Since returning from Africa I have been as busy as a honey bee on a summer’s day. Juggling work, weekends away, time for training and lucking out on good weather has been difficult and for this reason my mind and overall climbing ability seems to have been in a dark place!! I knew however this would change; climbing (or my climbing at least) is always going through peaks and troughs and it’s just about getting through the low times. The way I climb really does affect my mood and this vicious circle tends to continue with poor training sessions or wasted time on rock.

Enough of the misery, I think I can see the light and there have been some fun days and even the odd successful day amidst the gloom. This blog will aim to be short; an instalment of my activities over the past few months!

Not having a trip to train for makes pulling your finger out, in terms of training, difficult in my opinion. Hats off to everyone who manages this! Feeling weak after my trip to Africa meant that something had to be done. So I went back to basics; fingerboarding. I hung some pieces of wood (thanks Ned and Leo for their kind donations) up in the cellar and so, during this rainy and humid time, I can put on some music and retreat down into the darkness, to sooth my inner training demon!

As well as the fingerboarding I have had a few good days out; in September I repeated Vanilla Sky, a Mike Adams 8a+ at Anston Stones. Over the past few years Mike has been developing the magnesium limestone areas to be found near Rotherham, resulting in some good and VERY hard little problems!! Vanilla Skies is one of his most recent, but in terms of moves I think one of his best. Being at the problem took me back to the Frankenjura... a small but very compact limestone buttress, hidden deep within the woods. For limestone it really does have a little of everything- an ‘eggy’ sloper that the crux revolves around, a heel hook that is very tricky to place and a few moves that require a lot of body tension plus the obligatory small, sharp holds and a nice mono side pull! I got close on my first session, sticking the crux slap to the sloper but unable to bring my heel out from under the roof. On my second session I felt awful and nearly returned home with my tail between my legs but then out of nowhere I had a good go and the send felt on. I realised that I just hadn’t warmed up properly! After a good 20 minutes rest, which is always difficult when you are on your own, I felt ready to go again. Squirreling my fingers into the first left hand slo t takes time; it is always damp and is very small and narrow. Pulling on, I moved into the right hand undercut, adjusted my feet and slapped for the ‘egg’, it always feels as if I will come up short. Hitting the slope I adjusted my feet and ninja kicked my left heel out onto the hold, now it was just a case of praying it stayed put long enough for me to get through the top bit. Lots of re-adjusting later I reach the side pull mono and stood up to the finishing jugs! Very exhilarating as my climbing has been poor lately and the send was very unexpected after feeling sloth like for the majority of the session.

I am now trying Serenity another problem of Mike’s near Roche Abbey; I have had two sessions on it and am slowly piecing it all together with just the crux move still to go. For a limestone crag it requires amazingly cold conditions- talking to Mike the other day he said he didn’t go there unless there was frost on the ground!! I am hoping cooler temperatures come and allow me to put the few more sessions I think I need to do it. It’s the hardest thing I ever tried and I am really excited for the process of figuring everything out so that I can get to the top. As I said in a previous blog I don’t think I have ever really pushed myself to see what I am capable of, hopefully this will be the first of many...

Above: David Mason climbing The Pride (E6 5b) at Churnet. Photo: Nick Brown

Other days out include a very, very hot and humid day out to Churnet. I managed a few problems I hadn’t tried before but the real purpose of the day was just to have fun and test out the new boom that the Outcrop boys have got; needless to say this will definitely add to the quality of their capturing the moment, especially on highballs!!

This brings us nicely to yesterday and a fun day out at Stanage. A friend, Calle has been over from Copenhagen for a week and this was his last day. He had tried Brad Pitt earlier in the week and got close before fatigue set in. So after a rest day hopefully it would be his! To cut the story short it was and he managed it in very fine style indeed, after a 9 month finger injury and very little outdoor climbing his elation was obvious. We then put the pads under Big Air and after a few minutes plucked up the courage to jump the gap, hold the pocket and continue to the top. Moving leftwards we joined Rob Smith and co on Beneath the Breadline (another classic that I had never tried). After figuring out the beta to transition from the left side of the arête to the right, we both managed to scoot up to the top. A brilliant example of gritstone climbing; smeary arête climbing with subtle body positions and a bit of spice to make sure you get a flutter of the heart or two.

And this brings us to this morning; it’s raining, I am going to leave the cellar session for today and probably climb on the board at the Works, another part of getting myself back in shape. I want to work on my shoulder and deep lock strength so think I will be using the big footholds for some time to come!!

Climbing seems to be improving and with this so is the mind; fingers crossed for some cold, dry autumnal days so that projects can be sent and new ones started and of course I will continue to dangle from small pieces of wood in a damp, dark Victorian cellar!
Sorry it didn’t end up short at all, maybe I should I start a journal in order to cut these ramblings down!

Above: David Mason on Mossatrocity 7C.

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