Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Full speed ahead

I've been really busy recently. For some reason that seems to be the ultimate excuse to not write something. It's between that excuse and the lack of photos. Fortunately I actually have some pics this time around.

I'm happy to report that my hand is back to normal, in fact the 10 days of rest may have been good for the system. Can't think of the last time I took that many rest days, maybe back when I had that horrific fall. In fact that was also exactly 10 days off.

The first weekend back from my snake bite I spent at the Narrow and Fernkloof. I whipped out the drill and put up a sick new line that starts off the first three bolts of the Bass Hunter project and then traverses to the chains of the Wide Games project.

While I was up there I snapped these pics...
Andrew on the Wide Games project (8b+?)

Illona having quite a laugh

Hey, look, it's me! 

The next weekend found me in Boven... I wasn't feeling great so I did Tokolosie (8a). It took me a go or two to figure out the beta. Really cool climb. Right as I was about to send an inch-long grasshopper flew into my ear and decided to make itself at home. CREEPY!!! Nothing like a bug scratching on your eardrum to ruin your day. After 15 minutes we figured we should fill up my ear with water and drown the bug. Luckily we were able to scrounge up a pair of tweezers and viola! Cured!

The culprit, legless after we pulled them off while it was still in my ear!

What a horrible sensation. BUT WAIT... The day was not over yet. Not even 30 minutes later I'm walking from Jack of all Trade over to Beast and I nearly step on a snake, the thing tried to bite me and I shrieked like a girl at the top of my lungs! I think I freaked out half the people at the crag. Nature is out to get me!!

Sent Tokolosie pretty easily, the next day, after I recovered from the events of Saturday.

This past weekend was better at least :) Got back to the Narrow with Andrew on Saturday and went up my project a few times!! Awesome!! Seems to be 7C boulder into a tricky traverse where you get a bit of a shake. Then there is a tough problem on small holds, wouldn't like to speculate the grade of this three bolt boulder problem. After that are three bolts of really good jugs with really bad feet which brings you to the last boulder problem which I could not figure out. If I'd have to guess, the route should be 8a+/b somewhere around there.

Coming up this weekend: BOVEN!!!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Don't pick it up!

Well, it's been a while since I've written anything. Quite often it is because I don't have enough photos of the past months. I have been in Durban, I climbed in Umgeni. I had a lot of fun there onsighting a 25 and a 27 as well a getting a 28 second go and 30 in a day in 4 tries. Great weekend.

After that was the Roc Rally which I spent some time training for. I reworked beta for Godzilla and for Strata and Lab Rat. Dave was on Rodan and looking strong, he inspired me to get a new high point on it.

I racked up 3 sends at the Roc Rally, Lab Rat in 30 min, fell off of Godzilla a few times and finally got Strata the next day. I managed to onsight Coach at the last possible minute.

It was all fun and games and I pulled out a second place in the difficulty comp just behind Andrew. The party was epic. It went well into the night. The next day was going to be a write off but I sent Jack as a bonus.

Good times. I was too tired to take draws off of Godzilla. So I sent it first try next weekend.

Since then I've been at Chosspile working Anduril and Chossfather. Colin sorted out new beta for Anduril and he capitalized on it. I didn't manage till this past weekend. It was an empty victory seeing as it took so long to do a 29/30.

The fun started after that. We drove through to Bergheim to camp and it was great till it started to hail and the Bronkenator was leaking. Fun times. We were just about to go to bed and I went to say hi to Frankie and co. On my way back I came across a little black snake. I thought I recognised it as a blind snake. I took some pictures and then I picked it up. It was totally chilled at first and I carried it a bit then it bit me twice. I thought it was weird. It didn't hurt though so Yvette and I chatted about it for a while but when the pain started I asked Yvette to see if I could have been wrong.

It turns out I was wrong. I was very wrong.

The culprit 

The bite

Yvette spoke to our friend Arno, one of the leading specialists of snakes in South Africa.  The snake turned out to be a Stiletto Snake as know as a Mole Viper or a Burrowing. Asp. Oops. Shit. Hmmm what now? Turns out I'm in for so extreme pain and swelling. Damn it. As I walk over to Jono to wake him up the words "we have an emergency. I was bitten by a venomous snake" come out my mouth. They sound stupid. But they are accurate. I wake up Andrew. I start feeling really stupid because I know I have to tell them how I was bitten. My bad.

