Claire, Kev and me headed to North Wales for a few days to meet up with some of the Edinburgh massive staying in Nant Peris. I was keen to check out the historic route Indian Face. This route is a massive slab climb with really bad RPs for protection, although I knew the climbing on it was meant to be not too bad physically (F7b+). After the huge hype about this route in films, books and the magazines, I was expecting some really awesome climbing.
When we clapped eyes on the cliff it did indeed look very idyllic above the mountain loch, although not as big I expected (I guess I’m used to the Ben though). I toproped the route a few times cleanly and thought about going for a lead the next day. But unusually for me I didn’t feel my usual all encompassing psyche to lead the route I’m working on. The climbing wasn’t very technical, just standing up on many very small toe edges for 100 feet. You can take both your hands off on any move on the whole thing, but it’s still super thin on the toes. My feet hurt! Foot cramp was putting me off at first, but then later when I thought about leading the route, I realised that the only thing that would make me fall off would be the snappy nature of the some of the footholds or one of my feet randomly skidding. Both were relatively likely and although the RP protection was not nearly as bad as I had read, there is still the possibility to die in a fall from the end of the hard part. So I sacked it and went in search of something more motivating to climb. It was a good experience – really reinforcing that the reason I like to climb bold routes is to exercise skill and judgement to control risk - and therein lies the enjoyment. When your chances of survival come down to whether a crystal decides to snap at that given moment, I’m not really that interested. The only bones I have ever broken so far happened in this way – when a pebble decided to snap when I was soloing Doug (E8) on Gritstone, after staying firm while I toproped it minutes before. 9 years on, I still have to walk or run uphill on my toes with that foot because I can’t bend it. Good call I think.
Ray Wood’s inspiring picture of Leo on the first ascent of Trauma
It’s nice to be able to go and experience it yourself! Photo: Claire MacLeod
Next up was Wales’ non-slabby E9; Trauma (E9 7a) in the Llanberis pass. The iconic photo of Leo Houlding on it would get anyone psyched and I wanted to be in the same place as Leo in that photo. So after coming down from Cloggy I ran up quickly to get a couple of hours on it before dark. That was enough time to suss the (exquisite) moves and gear. Next day, I got it in the bag. Conditions were a bit on the warm side for a Scot, but that psyche was back again, a good feeling. Just before I was going to pull the top rope, the quite amazing climber James McCaffie and his friend Jack raced up the slabs below us to say hello. Caff tied on and had a blast too – he’ll have it led in a day or two I reckon. After they nimbly hopped off up the grooves on their speed soloing mission, The Hot Aches guys arrived, sweating, having just belted across the valley from the Cromlech.
They’d been filming Jude Spanken cruising Lord of the Flies (E6) onsight for their new film, and got themselves sorted to film me lead Trauma. No need for recce-ing camera positions; they already filmed James Pearson making the second ascent earlier this spring! Probably the hardest part of Trauma is to blindly place a crucial wire in the middle of a 6c cross-through move, and then downclimb half the route to the ground. Setting up for the move, I had a proper faff, getting my feet tangled in the previous piece of gear (a small pecker). So by the time I got the wire in, strength was no longer in abundance, and I had some impressive all-over Elvis on the downclimb. The Elvis shake returned with a vengeance on the lead through the crux. I made it through, but very (VERY) nearly dropped the final piece of gear which would have left me stranded near the top of the wall in a sticky situation. A great evening’s climbing, and rewarding to make a very fast ascent.
The next morning it was Kev’s turn to feel the pressure of the impending headpoint. With the help of the sounds of psyche from his ipod while tying on, he did the business in style. Claire was also on a learning curve this week, getting used to moving about on big crags on a rope to take photos. I could see she still had to swallow her feeling of exposure abbing over the top of Dinas Mot to photograph Trauma, but once over, she was dangling about happily and snapping furiously as I slapped furiously.
Back home now…time for bed… tomorrow begins the big pack up to move house.