Since my last blog post things haven’t been sitting eating cake (not all day anyway) but I’ve been caught in a whirlwind of activity. When I got back to the UK I wanted nothing more than to go and try The Ace. It’s pretty much the only thing I want to do in the Peak District and I knew this would be my final chance to have a go before spring and summer brought sunshine and pimms to this land.

I got up there to have a go and conditions were pretty good. A strong wind was blowing and it was rather cold without a down jacket. I finally warmed up, walked over to The Ace, put my pads down and starting brushing the holds… only to feel the pitter patter of raindrops on my hands. I watched the holds begin to get wet and couldn’t believe my luck, but this is what you have to accept when you climb in the UK. It really can change from great to hate in a matter of seconds. That was the end of my first attempt.

I then headed back up there with Adam and conditions weren’t quite as good but I was as keen as ever. I just couldn’t seem to find any purchase on any of the holds which was weird as my skin was feeling rather good. But the ace is a very fickle beast and I’d been here once before in December (the day before leaving for font) and I went from not being to hold on to being able to get to the last move every go in a flash. I tried up until my skin was thin and didn’t have much success. The holds didn’t feel grippy and when that happens there’s nothing you can do.

Days were running out so I got back up there a couple of days later for another attempt and this time things were as bad as ever. It seemed like conditions had passed for the year and in the afternoon the plantation was rammed with bumblies, families, and randoms. I climbed a bit to get moving and warm up the skin but my time management was all out of sync thanks to the change to Daylight Savings Time. I looked to the sky expecting the sun to be on it’s final descent but it was nowhere near and then I realised that I’d mismanaged my warm up. I sat around lounging in the sun and eventually it began to sink whilst the masses began to leave. Once Lee and I had the crag to ourselves I knew it was time to begin serious attempts. The seriousness might have represented my intent but it definitely didn’t represent how well I was doing on it. Lee was pushing me through the moves and without him I could barely hang on. As I said, this boulder problem is so conditions dependent (for me anyway) that there is no way to just overpower it. My skin was being destroyed and all I was hearing from Lee is “be professional, it’s just not the day for it”. I eventually relented and started packing up but then a wave of psyched washed over me and I loudly declared that this couldn’t be the end. I just had to try really hard and harness all of the tai chi power I could. I unfurled the pads and reached towards the chi. I pulled on, did the first move, felt bad but suddenly concentrated on pulling harder, MUCH harder. Then I was able to glide into the second move. A small adjustment of my leg and I was in a position to go for the top. Now to explode… I exploded as much as I could and my hand went firing to the top, but 2 inches before it got there I hit the wall. No amount of psyche could propel me any further and I just fell back into lee’s arms. That was the end of that. I did try to pull on again but I’d used it all up in that go and had nothing. I said my goodbye’s and left, knowing this would be my last attempt on it until Autumn (bar any freak weather systems!).

As for now I’m ultra busy. A few months ago James asked me if I’d be interested in coming along on a roadtrip around Europe to climb the best 8a’s in Europe. Clearly he wasn’t asking me along for the climbing, that is Gaz’s role, but he thought I could receive some budget to film it. At first I was shocked that he thought I could actually ask for some money to film a trip, but after a bit of convincing and the allure of earning some money I was easily swayed. Plus it was a chance to spend some time with James, which is a very rare commodity these days. I remember back in the day how we used to wake up super early and spend our days climbing on the grit. This was way before either of us knew what we were doing but we were super keen. I guess we’ve both come on a little bit.

So now I’m winding my way through Europe and I’m pretty psyched to be honest. It’s much harder than I expected, with very little downtime. I’m either filming, driving, writing blogs, navigating, eating, or very rarely sleeping. We’re barely a week into the trip and already we’ve done over 1500 miles, which is actually a below average week. We’ve only today arrived at another shore and I’m starting to get psyched for both climbing and the whole trip in general. It’s dawning on me about how cool this opportunity is. I’m an adventurous person and so being able to just decide to go somewhere and then go there is so cool. Our trip may be pre planned but there are many places I’ve wanted to go that I’ll be able to tick off. It would be good to do this as a climber rather than a film maker but that’s not possible for a whole number of reasons… 1. I’m in no shape to be trying to climb 8a routes every other day. 2. I have no sponsors, let alone a sponsor that would fund a trip like this. 3. I wouldn’t be getting paid to do it.

I’m regarding this trip as a sampler, like a cheese board. I get to check out so many places across Europe and those which I think are amazing will get a revisit at some point in the future. Those which are clearly below par will be cast to the side and left for dead.

The other thing which has been making this trip seem more and more of a good idea is that I could do with a rest from climbing quite so much. As my font trip drew to a close I was beginning to get an ache in my left elbow, which is something that I’ve never suffered from before. I’m fairly certain it’s Golfers Elbow and I’ve been trying to stretch it or exercise it but the dull pain remains. I can climb on it but I need to warm up through it and I’m sure that’s not a good natural state to be in. I’m hoping that during this trip I can perhaps climb a couple of 8a’s but I’ll only have an hour or two do each one which will make it spicy. The last 8a route I did took me a lot longer than a couple of hours, so I’ll have to hope my fitness levels have at least moved upwards with my strength since a couple of years ago. Then again, if the moves are so easy that you don’t get pumped then what is there to worry about?

If you want to read the blog I’m writing for TNF then click here. I really want to try and update my own blog with my own thoughts but at the moment things seem a little too hectic. I’ll do my best to keep things up to date here as and when I find the time to sit down with some time to myself.