A few days after Gerty Berwick, I headed back up to Ilkley with a few other personal projects in mind. Onsight/flash/ground up was the plan of attack, and all seemed good until I unpacked my bag and found I was missing a rope – bugger. Surprising the urge to drop to the floor screaming and pounding my fists, I decided on plan B, which turned out to be much the same as plan A, just without the aforementioned string but a load of foam instead.
With my choice of routes altered, It was time for the worst 20minutes of the day. My boots felt extra tight, which I hoped may take away from the pain I knew was on its way. No such luck; as my fingers touched rock and took my weight, all feeling ran for cover and was replaced by the oh so familiar stingy-numby-ache. Drop off, stuff my hands in my armpits, bounce around, do it again...
It feels as if it will never get easier, but you know it will, and you tell yourself this, and eventually you believe again – time for the main event. Route number one was to be Cindy Crawford, a john Dunne route on the back of the Calf from 2001. After warming up on the start, I began to find a sequence through the strange and chalk less features and after a few goes, and a lot of drop knees made it to the rail right at the top. It was here all previous knowledge of the route vanished and I had 2 choices; a move out right to the right arête, or a few more moves up and left through blank and green rock.
I dropped off, gathered my thoughts and climbed back up. I thought I had spied an edge in the green blankness during my last attempt and this was my goal. Arriving back at the rail, I looked up at the distant mystery hold, and down at the distant floor. Sadly the edge turned out to be nothing, but happily I managed to fall in control and decided to return to fight another day armed with some beta straight from the horse’s mouth (update: turns out you go to the arête – ho hum).
Route number two for the highball treatment was Desperate Dan. First climbed by BIG Ron in 1979, Desperate Dan is a funny little affair. The whole arête looks stunning and on first glance there appears to be no holds on the lower half and it looks highly improbable! It is only when you find out the actual route starts half way up, by stepping off the adjacent boulders that things begin to make sense. Once you leave the boulders, the route comprises of about 3 to 6 (depending on your sequence) insecure moves to reach the sanctuary of good holds and a few more steady pulls to the top.
I jumped on the route and climbed excitedly to the top; the moves were fun and the holds were really pleasant and unusual for Gritstone. Light rain began to fall and so I quickly hopped back on for some pickies, and tried an alternate sequence which was fewer moved but a bit less secure – still fun non the less. Turning to spotting duty, I watched the rain get heavier and the ground get wet. Whilst spotting friends, I couldn’t help but look at the lower arête and eventually noticed bumps, which turned into holds, which turned into a potential sequence.
Fortunately, the route was just about staying dry, but the dampness now so obviously present, would certainly not help matters. On went my boots, and I huddled in the corner beneath the route in an attempt to keep my feet dry. The holds were slopey and awkward, but I imagine this will be due in part to the conditions. After being spat off a few times, I figured out a slightly different hand position on the crux sloper and slapped into the start of the original, only to fall due to poor footwork.
What is this all about? What is the point? I looked around at the now deserted crag and over at the small group of friends still laughing and joking in the ever increasing drizzle. I am sure from an outsider’s viewpoint, this would appear absolutely pointless, even to the extent of being a bit silly, but to us it made perfect sense. I squeaked my boots, chalked my paws, and climbed from the floor to the top, nearly killing myself on the way down as a pidgin flew out of its nest making me jump and squeal like a girl.
Climbed as either a route or a highball, the direct start to Desperate Dan makes the experience much more complete. The climbing on the lower arête was quite a lot harder than the upper section and would be pretty fun in its own right, if you left your balls at home. I don’t know if it has been climbed before, the usual suspects say not, but you never know. If no one steps up to claim this monumental prize, then I put forward the incredibly imaginative name of Desperate Dan Direct. Shika ding!