The friction is perfect.
I can tell because of how my shoes are sticking to the rock. Now, I don't know why this works - frankly the wikipedia entry for 'friction' has left me baffled, and also relieved I don't have to know any of that shit for it to work.
The effect is really pronounced though. I am not particularly experienced at jamming or crack climbing, but I really notice how grippy my shoes are. One foot jam is barely worthy of the name: I haven't torqued it in, the shoe is just very lightly jammed between my little toe and a patch near my heel. Yet it is absolutely bomber. I stand on it easily, my other foot barely toeing the face of the outside slab, my hands poking around in a slimy puddle- because you can't have everything.
I can imagine that the cold improves the friction of the rubber: when I used to fit solar panels to industrial roofs it was really obvious how plastic components and insulation tape changed physically in the cold, becoming brittle and snappy, breaking more easily.
What I can't understand is why my hand jams are dropping in so beautifully. I haven't applied any finger tap, so after a crack or two they should be like mince: but no. Every time I have put a jam in it has locked with absolutely no slipping. Twin this with the added efficiency of my feet and therefore a slightly improved technique and it feels like a totally different experience of jamming.
Now, the stuff me and Sam are doing is piss. But for our mates Lee and Kelv, not so.
Lee is on a hard and hyper-technical project, and the conditions must be right. After a tricky mantle the perfect slab beckons. The footholds - hah! vaguest of dishes - have been brushed free of the green algae. This forms tiny greasy nodules which remind me of bobbles of engineering grease on old windmills, or fat coagulated around a bit of burnt egg in a heart-attack frying pan.
The slab is the perfect angle. Shallower, with flatter dishes - it would be really do-able. Steeper, it would just be impossible. As it is, it requires a perfect balance between the minimum application of force, momentum and the friction of your feet before you can palm down and mantel the top.
Too much force through a foot will spit off the other foot, too little and no friction is created. It is micr-dynamic, because you need to use the momentum of the position you have just left to get the next foot down and be able to lift the back foot. It is sooo delicate, but you can't just do it one step at a time, it has to be done in a single dynamic sequence.
Thinking about it is truly mind-fucking. Lee however manages to reduce it to: 'You've got to sort of just fall, upwards. Does that make sense?'
It doesn't until we see him do some of the moves, making fractional improvements each time, getting a foot placement further each go. You can see the lightness of movement, then a slip and a crash into the pads.
With absolutely dismal timing, Sam and I head off for another route. When we come back, Lee has done it.
Lee previously said that if he ever completed this project he would happily retire, knowing that he had done it. We ask him what he will do in his retirement.
He says 'More climbing, probably.'
- Peter Goulding