Tuesday, 4 October 2011

The Only Mistake

It was surprisingly easy to wake up at 5am. The sun was still hiding behind the opposite hill, but the oppressive heat was instantly noticeable. Breakfast went down and final items were packed in relative silence, words were not really needed, we both knew what to do.

The walk to the base of the wall was as horrible as ever, the uneven ground unbalancing you at every step, bringing your stumbling sleepy body uncomfortably close to some rather large drops. The sanctuary of the ancient and crusty fixed lines allow a little relaxation and we prepare ourselves for the long day to come. Chalk bag, quickdraws, mini trad rack, shoes... food... water... one last check... off we go.

I jumar up the first 30m and begin warming my body in the top of the first pitch. Things go well, and after a short time I link the entire upper part from no hands rest to belay. I take this as a sign that things are ready, and lower back to the base hoping the crux boulder passes just as well.

It doesn’t!

The first time I arrive in the hard moves, I am instantly aware that the small rough crimps don’t feel like they should. The more I squeeze the slippery holds, the more spooge seems to ooze from my fingers, and the more I feel the tiny crystals eat into my skin. I fall on the last move of the boulder, unable to control the delicate, stretched barn-door.

I lower down and try again, doing my utmost to hide the doubt creeping into my mind. I fall lower than before, then lower, and lower, and lower. With every attempt my skin disappears, and chances of overall success grow slim. The doubt is no longer hidden, but staring me fully in the face, as far as I am concerned the dream is practically dead.
After a longer rest and a few well spoken words I try again. I focus on perfection, each move must be executed just right, there is no point thinking about what comes higher until you succeed on that right in front of you. The last move comes and goes, the boulder is done, just 20m of technical slab climbing to go, where I could really fall off any move.

Another look at the first crux... Photo Riky Felderer

A protruding quartz seam allows an awkward no hands rest – not comfortable, but enough to chalk my hands, wipe my shoes, and calm my nerves. I know I can climb this section, i did it just earlier today, but now there is so much more at stake. I begin moving through the now familiar sequence, the nerves make everything feel even more delicate than usual, but I force myself to keep moving, knowing any pause is likely to be a false friend. The hardest section comes and goes, but I don’t ask questions, simply climb into the next.

I reach a positive quartz side pull, one of the few in cut crimps on the route. From here I must place a high left smear and slap my left hand 1m higher to a good hold in the crack. The move is scary because it is dynamic, forcing pressure onto the little vertical edge, which is worrying due to the fragile nature of this rock. During the working process, I had inspected this hold and decided, despite its potentially delicate appearance, it was very solid. It didn’t move, there were no cracks, nor did it sound hollow - everything pointed to green. I took the hold, and prayed I had made a wise decision, raised my foot, slapped my hand, and caught the next mini jug. Relax! Just a few more easier meters to the end...

SNAP! The righthand sidepull broke off the wall!

Read the rest of this post with more pictures at JPClimbing.com