Tuesday, 7 August 2007

The Final Solution at the End of the World - My first 8a

Day one – Wednesday
Still desperate to keep the momentum from the holiday we hit the local crags in search of something hard to project. An isolated 8a with few repeats and a lot of history takes my eye and we go and check it out. Originally the line was graded E7 6c and was the hardest line in the Valley back in 1988. It took a direct line up a steep, blank wall past one peg and two home made bolts before traversing right into the easy finishing crack of a neighbouring E5. Then in 2002 Nick Dixon (of Indian Face Fame) stuck one final bolt in the overhung, capping, headwall – straightened the line out and gave the crag it’s only 8a. Typically he graded it accurately but modestly added low in the grade (sandbagger!). Online opinions on the route’s grade vary from 8a+ to 7c+ but no-one debated it’s quality or difficulty. I dog and frigg my way to the top and decide to never go near it again – there were whole sections that I could not imagine climbing cleanly – or at all! We pack up and head to Dinbren for some 7b’s to refresh our memory of how fingery the climbing here really is.

Caroline and Rocky at Worlds End

Day two – Friday
While I was working the 8a on Wednesday Caroline’s eye was caught by a neighbouring E5 so we headed back that direction to try it out. I manage to onsight it and Caroline seconds it, all the while thinking about leading it herself. Then the strangest thing happens – while abbing down from the E5, the 8a takes my eye again and I do the stupidest thing – I want to try it again! This time I lead up to the 3rd bolt with only one fall and no frigging! Wow! I thought that section was impossible! Then the bizarre moves below the overlap keep spitting me off before finally I give in and pull on the draw to frigg to the next bolt and work the previously impossible finishing sequence on powerful, painful finger locks and pinches – eventually after many attempts a sequence emerges through the expletives that proves to work time and time again – I now had the route cut into two doable sections separated by the impossible middle move. Hmmm… time to pack up again…. We’ll see…

Caroline Redpointing at Ruthin

Day three – Sunday
Today we had two objectives – Caroline was kinda sceptical of her 7a+ and 7b leads in France so wanted to do another route here in the UK to confirm it – 30 minutes later Caroline had redpointed another 7a – Summer Time Blues – Ruthin. Wow… that was quick. Now onto “Worlds End” crag again for another attempt at the 8a. I ab down the route, putting the draws in and brushing the holds and then tie in and go for my first redpoint attempt – I shock myself by sketching my way up to the final bolt, clipping it and then setting off into the redpoint crux sequence through the overhang – I lock the left hand on the crimp, reach up and sink the pinkie finger lock and squeeze with the thumb catch – paste both feet on the choosen blank patches and snatch my left hand up to the open pinch – I’m on – I’m off – totally pumped – shaking, out of breath – that was sooooo close but soooo hard!! Two more redpoint attempts that day and I was falling off ever so slightly lower each attempt. By the end of the day my fingers were reduced to shreds but I was surprised at how a previously impossible sequence could open up after a bit of practice. On the drive home I realised I had lead the original route, Rudolph Hess, E7 6c cleanly 3 times that day – get those thoughts outa your head slacker! The Jobs not done and anyway that’s a dead route – the big link’s 8a and that’s what you’re trying!!

The Final Solution, 8a

Day Four – Tuesday
After a days recovery of my fingers and their tips are still looking and feeling paper thin. The begin to sweat even at the thought of the route… the day begins overcast and theres even the odd bit of rain but we hedge our bets and go out for another batch of attempts. I put the draws in on abseil and then tie in for the lead – this time I wear the new Anazasi Verdes (previously trying the route in the velcros) and cruise through all the impossible sections right up to the overhang sequence, reach up to the finger lock but it doesn’t fit right and the thumb catch wasn’t much help either, I slap for the pinch but I’m already falling. No gasps, no roars, just slumping onto the rope and lowering off to the ground. Whats going on? What will this take? For Feck’s Sake!! I sit and mope for a while than Caroline stands up and puts her GriGri on the rope, “Right, It’s time – C’mon” she says. Eh… I’m still pumped but I’ve learned to listen. I tie in and execute the lover Brittish 6c moves like clockwork, crimp, lay away, palm, foot, intermediate, crimp, deadpoint, flatty etc… Then im at the impossible move below the overhang – this felt easy last try but I struggle this time and brush my specs off the rope as I contort myself into staying on – they almost fall off my face but hang on one ear as I reach up to the opposition hold with the thumb hook on the lip of the roof – I don’t need to see the holds at this stage, the moves are ingrained. Undercut, crimp, clip, fix specs… Now the crux – my right pinkie slots into the finger lock like the perfectly sized wire – thumb on the catch, it’s solid, I let out a burst as I stick the left pinch and cut loose on the overhang before sucking it in and getting my feet back on, now just two more stabs up the wannabe crack with the right hand and I can grab the finishing hold – another burst as I stab outa the pinkie lock to a slopey undercut in the vague crack – it’s just a transitory hold, on again, this time I’m shouting as i latch the finger lock, twist the hips, match feet and step the right out onto the face to the marked edge, Jug! Clip! 8a, 5.13b Done! We round the day off with an E5 6b onsight and a classic E3 6a finger crack… What a day!


TheUsualSuspect said...

dude, you're a legend!!! awesome going buddy :)
Looks like it's all starting to click.....I'd better get the finger out now ;)

Dave said...

Hey, tit for tat! Told you i wasn't going to let you have all the fun... we better enjoy it while it lasts - Caroline is closing in on our tails!

Stephen Mc Gowan said...

Brilliant, congratulations. So whats next? :P

Yourself and Neal are an inspiration. I'm training for the first time in my life towards a goal...largely thanks to you guys!