Monday, 14 March 2011

Fire in the Rain 8b+ at Anston Stones

Recently I finally had that elusive perfect go and succeeded on what feels like a long term project at Anston Stones. I’m going to call the line 'Fire in the Rain' and suggest a grade of 8b+. It is essentially the full left hand continuation of an existing 8a+ line called 'White Light Direct'. There is a bit of a story behind this bit of rock and i wrote about it in a previous post which can be found here: . To pick up where that left off; it seriously niggled in the back of my mind and a month later I found myself on a ladder cleaning the holds on the left and working on the moves. (trying the line in the December snow photo T Simpson)

The full line now takes an amazing line up the left side of the arete and is severely overhanging all the way. This line now has a proud highball feel to it and In my opinion by far the best line at the venue with some great moves. If I was to offer a criticism it is slightly eliminate you have to stay strictly left under the roof all the way keeping your right hand on the poor arete holds only, and your left on the left most holds. This is not as bad as it sounds as when you look at the rock this seems like the obvious challenge and bailing out early feels like just that! The picture right shows the holds i used (not in order), anything right of the red line is on the side wall and therefore out.

Numbers Rundown

Here are some comments on the grading as clearly this will raise a few eyebrows. Well for starters I feel like I have been building up to this climb for a long time. If you read the link you will get a run down of the history. But basically 'Fire in the Rain' starts sitting as for 'White Light' which you have to climb with my original 8a sequence (Hard White Light?) to allow you to eliminate the side wall holds on the harder version. There is an easier method which is still climbable despite a hold breaking that is only 7c+ but you are forced into using a good edge and a jug just above on the sidewall, which lead naturally right into the corner. Instead you have to stay left and make tricky on/off heal hook moves to get to a good slopey crimp. This is essentially 'White light Direct' which is about 8a+, which goes up for a juggy ledge on the side wall a bit further along the arete. This is called 'Direct' as the logical finish for this is to climb up the right side of the arete rather than right to the corner.

'Fire in the Rain' stay left and involves a further tricky dead point and another tenuous heel hock move were you have to move your hand to a poor hold. After spending some time on the problem i think this is probably the hardest move. After this some basic locks get you right to the top of the crag. Linking all of this together was both hard and very frustrating as the more I would try the more I got frustrated with the on-off nature of the moves. After the start which finally felt powerful but fairly secure you have to make a series of moves where at any point you could just slip off. The most frustrating thing was the final heel hock move!! (Trying to get the top heel to stick photo T Simpson)

So bearing all this in mind with the top being quite hard in its own right with a very tenuous move it makes sense that this climb is at least 8b but I think its move than a one grade extension. Also for me it felt like one of hardest and certainly the most frustrating climb I've ever done. It certainly is a lot harder than Keen Roof or Serenity/Serendipity and took me a lot longer to climb in total, so I really think it’s worth the plus. Recently the variations have been tried by a couple of strong climbers and that left me happy about my logic and that I’ve not lost the plot. ‘Fire in the Rain’ certainly feels very hard but in a different way to normal power style problems, where it is usually just about getting stronger in a basic way, something I feel makes this climb a bit special!

(A different perspective of the problem photo T Simpson)

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Four Days Bouldering in Can Boquet

Fed up of the Seemingly endless spells of rain and dampness that seem to plague England every time I free some time up in my busy life to just go climbing. I decided enough was enough and agree to go on a mad four day trip to Spain the land of endless sunshine. I and three friends jetted out to Barcelona with the intention of checking out the Boulders of Can Boquet and giving them a through going over. I didn't know much about the climbing before going out there but I got a copy of the topo and it looked like there was plenty to have a go at. One thing that I did come across was an area test piece called 'Biceps Power an 8a+. This seemed like the problem to test your self on and to try to climb out there. Only problem was it looked like an undercut power problem which is far from my specialty. One thing I did know was that this was going to be an intense trip.

