With all the commotion after the Muy Caliente/Pembroke raid, followed by Melloblocco, and finally the wonderful Quello Che Non C'e - I almost completely forgot to write about Caroline’s own amazing trad achievement...
The World Cup season is on its way and so training for Caro is getting heavy, but she managed to find a little spare time to fly to England to support me. After I finished with Muy Caliente and the good weather remained, she decided it was time for her to take the lead, and have her own Pembroke Traditional adventure.
Her first trad experience was the classic E3, Pleasure Dome. The climbing was easy and so she could concentrate on spending time to figure out the correct protection. She waltzed along the route, her appearance of complete control only disrupted from time to time when pull-testing gear and a nut would pop out and hit her in the face. E3 is not cutting edge, but it far above the level of the average English climber and almost unimaginable by most as a first trad route - a good sign of things to come.
The next day she wanted to try something harder, and decided to take things to the top, choosing an E8 called Point Blank, that I had climbed earlier in the trip. E8 is the highest level ever been climbed by a Woman in the UK, and on the 3 or 4 times it has been achieved, it has come after the common “headpoint” style of prolonged top-rope practice.
Not only did Caro plan to climb an E8 as her second ever trad route, but she wanted to try it "flash" - first try without any pre-practice - something never before done by a Woman, and only on rare occasion by a few men. Most people would probably think me crazy for letting her do this, but after climbing with Caro every day for the last year, I knew her style, her ability, and how strong her mental control; I was confident she could do it.
She prepared herself at the bottom, and calmly set off to tackle the 40m of hard and scary climbing above. Climbing perfectly; calm and controlled, powerful when needed, relaxed when not, she placed her protection well, and soon was committed to the final hard movements. Fr8a climbing, a long way above her last protection... she looked solid, perfect, but at the final moment just one move before a good hold she slipped from her feet and screamed!
15m in the air before the ropes held her secure. As she spun around suspended in space I was happy she was OK and lowered her to the ground to tell her well done on an amazing effort. The "french proudness" is still something that I don’t fully understand, and rather than be content with an incredible attempt which was so close to success, all Caro did was pull the ropes down and begin climbing again. Even with the adrenalin of the fall making her shake, even with the fatigue in her muscles making her arms feel heavy, all she knew was that she had failed, that she should not have failed, and there was only one thing she was going to do about it.
She finished the climb about 20min later, having stripped and re-placed all the gear on lead! Her 2nd ever trad route and the first (AFAIK) ever female E8 without practice! Amazing! I was so proud. Sorry for lack of relevant photos, I was too busy belaying, but Dave managed to snap a few. Check out next months Climb for some crackers - I wonder if the lob-shot will make it in...