Easter? This was North Wales

The start of Crib Goch

We somehow managed to squeeze in more than just the one season – climbing season that is. From an alpine-like Crib Goch, Ladies Gully and Idwal Stream, we hit the coast for some bouldering at Port Ysgo and on the way home, a trad route and some sport at Penmaen Head.

Truth - Port Ysgo

Idwal Stream

 

The weekend couldn’t have been improved on to be honest. Those who were there happened upon calm winds, blue skies above and a warm sun. Mountain Rescue were busy due to people being unprepared in one way or another for the high reaches, a shame, as they could have been out enjoying the conditions themselves. NLMC had a big turnout and lots was done, just how it should be.

Chris on Chris' Corner

Liz at Penmaen Head

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Attitude, approach and effort.

Three words stolen from a UKC article, written by Dave MacLeod some five years back.

On Friday evening I managed to pull, swing, hook and push my way up a V3 boulder problem for the first time at Pinnacle. I came away full of beans, really chuffed with the accomplishment and thankful for the great bunch of climbers who had offered advice, compliments and criticism in equal measure and shouted encouragement when needed.

It wasn’t a hard problem in the end, I guess once you can do them they never are but Dave Mac’s three key words drove me to the finish line. Dale told me a few months back to work on small crimps and this was easy enough at the time on the 15deg boulder wall – lots of options for movement and it was going well until… a reset. I looked around and the 30deg panel had the right holds moving across it down low on a V3, way beyond my level but I was happy to practice getting sideways.

Now, I struggle with V2 problems and when I started hanging from the lowest of the V3 holds, I wasn’t managing half of the V1s, including the one on the same panel that had massive jugs. As such, I didn’t ever dare to imagine that the V3 would be doable for me before the room was reset. After a couple of weeks I had the bottom sequence quite neat and decided to make a slap for the hideous looking three tiered terminator of a hold that held residence above a volume, a volume that looked likely to bash a man where it hurts. It felt awful, I felt weak and it was apparent that I needed to be able to pull up with my right arm better, then hold that position for a split second.

Approach.

I went away and worked on what was needed for me to be able to make the big lunge upwards. I did some 4x4s, got on the fingerboard and held the holds with my elbows at 90deg and it was about this time that I managed my first ever pull-up! An overhand one from what I’ve been reading this evening. A few days later and I managed five, next evening I managed to touch the hold before dropping to the floor. A few times. Finally I held it but I was out of balance and couldn’t hold on long enough to sort my feet. Back to the fingerboard after a session on the wall and work the fingers till I couldn’t hold on any longer. This approach to a problem was new for me, normally I’d have just kept trying the problem but that hasn’t been getting me anywhere.

Effort

On Monday evening, everyone mentioned how tired I looked. I’d worked all day after a couple of hours sleep and a working weekend but Alex (the route setter at Pinnacle) had mentioned that day, that the boulder room would be reset on the 11th Nov. If I wanted to do the V3, I had to get my butt in gear and engage effort unlike before. Tired or not, it was time to apply myself and by the end of the evening I was managing to hold the three tiered terminator but it felt fragile and I was out of balance. Tom offered some advice and showed me a way to get to it that he said “looks unlikely, it does work tho”. I had one go and whilst it did feel better for me, I was far too pumped and tired by that point to pursue it.

Approach

Tuesday, I rested after work and ate well. I even went to bed early enough to get some decent sleep. Err, not true as it happens and I went to my lad’s to help him with his decorating till 10pm but when I finally made home, it was decent grub and sleep. Diet and rest is a major part of any training program and this V3 deserved some respect. Wednesday evening I decided to try it just twice using Tom’s tactic and it felt good. My left foot was already in the right position before I even made a grab for ‘that’ hold and I stood for a while just looking at the final three holds for the first time, picturing where my feet would have to be to make use of them properly. I then walked away and tried some other stuff, the reason being that my mind that evening was firmly with my daughter many miles away. I rested properly on Thursday evening, a night out with Tony, a decent curry and just two pints of lager. I was on a mission.

Attitude

In the end, it was a matter of just going for the last holds and forgetting about the fall risk. I fell. It went and Tom, who was there watching, said it looked comfortable and in control. It was but only because I’d put in the effort, sorted my approach and had a change of attitude. No longer was I looking at the problem and dismissing it as too hard – I’d spent most of the afternoon shopping for trousers, a bow tie and some evening style for the NLMC dinner, yet, I’d been psyching myself up for nailing ‘that damned V3’ as it had become known. ‘The hold’ wasn’t an issue. On my first go past it, I’d gotten scared due to faffing around with my feet and dropped off the panel. Sort the attitude, up again and go for the hold. Second go and oops, too far and I grabbed the hold too far left and off I peeled. Next go I held it but got scared, feet again. Then I managed to cross my right hand over my left and there was only the last hold to go, my arms pumped and I dropped down.

Coffee

Rest a while, chat to Stuart who was in the boulder room for his first ever indoor climb and watch some geezer playing on a V8. Straight up to the top I went, focused on the final hold and went for it… I made it and instantly peeled off! Hahaha. Funny as it was, I was gutted but everyone was encouraging as usual. So I rested a while, longer this time and watched Tom, who’d come in to work on the V8 I’d just seen blitzed.

When the V3 went down, only Tom and the chap who’d done the V8 were there but the small words of encouragement to “sort feet” and “go on” were enough to get me to the top and in control. It felt good.

