cornwall, rain and reading

I’ve had a FB exchange with a climber, who has been visiting Cornwall and has been in touch for details and directions for the problems in the ‘Treen’ video. It felt strange, for it’s the first time since moving to France in March that I can honestly say I missed Cornwall. At the time I wrote…… and we came to a landscape bare of light and life, fields and paths of mud, earth and animal…two years later I leave the same landscape… of granite, wind and sea…  But right now I remember the wind, sometimes constant, sometimes a storm, the moist wet air, the drizzle, the mud, the stinging cold. Snatched blues skies, intense, between squalls or rain. The rain that falls for days, the rain that falls and the rain that comes from the sea, and the storms, I miss the storms.

 

Meanwhile from a shuttered room in the heat of Southern France my current reading and research…

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in between the rain

Amazingly it was dry today! I nearly missed it, such has been the unrelenting regularity of shit weather. Filmed a couple of classics, a lot else was covered in damp glowing wet lichen. I also saw for the first time the damage on the classic arete boulder.  It does look like it was intentional. I also thought Crystalline entity seemed to have better holds/crystals than it used to.

Reported by Bob here  http://www.ukclimbing.com/forums/t.php?t=602276#x7922302

 

Zennor

Bright and breezy day out at Zennor. Ed wanted to try Zennor Fool, this problem is over three years old so I was pleased someone wanted to try it. Initially we were a bit shocked to find that the large undercut had been knocked off in a storm, Incredible really as it is quite a way above sea level. It was still climbable and Ed dispatched it pretty quick within the session. Grade wise he thought 7C a bump up from the 7B+ I gave it. As a problem its lost a bit of mid problem burl, but still climbs really well. Barney and I ned to go back and finish the job.

The scope for other problems was also confirmed. I managed  at the end of the session to deny the pain and pull through the crux to create an instant classic, ‘old spice’, 6b/6c. The sea was thundering amongst the boulders and the dead point for the lip of the boulder pulled me closer to the roaring void of ocean and broken bones, this is what makes coastal bouldering in Cornwall so special.

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old spice, photo Ed Gow-Smith

boulder being

I’m often moved to question what bouldering is all about and what it means.

So much of my time is spent bouldering in isolation. This is when the intensity and focus becomes greatest, yet it can also makes me question why I’m engaged in such a solitary pursuit.

10475974_10206418260965318_6948254058329381155_o Bowling Alley, Godrevy, Photo by Rowan Spear -Bulmer. 2015.

As I move away from the social, finding myself deep in the black and gloomy ‘bowling alley’ at Godrevy, I’ve thought… I’m done with this place. Two months ago I did what I genuinely thought was the culmination of my interest. I’d added a couple of moves to To LTP left and thought that was that, nothing harder to do. I called the problem madeleine eats cake, But as I hit the finish jug, there was little elation, I felt empty, I’d expected more, both from the problem and my response. On…

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boulder being

I’m often moved to question what bouldering is all about and what it means.

So much of my time is spent bouldering in isolation. This is when the intensity and focus becomes greatest, yet it can also makes me question why I’m engaged in such a solitary pursuit.

10475974_10206418260965318_6948254058329381155_o
Bowling Alley, Godrevy, Photo by Rowan Spear -Bulmer. 2015.

As I move away from the social, finding myself deep in the black and gloomy ‘bowling alley’ at Godrevy, I’ve thought… I’m done with this place. Two months ago I did what I genuinely thought was the culmination of my interest. I’d added a couple of moves to To LTP left and thought that was that, nothing harder to do. I called the problem madeleine eats cake, But as I hit the finish jug, there was little elation, I felt empty, I’d expected more, both from the problem and my response. On this occasion I didn’t walk away and drink chanpange and rest on my laurels…I shifted my mat two feet to the right and started work on Dave Biggs LTP traverse. The Passage of Time.

I have such an intense love hate relationship with this place. The approach when the tide is in, is down a steep path to the flat rock platform above the trench or alley. It’s a perfect spot to survey the problems before climbing down to the bouldering. I then find myself in a narrow corridor of rock, the problems on the overhanging black face, in front of me and the stepped descent behind me. After spending time down here it’s a relief to climb up the steps and regain a vista and a sense of perspective. This perspective is also accompanied by a powerful sense of nostalgia and recognition of time passing. The original and somewhat pretentious names* that I gave these boulder problems now kind of mock me with a retrospective prescience as I fail to walk away, as I fail on a problem, or in this case start working a new problem.

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Looking down into the Bowling Alley, Godrevy, Photo by Rowan Spear -Bulmer. 2015.

I breathe deeply and smile inwardly, this problem felt hard, I was happy again, as this became a project for the next couple of months or so.

It is the process and the journey that’s so engaging, the result  basically so profoundly uninteresting, only mattering at the cutting edge of bouldering, the sport. For me, my passion swings between ebbs and highs and some-days as I sit at home and wonder where or what to do, a gloom transcends over me, the black dog hovers over my shoulder…yet the ‘boulder being’ takes over, it’s a place where I can be and even in the gloom of a cloudy and damp day, with the rock oozing moisture and a damp sea fret pushing in off a sea that rises fast with an oncoming tide. I flap and brush and curse at the rock, yet in a small and intense way I am happy. Nothing much comes of sessions such as this, at least not in any easily quantifiable way, yet it reinforces a connection to the material world that matters to me.

I drive home and the loneliness surfaces again, I want to drive and drive until I can think no more.

This kind of thinking has got me once again into the position of considering the nature of a bouldering philosophy. I’ve completed a PhD and I find a publisher that is interested in my solipsistic musings on the nature of this activity. I’ve declared that I will write a book, he says ‘great’, I say ‘great’, I say I will write it in the autumn.

