Thursday, August 5, 2010

John Horscroft - Faith and Friction

Don’t you just love the Grit? No? Me neither sometimes. It really is a love/hate relationship for me because climbing on the Grit is all about the three C’s, commitment, confidence and cajones and the chances of me demonstrating all three on the same day is remote. Add to that the fact that I’m not all that climbing fit at the moment and the portents aren’t good.

Chris Arnold making it stick on Crescent Arete.

Which makes it all the wierder that it was the Grit that recently boosted my confidence when a trip to Burbage South boulders put me right. Yes, I’ve been there a hundred times and, yes, I’ve done pretty much all I can do, but sometimes there’s nothing like a bit of familiarity to breed contentment. By the end of the evening I was trusting myself to hang the occasional sloper and use my feet in a way I thought beyond me when I first put hand to rock. The confidence came from the rock and the realisation that to the tree C’s should add an F. Yes, brothers and sisters, have a little faith.

Florian Mayer enjoying some Austrian singletrack

Funny thing is, I discovered recently that it’s exactly the same for mountain biking. The technical riding on my recent Austrian trip was mainly on slippery wet limestone, insecure and a bit of a lottery, like climbing on British limestone really. So coming home and riding on the grit was a revelation because what’s sauce for the climbing goose is sauce for the biking gander. There are a number of trails in the Peak where you spend almost as much time on the grit as you do on the average evenings bouldering and the way modern MB tyres stick to gritstone is astonishing – it’s as though the tyres were made by 5.10. Providing you commit and no matter how steep the angle, the bike hangs on like a leech.

Pat Horscroft at home on the Grit

The contrast was most apparent riding down through Stanage Plantation a few days after I came back from Austria. Hitting the dodgy little chutes and the tight turn at the very top of the gritstone flagged path, I suddenly felt a surge of confidence as the wheels stayed exactly where I put them. I found myself aiming for ridiculously slabby bits of rock just to test out my new found Spiderman abilities. I reckon some of it would have been at least Font 6a.

David Cook cruising the Plantation

Once through the gate into the Plantation proper, the challenge changes. It’s like riding on stepping stones, trusting the front wheel to track perfectly and avoid the sucking mud either side. I finished whooping with the fun of it all and received some odd looks from the boulderers plodding in the opposite direction. Funny thing is, I was enjoying just the same friction that they would be in a few minutes. Different folks, different strokes eh?

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