Thursday, 3 May 2012

Climbing in Caves

I've been doing a lot of two things recently - fingerboarding and climbing in grotty caves. I've had sore pulleys on both my middle fingers for a long while now - looking back through my training diary it turns out that the first time I tweaked the one in my left hand was back in November. It got better for a while, then got worse again early in the year, seemed to have largely sorted itself out whilst I was in Spain, and then rapidly went downhill when I launched back into training again too quickly. The strange thing was that once I'd warmed up it seemed mainly ok - I did Mecca Extension a week after the pulleys felt at their worst, despite it involving an awful lot of crimping. After talking to other climbers about it I determined it was probably scar tissue related, with a pulley injury on top of that. My initial method of trying to ignore it meant I could get away with climbing (so long as I warmed up carefully), but that the problem wasn't going to get fixed, so it was time to take a bit of a step back. After a fair amount of finger stretching, ice and being a bit stricter with my climbing, my right hand was pretty much back to full strength, but the left was still causing issues. The silver lining to this cloud has been that the shocking weather has meant all the sport crags in the peak and Yorkshire getting soaked again, so although I've only been able to climb on big holds or a fingerboard I've not really been missing out! Fingerboarding does lose its novelty rather quickly though, so I made a little list of things I should be able to try whilst I nurse them back to health.

First on my list of pulley-friendly problems was The Dark Room, an 8A boulder in Odin's Cave near Castleton. On first acquaintance this problem seems pretty poor quality - it climbs from one fairly arbitrary point in the back of a dark, damp cave to another fairly arbitrary point, still in the back of the dark, damp cave. The cave itself is pretty minging and everything in there except for the groove feature you're climbing is wet.... Oh, and tourists wander in to look at cave and come up with the inevitable questions about what the hell you're doing in there and what the hell your bouldering mats are. Luckily, however, the moves just about make up for all this - spinning round on kneebars and going feet-first on big toe hooks, this is 3D roof climbing of a style that we don't have nearly enough of in the UK, and I bloody love it. It has some pretty nice holds on it too, certainly a welcome change from the usual peak lime crimping! It took a couple of sessions to work out good beta, as I was unable to do the crux move in the middle how previous ascentionists have, using an awkward undercut (see Robin's video below of the first ascent). Instead I chose to gaston it (crimping the hell out of it - not so good for rehab, but luckily it was my right hand) and roll over to the next hold, and thus into the awesome final toe hook sequence. I also found a better method at the start, using a knee bar to make the moves into the crux a bit easier. Anyway, despite the slightly depressing venue, the problem comes recommended for those who like this sort of fun roofy stuff, and luckily it seems to stay dry when everything else is soaked (though it does condense very easily).

Next up was a trip over to Llandulas in North Wales to try Chris Doyle's Temple of Gloom, an 8b route though the main cave at the crag, with most of the holds being big enough not cause my finger too many issues. The route is basically a Parisella's style ~20 move power endurance problem in a roof, with a hard section near the start and a redpoint crux turning the lip to easy ground. I had a couple of goes up it and got a good sequence sorted, but was too tired to make much headway with redpointing - working routes in a roof is tiring! One to go back for anyway - although the line isn't the best (mainly due to the proximity of the floor) there's some really cool climbing on it and it deserves more attention. Bob fared somewhat better, getting close but being thwarted by some damp holds. At least that was his excuse, the rest of us put it down to his gargantuan layers of flab and the fact that he clearly doesn't train hard enough.

Low quality phone pic of some fat guy trying Temple

Unfortunately, by the end of the day my finger was feeling pretty aggravated again. Although it hadn't been painful whilst doing moves, it had clearly been taking more abuse than it was ready for. I think it's now finally time to bite the bullet and accept that it's not something I can just fumble my way though and it'll get better; I'm actually going to have to have a few weeks without aggravating it at all. Time to get myself on jugs, easy mileage, running, and enough core to make Tom Randall feel like a wimp. If it means I can climb and train properly again any time soon it'll be well worth it.

Whilst you're here, check out this video of Tom Bolger trying Catxasa in Santa Linya. Rob filmed this last Spring when I was out there but just uploaded it recently. Watching it makes me realise how much I miss that place and even more how much I miss being a full timer!

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