Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Midsummer madness.


Midsummer last year I was winding my way back up from Bristol after a brief spell doing some of the best and most inspiring climbing I've ever done.

Midsummer this year I am winding my way back from the New Victoria hospital after a long overdue endoscopy. And that's a bit fucking toss really.

(As predicted by the gastroenterologist and nutritionist, the endoscopy has showed nothing significant, although I will be waiting for the results of a biopsy from my duodenum)

So this is a health and climbing blog update (follow up to this) - boring but it gets the information to people who kindly ask me about it.

Innards:

Since the last update I have been on a heavily restricted diet and various digestive supplements, this has been bloody frustrating but seems to be SLOWLY working. I haven't had a full nausea bout for 6 weeks now, and although I often feel mildly queasy and sore, this does indicate some SLOW progress. Yes you might guess the SLOWNESS is also frustrating... I've seen the nutritionist again and she is happy there is some progress and I am on the right track, and also estimates it could be 3-6 months from starting the full diet until I am healed enough (to hopefully go back on to a normal, healthy, and enjoyable diet). That is a....SLOWish timescale but at least it's promisingly finite.

Mindstate:

Since the last update I have had less issues with acute emotional responses to nausea bouts (because there haven't really been any - although the regular discomfort is unavoidably distracting and mood-lowering, albeit quite temporarily), and more issues with "conventional" depression - a natural repercussion from dealing with this illness, even after it's ceased being so physically bad. This too is something I am tackling in various ways, from getting help and support to working on my general thought patterns, to trying to keep active in any form - which has included a lot of going to the indoor wall on gloriously sunny and dry days, and telling myself it will be okay and even having a little bit of fun doing so (mostly thanks to the excellent new Eden Rock opening in Edinburgh).

Climbing:

There has been some! I've struggled a lot with motivation, will-power, focus, organisation, commitment, travelling, planning, and interacting with people - and thus have wasted most of that reliable hot dry spell. I might be slightly grumpy about that. On the other hand, I haven't struggled so much with moving over rock nor especially plastic. I think my fitness and strength are almost as normal, even if my confidence isn't. So when I've finally got in the right situation, I've done okay. Bit of trad, bit more of sport, small numbers, some success, some failure, some fun. Keeping going on the basis that it (climbing and training) will all add up in the end and when I'm finally healed I will be able to climb normally and fully happily.

As a small reward for reading another paint-dryingly exciting post, here's some photos to celebrate some recent climbing:













Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Going Off Piste.


Climbing that is, not skiing. Skiing, I am a shameless piste-bashing corduroy whore. Give me the first run on a nightly groomed steep varied red or black and I love it. Which reminds me, having not been for 8 years, I should really sort that shit out. Climbing though, give me the two star routes, the hidden gems, the esoteric classics, the fantastic routes that aren't in bloody Rockfax honeypotting selects and ARE in definitive guides - and thus are one of the many key reasons to buy definitive guides (or select guides by definitive-producing teams), to keep these off-piste crags and routes detailed and highlighted so they get enough attention and don't disappear under the jungle of neglect.

Or crags that, in the case of the current subject, aren't in any print guides but are well-documented online. This is down in Northumberland, where a short hop over the border takes you into the land of new bouldering venues having high quality detailed PDF topo guides, rather than in Scotland where new venue details are hidden by a veil of obfuscation and only come about by clandestine word of mouth IF you're in the right social circle and understand the right accent.

Bouldering has been one saving grace over the late winter (sometimes on rock, sometimes on the shapely, skin-friendly, technique-testing resin over at the new Eden Edinburgh). Having the highest ratio of muscular stress / technical interest to psychological challenge / logistical difficulty of any climbing sub-genre (basically the moves are hard and everything else is piss), it's been easier to get out and do when I'm feeling okay, without having to commit to big changeable plans or expend a lot of energy when I'm a bit fragile. After warming up on the normal areas, I've headed off-piste in The County, and had some great days out:


Howlerhirst

The most recent escapades with able assistance from The Fox (not enough of this these days since he's spawned a sprog). I'd been here years ago for a bit of nice, typically underused trad, with development of the "quarry" section (distinctly un-quarried feeling) the amount of problems has tripled and made a nice circuit. I was particularly chuffed with the high 6C+ wall as it felt quite committing to dyno (not my forte) even above a good landing, but also with the soundtrack which took a couple of hours of editing to get just right, and is a particular favourite of mine. Having got the latest RT album I saw them a few days after this bouldering trip and they were bloody brilliant live as you might expect.

