second redpoint attempt. The crux contains a ridiculous crimp that was almost too small to be an actual hold. I don’t know how I did this. I just remember freezing like a gecko on the crux and then huffing and puffing till I blew my way up towards another pathetic sloper crimp hold.  This is the real magic power that you see in the comics. Towards the end, I did the top crux in a completely different way from my original sequence, almost On-Sighting. Why? I don’t know, I am just pathetic at repointing I guess.

Ed, who just recently won the British Leading Climbing Championships a few months before made a remarkable achievement by flashing the classic Kale Borroka 8b+. This is not the first time he has flashed this grade! Let me tell you a bit about the Hamers. From a teacher’s point of view, I would have marked them like this.

Profile: Sam and Edward Hamer
Summary: Two brothers, both keen as mustard for rock climbing, living large in the heart of the Peak District far away from civilization. Ed is a blondie with a 1980’s American mullet hairstyle who’s addicted to Biggie Smalls and Earl Grey Tea. Sam dresses up like old people and talks about fish more than anyone I know. He gets excited like a kid playing Super Mario with his fishing iPhone game. Once upon a time, I witnessed him nearly getting attacked by a seal whilst spearfishing.
Conclusion: Ed needs to stop self-cutting his hair and trust a hair saloon to do the job. Sam needs to wear normal clothes and stop getting a culture shock every time he comes down to London.

Through the trip we had the car stolen by some low life scum. A sad thing to do that cost Sam a fortune on his credit card. Since this issue happened, we had to hitch everywhere as if I was a student again, but some days we didn’t have much luck and had to walk for hours and sometimes there was heavy rain. What goes around comes around. We will get every penny back from this scumbag.

Sam managed to climb up to 8a with absolutely no training in over a year. He still is recovering from a bad wrist injury, which also lead on two more small injuries. In my opinion, this was impressive.

The week’s trip flew by fast and I just managed a quick flirt with the line Migranya (8b). I am not going to waffle about the moves like most boring blogs do. But all I will say is that the line is incredible with powerful dynamic moves. Oh boy, I can’t wait to return!

Cabin fever training
some dude on Migranya
Joonas and Anna appear everywhere I go.
Sam…… belay.
'because your worth it' Head and Shoulders
Sam…… again, belay properly.
"I am too drunk to do a one armer"
NYE party
Ted off the hook and Ed in some coma
Jakob and Ed had a little bit too much to drink compared to Michaela
Hamer hungover
Sam surfing
Ted's Migranya beta
Ed's hand!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Social Climber

September 2nd, my life is changing. A new leaf is turning over.

I had dreams of climbing everyday. I could have been doing what I love the most everyday. But over the years I was just a part-time punter, and now transferred from that league further down the rabbit hole into the social climber’s category.
I started a new job at a College in East London as a SEN Teaching Assistant. Working with teenagers can be like facing a black hole that slurps your energy out. During the same week, I set up the Squad at White Spider Climbing Wall coaching some keen youths two evenings a week after College. That’s not it all… I also have a third job! On Saturdays, yes at the weekends, I run Masterclasses and coaching at another club called IOTA. Sometimes I attend to climbing competitions to motivate and support my Squad. A question popped up in my head, when am I ever going to have time to climb for myself?

Strange to say, but I am in my best shape ever. How is this possible from working sometimes 56 hours a week? What’s the magic? The secret is there is no secret. You just have to make an effort and find time to train. You just have to stop watching television. You’ve got to cut down socializing in the London pubs. You’ve just have to wake up much earlier than you’ve ever imagined. You’ve just got to make it happen.

And you know what?
It pays off.
Is it worth it?
Every goddamn sweat.

I have been doing 6.30am sessions with strong Adrian Baxter. It takes me over an hour to travel to the wall by public transport, this means waking up at 5am. Adrian is another full-time Londoner who works ridiculously long hours too. But dude, he’s strong.

Little time left is found after College and weekends and Beastmaker pull-ups before work helps too. But I still need to leave some spare time to invest into; I have a long-term relationship with a beautiful girl who doesn’t climb. But I can still make everything work. (Just about).

Perhaps a structured weekly schedule helps the training targets. It controls everything to detail. I am not just training randomly, that’s silly if you don’t know what you’re training for. I have goals during my half terms. As we all know it’s hard to get away for the weekend when you only have one day off a week in London. This is why I plan to go away every half term. I need to climb; in fact I have to climb. Not just for the joy but also for the addiction. Just like Batman needs Robin and Popeye needs spinach, it’s the same thing.

Last month I had a week in Kalymnos with my pops and friends managing to on sight up to 8a. Just before College started, I squeezed two days on the Grit with the strong Hamer brothers, Ethan Walker and Dave Mason sending E6 and E7 scary ticks. I would never be able to achieve these sends if it wasn’t for the amount of training I did. If I had a lazy gene, I could have easily climbed half as much as I do now and used my work as an excuse of not having time to train. But that is a coward’s attitude.  No matter how hard and how long we work, anything is possible but it all comes to the sense of how badly do you want it? How motivated are you? How far are you willing to go? What sacrifices are you willing to make? How good do you really want to be?

Senders celebration pose (Me, Ed and Sam)
Adrian in action before most people wake up.
Kalymnos on sight swing
We aint no punters (Dad and I)
Sam showing me his secret Garage. 
Robbie Phillips warming up before exploring another island near Kalymnos 
Sometimes things happen.
Moment of truth
                                                              1-5-8 is simply not good enough.