Manic Strain

Since coming back from my summer van tour I've been quite busy with work and the weather has been generally wet, apparently it's been the wettest summer in the UK for 100 years! After a long trip with plenty of European sun it took a while to re-adjust back to the North Wales climate. However I can't complain too much, I've still managed a fair few good days out climbing. The highlights over the past month or so are (in no particular order) Cockblock E5 6b on Clogwyn y Grochan (not on-sight), Soap on a Rope E4 6a DWS in Vivan Quarry, Warpath E5 6a at Rhoscolyn, climbing on Cloggy for the first time doing Main Wall E4 6a and the even better Pinnacle Arête E2 5c.

Soap on a Rope, Vivian Quarry DWS

A few days ago I managed a successful red-point of Manic Strain 8a in Vivian Quarry. The route was the first 8a to be put up on slate by John Redhead back in 1986, cutting edge stuff. At the time it was only the fouth bolt protected 8a in the UK (I think?) after Jerry Moffat's Masterclass in 1983, Revelations in 1984 and Ben Moon's Statement of Youth in 1984. It's fair to say the route is a Redhead 'creation', a fair amount of chipping was involved to make the route. While this would not be in good style today, the route is however celebrated as the classic test piece it is; after all the route has been well chipped and contains some absolutely fantastic moves!

Kicking off the Manic Strain project on a cold showery day in March..

...that's more like it! View from top of the route in summer sunshine 
The North Wales Slate guidebook describes the route as “Marmite”, some love it and some hate it. I hate Marmite, especially with avocado and cheese! I do however like
long thrusting moves between harsh cracks and minute edges lead up the smooth golden wall to an 'all-or-nothing' rock-over for the finishing crack.” -a great description of the route from the NW Slate guidebook, although personally I would have added the words “finger-tip shredding” in there somewhere!

Will on the lower crux which involves taking body weight on  your little finger jammed in a sharp crack!
The route took me 6 sessions over 6 months to work out the intricacies of the line, 3 sessions were spent working out the moves, Luke Brooks worked out some key short person beta for the lower moves I was struggling on. Then three evening red-point sessions were needed to link it all together. The route is harder for the short, the crux for me was quite low down, a V7ish technical boulder problem to reach the second bolt.

Air time! 
On Monday I'm looking forward to heading back to Vivian to give Will Oates a belay on the route, he came so close last week, coming off on the upper section of the top crack. The route will be his first 8a, good luck Will!

Calum Musket putting in a good effort, getting to the rock-over first go after not being on the route for months  (video below)
I really enjoy these brutal slate challenges, after having done The Dark Half and now Manic Strain (Both are at the top (for no real reason) of Steve Maclure's super 8a UK routes). I've been looking around for other similar challenges to get stuck into. The Medium 8a on Seamstress slab is an obvious challenge to round off the trio of classic slate 'hards'. However being a slab I'm sure I will find it desperate! I quite fancy having a look at Cwms the Dog Fish 8a and Chitra 7c+ both put up in the 80's by the visionary Nick Harms who also put up the Dark Half. Nick was one of the first to use bolt protection to put up routes which tackled the blankest looking slate walls around.


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