Friday, 8 February 2008


I finished work on the 21st and headed back to Manchester for a day of R&R. The forecast was set to be good for the next week or so and I was keen to get back on The Groove. The HotAches crew turned up late Monday night and on Tuesday morning, we all jammed into a car and headed to Cratcliffe. The Conditions were pretty good, very cold but a little damp from the day before. The day went fairly well, I managed to link the crux section a few times and towards the end of the session, toproped the whole route, in one, with no falls. The moves and rock were feeling good and sticky but unfortunately, I cut my finger on the upper part of the route leaving no chance for a lead attempt. We filmed a few practice falls and gear tests with myself and a bag of rocks. Once again, my feet touch the floor before the rope came tight, and I started to realise the seriousness of what lay ahead.

I took a rest day on Wednesday to give my finger chance to heal and to do some DIY. HotAches came around to film some interviews with my girlfriend and I before very kindly taking us out for a great curry, just the kind of fuel you need for climbing a hard route.

All the plans started to fall into place. On arriving at the crag on Thursday, HotAches and David Simmonite, my photographer, were already at the crag. We were joined shortly after by my friend Keith who had agreed to belay. Having the right belayer for a hard route is incredibly important. You need to be confident and relaxed about each other’s ability, I knew that Keith would do everything he could to keep me safe and this gave me one less thing to worry about. I set up a toprope and started to work the moves. My finger was carefully taped to protect my cut but I was still worried about damaging it again. It felt really warm, the sun was beating down onto the wall and I was finding it hard to do the moves. I worked out a slightly different sequence that was more powerful and involved a bigger dyno but allowed me to miss out a very slopey hold.

I climbed the crux section a few times and decided that today was the day to go for the lead. After a few practice falls for Keith to get used to the belay setup and my style on the route I decided to rest and let the sun sink lower in the sky. The temperature dropped and I got back on for my final few goes. Something was wrong, I kept falling off the last move, and my feet felt really insecure and kept skidding off the marginal smears. I couldn’t understand why things seemed so different and I put it down to nerves. I decided to have one last try on a rope, with all my effort, to decide weather I should attempt to lead the route or call it a day. I fell off the last move, with my fingers in the break, getting the ropes wrapped round my legs and flipping me upside down.

My heart sank, I was sure that I would have been able to do it. I made my way to the top and stripped my rope. My friends all assumed that it was over for the day and comforted me with kind words. I was quiet whilst walking back to the bottom but inside had already decided to lead the route. I told everyone how I was feeling and started to prepare, it was starting to go dark as I squeaked my boots clean. Something didn’t feel right and on closer inspection I found a large hole, right on the crucial bit of my left shoe. That explained everything, why all of a sudden I had started to fall earlier; I had ripped a hole in my shoe whilst practicing the moves. When you have a hole in your rubber, all of the integrity of the sole disappears and your feet feel like they are rolling off the rock. I was so psyched to lead the rout that I was still thinking about leading it until the rational, clear headed voice of my friends brought me back to reality.

I have to go to work for 1 week tomorrow. The rock and route will still be there, I will be back

No comments: