Steve Pardoe's uk.rec.climbing Trip Report Archive Pages

Steve Pardoe's (own) Reports

Edition of 30/7/2011


Index to Steve's reports... (...you know what to do)
Stanage Popular End, July 2011
Dow Crag, May 2008
Stanage End, September 2005
Castle Naze, May 2005
Llanberis Pass, March 2003
Kepier dans les Arbres, September 1999
Slack, Clogwyn Yr Oen, Moelwyns, June 2001
Roaches, October 1999
Tryfan, May 1999


Stanage Popular End, 28. July 2011
Rockchat, 30. July 2011

Three of the URC / Rockchat posse enjoyed a lovely bit of bimbling at the (ever-) Popular End on Thursday, some fine routes and a fun day. The crag was bone dry, and there were enough people about to be sociable, but no crowds.

Photos from Roger are here

John M led Black Hawk Traverse Left (18m, VDiff, ***) and Robin Hood's Right Hand Buttress Direct (22m, HS 4a, ***)
Steve P led Anatomy (12m, VDiff), Mantelpiece Crack (8m, Diff 4a) and Small Crack (8m, VDiff, *)
Roger was happy to second, and take photos

Following John up BHTL, I was wishing I'd offered to lead it, right up to the point where I was very glad I hadn't. Lovely expedition for a second, though. RHRHBD lived well up to its (IMHO) sandbag grade of HS, a very ungainly grovel under the roof for me and double-knee technique to get onto the nose. A fine and bold lead by John higher up.

My leads were much easier, which was just as well, as Anatomy was my first since Kelly's Crack in September 2009 with Arnaud. Mantelpiece Crack required a rather bold start for a Diff, and Small Crack seemed rather steep - someone suggested a fist jam, which got me past a tricky bit but made jam of my fist.

Great to be back on it, thanks to the chaps for support.

SP


----- Original Message -----
From: "Steve Pardoe"
Newsgroups: uk.rec.climbing
Sent: Friday, May 09, 2008 12:11 PM
Subject: TR - Dow Crag (long)

[Pedant's corner - Dow Crag ought to be pronounced "Doe Crag" (as in "doe, a deer, a female deer") according to my late father's 1938 F&RCC Guide; and is written as "Doe" by George Abraham in his "British Mountain Climbs" (1948 ed). So now you knoe]

Murray's 'B' Route, and Eliminate 'A'.

For my 60th birthday present, my best beloved had bought me a day's Guiding with Robin Beadle. I'd climbed with him and Other Steve in Scotland six winters ago, but today we were in the Lakes, walking up the Walna Scar road towards Dow Crag. The weather was glorious, warm, hardly a breath of wind, and a clear blue sky.

Reading the new edition of "Classic Rock", I'd made a note of Murray's 'B' route as a possible climb, and this seemed to suit Robin. It gets S 4a and three stars, both grade and stars well deserved, I'd say. After a quick refresher from the guidebook he set off, swarming up the initial chimney and fixing a thread to protect the slab traverse. I was left wondering whether I'd be able to follow - those first few moves on real rock after the winter layoff always seem the hardest. What's more, we could see a sling and krab hanging from a spike above the slab, presumably from a previous party lowering off the crux. However, the chimney went OK and the slab was fine - it's very polished, but my ape index helped. The hardest part was getting Robin's sling out at full stretch, and then matching feet in a slippery pocket before a huge step to the left (presumably the 4a move) and easier ground with a jug exactly where it was needed. My Dad's old 1938 guidebook mentions a fine knob, and it certainly was.

At another stance I fumbled getting the gear out, and dropped a krab out of one of Robin's quickdraws. At first I thought it had landed at my feet, but as I looked down I heard another 'plink' and it was clearly some way below, and too late for a shout. Oops. After some pleasant climbing we reached the superb hand traverse, reminiscent of Milestone Buttress Direct, but less exposed; and with another steep pitch we were at Easy Terrace, and the climb was over, far too soon.

