If you've ever driven around the Great Orme at Llandudno and accidentally looked left instead of the lovely sea view out right, you may have seen Mike Hart powering his way to the top of many of Parisella's Cave's classics. Recently Mike ticked Alex Megos' addition: Louis Cut, Font 8B+. Linking together Louis Armstrong (8B) and Halfway House (8A), the problem centres around a huge slap to the lip, which Mike describes as 'one of the hardest moves in the cave.'
Parisella's was the first place Mike climbed. He used to hitch lifts there with a handful of devotees who climbed at his local wall. Fast forward nearly a decade and he is now the head route setter at the Hangar in Liverpool and has turned into one of the Cave's most devoted worshippers.
'I think what got me hooked initially was the overwhelming quantity of seemingly desperate climbs to work through. I couldn't touch any of them at first. But thankfully the cave rewards persistence. And indoor climbing, which I'd done a lot of, seemed to translate well.'
One of the reasons why there's such an overwhelming quantity of hard climbs is that once you've finished a problem, there's always a logical way of making it harder: a sit start, adding on a harder finish, going right instead of left. It can be addictive: 'Its pure power climbing in its essence and there's no hiding from that. I'm also much better at power endurance than anything else so I might be slightly biased.'
Louis Cut was first done by Megos in 2016 and has been left unrepeated since. Mike had completed all the components of the climb over several years, which is probably why he managed to climb the problem in 4 attempts over 2 sessions. Intricate knowledge of the Cave is essential for the harder test pieces. Mike puts some of his success down to the 'training' he did in the Cave over the past year or so:
'Loucifer, an 8B+ I added to the cave a year ago or so, was probably the best training I did for Louis Cut without realising it, as it adds lots of hard moves before the crux slap to the lip instead of after… much harder.'
A lot of route setters struggle to balance their work with consistently climbing at a high level. Injuries and fatigue set in and far longer recovery times are needed:
'It's a tough balance between staying fit and not getting injured. There are a lot of positives to being a setter, it certainly keeps you in shape and you can set yourself projects to work on. On the flip side, if you pick up an injury it can be hard to shake. I'm currently battling a repetitive strain in my index finger/wrist, not ideal and hard to recover from when your job is so repetitive on specific areas of the body. Hopefully, I'll manage to beat it.
'I set 3 - 4 times per week so any training I do is often after a full day setting, meaning I tend to not do great amounts anymore. I've done a lot of training in the past thankfully; all I try to do now is maintain a good base level and make odd little improvements here and there.'
Mike recently found the balance on a trip to Ticino, Switzerland. He went without expectations and had done very little training in preparation. He completed his goal of 'a couple of 8As' in one day and went on to climb 10 in total, all of them classics: 'We were all blown away by the scenery and quality of the climbing there, Brione in particular. Lots of blue-sky days surrounded by snowy peaks with crystal clear rivers cascading down. A dream trip' for me really and I'm already looking forward to going back for some of the even harder stuff.'
When Mike does find time for training it's not particularly structured and he tends to stick to sporadic board and fingerboard sessions. Finger strength is a weakness he has identified, and he can often be found strapping weight to himself and dangling off small edges, or isolating groups of 2 or 3 fingers at a time. Thankfully, for someone who climbs in the Cave so often power endurance comes naturally.
Mike's mission with the Cave isn't complete yet. He has problems left to tick but also wants to turn his attention to some of the harder sport climbs on the Great Orme, particularly and 8c+ first climbed by Pete Robins in Pigeon's Cave: 'It's an incredible route, the only one that breaches the horizontal section of roof down there. The climbing is very gymnastic and compression dependant, countless heel hooks, knee bars and a nice big cut loose. I've not tried many routes, but I can't see any being better than this for me.'
All conversations lead back to the Cave: 'There's also the possibility of linking Loucifer into Halfway House (8B+ into 8A)…'
I guess that's why he's known as Psyche Mike.