Monday, 29 September 2014

10 of the best - Part 1

Recently I spent a week in Pembroke followed by a few days in North Wales. This was a pretty special time where weather, partners and momentum all came together in perfect sync.

Day one,

"No red flag." A morning of cragging at Trevallen was instantly scrapped in favour of the grander, often closed off, locations on the range. Warming up on Just Another Day/Scorch the Earth  felt fantastic; it almost seems there's nowhere better to climb E5.

Certain lines burn a hole in your wishlist, often for many years. You find excuses not to try them and further build up the pressure on yourself, making the routes into more than they are. After Just Another Day I realise that the time for procrastination had ceased, it was time to head into Stennis. Half of what makes British trad specical can be found in the stories that surround it. Tales of a "thousand yard stare" and heroic belaying after a huge fall enhanced the reputation of Ghost Train no end in my mind. The route itself is perfectly laid out, danger but not death, a glory finish and some wobbly holds thrown in to cast doubt. This doubt varies from day to day, sometimes commitment comes easily and some its nowhere to be found. Thankfully on this occasion it was the former, which made for a perfect experience; even allowing for a pause mid runout to laugh down to Neil.

Day two,

Today Trevallen wouldn't be trumped. I was keen to check out the Sunlover wall, one of the most photogenic and well catalogued faces in Pembroke. Whilst this wall is famous for its classic twin E5's Barbarella and Yellow Pearls I was here on other business, with the bold wall climb of Orange Robe Burning in my sights. After a nervy start above the boulders the route went without a hitch. The top section is superb, ledge fever sets in at the break as you know you could stay there for days. Eventually when committed to it provides a great climax, with a tricky move to a finger bucket, ace.

Day three,

A return visit to Trevallen may have been unadventurous but with limited time it seemed logical. What should have been an easy day quickly became anything but as I made the somewhat appalling decision to try and warm up on Barbarella. After fighting flash pump and scraping through the hard bit my feet let me down and I slipped off some greasy fingerlocks. Hmmm. Oh well, at least I know I'm warm now, next go no worries. But wait, round two is somehow worse, shambolic climbing. After screwing my head back on and putting in another good fight it finally succumbs, whilst the kit is better it feels more of a proposition than ORB to me...

The day is finished by belaying Neil on what became Choronzon. I'm pretty easily impressed by hard routes but this line really did take the biscuit. On this day he fell off the last move of the crux, the season was drawing to a close. Needless to say I was ecstatic when I got the text the following weekend saying he'd done it.

Day four,

The plan is to head to Govans but the men with guns are role playing again. Mother Careys seems a safe second bet. As per though there is a hitch, a somehow unforeseen problem, the sea is crashing into the bottom of Brazen Buttress. This forces a retreat to the non-tidal ledges of the White Tower next door. White Heat, the classic E5 of the crag looks almost to good to be true, a rising thin crack-line forging up the perfect white slab. By this stage in the trip fatigue is setting in and after the palaver of Barbarella I do wonder whether to bother. But it looks like its got loads of kit on it, what's the worst that could happen.

10m up I place a perfect rock 6 and climb till its by my feet, up to this stage the route has been unnervingly easy. The next bit looks thin, cant see much more gear but the last one was a bolt. Commit a few metres into the crux, the gear now getting further and further away. A crimp in the face provides some respite, but its a poison chalice, taking me out of the crack and leaving the gear out of sight. My right leg begins to shake, nothing for the left foot, I use up precious reserves trying to peer into the crack, it looks like a rock 2 slot, but my gear to eye coordination is not at its freshest. Try the 2, wont go in, try the 1, pulls straight through. By now the shaking is just comical. The climbing above looks hard, perhaps you should drop off. No. The pump has become terminal as I rag my foot high onto a blind foothold in the crack, stand up. Still no jugs, but wait, this looks more promising, a break a couple of moves away. By now falling is an unappealing prospect, as is continuing. The moves however turn out to be easier than those lower down and the break is reached with a whoop. Anna rinses up it seconding, waddage.

Day five,

Even before I ever visited the place I had a conception that Govans was the easy option of Pembroke, worthwhile but not why you go there, lacking in adventure and risk. This most likely comes from Rob describing it as "just cragging." He has a point no doubt, the routes are more chalked and polished than many of the other crags in Pembroke and there's always people down there. However today I had used up all my adrenaline reserves DWSing at Broadhaven Cove above seals and a rough sea, so an afternoon of cragging fitted the bill nicely. 

Starting up Get Some In I had high expectations, this was one of the routes I'd heard of before I could tell you where Pembroke was on a map. It wasn't a letdown per say and I'm sure climbing it in better conditions would help its cause (Hotter than the face of the sun that day) but it didn't fill me with glee in the way that other routes this week have. John Wayne on the other hand. Cruising up that top crack as it eats your runners one after the other was fantastic, perhaps having lower expectations for routes is the way forward. 

Thats enough for one entry, next five soon.

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