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Slightly less successful climbing session: I took a fall relatively early on a warm-up boulder and caught my thumb, ripping the nail in the process. I mopped up the blood, washed everything out, and switched to route climbing for the rest of the afternoon. Rather to my surprise, I made pretty good progress: obviously my open-hand strength has improved to the point where I don't need to pinch the hell out of the holds on easier routes.

Later in the evening, I headed walked down to the river to meet the others for the Sunday quiz at the Puerto lounge. We had a full-strength team, with P&J providing some extra intellectual firepower, which definitely helped when a tricky round on farm animals came up. Once again we were without Yorkshire Nick, but the alternate quizmaster was on much better form than last time and zipped through the rounds as fairly quickly, avoiding the problem of adding up the scores at the end by asking the teams to tot things up as they went along.

We scored highly as we went along — the team whose answers we were marking, another of the regulars, changed the name on their sheet to "The Wooden Spoons' Holiday Fund" once they began to suspect we might win. Sure enough, we finished ten points ahead of the second placed team and went home clothed in glory. Or, in my case, clothed in a windproof jacket, hood up against the rather less than lovely weather...
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Enjoyable afternoon spent mixing bouldering with route climbing. I managed to send a 6C with a trick crux that I'd looked at on Thursday but hadn't actually done, and I also managed to nail a 6A+ whose first few moves were surprisingly powerful for the grade. I also put in a bunch of time on the routes, trying to improve my stamina, and then wound down with some finger training and core work.

As I was winding down, Gavin dropped in on his off day to do a bit of bouldering and then Richard appeared, briefly at first because he wanted to drop off his kit before checking out his daughter's boyfriend's new car, before returning for a hardcore session. I then hung around for a chat while they crushed pretty much everything — with the exception of a very hard 7B+ double dyno problem — the bouldering room had to offer.

It was interesting seeing the contrast between their very different styles: Gav is my height, very controlled, very strong, with superb technique; Richard is quite a bit taller with amazing reach and vast reserves of power. So the beta that worked for one of them didn't necessarily work for another, but they both managed to work up their own solutions to each problem.
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What was supposed to be an easy climbing session turned into something a bit more serious when I bumped into Richard. He not only persuaded me to abandon routes in favour of bouldering, but also picked all the boulders so I climbed much harder than normal. Very much to my surprise — I don't feel like I've been on particularly good bouldering form of late — I managed to send almost everything I tried; proof positive that most of my problems are psychological rather than physical or technical...
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Wow but the Munich Boulder World Cup really delivered a fantastic end-of-season sensation. The semi-finals were pretty exciting, especially with Alex Megos making one of his rare competition appearances and then staying on to commentate on the men's finals.

The women's finals were a bit of a mixed bag — afterwards, Alex Puccio said she felt a little bit embarrassed that she couldn't even work out how to pull on to one of the problems — but it was fun to watch Stasa Gejo and Janja Gambret crushing problems no-one else was able to touch.

The men's finals, on the other hand, were absolutely fantastic, with Jan Hojer, the only European to make the last round — four members of Team Japan made it through — climbing in front of a German crowd. And it really seemed to help: he used a very sneaky beta to top the first boulder; flashed the second, where no-one else even picked up a bonus; and cleaned up on the third, leaving him with a one boulder lead going into the last round.

Climbing second after Yoshiyuki Ogata, Hojer came out looking distinctly nervous and, with everything to play for, powered his way up top to take the win. It was one of the best finishes of the season — up there with Coxey and Chon in Mumbai — and so well deserved, especially after his storming performance in the lead world cup in Villars.
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It being a Saturday, I felt more than a little guilty at missing parkrun so I went out for an extra long morning run. I didn't quite make it to Chateau Sainte Michelle, but I was pretty close by the time I turned back to return to Redmond. During the run I saw a bald eagle flying fairly low over the river. I wasn't entirely surprised — I'd seen something that looked like an awful lot like an eyrie on one of the power pylons — but it was still a pretty damn awesome thing to see!

After spending the morning exploring Redmond Old Town and the Saturday Market — conveniently located in the same place as the mini version staged for CUG — I decided to walk the four or so miles to the local branch of Vertical World. Despite getting mildly lost on the way — I turned right instead of left and found myself at the start of the powerline trail which I'd run a few days ago — I located the centre in an industrial building tucked away at the back.

After signing in — a guy sitting on a bench by entry said, "After going through all that, you ought to have clearance to meet the president!" — I hired some rather slippy shoes — this is not to dis Vertical World: using someone else's shoes is always a bad experience — and got on with some bouldering. After going through a warm-up, which was enough to persuade me I needed a chalk bag — which they lent me for free! — I worked up to the point where I crushed a bunch of their V5s. I'm not entirely surprised because it matches comfort zone, but you never know how one centre's grading is going to carry over to another and if you're not familiar with the house style, it sometimes takes a while to get to the point where you can send stuff with confidence.