Day 1:

We Landed and high tailed it straight up to the boulders. The first venue we checked out was Sector Nou, the home of the 'Biceps Power' (Photo right- T Simpson). I couldn't help myself, I was in no fit state to try it after just flying in, but my impatience got the better of me. After about an hour of getting nowhere, I finally figured out a sequence and did the moves. The only trouble was linking them before my skin gave out. I had another desperate hour of failed tries and long rest, before some how, by the skin of my teeth, sticking the crux from the start and battling through to the end. It was far from the smoothest accent I'd ever done. But I got the tick, and a good job too as I had ripped my thumb apart and had flapper style cuts to two of my fingers. It was very much a make or break moment for me and having got that done I felt my confidence rise and felt the pressure drop. I decided to just get as many good problems done as possible. Still feeling first day strong I quickly did a very cool 7c called 'Croquet Man'. Then in the dying light I headed up to try an 8a 'Tenacita Variante' on the recommendation of a local. On seeing the line I knew it suited me and after about 4 tries I'd done it from standing (7c+ish ) and followed by doing it first go from its logical sitting start. Not a bad first day! (Photo left - D Skoczylas)

Day 2:

On the morning of the second day we woke up to blue skies and sunny weather. We decide we would check out Sector Classic which is regarded as the other of Can Boquets main areas. On arriving it didn't disappoint. I warmed up then headed straight for the only 8a there 'Transporting' (Photo right - T Simpson). This looked very gritstony being a slight rising traverse on sloppy edges ending in a mantle on slopers. That done I relaxed even more and drifted around just climbing the best looking lines. Highlights included climbing 'Suc De Toronja Directo Sit' 7c a very classy looking slopey aerate and 'Delincuent Habits, a proud looking high ball arête line given 7c the guide but possible over graded?

Day 3

The weather forecast was bad for day three and the sensible thing to do would have been to take a rest day which the sensible climbers did. However me being me got up really early to beat the rain and arrived at the crag as the sun was just coming up. After a ridiculously poor warm up that involved climbing a 7b+ called Sex Apple. I headed straight to 'Gollum' a 7c+ back at Sector Nou (Photo left - T Simpson). It looked like another good powerful line. I gave it a few tries and quickly got the moves. The only trouble was my body was tired from all the climbing. Time was short with rain on it's way. But the conditions were brilliant and I knew if I didn't climb it now I probable never would. I took a gamble with a massive rest then on summoning deep reserves managed to top out just as it started to rain. The rain was almost welcoming and we decided to head to the beach and check out the tourist sites.

Day 4:

Mastergrip 7c Photo T SimpsonOn day four the sun was shining again for our last day in Spain. We headed first to Sector Classic where people wanted to finish unfinished business. I took a long time to warm up and try and get my, by now, broken body working again. I really wasn't going to get involved in anything trick but some how ended up trying 'Mastergrip' (Photo right - T Simpson) a ridiculously slopey 7c which I had purposefully avoided on Day 2, just because I didn't look possible! But once I’d tried it, I couldn't leave it alone not wanting to be beaten. Two hours later after battling with fatigue, Sore skin, bad sequences and sun, I managed to scrape over the top of the problem. It felt really hard for 7c and possibly under graded, but then again I was in no fit state to judge grades. After that I headed back to Sector Nou and finished off the easier problems there before splitting a tip and deciding enough was enough and that I really didn't want to climb any more as it all hurt too much. I had achieved my goal and climbed all the main lines in the two best sectors. Trip over we all had a hassel free flight back and landed in a dull damp England, which was all a bit of a shock after the nice weather of Barcelona.
So what did I think of Can Boquet? Well I have herd it said that there is not a lot there, the boulders are small and it's not worth the effort. To be honest I can see where people may get that impression from. If all you want to do is come and circuit climbs under 6c+ then you would be done in a day, unless you wanted to scrape around on the lower boulders. For me I found I really enjoyed pushing myself as the style of problems was such that they weren't just about power, but required subtlety as well, much like gritstone. As a place to come and climb at your limit there are some very nice harder lines. Because of the short nature of our trip we only really visit the two main sectors and that was enough as people found projects they wanted to spend time on. But just thumbing through the guide reveals there is a lot more to go and explore if you were here for longer. I certainly wouldn't mind if I ended up back here, so I'd recommend paying a visit, if only to stop off whilst exploring some of the many other areas in this part of Spain.

Dawid Skoczylas made a nice little video of the trip:

Can Boquet Bouldering Near Barcelona from Robin Müller & Dawid Skoczylas on Vimeo.