Edlingham This is both a video from a while ago AND a crag that is in the book, but of course since it's not BowdenKyloe it doesn't get nearly enough attention. It's not got the density of problems but it's got some really nice ones (enough to come back for, see below). I brought in a rope to clean the highball top-outs of the main buttress problems, but it turns out I hardly needed it......this time....

The Stell

.....and this time I didn't bring in a rope and the main holds on the top-out were seeping and the dry holds were lichenous and it was all a bit epic, but the problem was bloody great (one I had an inkling I could do last time but didn't have the energy / skin / conditions then). Then it was swiftly over to The Stell where the blue skies contrasted nicely with the massive snow-drifts beneath the crag, including one that I'd half slid on with my pads to get down over the top, then after completing the first problem decided to hop back down it again and promptly embedded myself up to my waist, cue much paddling and bellyflopping and emptying my chalkbag of snow, all off-camera alas.

The Stell's vibe, modest height, shapely blocs and bewilderingly soft-touch grades enticed me back for another visit. On arrival it was grey and dull, with a few spots of drizzle, and I somehow managed to pick a colossal sandbag to start working. Hard Times is a couple of grades harder than Ed's Cave Arete, I couldn't even pull on the stand-up. Motivation bottomed out somewhere below zero and I was about to sack it off and trek back to Eden, when I started fondling the slimpers on Too Hard For Blakey - this sucked me right in with it's minimal distillation of climbing down to not just one move, but the feel of one hold (getting the left slimper secure enough to slap), and got me psyched enough for a great day, despite the tripod falling over on the last problem as the rain came in and bashing in my camera lens (estimated repair cost: £213, cost of same model new: £219 UHUH).

High Crag

Another typically oddball day on my own. It says something when the most actual fun part of the day was power-hosing the car partway on the very long slog home. This was to reveal some of the bodywork underneath the liberal coating of mud both it and I got when I parked on the minor road (no signal of course) verge, got it stuck in snow-covered mud, and was furiously trying to excavate it just as I got a caffeine peak (back when I was drinking proper coffee) + blood sugar crash meltdown. Well done me. Two passing locals in a Skoda with only single-figures worth of teeth between them but a thoroughly friendly vibe managed to haul me out, and thus it was on to the crag where I spent a lot of time in a freezing gale wondering about crawling out with a mashed ankle and was it really worth it and what on Earth was I doing. But yes of course it was worth it....

Shitlington

Good name, good crag, good bouldering. A surprisingly normal day where I came, I climbed, I carried around a rusty old rifle and a sheep skull as luck totems and they seemed to work.

So there we go, get out and explore, there's cool stuff out there, it deserves and needs your chalk more than the same old honeypot circuits do. Take a brush and a flask and watch what verge you park on. For me, I've still got to go to Garleigh (in the book, but definitely not a honeypot) and maybe Simonside Plateau (looks mighty nice), although maybe I've run out of conditions this year.

Finally, I had my comeuppance going off-piste route climbing at Callerhues. Despite this being a fairly classic, insta-drying, extremely aesthetic crag with fine rock features, the 30 minute walk (which even I can manage), boldness of the routes, and lack of imagination of climbers means it is unfairly neglected and thus somewhat problematic for the outsider. The grades are a black humour joke in the definitive NMC guide and although rightly improved in the Rockfax select, I wonder how many of the routes were actually re-climbed for the latter?? Worse, the generally great rock is suffering from lichen and dustiness, and the routes are bold and committing enough for this to be seriously off-putting. The ease of cleaning a boulder with a quick look around the top and a brush on a stick is of little use here, so what was supposed to be a lengthy mileage day turned out to be a couple of nervy, if good routes and general frustration with the situation. Maybe someone who lives a bit closer than 2.5 hours drive away could give things a wee scrub there so the inherent quality is restored??

