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Kebab The Cat

Learning to lead climb.

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Jumping Jesus on a blue bendy bicycle I've never been so scared in all my days.
Sunday, I'm leading a traditional climb graded Very Severe. A combination of a difficult start and some loose rock means I'm pumped and shitting it, lobbing loads of (unnecessary) protection into the rock. Anyway, I'm flapping a bit, thinking of the fall, thinking about crumbly rock and shit protection.. I'm about 10 metres from the finish point - which is a small tree/shrub growing straight out of the cliff. I find a nice place for one of my last couple of nuts, I put it in, give it a yank and it feels reassuringly solid. I reach round to grab a quickdraw from my rack to clip into it, and I haven't got any left. I've used them all. Fuck.
Fucketty Fuck.
OOooooOOOo Fuck.
I've got the one crab that I had my nuts racked on, so I clip that in and put the rope through it.

But that's it. No more protection until the finish, which looks to be about 8 metres away. So if I don't make it, I'm looking at a 16 metre fall, before the rope even starts to go tight, and that's only if this flaky shit protection stays in.

I had to have a bit of a word with myself, calm the fuck down and make a decision. Come off here, and accept a small fall onto shit gear, or push on to the finish, where I can get a sling round a tree and safely belay up my second who can retrieve all my gear?

So I push on, shitting myself and trying not the think about it. The climbing isn't very tough, really, but the gripping fear is pretty difficult to deal with.

I have never been so happy to get a sling round a shitty half-dead bush at the top of a cliff. I sit there, hanging off a sling round this bush, and look at the view over the trees and across the valley. I'm not dead.

I sort out a belay device on another sling round the bush, and invite my second to come up.

Nigel, my second, scampers up the cliff with no worries, collecting all the protection on the way. But he does notice the big gap between the last bit of gear the belay point. He raises his eyebrow at me.
"Ran out of quickdraws" I say, as calmly as possible, trying hard not to let the adrenaline show, gazing at Tintern abbey across the valley.
"Perhaps you might want to buy a few more?" he suggests.
"Perhaps" I grin.

We quickly arrange an abseil off, and within minutes I'm back on the ground with all the gear.

I'm not honestly sure if this stuff is fun, or if it's just fun to finish doing it. Massive doses of adrenaline, clarity of thought and purpose, and an absolutely enormous sense of success when it's done.

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  1. Vitesse's Avatar
    Where were you climbing?

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