Since I came back from the Peak District on April the 11th I've been pretty busy, but now it's definitely time to sum up my experience as many interesting things happened during last two months. I left from Parma with my dear Skoda Roomster packed with gear on February 11th... destination Brussels, where I attended a two day advanced video workshop with Philip Bloom, organised by my friend Haroun Souirji.
It has been quite useful and fun, as we had the opportunity to shoot and edit a little 30 seconds short, and it really helped me realize what I need to learn and what I'm already capable of. You can find a collection of shorts that were shot on the occasion here, there's some pretty good stuff for a couple of hours filming inside a hotel and a short editing session at night!
After Brussels I went straight to Sheffield. I could not wait to see the Peak District again, and when I finally entered in town driving down Chesterfield road, I felt like coming back home. A really nice feeling, which I used to have only when arriving in Fontainebleau... it's nice to have a second "home away from home" now.
The day after my arrival the Peak was still lightly covered by snow, but a few days of good weather soon came along and I had the opportunity to get back into gritstone doing some classics like "Low Rider" 7c+, "Great White" 7c+ (which I added of a nice and scary top out), "Silk" E6 6c and "White Wand" E5 6a.
Unfortunately good weather didn't last long, and it soon turned back into clouds and rain. Not even good to take pictures I just sticked to training trying to prepare at best for my main goal: Voyager sitstart, which I wanted to send before warm weather kicked in, and leave some time for more trad climbing.
As days passed I had some mixed weather, it was generally cold but quite humid and still. I tried several times Voyager but I constantly kept falling on the release from a heel hook, quite close to the end, but there was no sign of improvement with such conditions. I was confident anyway, almost certain to get some dry windy days at some point... and in fact I did, but not under Voyager, as I will explain later on.
At the same time I had some fun trying the technical slab of "Walk on By" 7c+, which required a few visits, and taking part as usual at the CWIF competition, proudly member of the Beastmaker team together with Ned, Will and Mina. I did surprisingly good in the qualifiers, coming second overall, probably too good, as the next day I did a complete disaster in the semis (as usual) and had to get out on grit straight away to get off some steam (usual again). In the evening I came back to watch the finals and then everybody went out for a curry... happy ending. (did I say usual? :-) )
One day I also got some luck: quite tired after a long session on Voyager the former day I went out with
friends to try Superbloc 8a+, an amazing boulder problem that looks like one in Fontainebleau, but definitely climbs like a gritstone classic, needing cold weather and good skin to drag a few poor tiny pockets using the worst feet imaginable.
The day was perfect: cold, windy and with occasional clouds masking the sun. I could not ask for better, and after some fight with it I found myself at the top of the problem. I was quite surprised as I've been trying that since my first visit three years ago and was not even feeling close. Gritstone is like that, one day you can't move and the next one you stick to everything. After Superbloc only one boulder problem remained on the list... Voyager sit! But weather showed up with an unexpected gift... SNOW!
Right at the time my father and a couple of friends from Parma came to visit, we got stuck for a couple of days under a heavy snow storm accompanied by strong winds... nothing much I could show them apart from some circuits at the Climbing Works and a tour of the nicest pubs in town where we could taste a complex variety of real ales...
After the storm passed it was impressive to see how much snow there was up there... the wind moved and packed huge drifts of snow under the crags and on the roads, making it impossible to drive or reach what was left of the crags... it was time to buy some gaiters and prepare for some long hikes in the snow. The goal was to go there clean the rocks and build some nice and flat snow landings, waiting for some highball action once the crags would have dried out.
Weather gave us a couple of weeks of dry sunshine, staying quite cold and windy, and making the snow quite compact. Unfortunately winds kept blowing from east all of the time, making it really sheltered and even warm at Burbage north under Voyager, while on the other side, at Burbage west conditions were just perfect... very frustrating.
Anyway, finally good weather had come back, and even if condition were not good enough for Voyager, there were plenty of things I could climb, and the nice snow platforms under the routes were certainly an occasion not to be missed. Going out almost every day, fighting at times with cold wind and at times with boiling sunshine I satisfied my need of rock, and I made the most out of this awaited period of nice weather.
Among the things I wanted to try most were a couple of aretes at Burbage south: Messiah E7 6c and Simba's Pride E8 6b. The first one is a proper route with a hard 7b/7c boulder move at mid height, while the second one is a scary and tall boulder problem with a deadly jump right at the top... Messiah was really fun: as I was getting too cold placing gear in the first break before the crux, I preferred to carry on to the good one just above it when I did the route, but I still got really cold placing gear and finishing it up... nightmare!
Simba's Pride was even scarier: I wanted to try it "ground up" without a top rope inspection, but when I got to the final jump and had to engage I was simply too scared and I could do nothing else than trying to jump down as controlled as I could. Even with some snow on the ground the fall was really nasty and after the second one my sore knees forced me to stop. Back on my decision, I tried the jump with a rope, but that felt not as easy as I thought it would feel... (yes, I definitely suck at jumping!). I have to thank my friend Jake who took courage and finally climbed the line: his effort gave me back motivation and I also went for it instead of giving up. What a day!
If I could not finish Voyager and it was too cold for trad climbing there was one thing I absolutely wanted to do: Samson. I've been dreaming of this route since I've seen Jerry Moffatt top roping it in the video Hard Grit. The line is tall but it's definitely possible to try above pads, and a few people already did, like my friend Ned last year, making me very envious.
The problem starts with an easy crack, reaches an obvious hole in the middle of the blank wall and crosses to a pocket you use to finish up a line of rounded edges. The climbing is quite powerful on fairly big holds but all you have for your feet is just a bunch of poor pebbles that are quite hard to use. You can climb, take your time to chalk up in the hole, and then carry on for the upper crux. Definitely one of the best things I climbed in my life: a tall hard 8a boulder problem, one that you will never forget of. Thanks James for spotting and supporting me!
During last few days temperature started to warm up and you could definitely feel spring was coming. I briefly tried Voyager again without much hope of success (never give up), but at least I could move to try a few routes on a nearby wall, the one where "The Promise" is, before the snow platform would completely melt.
So one day together with Ned (like on The Promise last year) we did the third and fourth ascent of Miles Gibson's route "Superstition" E8 7a?. Probably a fingery and pebbley 7c boulder problem above pads (and snow), just slightly harder than the Promise, with a final scary jump for the ledge. Now just one route was left for me on the boulder, and thanks to the snow I managed to climb on my own with three pads "Living in Oxford" E7 6c on my last day... after that a final session at the Works (just in case), and a good pie at the Broadfield with James... next day I would find myself on the ferry back to Italy.