Sunday, 7 October 2012

Fall falls and man love

Chris on 'Outward bound' HVS 4c
A posting on the Taunton climbers facebook page was all it took to begin, what was quite possibly, one of my best cragging days. The cold October morning started with a gathering of four adventurous climbers in a Taunton car park, with the joint decision that Chudleigh will be our desired destination. However, upon arrival, the crag was still running with water from the previous days rain. Wet limestone + polished limestone = No climbing. So we took off and headed for the moorland crags of Haytor, with the hope that Mr Sunshine and Mrs Wind would have dried the crag. Thankfully, they had....well, the south faces anyway.

With Chris Ridgers as my climbing partner, and in a borrowed harness as his was left in his car, in Taunton, we set our sights on a VS 5a called letterbox wall. I had previously done this route a few years ago, so offered to show Chris the interesting, bouldery and unprotected start: Mantel a high ledge and with balancy moves, pull up using small quartz crystals. Brilliant climbing. The climb went up the under/around an overhang, which was mastered with the least amount of elegance known to man and no climbing technique what so ever. Any way, the second pitch was lead by chris, who upon rigging the belay at the top, decided to drop his belay device. Italian hitch it was then.

Letterbox wall start

Me on the belay of 'Letterbox wall' VS 5a

Next up, Vandal and Ann, an HVS 5b. I led the first pitch, which, being in the shadows, was cold, wet and greasy. After struggling to stick any foot holds and relying on brute strength to get to the belay, the decision was made then not to climb the second pitch. Saturated mossy slime coated the crack, refusing all access to the top of the crag. Instead then, we abseiled off. Chris, using the conventional belay device and prussik loop combo, and me...the south african way: rope under the armpits then between the legs. It hurt, never again. Chris thought it mad, I thought it was quicker.

Me using the 'South-African' abseil
Round three and route three, Outward Bound HVS 4c! Chris led the first pitch. The exciting overhang and pull over to the dubious belay. And finally, the highlight of the day: Aviation E1 5b. I let Chris lead the 5b first pitch after encouraging him that he CAN do it. And can he did. Amazing effort and brilliant moves through the overhang and up to the traverse. Which is where it then all came unstuck. After an attempt on the traverse, he blew the onsight, but in good style may I add. A nice long fall onto a small wire. But not detered, he pressed on. And with a new sequence of moves on the traverse, he made the belay. Now this is where Simon has come to join us. He fancied a crack and so the two of us tied into the two ends of the double ropes, and he set off first.

Chris leading the 1st pitch of 'Aviation'

Simon on 'Outward Bound'

Once at the belay, I followed, stripping the gear, and joining the two at the hanging belay. Now this is where it got interesting. Cosy infact. Ass to face cosy to be precise. I was leading the second pitch, which started on the other side of the belay, on the other side of Chris and Simon. This involved climbing over them both. The term 'crack climbing'....errmm, yeah... anyway, after crossing over, and adding a new 'What not to do' section in the MIA sylabus, I was ready for the lead. Exchanging gear, and clipping it to my harness, I noticed that it was slippy and wet. After a quick inspection, the forged metal of the Karabiners was now tainted in a brilliant red colour. The colour manufactured from sharp granite crystals and my fingers, was now marking my progress and all those I had touched. The 5a pitch then, was rather easy to follow.

At the hanging belay

Split tip!

I ran out the top section as it was easy slab scrammbling. Pulling over the final rib, I was met by the dazzled face of Haytor, lit by the setting sun behind me. Rigging the belay, in the light breeze and cold of the evening, I savoured the  moment of solitary. Just me on the summit of Low Man, gazing out across Dartmoor, glazed in a golden hue, the place I had spent many weekends with some of my closest friends, creating stories and memories that will be transfixed in my mind forever. The peacefullness and tranquility was broken by a lone woman scrammbling to the summit. A while later I was joined by Simon and Chris. We decended Low Man, back to Omar and our gear, Cheshire cat grins stretched across our tired faces and the feeling of great satisfaction.

Us on the Hanging belay
And so the day of multi-pitch climbing down Haytor had ended. But not as abruptly as that. We eased the day with a pint of Dartmoor brewerys Ledgend at the Rugglestone Inn. Well, we had two actually.

Chris, Simon and Me after climbing 'Aviation'

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