We all heard the rumours. Everyone was talking about it. Could it be true... Apparently, a friend of a friend said his friend saw a forecast for a day without rain in North Wales. Even the optimists were dubious, but, sure enough, Saturday was indeed dry. Of course, in the run up to this meteorological anomalie it was particularly hard to decide what to with this window of opportunity. I wanted to do something nails or something exciting and without too much demand for fitness, so the slate seemed ideal. The plan was to get a clean ascent of The Medium (8a) before have a crack at the most stunning line on slate: The Rainbow of Recalcitrance (E6 6b). Duncan was keen for the respective neighbouring lines of Headin' the Shot (E5 6b) and Poetry Pink (E5 6b). Perfect.
We rocked up at Serengeti to the familiar bleak humming from deep within the mountain. Armed with re-soled edges, I had expectations of success so I got straight on with it. A quick toprope to remind myself just how freakin' thin it is and it was time for the lead. It's times like this I'm glad we live in a quantum universe, somehow falling off and moving up at the same time, that was until I tried to observe my position at the final move, and found myself swinging below the first bolt. Many failed attempts later (including two on Headin' the Shot!), I threw in the towel. It just felt too hard, and increasingly painful and unpleasant. Fortunately for me, Duncan is wiser than he is tall, so a little pep talk and a really quick onsight of Headin' the Shot (E5 6b) from him, gave me the inspiration to have one last go.
Rocking over on the big-toe pocket-smear I had managed to divert my attention away from the jaws of defeat just long enough for a sneaky peak at self belief, but, it wasn't good enough and the cloud of doubt shrouded my mindscape once more. I fell off, and although disheartened, I'm keeping my towel.
Like Brian Blessed with a Total Fitness membership, Ben Alsford turned up and led us to; Taken Over by Department C (7a/+). In need of a bit of a pick me up I went for the onsight putting the draws in. The lower wall succumbed to a delicate yet powerful approach, and all was going well until a final impasse by the last bolt. I tried to recover on some undercuts above my head but I was flagging. I became totally unwilling to part with the rock, it would take more than a bit of protein to repair my ego if I fell off this as well. I gritted my teeth and made the final crossover to a huge jug just in time. All is not lost.
Retrospectively, it seems that The Medium (8a) has become largely a mental battle. It feels as though every time I think I might fall off I do. I need to believe I can do it, to do it. It's as if it really is some kind of metamorphic medium.
Monday, me and the savvy seal, Tom Ripley found good weather at Craig y Forwyn. One of my first blogs was about this crag and in particular Great Wall (E4 5c). I remember absolutely loving the crag and this day was just the same. I don't know what it is about the place, it could be the reminiscence of peak limestone trad and the youthful nostalgia it inflicts, the giddyness brought on by knowing your not really supposed to be there, or simply the immaculate, pumpy wall climbing.
I wasn't sure what to do so Tom picked out The Snake (E2 5c, 5c). I wasn't feeling all that fit, or even awake so I had no real expectations, and knew it'd be no formality. The first 10 metres or so were steady away, then I came to a point where I had to swing around an arete onto a layback flake. I arranged a bunch of gear and set off. It felt ok. Brilliant, I thought, E2's feel juggy. A couple of metres up the flake it was time to switch to another flake to the right. I was gently pumping here, I had gear about a body length below my feet and I could see a good incut at the base of the next flake, so I pushed on. "Ah, Fackin'el" the incut was full of mud. I backhanded further up the flake and made a powerful swing across, but I still couldn't stop to place gear, the feet were crap. A fleeting moment of terror came over me and I scampered my feet up high to the muddy incut. I was in a bicep-burning position and the flake flared above. I stoved a cam home in desperation and clawed my way up the final section. Tom got even more pumped seconding with the added trouble of having to remove the gear, so by the time he made it to the belay he was wasted. As such I led the second pitch as well which provided a really contrasting bit of climbing with intricate moves and thought-provoking gear.
Tom had intended on doing Mojo (E1 5b) but a heavy night of drinking the night before crushed his psyche. Instead he tried Sangfroid (HVS 5a) only to be thwarted by the alcohol again. Luckily for me he made it as far as the junction with Sangfroid Direct (E2 5c). I took over the lead on another stunning E2 pitch, very similar in character to The Snake, but this had a bigger feel to it being one long pitch with chunkier flakes. I laybacked up to another flake transfer crux, put some gear in this time and smashed on up direct via some suprisingly hard moves to join The Snake for the technical headwall finale. Then, just as we topped out, the rains came.
I had intended to launch myself headlong into this years routing season with my new found bouldering strength, but it doesn't seem to immediately transfer to routing. Given my current level of fitness and lack of faith in the holding power of my tatty old harness and ropes, I think I may need to invest a little bit of time to that dangerously comfortable 'mileage' mindset, and perhaps a little bit of money on some new gear.