Sunday, 26 July 2015

The Roaches

I'm going to fucking smash it this trip. Yeah I was climbing like a sack of shite in Wales last weekend, but that was then, and when has anything good ever happened in Wales anyway? Nah this is going to be awesome, it's gritstone. I'm great on gritstone. I only fell off Flying Buttress Direct once.

International Climbing Superstars

Crawling down the M6 in heavy rain and traffic, god I wish all these pricks would just fuck off and let us get to the crag already. Pat's driving, I'm knocking back the beers. Finally we arrive at the Roaches. After bunging all the gear in the hut and meeting all the others we hike round the crag to check out some routes by headtorch. Elegy. Commander Energy. E2s. I was a million miles away from E2 in Wales, but like I said, who gives a shit about that? Raining all the fucking time. It never rains in the Peak District does it? I'm a bit pissed now. I tell everyone that I'll be leading all these nails hard routes tomorrow, I'm sure they're well impressed, and rightly so. 

Back to the hut, more beers, fucking hell I can't wait...

Pat leading Black and Tans

Bright and early next morning, I'm not hungover, result! Quick brew, pack the kit and off we go to the Upper Tier, because Lower still looks like a giant sneezed all over it. But Christ all these hard routes look really steep now. It must be a trick of the light, I'm still going to fucking own them all. But maybe I should just warm up on a few easy ones first. Because, you know. We fly up a couple of Severes and I feel alright, so I raise the game, step it up to Hard Severe. It actually feels a bit tricky but I get there in the end. Nothing's gonna stop me today.

Now it's Pats turn. He wants to lead the Sloth, that massive roof crack that I did last year. With my totally non-selective memory I tell him it was completely piss, I basically could've soloed the bloody thing if I was that bothered about it.

Sorting the gear before committing to flakey overhanging madness

So he climbs up to the roof and chucks a sling around that big block, down to the resting ledge, up down up down, I'm falling asleep down here on the deck. I could've done it 10 times by now. Finally Pat mans up and commits to the roof, cranks round to the lip, places a hex. He tries to get a hand jam, fails, and then falls off. 

Pat searches in vain for the 'massive fucking jug' I sort of remember being there

There's the bastard

But he nuts up, eventually sinks the jam and pulls through, and at last it's my turn to climb. I might do it no feet just for a laugh, seeing as I'm seconding and all that. But when I get under the roof it's actually really fucking scary, I'm shitting myself. So I keep my feet well on, swinging desperately from hold to hold. Jolly up to the lip, quick hand jam, reach up and bang, it's in the bag. That's what I told Pat but I CAN'T GET THE FUCKING HAND JAM RIGHT. I'm hanging upside down, strength leaking away, weakly slapping at the rock and slobbering everywhere. I sort of manage it in the end but still, fuck me, that was horrible. 

It's my turn to lead an HVS now so I do Saul's Crack. I find this one fucking hard work as well. It's obvious that I need a full days climbing before I can lead some E2s, so tomorrow I will get straight on them and show everyone how it's done. Tomorrow.

Some lump of rock called Valkyrie, apparently

It's early evening now and Pat wants to do Valkyrie. I've already done this one as well but seeing as I'm just training for tomorrow I think why the fuck not, be generous, and so off we go. I decide to lead pitch 1 because don't tell anyone but I led the second pitch last time and it was actually really hard, a proper brown trouser job, so...

The horrible awkward crack of pitch 1

Hand traverse higher up. I climb in this pose all the time, and you never see me move, you just blink and I'm somewhere else...

I struggle up the smeggy initial crack. It's because this route is too easy for me to properly engage with, it's not worth applying my talent to. Hand traverse some flakes into a trench belay by a massive tooth of rock, up comes Pat. He doesn't look too happy with what is still to come.

Guess who's about to lead the scary pitch

Well that's his problem isn't it. This route is kind of unique I suppose, in that the hardest bit is downclimbing, not up. Pat grovels up to the top of the tooth and starts going back down the other side. I don't think he's enjoying himself very much. I know this because he's shrieking hysterically every step of the way. I pay out the ropes and just enjoy the view.

Looking out from the ledge, flailing leader just out of shot

Pat reaches the bottom of the tooth and says he can't find the hidden foothold that makes it piss. What the hell. I found it easily when I did it. Still, he manages to do the tricky rockover move onto the front face of the buttress, and then finishes up the easy slab to the summit. Now it's my turn. I strip the belay and gain the top of the tooth, then start the downclimbing. God it's actually really fucking hard. I wedge the left side of my body into the crack, right side hanging uselessly. My feet scrabble in vain for purchase. There's claret everywhere. I'm in agony. This isn't VS, it's E5, it's all gone tits up...I cannot, for the fucking life of me, find the hidden foothold.