We scrambled down for a sarnie (fending off hungry dogs) and an unsuccessful look around for the krab, and Eliminate 'A' was suggested. This gets VS 4c, and again three stars. After Murray's, Robin seemed happy to give it a go, but I asked him whether it was escapable - "no" - and what happened if I couldn't get up - "that's what I'm here for". Good point, though on these multi-pitch mountain routes it can be difficult for the leader and second to communicate at the best of times. By now I was quite nervous, and we trudged across to 'A' buttress and roped up at the big grass ledge. The first section round a bulge above Great Gully seemed quite hard and exposed, but it was all there and I began to feel more comfortable. Silly me. There followed a horribly claustrophobic squirm, with a long reach to retrieve a threaded sling, which got my arm very tired, and a couple of times I really thought I was coming off. Amazing what the prospect of a big drop does for the adrenaline.

When we reached another belay stance and had sorted the rope out, I noticed that Robin had a few tentative tries at getting off it. As he said, the better the stance the harder it can feel on leaving it, especially when you are stepping downwards without a rope above. I was reminded of leaving the Pedestal to get onto Technical Slab at the Roaches, but scaled up somewhat. He made the best of the handholds and dabbed a toe on the slab to the left, before swinging confidently round the next bulge and out of sight and earshot again. When my turn eventually came, I could see why he'd been tentative. For the hand(s) there was a small and polished block which was a lot less positive than it looked, and for the feet, well, smears at best. And as for balance, forget it - the block was on the right, I was moving left, so the move had to be dynamic and there could be no reversing it. Three points of contact? I don't think so. And this above a lot of fresh mountain air, with the rope horizontal.

Well, reader, I made it, teetering on sketchy toeholds and feeling for phantom features for the fingers, and reached the funny little thread on the buttress; but my heart was in my mouth until a little later when I was within earshot of Robin again. I told him I was hanging on to fiddle the sling out, and he said "well done". I replied that I hadn't got it out yet, and he said "no, well done for making the move", which was gratifying. I'm not sure what he'd have said if I hadn't made the move, but it's academic since he couldn't have seen or heard me anyway.

After some steep but pleasant climbing we were up on yet another stance with a dodgy exit, this time to the right, and even more exposed. The next pitch was a long and winding one, so while Robin led it away from me I had plenty of time to contemplate (a) how I was going to step apparently into space while getting a well-wedged nut and cam out (the cam filling the only handhold worthy of the name), and (b) what might follow, assuming I achieved (a). When it was time to go, the matter was complicated by having to scream for slack to release a long sling from the belay behind me, which I might have anticipated had I not been so preoccupied with the next moves forward. Then I was screaming for whatever the opposite of slack is, while I worried about the step-off. I'd watched where Robin put his feet, but that seemed a long time ago now. He'd also pointed out an excellent quartzite handhold, but that was way out of reach, of course. So, an undignified crawl to whack out the nut, key clipped to the rope so as not to drop it, clip it and the nut to my loop, shuffle back, then restore balance and step into space towards the Friend in its cosy pocket.

This was a full-on "Oscar Foxtrot" moment - there is really quite a lot of space on Dow Crag. By now I was close to panic, but the friction was superb and my toes held, and after some imaginative defiance of gravity I whipped the cam out, leaving it clipped to my rope, and gratefully grasped the quartz before sorting my feet out and then racking the gear. Big intake of breath, Tango Foxtrot Foxtrot Tango. Then steeply up and round to the next stance, at the end of the traverse on Gordon & Craig's Route, and a comfy sit-down.

After having 'A' buttress to ourselves so far, it was a surprise to find another second belaying where we wanted to be, and another leader then climbed over me (off-route, it turned out) trailing a pair of ropes, but eventually we got to our own route and some confusion. The location of the next pitch of Eliminate 'A' was clear enough from the guidebook, but there seemed to have been no traffic on it, in contrast to the polish and chalk lower down. Perhaps everyone uses the easier pitch of Arete, Chimney and Crack instead? We purists followed the true line, which started very steeply but eased above, and became a jugfest with good pulls and excellent toeholds all the way, if you looked around a bit. This was a delightful finish to a superb route, surely one of the great climbs in the district.

