Saturday, 20 April 2013

Pex Problem of the Week #7.

This week's problem strips the climbing experience down to its bare bones- its essence! This problem is very much like a three chord Ramones tune: clean, efficient, minimal, in your face, aggressive and purposeful. If climbing could be boiled down, reduced to one move, this move is the one I would choose; it is punchy and delicate in equal measure, fustrating when close, amazing when sent. No other problem on Pisa wall demands dynamism of this quality. The Seven foot dyno might be bigger, but this problem is definitly better; it requires the would-be ascentionist to float rather than fly!

The Pex Dyno V7.

I could be minimal in my description of this problem, it is a one move dyno or deadpoint after all,  however this would rob you of the essential beta which drags this problem into the realm of reality. Firstly locate hold 18 - it is a long shallow crimp. The surface of this hold is rather uniform save for a small rough dimple found slightly left of centre, the pad of the index finger on you left hand needs to nestle in this depression. Once orientated, both hands need to crimp hold 18; don't expect to generate a lot of power from your hands on this problem- body position is key. Now that your hands are set, put your left foot in a lowish dimple directly below your hands. The right foot is placed square to the wall on a prominent dimple up and right. Now it is time for flight; movement will be initiated from the left foot, this will swing your centre of gravity up and over your right foot, this allows you to spring off the right foot and float up to the break. Match and enjoy. This move is all about timing; it works like a rock over, it looks like a dyno, but if you get it right, it feels like magic!

Pex Dyno V7 from Owen McShane on Vimeo.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Feel the lick of the Leviathan.

There be sea monsters down there at Borth

In Ellsemere Port over Easter bank holiday weekend they have an international sea shanty festival. I found out about it immediately after the event this year. The sense of disappointment I felt at missing this jamboree was crushing. Unbeknownst to the festival organisers I had grown a fisherman's beard and would have walked tall in this world of facial hair and cable-knit jumpers; a wasted opportunity for which a warm chin in cold weather was no real comfort or consolation. The briny, barnacled world of sea shanties fascinates me: old men in canvas coats and flat caps smoking porcelain pipes, creating close harmonies of times under the sail, stars and moon. This subculture still has a faint whiff of piracy about it, not the type that infringes copyright, rather the dastardly variety that reeks of daring deeds and rum. It's odd that Ellsmere holds this festival. Even with its estuarine position and industrial jetties the town seems divorced from the sea, held hostage by the motorway that now bisects it and provides its life blood.

Now that's what I call a sea shanty beard.

Shanties and songs of the sea were used to motivate and coordinate repetitive tasks undertaken by those who lived under the sail. The Chantyman would lead: he would call the line and the crew would echo his words as they heaved the sail or raised the anchor. In this way tales would be told, and the histories of those who existed in the space suspended between sea and soil would take on their own forms. Stories developed their own energy and life, twisting and evolving into fantastical shapes as they voyaged around the globe and through time, propelled by the winds of adventure. The Chantyman called the line with promises of beasts, battles and booty; the young and strong followed his call to the shore and beyond!

Stories of monsters have always drifted across the seas: The Cracken, The Leviathan, sea serpents and giant whales have fuelled the rhythms of the Chantyman. These beasts have poured fear into the hearts of those on both land and sea, their reputations as fierce as the stories that created them. Legends like these draw out the brave, stupid and strong; young men who set out to sea to make a name for themselves, to fight and become immortalised in the words of the Chantyman.

Whilst my stupidity is well known I am neither brave nor strong, if I chant you a line, will you follow my song?

I spend a lot of my time walking the line between sea and soil finding wave-washed gems to ascend. Ogmore, Ysgo and Dinellain have all been plundered  producing tales to motivate others. Songs of slopers and overhangs, barnacles and biceps drift along these shores. Mid Wales has been one of my main muses for some time: Clarach and Borth have both had me echoing their call, hauling me back again and again to see what new tales lie around the corner. 

A recent trip across the ancient sands and shales of mid wales revealed a terrifying secret to me, one I will share; what you do with this information is beyond my control. I was trawling the rich coastline at Borth looking for fine, slick slopers of such quality they would drive a boulderer mad. As I assessed the coastline my eyes were drawn to a darkness in the cliff line, something was brooding there in the shadows, something that did not sit well with my conscience. I went to investigate. I did not know what lay there beyond the depths of my perception. What I found filled me with both awe and dread.

