|The Ochre Slab on Vector (E2 5c). Dan Lane Photography.|
I managed to keep getting to Tremadog once or twice a week, between rain and routesetting, mopping up some classics and working up through the grades, highlights being a repeat of the justifiably infamous Vector (E2 5c), the testing and diverse Pippikin (E4 6a) and the sublime Spare Rib (E4 6a). I managed a stunning day out in the Lakes with Matt Burdekin after setting at The Kendal Wall. We walked in up frozen marshland to the bottom of the initially underwhelming 'Burnt Crag'. Matt cruised up the two bridging corners of Double Trouble (E3 6a) and Splinter (E3 5c), while I went ground up on a superb technical wall, Burning Desire (E5 6b). First go, I fought my way up to just short of the top until a long, committing move left me stranded and pumping out on a flatty. I had 2 blindly-placed rp's by my feet and only two options, keep climbing (not an option) or drop onto the rp's. Fortunately, they held and the second time round I had enough left in the tank to press it out for the top.
|Swing round the top arete on Spare Rib (E4 6a). Dan Lane Photography.|
The highlight of the trad season so far has to be a fluvial accent of 'The best E4 at Gogarth'; Pagan (E4 5c). The unbendingly, unperturbed Ullrich whipped down the rope first, indicating up that it was all good, giving me the go ahead to follow. As I abbed diagonally down the wall I thought to myself 'Well, it's a good job Pagan is dry, every other route is gopping'. I noticed two things when I reached the bottom of the route, firstly, George was laughing, second, I was getting wet. Tiptoeing around the sodden ground I looked above to see a bulge running with water, dripping all over us. The Ullrich had found himself committed at the bottom of the zawn so instead of prussiking out up the soaking ramp, like anyone else, he called me down so we were both stuck there.
It was decided that in some way it might be a good idea to attempt the route, good practice or something. I sat under the shower singing and dancing to keep warm and sane while George led pitch one behind a watery veil. The situation was ridiculous. At the first belay we realised the route kicked back left, through the soaking bulge! I set off pulling on pockets full of water, spilling out and down my sleeves. 'Why does this feel fun?'. I tried to force a line just right of the wetness, but it wasn't happening. I slithered through the goppage getting wet all over, straight into a sustained, run-out wall without a chance to catch my breath or dry my feet. Once at the second belay it was very windy thankfully so I dried off quite quick. Then, while george was midway up the third pitch a dirty, black cloud rolled in above, I shouted to let him know, so he went slower, timing it to perfection to top out just as the cloud burst and I got my 3rd soaking of the day. Karma came when George tried to pull the abb rope and got it jammed, rigging a pulley system only made things worse and off he went back down to free the rope. I made sandwiches and found an ideal vantage point to watch the struggle back out.
|Off Moligna (7c+), Roca de la Espanelles, Margalef. Rachel Wilson Collection.|
All six of us headed to the best crag I've ever been to (Gogarth's an area!); Bruixes Wall, Terradets. It's simply stunning. 300m long, 35m high, gently overhanging all the way, dripping with tufa pipes and brimming with jugs. It suited me down to the tittle; lots of options for your feet, lots of holds to rest on and soft grades. On the first day there I surpassed any expectations I had for the trip and flashed El Latido del Meido (8a). On the 3rd day I kept the ball rolling and managed my first 8a+, Flix Flax. On the 4th I quickly redpointed Maneras de Vivre (8a), and on the 5th I gave it everything I had left and managed Energia Positiva (7c+) second go, and onsighted Orient (7c+). After this, everyone I was with had left and I climbed with Gerd the Aussie. We went to Santa Linya, the enormous cave crammed with 9b's and Sant Llorenc de Montgai, the old home of hard Spanish climbing, but then I missed trad climbing too much so I came back to Britain, to my van, my dog and our rain.
|Jake using speed to his advantage on our new game at L'olla, Siurana (try getting from the first section of L'olla to beneath L'Elephant without hands using only the wall). Rachel Wilson Collection).|
|The Magnificent Bruixes Wall, Terradets. George Ullrich topping out Flix Flax (8a+). Rachel Wilson Collection.|