After a long, long sleep I awoke in the forest greeted by blue skies and what looked like perfect conditions. There was frost on the ground and the sun was resplendent. My first day was looking like it might be the perfect start to the trip! Psyched out of my mind I unpacked with unparalleled speed and jet off towards the crag. As I wrote previously, I’d kind of decided that if conditions really were amazing then I should make the most of it. With that in mind I decided to risk it all by heading back to Gecko. Going and failing on a hard boulder on the first day of any trip is disheartening, but going back and failing on something which I nearly did would be doubly disheartening! I thought the risk was worthwhile though as Gecko is very high on my priority list, and at worse I could try the sit start moves.

I arrived at the crag and saw no other cars parked there, which was a great relief. I quite fancied a quiet day to myself in the forest. I wanted to spend my first day just appreciating how amazing the forest is and I knew I could do that more easily if I was on my own. I walked in to the boulder listening to a new Mountain Rescue mix and feeling great. The ground was frozen and orange light was streaming through the trees. Dumping my pads at the Gecko block I headed over to some other boulders to warm up. I chalked up and immediately grabbed two slopers and my feet magically left the ground! Conditions were prime. I wasn’t even warmed up and I was holding on to horrific holds. Immediately a good feeling came over me and the reasons for coming back to font became instantly obvious. I continued to warm up, doing variations on a 7A, progressively gripping on worse holds until I felt good enough to head back to Gecko. When I did I met two guys there, who turned out to be the Ménégatti brothers, Nils and Lucas. Both of them are strong climbers and also nice guys. I set the camera up, turned it off to save the battery whilst I had my warm up goes, and then started to put my shoes on. I went in for a go and said something like “I’ll just see if I can do the first move (of the stand start)”. I pulled on then managed to do the first move. Immediately my body went into auto pilot and my heelhook ninja-changed to a toe, my right foot came up and started heelhooking. The next right hand move went down and my left foot was moving up a few inches to push me upwards towards the undercut. I reached up into the undercut and my left foot continued it’s rise, pushing me higher and higher into the undercut. Another left hand slap saw me at the jug! YEAH! I was, at this point, very dismayed. I think I might have even been talking, saying something along the lines of “what the hell is going on?”. Of course, I’d fallen off from here in my first session, and now I was up into the same place, but this time I knew what to do. I brought my right hand up, matched, and realised I was losing feeling in my tips. This was my warm up go after all and so my fingertips were now freezing cold but I was getting so close to doing it. I reached up and managed to get the next hold, but I couldn’t feel anything under my tips so I just crimped as hard as I could. My feet moved up, then my hand moved up to the next handhold which was better and even though I couldn’t feel anything in my tips I knew I wouldn’t fall off. My foot moved over the lip and I rocked over to glory. I don’t know who was dismayed, me or Lucas and Nils. I pulled on expecting a warm up go and Lucas/Nils probably expected me to have a half decent go but not to do it. I think we were all totally surprised, but I was made up, really made up in fact. As I came down from the boulder I was more dismayed than excited. It was only after it sunk in that I was psyched! My attention turned to the sit start and after a couple of goes I realised that there is one heelhook move which will be difficult for me. I tried to find a way around it, and did, but it involved a MUCH harder move. The heelhook move is hard because my hips don’t seem flexible enough, so if my right heel is on, my left foot can’t come out from underneath me to push me upwards towards the next hold. It’s only that move that stands in the way, and it’s not a hard move per se, it’s more of a tricky move. I feel confident that I can either do the move in a flukey moment, or do it the harder way. I also think that I proved to myself that Gecko stand is not so hard for me, so if I can do this one move then I can do the assis. It’s probably something I’m going to try and do before leaving. It’s certainly in the top 2 things I want to do, the other being Dune. Although, I don’t think I can do Dune, but I want to try it as it’s the hardest move around. Perhaps with enough tries I’ll manage to do the single move of Dune once. For me its allure is in its hardness. There are plenty of better looking and prouder lines in font, but none containing such a hard move. Hopefully I’ll get to climb the amazing lines and also the hardest moves. That would certainly be a good trip for me!

I suppose I should also use this opportunity to explain that I stopped updating my 8a.nu account some months ago. In theory, I think the concept of 8a.nu is amazing. From a statistical point of view it is of great value to the wider climbing community and so I think it’s a great tool. However, there is also a darker side to it. I don’t like how people who don’t know other people judge them on the basis of whether they took a certain grade for something. I’ve reached the point whereby I don’t care what grade people take for something, I care more about whether or not they’ve done it. Doing Gecko now also puts me in the (privileged) position of being able to have a comment on the grade. It’s also the perfect problem to illustrate some shortcomings of grading and of 8a.nu. Everyone seems to think Gecko stand is 8A+/8B and on 8a.nu everyone either takes 8B or takes 8A+ but then writes 8A+/B in the comments. I’m lucky, because now that I don’t choose to update my 8a.nu account I no longer have to decide on what grade it is. It also seems to me that it doesn’t matter whether or not it’s 8A+ or 8B. Perhaps it’s hard 8A+ or soft 8B, as there is obviously room for some overlap. It also serves as a affirmation of my belief in wider grade boundaries. To some people the slash grade would indicate that we need another in between grade, like 8A++ or 8B-, but to me it indicates a need to move in the other direction. Just make it a grade 8, like I’ve done on my board. Only at the very top end, like 8C or 8C+ does grading really matter. It matters whether or not someone is pushing things to another level of difficulty, but before that wider grades work equally as well as narrow grades. Anyway, this is all dealt with in my “Theory of Grading” that I’ve nearly finished writing. I’m just adding some diagrams and then it will be published on my website. Whilst it’s not going to be a life changing treaty, it does fully explain my thoughts on grading and I hope it makes for an interesting read.

This was the end of the first day… (sensor still needs cleaning – sorry!)