Tuesday 6 October 2009

west rib, dinas mot (HVS 5a)

I’ll let Patrick lead the crux pitch, the 5a one. That way he will feel good because he’s done something harder than just VS, and I will feel ok because I only have to do the 4b and 4c pitches which must only be VS really…

So, I had a minor epic on the first (4b) pitch. It would probably have been fine had I actually gone the right way, but that wouldn’t be much fun now would it? I went off route onto scary and entirely unprotectable ground after I had dutifully arranged my ropes in such a manner as to generate such horrendous rope drag that I very nearly pulled myself off - I demonstrated a textbook method of eliminating the advantages of double ropes in reducing rope drag, by placing my gear in such a manner as to direct the blue rope into a nice crack where it could quite happily jam itself, whilst being hugely runout above my last piece of absolutely terrible gear. Oh yes, that last piece of gear did in fact lift out I think…I had found my way into the ethereal zone of ‘unanticipated ground-fall potential’, that place where climbers become vividly mortal, and belayers either wonder how absorbant their underpants are as they shut their eyes, or ponder the value of their partner’s stuff when listed on ebay…

Needless to say, I discovered my little ‘rope management issue’ as I was mid pull through a committing move on poor footholds using handholds which were somewhat smaller than desirable given the circumstances…cue a stream of obscenities and panicked yanking at the poor lodged string holding me down…

Once I finally got to the belay I couldn’t pull the blue rope up so Patrick had to climb only on red until he’d freed the blockage. My poor rope will never quite be the same again. Once he joined me at the belay I had a bit of an angry tantrum like moment, mainly because I was still full of adrenaline and fear (sorry about that mate). Anyway, the decision was made to continue and so a little while later I found myself merrily seconding the crux pitch with numb fingers (it was cold in the shade).

The final pitch was only meant to be 4c, so I stupidly made the assumption that it wouldn’t really be HVS climbing, that was all behind us. In reality I found the pitch hard, extremely committing and scary, especially when I discovered the crux after a steep section of crack climbing for which I had had to overcome some MAJOR ‘head-f*ck’ issues. So I climbed the cracks (aka ‘hollow flakes’) and made the scary ‘mantel onto the steep arete’, only to find myself stood up with a seemingly blank section of rock between me and the top, a big drop at my feet, and no gear. I panicked.

Flustered and shaking I allowed myself a second or two of unashamed emotion after which I really did just have to deal with it (I pressed my head against the rock and let out a single gentle sob, then talked myself into generating some serious courage and control). Switching on my brain and finally getting some gear in at my feet made me feel a little better, after which I decided that up was the way I had to go – that is, I had to go up the arete to a flake traverse, rather than immediately rightwards on a flaky hand/foot traverse at my feet (this may or may not be the ‘correct’ way as per the guidebook, the reason I say that is that it sure as hell felt harder than English 4c). So up it was – left had onto a sidepull of sorts, right hand on a small and crappily shaped crimpy spike on the arete. Feet on, well, nothing much…deep breath, pull…aaaaaand...back down onto my ledge. Damnit. Right, just get on with it...

‘Ok, sidepull, pull, stand up on those crappy feet, ooh a bridge. Eeesh this is crap. Ok left hand into that sidepull pocket…oh god it’s tiny…shiiiiiiiiiiit…ok two fingers in the pocket, blimey it really is crap, can I really layback off of the single pads of two fingers? Foot up, better foothold…oh crap…PUUUUUULLLLL! Ok right hand, where the HELL DO I PUT IT?! Ooooh ok, shitty, shitty, shitty crimp…cummmmmoooooon…just stand up…’

The next hold wasn’t quite the jug I had anticipated but by that point I had no choice but to make it work, so I did. No real chance to hang on and get any gear in, I knew I just needed to get over the slab to the next arete, so I hung on, composed myself and then padded across.

There are a number of reasons why rock climbing is such a fulfilling and addictive sport, one of them being the feeling you get when you’ve just completed a technically challenging and wholly committing set of moves - those where nothing matters except how well you cope with the adrenaline ride. The feeling I got when I reached the far arete and the last few meters of the last pitch of that climb on Dinas Mot. The feeling I had when I finally got a decent piece of gear in after committing myself, the feeling knowing that it was done, that now, even if I blew a move and fell, I was no longer looking at a fall with potential for paralysis or death.

The final few meters to the belay were euphoric in their simplicity and ease, and so it was with a sense of deep-set relief and joy that I brought my wonderful and long-suffering partner up to join me, feeling justifiably satisfied. Thankfully he agreed that the arete section I had just managed to smoothly tremble up on minuscule holds and faith in my feet, had indeed been quite challenging.

1 comment:

  1. "or ponder the value of their partner’s stuff when listed on ebay…"

    Come, come now. I would NEVER have done that. The thought never even entered my head.

    No. I was thinking just how good some of your shiny, colour-coded karabiners would have looked on MY harness once you had no further need of them.