UKC

/ First VS lead?

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HarrisonConnie1996 - on 11 Jul 2018

For me climbing VS has always been the obvious first barrier when it comes to trad climbing. For a while now I have been stuck on the lower grades, HS and below, unable to bottle up the nerve to even get on harder routes and have a go! 

Last night was my first time out climbing in a few weeks so I was psyched. Making the most of the dry weather here in Scotland myself and a mate decided to hit Auchinstarry Quarry for a quick evening crag. A nice warm up lead on White Slab (HS 4b) followed by me being dragged up Lion (HVS 5b). Now it was my turn to lead something harder. After a few moments of deep thought and trying to talk myself out of it, I decided to suck it up and get on Trundle (VS 4c), a sustained and fairly techy crack climb (which I'll admit I had seconded before hand on a previous visit). If you've done it you'll know the gear is great but placing it can feel a bit awkward. 

The nice thing about Trundle is that the crux is right at the very bottom and is well protected to stop you decking out should you fall off. After spending a few moments working it out I finally made the move and off I went up the crack. I must have went into some kind of "try hard mode" because it was only near the top when release that I was actually climbing VS, nice and calm and actually enjoying it... mostly! 

 I guess I had just worked up so much fear of failing or falling that I just avoided climbing anything hard. Something that's held me back from so many classic routes and seen me pass over some incredible pitches. 

Anyways, moral of the story is to climb when you're ready and don't get yourself bogged down with grades, just have fun. Thought I'd share my little story while I'm still on a buzz.

Feel free to share your own stories for folk to read - I'm sure there are some interesting ones out there, whether its VS, E1 or E22 ;) 

Post edited at 13:40
Michael Gordon - on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

Nice one. My first VS lead was Spirogyra, so perhaps an option for your first onsight? 

HarrisonConnie1996 - on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to Michael Gordon:

Nice one, I've seconded Promontory Direct so not sure whether it would be a clean onsight to do Spirogyra as they share the same start - The jamming crack was entertaining! 

IanMcC - on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

My wife's first VS lead was Trundle. 

She managed it no bother.

I'd told her it was a Severe.

mrphilipoldham - on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

Mine was Nozag at Castle Naze having not even led a HS (from what I remember, certainly only or two if I had!) A confident partner told me to get on it, and I’m ever so glad I trusted his call! 

Michael Hood - on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to mrphilipoldham:

I pointed my boy up Three Pebble before he'd led a VS. Gave him loads of beta though so it wasn't that bad.

rogerwebb - on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

In the 1970s Highrange guide it was HVS 5a. Go with that  

HarrisonConnie1996 - on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to rogerwebb:

Probably done in an old pair of converse :D 

Post edited at 15:40
Mike-W-99 on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

Spirogyra is independent enough, interesting crux.

pain pillar at hawkcraig was my 1st vs onsight unless you count an unintentional solo of lion rampant(needs wee cams which I didn’t have)

capoap - on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to Mike-W-99:

1st VS was Sabre Cut which i led.  In those day's (6-9-62 you either took the sharp end or you didn't get it done.   I remember getting 1 of my bendy boots jammed in it and thought I could die here. Runners? wasn't any.  Next time i did it was 13-7-95  got in 14 runners just to see how many i could. Last time was 6-5-2000.  Nice climb but would not recommend it as a 1st VS.. I was silly in those days. 

Samuel Wainwright - on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

Great work! Trundle is a belter isn't it. 

While you're on a high you should give Orange Flash (HVS 5a) a go. Its a little harder but certainly soft for HVS, being mostly HS with a wee bit of 5a near the top. Loads of gear and good rests too. 

Gordon Stainforth - on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to capoap:

> 1st VS was Sabre Cut which i led.  In those day's (6-9-62 you either took the sharp end or you didn't get it done.   I remember getting 1 of my bendy boots jammed in it and thought I could die here. Runners? wasn't any.  Next time i did it was 13-7-95  got in 14 runners just to see how many i could. Last time was 6-5-2000.  Nice climb but would not recommend it as a 1st VS.. I was silly in those days. 

It was my second VS (Skylon being the first) - in 1968. We didn't find it too bad at all, despite lack of pro. Then we did Brant, which we found quite a lot harder, IIRC.

Michael Gordon - on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to Samuel Wainwright:

Agreed - Orange Flash should probably be VS 5a

TobyA on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to Michael Gordon:

It's possible Spirogyra was my first proper VS, definitely my first Scottish VS. I'm fond of it too. Prom Direct was my first HVS lead too, although I seconded someone up it first and thought it OK, so was told "well get on it on the lead then man!" so I did! This was soon to be followed by falling miles down Stonefall Crack Direct at Dumby trying to proper onsight an HVS.

