About me:

Originally from Hull, I now live in Llanberis, North Wales. Totally addicted to climbing, I work at the Indy Climbing wall and as a freelance routesetter to fund my dirty habit.

13 June 2013

A Shade Familiar

After all the heady climbing I’ve being doing, and generally without a head, I was ready for a nice spot of bolt clipping. Over the weekend Jemma and I went to Kilnsey. For those who haven’t been it’s probably the best sport crag in Britain. It’s got about five main buttresses with huge roofs, bulging bulges and yawning steepness. The quality only kicks in properly at about 7c but from then on it’s pure, overhanging class. Anyway, on Saturday I lost my keys so we set off about an hour late. The van prefers a lazier pace and when we got to Skipton a sea of bodies flooded the road and we had to take a lengthy diversion, so we only arrived in the late afternoon.

Events continued in a similar fashion at the crag. My arms felt leaden from having eleven stone of gibbering man hanging off them for three hours on Thursday and all the warm-ups had ropes or climbers hanging on them, so we were forced to take the Alternative Optional Extra (7a+). Flash pumped and reminded how crap I am on bouldery ground, my ambitions dropped from 8a+ to finishing off a 7c+ I’d dropped the last move on three years ago. Jemma cruised up AOE and while I belayed I bumped into climbing’s most envied man; Alex Barrows, who had just made light work of True North (8c). Wanker.

I got on Mr. Nice (7c+) for a quick afternoon tick, but I quickly realised I was much weaker than last time I was here. So much so in fact, I couldn’t even do the moves in isolation. I spent half an hour trying to unlock a sequence that I had nearly done on redpoint a long time ago. I stripped the route and called it a day. I recommended Nerve Ending (7b) to Jemma, remembering Billy Laurence flashing it for his first 7b. After she’d fallen off for the second time, I also remembered that the route is full of reaches and Billy is a gangly bugger. We spent more time driving and more time in the pub than we did at the crag that day.

We slept a few hundred metres from Kilnsey and we were still beat to all the warm-ups.  We managed to negotiate a time slot on Highway 395 (6c+). George turned up, hungover, and all three of us had chance to throw a lap in. We moved on to Smooth Torquer (7a+), I thought it would be a good second warm-up, which it was for George and Jemma, but I felt like a fish out of water and the lead arm came back.

I understood by this point that my arms weren’t going to let me make hard moves so I went for a flash burn on Dominatrix (7c). It went quite well and I made it to about half way getting just through the crux sequence before an eyeful of chalk and and armful of porridge had me off. Retrospectively, this was a good place to come off, the top roof was awkward and graunchy and It took a few goes to crack the squirmy sequence. I was chuffed when George fell off lower than I did. He might have been hungover but ill savour that burn-off. In your face Ullrich! I was elated when I managed the route second go, it was anyone’s game when I set off. Unfortunately, George got up it second go too.

A picture from a few years ago showing the impressive North Butress. Dominatrix takes the white groove in the near distance. Laura Perry Collection

On the Monday, George managed to persuade me to head up to Cloggy with him for an after work hit. He wanted to try It’ll be Alright on the Night (E7 6b). On the walk-in, we passed a couple of lads from the Lakes, they said it was ‘midgey as hell’ up there, but we carried on up. At the bottom of the crag we expected to be swarmed but it was fine. I got on Womb Bits (E5 6b) with the intention of linking it straight into the second pitch of Great Wall (E4 6a) to give a monster 65m wall climb.

It was going well and I was climbing confidently until halfway. My feet started cramping in the bridges when I tried to use small footholds and my big toe felt like it was taking the strain barefoot. I re-jigged my boot a couple of times on a small foot ledge, but it didn’t change anything. I set off into the crux sequence and after the first couple of moves I ended up on two dinky foot edges. My feet were squeezing up; taloning and my knees were weakening. I writhed about on the wall, making a few half-hearted attempts upwards. In the end, I caved and slumped onto the cam beneath me. I took my boots off and shouted at them. Goosfrahbah...

Back on the route I was quite glad of the respite. On some fairly bold ground I felt like I was moments from a pain-induced panic as I gained the Great Wall Jugs. The GW half was fun, but I was driven by a great sense of urgency. I had about three seconds per foothold. At the belay I was awash with relief when I took my boots off. The sun came round onto the wall with a ‘eureka’ feeling, lighting the place up like a rediscovered attic. Magic.

We scampered round to the base of It’ll be Alright on the Night. As George racked up the midges moved in. We had been detected. Word soon spread and by the time George set off, hundreds of the little blighters had arrived for the feast. I tried my best to belay. I had my trousers tucked in my socks, my tops into my trousers. I pulled my buff right over my head and ratcheted my hood tight around this. I was a sealed unit, but they still got in, buzzing around inside my cocoon. The low, reverberating drone sounded like some kind of blood-fuelled power station. What would they eat if I wasn’t here?

I ‘meditated’ it out, doing my best to stay calm. I would let them picnic on my hand before raining down a mighty vengeance with the other. I killed hundreds of them in the time I was there, yet, it made no difference. They stifled the air, a black, infuriating mist. Luckily, George made light work of the route. I came to second, I had to take down my cotton force field. All the way up the route they chewed at me; gnawing me senseless. I flailed up the route like a burning man falling from a building. At the top of the crag I was livid. We both were. They’d followed George up too. I screamed ‘Argghhhh! Help! ‘, enjoying the echo more than anything, then, two minutes later on the descent, voices came up the crag ‘Is everything ok? Do you need help?’  Whoops!

Finally it’s raining and I’ve an excuse to take a few rest days, get some money in the bank and notch up the power a touch. Phew.

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