First off on my hit list of climbs for the 2007 season will be last years failed attempt at un-powered human flight. This tale of woe and misgivings started on a bright and sunny morning during last year’s Yorkshire IMC meet. It all started very well in the morning climbing into new grades for the first time and making a reasonably good job of it. However, (cue the beginnings of the Jaws theme) in the afternoon I spied an interesting climb that looked like “it might go”.
This new venture was rather inauspiciously titled Parallel Cracks, which is, surprisingly, two parallel cracks. These can be climbed in tandem or individually. I quickly consulted the guidebook and the grade, VS 4c, leapt out at me, as did the route description for the left hand variant, which stated that the climb “has an interesting finish trying to locate a ‘secret’ hold”.
Not to be put off by these omens of great lobs to come I geared up. This would be a grade jump of two grades for me after completing my earlier leads (how hard can it be)! Now the important bit: only afterwards did I find out Yorkshire grades are a tad harder than elsewhere. “Experience is something you seem to acquire just after you need it”…
After an easy start things began to increase in the interest department. This wasn’t too foreboding as I managed to get some early good gear placements. But as I gained altitude the gear placements thinned out somewhat. After nearly 10 minutes of faffing I made it to the last section and thankfully some more gear. I really wanted to double protect this bit but the only thing that would have gone in was the cam I had used near the bottom.
What followed was a shift layback manoeuvre arriving at a large jug and with arms beginning to tire I pulled up and over fully committing to the move. Now there was no going back, just the sickening feeling of a huge sloper of a finish and the damned secret hold that suddenly went into stealth mode and proved to be much more elusive than I had at first hoped for. Damn; was it left or right? Nothing looked obvious. Decision time, I opted for groping to the right only to find out later that the hold was in fact to the left. Spread out across this dastardly and seemingly featureless typically rounded grit surface I noticed that my hands were (alarmingly) beginning to move backwards very slowly (Jaws theme reaches a crescendo). Despite mentally trying to convince my hands that they were in fact stationary and not moving in an inappropriate direction they continued to move backwards but a bit faster just to rub the point in. I now realised a lob was imminent.
Swiftly gaining backwards momentum in what was described “as a very graceful start” by my second I soon peeled away from the rock with all pretence of grace evaporating as I randomly thought about the lone upper piece of gear. So began my arc of descent that included a trip through a nearby tree to collect foliage in my helmet. Talk about value for money; in a matter of seconds I was suspended upside-down four metres from my start point but yes, the gear did hold!
Another member of the party rushed over to see if I was ok and then lamented about the fact they hadn’t been able to video the event on their camera. Damn those IMC fifth columnists. Note, this episode was not profiled until after the Christmas Curry…
Other climbs on my hit list are as follows:
- Nelsons Nemesis, Horatio’s Horror, Topsail & Powder Monkey Parade (Birchen).
- North Buttress Arete, Taller Overhang & Portfolio (Windgather).
- High Neb Buttress, Verandah Buttress, The Right and Left Unconquerables & Paradise Wall (Stanage).
- Via Dolorosa & Valkyrie (Roaches).
- Lightning Wall, Finale Groove (Swanage).
- Direct Route & Great Gully (Multi-pitch Wales)
- Haste Not (Multi-pitch Lake District).
- Sunset Slab (Froggatt).
- Dream of White Horses (Gogarth).
- The File & Surform (Higgar Tor).
- The Mincer (Swan Wall).
- Machoism & The Great Zawn (Ramshaw Rocks).
- Now or Never (Burbage North).
- Via Dolorosa & Valkyrie / Valkyrie Direct (Raven Rock).
The list could go on and on …
Some of the above are dream reach goals for next season but to get results you have to have dreams… On another note I am currently on the look-out for a regular climbing partner if there are any takers.