Thursday, 15 March 2012


Airtime, the antithesis of climbing, yet without the fall, looming or experienced, it would be a boring 2-dimensional exercise whereby half the fun would be taken away. If you aren't risking falling off then you aren't trying hard enough, but imagine if there was never the risk of falling? Top-roping classic routes in imperfect safety, just working out the moves and being fit and strong, except it wouldn't matter, you would just go for the most obvious sequence and if you couldn't do it, who cares?. Falling is a big part of climbing, and I like it that way. 

As with everyone, I find the thought of falling scary at the beginning of the season, but I enjoy climbing a lot more once I am comfortable with falling, and truth be told, I do quite enjoy falling. Big whippers, whilst scary are FUN!

A brilliant yet slightly naughty form of fall practice is bridge jumping. On a whim, and after we had exhausted our supplies of stale bread to throw at unsuspecting drunks, Livingbone, Bubbles, Ollie, Harry and I went and found a bridge, set up a suspect hauling system and a dynamic rope to jump on. Despite others' 100% psyche levels, no-one was keen to jump first, so I stepped up to the plate. I was apprehensive tying in, I knew the dynamic set up was fine, but the hauling system was unorthodox to say the least. Climbing over the railings, I was a bit scared but I knew I just had to commit. A split-second of control and it is out of your hands, you are falling, flying through the sky and suddenly, the rope catches and you swing around for a bit, as you are pulled up by your mates. 

This time was different, I jumped and fell; as usual, was caught; as usual but looking down, I grabbed the static but it was dangling underneath me, not above!? 

"What the F***!" 

Was my first thought, asking the guys above if it had snapped, they seemed to think it hadn't, though they weren't sure. In the end, they agreed with me so I asked them if they would be so kind as to lower down a new bit of rope? They obliged, and whilst I waited, I realised I had stopped swinging. Usually, whilst bridge jumping you are hauled back up before you stop swinging, but now I was dangling, hoping the hauling system would work and that I wouldn't have to be rescued (embarresing much?) Luckily, it worked and I was soon standing on solid bridge...phheww!

Jump psyche... Also putting on a brave face as I'm not sure if my pants are still clean...
(c) Tom Ripley
Seeing it safe, the rest of the crew jumped, without mishap, though Ollie and Harry did take a while to man up and jump, though Bubbles put in a commendable effort and went quick, unlike last time when he requested to be 'thrown overboard' as he couldn't bring himself to jump.

Remember kids; think carefully about eating that last biscuit cos' ropes snap sometimes...
(c) Tom Ripley 
After some amount of sleep, Eugene and I went to Penmaen Head on the A55, to go sport climbing. I wanted to get some early season mileage in, though was feeling ache-y from hauling people up and tired from the late night. First up we boshed a couple of Fr6a's; Helyg Crack and Red Handed, these went without mishap and so I decided to have a go at onsighting a 6c, Top Secret taking my fancy. I felt pretty good and confident, I was getting pumped, but I was working out the moves too. A tricky sequence to a bolt passed, I moved up and could taste success, spotting a good crimp rail, I grabbed it, unfortunately it was sloping, but I matched and tried to press on but fell. DAMN! De-pumping I carried on up to the top, chastising myself for not reading the sequence correctly. Eugene had a go but fell at the second and third bolts, came down and boshed it. After some lunch, I did the same, confidently flowing through moves I had been much more static and slow on before. Getting to the crux, a quick shake and I boshed the right sequence right to the top, Woopa! Next up, Eugene had a go at The Gimp Crimp, 7a after a slip low down, he boshed on to the top but came to a hault at the last bolt, unable to foresee a way to the chains he passed over to me. It looked desperate, so I didn't hold out much hope, but I went up and tried my very best, passing the lower crux, I rested well in the middle, got up and committed to the laybacks and slapped for the finishing jug! As I held it, I realised I'd left the quickdraws on the ground, so fumbled with my belay device and screwgate, getting a bit pumped and gripped, but psyched to have got it first go.

On Wednesday, I got the call from Mason that he was going for an evening Parisella's Cave hit, and did I want to join him and Laura? Yes I did, despite having had an Indy session the night before I desperately wanted to close my account on Left Wall Traverse (V8/Fr7c+). We got there and after a short warm up in Split Infinity (I always feel like such a punter not being able to warm up in the cave), I boshed Flake start to be sure I knew I could do the end of the full thing. Anyway, there were loads of beasts there trying some hard shit, and Mason added himself to that mix with some really brilliant links on Lou Ferrino, a powerful, steep, V10. Anyway, I had a load of mediocre efforts including one stupid one where I slightly messed up with my feet and let go thinking it not worth it! That last stupid little fail did not sit well with me, and I found myself in a very determined mindset. After a short rest and a banana (Thanks to Al and Laura for that one) I was pandered to by Laura who kindly brushed all the holds and got chalk ready at the halfway rest while I got focussed and booted up. This time up everything fell into place and I just focussed on getting the next hold, then the next etc, any mistake and I just kept going, trying to eak another move out of the attempt. Suddenly I found myself through the crux and starting the last tricky sequence down to the rest. My right foot wasn't quite correctly seated but I pressed on, all of a sudden my left hand popped (I didn't let go) and I found myself trying to grab a handhold whilst lying on the pad. One move away from the rest I had fallen, although it is not totally in the bag at that point, it is a hands-off rest so I could have rested until I felt fresh enough to finish. However, a brilliant triumph for tenacity! After this effort I could barely pull the starting moves so called it a day, but a great bit of training! Thanks to Al, Laura (espesh) and all the cave beasts for being so supportive!

Here's what I've learnt recently;

Give everything you have to give, and you will be rewarded with a fulfilling experience. Oh and don't fear the airtime ... just sit back, relax and enjoy the ride...

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