Buzzing like a set of hair crack clippers after Skinhead, the next day I headed out with Ben Alsford. He’d been skiing in the Alps for the last few months so he was just looking to second some routes, get a bit of fitness back and have a catch-up. This worked out perfectly as I had set myself a challenge of climbing an E6 everyday for a week; seven in seven. I was lined up for the second of seven. For a change we headed to the Pass, as soon as we arrived it started raining and so, once more, we made off for Gogarth. Without any real objective we dropped down to Main Cliff. Eyeing up potential routes from the bottom of Eraserhead (E6 6a), the penny dropped and I set off, straight up. The first pitch provided a sustained E4, taking in a great variety of wall climbing and would be a great way to access the Positron headwall. As I belayed Ben up I felt so at home. I looked to the sea and recieved a ‘paddling ovation’ from the seal of approval. Ben and I switched at the stance and I swung off onto ‘the finger’ that points the way. I arranged my gear and surged on up the arête on positive edges, revelling in the run-out and the comfort of 5c moves. Ben followed with a rucksack and without a nut-key allowing him to optimise training potential as he hung around trying to remove my ‘beat in’ wires (there’s an offset blue wire left in Positron for you, Bubbles).
The day after, The Ullrich and I abseiled down the steep grass into the forgotten world of Easter Island Gully. I’d never been down here until now, everything I looked at made my arms feel tired. I whipped up a shady Supercrack (E3 5c) to warm up, instead getting numb hands and a whisper from fatigue. Indecision struck as all the appealing lines lay in the shade, eventually driving George into the sun on The Ancient Mariner (E5 6b). The route was disappointing and lacked any kind of distinction except for a hard crux out of a slim groove. George managed to make a necky slap to a ledge and grovel out of danger, I struggled up on second until I took a hang and a blind pocket made itself known. After a long lunch I prepared for the third of seven; For Madmen Only (E6 6b). The start is shared with Annhilator (E5 6b) so I could scamper off up this if it felt like too much. At the junction I didn’t even look towards For Madmen Only, my arms were torched, my neurons were fried and a cam leaped from my harness into the drink. I’m too sane. Mission failed.
After a rest day, Jemma and I made the bank holiday pilgrimage to sunny Pembroke. Jemma led off on Suspense (E4 5c), while, at the bottom of Stennis Ford, tension mounted as I belayed and the sea inched and yarded, closer and closer. The belay was built in the nick of time, and I managed to hop across the rocks to the bottom of the route. After the first lunch of the day we abbed back down for me to try Ghost Train (E6 6b). After my success on Skinhead and a much needed rest day, I felt confident and cocky about the formality ahead.
The start felt harder than I expected, even though I expected it to be hard. I arrived at the big break before the big run-out with a bit of a pump and a fragmented focus. I clipped the threads and shook out for a few seconds, the whistle sounded. I climbed aboard. At the first committing move I should’ve reversed, but, I was haunted by haughtiness and I kept going like a man possessed. A long way above the threads now, I felt spooked. I made a demonic attack for the next thread, clipping in just as my forearms completely coagulated. I remembered to breathe again. I hung here for an age, regrouping and de-pumping. At the top it did not feel good. I felt disappointed in my fitness, my movement and mostly my arrogance. I totally underestimated the route and things could have turned out a lot worse. I was de-psyched by the whole situation, but it was an important lesson to learn.
After our second lunch, we moved on to Caff’s lunch, finished this and headed over to The Leap. Jemma conquered intimidation and cruised up Bloody Sunday (E4 6a) and I conquered an old nemesis by slaying The Minotaur (E5 6b). Jemma kicked off the Sunday with a quick lead of Star Wars (E4 5c). I couldn’t decide what to do, I felt disillusioned and a bit useless after yesterday, so we drove round to visit a new area near Flimston Bay.
At this end of Pembroke the rugged coastline boasts an array of compelling arches, coves and sea stacks, I can’t believe it doesn’t see more attention. Upon arrival we found that much of the area is bird banned, so we abbed into the leaning face of Mosaic Walls. Psyched up again by the impressive coastline and loads of new climbs I jumped on Bristol Cream (E6 6b). The wall was chronically greasy, it felt like you could ping off at any second, so I had a few ‘up and downs’ chalking the holds and arranging gear. When I finally went for it, it wasn’t as bad as I had expected, the holds were more positive than I imagined and it got less greasy with height. I was re-invigoured and enjoying it again. On second, Jemma dropped a wire so we went back down for it (having already lost half my rack this week). She led us out up the tremendously steep and butch classic; Wallbanger (E4 5c), then we headed North ready for a morning at Carreg-y-Barcud.
I scanned ‘The Barcud’, this was another new venue to me and in contrast the walls were clean, smooth and slabby and the crowds and hot, sunny weather gave it a friendly ‘playground’ atmosphere. Feeling feline, Jemma set the ball rolling, delicately padding up Kitten Claws (E3 5c). I then took up the sharp-end for the sublime Mean Feat (E5 6a). Slabs aren’t necessarily my cup of tea but I thought this was totally brilliant, the blank-looking headwall secured the route as my favourite of the trip. With time for one more, I jumped quickly on Beyond the Beyond (E5 6b). The description read; ‘...the crux is at the very top, but the whole affair is harder for the short’. Am I ‘the short’? Arriving at the top crux, it was confirmed, I am the short. Heinously thin crimps, mono finger stacks and smears for feet left me with a tenuous slap for the finish. I held the top... just. I think I may have just done my first 6c on a trad route. We drove back to Gwynedd ready for a rest day...
...but Tuesday came, the weather was good and I can’t say no. The aim was; Wen Zawn’s Mr Softy (E6 6b). We went and warmed up in the 3-D complex of Yellow Walls. We set off on Pergyl (E3 5c), but with only an old route description to go by we ended up joining The Drunk (E6 6b) after its crux. We hadn’t realised and carried on trying to make the guidebook description fit, leading us into some fresh ground to give quite an interesting and worthwhile new diagonal line; You (E4 6a). At the top of the crag, all my psyche had gone, the thought of hanging around on sea cliffs, pulling on these stiff fingers and yarding with these sore shoulders was horrible. I was unbelievably relieved when George announced his concerns about doing anymore climbing. He was suffering from a stag-do hangover, I was consumed by a full mind and body fatigue, so the pair of us Mr Softy’s threw in the trowel and enjoyed a nice, relaxing BBQ at Fingers’ new house instead. It’s time to put concerted effort into resting.