Every winter in the UK you inevitably spend a lot of time training indoors avoiding the typically unreliable weather. It’s probably one of the main ways that we as Brits, can stay motivated. We’re slowly getting stronger and fitter during the dark months and all the while you can tell your mates about what routes you’re going to do when it stops raining (yeah, right) and of course browse the guidebooks.
As a trad climber, guidebooks are one of my main sources of inspiration. I absolutely love them. I suspect most people have a nice Tom Clancy novel next to their bed – I have most of the BMC guides with little bits of paper stuck in them! These bits of paper refer to constantly evolving ticklists and ones that contain some totally unrealistic goals and others not so…
Having been able to get out a bit more recently, I’ve found myself trawling through the guidebooks looking up things that I tend to shy away from when I’m a bit rusty. Bold routes, any aretes and anything that’s at Curbar. One route that ticks two of the boxes is Speak The Truth, an E7 6b at Hallmoor Quarry. I remember seeing a video of someone climbing this years ago and thinking I’d never do that (i.e. the bold soloing) but recently 2 things changed my opinion. One, was that Pete Whittaker had been out and flashed the route and secondly that Ethan Walker and Sam Hamer had headpointed it in the last few days, so most likely there would be plenty of chalk on the route. To further bolster my confidence, they’d posted a video up on youtube with a (hopefully?!) perfect sequence repeated twice before the camera.
With this in mind, I convinced my wife that post-night shifts she’d like to come out and spot me doing “a nice easy climb that Pete said was ace.” Poor her. There she was lugging a bouldering mat through thigh-deep brambles on a weekday morning – Thanks Kim! As I sat at the base of the route, I wondered about two things;
1. Was Pete’s flash and casual remarks about ease of climbing to be relied on? Shame I couldn’t get him to demo to me one-handed in a pair of Five Ten trainers to show me how it really was a piece of piss. Ok, just trust Pete. He knows how crap at aretes I am. He’d not have recommended it otherwise.
2. Was Ethan and Sam’s sequence any good? Both those boys climb some big numbers and my long term sieges on V8’s isn’t exactly up with their quick V11 ticking. Hmmmmm…. but they both did it quickly. Maybe they’re Arete Jedi Monkeys? Hmmmmmm…. doubts were creeping in.
Ah sod it. Can’t be doubting myself now.
I put my boots on, quickly chalked up and thought I’d just do the first sequence of moves to take my mind off it. Ok yup, feet up and smear high. Not quite as easy as I was hoping. I’m stood up now, high enough that I’m a little scared. I look down. No…. don’t do that. Eyes up. Good hold on the arete. Yes. Good holds. Right, take them hard, and run feet up. I can see better holds higher. Surely this is the “little boulder problem” that Pete talked of. Feet so high it’s getting scary. Move my hands quickly up the arete to counterbalance. Shit. That’s not great. Just two foot moves until a good hold. They’re sandy. Ugh. Don’t cock this up. I’m totally crapping my pants. Holds reached, but I’m so gripped I’ve started cramping in my foot and I’m overgripping on everything. Relax. RELAX. Pretty much all out blind panic. I can’t really think any more and I go autopilot just to top out.
Thank God for that. It’s over.
Sitting back down at the base I mull over the route in my mind. I was so gripped and the route is so much my anti-style (insecure, balancy and not a crack in sight) that I realise that probably this route is really rather easy. I’d been right about my earlier assumptions – I’d simply not realised how much I has batting off the wrong foot.
The more I thought about this route and some others that I’ve done recently, I came to the conclusion that it’s about time that someone spoke out about how ridiculous some of the grades on grit are. Over on 8a.nu they’re always banging on about the “personal grade” thingy and how it will lead to a better consensus. Why don’t we really do it on trad? Sure, the ego can get in the way and you’d love to take the Man Points, but surely the buck has to stop somewhere? Someone has to take the hit, downgrade all their best stuff and be honest. Well, that’s going to be me. I’m going to sacrafice my ticklist so we’ll no longer think that Nosferatu is really E6 and Profit of Doom is E4.
Time to load up the excel spreadsheet….