My girlfriend woke and told me the weather looked good. We ate a healthy breakfast and phoned round our friends and family to find out what the weather was like in other areas. I almost decided to head back to Cratcliffe but remembered the project at Ilkley and thought it would be a good idea to put my apparent good form to the test. The closer we got to Ilkley, the worse the weather got and I was beginning to feel I had made the wrong decision. I met my photographer at the rather damp crag and we headed up to check it out. After warming up, I dropped a rope down the project wall. The project had been tried by many of the best British climbers for the last decade as it is a glaringly obvious, beautifully blank piece of rock. It is hard right from the floor and gets harder and more dangerous the higher you get. The climbing is very varied, with all off dynos, leading to micro crimping, leading to more dynos. I started to try individual moves and was alarmed to find I couldn’t even pull on to a few positions. The holds in the middle are tiny and spaced, this really is a hard piece of climbing. After warming my fingers up some more, I began to work out the most efficient way to move on the wall and eventually managed all the moves and linked a few short sections. I sripped my gear knowing that it was possible, super hard, but possible. It will take a lot of physical and mental preparation, and be ridiculously scary to lead but I believe that I can climb it, and in doing so, take grit climbing to a new level.
Before I left the apartment that morning, I had ideas of trying to on-sight a route called Death Watch. It is graded E7 6b which essentially means the climbing is relatively easy, but very dangerous. You can’t fall off! On arriving at the crag, the route looked very damp and I almost forgot about wanting to try it but after feeling pretty good on the project, I headed over to take a look, just in case. It looked ok, but I couldn’t be 100% sure if the top slopers were clean and dry. My girlfriend, Emily, kindly offered to take a look on a rope and brush the holds so I quickly set up a belay, racing against the fading light. As Emily made her way down the route, I ran around, trying to keep warm. The sun disappeared and everything felt eerie and tense. I made jokes with my photographer to lighten the mood whilst putting on my rock boots but still was unsure if I really wanted to go for it. Emily must have sensed how I was feeling and told me “Don’t worry, you’ll be fine, you’ll cruise it”, just the words I needed to hear. It was really dark and I was struggling to see the footholds. A guy who we had met earlier that day offered me his head torch as a joke, “what a great idea” I thought, and thankfully took it from him, before chalking my hands a final time and heading up into the unknown. The climb went smoothly and I really enjoyed it. I had a big smile on my face the whole way home. What a fun day!