I went out climbing with Mel last Tuesday, finally we made it down to Hawkcraig where we both had loads of things we wanted to do. At last the tide was agreeable and the weather was playing ball. Typically though, my head just wasn't in the right space at all for leading and I ended up taking one look at the rock and thinking,
'I can't lead today.'
Mel however was as keen as ever and was happy to do all the leading that day. Just hoped my head was up for even seconding and I wasn't going to be wibbling all over the place. She started off on what we thought was a HS called Torment. We hadn't looked at the guide description properly, how hard could it be, a HS? Bloody hard is the answer! Mel just onsighted an E1 the other day and shouldn't have had trouble with a HS, so she was pretty puzzled that the holds seem to run out, or the route really unbalanced. Turns out we were off route and should have been much further right.
Mel decided to go left onto the HS called Brutus instead, but because we weren't in the right place for that either, it would seem that we climbed something that wasn't in the guide (and IMO was a much nicer line anyway if not a great deal harder!) We reckoned Mel's Brutal variation went at about HVS. You had to pull out through the roof, onto a slab which was very technical (but lovely climbing (on second atleast with the rope above me!)) and then it all seemed rounded, bulgy and desperate after that. An amazing lead by Mel as it was seriously bold. I remember praying that she wouldn't come off after the roof as it would have been a total swing and wipper! She got in a hex, placed semi blindly and the 2 okay (ish) nuts in an awkward position after that, none of which could have been brilliantly confidence inspiring on lead.
I came really close to wanting Mel to ab down for the gear as I'd never seen her worried on a route before, knew it was gonna be hard and was bricking it. But I did it cleanly and felt quite chuffed.
Mel wanted to lead Pain Pillar after that and went for the HVS Direct start version. It's pretty damn bold to start off with and I was a bit worried that she hadn't put gear in after her 1st bit, she'd deck if she came out and it wasn't like Mel at all not to be putting in gear. When it came to my go, I realised why! You just don't get into a position to place gear until a good jug appears higher up.
Mel cruised PP, making it look a doddle (esp in comparison to the horror she'd led earlier!) Everything went pear shaped when I got higher up. I got to a cam wedged deep in a crack. Pulled the lever but the cams wouldn't budge at all. Hmmm, yanked the lever some. Got my nut key in behind the lever and pulled and the cams still wouldn't move. Seemed a bit over cammed to me. Got my nut key in each wire individually, the cams moved a little but then everytime I went back to pull the lever, it just wouldn't budge. I spent ages on the rope trying to get the damn thing out. Thankfully there was a jug to hold onto, so I just had to keep swapping hands. It was no good though, I just couldn't move it. I called up to Mel that she could ab down and get it. She said there was nothing to ab from and in retrospect it probably would have been much easier for her to have abbed off the perfectly adequate belay rather than the faff that ensued.
I shouted up for Mel to lower me, and I'd come up to the top and belay her up and she could get the cam out. It was a bit of a struggle as it's really hard to hear because of the sea. Mel was getting sore feet due to a loose toenail and I was pissed off about not being to get the cam out and spoiling the route. So by the time Mel got up to the top having easily got the cam out first go and then making a wee sarcy comment, I was seeing red and my temper flared. Now things got silly. Mel has a very similar personality to me in the respect that she's not one to back down, she's stubborn and opinionated, so we had a bit of a clash. Which resulted in my childishly stomping off in a huff, steaming at the ears. By the time I came down to the bottom of the cliff I'd calmed down enough, apologised to Mel for being a narky cow and got all upset and emotional, hate arguing with folk! So, we were totally cool thankfully and have a laugh about how daft it was.
It's funny, Pain Pillar is nothing like I remember it. I fell of the Direct Start last time I did it (1st year of climbing) and it didn't seem so bad now. I'll happily lead PP now next time I go (if my head isn't in hormonal raging cow mode!) but I'll just do the normal variant I think as I'm not sure I like the boldness of the direct start even though it's a far more pleasing and logical line.
Not been out climbing since then and to be honest I'm starting to pine a little for winter. I've been having dreams and thoughts of snow and turf and the reassuring thwack of an axe and the beauty of our Scottish hills in winter. I'm trully a lover of snow and winter rather than a rock goddess.