Johnny Dawes Visits The Quay

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Saturday the 3rd of December saw the eagerly awaited arrival of the legend that is Johnny Dawes.
As 11.00 am rolled around in strolled the man himself. Having ordered a triple espresso to back up a normal cup of coffee he collapsed next to me, smiled and proceeded to give me the beta on “End of the Affair” an E8 6c at Curbar Edge that he had done the first ascent of in 1986. 
Strange you might think? 
Well not quite so strange, it was on the cover of the Climb magazine I was reading at the time. Having informed me that it was a reach dependent route that was “probably only E6 for the tall” we made our introductions and had a bit of a laugh as I told him that I would be one of his pupils in the masterclass with him rolling his eyes in mock despair at the thought of it.
Over the next 20 mins the other members of the first masterclass slowly took their places around the table and we had a team talk of sorts where he asked us general questions about what we thought climbing was about and some motivations behind our desire to climb.
Once we had all suitably embarrassed ourselves with mumbled slightly incoherent answers it was all down to the climbing area where we proceeded to practice some slightly unorthodox movement skills.

So what did I learn in the proceeding 2 hours of coaching? It’s a little bit difficult to define in words but I’ll have a go.

Johnny Dawes was on hand to provide great advice to the group

I learnt that my balance is not as good as I thought it was at least in the climbing sense. This in turn is making me less efficient when I climb thus adding to overall fatigue.
How did he show us this?
Well we were made to pick two foot holds on any slabby wall and simply jump up on to them and get in balance without touching the wall or using your hands.

This was not as simple as it first appeared and much overbalancing, wobbling and falling off ensued.

Here’s Johnny demonstrating a balancing exercise
What he was trying to show us was that if you can get in balance instantly after making a movement it saves a lot of effort and sets up the position perfectly for the next move. Deadpointing for the whole body is how I could sum it up.
Next on the agenda was using the momentum of your movement to enable you to stay attached to the wall when going for either a hard to use hold or one that is out of reach.
We all had numerous goes on different hold combinations using what I can only describe as varying levels of success, although a lot of enthusiasm.
So the idea was that you visualise which way you are going to fall off the holds and create that movement in reverse as you go to the holds. This seems to work a bit like a more complex version of Deadpointing and is incredibly useful for controlling the swing on dynamic moves.

This is me about to give the exercise a try
Other stuff we focused on was accuracy of hand and foot placements, speed of movement and how to judge the direction that hand and footholds work in.
Overall the masterclass gave me a lot to think about and as the days have gone by it seems to make a lot of sense. The techniques Johnny showed us are undoubtedly useful and with practice will definitely improve my climbing performance.

If you are the type of person that just wants to be entertained and wowed you might not get as much out of it, you really need to be able to go home and digest what was done on the day and realise how it can benefit you as an individual.
After a hectic day of Masterclasses for Johnny the evening talk was upon us.
40-50 people came along to experience the “Johnny Dawes Effect” and I don’t think anyone was disappointed. I myself was expecting something far more bizarre with a little more controversy involved than actually materialised. The talk was really well structured and themed around his new book. “Full of myself”
Johnny’s book is available in store at ¬£25 
Although the narrative was interspersed with general climbing heroics (many first ascent pictures and some cool footage of some really hard and scary routes) which were a whole lot of fun, he also showed us the intensely personal side of himself with some really nice family history stories and a few funny bits about his time in public school.

We found out that he could have been one of the pioneers of the Buildering movement (climbing buildings)
and at the private school he went to he opened up various lines on the buildings up to E7 6c.
His descriptions and feelings on the Indian face were of particular interest and showed what was going on in the climbing scene back then and the competitive natures of the top climbers of the day.

The 3 hrs went by so quickly that there wasn’t much time for Q and A but overall I thought the lecture had been really absorbing and quite good for a non climber (my partner) to go to as well. She said she really enjoyed it .
I think that a great day was had by all and I thought that the legend that is Johnny Dawes was great to have at the Quay Climbing Centre.
Hopefully there will be more days like this in the future at The Quay so keep your eyes out on their website, our website and this blog for future news.
Nick B

Nick B is Assistant Manager in our Exeter branch. He’s a keen climber and can regularly be found at the Quay Climbing Centre. 

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