Over the last few weeks I have been living a slightly more conventional life; having to fit my climbing in around work and weather (although I've still been sleeping in a cupboard under the stairs). But I've enjoyed the sense of urgency you get from this, nipping out after work to make the most of our recently extended evenings, and have managed to get some absolutely cracking routes done!
With the ambient warmth of last week George and I ventured to the south side of the pass to Clogwyn y Gafr, a compact little crag with line after line of superb quality. This is where I did my first E3, Satsuma Special a couple of years ago, which I later discovered gets E4 with the demise of a peg that once protected the bold headwall. A brilliant bit of climbing regardless of it's bold nature! But this visit we were not looking to push our boundaries into grades beyond ourselves, the trad season still being so young. So we each bagged a slightly damp crag-classic; the eye-catching crack line of Pulsar E3, ranging from finger locks to arm bars and some powerful slopey laybacking to evade the saturated algae on the lead by George, and then I udged, palmed and slithered my way up the equally attractive corner of Sacred Idol E3, made even better with the holds in the corner being elimiated by seepage and slime, making for magnificent multi-dimensional climbing in all planes of movement between the side-walls.
A few solid days of menial work does wonders for the psyche! So later that week I headed out with Matt Burdekin for what turned out to be a bit more of an intense session than the above! We got up to the Grochan, one of my favourite crags, for convenience as well as for the quality routes. The only drawback was that I had done almost all the routes there. Just the exciting cracked headwall of Quantum Jump E5 still awaited my presence on it. This is the route I witnessed George deck on a while back due to a mean little notch cutting his rope on the lob, so it has been a bit of an elephant in the room for a few of us ever since. Whether I was to be successful or not, the elephant had outstayed his welcome, and Burdy's relaxed 'have a bash' attitude really helped relieve some of the pressure surrounding the idea of getting on it.
Leo Houlding's attitude towards saving routes until they're within your ability comes to mind. It's those hard-fought onsight attempts at your limit that are really the most rewarding, whether you're successful or not. Recently I belayed Alex on Great Wall E4 at Craig-y-Forwyn; a revered and historical route that I know he really wanted to onsight; the Alex vs. flash-pump battle that ensued was a pleasure to witness, and his hard-fought success on reaching the top was enjoyed by all (except the miserable git of a land-owner). So I approached Quantum Jump with the acknowledgment that I might fall, but with the determination not to! A few times I was close to coming off, a foot pop here, a barndoor there, and a desperately deep pump on the last few moves, but I just kept on pulling; there's always more toothpaste in the tube! How close I was to coming off only added to the exhilaration of success! Up at the belay an old climber called across his sincere congratulations, saying that he had seen many attempts and few successes from young ambitious lads on that route. I would definitely class myself as a young ambitious lad, and thankfully that day I was also a successful one!
I now have a weekend in Pembroke to get some beasty trad onsighting done, before I head off on my fright-free European adventure of bouldering and sport climbing. I'm super psyched to get out there and get crushing, but I will also be looking ahead in anticipation of getting back on the trad that this brilliant rocky little island offers.
Video of Leo Houlding just missing out on the onsight of Balance it is, E7 6c at Burbage South. Can't wait to have a crack at this, I just need to be a bit fitter and in a bit better shape!
(the audio and video are way off sync for some reason, but you get the idea)