Dan Wild gives us a glimpse into the mind of an overused, undervalued, and unsympathetic No.6 nut.
Genius. Thank you
Reminds me of this article about climbing El Cap with Gregory:
Hahaha brilliant stuff. If it is any consolation to the poor no.6 writing this article, no.6’s are my favourite size wire and I would never undervalue a wire of that size!
Best article I've read on UKC in ages 😁 - how many remember the original Chouinard no 5 that used to want to go in everywhere and its slightly less used big brother no 6.
I recall the chouinard #3 stopper that went in everywhere and was a bastid to get out
My no 6s don't know how lucky they are; slumbering away in a bag in the garage. Time to make the lazy bastards do a bit of work when it stops raining.
Serves him right to be honest. This presumably final placement I find myself in is, ironically, one of his best, even though he was facing the other way at the time and frankly had precisely zero input into its success.
Let me recount for you the events of today, leading up to my unexpected freedom. It answers one of climbing’s great questions.
Firstly all was looking good, the sun was due to come out for once, sure the car park was its usual combination of ice-fringed puddles, grit-filled wind and determined looking figures shrugging on jackets in the half dark, steeling themselves for a ‘character building’ session in the corries, but the forecast was good – or at least that’s what it said yesterday. A bumpy ride in his pack listening to the new girls chattering away on the outside with their (really rather attractive) French accents. I listened to them talk about how the brightening sky would make for lovely photos of them ‘on the ice’– and I knew they had never been here before.
Eventually we arrived after much puffing and blowing to the bottom of some dark, miserable-looking corner. Probably described in the guide book as ‘a classic of its time’ and ‘a good option for iffy conditions’ or some other equally cretinous comments. Dumped in the snow under this collection of jumbled rock and frozen sheep shit, I can feel the confusion coming off the French ladies in waves, even though there is now only stoney silence from the pair.
I always get hung on the karabiner with the sticky gate (probably a result of that trip to Cornwall that involved more sunbathing on the beach than actual climbing). There certainly hasn’t been much climbing recently, mostly festive eating by the looks of the Goretex enclosed muffin top directly above me. Seems far more likely to explain that tight harness, rather than this morning’s optimistic assumption that it’s his ‘insulating layers’. Yeah, we all know what ‘insulating layers’ you’ve been adding this winter, sunshine.
I share the position around the back of the rack with the other weirdos that he got given by some well-intentioned relative years ago. I mean, these guys didn’t even come with their own slings. He’s tied a couple of off cuts of rope into the other two – shows just how much he’s used them if you can’t notice that the flipping fisherman’s knots are bigger than the actual hex. Idiot. Where exactly does he think those guys are going to go? They hang smugly on the gear loop with me, muttering about ‘the good old days...before he could afford cams’ knowing full well that the hassle of a decent placement means they just get a bit of fresh air without being used, even once. In the mean time we clank loudly together, making him feel like a true alpine climber, my lower cowbell-esque tone providing a soothing backdrop to the desperate scritch and crash of his picks and crampons on some, really-not-very-hard, steep section that he’s currently making a meal of. Muffled expletives in those (still remarkably endearing) French accents indicate that the two newest members of the team have realised that unblemished ribbons of ice in the sunshine were never on the menu today, and the realities of an out of practice lard arse clawing desperately up some snowy chimney are all we are left with.
At one point on the pitch I feel him trying to find me. I’ve carefully got my sling hooked not once but twice around the weird bulldog ice peg thing that is also round the back of the harness with us other outcasts. He soon gives up trying blindly to retrieve me and instead cam number 4 gets her shiny green lobes jammed way into the back of some icy orifice, while his shaky hands give away his delicate mental state. Good luck getting her out later - by the time I can see her she’s already making tracks deep into the bowels of the crag taking that newish quickdraw with her. Lols. This is not going to be a cheap day.
I’m just beginning to enjoy myself, with the rare sight of blue sky above (complete with a few racing clouds to make sure I know I’m still in Scotland) and we arrive at the belay. This is typically when he tries to use me – more out of instinct than sense. That miserable git, Number 6, is placed first in the belay, old numb nuts didn’t manage to find somewhere for him on the pitch for once. But sure enough, out I come eventually. He’s spotted some snow covered placement down at foot level. After finally disentangling me, I’m thrown into the crack, and I mean thrown – really? What do you want me to do, a double axial, triple backflip and land in a perfect placement? Piss off. Just to make a point, I ensure only two of my numerous corners contact the rock. I spin hopelessly around these for a few minutes, making the placement simultaneously unstable, but also apparently impossible to remove. I try it on for a little too long however and I’m rewarded with an ice axe right between the sling holes. Myself and the new French girl steadfastly avoiding eye contact during this procedure.
Having thus been popped out and hung back on the rear of his harness, I fight back when he clears off a little ledge and proceeds to sit down. Yeah, now you also know what it feels like to have something sharp jammed into your nether regions mate.
Once he’s finally hauled his fat arse up onto the plateau, the sky is changing. Over towards Loch Avon there’s now nothing to see, and minutes later we’re surrounded by flying snow. So much for that blue sky day, it is Scotland after all.
He’s really not the sharpest knife in the dishwasher. Leaving the packs at the bottom of the crag wasn’t the best idea in the first place, and down climbing the gully to get out of the wind was also a pretty stupid plan. Off we went, slithering ungracefully down until the fateful rock step. Snow is starting to dribble down around us as the weather really closes in. I’m quite enjoying watching him struggle to be honest.
Now, given his lack of ability to make even a half decent placement when he’s actually trying, the rock step offers up a fine opportunity for some light revenge of my own. Squinting down over the edge, he proceeds to downclimb facing forwards, crampons skittering, ice axes clanging from their leashes. What a tool. Everyone knows what happens next. Without help, I find the perfect placement at the lip of the rock step and slide right in. He’s now, however, momentum-ally committed to the forward-facing slither at this point though, and with a grunt comes up short on the almost perfect gear loop belay.
His partner is far down the gully by now, their hood up against the spindrift, oblivious to our man’s plight. Our hero is on his own, anchored arse first to the rock, feet peddling just above the snowy scoop beneath the undercut rock step. I’m sniggering to myself at my own genius by this point. Even the two old guys with me on the sticky karabiner are getting into it, using the chance to slot themselves into the same crack with each, more violent, struggle from our mighty master.
Eventually, after some more minutes of helpless thrashing during which expletives echo, unheard, around the gully walls, something starts to give and he lands in the snowy scoop with a muffled clank and a final swear word. Yep, that harness that was advertised as having four gear loops, now only has three, fatty.
He looks forlornly back up at me, meters away, but as good as miles given the steepness of the rock and the state of his mood, what with the spindrift now coming down the gully in small waves.
Serves you right you lazy chump. If you’d only learned how to use me properly, and racked me near the front, maybe we wouldn’t be in this situation now huh? With a final glance he stomps angrily off down the snow, leaving me to what is rapidly becoming a less and less beautiful view as it becomes obscured by the snow. Maybe he’ll be back in the spring, who knows? Maybe someone else will pick me up? – after all, does anyone actually buy a new blue hexcentric, or do we simply get redistributed in this manner on an annual basis? Ever seen two of us in the same place at the same time? Exactly.