Monday, 16 May 2011

Failure... and Inspiration

“Remember, there are no mistakes, only lessons. Love yourself, trust your choices, and everything is possible.” - Cherie-Carter Scotts

Ok so here is a bit of an abstract blog that can be applied to all aspects of life I guess, but for me is mainly climbing focussed.  

Failure. It's a word that has some big connotations, pretty much exclusively bad ones, in all aspects of life. For example; I didn't get the job, I couldn't climb the route, I didn't match my target time for my marathon, I failed my exam/driving test, I just broke up with my partner, etc, etc. All these are aspects of failure that are encountered in life, and usually looked upon negatively, and can sometimes even illicit negative feelings in the person for varying time periods afterwards.

For me the failures that I focus in on mostly come down to my climbing performance (I haven't applied for any jobs recently, I don't run, I am passing my exams* and am luckily still with my girlfriend) But I often fail in my climbing life... This leads to a lot of self-examination and soul-searching, often keeping me up for hours or distracting me from uni work. Looking back on my UKC log (, I have failed a lot since 2011 began; Cream, Sai Dancing, Poema de Roca, Yogur de Coca, Pilier Dorada, Stroll On, Bulling-747, just to name a few but I never try and hide my failures and always try to remain honest about them. However, in the past I have been guilty of not being positive or honest with myself about my reasons for failure. 

Since reading the Rock Warriors Way my outlook on failure has changed immensely. Whereas before I would blame coldness or whatever now I will try and look at what I did, the choices I made and work out where I went wrong and where I was just unlucky... This I think is a major breakthrough in my climbing, and one I have found has helped already. I went to the Orme this Thursday with Dave and he had a crack at Gritstone Gorrila, despite the freezing wind! After taking 2 lobs on the crux he got it 3rd go ground up. I had to second with the numbest hands ever, and knowing the crux was a stiff layback I was nervous to say the least. However, on getting to it I remembered why I failed to onsight the laybacks on Stroll On, got my feet high and kept the commitment up. I soon found myself holding the good hold at the end of the crux, though at this point I had to rest as I could no longer feel my hands! We quickly bailed round the orme and back to Mayfair wall for my first taste of Upper Pen Trwyn sport climbing. I chose Julio Juvenito, F7a for its sexual crimpyness. Psyched up for the onsight, I was cautious not to misread the sequence. However once I got into the meat of the climbing, coupled with Al Mason's shouts of; "Come on Dunc, Turn it on", I had to start moving quickly and was unceremoniously spat off. Realising the error of my way and that I had to do an unlikely looking boulder problem to gain good holds more direct, I was at the top and on the way down giving Dave the beta. He consequently crushed it... brilliant! Back up, I blasted on, threw the throw, then completely changed my original poor sequence for a more direct one, and it was done. Another F7a in the bag! I have decided that every time I go sport climbing I will try something of F7a or above, as this will be the way to improve and enable me to onsight F6c (and above) trad routes. I then tried to second Mason on King Krank, E5 6b and found out that english 6b is tres hard! With rain drops falling I pulled through the crux and got the gear out before a massive band of rain passed over! Phew!

Now back to revision I am beginning to gain inspiration from routes and people. Rob Greenwood being one of them, he does everything well, is mad for it and totally chilled in scary environments. Mikey G's positivity is also inspirational, and seems to be seeing him recover exceedingly quickly (along with the amount of sleep he partakes in). I'm beginning to see a trend of 'positivity gets you through sticky situations', which I have realised and put to use in a recent exam and it seemed to work... I am mega keen to put it to use on some hard (for me) trad, but at the moment with poor weather and exams in North Wales, I am focussing on maintaining my current level, so that once I finish exams I can have a couple of weeks of crushing before I head off to Squamish! Luckily the weather is absolutely rubbish in North Wales at the moment, so I hit the Indy yesterday in search of a good workout and some more training. The Indy, is a brilliant way of learning through failure as you can and will fail on V2s!! Unfortunately there was a lack of failure, so maybe no learning? Managed to bosh out my 3rd Indy V5 (albeit a soft one) thanks to some beta from Mr Carroll! I then set to work on what drew me here in the first place... FITNESS! A new circuit set at Fr7a+/b with a potentially 7c extension! After a rest I got on the 7a+/b and flashed it, I had looked at the moves and knew there would be a sting in the tail but once I got there, despite being mega boxed I kept pulling! It's probably more like 6c/+. Now the 7c? ext. This adds a hard, short bouldery section onto the 7a that I reckon might even be V3/4....uh oh. Unfortunately I failed time and time again pulling around onto the last section. I then ran (stumbled) home... today I feel broken and have eaten A LOT! But endeavor to keep doing a bit more than just wall sessions during exams and maybe beyond!

