Wide Boyz Blog

Monday, 25 September 2017

Progress on The Crucifix?

In our last post we had a bit of a disaster down on the White Rim - the weather turned very definitely to the worst we've seen and pretty much anything that was smaller than a wide hand crack became very damp. Much that you'd think that this wouldn't be much of a problem, it's key that we don't climb on sandstone in wet or damp conditions (I guess we can ignore wide cracks?!) as the chances of breaking a crucial crimp or thin section of crack are high.
The Meat Factory - Crack hopes and dreams

Returning to The Crucifix this last trip was a key one for us. We've put a lot of strength work into the last months and seeing some progress would be ideal.... if not necessary for our sanity! Fortunately, the dry conditions this week were accompanied by lower temperatures as well and this really made a BIG difference. To say that we were fairly psyched on our tiny "baby steps" of progress is an understatement. Perhaps never before, have two climbers been so motivated by such meagre forward (sideways?!) movement.

1. The "Bolt Move" can be done with the middle finger mono. Previously we were certain that the index mono was the way forwards (it's absolutely desperate like this) but Pete's porky fingers seem to fit into this hold. It's still a very difficult move, but the V-grade on this one's come down a notch or two. Even better, is that it directly links into a move afterwards that we'd done on an early trip.

2. The "Crimp Rollover" is avoidable. Yes, we can leave it out! Previously, this was like doing the hardest move of Fat Lip (a Raventor V13) with no feet and on a worse hold. A cunning 180 degree spin and a reverse of hand sequence means it's no longer as bad as it seemed. Almost appears that with time it could turn into a move where you can even "shake a hand" for a second.

3. The "Insane Bolt Move" is the way forward. Yes, it's like turning the Cobra Crack mono into a roof move and making it way longer but if the skin doesn't explode on it, then there's a chance it could unlock the last secret to the crux. This is a big one though.... we really can't do this move yet. Not even close. It'll take work and a lot of belief. I'm not sure either of us will ever do a move harder (or more disgusting) than this one in our lives.
Desperate moves need desperate approaches - no, it didn't work! 

So, there you have it. We're feeling pretty darn positive! The hardest start move is easier, the middle move of the crux is avoidable and the last hard move requires more training. Sounds easy, but it's going to be hard work from here. We've measured up the crux 10 moves now and it's time to return to Sheffield for replica building. 2018 could be a pivotal year for this project. Go big in the cellar or go home time and time again, empty handed.
Yet another classic - Lamb of God 5.14


In other news, we established two other proper cool lines - Pete on "Lamb of God" 5.14 and Tom on "All Pump no Funk" 5.13 which provided nice distractions on the days of resting skin flappers. Both were absolute fighters and required some serious shaking out... we're both a bit unaccustomed to pulling on face holds this trip!! Whatever the style though, they're totally mega and it honestly is a huge privilege to have the chance to establish lines like these. One day a third person might actually want to get down to the White Rim and repeat these weird routes :-)

Whipper testing on "All Pump No Funk" - It's a joke... A joke!! 



Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Big Cracks and Monster Storms

Heading back to the White Rim for the second trip this week we had two main objectives: make further progress on the crux section of The Crucifix and get what we called "The Rail Project" done. As we've explained before, it's really good to try two different things in the caves under the White Rim so that motivation stays high, skin keeps relatively fresh and the body doesn't get injured.

Tom on the first ascent of Bigger Than Your Boyfriend (c) Mary Eden

We arrived late on what was supposed to be Day 1 and got some Friends in the cracks and ropes and camping set up sorted (you have to camp and eat at least a mile away from any dirt tracks, so establishing a bit of a cooking/sleeping location in the area is very beneficial!). As Day 2 dawned, it became apparent that the weather was looking a bit risky, but rather than prepare we jumped on the smallest holds to take advantage of cooler conditions!

Some time into the afternoon, I was working a section of the route and a serious bit of weather rolled in - it's not exactly epic in British proportions, but the repercussions were a big learning point. As rain poured down outside, there appeared a few trickles of water from the crack above my head.

Pete: "Tom, I'd probably come down. It's not worth it and you'll get wet soon"

10 seconds pass and in this time the water turns from a trickle to the equivalent of someone pouring an entire hotel's worth of bathwater down the crack - it was a bloody waterfall!

Pete: "Holy crap! It's a river! You're coming down.

In just those few seconds, we were utterly drenched, the floor we were belaying from turned into a small river and every item in our possession (chalk, bags, passports, ropes) doubled it's weight in water. Although it was pretty annoying to loose the rest of the day to sitting in the cold and damp, staring out at the storm, it was fascinating to see the Canyonlands in the middle of a flash flood. Waterfalls appeared everywhere, dry gullies became ranging mud rivers and each crack showed us how water was the primary action in it's creation. An amazing day!

That is one moist crack...

As you might imagine, the next few days were spent trying to find dry sections of rock and avoid any possible risk of breaking holds on our project. Even the loss of a single crimp in the middle of The Crucifix crux would be game over, so we had to play the waiting game. Boring, but safe.