Robin took coils and we moved together over the easy scramble to the summit ridge, and emerged into warm sunshine before the tedious descent of the loose gully to the base of the buttress and our sacks. Robin's was adorned by the dropped krab, which had been found by none other than Stephen Reid from Needle Sports. Result.

Gear packed, we headed off down the boulders to Goats Water and the path. What a fantastic day it had been.


----- Original Message -----
From: "Steve Pardoe"
Newsgroups: uk.rec.climbing
Sent: Monday, September 26, 2005 11:25 AM
Subject: TR : Stanage (north) End, Saturday 24th

Hi, all,

Perfect Gritstone weather to celebrate the first weekend of Autumn, and my first visit to the 'Unpopular End' of Stanage. What a superb venue, especially Crow Chin! Why no crowds?

Roger D, Arnaud G, Duncan I & I spent a happy afternoon wandering between the buttresses (and even on them, from time to time) and I surprised myself by counting up nine new ticks, even managing a couple of leads for a change. The Manky Massive were slightly delayed by the need for Dunc's anti-emetic of choice, cream-filled chocolate eclairs. I'm usually struggling to arrive on time, but this gave me ample opportunity to relish the lovely walk-in from Moscar to meet Roger at Marble Wall. This all looked a bit hard for me, so we walked north to meet A & D, shared one remaining slice of Mrs P's cake, and opened for business, at the...

End Slab area :

RD led me up Prospero's Climb (VDiff 12m **) Steady and with some nice moves at the flake.

SP led The Pinion (HVD 16m **) This was a sort of "3PS Light", with a deep pocket for a Friend 4 low down, some tasty moves leaving the comfort zone (unused to leading, it felt Severe and 4a to me), but well protected again higher up. With its remarkable corbel-ledge from which to enjoy the stunning scenery, it's very pleasant indeed.

RD led me up and along The Crab Crawl (S 4a 12m **) Quite bold in places, and oscillatory progress along breaks to gain the final blocks. There's a really nice thumb pinch, and a rockover low down which bring a smile to the face when you get them.

We wobbled along to, well, the Wobbler area :

AG led me up Old Salt (HVS 5a (5b for the short) 10m **) What a classic, surely worth three stars? A bold start over a hideous landing, hand-sliding up an exciting arete, heel-hook preventing a barn-door, underclings in a flake, a fantastic hidden side-pull around the corner, sketchy exit over slopers - all you could want in a Paul Nunn offering from 1963. No way will I ever lead anything like that, but Arnaud did it in style.

More in my line, I soloed Crumbling Crack (? Diff?) with one hard move where the finger pocket was green, but my knee technique triumphed. I then bit off more than I thought I could chew by soloing Twin Cracks (VDiff 6m *) and got a bit scared getting off the big block - Roger thoughtfully dashed up with a top rope, just in case, but I squirmed my way out without it. Good job it was bone dry. Duncan justified wearing jeans by grunting up Boomerang Chimney, but ran out of time to bid us Valediction.

Roger and I then strolled south again to Crow Chin, a gem of a buttress with some steady routes.

SP led October Crack (Diff 10m **) Steady, that is, apart from an off-balance move out from the comfort of the corner crack onto the face, but plenty of gear including a crafty ground-placed nut to protect a 'fall-back position'.

Roger led Bent Crack (HVD 10m **) Quite a bit harder, I thought, with an awkward start, but delightful moves further up traversing out under the roof. Just needed to be half as long again to be a classic.

SP soloed Bright Eyed (VS 4b, 8m, no star!) I'd had a sly look at this earlier, and couldn't see any gear, but Roger spotted me as I got established, and then stood by for rescue. As height is gained, the gradient reduces, but so do the breaks. A sharp pebble in the lip of one gave enough finger purchase to get the feet sorted out for a fairly committing sequence to the top. Well worth at least one star in my view, even though it's short - Black Slab at Burbage North gets one.

