Friday, 8 February 2008
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
Wow, 10 days since my last blog and England is starting to flood, seriously! We have had so much rain it is starting to become funny, in a “going out of my mind” kind of way. I cant even remember what I have done until a few days ago, it is all just blurring into a boring, soggy haze.
Finally, the weather was forecast to be good for the 15th and so I made plans to head back to Cratcliffe. Surprise, surprise, it was pouring when I woke up in Manchester but after a quick call to my Mum, I found out Matlock (nr Cratcliffe) was dry with blue skies. I left a sodden Manchester with hope for a good day but with every mile of wet roads that passed my hope faded. Cratcliffe looked grim, huge seepage lines were visible from the road and the air was warm and humid. A walked in hoping for a miracle but on arriving at the Groove, I found the rock green and scrittly. I decided not to try the groove section so not to regress on my last session but to ab the line and try the upper arête (looks about E6 6c) as well as finalise what gear I need for the crucial low protection. Conditions were horrendous and no amount of chalk or brushing seemed to have any effect on the slime. I tried in vain to climb the top arête but only succeeded in bashing my knee as my foot flew of a high smear. Down I went to work out the gear and found it a lot trickier to place than I thought it would be. Eventually I worked out the best combination, two ropes, some sliders and a ¼ and ½ wire, not bombproof but good enough, especially for micro wires. I was ready to pack up but decided to give the lower groove one try just to see if I could manage the easier moves in the bad conditions and was amazed to find myself quickly at the last move. I couldn’t understand it, all the holds felt poor, but I just sempt to be sticking to the rock. I chalked and brushed the holds and tried again, falling again on the last move. I became very psyched at the thought of climbing the whole crux section in one for the first time, then it started to drizzle! I tried my best to keep the holds dry and had a few more close attempts. My finger felt raw from the crucial pebble, one last try before I sacked it off. I brushed and chalked the holds, abed to the start and pulled on. The satisfaction of latching the last hold for the first time was great, even though I wasn’t on the lead. I worked my way up the rest of the wall and stripped my gear.
I really don’t understand what happened today, Grit is a strange, mysterious rock and just when you think you are beginning to understand it, something crazy happens and messes it all up. I am pretty confident that I can do the route. The long range forecast is good for next week and I have a film company coming down to document what happens, but if England is its usual mixed up self, it will probably piss it down all week… - JP