On one of the "waiting days" we were joined by some Moab friends (Sadie, Mary and Jesse) who came and tried some FAs with us on the wider stuff as it dries way more quickly. Going out and trying these 3-star roof cracks of 5.12-5.13, onsight, with no cleaning is ace. It's like a proper session in the cellar, but on real rock and you get to establish a quality new lines. "Raining Scorpions" 5.12+, "Bigger Than Your Boyfriend" 5.12+, "Suck it Up Buttercup" 5.7 and "Jessie's Big Guns" 5.11 were all established in good style and by a very psyched team.

Mary making the first ascent of Suck it up Buttercup.
Can anyone fit through here apart from Mary!? (c) Mary Eden


All in all, you might think that the last 5 days were a bit of a disaster, but we're taking some positives from it:
Piz the founder of roof crack climbing on The White Rim, beneath the Crucifix

1. The next 5 days have primo weather. Clear, low humidity and low temps!
2. We didn't break anything on The Crucifix
3. Pete's underwear is all dirty or damp now, so he's commando. Light is right.


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Cruising for a Fix - Journey to The Crucifix

Arriving back in the USA in 2017, it feels all very similar. We land in Utah in a state of jetlagged psyche, locate a 4x4 vehicle (thanks so much Danny!!) and then make the drive down to Moab to prepare for another season on desert roof cracks. So far, so good?

Well, this year needs to be a bit different as we’ve both put quite a bit of effort into our training around the mono strength needed on the Crucifix Project – the crux sequence of 10 moves or so requires multiple moves in the roof where you’re lucky to get second joint deep on a mono-jam. It’s painful, it’s powerful and it’s really isn’t very good for the joints!

One day. One it will happen... (c) Kyle Berkompas

We’re psyched though. Yes, we might moan a bit about the difficulty, but the chance to put together over 7 years worth of crack climbing obsession into one single route is unique. We’ve done quite a few of the classic test-pieces around the world and although it’s really tempting to continue repeating even more of them (they’re really freaking good!!) we’ve decided to make a real commitment to stick with what seems an unfathomably hard process.

Dogging around, trying spins, losing skin!

 So what’s the difference so far?

We’ve improved our mono strength this year, our upper body strength and conditioning has moved up a notch and things that felt hard a couple of years ago are finally starting to not be the living end.

Has that played out on the route?

Good question! We’ve completed our first 4 day stint back in Canyonlands and split our time between the crux sequence and trying the key “training link” project on The Crucifix. The mono section has been a bit of a mixed bag – probably no surprise – as some moves are getting easier and others have annoying habit of ripping flappers quite quickly. We’ve now identified that “The Bolt Move” is the one we have to have dialed, as there’s two of them on the crux. It’s similar to a Rose Move, but you’re doing it on monos in a roof and you end up looking like Usain Bolt at the end of a 100m final! It’s a great move and it’s very trainable. In addition to that, we’ve refined the last couple of moves into a better method, which feels a grade easier than before…. Although….. we’re yet to do it. Yup, it’s really hard!

Pete working the original sequence at the end of the crux (c) Kyle Berkompas

 In between resting the skin and mono joints, we worked on what we called “The Cruzifix” which is an easier version of the real project. It’s a link of the first half of Crown of Thorns 5.14 into the end of The Crucifix. The difficulty isn’t mind blowing, but it does cover a huge amount of the ground we’ll do in the final redpoint and therefore it was a big confidence boost for us to link this together. It also, importantly, includes the final massive runout on The Crucifix which always plays on your mind as one of the key holds on it appears a bit fragile…. not the most ideal when you’re absolutely bricking it!

The route breaks down as:

Section 1: The Stigmata. A nice long and dismayingly pumpy hands and fists roof crack of around 70ft. The best and worst thing about the start being that the crack is offset so little that it offers very little for the feet but constantly scrapes down one side of your body - exfoliation treatment! It's hard to overestimate how good this section is as it'd be one of the best roof crack pitches in the world even on it's own. Mega, mega!

Gogarth E6. Sort of. 

Section 2: Gogarth E6. One person came up with the nickname and the other said "that's not bloody E6 in a million years!" The only excuse is that this 70ft section looks like a chossy N Wales pitch... but once on it, it has a few surprises in store. Pumpy, weird, loose, sandy and sequency is the name of the game. 

Section 3: Whipping of The Cross. Finally you get 40ft of fingers roof crack that cinches down to nothing but a perfect sandy pinch in the middle of the last section. There's a bit of small gear on this part, but a fall last year where the rope went to the sheath in about 1 second made us conclude it was better to run the entire thing out and think positive. Kind of fun, kind of alarming. 

Spot the climber?! Runout starts from the bisecting crack on the right. 

We're off for another 5 days now. More monos, more time "resting" on FA projects on the side and of course, a whole lot of being silly and not taking things too seriously!