Saturday, 24 December 2011

Three hundred and sixty five, maaan...

Soon, another year will be submitted to time immemorial and, for better or worse, richer or poorer, every single one of the 6.9 billion people alive in the world today have grown, changed, breathed in and experienced the world we live in and live to continue to do so... 

For me and my climbing it has been a year full of learning, highs, lows and realisation (Not the 9a+ super route at Ceuse, next year maybe?) . At times I have looked back at the year and thought "I've done barely anything to be proud of this year" which felt quite depressing, wondering if I had stagnated or worse, regressed as a climber and as a person. Luckily, once the cold, hard figures and the warm, fuzzy logics are analysed properly, it has been another good year, and actually probably better than the last! 

So lets get some real number crunching done:

On the face of the cold hard facts alone, I have bettered or matched 2010's grades in every discipline and done more climbing despite injury, Hooray! However, I can hear you saying, "But you've done loads more climbing this year Dunc, surely you should have smashed your previous bests!?" Well yep, maybe but 2011 has been about creating a stable base upon which to progress, rather than shakily trying to stack blocks ever higher in 2010's areas of success, I have broadened my choice of routes, and begun moving towards the style I aspire to: steeper, more sustained routes. 

On top of the above figures I have; onsighted more E3's than last year, but unlike last year they weren't all slabs; I climbed overhung walls, aretes, corners, slabs, all sorts! The only E3/E4 I did, actually felt harder than the E4s I did last year, as it was a lot more dangerous, but it was also SO much better! I have also had some good failures both physically and mentally; 

  • Stroll On E3 6a - didn't quite have the guns, or the commitment level to stick the laybacks, lesson learnt.
  • The Big Groove E3 5c - reachy crux above a nasty ledge, good call backing off as I barely made it on second!
  • Cream E4 6a - Missed the crux hold, wrong size cam in the crack didn't help the chattering in the back of my head! What a route though, WOW!
  • Poisoned Arrow - End of a hard day, got absolutely boxed putting good kit in, and just couldn't rest it out! 

Sport climbing was however an area of good improvement, the trip to El Chorro at Easter was a real boost to my fitness and my confidence at tackling steep, pumpy ground, on-sight. RP-ed my first 7a then on-sighted my second, yeeeha! This came about through accepting failure as a possibilty but turning it into a success as I tried to learn something from the failure and relish the fact that it simply got my mind and body more used to the higher difficulty.

In bouldering, I have not yet upped my RP grade, though have flashed a couple of problems around the V6 mark, and have been working hard to crack the V8 (Fr7c+) Left Wall Traverse, which features a powerful V6 into a longer, sustained V6. I'm getting there, but there is a lot of uncertainty still.

I also learnt some new climbing techniques during what turned out to be a wet month in North Wales; I flew off to Squamish, Canada and learnt the dark art of hand and finger jamming, something I felt to be a major weakness of mine. I now try to find jams wherever possible and am certain this will have a positive effect on my climbing in pumpy situations as I'll be able to rest effectively if there is a good crack going!

Mastering the art of good heel use feels like a sneaky bonus and one I felt pride in when I used it to flash Parisella's Original, and one night bouldering at the Barn, getting good heel positioning on a Font 6c+ crimpy rail, allowing an effortless crossover. I'm keen to use this to good effect also!

Personally, I have felt that I have become a more negative and slightly less tolerant person for some of this year, this realisation coming in Autumn time for me, these are two Character traits I wish to have nothing to do with. Luckily I saw this, and have made an effort to be more tolerant and nicer once again, lets hope its working :-). As my graduation draws ever closer, excitement and dread grow in equal measure, I know the sort of lifestyle I want to lead, but it will require bold actions to achieve, and a thick skin to ignore the nay-sayers. I have also discovered another semi-passion, running in the mountains, a great way to keep fit and just be outside on days you wouldn't like to be climbing!

Climbing highlights of this year include:
  • Capital Punishment - A brilliant day, Suicide Wall Route 1, Al's new(ish) route, then this, my ascent of the year.
  • Glass Arete - After my Squamish month I felt doubtful at whether I could still ride the pump, some brilliant sustained moves stretched a grin upon my face.
  • La Novia - Perfect mixture of control, focus and aggression, and physically my hardest on-sight.
  • E3's - Geireagle, Colossus, Astoroth, Stimulator...
  • Pembroke trip in March - an E1 in the rain, The Butcher, and just nice weather and good routes.
  • Squamish trip - Angel's Crest, Squamish Buttress, Seasoned in the Sun, Exasperator, Dirt-bagging!
  • Failures - Cream, Poisoned Arrow, Stroll On, Hand-Jive...
  • Boulder - Flashing Parisella's Original was brilliant! Chaos Emerald Crack and my Birthday boulder bash were good too.

Overall, I have felt that I have pushed myself a lot this year, failing on some hard routes, but mainly I have broadened my skill set and become a more rounded climber, from which I can push onto the next level knowing I am a fairly solid E3 leader, and have become more confident at two climbing styles I would have been very uncomfortable with in 2010. Injury has also reared its ugly head, but luckily I had found my positivity, and the 'rest' has allowed me to come out feeling just as good as before! 

I have realised that I'm a pretty good all-rounder; I'm good technically, getting fitter, and can occasionally crank out some hard moves. Yet I still feel I have plenty of improvement left, both physically and mentally, and I'm psyched to push into new ground on my newly acquired stable base.

In other news a few notable mentions;

  • Chris Carroll flashing 7a+... BEAST! 
  • Owain crushing his first E3's and Axle Attack in December!
  • Mason doing what he thought was a new E6 on Suicide Walls and flashing 7c.
  • Mikey doing a new E6 at tremadog, and still ticking Fr8a DWS and Font 8a after breaking his ankle!
  • Bubbles actually getting up a new route in Peru, Alpine stylee.
  • Morsey crushing Fay, Pacemaker and Break On Through in 2 days...
  • Pezza soloing Oh man I gotta have a wildebeest, at E1... NICE!
Nice one guys!

2011: It's a thumbs up from me!

Stay tuned for my hopes, dreams and goals for 2012...