I didn't try any routes because I didn't notice that they had auto-belays until I'd signed in for bouldering. But when I checked the grades and attempting a quick conversion from YDS to French grades, I decided I probably wasn't missing anything and stuck with my original plan. After putting a few hours, I started to feel tired. Acutely aware of the walk home — which, coming on top of the morning's run, was definitely a contributing factor to the tiredness — I called it a day and headed back to the hotel where I started repacking my stuff for the return to the UK.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Arriving at the Quay just as the day was winding down, we stopped in the cafe while the results of the youth comp were announced. Once things started to settle, we went down to give some of the competition boulders a quick try. The problems were fun and challenging — not a surprise given the effort the setters had put in ahead of the comp — but they were obvious set with smaller body shapes in mind, so a lot of it felt pretty bunched up; even E, who isn't exactly towering, commented on it...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Slightly against my better judgement, I decided to spend the afternoon trying some of the new boulder problems at the Quay. The place wasn't too busy when I arrived and I was lucky enough to bump into a group of friends who were also working their way through the new set. As ever, we divided the problems by climbing style: I made very short work of a couple of very balancey, technical problems; they made more headway with the reacher, more powerful boulders; and all of us struggled with a supposedly easy problem featuring a very smeary starting move.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
While I was warming up for my afternoon session on some easy problems, a couple of the other boulderers commented favourably on my footwork. One of them said that I was so quiet they couldn't tell when I was on the wall and the other mentioned the smoothness of my technique. Very flattering, especially given that, on Thursday, I'd told R that, over the last year, a few, completely unrelated people had told me the same thing in almost exactly the same words although I couldn't really see it myself.

The session itself was extremely fun. Just after I'd warmed up, Paul came down to climb during his break and we worked through a couple of problems — a long traverse of a 6C we were both stuck on and a 7A+ ripe for projecting. I also managed an easy flash of a 6C+ confirming, in my mind at least, that the grading must be off.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Met up with P&D for a bouldering session at the Quay while the centre was quiet. We put in a couple of hours and I'm pretty sure they enjoyed themselves, despite a certain amount of frustration at not being in full-on climbing condition — they've both had a year or more off.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Despite plans to drop in for a very quick session, today's bouldering got somewhat extended after I bumped into Richard and, later, Mark. The new problems are an interesting lot; a combination of work by one of the regular setters and one of the squad members, who obviously has a real knack for it.

The routes were largely set using some of the EntrePrise slopers from the DWS competition in August, giving a very different feel to some of the more fingery, crimpy problems that made up the previous lot. Checking the summary card, I discovered that I'd flashed two 6Cs during my previous session — something that's never happened before — and found that I'd correctly read the start of one of the other problems which I thought I'd messed up.

Climbing with Richard and Mark was interesting because our styles are radically different from one another. Mark is slightly taller than me, but with a much better reach, far more raw, dynamic power, but less static strength, while Richard is very tall with amazing reach and solid technique. Which means we all struggle with different things and the beta that works for one of us doesn't work for the others, so the session was more about encouragement than anything else.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
The focus on strength and stamina training over the last couple of weeks really came into its own today when I surprised myself by flashing almost all the new boulders below 7A.

I made hard work a 6A after mis-reading the instructions: I started with matched hands on a sloper, a heel hook in, cranked hard on it to go up for a pinch, and only then went for the positive side-pull which was one of the intended starting holds. Not that it mattered. I flashed the problem and it provided with two solid lessons: that I can get an awful lot of power behind a heel hook; and that I ought to check the starting instructions before pulling on to anything!

After a couple of hours, I still had enough left in the tank to finish with 10-12 routes on the auto-belays, down-climbing the easier stuff to get a bit of training in. I even found time to work on my current project, a tricky series of hard slopers, which, to my delight, had been upgraded from 6c to 7a...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Finished the afternoon off with a quick round of bouldering this afternoon that saw me finish a bunch of projects. I made light work of a short 6b problem where I'd misread a crimp as a pinch. I sorted a couple of routes under the roof which I'd previously messed up because I hadn't wanted to commit to an uncomfortable heel hook. I also, very much to my surprise, given that I don't usually jump for anything, sent a route with a big sideways dyno on the second move. Excelsior!
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Very hot and humid evening working some training boulders and easy routes. I made a first attempt at the new circuit board and made it to the mid-thirties on my first go, only to find that I'd spent so much time hanging around trying to find the next hold that every subsequent attempt ended at around the twenty mark. I'm also not convinced the usual odd-right and even-left numbering works correctly for the mid section of the easy circuit; either than or the section is intended to feature an extreme set of crossovers.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
After a busy morning, we decided to go to the Barn. The idea had been to go there for IB's birthday, but she decided that the weather was better suited to paddleboarding and went off to do that instead. The journey wasn't too bad on the A30, although the jack-knifed caravan with its car face on to traffic in the fast lane provided a sober warning about the dangers of end-of-holiday driving.

The weather was warn but not unbearable when we arrived and we had an enjoyable time, despite a noticeable lack of friction. The Barn team were busy stripping the boulder ready for the start of the summer league, but they were working on Si's Wave and the Shield, so there was still plenty left to finish from their last reset. I finally finished the blue sloper problem I'd been trying to nail at the tail-end of our last session there, and we all tried and failed to send a particularly difficult 6a/+ on the Vert Wall — definitely a hard one for its grade.

