I wolfed down my Morrisons breakfast buttie because I couldn't wait to get to Gogarth this day.
I was climbing with Martin Haworth, a old friend from when I lived in hull. Last time we climbed together was on the winter route Bowfell Buttress (VI, 6) where Martin had taken over the lead on at least one of the pitches and essentially dragged me up the route (This was, by no coincidence, the last winter route I did). Today was my chance for revenge.
Duncan went off to Yellow Walls to do The Savage (E2 5b) with Martins mate Andy, whilst we were the first ones on the busiest cliff at Gogarth; Castell Helen. The sun hadn't come round yet, the usually grey-white walls were knocking on the door of black, a pretty good idicator of greasy, damp conditions, but we were down now. I looked to Martin for signs of hesitation, I can only get out of this one if he cracks first. Instead he began nonchalantly spooling out the ropes, unphased by the sub-ideal conditions and soon we were tied on beneath the synonymous with the eponymous, Kalahari Highway (E5 6a).
Martin nipped up the first 4b pitch and I was soon on my way. The first half of my pitch is shared with the original Kalahari (E3 5c) providing a bit of a warm-up. By this point my hands were slick with the slippy bacteria that haunt the shady sea cliffs and my chalk laid waste to the old addage by being very much like soft cheese. 'You sure you still wanna do this Martin?' didn't get the answer I was hoping for. Committed.
The crux pull over a small overlap felt committing as you can't make out any holds coming up after, fortunately the move was ok, and it led straight to good holds and an awkward set of resting positions. From here an impressive traverse on undercuts and smears (exactly what you want in damp conditions!) lead out from under the big rooves. Then at the end of the traverse you're left hanging steeply at the edge of everything on jugs with an exciting blind finale. As I got halfway through the final moves rope drag became terminal, I couldn't move. I didn't feel in balance enough to pull at them without peeling off and in a heart-stopping moment I squat-thrusted upwards feeling the full resistance of 40m of friction. Phew!
Martin seconded the damp journey, dissapointingly, without issue to emerge from the labyrinth of rooves pumped and grinning.
We then swapped partners and me and Duncan went over to North Stack Wall to escape the wind and get gripped. By the time we arrived the sun had come off the wall, the wind had changed direction now blowing straight onto the wall and the tides were too far in for The Cad (E6 6a). So Duncan went first on Blue Peter (E4 5c). He seemed more than a little nervous as this would be his biggest lead to date. I laid down on a nicely inclined slab and got progressively colder. Duncans first steps were tentative, but with every metre of height gained, with every runner placed he got more and more confident, and I got colder, and colder. By half height he was flowing and yarding away as if on his local warm-up, and I was fucking freezing. As Duncan topped off a fine effort with a few squeals of delight I began plucking myself, limb by limb, from my ice-pop polymorphic state ready to second. First move, strained bicep. Second move, stubbed toe. Third move, knee pain. The Cad was off the cards.
When I topped out from the 40m of vertical wall climbing I finally regained some feeling in my fingers and the idea of trying The Cad re-gained credibility until I looked down into the zawn and the tide was STILL too high to gain the bottom of the route. I racked up to go do 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (E3 5c) only to encounter a bird-ban sign at the top of the route. All my enthusiasm was lost, I was uninspired to try anything else around and so we set off home. Then it occurred to me, surely it's a good thing that I've done an E5 and it feels like a bad day.