Friday, 11 May 2018

Fuck This Shit.


I've been ill for six months now. The best estimate of what I've got is some damage to the small intestine and surrounds (maybe gut lining, sub-clinical inflammation, gut flora balance, SIBO or something), under the broader banner of post-viral / post-infectious IBS of the upper digestive tract (as tentatively diagnosed by a gastroenterologist and a nutritionist - the latter also suggesting low stomach acid and low digestive enzymes exacerbating the issue). This was caused when I contracted norovirus or similar at exactly the same time I'd just had a big leg impact my body was trying to heal, thus not healing the intestinal trauma from the virus - see first paragraphs here. This manifests in fortnightly bouts of nausea with sleep deprivation, loss of appetite, low energy, low mood, as well as general mild queasiness, indigestion, and occasional soreness.

This was bad before Christmas, had started to ease off a couple of months ago, and then came back almost as bad a month ago. This aptly summed up my general status a few weeks back:


Obviously there should be a reciprocal link from low mood > back to > PVIBSUDT, I know full well that mood and stress affect digestion, and I am taking steps to improve my mood, but it's a natural reaction to the issues in the first place.

More recently, you could take that whole diagram, factor in on one side the singularity of focus I've had on getting this issue fixed, and on the other side the frustration of recommended dietary changes to allow my gut to heal (adding in acid and enzymes, taking out dairy in addition to the wheat / sugar I'd already cut out, so I've removed about half the food variety from my diet, but three quarters of the enjoyment, as well as half again added to the cost), and all that has added up to my climbing going completely off the boil, my whole sense of self diminishing, and a distinct feeling of mild but "proper" depression (which I am familiar enough with to distinguish it from the previous low mood). On the plus side, probably due to the diet, I haven't had a bad nausea bout for a few weeks (but still lots of mild queasiness), but psychologically I definitely do not feel myself.

Yes, I am moaning about this. It's not major, lots of people have lots of worse situations, but, it's affecting me, I want to get it out, maybe it will clear my head a bit.

Yes, I am trying to improve this. It's pissing me off a lot, especially at the start of the summer climbing season with reasonable weather. I have the usual dreams and aspirations and don't want to get even further distant from them. I'm trying to train, I'm trying to get some easy mileage in, I'm trying to keep active full stop, I'm trying to weather it out, and I'm getting some help. Hopefully my gut will heal, hopefully my focus will clear up, hopefully I'll keep some fitness up....and get on with proper climbing at some point...


Friday, 20 April 2018

Pfalz Pfotos.


Okay okay some proper climbing ones to share the psyche (I'm still waiting for some others from the team, I'll update this when they get sent over...):

Warning images might feature sandstone, trees, power vests, compression stockings, etc.

Update: Added some photos that Kirsty took with her fancy DSLR:

Neueste Kreation 7, Hochstein - day 1, route 3. Quite a steady start to proceedings.

Sudostkante 7, Frohndellpfeiler - really cool route this. Started up a gnarly little "HVS 5b" crack on the right side of the arete, swung into a cool heel-toe rest in space, and then yarding up the crest on perfect flat jugs. This was shortly before failing on the brilliant Spidermove because I was too casual deadpointing from a slopey crimp to a two finger pocket. Cue the mother of all tantrums and a bit of tree-climbing to recover my quickdraws from where they ended up.

Langer Amenweg 7+, Spirkelbacher Rauhbergpfeiler - very cool route with probably only grade 7 climbing, but 7+ commitment and excitement including a handless knee mantle onto a constricted ledge, pinchy bridging up a blank hanging groove and then an obligatory exposed run-out. Can I get an amen?!