I don't remember that much about Trundle although I've definitely done it, isn't there a starred HVS that goes up about the pond round there too?

Mike-W-99 on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to TobyA:

> I don't remember that much about Trundle although I've definitely done it, isn't there a starred HVS that goes up about the pond round there too?

Yes, Walk on the wild side. Great route, one for a steady head.

wercat on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

Didn't like to mention mine to anyone, with a name like "Scabby Horse"  ...

Mark Bull - on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to wercat:

> Didn't like to mention mine to anyone, with a name like "Scabby Horse"  ...

That's a fairly obscure route, but it was my first VS lead too! 

Mark Bull - on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to Michael Gordon:

> Agreed - Orange Flash should probably be VS 5a

Maybe, though it's bit height dependent! 

Doug on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to Mike-W-99:

what's Walk on the wild side like now ? When I climbed it, not long after the first ascent, it was E1 (& poorly protected) but I see its now HVS

But on thread, I think my first VS lead was Sunset Slab on Froggatt Edge, which back in the mid/late 70s was considered "easy for VS" (now HVS).  A few days later I fell off leading Saul's Crack (Roaches) thinking it would be similar.

 

 

Trangia on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

Congratulations? It's a great feeling isn't it, to make the move on from HS?

My first VS lead was actually an HVS - Munich Climb on Tryfan, followed in the same year by TPS (whatever grade that is? ), then as I was on a high, several at Wild Cat, and a couple on Lundy, I can't remember the name of one, but the other was Albion. Then two more at Simons Yat, and a couple at Swanage - again I forget all their their names. Another one that springs to mind was Ochre Slab 2 at Bosigran.

HarrisonConnie1996 - on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to Trangia:

It certainly is, can’t wait to get on another one now! 

Post edited at 20:52
J Whittaker - on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

My first VS was Peg Free in Wilton 3 a Lancashire quarried grit route one evening during my first summer of climbing. Last route of the evening and it was going dark as i topped out, my partner seconded it and i put my head torch on to show him the way.

Definately a soft touch for the grade with only 1 real commiting move but it gave me the confidence to go and climb more VS and onwards.

Gordon Stainforth - on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to Trangia:

I really do not think Munich Climb is HVS. Good pro on the one or two tricky moves. I see that lots of people agree with me in the UKC logbook. Interesting to see someone say that Mur y Niwl is a lot harder.

johncoxmysteriously - on 11 Jul 2018
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> I really do not think Munich Climb is HVS. Good pro on the one or two tricky moves. 

 

You sure, Gordon? I heard the peg had gone now.

 

jcm

 

Gordon Stainforth - on 12 Jul 2018
In reply to johncoxmysteriously:

No, I'm not sure because memory of course plays tricks. I have no memory of the famous peg, in fact, I think when I did it in August 78 the only protection at the crux was one or two quite small wires. My log book doesn't mention any peg but just refers rather derisorily to the 'so-called crux'. Then it says: 'A better climb than I expected with enough 4C to make it very respectable. Superb rock.' I was a lot more enthusiastic about Belle Vue Bastion, the next climb we did immediately afterwards on the same day.

Trangia on 12 Jul 2018
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> I really do not think Munich Climb is HVS. Good pro on the one or two tricky moves. I see that lots of people agree with me in the UKC logbook. Interesting to see someone say that Mur y Niwl is a lot harder.

Agreed. I first led it in the early 1980s, when IIRC correctly it was VS in the Guide Book. It seems to have been upgraded in subsequent ones. Against this my old guide book carried a dire warning (now omitted) about there having been too many fatalities on it. Sobering reading for a first time leader!

Post edited at 07:31
TobyA on 12 Jul 2018
In reply to Mike-W-99:

> Yes, Walk on the wild side. Great route, one for a steady head.

That's the fella. I remember little brass nuts being involved, although you can always tell yourself your're only going to end up in the pond if it all goes Pete Tong.

Fiona Reid - on 12 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

Well done. Trundle is a great route. It's one of the few local routes I didn't get to onsight as a mate led it before me and I had to second it to get my gear back.

My first VS onsight was Via MacNiven at Traprain Law. I'd actually done Red Flag at Limekilns a few weeks before but that's since been down graded to HS 4c.

Post edited at 15:40
jungle - on 12 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

I had to check my logbook. It was Questor at Wyndcliffe Quarry. I remember now that a mate of mine slipped on it the following year and broke his back after some of his gear ripped. The irony is that a few weeks before he was going on about how I couldn't place gear properly - I've been taking whippers on wires ever since, ha. 