A few blogs to get you inspired: 

Scotch-wad Greg Boswell:

Brenin-wad Davey Morse:

So go forth and don't be afraid of failure, there is no other way to learn and become better at climbing/life/whatever you want to excel at... Dunc

*bar one which I will have to return to North Wales... DAMN... to retake :/

Thursday, 5 May 2011

The rain in Spain falls mainly in El Chorro....

Hey guys, it has been a while since I splurged my life onto the internet for a number of reasons... firstly there was a lack of climbing and time, then there was a lack of internet and time... now I have both, or do I? I apologise in advance for the monster post... lots to fit in you see!

So the last instalment saw tales of crushing lovely trad routes on the beautiful Pembrokeshire coastline, after this I had work to do and no climbing was done :( Once handed in, I managed to get out for a sneaky boulder in the Llanberis Pass on Saturday morning. First I headed up to the Barrel under Dinas Mot as it was shady. I decided after a quick warm-up to try a V6 called Bulling-747. A powerful problem starting from 2 undercuts and powering up to match two small, slopey crimps and then a lunge for a jug. I didn't quite get that far unfortunately, it is evident that what bouldering power I had in the winter, when I sent two Porth Ysgo V6s in a session each, is now well and truly gone. I managed to hold the holds but could not hang them to match at all.... a sign of the times that endurance is in and power is out... as the tradding season is well and truly dawning. I then went down to the Cromlech boulders for a bit of a potter before heading back to Bangor to miss my train home by literally minutes.

However, most mere mortals would have resigned themselves to not getting home the next day in time for the one day I would be able to go cragging whist at home, but me? Oh no, I am a seasoned public transportee, me lad, I'll find a way to get home this eve or at least get into Newton Abbot early enough  for a quick snooze before the scheduled afternoon crushfest with my good matey Henry. And this is what I tried; I got on the next train to Chester, changed at Crewe, got to Birmingham, all the time texting and ringing my bro for updates on the next train further South in my quest to beat National Rail Enquiries. No more trains from birmingham once you get there bro, ho ho ho I'll find a way me ol' mucker! says I, there must be a way...

Birmingham 10:20 pm no more trains southward bound AT ALL. Woops, looks like for once confidence won't blindly see you through... I know I'll kip in the loos, dozing in a cubicle on my trusty rucksack, eventually I am turfed out into the wait surprisingly mild saturday night in Birmingham. People fired up for a night out of drinking, dancing and laughing... I am an outcast, no-one knows where a hostel is, but Subway is open to 3:30am perfect, and all for the price of a bottle of coke. Turfed out at 2:30am, damn, ok lets take a stroll my boy, wait the people you want to avoid by curling up in a dark corner will be avoiding the rozzers in the same places... hmmm could kip in the middle of the flower and hedge arrangement? No. Back to the train station, where Ron Fawcett keeps me company with stories of his crushing around the world, then music until at 7:00 am when the cold is gnawing at my bones, I am interviewed by Sheree. A brummie woman with elaphantitis in one leg... she talks to me about life and her woes and asks me mine.... I don't really have any I guess, I'm pretty lucky, I have my health, a slightly disjointed family, loads of good mates a sweet girlfriend, enough money in my pocket to feed me and allow me to partake in my passion, to push myself mentally and physically on bits of rock... Thanks Sheree for reminding me :) I hope your life is taking a turn for the better wherever you are...

Eventually I am back home and my body aches all over from huddling over myself all night, no climbing for me today, I fall asleep in the garden... Damn. Then began a week at work, moody customers, boring stuff to sell (pots, pans, bedding anyone?), being reminded that whatever you decide to devote your life to is pointless in someones eyes, you just gotta do what inspires YOU...

Finally Monday, and I fly at 2:00pm, so hot at Exeter airport, how hot will it be in Spain? Answer: raining, sleep in the airport once Heather and Mason land, wake, hunt out gas and stove to cook on in the caves and train to El Chorro. Get to the caves and then only one thing: CLIMBING.

It took a couple of days to get back into the sport vibe and El Polvorin being a harsh master, I began to see my goals and aims slip away, but managed to try and learn from the failure and put a positive light on it, the Rock Warriors Way, see. Poema de Roca, a classic 7a, you can tell by the polish (Mr Sheen not Eastern Europe), brushed me off tantalisingly close to the chains.Then an attempt on La Orejazo 7a saw me at the chains putting the draws in! This victory was quickly revoked when I was told I had done the 7c to the chains on aforementioned route and it was about F6c+ (Coincidence?). For these days we were mostly dodging heavy rain showers, and were therefore restricted to steepness or those routes with steepness above. Whilst you lucky lot were basking in Spanish weather!