Planet der Affen 7 @ Buttelfels - typically aesthetic and scenic little wall, albeit without the usual towering tower above. This route had a tricky start to get to the bolt an a fun finish on good holds. This was shortly before failing on an excellent 7+ wall because I got fooled by white herrings and didn't look around to find the un-chalked easy sequence, there might have been some rage.


Eroika 7- @ Spirkelbacher Rauhfels - grand old wall of masses of honeycomb pockets and spaced bolts / threads. Easy and unrefined but a nice adventure. This was shortly after failing on a great bouldery 8- with a hard deadpoint to a 2 finger pocket - I was very focused and determined but half a cm too shallow, gutted.


Intensivstation 8- @ Dahner Kuckuckfels - something hard I didn't actually fail on. The crux involved a merciless rockover via a razor crimp, in the first shot. My sort of move but even so part way through I nearly ground to a halt and really hard to dig deeper and crank harder. The most satisfying move of the trip.


Klink Flink 7- @ Weiherwande - easy but very aesthetic wee scoop thing. A nice warm-up.


Lange Westwand 7- @ Ringsberg Westpfeiler - very nice wall this. I did a sketchy 7- on the right slab below the arch, an easy 7+ on the right slab above the arch, a cool 7/7+ up the right side of the main wall, and this really nice easy 7- up the middle-left side (where my rope is in the 2nd shot). Pfalz wall bimbling at it's best.


 Zu Fruh Gelacht 8- @ Luger Geiersteine -  a very aesthetic wall on impeccable rock. It involved a jump from a slopey pocket to a decent rail then a grovelly slopey lip-turn over the bulge above (2nd shot). Good cool conditions for this. This was my day of "trying hard not climbing hard" and around this I failed on a big 7+ with a desperate precarious crux and then a burly slopey lip-turn that I fell off, an 8 just left of this route with a big dyno to an unexpectedly slopey break that I fell off, and another 8 with more desperate precarious climbing eventually leading to a brutally hard slopey lip turn that I fell off. How the fuck I managed to fail on all that lot and not lie down in the middle of the road waiting for an HGV to take me out, god only knows.


Direkte Talwand RH 7+ @ Dingentalturm -  bit of an odd line as I think the original direct is suppose to go left of the upper bolt and a new sport route seems to join it and finish up right, but what we did was the logical direct line and really good, with positive moves on positive but diminishing honeycomb leading to an easier "resistance" finish. All with a fine towering backdrop of course.


Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Pfalz Pfrustrations.


Trip 3....days 16-24....crags 26-34... After one trip in a sweltering summer and one trip in a claggy autumn, surely a fresh spring trip would be the time to really push myself on the ever-intriguing Pfalz sandstone?? 3rd time lucky or maybe not...

There were tantrums, swearing, gear-throwing, sulking (and subsequent apologies to the team), and then plenty of realisations, learnings, and semi-calm acceptance that the ever-intriguing Pfalz sandstone is bloody difficult and I might have to adjust my aims. I focused on trying hard instead of climbing hard, ticking crags instead of ticking routes, and had a great trip overall (which was probably inevitable given the area). I also learnt a fair bit so I'm writing this partly to share the knowledge and partly to remind myself for the similarly inevitable "next trip".

Pfalz Challenges:

1. Friction and conditions are absolutely crucial, breeze especially (rare *).
2. Routes require a mixture of gritstone technicality / friction AND limestone power.
3. Routes are often incredibly cruxy with easily droppable cruxes.
4. Some "sport" routes can be pretty bold / committing.
5. Specific common hard moves are: precise deadpoints to small pockets, massive reaches / full dynos (sometimes to non-jugs), hard pulls / rockovers on razor rugosities, slopey mantles / lip turns, figuring out best sequences from a sea of pockets **.

