Week on Rock

Every month or so my coach gives me a week off to go out climbing and see what difference the last training cycle has made. This gives me the opportunity to put all the training into practice and try and get some routes done. There is no point training as hard as you can if you never put all that work to good use.

There is always the hope that during your week on rock you will manage to tick something significant, and this month I had my heart set on trying an 8a called the Bulge up at Kilnsey in the Yorkshire Dales. I had been on it before several years ago, and I thought I might finally try and get it done. However, the week didn’t start off quite according to plan. Saturday was a write-off with terrible weather which drove us indoors to the Foundry, and Sunday brought with it a different set of problems. Being one of the classics of the crag, this route is always popular and never more so than this particular weekend. With long queues to have your turn I quickly decided it would be best to switch my focus to something different: Comedy.

Comedy, as many will know, is an amazing steep prow and one of the centrepieces of the crag. It is fairly short, perhaps 15m, but it more than makes up for this by packing in an incredibly intense series of burly moves that keep coming at you all the way to the chain. It is also soft 7c – a grade that I would normally expect to climb pretty quickly, perhaps even in a go or two if I am lucky. However Comedy is different - I find it desperate! For me, steep rock and sloping holds are really difficult and this route combines the two meaning that it really plays to my weaknesses. Trying to tick this particular 7c in a week, let alone a few days, suddenly seemed like a massive and daunting challenge.

I have always been of the belief that you should work your weaknesses, and this extends further than my training to my weeks on rock too. I find it really frustrating to be shut down by certain styles of climbing and the only way to improve is by tackling them head-on, even if this means dropping the grade and running the risk of having nothing to show for your efforts at the end. Sometimes it is really important to look at the bigger picture and forget about the tick. So with this in mind I embarked upon my siege of Comedy.

The rest of Sunday I spent sussing out the moves and trying to get some sequences together. There is a particularly tricky section by the second bolt which took some time to figure out as I am a bit too small to do it the way most people do, but in the end I found a way that worked. One of the great things about being short is that often you get to do some really cool moves that taller people miss out. Comedy is a case in point. For most people the crux is a single pull between 2 big jugs, but my method involves heal-hooks, two finger pockets and knee bars.

On Wednesday and Thursday I headed back up with my friend Mark to have a crack at redpointing it. Things went well, but not well enough for a tick. I made good progress honing my sequences and some of the mental training techniques I’d been practising down the wall were really helping, but I didn’t quite make it through the lower crux on redpoint. With a monsoon forecast and a new training cycle on the horizon, all that was left was to rest up and pray that Comedy stayed dry enough for me to have one last go at getting it done at the weekend.

Saturday brought with it some pretty horrible weather. It was cold and very rainy, but by some miracle the crag was staying dry. I felt strong warming up, but then on my first redpoint I fell off the lower crux again. In the end I decided a change of tactic was in order. I put all residual hopes of getting the route done to the back of my mind, and concentrated on learning how to climb the moves better. This involved a masterclass in steep rock technique from my husband, Stu. One of the big problems I have when trying to redpoint routes is that I climb moves differently on redpoint than I do when I am working them but I am not sure why I am doing it. However, on this particular day I learnt a really valuable lesson which was that by analysing and understanding how I do the moves I find it much easier to execute them properly on redpoint. My last go of the day, despite being really tired, I made it through the bottom crux and fell off near the top of the route. For those of you who know Comedy, it was close but no cigar.

Looking back over the week, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed not to have ticked anything but I also felt really happy to have made such progress in a style that I find really hard. I felt like I had learnt a huge amount trying Comedy and that it was starting to come together. It can be hard mentally to keep failing on a route that objectively you should find easy, but, the way I see it, facing these things head-on is the only way to improve. And the day I finally clip the chains on Comedy I will be psyched out of my mind as I’ll feel I’ve really progressed as a climber.

[gallery link="file"]