Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Getting Out The Gym (Alex Moore)

Until six months ago the most outdoor experience I had had was an occasional bouldering trip to a local crag, or maybe a little trad. I had been climbing for 4 years and had only got a handful of outdoor ascents, my indoor and outdoor grade were miles apart. 
If I'm honest not alot actually changed, I just began to try harder, I cared more and, well I ate more fruit n' nut. The turning point I guess was my highball ascent of Toltec Two-step (E5/6 6c depending on the guide you look at). It was a complete surprise for me to top it out, My friend Luke and I were out doing some easy bouldering after school, I decided to try the first couple of moves as I knew they were said to be the crux, first go I felt as if I would make the move into the slot, however I scared my self and didn't latch the hold. "well, that was stupid" Luke muttered as I explained why I came off.
I chalked up and went again, I held the small undercut and made the slap for the slot. It felt good, for a bit, till I had to move my feet under me to get balanced. Great, I thought. I'll just do a little down climb and drop on to the mat... nope, too high for that... damn. I had a little panic, looked up, looked down, thinking it over. I had to go up, I was in panic enough that I was shaking. "clam down, or break a leg" I told myself out loud, upon realizing these my most likely options, so I calmed down.. I like my legs. The next moves involved getting a bad crimp on top of the slot and jumping your feet across onto a small edge on the, otherwise blank face, then slowly move across a large section of  blank granite till you reach a good crack that takes you to the top of the route. The later half of that was done in much panic and with a little swearing.
Me on Limbodancer (E4 6a)
Photo:Lewis Stewart

      So, I had properly got out the gym, and I loved it. Dartmoor granite is, for lack of a better word, painful to climb on, it just hurts and in the past 6 months I have gained several scars on my hands. But alas anyone climbing on this gem of a rock will tell you that they love that pain, and even while picking small crystals of granite from their skin will have a signature chuckle of enjoyment as they look back on a days bouldering. A casing Point is a route named Tutsi, also E6 6b, which if you take the direct start involves a dynamic move in to a hand jam, packed full of granite crystals that I can only assume were teeth in another life. From there you move on to a flake, the end of which provides the holds for the last hard move on the route, a big reach to a good break.
Moving into the hand jam on Tutsi Direct
So while I had enjoyed having my skin removed by the fantastic routes on Dartmoor, It was time to move on to a place where the rock was nice to my skin, while still providing ample friction... Fontainebleau! I went (virtually uninvited) with Exeter uni climbing club, a fantastic bunch of climbers all of whom were psyched to climb as much as they could in the week we had in the forest. I'm sorry to say that due to my horrific memory and understanding of french (or any language), I have forgotten most of the names of the problems I climbed, although I can tell you that they were all superb.
A tucked away 7a 

Great route with a jump start 

This was one of my favorite problems, It began way back in the cave using perfectly formed tufas which made for good
knee bars on a 90 degree roof, The problem goes at 7b+   

Me on Peter Pan (7b)#
All Font photos taken by Tom Bunn

Due to the trip being my first time in font I didn't want to spend too much time on anything that would take a long time, I just wanted to get on as many problems as I could while I was there. Having been once now, I'm sure I will return many times and hopefully work on some harder problems. I have not been let down by what I was told about Font, the rock was better than it had been described, all the problems flowed with ease and the patisseries sold in the picturesque villages around the area are second to none.

While all of this has been going on I still climb indoors, and still love it. Indoor climbing is by design a good way of improving your skills on rock, and having a social life I would otherwise miss. I mainly climb at Magic Wood Climbing Center in Cornwall, which while still being built provides fantastic climbing and training, not to mention the chance to steal some beta of Dartmoor routes from Simon Young, an old hand in the way of Dartmoor trad and is the wall.   

So essentially, making the move from climbing indoors to outdoors, was for me just actually doing it, finding a partner, walking to the crag and climbing.(and basically getting stuck midway up a route). 

Cheers for reading,


  1. I enjoyed this, it was humerous. Though I feel like you neglected to mention that all of this requires being driven for hours by various people.

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  3. You've just educated me a fair bit about the mental logistics of climbing. Almost made it seem fun... Besides the constant risk of falling part. :-)