Wednesday, 15 August 2012

The Grammar of Climbing

When I was first drafting this post in my head I wanted to use the term "a _____ of blocs" but realised that there is no collective noun for boulder problems (nor climbers for that matter). Collective nouns are mainly old-fashioned quirks of English little used these days, a gaggle of geese being the classic example and a parliament of owls or an ostentation of peacocks being other example that only seem to come up in pub trivia. Perhaps this is a topic worthy of considerable online discussion, as is a popular pastime of the modern climber, and to kick off the discussion I propose the terms "a crush of boulder problems" and "a stink of climbers".

So what started out as the long hoped for winter of doing every problem in the Sydney basin could more aptly be described as the winter of mysterious ailments, including a suspected spider bite that got a bit out of hand. While illness is usually not seen as a good thing, its humbling effect seems to bring the important things in life back into focus and makes you appreciate what you have. So although I couldn't always try the hardest problems, I rediscovered the unadulterated fun of climbing for its own sake without expectation, just enjoying being outside and moving over rock. And in the process I did a crush of lesser known but high quality boulders and had a great time doing it.

None-the-less, I neglected to fall off some none-too-easy boulders in recent weeks including Swoosh down at the Villas. This is quite a journey of over 20 moves with a burly butt-scraping start, a foot-first crux and a bulgy highball top out. I've certainly done routes that were shorter than this, and as at route it probably wouldn't be far off 32. Weirdly, when I actually did it I had no intention of doing so, I was just trying to get some linkage on the first section, but by accident I somehow ended up at the top. Luckily Sharik was there and could abandon his child for long enough to spot me as I sketched my way over the final bulge.
On the crux moves of Swoosh, V11 (32?)

I also did Fight Club at the Den the other day. Although this crag doesn't get much attention, it has some of the better rock in Sydney. The week before doing it, I went to try it one afternoon and as I did a u-turn to park I got pulled over by the police. It is illegal to do a u-turn at any set of traffic lights in NSW apparently, as the good constable informed me. This put a slight (and expensive) dampener on my session, but I got the moves worked out at least. The following week I did a legal u-turn on a side street and in between cups of tea and filling in the cross-word, managed to string the moves together from bottom to top in a climbing-like fashion as illustrated below.
Working on the winter tan on Fight Club, V10
So it seems that lately I have quite a gaggle of lessons: to have patience in the face of set-backs, that success sometimes comes when you least expect it, and that breaking road rules can be expensive.

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