In the morning, crippled by a stinking hangover, I fumbled my way up Raven Gully, appalled by just how difficult it was. Long moments passed where I could do nothing but stare in confusion at the holds, wondering what the hell I was supposed to do with them. Some horrific contortions up a chimney finally saw me to the top, and I peered out across the misty expanse of Dartmoor with bleary eyes, bringing the other now-not-so-jolly-boys up, fighting back vomit and wishing I was dead. Staples then had a go at the neighboring route Honeymoon Corner, climbing the initial wall like an old man whose stairlift has broken. He sighed and groaned with every move.
After spending a while fiddling a hex in ("Put a cam in yer nonce") he celebrated its placement by slumping onto the rope and lowering off. So I had a go, and just about managed to grovel my way up a godawful wide, holdless crack onto a beckoning ledge, where I wanted nothing more than to pass out into merciful, dribbling unconsciousness. Things were not very promising for Aviation, which incidentally, in the cold light of day, was suddenly looking a thousand times harder and scarier than before.
But Staples at least was determined to sort himself out, and he grabbed the rack to lead Levitation; bold, delicate climbing up slabby flakes with a lot less gear than you want. Seconding, I tried the direct start and couldn't get close even with a tight rope. My god it was nails, same tech grade as Aviation, and any lingering trace of last night's pissed-up confidence disappeared altogether. Tail between my legs I lowered off and climbed the standard route, a bloody good lead by Staples under the circumstances. Pat - who hadn't climbed outside since August last year - came up last and avoided the tenuous crux move by dynoing for a jug and smashing his knees into the unyielding granite of Haytor.
Afterwards the three of us were staggering around and moaning like zombies, a likely team indeed to tackle an E1. It was all going so very very well...
Yep, piece of piss, just like I said...
No more excuses. Now it was my lead again and I couldn't bear putting it off any longer, so I tied in and got on Aviation. Up a sort of pillar then the first crux getting into a steep flake-crack. I pulled on some jams, laybacked up the flake, it was amazingly straightforward. The route was never really strenuous after that; more technically sustained. I minced across the traverse, edging crystals, skipped the hanging belay and carrried on. Up to the weird drainpipe feature, eyeing up the following run-out, insecure moves off edges and smears. I found that to be the crux, psychologically at least. A final hard move off a crimp saw me to the top of the runnel and easy slabs beyond.
Staples wrestling with the first crux
Staples made a valiant effort to follow but had to bail at the traverse because of crippling pain in his hands. So it was down to poor old Pat to finish the job, which he managed in fine style; I'd never heard anyone power-scream their way across delicate footwork climbing before. After that we jumped in the car and ended the day with some bouldering and easy soloing at Houndtor, then a welcome pint at the Plume and Feathers.
Pat had to leave that evening so the next day it was just me and Staples at the Dewerstone. We did a couple of fun multipitch VDiffs then it was time for my other main target of the trip - Climber's Club Direct. Two pitches of steep jamming up cracks and corners, one of those wonderful 'not hard just bloody hard work' classics that you just know is going to kick the shit out of you. And it was with some trepidation that I racked up and set off up the horrendously polished initial wall. This led to a roof that was cleaved by a perfect hand crack. I'd heard it was the toughest part of the route but I found it OK - chuck in some jams, pull hard, feet up and done.
I must've mentally relaxed a bit too much after that because the rest of the route felt absolutely nails. I spent ages getting pumped trying to go directly up the crack to a beckoning sapling, before realising there was an obvious and easy step right onto a slabby flake. Sustained bridging up the continuation corner, past a roof, led me to the belay. I'd planned on doing it in one pitch but I'd used all my big gear and there was an off-width looming above. So Staples struggled his way to my stance and then off I went again. I placed the daddy-cam in the base of the off-width then grovelled up to and over the capping roof on monster jugs - awesome!
Here a widening crack shot straight up to the top, and I ignored the tempting easy traverse off left and got stuck in. Feet scrabbling I locked-off a horizontal jam, tried to wedge myself in, couldn't, almost got spat off instead. I could feel myself slipping away, losing strength, and in desperation I threw in a careless fist and heaved for the top. With a flailing hand I grabbed at a thank god chockstone and gibbered my way to safety, a broken, sobbing mess of a man.
Staples just laybacked it the cheating bastard.
Knackered at the top
After that we did the fantastic Route B; mega steep for VDiff but on huge jugs all the way, incredible exposure snapping beneath my feet. Finally I soloed a fun route called Colonel's Arete, then we called it good and went to the pub. Most likely my last West Country trip for quite a while and it was awesome to achieve two such long-standing ambitions.