Stones in glass houses an' all that...

HarrisonConnie1996 - on 12 Jul 2018
In reply to jungle:

I've been taking whippers on wires ever since, ha. 

It only takes one whipper to be your last - I think because I come from a winter climbing background, it had be hardwired into my head that falling generally equals pain, discomfort and death! 

 

 

Baron Weasel - on 12 Jul 2018
In reply to Michael Hood:

> I pointed my boy up Three Pebble before he'd led a VS. Gave him loads of beta though so it wasn't that bad.

HS before VS, perfect! 

 

 

 

J Whittaker - on 12 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

Whippers on good wires in summer can be fun and mega confidence boosting. I took a big one off the crux pitch of Gogarth. I don't usually make any noise when i fall but that one made me shout and it was quite exhilerating.

Obviously you need to know when your placements are good and when they arent and also factor into it any obstacles in your fall zone.

Post edited at 18:25
HarrisonConnie1996 - on 12 Jul 2018
In reply to J Whittaker:

I agree that falling on good gear can massively boost your confidence but I’d rather not take the risk, I mean climbing is dangerous enough without throwing yourself onto scary wires! :D 

I always try and avoid falling just simply for the fact that you never really know the out come. Placing bomber gear and taking falls is all part of climbing, but I certainly wouldn’t go seeking it out. 

Whats that old saying, “don’t go looking for trouble because sooner or later, it’s going to find you” ;) or maybe I’ve been reading too much about climbing in the 50’s and ‘60s. 

GrahamUney - on 12 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

Nice one. Feels good to be climbing VS eh? I think my first VS was either Birch Tree Wall at Brimham, or Illegitimate Crack at Ilkley. Both done at about the same time, mid to late 1980s. 

fmck - on 12 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

As a teenager I was scared of VS in Scotland as everything above severe was graded this although obviously wrong(Scottish VS). I ended up climbing severe climbs mostly although some VS I did is now graded up to 5b and even soloing multi pitch severe on Arran that's now VS.

Webster - on 13 Jul 2018
In reply to TobyA:

> That's the fella. I remember little brass nuts being involved, although you can always tell yourself your're only going to end up in the pond if it all goes Pete Tong.

not quite! its about 2m to the water over sharp boulders! your going to end u-p in the death star (glasgow general) if it all goes pete tong!

Webster - on 13 Jul 2018
In reply to Mike-W-99:

> Spirogyra is independent enough, interesting crux.

the crux on spirogyra is the same as promontory (the initial offwidth). its no harder than 4b after that, all be it exposed and remarkably 'out there'! still definately deseves a star.

Guy - on 13 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

Overhanging Bastion was my first VS, it was awesome!  My first Extreme by accident was Springbank on Gimmer, that was good too but not OB good!

Mark Bull - on 13 Jul 2018
In reply to Webster:

It would not be historically accurate, but it would maybe make more sense to give Spirogyra an independent start up the zig-zag crack right of Plumline Crack. 

Kid Spatula - on 13 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

Mine was Samarkand at Anglezarke. It was terrifying and nothing in my rack was big enough.  I led it a few years later with grades in hand and still found it bloody hard.

J Whittaker - on 13 Jul 2018
In reply to Guy:

Accidental E2...brilliant :D

LJJ77 on 13 Jul 2018
In reply to J Whittaker:

I led my first VS last October, Shadrach at Tremadog i had a rain shower midway through the first pitch and making the step off the pinnacle took some time I didn’t get the chance to lead another VS till May but I led my first HVS yesterday Britomartis on Gogarth the tide was low but the traverse was still gopping then we followed it up with an even harder HVS, Wen from the low tide start I led both 5a pitches but the lower pitch was black and slimy and after 10 mins trying to step left out of the first chimney I discovered the hold which unlocked the move and was up in seconds the rest of the route was much more fun

And well done on your first of many VS leads ???? 

pec on 13 Jul 2018
In reply to capoap:

> 1st VS was Sabre Cut which i led.  In those day's (6-9-62 you either took the sharp end or you didn't get it done.   I remember getting 1 of my bendy boots jammed in it and thought I could die here. Runners? wasn't any.  Next time i did it was 13-7-95  got in 14 runners just to see how many i could. Last time was 6-5-2000.  Nice climb but would not recommend it as a 1st VS.. I was silly in those days. 


Sabre Cut was my first multi pitch VS, I got the top pitch and thought I was getting the easy one! I too thought I was going to die and remember being about a third of the way up it and thinking I can't downclimb this and there's no gear above and weighing up whether I should just jump off from there and cut my losses.

