5th dry weekend in a row, 20 days climbing in the North West this spring (forecast looks to be bolloxing out for a bit so I am really glad I persisted in making the most of the freakishly dry weather), 3rd trip to Skye in those 5 weeks, and the trip in which I finally wrapped up most of my inspirations from Autumn 2010.
Poverty Point, Neist - My ticklist was, in order: Golden Shower (whichever one the rear pillar is in Gary's fucked up ordering), Bad Dream, maybe Fight Club, and just possibly American Vampire. After semi-warming up on various thrutches and generally feeling somewhat knackered, I shocked myself by grinding up the least likely American Vampire, the hardest route I've done since Rat Race last Autumn. The gentle angle of the start gave me enough momentum to "give it a look" and once I was involved the prospect of overhanging hand-jamming was enough reward for me to commit through the route. At the top I had a stitch from the exertion and a lot of grazes :). Golden whatever will have to wait for another time...
Staffin Slip - My aim was mileage and/or giving Jugs Of Deception a go, well I gave it a go but since it was pumpy, blind, committing, relentless and generally a bit fucking hard, I didn't do it but I did the mileage thing instead, 45m each of Gorbachev and Woman Of The Eighties felt like bloody miles especially the latter which was quite an epic battle. Rounded off the day with a couple of shorter jamming delights but unfortunately just missed dinner at the splendid Granary Restaurant in Portree, oh well more tuna pasta heavily seasoned with midges at The Slig.
Suidhe Biorach - My clear desires were Digitalis and Mother's Pride, the former I was pretty confident and relaxed about, the latter I was just plain shitting myself about, remember how I moan about super-steep Scottish trad, will this motherfucker has pride of place in the steep trad stakes. Well it was worth the mental effort of getting on it - the first roof is a battle and probably the crux, the rest niche is plentiful, the second "roof" is a technical delight, and the arcing top wall is as super-juggy as it is super-steep. There's even a perfect jamming rest squatting on a wee knobble, all of this perched well out above the sparkling sea. Just brilliant. Digitalis is equally brilliant, great wall climbing with a spot-on "just enough" crux. A great end to a great trip.
Each day on this trip I faced a good challenge, mental or physical or both. Each day I managed to get fully focused and engrossed in the challenge, and each time I really enjoyed the state of mind and the climbing situation I got into. Now I finally feel that I am climbing a bit more normally, a bit truer to the inspirations and challenges I enjoy. Now it's time to focus on a few other things, but also to try to capitalise on my climbing with additional training (wall, gym), some diversification (sport, bouldering), and quicker but hopefully equally intense fixes of day trips and weekends. This trip has wrapped things up nicely and at the moment I feel in a good state for progression via a flexible focus.
Going along with this, I did learn some useful lessons:
1. Oooomph and determination - I've been worried about the lack of this in my climbing, and thus a lack of confidence to tackle harder routes. I think this is perhaps a chicken and egg situation....I generally haven't been tackling harder routes, so I generally haven't needed much ooomph....so I generally haven't had any! Just getting on some challenging routes this weekend seemed to bring out the required determination by virtue of simply being in that situation and rising to the challenge.
2. Breathing - I seemed to both forget to breathe quite often when seconding and then find things distinctly hard, and also sometimes really focus on my breathing while shaking out during lead climbing battles and then find things distinctly improving. A clear and unsurprising lesson perhaps, but having some awareness of it over consecutive routes highlights it as something useful to focus on.
3. Footwork - Watching my partner Ross, a young hotshot from Ratho (but thankfully skilled and competent on the trad despite a tendency to forget ropes and probably his head if it wasn't attached to his body), I tended to notice how much he focuses on digging his feet into the tiniest of footholds (and therefore gets up routes, including ones I'd struggle with). My technique is good and my footwork fine, but I still could be more confident and trusting with small footholds, so maybe I can take that on board....if one can teach an old dog new tricks, hmmm...