Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Cobra – Initial Attempts

I have been in Squamish for three weeks now with my main goal for this summer being the famous Cobra Crack 5.14. I have only had four days consisting of a total of 5 long top rope shots on the route so far due to the painful nature of the jamming required as well as a finger injury obtained while bouldering.
Warm up mono's in a block of wood that lives at the base of Cobra Crack.
It has the names of everyone who has managed to climb the route so far.
The finger injury isn’t bad, just a jarred joint from stabbing it into a wall. It still hurts but I can climb on it. Other than my four days off from the injury I have done some amazing sport climbing and bouldering, which I hope I will keep me strong as I project the crack during the summer.
On the bouldering front I climbed a soft V10 quite quickly called No Troublems. This is not any kind of amazing achievement although I had never actually bouldered this grade before. I am pretty sure I have done much harder boulders on routes but I’ve never put the time in to go bouldering outdoors and project hard problems.
Warming up in the boulders.
Back to the Cobra. The start is easy, a technical 5.11 chimney leading to a hands free rest will probably become a bit of an annoyance when I have done it for the trillionth time approaching the real business above. After the hands free rest a short technical thin crack that would be the crux of a 5.12 leads to a jug right where the wall kicks back. Even though it’s a jug you don’t want to hang around too long as you’re still on your arms. A couple of jams above the jug and I was surprised by the difficulty of one of the lower moves which marks the beginning of ‘the business’ section. It took me a long time to work out, as the beta on the videos of other people climbing this section doesn’t suit me at all. I’m pretty sure the others are all close to a foot taller than me as they do some massive reaches between the good jams.
Working on the lower hard move.
After the initial hard move it stays exceptionally physical in good jams but incredibly poor feet. I’ll need to be able to cruise this section eventually to have energy for the crux above. The crux begins with a reach up to an undercling mono, which is painful and hard to commit to. When I do commit though I found I could do the next move almost static. Because I can’t reach through to the good jam I get a bad jam and do the hardest move of the route to the better jam above. This beta is the same as Didier was doing on the film ‘First Ascent’.
Do I commit to pulling on this or not?
I am sure if I eventually get to here on lead I’ll be very tired but there is the exit boulder to do before you can stand on your feet again. So far the easiest way I have found to do this is to go up a slopey rail the same as Sonny Trotter did on the first ascent of the route. This is mainly due to my hand position in the jams after the main crux section.
Sharing beta in the local park with local Ben Harnden, who is currently very close to the send.

I feel like my progress so far has been good except for that one crux move. Hopefully it isn’t a showstopper and I can do it more regularly during my working sessions. I’ll need to be doing it easily off the rope to be able to pull it on link. No matter what happens this summer I am psyched I am even able to try and do the moves on this route. September, when I have to leave, is still a ways off so anything is possible at the moment.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Leaving Liming

The best season is over here in Liming. It is getting hot and humid and any day now it will start to pour down with rain. Since I sent The Firewall route I haven’t red-pointed anything major. I had the usual post hard send lull were I needed a short break from trying hard. It was good to visit a few of the crags I hadn’t been to and try a few of the classic 5.11 and 5.12 graded routes. I even added something quite out of the ordinary for Liming, a mixed route that leaves the crack systems and involves a world cup style running dyno boulder problem.
Mike on his Flight of the Locust 5.12c extension at The Guardian crag. Photo: Myself.
The crew from the 80s.
After a while I went up to The Honeycomb Dome 15m long roof project. I had my eye on this while working The Firewall. I had been told that it wouldn’t get done anytime soon and was ridiculously hard. It is one of the standout lines you can see from the valley floor along with The Firewall. I am reasonably good on roofs due to my core being quite strong, one of the advantages of being short. My first shot went really well. I only tried 2/3 of the climb as we didn’t have enough of the right gear with us but I eventually got all the moves. A section of .75 crack which, I was told would be exceptionally hard, ended up passable by getting two bad jams and inverting your body so as to lead with your feet into a wider section of the crack. I thought it wouldn’t be too hard to send at roughly 5.13b/c.
A layback tight hands start leads to a bad stem and more tight hands. All project photos: Kate Sabo.
A powerful undercling traverse.
Nice slopey heal toe.
The poor rest.
Entering the first crux.
Tense your hands and hope they don't pop out!
The middle section isn't too hard but surprisingly physical.
I was hoping to send it in the weeks I had left in Liming but my next few shots exposed the true difficulty of the climb. When I tried the last third of the route I discovered a crux at the very end involving very tight hands and a knuckle lock. Linkage of the first half happened quickly but I am so spent afterwards I can’t even tense my hand to hold an awesome hand jam. Linkage is the true crux. I have since made it to just before the start of the final crux but haven’t had the energy to even start to attempt it (all only on preplaced gear so far). I will be back in October to try and finish it off.
My pre-placed high point for this trip.
Entering the final boulder.
My left hand is on only by a single knuckle. Feet first to the anchor.
Now I will start to meander over to Squamish with stops in Shigu, Lijiang, Chongqing, Hong Kong, and Vancouver along the way.  It’s going to be an interesting summer. I get to hang out and climb with Rick from the Blue Mountains again, Abond and Ting my long time Chinese friends are coming over and I am catching up with a host of old friends from when I lived there in 2005/6.  On the climbing front I will be supporting Abond who will be trying to fight his way up Dream Catcher 5.14d and I will be stretching way out from my abilities to attempt Cobra Crack 5.14a/b.