They get me to lay down in the Bronkenator and as they take down the canvas and we got on the road. I was starting to feel the pain big time. My body was starting to shake. And the pain was building. The swelling in my hand was getting worse and my fingers could not move anymore. I was starting to realize what a big mistake I had made. We were halfway there and I was in so much pain, I was kicking and thrashing. I was realizing more and more that I am an idiot. Yvette and Arno told me and Andrew to make sure not to let the surgeons touch me.

We walk into the hospital and Andrew gets me straight to the back of casualty. The doctor walks in and he is immediately worried about the swelling. I immediately say that surgery is not an option, much to his irritation. Doctors generally don't like being told how to do their job. But snake bites are not really a doctor's speciality, they are Arno's domain and I trust him a lot. He'd seen many Stiletto snake bites and I was dead set on listening to him. Cutting into the skin without true compartment syndrome causes irreparable damage and has little to no effect on the snake bite.

The sister put a drip up on my arm, gave me some shots and instantly I was feeling better. There was a debate about whether to leave me over night for observation or take me home to Yvette. I wasn't being very helpful. Eventually I was signed out RHT (refused hospital treatment). The pain killer the doc gave me was meant to last 8 hours, it lasted about 30 more minutes. Halfway to Hartbeespoort the pain was immense and I was really unhappy again. Yvette was bringing me some tramacet from home to fight the pain but she was still 30 minutes away. All I could do was grit and bear it.

Eventually we got to the total garage in Hartbeespoort and I crawled into Yvette's arms and then into the car. The tramacet helped in about 15 minutes and then we got home. My whole arm was swollen and the pain got worse.

Sunday wasn't good. Monday was a little better. Tuesday showed marked improvement. Wednesday is today. I feel better but I'm still in a lot of pain. I'm really sore but the skin on my hand is intact. I might go back to work tomorrow if the pain is under control.

Monday morning

Wednesday afternoon

Photos from Monday night

I would like to thank everyone who stood by my side on this one. Jono and Andrew for being there from my dumb moment till late at night and into the week with warm heart-felt messages. Ebert for perking me up and making me smile. Colin, Dirk, Greg and Illona for checking in on me and keeping me encouraged. To Yvette for holding on to me and keeping me sane. Lastly, to Arno for helping make the identification and advising us in making the right treatment decisions. Your expertise helped keep me sane and has inspired Yvette to present a paper to her hospital to help spread awareness.  Thank you all...

Yvette and Arno commented on the SA Reptiles forum regarding my case... 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Lab Rat... My second 8b+

It's not often that I get to fly through the air with both hands aimed at a finish jug. It's even less often that I get to catch that finish just and celebrate veraciously. This Sunday I got to do both in Waterval Boven. Lab Rat has been a nemesis of mine since November. This was one of the first routes I ever saw when I arrived in Waterval Boven for the first time in 2006. My eyes grew large and my secret desire to climb it slow grew larger. At this point I was climbing 6a so the thought of 8b+ was not even a fantasy, I had only ever climbed on rock once before and didn't manage to do that very well either. I was a complete NOOB but I was motivated and I knew from past experience, I can do anything I set my mind to.

For years I've been training and getting stronger, sometimes in leaps and bounds, sometimes a micro at a time. Last year was a micro year as was this one. 8b is hard work, 8b+ is another game altogether. I hadn't been on Lab Rat in ages, since about two weeks after I had my accident this year. When I got on it a month ago and did all the moves that I'd been struggling with I realized that a switch in my head and body had been flipped and I was really ready for it. It was odd too seeing as I'd been climbing such long routes recently like Mutation, Rodan, Vorpal Sword and Jack of All Trades. I hadn't been on a short bouldery climb in ages. But when I jumped on Lab Rat I somehow knew that my weekend's plan to get back on Rodan wasn't going to happen.

Latching the finish jug after a tough all-points cutloose double dyno... Photograph by Gustav Janse van Rensburg
I got very close to doing it about a month ago but failed when I slit the tip of my ring finger and had to call it for the weekend. The next month I bouldered three times a week in the gym and started training exceptionally hard trying out the Sean McColl training program that he posted. I started feeling stronger than before. My time on the Violent Streak (8b) at the Chosspile also contributed greatly to my power endurance. That is one tough line. So is the Shadowfax project (8b+) which I've also been fighting with for ages. My links on both of these climbs are progressing really well and sends are going to become immanent in the near future. Both Shadowfax and Violent Streak have beaten the crap out of my poor pinky on my right hand.

