Yesterday was the scariest day of my life, and the end of the scariest ten days of my life. The impending lead of my ‘Great Climb’ project on Hell’s Lum crag was hanging over me like a guillotine. It’s the most dangerous lead I’ve ever done, and right now, I’m not sure exactly how I feel about it.
Falling off from the crux or above would have meant death. 80 feet to the gully bed. In the moment of the lead, I screamed at myself twice at the top of my voice because the reality hit me of where I was and what I was doing. I think it achieved little more than spreading my fear across everyone who was there filming, Tony who was on the skyhook rope and especially Claire on the gully sprint rope running through the only good gear, 40 feet below me.
An outcome was needed to free everyone from the sentence, so I screamed away all my thoughts and uncaringly hydraulicked like a robot through the slopers and on to the belay.
When I got there I just felt guilty for engaging with this undertaking in the first place. On a personal level it’s OK – I’m up for this type of experience, full on as it is. But it’s not fair on everyone else for me to be walking around for ten days consumed in my own ugly world of fear, and blind to other people’s needs. I’m massively in their debt, especially Claire’s.
Being with Cubby last week was very helpful – having a history of this type of situation, he knew the score, and was great counsel.
Anyway, now it’s over, I’m happy that I could do something positive for the guys behind The Great Climb programme. By the sounds of it the footage will be used soon by the BBC. Everyone is still recovering from the day, it was a long one! A very tired Claire and me (with 4 ropes and 2 racks on my back) left Hells Lum last and eventually found the top of Coire an t’ Sneachdha in the dark and rain and picked our way carefully down the Coire and back to the ski car park after midnight.
Claire took the pictures of pitch 2, a superb forty five metre pitch of E5. Description for the route at the bottom too.
To Hell and Back E10 6c *** 80m
The route climbs the big smooth vertical wall right of the waterfall in Hell’s Lum, crossing Chariots of Fire higher up to finish up the smooth overhanging headwall. A fall from anywhere on the second half of pitch one is unlikely to be survivable.
1. 35m Start just left of the open groove. Move up the wall on positive holds to a dyno. Follow a sloping rail rightwards to a stopping place (good cams). Climb the wall on crimps to a fragile and hollow flake (dubious skyhook and cam). Dyno left to a quartz edge, then crimp desperately to a good edge. Move up, then left along slopers to a flat and often wet hold in the hanging groove. Climb the groove (poor RP2 on right) then move left around the arête and up to easy ground in the groove, leading to the belay on Chariots of Fire.
2. 45m Follow Chariots of Fire through it’s crux then break left across an overhanging wall on flakes, to eventually gain a groove with some detached blocks. Climb it to a small ledge. Step left and climb the faint crack in the headwall past a thin move to an exhilarating finish.