After one of the South West’s recent storms, many people were left wondering what state our crags would be in. Following a boulder rearrangement, Alex Waterhouse and his coach Mikey Cleverdon have had a very impressive day at Tintagel North, Cornwall! Between them managing to complete projects and rack up multiple font 8 boulders. We caught up with the pair to find out exactly what went on.
The bouldering season was seemingly over a while ago – where have you guys managed to find some decent temps?
Climbing at your limit can definitely be tricky as things start to warm up! Fortunately, living in the south west, you can be reasonably tactical. By avoiding the moorland granite and heading to the coast, with a cool breeze most venues give reasonable conditions, even during the afternoon. Recently, I’ve been putting some time in at Tintagel, trying some new projects.
Granite doesn’t climb well in the heat, but the coast is great – especially Tintagel! I haven’t been able to get out much this year with training for the European bouldering comp circuit, so I grab any chance I can at getting out on the rock, whatever the weather.
You’re not still shuffling around underneath the Wave at Bonehill then? What new projects have you been working on?
Haha! No – I’m not shuffling underneath the Wave. I must say however, the last winter’s projects have been some of my favorite of all time!
It became apparent via social media that one of the rather large boulders had been washed away, leaving a whole new area of rock to climb on. Naturally, I was psyched to get down and check it out! To my excitement I found that a previous project/ FA of mine was climbable from a much lower and more logical start. This also meant other link-ups where highly plausible! Over the following months I set to work trying to link the new lower start/ roof section into some of the original straight-up problems. I decided to start by trying a link from the new start into ‘All Along the Watchtower’, 7A+/B. For me it seemed like the most aesthetic and natural line. I managed to get all the moves in a couple of sessions, eventually dropping the last move!
One of the following sessions, Alex and I hooked up and I introduced him to the crag – thinking that these projects would suit him very well! Unfortunately, we were scuppered by poor weather, which lead to a hilarious (and scary!) experience of Alex climbing the classic ‘AWOL Apprentice, 7C is the soaking wet – in between wave sets as it got dark! We finally returned to Tintagel last week, with far better conditions and a large crew. After Alex succeeded on a new line (more details below!), the psyche was running high and I decided to give the ‘… Watchtower’ low start project a go from the start. I got it first go! Naming the problem ‘Knights of the Round Table’ and proposing a grade of 8A. Now with even more psyche, I was keen to give Dan Turner’s new line ‘Path of Daggers’, 7C+ a try from the same new, low start. With a good bit of group encouragement I was stoked to manage this as well on just my second go of the day, after weeks of trying! I suppose I’d say that this bumps the grade to 8A aswell.
Without the very wet conditions, Alex got to work on some new lines and link-ups. What happened next managed to completely blow the crowd away…
Alex, it sounds like your first trip to Tintagel was rather unfavorable, did you notice any potential new lines despite the weather?
With the rain, my first visit was spent pretty much entirely in the cave at the top. Mikey talked me through the established lines on the main bloc, as well as his projects out of the roof so I was really psyched to get back on a dry day! I didn’t actually spy any new lines that day, but I did notice the potential for all sorts of testing links on the bloc. As Mikey mentioned, I managed to climb a rather wet ‘AWOL…’, 7C. I could tell the style of the climbing and the rock were going to suit me.
So with drier conditions and bit of a breeze, how did it go? Do we have some FA’s to get excited about?
Mikey mentioned a right hand finish to ‘AWOl…’ had not yet been done, so I set about working it out. It actually went quite quickly in the end, utilizing some pretty unlikely holds moving out right from the top of the ‘AWO…’ ramp/rail. In terms of the grade for this, I’d say it was harder than AWOL and probably around 7C+, though time and some repeats will confirm this of course. I managed to then repeat ‘Path of Daggers’, 7C+ and grab the second ascent of ‘Gypsy Eyes (original start)’, 7C+/8A – by which time Mikey had topped his projects (‘Knights of the…’, 8A). I couldn’t resist the temptation and decided to give one of Mikey’s projects a go as well. With some beta, I managed to repeat ‘Knights of the Round Table’, 8A – grabbing the second ascent.
The only thing left was the full line of the crag – the far left new/low start all the way to the far right ‘AWOL…’ right hand finish (and Path of Daggers low). This looked like it may be a long time project, as I only just made it up ‘AWOL…’ right hand, let alone adding 15 more moves! I went for the burn and somehow managed to get within 3 moves of the top on my first go. After resting for a while – and whilst the sun was setting – I managed to top out with shaking arms and uncurling fingers, completing what I believe is my hardest boulder to date.
I’m going to call it Merlin’s Beard, as I have always associated Tintagel with Merlin, even before climbing there. Besides, the wall doesn’t have enough Arthurian names! I think getting up this was a real testament to the training that I have been doing with Mikey over the last few months, and really showed me how much I have improved while he has been coaching me.
Go on then, what sort of grade and difficulty are we talking about for the big link-up?
This is something I have been wrestling over for the last week. On the one hand, it is a whole lot of moves into a hard finish and the climbing suits me perfectly – so it could be quite hard. However, it only took me a few goes to link it all together and I knew all the moves from the other problems it travels through pretty well. I think I was actually really lucky to get up it as fast as I did, and it could have become a real mental battle if I had started to make mistakes.
I think I’m going to take a bit of a risk and give it 8A+/B, but I haven’t climbed anything that hard before so it really does need someone to repeat it and confirm either way.
I didnt manage to get ‘Path of Daggers (low start)’ in the end, being burnt out from the other shenanigans!
What a successful session! How long have you known Alex and been coaching Alex?
I’ve been coaching Alex for around 8 years, we met not long after he started climbing. He joined The Barn Youth Climbing Club quite early on and became one of the first individuals to train within the first youth climbing squad I started in the area. One of the most fortunate things of coaching youths are watching them grow and develop, often into lovely individuals, developing relationships and getting to climb with young psyched individuals, I also think it helps keep the soul youthful too!
I have always found working with psyched youth pushes my climbing as much as climbing with my regular partners. Often younger, new generations have an ability to perceive things that even we as coaches cannot see ourselves and their undeniable confidence to keep trying is so inspiring. It certainly motivates! I’m very passionate about coaching and training with others and myself. I’ve enjoyed developing this passion over many years! Anyone interested in receiving some coaching, feel free to get in touch with me by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or drop me a message on Facebook, I provide coaching all over Devon and further afield.