I seem to have got myself involved in a bit of a project. I didn’t mean to – this was going to be the year of quick ticks and onsighting – but somehow it crept up on me and took me unawares. It all started innocently enough. I was out at Raven Tor one day and I decided to have a play around on Ben’s Roof (for those of you who don’t know it, there is a great little video of Mina Leslie-Wujastyk climbing it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ob6PyhvnO3w). I’d tried it many years ago and couldn’t touch any of the moves so I was pleasantly surprised to find that after a bit of training it was all feeling slightly easier. I have been trying to bring more variety to my climbing this year, and the idea of breaking with my sport climbing habit and doing some bouldering for a while suddenly really appealed. Before I knew it, the seeds of obsession were firmly sown.
I now find myself fully ensconced in project-mode. I obsessively check the weather forecast on 3 different websites several times a day to monitor the chances of Ben’s Roof seeping before I do it. I worry endlessly about my skin getting too dry and cracking, and I apply Climb On every night. I have watched every video of the problem I can find on You Tube in the hope of discovering new and useful beta and I visualise the moves when I go about my daily life. I have also dug out every single different pair of climbing shoes I own in the hope that one of them will make the difference between the success and failure on the crux. People say climbers are obsessed. I can’t think why!
It’s been a really interesting process so far. Trying this problem has highlighted some of my weaknesses as a climber in areas I had not expected. I discovered early on that I really had no clue how to boulder. For example, if a move is hard, how many times should you try it in a session? How long should you rest between goes? These things may seem obvious to most, but coming from a background in route climbing I felt clueless, like a fish out of water. I also discovered I have a lot to learn about steep rock. People used to climbing on this terrain often make it look effortless, but there is actually a huge amount of technique involved in roof climbing. Knowing when to pull and push with which limbs and how to keep the body tension on through moves is a real skill, and one that I need to learn.
The start of the problem is giving me a lot of trouble. There is a move to swing your feet across between two holds that I only seem to get right about one go in ten. On an 18 move power endurance problem that is not a high enough hit rate for success. I have tried every sequence, every combination of boots, everything I can think of to get this bit dialled but to no avail so far. At the end of the day last session I discovered a new and promising sequence, but was too tired to be sure it would work. I am hoping that this is the breakthrough I need and I will go back fresh and nail it.
Time is definitely not on my side. Other Raven Tor projectors have already sacked off their routes in favour of the grit as Ben’s Roof remains the only line at the crag relatively free from seepage. With every passing rain shower I say a silent prayer that it holds out for just a little while longer so that I can put an end to my obsession and get it done this year. Fingers crossed!