Friday, 9 March 2012

Pivotal moments

A few weeks ago, myself and Nic went to see Dave MacLeod, Andy Turner and Paul Diffley give a lecture on the climb and filming of The Long Hope, followed by a screening of the film itself. It's an awesome film and we left there feeling totally inspired, particularly by the story of the first aid ascent. The epic journey Ed Drummond and Oliver Hill undertook up that huge slab of rock, over many days, with no real knowledge of what was ahead of them, put the triviality of bolt clipping on Spanish limestone into stark perspective. So I resolved to get out there and learn to climb trad.

Thing is, it's not the first time I've said that by a long way - I even had half a rack that's been lying in the cupboard for two years. But this time something else happened: a long weekend in Bleau the next week left me with a pain in my hand every time I pulled on small holds... no more hard sport climbing for a while then - that sealed the deal.

So after a quick chat with Nic, we decided "fuck it, let's just get down to Swanage next weekend and give it a go". As the weekend approached, I revised the Mountain Leader Training Handbook I'd bought on a previous trad notion, and Friday evening I found myself building anchors in my bedroom.

We got down to an overcast Swanage on Saturday morning, and after some breakfast and a bit of faffing around, decided on a 3* 2 pitch VS at Guillemot Ledge called Tensor II. This meant abseiling in, so we spent quite a bit of time at the back wall of the quarry above first, practicing placements and deciding how we'd anchor the top of the climb. There was already an abseil rope in place, with a pair of climbers half way up a climb on the West Face, but there was still a definite sense of adventure getting on it, knowing that the only way out without an embarrassing call for help would be a self-protected 35m climb.

Nic lead the first pitch - easy climbing up a crack followed by a traverse under a roof and up to a friendly ledge and a large flake belay. Even though the climbing was pretty straightforward, I remember on the traverse thinking to myself that it must have been a little stressful doing this on lead... funny how the lack of bolts changes your perspective! Leaving the belay, there was a large peg to protect one slightly tricky move and then it was very easy climbing to the top, so I was able to relax and enjoy the fact that the sun had just come out. I set up the anchor, and as I sat down on the edge of the cliff to bring Nic up, a grin spread across my face that I couldn't have got rid of even if I wanted to. It may have been technically easy, but there was something of a journey involved in getting up that cliff and topping out. As I sat there in the late afternoon sun I had my pivotal moment. I was hooked.

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