This summer for me has been about focusing on set projects that I committed to at the start of the year following the winter season. I wanted to set myself 5 goals for the summer season. Dream routes that I knew were within reach and some that were possibly not, but touching on all disciplines of summer rock, from Trad, Big Wall, Boulder and Sport climbing.
In setting myself medium and long term goals, I was hoping that the medium goals would be reached this year but with the long term goals being something that I could work towards this year and then possibly send into the next.
I've never really gone about planning a year like this and have normally kept things spontaneous, so it was also a bit of an experiment to see if I was more productive and could perform better in having a structure to my projects, therefore to my training.
With a year out from expedition climbing I really wanted to think of the best order in which to approach the 5 projects, helping towards the next one only once the previous project was complete. Building fitness throughout the summer to maybe being fit enough for my long term and final project at the end of the year.
In addition, the order in which to do those 5 projects had to be worked out and attempted at the right time of year to find the right conditions. Basically there was a lot to think about if I was to get even close to completing all or at least some of these goals.
Now that my summer is over and I look back in hindsight, I really recommend this approach in goal setting, It helps keep the focus, a structured training plan, and motivation high even through the dark days of injury and self doubt. Write them down and put them somewhere you will see everyday, the key is to maintain the psych levels and to come up with realistic and reachable goals thoughtout the year that you can tick off as you go, adapting your training accordingly rather than have just having one distant dream. But remember none of this comes for free, commit to those goals and train your arse off to achieve them.
Its now almost the end of the year and its time for me to start thinking about my next set of projects for 2018, So maybe its also time for you to start thinking about yours too...
Below are my 5 projects for summer 2017.. if interested!
1. First Ascent of the Avon Gorge, "Ramp Super Challenge" Bristol.
On the 13th June myself and Rhoslyn Frugtniet in the full on sun and blazing heat completed the very "local" and quite eccentric "Ramp Super Challenge" The original Ramp Challenge was envisaged by the late Johnny Woods on the Upper wall and was completed in November of last year.
With the release of the New Avon Gorge CC guide, the bar was raised to climb in one session from 11 starred routes with a total of 50 E points to 15 starred routes and 60 E points (!) packing in 286m of climbing from E2 - E6. The idea is to climb the routes in the order of the guidebook.
We did it by the skin of our teeth, but unfortunately on the final move of the whole project, I badly pulled my finger flexor unit in the forearm, which put me out of action for the next 6 weeks. For any team wishing to give it a go, it gives a really hard challenge but I would wait for a much cooler day! Thanks to Richard Emerson, Ollie Kynes and Paul Twomey for capturing the action on film watch it here....
2. Free Ascent of "PressKnodel" 7c 480m Cima Ovest, Dolomites.
Having been out injured for over 6 weeks it was time to get my Dolomite fix. I really wanted to free a route on the North Face of Cima Ovest. “PressKnodel” was a route I had my eye on for a while. A beautiful looking line up to the right of the big roofs. Twelve long pitches, most 50m in length and very sustained in the mid and high 7's throughout.
I met up with my mate Nick Bullock for 3 weeks but due to my injury I was really reluctant to climb anything hard for the first 10 days. Just super paranoid I would rip open again my healing forearm, so we spent some time climbing in the stunning Tofana Di Rozes area, climbing some very cool routes, some loose and often bold but on the sunny south faces.
We then switched our focus to Tre Cima and to a project. "PressKnodel" an on-sight was out of the question, due partly to me not wanting to try too hard but mainly due to the savage cold on the North Face.
We agreed on going for a look, to see if the climbing was any good and worth some effort. The biting north wind blew right onto us, freezing our hands and bodies to the core, mid pitch myself and Nick often experienced brutal re heats, the rock was cold we where like blocks of ice. After 4 pitches we descended, but on a big overhanging face that’s easier said than done.
We returned to the base after all sorts of rope work techniques, ropes rubbing along sharp edges and scary lower outs to not leave us hanging in space, to reach the next belays to get us down. Once safely at the base we both felt the intensity of the descent and agreed that for another look at some of the higher pitches, we would need to fix some rope to make the descent back down the face less stressful.