Pfalz Grades:

1. They are VERY variable and random. Expect a full grade variance on up to 50% of routes.
2. They have no correspondence to the standard grade tables, being at least a grade harder.
3. A few grade comparisons from similar sandstone:
Helsby:
Flake Wall E4 6a - Pf  7/7+
Calcutta Wall E4 6a - Pf  7+
Brandenburg Wall E3 5c - Pf  7-
Armathwaite:
Viennese Oyster E3 5c - Pf 7-
 Diamond Lil E3 5c - Pf 7-
Berdorf:
Arete Paulette 7a+ - Pf  8-
Voleur De Spits 7a+ - Pf  7+/8-
Yellow Submarine 7a - Pf  7+
Mike 7a - Pf  7+/8-
Nesscliffe:
Marlene E4 6a - Pf 7/7+
Straight Talk E3 6a - Pf 7+
Red Square E1 5b - Pf 6/6+
4. Since the routes are so cruxy, a comparison with grit routes might be more accurate, e.g. E3 6a rather than 6c/+ for 7/+, E4 6b rather than 7a for 8-. Remember to factor in the variable grades AND how variable very bouldery cruxes will feel***.

Pfalz Tactics:

1. Heed conditions as key - adapt challenges to suit.
2. Toughen skin constantly with anti-hydral
3. Take a spare rope bag for the sand, clipstick for miles high first bolts, pointy shoes for pockets (dragons for me), brush for clipstick for bouldery starts.
4. Accept Pfalz is hard, get focused right away, e.g. deadpoint precision as early as possible in trip.
5. Always plan for various move options, always look around for holds and possibilities (despite chalked white-herrings).
6. Heed the likely challenges** and train those as much as general climbing prior to trip.

N.B.

* -  The crucial breeze is still a difficult factor to predict from the weather, as due to the endless valleys, hillocks, forests and sandstone ridges, the wind can wander around and appear/disappear of it's own fickle will.
** - The likely challenges were what I learnt specifically from the harder routes I failed on and the harder routes I succeeded on - there were distinctly common types of crux moves.
*** - The variety / morphology of crux difficulties is very similar to grit and cannot be underestimate.

Finally...

If all else fails, just do some awesome sandstone bimbling on funky towers and ridges :)


If you've read this far, feel free to be rewarded with some entirely useless non-climbing photos:












Thursday, 1 March 2018

Peak Fiend??


I did some bouldering recently and it looked - and sounded - a bit like this:



According to old skool legend and mild-mannered intellectual Andy Popp:
We have reached peak Fiend - good work sir.
Which made my day :). What is Peak Fiend? Ridiculous clothing, ridiculous music, ridiculous enthusiasm for climbing despite both of those? But more than that, it's all just genuine. It's just me. Sure some of it might be a bit silly for some people, sure I might ham up certain aspects to entertain/amuse/provoke others....but those aspects are all part of me. Not that I have to justify this and it's all a bit navel gazing (I need an angled mirror to see past the gut), but it amuses me to explain the process:

6...

A few years ago when I was bouldering around in The County, I saw some cool roof problems that it would be nice to do when it got a bit warmer: Bechstein at Back Bowden, Roof LH at Kyloe Out and Neb Roof at Shaftoe. All properly horizontal, all looked great, all 6C. Hmmm, 6C6C6C....666, this triggered off some nostalgia for my teenage dabblings in LaVey-ian Satanism (before I transitioned into even more ludicrous and unjustifiable militant aestheism before settling on a more realistic agnosticism) and my more mature appreciation for music linked to the dark side in general, and thus provided a theme for the climbing. There had to be 3, they had to be 6C, I had to do them all - not 2, not 4, not a 7A sneaking in there. My aspergers demanded it.

Vague further plans included trying to flash them, trying to do them all in a day, trying to flash them all in a day. Hah! Peak Fiend might be many things but it's not climbing that bloody good. As it turns out Roof LH was abandoned due to being more like 7A+, I did the other two in an hour or so each and after two hours on RLH there were several moves I couldn't do in isolation, B4 Traverse at Back Bowden was subbed in off the benches (Goat Traverse and Extreme Rock were considered but neither made the cut), it might not be a true roof but it is suitably horizontal and suitably great fun. Also abandoned was the idea of doing these in warmer times as would befit such burl, I got psyched and got on with it. This of course required the optimum clothing balance to keep most of my body warm but my skin cool enough for all the slopers. Hence beanie, vest and tracksuit bottoms, a matter of pure practicality and any colour-matching a matter of pure coincidence.

