In the latter part of last year I decided to put aside a couple of months to work on a couple of famous Gritstone “projects”. As you are probably aware, the weather in England sucks and planning definite climbing or training days is almost impossible. The only sure(ish) way to get things done is to have a lot of time, a lot of psyche and unrelenting optimism.
My two main projects for this season are probably the two most famous, unclimbed lines on Grit. “The Groove” at Cratcliffe” and “The wall left of The New Statesman” at Ilkley have been looked at and attempted for years without success. They are stunning lines in obvious, easily accessible locations but are just too hard for anyone to even climb the individual moves on a toprope.
I first looked at “The Groove” about 4 years ago and managed to climb most of the easier moves but got shut down on the crux, I returned a year later but had no more luck. The following year I got close to the crux move and started to think It might be possible. Last year I managed the Crux move in isolation but then found it impossible to climb into the necessary position. After a very successful year bouldering I was feeling strong both physically and mentally and ready for another try…
Finally on the 5th some cold dry weather appeared and I headed to Cratcliffe with my girlfriend. After warming up bouldering, I set up a toprope and abseiled in to position. The day was almost at an end but I had time for a few good tries. I climbed the individual moves and the rock felt good. After a few minuets for my fingers to re warm, I started to try to link sections of the route and surprised myself be climbing two sections that I had never managed before. My confidence took a boost and in the fading light I started to try to link the whole route. I fell of the final dyno 3 times, my fingers just slipping off the edge of the finishing hold. Although I didn’t actually climb the route clean, I know it is possible for me and in better conditions (ie. Daylight) I know I can do it. Darkness came and I stripped my gear before soloing the classic E2 “Fern Hill” to get back to the top of the crag. I felt contented and pleased with myself on the drive home but also a little nervous for what lies ahead. It is only really now that the real head games and sleepless nights start. To lead any hard grit route, lots of factors need to fall into place, but to lead something like “The Groove”, everything must be perfect, and lady luck must be smiling down.