Il be honest, I've been pretty slack on the blog case recently. So this one is going to be a bit of a general round up of the last few months. As per usual Jan and Feb were pretty quiet on the "cragging" front. Apart from a couple of excursions to probably one of the best quarried limestone walls I've been to in the UK.
March saw a bit more activity starting with a good quality day down on the Gower. I met up with Simon Rawlinson and Rob Lamy who gave me the tour of Minchen Hole and Bowen's Parlour. Minchen Hole doesn't sound or even look very nice, but has two quality F7a's. One called The Raven and the other Jump the Sun. After ticking off a few routes there, we moved on to Bowen's Parlour where Simon had put a a F7c called Pegasus, which I managed to onsight.
March also marked my return on to the competition scene, The CWIF (Climbing Works international Festival) is one of the biggest competitions we have now in the UK. With the UK's best route setters coming together at one of the best bouldering walls in the country, it's no wonder The CWIF has built up such a reputation. To top it off the french super star Jacky Godoffe was part of the route setting team. The CWIF is talked about as being a really tough comp, with 330 competitors battling it out over 30 qualifying problems all trying to make the cut. The top 20 male and female go through to the semi's and the strongest 6 out of that go through to the final. As I haven't competed for a number of years I went in to it with an open mind and with no real pressure. As there are so many competitors, qualifying was split into two sessions - we had gone for the morning session. You have 3 hours for qualifying, at first this seems like loads of time but come the end of it I was running around like a headless chicken.
I felt pretty strong and by the end of the morning session I was sitting in 7th place. I was happy with the way I had climbed and even more psyched that I had a chance of going through to the semi's. It was now time to play the waiting game and hope there wasn't too many strong people in the afternoon session. Fortunately for me there wasn't and I scraped through in 17th place. Woop, Woooop! The semi's and finals were the following day so an early night was on the cards. The next morning I woke up feeling pretty sore, it's been a long time since I had felt like that. We were staying in The Works car park in the van so we didn't have to go far for coffee in the morning. The semi's didn't start until 12pm so we had a chilled morning hanging out in the sun getting to know a Font climbing legend (Jacky Godoffe). The closer it got to noon the more nerves started to build up. The comp format was 4 problems, 5 minutes on each and 5 minutes off, with the competitors in isolation. It was a strange feeling being back in isolation, I was super psyched but at the same time slightly nervous as I hadn't been in isolation for quite some time. As I qualified in 17th it wasn't long before I was out. As soon as my name was called everything changed, I remembered how it felt to compete again. It was like auto-pilot took over. The first problem was on a slab, you had to step on with no hand holds and jump to a volume which you then had to mantle. I got the jump 1st time but the mantle was a total different ball game. I got really close on my 3rd go but my foot popped as I was trying to stand up.
After having one more go and not making the mantle I decided to save my energy for the other 3 problems. The next two problems were pretty spicy, I only managed to get the bonus point after a couple of tries on each of them. It was all down to the 4th which was a crazy bat hang to start. Unfortunately I made it to the penultimate hold but didn't have the beans to finish it. It turned out you only had to do one problem to make the final, so close! My 4 bonus point finished me up in 8th place overall. I was still really happy with that, a good weekend was had by all.
The next few weeks were spent gearing up towards our two week trip to Kalymnos, but unfortunately things don't always go to plan. The week before we were due to fly out we got a call to say that Heath's mum had been taken in to hospital so we headed up to Scotland. Sadly she passed away a couple of days later. We spent the next week up in Scotland. After the funeral Heath obviously wasn't so keen on going back to work and as we still had a weeks worth of accommodation we headed out to Kalymnos for the 2nd week of our trip.
All the training, preparation and psyche had just gone out the window with the sad news of the last couple of weeks. So we started the trip with no expectations or goals, I guess the only goal we had was to have a good time. The first few days were spent in true Kalymnos style, early starts, swinging about on tufa's until just after lunch and then down to the bar for a Mythos and a swim in the sea. Kalymnos is great for building up fitness with it's super long, steep routes. We had bought an 80m rope before we had come out so I wanted to put it use searching out a few classic 40m F7's. On the Friday we headed to a new crag called Secret Garden. This is a newly developed north facing crag, something the island doesn't have much of. The wall isn't quite as steep as the Grande Grotta but it's still dripping with tufa's. After warming up on a couple of low F7's, Dave had put the draws in an F8a called Syrtaki Lesson. It was a bit of a different style to most of the routes I had done on the island as it was a bit shorter and had quite a bouldery crux. Gav stepped up and managed to flash it in style and I closely followed also getting the flash.
|Heath enjoying the water of Rina Beach|
After an easy day on Saturday we headed to Sikati Cave the following day. When they talk about it being a giant hole in the ground they weren't lying, it literally is a GIANT HOLE in the ground. As we had climbed pretty much every day I was starting to feel pretty fit again. It's amazing how fast endurance comes and goes. There was one route I had my eye on for the day, Super Lolita a 45m F8a. Ater warming up on Mort Aux Chevres an awesome F7b and a bit of a rest it was time. Super Lolita is the extension to Lolita F7a, If F7a was you limit then Lolita would definitely be a challenge. It had a stiff bouldery start and was pretty run out in places. After the 1st Lower off the extension could be broken into 3 sections with good rests in between. After making it through the first two sections ok I found myself sitting in this little cave feeling pretty pumped. The next section pulled out of the cave and onto a slab, I heard that this is where everyone drops it. I rested in the cave for a while and really didn't want to leave it. When I did I pulled the lip and rocked onto the slab. Actually it wasn't that bad, but I did find myself fighting up to the chains, not because the climbing was hard, but because the rope drag was immense.
Overall it was a good trip, due to unforeseen circumstances it didn't quite go to plan but what can you do. Life is a bit of a rollercoaster you never know what it's going to throw at you.
My hat goes to off to my beautiful wife Heath, and her family for being so strong in these difficult times.
By Ben West