Summer Project Time

The last few weeks have a been a bit crazy and all over the place – mainly due to the launch of Sublime Climbing via a Kickstarter project that I started up with a USA partner, Ransom Allison. We wanted to “re-think” the climbing brush and produce something that people thought was a significant step above what’s currently available. Whilst I can’t be sure that we’ve hit that exact target, I feel fairly confident now that the response from our fund raising has been so surprisingly strong that we must have got some parts right!

More than we could have possibly hoped for!

More than we could have possibly hoped for!

It felt pretty scary doing the big launch, but after 15 days of running the Kickstarter we had over 300% of the funding at $15,000. It might not sound like the kind of numbers the big guys play with, but it feels cool to have grown this from very small beginnings to something that has promise. So thanks very much to everyone for the support!!

The mastermind designer, Ransom!

The mastermind designer, Ransom!

On to more normal things…. CLIMBING PROJECTS!!!! Oh yes. I love all types of projects but nothing gets me more fired up than finding something in my home country that I want to plough time and diesel into.

The first couple to get done when I came back from Spain were a Franco Cookson tip off in the N York Moors and the direct finish to Eye of the Tiger at Ilam Rock. Whilst neither are up there in the realms of mind-blowing difficulty (E7 6c’s) they’ve both got me really reinvigorated for UK first ascents again.

Thrill of the Fight, E7 6c

Thrill of the Fight, E7 6c

Which brings me onto the most exciting one. I’ve been looking for something for quite some time that would take my crack climbing on a significant step in terms and strength and power. It’s not that hard to find routes around the world that feature pumpy V7-8-9 sections and are fairly long (and carry big numbers like 8c and 8c+), but identifying anything with sections over V11 kinda leaves you stumped.

I went to Switzerland last year to have a look at a V13 finger crack which was cool (but not that cool) but didn’t have me thinking “my life is on hold until this gets done” and so I ended up revisiting some of the projects I’ve dabbled on in the last 10 years but previously written off as being too hard. One of these lines was the roof crack project at Hartland Quay. I tried it with Pete Whittaker when we were still to do Greenspit and it was basically way too hard. Way, way too hard! Granted we could do some of the sections, but doing everything and linking was so far away from our ability.

The crack is where you want it... in the middle!

The crack is where you want it… in the middle!

So when I went back down this year to see if I’d improved during the course of training for Century, Cobra and El Cap, I was pleasantly surprised (that should read – psyched out of my mind!!) to find it was fully possible. The moves worked, I felt stronger and my mono ability from Cobra paid serious dividends.

To have found something that is way off the spectrum from what I’ve previously done or tried (and completely plays to my own personal strengths / style) is pretty motivating. It’s given me back that deep routed drive that when you wake up every morning you want to tear the walls of the house down in excitement for training and climbing. I’m back in the zone and I’m really enjoying it!

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Recovery Drink – A Norwegian Drinking Experience

Last month, Pete and I were invited on a trip to Norway to lecture at the infamous Ballestein Festival. Literally translated this is the “Ballsack (bollocks) Festival” and even has a poster of a climber bouldering a giant pair of testicles. When you get an email in your inbox asking if you’re up for presenting at a festival with this kind of poster, you know you can’t turn it down!

Yup, that's a hairy pair of balls!

Yup, that’s a hairy pair of balls!

What was even more exciting than the promised crazy Norwegian climbing festival, was the assurance that we’d have time to make a visit to try Nico Favresse’s Recovery Drink on the Profile Wall in Jøssingfjord. As a route suggested to be perhaps the hardest crack on the planet, it’s received a relatively small amount of media coverage. I suppose this is testament to Nico’s quiet demeanour and conservatism. When I asked him some questions about it before going, I knew we’d be in for a good trip. He reckoned it was one of the best bits of climbing he’d done.

Nico on Recovery Drink

Nico on Recovery Drink

Heading out with Pete Whittaker on a trip always brings it’s risks. They’re mainly navigation ones as the combination of both of our levels of idiocy brings much confusion and missed road turnings. Fortunately this time, we were hosted by some competent Norwegians and an extremely nice Canadian. After 6+ hours of driving we arrived, tired from flights, at Jøssingfjord. We’d been landed the pleasure of a 4 man bunkhouse which neatly fitted 2 climbers, a filmmaker and Cannuk.

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The next day we headed up to the Profile Wall with a great deal of anticipation (and some fear when we saw how overhanging it was!) to try the route. As usual, we didn’t know how to get to the crux pitch, so made some assumptions about the first pitch and botched a rough bit of climbing together. Standing beneath the line of the route an hour later, I was blown away – oh my God – what a pitch!! Double tramline finger and thin hands crack, through bulges and all on impeccable Norwegian Gneiss.

Some Wideboyz getting very cold!

Some Wideboyz getting very cold!

STEEEEEEEEP!

STEEEEEEEEP!

Over the next few days we put some time in on the route and worked the sections and tried some of the easier links. At first glance, it all appeared to go well, with every move done on the pitch and some sequences fitted together… when we tried a “what does it feel like” link from the bottom though…. hmmmm…. quite tricky!! Needless to say, the most important thing for me and Pete was that this line stood up in terms of quality and intensity:

  1. Difficultly. It’s hard to say after trying it only 3 sessions in freezing cold and rain, but it’s similar to Cobra in terms of the hardest single moves but is way more continuous and has a longer crux. Cobra is a 5 move crux, but Recovery is maybe 10 moves or more and you’re already pretty pumped when you start! It also has a way harder finish than Cobra – of pumpy 7c+ (?) rather than vertical tech 6b+.
  2. Quality. Probably the best thing about this line is that it’s not unpleasant crack climbing. Not surprisingly, it’s quite hard to find things above 8b that aren’t utterly joint or finger destroying. It’s the long, continuous and sustained nature of the route that allows it to be just under that pain level yet still hit some big numbers. I have to say, Nico is a pretty lucky guy to have this first ascent under his belt. One of the best in the world!
Pulling through the final moves of a looooong pitch

Pulling through the final moves of a looooong pitch

After the climbing (and vowing a return-match for us both) we drove back towards Olso to attend the festival. I won’t write too much about the madness of the drinking, partying and nakedness as I’m sure Joe Kinder or Henning Wang have adequate evidence of what went on!

What I do want to say, is that I think this festival is such a great idea and the philosophy and people behind it are amazing. Firstly, the main man Lars Halvorsen runs this thing each year in a totally non-commercial style. There’s no admin team, corporate selling stands or ulterior motives. He wants to run a festival for climbers that’s about loads of people getting together to celebrate what they love and also to try and raise money for CAC.

And this was before people really got going!!

And this was before people really got going!!

Walking out of the party tent at 5.30am in the morning I could see Lars had achieved everything he’d set out to do. Well over £3000 raised for CAC, drunk and wasted climbers with no tops on lying in the grass & sweat-lined marquee and Pete Whittaker still standing tall, fuelled on pints of cider dancing his best moves to a Rocky tribute song.