It’s been rather silent on the blog front and for this I apologise. Living in a small house with 7 people doesn’t leave much time to sit back, collect my thoughts, and pen it down in exquisite prose. I guess I’ve also been lazy. Not much has been going down.

I spent a session trying Boogalagga, 8B, with Ty. He managed to do all the moves and then executed it from bottom to top. It was quite impressive actually. Once he knew he could do the moves he knew he could do the problem. That’s no different from me, you, or anyone else. But the difference came when he took that knowledge and smashed through any psychological barriers to reach the top. That was something that came as a revelation to me. I usually do the moves, then spend more sessions trying the individual moves, making absolutely sure I can do them in isolation to the point where they feel easy and then I embark on the send. This means I take ages to do anything. Seeing Ty go into crush mode and send Boogalagga reminded me of Toby Benham. He was the same and that was why he did so many “hard” grit routes. He would work the moves on a top rope, know he could do them, and then simply go for it. He had no barriers in his mind and thus no barriers in his climbing. Toby was someone who I thought climbed exceptionally close to his potential, and I have a lot of respect for that as I think that is what makes someone a good rock climber. I took inspiration from this revelation and decided to try and put it into practice. Unfortunately it didn’t work out with Boogalagga as the first move is quite hard and I didn’t manage to do it. I put it down to thin skin though, as I wasn’t even planning on climbing but was easily coaxed by such an attractive and hard problem. I’ll certainly be going back to do it and I think I can do it which is promising. I was rather worried that it would be too hard but I don’t think it’s impossible for me. I think it’s something that might take some work but it’s certainly worth the effort as it’s a hard and proud line.

In between sessions of rock climbing we’ve been playing a lot of ping pong and the level has been increasing. I might even post up a video of the greatest shots but now that I’m writing such a thing I think it’s verging on ridiculous, so don’t hold your breath. Needless to say, we’re punters of the pong world, probably somewhere around the V5 level but we’re improving day by day. I think by the end of this trip we might reach V7 or V8 but I really don’t know. Si is probably somewhere around that level at the moment and destroy is an understatement when I’ve played him. It’s been brutal. I doubt I’ll beat him by the end of the holiday but it’s a good goal to have, and it’s great to have a good player around to learn from.

I’ve also spent a day up at Brione. Vecchia Leone was a big goal for this trip and today I had the opportunity to try it, but for some reason I didn’t take it. Tyler had shown me another 8B called Amber which, although petite, was on amazing rock and had some absolutely gorgeous holds. It’s a Dave Graham problem (the man has been everywhere and done everything) and features no small holds, only bad holds and great compression moves. So whilst Si and Sander went to try Vecchia I opted out and went to try Amber on my own. I’ve been thinking about the reasons for my rebuttal of Vecchia, and I think it might come down to the fact that I want it too much. I think maybe I need to let go of wanting it so much and just go there to climb it. Perhaps those two things are the same but perhaps not. I am fairly certain that I am able to climb Vecchia so at some point I’m going to relax my desire and go there to try and do it. No pressure. Before I walked down to Amber, Doylo asked me what my goal was. He asked if I just wanted to do all the moves and I replied that I wanted to do better than that. I was being slightly facetious because I would be happy to do the moves but perhaps not happy enough. I set off on my own, feet trampling the fallen leaves, with my thoughts focused on my expectations of the next hour or two. What did I really expect? What did I really want? I just wanted to feel like I was climbing well, like I was climbing close to my potential ability. That would leave me happy, even if I didn’t manage to do any moves! I arrived, felt happy to be there, admired the sunshine on the snowy mountaintops, unfurled my pad, and set about work. I cleaned the holds and set up for my flash go. It’s always worth a go… needless to say I didn’t do it. In fact, I fell on the first move. Undeterred (obviously) I set about working the moves. The first move was tricky and I had a few goes but didn’t manage it. I then moved on to the second and had success. Then the third, then the fourth, then the fifth, until I got to a long move off a gorgeous sloper. I failed on it about 20 times and wasn’t sure why. My foot was slipping off a huge hold and I wasn’t reaching the hold. My foot wasn’t pulling me in enough. It was a classic case of a foot needing to be used as a hand and I was flailing. I changed shoes from Dragons to V10’s (old style)… and boom. I did the move. Thinking it was only a psychological boost and in reality I’d done the move because I’d tried it 21 times, I tried again in my V10 and did it again. Had I simply got the measure of the move? Perhaps. Whatever the reason, I didn’t fall off that move again (nor did I change out of my V10). I did the last couple of moves which feature a blind slap as the penultimate move and then decided I should go into crush mode. I could do the moves and so I could do the problem. It’s just a matter of execution. I fell a few times on the starting move which is a tricky move into a backhand, but then I managed to latch it and was on. Not for long. A foot slip saw me on the pad again. Damn it. This wasn’t the crush mode I had envisaged. Still undeterred (always undeterred!) I tried again and did the first move, then the second, then the third. The third move is a very cool cutloose move where you have to jump your foot onto a high foothold. I wasn’t strong enough to take the swing so what I had to do was hit the foothold whilst my body was still on the outswing, so my foot was pushing me up into the handholds as I reached the zenith of my swing. It’s a joyous move. I made it through that move and was on the upper moves. I felt alright, but was perhaps a bit nervous and I certainly wasn’t climbing it as smoothly as I’d done the individual moves, which resulted in me falling at the long move from a sloper. Damn it. I felt like it might have been possible but I was on the pad once again. My feeling wasn’t wrong though as I was definitely capable of doing this problem and that go had confirmed it. I had some more goes and made it to the slopers a few times but my right hand or left hand would slip off unexpectedly. My skin wasn’t getting any better and so I faced the choice of going all out and trying to do it this session or being wise and saving my skin, safe in the knowledge that I’d put in a good session. I battled my ego which wanted to keep going in the hope that I could do it in a session, which would be a huge achievement for me, but in the end my rationale won and I took my boots off. Amber is a great problem and I’m keen to go back and do it. I’m sure that I will do it. In fact, I’m certain. I think it’s likely I’ll do it in another session, but if not, I’m sure that I’ll do it before leaving. I walked down to the car as the night closed in and I was feeling good. I’d gotten what I’d wanted from the session. I’d climbed well and in reality I’d exceeded my expectations, but as always the goalposts got moved when I realised they were getting too close.

Now it’s raining again and I’m resting. On my mind is the question of how long I shall remain out here and what I really want to do. So far my ticklist isn’t long, only containing 3 problems, but depending on my form it may extend to 4 problems. Doing 3 of them would be amazing for me and doing 4 would be incredible. The future path is unknown but if I can climb well, rest well, eat well, and keep enjoying my rock climbing then I think anything is possible.

ps. Apologies is the text size/font has gone funny. I don’t know what happened and I’m in no position to fix it at the moment.