Last week

Sunday morning before the send
I arrived in Boven this Saturday and needed to get my draws off of Rodan. Without warming up, I cruised through all the moves trying not to get too pumped or tired. I felt unbelievably strong. Did some of my best links cold. I cleaned the route and put my draws up on Lab Rat. First go of the weekend I fell off the finish jug of the dyno -- Happy Birthday Brian. I lowered off, rested a while and tried again all afternoon but couldn't send. Final go of the day I linked from just before the crux fingerlock to the chains. This was the first time I'd been able to link this section. I was psyched.

Sunday morning we were on quite a strict time schedule as I needed to be back in Boven before 1. First go of the day I got past my previous highpoint, sticking the finger lock lower down and then I dorked it three moves before the dyno! I couldn't believe it. I got down, waited five minutes and blasted through the lower crux effortlessly. While shaking out I made myself focus that little bit more than previously. I did the boulder problem to set up for the dyno, took a deep breath and while in that moment I realized that my arms felt as though I hadn't been climbing at all. I was completely fresh. I was ready. I pounced. Both hands latched the jug, my shoulders didn't even move as my feet shot out backwards. I had it. I wouldn't let go.

I celebrated as I campused to the chains... I was so happy!

Moving past the fingerlock and into the rest...

Moving into the boulder problem for the dyno.

Friday, August 10, 2012

No! You Can't Have Them! ...Not Yet

Two weeks ago I got a message from Tristan cryptically asking me if I'd fit into a size 6 shoe. I was worried it would be a tight fit but still was excited to see what present would be awaiting me. The result was a new Mad Rock shoe, the Shark. The first thing I did was go tingly with excitement; they finally did it: they made a really awesome looking shoe.

Shaking out

 But the look wasn't what impressed me; the upper of the shoe is covered in thin rand rubber and is ultra soft is sticky, kinda like the Five Ten Team, just thinner rubber. I was intrigued to say the least. I slid them on and did a 25 with tricky footing for the first climb of the shoes. They didn't slip or falter, not once. Ok, maybe these are cool.

Setting up for the crux

Next climb was on the Violent Streak project (8b+ish). What impressed me most was that the shoes stuck to every smear (both on the bottom and the top of the shoe) and was able to edge really well out of the box. The previous week I was using other shoes on the proj and I was struggling to stand in one of the voids/corners in the crux. No problem with these guys. They are soft and supple and form fit instantly. Impressed is definitely an understatement.

Sticking the setup move in the Violent Streak crux, note the horrible foothold on the right

The crux iron cross on Violent Streak

Last weekend and yesterday I got on to my nemesis at Chosspile: the Shadowfax Project (hard 8b+ min). To my amazement, I could do all the moves in the crux for the first time in over a year. There are two contributing factors to this: firstly I'm feeling very very strong at the moment. New training programs have been helpful to the core and fingers. Secondly, these shoes stick like glue! I'm simply amazed at how well they toe hook in the crux.

Watch this space for more!!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

My 8b+ first ascent

The last two months have been crazy! I managed to send my long term project in Boven, now called Mutation. It runs at 8b+ and is my first. If I were in the States I’d be pretty excited since it’s my first 5.14! The worst part of doing this first ascent is that I have no photos of the climb save this one.

The weekend I opened the climb I was actually suffering from Golfer’s Elbow in my left arm. It had been a problem for the previous three weeks and I have taken the entire week off to let it rest (for me 5 rest days is psychotic). I started off the weekend’s attempts with a new high point on the Saturday. The result was catching the side of the finish jug in the crux. This hold is a square hold that I catch as a side pull but isn’t great to move off of; when I caught it I was so shocked I hardly knew what to do. The result of that was a foot popping off a smooth hold and me taking a 60 foot whipper, which is pretty normal on this line. I got the exact same result on my second try. Damn foot just wouldn’t stick.

The next day I gave it a poor attempt on my first go and fell off a lot lower than usual. My elbow was sore and I thought I would just call it a weekend and recover for the next occasion. But an hour later I found myself playing on this boulder 7b+ just screwing around and having fun. My elbow wasn’t sore anymore and I just thought I ought to give it another try, maybe figure out why my foot wasn’t staying in place.
I headed up to the midway point on the route. I wasn’t feeling great but I wasn’t pumped either. While I was shaking out in the finger lock I starting to focus just that little bit deeper. By the time I moved my left foot into position to leave the rest I just had a feeling that this time might be different. 

