The Long Summer


This summer I had to let go of climbing a little bit. Not for a lack of motivation, but because of a certain elbow injury. Ironically, I've learned that when I let go of my goals, my drive to climb seems to falter. Sounds corny, but in the process of letting go I really enjoyed getting enveloped in adventure and the beauty of wonder that sometimes we miss when we're too goal-orientated. I couldn't find any pompous-sounding title for this blog, neither the elaborate prose some climbing blogs are feature nowadays. So instead, the best way to tell story is always with pictures. Here are some of the good moments so far this summer.

So Ireland was amazing, but I couldn't figure out why I wasn't hitting my stride this season. I did a few soft E5's at Nesscliffe and Pembroke, but I couldn't say I path them. Most climbs felt hard work. As soon as I took a few days off, my elbow started to flair up. It started with an untreated shoulder injury, then kept climbing through it and it developed into an elbow injury. But I was just two weeks into my 6-week UK road-trip...

So I met with Adam and headed to Scotland. As a hangover from the good times we had last year, we thought we had to make Scotland a yearly stop, so we went back this time the prize was Skye, Lewis and Harris. My experience from last year is that a lot of the routes were very juggy, so I thought it wouldn't matter that I was injuried. After all, I could still climb up to E2 comfortable without pain.

So we arrived to Skye. The island lived up to its name, the Misty Island. And misty indeed was. Regardless, we managed to dodge bad weather and we climbed every day. Day way we were treated like kings by Kilt Rock, doing two insane routes, Grey Panther (E1) and Internationale (E3). This was my second lead, "Frisky after whisky" E3, and awesome stemming corner on perfect Dolorite (or is it basalt?)

Then of course Adam had to get recommendations from his wad friends from Sheffield, so I think it was Tony Stone who told us to go and do "Sheer Sear" (E5). I had no idea what it was, and the guidebook didn't give many clues. But when we found it, we both couldn't get fast enough to the bottom of this formidable sea stack. 

You can't argue it, that is a line an a half.

So Adam got to work on the onsight, and soon was airborne. It became apparent this thing was going to be hard. I had a go, but I couldn't get anywhere near doing the crux move, a first-pad finger-stack/finger-lock with crap feet. But due to team psyche, I pushed the chalk mark higher. Adam had an sterling effort on the next go and was robbed of the ascent when about at this point in the picture a foothold broke and he took some air. I top-roped to get the gear out and still couldn't do it clean. 

Welcome to Scotland in June, wholly hat, gloves and down gillet.

Whilst in Skye, we payed a visit to Elgol, a remote crag on the south west corner of the island. Remote until we bumped into a crew filming Dave MacLeod doing the first ascent of a new E7. In this picture you can see Adam dispatching the king line of the crag "Mother's Pride" (E4), with the filming bench in the background ready for action from the star. The new E7 look nail and ace. I had an abseil inspection to Malc Smith E6 that look also fantastic, until I got fed up stripping the thick sea lichen to uncover holds. I didn't seem it had a second ascent since 2009.

Then we moved onto Neist Point, where we've heard there was some good climbing to be had. The rock is really interesting, it's a mix between Gritstone and Dolorite, super grippy but with lots of jamming crags. Tape gloves mandatory. Here I'm failing to do a jamming E2 warm-up. After that my jamming became better.

We got involved on not very well travelled E5 that I can't remember the name. We spend most of the day working it out, and at the end I managed to do the crux clean, all bomber finger-lock. But never lead it clean as we run out of daylight, psyche and skin.

After scoping a few new line at Neist, we headed for the Lewis ferry. At the terminal we checked the weather for the coming week and also asked the expert opinion of some friends. The heat wave in England looked too tempting against some more Scottish misery. So we cancelled our ticket and literally head for the heatwave in the Lakes. And what a welcome once we arrive, bluebird skies, roasting temps and a gorgeous landscape (never been in the Lakes in summer)

We toured all the classic crags with less than an hours walk (too hot for anything longer), Raven Crag, White Gyll, Pavey Ark, Gimmer Crag... This is "Paladin", the only E3 that felt "easy', all other routes I had to sweat to get up them. 

Obviously we had to have a go at "Trilogy" (E5), it's right there in front of your face all the time. I failed miserably on my first attempt, I just didn't have the beans and by now my elbow was, let's just say, a very unhappy elbow. Adam dispatch the route no problem being the wad he is. So I came back a few days later for a rematch and somehow got to the top without falling. I indulged myself to a selfie to celebrate

"Eastern Hammer".  What a mouthful for an E3, they do many soft touches up here, or we are just soft, end off. Eastern Hammer was the hardest route that Adam's uncle had led back in the day, so he was keen to follow the legacy. There were a few huff and puffs, but had a thoroughly good time climbing this route. It was very different for me the second, I thought about renaming the route to "Stern Hammer" instead.

The Lakes were gorgeous, but after a good run of the good weather, the rain even got there. So we moved to Kilnsey for the last day of our trip. As pretty much every day I've been up there this summer, Ben Moon was there as well, glued to Northern Lights. I find the guy an inspiration of dedication and hard work. And then on that note, I found my own Moon power and sent "Comedy" (7c) that day. I felt pleased on the drive to London but caught myself steering with my left arm only. I woke up the day after with a throbbing elbow and my many appointments with the physio started.

As a good supporting boyfriend, I kept getting out on weekends to give Viki belays on her projects. As means to test my progress with the elbow I did some easy DWS that wouldn't upset the balance.

Specially when the sun is shining is hard to resist to get yourself above inviting water

Vicki makes everything look stylish. She took to DWS like a trooper and slowly but surely she's turning into an all-rounder climbing wadess.

The highlight of my "recovery" was a cheeky ascent of Freeborn Man. It's fairly easy but it hurt a bit more that it should have, but not wanting to let go and facing the soup I pushed on and got to the top. 

I kept road testing the elbow over the many weekends to Dorset. Here topping out Octopuss Weed and very happy that the elbow didn't hurt, so that meant progress! All the rehab was starting to pay off after about 6 weeks of work.

On the last weekend I took the opportunity that my friend Ciro was in the country on his way back from a long stint in Ceuse. I thought going to the Pass was a good idea, I never been to the Cromlech before. So we headed up, Right Wall was minging wet, so we settled with Left Wall, Foil, Cemetery Gates and Memory Lane. On sunday we headed up to Scimitar Ridge and had an awesome day ticking the classics there. I chewed a bit more that I could eat with Killerkranky (E5) but eventually climbed clean second go after stripping the route.

Now that I seem to be over the worst of my injury, I'm starting to get excited about the what's left of the summer and the full Autumn season. Talks about Lewis, Ireland, Utah and more UK stuff is starting to get me itchy feet. See what the near future holds!

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