Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Dusk Till Dawn E8 - Flash

The Bottom of Terminal Twilight looked like a river, which seemed to put an premature end to my plan of flashing the beautiful “Dusk Till Dawn”, an E8 established last year by Dave Pickford. Hopeful that the slimy torrent was simply the result of rain before my arrival, I asked Dave about his experience on the route, only to find out he had been forced to wait until late summer for the beginning to dry in order to make his ascent. Merde!

Dusk Till Dawn (traverse in from the above the orange thread on the left) and the full line of the project (begins from the low right chalk)

I remembered hearing a rumour about a potential direct start, so with some time to kill one day I decided to lower down the wall to look for myself. After lowering past the existing section of DTD (I still had dreams to flash this route so trying it was off bounds), which looked even more beautiful close up, I began searching out the holds from the featureless rock and was surprised to find a complete sequence. The route would begin up The Black Lagoon for the first 13m, and as the rock changes from murky grey into pinky white, move directly up the wall to join DTD at the end of its initial traverse, 10m above. From here, one simply has to climb directly into the crux of DTD, without any of the bomber gear, and finish up this route to the top of the cliff.

The moves were hard but all possible, and the start was in slightly better condition than Terminal Twilight, making the whole line seem very possible given a little concentrated psyche and effort. The only thing that held me back, was the fact I still wanted to flash DUD, and by devoting myself to this new line, I would be throwing away that chance. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that there was a serious runnout during the hard section, which would quickly turn out to be a very serious runout if the rusty old peg I planned to tie off turned out to be as unreliable as it looked. Scary!

A few days passed and still no rain, I hoped and prayed that TT would be dry(er) but from the cliff top, all seemed the same. I decided to lower in to the leap anyway just in case my long sight was deceptive, it wasn’t. Water was still running down the cliff, but over enough “big jugs” that I thought things might be possible. Caroline joined me at the bottom, this would be her first “real” experience of belaying hard trad and I wanted her to feel as comfortable as possible. I gave her a quick briefing of what I planned to do, where I expected it to be hard, and where I planned to place protection, gave her a quick kiss and set off, trying to appear as relaxed as possible.

Copyright David Simmonite

Unfortunately, the bottom of the wall was still dripping from its recent submersion, and despite how positive the holds were, the 6b moves right off the floor came as quite a shock causing a few grunts to escape my lips. After prolonged shuffling up the wet rock, which was a little spicy at one point due to the demise of 2 pegs , I finally found myself at the junction with Dusk Till Dawn, a good rest and bomber gear.

From here the route moves right for a few moves into the centre of the wall, after which it climbs directly to the top via a series of strange holds and good rests. I tried to remember everything I had seen in the video of Dave Pickford (Psyche 2), internalising the sequence of moves whilst focusing on my breathing. A quick thumbs up told Caroline I was ready, and I stepped right with a long move into a two finger pocket. I will not go into too much detail, but will say the climbing on this section is some of the best and most enjoyable I had done for months. Perfect holds, pleasant interesting moves, and bomber gear – the only thing missing (according to Caroline) was a section of steep tufa! I guess you can’t have it all…

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