I moved my left hand to a good side pull, stood my left foot into the corner and set my right on the poor sloper for a drop knee. I stood up statically into the Africa hold and matched briefly so I could move my feet before the throw to the left hand side pull and the bounce to the slot. When I hit the slot I moved my feet into position and set my right heal-toe cam so I could clip then get the gaston with my right hand. I moved my left into the poor sloping sidepull set my feet and launched to the undercling sidepull with my right hand; I shuffled my feet, slapped my left hand into the good sidepull and set the left hand jam. Crunch time: jam feels good, move feet left; set right knuckle jam…

I lock off on the jam and reach left hand into the undercling so I can slap my right hand up the fridge block and shuffle my right foot on to a horrible hold. Ninja kick! Left foot above my hands and slap into the right hand gaston! Full power to move the left to the finish block… High point… FOCUS… Make sure the left foot sticks.

In this moment I find myself doing something completely new. I bounce the right hand to a horrible hold, move my right foot into a toe cam in a crack and do a deep drop knee. I find myself wrapping my hand around the rest jug. SEND. It’s not over yet. I don’t celebrate, I just focus. The next two moves are really tricky still. High left foot and sloping shelf, left hand to poor sloping pinch, right and to bad gaston, oh no, I’m slipping, hold tight! Rock up to crimp and grab jug! SUCCESS! Move right and clip chains.

This was an emotional moment for me and I’m pretty sure the entire valley knew it… I was psyched.

The next weekend I was back in Boven, jump on Rodan (8b+). It felt quite a bit like when I started working Mutation. I sorted out all my beta and left my draws up. I wasn't quite ready for another megaproject, so I repeated Vorpal Sword (8a+) second go and Jack of All Trades (8a) the next weekend to get some motivation and a sense of how strong I was. I'm really strong. Both lines felt like jokes when I struggled with the previously. Almost did Juggernaut, a bouldery 8a, second go as well but missed some micro beta and decided to call it a weekend before my finger started bleeding from the tiny holds...

My next series of blogs are going to be based on a brand new pair of shoes I was given to test out... I got them two weeks ago from Mad Rock and they won't be available till next year. I can tell you this so far: you want a pair of these... More to come

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hell Can Be Found On Earth If You're Unlucky Enough!

It's been quite a while since I've had anything good to write about but I certain have some interesting stories now...

My last four weekends have been pretty floppy. They started off with me having to cancel a trip to Boven to do some extra work which took me all Saturday and part of Sunday. Nothing like working a long week, training super hard with the hopes and goals of opening your project in Boven only to find out you need to work an extra 20 hours over the weekend. On the Sunday I attended the first Gauteng Lead Comp, which was not ideal and was glad that I didn't skip my trip to Boven to attend but at least there was some climbing. The route setters were young and have a lot to learn about the style of competition route-setting but time and practice will improve their abilities.

What the training session did do was inspire as little extra effort be put into my training schedule... Dylan joined me for this and we had a good session.

Start off with 10 minutes of slow bouldering on the wall with slight pauses above the next grip.
Stretch for 15 minutes.
4x5s --> Select 4 boulder problems at about 80% difficulty.
set the timer for 5 minutes.
Repeat the first boulder problem constantly for 5 minutes with weight vest on.
Rest 5 minutes
Repeat second boulder problem for 5 minutes with weight vest on
Rest 5 minutes
Repeat 3rd boulder problem for 5 minutes (ideally with weight vest but I was too tired the first time I was doing this program).
Rest 5 minutes
Repeat 4th boulder problem for 5 min.

The objective of this is to build Power Endurance. You want to get more and more tired yet still be able to finish the problem. If need be you can take off the vest mid-way through the 5 min but it works best if you don't rest except for chalking your hands.

Next was doing an Ultra Stamina Program that was recommended to me by Paul Brouard.

Select 6 different grips on your Hangboard to use for repeaters (7 seconds on, 3 seconds rest). 3 sets, 5 min rest in between.

First minute/set of 6 grips you do with arms straight.
Second minute/set of 6 grips is done with arms in half-lock
Third minute/set of 6 grips is done in FULL LOCK
Now you have 30 seconds to complete 10 pull ups on the smallest crimp on your hangboard, you may do one, then drop to the floor so long as you complete 10 in 30 seconds.

Next exercise was a Paul B recommendation:

Create a difficult boulder problem with a weight vest.
Climb it once with 3-5 second pauses above each grip with weight
Immediately repeat it at normal speed with weight
Drop weight and immediate repeat it.

Chose 5 problems.

To close the evening we did about an hour of core training and antagonistic muscle work including: tricep dips (3 sets of 20), push ups (3 sets of 20), (8,1,8,1,8)

And then close with 15 minutes of stretching...

