Right then..... well after mentioning Carolines recent success in my previous post i thought i had better expand on it. Firstly i think a bit of background is important to see things in perspective :) Caroline has been climbing 4 years or so..... during that time she has never really taken the bait and gotten too keen - her running kept her busy and climbing had the potential to lure her to the dark side. So it was kept as a dirty little secret. Never making any big efforts to get out on rock but doing just enough to justify the time spent as some form of cross-training for running.... you know, core, abdominal benefit etc.. the scary thing i picked up on was that within 5 leads, Caroline had progressed to E1 and soon had preferred not to lead anything below that grade (that took just a couple of months). Then we relocated to Wales and within the first year she had lead a few E3's - some necky and technically easy, one or two big, pumpy and meaty.
A meaty one... Caroline on an E3 5c, Pembroke 2006?
But then a two year period of relative inactivity for both of us hit, which was brought to an end last summer with our trip to Le Tarn and Caroline's first 7a+ and 7b leads (taking 2 and 3 goes respectively). What happens when we break new grade ground? We doubt the routes difficulty, naturally! So it followed that on returning to the UK Caroline had a point to prove to herself and sent a few 7a sports routes on home turf. Then a week long trip to Siurana saw her trying every 7a in sight and managing on the second last day to bag her first 7a onsight. The proof seems fairly watertight at this stage (well to me at least) but being Caroline she still wasn't convinced. Anyway, the winter came and went and we've been doing feck all really. Then for whatever reason we started thinking of trad again. Caroline wanted a goal so decided E5 was a worthy one and last Monday we went out late to the local crag after work and she managed about 30-40 minutes on a rope trying Laxix. Driving home she was still unsure if she could do one or two of the moves - never mind doing them on lead. Ah well, at least it was good training :) Wednesday came and i managed to persuade her to come out again and try it for a laugh - she had a full days work and a 75 min road run under her belt by this stage but i won and we hit the crag. This time huge progress was made and the route was climbed in two overlapping sections by the time we packed up. She was getting into it! Saturday we made it out for around 5pm after a day in Chester and this time instead of going around to set up the top rope i got the pad ready and gave her the sharp end (half expecting her to tell me where to go)... and she tied in for the lead. The gear had been practiced too and nothing extra was racked up, the first few pieces; a fiddly 00, good 3 in a slightly flared slot and a backup skyhook had to be placed at about 15ft after the first boulder problem. After that, one bomber peanut in a keyhole slot protected the most fluffable and steepest section before the final balancy top section. Caroline's first attempt saw her back off before the first gear... this was her first trad lead in probably two years remember. 5 mins good psyche at the base and she was off again... this time straight to the crux but she wasn't climbing well - really scared and pumped - overgripping every crimp. As she moved into the crux i knew it wasn't going well and then her left foot popped off the blind edge under the bulge just as she was about to place the right foot higher - leaving her clamped onto the two worst holds on the steepest section of the route, footless! She hung on and tried to correct it but it was no use, she was off! Lowering down there was some severe frustration - but on the plus side, that was her second ever trad fall! The rope was pulled and within 10 minutes she was up there again on lead, this time the sequence vivid in her mind... RIGHT foot, then left, right hand sloper, left hand to crack scar, left foot onto pimple then.... the bit i had been waiting for, Caroline had to deadpoint with her left to a sidepull at the base of the groove - with pumped arms and crap footers it was all too fall-offable - a little kinda growl later and she had made the move and romped up the groove to her last wire placement, a sideways 4 in a shallow opening protected the remainder of the route and the final balancy moves. Man i was relieved when she topped out and in case you hadn't guessed very chuffed! The scary thing is that including this Caroline has a total of less that 30 trad leads ever! .... and we've only 1 E grade between us! On that note i soloed the neighbouring E6 before we went home... felt easy but good head training for harder stuff to come. (finger feeling ok... but still not better)
Today we headed to Burbage North to try and work something a little harder... Any E7 woulda done. We ended up playing on "Balance it is", E7 6c. Although i could climb it fairly ok - it was dripping wet, especially the sheltered left side of the arete and inside the cracks! it was an almighty fight! Before we could really get into anything else a thunder shower drenched us through and we packed up in the rain..... our hard grit initation had come to a close :)