Finally we got some Spanish sun, and Cono Paco was the route chosen to be a new potential first is just over vertical and pumpy....yummy. After a couple of nice warm-up routes, I got on it, thirsty for the onsight. Up down like a yo-yo hell bent on not being thrown in the bin, I eventually was as every yo-yo has been. After some grub, and now knowing how to do every move, except I forgot how to do the crux, I got on it and it went like a dream... ahhh finally just above the average sport climber? After this we scuttled round to a different crag and I started up Makita Power a 6c that I was told was hard by both Gwen and Mason, eek! I just about managed the powerful and technical crux, and then managed to race to the top as the first big drops of a rainshower began to drop. Luckily we found a 6b in the rainshadow, and there went my most productive day of sport climbing, 6a+, 2 6bs, a 6c onsight and a 7a redpoint.... nooice..

Next day, semi chill, Florence heads back to conquer the route that scared her yesterday, and I head up a lovely 6b+ cos its in the shade and it is HOT! Back to the campsite for a bit of a chill whilst it is hottest... then up to Encatadas once a bit of cloud comes in. Get on the boulderiest, pockety 6c, and fall literally going for the finishing jug! Boooo.

The final full day, Eugene was coerced into taking us to a crag the other side of the gorge, that is in the shade... Desplomilandia. We start at Buenos Sombres, a crag with a bouldery style to it that I find hard, but Florence is crushing today, we both do the 6a+ and the 6b+ (she cruises, I flail), then I put the clips in on the 6c but mess up the crux :( Florence flashes it! Awesome effort.... It's so easy on redpoint I'm angry... We head round the corner to the reassuring 'pump' symbol in the guide... La Novia 7a, chosen, the guide says its a bit runout... it is aswell. I was lucky and got the sequence right first or at worst second go. Got the aggression and focus perfect and just kept moving, even when I wanted to chill out I knew I had just had to go. On the upper section a big move to a diagonal rail from a horizontal juggy break was too far, but I realised this early and managed to switch to an undercut, get my feet high and exploded onto the rail, in one of the coolest sequences I have onsighted to date!!

After we left the caves we stayed at The Olive Branch, a brilliant little place where there is a range of accommodation from tents to bunkhouses to private rooms... check it out here;

Another night in Malaga airport and a flight home whilst Will and Kate got all tied up and I was back in the UK, crashing at Jess' in Glossop. After less than a day my hands were itching so we popped up to Stanage for a few VS's, borrowing Jess' dad's old rack... and with Jess forgetting chalk I went old school and almost fell off Fern Crack which at VS 4c, no chalk on a hot, sunny day and precious few bits of gear that would fit, I see now how gnarly people used to be...

Another day was spent chilling in Derbyshire before I boarded the train back to Bangor, thankfully no train stations were slept in.

The next day as it was a Bank holiday, I decided to give myself a break and went cragging in the Pass with Fingers, our third house dosser this year... We first went up to Scimitar Ridge, potentially the windiest place in christendom. Chreon E2 5b was crushed first by fingeroo, then I got on Sparta an E3 5c. However, under the dirt and the no. 1 and 2 RPs was easy climbing warrenting E2 5b at the most, and a soft one at that. I guess I took the worng line. The plan had been for fingers to crush Roc-nest Monster E4 6a, then we would go to the Cromlech and I would do Memory Lane, E3 5c and he would do resurrection E4 6a. But the wind made us feel that maybe the Grochan at the opposite end of the Pass and low down would be better. It wasn't but we climbed anyway, Fingers crushed Stroll On, E3 6a which he had been on last year but not got clean, making it look easy I stepped up to the plate and barn-doored off early on, woops! I lowered down and went back up, this time not choppering the moves up as before! Getting to the rest under the roof, I was pumping but not too badly. placed a couple of bits of gear then set about resting. (It really is quite a good rest). However the next bit was hard and much yoyo-ing was done before I committed to the hard laybacks. Access denied, not enough commitment to the laybacks given, I was spat off. Back up to the rest, next time up I had it, placed some gear a way above and carried on. Another hard layback and I was pumping trying to figure it out, nope not enough commitment, off again. Next time up, just enough juice to pull into the final groove section. Luckily the one cam left fits. Squirming up I get another 2 small RPs in before the final section to sthe the belay and I'm there pumped, panting, petrified. Abbing off into the wind to clean the route I finally reach the ground, spanked but relatively happy.

Now it is on with the revision, until freedom on the 26th May. I am determined to keep climbing, and at worst maintain my current level, so that I can explode back onto the crags once I am free before I head off to Squamish!

Peas out, DC