So, thanks to all for a brilliant afternoon. Nine new routes for me, 13 stars, and a really excellent outing at the premier crag. Back home for chicken tikka biriani and a Dublin-brewed can of Guinness with Mrs P. Lovely.

S


From: "Steve Pardoe"
Newsgroups: uk.rec.climbing
Sent: Thursday, May 12, 2005 4:52 PM
Subject: TR : Castle Naze

Hi, all,

As a change from bashing the plastic at the NWF (oops) Arnaud & I had a very pleasant Wednesday evening at Castle Naze, our first visit but I hope not our last. Weather and rock excellent (if a little warm to start with) and our efforts were as follows (grades from Rockfax Western Git, but I think in broad agreement with OPR):

- Arnaud led Studio (HS 4b), grand, though on this routefest of a crag the admonition regarding the left-hand crack was a bit academic ;

- Steve led Sheltered Crack (VDiff), nice and steady to get my head round a first lead in well over a year ;

- Arnaud boldly led Scoop Face (HVS 5a), seemed to me a very sketchy start, and an exciting traverse with widely (horizontally) spaced gear. Top league all the way, with an especially delightful finish ;

- Steve timidly led Footstool Right (HVDiff 4a), odd grade, odd route, polished to start with and vegetated midway ;

- Arnaud led Nozag (VS 4c), absolutely superb as per Roger's recommendation, and I thought (with the luxury of comfortably tight ropes) that it just got better and better, and once I got going I would have enjoyed twice its 14m length. Not sure about the grade, I guessed 4c fair but Arnaud says some on UKClimbing differ. There's an old and fuzzy picture of a young and sharp Dunc on Nozag on the Cardiff site, if you can be *rsed googling for it [1]. I'll get round to uploading some of my pics one day.

- Arnaud soloed Pinnacle Arete (I think?) and various other problems in that area, while Steve scared himself barndooring off the really easy stuff.

We then repaired to the Beehive Hotel (Marek's recommendation well deserved) for medicinal rehydration. Not bad for an after-work outing.

Steve

[1] Oh all right then http://tinyurl.com/7cpo4 and don't say I don't look after you.....


Llanberis Pass, Steve Pardoe, March 2003

From: Steve Pardoe (steveSP@AMpardoes.com)
Subject: TR : Youarsey Passathon
Newsgroups: uk.rec.climbing
Date: 2003-03-24 03:15:10 PST

Hi, all,

Who's a lucky, lucky boy, then? I couldn't have asked for better conditions, or partners, for a couple of Classic Rock ticks in The Pass on Saturday.

It was my first outing in Llanberis, and I was left suitably awestruck by Dinas Cromlech and its other-worldly Corner. Arnaud, John M & I had a whale of a time on Spiral Stairs (VDiff ** 84m) and Flying Buttress (VDiff *** 92m).

After a bit of a wait for parties ahead of us, Spiral Stairs was sensational, led by John. I was confused, since I'd read the guidebook description of the second pitch as being scary for an inexperienced second, so after the quite-exposed-enough-thank-you traverse of what I thought was the first pitch, I was rather dreading the next. I hadn't realised that we'd scrambled solo up the first pitch (D'Oh! no wonder I thought it was rather a steep walk-in), and the remainder was a delight of steep pulls on excellent holds.

Flying Buttress was another spectacular "out there" mountain route, led by Arnaud, with an airy pinnacle stance followed by a downclimb across to the final wall. I found the highly polished entry to the slanting chimney very tricky, though John found my bicycling struggle highly amusing.

After John & Arnaud had generously wet-nursed me up those routes, I was just happy to sit in the sunshine and watch them cruise Noah's Warning (VS 4c,5a), followed by a swift half in the Vaynol, as you do.

Wonderful stuff. I dare say there will be a few pictures*, when I can get round to sorting them out.

S

*Some pictures from our day in The Pass are now here


Slack, Clogwyn Yr Oen, Moelwyns, June 2001

"Slack"? Not my sphincter, anyway

I was leading the second 80-foot pitch of Slack, aiming for what turned out to be the wrong "steep crack". I got further and further above my last "that'll do until I find a proper placement" gear, on steeper and steeper ground, and realised far too late that the crack was hopelessly blind, and I couldn't go up or down.