With a few hours of daylight left to us and a no pressing reason to return to town, we stopped off at Brentor and went for a walk around the tor. On the way up we saw a number of wheatears — I initially thought they might be stonechats until I realised they had grey heads — flitting around, singing and showing off to each other.

Brentor Church undergoing repairs

As we came round the hill, we heard the small congregation of St Michael's Church singing hymns outdoors. What they may have lacked in fidelity to the tune, they more than made up for in carrying power and they were clearly audible from the base of the hill. We stopped for supper in our local — where I noticed our former CE sitting with a group of friends — and talked things over before it was time to make our way back to Exeter.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Highly agreeable afternoon of bouldering that has left me content but bruised — I smacked my elbow into something on a training board and knocked my knee against goodess knows what somewhere along the line. I got talked into trying a problem with a dyno which, after several failed attempts, I nailed extremely satisfactorily. I also worked up a beta for a horribly roof problem composed entirely of slopers with a tricky middle section and a burly finish; but by the time I'd got everything straight, I discovered I was too tired to link the individual moves.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
With the weather a bit of a washout, we all went to the Barn for a classic Sunday afternoon of bouldering. In a break from the norm, HS drove and took Google's recommended route rather than E's faster but more complicated version involving all sorts of back roads.

The problems were a mix of old and new. We made easy work of the yellow problems and moved on to the blue set, where the more difficult ones required multiple attempts before we cracked them. A particular highlight was a problem which featured a single hold on the hanging slab: the first couple of moves were balancey, while the final move involved open-handed friction on the top of the boulder combined with a smear and a powerful top out.

We spent quite a lot of time working a problem on, I think, Si's Wave. The basic moves were actually pretty simple: start spanned out with one hand on a sloper, move up left and match hands, come all the way out right for an undercut, step through and flag, slap up for another sloper, turn round to get right foot on the second sloper, left flagged and a final big move up to the top. All apparently easy stuff, but everything was extremely overhung and the others struggled to reach the undercut. I was tall enough to reach the undercut statically using a toe-hook — a position that felt very solid and locked in — and I able to get to the top but couldn't quite latch my fingers over the top to stick the final move.

I also enjoyed a 6B problem on the Vert Wall that featured a move up from a rail to friction both hands on a sloper, followed by a move up and a pull-up on another geometric sloper, and then a very careful bit of balance work to catch the top of the boulder for the top out. I got all of it bar the very last move, finding that although I had a solid beta, I was too tired to latch the top once I got my hands on it, and because the final move was basically another trusty pull from a rather exposed position, I decided not to chance it.

All in all, it was a really nice break and a great way to spend the weekend goofing off with friends, throwing ourselves through a series of much more outdoors-y problems than the usual range of things we have in town...
sawyl: (A self portrait)
An enjoyable evening of bouldering, with a couple of new things ticked off. Rather to my surprise I made easy work of a problem on the 40 degree board, only wimping out when the last move required me to hold a pinch at the very top point. Walking home was still cold — although not quite as cold as Tuesday, which was positively arctic! — and it's hard to believe that we're almost at the end of May.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Still tired after yesterday's travel, I almost didn't go bouldering. But after stopping off at home to pick up my stuff, I was able to force myself back out again for a really enjoyable evening. Walking down to the Quay, I bumped in to GB who I'd thought was supposed to be on his way to the middle east, but who was instead fitting in one last session in the pub before his flight. Then, just as we were wrapping up, C came over the bridge and I walked the last part of the way with her.

The bouldering, when I got there, was good. Early on, I sent two easy problems I'd worked out my beta for last session but which I was too tired to complete. I also sent a nice, balancey problem on my third attempt and crushed a few others I hadn't tried before. It was good to see everyone: G was working on his fitness ahead of trip to South Africa; TN & RF came in after a day on Dartmoor and we ruthlessly teased G until he laughed so much he fell off the problem he was working. E arrived a little bit later and I got the distinct impression she'd actually come to do some climbing only to get distracted by the bouldering.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
To Warwick university for a spot of post-party sports the morning. Tried out some of the boulder problems, which were enjoyable despite their reachiness. I got talking to someone who'd been climbing for over 50 years and who was still working away to improve his strength and technique.

It was interesting talking to him about trad which he said was very different to sport climbing, especially for people who'd learnt in the days before cams and hexes became available. He said trad required two completely different modes of thinking: while you were placing the gear, you needed to be absolutely focused on making it as safe as possible; but as soon as you started moving again you needed to forget about the quality of the protection and instead concentrate on the climbing.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
Had a bit of a wander round town, enjoying the nice weather — and not enjoying the polution! — before stopping off for a spot of Sunday bouldering.

The place was looking slightly denuded — some of the routes and problem have come down to allow the holds to be cleaned ahead of round three of the SW rounds of the BMC Youth Climbing Series on Saturday — but my remaining projects were still there and I made decent progress, crossing one off, adding a new one, and working through a couple of others.


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