In the last blog post I said how I’d been feeling good, and climbing well, so I decided to put my money where my mouth is. This week I’m back in Hull, dog sitting (I have a friendly little dog in need of a home. Please get in touch if you’re interested!), meaning the Peak is the venue.
On Monday, with the sun blazing, I made the ever so familiar pilgrimage along the M18, through Sheffield, and on to Stanage. We had a quick climb here but inevitably it was a bit grim in the heat. Back in the car we headed south to the best crag in the peak, High Tor, with one goal in mind...
Between the two classic E5’s ‘Sonic’ and ‘Tales’ lies a big blank section of wall. Peppered with pockets, and flecked with flakes, it provides an incipient line known as Reproduction. Weighing in at E6 6b it seemed like the obvious challenge for me at the moment.
We arrived at the bottom of the crag and the dog was panting away, as we scrambled up to the belay we could see she was being harassed by flies and midges. The odds seemed to be stacking up against me. The dog wasn’t happy, the heat was intense, and the tree belay had gone so I had to sacrifice a couple of runners, but, I’d come all this way, so it was time to go for it.
Setting off I felt more than a little apprehensive, this was my first E6 lead attempt this year and I felt pretty under-prepared. The difficulties kicked in straight away with a crank over a bulge to a blind crack, followed by a delicate rockover using an undercut mono. I started to feel more involved, but with the dog whining, I contemplated backing off. After a quick shake out, some smeary layback moves lead to a big yard around a curving overlap, and a pulse-raising rockover to some good footholds and a proper breather, great climbing so far.
Despite having done the first 3rd of the route, it felt like I had arrived at the start. I made a few moves up, placed a solid rock 5 above my head, and scampered back down to the big footholds. I’d spied a few pockets above my high point, but had no idea what to do from there. I flew back up past the runner and attacked the pockets with determined, probing fingers, disappointed with each and every one of them. There was nothing else, so I cranked away, move by move. I stopped briefly at a good 3 finger pocket, but without much for feet I had to press on. With my feet in the pocket I got a nice incut flake and regrouped. Looking down at the rock 5 way below my feet I felt awesome, until I tried to fiddle in a runner.
I settled with an rp and a microcam, even if they were good placements they would struggle to inspire much confidence. The awesome feeling faded, and as my arms began to tire from the seemingly shrinking finger flake, I felt out of my depth. I knew something didn’t feel right. Looking down at the rock 5 again I contemplated jumping off before I got even further from it. I shook this thought from my head and looked forwards. Okay, the thread runner is only about 4 or 5 metres away and there are lots of pockets to choose from. I pushed on with trepidation, pumping out rapidly through over gripping. I looked down and saw an awesome runner slot, get in! Finally feeling safe again I went for it, feeling composed for a move or two. Although, with my flagging forearms working the digits into the holds became an over whelming effort, and the calves began to quiver as my faith in friction dwindled. I snatched away, surprised to still be on the wall until I latched a deep pocket by the thread. I slapped a quickdraw onto the tat and flailed my wobbling carcass onto the juggy rail, feeling a tangible wave of relief. I’m 2/3rds of the way, my Achilles' are on fire and my forearms are begging for mercy. My lips curl in a maniacal smile. I hope the next bit is as hard.
After a very conscious ten minutes trying to work cams into pockets and get some weight off my toes it was time to go again. Moving up the less steep wall I passed a slopey, mono pocket with bated breath, and got stood in some narrow slots. I stretched upwards for a decent looking hold, but I could sense my feet sliding out the slots. I stabbed for the hold. It gave me nothing. I feel myself falling back, and my pulse goes through the roof. Yet, I am still on the wall. With my tail between my legs I frantically retreat to the rail. I need to reconsider.
The pockets are tick marked, I have two high runners (hope they’re good!), It’s time for the final impasse. Strolling past the mono, and the deceptive hold I get a good pocket and the angle kicks in. I could feel the weight of the ropes now and although I had recovered, the pump was coming back on quickly. I stop thinking about it and intuitive onsighting just, happens. The reoccurring theme of disappointing pockets and blind feet threatens to shatter my reality and release me from my back-seat role. I reach the top, deceived again, all slopey and... fuck. I break out left in desperation. The pockets are shit, I don’t care. Come on, so close now. ‘Locked on’ to an energy sapping, shallow pocket, I stove my toe into a pocket of indeterminate size, cross my brain fingers and commit to a oblique sidepull. Up, up, up. This is it. I’ve done it. Wooooooo! I’ve only gone and bloody reproduced.
When I set off, it felt like it might not have been a good idea but it was. It felt so out-there, the uncertainty is what it’s all about. The worst that could have happened is that I’d have taken a massive fall, even that’s appealing in its own way. Basically, sod the mileage attitude and get on the sharp end. After doing the route I went to Guys house, and on his wall was a postcard saying ‘Only those who take it too far, can ever know how far they can go!’. Go and do it.