I was seriously run-out, and looking at a really nasty lob. Dangling on a finger-pocket, a toe pocket and a smear (admittedly with superb friction) I managed to get a wire in, and then delicately traversed left to teeter on a thin flake, where I could rest at last. Then I saw, just a few moves away, the nice big stance below the other "steep crack", where I should have been heading all along. Ho hum.

By now thoroughly shattered, mentally as well as physically, I got some good gear in (some of it so good that it's still there) and brought Marek up. He led through, making short work of the crack, and brought me up to his belay on the ledge above, below the overhangs, as per the guidebook.

Then it got difficult.

Swinging the lead through again, I crept along the off-balance ledge to have a look at the rib, which is nicely illustrated facing p336 of Paul Williams. "Climb the rib, crux, then move...". No way, no how. Just getting back to the stance and avoiding a pendulum was no fun, and, after what I'd just subjected him to, Marek didn't fancy it any more than I did. So what next? We knew that we could climb "Bent", next door, as we'd already done it, so the issue was whether we get across to it. We could see a terrace below us which offered a chance; then it became a matter of how much gear to sacrifice by abbing outta there.

There was a small flake within reach, but it sounded rather hollow, and we weren't convinced that a loaded sling wouldn't lever it off the mountain. Nuts in cracks seemed a better bet. As we discussed later (yes, there was a "later"), it's remarkable how you actually weigh up the cost of an odd extra nut and krab ("locking or plain? Let's go for locking") in the context of the anchors that will save or cost you your life. If any lucky climbers come across some nice free kit up there, that's the reason!

This was my first forced abseil retreat, and all I could think about was trying to avoid jerking the rope, and wondering whether the gear would stay in. The ab went OK, even though I'd forgotten to bring my Prussik loop to back it up (so much for the "above or below" debate!), and we stumbled along the heathery terrace to get back on Bent, witnessed by Tony from his comfy seat by the road. One easy pitch later, we were scrambling out of difficulties and back down to the base of the crag.

Epic or not, it was a grand day out, but I'm leaving Slack for braver souls.

A Cautionary Tale

Reading the text-books on this old rock-climbing lark, the advice seems quite consistent that you should clip your belay device, personal belays, backups and so on, into the bight of rope that you've tied into your harness loops (such as with a rethreaded figure of eight or a bowline) rather than into the harness's belay loop (my Petzl harness, like many, has horizontal sewn-on loops on the waist loop and between the leg loops, with a short sewn belay loop between these).

Fine, no problem with that.

Until I came to untie myself from the rope, prior to the forced abseil. Then, of course, my belay device, personal anchors, etc, were attached to, er, well, not me, anyway.

Just a thought, in case there's anyone out there who ever gets as tired, stupid, and careless as I did. Get yourself sorted before you untie that bight! Thanks to Marek for pointing it out, and for generally keeping me alive on the crag.


Roaches, October 1999

From: Steve Pardoe (steve@pardoes.com)
Subject: TR: Roaches 23/10 Youarsey meeting
Newsgroups: uk.rec.climbing
Date: 1999/10/25

Hi, all,

Not a bad day spent a-clankin' and a-crankin' at The Roaches on Saturday, could have been brighter (and drier). I think we had eight Youarseys there altogether, plus a few from York Uni, and we even managed a bit of climbing, though much of the day was spent looking for reasonably dry routes, and eating cake.

Slight epic later, but Charles will tell you all about that (10/10 for turning up, Charles, BTW!). Illustrated TR will be on me server soon [it's here - Ed.]

After wandering around the crag to find something feasible, my rather sad list was all VDiffs:

- Right Route: TR'd. Have led it before, but a nice warm-up today;

- Beckermet Slab: Led, Ant 2nd. Slimy start, bridging off Maud's Garden, then easy enough, nice holds just where you need them to finish, and more gear than expected from OPR;

- Fern Crack: 2nd Ant. Gorgeous undercut start, spoilt for choice of world-class jugs, thinner later to belay shelf; very slimy, I led through, slithering up top pitch.

