Thursday, 18 November 2010

White Light - At the end of the tunnel

White Light is a climb with a bit of a history, well for magnesium carbonate anyway! It is the best looking line at the wave area by far. The odd thing is that on getting there you might well walk past it and never even notice it. Until that is, you turn around and walk back out. Then this prow of rock seems to have come from nowhere. You can’t help thinking to yourself WOW!

Now about its history, well I have a strong memory of being stood under it with Adam Wood. He was the first a think to seriously consider a line up it ‘He said it would be amazing staying on the prow’. I dismissed it as impossible and Adam thought he would struggle with the reaches. It was not until I had got stronger especially at crimping that I gave this ago. I remember coming back from a trip to Squarmish, feeling really good about my climbing and just doing it. Great White Light was born. The name reflects how I felt about my climbing and at that time, also it was the only climb that didn’t seem to lurk under the dark side of a roof. The crux involved three great moves which crimped, pinched then slapped up the right side of the prow to a jug on the right before moving back left and topping out. Great however I remember having conversations with people at the time, everyone agreed the moves looked great but they all would say the same thing it would be better staying up the left and not heading to the jug. I used to defend the line saying ‘But it’s the line of least resistance’. But deep down I agreed. I graded White light 7c+ which seemed fair at the time. By modern standards it might only have been 7c, but we’ll never know as it turns out. Whilst trying to repeat the problem to film it, I managed to pull off the main bottom crimp. I still have the clip. Now that sequence was impossible. I remember feeling devastated. I really loved that climb and it was by far on the most visually appealing rock line there. I remember being angry with myself, I became determined to re climb the line to save the problem. This would mean staying further left than before for the first moves which would be harder. No problem I’ll just get stronger?

The Death of White Light (Version 1)

After a Bit of effort I managed to re-climb it with a great sequence. White light was reborn!!! I graded it 8a. This involved a big move to a small crimp, a neat heal hook behind a tufa, a pop move to a pinch and then a big slap right to the jug. I remember really struggling with my feet continually popping on this which was frustrating. Enter into the story the next generation. Dan Warren spent some time at the wave and amongst other things did the second ascent. Not really news, but he did however find a new easier sequence than the one I had used. This involved a cool drop knee and a move to an undercut before slapping around to the jug. Dave Mason repeated the problem like this as well. I had a play and I remember feeling a little disappointed. It felt easier than my original method. I’m not surprised I missed it, I’ve never liked drop knees. A shame really as this method was probably only 7c+? I say was only 7c+ as it didn’t last. The undercut pulled off on someone and that was the end of that. I have to admit I’m not that disappointed as the end result is that my original method is the easiest again, back up to 8a we go! All this is great but it’s really just an aside, as both sequences made a beeline for the jug and holds out on the right. Voices kept whirring around my head ‘It would be better staying on the left’. Dave even mentioned it as obvious. It was clear the best line would be to stay directly on the left side of the prow.

It was only at the start of this summer that I finally got around to trying it. I was skint and really short on climbing time due to the birth of jack and in need of a project. I had a bunch of short sessions on it and got a sequence together. The problem was it was core sapping and easy to drop at the top. When I would add the sit start moves in I would just fail. It felt really hard! On the last session before it just got too hot I dropped it from the last move, but try as I might I just couldn’t get there again. I thought to myself something is not right? It just didn’t look as hard as it was feeling. I stopped for the summer as it got to hot.

I came back to the problem at the start of autumn for one quick session with Tony in the fading sunlight. I found I couldn’t string the moves together, Out of frustration I started to try other sequences, anything that came to mind, to tame the moves. It was obvious that if you could just make an outside edge move you would be able to walk your heal up on the right. And take out a power sapping series of moves. I tried but had no joy, it just wouldn’t stick. It was obvious this would be the key to really opening up the climb for me. Tony that day had brought out some new shoes he wanted us to try out. ‘Why don’t you try them on it, you never know?’ in the past I’ve always worn the same shoes and it was a bit of a superstition I had that I could only climb in that brand. So I didn’t hold out much hope. Pulling on from standing I tried, for a moment the outside edge stuck then slipped. I tried again and it stuck but I fell off higher up. A third time and I did it from standing and finished off the problem. This in one stroke blew my superstitions out of the water. It felt like it was the way, it was still a very droppable move but when it stuck it really worked. Only one problem, the shoes were half a size too big. So there was no way I could do the tension heel hook and edge moves from the sit start. I decided I would get the right size and then come back.

It was a while before I got to go back with those shoes, but last Friday was that day. It was now the end of autumn. Magnesium carbonate is a magical place at this time, when the trees are thin and it lets in the light. I tried them out on the sequence and got them to work. Droppable but okay if the outside edge stuck and you got the heel in. I tried the sit down moves and they felt easy in the conditions. It was time. Second red point later White Light Direct was born. I think 8a+ is fair for this. But it’s always funny as climbs always feel hard when you can’t do them and then fine when you can. What’s more important is I now feel like I can silence the voice in my head. I think that’s it in the History of White Light. It’s settled down now and no more holds seem destined to break. Having said that maybe you could extend the Direct by ignoring the big ledge and highballing up on the left…… maybe it will go …… maybe this is too eliminate to bother……….?

Here's some eye candy, showing some of Magnesium Carbonates finest, including footage of Mike sending white Light Direct. Enjoy - Skinny!

Magnesium Bouldering Action from Owen McShane on Vimeo.

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