(North Cornwall sea cliffs, Spring 2021)
Not goin' down there 'til the sun hits it...we agree.
Twelve thirty finds us spinning down like spiders on thread, upper ledges out of reach of the foaming drink. Lower ledges glisten wet in the sunlight, barnacles crackling as they are submerged and exposed by the rhythm of the swell. Excitement draws me down, dancing across the short traverse; one eye for friction patches on the slippery rock, one eye on the clawing waves, drawn in like a sailor to siren song, eager for a glimpse of the crack in close up.
Initial thoughts are of disappointment.
Foot holds on the main wall. I didn't want it to be easy.
Looks can be deceiving...should know that by now.
Belayed just beyond the magnet pull of waves, tentative moves are made to gain the constricted niche. Unhelpful holds, frictionless, round, polished, buffed to a sheen by the ocean.
- Get acquainted. Build courage.
- A ballerina and a rhino-we will become one, we will dance to the same tune.
- Who's who? Who's teaching who to dance?
- Jams flare and slip. Cams fail to hold in the mirror smooth rock.
- Fear strikes. I gulp it down. Why does it feel so hard when it looked easy! The wide diagonal crack soars up to join the roof at its right-hand end...
- Foot holds out right. Concentrate on the positive.
- Don't try to swallow the whole.
- Nibble it in bite size chunks.
- Committing moves are strenuous but pay off with a
- Good feet are secure...ish.
- Slot in a big cam.
- Take stock.
- The slow burn of fatigue sets in from the first insecure jam.
By the time the roof looms the wide crack gives in to wet finger locks on steeper ground and the pump makes itself known. Blind alleys are followed before the right track is found.
Technical pressure moves through the scoop gain a cramped stance in the shadow of the roof. The crack swallows a tight Camalot 4 but the jams refuse to play to the hands - too wide for hand jams, too tight for a squashed fist.
Bridge wide, jams insecure, swing into a rockover on the lip, slapping and groping for purchase on unhelpful holds…dusty,
Virgin to the touch.
Hunched up and shuffling backwards, groping, looking out on the past,
taking in the consequences of the arching ropes, devoid of protection.
Don't ponder on what's gone - work towards the future.
Why does this alien Atlantic coast rock never play to your hand?
Gaining a standing position above the void,
Escape is found, gently
test the holds for devious intentions...The ledge is a relief!
I exhale a long breath and afford myself a fat grin...
Clove hitches tweaked...
Pull the ropes,
Relax and settle in for payback belay duty...only 2 more pitches...
'Climb when ready!'