Special thanks to Mark for lugging his mat up, but Roscoe's can wait.

Steve "downgraded" P


Now some really old stuff...
Kepier dans les Arbres is a serious big-wall climbing environment, with a long walk-in and notorious descent route. This Trip Report describes our attempt on the main wall in August 1999. The article was written for and posted on the largely North-American rec.climbing newsgroup in September
If you're wondering where we've been, J & I have just returned from the awesome walls of Kepier. For obvious reasons, I didn't publicise our trip ahead of time. Sadly, we used up a precious four week vacation without topping out on our chosen route, but it was an amazing experience all the same, which we thought we'd share with you.

A steady nine-day walk-in up the Gray Trail, heavily laden, got us to Kepier dans les Arbres and the talus field at the bottom of the route*. Since we arrived mid-afternoon, we figured we'd get a few pitches done. Big mistake: it would have been better to start fresh, and after four hours it was getting dark and we'd only done the first two pitches, which was kind of depressing. We set up the Portman Mk V wall-camp and tried to sleep, but the combination of altitude and disappointment kept us awake.

Next morning we got going early, and were on the fifth pitch (sixth in the old guide-book) by noon. The views were opening up, with the sun glinting on the majestic sweep of Fullers Mill Bend, four days' hike to the south (by the way, the "bear-proof" poles at Camp Wrist, just round the Bend, are not!). We felt we were going well, and would reach the classic bivouac site at Widow's Hole by nightfall.

J took the lead throughout the evening, but on pitch 12 (old 13) she started to run low on cams. Darlobint's Crack runs dead parallel, and she'd have needed about 20 size 4.5's to protect it adequately. We were carrying plenty of cams, but obviously in a variety of sizes. She decided to rapp back down and try another line in the morning.

This was much better, and we soared up another 11 pitches in a perfect day of big-wall climbing, without serious incident. It was beginning to look as though Kepier was do-able, after all! After our first day's experience, we decided to set up camp early, and save the last two pitches (three, if you avoid the crux by taking the KY Variation, of course) for the next morning.

Clouds gathered, and around midnight an electrical storm started, and then it began to snow. We must have taken about two feet of fresh snow on the wall-camp roof that night, and it was obvious when dawn came that we were in big trouble. The storm continued for three days and most of the next night, and when the clouds eventually disappeared it was so cold that the gas froze in the dependable old Gunk-Beta stove (and this was in August, remember!).

By dawn on day seven, the storm had abated, and we looked out of the wall-camp. Everything was choked with ice and snow, so we couldn't continue up the cracks, and rapping down to the ground wasn't an option, as we didn't have enough rope. There's obviously no point in trying to get help out there, and the ThinkPad batteries were almost flat anyway, so it was up to us. We took stock of supplies, and considered our position. As expected, the Kendal Mint Cake was inedible, but fortunately our Portman Mk V contained a full 5-liter (frozen) pea bottle, so we were OK for food, drink and the extra Vitamin C which is essential at these latitudes. We had some dry clothes, and our fingers were still functioning. The best plan we could think of was to take the infamous Wear Traverse, and somehow get over to the Thin Seam. Obviously that would mean abandoning the Portman wall-camp, but it seemed the only way.

We stuffed what we could into our packs, and exchanged a glance as I cut the wall-camp loose, using an old belay knife I'd found on Siula Grande. We made the delicate moves out onto the traverse, now dripping with meltwater, and I was within a handspan of the topmost Chuffing ring, just about to clip a krab, when my boot slipped, and I fell off in a huge pendulum, swinging towards the unforgiving rock...

I don't remember any more until the next day, when I awoke to find I'd dreamt the whole thing. Kepier's secret would be safe for another year.

There's a simulated photo on the (relocated) NMC website. As readers familiar with the area will know, photography is now banned at Kepier.

