Arriving back in the USA in 2017, it feels all very similar. We land in Utah in a state of jetlagged psyche, locate a 4x4 vehicle (thanks so much Danny!!) and then make the drive down to Moab to prepare for another season on desert roof cracks. So far, so good?
Well, this year needs to be a bit different as we’ve both put quite a bit of effort into our training around the mono strength needed on the Crucifix Project – the crux sequence of 10 moves or so requires multiple moves in the roof where you’re lucky to get second joint deep on a mono-jam. It’s painful, it’s powerful and it’s really isn’t very good for the joints!
|One day. One it will happen... (c) Kyle Berkompas|
We’re psyched though. Yes, we might moan a bit about the difficulty, but the chance to put together over 7 years worth of crack climbing obsession into one single route is unique. We’ve done quite a few of the classic test-pieces around the world and although it’s really tempting to continue repeating even more of them (they’re really freaking good!!) we’ve decided to make a real commitment to stick with what seems an unfathomably hard process.
|Dogging around, trying spins, losing skin!|
So what’s the difference so far?
We’ve improved our mono strength this year, our upper body strength and conditioning has moved up a notch and things that felt hard a couple of years ago are finally starting to not be the living end.
Has that played out on the route?
Good question! We’ve completed our first 4 day stint back in Canyonlands and split our time between the crux sequence and trying the key “training link” project on The Crucifix. The mono section has been a bit of a mixed bag – probably no surprise – as some moves are getting easier and others have annoying habit of ripping flappers quite quickly. We’ve now identified that “The Bolt Move” is the one we have to have dialed, as there’s two of them on the crux. It’s similar to a Rose Move, but you’re doing it on monos in a roof and you end up looking like Usain Bolt at the end of a 100m final! It’s a great move and it’s very trainable. In addition to that, we’ve refined the last couple of moves into a better method, which feels a grade easier than before…. Although….. we’re yet to do it. Yup, it’s really hard!
|Pete working the original sequence at the end of the crux (c) Kyle Berkompas|
In between resting the skin and mono joints, we worked on what we called “The Cruzifix” which is an easier version of the real project. It’s a link of the first half of Crown of Thorns 5.14 into the end of The Crucifix. The difficulty isn’t mind blowing, but it does cover a huge amount of the ground we’ll do in the final redpoint and therefore it was a big confidence boost for us to link this together. It also, importantly, includes the final massive runout on The Crucifix which always plays on your mind as one of the key holds on it appears a bit fragile…. not the most ideal when you’re absolutely bricking it!
The route breaks down as:
Section 1: The Stigmata. A nice long and dismayingly pumpy hands and fists roof crack of around 70ft. The best and worst thing about the start being that the crack is offset so little that it offers very little for the feet but constantly scrapes down one side of your body - exfoliation treatment! It's hard to overestimate how good this section is as it'd be one of the best roof crack pitches in the world even on it's own. Mega, mega!
|Gogarth E6. Sort of.|
Section 2: Gogarth E6. One person came up with the nickname and the other said "that's not bloody E6 in a million years!" The only excuse is that this 70ft section looks like a chossy N Wales pitch... but once on it, it has a few surprises in store. Pumpy, weird, loose, sandy and sequency is the name of the game.
Section 3: Whipping of The Cross. Finally you get 40ft of fingers roof crack that cinches down to nothing but a perfect sandy pinch in the middle of the last section. There's a bit of small gear on this part, but a fall last year where the rope went to the sheath in about 1 second made us conclude it was better to run the entire thing out and think positive. Kind of fun, kind of alarming.
|Spot the climber?! Runout starts from the bisecting crack on the right.|
We're off for another 5 days now. More monos, more time "resting" on FA projects on the side and of course, a whole lot of being silly and not taking things too seriously!