Saturday, 20 June 2009

Short day cragging at Clova - 20th June '09

It's my Dad's 60th Birthday on Sunday and we're all going for a family meal so I didn't go away for the weekend, but was still desperate to climb locally on the Saturday.
I'd been worried it would rain, or that I wouldn't have a partner to climb with and I'm stressing because I can't get away for any weekends for the next few weeks. Of course, I keep forgetting that I'm going to the Pyrenees to climb for 11days, in a couple of weeks time and will be able to climb loads! But that doesn't make the desperation to climb NOW lessen any, such is the addiction.
I wasn't entirely sure who I'd climb with today. Mel had said she was up for getting out cragging, but I was worried she'd be too tired to go cragging, after spending a couple of days shadowing the guys at the Ice Factor in Kinlochleven, for her Single Pitch Award (SPA.)
So, to make sure I would definitely get out, I also emailed someone called Robbie from UKC, who had put a post up a while ago looking for climbing partners in Dundee. And just in case Robbie turned out to be unreliable, I also put a post up myself on UKC looking for partners, and it turned out that Henning was also looking to get out.
Shameless of me, but I did say I was desperate!
All good though and it meant there were 4 of us out climbing in the end, even numbers are always good.
Robbie turned out to be reliable Robbie, and very keen, Mel was home from her work and keen, and Henning..........well Henning was just up for it and even though he said he was off form, having not climbed much, was still as fit as ever!
I picked Robbie up from Dundee at 8.30am and we met Henning up at Clova and walked up so I could lead Monster's Crack for my warm up.
This would be my hardest warm up to date, normally preferring Severe's now to warm up on. But I hate the severe's at Clova, and reckoned I'd do ok warming up on HS. I do remember Chris saying it was pretty tough for HS and not great as a warm up, but I pushed those thoughts away as I thought it looked a really nice line and that's always a good motivation.
Just 2 moves off the ground though and I'm in an awkward position trying to place some gear, the route is harder than it looks! I'm close to bottling it, a part of me wants to climb back down to the ground and say,
'I can't do it.'
But, I'm getting better at ignoring this negative aspect of my personality when it comes to my climbing and as soon as I dismiss the thought, it doesn't come back again.
The route isn't easy though! I end up laybacking with good hand holds in the crack, but pretty smeary for the feet, and it feels quite committing with gear below me now. Until I reach a wee ledge and can bung in more gear, another committing move and the 1st crack is over and it's just a bit of scrambling to the top section of the route.
You can either scramble off to the left (though why you'd want to I don't know! But for those who bottle out of completing the route, there is this option as an escape) The route doesn't get any stars in the guide book and I guess because it's escapable, it's less of a good line, and the scrambling section spoils it some what too. Nonetheless, I think it worthy of one star, as the climbing is just superb.
The top crack is tough, but very well protected, and didn't it just choose to start raining at the crux! By the time I'd sussed the moves, made them and got the top holds, they were pretty damp, making things just that bit more spicy!
Damn good value for a warm up!
I brought up Robbie and then Henning, and could see Mel arriving in her car, down at the bottom of the cliffs.
Henning was trying to persuade me to lead Cauldron Crack, but nah, not today. It looks an amazing route, and one I really want to keep for the onsight. But I'd need a full day to attempt it, and would have to be well warmed up first.
Robbie started gearing up for Witches' Tooth at E1 5b instead, and Henning belayed whilst I went back to my sack, and to meet Mel who was walking up to the cliffs by this point.
Looked like Robbie was having a bit of a battle, and in the end the Witch won. He was pretty disappointed, which I can totally understand, but he didn't let it ruin his day and I think it was dead keen of him to give it a bash as it's meant to be a right test piece. And he seems to be a quietly confident climber and I think it's nice to see someone try hard stuff (even if they don't manage) as it inspires me very much indeed, to think that there's hope that one day I might be brave enough to be sat on that rope (not on the Witches' Tooth though! It's not a route that sings out to me)