Now mainly of historical interest, the original essay "K2, or the Second Retreat from Kepier" by the late Col "South" Lefroy-Pardoe, BF and Bore (Retarded) is now available on the interweb thingy here.


Tryfan (East Face), North Wales, Steve Pardoe, May 1999

From: Steve Pardoe (steve@pardoes.com)
Subject: TR: Tryfan, Pinnacle Rib 8/5/99 (seemed long)
Newsgroups: uk.rec.climbing
Date: 1999/05/10

Illustrated TR will be posted to our web site one day, [it's now here - Ed.] but in the meantime, here's a taste...

Pinnacle Rib, my own private crux.

We're on a huge stance at the foot of the last big pitch of First Pinnacle Rib, central buttress, East face of Tryfan. It's pouring with rain, and the rock is as greasy as a truck-stop cafe counter, so we're climbing in our mountain boots. Water is dripping off everything, helmet, hands, beard. If this harness wasn't so tight, it'd be dripping off my balls.

It's getting late, we've already climbed over four hundred feet. I've done more than I ever thought I could, I'm cold, tired, and scared, and now it's time for the crux pitch. No question of bailing out: I daren't tell my brother-in-law David, who's leading the climb, but I don't think I could abseil down all that.

There are three of us, I'm in the middle, and to save time the end men are leading through. Richard's out of sight at the top of a zigzag. Dave, who is tail-end Charlie on this pitch, says "go". A tug on the rope. Check knots, off belay, walk a couple of paces to the face and wait. Rope tightens again. "Climbing!", I shout, as if anyone could hear me in this wind.

The pitch starts with a curving crack on the belly of the buttress, like an appendix scar. There's nothing for my right hand: the rock's dimpled with a million little scoops, but every one has a fringe of mossy, licheny choss. It's running with water, and has all the frictional qualities of a sintered bronze bearing. Left arm braced on the crack, get a toe in. Teeter, rise.

Rain lashes my face. As the rope moves, the first two pieces of gear come clattering down towards me. Oh well, saves taking them out. Clip to my gear loop. There's one piece left at the top of the crack, where the route joins a long ramp off to the right. If that comes out now, it's a pendulum to God knows where. Better not tweak it, better not to know.

Get a grip. Get a few moves under me, and it feels do-able. In my dreams. There's still nothing for my right hand, so it's all balance on the shiny left edge of the crack. Wind's plucking me like a bass guitar, drawing crazy arcs with the two half-ropes behind me. Soaking wet, fluffy old ropes, they seem to weigh more than me. Beyond the crack, there's a convex slab off into a gully. Don't want to go in there.

Another move up. Still nothing, but the crack is getting steeper, so I've just got to pull on my right arm now. What's this, a tiny flake? Flake my arse, more like an After-Eight Mint. Nasty sharp top, but it's all there is. Remember how John Marsland showed me, fingers curled like a karate fist, nails to the rock, wrist ditto. Transfer some weight to the right at last, brace left leg. This is going to hurt. Lean, pull, pull, dammit! My fingers are so cold that I don't feel pain. Vibrams shudder and jam. For fuck's sake. I look up, there's a little groove just above my left hand now, a hand span out of reach. Lock off right arm. Pull, pull or die. I stretch up left, and get a finger in, two, three. First joints, second joints, that'll have to do. Hang, rest, blaspheme. Look around, but not down. Another stretch up on the right, it's fantastic, I can do this now. As I rise up towards the pro, the gear floats out and and greets me with a soft thud against the knots on my harness. Bugger. I still need that, and so will Dave. Can't reach to get it back in.

Wait, here's a little spike, a few feet away at two o'clock. Can I get a sling on it? Try, try and fail again. In this wind, I might as well be tossing candy floss at the moon. Think. If I fall now, it's going to be bad, but I grow Angel's wings, take both hands off, and weight the sling with a krab. It flicks over the flake first time.

Quick, quick, quick-draw. Clip..... and clip. As the gate snaps shut, it's the best feeling in the world.

S

More of Steve's writings :
Log of climbs
Mountaineering and climbing
Climbing and holidays (mainly pictorial)

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