I bet it's fallen off. That must be what's happened. My foot thrashes around in space, finding nothing. I scream to Pat for a tight rope. A crowd of people watch in amusement, I wish they would all drop dead. I eventually find the hidden bloody foothold and burst into tears.

Found the fucking stupid fucker

The well protected final slab

I mince up the rest of the pitch leaving a nice trail of blood all over the route. At the summit Pat and I just sit there shivering and muttering, comparing battle scars. I tell him we must've gone the wrong way and done an E5 instead. We fuck off to the pub and more beer. I reckon I'll be fine for some really hard stuff tomorrow though, it's not like you have to downclimb hidden footholds on every fucking route here, right? I'll be a new man in the morning. Now whose round is it?

Pat leading in the freezing wind

Tomorrow comes. I'm not feeling so good now. But I have to try something hard anyway, it's what I'm here for. The forecast is wank so we get started early, knocking out a couple of easy routes, ominous clouds rolling in across the moors. The wind blows, it's freezing cold now. I read through the guidebook, hands numb, Elegy or Commander Energy. Fucking hell, I've got to do at least one of them, I've got to try-

It starts pissing it down. 

Thank fuck for that.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Main Wall

I wake up in a car in the Cromlech layby, the wind howling and the sky filled with ominous black clouds. But it's not raining. Fuck me it's actually not raining, this is as good as it gets in the bloody Pass. Staples and I lurch into action, knackered from bugger all sleep, stuffing gear into packs and stumbling towards a crag called Cyrn Las. It's high and north facing, it never sees the sun. My logic is that if it's horrible everywhere in the Pass we may as well be on a crag that's horrible all the time. Plus there's a super classic route called Main Wall somewhere up there...

Main Wall goes up the really wet bit in the middle, of course

God I'm unfit. The walk up kills me. We gear up and scramble to the base of a somewhat damp slab that apparently we're supposed to climb. Staples takes the lead...

David 'everything that kills me makes me feel alive' Staples about to sack off pitch 1

He fumbles around at the wet holds, walks back and forth along the ledge for a while, then eventually gives up. I'm taking the piss the whole time. What a fucking pussy. So I grab the rack and have a go, christ it's hard, and immediately I begin a shameful grovel off to the right up a sort of waterfall. Staples justifiably tells me what a hypocritical prick I am. Easy but hilariously wet climbing sees me reach a belay on a spike. Staples then leads a short traverse to a hanging belay on another spike, and we hope that now that's all over we can actually start climbing this bloody thing...

Staples looking psyched for what's to come

Just follow the vertical stream

The next pitch is wetter than a mermaids twat. I make a hard traverse along an ice rink foot-rail to a decent sling runner, then into a disgusting corner chimney crack bastard thing. A vast and delicate ecosystem of slime greets me. I sling a block, squirm my way higher, skidding all over the place. There are no holds. Well there's loads, but they've all got enough water to flood the Sahara running down them. I aid off a nut, slippery hand jams, power screaming as I mince onto yet another godforsaken underwater ledge...

Main Wall holding a gun to my head and saying SMILE BITCH

Staples has a great time seconding the pitch. We hang off the belay and gaze about the grey expanse of the Pass with thousand yard stares. It's fucking cold up here. Very very occasionally the sun pokes out from the mass of death clouds, just to remind us how cold it is without it...

Another wet pitch

At least it's getting a bit drier now. The next pitch is easy enough, it leads to a massive ledge. However there are no decent anchors, so it takes Staples a while to fiddle in and equalise a load of shite, and I'm slowly getting hypothermic at the belay, waving my arms around like a complete spanner. I finally shiver my way up to Staples and tell him I'm giving up climbing...

Setting out on the second 4b pitch

At this point every hold either moved, or moved

After this pointless hissy fit I rack up and strike out towards a pinnacle. For no apparent reason the rock suddenly decides to massively deteriorate in quality, and it now feels like I'm playing Jenga for infinite stakes. I gibber into a notch in the rock and onto a steep arête. My god the holds are massive, and sort of attached to something. I'm actually enjoying myself again, I run it out for fun up to the next belay and bring up Staples for the main event...

The penultimate pitch is fucking amazing, you climb across this hanging slab to a knife edge arête, and the exposure is insane, everything dropping away to the valley far below...

The money pitch of Main Wall

Gaining the super exposed arête

Just about making up for the soaking horror of...pretty much the rest of the route

Staples leads the pitch, loving every move, and I follow slowly, wanting to enjoy the position as much as possible. It transforms the route from a grotty piece of shit to a grotty piece of shit with one good bit near the top. Stick that in the next guidebook.

Can we go to the fucking pub now?