Thursday, 11 January 2007

Wet Grit take III (but this time the rain stopped just in time!)

A bit of relief on the top out of Blind Vision, Froggatt

I’m sitting in Dave Brown’s car heading back up the M6 from grit trip number three. I reckoned I might be ready to lead Blind Vision E10 7b at Froggatt on my next day on, having had about three hours messing about on it between the showers on the previous two washed out trips. So myself, Dave B, Diff and Tony summoned all our optimism and trusted the good forecast and convinced ourselves that we might be able to pull off a day trip send from Scotland.

So I joined the early bird commuters on the first train into Glasgow to start my own commute back to Froggatt Edge. On arrival in the peak we found to our dismay but not surprise that forecast was entirely spurious and it was in fact pissing down.. AGAIN! More gallons of tea followed in Hathersage and then sitting in the car at Froggatt watching hail bouncing off the windows. Dave B kept heading out for peek and pronouncing that the “last shower is coming through now”. Several last showers later. It was after 3pm and time to admit defeat. But only the kind of psyche you get when you drive halfway across the UK to get to the crag made us get out and walk in anyway for a look. As we wandered along the rain faded out and shards of sunshine came through. My pace quickened a bit.

The gale had given the headwall a super fast dry-off and only the last part of slingshot was still soaked. But we were armed with towels. A quick traverse along the crag base and the sun had set. I towelled off the top of the boulder problem and although the light was fading, I went for a crack at soloing up Slingshot. Blind Vision starts up a highball problem called Slingshot which is about Font 7c+ or 8a. The first move is the hardest, but also a beautiful move to leap for a finger edge and hold a slow controlled swing to stay on. After Slingshot there is a wee ledge from which to receive your thrown up harness and ropes and get psyched for the upper wall of E8 6c (F7c+ climbing with dubious but hopefully dependable gear).

After a few minutes I hit the jump and feet amazingly weightless as my feet swung back. After a blur of slaps I was standing on the ledge and all of a sudden the character of the day changed from a write off and a mess around at the crag at dusk, to a harrowing decision to lead an E8 in rapidly fading twilight. 4.30 passed as I got the gear in place and reversed back to the ledge for real decision time. I really questioned my judgement, staring into the already black valley below with street lights twinkling and car headlamps casting their beams clearly. It wasn’t so much my judgement to make the correct decision about whether I could climb the upper wall safely that I doubted. I have many bold leads behind me, and much practice at this type of decision. It was more my two minute window to make the decision, before the light faded beyond any reasonable sense of it not being night time!

Leading the headwall on Blind Vision. The pic is a a bit blurry as Dave B was shooting on iso 1600 at 1/3 sec!

I took my two minutes carefully and the answer was there – I knew I would be safe. So I chalked up and dispatched it.

Anyhow. Time to get back to the writing backlog… Good effort to the Hot Aches guys for driving 2000 miles just to film 15 metres of climbing (they blogged about the day here) and also to Tony for the scary belay with no prior knowledge of the route and no time to explain the plan, just ‘right I’m going for it, stick me on belay mate!’

PS… One thing I can’t understand though after visiting the Climbing Works (well done guys BTW!) during one of the washout days is why routes like Blind Vision haven’t had stacks of ascents. The hardest trad routes in the UK in general really aren’t that hard! There are so many strong lads and lassies kicking around who would mince up the likes of Parthian, Blind Vision, Rhapsody etc etc… At the Climbing Works I saw many many climbers much stronger than me. What has happened to the Mick Fowler attitude of “how hard can it be?”

The top of the route after the lead - it was pretty damn dark!

PPS… I’ve heard people reckon that Blind Vision might not be that good a route because of the ledge in the middle. But I would still recommend it to anyone. The moves on Slingshot and the top wall are very aesthetic and its also not so dangerous which is always nice. The first thing I thought about it was how excellent it was that Adrian Berry managed the first ascent as he doesn’t boulder much – awesome!

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