Thursday, 29 October 2009

…uses for a nutkey

Nutkey, aka proddler. A climbing tool used primarily to aid the removal of leader placed protection when seconding.

Quite simple little devices really – basically a short, flat metal stick with a hook on the end. So, what are they really for…

  • thwacking nuts/wires that are ‘solidly placed’, usually when seconding (where it is your responsibility to recover all of the gear the leader has placed, no matter how masochistic you may think they were being)
  • re-seating’ non-optimally placed wires, when leading (of course, as a leader you won’t ever place bad gear, nor will you ever have to resort to the kind of violence for which your second is well known when removing your extremely secure gear placements)
  • hooking’ the trigger bars of cams/friends that have walked too deeply into a crack to be released by hand. This is what the hooks on the end were originally designed for. (Ok, ok, so I know this one is a bit of a stretch – has anyone EVER managed this?)
  • gardening’, that is, removing moss, mud, crud and other substances (eww) from cracks and holds
  • animal control’ – mainly removing large spiders from cracks, usually with a deft and elegant flick of the wrist in order to send said creature into a section of space a LONG way from you, and hopefully not onto your belayer’s head. (Other ‘animals’ may include all manner of insects, from flies, woodlice or earwigs, to man-eating furry caterpillars – anything larger is often best dealt with by running away)
  • fishing’ – retrieval of dropped items, sometimes achieved by tying the nutkey onto a section of rope which is then dangled (similar to ‘hooking’, but generally more useful)
  • as cutlery
  • as a stirrer (not the same as cutlery)
  • as a bread knife (although probably more accurately described as a bread disintegrator)
  • scratching those hard to reach areas
  • pointing at stuff, especially obscure guidebook references
  • torture, i.e. in transportation (how often do the damn things end up digging in your back through your rucksack? And what’s more it nearly always happens when you’ve made an extra special effort to prevent it – it’s like they know…)
  • for aiding with mud bank top-outs to routes – the ‘mud-axe
  • the ‘universal toolkit’ – knife (very blunt), saw (even more blunt than the knife so you’ll have to be very persistent, it should also be noted that the universal nutkey saw is generally less than effective on any material with a hardness or density greater than that of lukewarm butter), chunky flatblade screwdriver (try it!), can opener (maybe? could be painful though…you have been warned), scraper (although possibly not ideal for scraping ice off of car windscreens…), etc
  • poking unidentified items you don’t want to touch, but for some inexplicable reason, you just need to

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

another 6c!

Margin of Error, the 6c next to Traction Control (my first 6c lead). The route had a very similar style of climbing, and one that suits me down to the ground – fingery, extremely technical and requiring precise footwork. Gorgeous. Anyway, I had only really hoped to get it clean on top-rope, so that I could come back and lead it on another occasion, but after I’d got the sequence dialled and had toproped it cleanly and with ease it seemed silly not to just go for it.

To cut a long story short, I was cold and fluttery. My climbing was nowhere near as smooth as I would have liked, but nonetheless I did it. My second 6c. What a brilliant feeling. Another 6c, done in a single session. Maybe I really am getting better!

Oh and a huge thank you to my dearly beloved for belaying me without complaint and just being fantastic.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

west rib, dinas mot (HVS 5a)

I’ll let Patrick lead the crux pitch, the 5a one. That way he will feel good because he’s done something harder than just VS, and I will feel ok because I only have to do the 4b and 4c pitches which must only be VS really…

So, I had a minor epic on the first (4b) pitch. It would probably have been fine had I actually gone the right way, but that wouldn’t be much fun now would it? I went off route onto scary and entirely unprotectable ground after I had dutifully arranged my ropes in such a manner as to generate such horrendous rope drag that I very nearly pulled myself off - I demonstrated a textbook method of eliminating the advantages of double ropes in reducing rope drag, by placing my gear in such a manner as to direct the blue rope into a nice crack where it could quite happily jam itself, whilst being hugely runout above my last piece of absolutely terrible gear. Oh yes, that last piece of gear did in fact lift out I think…I had found my way into the ethereal zone of ‘unanticipated ground-fall potential’, that place where climbers become vividly mortal, and belayers either wonder how absorbant their underpants are as they shut their eyes, or ponder the value of their partner’s stuff when listed on ebay…

Needless to say, I discovered my little ‘rope management issue’ as I was mid pull through a committing move on poor footholds using handholds which were somewhat smaller than desirable given the circumstances…cue a stream of obscenities and panicked yanking at the poor lodged string holding me down…

Once I finally got to the belay I couldn’t pull the blue rope up so Patrick had to climb only on red until he’d freed the blockage. My poor rope will never quite be the same again. Once he joined me at the belay I had a bit of an angry tantrum like moment, mainly because I was still full of adrenaline and fear (sorry about that mate). Anyway, the decision was made to continue and so a little while later I found myself merrily seconding the crux pitch with numb fingers (it was cold in the shade).

