Me leading 'The Arete' (VDiff) at Idwal Slabs
Obviously there was no bit of rock in the country that wouldn’t in some way try to kill me, so I resigned myself to climbing at Swanage once more.
This didn’t go very well.I got halfway up a VS and shamefully lowered off. I abseiled into an obscure and committing part of Fisherman’s Ledge and seconded Luke up a HVS, which was steep and difficult. He’d spied an E2 on the way down and was keen to try and lead it; I sat and hoped he would change his mind. But he didn’t. Instead, he shot up the damn thing in about 6 seconds flat, and all too soon the ropes came tight and it was my turn.
This didn’t go very well.Still unused to such gradients after a month of mountains and slabs, I struggled and swore and gasped and pleaded my way upwards, sitting on the rope and not moving a lot. I pulled on a crappy old bit of tat to get past the crux; it still felt hard as nails. I stared upwards with a sort of weak loathing at each new piece of malign geological architecture that greeted me, and prayed to gods that I didn’t believe in to get me to the top. Eventually, all sense of time and joy and hope forgotten, I flopped over the cliff with blood on my hands, weeping softly.
Disheartened, I scurried back to the nice, easy angled slabs of Fairy Cave Quarry, and tried to headpoint an E4.This didn’t...oh, forget it.
Warming up on 'Withy Crack' (HVS)
I’d never headpointed a route before, and I have to say it’s an interesting experience. The process of breaking down the seemingly impossible hold by hold, move by move, is fascinating. First go on the top rope I fell off about eleventy-million times, and laughed a hollow laugh at the idea of ever being able to lead such a featureless monstrosity. But the second time I got it clean. Interesting. It still felt bloody hard, but I’d managed to link all the moves. The third try was the same. Alright then. Luke had already placed what little (and spaced) gear there was, and successfully led it. So did Rich, although he had made cunning use of a quickdraw to get past a tricky overlap. My turn came.
Me on the successful lead of 'Glacial Point' (E4)
I climbed quickly, negotiated the first crux, clipped a cam, ran it out to the second crux, forgot the sequence, and lobbed off attempting a stupid dyno move for a pocket.Half falling, half skidding, I cheesegrated about 8m down the slab and managed to smash into a sapling just before the cam caught me. I lowered off back to the deck, tried to regain my focus, and got back on it again. Why, I have no idea. About halfway up I became genuinely concerned that I’d shit myself in the fall, and did the rest of the route more worried about the state of my underwear than the tenuous moves. In fact, I discovered a slightly different sequence through the crux, which actually made it a bit easier. Padding up on rubbish footholds and muttering to myself, I reached the top with a sense of dazed satisfaction, then scurried off into the bushes to see if my sphincter had undergone a critical relaxation during my impromptu skin-displacement exercise. Thankfully it hadn’t.
I was far more pleased about that than the fact I’d just done an E4; I wouldn’t be walking all the way home to Ringwood like some half-peeled incontinent tramp after all.