The Joy Curve

A good day at Limekilns last year ©Jen Randall, Light Shed Pictures

Well the sun has come and gone, but I can safely say I did my best to make the most of it while it was here. Embracing the heat (some said it was too hot to climb… some are just never happy!) I got out and did as much trad as I could over those two tropical weeks, because for me it’s a case of taking some time every year to feel good above gear again. To start with Jackie and I did The Pause on the Etive Slabs, by far the best route I’ve done there so far. It felt good to be on slabs again, a bit like visiting an old friend after spending so much time on The Apron with Al in the past. I also made a couple of visits to Limekilns, firstly with my dad who is great for sending me up route after route and getting the miles in. I did old favourites like Dead Ringer and Elgin’s Crack which I really do think are great, and a few days later had a wrestle with my old flame, Velvet Glove, which pinged me off at the top as ever because I was too pumped and forgot where the good holds were. But it was good to reacquaint myself with her, and good to take a nice big fall to remember that’s ok too.

On Velvet Glove two years ago. She’s a beauty. ©Alex Gorham

People down at TCA regularly ask how the El Cap training is going, which is good of them because even I get tired of hearing myself talk about it sometimes. At film school we were taught about the joy curve – when you ask some one to take part in your film they’re all excited, then that fades a bit and reality kicks in and they aren’t so excited all of a sudden. At that point you have to make a big effort to keep that person excited for the project, and I think that’s where Jackie and I are at the moment. It’s not that we’ve gone off the idea, it’s just hard to stay as motivated as we were in the beginning for six whole months. So it’s lucky there’s two of us to egg each other on at times because it’s also hard to know if we are or aren’t any more prepared than we were in the beginning for something we’ve never done before, if you catch my drift.

This rack makes a normal one feel light.

But I don’t see how we couldn’t be a little more prepared by now at least. We made a trip out to Dumbarton at the peak of the hot spell to aid Chemin de Faire, which has probably been our biggest learning curve so far. I took the lead and can safely say I took way too much gear and could hardly push myself up on the extreme scramble to the start. Three sets of cams, three sets of nuts, 4 million quickdraws, I probably could have made it up El Cap in one pitch with that lot. I did use two sky hooks followed by a little brass nut though… how’s that for skills? But you just never know until you try… and now I know two sets of everything is probably enough. I’d like to blame the weight of the rack for my slowness, but really I have to put that down to finding the start of the climb pretty hard to aid – the second half was a breeze in comparison and we’ve now lead and cleaned our first steep aid route and aid traverse. Fitness will be all very well on El Cap, but if we’re moving like fat snails we’re just not going to make it up before Christmas comes. But we’re learning, and the positive side is we did it without having any kind of epic other than it being slow and the start being hard. And Crux cutting his foot. At least we were still friends at the end of the day…

Jackie cleaning up after me just above the hardest section

In cloudier weather we headed to Dumbarton again to work out just what hauling entails. It turns out the process is pretty simple, and difficult to photograph in an exciting manner. It’s the weight that’s going to make it interesting by which I mean horrible. The hardest thing about teaching ourselves these things so far is finding a good place to do it.

The most convenient bolt we could find to work out the pulley set up. Not ideal…

At Dumbarton there is no particularly easy route to shoot to the top of (or walk to the top of for that matter) in order to simply practice hauling – I dragged myself up the easiest sport climb there only to find myself stick clipping my way up in a bad mood because I wasn’t really in the mind set to try hard climbing moves, I just wanted to practice hauling. But it’s the nearest place with bolted belays, so it just has to do. Next on the list, pendulums. How do you second one? I still don’t get it.

We get it now.

And now just to say hello and thank you to some new friends we’ve been making, who are helping us on our bumbly way towards El Cap success. Metolius have kindly sent us some gear (I quote from their email – wow, first big wall, hauling and filming? That’ll be SLOW) and we await with anticipation for our new haul bags along with other bits and bobs from Climb Tech who have been very generous and encouraging indeed. And hello to Banana Fingers who Al and I will be making reviews such as this one for from now on. Thanks to all!

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