The final pitch was only meant to be 4c, so I stupidly made the assumption that it wouldn’t really be HVS climbing, that was all behind us. In reality I found the pitch hard, extremely committing and scary, especially when I discovered the crux after a steep section of crack climbing for which I had had to overcome some MAJOR ‘head-f*ck’ issues. So I climbed the cracks (aka ‘hollow flakes’) and made the scary ‘mantel onto the steep arete’, only to find myself stood up with a seemingly blank section of rock between me and the top, a big drop at my feet, and no gear. I panicked.

Flustered and shaking I allowed myself a second or two of unashamed emotion after which I really did just have to deal with it (I pressed my head against the rock and let out a single gentle sob, then talked myself into generating some serious courage and control). Switching on my brain and finally getting some gear in at my feet made me feel a little better, after which I decided that up was the way I had to go – that is, I had to go up the arete to a flake traverse, rather than immediately rightwards on a flaky hand/foot traverse at my feet (this may or may not be the ‘correct’ way as per the guidebook, the reason I say that is that it sure as hell felt harder than English 4c). So up it was – left had onto a sidepull of sorts, right hand on a small and crappily shaped crimpy spike on the arete. Feet on, well, nothing much…deep breath, pull…aaaaaand...back down onto my ledge. Damnit. Right, just get on with it...

‘Ok, sidepull, pull, stand up on those crappy feet, ooh a bridge. Eeesh this is crap. Ok left hand into that sidepull pocket…oh god it’s tiny…shiiiiiiiiiiit…ok two fingers in the pocket, blimey it really is crap, can I really layback off of the single pads of two fingers? Foot up, better foothold…oh crap…PUUUUUULLLLL! Ok right hand, where the HELL DO I PUT IT?! Ooooh ok, shitty, shitty, shitty crimp…cummmmmoooooon…just stand up…’

The next hold wasn’t quite the jug I had anticipated but by that point I had no choice but to make it work, so I did. No real chance to hang on and get any gear in, I knew I just needed to get over the slab to the next arete, so I hung on, composed myself and then padded across.

There are a number of reasons why rock climbing is such a fulfilling and addictive sport, one of them being the feeling you get when you’ve just completed a technically challenging and wholly committing set of moves - those where nothing matters except how well you cope with the adrenaline ride. The feeling I got when I reached the far arete and the last few meters of the last pitch of that climb on Dinas Mot. The feeling I had when I finally got a decent piece of gear in after committing myself, the feeling knowing that it was done, that now, even if I blew a move and fell, I was no longer looking at a fall with potential for paralysis or death.

The final few meters to the belay were euphoric in their simplicity and ease, and so it was with a sense of deep-set relief and joy that I brought my wonderful and long-suffering partner up to join me, feeling justifiably satisfied. Thankfully he agreed that the arete section I had just managed to smoothly tremble up on minuscule holds and faith in my feet, had indeed been quite challenging.

Friday, 2 October 2009

it’s been a while

Ok so I’ve been a bit lax in my bloggage of late, for that I apologise. I don’t really have an excuse, it’s just that sitting here and typing anything worthy of reading hasn’t been something I’ve felt terribly capable of just recently (and I will admit, this is unlikely to be worth a read either).

Anyway, what have I been up to? Not much of note to be honest. I’ve been out climbing a few times, a few days at Tremadog (amongst other places) ticking off some more of the easier routes, and even managing to haul my arse up the 3-star classic E1, The Plum (yes, I led the crux. No, I did not manage to climb it onsight, for which I blame my head, not my body. I did climb it totally clean though – so I don’t ever have to go back to it, thank god). I should say thank you to Ritchie for getting me up the route, and for not making me lead it all as one pitch – the second ‘half’ was truly harrowing (or at least that’s how it felt to me – maybe it was all the adrenaline surging through my competent but ‘unaccustomed to extreme graded trad lines’ body…).

So I feel like I’m actually a fairly reasonable and capable climber now, just so long as the routes are graded VS. Anything harder and my head does a number on me, and with easier routes I often get scared on the less ‘conventional’ type moves that are supposed to be easy (think oozy, squeezy, chimney udgy type things…eughhhh). Ok so maybe I’m useless, but my ropework and general equipment skills are good at least!