Saturday, 5 July 2008

Day 3

My toes were still sore and the prospect of another long day standing on tiny edges was not a pleasant one. Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on perspective, the weather forecast showed heavy rain moving in at midday and so I decided on spending the morning focusing on two short sections of the route; the bold start, and the sustained upper crux. The reasons for practicing the bold start are fairly obvious, but I also wanted to make sure I had the most efficient foot sequence for the upper crux to make sure I have the best possible chance of succeeding on the unrelenting hard moves to the top of the wall.

I set up the fixed ropes as simply as possible and packed up the remainder of my gear to allow for a quick escape in case of sudden downpour. As I stepped over the edge, the now familiar feeling of being very insignificant flooded back to me. The wall feels so vast. I have spent a time climbing on much bigger walls but these are all split up with belays, ledges, or other features and somehow don’t feel quite as massive. This wall on the other hand is featureless, there is nothing to take your attention from the fact you are very small, and utterly alone.

I slid slowly to the bottom of the wall, checking out potential gear placements and pulling on holds trying to warm my fingers up. After donning some comfortable shoes to ease the pain on my toes I pulled on to the first moves of the route and began to climb. The moves felt surprisingly hard and I juts managed them, move by move by the skin of my teeth. I went back down to refine my sequence and started to fall off most of the moves. The rock felt really greasy and the moves felt uncomfortable, I imagined myself on the lead and the thought was frightening. One move in particular sees a long reach, to a “wrong way slanting” edge, off a “wrong way slanting” foothold. As you stretch and reach over yourself, your foot is less and less on the hold and you pray that it will remain in contact long enough to allow you to get a precise hold on the wrong way slanting” edge. Blowing this move will see you falling towards the boulders, 10 meters below, flipping forwards as you fall.

I continued to practice the moves and decided on a favoured overall sequence. I gave the whole sequence an attempt to see if I could manage it, despite the bad conditions, if I dug deep and gave all my efforts. I made it to the good holds and the first good gear with a couple of minor slips. It felt hard but it gave me confidence that I could do it if I tried hard.

Here is a short clip of the very bold first 10m. The ground is about 3m below my feet at the start.

I abed back down and walked to the top of the crag. Fine droplets of rain had started to fall and HotAches had already packed up. I wanted to look at one last section before I called it a day so I quickly abed back in. I lowered myself to the start of the upper crux, trying to memorise the holds and sequence on my way past. I started to climb and steadily made upwards progress. I had a lot of excess gear on my harness, acting as a kind of weight belt and wore my comfortable boots because of my sore toes. Even with these hindrances, I remembered the sequence and successfully linked to the top with a big smile on my face.

Quickly I packed up my equipment and walked back to the car. On the way I considered my thoughts and feelings about my progress on the route. I am happy with what I have so far achieved and feel that with a little bit more work on one specific section on the upper wall I may be ready to get on the sharp end on my next session.

Unfortunately, the rain looks set to stay for today and tomorrow but at the moment, Sunday looks good. I am going to head back to Keith’s house for a rest day and to make plans. If all stays as it is now, then I will return on Sunday for a possible lead attempt.

How exciting...

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