...6...

Bechstein went down fairly quickly, the trio of warm-ups to the right and breezy cave situation setting me up well. The sequence went exactly how I envisaged except for a missing foot sequence going for the lip - and was as cool as I envisaged with the crazy press into a vertical gaston in a roof and flicking into a fingertip undercling, all made feasible by an initially scary (until it popped out annoyingly easily) heel-toe. Neb Roof had always looked the hardest to me, massive holds but only for the upper limbs and since my lower ones weigh quite a bit from DVT distortion / deadlifting beef, I had to do something with them. The notorious toe-hooks first had me raging about them being too morpho for my stumpy frame, but then morphed into a feasible sequence of several feet first movements - all very satisfying. B4 Traverse I'd tried before and was happy to have the baltic breeze on this one, a very precise heel and very precarious slopers saw me scraping along it on a last-ditch attempt of the day.

....6

After this day I drove back feeling exhausted and nauseous, the idea of trying to get a video edited was considerably less appealing than passing out in the Harthill Services carpark for 12 hours. But I guessed correctly my state was cold/hunger induced so at least opened Movie Maker over dinner as my innards slowly settled. Of course the soundtrack was a key issue and I already had plans: Drokz - I Accept The Word Of Satan was essential, which I have on this compilation - yes I still genuinely love gabber, and was listening to some on the way down to Back Bowden the second time. But could I do more?? I've never been a Slipknot fan but have always liked their Heretic Anthem for the catchy chorus "If you're 555 then I'm 666, what's it like to be a heretic?" . Could I mix that in?? Hmmm well...

An hour after getting back feeling like a zombie, I'm downloading Mixxx. Half an hour after that I'm bouncing in my seat as my crude first ever mix actually works: Dropping the first beat of IATWOS as a post-chorus HA breakdown starts, the kickdrum pauses and returns with a bass bounce just as a shouted "Heretic" finishes, then a quick pause in the gabber allows me to flick the speed back up to it's 220 bpm. I am actually more excited than doing any of the problems, as ace as they were. For extra satanic flavour, I manage to drop the main start of Gorgoroth's Untamed Forces (which I have on their album - yes I still genuinely love extreme metal and was listening to this on the way back from Shaftoe) after a drum roll on IATWOS, not a proper mix but the speedcore drumming on UF works well. 3 problems, 3 tracks, one unholy theme, I am unduly giddy.

Peak Fiend is real Fiend...


Sunday, 4 February 2018

An Enthralling Experience.




Possible progressions:
Despite mild but persistent illness, despite a winter mostly off due to that and my leg, I'm tentatively confident with my climbing at the moment. I've been training quite regularly and feeling quite adequate on indoor bloques and routes. Due to the bleak misery of Scotland I've had winters before that are solely dedicated to training but have led into springs solely dedicated to doing pretty well outdoors. However I still have half a mind (okay, most of my mind, it's a bit obsessed) on what I could do to progress. At the moment, by far the biggest improvements to my climbing would be to fix my digestive issues (in progress - seen consultant, due for ultrasound, more bloods, stool test, possible endoscopy) and move somewhere near an actual decent amount of crags (not nearly as in progress as it should be). In terms of what I might actually train for, apart from the usual bollox (stronger, lighter, fitter, lighter, more flexible, lighter, etc), one thing I am focusing on is.....focus. Specifically trying to maintain focus and composure when the situation becomes physically and mentally stressful, which obviously happens a lot climbing trad at your limit, and is harder just to climb through than other disciplines. I'm calling this....