Dave MacLeod had a point – Attitude, approach and effort.

Engelberg

Engelberg – I’d never heard of it. A small town, high in a valley overlooked by the 3239m Titlis and a place that many would view as a ski resort. Not me however, I now know different. Two weeks in the Alps, a potter halfway up the Eiger, swimming in a river by the Italian border and the best memories, the ones tucked away for those days when you need a little motivation or a pick-me-up… they’re the ones of Engelberg.

My holidays normally come with a focus, a do this or that but somehow I ended up drifting across Europe with no real goals fixed in mind. The Ultra came with a penalty clause, as many fulfilled targets often do – a sense of loss almost, once the goal has been attained. During my time in Switzerland, that feeling of loss seemed to seep through my consciousness daily and for someone as positive as me, it was really quite disturbing. Previously, in the aftermath of March’s adventure race, I’d had a couple of days when I didn’t know what to do with myself and I guess the Ultra was always going to twist my mind. Oh to be a sports psychologist – now that’s one career I wouldn’t have minded pursuing in hindsight.

The people. A holiday without meeting strangers and leaving with new-found friends would be a tragic vacation. I’d met Joe, a South African climber, in Morocco just after new year and plans, vague and last minute, were made to meet up as he was over in Switzerland for the summer. Ignoring all the details and the whens, wheres and whys – through Joe I met some amazing people. Kind, hospitable, fun, caring, positive and just downright charming. Not least of these was Joe’s girlfriend Martina, a dreadlocked jazz guitarist and teacher, who exuded quiet confidence and made me so welcome. There are people you meet as you pass through this life that are worth emulating and Martina is high up on my list. Can’t say any more than that.

So what’s special about Engelberg? Luckily, with all these new found friends, I didn’t have to hunt through guidebooks or trawl the internet. Martina’s family has a place up above the town with the most amazing views across to Titlis and I was invited to spend a few nights there and to take the opportunity to (try to) climb and (try to) boulder. Lower Schlanngen was first up, “This must be one of the hardest crags in the world to on-sight, even on the easy routes”. So reads a guide on the interweb and for me, it was utterly brutal, impossible and frustrating as hell. I’d hardly climbed this year due to all the running, the fingers and arms were weak and technique had waved goodbye as it launched itself out of the window! Bolted limestone, small holds for hands and feet, overhanging and vertical for the most part… it would take a brave person to start their climbing career on this crag. I got as high as the second clip whilst on a top rope on some new line round the corner from the big boys (and girls) routes and never even made the first clip on the 6a next to it. Shameful. I have however learnt  how to spot footholds and small ones at that.

There’s a fair few boulders up the valley, via ferrata too and multipitch sports routes leading way up into the alpine landscape. Alberto and Tabea, accompanied by a mat or two, wandered up the valley with us a few miles and the natural beauty of Engelberg was displayed for all to see. We had a play on a small boulder over to the left, Martina making it up a corner first and not long after was followed by me – a new line and she gets to pick a name. Ace stuff! A heel hook, followed by a stab at a two finger pocket and with a bit of persuasion you were over onto the slab. No idea of the grade but it was nice to at least finish something!

Crossing over the valley, we headed up to Fuchs Stein. The photo says it all. Ondra had even made a trip to Engelberg to have a play on this house sized piece of rock. Being a little special, he flashed the V10 but the V15 was left unfinished. Needless to say, I made it to the top… using the rope that’s round the back for descent. Having never bouldered outside I didn’t know what to expect. It was fun, sociable and I even got my first flapper, yup, blood issued from the torn tip of one finger and to my mind – that qualifies me as a boulderer, albeit a poor one. We went back a few days later and one could only be impressed watching top climbers work the moves on the harder routes, offering beta and encouraging one another. Good stuff and I was lucky to be there with two of only five people who’ve managed the V10, Rene and Alberto.

After a few days down by the Eiger, I headed back to Engelberg and had a cracking day walking up high and looking across to Titlis. Whereas Grindlewald was a real honey pot for foreign tourists, the North Face of the Eiger having a particular appeal to Japanese visitors, it seemed to me that most of the trekkers up high and and using the huts where Swiss. Looking across the valley towards Titlis, it was easy to spot the hordes escaping their coaches for a trip in a gondola and I was happy to have chosen the route I did. Plenty of small kids dashed ahead of their parents and the hut was finally reached after a few hours. A quick pint and a couple of photos later and I headed back down.

Back down to Engelberg and it was dinner round at Alberto’s, with Rugy and Tabea showing a mischievous side with a dead fly strategically placed on the salad. Haha. The photos adorning the walls were mostly of Alberto’s father, a bold and brave mountaineer by the looks of things and it was easy to see were Alberto got his love of climbing from. Alberto is another guitar player and if you’ve seen ‘The Wizard’s Apprentice’, the film about Adam Ondra released last year, then you will have heard his music and seen a clip or two of Alberto and the Fried Bikinis.

Aye, holidays for me are about the people you meet. This was a great one, up there with the Canadian Rockies in 2004. I had no preconceptions of Switzerland before I went, all I knew of was The Alps… Engelberg and the people I met through Joe and Martina, exceeded even those great alpine peaks.

http://www.boulderberg.com/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NXlWJbnhe3g

http://www.kirkleesclimbing.co.uk/archive/engelberg.htm