The next weekend I went to Fernkloof on the Saturday and did Acromax again. Also did a few laps on Stormwatch, it's still damn hard! I watched Ebert struggle on the upper section using some horrible beta which he changed and seemed really happy to have some external input. Pedley did the third ascent of A Will To Cower (30) using some really interesting and powerful beta involving really high feet.

I didn't get to climb on the Sunday which was disappointing but necessary.

The following weekend was a rainy weekend in Cape Town. Quite disappointing. Warren and I climbed some on Lion's Head, I tried his project which was just way too reachy for me but I think I helped him solidify some of beta. After a long day of looking for routes that looked fun with no success, we marched back down and called it a day.

 The weather was looking very promising for the next day so I was psyched. T and I went out for drinks that evening and I took it very easy till it was raining profusely at 11:30. At this point all bets were off and all shots were game. We partied hard, I got home the next day mid morning. All fun and games. Flew back to Joburg that night and ended up sick the next day with a severe ear infection, the doctor was worried it was going to burst. What a nightmare.

Three days in bed and course of antibiotics later, I felt like I was floating on a cloud or my mind was in a fog or something of that sort. Finished the antibiotics Thursday night while packing for Blouberg. Hiked up Blouberg on Friday evening with the Andrews and Clinton. Got to the campsite at midnight and slept till 5. The next day was a bit of an issue for me, I was struggling to keep up with Andrew and Clinton on the hiking part first thing in the morning. Possible due to residual effects of the medication and being sick, but the hike up the hill was no problem. I was feeling devastated from the get go. I had high hopes for myself and my second trip to Blouberg. The results were dismal. I fell off the first pitch due to carrying a heavy pack, brilliant 22 pitch, easy as pie but you need to be able to balance on small holds which is right up my alley. The next 4 pitches were easy enough, even the 21/22 corner with the pack again (I was amazed I didn't fall off).
Julia and Andrew above the first pitch

I handed over my chance to lead the 25 crux to Clinton as I had no confidence in my abilities, plus I was hot and feeling drained. Clinton fought for an hour or so and eventually onsighted the pitch! Awesome work. I didn't manage the pitch but Andrew did.

Clinton cruising an 18 pitch
The sun doesn't leave the face till after 4pm in winter and yes the day was very hot and guess what, there was no wind until sunset, go figure. Plus all the excessive water we started off with was consumed by our dear friend Andrew Pedley in an attempt to lighten our pack (which worked but left us thirsty for the last 4 pitches).

The hike through the maze took a while. it's only 1.5km from the top out to the meadow on paper but the hike took two or so hours in the dark. Our team of dedicated cairn spotters got us down safely, thanks Tim and Julia. Andrew, Clinton and I knew there was no point in going up Dog of Thunder (30A0) for two days and we hiked out at a leisurely pace in the morning. Andrew's GPS was a godsend on the hike down. We may never have seen the light of day without it LOL.

I am very grateful to have my DMM and Wild Country cams and nuts. This was their maiden voyage up a big wall and they performed amazingly. Watch for a review of the DMM Dragons, Wild Country Heliums and the Wild Country Zeros as well as a comparison between them in the weeks to come!

Spot the trail... It's there, I promise

To top it all off, 7 of the 9 of us who were up there got violently ill, I haven't chundered that bad in years. I was so happy it lasted on 24 hours. The only two to escape it were Craig and Porter. So I guess you can find your own personal hell on Earth if you're unlucky enough...

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Monsterous Send

Photo by Roger Nattrass
Alright, lets me honest, I haven't written anything in a long time. There I said it. Well, maybe it's because I didn't have anything good to say. Well now I do: Monster went down on gear this last weekend. Bam! First traditional ascent of Monster. I'm pretty happy about that. Thank you DMM and Wildcountry for the equipment to make this send possible

I finished bolting the original idea for the Beast in Boven. It's gonna be hard. I'm very close to the send. It'll also go on gear. Should be 32/33 (8b/+). It's an amazing climb.

Well other than my send of Monster, what has happened? Well, Yvette broke her collar bone, she had to have surgery and was in a sling of 5 weeks. She's finally out of the sling but still in pain.

I got to spend some time with the Durbanites recently: Illona, Scott, Candice and Team Nattrass. Always fun.

Managed to do some more work on Lab Rat, did all the moves now a few times and found some insanely cool doubly dyno beta for the top of the climb... WINNER!

Roger after his first day on Godzilla (8b), looks like he really needs that beer...

A tiny Candice being blotted out by my beer!

Roger fanning the flames.
 I guess I just can't help crushing everything...

Ah, good food!

Post Boven dinner...