13th April 2016

Route of the week: A rematch with The Strand

goarth sea cliff

The Strand at Gogarth has been a route I’ve wanted to do for a long time, it’s a well known endurance test piece on the Upper Tier and weighs in at E2 5b. It’s a brilliant looking line, a classic steep crack that goes on for about 40m without any ledges to get a proper hands of rest on.

A couple of weeks ago I went to do it with Stu, I felt super confident after a winter where I’ve been at the wall a lot and ticked some cool routes like Left Wall (E2 5c). We did a quick warm up route called Dirtigo (VS), which was better than it’s name suggests! The weather was really cold with a bitter, strong wind meaning it was winter belay jackets when not climbing. After our first route, I was stood at the bottom of The Strand ready to go. A couple more quickdraws than usual, up to 14 and a few more larger nuts as well, but not enough to make a noticeable difference, and off I went upwards.

It was going so well, I was climbing in a really fluid style and finding the climbing super enjoyable, properly in the zone and placing gear, but not placing anything unnecessary. I got to a half decent rest where I could shake out and after my arms were back to a point where I felt fresh, I set off up again. After a few metres though, my head left that zone I had been in! Suddenly I really started to notice the wind buffeting me and I was no longer on autopilot, I was still making good progress but started to over grip and place too much gear – I sensed failure was taking over from success. My forearms began to scream and try as I might to recover, I could only stop it getting worse and I wasn’t able to recover. No choice, on a bit more, mega nut placement, green DMM Dragon cam placed, tried to make the next move and my arms were just completely powered out – I had nothing left to give, TAKE! That was followed by an angry tirade directed squarely at myself, gutted to have blown the onsight I lowered off (in two sections).

The training down the wall bouldering and on the Beastmaker had been super beneficial, I didn’t find any of the moves hard, but my endurance was awful – for my time at the wall I hadn’t climbed a route there for almost two months. I was disappointed to put it politely, however I’d learn’t loads from the experience and told myself I’d be back there very soon.

Over the next couple of weeks I kept bouldering, I kept having sessions on the Beastmaker and I kept doing my core workouts, but I mixed them up with route sessions as well as the biggest lesson learnt was that was my improved strength was great, but couldn’t make up for that lack of endurance.

The forecast had looked good so I made plans with Tom to go back today, warm up properly (the VS I did last time just didn’t work my arms) and get on it. The trip didn’t start well when my helmet fell out of my bag onto the path and cracked….

The small, but definite, crack in my £100+ helmet :(

The small, but definite, crack in my £100+ helmet 🙁

So, after doing the Gauntlet (HVS) and rehydrating and snacking, I was once again stood at the bottom of The Strand. The weather though couldn’t have been more different, sunny, warm and only the slightest hint of a breeze – T-Shirt weather at last!

Me and Tom on the P1 belay of The Gauntlet

Me and Tom on the P1 belay of The Gauntlet

Time to go, progressing upwards, I was climbing terribly, not remotely cruising I felt like I was climbing like an arthritic robot, after the first couple of bits of gear I was genuinely thinking about just lowering off but for some reason I kept on going. The gear on The Strand is awesome and plentiful, but I was placing kit only when needed so as to save some gas and before long I was at a good rest, it’s not hands off but it’s enough to recover and I miked it and then milked it some more. My head was in a better place now, confident in the gear and my ability. I shouted down to Tom to check he was still awake after my eternal rest!

It was sunnier than the photo suggests

It was sunnier than the photo suggests!

Can’t stay forever so onwards and upwards, getting pretty pumped now but still progressing, green cam in and I was at my high point from last time but feeling better, somewhere around here I was able to get a heel hook in to help with a cheeky rest. Got to keep going or my arms will fade, more solid gear, but arms still fading, I’m through what I think is the crux and on to great holds, the trouble is they don’t feel great in my current pumped condition, I’m so close though. I have a word with myself (quite loudly!) and hear a bit of encouragement from Tom the best part of 40m below, just pull hard. Boom, got it! I’m on the ledge with a couple of easy moves up the finishing slab to the abseil point. Job done.

More lessons to be learn’t (more endurance and I still need to warm up much better, this alone would improve my getting pumped issues), as always, but I’m mega happy to have got it this time. As I abseiled back down, retrieving the gear I relived most of the route section by section, it is a stella route, get on it!

Happy face!

Happy face! Gauntlet, HVS.

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