Wednesday, September 27, 2017


Sticking the lip of the Cobra Crack. Photo: Garrett Bradley
My trip is over and I sent the Cobra. It didn’t go as easy as when Mason cruised it (Video). In fact I shook, clawed and screamed my way through the top out using an unlikely sequence I had just put together because I knew I didn’t have the core for the traditional seemingly easier way. The difference between that shot and the previous months on the route came down to how hard I was trying. Instead of being perfect in my movement I just gritted my teeth more and refused to let go.
So stoked to join this incredible list. Photo: Ji Yun
 After my last blog I had a couple more weeks on the route and still hadn’t got my high point from the previous season. I felt like it wasn’t going to happen. I almost gave up. It was hot and smokey in August and I gave the Cobra a couple of shots once a week and tried some other things. I jumped on Division Bell for more power endurance training and fell off the end a multitude of times. I didn’t want to use the knee bar rest as it wouldn’t be good training. Eventually I got frustrated and decided I wanted to send something. I got sick of failure. I could see the season coming to an end and more training wasn’t what was needed. The only thing I could change this late in the trip to give me success was my psyche.  The first step was to choose to send. Putting a knee pad on, utilizing the rest and sending Division Bell was a mental turning point. Trainings over its time to perform.
Division Bell. Photo: Ji Yun
Doug McConnell from The Blue Mountains turned up to try the Cobra as well and I had a dedicated psyched partner. Instead of the usual routine of jumping straight on I warmed up by having a top rope burn with a lot of resting on the rope. I tried really hard and moved quickly resting less on the good holds.  First day with Doug I hit my all time high point. I analysed why I fell and changed my sequence to one that utilized muscles that weren’t as burnt. Next day I sent. I was probably strong enough to send the route at the beginning of the previous season but I obviously wasn’t smart enough. Hopefully I’ve learnt something about hard projects from this experience and become a better climber.

I was so burnt mentally and physically from the experience I didn’t get up to a lot in September. I went sport climbing and took it easy. My motivation wasn’t low but it wasn’t high either. I did really enjoy clipping bolts and getting pumped on crimps again. A crew of us hit up a crag called Equinox in Washington over a couple of weekends, which was incredibly fun. Zero commitment high quality pumpy climbing. A highlight of the month was a route called Fight Club 5.13c.
Resting at the half way anchor of Fight Club 5.13c at Equinox, Washington. Photo: Rick Willison.
In the final sequence of Fight Club 5.13c at Equinox, Washington. Photo: Rick Willison.

Since I felt a bit directionless I decided to head back to Australia. I want to spend a bit of time hitting up routes on the east coast I’ve wanted to do for a long time and catch up with some old friends. Climbing at the classic Pet Wall at Murrin Park and struggling up a technical 12c (named Animal) on my second shot before heading to a BBQ with the Squamish crew was a great final day. I am going to miss this place and am sure I'll be back someday.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Squamish 2017

Here I am over half way through my third season in Squamish to try the Cobra Crack. The journey is ongoing and definitely one of the most frustrating and challenging projects I have had. I still haven’t reached my high point from last season when I was excruciatingly close to sending. I have however worked out a better hand position that makes the exit a little easier if I get back there. It’s a strange climb and despite the crux being difficult and powerful it has evolved into a linkage problem for me. I have done numerous one-sit attempts with significant overlap. I have even climbed all the hard stuff through from just above the hands free rest after the 5.11 intro. For some reason though the entire link remains elusive.

I feel a big difference between this season and the last was my preparation. I spent six months before last season working in a climbing gym and training. This season though I felt I needed to earn a bit more and spent the previous six months working a 2/1 roster on a mine site. I don’t feel like I lost a lot but possibly just a bit of raw power in my arms that I need for the large one arm pull over the lip of Cobra after the mono move.
Locking up high with limited time to get the mono just right. Photo: Drew Smith.
I have stuck the mono move from the ground 19 times now but only climbed through to the exit crimps 4 times (all last season). A bit of luck with the mono wouldn’t go astray as I feel my strongest attempts have been thwarted by issues with getting the mono correctly while I have climbed through it at other times when I felt tired. The issues generally relate to my tape getting stuck on a crystal or my skin tearing open. The lip move afterwards I have tried to find alternate beta but it really just comes down to having enough power in my arm. I can do it extraordinarily easily after a quick sit on the rope.
Sticking the lip. The next big pull is right hand to the jam in the crack at the top of the photo with very poor/no foot holds. Photo: Drew Smith.
Topping out after I have fallen. My high point last season was fondling the last crimp two holds above where my left hand is in the photo. Photo: Drew Smith.
 Despite walking up the hill a ridiculous number of times and a large number of attempts I am still having a lot of fun. I am definitely reaching beyond what I would have considered myself capable and that is what keeps it interesting. A great supportive crew of people in Squamish also helps.

I also got to climb with the crack maestro Mason Earle who had his own epic battle with the cobra. After a few seasons of effort and falling of the exit crimps 10 times he took some seasons off and then came back this year stronger and on a mission. After only a few days he sent which was really inspiring. The same day I felt really strong but had issues with the mono and my skin. I was so psyched and wanted the double send day so I took the tape off the upper part of my finger for my second attempt but for some reason still had trouble getting the mono. I felt like I could do one arm chin ups on the holds but couldn’t get my finger into the jam. So I just shoved it and pulled tearing the side of my finger open. I still had a lot of energy so I taped my finger really tight and had a third shot ignoring the pain. For some reason even with the tape I got the mono and stuck the lip. I pulled hard and hit the hold over the lip but my pinkie finger got stuck on the outside so I couldn’t invert. I was noticeably tired on the third attempt yet that is my high point for the season.
Mason cruising the exit on the Cobra Crack. Photo: Eliza Earle.
This was after I had cleaned up the dripping blood and shoved chalk in the hole. I taped it up and had another go hitting my high point for the season on the third shot of the day. Photo: Drew Smith.
 I have had one terrible day on micro traction since then and I feel some long-term fatigue settling in. Rest days are in order and it has got really hot here anyway. I still have plenty of time for some good attempts. Some days I think it will be next shot and then some days I feel I could easily just keep falling there all season and never send. That’s the mental challenge when projecting hard things though. My motto now is to ‘just keep turning up’. I hope I will have one of my strong attempts and the mono will go in straight away. If not I guess I will have to train harder!
Amazing bivouac on the Sky Pilot ridge during a rest break from the project.