Over the course of the next week, we fixed rope, looked at some of the harder pitches, froze our arses off and took some rest days waiting for temperatures to warm up before we could try to climb the route free in a day. On the 27th August with a good forecast we went for it, dropping the fix ropes behind us to the ground as we went. 4 pitches from the top the clouds darkened and the claps of thunder started to reverberate around the Tre Cima north walls. Rain started to fall from the sky, the anxiety built as the thunder claps got closer and we could see lightning ground strikes near by. It was like being hounded by a pack of wolves. Will it get us ?
We topped out on the last pitch just in time and sheltered from the passing storm before descending greasy limestone off the south face and back to the van, heading back round to the bottom of the face to collect our fixed rope. Without a doubt, for me the finest multi pitch alpine rock route I have climbed so far.
3. 2nd Place at TCA winter series boulder comp.
I've never been into competition climbing, and I've always shied away from entering any. Maybe the fear of failure held me off! I was back in the UK to commit to a trad project in Pembroke, and spent my time training at TCA in Bristol. I always trained on the circuit boards and never really bouldered, why...because it was my weakness. I had a word with myself this year to get out of my comfort zone, so started to boulder……lots.
Due to my climbing projects where naturally I don't want to fall because I may hurt myself, my climbing style has always been very static. I had the power and a deep lock off, but I needed to find the “snap" so over the course of a few weeks I really worked at my weaknesses and found super quick gains.
19th October was time for the TCA boulder comp. Friends there had expected me to show up to take part but in my own mind I was still undecided. I showed up 1.5hrs late, mainly because I thought no, I’ll just train instead but as soon as I got through the door the TCA team already had me signed up before I could think of an excuse not to. I warmed up and got stuck into the qualifying problems working my way through them. I love the route setting here, the problems feel like "real climbing" and not like some of the parkour type problems set in other walls, Before I knew it I was in the final and came 2nd overall.
I've no idea where that came from, in not being a pure boulderer. Maybe it was from just letting go of that fear of failure, or maybe because most of the other strong boys where on holiday! but It’s was a big lesson to me....fear of failure is often the biggest thing holding us back from success!
4. "Point Blank" E8 6c, Stennis Ford, Pembroke.
At the start of the year, I spent some nice days climbing at Pembroke. Being next to the sea for me is escapism from the mountains and I love it. Days spent with my mate Sam, van living, climbing until late, is pretty much as good as it gets, I spent time just on sighting, ticking though my black book of climbs I have to do in my lifetime. I love the UK, the climbing community and the diversity of climbing there. Over the past 10 years I've been away a lot, but during the last couple of years I find myself coming home more often. For the all round climber there is nowhere better!
One route that captured me from the time my friend Dave Pickford did the first ascent in 2009 was "Point Blank" in Stennis Ford. A dramatic wall with sustained climbing and long run-outs. However a huge drop zone means you'll only clock up air-time if you drop the final hard section. The climb takes in the crux's of "From a Distance" before stepping left and following the line of holds leading out into the centre of the wall and taking the headwall above.
8th October I was there with Sam on pretty much the last weekend of the trad season, before the weather really changed for the worse. I wanted to head-point the route, abseil the line, look at the moves and the gear before going for it, placing all gear on lead. For me this was the best style I could wish for, days before it had rained. Now it was cloudy with no wind and the tide had not been out for long, but the forecast for the rest of the weekend was dodgy, so to wait until the afternoon for conditions to evolve was too risky! The rock felt soapy and the friction bad. Climbing through the crux's of "From a Distance" felt droppable. I continued across the traverse, and placed 2 cams in the pocket that protects the runout crux. The rock greasy with every touch I climbed through with a few shaky moments and topped out, so psyched to have climbed this dream route. For me, its a real masterpiece of a line.
"Fisheye" 8c, Oliana, Catalonia.
To climb a route at your limit, everything has to be in your favour, the style, the length and the conditions need to be perfect. "Fisheye" a 50m 8c in Oliana was a route that would suit my style, a full power endurance/endurance effort.
Conditions in Oliana were tricky. It was too warm in the sun, meaning that for the first 10 days of being there, the climbing window was only 3 hrs a day to be able to climb in the shade. Progress was slow. To work every move on a 50m route takes time! After 7 days of effort to work all the moves out, I felt that it was time to start going for the red-point.
9th November on the 4th burn I found myself clipping the chain, a huge release of emotion and the best way to top off my summer season, now I'm fully game on for winter!!