Sunday, 20 October 2013

Game of Bests - Revistited

New game, new game! Best problem you have ever climbed - think about it?

(If you are unsure of the game of bests I wrote a post about it some time ago, you can catch up by reading it here.)

When writing about Angel bay I happened across a photograph; a photograph I had long since forgotten, a photograph that encapsulates why I climb. This photograph was taken by Crouch and first appeared on his blog (see it here). It was taken at a time when I was going well; in my head I was even keeping up with Crouchy! I've never actually kept up with Crouchy and that's why he's my hero. He sends 8a on any rock type, he has an ambition to herd cats in the future and he can eat caustic curries with a smile on his face. However I digress; being delusional about your ability is an old tradition in sport, it can really help with motivation and achievement. In bouldering it can lead to problems being climbed that, on balance, you really shouldn't be able to touch. The problem in the photograph, my favourite problem ever, is a case in point.

The brilliant Lizard King, Llanberis Pass. Picture Crouchy Collection.
The photo was taken by Crouch himself on a crisp winter's day when the pass was enveloped by powder blue skies and a soft, low light enlivened the shadows that lingered in the lea of the boulders. We met with the Dinas crew: Kev and Liam, dragons from the South, strong in the crimp and the lock. Kev chose to join us as we quested after this mythical reptile in the pass. I had spotted Fathanded Tom as he dispatched the problem in question with ease many years before. I had a go on two of the moves a week previously and knew that I could climb it, despite myself!

The description of Lizard King (simply the best problem out there for me) in the old North Wales Bouldering Guide is confusing. It states that it has a range of grades depending on the methods used to climb it. This would normally put most off the scent and would lead them to quest up other hillsides, however the description also contains stars; a hint of quality that cannot be ignored. If the stars lead you over to Craig y Llwyfan you will see there is no real confusion; this problem is no eliminate, it just encapsulates quality of movement on rock. The confusion comes from the fact that three problems share a similar start on this boulder but take different lines through its steepness. However it all makes sense when you get there.

You may ask what all the fuss is about. Why is this fool waxing lyrical about a single line flung far from the honey-pot problems of the Cromlech and Wavelength hillside? How can this be 'best'? Well, it starts with the location, away from the hustle and bustle of trad climbers and tourists that inhabit the laybys of the pass. The boulder itself looks like a little bit of Switzerland dropped by the Bouldering Gods into the Land of Dragons. The lines of holds that festoon the front face of the block look like they have been laser cut: two near perfect rails that produce the strong visual line those obsessed with aesthetics covert. Finally the angle of climbing is steep, around 30 degrees overhanging - proper climbing if you ask me.

Lizard king, neither high nor low version, is the problem that I would put in my back garden if I had to choose one! It's my 'best' because of its line, the company on the day and its location. Its my best because I sent it, even though I had no real right to do so (Crouchy got the send with minimum fuss about an hour before I did!). Its my 'best' because, as the discovery of this once forgotten photo demonstrates, it can still motivate me now years past both its ascent and the peak of my climbing powers. I look at this image, the only one I've seen that flatters my ego, and it makes me want to try hard, seek out the reason why I hang round small bits of rock rather than pubs at the weekend. 'Bests' motivate, that's why they are the best!

If you don't have a problem that motivates you like this one motivates me, leave the plasic and wood of the wall alone, go out, meet people, and find your best in the shadows cast by boulders on a crisp, powder blue day.

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