* Le temps passe

So solitude takes us so far then the search for the meaning takes us back into the realms of the social. In this case this was the best I found after a search for bouldering philosophy on the internet. There’s not a lot of reflective thought and writing on bouldering and philosophy, at least not much stretching established conventions. Understandably the Bleausards have a good go, the second video has some nice stuff and the first is the legend, John Gill laying down some thoughts.

madeleine eats cake

I’ve written a few times about this project specifically here between-the-see-er-and-the-visible/

I got back from the States and had a good run of getting up things, the sticking point of failure and nerves seemed to have disappeared. I’d done AWOL 7C at Tintagel the week before and on the 28th May, I turned up with little expectation in the Bowling Alley at Godrevy. It was dry and breezy, I warmed up and three goes later I’d done my project. It’s fair to say the first move is pretty hard, on small and sharp holds. Grade wise I’m struggling, it’s not an eliminate, it starts on the lowest crimps, climbs into and finishes as LTP left. I wanted it to be 8A, maybe it is, time will tell.

I finished the problem in the obvious and regular way on the large jug/ledge. It is possible to finish higher as in the video in the older post. It would add a bit grade wise, but is maybe a bit contrived. So I’m settling with this version.

It’s hard to rationalise a grade, in comparison it’s harder than AWOL. The first  move is the crux and as a singular move I think it’s harder than any move on Burnt Toast 7C+ and Blacking Out The Friction 7C and Dave Biggs’s  LTP traverse 7C+ also at Godrevy. I’ve recently been in North Wales and did Diesel Power in 2/3 overlapping sections, again as a move it’s harder than anything on Diesel Power. A few years ago I did Guy Fawkes 8A at Portland, which I think has dropped to 7C+ in the new Portland guide, (at least it has on the UKC logbook), Madeleine is quite a bit harder than this problem. So all in all, with my limited experience and the fact that the problem is my favored style and strength, I am optimistic it’s hard enough to be in the region of 7C+/8A .

Madeleine Eats Cake from andy whall on Vimeo.

between the see-er and the visible

Early January. What does it mean to have a project?

I want to call this a curve of possibility. This experience occurred on the project I was on today as I added a move to what was already an existing problem.

‘I really don’t know if I can do it. So much seems to go against me, today I rolled some skin on my tip, just arranging my fingers on the right hold, and I hadn’t even pulled on. Below is a clip, this proves I can do this move. I look at this clip to prove to myself that I can. Yet in all the tries I’ve only ever done this move once. Conditions need to be good; this is rare, skin needs to be good, the crimps are small, very small. The sand levels change, this is a big issue, as the move from the ground feels a bit different every time. But these are all excuses; it is possible, yet time and motivation ebb away. I ask myself why I’m not more psyched, extracting energy seems impossible, maybe its my diet, my weight, my mind, maybe it’s the abstinence from wine or maybe it’s the…’

I want this process to tip into the possible; ‘I want this problem to be  8A’. The holds are horrible and small, the moves long to more small holds, then to slightly bigger small holds then it all ends and doesn’t even top out. What a strange thing to be doing.

A session later. I have done the move, once more, yet it still seems still like a long way to go to actually doing the problem.

Climbing down into the ‘bowling alley’, the personal history of the place strikes me. I’ve been coming down here for years and this current project is the culmination of all that time. The LTP, Le Temp Passé, seemed a pretentious name at the time, now its seems prescient. At the time of climbing LTP (2002) I was adding a lower start to the existing and prosaically named ‘crimp problem’ this used to be 6c in old money (UK tech grade), so I guess about 7A  (FA of this problem is unknown). My addition was to start in the triangular pocket and move left onto the crimps of the original problem; I gave this V8 at the time, which fits with a current consensus of 7B. Last year I started this problem a little to the left, doing a move before putting my right foot up onto the triangular pocket, this avoids the pocket as starting handhold, which is good because its often wet. It also seemed like an independent line as it starts further left and goes straight up the wall finishing high. I called this ‘Madeleine’ and gave it 7B+, though it might be harder, possibly 7C. This then opened up starting a hold lower and moving into Madeleine. I’d only ever looked at this start as a fantasy; yet it became a reality in a shockingly fast manner. In January 2015, I pulled on and stayed on. If I could pull on, I should be able to move, it was a revelation. So this leaves me with a project that is now very possible, albeit one that destroys my skin and has holds so small it takes a real effort of will to try the thing.

From a phenomenological perspective Merleau-Ponty describes a moment such as the one described above as being:

between the see-er and the visible, between touching and touched, between one eye and the other, between hand and hand a kind of crossover occurs, when the spark of the sensing/sensible is lit, when the fire starts to burn that will not cease until some accident befalls the body, undoing what no accident would have sufficed to do…’[1]

 For me meanwhile I wait for the confluence of tide, wind and a feeling of lightness and desire.

[1] Maurice, Merleau-Ponty, Eye and Mind, Merleau-Ponty’s ‘Essays on Painting’, The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader, Ed, Galen A, Johnson, USA, North Western University, 1993, p.125.

serpentine

It’s amazing how exploration around West Cornwall can turn up new problems. I wouldn’t suggest that this is a great problem, but it would get stars if it had a top out, was accessible for more than a couple of hours at low tide and wasn’t either in the sun or wet!

photo-1

I’ve also been motivated to get off my backside and get things done, as there are many more keen boulderers ready to come down west and get stuff done these days.

I really need to do the sit start and then I’ll be happy.