The line between sea and soil

On that tranquil shore sits a beast, a leviathan of a line- monstrously steep and fantastically frictionless. Washed up by ancient storms it sits there fossilised by time. I approached this slumbering creature with caution, not wanting to wake it. I gazed upon it smooth yet scaly, barrelled belly scarred by single-pad, directional undercuts leading along its length to a change of angle and some actual holds on its head wall. Tension, strength, patience and persistence would all need to be used in equal measure to tame this animal born in the depths; if we add a less than perfect landing into this equation we are looking at an endeavour that legends are made of! Overcome by fear I turned and ran, knowing that I'm too weak of heart, mind and muscle to go even one round with this beast. I ran knowing that I was lucky to live to tell this tale; this line could consume you, devour your climbing career by placing you in a world of pain with years of fruitless sessions that would strip a man like me of strength, psyche and sanity.

The belly of the beast.

Skinny Dog gives you a sense of the scale, the beast is big!!

You may ask why I chant these lines- who would answer this call? Like an ancient mariner or a tainted trawler man I could just be deluded, lured into fanciful, tall tales by the romance and rhythm of the sea and the ruination of rum. However I have stood beneath many of the titans of Europe: Big Paw, From the Dirt Grows the Flowers, Ill Thrill, Dream Time and the Dagger. Borth's Leviathan could fight them all, go toe to toe, look these other monsters in the eye and know that it belongs in the same storybook. An ascent of the Beast of Borth would be legendary; a hero would be born, a killer line would be tamed and a new story would set sail across the seas creating a life of its own amongst those who toil rhythmically with brush, pad, and chalk.

I plan to go to Ellsmere Port next year at Easter. I want to sit amongst bearded men singing tales of adventure whilst sipping ales and wearing arran. I will listen to Chantymen from around the world painting pictures of a way of life now lost, a life dominated by sail, storms and seas. I would like to chant a song at the festival - tell a tale. My story would reveal a world where sand meets sea, where cliffs and storms collide in a titanic battle that never ends. A battle that creates and destroys in equal measure, a battle from which monsters are born! My story will be filled with a fight between the tides, struggles with slopers, battles with beasts, and the taming of the wild. I will be the Chantyman, will you be the hero?

Friday, 5 April 2013

Pex Problem of the Week #6

Last week we went off-page and explored one of the pisa problems dredged up from the murky mires of my mind. This week our normal service resumes. There are individuals who have been waiting for this week's problem for some time; I make no apologies if I gush slightly in my description as it is one of the best problems I have done anywhere at any time. So turn to pages 178 and 179 of the Cheshire and Merseyside Sandstone guide and we will begin:

Vitalite - V6

Vitalite is the jewel in Pisa's crown; yes there are harder problems and yes it is an eliminate, however climbing with three finger stacks does not get better than this. The quality of movement on this problem means that as an entity it transcends its location, environment, and the circumstances of its creation. If it were pure this problem would have stars- lots of them (and I would still want to give it more)!  Subtle and frustrating, delicate and powerful, Vitalite has it all. This problem deserves special attention; it should stand proud, pure, the only problem on a huge boulder sitting majestically in an unspoilt landscape. Unfortunately Vitalite calls Pex its home but remains undiminished by that fact.

First you will want to go and fetch a brush from your bag, one with very soft bristles that will clean rather than scrape chalk from the surface of this sandstone. Next find holds 16, 21, and 22 (there is no point committing to this endeavour if it is sullied by excess stale chalk- you won't appreciate the true feel of the rock and upward progress will be hard to achieve). Finally, before you begin to climb, step back, breathe in and know that you are about to try one of the best.

Start by matching hold 3, your right foot should be buried in a low pock mark, your left should be high on hold 1 firmly set square to the wall. Now reach up high with the left to hold 16 (to do this you will need to drop your right shoulder to such an extent that it feels like you're looking at the floor). Hold 16 is a very marginal three finger stack, to lock it you will need to take your right foot out of its low resting place, kick it to a deep flag out to the left, find the point of balance and reach with your right to hold 21. Breathe! You should be holding 21 with a stack and it should feel like a gaston (your right elbow should be high), rock up onto your left foot and hit hold 22 as an opposition stack. Squeeze! Swap feet on hold 1, bury your left foot deep into hold six, again with your heel sitting square to the wall start to rock over. At this point you'll appreciate all the cleaning you have done- you've been holding hold 21 for a long time and now you have to shoulder press off it. Press off the right hand, rock onto the left foot until you reach the break. Match, stop, think... Take some time to savour the moment. Jump down, pack up your things and go home, you won't climb anything better this session!

Vitalite V6 from Owen McShane on Vimeo.