I told Mel I was happy to second Monster's Crack even though I'd just led it. I was happy enough to second her on the Severe's also even though I don't like that horrible chimney at the start of one of them, but she seemed keen to do the HS, and I enjoyed it enough to do it again.
Mel climbed it much better than I did. She seemed to fly up that first crack and did it completely differently to me, using holds on the right wall for her feet and hands, and jamming her foot in the crack. Made it look less of a struggle than laybacking the crack.
When it came to my turn, I tried it the way she did it, and yeuch! Doing it that way wasn't the way for me at all! It felt quite off balance to me, and harder than laybacking, which although was committing and more strenuous, felt more in balance, just the way I like it.
Mel had been really bold on the top section, braver than me! I put in 3 bits of gear, all in different bits of the crack! Mel thought the top out harder than the top out on Lucky Strike, but I didn't think it was that hard when I was leading it, think I was just so focused on lead and desperate to escape the rain! On second, it felt much harder!
Henning and Robbie had gone up to the higher crag and had kindly taken our sacks up with them, so we didn't have to go back down for them, then back up again, as I wanted to lead Alder at VS4c.
I wanted to lead the whole route as one pitch, but Mel's rope is only 50m, and with the route being 40m long, and not knowing how far back the belays were, it was a bit risky. So we just did it in 2 pitches and Mel kindly let me lead both pitches, as I wanted the crux pitch, but that was only 10m, so I'd miss out on leading the beef of the pitch.
What a fab route it is!
I struggled with the 1st pitch, and Mel was slagging me off for placing 5 bits of gear in about a couple of metres. But it looked tough, and I wasn't sure exactly how to do the moves, and I wasn't finding it pumpy so was okay with placing loads of gear, apart from finding my body positions just a bit awkward! Mel said I seemed a bit stressed, and I was, so I remember what she said about breathing to keep calm and together and it really seemed to help! I still found it hard, and still bunged in loads of gear, but the deep breaths helped to keep me focused on the task of getting all that gear in until I was happy enough to commit to figuring out the moves.
With a helpful word from Mel about a ledge for my foot high on the right, and a nod from her that I'd found it okay, as I was placing my foot blindly, I finally made the move. In the end, that one move was dead easy because as soon as you make it, you can reach a brilliant jug!
Mel also said that I missed out a brilliant undercut hold which would have made myself more in balance whilst placing all the gear, ho hum!
Up onto a ledge and peg belay (backed up with a bomber cam as the peg is looking a tad worn!) I brought up Mel, sorted my gear, and Mel ran through the rope so i could lead the 2nd pitch.
Oh the second pitch is amazing! The climbing feels about Diff/V.Diff standard with humongous jugs! Until an overhanging section, which feels about 4a, making the 2nd pitch feel about Severe standard overall.
but it's jug city all the way and the positions and exposure is beautiful!
I'm so glad Mel was happy for me to lead the whole thing, as it wouldn't have been as nice just leading one bit.
Henning and Robbie were just finishing an E2 (which I don't know the name of and forgot to ask) and Mel and I scrambled back down (there's one scary section on the down scramble and I got Mel to guide my foot down from below) whilst Robbie ab'd down to successfully retrieve a cam that had gotten jammed on their route. Mel buried into the undergrowth to find a krab that had fallen from my harness at the top of the route, narrowly missing wacking her whilst I got my shoes off and sorted my gear.
Mel had wanted to go and lead Central Crack, but upon checking the time, it was 2.45pm and Robbie had to be back in Dundee at 4.30 at the latest for work, so we had to call it a day.
I felt pretty guilty for hogging all the lead on Alder after that, and Mel looked disappointed that she wasn't going to get any more leading done and insisted she get the 1st lead when we go out next time.
So, I'll just have to put my nerves aside and go for seconding first for a change. Maybe it will be a good thing anyway, to stop myself being reliant on having that first lead, and to see if it effects my confidence and if I can still get my head into the right place.

First 2 photos courtesy and copyright of Henning.
Rest are mine.

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