What Happens when a rest day turns into a climbing day? I don’t know if you’ve seen a theme to the posts from magic wood, but since the readership of this blog is so damn high brow, I’m sure you’ve not missed the common theme. Since tomorrow is forecast for more rain I decided to hit the rocks with my broken body in the hope of just getting some climbing in. I certainly didn’t have any expectations so after a brief warm up by campussing on some 7b traverse (which in reality is about 5+) I headed up to the darkness roof. I was right in the notion that it was dry (well, the left hand exit was dry) and a little surprised as to just how dark it was under there. There was another guy trying it so I got the beta and went for my flash attempt. It ended rather rapidly as I fell off the second move, which is all about locking off a 2 finger crimp and reaching into a 2 finger pocket, whilst hanging as much weight as possible off of a jug heel hook. I didn’t really expect to flash it, but I’m of the opinion that it certainly can’t hurt to try and you never know what might happen. In this case it didn’t pay off, and to be honest it never has, but I’ll keep an open mind. I then pulled on from the crimp and the 2 finger pocket and climbed it to the lip. It seems to me that the crux is moving in to the pocket, and I did try 2 more times but I didn’t manage it, but I did manage the rest of the moves again. I had to stop after that as the holds have a sharpish lip and it was shredding my skin. I really didn’t want to end up back under the Bruno block, but I knew there were people down there, which meant pads and spotters. More importantly, I knew it would be dry. I did have a gander at some other things that I desire to climb, but they were wet so I plodded on down to the Bruno block. My left index finger was still throbbing from my previous attempts on N.E.S.2. so I really didn’t want to try it again, but my other options were even less appealing. I did really want to try N.E.S.1 but my body was such a wreck today that I thought it would be a complete waste of time as I wouldn’t learn anything from it. In my opinion there is often little to be gleaned when trying a hardish problem when your body is not in good shape. I finally decided to have a few tries on N.E.S.2 and try to close my account with what is now very much a nemesis! My second go was promising, but I slipped off the move to the ramp and the chap spotting me practically missed me so I nearly took a swim and bashed my elbow pretty hard. Not to be deterred I sat down and munched some delicious dried figs. I’d already taped over the wound on my left index finger, but pus was seeping through and it was ugly. I knew that I’d have to make every go count otherwise this was simply a pointless exercise in punterdom. I had a few more tries but I was now finding the first move hard, a sure sign that my body was not in a good place. I was getting rather frustrated, but externally I was smiling and shaking my head in dismay at my dismal performance. Why has this problem turned into a nemesis? Is it some sort of psychological barrier? Am I just not executing? Am I not climbing it well? What? I really don’t know. I got a text from Sara, who some of you know is in India. She basically said that she’s a bit ill and laid up in bed with a fever, but she concluded with wishing me luck crushing the blocs. With that in mind I decided to try my hardest to crush this boulder problem with Sara in mind, in the hope that maybe, just maybe, some universal mechanism would kick in and my ascent would cause her white blood count to rise and she would miraculously recover. I pulled on, reached the first crimp (finally getting it further right where it’s better), and before I made the second move, it all slowed down for a millisecond and my thoughts turned to Sara. Nothing specific, just a random thought about Sara, which then disappeared as I returned back to crushing the bloc. Perhaps it was just the return to consciousness that caused me to concentrate a little more, perhaps I was more aware of how I was climbing but, after nearly falling off the ramp (for the nth time), I continued upward to the top and felt hugely relieved. It was a similar feeling to the one I experienced when I topped out Fata Morgana. I felt relieved that the epic was over, the nemesis slayed, and that I won’t have to try it again. This bloc felt difficult for me, and I still don’t know why. I did find some slightly better foot beta today for the top, but overall I would say that I puntered my way to the top of this problem. Crown me now, King of the Punters! Tomorrow, I will do some hardcore resting in an attempt to get my body back in shape for Saturday at the rocks!

This whole epic has returned my mind to something I’d been thinking about, and had talked about briefly with Dobbin and Ned. I don’t lack the ego to say that I know my own ability is fairly high. I know I can do hard moves and climb hard blocs. I know that when I apply myself, and in a somewhat specific style, I can pull fairly hard. However, I would say that my base level is much, much lower than my extreme level. This is what I talked about with Ben and Ned. Basically, everyone has a base level and an extreme level. I’d say ability is distributed something like the right hand side of a normal distribution curve. At the very right hand end you have your absolute maximum ability, which would comprise of the perfect problem for your strengths, perfect conditions, and ultimate psyche. At the left hand end is the level at which you can boulder day in, day out. I feel like there is a huge gap between my base level and my extreme level. In many ways, I would describe myself as a 7C/7C+ climber who can climb much harder with some work. I think this huge gap comes from what motivates me, which are hard moves. I’m mainly concerned with the hardness of the move, and in many ways I’m in search of the hardest move (yes, yes, I know it’s something by the G). If I raise my extreme level then I’m happy, and a side product is that it also pulls up my base level (but at a slower rate). However, Ned was of a different opinion with regard to his own climbing. He enjoys doing things quickly, or flashing them, and he doesn’t enjoy the process of spending 5 days (or more) working on one thing. In my opinion, this results in his base level being much higher. His base level of ability (comprising the climbing skill set of strength, technique, knowledge, etc) is great, and everywhere he goes he can do 8A’s quickly. By increasing his base level, it will have a knock on affect of increasing his extreme level, but perhaps not as quickly as my way of thinking. What’s better? Well, I don’t think there is a “better” per se, because both schools of thinking have their advantages and whatever motivates the individual is the best for that individual. For me, it’s the search for the hardest moves I can do on rock. I enjoy hard moves and I don’t enjoy (as much) the feeling of linking lots of easier moves. But this is all personal opinion and so there is no need to search for answer as to what is best. The question of what is best comes in the form of “what is best for what I want to climb?”. Maybe it’s a return to the question of 100 8A’s or 1 8C… you know my answer.

I have no doubt that when I do eventually climb Radja (oh wicked beast, you will be slain!) my base level will probably still be around 7C+. This is why I have the canny ability to be able to punterise 8A’s whilst still being able to occasionally do some hard moves. N.E.S.2 was an example of me punterising a 7C+/8A, even though I am clearly capable enough (existing on the right hand side of the curve) to do it. Perhaps psychologically I am closing the gap between base and extreme level, but in reality that level may not be decreasing as rapidly as I would like to think. For the time being I’ll just continue doing what motivates me, the search for the move.