I reclimbed it about 20 years later and still couldn't get any gear in, how on earth did you find 14 placements?

pec on 13 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

> Feel free to share your own stories for folk to read - I'm sure there are some interesting ones out there, whether its VS, E1 or E22 ;) 

The first route I ever lead was a VS. I'd toproped a few before that (when I didn't have enough gear to lead anything) so assumed I could climb VS.

Once I'd built up a big enough rack to lead something I just jumped on a VS because in my youthful naivity I assumed that meant I could lead it as well. My rack consisted of a rock 4 on wire, 1 extender (with homemade knotted sling), a rock 8 on rope and a MOAC wedge. When I reclimbed it about 15 years later I could remember where I'd placed all 3 pieces and not one of them would have held a fall.

Oh to be young again

Post edited at 21:03
capoap - on 13 Jul 2018
In reply to pec:

In the cracks either side mostly if I remember correctly, I asked my 2nd to count them and she did calling them out.  I don't normally lace a VS I did just too show how pro has advanced and now you can buy huge cams that will go in. 

Gordon Stainforth - on 14 Jul 2018
In reply to pec:

>Sabre Cut was my first multi pitch VS, I got the top pitch and thought I was getting the easy one! I too thought I was going to die ...

Very odd this, because I remember the top crack (despite lack of pro) being quite friendly and a lot easier than it looked. (1968, virtually no gear). I still remember to this day the surprise of putting my hand in the crack and finding another hidden subsidiary crack going at right-angles, so your hand was on a kind of huge flange inside the crack most of the way, so you could just semi-layback your way up it with good foot jams and pretend to be jamming, when you weren't. I remember John saying 'Arrow Crack at Harrisons!' at the top. 

Post edited at 00:19
pec on 14 Jul 2018
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> Very odd this, because I remember the top crack (despite lack of pro) being quite friendly and a lot easier than it looked. (1968, virtually no gear). etc

That's probably all true but it was my first multi pitch VS and I'd not done many other VS's at all (my first ever lead being a VS was something of an aberration). I think the lack of any gear must have freaked me out and I had no composure at all. State of mind makes a huge differnce to how a route feels.

 

Gordon Stainforth - on 14 Jul 2018
In reply to pec:

Sure, but as I said before, it was my second VS (a day after doing Skylon). I suppose we had just got used to quite/very badly protected routes ... well, we'd been leading for just one week at that point ... all in the Ogwen valley. I remember being much more scared doing Terrace Wall Variant (V Diff) on Tryfan, and Angular Chimney ("Hard V Diff") on the Gribin Facet, than on Sabre Cut. Another thing: we were useless at hand-jamming (because Harrison's Rocks, our training ground, had virtually none), but I guess we were OK at offwidths.

GrahamD - on 16 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

My first VS was Inominate Crack.  At the time I didn't realise MVS in this instance was really a HS so it was a great way to get over the physcological barrier

Iain Thow - on 16 Jul 2018
In reply to HarrisonConnie1996:

Well done, now you've got a lifetime's worth of to to go at. 

Looking back, the first VS I led with a rope would appear to be North Buttress Direct at Windgather, although it was graded Severe at the time. I'd previously soloed several others now given VS, often by mistake,  The Slab at Lower Scout (then Severe), Trapeze Direct at Froggatt (by mistake for Trapeze, VD, thanks Mr Nunn), Malc's LH Slabs at High Neb (not guidebooked then, and HVS 5b in the Stanage guide now), and the very pleasant Yellow Scoop near Dinas Mot (deserves more ascents, I'm still the only log over 30 years on). Without foraging in old guides I suspect the first VS I led that I knew was VS would be either High Neb Buttress or Topsail.

Enjoy the routes.

Iain

Guy - on 16 Jul 2018
In reply to J Whittaker:

I find it is the best way to do them!

 

Just Another Dave - on 16 Jul 2018
In reply to Gordon Stainforth:

> >Sabre Cut was my first multi pitch VS, I got the top pitch and thought I was getting the easy one! I too thought I was going to die ...

> Very odd this, because I remember the top crack (despite lack of pro) being quite friendly and a lot easier than it looked. (1968, virtually no gear). I still remember to this day the surprise of putting my hand in the crack and finding another hidden subsidiary crack going at right-angles, so your hand was on a kind of huge flange inside the crack most of the way, so you could just semi-layback your way up it with good foot jams and pretend to be jamming, when you weren't. 

 

I remember exactly the same thing! Just steady.

And Sabre Cut was also my first VS lead (no cams) ... loved it. ..is this a club?


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