Calm amongst the chaos:
The idea being to keep putting myself in mildly stressful situations while training, and keeping aware enough to accept the chaos, acknowledge how it makes me feel, and try hard to keep calm - and all that entails, e.g. maintaining efficiency, precision, relaxation, etc. Obviously a lot easier said than done but the idea and the awareness is a start. At Kyloe In the other day, there was chaos on two scales: The chaos of the weather, very cool, very windy. Sitting with my back against The Nadser, watching the wind tunnel of tree clearance stretching beneath the grossly underused High T wall, pines weaving and waving at me, there was feeling of calm in my little oasis of light breeze. And the chaos of my initial method of trying the start of the problem: left hand on a ripple combining a 1/4 first joint razor for the lower two fingers and a micro sloper for the forefinger, right hand on a decent 1/3 joint slimper, left foot in micro-navel pocket, pull desperately with left hoping there's not the 1mm creep of skin that is insta-fail, then right toe on a sloping nubbin.....placing the toe and trusting it is the stress, all points of contact tentative and ready to fail. I focus on focus, holding it and springing for the sloping v-notch, occasionally tickling it. Despite feeling a long way from the problem, I enjoy putting my principle into action and viewing it as training, until I find...

A surprising solution:
During rest periods (mostly to let my skin cool down, despite 4'c air temps and -2'c overall temps from 20-30mph westerlies), I alternate between drinking camomile tea, providing moral heckling to The Fox who is mostly eschewing Kyloe power bouldering in favour of easy soloing into moss top-outs, good on him I say as the routes here are bloody marvellous and deserve a lot more traffic, and idly fondling the other non-holds on the Nadser. Bored of diminishing returns on my low-percentage start, I try pulling on on with inimical left hand ripple, right hand on a gratton adjacent to the decent slimper, right toe in a lower central micro-navel, left foot crossed behind me for balance but ready to spring into the original left pocket. This all makes sense but also makes most use of the steepness of the "slab" start, surely I shouldn't be able to compress that hard between two tiny holds, but with cool fresh skin, they feel like...

Bleeding bivvy ledges:
Which is one of the highlights of this problem and indeed winter bouldering in general. The gratton in particular is an unexpected delight, I wish I'd measured it or at least videoed it for my own satisfaction, maybe 3-4mm, perfectly incut as such things are, maybe 1/6th first joint. Yet it works, I squeeze hard enough, flick my left foot on, and catch the v-notch comfortably. I forget how I fell off, maybe surprise that this method is so much more feasible. I do what I always do with a breakthrough, shoes off, go for a stroll, keep both skin and mind calm and dry. Stepping back on, The Fox is loitering to provide ME with moral heckling, and I already have a planned sequence for the top. One go I'm stretching for penultimate slopers but I'm not sure where I'm going and have a hunch it won't work. A quick trot around and a thorough clean and chalk, another go and I tickle the now-obvious holds but too dynamically. Accepting that the full fingertip mantle of the left-hand pico-ramp - pinky springing off to get maximum pressdown - is both unfeasible and essential, I teeter further and do it. A problem that I thought would take many visits is suddenly done in 2 hours (and 4 goes with my new starting beta), surely that can only be...

Cheating conditions:
It's a concept I've had for many years and have sometimes applied well: Try hard with most optimum conditions imaginable, fool the holds into actually being holds, fool myself into actually climbing things that on paper I shouldn't be able to. The essence of learning to boulder on gritstone, I expect. Pretty sure I did that on Brad's Arete pre-ban, definitely did it on Spinal Slab burning 8A Lord Loggington off in attempts required, and always had it planned for Soft On The G in sub-zero temps. And here too, it's essential. The idea of trying to pull on these tinies in anything less than perfect weather is as incomprehensible and bewildering to me as Turkish poetry, thinking in 4 dimensions, or choosing veganism, while moulding my firm skin onto them this day is a genuine pleasure, almost as much as the penultimate move. Given my usual inhibitive sweatiness, I'll happily take this, although I won't take the given grade since: 1. It blatantly isn't and 2. Bouldering grades are horseshit anyway. I will definitely take the thrill of the experience, though :)